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Sales Tips: Collecting Customer Feedback through Phone Interviews

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 10, 2017 12:06:43 PM

Sales Tips: A Better Way to Gather CX Feedback

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

CX Phone InterviewWhen collecting feedback from our customers, we know we need to get the sincerest input from them if we want to provide customers with the most valuable experience.

While NPS surveys, on-site visits, one-on-one interviews are effective ways to collect feedback, they don’t fully capture the golden nuggets we’re looking for.

Companies often neglect the most cost-effective and beneficial way to understanding customers and their specific needs.

Customer Phone Interviews

After interviewing customers on their experience with our clients for almost 16 years, we’re confident we know how valuable a phone discussion can be. If you want the most honest assessment from your customers, your best bet is to talk with them, get to know them, and understand how well—or not so well—things are going.

With customer phone interviews, you’ll find helpful answers to your most pressing questions. You’ll also get the opportunity to learn about issues that you didn’t even know exist. These issues could potentially prevent your customers from renewing or purchasing additional solutions. (Read Why Phone Interviews Are My Favorite Method for Collecting Customer Insights for a more in-depth discussion.)

Why Phone Interviews Are Better

Having a phone conversation with your customers is the best method for the following reasons:

  1. It’s low effort for the customer. Most conversations are under 30 minutes.
  2. It’s low cost. You don’t have to worry about travel expenses or loss time from work.
  3. You get detailed insights. Pair the phone interview with an online survey and you’ll gather a scorecard of your performance along with the reasoning for the scores.

For tips on a highly successful customer phone interview and the best way to get customer experience feedback, click or tap on the following infographic.

A Better Way to Gather Customer Experience Feedback


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Sales Tips: How B2B Companies Are Increasing Revenue

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 29, 2017 11:27:00 AM

Sales Tips: How B2B Companies Are Increasing Revenue

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

Primary Intelligence conducted research on ways in which B2B sales, marketing, and product leaders are understanding their customers better and closing more deals.

We asked business professionals who analyze sales opportunities strategically to tell us their beliefs and attitudes about win loss analysis, the study of understanding why sales are won and lost. We also asked them about the types of market data they’re collecting and disseminating, and what best practices work for them.

And the results are in! 

B2B Companies Increasing RevenueHow B2B Companies Are Increasing Revenue

Studying past sales wins and losses has become a keystone to staying competitive in the marketplace.

The 2017 State of Win Loss report details how companies approach win loss analysis, how it has impacted company performance, and what you can learn for your own programs.

This report covers:

  • The top win loss questions business leaders want answered. We reveal the big questions sales, marketing, and product professionals want answered about win loss analysis.
  • The resource allotment. We examine the level of resources that business leaders invest in their win loss efforts. This analysis will be helpful for those who are just getting started or those seeking support staff.
  • The benefits of win loss analysis: This section of our study reveals all the major advantages achieved with win loss programs. We also look at how resources invested and years of experience affect the results.
  • Most-used win loss platforms: Discover which platforms are being used and how their usage will change this year.

Six Research Findings from the State of Win Loss Report

To give you a snippet of report findings, here are six insights the report revealed:

  1. Most companies have some type of win loss program in place and usage of win loss programs remains strong
  2. B2B organizations are employing external third-parties to uncover sales intelligence so they can meet buyer needs
  3. Business leaders have a strong belief that win loss programs help win more sales opportunities
  4. The top benefits are an enhanced sales process, a deep understanding of the buying process, and identification of sales strengths and weaknesses
  5. A high percentage of companies are spending $100K–$500K annually on win loss programs
  6. Companies prefer to collect both open-ended and close-ended feedback to fully understand their customers

2017 State of Win Loss Industry Report

2017 State of Win Loss Industry Report

How companies are using win loss analysis to increase revenue
Competition increases each year for B2B businesses. Many companies are realizing the importance of win loss analysis, the study of past sales deals. As responsible sales, marketing, and product leaders, you must use data-driven analytics to produce actionable intelligence and develop strategies to create a competitive advantage. You know what matters most are the initiatives you’ll take to lead your teams to success.

