The Oscar For Best B2B Sales Methodology Goes To: Value Based Sales

The Oscar For Best B2B Sales Methodology Goes To: Value Based Sales

 

 

 

What is the best sales methodology for B2B sales today? What are the most popular sales methods and why do so few B2B salespeople use Value Based Sales? In this post we will review a number of sales methodologies used to improve sales performance and why the Oscar for best B2B sales methodology goes to :Value Based Sales.

 

Sales has changed over the years. Salespeople and the companies they serve are constantly searching for the best sales method.

 

As I watched the Oscars the other night I thought how we need Oscars for sales and marketing strategies.

 

To understand why a Value Based Sales methodology outperforms other sales methods we need to briefly unpack how sales people sell and how sales has evolved over the years.

 

What are the sales methods salespeople have used and are using today?

 

Selling on Price

 

This is not a method most CEO’s and business owners want to hear. In this method you must have the lowest cost to manufacture and your team leverages this low cost-manufacturing competency to win and keep business.

Salespeople sell on price when they do not know or believe your value proposition or no one has trained them how to connect the dots between what you sell and the value proposition for customers.

Why this method is so common is it is what buyers want.

Buyers want to commoditize all products and services so the only differentiation is price. Just as we train our salespeople, companies like Karrass teach buyers to dismiss sales pitches and gobbledygook sales and marketing teams spew and quickly make the key buying decision all about price. If you have the lowest price you win today. When the vendor you displaced finds they lost the business what do they do? They drop the price and you loose. This starts a gross margin death spiral and the only one who wins is the buyer.

If you have never hear the term “gobbledygook” it means all those things we say and share on our web sites that no longer mean anything since everyone we compete against claims them too like:

Innovative

Best in class

Best Quality

Top performance

Flexible

Groundbreaking

Scalable

Robust

Cutting Edge

If you would like to learn more I encourage you to download the Gobbledygook Manifesto

What I have found disturbing over the years when I ask salespeople why we lost a particular sale or account for that matter they say “price.”

When I conduct Win-Loss interviews with buyers, “price” is rarely one of the top reasons why a buyer buyers or chooses not to buy.

In this model your salespeople do not understand or believe your value proposition and they do believe the only thing that matters to buyers is the lowest price.

Sales finds all kinds of ways to sell , selling on price internally like : volume discounts, sales incentive rebates, volume purchase discounts, blanket order discounts and so on.

All of these and more are sales based on price.

 

 

Relationship Sale

It is true people buy from people they like. Buyers will have an impression of you within 7 seconds. In this model the salesperson strives to be liked by the buyer. They work hard to build a friendship through social lunches, dinners, and ball games. As one relational seller told me years ago: “I was the only rep invited to this buyer’s daughter’s wedding. “

In meetings you often wonder whose side the relationship seller is on? The buyer’s or yours? This seller believes their relationship with the buyer is their value proposition not your product or service.

A relational sales methodology is all about building a relationship and reinforcing that relationship through acts of service.

When I work with relationship sales people they often bring donuts and bagels and “check in ” with buyers and purchasing decision makers. When the relational salesperson is in the customer’s building everyone loves them. Rarely do they close the sale, or ask for the sale for that matter. They never have a pre-call sales plan and believe they will win whatever business the buyer has based on their relationship.

After a sales call with target accounts you will hear a relational salesperson share “it was a good meeting” although the sale did not advance and they did not win an order.

We find relational salespeople in sales farmer roles because they are terrible sales hunters.

Do you have relationship salespeople?Look where your salespeople spend their time. Are they selling and creating sales presentations? Or, are they checking on orders, when orders will ship, how we can ship them earlier, following up  with customer service to determine when something will ship? If so, you have a salesperson using the relational sales method.

This is the least effective sales methodology, but unfortunately the one most underperforming salespeople rely on.

 

Product Sales

In this methodology the salesperson’s product knowledge is leveraged to win sales. The thought here is your salespeople are trained in features and benefits of your product or service. As Mike Shultz President of The Rain Group shares “If your people cannot speak fluently about your product and service offerings and ask the right questions to uncover specific needs that your solutions fulfill, then they are leaving money on the table and losing you deals.

Here you will find companies that are often very inward looking and not customer centric. They design and manufacture products but their salespeople are not trained on what specific types to customers to call on and what problems their products solve.

As I have shared in the past, I have observed salespeople trained in the product methodology “show up and throw up”. It’s like they are playing feature and benefit Bingo with buyers just hoping one buyer will jump to their feet and yell: “BINGO! I know a problem you can solve for me!” When you are working with a product salesperson they speak 80% of the time in the sales call and do not ask many qualifying questions. After all what they are selling is so amazing a buyer would have to be an idiot not to buy right?

Every seller must understand their products and services. However today , with as much as 70% of the buying process being over before the buyer speaks with sales this method is not as successful as it once was. Back in the day, before the internet of things, buyers had to meet with sales to learn about products and services. Today this buying criteria is just one mouse click away.

Product knowledge is a part of a top performing salesperson, but can not be their sales method today if they want to achieve quota.

 

The Lone Wolf / Sales Mercenaries

In this sales method the salesperson relies on their personal sales skills, abilities and experience to close the sale. They have been through the school of hard knocks, feel they have been there, done that and nothing will surprise them. They are very self-confidant and often deliver results even if they can’t share how they do it.

The Lone Wolf / Sales Mercenaries are often the product of a poorly designed compensation structure and a culture that does not value salespeople. They are hired sales guns that sell their sales services to the highest bidder. Salespeople who use this method are masters at following their own instincts, and writing the rules as they play the game. They win various games but often leave sales, money, on the table because they are only focused on what benefits them the fastest personally.

I had a friend share once:

Salespeople are like water, they find the path of least resistance.”

Lone Wolf Mercenaries are often found at inward facing companies who believe their product or service is so smart “even a monkey in kakis” could sell it. Their company not only does not value and appreciate the salespeople; they treat them like a necessary evil. Salespeople are treated like they are only as good as their last…sale. Their compensation plan creates commission junkies looking for their next fix not strategic partnerships with clients.

Lone Wolf’s have a high utilitarian trait. Other words if I do this I expect to get that.

The shame is these folks could create much more value if they were valued and appreciated.

They will get-r-done many times but how they do it will leave a mess to clean up and they are very hard to manage.

 

Consultative Sales

In this sales methodology salespeople are trained in product features and benefits and how to  find buyer pain and solve the pain. Salespeople are trained in markets, and common problems their products solve in these markets.

In these buyer calls the salespeople speak about 50% of the time and ask open-ended questions searching for a problems they know they can solve. They are problem solvers.

