From the CCS® Sales Blog

sales tips

Viewing posts tagged sales tips

Sales Tips: Where You Start Impacts the Outcome

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

The quality of a salesperson’s life in pursing opportunities is highly dependent on their starting point in the organization.

Starting Point in Opportunities

I hope you would agree that starting at Key Player or decision maker levels is likely to result in:

  • higher win rates
  • larger transactions
  • shorter sales cycles

Starting at low levels and trying to climb the corporate ladder can be hard rock mining. Each new person may have the ability to stop the product evaluation. My general rule is:

  • When calling at high levels, sellers should try to avoid asking questions the buyer may not be able to answer as you run the risk of being delegated downward.
  • When calling at lower levels, asking business-oriented questions that the prospect can’t or doesn’t want to share is a reasonable tact to take.

Sellers and buyers should want to avoid wasting time. If a seller’s contact can’t identify areas of value the seller can ask if he/she could introduce them to a person that can. I think it’s important that buyer and seller consider early on if the benefits would provide adequate justification to warrant a purchase.

If and when a prospect will share desired business outcomes they may be willing to serve as a champion in granting access to other stakeholders that have additional areas of potential benefit.

Sales Tips: How to Sway Your Buyers’ Decision in B2B Sales Deals

Courtesy of Primary Intelligence, a CustomerCentric Selling® Partner

Although B2B buyers are most interested in product features and functionality when evaluating companies, buyer’s perception of your company can sway their decision in your favor (or not). Primary Intelligence discovered that 20% of buyers, approximately 1 in 5, rate vendors as “poor” in most company-related criteria.

While solution capabilities are typically the most important aspect in B2B sales evaluations, consideration of how vendors are perceived overall – including vendor reputation, service and support, and future direction – are also influential in the final decision.

attract buyers

How can you improve buyers’ perceptions of your company? Here are three best practices you can implement at your organization.

1. Vet customer references.

Ensuring that your company has solid customer references will help to assuage any concerns customers may have about your experience in and commitment to their industry. Look for promoters who can help to evangelize your company and the strategic direction in which it’s heading. Case studies, user conferences, co-webinars, and joint customer-vendor presentations at industry events will help to showcase your most successful customer accounts.

One CIO shared with us,

We didn’t have a lot of references that were a similar fit to the kind of resources we were looking for. Ideally, I was looking for a company similar to our size that was spread out with multiple locations. I could never really get a good, exact fit for somebody to talk to that had the same layout.

2. Share future direction.

It’s important to share product road maps, strategic vision documents, long-term planning, and other evidence of your organization’s future direction with your customers and prospects. Ask recipients to sign non-disclosure agreements if necessary but make sure your customer base is excited about the strategic direction in which you’re headed.

A vice president of IT explained,

They’re trying to change the face that they bring to their customers, but so far I really haven’t seen it materialize in a change. They wouldn’t be on our short list of companies to talk to.

3. Improve service and support.

While service and support is often a challenging area for most companies, understanding what changes need to be made in order to offer customers outstanding service and support will help make your company stand out in the eyes of your customers. Leading organizations target improvements in customer experience as a competitive differentiator to ensure their customers stay loyal over the long term and don’t defect to competing vendors.

The financial manager of a healthcare organization stated,

I’m pretty adamant about customer service at the leadership level. It has eroded a bit lately. They just seemed to be lagging behind.

Remember: Buyers fear that they’re only as good as their partners and providers and that they can’t afford to have a weak link in the chain.

Sales Tips: Wakeup Call for Sales – Today’s Realities and How to Adapt with Your Buyer

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

At the risk of sounding like my parents, selling seemed so simple 25 years ago. Sales was on its own island and were the keepers of information buyers had to contact if they wanted to learn about new offerings.

Sellers could enjoy “Column A” status for most of the buying cycles before Columns B, C, etc. were brought into the fray late as fodder to provide leverage in negotiating the best price from Column A. Many of my blog posts have discussed how buying has changed, but few organizations have fully understood the implications of Sales 2.0.

Best of breed technology was the trend in the 90’s until organizations started to realize the exorbitant cost of integrating disparate offerings. This was also the time the buzz about integrating Sales and Marketing died because there were so few Success Stories.

ducks in a row

Getting Your Ducks in a Row
In today’s environment sales organizations make their own decisions about sales training or process as marketing does. Product Marketing tries to identify specific market segments they want to reach out to. Product Development (furthest from buyers) attempts to create new offerings that address buyer/market needs. It seems there are several silos making what they feel or hope are good ‘best of breed’ decisions with little or no thought for the other silos’ requirements and how to integrate the different approaches.

Absent a coordinated approach that views revenue generation as an enterprise rather than a sales responsibility, it will be nearly impossible to react in a coordinated and meaningful fashion to the changes in buying behavior.

