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Sales Tips: A Strong Qualifier for Prosposals

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 10, 2017 11:00:03 PM

Sales Tips: A Strong Qualifier for Proposals

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

When asked in a word to describe the difference between A Players and B/C Players I would say: 


By that I mean they avoid prematurely talking about offerings that helps them avoid early pricing decisions. Top performers also understand how much control sellers give up after issuing proposals. 

Ask Your Buyer to Review a Draft of the ProposalI believe proposals should document and confirm discussions with buyers and provide a buyer or buying committee everything that is needed to make decisions. Premature proposals often hang in seller’s pipelines and often wind up being removed months later after no decision has been reached. 

A Strong Qualifier
If and when proposals must be issued, most sellers miss out on a strong qualifying step. My suggestion is they ask a buyer or the buying committee to review a draft copy of what will be in the final proposal. 

  • The advantage to buyers is there will be no surprises in the proposal.
  • The advantage to sellers is the ability to get it right the first time.

I suppose it’s a pink, if not a red flag, if sellers can’t get agreement to review a draft and may be a potential sign that sellers are not Column A.

After a review of the content and after buyers have approved the content, the seller has a great opportunity at that point to ask for the business. I feel it’s the perfect time to close because it is the first time the seller has earned the right to close. Even if you choose not to close it offers the chance to get in front of buyers a week before decisions will be made.

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Sales Tips: 4 Tips to Maximize Email ROI and Improve Business Development

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 3, 2017 9:09:03 PM

Sales Tips: 4 Tips to Maximize Email ROI and Improve Business Development

Unless you enjoy a dedicated marketing team to gather customer data on your behalf, we must collect that information ourselves. Yet, as Sage discovered in a recent survey, collecting customer data and transforming it into sales is a common challenge.

With more advanced applications and cloud-based tools promising improved ROI every day, it can be tempting to spend money on the latest emerging technologies for our online marketing campaigns rather than using tried and tested methods.

In fact, despite email being one of the “older” online technologies, email marketing campaigns offer an ROI of 73 percent - larger than organic or paid search results, and content or affiliate marketing.

Email and Business Development TipsWith such promise of improved sales, here are 4 tips to increase customer subscriptions and optimize your email campaigns:

1.    Increase subscription opportunities

Firstly, place a link on your business’ “About” page, as clients who tend to be interested in the history and people behind an organization are more likely to want to learn later.

Also, inserting an optional pop-up in the corner of your website is an inviting yet inconspicuous method of encouraging customers to sign-up for your campaigns; anything more is likely to turn customers away.

This tactic is also suitable for brick-and-mortar store salespeople and owners. While placing a sign-up sheet beside the tills might encourage purchasing customers to share their contact details, placing those same sheets around the store with purchase incentives to write down their email addresses can simultaneously boost sales and subscriptions lists.

2.    Personalize marketing

In 2016, more than 25 percent of sales were attributed to email campaigns. A key reason for their success is customers feel engaged, which, in turn, means they will be more likely to offer you repeat business and to recommend your services to a friend.

The easiest way to offer customers an engaging experience is to personalize your emails. For instance, use the customers’ names when addressing them, with personalized emails delivering 6 times as many transactions.

Further, segmenting users by their location, age and interests allows you to create targeted campaigns which interest potential buyers, without upsetting those less likely to indulge in that particular campaign.

Mobile-friendly email3.    Mobile ready

In 2017, 54 percent of email campaigns were opened on a mobile device. This is up from 27 percent in 2012. So noticeable is this increase that promotional emails are now more likely to be mobile-centric than desktop-centric, with 55 percent of smartphone users having made at least one purchase via a campaign email.

Take advantage of this trend by ensuring your emails are mobile friendly and responsive, keep headers short so they can be read quickly, and invite users to open them with a call to action.

4.    Automate campaigns

Using automated reminders lessens your own workload as you can create mass, personalized emails, to be received by clients at specific times of the year, boosting sales.

For example, greetings card companies frequently send out seasonal reminders for popular holidays like Christmas and Mother’s Day. Also, by giving customers the option to set reminders, they can remind them of upcoming birthdays for friends and family they have sent cards to in previous years.

With affordable tools making it easy to build email lists and tools helping you track the effectiveness of your campaigns, email marketing remains a crucial strategy for maximizing sales.