When you observe salespeople using this method it feels like the child’s game we played in the pool “ Marko Polo”. “Marko… do you have this problem?” “Polo…yes we do” and sales races to tag the buyer and close the sale.

This model produces results if the buyer can connect the dots from the product or service to how it will impact their business drivers.

 

The Challenger Sale

This methodology became popular in the book The Challenger Sale, authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson present a sales model to give buyers new ideas to solve problems they may or may not be aware they have. In this book the author shares 40% of high sales performers use this model. More than 50% of sales superstars use this method.

In the for what it’s worth column this was my sales method for a number of years.

This model teaches the selling to take control of the sales process.

You will find some sales calls feeling more like a debate than trying to solve the buyer’s problems. In this model you uncover issues the buyers may have they are unaware of that need solved.

I continue to recommend this book to business owners and salespeople wanting to improve their skills.

I have some advice if you choose to use this model:

First, it requires you to have some experience and knowledge about your customer, their industry and the business of their business. When I have seen young salespeople try to use this model is when they lacked the emotional intelligence and situational awareness to pull it off. They failed to earn the trust early in the relationship so their challenge felt like a canned marketing pitch not a real solution.

Second, I don’t want salespeople feeling they are in charge of the buying process. You are not. You can influence the buyer’s process but if you think and act like you are in charge you will fail. Top performing salespeople clearly and intimately understand the buyers buying process and criteria and they help move the sale by giving buyers what they need at each step of their buying process.

Don’t believe me?

Ok, how many of you reading this like to buy stuff? Almost all of you right?

How many of you like to be sold? Oh, big difference yes?

Enough said.

 

Agile Sales

A recent article in Selling Power shared how Agile Sales is the best method. You can read this article here and it shares the methods top sales performers use. The article is basically saying don’t get all hung up on one sales method or another. Top performing salespeople have situational awareness and they adapt their sales method based on the situation and buyer.

This thought leading article poses the question: what if we taught our sales teams 4-5 top sales methodologies and trained them to know what to use when? The author’s share having agility, flexibility does not imply we want sales teams “winging it”. We want them to have the EQ and situational awareness to be agile within defined parameters established in sales training.

I guess what gives me pause, is so many sales teams I have been asked to help lacked a formal repeatable sales process. Their leaders and owners thought they had one. How would we implement 4-5 when sales is not even executing on the one you thought they were using? Secondly, companies often provide very strong product training and little if any situational and sales scenario training. Companies will need to do voice of the customer work prior and identify the most common sales scenarios before training their sales teams.

I have adapted my sales method based on the industry, buyer, buying process and buyer personas over the years.

The difficulty is in tracking what worked when and where and in what scenario so it is difficult to scale throughout the sales team.

I believe Agile Sales Methodology is a smart strategy but is has so many moving pieces it will be difficult for most companies to implement and scale.

 

Value Based Sales Methodology

 

This is by far the best sales methodology I have experienced over the past 34 years of leading sales and marketing teams.

In this model you know your product or service. You know your market and ideal customer profiles. You have built rapport with the customer so you can have a meaningful business discussion. You know the problems your product or services solves and you have content and case studies to prove it. Your salespeople understand business acumen and speak in the language of business. They help buyers connect the dots between their proposed solution and how it impacts one or many of their key business drivers like…

Increase Sales

Reduce Costs

Increase Net Income

Improve Efficiency

Increase Market Share

Reduce the Cost of Sale

Increase Sales Close Rate

Increase Gross Margins

 

Salespeople who use a value based sales method are about creating value for their customers and in so doing win the sale today and create lifetime customers.

Don’t get me wrong, these salespeople are likable, but they are also not afraid to challenge customers. They help buyers connect the dots to how their product or service speaks to one or many of their business drivers.

This sales method has seen tremendous success and when used properly you will see it impact your business by:

 

Faster selling cycles

Higher Gross Profits per sale

Higher lifetime value of customer revenue

Higher sales to close %

Higher customer satisfaction

 

… but admittedly it is not easy!

 

From my own experience less than 10% of salespeople use a value based selling method. The reason why so few salespeople use this model is they too often struggle with connecting the dots between what they are selling and the value impact their customers receive.

As I have shared before salespeople who are not adequately trained in your value proposition assume the position of your product or service. The value based sales method requires mastery in commercial sales skills, business acumen, product knowledge and understanding of your value proposition, knowledge of the customers’ industry and common pain points, competitive analysis and the ability to propose innovative ideas professionally.

In this sales method you qualify and identify ways your product and or service can impact one or more of your customers’ business drivers.

Is that why so few of salespeople use it? They lack an understanding of how to impact a businesses’ bottom line?

Salespeople have told me this model is hard and takes way too long.

My argument is how can you enter into any negotiation with a customer until you understand and establish value? Or is that why so many salespeople resort to relationship and selling on price? Salespeople trained in value based sales know how to impact the customer’s bottom line so they can establish and reinforce value.

 

What Sales Methodology do you want your salespeople using?

 

What Sales Methodology are they using?

 

How do you know?

 

When was the last four legged sales call you went on to inspect what you expect?

 

Is there any scenario value based sales would not be the best sales method for B2B sales?

 

Congratulations… the Oscar for the Best B2B sales methodology goes to Value Based Sales.

 

Best supporting Oscar without any drama goes to Sales Enablement.

 

Are Your Salespeople Guilty Of “Sales Malpractice”?

Are Your Salespeople Guilty of “Sales Malpractice”?

 

How do market leading sales teams consistently achieve and surpass sales goals? What is the secret sauce…if there is one? Why do buyers buy? The main reason why buyers buy is a feeling of trust the salesperson understands their problem to be solved and what they are proposing will solve it completely. If your salespeople are not taking the time to qualify buyer pain they are guilty of “Sales Malpractice”.

Let’s say you were feeling off, just not right. You noticed a lack of energy and you occasionally felt dizzy.  This goes on for a while then you notice when you climb stairs you have a tightness in your chest. If you are like me, you probably ignore the symptoms and hope they go away. But then one day you mention them to your wife and the next thing you know you have an appointment at the doctor’s office.

You arrive and the doctor’s office and He or She quickly looks you over and starts talking…”I see you look to be in your 50’s or so? Based on my experience my patients in their 50’s have issues with blood pressure so here’s a prescription for Lisinopril  , and you look a bit overweight so you may have type 2 diabetes so I will prescribe Meltormin . You know, based on how you are dressed I am guessing you are a busy executive, and over the last 6 months I have seen a great deal of patients like you with anxiety so I will give you a prescription for Paxil. Oh and as we age, and if you have any history of heart disease I will give you a prescription for Coumadin. Please pay my office manager on the way out.”

Question: would you trust this doctor and fill the prescriptions?

I hope your quick answer is; NO!

Why?

