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Sales Training Article: Buying and Selling Ground

Category: Sales Training  |  Permalink

Published: Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sales Training Article: Common Buying and Selling Ground

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

Image courtesy of Franky242 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of a sales manager's primary responsibilities is ensuring salespeople work on qualified opportunities. After executing sales ready messaging® sellers trained in CustomerCentric Selling® should be able to answer the following call debriefing questions:

1. What title they called on?

2. What goal(s) the buyer shared?

3. For each goal, what are the reasons it can't be achieved today (without your offering)?

4. What capabilities within your offering are needed to address the reasons?

5. What is the value (potential benefit vs. estimated cost)?

Oddly enough, if non-Key Players with or without a seller's help evaluate offerings and request funding, financial approvers will want answers to questions 2 - 5. In the same way, sales managers want to know opportunities are grounded in value and payback, so it is financial approvers want the same assurance. Both parties recognize that without adequate payback expenditures won't be made.

Sign-up for one the next sales training workshops to learn how to better qualify opportunities and collaborate with buyers.

You've heard me rail on about how many internal evaluations done without seller help focus on products and lack enterprise views of business outcomes that can be improved. Two comments regarding the CCS® approach to qualification:

  • When champion letters address the debriefing questions, the buyer is far better positioned to explain why initiatives should be funded.
  • If Sequences of Events (SOE) are agreed upon, one of the most critical steps is the cost vs. benefit (usually a "Go/No-Go step) for buyers and vendors.

sales training workshopsThis points out the value sales professionals should bring to the table. The old view that sellers "educate" buyers should be a distant memory. Information on the Internet is in such abundance that non-Key Players self-educate and value being shielded from seller attempts to influence requirements.

Ultimately sellers and buyers share a common objective: Determine if buying offerings is a sound financial decision. Self-service, non-executive buyers are ill equipped to build business cases. For that reason funding is likely to be denied (and a great deal of time wasted).

For decades, sellers enjoyed an advantage as the keepers of product information. The pendulum swung when the mind-numbing amount of information became available via the Internet and social networking. The pendulum appears to have swung too far. Enlightened buyers armed with information about offerings could benefit from seller efforts to quantify the potential benefits and payback that can be realized.

Buyers and vendors would benefit if they found ways to collaborate when evaluating offerings.


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Sales Training Article: Stop Playing Leads Bingo

Category: Sales Training  |  Permalink

Published: Friday, April 18, 2014

Sales Training Article: Stop Playing Leads Bingo

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

Image courtesy of Annankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

sales training workshopDuring the 90's rash of technology buying, tradeshows peaked as events that "buyers" flocked to. A significant portion of Marketing's budget was allocated to renting booths, filling them with demo equipment and flying in staff from headquarters and the field to address the onslaught of visitors. Smart vendors tried to get their booth near the entrance to maximize flow and offered bags that were useful to visitors.

The bags were necessary for collecting the various trinkets emblazoned with company logos that helped attract visitors. There were T-shirts, flashlights, Nerf balls, sunglasses, etc. that could be gotten, often in exchange for filling out "bingo cards" with contact information that were ultimately distributed as leads to salespeople. It resembled adult trick or treating.

Register for the next sales training workshop to learn how to lead with value instead of product.

For companies with hot new technologies, it was appropriate to lead with product demos in attempts to have early market buyers find them. For most vendors, booths attracted potential users whose sole interest was learning more about products. Buyers had little interest in the potential value of offerings and few had any buying authority.

bingo cardA telecommunications company I was working with came to the realization that these "bingo cards" were mostly a great drain of sellers' time and asked me for help in upgrading the entry levels they might achieve at a show they had already committed to. I suggested printing T-shirts and offering them in exchange for visitors filling out a questionnaire that posed the following question:

The last time your telecommunications network went down, who (name and title) complained the loudest and how was their business day was interrupted?

By using this "quid pro quo" approach, they were able to enter companies at higher levels with some understanding of what value their offering could bring.

Thankfully, interest in tradeshows has waned. They cost a great deal of money and continued to cost vendors valuable seller time in trying to follow up leads. The approach suggested to my client about the questionnaire recognized visitors were lookers rather than buyers.

One of the reasons tradeshow popularity faded is they have been replaced by Websites. How many of the "leads" being generated today are nothing more than electronic bingo cards that will yield low close rates? History has a way of repeating itself even if the medium is different.


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Sales Training Article: Time for Closet Cleaning

Category: Sales Training  |  Permalink

Published: Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Sales Training Article: Time for Pipeline Closet Cleaning

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

sales training workshopsMaybe you're better about it than I, but closet clutter is a challenge for me. It was partly caused by a move from a 60-year old center entrance colonial in New England to a newer home in California with our first walk-in closet. Ultimately I've become more careful about what clothes I buy and try to throw out or donate anything that hasn't been worn in a year. Many organizations have pipelines that resemble overstuffed closets and there are two major causes.

Cause #1: Garbage in - At one time or another a seller comes to the realization that their pipeline is thin. It can be a positive development if you've closed a number of opportunities in a given month or quarter. In any event, if you are going to have a pipeline review with your manager there's a tendency to list "opportunities" that have not been qualified. The last thing you want is a manager that feels you don't have enough going on and will be monitoring your activity levels.