Get Report

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Sales Tips: Your Buyers Know If You're Winging It

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 20, 2017 3:25:49 PM

Sales Tips: "Winging It" Yields Poor Results

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

The recent CCS® Index showed that 53% of sellers are guilty of “winging” sales calls. Most everyone had been guilty of not doing their due diligence before going to make a sales call.

nervous-winging-it.pngActivities that should be done as part of pre-call planning would be: 

  • Visit to the prospect’s website to get a sense for what type of company it is.
  • If calling on an executive, check his or her bio on the website to understand their background and areas of responsibility.
  • Check social media channels to learn more about the buyer.

When calling on a prospect for the first time, I believe a seller can set themselves apart by having done some research as I believe the person appreciates that effort being made.

What I’ve described above is almost expected of a salesperson and doesn’t require a great deal of time or effort. 

A more experienced salesperson would be looking for triggering events on a prospect’s website so they could make some intelligent decisions about business challenges buyers may fact that the seller’s offering can address.

For example, if you were selling a CRM offering and saw that a prospect had just acquired one of their competitors, you may want to leads with a Success Story about having to merge milestones and seller pipelines to be able to forecast more accurately post-acquisition.

As you would expect, triggering events are likely to have different implications to various Key Players within an organization. 

A seller’s ability to personalize the potential issues to specific titles they call on can go a long way toward:

  • Establishing credibility early on
  • Having buyers conclude you are competent
  • Having a buyer share a goal, problem or need that your offering can help them achieve of address

Anyone that has been selling for awhile has had occasions where they have “winged it.” I hope you agree:

Key Players you’re calling on can tell when sellers are winging it and that will reduce the chances of good outcomes of sales calls.

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Sales Tips: 3 Tips for Communicating with B2B Customers

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 15, 2017 11:27:00 AM

Sales Tips: 3 Tips for Communicating with B2B Customers

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

Communication is a key theme in customer experience, also known as CX.

Yet some organizations still believe it’s scary to communicate with their customers.

Confirming problems and issues means you actually have to do something about them, you have to fix them, to let customers know you heard them and are addressing their problems.

talking-listening-meeting.pngBut communicating with customers drives trust and helps to ensure they realize your organization is serious about accepting and acting upon customer feedback.

For example, one financial services company sends out surveys to all new customers and existing customers with new service offerings requesting their immediate feedback. This helps to ensure that customers who are dissatisfied or who had a poor experience are identified in real time, with “red flags” mitigated quickly. An action plan is formulated by the account team for immediate follow up.

Here are three tips for communicating with B2B customers:

1. Find the Right Lingo

Communicating is about using the right language or “lingo” when speaking with customers.

This is especially important in highly specialized industries. A common set of terms helps to demonstrate to customers that your organization and teams understand their issues at a deep level. This, in turn, builds trust for long-term commitments.

For example, a B2B CX executive in the technology industry described his company’s goal of being a “trusted and valued partner” to its customers through ongoing collaboration, innovation, and execution, including usage of terminology that’s familiar to customers throughout the process. Failure to do so would deny “privileged access” of this company to key customers and exclude the organization from ongoing collaboration to develop solutions that will solve next generation problems.

sales-team-with-manager-2.png2. Share Results with Employees

Along with that, communicating customer experience analysis results to employees frequently and on an ongoing basis ensures B2B CX program success and allows internal stakeholders to see how initiatives are playing out in different parts of the organization, thus building momentum for continued success. It’s important to celebrate organizational successes by publicly recognizing organizational and departmental progress, especially when reporting updates to internal employees. This helps to ensure that employees are receptive and excited about continuing the customer experience journey.

As one customer experience executive in the technology industry explained, “We focus on having different mediums. One time it might be an infographic with the latest net promoter score results. The next time it might be a video talking about one of the projects that’s kicking off.” This executive has also successfully used grass roots champions throughout the organization as catalysts for change, allowing individuals to share “what’s going on in their part of the work or their part of the business” that may spark interest and encouragement from others.

