From the CCS® Sales Blog

February 2018

Viewing posts from February , 2018

Sales Tips: Use Diagnostic Questions to Differentiate

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

In my first sales job there were regional specialists that provided information about competitive offerings. When competing with a specific vendor, sellers could call and ask about “knock-offs” which were areas where the analyst shared perceived weaknesses of competitors and strengths of our offerings.

Looking back, some of the worst calls happened after these conversations with the regional staff.

Differentiating with BuyersThere were several issues:

  1. The specialists had biased opinions about our offerings.
  2. There were times sellers sold against offerings and forgot to first sell their own
  3. Even if there were clear advantages, they were only important if they were relevant to the buyer.
  4. Compounding the previous point, sellers usually were in “tell mode” when trying to impose their opinions on buyers.

To provide a simple B2C example, assume a car buyer is considering a Cadillac and a BMW. I don’t think anyone would dispute that the BMW should have a higher percentage resale value at the end of 3 years. Many car salespeople would point that out by telling buyers about resale.

As in most selling situations, questions are a better option:

The Cadillac is a fine car, but how would you feel if you bought it and 3 years later when you went to trade it in found it had lost 45% of its value?

The question is important because the buyer could respond that he or she plans to drive the car until the lug nuts fall. That response means it was a mistake to raise the resale issue.

  • The response the seller was hoping for was: It would be a nightmare if the trade-in value was that low.
  • This allows the seller to respond: According to JD Powers after 3 years the 540 should retain 74.6% of its value. How important is resale value to you?

If the buyer agrees resale is important it becomes a differentiator to the buyer.

PRO TIP: Ask diagnostic questions to establish needs for differentiators BEFORE offering them to buyers.

Don't just win more.Win BIGGER.

Sales Tips: What Is Sales Intelligence?

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

Sometimes, it is interesting to try to classify different areas of research and intelligence to see how certain specialties have originated, evolved and grown into their own species, so to speak. This study of sales intelligence can provide intelligence practitioners with the ability to see how their efforts might support or interrelate with other disciplines.

Sales IntelligenceWhere does Sales Intelligence Sit?

So, lets define the top rung as general market research. The purpose of market research is to answer any question that might be of interest to a company. This is very broad and probably doesn’t do justice to all of the value a skilled market research director or data scientist can provide. But, the umbrella of market research covers the entire gamut of information collection.

A subset of general market research is competitive intelligence. Again, this can be a pretty broad area and it is concerned with gathering information and answering questions that are influenced by the presence of competitive forces.

A sibling to competitive intelligence is market intelligence. This specialty works to understand the market, value proposition, opportunity and forces in play against your company and product which are not influenced by the competition.

Sales Intelligence sounds like it should be a sibling to competitive and market intelligence. It could be defined as the information that is used to help sales win more deals. This should include things like win loss analysis and predictive analytics. However, the definition of SI seems to be evolving to refer to mainly CRM technology and functions. If you limit this type of information to sales data, contact information, pipeline dashboards, etc., you could say that’s true. But, on the broader spectrum, is that really the right approach? Instead, the definition of sales intelligence could be:

Gathering insights (competitive or otherwise) that can and will be used by a sales individual or team to increase the chances of winning a qualified sales opportunity.

Overall, sales intelligence seems less like a specific discipline and more like a purpose. In other words, bits of competitive intelligence, market intelligence, general market research, (branding, pricing, value, etc) can all be included in sales intelligence. If the information can be used to help sales people sell more, we think it can properly be classified as sales intelligence.

If a business exists to make money as efficiently as possible, and the role of sales is to create the revenue streams as effectively as possible, then isn’t sales intelligence potentially the most important information a company can possess?

There are so many research initiatives that clamor for budget. When deciding which efforts to support, give the proper amount of gravity to those projects that will have a direct effect on a company’s ability to sell more effectively in a market against the competitive landscape. Your company will likely benefit from this approach.

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Sales Tips: 3 Ways to Minimize Objections

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

Since 2002, CustomerCentric Selling® has redefined selling as:

Asking questions to help buyers understand how to use offerings to achieve goals or solve problems.

How to Handle ObjectionsThere is a major difference in buyer experience when people are empowered rather than sold. Selling is generally perceived as convincing, persuading and overcoming objections. Some people believe handling each objection gets sellers closer to winning the business. Most would also assert that selling begins when buyers say no. These attitudes make selling seem like arm wrestling contests between buyers and sellers.

