From the CCS® Sales Blog

March 2017

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Sales Tips: Don’t Shy Away from Turmoil – Embrace It

Sales Tips: Don’t Shy Away from Turmoil – Embrace It

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

Most salespeople shy away from turmoil. I’m suggesting you embrace it and outsell your competition!

When you’re trying to engage with a prospect and everything is going great but they have no need for your product or service, or when things are not going well and your product or offering is exactly what they need in order to address their problem(s)… When do you think they might be most receptive?

triggering event is an event whose consequences are so significant that it would cause an organization to change how they operate. Generally, triggering events fall into one of three (3) categories. 

  1. Awareness. The prospect becomes aware of a need to change for legal, risk-avoidance or economic reasons. For example, the Affordable Care Act (referred to as ObamaCare) required businesses and individuals to provide or acquire healthcare coverage or incur a financial penalty assessed by the IRS. This caused companies to change how they operated.

  2. Bad Experience. The prospect has had a bad experience with a product or service, with people, or with a provider. For instance, there may have been a change in a product or service that has caused the prospect organization to become unhappy.

  3. Change or transition. The prospect experiences a change or transition in people, place or priorities. For example, there may have been a change in executive leadership. I personally look for changes in ‘sales leadership.’ The announcement of a new Vice President of Sales could indicate that an underperforming sales team has been given a new leader who has some performance difficulties that need to be addressed – and addressed quickly. That is the perfect opportunity for me and for the new Vice President.

sales opportunityWhy are triggering events significant?
They represent an opportunity for you as a salesperson if you recognize them and can help your prospect to successfully manage the change. How? The event may indicate that the status quo in an organization is changing. Existing vendor relationships may have been disrupted. The organization has to consider changing how they currently operate. Someone in the company (the hope is that it is a person you are targeting) has a new goal, problem or need that they have to address. Therefore, it is immediately pertinent to the individual you are trying to reach or engage with. Given the significance, action is required now, not later – NOW!

Here is a secret. Most salespeople, especially your competitors, don’t recognize the opportunity. Nor do they understand how to use a triggering event to their advantage. They are afraid of the turmoil. This advantage allows you to develop timely and relevant Sales Ready Messaging® in a personalized manner that is aligned to the specific needs of your prospects. As a result, you end up with two (2) advantages: 

  1. YOU will be the first to identify the opportunity and help your prospect, which enables you to help define the parameters of the project (in your favor, of course).

  2. By the time a competitor recognizes the opportunity or has been called in for a comparative proposal, the prospect will have invested substantial effort in building a trusting relationship with YOU, giving YOU the competitive edge.

For more on triggering events, where to find them, how to use them to improve your prospecting skills and WIN rate, I suggest you pick up a copy of my book, The CustomerCentric Selling® Field Guide to Prospecting and Business Development from Amazon.com. It’s available in electronic or textbook format. Or better yet, enroll in the public CustomerCentric Selling® workshop I will be personally instructing in Denver, June 6-9th.

Sales Training Workshop - Denver, June 2017

Sales Tips: How to Position Your Business to Win RFPs

Sales Tips: How to Position Your Business to Win RFPs

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

Writing RFPWriting the winning responses to RFPs is always your goal. As part of the selling process, we know you have spent hours researching a business, contacting various key players to understand the business needs, and discussing options so you can write a response to the RFP that delivers the most impact. Of course, the response should demonstrate why your solution is the best available option. Nonetheless, bids or responses to proposals should be treated as a selling tool. Here’s why. 

How to Write Winning Responses to RFPs

Although the proposal is where you will summarize how you will meet the requirements stipulated in the RFP, you still need to motivate the key decision players to select your solution over the competition. Like you, the decision makers must make tough investment decisions and may have a limited budget at their disposal. So you should present a clear proposal that sells the benefit, eliminates any perceived risks, and reassures them that they are making the best decision.

During the vendor selection process, the evaluators along with the key decision player analyze each proposal and are looking for the most credible offer. To write winning responses to RFPs, you’ll need to provide enough detail – both qualitative and quantitative – to make a strong, positive impression.

What does a successful bid look like?

In our experience, a well-prepared proposal that will appeal to your buyer has the following attributes:

  • You have a full understanding of the business issues they need to solve
  • Your solution has quantifiable benefits worth investing in
  • You’ve explained in detail how your solution works
  • You presented your company as a consultative partner, not just a transactional vendor

Would you like to take a deeper dive on crafting effective responses to RFPs?

Download this guide so you and your team can be successful at winning proposals.

