From the CCS® Sales Blog

October 2017

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Sales Tips: Asking Sellers to Execute without Providing the HOW

Sales Tips: Asking Sellers to Execute without Providing the HOW

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Salespeople want to meet or exceed their quotas. When numbers aren’t achieved the reasons can be that sellers have skill deficiencies or are unwilling to execute the steps in the company’s sales process. 

  • “Won’t” is an attitude issue and managers must find a way to motivate sellers.
  • “Can’t” is a skill issue.

It should come as no surprise that when managers ask sellers to perform tasks they can’t execute, disappointing results are a virtual certainty. 

Show Sellers HOW to ExecuteIn an attempt to exert some modicum of control over the pipeline and forecasting, organizations define steps in their sales processes and embed them into their CRM system. While this roadmap is helpful to sellers, has anyone in your organization mapped the skills and messaging needed to execute each step?

In my experience, first-line sales managers have a habit of telling sellers what to do without providing sufficient detail about how to do it.

As I started my first sales job, my manager shared four nuggets of wisdom in one sentence: Call high, stay high, don’t lead with product and establish value. This was great advice but not very helpful as Jeff never shared with me HOW to do these things. 

After getting my license, my Dad cautioned me about driving at night by making me aware that 60 miles per hour meant traveling at 88 feet per second. Dependent upon the distance that headlights illuminated objects, reaction time to see them, the time needed to hit the brakes and braking distance it was possible to “outdrive” your headlights. In other words, by the time you could see objects it was possible there wasn’t enough distance to stop the car in time.

It happened a day at a time but over the last 15 years or so, selling has gotten more complicated. Given the pace of product announcements and changes in how goods and services are purchased, I’m of a mind organizational “headlights” for sellers are likely to have lagged behind.

👉 Is it worth the time needed to take a hard look at your sales process and ensure your salespeople have the skills and messaging necessary to allow them to execute each step?

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Sales Tips: Is Your Sales Approach or Process Ready for the Next 10 Years?

Sales Tips: Is Your Sales Approach or Process Ready for the Next 10 Years?

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Evolve Over TimeEveryone is busy and overworked. Fixing flat tires while slowing down rather than stopping has become the norm. Whether 2017 turns out to be a good or bad year, most CRO’s will re-set to zero on January 1st and strive to make higher 2018 quotas. Little time will be spent considering changes in how revenue is generated. There just isn’t time.

Companies operating in this manner will continue to run the risk of drifting further away from how buyers want to buy. 

👉 In many markets vendors and sellers providing the best buying experiences are winning the lion’s share of opportunities.

Change is stressful but maintaining the status quo can be disastrous. 

The first CCS® client I worked with in 2002 was a reseller of printers and copiers. They struggled to sell what procurement and IT viewed as commodities. The CEO realized changes had to be made and vendors that figured out how to address this issue would prosper. 

His sellers were asking IT or procurement if they needed printers or faxes. Most said no. Those that said yes usually asked for a quote on single device. Before making decisions he or she would get three or more quotes and give the incumbent a chance to meet or beat the lowest number. There were instances when hardware would be sold at a loss with hopes that maintenance revenue and consumables would ultimately make the sale profitable. Box-by-box transactions were steadily eroding margins.

I helped sellers realize it was necessary to sell outcomes to higher levels rather than products. Sellers were shown how to call at higher levels (often in finance) and ask: When was the last time anyone analyzed your overall print requirements with a clean sheet of paper?

Most companies had added printers on an ad hoc basis as they grew (applied Band-Aids). Without an overall enterprise strategy devices and workflows became sub-optimal as relates to cost, workflow and energy consumption. Reassessing print requirements often meant replacing all of the installed devices. Uncovering value by optimizing devices allowed salespeople to sell on value rather than price. Revenue and margins increased. 

I share this Success Story for several reasons:

  • Evaluating Sales ApproachConsider how your sales approaches have evolved over the last 20 years. How long has it been since taking a “clean sheet of paper” look at your revenue generation process that is the lifeblood of your organization?
  • Many Band-Aids have been applied because the primary impetus for change has come from buyers over the last two decades.
  • Sales organizations in “react mode” lag behind as the gap between how buyers want to buy and how sellers treat them widens.
  • Sales techniques that fail to evolve become sub-optimal.