3. Conveying B2B CX Data Through Stories

Conveying customer data using stories is also a powerful tactic that successful organizations have used to spread success about their programs. One customer experience leader recommends, “Going out and spending the time to develop [customer] stories, and let your customers tell them for you. [Using this approach], I was able to engage my entire executive team in a day-and-a-half session.” Incidentally, this executive refused to put everyone to sleep with PowerPoint slides, much to the shock of her staff. Instead, she led with stories, which are inherently superior to most other communication mediums.

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Sales Tips: 5 Tips for Handing Negotiations

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 6, 2017 3:12:20 PM

Sales Tips: 5 Tips for Handling Negotiations (and Saying NO)

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Years ago I met someone that personified everything that was wrong with salespeople. Bill was aggressive, manipulative and a high pressure closer as you’d expect. One day he provided his definition of selling: “Saying yes to buyers until you have to say no.”

I suppose there are remnants of the sentiment that the customer is always right, but I feel: 

Sellers that constantly say yes to buyers compromise their position of power as they become subordinates. 

giveaway.pngI was working with a company that offered month-to-month leases of furnished condos for people that had extended stays in various cities. They offered an attractive alternative to checking in and out of the same hotel week after week. The CEO and CFO were working on a major opportunity with a large consulting company. I was aware that negotiations had been ongoing for some time. 

I was teaching a workshop for them and at a break stopped by to visit the CEO who was in a heated conversation with the CFO. As it turns out the prospect had been grinding them down on the original rates they had quoted.

Most buyers realize the longer negotiations go on, the more attractive the rates become.

The purpose of the meeting between the CEO and the CFO was to determine whether or not the transaction was going to be profitable! At that point coming in from the outside I told both executives that they had to say NO to any further price concessions. They put up some token resistance but finally got back to the prospect saying the price was firm and valid for one week.

The order closed the following day.

Chinese water torture is slowly and continuously dripping water on a person’s forehead to wear them down into providing information the torturer seeks. It seems that negotiations are often handled in a similar manner. Once sellers drop price, it becomes a slippery slope. Buyers conclude that further concessions are not only possible they become likely. 

I call discounting “the gift that keeps on giving.” In discounting, to close prospects sellers set a precedent. Smart buyers will expect that future orders will be at the lower rate.

seller talking with buyer.pngHere are five (5) tips for negotiations: 

  1. When pressured for better pricing, ask if you are the vendor of choice and whether price is the only issue. If not, suggest waiting to discuss price if and when the buyer gets to that point.
  2. When negotiating and asked for lower pricing, be prepared with 2 or 3 ways to say no.
  3. If a buyer keeps asking, first get something from them that is worth something to you (increase the transaction size, serve as a reference, etc.).
  4. Offer a concession conditionally: “If you’ll do that for me then I’d be willing to...” In order to avoid ongoing discounting, I encourage you to offer something besides a discount.
  5. Ask if the buyer can move forward. If the buyer says no, take everything off the table and suggest revisiting negotiations in a few days.

The key elements for sellers in negotiating is having buyers understand the value/payback of offerings and to offer concessions conditionally to avoid erosion over time as buyers try to grind you on price.

Remember: There is great power in using NO with buyers, so don’t be afraid to use it. (Keep the infographic below handy in case you need to refer to these tips in your next negotiation.)

INFOGRAPHIC - 5 Tips for Handling Negotiations

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Sales Tips: 4 Successful Best Practices for Win Loss Programs

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 1, 2017 11:11:00 AM

Sales Tips: 4 Successful Tactical Recommendations for Win Loss Programs

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

Measuring Success and Failure for Future WinsAs competition increases for most companies, understanding why companies win and lose sales is increasingly critical.

Since the State of Win Loss study reported more competitive activity this year than previously, gathering data about buyers and the buying process presents a clear advantage.

Successfully starting and running a win loss analysis program takes skill, patience, and tenacity. Here are four tactical recommendations to help ensure your company’s win/loss efforts are effective.

4 Tactical Recommendations for Win Loss Programs

1. Implement win loss metrics.

To get the most from win loss programs, it’s important to determine what percentage of deals are being included in the win loss pool of candidates. Are all wins and losses included? Or a subset of one or both groups?