 

Sales Training Workshop

Sales Tips: Sellers Shouldn’t Act Like Waiters

Sales Tips: Sellers Shouldn’t Act Like Waiters

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Salespeople Shouldn't Be Waiters for BuyersAt one point in the original Arthur movie Dudley Moore says, “Aren’t waiters wonderful. You ask for things and they bring them to you.”

It’s amazing how salespeople selling complex offerings often act like waiters. When non-Key Players ask for resources, they receive them. Some sellers feel if they satisfy all requests the right thing will happen and they’ll be awarded the business.

If and when lower level staff members make requests the knee-jerk reaction to grant it causes several issues for salespeople: 

  1. They reinforce the concept that they are subordinate to the requester.
  2. Things that are free aren’t valued as much as things that cost something.
  3. They may give resources away in unqualified
  4. They lose a golden opportunity to barter for access.

Let’s suppose a technical evaluator (NOT a member of a buying committee) is interested in an offering and asks a seller to have a support person do an online demo. Rather than blindly give what was asked, the seller could make a conditional offer by saying:

If you like what you see in the demo, can we meet with your manager who you said would be involved in the decision?

When making requests, buyers are usually open to giving something in return if asked. 

I have a client that was winning less than 5% of RFP responses when they didn’t have a chance to influence the requirements. I suggested that when they received unsolicited opportunities the seller should contact issuers (usually not Key Players) and do these five (5) things: 

  1. Say they appreciate being invited to bid and compliment the buyer on doing a thorough job on the RFP.
  2. Indicate the seller would like to do a thorough job in responding and that there may be additional capabilities that would be of value to the company.
  3. Explain that to determine if other capabilities are relevant it would be necessary to talk or meet with other staff (request access to 3 Key Player titles). If granted, sellers have an opportunity to influence the requirements.
  4. If the issuer of the RFP pushes back, the seller should cite the time and effort needed to make a response and explain that unless granted access to other stakeholders, he/she would not be in a position to bid on the RFP.
  5. Follow-up with a letter explaining your position. You didn’t refuse to bid, rather you were unwilling to bid without access. You hope the buyer finds what they’re looking for but if they don’t, you’d welcome a chance to bid if granted access.

Sales managers made decisions on whether to bid if not granted access. There were some cases where that made sense. My client drove win rates on unsolicited RFP’s from less than 5% to a tolerable 24% by using this approach.

This quid pro quo (give and get) approach allows sellers to leverage what a buyer requests (demo, RFP response, etc.) to get something in return (usually access to higher levels). It also positions sellers more as peers than subordinates.

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Sales Tips: Obituary for Traditional Selling

sales-tips-obituary-for-traditional-selling

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Traditional Selling (TS) quietly passed away in its sleep last week. It had been in poor health as buyers tired of seller attempts to convince, persuade and overcome objections (many of which were valid). The demise of Death of Traditional SellingTS accelerated as websites, search engines and social networking were used to level the playing field with salespeople. 

Today’s buyers research multiple vendors and their offerings prior to contacting salespeople. TS drifted further out of alignment with buyers as sellers continued to develop needs without learning requirements that had already been established. Buyers resented being treated as novices with sellers’ premature attempts to change their requirements. The death spiral for TS accelerated.

Futile measures were taken in the last decade to extend the life of TS. In a woefully tepid response, many vendors made a name change. The term “Sales Enablement” fooled no one. Some buyers were repulsed that vendors continued efforts to help salespeople sell. They ignored the reality that buyers want to buy – not be sold. “Buyer Empowerment” would have been a better name, but absent extensive organizational changes, status quo TS was not going to change appreciably. Bandages were being applied to a grievously ill patient in of need major surgery.

While buyers expected and welcomed the news, vendors clinging to old ways are saddened by the demise of TS. Many seem paralyzed by the prospect of having to rethink revenue generation with a blank sheet of paper. A good start would be redefining the role salespeople should play in today’s environment. Despite all the training they receive, sellers are no longer viewed as the product experts they were pre-Internet. 

Stockholders of vendors clinging to old habits are concerned that failure to respond to new buying realities may lead them to suffer the same fate as TS. Top-line revenue growth has been elusive over the last 15 years, despite all the alleged buying activity that was happening. A sustainable competitive advantage awaits those vendors that learn how to embrace new buying behaviors and align with them.

TS leaves behind no relatives, rather innumerable buyers that feel they were manipulated or taken advantage of by traditional sellers and their tactics. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the AAB (Association of Abused Buyers). 

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Sales Tips: Scripted versus Tailored Sales Presentations

Sales Tips: Scripted versus Tailored Sales Presentations

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

Sales PresentationIs it better to have a scripted sales presentation or a tailored one? The guiding principle in any sales process should be listening to your buyer and tailoring your sales presentations to meet your buyer’s unique business needs.

