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Do you or your sales people truly know how to sell? Honestly?

Do you really have the ability to sell? Does the top candidate for your new sales position have the ability to sell? Or is this ‘ability’ really the result of other factors, such as luck, wider economic factors, market demand greater than supply, etc?

Whether it is you that has to do the selling for your business, or somebody else, you have to be sure you, or they, really have the ability to sell. But how can you be sure?

Selling on a successful and sustained basis is truly about ability – not to persuade and manipulate, but the ability to connect with your client and find out what they really need & want, even if that means you can’t help them out this time, and then connect them with a solution.

Being able to do this on a sustained basis implies the need for some kind of system, or method, that is repeatable, and increases the chance of success with a client, to beyond simple luck and the impact of other factors.

Many sales people will tell you that a true sales person has no time, and no need for studying, adopting and using any kind of structured sales approach. They are wrong. That’s not just my opinion, but an assertion backed up by plenty of evidence.

This chart is pretty compelling! Note that ‘Level 1’ is where there is no discernible sales system in place, ‘Level 2’ is where there are informal sales systems in place and used, at least a little. ‘Level 3’ is where a formal system is in place and used most or all of the time by most or all sales people. CSO Insights, the author of this study, are at https://www.csoinsights.com/ (opens in new tab/window).

So if it is you to do the selling for your business, what is the sales system or approach you are going to use?

If you are going to hand this very critical task off to another, what is the sales system or approach he or she is going to use?

How can you tell it will be effective?

Whatever the system you or your sales people will use, consider the following:

  • Is it structured?
    • Can it be followed as an ordered process?
    • Can it be used again and again in different situations?
    • Can it be taught to other sales people?
  • Does it focus on the client and their buying decision process?
    • Does it really, or is this a cover for really focusing on sales activities?
    • Does it help clients navigate options?
    • Does it help clients avoid pitfalls?
    • Does it help clients get through their decision making process more quickly, and still be satisfied at the end?
  • Does it focus on business issues for the client, what I refer to as “The Big 3”?
    • Does it help the client grow profitable revenue? Does it help the client reduce their ‘time to money’ (the time it takes to make a positive return on any investment in improved products and/or processes)?
    • Does it help the client cuts costs?
    • Does it help the client manage or mitigate their business risks?
  • Is it easy to learn & use by the sales people?
  • Does it help them do their job better?

Lastly, be wary of people selling you sales systems! Look at how they engage with you, and work to help you solve your sales issues. In my role as Global Sales Training Manager for a major global tech company I received around 12,000 emails each year from people and companies trying to sell me sales systems and techniques. Yes, I actually measured it, but that’s another story! In a single 18 month period only 3 potential providers were able to show me they had something worth spending time on to explore further, and that resulted in us doing business together! Remember, this is from people and organisations who claim they know how to sell!

Are Your Sales People Skewing Your Funnel?

Picture the situation.

Your sales are not where they need to be – they may even be down…

So being the good sales people they are, your sales team gets on the phone – “dialling for dollars”…

It’s well intentioned.

But it’s also bad instincts…

“Hi. I’m Julie from XYZ Company. We are a 30 year old company with a gazillion customers, locations, products, awards, etc etc etc…blah blah blah blah….

…. would you like to see if we can do better than your current supplier?”

Now, some prospects would just hang up, politely or otherwise.

Some would say “send me your details” just to be really polite and, well, you never know when you might want to change your supplier…

And some would agree, perhaps reluctantly, to a bigger call or even a meeting.

And what has the sales person done? Put the details of those who didn’t hang up, in to their sales funnel… because the customer hadn’t said “No!”

But was the customer really looking at that time to buy? Probably not.

So you now have a funnel that’s filling up.

And initially you get excited because you know your conversion rates historically… so you’re now forecasting 25% of these opportunities just added to the funnel, will close. Hooray.

Except your conversion rate is about to drop through the floor…


Because unwittingly, your sales people have MANUFACTURED a sales cycle by forcing an event!

Many of these opportunities will just stall – sales people are reluctant to call any opportunity as lost, so they’ll languish in your funnel, not going anywhere. And if you ask about any of them, you’ll get the standard “they’re just waiting on budget approval” or some other excuse… and the trouble is, the sales person may be right, up to a point.

So now YOU begin to look a little ropey because you forecasted an upturn, which isn’t materialising, your funnel data is contaminated, and you can no longer be sure what’s really going on.

Many of these opportunities are stalled because they are FAKE! The prospect was nowhere near ready to buy, until your sales person came along. The prospect is perhaps still nowhere closer to buying, but your funnel is skewed, and your salespeople may be burning their reputation, or building the wrong one, as they push on an unready set of prospects…

What are you going to do about it? What directions and guidance are you going to give your sales people? Is your incentive programme actually contributing to this?


In Selling, Your Job Is To Make The Status Quo Unsafe!

In my post yesterday I said I’d expand on the ‘how’ of challenging a Prospect’s ‘status quo’. So here it is. But first things first…

The traditional perspective in sales & selling is to find out what your customer’s problem or challenge is, offer them the right solution, and keep them happy, all smiles and niceness.

For many, they see this as key to their core role as a sales person.