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Sales Tips: Types of Questions to Ask High and Low

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 3, 2017 8:42:32 PM

Sales Tips: The Different Types of Questions to Ask at High and Low Levels

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

I believe superior salespeople are curious and ask questions more often than they make statements. They avoid control questions that elicit short responses and therefore don’t facilitate conversations.

Instead they prefer to ask framing questions such as, “How do you create revenue forecasts today?” These questions usually begin with the word “how” and elicit lengthy answers about areas the seller wants to explore. 

When calling at executive levels I suggest you try to avoid asking questions they can’t answer.

Types of Questions to Ask at High and Low LevelsMany senior executives will seize opportunities to delegate salespeople to lower staff. Their response is usually something like:

I don’t know but can put you in touch with the right person.

Not a good outcome for a salesperson.

When calling at lower levels, consider asking questions buyers either can’t or don’t want to answer.

Asking subordinates to speak on behalf of higher levels or the organization will cause many to say they aren’t sure. For example:

In considering a new CRM software, what is your organization hoping to accomplish?

If a buyer can’t or won’t answer, the seller has an opportunity to ask who within the organization would know. 

👉 My rules of thumb: At high levels avoid asking questions buyers can’t answer. At lower levels feel free to do so.

Purchase a copy of Rethinking the Sales Cycle now from Amazon!

Sales Tips: Reality Check for Sales Management

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 15, 2017 4:26:12 AM

Sales Tips: Reality Check for Sales Management

By Gary Walker, EVP of Channel Sales & Operations, CustomerCentric Selling®

sinking-ship.pngAre you the senior leader of an underperforming sales team?

Unlike other senior executives whose performance may not be as measurable and visible, when the sales organization is underperforming you don’t need to wait to be called into the CEO’s office to be told you have a problem. You know it. Everybody in the organization knows it.

I hope you don’t think that I’m trying to embarrass you by asking this question. I’m simply trying to see if you’ll acknowledge it. I find so many senior sales executives who, for whatever reason, don’t want to acknowledge the fact that they have a performance problem that needs to be addressed. They will continue to limp along, professing things will get better, when they have no real plan for dealing with an underperforming sales team.

Their lives consist of stressful senior executive meetings (where they get grilled about the team’s performance); missed monthly revenue forecasts; acquiescing to salespeople’s excuses; placing people on performance plans; directing their salespeople to work harder, and pursuing a traditional approach to selling that is no longer appropriate for today’s marketplace. That’s right, the marketplace has changed. How organizations research, evaluate, and purchase your offering has changed.

If your sales team is failing to meet its revenue goals, despite everything else that is going on, you’re ‘underperforming.’ I don’t know of any senior sales executive who wants to be saddled with that label. It’s embarrassing, discouraging and potentially career shortening. Look at former Dallas Cowboys football coach Tom Landry. After 29 years and a dismal 3-13 performance by the Dallas Cowboys in 1989, the Cowboys fired the only coach they ever had. Don’t let the same thing happen to you. 

The good news is that you can correct an underperforming sales team. I see it all the time. It’s possible to turn it around and save your reputation by acknowledging the problem, having a sincere approach, and by implementing a consistent, repeatable sales process; that salespeople can be taught to execute; management can monitor, coach and inspect; is aligned with your marketplace; and represents your company’s best sales practices.

Do yourself, your sales team, and your company a favor. Don’t wait to be told what to do. Proactively seek assistance. With help, you can correct an underperforming sales team. 

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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!

Sales Tips: How to Determine WHERE Your 2017 Revenue Will Come From

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 15, 2017 4:24:45 AM

Sales Tips: How to Plan Your 2017 for Success

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

New YearI remember my first year as a salesperson, the only thing that changed for me on January 1st was the date, my sales compensation plan, and the amount of revenue I was being asked to generate over the next twelve months. My business plan (if you want to call it one) was simply to work on the pipeline I brought with me from the previous year. I had no proactive plan in place as to HOW I was going to generate the revenue that I was being tasked with generating. None!

I realized very quickly that if I was going to fulfill my revenue obligation to my employer and earn the amount of money I wanted to make, I was going to have to come up with a plan - a Territory Sales Plan. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a system, a plan, a course, or a book that I could I could turn to that would tell me what to do and how to do it. However, what I did have was basic management training, skills, and education. It was time to apply those basic management skills (planning, organization, delegation, and control) to my sales territory and job function.