Then again, having a template for your presentation is helpful because you don’t have time to reinvent the wheel every time you need to present to a new prospect. Just plug and play, copy and paste. Makes sense, right?

Scripted versus Tailored Sales Presentations

First of all, as part of the sales process, of course, it makes sense to have a presentation template available. We know what you’re thinking: Everyone’s busy and there’s no time for creating sales collateral for just one prospect.

However, we wouldn’t recommend ruining your chances of winning a sales opportunity by sacrificing just a short amount of time it will take to get to know your buyer and their preferences.

For example, our program consultant interviewed a buyer who complained that our client’s presentation felt too mechanical, stale, and rehearsed. The buyer said the sales team’s presentation sounded scripted and boring. Needless to say, our client lost the sales opportunity.

Sales Presentation Templates: Wash, Rinse, Don’t Repeat

The sales team used a script that was based on an approach that they found to be effective with other prospects. The buyer even admitted they were fine with that approach the first time. However, when they heard the same script in follow-up presentations, it came across as disingenuous.

The buyer revealed the competitor’s sales presentation was more casual and the sales team spent the time understanding the business needs and talking directly to those needs.

What’s the Most Effective Approach?

Nonetheless, we’re not against scripted sales presentations. Some buyers prefer the scripted approach to ensure everything is covered. Others prefer a problem-solving type of session. Do some homework on your buyer to figure out their preference. Or simply, ask the buyer before you develop the sales pitch to see which one would be most effective for them. (Read “Why Knowing Your Buyer is the Key to Successful Sales Presentations” for more best practices.)

No matter what, if you give them the wrong sales presentation, odds are you’re going to lose no matter how exceptional your solution is.

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Sales Tips: Buyer Intelligence Is Direct Catalyst for Increasing Sales

Sales Tips: Buyer Intelligence Is Direct Catalyst for Increasing Sales

By Heather McDougald, Director of Sales Operations, Primary Intelligence

At our Outcomes 2016 Conference, I attended the roundtable discussion on the topic “Obtaining Sales Team Buy-In.” A Win Loss program is far more successful when the sales team is fully supportive of the program’s goals and processes. But how do we get them there? I suggested to the group that we talk about a win loss program as another sales enablement tool. Our CEO Ken Allred had just explained in the General Session that he started Primary Intelligence to “help salespeople sell more.”

Another member of the group suggested that win loss is a catalyst for change. It’s true. The principal motivation for uncovering buyer experiences is to inform the orgCatalyst for Salesanization how it can grow by aligning their efforts with prospect and customer needs, wants, and preferences.

So which is it? Is your win loss program a sales enablement tool? Or is it a catalyst for organizational change?

It’s both.

Accurate, actionable buyer intelligence is a direct catalyst for changes that increase sales.

The problem with focusing on win loss as a change catalyst, though, is messaging. People tend to resist change. In contrast, people embrace the notion of being more successful. So, get the buy-in you need by promoting the promise of their individual success while applying the best practices of change implementation.

Four Best Practices to Get Organizational Buy-in

  1. “WIIFM.” Winning your sales team over to supporting a win loss program is one of those rare organizational change efforts with a great answer to the “WIIFM” problem. When your sales rep says (or doesn’t say out loud but thinks) “What’s In It For Me?,” the answer is, “a higher win rate and increased commissions.” Not many organizational changes have a direct line to individual success like this. Take full advantage.

  2. Clearly communicate your goal as improvement rather than punishment. Ken emphasized this in his presentation and we regularly reiterate this commitment in our own company’s win loss program. No one wants to participate in his or her own flogging. A win loss program should never be applied to vilify or embarrass individual shortcomings or failures, but instead as a tool to educate, train, and assist your team in becoming more successful. A clear commitment to this goal will lower resistance to participation and increase acceptance of the intel that is collected. (Download The Win Loss Witch-hunt eBook for best practices on sales team training.)

  3. Be firm but patient. Resistance to new programs, new ideas, and new ways of thinking is not malicious. Someone who’s done something the same way for a while, who feels successful in his/her role, is naturally going to mistrust change efforts and will defend an entrenched position. At times, it may feel unreasonable or insubordinate, but if your organization is one that encourages honesty from employees and respectful disagreement, reacting too strongly to resistance can crush your healthy, open culture. Give your people an opportunity to express their point of view, but explain clearly that once a strategy or tactical decision has been made, everyone is expected to get behind it. Thereafter, persist. Continue to communicate what is expected, hold people accountable, and repeat the reasons why the change is being made.

