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sales training, sales training workshop

September 6, 2016 . by Frank Visgatis

Behavior Follows Belief

sales training, sales training workshopBack in the 1970’s, IBM was the gold standard of sales training. They would put their salespeople through a program that lasted up to six months and relied heavily on high-intensity role plays and simulations. While brutal for the students, the end “product” was salespeople who were accustomed to high pressure selling environments who weren’t afraid to work whatever hours were necessary to successfully navigate a sell cycle.

When I got into sales in the late 1980’s, companies were still, for the most part, willing to invest heavily in training their salespeople on the best practices of the day. Many programs that I went through, including my introduction to ones that specialized in how to sell complex, often disruptive, expensive offerings to diverse buying committees, were the proverbial “walk of fire.” Although not six months in length like the IBM model, they were nonetheless multi-day, intensive programs that required commitment, focus and late nights of casework.

Then, as time went on, I noticed the length of time of most training agendas (and coincidentally the corresponding investment requirement) began to erode. Sales organizations and the executives who ran them seemed to come to the conclusion that “we don’t need a whole week of training, we can do it in one or two days.” The advent of CBT (“Computer-Based Training,” for any of you who are not old enough to remember that term) and its sexy successor “e-learning,” became the excuse everyone needed to justify what would ultimately prove to be an ineffective solution.

Over the years, I have seen companies fall into a disturbing pattern of “train-fail-rinse-repeat.”

In other words, when faced with underperforming sales organizations, someone (usually the new VP of Sales) decides, “We need to train our salespeople.” They then venture forth into the marketplace, much the way their buyers do, and evaluate various sales methodologies and approaches based either on the recommendations of their peers on LinkedIn, general Internet research or worse, becoming enamored of whatever the “bright and shiny” methodology du jour is.

Then they face a real challenge.

Often times, the vendors in the sales training space fail to effectively communicate the value they provide, usually by not even following their own approach, and they immediately cave to not only price pressure but more significantly, time pressure. Their customer demands that what used to take a week to accomplish must now be done in a day or two and sadly, the training vendor acquiesces.

But logic says that you can’t magically compress 96 hours into 48, so “something has to give.”

And that “something” is usually the most time and resource-intensive part, the role-play, skill development and case study exercises. Without these components, the “training” becomes an intellectual experience that makes sense to everyone, but since no real behavior modification has taken place, salespeople leave with some interesting knowledge and perspectives, but then default back to their old ways of doing things.

With no real behavior modification and often, only lip service support from first line management, nine months go by and nothing changes. No improvement in revenue production. No improvement in forecast accuracy. Long sell cycles that continue to die the slow death of “no decision.” Then management decides, “We must have done the wrong training”.

Train. Fail. Rinse. Repeat.

In order for companies to break this vicious cycle, they need to recognize that as much as their salespeople need training, they need behavior modification more.

Salespeople will only embrace and succeed with a new approach when they believe they can be more effective, make more money and achieve their personal goals and objectives by changing the way they do things. That will only happen when they experience that change firsthand through the self-discovery process of leaving their comfort zone and actually trying to do things differently in a controlled and facilitated environment.

sales pipeline, sales tips, selling tips

May 16, 2016 . by Frank Visgatis

Time for “Spring Cleaning”?

sales pipeline, sales tips, selling tipsIt’s officially Spring. In addition to getting your yard and outdoor areas ready for the (eventual) warm weather, I’d suggest that you think about doing some “spring cleaning” with your pipeline as well.

Too often, as the months pass by, the same “opportunities” roll over from month to month to month. I have seen some salespeople’s pipelines that have deals in them that started in the Clinton administration. Rather than delude yourself for eight or nine more months, think about scrubbing your pipeline now so that if you need to start rebuilding, you are doing it sooner rather than later.

A simple way to “sanitize” your pipeline is to follow this process:

1. Select your top 5 or 10 opportunities.

2. For each of those opportunities, ask these questions:

a. Did I find them, or did they find me?

b. If they found me, how am I differentiating myself from my competition?

c. Do I know what is driving their evaluation at a business level?

d. Do I have a good understanding of their current situation (i.e. how they do things today without your offering)?

e. Do they believe that our offering will help them achieve their goals, solve their problems and/or satisfy their needs?

f. Have I established a business case that justifies them spending money with me?

g. Am I dealing with just one person, or have I gained access to all of the key stakeholders?

h. If I am dealing with just one person, is that person willing to help me get access to the other stakeholders?

i. Have we established a mutually agreed-to plan that documents the steps of their evaluation and their desired timeline for implementation?