If you are one of these, as I was not that long ago, well, that’s understandable.


As a ‘sales person’ (I’m not sure that label is even appropriate any more…!), your job is to


How do you do this?Now it’s time to blow some myths up here!

Myth Bust #1:

The conventional approach in marketing is to start by creating an avatar or persona, a representation of the kind of person you are marketing to. It is often said by traditional marketing professionals that “personas are the best tool for creating messages.” One of my favourite and successful marketing professionals, Bernadette Doyle of ‘Client Magnets’ fame, uses this approach in her training classes. She’s had a lot of success, and so have her clients.

It’s not wrong. It’s just not the full picture, and can actually get in the way when you are specifically seeking to challenge somebody’s status quo.

Just so we’re clear – not every client or prospect wants their status quo challenged, or needs it challenged. There are plenty of sales opportunities where clients know exactly what they want & need. But for those other situations, that can represent more than double the value of your current revenue, ‘marketing personas’ get in the way.

How do they get in the way?

Simple. When you build a clear picture of the way somebody is – their current situation – it becomes difficult to unseat them from their status quo – your entire picture is built around how they currently are – not how they could be if their situation changed.

When you create a message for where the client/Prospect currently is, you are giving them little context for making any decision about changing things.

And you run the real risk and chance of sounding like all the other competitors you have who are also trying to sell to this client/Prospect.

Part of your challenge with beating the competition and differentiating yourself is that the very approach you may be taking – the conventional one – is actually building up barriers against your success, not taking them down!


Create for what Tim Reisterer calls ‘Status Quo Clusters’ – a cluster of people who have the same Status Quo, though in marketing persona terms might look very different.

Identify what they do and use today, and how they do and use these things.

Discover why they think they are ‘safe’ by staying with their Status Quo.

You now have the beginnings of a story – one that contrasts their current view, their status quo, with an alternative – one that is filled with pain and/or with opportunity – compelling enough that they’ll take notice and at least will want to learn more by talking with you…

You do this by finding gaps in their ‘safe assumptions’ they hold about their status quo.

Oh, and you’ll also need evidence for these gaps, otherwise you probably won’t have enough credibility to tip them enough out of their sense of safety to want to come talk to you…

The upside, the beauty of this approach, is that the Status Quo cluster is more diverse than the standard and conventional marketing persona – through this higher diversity you will find more paths to more potential customers – ones you’d never have uncovered so easily & quickly the conventional way…

Now for Myth Bust #2:

… and I think I’ll leave that for tomorrow…!!


Stop Pissing Off 99% Of Your Prospects!

Research by Forrester, a company with a significant Sales Enablement business, did some research with executives on the effectiveness of sales calls. here’s what they found:

15% of sales calls added enough value.

7% of the executives surveyed stated they would probably schedule a follow-up.

In addition, the frustration executives felt at having their time wasted actually created a level of hostility towards the company whose sales person had made the call or presentation in the first place… enough to have a material impact on decisions, including being let to pitch for future business.

So, ONLY 15% of sales calls add value.

And ONLY 7% of execs in the survey would follow up.

Now, 7% of 15% is about 1%, so only about 1% of calls will result in a follow up… I know I’m playing a little loose with the numbers here, but it strikes me that the 1% success rate with ‘dialling for dollars’ like this fits well with our perception of reality… so maybe there’s an explanation for the low hit rate for this type of sales activity…

And if only 1% follow up, and there’s real frustration at the lack of value added in as much as the other 99%, it could be that you are actually annoying, if not ‘pissing off’ ALL of this 99%…

OK, it’s far fetched for many of you – I can already hear the ‘but’ comments from many of you!

But let’s not lose sight of the point here – prospective clients HATE to have their limited and valuable time wasted by sales people, no matter how good the products & services on offer and no matter how well-intentioned the sales person.

And people wonder why prospects can be so hostile to these approaches, and not even want to consider a new product or service that could really help them out…

No wonder sales people struggle – and it’s magnified 10x in a down turn, like the one we’ve been stuck in for some 5 years now.

So what to do instead?

Well, change the messaging for a start.

Don’t lead WITH your products and services, lead TO them, starting with the prospect and the challenges they face. Challenge them to see their world and business differently, then provide them with a frame of reference against which they can make a decision. Leading WITH products & services means this frame of reference is missing for them – how can they make an informed and therefore lower risk (in their minds) decision without a frame of reference?

  1. Question the status quo – and get them to recognise this, then…
  2. Redefine the situation – this is where the frame of reference is needed, built on contrast between how things currently are and why that’s painful, and how things could be and how that’s desirable & worth the risk of doing something about it, then…
  3. Present an alternative – and make sure they see the alternative in your offering, and that choosing you is in the end the lowest risk option for them.

I know this is easier said than done, but until this got said, it was unlikely it would get done!

So, you now have something to think on, AND act on. Get to it!

Oh… What’s that? You’re not sure HOW to move forward on that?

Well, give it a go, think about it – what is the status quo in your industry or target prospect, in relation to core business objectives? What benefits do your prospects get from staying with the status quo? What dangers lurk as a result of not changing?

Answer these initial questions and you’ll be well on your way.

And I’ll expand on the ‘how’ in my next post.