From the CCS® Sales Blog

January 2018

Viewing posts from January , 2018

Sales Tips: How to Create Demand for Your Offerings at Executive Levels

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

I was involved in a lengthy meeting this week that was primarily about creating demand in light of the fact that visitors to my client’s website are lower level staff whose primary interest is learning about products/offerings.

Presenting Value and Payback with Executive Level BuyersThe fact is these people can’t buy and they have little or no idea of what potential payback or value offerings they’re interested in can provide.

That caused me to realize that for the vast majority of Key Players there is no demand for offerings. Marketing and Sales organizations have to back into creating demand for people that rightfully have little or no interest in their offerings.

The stark reality is that Key Players have latent needs for business outcomes they can’t achieve (goals) or for business problems (pains) they don’t know how to address.

The key to creating high level demand is to identify desired business outcomes that can be achieved through the use of offerings.

Getting away from an overarching focus on offerings is difficult to do, but companies that can target specific titles with high probability business problems or goals will enjoy several advantages:

  • They can start buying cycles with Key Players that can fund unbudgeted initiatives.
  • They can give sellers an excellent chance to start opportunities as Column A (preferred vendor).
  • They are likely to close larger transactions because these buyers aren’t budget-constrained.
  • They should have shorter sales cycles.
  • They should have higher win rates.

KEY: Products can create demand for lower levels. Potential value creates executive level interest.

Don't just win more.Win BIGGER.

Sales Tips: 2 Overlooked Issues with Pipeline Milestones

big-sale-blocksBy John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

Most organizations have spent the time needed to define pipeline milestones. Sophisticated companies have defined multiple sets of milestones that reflect the different types of transactions that sellers must execute.

Two (2) things stand out in my mind that many companies haven’t addressed:

  1. Milestone achievements are based upon seller opinions. I hope you would agree that when grading opportunities, sellers that are less than YTD against quota will be much less stringent than those at or above quota. When forecasting, sellers with thin pipelines are far more interested in overstating where they are on opportunities than they are in attempting to predict what revenue will close.

If some milestones could be graded based upon buyer actions, then senior management could have more confidence in the pipeline.

  1. Companies hire salespeople with a wide variety of experience and skills. The challenge is there is no attempt to map and teach sellers the skills to achieve each milestone. Sellers want to succeed. When they fall short of achieving their numbers, the problems are either:
  • Won’t – which is an attitude problem that managers must help them overcome.
  • Can’t – in that they don’t have the requisite skills.

For virtually all other positions, employers try to find new hires that have or can be taught the requisite skills to be successful. It’s a shame the same thing can’t be done when recruiting to fill sales positions.

👉 Absent a tactical sales process, sales is a sink or swim proposition.

Sales Tips: The Quality of CRM Data Is the Keystone to Competitive Advantage

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

Recently, The Economist published an article titled “The World’s Most Valuable Resource Is No Longer Oil, But Data.” That article focuses on the market domination of internet giants like Facebook, Amazon, and Google (among others). These profitable titans use their vast stores of data to capitalize on their size and maintain their market advantage. “Google can see what people search for, Facebook what they share, Amazon what they buy.”Their market intelligence comes from the quantity they collect, with quality being a lot less important.

Quality of CRM DataFor the hundreds of thousands of businesses that aren’t one of the internet behemoths, organizations that face a treacherous competitive landscape and possess far fewer data points to rely on, the quality of data is the key to using it to your advantage.

We think of Customer Relations Management (“CRM”) system’s primary purpose as being the facilitation of the sales process. Your sales reps need something to keep track of their deals in a manner that is superior to a spreadsheet. But, the truth is, if we just want to keep track of things, a spreadsheet would work just fine.

Another, better way to define a CRM is: “CRM aligns business processes with customer strategies to build customer loyalty and increase profits over time.” That’s a pretty inclusive definition that is clearly more than just tracking a transaction. And yet, how many sales professionals treat the CRM as a tracking tool?