  4. Celebrate success. This isn’t just a form of reward but is also a great way to move those last holdouts to get on board. Proof that the win loss program is making their colleagues more successful is proof that the program is a good idea. Resistance will be seen as self-defeating.

This best practice should help you achieve sales team buy-in with a win loss program and, equally important, with the changes you need to implement based on the buyer intel you collect.

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Sales Tips: A Business Case for Business Cases

Sales Tips: A Business Case for Business Cases

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Test DriveAfter deciding you need to buy a new car it would be unusual behavior to start randomly visiting car dealerships to take test drives until you find the car you feel is the best match for your needs. People don’t have the time or the inclination to do so.

A more efficient approach would be to evaluate your needs, decide what you can afford to pay and create a “short list” of cars that fit your criteria (sometimes with the help of Consumer Reports, JD Powers, social networking, etc.). This will usually yield a list of 5 or fewer options and you would then start looking at these cars at dealerships and decide which you deem worthy to test drive.

Over the last 15 years or so there has been a frenzy of what has been erroneously been referred to as “buying activity” for B2B vendors selling complex offerings. In many cases without initiatives and budgets from senior executives, mid to lower level staff take it upon themselves to start product evaluations that amount to doing test drives before determining desired business outcomes and approximate costs so value can be estimated. 

The Internet allows today’s buyers to do research on cars and reduce the number of car salespeople they have to deal with. In B2B situations, mid to lower level staff fear that salespeople will somehow manipulate or take advantage of them. For technology offerings many researchers have scars from past unrealistic seller claims about the ease of use and implementation. 

The unfortunate result is that self-appointed “buying” committees are bad for prospect organizations because time is wasted. If and when contacted, vendors and sellers deal with people that have already made up their minds about their requirements and will be reluctant to change them. In most cases business issues and potential value have not been determined. If and when researchers ask for budget, how likely is it that “no decision” outcomes will cause product evaluations to grind to a halt?

Selling has been viewed as a zero sum game. It would be in everyone’s best interest if business cases were built to make cursory attempts to determine if the potential benefit can justify the cost of offerings. 

The first core concept of CustomerCentric Selling® is: Bad news early is good news. In 2002 this was from a seller’s perspective that unless buyers share business issues, sales cycles have not begun. I hope you would agree prospects would also benefit if financial cases were analyzed before spending time, effort and resources on product evaluations.

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Sales Tips: Reality Check for Sales Management

Sales Tips: Reality Check for Sales Management

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

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

Are you the senior leader of an underperforming sales team?

Unlike other senior executives whose performance may not be as measurable and visible, when the sales organization is underperforming you don’t need to wait to be called into the CEO’s office to be told you have a problem. You know it. Everybody in the organization knows it.

I hope you don’t think that I’m trying to embarrass you by asking this question. I’m simply trying to see if you’ll acknowledge it. I find so many senior sales executives who, for whatever reason, don’t want to acknowledge the fact that they have a performance problem that needs to be addressed. They will continue to limp along, professing things will get better, when they have no real plan for dealing with an underperforming sales team.

Their lives consist of stressful senior executive meetings (where they get grilled about the team’s performance); missed monthly revenue forecasts; acquiescing to salespeople’s excuses; placing people on performance plans; directing their salespeople to work harder, and pursuing a traditional approach to selling that is no longer appropriate for today’s marketplace. That’s right, the marketplace has changed. How organizations research, evaluate, and purchase your offering has changed.

If your sales team is failing to meet its revenue goals, despite everything else that is going on, you’re ‘underperforming.’ I don’t know of any senior sales executive who wants to be saddled with that label. It’s embarrassing, discouraging and potentially career shortening. Look at former Dallas Cowboys football coach Tom Landry. After 29 years and a dismal 3-13 performance by the Dallas Cowboys in 1989, the Cowboys fired the only coach they ever had. Don’t let the same thing happen to you. 

The good news is that you can correct an underperforming sales team. I see it all the time. It’s possible to turn it around and save your reputation by acknowledging the problem, having a sincere approach, and by implementing a consistent, repeatable sales process; that salespeople can be taught to execute; management can monitor, coach and inspect; is aligned with your marketplace; and represents your company’s best sales practices.

Do yourself, your sales team, and your company a favor. Don’t wait to be told what to do. Proactively seek assistance. With help, you can correct an underperforming sales team. 

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Sales Tips: When IS a Good Time for Training?

Sales Tips: When IS a Good Time for Training?