I heard a great quote I want to share:

“Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice “

Is the doctor in the above example a bad person? No. Is there a high probability based on the frequency he or she sees people one of the above may solve your problem? Possibly? So where did they fail, why do you lack trust in their prescriptions? The simple answer is they did not take the time to understand you. They did not run tests to determine if the symptoms you are having can be tied to a specific problem. The doctor in the above example “assumed” what has worked for people who look like you will work for you.

“Mark, this is a crazy example, no doctor would do this, and they would be sued for malpractice!”

I hear you and you are right. Now let me ask you…

Are your salespeople guilty of malpractice?

Do you know?… I mean really know for sure?

What are some signs your salespeople are guilty of  Sales Malpractice?

  • Poor close rate on new customers
  • Lower than industry gross margins
  • Not prospecting the right customers
  • Having to deliver on promises your product or service was not designed to solve
  • Poor customer satisfaction survey results
  • Low repeat purchase percentage
  • New accounts slow to pay and or request return authorizations

If you ask salespeople why buyers buy and why they don’t you will often hear one of two reasons;

  • Price
  • Relationship with current vendor

If you ask buyers why they buy and why they don’t “price” is not on the list. You will hear things in the win loss call like;

  • Salesperson did not do their research on our company, asked me questions my web site could have answered
  • Salesperson did not understand the problem(s) I need to solve, so I did not trust their proposal ( prescription)
  • Salesperson assumed what my problems were and pitched me asking for my current vendors business.
  • Since I do not understand how this new salesperson and the company they represent are different, all I can do is compare price

Years ago I heard a great quote: Salespeople are like water and they seek the path of least resistance” If you are a salesperson you have that sales goal monkey on your back. You are accountable to a specific number and everyone in the company sees your results and asks questions if you fail sell. A common problem I have seen salespeople do is what we refer to as “spill their candy in the lobby” in hopes of closing sales faster.

When salespeople meet with buyers they have a bag of offerings (their candy) they can offer. Maybe it’s an onsite audit of your current system for free for a large commitment. Maybe they can offer extended terms if they need to. Your company may have the ability to do 100% outgoing product inspection, and if it’s a retail product your sales may be  empowered to offer free ½ page ad to support a large enough order.   The salesperson is so anxious to sell and get their goal monkey off their back they proceed to spew all offerings hoping one or more connects. In my training I refer to this also as “Feature and Benefit BINGO”. As I shared in a video in 2010;

Feature and benefit BINGO is a game untrained salespeople play far too often. They “show up and then they throw up” and they spew all the features and benefits they can think of waiting for your buyer to jump up and yell”…BINGO….I get it….I figured out what problems you can solve for me…”

Will a salesperson occasionally make a sale this way? Sure. What I recommend is teaching your salespeople meaningful questions by market and by buyer persona type that helps them clearly and completely understands the buyer’s pain. If your salespeople fail to understand pain they are guilty of Sales Malpractice and it will cost you….

  • Sales you could have won
  • Profits if you win the sale
  • Customer retention
  • And worst of all cause” brand damage

How about your company….

Are your salespeople guilty of Sales Malpractice?

Have you experienced any of the above signs of Sales Malpractice?

Have you seen other signs of Sales Malpractice?

Our markets are more competitive than ever before in the history of your business. Your buyer’s problems change and your salespeople must be skilled at asking questions, qualifying pain and prescribing solutions that make that pain go away. The quickest way to see if your salespeople are spilling their candy in the lobby is attend 7-10 sales calls with them. Once you train your team to diagnose buyer current pain you will be back on track to achieving your sales objectives.

Photo credits http://www.abpla.org/what-is-malpractice

Three Methods To Understand Your Buyers And Markets Today …ASK!

Three Methods to Understand Your Buyers and Markets Today …ASK!



It is not unusual the simplest of strategies are often the most difficult for some people to execute. Why? Why is it so important to understand buyer and market needs today? Sales teams who understand their buyers, how buyers buy and what they need to make buying decisions today achieve their sales goals. When salespeople approach buyers and their markets with dated value propositions and not address current market problems sales teams fail to hit goals. In this post I will share three ways to better understand your buyers and markets.

In my last post I asked a question: What if I told you growing your sales profitably is actually “Simple” if you focus on one strategy? I shared the key to growing your sales and profits are: know your customers and markets. So far no one argues with that premise. However the behavior that needs to change (and quick) is companies who assume they understand their markets based on dated information. They have leaders who believe their gut and intuition that have gotten them this far will help them lead their teams to future wins. My argument is, as I shared in 2009, the sales game has changed and your gut and intuition are not enough to win today. We serve dynamic markets that are constantly changing and shifting. A value proposition that resonated with buyers six months ago may no longer connect due to a shift in economic conditions and or a new technology.
“Companies who build strategic plans based on dated market information fail. “
– Mark Allen Roberts
In a recent post by SBI they asked the question: Could last year’s market research be killing your chances to achieve next year’s sales goals? If you have not read this post I highly recommend you take a few minutes to review it. As shared in their post:
“Strategic alignment is the ultimate goal, but it’s not a fixed destination. It’s a moving target. That’s because market conditions are always in flux. If you continue to rely on outdated market research, you’re not just taking a step backward. You’re returning to square one, year after year.
How do you stay current with your buyer and market data to insure your sales strategy leads to goal achievement?
How do market leading companies equip and empower their sales teams to consistently achieve sales targets year after year?
In this post I will share three ways I have used to insure the sales and marketing teams have value propositions that resonate with their buyers and markets.
The best technique is time in the market. I enjoy working with my sales and marketing teams in the field with what I have referred to in previous posts as “four legged sales calls”. You shadow your team members with current customers and as they call on new customers. Your sole purpose is to listen and observe. I have to warn you though it is very difficult to not jump in on a sale that feels like it is heading south or take over the call that seems to not be leading to a close. I highly recommend you listen with the intent to learn rather than to show what you know. You must put on a market research hat and leave your sales hat in your reps car to receive the most benefit. In this post I shared things I am listening for and setting out to understand;
• What are the buyers’ buying criteria today?

• What is the buying process?

• Who else is involved in making buying decisions? 

• Does your sales process mirror the buying process?

• What sales tools does your salesperson have and which ones do they use? Are they current, or something they created themselves?

• Does the buyer have other problems they verbalize but your salesperson fails to hear?

• Where does the buyer turn today when faced with an unresolved problem? …the internet, a trade journal, calls a local representative…

• What other products does your buyer buy from competitors that they could be buying from you?