High Quality CRM Data is the Key to Competitive Advantage

The pitfall with treating the CRM as a tracking tool is that the data loses any perceived value once the lead gets closed out as a loss. Once the sales rep knows there is no deal to be made, there is no more value.

CRM data is, and should be treated as, an asset in and of itself. It should be validated, cleaned up, monitored, nurtured, and treated with every bit as much respect and deference as your customers. The revenue brought in by your sales department is not merely the dollar value of the deals they close, but the monetization of the data they collect and maintain. And if that data is treated with disregard, disrespect, and neglect, you will lose that revenue just as you would lose a customer who was treated in the same manner.

For example, marketing departments routinely run campaigns using CRM data to drum up leads for sales initiatives – new products, special deals, etc. These campaigns take time and money to put together and track. For every outreach that goes to an incorrect email address or telephone number in the CRM, the organization is wasting that time and money. In addition, because the correct contact information is missing, the company misses out on an opportunity that might have been profitable had the campaign reached the correct person.

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Sales Tips: 6 Strategic Best Practices to Apply to Your Win Loss Program

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

Win Loss TipsWin loss programs are important at all levels of the organization because they help explain why buyers choose specific solutions and why they do not choose others. Win loss takes us beyond market research and competitive intelligence.

Win loss analysis is more than just gathering, analyzing, and interpreting information about a market. It’s more than just sizing a market and understanding the growth rate, competitors, and buying segments. Win loss research is a sales, product, and marketing enablement tool focused on improving sales, improving the product/service, and improving a company’s market presence as a result of listening to customers.

Here are six strategic recommendations you can apply to your win loss analysis.

Six Win Loss Strategic Recommendations

1. Get Sales and C-level leadership support: Getting Sales buy-in for Win Loss is critical.

C-level support is also important and can make or break your win loss program. Once senior executives see the value of the win loss information the company is getting, however, they are usually quick to provide their full endorsement. We often see C-level executives taking their win loss programs from one company to another, as they learn to rely on win loss findings.

2. View Win Loss as a learning tool.

It’s important to put forth the right message about the win loss program, stressing that win loss feedback will be used as a learning mechanism, helping the entire organization improve. This communication is especially important to ensure sales teams are fully on-board with the program, especially since buyer feedback that is most critical tends to focus on sales behavior.

Goals3. Define program goals.

At the outset of the win loss program, it’s important to ensure there is organizational clarity about the goals for win loss analysis. Is the program in place to improve sales effectiveness? Better understand buyer behavior? Improve product features and functionality? Will the program be used strategically, tactically, or both? Make sure you have clarity on these issues because this will drive the questions you ask and the results you receive. Also make sure you have clarity around processes you’ll put in place, such as how customers will be contacted, how the information will be communicated back to internal constituents, and how deep structural changes will be made within the organization.

4. Share information broadly.

At Primary Intelligence, we feel strongly that wide distribution of win loss information is a best practice. Organizations that share buyer feedback from win loss interviews have better outcomes than those that limit the findings to a small group of executives or managers. Individuals in different parts of the organization can see the impact of their actions—even if they’re not interacting with the customer directly. Linkages can also be made between different geographic regions in terms of market conditions and competitive responses to specific offers or product initiatives. Companies that close off access to win loss information don’t get the benefits of win loss programs that organizations that share information widely experience.

5. Look at individual interviews and deal reports.

It’s important to look at individual interviews or deal reports, as well as program information in aggregate. A lot can be learned from specific buyer feedback reports, while over-arching trends can be seen from consolidated information. It’s important to do both. Now, the types of information you share may be different depending on the person or audience’s needs. For example, you may share individual deal report information with the sales team responsible for specific opportunities or product management, pricing, and support representatives when buyer feedback highlighted issues relevant to their domains. In contrast, executive summaries may be shared with C-level executives.