When choosing a process for revenue generation I’d suggest the following capabilities are needed:

  • For each offering, sales and marketing must agree on the titles that comprise the buying committee.
  • For each title, sales and marketing should agree on desired business outcomes that can be achieved through the use of the offering.
  • Sales and marketing should create messaging for each conversation (title/outcome) to help sellers more consistently position offerings.
  • Standard milestones in the buying process should be developed that can be verified based upon buyer actions rather than seller opinions.
  • A common vocabulary that all four silos use should be agreed on so that customer-facing staff can more effectively articulate buyer/market needs for future offerings.

Organizational changes are necessary and difficult to put into effect, but having all silos understanding one another’s’ responsibilities in revenue generation would go a long way toward making vendors more customer-centric.

Sales Tips: How to Respond to “Best and Final” Pricing Requests

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

How should sellers reply when they are not going to win a transaction but are asked for a “best and final” number? Some respond with the lowest possible price with the thought being they may be able to steal the business (unlikely) or at least make it a skinny deal for their competitors. It’s not a tactic I endorse.

I believe floating aggressive prices can come back to haunt sellers if and when the roles may be reversed in the future. It would be awkward if a seller’s customers got wind of pricing that was lower than what they paid.

best and final pricing

My suggestion when asked for best and final pricing is to ask:

“Am I the vendor of choice and is price the last remaining obstacle?”

  • If the person asking is not a decision maker, indicate that he/she, the decision maker, your manager and you would have to meet to see if the transaction could be completed.
  • If the person asking for better pricing says you are not yet the vendor of choice you can respond:

“It sounds as though you have more work to do in finalizing your decision. If I become the vendor of choice at that time we can all meet to see if we can come to terms. For now, let’s leave pricing as an open item.” 

Some positive things happen by taking this approach:

  • You avoid putting low ball numbers on the street
  • The “buyer” hasn’t gotten what he or she wants
  • It makes sense for both parties not to negotiate unless you are Column A

Always and never don’t usually apply to sales, but my suggestion is to always act as though you are Column A when asked for better pricing. If you are, buyers will come back to you. If you’re not, you keep your dignity by not getting dragged into a discounting death spiral.

Sales Tips: Who Is Calling On Whom?

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Geoffrey Moore has written several books on product life cycles and when different types of companies are likely to buy.

  • Early market buyers comprise about 15% of a buying population. These companies want to be on the cutting edge of technology and can endure product pitches, determine how they can use offerings and make quick decisions. They don’t need a long list of references, reassurance nor much help from sellers. They buy quickly. If offerings fail to meet expectations they view it as a cost of doing business and are onto the next offering.
  • 85% are mainstream market buyers comprised of the early majority, late majority and laggards. They buy only after offerings have received market acceptance. They are cautious in wanting to avoid making mistakes so that “no decision” is a common outcome of their long buying cycles. Unlike early market buyers, product pitches will fall on deaf ears. This amounts to inept sellers calling on buyers that don’t understand how offerings can be used

Calling on Executives

A survey by Sales Benchmark Index found 87% of sellers are B and C Players. If you do the math (.85 late market) x (87% B/C Players), you realize:

74% of the time you have sellers leading with product to buyers that are unable to see usage and value.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that after exhausting early market buyers many companies struggle to get their share of the mainstream market business. In a single word the difference between A vs. B/C Players is patience.

A Players uncover desired business outcomes, help buyers understand the barriers to achieving them by doing a diagnosis and then present only relevant capabilities that address the barriers.

Companies that codify and teach B/C Players to emulate calls A Players make can increase and accelerate revenue from the mainstream market. It amounts to migrating sellers from product to business outcome sales.

Sales Tips: Avoid Negotiating with Buyers Unless You’re “Column A”

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

A common ploy buyers use toward the end of buying cycles is having someone (often a non-Key Player) request a “best and final” pricing. Smart buyers with multiple vendors in the mix will negotiate with Column C to use their price against Column B, all in an attempt to get the best possible price from Column A, their vendor of choice. Some buyers may just fabricate pricing.

Some salespeople see this as an opportunity to win the business with aggressive pricing. In my experience, vendors selling non-commodity offerings can seldom discount their way into becoming Column A.

sales negotiation tips

In selling, the words “always” and “never” seldom apply but I’d like to make a case that sellers should always negotiate as though they were Column A.

When asked for a “best a final” I suggest asking the buyer if you are the vendor of choice and if price is the only obstacle.

  • If you are told the buyer is not yet to that point, consider responding as follows:It sounds as though you haven’t finalized your decision yet, so let’s leave pricing as an open item. If I become your vendor of choice we can see if we can come to terms.

