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Sales Training Article: A Slippery Slope

Category: Sales Training  |  Permalink

Published: Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sales Training Article: How to Avoid the Slippery Slope in Negotiations

By 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.


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Sales Training Article: Qualification As An Ongoing Process

Category: Sales Training  |  Permalink

Published: Wednesday, June 04, 2014

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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Sales Training Article: Gaining Access to Key Players

Category: Sales Training  |  Permalink

Published: Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sales Training Article: Gain Access to Key Players Using Need Development by Proxy

By 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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Sales Training Article: Maintain Key Player Access

Category: Sales Training  |  Permalink

Published: Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sales Training Article: Maintain Access to Key Players

By 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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Sales Training Article: Who Buys

Category: Sales Training  |  Permalink

Published: Wednesday, May 07, 2014

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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