Here are some of the challenges you face/have faced in the last two decades: 

  • Giving Marketing the responsibility for nurturing leads
  • Creating better buyer experiences during website visits
  • More closely aligning Sales and Marketing
  • Realizing sellers are being brought into buying cycles later than ever
  • Sellers contacting buyers who have already established their requirements
  • Self-appointed buyers doing product evaluations that can’t buy (don’t have budget)
  • Buyers wanting to be empowered to buy rather than be sold
  • Product Development trying to react to changing customer/market needs
  • Shorter development cycles make it difficult to have long term product advantages
  • Buyers viewing Marketing “push” strategies as attempts to force offerings upon them
  • An increasing percentage of opportunities in pipelines are buying rather than sales cycles
  • Low win rates when sellers are brought into opportunities

Given all these changes wouldn’t it be worth a fresh look at your markets and selling approaches? 

Vendors that align with buying behavior and continue to evolve their sales process have the unique opportunity of making the way they sell a sustainable competitive advantage.

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Sales Tips: 6 Best Practices for Sharing B2B CX Insights with Employees

Sales Tips: 6 Best Practices for Sharing B2B CX Insights with Employees

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

sales-team-2-2.pngAt Primary Intelligence, broad access to customer experience (CX) information is viewed as a best practice since this gives employees, managers, and executives deeper insights into customer perceptions of the organization. Widespread access also allows individuals at every level to construct possible remedies to address customer concerns and gives impetus and support for new initiatives.

Research from the State of Customer Experience revealed the groups with greatest access to customer experience information are executive management (81 percent), sales management and leadership (79 percent), and marketing (74 percent). Interestingly, less than half (49 percent) of organizations provide access to customer experience information to their sales support and enablement teams. “Other” groups with access to customer experience data include support, human resources, legal, quality, engineering, and operations.

Share B2B Customer Experience Insights with Employees ChartEven if the desire exists to share CX data, however, putting a mechanism in place to ensure customer feedback is available throughout the organization can be challenging. In fact, it’s a stumbling block that many companies encounter, especially when they’re large and geographically dispersed.

As a Program Manager in the manufacturing industry shared during a phone call to discuss CX programs, “Our Discovery calls [are a best practice at our company]. I invite the appropriate people, generally the director level or above, who can really influence change and really should know about things in their sphere of influence that they could change or improve to help us improve our customer outcomes.” 

Best Practices for Sharing CX InsightsHow to Share B2B Customer Experience Insights with Employees

Here are six successful best practices for sharing CX information broadly throughout the organization:

1. Put documentation on a SharePoint site.

2. Create an internal website with highlights and links to key findings.

3. Utilize internal groups as “go-to” resources for important customer documentation.

4. Implement third-party online portals that provide unlimited access to customer feedback.

5. Schedule regular Discovery (post-sales debrief) sessions that highlight repeatable best practices and strategies for success, ensuring the right people—at the appropriate levels in the organization—are present and engaged in the conversations.

6. Host regular in-person discussion sessions to share key learnings, answer questions, and describe any challenges that need to be overcome.

Another individual in the technology industry highlighted the importance of ensuring the entire organization benefits from customer experience programs, stating, “We’re looking to bring [collective wisdom] to a better level, where not only do we have these touch points and we garner some intelligence and some feedback, but a mechanism to collect the most salient points of that and see if we can learn something from that as a company globally, not just as a per account parochial activity.”

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Sales Tips: What To Do and NOT To Do with Costs vs. Benefits

Sales Tips: What To Do and NOT To Do with Costs vs. Benefits

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Avoid Using the Term "ROI"A common term I recommend sellers should avoid using is ROI (return on investment). My reasoning is that the majority of salespeople are unable to do the necessary: present valuing of outlays and present them to buying committees. If a seller has an MBA in Finance I’m willing to make exceptions.

That said, I believe creating a simple cost vs. benefit is a step that can give sellers better control over decisions. This amounts to estimating the costs of implementing offerings and seeing if the potential benefit will justify making the buying decision.

Within CCS® we are strong proponents of asking rather than telling. In my mind asking facilitates buying while telling amounts to trying to sell or convince buyers. 

Human nature is such that people want to be in control when making buying decisions.

What NOT To Do
The most common mistake I’ve seen in doing costs vs. benefits is that sellers are trying to get buyers to agree with their estimates of potential savings. In doing so it is likely that buyers will want to discount the savings based upon past experience with sellers that have been over-optimistic in hyping “how good it’s going to be.”

Cost vs. BenefitWhat TO Do
My suggestion is that sellers:

  1. Gain access to as many stakeholders as possible, and
  2. Identify as many goals (desired business outcomes) they can.

Whenever possible, buyers should provide a base line that tells where they are today.

