Avoiding Two Major Traps of Self‑Commoditization


One of the greatest frustrations facing senior leaders and their sales and marketing organizations today is that their customers are treating their high-value solutions as commodities.

What they don’t realize is that they themselves are probably more to blame for this problem than any external force. Self-commoditization is the most significant threat to success in selling high‑value solutions, and your sales processes and behaviors are likely the largest contributing factor to that exposure.

If your sales organization’s proposal conversion rate is decreasing and the percentage of “no decisions” is increasing, your company may be commoditizing itself. Your sales process may … Read the rest

Diagnostic Conversations — The Optimal Source of Differentiation


Having a good conversation — in business or anywhere else, for that matter — is not as simple as it might appear. In fact, it’s a major challenge, especially in the world of complex sales and multicultural business relationships. Authentic and compelling customer conversations are the key to what I like to call “privileged access” and “privileged insight.”

Privileged access is what we need in order to tap into the best sources of information within our customers’ organizations. Privileged insight is what we need to clearly understand our customers, their responsibilities and metrics, and recognize how we can impact their … Read the rest

You’ll Gain More Credibility Through the Questions You Ask Than the Stories You Tell


I’m sure you’ll agree that establishing credibility is one of the most critical elements in securing a new customer. The customer must see you as a credible and trustworthy resource. When we ask our program participants to describe the elements of credibility, they often will suggest things like a proven track record, a list of satisfied customers, number of years in business, financial strength, business size, etc. — all items that contribute to credibility. Our next question is, “How do you establish that credibility or convey that credibility to a prospective customer?” Invariably, the response is, “We tell them.”

Now … Read the rest

Building Business Through Quality Referrals


Keeping the pipeline well stocked with new prospects and opportunities is a critical prerequisite for sales success. For many salespeople, it means spending a substantial amount of time on the phone, cold calling prospects who may not even want to speak to them. For most people, this activity is a necessary evil (at best) and they would gladly trade off for more time spent with their customers.

For a few exceptional sales professionals, a well-stocked pipeline is a reality. They have been able to achieve a continuous, seemingly effortless flow of new prospects and customers, all while investing less time … Read the rest

Critical Skills for Sales Success


I’m frequently asked, “What are the most important skills a sales professional must have to succeed in today’s competitive market?” The first step in acquiring the skills for success is recognizing that a sales professional is a professional, just as physicians, attorneys and commercial pilots are professionals.

There are three critical components that form a solid foundation for professional skills development and result in exceptional performance for all professionals. They are systems, skills and disciplines.

The system is a set process or organized procedure that leads to a predictable result. Skills consist of the individual’s knowledge and their ability to … Read the rest

Self-Sabotage — the Cause and the Cure


The many ways in which salespeople sabotage their own efforts range from obvious mistakes, such as blaming customers when their own products and services do not deliver as promised, to very subtle insults hidden in the things that we say to customers.

On the self-sabotage spectrum, it’s easy to recognize the obvious “I should have known better” mistakes that damage relationships with customers. The far more common and harmful situations occur when our words and actions insidiously erode the customer’s trust and personal credibility that we work so hard to establish. In this article, I’ll focus on how to solve … Read the rest

Executive Access


Salespeople say, “Executives won’t pay attention. They’re indifferent and won’t take the time to see us.” Executives say, “Salespeople all sound the same. They’re well-versed about their products, but they don’t take the time to understand my business. I’ll see anyone that can show me a solid business case, but they shouldn’t whine if I won’t waste my time to ‘learn’ about their solutions.”

The result of this disconnect is that too many executives never connect valuable solutions that can make a measurable impact on their companies’ profitable growth and carry out their best positioned strategy, and the sellers end … Read the rest

Performance Enhancing Tools for Sales Managers


When was the last time you:

  • Received an account update full of glaring generalities?
  • Gave in to a salesperson, lowered the price and still lost the business?
  • Counted on the “superstar” to hit a home run and found out he struck out?

Most of us have experienced these frustrating situations and have had to deal with the consequences. In today’s marketplace of increased complexity, constant pressure is placed on the sales team to deliver the numbers, but too often sales managers are expected to select, shape and coach their team to excellence, with few tools.

As a result, they often … Read the rest

Leveraging Value to Retain Profitable Customers


Is your sales force stuck in the wrong era?

It sounds like a strange question, but if they find themselves forced to compete on price to sell value-added products or services — or even if they’re trying to sell solutions to problems that customers know they have — the answer is probably “yes.”

The business and the sales profession at large have evolved tremendously during the past 50 years. Problem is, the highest percentage of sales organizations haven’t kept pace with the evolution. It’s no longer enough to offer a value-added product. You must leverage your value all the way … Read the rest

Beyond the Elevator Pitch: a High-Credibility Conversation


It’s not easy being a “prospective customer” in today’s highly diluted and complex market. If you’re the targeted prospect, you are constantly barraged with marketing messages and annoying sales pitches. Whether the pitch is presented on the radio during a morning commute, in a postal in-box, by e-mail, over the phone or face-to-face, you may be overwhelmed by the number of companies and messages seeking your limited time and attention.