6. Conduct debrief/discovery sessions.

Debrief and discovery sessions are incredibly helpful to engage in because they allow key players to hear details of won and lost opportunities and strategize on next steps, both internally within their organizations and as they relate to the market, including competitive threats. While individual stakeholders can read reports and digest the information individually, discussing key wins and losses with other company executives helps to promote greater synergy and helps to “connect the dots.” We’ve seen debriefing and discovery sessions work very effectively for our clients.

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Sales Tips: 2 Factors That Determine the Length of Buying Cycles

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

Many sales organizations rightfully focus on their pipelines. In my experience, transactions that are likely to close happen relatively quickly while those that drag along seem to fall under their own weight and ultimately wind up in “no decisions.”

Buying Cycles Fast or SlowThere are two factors that go a long way toward determining the length of sales/buying cycles:

  1. The point of entry. I find A Players often start at or near decision maker levels. The good news is these buyers will quickly determine if it makes sense to get subordinates involved in evaluating offerings. If not, it’s likely to be one call and done. As we say, bad news early is actually good news.

Better to lose quickly than slowly.

As you can imagine, doing bottom-up sales will mean:

-talking to levels of buyers that can say no but can’t say yes
-long sales cycles
-low win rates

  1. How much potential value can be established. Sellers are generally in a rush to complete sales cycles. If and when strong business cases are built, buyers have a sense of urgency. In such cases rather than needed to be pulled, they push to get to a buying decisions because they realize every day that goes buy there is potential value not being realized.

It Works
I have a client that has been able to shorten their average sales cycle from 4 to 3 months. While that may not seem significant, a closer look shows that it allows sellers to complete 4 sales cycles per year rather than 3. This is the equivalent of having 16-month selling years and it means that A, B or C player sellers should close 33% more revenue in a year.

Sales Tips: 5 Habits for Being a Better Sales Professional

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

5 Habits for Better Sales

The key to winning more deals always comes down to understanding your prospects’ business needs. Putting these five habits into play in your daily work as a sales professional will not only help you align with your prospects’ needs, but be in position to solve those needs.

1. Research your buyers’ business processes

When you have an understanding of your buyer’s processes, you can present your solution as an enhancement to their process. This is time to show your expertise and shine the light on your solution.

Research how they win business over their competitors. What yardstick do they use to measure success in their industry? Your ultimate goal is providing them with the solution that improves their way of doing business.

2. Be an industry specialist

If you know your buyer’s industry and their buying process, you can engage in more meaningful conversations and show that you understand their business needs.
Having specific knowledge of their industry gives you a competitive advantage. You will be able to speak to the pain points of your buyer’s industry and gain their trust.

3. Be a problem solver

Buyers aren’t looking for sales reps; they’re looking for advisers. How can you step into the role of most valuable player? How can you demonstrate that your solution should be an integral part of their connection to their customers? Your buyers need to see that you add value to their equation. Give them a fresh perspective. Demonstrate value. Show that your product or service will help them solve their problems.

4. Think like a fisherman

The most significant component to fishing is the fish. Studying where, when, and what they eat all add up to the success of catching the fish.

You need to get past the mechanics of selling and focus on the buyer. It is really all about them. What do they want? Why not ask them directly?

Go beyond the RFP and actually talk to your buyers. Ask for an onsite visit. You can learn a lot by watching your buyer in action. What lure appetizes your buyer?

5. Walk a mile in their shoes

One common denominator between the military and their contractors is the contractors are often former military themselves.

It makes sense that buyers will gravitate to people who know their business inside and out because they’ve “been there, done that.” If you have not walked in their shoes, it makes sense for you to talk to someone who has. Who do you know who may have a close relationship with this buyer? What insight can they share?

Sales Tips: Stop Measuring Customer Satisfaction

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

We recently worked with a company trying to fix their high customer attrition rate with annual customer satisfaction surveys. Their survey project was successful. Fixing the attrition rate was not.

Customer SatisfactionBut why?