I’ve outlined below a series of steps, a process, that you can follow to begin gathering the information you need to develop your own 2017 Territory Sales Plan.

Step 1: Timing

Here it is, New Years. Almost as important as where to begin is when to begin. If you were thinking you were going to rely on what you didn’t close in 2016, you are a little late to the party. The reality: If you don’t close anything this January, you’re going to have to close twice as much in February just to make year-to-date (YTD) quota! That’s a tall order even for the most accomplished salesperson. The time to begin developing your 2017 Territory Sales Plan is NOW. 

Step 2: Analysis

Before you begin to lay out your plan, you first need to analyze:

  • 2016 Business, specifically who did you close, what did they buy, where did they come from, and what was the average dollar value of the sales/transaction?
  • WIN Rate: What is your win rate when presented with a qualified opportunity?
  • Sales History: Are some months or quarters more prolific than others?
  • Discounting: What has it cost you in 2016?
  • Vertical markets: Are you having greater success in one vertical versus another?
  • Existing Pipeline: Who won’t close that you will be carrying over into 2017?
  • Products Offerings: Existing products and/or services, new products and/or services and planned price changes?
  • Existing Customers: What haven’t they purchased, why would they need it, and who do you need to speak with in order to initiate a sales cycle?
  • 2017 Compensation Plan: What will your sales revenue requirement be in 2017?
  • Personal Income Requirement: What do you want to make in 2017?

GoalsStep 3: Set Goals

Based on your analysis of your customer base, prospects and 2017 revenue requirements, you need to establish goals for what you need to accomplish. Things to consider include:

  • How many WINs do you need in order to make your revenue quota? A simple way of establishing that would be to take your 2017 annual revenue requirement divided by the average dollar value of the sales/transaction. That will provide you the number of estimated WINS you’ll need to close in 2017.
  • How many of those WINS do want to come from existing clients?
  • How many WINS from new name business?
  • How many WINS by each quarter?
  • Based on your WIN Rate, how many leads will you need to generate your new name business goal? 

Step 4: Strategies

How do you intend on reaching those goals? In addition to your individual lead generation efforts and responding to inbound inquiries, do you have any particular growth strategies for your territory?

  • Identify the ‘Top Ten’ prospects that you will carry into 2017.
  • Are there particular verticals/projects/situations where you have experienced greater success, and you would like to build upon that success?
  • Do you want to enhance your mix of business (new name account vs. existing accounts)?
  • Are trends emerging in the marketplace that align with your offering?
  • Were there Sales Ready Messages® that resonated with your prospects that you want to exploit?
  • Do you wish to increase account penetration with core products?
  • Will you build your ‘social network’ database and expand the use of referrals?

Step 5: Tactics

  • Top Ten Prospects carried over from 2016
    • Out of the top ten, identify your five best opportunities.
    • Prepare a tactical plan to convert each to ‘E’ status.
    • Schedule re-focus meetings to recap goals, reasons and the prospects’ solution.
    • Attempt to measure the cost of doing business today and confirm the value to the prospects organization.
    • Document the results via a Sales Process Control Letter.
    • Share the results with your manager.
  • ProspectingProspecting/New Business Development
    • Minimum of 10-20% of your time; 4 to 8 hours a week.
    • Build your pipeline to optimum strength to meet your revenue goal.
    • What specific technologies are available to you to enhance your productivity (LinkedIn, InsideView, Leads411, etc.)
    • What specific existing accounts, and which specific new name accounts will you pursue based on your strategies?
    • What specific method will you use to reach them: referrals, referrals via social networking, cold calls, emails, direct mail, webinars, group sales calls, etc.?
    • What specific Sales Ready Messages® will you use to cause them to engage?
    • In what order will you use the Sales Ready Messages® and with what frequency?
    • Use multiple methodologies in parallel.

Step 6: Plan Execution

  • Create a tactical calendar complete with dates and steps to be accomplished.
  • This is key. Give yourself ample time to execute each step in your plan.
  • Establish success metrics and measure you and your plan’s performance.
  • Monitor your own performance weekly!
  • Evaluate your pipeline strength on a weekly and monthly basis. Adjust your prospect activity based on that strength.
  • Watch for new and unexpected opportunities: vertical markets, trends, issue, etc.
  • If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change/modify your plan!
  • Plan your work and work your plan. 