Determining the reasons why not all opportunities are included can be insightful. For example, some companies have a minimum threshold – such as $50,000 sales deals – to focus on strategic opportunities. Win loss analysis opportunities that are being strategically discarded may be acceptable. Not knowing the opportunities because of poor data and reporting systems may not.

2. Automate the win loss process.

Automate the Win Loss ProcessGetting a list of opportunities to interview, along with the correct contact information for each contact, is one of the hardest aspects of many win/loss programs. The reason it’s difficult is that many companies’ CRM and SFA databases include inaccurate or incomplete information. To the extent that the data can be cleaned and the process can be automated, your win loss analysis will directly benefit. Not only does this produce a steady stream of opportunities that can be pursued for win/loss interviews and feedback, but it removes sales as a potential dependency when following up with customers.

While sales representatives can be very helpful in securing interviews with customers, they can also sometimes be a bottleneck. Removing any potential roadblocks is essential for keeping the program moving forward.

“…we put in place an automated process where we took a batch mode of losses based off  our system so that we weren’t also heavily dependent upon the reps coming forward with their individual cases.” ~ Director, Worldwide Sales, Information Technology Industry

3. Enlist sales assistance in getting interviews.

Knowing and tracking which contracts are responding and agreeing to participate in win/loss interviews is helpful because it allows the win loss analysis team to go back to the account team and ask for their help in securing feedback. Since the buyer most closely associates the vendor with their sales rep or team, an “ask” from this individual or group can help break scheduling and participation logjams.

“…the sales folks can help us get [interviews] scheduled faster if they nudge the prospect or the buyer they worked with.” ~ Senior Manager, Workforce Management Industry

4. Use win loss feedback for sales training.

Win loss analysis can help training departments and sales leaders identify gaps in sales performance and correct areas of weaknesses or under performance. Similarly, win/loss programs can identify sales practices that are consistently superior, leveraging them for use by other sales teams.

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Sales Tips: Asking Sellers to Execute Without Providing the HOW

Posted by Jill Perez on Oct 30, 2017 2:32:16 PM

Sales Tips: Asking Sellers to Execute without Providing the HOW

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Salespeople want to meet or exceed their quotas. When numbers aren’t achieved the reasons can be that sellers have skill deficiencies or are unwilling to execute the steps in the company’s sales process. 

  • “Won’t” is an attitude issue and managers must find a way to motivate sellers.
  • “Can’t” is a skill issue.

It should come as no surprise that when managers ask sellers to perform tasks they can’t execute, disappointing results are a virtual certainty. 

Show Sellers HOW to ExecuteIn an attempt to exert some modicum of control over the pipeline and forecasting, organizations define steps in their sales processes and embed them into their CRM system. While this roadmap is helpful to sellers, has anyone in your organization mapped the skills and messaging needed to execute each step?

In my experience, first-line sales managers have a habit of telling sellers what to do without providing sufficient detail about how to do it.

As I started my first sales job, my manager shared four nuggets of wisdom in one sentence: Call high, stay high, don’t lead with product and establish value. This was great advice but not very helpful as Jeff never shared with me HOW to do these things. 

After getting my license, my Dad cautioned me about driving at night by making me aware that 60 miles per hour meant traveling at 88 feet per second. Dependent upon the distance that headlights illuminated objects, reaction time to see them, the time needed to hit the brakes and braking distance it was possible to “outdrive” your headlights. In other words, by the time you could see objects it was possible there wasn’t enough distance to stop the car in time.

It happened a day at a time but over the last 15 years or so, selling has gotten more complicated. Given the pace of product announcements and changes in how goods and services are purchased, I’m of a mind organizational “headlights” for sellers are likely to have lagged behind.

👉 Is it worth the time needed to take a hard look at your sales process and ensure your salespeople have the skills and messaging necessary to allow them to execute each step?

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Sales Tips: Evolve or Be Left Behind

Posted by Jill Perez on Oct 24, 2017 1:04:44 PM

Sales Tips: Is Your Sales Approach or Process Ready for the Next 10 Years?

