en-us Sales Training | Sales Methodology & Sales Training Workshops | Improve Sales Performance http://www.customercentric.com/ Sales Training Article: A Slippery Slope http://www.customercentric.com/blogpost-96537/Sales-Training---Slippery-Slope.html Sales Training Article: How to Avoid the Slippery Slope in NegotiationsBy John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

Image courtesy of Ponsulak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

sales coursesI was working with a client a few years ago. While I was onsite the CEO and CFO were huddled to discuss pricing on a transaction for a very large prospect. I soon learned they had been negotiating for over two weeks. Over that time the pricing had eroded to the point where they were actually concerned whether the transaction was going to be profitable.

Parachuting in from the outside, it seemed clear they were the vendor of choice and that they were in a death spiral of discounting. My suggestion was they had to say "NO" to any further reductions. They pushed back on those suggestions until I told them that if pricing was reduced any more they should probably withdraw.

Within a day the transaction was finalized, but it was painful to consider how much money they left on the table. Buyers understand that the longer negotiations take, the lower the ultimate pricing will be. Once you begin to discount, it is difficult to stop the bleeding. In our negotiation module we show sellers how to withstand a maximum of 3 requests for lower pricing and then utilize a "get-give" approach so that any conditional concessions are offered only after buyers have agreed to something the seller has asked for.

This technique can prevent the discount death spiral that buyers try to orchestrate.


Need some help with your sales performance? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to you and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

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CustomerCentric Selling® Wed, 11 Jun 2014 12:00:00 PST
Sales Training Article: Qualification As An Ongoing Process http://www.customercentric.com/blogpost-96399/Sales-Training---Qualification-As-A-Process.html Sales Training Article: Have You Performed a Qualification Physical?By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

Image courtesy of Hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

sales training workshopThere comes a time for most people when annual physicals become a routine in trying to maintain good health. Seeing doctors every year increases the chance that major afflictions can be diagnosed early and treatments can start before conditions progress.

In my experience, companies would be far better off if sales managers were more effective in making sure that new opportunities entering each seller's pipeline were better qualified. One of the many responsibilities of a sales manager is to have sellers work on opportunities that have a high probability of resulting in orders.

For those organizations that are effective in this endeavor, the health of pipelines should be evaluated on an ongoing basis. As with an annual physical, developments can cause previously viable opportunities to devolve into low probability. In some cases it may make sense for sellers to continue withdrawing. Some of the causes are that sellers:

  • Are unable to gain access to Key Players
  • Are unable to uncover desired business outcomes
  • Are unable to establish potential payback/value
  • Have offerings that aren't a good fit for buyers
  • Can't get budget allocated

A core concept of CCS® is that bad news early is good news, meaning that early disqualification is better than going the distance and losing. Most sellers want pipelines with many opportunities in them. Left to their own devices they may knowingly or unknowingly focus more on quantity than quality.

Managers would be well served to realize that pipeline health should not be based upon one-time qualifications as opportunities are entered. As with regular physicals, monthly looks at opportunities are necessary to do sanity checks on whether or not they are moving forward.


Need some help with your sales performance? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to you and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

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CustomerCentric Selling® Wed, 4 Jun 2014 12:00:00 PST
Sales Training Article: Gaining Access to Key Players http://www.customercentric.com/blogpost-96097/Sales-Training---Gaining-Access.html Sales Training Article: Gain Access to Key Players Using Need Development by ProxyBy John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

sales training workshopIn my last blog post, I suggested that sellers should avoid asking questions that senior executives may be unable to answer. The risks of doing so include failing to relate to the buyer and the potential of being delegated to lower levels.

If, however, you are at low levels and want to gain access to Key Players you can and should ask questions buyers are either unable or unwilling to answer. One of the suggested approaches is to attempt doing need development by proxy. It can migrate calls from product evaluations to discussing potential value.

After an initial request to discuss offerings, the seller could ask the buyer to share the requirements that have already been established. This respects the research the buyer has done and provides the seller a reading on how knowledgeable the buyer is. The next step can be to ask: "What is your organization hoping to accomplish with (offering)? This begins to steer the conversation toward business issues and the buyer may not be able to answer. For that reason the seller should be ready with a menu of goals that other organizations have achieved through the use of his/her offering. If the buyer can't or won't answer, it would be logical to ask if a call with a higher level can be scheduled.