I’m not going to say that exceptional sales performance doesn’t ‘just happen,’ because sometime it does…sometimes. However, the chances of it happening and the probability of you achieving your sales goals are much better when you have thought about HOW you are going to achieve it and have a plan in place to make it happen.

If you’re a sales manager reading this article, your role is to accomplish your company’s sales goals through the people that report to you. Your job isn’t simply to parachute in at the eleventh hour and close your salespeople’s business for them.

  • Ask your salespeople to develop a 2017 Territory Sales Plan
  • Provide them with the data (average transaction size, 2017 (revenue goals, etc.) they are going to need to effectively develop their plan
  • Facilitate its development by scheduling a one day planning session
  • Review it with each salesperson on a monthly basis. This activity will pay HUGE dividends to the salesperson, the sales manager and your company. 

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!

Sales Tips: Proactively Gaining Access to High Levels

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 15, 2017 4:24:24 AM

Sales Tips: Proactively Call at High Levels, Reap the Benefits

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

sales tips for gaining access to executivesIn last week's blog I offered suggestions for (reactively) gaining access to Key Players when sellers are contacted by lower level staff within prospect organizations. Inbound contacts usually provide sub-optimal entry points. Upward access is the hardest road to travel. Without identifying potential value many product evaluations will ultimately fall under their own weight. These “no decision” outcomes waste vendors’ as well as prospects’ time and resources.

Non-Key Player product evaluations violate Steven Covey’s sage wisdom to “start with the end in mind.” It makes little sense for non-Key Players to go to great lengths to evaluate offerings of multiple vendors having no idea if the potential value will justify the expenditure. 

When sellers proactively initiate buying cycles with Key Players:

  • Sales cycles can be shorter

  • Transactions larger

  • Win rates higher.

To start as Column A, sellers must proactively:

  • Take Key Player levels from latent to active need (identify buyer goals)

  • Diagnose the barriers to achieving them

  • Articulate the specific capabilities that empower the buyer to achieve the desired results

Access to Key Players can be dangerous if sellers aren’t prepared to talk about business outcomes rather than offerings. These initial Key Player discussions should be 180 degrees from inbound calls. The focus should be areas of potential value with minimal discussions of offerings. This approach aligns with the way senior executives want to buy.

gaining access to high levelsKey Player calls are dangerous because sellers usually get only one shot. Key Players do the seller’s job of qualifying opportunities. If meetings end with no follow-up, it’s over as quickly as it began. If there are follow-up steps, the buyer perceives potential value and buying cycles begin. Beyond that it is unlikely other vendors will be evaluated concurrently. Key Players don’t have the time. They can have their staff bring in other vendors for leverage if it appears they want to do business with Column A.

If the initial Key Player call goes well, the seller may find access to other Key Players (downward or laterally) is volunteered without asking for it, a sure sign the call went well and the seller is Column A. At other times sellers can summarize the goal, barriers and capabilities in an email along with a request for introductions to the other Key Players the seller needs to have conversations with in order to sell, fund and implement the offering. Calling on these other committee members is the only way to get an enterprise-wide view of the total potential value as various titles have different sources of benefits.

In proactively trying to initiate conversations, many sellers set their sights on entry points that are too low. When trying to cause prospects that weren’t looking to consider your offering it’s necessary to get to levels that can cause unbudgeted initiatives to be funded. My belief is that when sellers call higher in organizations the potential lists of business goals or issues are more predictable. Higher levels have fewer, more important objectives than levels that report to them. 

A seller’s entry point into an organization goes a long way toward determining success or failure in buying cycles. This saying applies: Don’t wait for your ship to come in. Row out to meet it.

  • Sellers can wait for inbound contacts, but should be aware there’s a lot of work to do and relatively low win rates. Beyond that it amounts to “in-basket” selling in taking whatever prospects come to you.

  • “Rowing out” is more challenging but the ability to target companies that fit ideal profiles and Key Player titles should yield higher close rates and transactions sizes

Would you prefer one opportunity started with a Key Player or ten nurtured leads with lower level staff that already feel they understand their requirements?

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!

Sales Tips: Understanding "No Decision" Losses

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 15, 2017 4:23:47 AM

Sales Tips: No Decision Losses - The Good, Bad & Ugly

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

How long are you going to allow your sales organization to continue to lose good opportunities to No Decision before you take action?

