From the CCS® Sales Blog

November 2017

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Sales Tips: Avoid No Decisions by Answering “What’s in it for me?”

Sales Tips: Avoid No Decisions by Answering “What’s in it for me?”

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

No decision is a terrible outcome for both buyers and sellers. It ultimately means both parties spent time, effort and money and at the end, the buyer decided not to buy from any of the vendors that bid. Sellers either get firm no’s or the vague commitment to revisit the offering at a later time. 

Help ALL Key Players See ValueI believe the primary reason for these outcomes is that buyers don’t see adequate value to justify the expenditure.

Let’s assume you are selling to a manufacturing company and calling on the person responsible for stocking spare parts to maintain their equipment. He is under pressure because he is not meeting his MBO for having the needed parts at the right engineering level when problems arise. If this is the only person a seller calls on, the potential benefit will be reducing the percentages of times spare parts are out of stock. If a proposal is issued there won’t be an overwhelming business case because the problem hasn’t been propagated to other Key Players.

Some other titles that sellers should try to gain access to in this example: 

  • The maintenance manager because MTTR numbers will be negatively impacted and expedited shipping charges may be incurred.
  • The production manager because outages mean production targets may be missed.
  • The VP Manufacturing because overtime may be necessary to get caught up after extended outages due to spare parts being out of stock.
  • Someone in finance because outsourcing of spare parts can enable not incurring carrying costs, write offs of obsolete parts and treating spare parts as an operating expense vs. having to have them on the books.
  • Key Players in sales or marketing as customer shipments may be negatively impacted if shipment times must be delayed due to outages. There may also be the potential of losing customers because commitments are being missed. 

If sellers can create Spheres of Influence as described above, the potential value established can be a compelling reason for decisions to be made and can be a strong differentiator.

In making purchase decisions Key Players want/need to know:
What’s in it for me?

Failing to facilitate enterprise views of value can mean: 

  • losses to no decision
  • losses to competitors
  • potentially lower margins if sellers can’t negotiate based upon value rather than cost

Transactions are much more likely to close when all Key Players are aware of the potential benefits of a vendor’s offering.  

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Sales Tips: How B2B Companies Are Increasing Revenue

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence, a CCS® Partner

Primary Intelligence conducted research on ways in which B2B sales, marketing, and product leaders are understanding their customers better and closing more deals.

We asked business professionals who analyze sales opportunities strategically to tell us their beliefs and attitudes about win loss analysis, the study of understanding why sales are won and lost. We also asked them about the types of market data they’re collecting and disseminating, and what best practices work for them.

And the results are in! 

B2B Companies Increasing RevenueHow B2B Companies Are Increasing Revenue

Studying past sales wins and losses has become a keystone to staying competitive in the marketplace.

The 2017 State of Win Loss report details how companies approach win loss analysis, how it has impacted company performance, and what you can learn for your own programs.

This report covers:

  • The top win loss questions business leaders want answered. We reveal the big questions sales, marketing, and product professionals want answered about win loss analysis.
  • The resource allotment. We examine the level of resources that business leaders invest in their win loss efforts. This analysis will be helpful for those who are just getting started or those seeking support staff.
  • The benefits of win loss analysis: This section of our study reveals all the major advantages achieved with win loss programs. We also look at how resources invested and years of experience affect the results.
  • Most-used win loss platforms: Discover which platforms are being used and how their usage will change this year.

Six Research Findings from the State of Win Loss Report

To give you a snippet of report findings, here are six insights the report revealed:

  1. Most companies have some type of win loss program in place and usage of win loss programs remains strong
  2. B2B organizations are employing external third-parties to uncover sales intelligence so they can meet buyer needs
  3. Business leaders have a strong belief that win loss programs help win more sales opportunities
  4. The top benefits are an enhanced sales process, a deep understanding of the buying process, and identification of sales strengths and weaknesses
  5. A high percentage of companies are spending $100K–$500K annually on win loss programs
  6. Companies prefer to collect both open-ended and close-ended feedback to fully understand their customers

2017 State of Win Loss Industry Report

2017 State of Win Loss Industry Report

How companies are using win loss analysis to increase revenue
Competition increases each year for B2B businesses. Many companies are realizing the importance of win loss analysis, the study of past sales deals. As responsible sales, marketing, and product leaders, you must use data-driven analytics to produce actionable intelligence and develop strategies to create a competitive advantage. You know what matters most are the initiatives you’ll take to lead your teams to success.

