From the CCS® Sales Blog

June 2014

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Sales Tips: There Are No “No-Brainers” in Sales

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

As a sales manager, there were occasions when sellers referred to opportunities as “no-brainers”. The inference is that offerings are so compelling, that buyers have no choice but to buy. Looking back, many no-brainers didn’t close. As with many selling issues, the problem is that this term is taken from an inside-out view rather than an outside-in customer/buyer perspective. It reflects an attitude of: Why wouldn’t they buy?

As described in Chapter 4 of the Second Edition of CustomerCentric Selling®, seller opinions about forecasting opportunities are unreliable. We suggest following Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify” philosophy. Calling opportunities “no-brainers” reflects the opinions of sellers that hope to get the business. Further drill-down is needed.

Ask sellers reporting to you: Why will the buyer spend the money? It’s a subtle but important shift because the seller is forced to attempt to take the buyer’s perspective. When executing CCS®, answers provided by buyers can be summarized in emails to buyers and then confirmed. Ask sellers how the highest level they’ve called on in a given opportunity would answer the following questions:

  • What business outcomes/goals do they want to achieve by using your offering?
  • For each goal, what are the reasons the goal can’t be achieved today (without your offering)?
  • What capabilities that you can provide address these reasons?
  • What is the value of achieving the goal(s) vs. the cost of your offering?

As a sales manager, if the debriefing questions are documented and agreed-to by buyers I’d have a much better feeling that an opportunity is qualified. That said, there are many potential twists and turns. Competitors vie for the business. Logic, egos, emotion, personal agendas, risk, politics and committee decisions come into play. Business priorities change. Buyers opting to make “no decision” should always be considered an option.

Buyers don’t view large expenditures as no-brainers. Sellers and managers shouldn’t either.

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Sales Tips: 10 Questions to Ask Yourself BEFORE Submitting Proposals.

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

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

sales tips for submitting proposals

My observation is that a high percentage of proposals are provided too soon. In the random world of sales, tangible events are welcome. Many sellers view proposals as being steps toward getting orders. They can be, but I’d suggest some questions before issuing them:

  1. Has a cost vs. benefit been created that justifies the expenditure you’re asking for?

  2. Is the person you’re giving the proposal to able to fund the initiative?

  3. How many of the people that may be in the buying committee have you spoken with?

  4. Do buyers understand the outcomes they are looking to achieve with your offering?

  5. Do buyers understand the reasons they can’t achieve those outcomes without your offering?

  6. Can buyers articulate specific capabilities within your offering will that address the reasons?

  7. Have the buyers been provided with documented results other companies have achieved with your offering?

  8. Will the proposal be forwarded to any people you haven’t already spoken with?

  9. Do buyers have everything needed to make a buying decision?

  10. Why are you issuing the proposal now?

Sellers give up a great deal of control once proposals are issued. Response times to requests often go from hours to days because buyers have everything they need. Once a proposal has been out for a week or two, buyers don’t want to feel pressured because they’ve not yet made decisions.

Given a choice, my preference would be to err on the side of providing a proposal too late rather than too early. Have a look at your pipeline and circle the opportunities where proposals have been issued and there has been not activity/contact in the last 30 days. 

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Sales Tips: How to Avoid the Discounting Death Spiral

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

spiral.pngI 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 Tips: Where Should You Spend Your Prospecting Time?

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


Here is an important statistic to remember: 92 percent of C-level executives never respond to email blasts or cold calls, but 84 percent will engage with a salesperson when referred by a coworker, customer or peer.

The frightening thing is that despite these findings, the salespeople who actually do prospect (those that don’t simply wait for marketing-generated leads or the phone to ring) continue to rely on cold calling and email blasts as their primary methods of prospecting and new business development.

One of my clients goes so far as to say that her salespeople hide behind email blasts and call it ‘prospecting’; it’s fast, easy, and the rejection is not personal. Some people may point to the 8 percent of C-level executives that do engage and say, “See, it works.” However, in light of the above statistic, where do you think you should be spending your valuable prospecting time?

The fact is this: salespeople need to use multiple methods in parallel to constantly build and maintain their pipeline to optimum strength.

If you need some help figuring out what to use and how to use them, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for some sales prospecting training. We can help.

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Sales Tips: Qualification Is An Ongoing Process

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

Image courtesy of hin255 at


There 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.

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Sales Tips: How to Boost the Remainder of Your Year ?

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


Early in my sales management career, I was astounded by how hopeful salespeople were that had achieved 35% of their annual quota going into the fourth quarter. Most came far short of their numbers for the year. Those that squeaked through were faced with a mountain to climb the following year as they started the New Year with little or nothing that was closeable in the first quarter.

Train wrecks happen a month at a time. With the third quarter of the year underway, my advice to sellers and their managers is to start looking a sales cycle ahead every month to optimize the chance that there’s enough in the pipeline. My suggestion is to try to be realistic vs. optimistic:

  • Withdraw proposals that are over 90 days old. Sellers often assume an unrealistic percentage of these will close. Politely withdrawing them offers two benefits:

    • A more realistic view in removing unqualified opportunities from pipelines.
    • In some cases buyers may still be interested and otherwise dormant opportunities can be revived.

  • With ongoing opportunities, try to determine when buyers want to make decisions and see if a written Sequence of Events (SOE) with activities and dates can be negotiated.

  • On an ongoing basis, do the math as to how many new opportunities must be found each month to reasonably cover your monthly revenue objective.

  • If/when sellers fall below YTD, tweak activity levels to make up the shortfall.

Scrambling in the last quarter is stressful for everyone involved. Take action now while there’s still time to get YTD or better.

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