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Evolve Over TimeEveryone is busy and overworked. Fixing flat tires while slowing down rather than stopping has become the norm. Whether 2017 turns out to be a good or bad year, most CRO’s will re-set to zero on January 1st and strive to make higher 2018 quotas. Little time will be spent considering changes in how revenue is generated. There just isn’t time.

Companies operating in this manner will continue to run the risk of drifting further away from how buyers want to buy. 

👉 In many markets vendors and sellers providing the best buying experiences are winning the lion’s share of opportunities.

Change is stressful but maintaining the status quo can be disastrous. 

The first CCS® client I worked with in 2002 was a reseller of printers and copiers. They struggled to sell what procurement and IT viewed as commodities. The CEO realized changes had to be made and vendors that figured out how to address this issue would prosper. 

His sellers were asking IT or procurement if they needed printers or faxes. Most said no. Those that said yes usually asked for a quote on single device. Before making decisions he or she would get three or more quotes and give the incumbent a chance to meet or beat the lowest number. There were instances when hardware would be sold at a loss with hopes that maintenance revenue and consumables would ultimately make the sale profitable. Box-by-box transactions were steadily eroding margins.

I helped sellers realize it was necessary to sell outcomes to higher levels rather than products. Sellers were shown how to call at higher levels (often in finance) and ask: When was the last time anyone analyzed your overall print requirements with a clean sheet of paper?

Most companies had added printers on an ad hoc basis as they grew (applied Band-Aids). Without an overall enterprise strategy devices and workflows became sub-optimal as relates to cost, workflow and energy consumption. Reassessing print requirements often meant replacing all of the installed devices. Uncovering value by optimizing devices allowed salespeople to sell on value rather than price. Revenue and margins increased. 

I share this Success Story for several reasons:

  • Evaluating Sales ApproachConsider how your sales approaches have evolved over the last 20 years. How long has it been since taking a “clean sheet of paper” look at your revenue generation process that is the lifeblood of your organization?
  • Many Band-Aids have been applied because the primary impetus for change has come from buyers over the last two decades.
  • Sales organizations in “react mode” lag behind as the gap between how buyers want to buy and how sellers treat them widens.
  • Sales techniques that fail to evolve become sub-optimal.

Here are some of the challenges you face/have faced in the last two decades: 

  • Giving Marketing the responsibility for nurturing leads
  • Creating better buyer experiences during website visits
  • More closely aligning Sales and Marketing
  • Realizing sellers are being brought into buying cycles later than ever
  • Sellers contacting buyers who have already established their requirements
  • Self-appointed buyers doing product evaluations that can’t buy (don’t have budget)
  • Buyers wanting to be empowered to buy rather than be sold
  • Product Development trying to react to changing customer/market needs
  • Shorter development cycles make it difficult to have long term product advantages
  • Buyers viewing Marketing “push” strategies as attempts to force offerings upon them
  • An increasing percentage of opportunities in pipelines are buying rather than sales cycles
  • Low win rates when sellers are brought into opportunities

Given all these changes wouldn’t it be worth a fresh look at your markets and selling approaches? 

Vendors that align with buying behavior and continue to evolve their sales process have the unique opportunity of making the way they sell a sustainable competitive advantage.

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Sales Tips: Sharing B2B CX Insights with Employees

Posted by Jill Perez on Oct 18, 2017 11:17:00 AM

Sales Tips: 6 Best Practices for Sharing B2B CX Insights with Employees

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

sales-team-2-2.pngAt Primary Intelligence, broad access to customer experience (CX) information is viewed as a best practice since this gives employees, managers, and executives deeper insights into customer perceptions of the organization. Widespread access also allows individuals at every level to construct possible remedies to address customer concerns and gives impetus and support for new initiatives.

Research from the State of Customer Experience revealed the groups with greatest access to customer experience information are executive management (81 percent), sales management and leadership (79 percent), and marketing (74 percent). Interestingly, less than half (49 percent) of organizations provide access to customer experience information to their sales support and enablement teams. “Other” groups with access to customer experience data include support, human resources, legal, quality, engineering, and operations.