If the buyer shares an organizational goal, sellers should ask what capabilities they've seen that would help achieve that goal. The seller can then begin a diagnosis that includes questions about how things are done today, what business impact it is having, etc. In most instances the buyer will either be unable to answer some questions or be hesitant to speak on behalf of higher levels. In either case the seller can ask to schedule a call with the buyer and a higher-level person.

Often-inbound inquiries aren't yet buying cycles when you apply the first core concept of CCS®:

No goal means no prospect.

Sellers do buyers a service by helping to ground evaluations in business value. Absent sufficient payback and Key Player involvement, both parties have the potential to waste a great deal of time.


Need some help with your sales performance? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to you and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

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CustomerCentric Selling® Wed, 21 May 2014 12:00:00 PST
Sales Training Article: Maintain Key Player Access http://www.customercentric.com/blogpost-95966/Sales-Training---Maintaining-Access.html Sales Training Article: Maintain Access to Key PlayersBy John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

Image courtesy of StockImages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

sales training workshopSome people fantasize about getting into the ring with a professional boxer. Most fail to realize the "fight" would likely last about 15 seconds. The same concept applies to sellers wanting to gain access to Key Players. Executive calls scheduled for 30 minutes can end abruptly if sellers don't relate to buyers as stated in a CustomerCentric Selling® core concept: You get delegated to people you sound like.

If a seller's offering were CRM software, a reasonable approach would be to call on someone in finance by leading with the potential issues of missed earnings caused by over-optimistic sales forecasts. This is likely to have a better outcome than calling on other Key Players in that:

  • IT may not be open to considering a new software initiative that isn't in their plan
  • A sales executive might be defensive rather than admit forecasting is an issue
  • If there is no budget a CFO would likely have to approve any expenditure
  • A cost vs. benefit would have to be developed and presented to someone in finance

Sellers should be prepared to have executives share business outcomes they'd like to improve through the use of their offering. Once shared, the seller can begin to diagnose the reasons goals can't be achieved and hopefully create a high level vision so the buyer gets a conceptual idea of what capabilities are needed.

In order to do so sellers must ask questions that executive buyers can answer. Calls on CFO's should be different than calls on VP's of Sales or CIO's. Sellers should avoid asking questions that may elicit the dreaded response: "Why don't I have you talk with (someone in IT or Sales) that would be able to address your questions." Ideally a seller would take the person in Finance to a vision before gaining access to other committee members.

If a question may be difficult to answer, sellers can "tee them up" by offering industry facts. For example, rather than ask what % of opportunities don't close as forecasted, a seller could preface the question with: "According to CSO Insights, about 10% of opportunities in sales forecasts close as forecasted (timing and amounts). How often do you face issues with line items in the sales forecast?"

When with senior executives, a rule of thumb to strive for is not asking questions they will struggle to answer. If sellers can get through calls successfully they should also make sure they keep senior executives apprised of calls that are made on other people that will be involved in the decision making process. Access to decision maker levels early and throughout the buying process will maximize the chance of favorable outcomes.


Need some help with your sales performance? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to you and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

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CustomerCentric Selling® Wed, 14 May 2014 12:00:00 PST
Sales Training Article: Who Buys http://www.customercentric.com/blogpost-95830/Sales-Training---Who-Buys.html Sales Training Article: Who Buys?By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

Image courtesy of Worradmu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

sales training workshopYears ago I worked on a transaction with an insurance company that was an IBM mainframe client. I had gotten a foothold into the account by selling them disk drives about 6 months prior. They were the only non-IBM devices in the entire Data Center.

The client was experiencing performance problems because they needed more memory. That meant replacing their processor at a cost of about $6M. I had an offering that could expand the memory and defer an upgrade for about a year that cost $250K. What appeared to be a slam-dunk financial decision became a political situation. Things got complicated.

The IBM salesperson enjoyed a close relationship with the CIO, a person I couldn't gain access to. My highest contact was the VP of IT who was a level below and was responsible for the Data Center. He made me aware that the IBM rep would likely not make quota that year if the mainframe upgrade order wasn't placed.

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The decision hung for about 3 weeks until the VP suggested having lunch to discuss where things stood. During the meal, the pros and cons were considered. Bill flip-flopped numerous times about whether to make a financial or political choice. When the bill came, he took it and said he would pick up lunch. Instinctively I took the check from his hand and told him as the vendor it was mine to pay.

