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Sales Tips: A Critical December Tactic

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 15, 2017 4:18:11 AM

Sales Tips: A Critical December Tactic

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

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sales Tips: How to Better Handle Buyer Objections

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 15, 2017 4:16:36 AM

Sales Tips: How to Better Handle Buyer Objections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Player: the system

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

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

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

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Sales Tips: A Brilliant Sales Management Strategy

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 15, 2017 4:14:59 AM

Sales Tips: A Brilliant Sales Management Strategy

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

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

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

It was a brilliant strategy for a number of reasons: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sales Tips: Are You Doing More Selling Than Managing?

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 15, 2017 4:14:40 AM

Sales Tips: Are You Doing More Selling Than Managing?

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately, in the many years since, as I climbed the corporate ladder and eventually transitioned into the development, documentation and delivery of CustomerCentric Selling®, I’ve seen the exact same scenario replayed time after time.

Successful salespeople who are promoted into sales management are rarely trained how to manage salespeople so they end up being 98% sales and 2% manager.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sales Tips: Tread Carefully with ROI Calculators

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 15, 2017 4:13:50 AM

Sales Tips: Tread Carefully with ROI Calculators

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sales Tips: Accelerating Close Dates

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 15, 2017 4:05:06 AM

Sales Tips: Accelerating Close Dates

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

sales tips for accelerating buying decisionsWe’re getting to that time of year when salespeople take a hard look at where they’ll end up for the year. Their focus shifts to opportunities they believe are closeable prior to year-end. With commissions and careers at stake it can be a stressful time. Unfortunately, there will be instances of sellers transferring their stress to buyers with hard closes that pressure people to buy. This is especially true when sellers with thin pipelines map a path to achieving quota with opportunities that aren’t qualified. Pardon the analogy, but it may be similar to Donald Trump seeking a way to 270 electoral votes. For Donald or sellers without ample pipelines, there are razor thin margins for error.

For years, CCS® has espoused viewing sales cycles as buying cycles to provide better buying experiences. It sounds trite but buying decisions should be a win for sellers (orders) as well as buyers (value/payback). One of the best ways to accelerate decisions is for sellers to look at opportunities they want to close before year-end and try to work with clients to establish the potential value that can be realized. A major benefit to sellers is that buyers start to understand that there is a cost associated with delaying decisions. For example, if there is the potential for saving $40,000 per month they can see that making a decision December 31st rather than February 14th will result in a $60,000 benefit!

By establishing value, buyers and sellers are more likely to move at a brisk pace to finalize decisions. It makes sense for both parties to do so. Establishing value also reduces the chances of “no decision” outcomes.

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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: 5 Steps to Align with Knowledgeable Buyers

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 15, 2017 4:04:48 AM

Sales Tips: 5 Steps to Align with Knowledgeable Buyers

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

sales tips for how to align with buyersDuring initial conversations, many sellers (and sales methodologies) assume buyers are “blank canvases” as relates to their needs. The Internet, websites, search engines and social networking have made this a dangerous assumption, especially for inbound inquiries. Traditional selling approaches will frustrate buyers that have done their homework. A poor buying experience can mean being excluded from the short list of vendors that will be allowed to provide quotes or proposals.

Buyers that have done their homework will resist seller attempts to do need development at the beginning of their interaction with sellers.

Their motivation in doing research was to learn what’s available and make their own decisions about their requirements without the influence or pressure of salespeople. It’s analogous to starting a B2C decision about buying a car by reviewing Consumer Reports rather than visiting several showrooms and having each salesperson tell you why their car is the best one for you.

If sellers proactively contact people that were not looking (and therefore have not done research) the sequence would be to uncover business outcomes they want to achieve and then go directly into a diagnosis of their current situation. 

B2B buyers that have leveraged the Internet and social networking have an idea of what they want. The last thing they’re looking for is a product pitch or early attempts to change their list of requirements.

👉 A suggested approach to better align when contacted by these educated buyers is to take the following steps:

  1. Ask how they came to contact you. Their answer often will provide insight into the fact that they’ve visited your website (and likely those of other vendors) and that you should respect the research they have done.

  2. Ask the buyer what, if any requirements they have established based upon the research they’ve done. This allows the buyer to talk and provides the seller with an understanding of what they feel is important. If the buyer shares something that you feel isn’t valid, resist the temptation to challenge them this early. Later in the call be sure to ask qualifying questions to help determine if their requirements are all valid.

  3. Ask the buyer what they or their organization is hoping to accomplish by buying whatever offering is being discussed. If the buyer is in middle management or lower, their focus may have been more about the offering rather than potential business issues that can be addressed through the use of the offering. If a buyer can’t answer this question, consider offering a menu of potential business outcomes that can be achieved and try to have the buyer tell you which one(s) are important to them. If the company is going to spend money, the buyer (hopefully with your help) will need to establish value.

  4. Once a business outcome is shared ask the buyer what capabilities they’ve seen in their research that would help their organization achieve the desired business outcome. The buyer is likely not to have a quick answer because few will have done any “mapping” of features to business outcomes.