No DecisionsIt wasn't even Christmas yet and I received a steady plethora of emails and telephone calls from salespeople and their managers complaining that opportunities that they were counting on for December had already been lost to No Decision. That’s right, LOST. No Decision is a decision to do nothing or to maintain status quo. If you think this is a sales phenomenon that will simply not happen again, or it will go away if you ignore it - think again.

The good news? It can be minimized - even eliminated - once you understand the obstacles that are preventing a prospect from making an informed selection decision after a long and expensive sales cycle.

The next step is to: 

  • Make the decision that you no longer accept the status quo. You ARE going to correct an underperforming sales team.

  • Define or redefine your sales process, methods and tactics to eliminate or minimize those obstacles you have identified.

  • Train (not just educate) your salespeople how to execute against that new sales process.

  • Monitor and inspect individual sales process execution on a weekly

  • Provide skill and opportunity coaching to each individual salesperson on that same weekly basis. 

Is it a lot of work? The answer is YES. It’s what sales managers are supposed to do. Exceptional performance requires an exceptional effort by the sales team, salespeople and their management.

Just think what your December performance would have been like if only one or two of those No Decisions closed as forecast? The rewards can be HUGE for the sales organization that makes a decision to fix the problem. 

Why do your prospects elect to do nothing, despite your and your salespeople’s best efforts? We see primarily five (5) major reasons:

  1. No Business Goal

Business GoalsWhen we help underperforming sales organizations define (or redefine) their sales process, an opportunity typically goes from “Inactive” to “Active” status when the buyer shares a business goal. We used to define a buyer as someone who would admit a problem or “pain.” However, over the years we have discovered there are very few salespeople (particularly young salespeople) who are able to get a C-level executive of a publicly traded company to admit a problem. Think of it this way: As we approach middle age and start gaining a few extra pounds, it is much easier for us to ‘volunteer’ that we’d like to lose those extra pounds (a goal) than for us to admit that we’re fat (a pain). Get my point? 

At CustomerCentric Selling® we subscribe to a core concept: “No goal, no prospect.” At the very minimum, the buyer must be unhappy with some aspect of his business, and want to fix it, to engage with a salesperson and initiate a “buying cycle.” Salespeople who fail to take the time to diagnose and understand their buyer’s business goal and the business issues/obstacles that are preventing them from achieving that goal, either lose the sale to No Decision or get outsold by the salesperson who does

  1. No Solution

After engaging with a buyer, how long does it take the average salesperson to determine what they are going to try and sell the buyer? Not long, right? However, despite the salesperson’s best efforts (the four-legged sales calls, the “must have or we won’t buy” reports, corporate visits, etc.), the buyer still may not have a clear understanding of HOW he/she will achieve his/her goal(s) by purchasing/subscribing to your offering. Not having a clear understanding could lead to an incorrect decision by the buyer. Rather than make an incorrect decision, they make No Decision. Often times this is a result of a salesperson wanting to proceed fast and shallow:

  • Leading with product feature and function before first taking the time to understand the goal that the prospect wants to achieve.

  • Then diagnosing and understanding the business issues and obstacles that are preventing the buyer from achieving that goal, and…

  • Then relating HOW the capabilities of the offering can be used to eliminate the prospect’s business issues/obstacles allowing them to attain their goal.

Converse with BuyersThe key to selling is the ability to converse. The conversation between the salesperson and the prospect is where the sale is going to take place. It’s what sets up the proof session. If your salespeople are unable to have a meaningful conversation, an intelligent two-way dialogue with a targeted decision maker about the use of your offering to achieve a goal, solve a problem or satisfy a need, and document that conversation succinctly - then all the training on prospecting, qualifying, presentation skills, closing, handling objections, negotiating, etc. are a waste of money!  

  1. No Power

How many times have salespeople spent months selling to someone who told them early on that the decision to purchase their offering was their decision, only to find out later they couldn’t purchase ten sharp pencils without someone else’s approval? It happens all the time! It’s a trap that salespeople routinely allow themselves to fall into. While end-users and recommenders are fun to sell to, their needs and requirements in almost all cases is altogether different than the ultimate decision maker - the person with the power and authority to buy. If the individual the salesperson remains engaged with doesn’t have the authority to purchase their products and services, they are not selling. They’re simply providing this person with a free (but expensive for you) education.

