From the CCS® Sales Blog

October 2014

Viewing posts from October , 2014

Sales Tips: Pre-closing Checklist

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

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Have you ever had opportunities in which you won the business without having to close? In these cases buying is a logical conclusion and just happens. These situations are gratifying and rare. In most transactions sellers should and do ask for the business.

Many sellers close on their timeframes (end of month, quarter or year) with little regard for where buyers are in their buying processes. Buyers that aren’t ready to buy may feel pressured. Discounting may be necessary to accelerate decisions. In some cases high pressure closes can cause transactions to be lost.

0-man-writing-notepadYour Pre-Closing Checklist
Competent sellers earn the right to close. To have a realistic chance of getting the business, I believe buyers should:

  • Know the business outcomes they are trying to achieve
  • Understand in their current environment the reasons that outcomes can’t be achieved
  • Be able to articulate the capabilities they need
  • Know the price
  • Understand the cost vs. benefit
  • Be able to fund the initiative
  • Be a decision maker (it’s demeaning to be closed when they aren’t authorized)
  • Understand what will be necessary to implement (or activate) the new offering

If sellers close before these items have been addressed, they pressure buyers (ask them to buy without a clear understanding of why they should buy). Especially as year-end approaches, try to be sure buyers have the needed information and authority. If they know the potential value, they’ll also understand delaying decisions defers benefits that could be realized.

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Sales Tips: How to Setup Your 2017 for Success

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

sales training plan for successIt’s the fourth quarter and if you’re like most salespeople, you’re examining your pipeline trying to determine which opportunities have a chance of closing this quarter; what needs to be done and when in order for them to close; and, which ones will have to be carried over into 2017. After all, you’re going to need something to work on come the first of the New Year. Still, other than those opportunities you bring with you, where will your 2017 business come from?

Step 1: Timing
Almost as important as where to begin is when to begin! If you were thinking you were going to rely on 2016 carryover, then it’s the end of January and nothing has closed, you are late to the party. The reality is, if you haven’t closed anything in January, you’re going to have to close twice as much in February just to make year-to-date quota! That’s a tall order even for the most accomplished sales person. This is the final quarter of 2016. The time to begin developing your Territory Sales Plan is now!

Step 2: Analysis
I think before you begin to lay out your plan, you first need to analyze:

  • YTD Business – specifically who did you close; what did they buy; where did they come from; and what was the average dollar value of the sales/transaction?
  • WIN Rate – what is your win rate when presented with a qualified opportunity?
  • Are some months or quarters more prolific than others?
  • Discounting – what has it cost you in 2016?
  • Vertical Markets – are you having greater success in one vertical versus another?
  • Existing Pipeline – who won’t close, that you will be carrying over into 2017?
  • Products Offerings – existing products and/or services, new products and/or services and planned price changes?
  • Existing Customers – what ‘haven’t’ they purchased; why would they need it; and who do you need to speak with in order to initiate a sales cycle?
  • 2016 Compensation Plan – what will your sales revenue requirement be in 2017?
  • Personal Income Requirement – what do you want to make in 2017?

Step 3: Set Goals
Based on the analysis of your customer base, prospects and 2017 revenue requirements, you need to establish goals for what you need to accomplish. Things to consider include:

  • How many WINS do you need in order to make your revenue quota? A simple way of establishing that would be to take your 2017 annual revenue requirement divided by the average dollar value of the sales/transaction. That will provide you the number of estimated WINS you’ll need to close in 2017.
  • How many of those WINS do you want to come from existing clients?
  • How many WINS from new name business?
  • How many WINS by each quarter?
  • Based on your WIN Rate, how many leads will you need to generate your new name business goal?

Step 4: Strategies
How do you intend on reaching those goals? In addition to your individual lead generation efforts and responding to inbound inquiries, do you have any particular growth strategies for your territory?

  • Identify the Top 10 prospects that you will carry over into 2017.
  • Are there particular verticals/projects/situations where you have experienced greater success and you would like to build upon that success?
  • Do you want to enhance your mix of business (new name account vs. existing accounts)?
  • Are trends emerging in the marketplace that align with your offering?
  • Were there ‘sales ready messages’ that resonated with your prospects that you want to exploit?
  • Do you wish to increase account penetration with core products?
  • Will you build your social network database and expand the use of referrals?

Step 5: Tactics

Top Ten Prospects Carried Over From 2016:

  • Identify your top 5 opportunities.
  • Prepare a tactical plan to convert each to ‘E’ status.
  • Schedule refocus meetings to recap goals, reasons and the prospects’ solution.
  • Attempt to measure the cost of doing business today and confirm the value to the prospects’ organization.
  • Document the results via a Sales Process Control Letter.
  • Share the results with your manager.

Prospecting/New Business Development:

  • Minimum of 10-20% of your time; 4 to 8 hours a week.
  • Build your pipeline to optimum strength to meet your revenue goal.
  • Define the specific technologies that are available to you to enhance your productivity.

LinkedIn, Jigsaw, Hoovers, InsideView, ConstantContact, etc.