If you can’t answer one or more of these questions, or you don’t like some of the answers you’re coming up with, consider qualifying the deal out of your pipeline before you spend the next six months only to get bad news anyway.

inbound sales, inbound selling

May 16, 2016 . by Frank Visgatis

Do You Suffer from “Inbounditis”?

inboundWhen you combine the availability of information via the internet, blogs, discussion groups, LinkedIn, etc., over the last several years and couple it with the much touted “research” that has supposedly documented that 60% of the buying cycle is now completed prior to a salesperson being contacted and you get the perfect formula for “inbounditis”.

Inbounditis is the disease that causes salespeople to abandon proactive prospecting activities and simply spend their time responding to inbound inquiries.

While it’s always nice (and easy) to talk to people who want to talk to you, I would suggest that it is not always the best use of your time. Typically the person reaching out is a mid-to-low level individual who has either been tasked with simply gathering information or, in many cases, undertaken an “evaluation” with no authorization by senior management and, therefore, no real funding secured internally.

Think about trying this approach: The next time you get a web inquiry or an email from an alleged “prospect”, look at the name of the company, go online and identify three or four senior executives from that company and then proactively prospect to them rather than simply responding to the initial request for information. If there is a real evaluation underway, the executives will likely be aware of it. You may very well get delegated back to that person who initially reached out to you, but at least you will have established some visibility with the real decision makers.

sales tips

May 16, 2016 . by Frank Visgatis

Never Too Old to Learn

sales tipsThroughout the years as I’ve delivered CustomerCentric Selling® to literally thousands of salespeople around the globe, I have always made a point of emphasizing that while the strategies and tactics we teach have proven effective over the years, there are no “silver bullets”. In other words, we, like our students, are always learning and looking for new and different approaches. This approach encourages students to share what has worked for them in the past and has often led to “aha!” moments over the years. I had one such “aha!” moment in a recent public workshop I taught.

The topic was prospecting and business development and the discussion centered on various email prospecting approaches that people have tried. One student suggested that in order to secure an initial meeting with a potential prospect, rather than simply sending an email that concludes with a request for a meeting at some future date, they actually include a calendar invite (e.g. Outlook, iCal, etc.) with a specific date and time proposed. When the prospect receives the meeting request, he or she has the ability to accept, reject or suggest an alternative time and, if they accept, their calendar and yours are automatically updated. Brilliant! In addition to communicating that this is not a generic, blanket email, it also positions the salesperson as a professional who is respectful of their prospect’s time as well as their own.

sales tips, selling tips, sales

sales tips, selling tips, salesFor years we have been educating salespeople about the advantages of being what we call the “Column A” vendor. This is the vendor whose capabilities not only align with the buyer’s requirements but also, ideally, includes unique capabilities that the seller has managed to weave into the buyer’s vision.

However, salespeople still ask us, “How do I know if I am the Column A vendor or not?”

While there are very few (if any) certainties in life or sales, there are definitely signs that we can look for that give us an indication as to where we might be.

One of the easiest ways to assess your standing with a prospect is to evaluate the “feel” of your interactions with them.

  • If you are the Column A vendor, it feels like you are “playing catch” with a friend. You toss something their way. They toss something back to you. Everyone is interested in making sure that the other side is treated fairly and curve balls are usually not part of the equation.
  • However, if you’re the Column B vendor, it usually feels a lot more like they are playing “fetch” with you. In other words, they are throwing things out and making you chase after them – “get me a proposal”, “I need it by the end of the week”, etc.

So, that “hot” prospect you have been working on – are you playing catch or fetch?

sales goals, sales target, sales tips

May 16, 2016 . by Frank Visgatis

3 Tips for Goal-Setting

sales goals, sales target, sales tipsHaving closed the book on the year, it’s time to take a deep, post-holiday breath and leap headfirst into a New Year ahead. Are you as amazed as I am at how quickly the past year went by? Did you achieve everything you wanted to? I know I didn’t. And I think I know why.