• What % of the time is your salesperson listening versus talking? ( my favorite indicator)

If you are experiencing “death by meetings” at the corporate office and find it difficult to meet with buyers in your market I highly recommend win-loss analysis . I prefer win-loss calls face to face however if this cannot occur I have seen where win loss phone interviews have proven extremely valuable. If you have not heard of win loss analysis I shared how I use it and common questions I ask here. After approximately 12-20 phone interviews you will quickly see trends on why buyers buy from you and why they don’t. You will discover the buying process and criteria your buyers are using today to make buying decisions. Market leading companies strategically plan win loss analysis as an ongoing strategy to stay tuned in to their market.
A new technique to understand your buyers and get target buyers to share insights on their problems and how they buy is shared in the book: Ask… The Counter intuitive Online Formula to Discover Exactly What Your Customers Want to Buy…Create a Mass of Raving Fans…and Take Any Business to the Next Level , by Ryan Levesque. I just finished reading this new book and found it very useful.
In this book the author shares a proven process he developed and personally uses to understand customers, get customers to speak to you, and ultimately fall in love with your product or service. In 1970 we saw approximately 500 ads per day. With the average consumer seeing over 5,000 Google ads per day how do marketers break through all the noise today? In his book he shares a process to get answers to the following questions;
What do buyers want to buy?
When are they ready to buy?
Why did they not buy?
What I liked about this book is its’ “how to “approach. The author uses 4 primary surveys to capture current buyer process, criteria and it is done in such a way the customers fall in love with your product.
The key to insuring your team achieves their sales goals is a clear and current understanding of your buyers and markets and how they make buying decisions.

Companies who take the time to strategically  understand their markets and buyers and recognize shifts early achieve and surpass their sales goals.

Nothing compares to meeting with buyers and influencers in the markets you serve and asking them questions. If you struggle to break away from those “important” meetings at corporate you can conduct win loss analysis calls and now the book: Ask provides a step by step process to use surveys to capture what you need to know.

There is no excuse to lead by gut and intuition in today’s dynamic and shifting marketplace. Make understanding knowing your customers and markets a key action item in your strategic plan and your will consistently achieve and surpass your sales and profit goals.

Increase Sales; Take a Snake Oil Salesman Test and Implement Corrective Action

snake oil sales

 

In my last post I asked the question if your team’s execution is turning your sales consultants into snake oil salesmen. What I found interesting is the calls I received from past teams I have served. They sounded something like; “Hey, what are you doing sharing our dirty laundry in your blog? Everyone here knows you are talking about us…” In this case I shared that I am writing about a common problem I have observed over the last 30 some odd years that I would say most companies have in some degree or another. This post is for the business owner, and or leadership team to quickly determine if your salespeople tasked with driving revenue are perceived as “snake oil salesmen” in your market and how to quickly fix this sales problem to insure your sales team hits your growth goals.

 

As I shared in the last post, snake oil salesmen in the Wild West would travel from town to town selling their snake oil. They would make a number of promises and few were actually true so they could never return to the same town twice. They were knowingly being deceptive to close the sale. What I have observed as a common problem that prevents sales teams from experiencing explosive growth is when salespeople are selling based on what they understand to be true, have been trained that is true, and often what was once true but no longer true. If your salesperson is knowingly lying to customers to close the sale and make his or her commissions you do not need a blog to advise you on what action to take.

 

How do we know if our salespeople are unknowingly perceived as snake oil salesmen today and what can we do to quickly repair this and build a foundation of trust required to serve your markets?

 

I look at each new team in three ways;

 

Observe and Listen

 

Unfiltered Data

 

Open Ended Questions with Buyers and Market Influencers

 

 

 

Observe and Listen

 

I live in the markets I serve. So go out and meet with 10-12 customers and observe what your salespeople say, promise, and listen to what your buyers say. These four legged sales calls are critical as nothing speaks the volumes as current market unfiltered comments.

 

What do your buyers have to say…?

 

Did your last order ship on time?

Did you last order ship complete?

Did your product solve the problem your salesperson said it would solve?

Was the problem solved completely?

Did the buyer receive timely follow up from your salesperson, customer service, others?

When the bill arrived was it correct at the promised sales price and terms?

 

In one industry buyers told me: “your salespeople are the used car salespeople of this industry”…ouch!

 

 

Unfiltered Data

 

What does the data say? This is where, particularly new teams struggle with my approach to seek truth. Seeking truth by the way is the first step in my next book as it is a critical step in serving any market and building a strategy on a strong foundation. In the seeking unfiltered truth step you may be labeled a Heretic as I have been,…but let it go as your critics will all love you down the road when their bonuses grow 2X.

 

What kind of truths do we need to look at?

 

What is your actual on time shipments?

What is your current order turnaround capability?

What % of your orders ship complete?

What is your quality problem occurrences as a % of total orders shipped and total parts shipped?

What do customers say? Specifically, did your product or service completely solve the problem it was promised to solve?

Does your product or service solve the problems your web site and sales literature says it solves?

 

 

Open Ended Questions with Buyers and Market Influencers

 

Last we gather open ended buyer feedback. Our goal is to capture our buyers and leading influencers’ perception, feeling, confidence in our brand promise. Are we living up to our brand or are we branding backwards? Have we successfully planted our brand and executed it….or are we branding by default and the frustrated market thinks we do one thing and its no wonder we are losing business because that is not what we do( anymore). To gather this information I highly recommend you ideally meet with customers and potential customers your team has called on without the salesperson in the room. Your goal is unfiltered feedback. If meetings are too difficult and or costly, then conduct phone win loss interviews.

 

Some questions that have served me well over the years include;

 

So tell me some of the challenges your business is facing today? ( I am listening for problems we solve and the buyer is unaware we have products and services to solve them)

 

When buying what are the top criteria and considerations you use in choosing a vendor partner?

 

How did our team do in meeting those important criteria and needs?

 

Have you and would you refer us to someone in your network as a great vendor? Why or why not?

 

There are many win loss questions I have used but the top three are at the core and will get the conversation started. If you want other open ended questions you can go here , as well as here. There are a number of excellent thought leaders in this space and their web sites are below if you prefer to hire an outside firm to conduct win loss.

 

http://www.zhivago.com/revenue-growth-services

 

http://www.healthtrendresearch.com/about-us

 

http://under10consulting.com/about/

 

* there are many more firms that help teams with win loss but the above individuals I know and are confident you would have a great experience with if you are looking for win loss analysis.

 

So you have determined your salespeople are in fact (like many) perceived as snake oil salesmen?

 

What do you do?

 

  1. Determine what your capabilities actually are today.
  2. Communicate those capabilities to your sales team, buyers, and market.
  3. Do what you say you will do, consistently over and over again.

 

If you determine what you are currently doing and capable of doing does not meet the market criteria and requirements of today you must create a roadmap to quickly be able to serve your market as they now require.

 

So how about your company?

 

Do you do what you say you will do? Consistently?