I’m not saying that you don’t speak with lower level people in an attempt to find out what is going on in the prospect organization. However, senior executives are charged with identifying and solving problems. Gaining access to the senior executives early in the sales cycle can: 

  • Help eliminate the risk of No Decision

  • Protect your expensive corporate resources

  • Cause unbudgeted money to be spent

  • Dramatically shorten the sales cycle

  1. No Business Value

ValueI’m amazed at the number of salespeople who don’t take the time to understand the value of their products and services to their buyers and more importantly, don’t actively participate in helping their buyer prepare a cost/benefit analysis. Your prospect is not the only one within their organization who is competing for the company’s potentially limited funding. You need to equip the buyer with the logic and rationale to support his/her request for funding.

Another core concept we subscribe to is: “People make emotional decisions for logical reasons.” The seller has to be able to help the buyer relate that business goal back to dollars - reduced cost, avoided cost or increased revenue, among other factors. If you are asking a company to pay $100,000 for your product, the value of achieving the goal(s) better be at least $200,000. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Would you spend $100,000 to solve a $50,000 problem?

Think of the tactical advantage a salesperson has going into price negotiations when he/she knows exactly how much his/her buyer will potentially save and when he/she will achieve a return on the investment. It makes it very easy to say NO in response to a request for a discount without fear of losing the sale.

  1. No Control of the Sales Process

    Salespeople tend to wander through the sales process, not really knowing where they are going next. Think about it. Why are sales cycles shorter for some salespeople and inexplicably longer for others? Many sales cycles are conducted via a series of what I call “point-to-point” telephone calls and meetings - not really with any plan as to what needs to be accomplished when and why. As a result, sale cycles can drag on, become inexplicably longer and costlier than they need to be, until they collapse and die under their own weight.

Once the buyer and the other members of the selection committee are interested, we advocate and teach salespeople how to negotiate a written Sequence of Events (SOE). The SOE allows salespeople to obtain mutual agreement with buyers on the steps needed to provide them with all of the information they need in order to make an informed selection decision for their company. 

Taking this step accomplishes a number of things:

  • It qualifies the buyers as being serious.

  • It allows the salesperson to match the desired pace, as the duration should be determined by when the buyer wants to receive the proposal.

  • It allows the salesperson and manager to monitor progress as steps in the plan are completed.

Now let me ask you a question: Consider all of your year-to-date (YTD) missed opportunities. What would it have been worth to you and your organization if your salespeople could have reduced their losses to No Decision by 20%, 50% or even 75%?

If you want to correct your underperforming sales team, call me. You have nothing to lose by having an exploratory conversation with me, but you have everything to gain.

mobile sales app
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!

Sales Tips: Which Language Are You Using?

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 15, 2017 4:23:25 AM

Sales Tips: Which Language Are You Using - Your Key Player's or Yours?

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

Not Using Key Player Language?As a new hire sales trainee at IBM it was confusing and discouraging to attend the monthly Branch Office Meetings that were held. The problem was that IBM created their own language to describe the features and capabilities within their offerings. Acronyms were a primary source of confusion for newbies: IDMS, BOMP, VSAM, ISAM, MRP, DASD, etc. It was like listening to a United Nations speech delivered in a foreign language without the benefit of the headphone translation. After about six months, these terms had become part of my language. It was as though I had been given a decoder ring.

If you sell complex offerings, it’s likely your company has supplemented the English language with many new terms that executives will not understand. My concern is that sellers may be guilty of confusing buyers because terms used inside organizations are likely to be used in front of prospects and customers.

Here are two simple terms that I suggest should be searched and replaced:

  • Use the term “buying cycle” rather than “sell” cycle. It should be about the client, not the vendor.
  • Use the term “transaction” rather than “deal.” Unless at a car dealership (where you’ve come to expect it) when a seller asks what they have to do to close a deal, buyers want to take a shower after the call.

In my mind, buying cycles and transactions work fine in branch offices but are much better terms to use when talking with prospects and customers.

When talking about offerings, especially complex offerings, please be wary of throwing out terms that executives won’t understand. For example, a seller could say that his/her software has Dynamic Load Balancing (IBM would have changed that to DLB). Using the term can cause several bad things to happen: 

  1. The buyer has no idea what the feature is or what it allows people to do.
  2. Most buyers won’t ask because they don’t want to appear unknowledgeable to sellers.
  3. The seller increases the probability of being delegated to lower levels.

