From the CCS® Sales Blog

September 2015

Viewing posts from September , 2015

Sales Tips: New Salespeople In-Training?

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

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apple-orangeIs it just me, or are Marketing people starting to behave like salespeople? Most have been given responsibility for the top of the funnel. In my experience sellers historically have been most aggressive and annoying at the start of buying cycles in trying to get in the door and at then end of buying cycles with high-pressure closes. 

While organizations have changed the people generating leads, there is a valuable lesson to be learned. Whether marketing or salespeople, buyers do not want to be sold. They much prefer to buy. In order to achieve that objective companies must learn how to create offerings that the market and buyers need and therefore want to buy.

Many senior executives confuse sales enablement with somehow becoming customer-centric. If only it were that easy. The fact is that product development done with inside-out views will continue to require “push strategies” and make Marketing staff act like salespeople. The current structure with the silos of Product Development, Product Marketing, Marketing and Sales must be disbanded in order to have customer-centric offerings. Outside-in views are needed for “pull strategies” to be employed.

Sales Tips: Why Loss Reports Are Exercises In Futility ?

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

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sad_salesperson_sales_trainingSellers spend time and effort on opportunities but ultimately they win, lose to named competitors or lose to no decision. Each of the last two options is painful and many vendors require loss reports to be filed. It’s bad enough the sellers’ efforts have gone for naught, now they have to tell the company why they lost.

I believe it’s rare for sellers to fully understand why they lost. When breaking up with someone in high school, you want it to be as quick and painless as possible. It would be a rare buyer that would tell a seller he or she had been outsold, didn’t understand their business, etc. Ultimately they want something innocuous to blame. The two most frequently invoked reasons are price and product which more than coincidentally are the ones most commonly used in loss reports.

Let me share my view as to why these are seldom the real reasons for losses:

1. If a buyer tells a seller she lost because her price was slightly higher than the chosen vendor, some sellers just accept it as fact. Those that are more thoughtful think to themselves: Why didn’t you ask me if I could provide a better price? The answer is they didn’t want to do business with you.

2. In my mind the only times price is the reason for losses is when sellers were asked for pricing that the management team could not honor. Price in all other instances isn’t the reason.

3. After a 90 day buying cycle if the seller blames product, I have one question to ask: Of the 90 days you were selling to this client, how long did it take you to understand the buyer wanted a SaaS offering and how long did it take you to realize our offering isn’t? The fact is if product wasn’t a good fit it was never a qualified opportunity.

The most common reasons given in loss reports are price and product. If you’re serious about learning why you lose (or win for that matter), I suggest hiring someone outside of the company to interview clients 3 months or so after the loss. Have a consultant call the highest level that was involved in the buying decision and explain that:

  • The company waited 90 days because they weren’t trying to change the buyer’s mind.
  • Time and resources were spent competing and the company would like to learn from the loss.
  • What were the major reasons for choosing Vendor A?
  • What were the major reasons for not choosing the company I’m representing?

You should be able to gain far more insights interviewing prospects than just accepting price or product as valid reasons for losses.

Sales Tips: How to Avoid Pitfalls When Navigating Upward ?

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

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spiral-stairsDuring sales cycles with new accounts sellers that win the business usually gain access to Key Players within organizations that are involved early and late in buying cycles. The evaluation phase is done with mid and lower levels as they have to learn about the offering, implementation, support, etc. Once the business is won, over time the everyday relationship will be with non-Key Players. Over time there may be no access to them.

As the relationship continues, incumbent salespeople may be blocked in attempts to reconnect with Key Players. While competing for new business with prospects, sellers have an option to “walk” if not granted access. When this happens with customers, that isn’t an option as you may jeopardize the relationship and open the door for competitors.

In my experience as a sales manager, sellers make mistakes when trying to navigate upward within their clients. They ask for access to have one on one meetings with higher levels. Control is important to people and my belief is that lower levels are a bit paranoid about what may be discussed.

Some helpful sales tips for accessing Key Players:

  • A more graceful approach is to ask the lower level to bring you to meet with the executive. It may also be helpful for all parties to allow the lower level to highlight progress made over the last several months.

  • If that approach isn’t successful, a similar tactic can be used when leveraging the seller’s manager, industry subject matter experts or senior executives within the vendor organization. This amounts to asking for meetings involving your primary contact, the Key Player, another person from your organization and you.

  • When asking for access there should be a clearly stated reason for the call and a description of topics for discussion. Key Players’ calendars are full and if/when your primary contact asks for a meeting they very likely will have to justify why it would be time well spent.

  • Another tactic is to set up annual reviews (especially for large accounts) with one or more senior executives to summarize achievements and results in the prior year, learn about any new initiatives for the coming year and determine if there may be further opportunities within the account.

It is difficult to win new customers and I suggest sellers have plans in place to maintain executive level contacts to protect your base and hopefully find ways to grow revenues within your clients.

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