 

Does your team consistently execute your brand promise?

 

Do your products and or services do what you promise on your web site and sales literature?

 

Are your salespeople told to “just make it happen” and they are promising things that were once true but are no longer true?

 

Do your salespeople know disconnects between what your brand promises and what you deliver but feel it’s “politically incorrect or safe” to share them?

 

Do you have a sales force sink hole brewing just below the surface of your sales team?

 

 

When you boil down why buyers buy and why buyers do not buy the root is always: Trust. The quickest way to establish or reestablish trust is do what you say you will do.

Improve Sales: Stop Creating “Snake Oil Salesmen”

 

making promises you can not deliver on

making promises you can not deliver on

 

 

The role of sales is a difficult one. You face more rejection than acceptance and have to break through the many roadblocks in connecting with potential customers you can solve problems for. We are paid to “make it happen” often in environments that are not conducive to sales growth both externally in our markets but also internally, in our own organizations. A common problem organizations face today is they are turning their sales consultants into “snake oil salesmen” because their operations is failing to do what they said they would do.

When you study why buyers buy as I have, you hear things like;

I buy from people, companies who take the time to understand my needs, the problems I am trying to solve, and who “do what they say they will do”.

… let’s boil this down a little more;

I buy from people who listen, hear, and I can trust.

We have seen many changes in our markets over the past 7-8 years in how buyers buy as I have discussed in past posts. The reality I hope everyone will agree with is that how buyers buy has changed. As I have shared ; If you have not changed your sales process in the last six months….it is broken and you are losing sales you should have won.

We have seen many changes within our organizations in the last 7-8 years;

Less People

Less budget

Less time to do our jobs

Less inventory of finished goods

Less product in work in process

Less inventory at our customers

Less time to deliver, just in time

…and more competition, often from competitors who are so aggressive it feels like they must not truly know their costs ( or they are that mush better than we are)

My challenge in this post is with all these changes do you really know , based on your capabilities and market realities of today, what your organization is able to do? able to execute regularly, consistently, predictably? If not your salespeople in the market working with you most valuable assets; customers and potential customers and making promises you can not deliver on. To put it another way;

When your company fails to do what it says it does and or will do, you turn your sales consultants into “snake oil salesmen” and it negatively impacts your trust factor.

Back in the days of the wild west there were traveling salesmen who would stop in a town and sell snake oil. When we Google the term “snake oil salesmen” we find;

” a snake oil salesman is someone who knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is himself or herself a fraud, quack, charlatan, and the like.”

Snake oil’s origins are believed to come from an oil the Chinese laborers brought to America made from a Chinese water snake believed to cure joint pain.  However the snake oil salesmen of the wild west were known to plant people in the crowd who would lie and say how the oil cured their various ailments. Snake oil salesmen had a sales process of basically traveling town to town and never selling the same people twice because once you bought the snake oil and found it failed to do what you were promised, you did not trust that salesmen.

When your salespeople serve customers , win an order from buyers it is based on a foundation of trust. Buyers naturally , because they have been burned so many times over the years ( by other traveling snake oil salesmen) do not trust salespeople. So trust must be earned and the simplest way of earning trust is execution. ( doing what you say you will do in the small things and the big things, over and over again) When your operations team fails to execute what the sales people have been told to promise, it immediately breaks trust and creates brand damage.  This is particularly a urgent problem when you fail to deliver on promises to new customers as we only have one chance to have a “good first date”. ( first order experience)

The unfortunate reality in the world your salespeople live in day in and day out is their buyer’s perception is the reality they must deal with. The buyer rarely talks to your shipping department, plant operations group, your purchasing department, quality, and they are not aware of the internal challenges your team may be facing nor do they care. What they do care about is buying from companies who consistently do what they say they are going to do.

So let me ask you again;

Is your current operational performance turning your sales consultants into snake oil salesman in the eyes of your customers? 

Are your salespeople making promises based on a dated information set that was probably true five years ago but not true today?

Is your team aware of operational issue but treating them as politically incorrect secrets you hope your buyers and salespeople do not discover? 

Are the competencies you share in your brochures and web site still true today?

What expectations do your buyers have, and how is your team performing to those expectations? 

If your team is not focused on understanding what your buyers need, what your salespeople are promising, and what your organization is capable of executing today you need to be and you need to reboot your business.

In my next post I will share how to quickly access if buyers believe your salespeople are snake oil salesmen and how to quickly repair this perception.

 

 

How Do You Sell a “Post Turtle Buyer”?

if you can sell a post turtle buyer you can sell anyone

if you can sell a post turtle buyer you can sell anyone

 

If you have been in sales for any length of time you have come across many different types of buyers. One of the most difficult buyer types is what I refer to as a “Post Turtle Buyer” as they really do not know what they are doing, do not understand what problem they are trying to solve and often can consume a tremendous amount of time, energy, and often produce little if any results if you do not understand how to work with them. If you have called on, or are calling on a post turtle buyer, this post is for you.

 

So what is a Post Turtle? As the picture implies it’s a turtle on top of a fence post. It did not get up there on its own abilities; someone had to have placed it there. It was elevated beyond its own abilities, function, and talent. It does not know what to do up there and when we see one we often wonder who was the idiot who placed it up there?

 

In a previous post I shared what it is like to call on Parrot Buyers, a buyer who basically is an information gatherer for others in power to make the buying decision. Parrot buyers know their job; they have a process and are very good at researching possible solutions. In the next post I shared how to work with this buyer type to produce golden purchase orders. The post turtle buyer is different, they really do not have any clue what they are doing, and they lack process, criteria, and do not clearly understand the problem they are trying to solve.

 

It was the early 1990’s and I was leading the sales for a company that produced mechanical loss prevention devices designed to reduce theft in music stores. They were/ are  awesome product solutions and not too hard of a sale when you produced an ROI based on reduced in store theft dollars compared to the one time cost of our product. In addition, sales data supported that having your music out “live” on the showroom floor produced much greater sales than what some retailers felt was a better solution which entailed putting the product behind the counter or in glass cases that required a store associate to help you when you wanted to purchase them. A somewhat sizable record chain in the mid west had failed to commit to our products and it was driving my regional manager and independent sales rep crazy, so I flew in to meet the buyer and figure out how we could help him.