The company measured satisfaction, and the numbers said customers were not satisfied. To raise the numbers, the company formulated and implemented action plans. Sounds like a solid plan, right? The problem:

The company was measuring how their customers felt, but not why they felt that way.

They knew perception of their services was low, but couldn’t figure out why. Measuring satisfaction provides no predictive analytics that score the likelihood of renewal.

The account teams were earnest in their actions to attempt to solve the issues, but the actions were misguided because the surveys failed to ask the customer: What are we doing wrong or right? The team was assuming root causes based only on customer satisfaction numbers and their own best guesses about what, exactly, was causing those numbers.

Measuring Satisfaction is Not Enough

“Satisfaction” (including NPS) tells you if they like you. It gives you a thumbs up or thumbs down.

It doesn’t, in our opinion, accurately tell you what it’s like to be your customer (the customer journey). It also doesn’t necessarily help you retain customers because it leaves a host of questions unanswered. What will the customer care about when considering a renewal? What will drive their perception of value and ROI? A score can’t tell you either.

Customer experience analysis is ultimately about renewals.To really retain those renewal dollars, you need to do it differently.

Now, let’s be clear:

If you are not measuring your customer’s satisfaction, stop reading this post and do it now. It’s that important.

We are not really advocating doing away with customer satisfaction numbers. Instead we are advocating changing what is measured and how.

Start Measuring the Journey

The Buyer's Journey

Instead, start measuring and analyzing the customer’s experience. Customer experience analysis is different from customer satisfaction because it helps you walk the same path as your customer. At Primary intelligence, we’ve found a three-pronged approach works best.

  1. Feedback – Figure out what the customer thinks and why. I’d recommend conducting interviews using both quantitative (scale, ranking, binary, etc.) and qualitative (open-ended) questions. Create a formal discussion guide to create consistency and a focused discussion, but don’t be shy about going off script to probe for details. Figure out what will be driving a renewal decision and the overall perception of value.
  2. Discovery – Although the customer has filled in the gaps on what they are feeling and why, your account team needs to round out the view. Ask everyone involved with the account to review the interview feedback and then schedule a debrief session. Focus the session on what the team is doing – good or bad – to drive those perceptions and what will likely drive a renewal decision. (Get more tips on debrief sessions in this webinar.)
  3. Act – As you end the debrief and move into planning mode, identify specific actions the team can take to resolve concerns and emphasize value. Also don’t neglect identifying growth opportunities and how you’ll act on those. Ultimately determine what you want the customer to say during the next feedback session.

The When Matters Too

And while you’re at it, adjust when you measure. Reaching out to all customers at the same time each year doesn’t do your account teams any favors. They need feedback throughout the customer’s journey, so map the feedback timeline to that journey. No time is more important than 3 to 6 months prior to a renewal event. Give the team enough time to shore up weaknesses and plant seeds for growth opportunities.

Remember: Your customers are future buyers. Stop just asking if they’re satisfied. Instead use customer experience analysis to predict the likelihood of renewal.

Sales Tips: 3 Keys to Diagnosing a Buyer’s Current Situation

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

Sales Tips for Diagnosing Buyer's Current SituationIt seems everyone is in a hurry these days unless they’re retired. When people ask for one word that describes how superior vs. mediocre people sell I give a one-word answer: Patience.By that I mean they know you must first understand a buyer’s needs before having any product discussions.

Key #1: One of the ways to slow sellers down is to have them realize there is no selling to be done until a buyer shares a business goal (or a problem) they’re willing to spend money to achieve. If sellers entered every call with a menu of potential goals for each title, I believe there would be a significant improvement in the outcomes.

Key #2: A very unfortunate thing can occur after executives share goals. Some salespeople believe it gives them permission to launch into product pitches because buyers have expressed interest. Once again,patience is required.

A Players realize buyers they call on don’t fully understand why they can’t achieve their desired outcomes.

Discussing Current Situation with BuyersIf buyers knew, they’d fix things rather than take time to talk with salespeople!