For experienced sellers or sellers that have new sales managers, it isn't a huge challenge to "sell" them on opportunities that really don't belong. Part of the reason is pipelines roll up. Managers want to believe so that their district or regional pipelines looks strong. In my experience if salespeople could sell as well to buyers as they can "sell" managers that their pipelines are adequate, they'd all be making their numbers.

Try one of these sales training workshops that can help you learn to better manage opportunities and your pipeline for improved results.

Cause #2: No spring cleaning - Once things get into a seller's pipeline we all know the best way to get them out is to close them. The challenge, however, is that if they weren't qualified when they were entered and they can't be qualified after that, the seller has a problem. He or she doesn't want to declare losses because:

  • The manager will start asking about rebuilding their pipelines.
  • Their win rates will be negatively impacted.

When new opportunities enter their pipelines many sellers chose that flurry of activity to quietly allow unqualified ones to drop off the radar screen.

In the same way clothes that haven't been worn in a year should be discarded or donated, how long should pipeline entries be allowed to hang with no activity indicating progress such as:

  • A champion has been qualified and the seller is getting access to Key Players
  • Key Player visions are documented in emails
  • A Sequence of Events has been negotiated with an estimated decision date
  • A cost vs. benefit analysis has been completed
  • Contracts are being reviewed
  • A proposal has been issued

Sales managers can do everyone a good service if:

  • Qualification criteria are applied before opportunities enter pipelines.
  • Measureable progress is required to keep them in the pipeline.
  • Outstanding proposals can only be viewed as viable if they are less than 60 days old or there are extenuating circumstances. To minimize this issue, managers may want to set criteria that needs to be met before proposals are issued.

The calendar, if not the weather, says spring has arrived. Would a little spring cleaning of your pipeline give you a more accurate picture of what revenue realistically can be expected in the coming months?


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Sales Training Article: Time for a Post-Q1 Reality Check

Category: Sales Training  |  Permalink

Published: Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Sales Training Article: Time for a Post-Q1 Reality Check

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

Image courtesy of BPlanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As it relates to having optimistic or pessimistic outlooks, the majority of salespeople seem to lean toward the former. As sellers go through a year, it's important that they temper optimism with a realistic view of where they stand against quota.

Miss your Q1 target? Now would be a good time to attend a sales training workshop to learn how you can save the year and make your number.

I have to confess in going through a co-op engineering school, I was a procrastinator. Semesters were 12 weeks long and after freshman year there were two semesters of classes and two of working an engineering job. It became clear that working was no day at the beach, so when returning to Boston for school, the first two weeks were just settling in and I went a bit light on studying. Prior to the wave of first exams in week six I usually would do some cramming to catch up. My grades were fine and it was just the way I navigated college.

sales training workshopA seller's, manager's or organization's YTD position with 25% of the year gone can be very telling. If you are significantly below YTD, the second quarter may be critical in how the year will turn out. While you have 3 quarters to turn things around (do some cramming) I'd like you to consider a few sobering thoughts if wake-up calls aren't heeded now:

  • For most organizations, sales activity slows during the summer months.
  • If you are behind halfway into the year, consider the length of average buying cycles and realize the runway is shorter than you might think.

Sellers and managers tend to look in the rear view mirror by focusing on YTD positions. In order to be less reactive and more proactive I suggest projecting a sales cycle ahead on an ongoing basis. Estimate your close rates (or use actual numbers from your CRM software) and apply them to your current pipeline. Project a sales cycle ahead and see if you have adequate pipeline to realistically get to at least YTD.

If sellers take a reality check on a monthly basis, it is far more likely they'll avoid getting into situations where everything in their pipeline has to close in December in order to make their numbers.


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Sales Training Article: Just Send Me Some Info Please

Category: Sales Training  |  Permalink

Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sales Training Article: "Send Me Some Info"

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

Image courtesy of Chaiwait at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

sales training workshopsEnding personal relationships is difficult. I had a friend in college that was in and out of relationships on a regular basis. One day he shared with me that when it was over he had a foolproof way to end things gracefully and abruptly. He would simply say: "You deserve better. I'm just not good enough for you."

Sign-up for one of these sales training workshops to learn how to better engage with prospects

Years later as I started in sales, I discovered buyers had a foolproof way to end sales cycles gracefully and abruptly. At first when prospects asked me to provide information I naively thought it was a step in the right direction. In most cases, after receiving the material it allowed them to say they reviewed it, now was not the right time and they'd get back to me. Game over, but they let me down easy because they said they were interested.

Several years ago, I had an opportunity with a CEO that was considering two very different approaches to training his sales staff. My offering was many times more expensive. I was on a fairly lengthy phone conversation, feeling Rocco was trying to justify the higher expense. About 25 minutes into a phone conversation, it became clear he wanted to end the call. He did so by asking me to send him some additional information.

This request took me back to my early days and caused me to challenge him about why he needed additional information. When he gave me a vague response, I asked: "Rocco, are you actually telling me that we aren't going to do business?" The question just came to me and during a long pause I wondered if it had been too direct. To both his and my surprise he said: "You know, you're right." At that point I suggested scheduling another call to have a hard look at the cost vs. potential benefit of implementing a sales process. As you can imagine, this had a happy ending and I got the business (blog posts aren't often about bad outcomes).

Buyer-seller relationships are fascinating and complex. If and when buyers ask for information, try to hone in on exactly what they want and try to understand why. You'll be better served not to assume that the buying cycle is moving forward.


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