The following week, I got the order. To this day I'm not sure exactly how it happened. That said, I'm convinced that Bill's offer to pick up lunch was his way of saying: Sorry. You aren't getting this order. I'm virtually certain IBM would have gotten the upgrade had I not bought lunch.

I sometimes tell this war story during workshops to make the point that selling is a combination of science and art. While CCS® tries to swing the pendulum toward being more of a science, there will always be the human element. Selling is complex and situational. Experience in reading buyers along with process is a hard combination to beat.


Need some help with your sales performance? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to you and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

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CustomerCentric Selling® Wed, 7 May 2014 12:00:00 PST
Sales Training Article: Are You a Peer or a Subordinate http://www.customercentric.com/blogpost-95717/Sales-Training---Are-You-A-Peer-Or-Subordinate.html Sales Training Article: Are You a Peer or a Subordinate?By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

Image courtesy of StockImages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When buyers and sellers talk for the first time, historical baggage and preconceived notions are in play. Many undermine a seller's status:

  • Buyers are always right.
  • Buyers let you have a slice of their time.
  • Seller's must convince or persuade the buyer.
  • Sellers are more focused on commissions than addressing buyer needs.

sales training workshopIf early in relationships sellers become subservient, they will be at a disadvantage throughout buying cycles. This may culminate (if the buying cycle goes that far) with buyers that have never heard a "no" from sellers pressuring, asking for better pricing.

Learn how to better position yourself as a SME with your buyers. Sign-up for a sales training workshop to get started today.

Some sellers consciously or subconsciously try to get buyers to like them. In my mind this is a slippery slope and starts setting the stage for subordinate relationships. My objective in talking with buyers for the first time is to earn their respect by having them conclude I'm a subject matter expert (SME) as it relates to sales and sales process. I'm embarrassed to confess that early in my selling career, my objective on initial calls was to earn a second meeting. I had no concept that if a buyer wasn't qualified, I shouldn't be wasting my time.

Sellers with complex offerings are well served to call at executive levels. During these calls buyers will not be asking detailed questions about products. Sellers are SME's in that they have forgotten more about their offerings than executives know. This makes it necessary to minimize product discussions and have high level discussions of desired business outcomes, help uncover reasons they can't be achieved and give executives a conceptual idea of how offerings can be used to improve business results.

If sellers can facilitate discussions that executives can participate in, there is a good chance of earning the conclusion that they are SME's. Being respected and liked are not mutually exclusive. My belief is that outcomes can be improved if sellers focus on being respected first. It allows peer vs. subordinate relationships with executive buyers. One advantage of calling high is that buyers will not waste their time, a concern that competent sellers share with them.


Need some help with your sales performance? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to you and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

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CustomerCentric Selling® Wed, 30 Apr 2014 12:00:00 PST
Sales Training Article: Buying and Selling Ground http://www.customercentric.com/blogpost-95522/Sales-Training---Buying-And-Selling-Ground.html Sales Training Article: Common Buying and Selling GroundBy John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

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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.


sales training companyNeed some help with your sales performance? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to you and improve sales performance.

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CustomerCentric Selling® Wed, 23 Apr 2014 12:00:00 PST
Sales Training Article: Stop Playing Leads Bingo http://www.customercentric.com/blogpost-95444/Sales-Training---Stop-Playing-Leads-Bingo.html Sales Training Article: Stop Playing Leads BingoBy 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.


sales training companyNeed some help with your sales performance? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to you and improve sales performance.

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CustomerCentric Selling® Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:00:00 PST
Sales Training Article: Time for Closet Cleaning http://www.customercentric.com/blogpost-95043/Sales-Training---Closet-Cleaning.html Sales Training Article: Time for Pipeline Closet CleaningBy 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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CustomerCentric Selling® Wed, 9 Apr 2014 12:00:00 PST
Sales Training Article: Time for a Post-Q1 Reality Check http://www.customercentric.com/blogpost-94869/Sales-Training---Time-For-A-Wakeup.html Sales Training Article: Time for a Post-Q1 Reality CheckBy 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.


sales training companyNeed some help with your sales performance? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to you and improve sales performance.

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CustomerCentric Selling® Wed, 2 Apr 2014 12:00:00 PST