BBy Frank Visgatis, President/COO, CustomerCentric Selling®

sales teamI took my first formal sales training in 1986 as a rookie sales rep with a newspaper production automation vendor based out of Boston. To say I went willingly would be quite a stretch.

When my district sales manager informed me that I would be participating in a four-day long training program that had nothing to do with the features or functionality of my product but was actually about “sales as a process,” I balked. I had cold calls to make, demos to attend, proposals to write and business to close. How could I be expected to take four valuable days to be “trained” on something I already knew how to do?

What I learned during those four days helped me to understand something profound – how much I didn’t know. It was the first step in a journey I embarked on that continues to this day – to learn and evaluate all aspects of the profession of selling.

Over the past several decades, as I’ve interacted with the senior management of hundreds of different organizations, an oft-voiced concern is the length of time we recommend they invest in order to effect behavioral change within their sales organization. When confronted with the reality that “doing things right” often requires, at a minimum, the better part of a weeklong commitment out of the field, the heels begin to dig in:

  • “We have too much going on to spend that much time.”

  • “Reps will lose deals if they’re out of their territory too long.”

  • “It’s just not a good time to do training.”

Time ManagementValid concerns? Perhaps. However, have you ever wondered what the impact is of NOT taking time out of the field? Or what if we try to cram a week of learning into a day or two?

According to the results of a survey we conducted in conjunction with Sales Benchmark Index (Best Practices of World-class Sales Organizations), the organizations that qualify as “world-class” invest an average of 40 hours per year in proactively training their salespeople. That’s 25 hours MORE than their benchmark peers and a whopping 38 hours more than the bottom quartile.

But what do they get for their investment?

According to Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” So what is the “opposite reaction” to taking time out of the field to invest in training? According to Best Practices of World-class Sales Organizations, it is improved sales productivity as measured by the length of the sell cycle. Those “world-class” organizations that invest those additional 25 hours compared to their benchmark peers enjoy a sell cycle that averages 45 days LESS. When compared to the bottom quartile, the savings is 105 days.

How many more sell cycles could you fit into your quota-driven year if you had an extra 45 to 105 days per active sell cycle you’re currently managing?

When I conduct a training program, whether it be for one of my clients, or via one of the public sessions I conduct on a regular basis, I often hear the complaint directly from salespeople that they “don’t need more training” – what they need is time management. They feel they just have too many balls in the air. However, if we look at the time we spend honing our skills and improving our knowledgebase as an “investment” rather than an “expense,” we realize that those four days will typically translate to a 45 day savings on our average sell cycle. Given that the average salesperson has two to six serious sell cycles they are attempting to manage at any given point in time, they are really buying themselves one of the most precious and elusive commodities in the world – time.

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Sales Tips: Buyers Are NOT Always Right?

Sales Tips: Buyers Are NOT Always Right?

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

0-mtg-w-buyer.jpgWhen I started in Sales, a common phrase was that “the customer/buyer is always right.” While I’ve always believed sellers should respect buyers, nobody I know is right all of the time. I’d like to share a situation where it was appropriate to challenge a buyer’s opinion.

Several years ago a new CCS® Business Partner asked me to make a call with him on a VP of Sales that he had known a long time. He felt the VP would be a good candidate for implementing our sales process. The three of us met for lunch and after a few minutes of rapport building, we started discussing some of the challenges the prospect was experiencing.

He initially indicated things were going fairly well, but after a few more minutes said the majority of his sellers weren’t making his numbers. He went on to say that he didn’t feel that there would be much benefit in doing any sales training for his staff. He then asked if CCS® did anything in helping sellers improve their presentation skills. I shared with him that we didn’t, but there were some other people that I’d be happy to put him in touch with.

One option was to finish the lunch and at the end of our call share some empty words about any future needs that might arise. I was mildly upset the Business Partner hadn’t uncovered some areas for discussion prior to our meeting, but what really bothered me was his thought that improved presentation skills would allow his staff to drive higher revenue.

With little to lose, I asked: How much impact do you feel improved presentation skills will have on driving higher revenue?  He hesitated for several seconds and seemed surprised in admitting that it was unlikely that better presentation skills would address his revenue shortfall. We then went on to have a detailed discussion about the underlying reasons many of his reps weren’t achieving quota.

Earlier in my sales consulting career, I probably would have challenged him sooner and more directly. In hindsight, admitting that I couldn’t help in presentation skills and offering him others that could, allowed me a little later in the call to challenge the direction he planned to take with his sales staff.

Download Episode 18 Listen to PART 2 of our conversation with bestselling author and consultant, Geoffrey Moore on Sales Rehab!

Register for one of our sales training workshops to improve sales performance through a buyer-oriented sales process, or read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company.