A top-performing seller will ask a series of diagnostic questions to help buyers realize what may be “broken” in their current approach (without a seller’s offering). I refer to selling as a “hurt and rescue” exercise. When a buyer and seller are in agreement as to what areas are preventing desired outcomes to be achieved, wonderful things happen. It means the seller has established credibility and competence and that the buyer is more ready for the “rescue.”

Key #3: At this point, based upon how buyers answered diagnostic questions sellers should only discuss capabilities relevant to achieving the desired goal. This ultimately allows sellers to empower buyers rather than sell them. The question becomes: If you had the capabilities we discussed, could you (achieve your goal?)

The seller that does the best diagnosis is most likely to win the business.

Remember: People buy from sellers that are sincere, competent and empower them.

INFOGRAPHIC: 3 keys to diagnose buyer's current situation

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Sales Tips: A Resolution for 2018 and Beyond

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

2018 is here, a time for making resolutions that you may or may not keep. I’d like to suggest trying what may be a different approach to finding new opportunities.

The best leading indicator of future performance is the quality and quantity of opportunities in a seller’s pipeline.

charts-calculator.pngStarting 2018, the condition of each seller’s pipeline reflects how they finished the year. If it was a sprint to end 2017 there’s work to do. Regardless of where you stand I’d like to offer an approach that can allow you to shorten sales cycles and increase win rates moving forward.

Most sales organizations have an increasing reliance on inbound leads. If you’re selling complex or expensive offerings, these leads are likely to:

  • Provide entry points below Key Player levels
  • Put you in contact with people interested in products that don’t have budget
  • Have you contact people concurrently evaluating several vendors in a given space
  • Have you contact people unaware of business results that can be impacted
  • Yield a high percentage of “no decisions” and low close rates
  • Represent quantity more than quality

It takes courage and initiative but there is a way to start opportunities with Key Players that enables sellers to establish themselves as “Column A” from the start with buyers who can find budgets for new initiatives. Key Players don’t have time to visit websites and evaluate vendors. For that reason many are unaware of value and payback offerings can provide.

key-player-senior-executives-meeting.pngThese buyers have latent needs, not for offerings (an erroneous assumption many sellers make), but rather for achieving desired business outcomes. I recently used an approach Michael Higgins (Selling at the C-Level) provided. He suggested this:

👉 Review a prospect’s annual report to learn the company’s objectives and challenges and select a specific title and outcome that an offering could help them achieve.

Here’s my experience using this approach:

  • I researched a Fortune 500 company and sent a one-page letter via snail mail to their Chairman.
  • Four days later I called.
  • After being heavily screened I was told the admin was busy and I should call that afternoon.
  • 45 minutes later I got a phone call from a senior vice president that had been asked (or told?) to contact me.
  • A buying cycle began with a Key Player.

Superior salespeople sell outcomes rather than offerings.

These sellers pique senior executive interest by leading with relevant business goals or issues.

Leading with offerings puts sellers out of alignment with Key Player buyers who don’t have the time nor interest to learn about products.

I hope 2018 will be prosperous for you and that you may try this new approach to generate new opportunities.

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Sales Tips: 6 Strategies to Get Buyers to Talk to You

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

Are you having a hard time getting buyers to talk to you?

How many times have you tried to find out how your most recent sales opportunity went and got no response? Or attempted to talk to a customer to see how it is going only to hear crickets? Frustrating, isn’t it?

After completing well over 20,000 interviews with busy buyers, we’ve learned a thing or two on how to get them to talk to us. We also know:

Getting feedback from buyers is the best way to improve your win rates.

And talking to your current customers to see what benefits they’re receiving from your solution is a highly effective plan to retain them. By going straight to the source, you discover what is and isn’t working for you and most importantly, why.

Here’s an infographic sharing our top 6 strategies to get the conversation started.

Top-6-Strategies-to-Get-Buyers-to-Talk-to-You

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