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Sales Tips: How to Maintain Key Player Access

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

maintaining key player accessInitiating opportunities at high levels offers several potential advantages to salespeople:

  • They can take prospects from latent to active need by uncovering desired goals.
  • They can enjoy the benefits of being “Column A” from the start.
  • Key Players can fund can find funding for unbudgeted initiatives.
  • Discussions about capabilities can be done at a conceptual level.
  • Transactions can be larger because buyers are not budget-constrained.
  • Buyers will self-qualify themselves.
  • Shorter sales cycles.
  • Higher win rates.

In my previous blog post, I raised the issue of when “ugly” conversations take place. By “ugly” I mean very product-focused discussions that involve lower level staff asking esoteric questions about things Key Players would not be interested in.

The later in buying cycles ugly conversations take place the better for sellers. They are important and necessary conversations.

If and when delegated to lower levels it is important that sellers maintain connections to the Key Players they’ve called on.

After calling on mid and lower levels, sellers will be much more familiar with a prospect’s current way of doing business and the specific capabilities buyers need to achieve their goals. Being delegated by Key Players is a “get” for them and a “give” from sellers that have to commit time and potentially technical staff for ugly meetings.

PRO TIP: When delegated to become the “eyes and ears” for Key Players, my suggestion is that sellers should request that they be able to keep higher levels apprised of their findings as they work with lower levels to better understand the companies needs at far more granular levels. Without such access some opportunities fall under their own weight because executives are no longer involved.

Sales Tips: When to Make “Ugly Calls”

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

As a salesperson one of my best customers was a large insurance company in downtown Boston. Their CIO was an astute businessman who wasn’t very current with technology. He depended upon his staff to handle technical details. The company had two IBM mainframes whose performance was bottlenecked because processor memory (Bill still referred to it as “core”) was maxed out. This meant that programs had to be paged out of memory to disk drives that were orders of magnitude, slower devices and significantly increased user response times.

At the time, upgrading a processor was a seven-figure decision.

buyer meeting

I met with Bill and discussed the potential of using a device that could address the performance issues immediately and allow the company to defer processor upgrades for at least a year. I asked if he would consider it. He said he would and wanted to know the estimated cost. I shared with him that it would be $250K per processor. He quickly realized the short-term performance benefits would more than offset the cost. The ability to defer purchasing new mainframes that were trending to be cheaper with future announcements made the decision a financial slam-dunk. He then asked me to schedule a call with to Tom, his technical guru, who was by far the smartest person in the organization.

The business case had been made and now it was time for a technical evaluation of my offering.

I brought my top Systems Engineer for the meeting with Tom that lasted about two hours. He wanted to know specs of the auxiliary storage, how it would be supported by IBM’s Operating System (it emulated an IBM disk drive), approximately how much response times would be improved, etc. While I was fairly competent technically, there were blocks of time when they could have been speaking a foreign language. I did my best to understand the gist of the conversation.

At the end of the meeting Tom told us he wanted to run some things past members of his staff but he was comfortable that it was a device that would certainly allow them to address the performance issues and therefore would make IT’s life easier because they could deliver end users the better response times they wanted.

Within a week I had an order for one unit and a commitment that if it performed as advertised they wanted a second unit (which they installed).

ugly sales callsWhen selling technology or any complicated offering it is often necessary to have what I refer to as “ugly” calls.

By that I mean that they are highly product-focused. User-level staff that will be impacted will want to know things about offerings that even salespeople can’t be expected to know. I sometimes refer to ugly calls as “mind-melds” between technical staff of the prospect/customer and vendor.

I believe a seller’s quality of life (and win rate) will be significantly better if executive calls are made to establish potential value so that ugly calls can be deferred until a later time.

It amounts to executing top-down vs. bottom-up buying cycles.

Oddly enough, both buyers and sellers stand to benefit because there will be no need to take the technical staff’s time if a business case can’t be built.

Buyers and sellers are both beneficiaries when agreeing to defer ugly calls.

Sales Tips: 7 Problems with Using the Word “Solutions” with Buyers

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Vendors and salespeople seem enamored with the word: “Solution.”

In my mind the term is vague, usually misused and a terrible waste of three syllables. Whether in marketing brochures, on websites or during sales calls, the phrase “We’ve/I’ve got the solution for you” seems presumptuous and self-serving.

How many buyers actually believe those statements to be true?