Share B2B Customer Experience Insights with Employees Chart

Even if the desire exists to share CX data, however, putting a mechanism in place to ensure customer feedback is available throughout the organization can be challenging. In fact, it’s a stumbling block that many companies encounter, especially when they’re large and geographically dispersed.

As a Program Manager in the manufacturing industry shared during a phone call to discuss CX programs, “Our Discovery calls [are a best practice at our company]. I invite the appropriate people, generally the director level or above, who can really influence change and really should know about things in their sphere of influence that they could change or improve to help us improve our customer outcomes.” 

Best Practices for Sharing CX InsightsHow to Share B2B Customer Experience Insights with Employees

Here are six successful best practices for sharing CX information broadly throughout the organization:

1. Put documentation on a SharePoint site.

2. Create an internal website with highlights and links to key findings.

3. Utilize internal groups as “go-to” resources for important customer documentation.

4. Implement third-party online portals that provide unlimited access to customer feedback.

5. Schedule regular Discovery (post-sales debrief) sessions that highlight repeatable best practices and strategies for success, ensuring the right people—at the appropriate levels in the organization—are present and engaged in the conversations.

6. Host regular in-person discussion sessions to share key learnings, answer questions, and describe any challenges that need to be overcome.

Another individual in the technology industry highlighted the importance of ensuring the entire organization benefits from customer experience programs, stating, “We’re looking to bring [collective wisdom] to a better level, where not only do we have these touch points and we garner some intelligence and some feedback, but a mechanism to collect the most salient points of that and see if we can learn something from that as a company globally, not just as a per account parochial activity.”

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Sales Tips: Cost vs. Benefit To Do's and NOT To Do

Posted by Jill Perez on Oct 16, 2017 2:52:31 PM

Sales Tips: What To Do and NOT To Do with Costs vs. Benefits

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Avoid Using the Term "ROI"A common term I recommend sellers should avoid using is ROI (return on investment). My reasoning is that the majority of salespeople are unable to do the necessary: present valuing of outlays and present them to buying committees. If a seller has an MBA in Finance I’m willing to make exceptions.

That said, I believe creating a simple cost vs. benefit is a step that can give sellers better control over decisions. This amounts to estimating the costs of implementing offerings and seeing if the potential benefit will justify making the buying decision.

Within CCS® we are strong proponents of asking rather than telling. In my mind asking facilitates buying while telling amounts to trying to sell or convince buyers. 

Human nature is such that people want to be in control when making buying decisions.

What NOT To Do
The most common mistake I’ve seen in doing costs vs. benefits is that sellers are trying to get buyers to agree with their estimates of potential savings. In doing so it is likely that buyers will want to discount the savings based upon past experience with sellers that have been over-optimistic in hyping “how good it’s going to be.”

Cost vs. BenefitWhat TO Do
My suggestion is that sellers:

  1. Gain access to as many stakeholders as possible, and
  2. Identify as many goals (desired business outcomes) they can.

Whenever possible, buyers should provide a base line that tells where they are today.

For example: A CRO wants to improve win rates, so the seller would want to determine what percentage of proposals result in orders. Let’s assume that figure is 18%. The seller should then ask with the capabilities provided what improvement in win rate the buyer feels would be possible. In some cases citing results that customers have achieved can be helpful in allowing the buyer to estimate what win rates could be. Once that figure is established and an average transaction size is provided, there can be a simple calculation of what the top line benefit can be. The same concept can be applied to other areas of potential benefit with the CRO.

👉 The key is that the numbers used should come from the various Key Players that are involved in making the buying decision. This gives them ownership of the results.

Once the total potential savings are established, there are several benefits to sellers if the numbers are compelling: 

  • Buyers have a reason to accelerate buying decisions to start reaping benefits.
  • A cost vs. benefit can differentiate sellers from their competitors.
  • It will be easier for buyers to secure funding.
  • Sellers can minimize concessions by negotiating based upon value.
  • Improvement in base lines can be monitored on a quarterly basis after implementation to create Success Stories.

The cost vs. benefit is a sanity check for buyers and sellers. As stated above the estimated improvement should be the opinions of the Key Players involved.

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