For example: A CRO wants to improve win rates, so the seller would want to determine what percentage of proposals result in orders. Let’s assume that figure is 18%. The seller should then ask with the capabilities provided what improvement in win rate the buyer feels would be possible. In some cases citing results that customers have achieved can be helpful in allowing the buyer to estimate what win rates could be. Once that figure is established and an average transaction size is provided, there can be a simple calculation of what the top line benefit can be. The same concept can be applied to other areas of potential benefit with the CRO.

👉 The key is that the numbers used should come from the various Key Players that are involved in making the buying decision. This gives them ownership of the results.

Once the total potential savings are established, there are several benefits to sellers if the numbers are compelling: 

  • Buyers have a reason to accelerate buying decisions to start reaping benefits.
  • A cost vs. benefit can differentiate sellers from their competitors.
  • It will be easier for buyers to secure funding.
  • Sellers can minimize concessions by negotiating based upon value.
  • Improvement in base lines can be monitored on a quarterly basis after implementation to create Success Stories.

The cost vs. benefit is a sanity check for buyers and sellers. As stated above the estimated improvement should be the opinions of the Key Players involved.

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Sales Tips: Establish Peer Relationships with Your Buyers

Sales Tips: Establish Peer Relationships with Your Buyers

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Executives Decide Whether to Take Your CallMany sellers have subordinate relationships with senior executives. There are inherent advantages buyers enjoy when interacting with salespeople:

1. They decide whether or not to let sellers talk or meet with them.

2. They can end meetings at any time for any reason.

3. Ultimately they decide whether to buy.

Given this landscape, when meeting executives for the first time many sellers feel and act like subordinates in trying to get buyers to like them.

With a belief that “the buyer is always right” sellers are thankful they are able to gain access and overtly willing to give their time and company resources away. 

When a seller goes through a buying cycle as a subordinate, he or she will have trouble responding to requests for better pricing, terms, etc.

Establish Peer Relationships with BuyersEstablishing a Peer Relationship

In trying to level the playing field, competent sellers should understand they bring some things to the table that should be valuable to executives they call on:

  1. They have forgotten more about their offerings than the buyer will ever know.
  2. They can share industry knowledge because they call on many different companies. Executives are interested in learning about what their peers are doing.
  3. They can establish value if they focus on business outcomes that can be realized through the use of their offerings and less on product.

👉 My suggestion is to strive to earn a buyer’s respect by being different than the stereotypical salesperson.

Part of that is realizing your objectives are to help buyers understand the potential value of your offering and in the longer term mutually determine if it makes financial sense for the prospect to make a buying decision.

This can lead to more of a peer relationship and the ability when closing to neutralize requests for concessions by negotiating based upon value rather than price.

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Sales Tips: Avoid Issuing Proposals Too Soon

Sales Tips: Avoid Issuing Proposals Too Soon

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Practice Patience in SellingFrom a buyer’s perspective, sellers often seem to be in a rush to move buying cycles along. If there is a single trait that separates A Players from B/C Players I would say it is patience.

That means not discussing products or offerings until a buyer’s needs have been established, but I also believe it applies to when proposals are issued. Many B/C Players view proposals as a step that moves opportunities forward.

A proposal should document and confirm the discussions sellers have had and provide buyers with everything needed to make buying decisions.

When there are multiple buyers in committee sales, sellers gain access to as many stakeholders as possible to help each of them understand the value that can be realized through the use of the offering being discussed.

A significant mistake sellers make is issuing proposals after discussions with just one person.

The other committee members may be given a copy of the quote or proposal, but how much of it will they read and understand? How many will go right to the end of the document and see the pricing and without any understanding of value and decide the price is too high?

Proposals do not sell and are a terrible way to introduce Key Players to a seller’s company and offerings. 

Proposal Checklist.pngSo when should proposals be issued?

Proposals should be issued later in buying cycles and should have:

  • A summary of desired business outcomes
  • A summary of buyers’ needs
  • A description of the capabilities needed
  • An implementation plan (if appropriate)
  • A description of professional services (if appropriate)
  • Pricing
  • A cost vs. benefit the buyer and seller have created

Often premature proposals languish in sellers’ pipelines. With every passing month the probability of getting the business wanes. A way to minimize the chances of this happening is to review a draft copy of a proposal before sending it out. This is good for buyers in that there will be no surprises in the final document. Sellers benefit because they can get the proposal right the first time.

INFOGRAPHIC - 7 Things Sales Proposals Should Have Before Issuing to Buyers

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