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Sales Tips: “Winging It” Yields Poor Results

Sales Tips: “Winging It” Yields Poor Results

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

The recent CCS® Index showed that 53% of sellers are guilty of “winging” sales calls. Most everyone had been guilty of not doing their due diligence before going to make a sales call.

nervous-winging-it.pngActivities that should be done as part of pre-call planning would be: 

  • Visit to the prospect’s website to get a sense for what type of company it is.
  • If calling on an executive, check his or her bio on the website to understand their background and areas of responsibility.
  • Check social media channels to learn more about the buyer.

When calling on a prospect for the first time, I believe a seller can set themselves apart by having done some research as I believe the person appreciates that effort being made.

What I’ve described above is almost expected of a salesperson and doesn’t require a great deal of time or effort. 

A more experienced salesperson would be looking for triggering events on a prospect’s website so they could make some intelligent decisions about business challenges buyers may fact that the seller’s offering can address.

For example, if you were selling a CRM offering and saw that a prospect had just acquired one of their competitors, you may want to leads with a Success Story about having to merge milestones and seller pipelines to be able to forecast more accurately post-acquisition.

As you would expect, triggering events are likely to have different implications to various Key Players within an organization. 

A seller’s ability to personalize the potential issues to specific titles they call on can go a long way toward:

  • Establishing credibility early on
  • Having buyers conclude you are competent
  • Having a buyer share a goal, problem or need that your offering can help them achieve of address

Anyone that has been selling for awhile has had occasions where they have “winged it.” I hope you agree:

Key Players you’re calling on can tell when sellers are winging it and that will reduce the chances of good outcomes of sales calls.

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Sales Tips: 3 Tips for Communicating with B2B Customers

Sales Tips: 3 Tips for Communicating with B2B Customers

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

Communication is a key theme in customer experience, also known as CX.

Yet some organizations still believe it’s scary to communicate with their customers.

Confirming problems and issues means you actually have to do something about them, you have to fix them, to let customers know you heard them and are addressing their problems.

talking-listening-meeting.pngBut communicating with customers drives trust and helps to ensure they realize your organization is serious about accepting and acting upon customer feedback.

For example, one financial services company sends out surveys to all new customers and existing customers with new service offerings requesting their immediate feedback. This helps to ensure that customers who are dissatisfied or who had a poor experience are identified in real time, with “red flags” mitigated quickly. An action plan is formulated by the account team for immediate follow up.

Here are three tips for communicating with B2B customers:

1. Find the Right Lingo

Communicating is about using the right language or “lingo” when speaking with customers.

This is especially important in highly specialized industries. A common set of terms helps to demonstrate to customers that your organization and teams understand their issues at a deep level. This, in turn, builds trust for long-term commitments.

For example, a B2B CX executive in the technology industry described his company’s goal of being a “trusted and valued partner” to its customers through ongoing collaboration, innovation, and execution, including usage of terminology that’s familiar to customers throughout the process. Failure to do so would deny “privileged access” of this company to key customers and exclude the organization from ongoing collaboration to develop solutions that will solve next generation problems.

sales-team-with-manager-2.png2. Share Results with Employees

Along with that, communicating customer experience analysis results to employees frequently and on an ongoing basis ensures B2B CX program success and allows internal stakeholders to see how initiatives are playing out in different parts of the organization, thus building momentum for continued success. It’s important to celebrate organizational successes by publicly recognizing organizational and departmental progress, especially when reporting updates to internal employees. This helps to ensure that employees are receptive and excited about continuing the customer experience journey.

As one customer experience executive in the technology industry explained, “We focus on having different mediums. One time it might be an infographic with the latest net promoter score results. The next time it might be a video talking about one of the projects that’s kicking off.” This executive has also successfully used grass roots champions throughout the organization as catalysts for change, allowing individuals to share “what’s going on in their part of the work or their part of the business” that may spark interest and encouragement from others.

3. Conveying B2B CX Data Through Stories

Conveying customer data using stories is also a powerful tactic that successful organizations have used to spread success about their programs. One customer experience leader recommends, “Going out and spending the time to develop [customer] stories, and let your customers tell them for you. [Using this approach], I was able to engage my entire executive team in a day-and-a-half session.” Incidentally, this executive refused to put everyone to sleep with PowerPoint slides, much to the shock of her staff. Instead, she led with stories, which are inherently superior to most other communication mediums.

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Sales Tips: 5 Tips for Handling Negotiations (and Saying NO)

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Years ago I met someone that personified everything that was wrong with salespeople. Bill was aggressive, manipulative and a high pressure closer as you’d expect. One day he provided his definition of selling: “Saying yes to buyers until you have to say no.”

I suppose there are remnants of the sentiment that the customer is always right, but I feel:

Sellers that constantly say yes to buyers compromise their position of power as they become subordinates.

giveaway.png

I was working with a company that offered month-to-month leases of furnished condos for people that had extended stays in various cities. They offered an attractive alternative to checking in and out of the same hotel week after week. The CEO and CFO were working on a major opportunity with a large consulting company. I was aware that negotiations had been ongoing for some time.

