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sales process, sales training

May 16, 2016 . by Frank Visgatis

Never Be Unwilling to Learn

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

On occasion, we have students in our workshops who are clearly there at gunpoint, compelled to attend by the people paying their salary. They tend to make it very clear, from the very first day that they consider the entire exercise “below” them. Whether it is rolling of eyes, the not-so-subtle shaking of their head, or just simply an obnoxious smirk, they make it clear, right from the beginning, that they consider this an exercise of “waiting it out”.

When we encounter these individuals, we try to have the patience and professionalism to give them a chance to turn the corner on their own. Students who, despite their initial skepticism, have an “ah-ha” moment often reward us. However, every once in awhile, there is the one hardcore holdout who is unwilling to expand his or her horizons and is more interested in proving how smart they already are instead of seeking out learning opportunities.

While it would be easy to be angry about the obnoxious behavior, it is better to simply look with pity on someone who is unwilling to acknowledge that there is something to learn from everyone in every situation.

I learn new things every single day. I read voraciously and I go out of my way to attend professional conferences to seek out the best new ideas and perspectives. Bottom line? I proactively invest in myself as a salesperson. I think all salespeople should seek to do the same.

Anyone who is unwilling to grow and learn will always be relegated to the role of individual contributor. They will never be a leader, whether in thought, sales or life.

sales tips, sales practice, sales process

May 16, 2016 . by Frank Visgatis

Practice with a Purpose

sales tips, sales practice, sales processAs an avid golfer, I have always believed that the key to improving is going to the range and practicing. However, until recently, I could never correlate measurable results to the significant time investment that I was making.

One day while banging balls on the range, my club pro happened by. After watching me for several minutes, he stepped in and interrupted me.

“What are you doing?” was his question.

“Golf?” I answered.

“No, what I mean is ‘why’ are you doing what you’re doing?” he clarified.

“Practicing,” I replied.

“Practicing what?” he asked.

“Nothing in particular,” I responded.

“Then you are wasting your time and probably doing more harm than good,” he informed me.

When I inquired as to what he meant, he explained to me that without a clear goal as to what I was hoping to accomplish in the practice session and a clear plan of how I was going to go about it, I was simply “going through the motions”, and if things were already wrong, I was merely making them worse.

It occurred to me that, as salespeople, we often are guilty of the same lack of discipline in our “practice” (if we practice at all).

Although we recommend at the end of every training workshop we conduct that the role-playing should continue after the training is over, my experience is that it rarely does. Salespeople tend to “practice” on live prospects rather than take the time to role-play with a manager or a peer. If they do role-play, I find it is often in a loosely structured, haphazard fashion. Both manager and salesperson are effectively “checking a box” at someone else’s direction.

The challenge I will give to all of you, salespeople and sales managers alike, is to come up with a meaningful plan of not only when you are going to practice, but HOW. And then, just do it.

sales tips, sales process, sales training, pricing, closing

May 16, 2016 . by Frank Visgatis

It’s NOT About the Lowest Price

sales tips, sales process, sales training, pricing, closingWhile delivering a recent training class, we came to the point in the agenda where I cover closing and negotiating. After explaining the natural advantage that the buyer has in a negotiation, the common mistakes that sellers make when negotiating, the critical role that value plays in the salesperson’s ability to “hold their ground” when it comes to pricing concessions, etc., I opened the discussion up to questions and had the following exchange with one of the students:

Student: “What I sell is a commodity that buyers can get from one of seven different companies in my space. It’s all about who has the lowest price.”

Me: “If it truly is ‘all about the lowest price’, why does your company have salespeople?”

Student: “What do you mean?”

Me: “The job of a salesperson is to establish the value of their company’s offering in the mind of the buyer by first understanding and aligning with the business needs of the prospect and then using the customer’s buying experience as a competitive differentiator. I’m not saying that price won’t come up, but it doesn’t have to be the only variable. If it were my company and I determined that it was really just ‘all about price’, I would fire all the salespeople, put up a Website and an 800 number, and wait for the orders to come in.”

The reality of the situation is that all buyers will try to commoditize what you sell in order to gain the advantage when it comes time to negotiate. As salespeople, it is our job to understand and build the financial value we provide throughout the sales process. If we can’t, we are nothing more than glorified order takers.

sales, selling, sales process

May 16, 2016 . by Frank Visgatis

The New World of Selling

sales, selling, sales processWith the explosion of information available at the fingertips of buyers in today’s world, the role of “selling” has been altered forever.

In traditional terms, the ability to “sell” has been defined as:

  • Convincing
  • Persuading
  • Handling objections
  • Closing
  • Etc.

However, that is a dated reality. In today’s information-rich environment, the truly successful salespeople don’t really “sell”; they collaborate with their prospects to facilitate the buying process.

“Convincing and persuading” has been replaced by “aligning and proving”. In other words, the reality for most buyers is that they think they have a pretty good idea of what they want before they ever engage with vendors and salespeople. Once they do engage, their interest is not necessarily in learning something new, but rather validating the conclusions they have already come to. However, the truly successful salespeople understand that they still must add value to the relationship by not only aligning with the buyer’s wants and needs, but also alerting them to gaps that may have been overlooked.