  5. Aligning with Educated BuyersAt this point, hopefully you’ve earned the right to do a diagnosis of reasons the outcome can’t be achieved so that you can learn how the buyer or organization does business without your offering. During this diagnosis, it is critical to ask questions to uncover capabilities they buyer hadn’t thought of. It is likely that during this discussion the buyer will add requirements to their initial list. In some cases they conclude some of their original requirements aren’t valid. Requirements beyond the offering may be in play if professional services or consulting may be necessary during implementation.

Today, buyers that have done research prior to contacting sellers are much further along in their buying cycles than ever before. They will feel they are “being sold” if sellers try to change their requirements list without first learning what buyers think they want up front.

Establishing credibility to earn the right to do a proper diagnosis will allow the buyer to conclude one of two things:

1. Their requirements were valid and both the seller and buyer agree what they are.

2. Their requirements list was incomplete and the seller helped uncover what else is needed and/or the requirements that weren’t needed.

Buyers have dramatically changed the landscape of selling more in the last five years. Many sales organizations have been slow to recognize or change their approaches. If a seller you didn’t know left a compelling voicemail about a relevant business issue you are facing, would you: 

  • Call the seller back?
  • Go to the seller’s website to learn about the company and offering?

An increasing percentage of buyers would choose the second option.

Better aligning with knowledgeable buyers may be critical to achieving your revenue objectives.

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Sales Tips: Is Your Organization Customer-Centric?

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 15, 2017 4:04:00 AM

Sales Tips: Is Your Organization Truly Customer-Centric?

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

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

Are you masquerading as a customer-centric organization?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Sellers lack business acumen to relate potential value to executives

  • Nurtured leads provide low entry points and low close rates

  • Sellers refer to sales cycles rather than buying cycles

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

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

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Sales Tips: Practice with a Purpose

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 15, 2017 3:23:41 AM

Sales Tips: Practice with a Purpose

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

sales tips for practicing selling skillsAs an avid golfer, I have always believed that the key to improving is going to the range and practicing. However, until recently, I could never correlate measurable results to the significant time investment that I was making.

One day while banging balls on the range, my club pro happened by. After watching me for several minutes, he stepped in and interrupted me.

“What are you doing?” was his question.

“Golf?” I answered.

“No, what I mean is ‘why’ are you doing what you’re doing?” he clarified.

“Practicing,” I replied.

“Practicing what?” he asked.

“Nothing in particular,” I responded.

“Then you are wasting your time and probably doing more harm than good,” he informed me.

When I inquired as to what he meant, he explained to me that without a clear goal as to what I was hoping to accomplish in the practice session and a clear plan of how I was going to go about it, I was simply “going through the motions”, and if things were already wrong, I was merely making them worse.

It occurred to me that, as salespeople, we often are guilty of the same lack of discipline in our “practice” (if we practice at all).

Although we recommend at the end of every training workshop we conduct that the role-playing should continue after the training is over, my experience is that it rarely does. Salespeople tend to “practice” on live prospects rather than take the time to role-play with a manager or a peer. If they do role-play, I find it is often in a loosely structured, haphazard fashion. Both manager and salesperson are effectively “checking a box” at someone else’s direction.

The challenge I will give to all of you, salespeople and sales managers alike, is to come up with a meaningful plan of not only when you are going to practice, but HOW. And then, just do it.

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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: Different Differentiators for Different Buyers

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 15, 2017 3:18:55 AM

Sales Tips: Got-to-Have vs. Nice-to-Have

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

red-umbrella.pngIn previous posts, I’ve referenced Rita Gunther McGrath, a professor at Columbia University, who authored The End of Competitive Advantage. In this book she references shrinking product life and development cycles and makes a strong case that vendors no longer enjoy sustainable competitive product advantages.

In working with many companies, one of the most common complaints is that offerings are viewed as commodities. This often leads sellers to presume it’s all about price. Despite this, in nearly all buyer surveys you see in large B2B transactions price seldom makes the top five. One potential explanation for this may be that when telling a seller he or she lost, blaming price is the cleanest way to end the discussion. That said I’ve always believed if sellers didn’t get a chance to tweak pricing then they lost for other reasons (i.e. they got outsold).

As it relates to differentiators, I agree with Ms. McGrath that broad differentiators are becoming elusive. My belief is the seller that better understands the customer’s issues and desired outcomes will have a better than average chance to win. In order to do this I suggest sellers must do the following:

  1. Get title-specific with Key Players in buying committees.
  2. Keep features/capabilities that promote ease of use off the table.
  3. Relate value that quantifies how a differentiator can be used to improve business results.

I also suggest that a given feature or differentiator can mean different things to different buyers. A few years back I worked with a company that offered furnished condos as an alternative to hotel rooms for extended engagements in a given location. They felt a working kitchen was a crucial benefit, but I helped them realize how it impacted different people within prospect organizations.

For consultants living in the condos (users) it meant the option to make their own meals to:

  • Eat healthier and/or less than they would eat dining out.
  • Take less time to eat (potentially work during part of the evening).
  • Avoid the awkwardness of eating alone at restaurants.

For the consultants’ manager it meant potentially happier, more productive employees with the potential to reduce meal expenses and reduced burnout from traveling. For HR it was a potential tiebreaker when recruiting new hires, could improve employee satisfaction and reduce turnover. For the CFO it was a roll-up of all these things netting out to an improved bottom line.

If you can have different titles ascribe values to differentiators they become “got-to-haves” vs. “nice-to-haves” and should give sellers a better chance of winning the business. 

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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!

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