I’d like to offer some observations:

  • Not all objections can be addressed.
  • People can and do buy when they aren’t 100% happy with all aspects of offerings.
  • If and when objections arise, sellers may need to ask clarifying questions. If sellers don’t fully understand objections they can go in the wrong direction and unwittingly unearth additional objections.
  • If an objection is about a feature you don’t have, consider asking: Why is this feature important to you?

I believe most objections are raised when calling on lower levels that are more product-focused than Key Players. I’d also like to share my view that product pitches where sellers do most of the talking will likely evoke objections.

It’s a matter of control.

When being subjected to pitches, sellers dominate “conversations.” Buyers may feel they need to throw out objections to slow down their bombardment of features that may be irrelevant to them.

To minimize objections, I offer the following three (3) suggestions:

  1. Start opportunities at Key Player levels (the people sellers need to call on to sell, fund and implement offerings.
  2. Before offering any features, ask diagnostic questions to determine which are relevant to buyers.
  3. Ask a final question to empower the buyer: If you had (summarize the capabilities agreed to), could you (achieve the desired outcome)?

Objections compromise the ultimate outcomes of sales calls. By applying these suggestions, you should be able to better minimize those objections.

Don't just win more.Win BIGGER.

Sales Tips: Improve Selling Experiences and Avoid Wasting Time

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

There has rightfully been great emphasis on buyer experiences over the last two decades. That said:

Many “buying activities” waste time for both buyers and sellers.

Avoid Wasting Selling Time and ResourcesIt seems there are many product evaluations in which low to mid level staff research offerings via the Internet and social networking, establish their requirements and before inviting salespeople to get involved.

Upon being contacted, there are several things sellers should learn from the start:

  • Have desired business outcomes of executives within the organization been identified?
  • Have detailed conversations with Key Players to understand their needs taken place?
  • Has an estimated cost vs. benefit shown payback that can justify the cost of the offering?
  • Has budget been earmarked?
  • Will access be granted for calls on Key Player stakeholders?

When you take a hard look, product evaluations are ongoing in many instances. It makes little sense to spend significant amounts of time evaluating offerings unless or until the questions above have been addressed.

I believe these “buyers” are concerned that sellers will manipulate or influence their requirements and therefore get sellers involved fairly late in their evaluations.

Rather than go along for the ride, competent sellers can do everyone involved (and some that have not yet been involved) a favor by shifting product evaluations to business decisions.

Blindly going along with buyer-driven product evaluations will often end with “no decision” outcomes that mean buyers and vendors wasted resources without realizing any benefits, a losing proposition for everyone involved.

Don't just win more.Win BIGGER.

Sales Tips: Are You Delivering Noise or Your Message?

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

A great deal of thought and effort goes into helping sellers understand what to say in different situations with prospects and buyers. That said, I thought it would be helpful to offer advice about words and phrases you may want to avoid using in selling situations.

Silence Over NoiseKick the Crutch
Most of us have what I call “crutch words” used to give us time to think about how to respond to buyers. One particularly distracting phrase is “you know” (usually pronounced as yunno). Other variations on a theme would be “ums, ahs,” etc.Silence is a far better alternative to allow sellers time to decide how to respond.

Words can undermine a seller’s power.

Most buyers want to work with sellers that can command company resources if they are needed to address issues. Sellers using words such as: might, perhaps, possibly, probably and maybe sound indecisive.

There are words that merely serve as fillers or noise that dilute your message:

  • Obviously – If something is obvious it isn’t necessary to point it out. If a seller states something is obvious and a buyer that doesn’t know what was stated can be offended.
  • Words such as basically, candidly, clearly add volume but no content to conversations.
  • I hope it isn’t necessary to explain why trust me, honestly, and the absolutely dreadful let me be honest with you (the inference being a seller has been lying his or her socks off).
  • Ambiguous words – integrated, cutting edge, seamless, efficient, synergistic, robust, elegant, automatically, state of the art and dynamic. They add little or nothing to conversations.

I’d also like to suggest that sellers realize that the only person that can deem an offering a “solution” is the buyer. Beyond that, buyers must own achieving the desired business outcome. Phrases like “I/we/our system will increase your top line” disempower buyers. The fact is sellers offer capabilities to enable buyers to achieve the desired business outcomes and they should take ownership.

Buyers have and will continue to buy from sellers that use these words and phrases. That said, sellers can offer meaningful content or noise. Sellers that reduce noise can deliver more compelling messages.

Don't just win more.Win BIGGER.