  • Which specific existing accounts, and which specific new name accounts will you pursue based on your strategies?
  • What specific method will you use to reach them; referrals, referrals via social networking, cold calls, emails, direct mail, Webinars, group sales calls, etc.?
  • What specific ‘sales ready messages’ will you use to cause them to engage?
  • In what order will you use the ‘sales ready messages’ and with what frequency?
  • Use multiple methodologies in parallel.

Step 6: Plan Execution

  • Create a tactical calendar complete with dates and steps to be accomplished.
  • Give yourself ample time to execute each step in your plan.
  • Establish success metrics and measure you and your plan’s performance.
  • Monitor your own performance weekly!
  • Evaluate your pipeline strength on a weekly and monthly basis; adjust your prospect activity based on that strength.
  • Watch for new and unexpected opportunities; vertical markets, trends, issue, etc.
  • If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change/modify your plan!
  • Plan your work and work your plan!

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Sales Tips: Don’t Wait for Opportunities to Find You

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

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sales tipsWebsite inquiries can be intoxicating for B2B vendors. My hope is that companies and sellers realize qualification efforts are necessary in following up on inbound leads to gain access to higher levels and establish value for offerings. Inbound activity seems to have reduced the focus on outbound reaches.

“In basket” selling occurs when started by inbound activity. Is it possible the deluge of Website visitors has caused a reduction in efforts to proactively initiate new opportunities? Consider some inherent limitations of inbound leads: 

  1. Prospect organizations may not meet a desired prospect profile. This can cause sellers to waste time and ultimately need to disqualify prospects.
  1. It’s likely visitors earning high enough activity scores are not ideal entry points from the standpoint of having the ability to secure funding for offerings being considered. If budget hasn’t been earmarked, sellers must get to higher levels. This can be a challenge with people that avoid talking with sellers for as long as possible, believe they understand their requirements and are concerned about being manipulated.
  1. Inbound visitors may be doing research driven by personal curiosity about offerings with little regard for business outcomes that can be achieved. 
  1. To understand and justify the value of B2B offerings, it is necessary for buying committees to take “enterprise” rather than personal or departmental views to develop cost vs. benefit analyses.

Sellers may get complacent in expecting that their pipelines should be filled with inbound leads. When they aren’t making their numbers, they may be unable or unwilling to take the trite but valid advice often given in high school yearbooks: Don’t wait for your boat (leads) to come in, row out (proactively generate interest) to meet it.

Takeaway: Inbound leads can and should be developed. That said, proactive reaches to targeted companies aimed at Key Player levels facilitate top down buying cycles and are likely to yield higher win rates.

Sales Tips: Two Ways to Better Manage Your Time

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

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at

“I don’t need sales training. I need time management!”

0-hourglassOver the course of training salespeople over the last 20+ years, I have had the opportunity to work with people across the experience spectrum. From people whose first day in sales was sitting in my workshop to engaging with sales pros who have been at it for 10, 15 or 20+ years.

I always start my workshops by asking, “What is a particular selling difficulty you’d like to get addressed over the course of this workshop?” More often than not, the length of their tenure in sales directly impacts what they would like to focus on. In other words, the longer the tenure, the less likely they are to have an internal locus of control versus external. Quite often, especially from the more experienced people in the group, I hear quotes such as the one referenced in the above title.

While I won’t claim to have a solution that fits every single salesperson, my experience is that there are two universal things that salespeople can do that will dramatically impact their ability to manage their time in a positive fashion.

1. The first is to honestly grade their pipeline and flush out the crap that just isn’t real. Too often we confuse activity with accomplishment when the reality is that if we would just aggressively qualify the deals we are working on, the number of “opportunities” eating up our time would decline dramatically.

2. The second is to get better at negotiation. The ugly reality for a salesperson is that if they provide a percentage discount in order to secure a piece of business, what they are really doing is just creating more work for themselves. In other words, if you discount a deal by 20% in order to secure the business, does your quota go down by 20%? Nope. Now ask yourself this question: “How many new opportunities do I have to put into the top of the funnel to replace the revenue I just gave away?” 

As the theory of Ockham’s Razor states, (and I’m paraphrasing): When all things are equal, the simplest solution is probably the right one.

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Sales Tips: Is the Pain Bad Enough to Change?

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

Image courtesy of Ponsulak at

0-fire-alarmOne of the fundamental aspects of human behavior is a resistance to change. As referenced in previous posts, a seller’s primary competitor is often buyers making “no decision” at the end of buying cycles. It may be helpful for sellers to view the objective of calls being “hurt and rescue” missions.

After buyers share goals or admit pains, sellers should do thorough diagnoses of the current situation to identify the “hurt”. This amounts to helping buyers understand the reasons goals can’t be achieved (or pains can’t be resolved). The reasons uncovered should be addressable by capabilities within the seller’s offering.

After having the diagnostic conversations, it is helpful if sellers can uncover base lines, meaning how the buyer is currently performing in terms of the goal being discussed. The “rescue” occurs when the buyer realizes the capabilities needed to achieve the goal being discussed. To quantify value, an important question is asking how much (% or dollar value) buyers could improve.

A major reason for “no decision” is that value is either insufficient or never quantified. It is important for buyers to realize the potential lost value if they delay or make no decision.

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Read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company.