An important tenet of CCS® is that most Key Players are interested in usages of offerings and business outcomes, NOT in learning about products and features. In case you didn’t know, “DLB” can prevent server outages to increase up-time. How that happens can be described in our capability format (Event, Player and Action) used in Sales Ready Messaging®

            Event: When a server nears an activity threshold that could cause an outage    

            Player: our software

            Action: can transfer loads to other servers that have available capacity without operator intervention.

Feel free to amuse and confuse your friends with your esoteric understanding of acronyms and product. Oddly enough, you can also do that with techies because they like to stay current with jargon. Do executive buyers and yourself a favor and communicate with them using terms they understand. The only thing worse than not gaining access is talking with Key Players and failing to relate to them.

mobile sales app

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!

Sales Tips: Behavior Follows Belief

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 15, 2017 4:21:24 AM

Sales Tips: Behavior Follows Belief

By Frank Visgatis, President & Chief Operating Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

sales trainingBack in the 1970’s, IBM was the gold standard of sales training. They would put their salespeople through a program that lasted up to six months and relied heavily on high-intensity role plays and simulations. While brutal for the students, the end “product” was salespeople who were accustomed to high pressure selling environments who weren’t afraid to work whatever hours were necessary to successfully navigate a sell cycle. 

When I got into sales in the late 1980’s, companies were still, for the most part, willing to invest heavily in training their salespeople on the best practices of the day. Many programs that I went through, including my introduction to ones that specialized in how to sell complex, often disruptive, expensive offerings to diverse buying committees, were the proverbial “walk of fire.” Although not six months in length like the IBM model, they were nonetheless multi-day, intensive programs that required commitment, focus and late nights of casework.

Then, as time went on, I noticed the length of time of most training agendas (and coincidentally the corresponding investment requirement) began to erode. Sales organizations and the executives who ran them seemed to come to the conclusion that “we don’t need a whole week of training, we can do it in one or two days.” The advent of CBT (“Computer-Based Training,” for any of you who are not old enough to remember that term) and its sexy successor “e-learning,” became the excuse everyone needed to justify what would ultimately prove to be an ineffective solution.

Over the years, I have seen companies fall into a disturbing pattern of “train-fail-rinse-repeat.”

Analyzing Sales PerformanceIn other words, when faced with underperforming sales organizations, someone (usually the new VP of Sales) decides, “We need to train our salespeople.” They then venture forth into the marketplace, much the way their buyers do, and evaluate various sales methodologies and approaches based either on the recommendations of their peers on LinkedIn, general Internet research or worse, becoming enamored of whatever the “bright and shiny” methodology du jour is.

Then they face a real challenge.

Often times, the vendors in the sales training space fail to effectively communicate the value they provide, usually by not even following their own approach, and they immediately cave to not only price pressure but more significantly, time pressure. Their customer demands that what used to take a week to accomplish must now be done in a day or two and sadly, the training vendor acquiesces.

But logic says that you can’t magically compress 96 hours into 48, so “something has to give.”

And that “something” is usually the most time and resource-intensive part, the role-play, skill development and case study exercises. Without these components, the “training” becomes an intellectual experience that makes sense to everyone, but since no real behavior modification has taken place, salespeople leave with some interesting knowledge and perspectives, but then default back to their old ways of doing things.

With no real behavior modification and often, only lip service support from first line management, nine months go by and nothing changes. No improvement in revenue production. No improvement in forecast accuracy. Long sell cycles that continue to die the slow death of “no decision.” Then management decides, “We must have done the wrong training”.

Train. Fail. Rinse. Repeat.

In order for companies to break this vicious cycle, they need to recognize that as much as their salespeople need training, they need behavior modification more.

Salespeople will only embrace and succeed with a new approach when they believe they can be more effective, make more money and achieve their personal goals and objectives by changing the way they do things. That will only happen when they experience that change firsthand through the self-discovery process of leaving their comfort zone and actually trying to do things differently in a controlled and facilitated environment.

Sales Training Workshops

Sales Tips: 5 Tips for Handling Inbound Opportunities

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 15, 2017 4:19:42 AM

Sales Tips: 5 Best Practices for Handling Inbound Opportunities

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

Sales Tips for Gaining Access UpIn last year's annual survey, gaining access to higher levels is still one of the top challenges for salespeople. Failure to get to the right levels often means sellers must rely upon internal people doing the selling to get decisions made, never an optimal situation­. I wanted to share some thoughts with you.