People like to buy. They just don’t like to feel like they are being “sold” to.

sales tips, save time, time management

May 16, 2016 . by Frank Visgatis

2 Ways to Better Manage Your Time

sales tips, save time, time management“I don’t need sales training. I need time management!”

Over the course of training salespeople over the last 20+ years, I have had the opportunity to work with people across the experience spectrum. From people whose first day in sales was sitting in my workshop to engaging with sales pros who have been at it for 10, 15 or 20+ years.

I always start my workshops by asking, “What is a particular selling difficulty you’d like to get addressed over the course of this workshop?” More often than not, the length of their tenure in sales directly impacts what they would like to focus on. In other words, the longer the tenure, the less likely they are to have an internal locus of control versus external. Quite often, especially from the more experienced people in the group, I hear quotes such as the one referenced in the above title.

While I won’t claim to have a solution that fits every single salesperson, my experience is that there are two universal things that salespeople can do that will dramatically impact their ability to manage their time in a positive fashion.

1. The first is to honestly grade their pipeline and flush out the crap that just isn’t real. Too often we confuse activity with accomplishment when the reality is that if we would just aggressively qualify the deals we are working on, the number of “opportunities” eating up our time would decline dramatically.

2. The second is to get better at negotiation. The ugly reality for a salesperson is that if they provide a percentage discount in order to secure a piece of business, what they are really doing is just creating more work for themselves. In other words, if you discount a deal by 20% in order to secure the business, does your quota go down by 20%? Nope. Now ask yourself this question: “How many new opportunities do I have to put into the top of the funnel to replace the revenue I just gave away?”

As the theory of Ockham’s Razor states, (and I’m paraphrasing): When all things are equal, the simplest solution is probably the right one.

happy salesperson, sales, rep, happy seller

May 16, 2016 . by Frank Visgatis

Which Mode Are You In?

happy salesperson, sales, rep, happy sellerEntering the heart of the holiday season and approaching year-end, most salespeople and sales organizations are in one of three (3) modes:

1 The Happy Camper – Through a combination of proper planning and consistency of execution, the year is already “done” from a revenue attainment perspective, and now it’s time to relax and charge the batteries so you can rocket out of the gate in 2015.

2 The Hail Mary – You’re doing everything you can possibly think of to somehow bring in every last bit of revenue in an attempt, albeit usually a futile one, to make the number for the year.

3 The Dead Man Walking – With the recognition that nothing will salvage the year at this point and worse, prospects don’t look good for 2015, resumes are being polished and LinkedIn is experiencing a spike in activity.

So, the question is: What mode are you in?

My hope is that you fall into the first category. However, as our recently published research (the CCS® Index) has documented, if this is you, you are the exception and not the rule. If that’s in fact the case, if you fall into either of the two latter categories, what is going to change next year?

Will marketing finally get their act together and start sending you decent leads?
If marketing could consistently generate high quality, well-qualified leads from prospects who are ready to buy, why do we need salespeople? Wouldn’t a website and an 800 number do the trick?

Will your product suddenly get better?
Don’t count on it. Even if it does, the days of product features being competitive differentiators are gone.

Will management finally “get it” and bring down the price point to something more “reasonable”?
Unlikely. Even if they did, all that means is that you would have to exponentially increase your volume of transactions to make the same amount of money you tried to make this year. For example, if you couldn’t close 10 deals at 100% of the price, what would lead you to believe that you can close 20 at 50%?

I apologize if my assessment seems a bit harsh. However, I also know that you can proactively address each of the aforementioned issues:

Take Control and Prospect
If you aren’t happy with the quality of leads that you’re getting from marketing, remember that the helping hand you need is probably at the end of your own arm. Instead of waiting for the phone to ring, start dialing it instead. It is only the salespeople who consistently and aggressively prospect for new business, even if their pipeline is already full, who are the ones who sleep well at night.

Learn How to Establish Value
If price is an issue, then that simply means that insufficient value has been established. Prospects focus on cost when there is no value. Remember that the cost of pain always has to be greater than the cost of change. Unless and until the prospect understands that it is costing them more to do things the way they currently do them versus what you are asking them to spend, price will always be the issue.

Differentiate by How You Sell
Finally, if you can’t differentiate yourself using what you sell, think about differentiating yourself by theway you sell. Rather than being the stereotypical salesperson eager to do a demo as soon as possible, think about focusing on your prospect’s business goals and objectives, first and only introducing product once you understand their desired business outcomes and how you can help them get there.

salespeople, sellers, millenials, millennials

May 16, 2016 . by Frank Visgatis

Not Everyone Gets A Trophy

salespeople, sellers, millenials, millennialsI started my sales career in 1986 at Compugraphic Corporation in Wilmington, MA. In fact, I started as an Application Engineer for the Newspaper Systems Division. I would fly all over the country doing demonstrations of our cutting-edge, mini-computer based production system for the editorial and classified departments of small-to-mid-sized newspapers. I was Demo Boy (queue cheesy superhero music).