If the person asking for a better price is a non-Key Player, try to avoid negotiating with a messenger. When asking if you are the vendor of choice, suggest that if you became the vendor of choice you’d have to get your manager and the Key Player involved in finalizing the transaction.

  • If you aren’t the vendor of choice you will at least kept your dignity and pricing in tact. Any number you provided would have been used as leverage with Column A. If you are the vendor of choice they will come back to you and you start at the original price quoted rather than a discounted best and final they will try to further whittle down.

New Industry Report Available: “Changing Your Sales Outcomes”

Courtesy of Primary Intelligence, a CustomerCentric Selling® Partner

Can you salvage a deal that’s on track for a loss? And if you can, what does it take to recover it? For this industry report, Changing Your Sales Outcomes, we analyzed buyer responses from nearly 1,000 highly competitive B2B sales opportunities collected over an 11-month period. Our study uncovered that over one-third of lost deals could have been won. If you’re working on a sale that seems like it might miss, stick to it: your buyers are probably willing to give you a chance to recover the sale—and a chunk of revenue with it.

The impact of recovering one in three lost deals is significant. The missed opportunities in our study represent over $1.5 billion in lost revenue that sellers could have won had they navigated the sale differently. For the average software vendor in our study, a 33% increase in revenue would have added an estimated $15 million annually to their bottom line. Even recovering a fraction of this would have been significant.

With so much revenue left on the table, what did sellers miss?

changing sales outcomes

Changing Your Sales Outcomes Industry Report

Most often, sellers didn’t provide the right mix of sales, product and pricing support for their buyer. Our study dove deep into the details and captured what you can change to win, and it’s all based on what buyers advised—and specifically, what the buying decision-makers advised. And their advice isn’t necessarily what you might assume.

Here’s one example: While sales teams often say price lost the deal, buyers had different ideas. Their advice of what to do differently didn’t place price first or even second in line. In fact, nearly two-thirds of lost deals didn’t have a price-related weakness.

Instead, buyers placed improvements to the sales process at the top of the list, saying it was the leading influencer a vendor could have modified to win.

While it can be discouraging for sellers to hear their sales efforts didn’t hit the mark, this is good news for you. Sales activities are easily correctable, and they’re certainly easier to modify on the fly compared to your product’s feature set or pricing structure.

When it comes to optimizing the sales process, the number one issue buyers raised was a disconnect between what they were seeking and what the losing vendor offered. Buyers said losing vendors did not understand (or respond to) their business needs adequately, especially compared to the winner.

The theme of understanding needs reoccurred throughout our findings as buyers also associated it with a vendor’s product and price. For example, buyers described how winning vendors understood their needs and then tailored their proposed solution around those specifics. Tactics like this helped winners close the deal while pushing out competitors.


Want to see the complete list of things you can do differently to win 33% more deals this year? Read our full report or download the graphic summary.

Download Graphic Summary   Download Detailed Report

Sales Tips: 5 Quick Psychology Hacks Great Sales Pros Need To Know

By Kayleigh Alexandra, Content Writer for Micro Startups

The right psychology hacks, when applied to your business, have the power to increase your sales figures dramatically. No matter whether you’re bold and outgoing or shy and thoughtful – with the right approach, you will be able to get leads through your pipeline. All it takes is to implement some quick psychological changes in your sales and marketing approach that will make your customers tick. Sales is all about appealing to emotions. Give the following hacks a try and let us know if they make a difference!

sales psychology tips

Minimize choice overload

You might think that the more options you have available, the more likely it is that your customers will see something they like. The reality is, in fact, the opposite. Our intuitive assumption that more choice improves the chance that we’ll find the ‘perfect thing’ turns out to be a fallacy; instead, when presented with more options, we often won’t make a decision at all.

When you’re trying to make a sale, avoid giving people too many options. If you do, the odds of them buying anything will plummet. Too much choice easily becomes overwhelming. Instead, try limiting the available options to just two or three, and see whether you notice customers becoming more decisive.

Focus on value

The whole point of a sales pitch is to help buyers see that the barriers to achieving their goals that can be addressed by the features or capabilities of your products. Let’s remember that no-one likes giving their money away. But we do like having nice things. In your sales pitch, direct the customer’s attention to the having of the nice things, rather than focusing on cost.

This means avoiding related terms like ‘money’ or ‘affordable’ and instead taking steps to show what they will gain – not how much they will lose. Try to use leading statements which focus on how the product or service will make their lives better: a result that will be harder to achieve unless they commit.

Don’t be an approval junkie

The need to be liked is one of the biggest barriers to successful selling. If you project insecurity as a salesperson, you unintentionally direct attention towards yourself, when you should be giving it to the customer. If you’re someone who is constantly seeking personal affirmation, this can have the negative knock-on effect of making you seem desperate – and no-one wants to buy from a needy salesperson.