 

When I met Kevin he was young, very young actually to have such an important job. As I asked him questions to better understand his experience I found this was his first “real” job. His father owned the music chain. Kevin had tried to find other work since graduating college but only could secure part time jobs in bars and restaurants so his father hired him and put him in a job to “learn the business” . Why my team was so frustrated was;

 

  • We qualified that he had a problem; his theft rate was between 7%-10% based on data their loss prevention manager shared with us.
  • We know based on a history of helping many customers like this one we could cut their shrink ( product stolen) to under 2% ( you will always have some theft from in store personnel that our devices could not control)
  • Our sales manager and representative did a great job of quantifying the problem and using our ROI tool.
  • Our sales team did an excellent job of identifying power in the account; the loss prevention manager, the owner, and the merchandising manager who all had a strong influence in the final purchase
  • Our team did an excellent job of positioning why our product that had the ability to store a loss prevention sicker tag inside our device so it could be reused and not accessible to consumers was a measurable value unlike our competitor’s  product.
  • We produced a list of happy other music stores with phone numbers ( we did not have email back then) , some of which were much bigger chains than than this one, raving fans if you will

 

So what did we do wrong?… and what are we going to do to win this order?

 

What our team failed to identify early on was we were dealing with a “post turtle buyer”. They were treating Kevin like he was a very skilled purchasing agent like we typically serve and in reality Kevin did not know what he was doing, and was so afraid of making a mistake he was paralyzed. He had gathered so much information that the more he gathered the more paralyzed he became.

 

Once I identified the real “why” we had not received the purchase order we developed a plan to win the order…solve their problem….and that became our focus.

 

So how do you sell a “Post Turtle Buyer”?

 

  • teach them their job
  • share industry best practices from others doing the same job
  • find them an industry mentor, someone in the same position who knows what they are doing and can answer questions
  • put a cost on doing nothing
  • share cost of doing nothing, ideally by the week , with all power influencers
  • position buyer for a win inside their organization to build confidence
  • teach don’t tell
  • serve don’t sell
  • be open, no question is a dumb question if it stands between you and a PO
  • build a buying road map for buyer to follow with timelines and expectations in each step
  • find the buyer’s  individual, personal pain , and solve it
  • speak to that pain and how you will make it go away in each follow up call and tie it to the daily, weekly cost of doing nothing

 

Within 30 days we received a large purchase order from Kevin. We took Kevin under our wing and we basically trained him. What was Kevin’s individual pain? Like many children working for a dominant successful business leader/ business founder like their dad, what he really wanted and needed was his dad’s respect and the respect of others in the organization. Those were hard if not impossible shoes to fill. His concern of failing his dad was more paralyzing than the pile of manila folders on his desk with the product data he gathered. We positioned him, allowed him, and enabled him to win. We did not need the “credit” for solving the problem because our focus was winning the PO.

 

Do you have any Post Turtle Buyers?

 

What techniques have you used to get them off center and to buy?

 

Is a current sale you expected being held up under the shell of a Post Turtle Buyer?

 

One of the huge benefits of selling a post turtle buyer is it makes you and your organization better. If you really want to understand something try teaching it. When you must teach something you are forced to dive even deeper into the buying process, industry standard buying criteria and clearly understand why and how buyers buy. Once you can sell a post turtle buyer you can sell anyone.

 

 

Sales Tool Helps Buyer Parrots Lay Golden Purchase Orders in Your Hands

golden egg hand

 

In a recent post about are your salespeople calling on power or parrots I shared how your sales success or failure may be in the hands of the parrot buyer’s ability to present and sell your solution to decision makers and influencers within their organization. Time and time again a salesperson reports back after “good meeting’s” that they will win the purchase order. Weeks turn to months and the buyer has gone dark. What is happening with the order we expected? What can we do to shorten this sales cycle? What can we do to insure we win the order? In this post I will share one technique to help you, help parrot buyers lay golden PO’s in your hands.

 

Buyers today are doing a tremendous amount or research on the internet. It is estimated that as much as 60%-80% of the sales process is over before the buyer contacts your salesperson. Now more than ever we must find ways to help our buyers buy. Often buyers are actually trained buyer parrots that accumulate and repeat information they have heard to key decision makers and influencers in their organizations who have the power to buy. Here’s the problem; do you want your sales results, your team’s ability to achieve your sales growth targets, your income at the fate of a buyer’s ability to present and sell your product and or service? Ya…I didn’t think so.

 

How can we equip and empower buyers to effectively present and sell our products and services to decision makers who have the ability and power to approve purchase orders?

 

One technique I have used in a number of industries is to provide the buyer a presentation slide deck that speaks to the specific buyer persona’s of those who do have the power to approve the purchase. So what is a buyer persona? Per one of the leading thought leaders in buyer persona’s Adel Revella;

 

“Buyer personas are examples of the real buyers who influence or make decisions about the products, services or solutions you market. They are a tool that builds confidence in  strategies to persuade buyers to choose you rather than a competitor or the status quo… insightful buyer personas readily inform strategies for persuasive messaging, content marketing, product or solution launches, campaigns and sales alignment.”

 

If you want to learn more about buyer personas I recommend you download and read; The Buyer Persona Manifesto.

 

In one company we found we were presenting buyers and those buyers had to gain the approval of the; CFO, CEO, COO, and Engineering. We spent some time interviewing these key decision makers and identified what was important to each, the criteria they used to make decisions, and what they needed from us to make those decisions. For example;

 

CFO– they made decisions based on number, return on investment, mitigating risk for the least cost, insuring the investment supports the strategic vision of the organization. They hope and plan to be CEO one day. They want to make smart business decisions that demonstrate their ability to move into this job when the time is right. They want to avoid decisions that jeopardize or could limit their plan.

 

CEO– frequently from an accounting and finance background with strong understanding of operations. Sets the vision and is constantly looking for anything that could be a roadblock in achieving that vision. Responsible to shareholders, often the owner, they are about growing the company profitably and investing in equipment and services that support that growth.

 

COO – operations focused, key words; efficiency, production, productivity. Often grew up through the manufacturing ranks as plant manager, may have had some purchasing and quality control experience. Focus is on meeting the needs sales has sold as effectively and efficiently as possible. In this example we kept hearing the desire to reduce manufacturing variance.

 

Engineering– They have a laser like focus, all data no emotion to solving the problem to be solved with this purchase. Needs to make sure you clearly understand the problem they are solving. They not only need to see and hear your solution but also see the information and decision process you used to make this recommendation. They want information and ideally open communication with your engineers to have the ability to speak with someone highly educated like themselves and not someone trying to sell them.

 

 

Based on the above we created a slide deck of 10-12 slides. The first two slides were basically a requirements summary sharing our understanding of the problem to be solved. The rest of the slides provided what each key decision maker with power needed to commit to purchase. In addition to the slides we provided an appendix that included product data sheets, engineering drawings, key content web links, engineer contact information within our team, and a deep dive in data should an engineer wish this information. For example, we provided a ROI on the product and shared expected returns. We provided testimonials from other well known companies in the same industry. We established a cost on doing nothing and a weekly cost of not purchasing. The last slides clearly mapped out the steps and expectations of how to commit, what they should expect when. Ideally we always asked to present these slides in person, via web conference, but worst case we have now equipped the buyer with a sales tool to gain funding to support the purchase.