Who Can Call It a Solution

Here’s the logic behind my loathing of this word in what I consider seven (7) reasons why it shouldn’t be used with buyers:

  1. A solution is an opinion.
  2. Unless sellers have earned trust nobody values or wants to hear their biased opinions.
  3. Without asking several questions and getting relevant responses it’s impossible to know if a solution exists.
  4. Disregarding the previous point, vendors and sellers always feel they offer solutions.
  5. Sellers hoping to earn commissions should recuse themselves from offering opinions.
  6. The only person’s opinion that has any relevance is the buyer’s.
  7. Sellers must have buyers agree their offering is a solution before they can accurately make that claim.

It may be helpful to define the term. Buyers have “solutions” when they:

  • Have identified a business outcome they want to achieve
  • Understand the barriers that stand in the way of achieving it
  • Are able to articulate the specific capabilities they need to achieve the outcome

Buyers don’t like to be told what they need. Many resent seller attempts to force solutions upon them. In the best case buyers will discount whatever claims sellers make as they’ve come to expect hype.

Remember: The only person who can call your offering a solution is the buyer. Your job as a seller is to help connect the dots in getting them there.

7 Problems with the Word "Solution"

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: 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.

Sales Workshops

Sales Tips: How to Get Past the First 20 Seconds

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<a href=”http://blog.customercentric.com/blog/sales-tips-how-to-get-past-the-first-20-seconds” title=”” class=”hs-featured-image-link”> <img src=”http://blog.customercentric.com/hs-fs/hub/22968/file-2072522307-jpg/0-stopwatch-2.jpg?t=1489093932032″ alt=”Sales Tips: How to Get Past the First 20 Seconds” class=”hs-featured-image” style=”width:auto !important; max-width:50%; float:left; margin:0 15px 15px 0;”> </a>
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<h1>Sales Tips: How to Get Past the First 20 Seconds</h1>
<p>By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – <a href=”http://www.customercentric.com/browse-23547/SalesTrainingWorkshops.html”>The Sales Training Company</a></p>
<p><em>Image courtesy of Stuat Eman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net</em></p>
<img src=”http://track.hubspot.com/__ptq.gif?a=22968&amp;k=14&amp;r=http%3A%2F%2Fblog.customercentric.com%2Fblog%2Fsales-tips-how-to-get-past-the-first-20-seconds&amp;bu=http%253A%252F%252Fblog.customercentric.com%252Fblog&amp;bvt=rss” alt=”” width=”1″ height=”1″ style=”min-height:1px!important;width:1px!important;border-width:0!important;margin-top:0!important;margin-bottom:0!important;margin-right:0!important;margin-left:0!important;padding-top:0!important;padding-bottom:0!important;padding-right:0!important;padding-left:0!important; “>

Sales Tips: How to Get Buyers and Sellers onto the Same Page

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<a href=”http://blog.customercentric.com/blog/sales-tips-getting-buyers-sellers-on-same-page” title=”” class=”hs-featured-image-link”> <img src=”http://blog.customercentric.com/hubfs/buyer-seller-same-page.png?t=1489093932032″ alt=”Sales Tips: How to Get Buyers and Sellers onto the Same Page” class=”hs-featured-image” style=”width:auto !important; max-width:50%; float:left; margin:0 15px 15px 0;”> </a>
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<p><strong><span style=”font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 24px; color: #152d53;”>Sales Tips: How to Get&nbsp;Buyers and Sellers onto the Same Page</span></strong></p>
<p><span style=”font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: 14px; color: #152d53;”><em>By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, <a href=”http://www.customercentric.com”>CustomerCentric Selling®</a></em></span></p>
<img src=”http://track.hubspot.com/__ptq.gif?a=22968&amp;k=14&amp;r=http%3A%2F%2Fblog.customercentric.com%2Fblog%2Fsales-tips-getting-buyers-sellers-on-same-page&amp;bu=http%253A%252F%252Fblog.customercentric.com%252Fblog&amp;bvt=rss” alt=”” width=”1″ height=”1″ style=”min-height:1px!important;width:1px!important;border-width:0!important;margin-top:0!important;margin-bottom:0!important;margin-right:0!important;margin-left:0!important;padding-top:0!important;padding-bottom:0!important;padding-right:0!important;padding-left:0!important; “>