I was teaching a workshop for them and at a break stopped by to visit the CEO who was in a heated conversation with the CFO. As it turns out the prospect had been grinding them down on the original rates they had quoted.

Most buyers realize the longer negotiations go on, the more attractive the rates become.

The purpose of the meeting between the CEO and the CFO was to determine whether or not the transaction was going to be profitable! At that point coming in from the outside I told both executives that they had to say NO to any further price concessions. They put up some token resistance but finally got back to the prospect saying the price was firm and valid for one week.

The order closed the following day.

Chinese water torture is slowly and continuously dripping water on a person’s forehead to wear them down into providing information the torturer seeks. It seems that negotiations are often handled in a similar manner. Once sellers drop price, it becomes a slippery slope. Buyers conclude that further concessions are not only possible they become likely.

I call discounting “the gift that keeps on giving.” In discounting, to close prospects sellers set a precedent. Smart buyers will expect that future orders will be at the lower rate.

seller talking with buyer.png

Here are five (5) tips for negotiations:

  1. When pressured for better pricing, ask if you are the vendor of choice and whether price is the only issue. If not, suggest waiting to discuss price if and when the buyer gets to that point.
  2. When negotiating and asked for lower pricing, be prepared with 2 or 3 ways to say no.
  3. If a buyer keeps asking, first get something from them that is worth something to you (increase the transaction size, serve as a reference, etc.).
  4. Offer a concession conditionally: “If you’ll do that for me then I’d be willing to…” In order to avoid ongoing discounting, I encourage you to offer somethingbesides a discount.
  5. Ask if the buyer can move forward. If the buyer says no, take everything off the table and suggest revisiting negotiations in a few days.

The key elements for sellers in negotiating is having buyers understand the value/payback of offerings and to offer concessions conditionally to avoid erosion over time as buyers try to grind you on price.

Remember: There is great power in using NO with buyers, so don’t be afraid to use it. (Keep the infographic below handy in case you need to refer to these tips in your next negotiation.)

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Sales Tips: 4 Successful Tactical Recommendations for Win Loss Programs

Sales Tips: 4 Successful Tactical Recommendations for Win Loss Programs

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

Measuring Success and Failure for Future WinsState of Win Loss study reported more competitive activity this year than previously, gathering data about buyers and the buying process presents a clear advantage.

Successfully starting and running a win loss analysis program takes skill, patience, and tenacity. Here are four tactical recommendations to help ensure your company’s win/loss efforts are effective.

4 Tactical Recommendations for Win Loss Programs

1. Implement win loss metrics.

To get the most from win loss programs, it’s important to determine what percentage of deals are being included in the win loss pool of candidates. Are all wins and losses included? Or a subset of one or both groups?

Determining the reasons why not all opportunities are included can be insightful. For example, some companies have a minimum threshold – such as $50,000 sales deals – to focus on strategic opportunities. Win loss analysis opportunities that are being strategically discarded may be acceptable. Not knowing the opportunities because of poor data and reporting systems may not.

2. Automate the win loss process.

Automate the Win Loss ProcessGetting a list of opportunities to interview, along with the correct contact information for each contact, is one of the hardest aspects of many win/loss programs. The reason it’s difficult is that many companies’ CRM and SFA databases include inaccurate or incomplete information. To the extent that the data can be cleaned and the process can be automated, your win loss analysis will directly benefit. Not only does this produce a steady stream of opportunities that can be pursued for win/loss interviews and feedback, but it removes sales as a potential dependency when following up with customers.

While sales representatives can be very helpful in securing interviews with customers, they can also sometimes be a bottleneck. Removing any potential roadblocks is essential for keeping the program moving forward.

“…we put in place an automated process where we took a batch mode of losses based off  our system so that we weren’t also heavily dependent upon the reps coming forward with their individual cases.” ~ Director, Worldwide Sales, Information Technology Industry

3. Enlist sales assistance in getting interviews.

Knowing and tracking which contracts are responding and agreeing to participate in win/loss interviews is helpful because it allows the win loss analysis team to go back to the account team and ask for their help in securing feedback. Since the buyer most closely associates the vendor with their sales rep or team, an “ask” from this individual or group can help break scheduling and participation logjams.

“…the sales folks can help us get [interviews] scheduled faster if they nudge the prospect or the buyer they worked with.” ~ Senior Manager, Workforce Management Industry

4. Use win loss feedback for sales training.

Win loss analysis can help training departments and sales leaders identify gaps in sales performance and correct areas of weaknesses or under performance. Similarly, win/loss programs can identify sales practices that are consistently superior, leveraging them for use by other sales teams.

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