Forget about what others think of you and instead put your focus on the person sitting in front of you. It’s also possible to go too far the other way and be overconfident – this isn’t a desirable alternative. The clue is in the name: be customer centric. Sales is not about you.

Create the right emotional environment

As mentioned earlier, sales is highly emotionally driven. If you want to be a master of sales, you must become a master of picking up on emotional cues and taking the customer on a journey – without being obvious about it. I’ll say it again: sales is not about you. Take some time to let your customer do the talking and find out what’s important to them. Try to feel what they are feeling before leading them, gracefully, to your product as a potential solution.

It’s very easy to get in your own head when a customer starts voicing their concerns, firing off strategic comebacks instead of really paying attention. You’ll do better if you allow yourself to become an emotional sponge and show them you’re on their side, you get it, and you have a solution that could help.

The psychology of selling online

So what about if you’re not selling in person, but online? If you run an online store, here are some tips for improving your sales digitally.

First, embrace content. It’s a powerful sales tool that will give you all sorts of ways to add value for your customers. It’s not all about self-promotion – it’s giving them something genuinely useful, a reason to come back to your website, with the added benefit of making you appear more knowledgeable.

If you use models on your website, consider whether they’re relatable to your audience. Do these people really look like software engineers? Are we buying this scenario? It’s easier to picture ourselves with a product or service if the models represent the way we see ourselves – or the way we aspire to be. Supermodels aren’t the only option.

Finally, you can validate your customers’ taste by displaying what others were interested in. Amazon does this all the time. It’s easy to add this simple functionality to your ecommerce website – if you use Shopify, for example, you can simply install the Also Bought or Frequently Bought Together apps to give your customers tailored recommendations. Everyone likes to feel they have good taste.

You can also flip this on its head and apply lessons from ecommerce to face-to-face sales negotiations:

  • Content = your pitch and the way your product is ‘packaged up’. Is this an expert-level solution, or a beginner software? Your pitch has to reflect who you’re talking to, and be genuinely useful & helpful
  • Online imagery = rapport. Try to build rapport with customers by reflecting their wants and needs. It starts with body language, tone, and listening
  • Recommendations = social proof. If you can mention that someone they know and respect already uses your software, you will be much more likely to close the deal.

There you have it – five different psychology hacks you can start using to improve your sales and grow your brand. Keep these strategies in mind, and your sales game will go through the roof.

Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to spreading the word about startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Visit the blog for the latest micro biz news and inspiring entrepreneurial stories. Follow them on Twitter @getmicrostarted.

Sales Tips: Beware of Your Adversaries

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Committee decisions are exponentially more difficult than single buyer transactions. They are longer buyer cycles and by nature more strategic.

Conversations with first-line managers often identify roles of different people involved in decisions:

  • Who are your coaches that will provide information and do internal selling?
  • Who is your champion that will provide access to Key Players?
  • Who are beneficiaries that see personal value if a buying decision is made?
  • Who will be responsible for implementing the offering being considered?
  • Who will provide funding?

Many internal conversations focus on people that are in the seller’s camp, but I suggest being aware of potential adversaries that prefer a competitor’s offering. These buyers will work as hard as your advocates to steer buying decisions.

head in the sand

Ostriches are known for putting their heads in the sand when in danger. So it is many sellers choose to ignore adversaries.

I suggest:

  • Make attempts to win them over.
  • Failing that, try to neutralize their influence on the ultimate decision.

Having a conversation with your champion about adversaries and how to deal with them can be critical to winning. There may be times when one on one calls won’t be productive and it would be advisable to ask a champion or coach to accompany you on a call with an adversary.

Committee decisions when everyone agrees on the same vendor are rare. Try to evaluate how high in the organization your champion is vs. your competitor’s champion. Execute strategies to win over or neutralize your adversaries.

Sales Tips: Why Do a Demo?

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

With the advent of online conferencing, the cost of doing demonstrations is considerably less than it was decades ago when sessions were done either at customer or vendor sites. The question I’d like you to consider:

What is the purpose of doing demos?

When and Why Do a Demo?

In my opinion, the only reasons are to prove relevant capabilities or to do proof in exchange for access to other people that would be involved in buying committees.

Please note: Prior to doing demos, buyers should have visions of the capabilities they need to achieve their desired business outcomes. If need development has not been done, the result will be dreaded “spray and pray” demos where buyers are subjected to a barrage of features that are not relevant to them.

Ultimately, demos don’t sell, salespeople do.

People asked to do demos should be provided the following information:

  • Names and titles of attendees
  • The desired business outcomes of the prospect company
  • Barriers to achieving the outcome (shortcomings in their current environment)
  • Capabilities that address barriers that must be shown to the buyers

Keep in mind demos are proof of the capabilities sellers have helped buyers realize they need.