If you are a business professional trying to get your prospect’s attention, then you may be experiencing how difficult it has become to cut through all the noise and have … Read the rest

How to Prevent 11th Hour Negotiations


One of the enduring myths of negotiation is that it is a back‑and‑forth struggle with your customer that occurs in the final stage of the sale, the “close.”

Negotiation, at its best, is composed of open, honest and straightforward communication based on mutual respect and mutual trust. When you recognize it in this form, it begins with the very first conversation and is continuous throughout the relationship. We refer to it as the “diagnostic process.” When you are using this process, there is no need for high-pressure, last-minute bargaining, there are few, if any, objections and there is no need … Read the rest

The Decision to Buy


How often has a sale been lost after we believed the customer clearly understood their problem and would make a logical, quality decision?

As sales professionals we have been taught that we must seek out and uncover our customer’s decision process. We are to clearly determine who will be involved, what they are looking for, what criteria they will be using to evaluate the situation, how much money they will be willing to spend, etc. Once we have uncovered the customer’s decision criteria, we are then advised to present our solution strengths, our added value, to match that decision process.… Read the rest

Selling to Executives: Who’s Getting Their Attention, You or Your Competitor?


How many sales have been lost because your competition had inroads with the senior executive and you didn’t? How often did you find out, too late, that the middle managers you had been talking to didn’t have the power to make the final decision to buy?

The hard truth is, many times it’s very difficult to get the executive’s attention and connect your products and solutions to their priorities and business agenda.

Initiating and developing relationships with executives requires more than getting in and presenting your value proposition. It requires you to be able to answer several critical questions before … Read the rest

The End of Solution-Based Selling


Does this presentation sound familiar? “We have the solution to meet your needs. We will tailor our products and services so that they fit your reality precisely. Our price is reasonable and we’ll provide excellent customer service.”

It’s the move from selling products to selling solutions, and it’s what the vast majority of all companies say to their prospects. Perhaps you’ve said it to yours. If you’re still selling that way, you’re missing the boat — the one that recently crossed over the horizon leading to the 21st century.

The way most companies are selling solutions just doesn’t work in … Read the rest

Gaining Credibility by Asking Questions


I’m sure you’ll agree that establishing credibility is one of the most critical elements in securing a new customer.

The customer must see you as a credible and trustworthy resource. When we ask our program participants to describe the elements of credibility, they often will suggest things such as the following:

  • A proven track record.
  • A list of satisfied customers.
  • Number of years in business.
  • Financial strength.
  • Business size, etc.

Our next question is: “How do you establish that credibility or convey that credibility to a prospective customer?” Invariably, the response is “We tell them.”

Now the sobering question, “How … Read the rest

Common Sales Challenges That Prevent Executive-Level Access


With the complexity of today’s business solutions and their far-reaching effects, more often than not senior-level executives are actively involved in the process of assessing the issues and their options. Yet many companies are finding their best sales and marketing strategies are highly diluted by the time they reach their customers, and their sales professionals are not connecting to the power in the executive suite.

Gaining access and connecting to executive decision makers is one challenge that most sales professionals continue to seek a better solution to. There are several common challenges that sales professionals need to resolve in order … Read the rest

Closing the Gaps Between Value Creation and Value Delivery


Frustration and animosity are stifling the business-to-business sector.

Executives are frustrated because they can’t translate the differentiated products and services they work so hard to create into bottom-line profitability. Their customers are frustrated because they frequently don’t achieve the benefits they expect after purchasing those same solutions. Sellers and buyers stand on opposite sides of the value gap and blame each other.

As business transformation consultants, each year we field hundreds of phone calls from executives who voice their frustrations:

  • They can’t get their price for the products and services that they have painstakingly developed and marketed, often at enormous
Read the rest

The Presentation Trap


Why Making Presentations Can Cost You the Sale

In many conversations with sales professionals, I am often surprised that even the most sophisticated professionals get caught in the presentation trap. They spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for a razzle‑dazzle presentation and often lose sight of the issues at hand. Everything salespeople do before — the prospecting, contacting and qualifying of potential customers — seems to be aimed at creating the opportunity to present their solutions. Everything after — the downhill run to the sale itself that includes overcoming objectives, negotiating and closing — is designed to support and … Read the rest

Applying the Concepts of Continuous Improvement to Sales Leadership


Making “the numbers” is a critical issue in any growing business. Growth depends upon sales and sales depends upon your sales management systems. But surprisingly, many companies pay scant attention to managing this critical area.

Are your sales management systems as fine-tuned as your other business systems? Many companies, both start-ups and established firms, have applied state-of-the-art procedures and controls to their manufacturing, financial, administrative and distribution systems. Yet for some reason the sales and sales management departments have not been reviewed with the same level of vigor and scrutiny. Many company executives look at the selling function as somewhat … Read the rest