 

What will surprise you most is we did not talk a great deal about us, if all as much as the problems we solve, who we have solved them for and provided what we have learned others have needed to make informed buying decisions.

 

How about your company….

 

Do you provide tools to help buyers sell your solution internally? Or do you count on your brochures to do that?

Do you understand who the power decision makers are in the buying journey your customers go through? If so who are they in your industry?

 

What tool(s) have you created to help educate and inform key influencers in the buying decision?

 

While the statistics show buyers and influencers feel 97% of their interactions with possible vendors are not worthwhile, isn’t it time your company becomes one of the rare 3% who proactively provides useful, relevant , insightful information in a way and language your influencers need to lay golden purchase orders in your hands?

Want More Sales? Learn to Pull the Trigger


Let’s face it, the market’s completive and everyone is out to make more sales and trying to hit their sales plan. We have heard for years: a sale is about being at the right place at the right time with the perfect solution. Most salespeople work their market like a bread route hoping to fall upon, or fall into an urgent problem someone is willing to pay to solve. How do market leading teams create repeatable sales velocity each year? Why do market losers keep kicking their sales team’s in the butt and getting no where when market leaders hit plan year after year? It’s because market leading sales teams have learned how to “Pull the Trigger”.

One of the industries I served was handicapped accessible vehicles. It was a really rewarding job helping those with physical challenges drive again with a lowered floor mini van they could drive from their wheelchair or a stowage lift fitted to their current vehicle. I was tasked with growing our sales in the face of a huge dominant market 800lb gorilla that seemed to have a media and advertising budget that was limitless. Our team was forced to sell smarter since we would never have the marketing budget of our competitor who seemed to spread a blanket over all trade publications, the web, trade shows and even local TV advertising. The first thing we did was start interviewing our past customers and current customers to understand their buying process. We needed to know what made them buy, why they bought, why they chose us and so on. In doing so we identified events that cause (trigger) this market’s buyers to seek a new handicapped accessible vehicle. We found trigger events like;

  • a recent injury
  • a medical condition
  • completing rehabilitation and needing new transportation
  • caring for a parent or other loved one in a wheelchair
  • military veterans returning home with physical challenges
  • past customers who have experienced a change in their physical condition
  • tax returns, customers receiving tax returns and they waited for their tax return to be a down payment on a handicapped accessible vehicle
  • aggressive OEM automotive rebate programs
  • their current vehicle needing an expensive repair
  • their current vehicle breaking down and leaving them stranded or missing work or important medical appointment
  • their current accessible vehicle moving out of the manufacturers warrantee

There are ways to reach each of the above consumers who are experiencing what I call a trigger event however we were forced to eliminate those that required large marketing budgets. So we reviewed our interview notes and found one of the most common trigger events was buying a new vehicle just before the manufacturers warrantee expired. We also saw a high correlation of sales when the OEM manufacturer offered new car incentives like rebates or aggressive financing programs. We created a very simple letter that said we see your vehicle (based on our sales database  and service records) was about to go out of the manufacturers warrantee and shared any OEM automotive rebates or finance programs currently available. The results?… After about 90 days our quote volume tripled and after six months our averaged monthly sales revenues doubled.

Trigger based marketing and sales increases quote volume and closed sales revenues.

Triggers are nothing more than occurrences that define conditions that warrant action. Good trigger-based marketing strategies leverage these occurrences to present solutions at the right place and time. The two key factors to trigger based marketing and sales is timing and relevancy.

What are the triggers that make your buyers want to take action?

Below are some other industry examples I have experienced to help get your trigger list started.

Training Seminars – new employees joining the team, employees being promoted, large companies publicaly missing a revenue objective, merger or acquisition, competitor launching innovative product or service they should have launched

Snack foods – Super bowl, Fourth of July, back to school

Loss prevention industry – new product with high value with small shelf footprint launching, packaging change like videos moving from cassette to DVD, Compact Discs in 12” cardboard packages moving to just the CD jewel case, new store opening in high crime area, local crime reports

Consulting services – new executive, merger or acquisition, dip in quarterly earnings, high sales turnover, high executive turnover

Pension and 401k industry– sale of a business, employee buy out, April- right after business owners had to pay taxes that could have been avoids with a properly designed defined benefit and or defined contribution strategy

Mechanical equipment – plant expansion, new plant manager, new plant, and state grant awarded for job creation, landing large high profile customer, change in technology, and change in government regulations, current equipment failure, incentives for energy savings equipment

Physical fitness – consumers turning 50 years of age , mothers who just had babies

Tanning Salons – weddings and prom’s

Window cleaning – sale of a home, graduation parties, wedding announcements

Understanding your market and specifically your buyers and their buying process is key to trigger based marketing and sales. While market losers keep cold calling, hoping to fall into an opportunity your team will be targeting known buyers with a high probability of having a problem you can solve and they are urgently seeking to solve it. With technology today you can establish alerts through Google Alerts that will send you a message when a trigger event occurs.

What events trigger buyers to take action in your industry?

Is their an industry that trigger based marketing and sales would not work? Why?

Trigger based marketing and sales is not expensive and will produce measurable sales increases once you identify the leading buying triggers and refine you message and sales tools to solve those buyers problems.

How Do We Heal “Brand Damaged Buyers” and Get Them Buying Again?

By Mark Allen Roberts

If you provide a product or a service you are going to experience buyers who have a bad overall buying experience at some time. Market leaders will take this opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade and actually improve their relationship with their customer. Market losers will play the blame storm game, refuse to take ownership, repeat the mistakes over and over again  and ultimately cause buyers to suffer  Brand Damage and stop buying all together. Once an account is lost it is very difficult to win their trust back, however it is not impossible. Once a market hears enough negative feedback from a variety of sources the market can become brand damaged.In this post I will share;

How Do We Heal “Brand Damaged Buyers” and Get Them Buying Again?

What is the best way not to break your buyer’s trust and lose future business? Well I see it proudly displayed in factories, lobbies and desk tops across the clients I served;

“Do what you said you would do”

Why do I like this simple no smoke and mirrors approach phrase so much?

  • I have seen it work time and time again
  • Market leaders all live by this rule
  • It is time tested
  • It’s biblical
  • It establishes trust and reinforces it every time you execute

However the reality is we all make mistakes. How do we rebound from those mistakes? Can we ever rebound from those mistakes? I recently read a great article: America’s Nine Most Damaged Brands. This article shares how; the true causes of drops in brand value are folly and arrogance. 24/7 Wall St.’s review of nine brands that were badly damaged recently shows that even the most powerful brand cannot survive horrible decisions. So an element of hubris plays a part in brand damaged markets.