There are two (2) ways to initiate new opportunities in that sellers can be:

  • Reactive by waiting to be contacted. Inbound “buyers” are usually lower levels doing product evaluations, have looked at multiple vendor websites and believe they have a good idea of what their requirements (usually an aggregate of all offerings they’ve researched rather than a single “Column A” vendor) are. 

  • Proactive by trying to uncover latent needs of buyers that weren’t looking. While a challenging task, sellers have the ability to and should target high levels because not looking means there is likely no budget. Sellers will have to get to people that can reallocate existing budget.

Competent, top sellers will gain access to the people that will be involved in buying, funding and implementing offerings. I believe this is the only way to provide enterprise views of the value offerings can bring and the various goals (business outcomes) that can be achieved or improved.

In our workshops we try to have sellers understand the concept of qualifying champions. The vast majority of sellers erroneously assume access to Key Players is gotten via lower levels and that access is to one person at a time. Upward access is the most difficult path. It’s important that the person being asked to grant access can comfortably make introductions. It’s also important when and how sellers ask for access. Let’s first consider reactive situations and in next week’s blog I’ll discuss access when sellers are proactive.

Sales Tips for Handling Inbound OpportunitiesHandling Reactive, Inbound Inquiries

  1. The first challenge is to get an understanding of what high level requirements have already been established.

  1. Next is to uncover the business outcomes that organizations are hoping to improve. This often has to be done “by proxy” meaning the inbound contact must speak on behalf of his or her organization as to areas of potential value to offset whatever the cost of the offering being discussed will be.

  1. My rule of thumb is that when calling on Key Players, sellers should avoid asking questions buyers can’t answer as they run the risk of being delegated to lower levels. That said, when at non-Key Player levels sellers can and should ask questions that buyers can’t answer. If this happens sellers can ask: Who can we schedule a call with that could answer this/these questions? It is a logical request; please note you’ve softened the request from can I meet with the higher level to can we meet with that person?

  1. If/when a non-Key Player shares a desired business outcome, sellers should ask them what capabilities they’ve seen that would enable the goal to be achieved. At that point, sellers should do a thorough diagnosis to ask questions to try to uncover new capabilities (to expand/enhance the buyer’s vision). By doing so, the seller has an opportunity to become “Column A.” If they fail, they’ll merely be a vendor that’s in the mix.

  1. If a seller can bring the buyer to an expanded vision, the next step is to try to quantify the potential value. As stated earlier, this may require gaining access to several members of the buying committee. My suggestion is not to ask for access during the initial call. As an alternative, summarize the goals and capabilities needed in an email that documents the buyer’s expanded vision. In that email ask for access to the Key Player titles that would be involved and may have unique goals that could add to the value.

CautionSome words of caution: There are situations where the initial inbound contact will not have the ability to get you introductions to buying committees. In such cases, sellers should try to qualify the buyer as a Coach to get them introduced to the next level in the org chart (i.e. the person’s manager) until finding a person that serve as your Champion. 

Pro Tip: Often before granting access to a higher level, the Coach or Champion may ask sellers for proof (i.e. a demo, GoToMeeting, contact with a tech, etc.). If such a request is made the seller should use a quid pro quo. That is to say to explain that time, effort or resources are required and if the buyer likes what they see, that they will agree to grant access to higher levels. A large part of gaining access is to make a shift from product evaluations to potential business decisions based upon potential value (cost vs. benefit).

Failure to gain access can mean a great amount of wasted effort without realizing any revenue. A common mistake I see is sellers running as far as they can with non-Key Players and issuing proposals for offerings. Notable by their absence is any idea of whey moving forward is a good decision that is likely to provide adequate payback to justify the expenditure. Few Key Players will take the time to read proposals that are mostly about products rather than business outcomes.

A few things to remember about asking for access:

  • It can be granted downward, laterally or upward (listed in ascending order of difficulty).

  • Consider using a quid pro quo approach in exchanging resources for access.

  • Sellers must earn the right to ask for access by establishing themselves as Column A with buyers.

  • It is easier for buyers to grant access if they participate in Key Player calls.

  • Access is often necessary to provide the answer Key Players crave: Is buying an offering a good business decision based upon projected payback?

  • An email summarizing the goals and capabilities can arm Champions to articulate why Key Players should take the time to meet with sellers.

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