Way back then, at least as it related to technology sales, you had to be smarter than the average bear AND be willing to work whatever hours necessary to keep ahead of the pack.

Everything has changed.

While I’m sure I will get hate mail from some and stern rebukes from others, I will make, and stand by, this statement:

Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials have no work ethic. Moreover, since mommy has been telling them since their very first T-Ball or U-5 soccer game, that winning or losing doesn’t matter and everyone gets, nay “deserves”, a trophy, the competitive hunger in our younger generation has been genetically weaned in favor of everyone feeling good about themselves.

That is crap.

In sales, as in life, there is only ONE winner. A “silver medal” is the first loser. Bronze? Please.

The very simple advice I give to my kids is this: “If you want to be successful in life, it’s not hard. Don’t be a moron. And work hard.” If you do those two things you will be light years ahead of all the other kids who are queuing up for their calorie-free Power-Ade and gluten-free granola crunch snacks.

sales closing, sales process, selling problem, sales challenges

sales closing, sales process, selling problem, sales challengesOn a recent flight home returning from vacation I picked up the magazine from the seat back in front of me. While flipping through it, I noticed directly in the middle an advertisement for a two-day negotiation skills seminar. As I perused the agenda, the thought occurred to me that if it takes you two days to learn how to negotiate, you probably didn’t sell the deal the right way to begin with.

Unfortunately, for many salespeople and sales organizations, the “close of business” is an artificially large event in the sales process filled with anxiety and a certain level of “dread” on both sides of the table. Moreover, this is usually a self-fulfilling prophecy and worse, a self-inflicted wound on the part of salespeople.

Why does this happen?

In all likelihood, it’s because something was missed as part of the sales process. In other words, the salesperson likely rushed through the early stages of the sales process in order to meet an artificial deadline, usually one tied to the end of their month or their quarter.

What typically gets missed? It could be any of a number of things:

  • the true business driver was never identified;
  • there was no clear vision on the part of the buyer that the capabilities the seller could bring to bear would help them achieve whatever the desired business outcome is;
  • no “unique” business value was established as part of the process and as a result, the seller’s offering is viewed as a commodity and now price is the only variable;
  • the true decision maker was never identified as part of the sales process and now the salesperson is relegated to “negotiating” with someone who may not even have the ability to buy;
  • there was never a mutual understanding as to the desired timeline of the prospect so the salesperson imposes that artificial deadline tied to his/her own month or quarter end.

While this is, by no means, a complete list, it is a good place to start.

The reality of the situation is this: The quality of the job that the salesperson does throughout the sales process will dictate the ease or difficulty of negotiation at the end of the process.

sales preparation, sales process

May 16, 2016 . by Frank Visgatis

The Five P’s

sales preparation, sales process“Having the will to prepare is as important as the will to win.” – Coach Mike Krzyzewski

As you navigate a sell cycle with a prospect, it is usually necessary – in fact recommended – that you engage with other Key Players in the organization to get their buy-in.

One of the challenges you might face is that the goals and objectives of one person may not align with the goals of other Key Players you are meeting with.

So, as a salesperson, it’s incumbent upon you to properly prepare for those Key Player conversations by thinking about some of these things:

  • What is the job title of the person I’m meeting with?
  • What are the likely goals and objectives for someone of that job title? Remember, the goals of a VP of Sales are probably going to be quite different than those of the CFO.
  • What is the menu of goals I’m potentially going to use to facilitate the goal identification process?
  • Do I have Solution Development Prompters® for each of the goals?
  • Do I have a Success Story that I can use if I need to take them from a Latent Need to an Active Need?
  • Are there any unique capabilities we offer that would be of particular interest to that job title?
  • Do I have a Plausible Business Emergency I can use to get them to focus on my differentiators?
  • How will you handle it if they ask about cost?
  • Can you provide referencable success?
  • What about if they ask how you compare to other vendors?

The Five P’s? Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.

sales process

May 16, 2016 . by Frank Visgatis

Sales As a Process

sales processWhen you look at any process, you find inputs and outputs.

In manufacturing, the inputs are raw materials and the outputs are finished goods.

Sales as a process should be no different.

With CustomerCentric Selling®, the inputs into our process take the form of what we call Sales Ready Messaging®.

I define Sales Ready Messaging® as “loading the lips” of a salesperson with the right message for the right buyer at the right step in the process. This is embodied in two of our Core Concepts:

  • “It’s not about where to show up, it’s about what to say when you get there.”
  • “You get delegated to the people you sound like.”

The challenges that most organizations struggle with is “who owns the messaging?” and “how is it delivered to the salespeople?”

Unfortunately, many organizations leave the ownership and crafting of messaging in the hands of the salespeople themselves. This often leads to mixed messages to the marketplace and conversations that go nowhere.

Additionally, even if standardized messaging has been created at the corporate level, it is usually stored within the CRM system or some other technology-related silo within the organization. The danger here is that salespeople are typically “just-in-time, opportunity-specific learners” who will only seek out information at the moment they need it. If that information is not at their fingertips, they will default to Option 1 and simply craft it on their own.