Sales Tips: How to Dissect a Lost Opportunity

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<a href=”http://blog.customercentric.com/blog/sales-tips-how-to-dissect-a-lost-opportunity” title=”” class=”hs-featured-image-link”> <img src=”http://blog.customercentric.com/hubfs/microscope.png?t=1489093932032″ alt=”Sales Tips: How to Dissect a Lost Opportunity” class=”hs-featured-image” style=”width:auto !important; max-width:50%; float:left; margin:0 15px 15px 0;”> </a>
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<p><span style=”font-size: 24px; font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;”><strong><span style=”color: #152d53;”>Sales Tips: How to Dissect a Lost Opportunity</span></strong></span></p>
<p><span style=”font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: 14px; color: #152d53;”><em>By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, <a href=”http://www.customercentric.com”>CustomerCentric Selling®</a></em></span></p>
<img src=”http://track.hubspot.com/__ptq.gif?a=22968&amp;k=14&amp;r=http%3A%2F%2Fblog.customercentric.com%2Fblog%2Fsales-tips-how-to-dissect-a-lost-opportunity&amp;bu=http%253A%252F%252Fblog.customercentric.com%252Fblog&amp;bvt=rss” alt=”” width=”1″ height=”1″ style=”min-height:1px!important;width:1px!important;border-width:0!important;margin-top:0!important;margin-bottom:0!important;margin-right:0!important;margin-left:0!important;padding-top:0!important;padding-bottom:0!important;padding-right:0!important;padding-left:0!important; “>

Sales Tips: How to Differentiate Yourself with Senior Executives

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<a href=”http://blog.customercentric.com/blog/sales-tips-how-to-differentiate-yourself” title=”” class=”hs-featured-image-link”> <img src=”http://blog.customercentric.com/hubfs/stand-out.png?t=1489093932032″ alt=”Sales Tips: How to Differentiate Yourself with Senior Executives” class=”hs-featured-image” style=”width:auto !important; max-width:50%; float:left; margin:0 15px 15px 0;”> </a>
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<p><span style=”font-size: 24px; font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;”><strong><span style=”color: #152d53;”>Sales Tips: How to Differentiate Yourself with Senior Executives</span></strong></span></p>
<p><span style=”font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: 14px; color: #152d53;”><em>By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, <a href=”http://www.customercentric.com”>CustomerCentric Selling®</a></em></span></p>
<img src=”http://track.hubspot.com/__ptq.gif?a=22968&amp;k=14&amp;r=http%3A%2F%2Fblog.customercentric.com%2Fblog%2Fsales-tips-how-to-differentiate-yourself&amp;bu=http%253A%252F%252Fblog.customercentric.com%252Fblog&amp;bvt=rss” alt=”” width=”1″ height=”1″ style=”min-height:1px!important;width:1px!important;border-width:0!important;margin-top:0!important;margin-bottom:0!important;margin-right:0!important;margin-left:0!important;padding-top:0!important;padding-bottom:0!important;padding-right:0!important;padding-left:0!important; “>

Sales Tips: How to Earn the Right to Close

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<a href=”http://blog.customercentric.com/blog/sales-tips-how-to-earn-the-right-to-close” title=”” class=”hs-featured-image-link”> <img src=”http://blog.customercentric.com/hubfs/business-agreement.png?t=1489093932032″ alt=”Sales Tips: How to Earn the Right to Close” class=”hs-featured-image” style=”width:auto !important; max-width:50%; float:left; margin:0 15px 15px 0;”> </a>
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<p><span style=”font-size: 24px; font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;”><strong><span style=”color: #152d53;”>How to Earn the Right to Close</span></strong></span></p>
<p><span style=”font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: 14px; color: #152d53;”><em>By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, <a href=”http://www.customercentric.com”>CustomerCentric Selling®</a></em></span></p>
<img src=”http://track.hubspot.com/__ptq.gif?a=22968&amp;k=14&amp;r=http%3A%2F%2Fblog.customercentric.com%2Fblog%2Fsales-tips-how-to-earn-the-right-to-close&amp;bu=http%253A%252F%252Fblog.customercentric.com%252Fblog&amp;bvt=rss” alt=”” width=”1″ height=”1″ style=”min-height:1px!important;width:1px!important;border-width:0!important;margin-top:0!important;margin-bottom:0!important;margin-right:0!important;margin-left:0!important;padding-top:0!important;padding-bottom:0!important;padding-right:0!important;padding-left:0!important; “>