My own personal experience has shown mistakes only become Brand Damaged Buyers when we refuse to admit we made them or correct them. Let’s face itwe all need to be tuned into our market and listen for unresolved problems, …even if we find we caused a few of them.

So let’s say you have been experiencing some of the symptoms I discussed in my last post of companies that have brand damaged buyers like:

Sales failing to meet plan objectives

Competitors sales growing

Decrease in market share

Profit decrease due to field discounting

Customers you have lost refusing to meet with you

You are losing large key accounts who have

…as well as others.

Let’s say you have decided you need to “Heal Brand Damaged Buyers” so they start buying from you again, where do we start?

First we need to go back to the fundamentals of building a brand customers can trust, we start executing the 10 Commandments of Marketing as discussed by Derrick Daye.  We need to clearly understand positioning and our desired intentional differentiation in the perceptions of our buyers. A lot of companies struggle in this area so I suggest you down load one of my friends and mentor’s books: Your Brands Position by Dick Maggiore. You can download a copy of my book: Branding Backwards that shares how we need to intentionally brand our product or service or the market will and we will be branding by default. You can visit the article ; 3 ways to build brand loyalty and start from scratch again. Last, make sure and watch Jack Trout’s “5 tests of obviousness.” Jack Trout goes on to share how we must never waste a crisis but use it to make tough changes that often results in re-positioning.

So you’ve done your homework, you feel pretty good about what you’ve seen and you want to experience the benefits of market leading companies like; sales growth faster than industry average , gross profits over 30% higher than the completion, and increased customer satisfaction and loyalty? Where do you start? Ask a simple question in everything you do:

Is it true?

I went and heard an amazing author, speaker, thought leader named Byron Katie speak and the foundation of her work is the simple question: Is it true? Her content was so simple yet so brilliant I sat for hours after the conference with my mind racing as to all the applications in the business world.

So let me ask you: Is it true?

Everything you say on your web site?

What your salespeople are trained to present about your product or service?

All your marketing literature?

What your salespeople say about your competition

Printed content on your product packaging and owners manuals?

What your marketing team believes are the problems your product or service solves?

What your mission statement and vision statement say?

Do you have a “passion statement” and are you walking the talk?

Everything your team is saying at sales meetings, strategy meetings?

Was the product you launched on time last week ready to be launched

Next you must start rebuilding trust with your buyers and one way to do so is admit your past mistakes and apologize and let the buyer know their relationship with you is important and you want to win back their trust. Ask your buyer how he or she would do that if the roles were reversed. (Their answers may surprise you)

Last you must build trust in all the small things;

Follow up when you say you will follow up

Under commit and over deliver

Arrive on time

Keep meetings to buyer approved time window

Follow up meetings with email that reviews they key points of your meeting

Launch new products when they are ready and tested

When we break the trust our buyers have placed in us we create Brand Damaged Buyers. If an error or an over promised feature and benefit go unresolved too long, we loose a buyer’s trust. If your team has been experiencing some of the above symptoms of brand damaged buyers it will be a very difficult path winning buyer trust back to where it once was. Trust is emotional and that is why it is so much easier to not violate it in the beginning of the relationship and so hard to repair later.

Have some of your products broken trust with your buyers?

Have any new products failed to perform to what you promised in sales presentations and your web site?

Are your sales people making promises right now ( as you are reading this) to close a sale, that are not true?

Have you discovered any other steps to rebuild trust and help heal brand damaged buyers?

As I shared, you need laser like positioning in the market today and as you consistently deliver on what you promise you build a brand. If you fail to deliver you are also branding and you create what I call brand damaged buyers. If you find yourself with brand damaged buyers you are not alone. The key is to clearly understand the market’s perceptions of what you offer today and if needed re-position your offering based on your buyers ,market and competitors today.  The first step is being humble enough to listen to your market and stop assuming your positioning is relevant and resonates with buyers today.

Stalled Sale? … Put a Price Tag on Doing Nothing

Stalled Sale? … Put a Price Tag on Doing Nothing


When I train sales teams one of the common questions is; “How do I fix the problem of the stalled sale?” Sales stall and buyers go dark for a number of reasons. I have heard numbers as high as 30%-50% of pending sales in pipelines will stall and possibly never happen. One technique that gets the sale back on track to close is assigning a price of doing nothing and reinforcing it with your buyer(s).

If you have been in sales for any length of time you have experienced the stalled sale. You set out on a journey with your buyer.You had a great meeting with the buyer and influencers, you presented your solution to the identified problems, you had all the buying signals, and the buyer indicated you will get his business but then the sale seems to stall. Key buyer deliverables are missed, your follow up voice and emails are not returned and unfortunately you have probably shared your anticipated new sale you thought was in the bag with your manager who is now driving you nuts with “where’s the order?” This buyer journey now seems to have stopped or maybe just stalled. What should we do now?

Buyers always have choices;

  • Buy from you
  • Buy from your competitor
  • Try to make do and fix it themselves
  • Do nothing

How do you fix stalled sales and drive them to a close?

Once you have diagnosed and prioritized buyer pain you must assign a value on the buyer doing nothing.

Assuming you have listened and now clearly understand the problem the buyer is trying to solve, what is the cost of doing nothing? For example, let’s say you are selling industrial equipment that is more efficient and saves energy. Very quickly you can assign a weekly dollar value of not making a decision and not fixing the problem. Once you identify that cost in dollars, energy inefficiency, or other measurements share that information with your buyer(s) and all sale influencers. In this same example you may also identify the cost of lost production if the current equipment fails. When you first determined the requirements for the buyer and his team, you should already have identified these pain points, their assigned threshold and value. For example, if a CEO is involved they are focused on driving revenues, bottom line profits and eliminating any risk that stands in the way of executing their vision. They know what a lost order is worth. The CFO knows what their overall energy consumption is and you can identify how your product can reduce this cost and by how much. CFO’s struggle with manufacturing variances and the real dollars associated with them.

Your follow up communications will take the tone of wanting prevent the pain we identified early and reduce or eliminate that pain’s associated cost as quick as possible as opposed to a acting like a typical commission junkie needing a fix.  Your communication becomes about wanting to serve your client, and they are about your client and not about what you want. (The sale)

What are your buyer’s pains?

What is the cost of your buyer doing nothing?

Are there buyer pains that cannot have a cost of doing nothing associated with them?

Has your team used this technique? If so please share how it worked.

The stalled sale can be very frustrating and the longer the sale lags the higher your chances are of losing the sale. A phrase I share with a number of teams is “time kills sales deals” and I have personally experienced this to be true. Our job as salespeople is to clearly understand the problem, its pain, and assign a cost if the buyer does nothing.

  • 1
  • 2