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of limping into a new year, licking the wounds of goals not achieved. Therefore, my first goal for the New Year is to write down my goals. Too often we fall into the trap of “wishful speculation” – in other words, “wouldn’t it be great if”. But we never take the time to set a goal, put it in writing, and measure our progress (or lack thereof), on a daily basis. As I embark on this endeavor, let me share with you some thoughts on goal setting:

1. Limit your goals. Not the size of the goals, just the number, As Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great” and numerous other business best sellers says, “If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any priorities.” Three goals for next year – that’s all. If you achieve one by March, by all means replace it with another. But keep in mind the old adage “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

2. Be SMART. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. If each goal doesn’t pass any one of these tests, re-evaluate the goal.

3. Share your goals. Whether it’s losing weight, exercising regularly or achieving 150% of your sales target, let other people know what you are working toward. A goal kept to yourself never has a chance to feed off of encouragement and accountability.

Finally, as you set your personal “big three” goals for the year, consider one other challenge. Do one thing every day that takes you out of your comfort zone. Do something that scares you a little.

Good luck and good selling!

sales, selling, sales process

May 16, 2016 . by Frank Visgatis

Avoid “Proposal Fallacy”

sales, selling, sales processThere is a psychological term called “the gambler’s fallacy” that explains why a gambler in Las Vegas playing, for instance, the roulette wheel, would bet on a certain set of numbers just because another set has come up repeated times. In other words, they think that just because the second group of 12 numbers on the roulette wheel (i.e. 13 through 24) has hit three times in a row, that somehow that makes the probability of one of the other groups (1-12 or 25-36) hitting next is higher. The reality of the situation is that the odds do not change at all based on what numbers have come up previously.

Many salespeople suffer from a similar ailment, one I’ll call “the proposal fallacy”. For instance, they mistakenly believe that since the last three proposals they sent out did not close, that somehow the likelihood of the next closing is somehow higher. Rather than consistently and aggressively qualifying deals before issuing proposals, they mistakenly think that if they just “up” their activity level, the odds will swing in their favor.

sales tips, sales process, sales training

May 16, 2016 . by Frank Visgatis

Sellers: Use Verbs, Not Nouns

sales tips, sales process, sales training“No one buys a quarter-inch drill. What they buy is a quarter-inch hole.” – Theodore Levitt, Harvard Business School

This famous quote encapsulates the philosophy behind CustomerCentric Selling® and our concept of Sales Ready Messaging®.

Salespeople are, in many cases, victims of how product marketing rolls out new products. Historically, when a new product is released, the sales team will be brought together for “sales training”. What they are really getting is a product feature dump where, over the course of one or more days, all of the hot new features are crammed into their heads. They leave the training with an in depth understanding of the product features but often no context of why someone would need it. They then start spewing those features, at times completely out of context, when they get in front of a prospect. This is a painful experience for the buyer and, as a result, a fruitless one for the seller.

There is a better way.

Rather than focusing on noun-based product features (what “it” is), salespeople need to transition to verb-based usage scenarios (how people use “it”). In other words, buyers typically will not buy a new product until they understand why they need it (what does it help them address in their business) and how they will use it.

sales, selling, sales process

May 16, 2016 . by Frank Visgatis

Buying Cycles or “Looking” Cycles?

sales, selling, sales processThere are a lot of “looking cycles” going on, though I’m not sure how many of them are actual “buying cycles”. With the wealth of information now available to prospects via the Internet, social media, LinkedIn, etc., the exploration of potential business solutions has become significantly easier for the buyer. In fact, they can often complete the majority of their evaluation before ever reaching out to a vendor.

As vendors, when contacted by an “interested” buyer, it is critically important that we aggressively qualify that “opportunity” and not allow ourselves to be used as a pawn in the game they are playing with the vendor that they really want to buy from.

challenger sale

May 16, 2016 . by Frank Visgatis

The Challenge with “Challenger”

challenger saleI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

The sales world has been abuzz since the 2012 release of a book with self-proclaimed “revolutionary” research about how the buyer-seller relationship has changed because of the wealth of information on the Internet.

In fact, they proclaim that, of the five “types” of salespeople, only those who “challenge” their buyers with new information are successful in this new world.

It sounds like they read our third book, Rethinking The Sales Cycle, published in 2009. Two years earlier.

In fact, since the inception of CCS® in 2002, we have been teaching salespeople how to navigate these new conversations with better-educated buyers.

Thanks for validating our approach.