Much has been said and written about the changes the digital age has to all commercial activities.
Specific for sellers you regularly read the following statements:

  • Customers have already completed 57% of the buying cycle before they want to meet a seller
  • The relationship is becoming less and less important and price is the most important decision criterion
  • Customers wish to meet our sellers less and less frequently

We have published 2 articles with more details and background about these themes. The first one is a ‘Checklist: What customers expect from your sales people’ in which you will find the 10 most important customer expectations.

The second article describes the most important market changes as well as how to overcome the resulting productivity challenges.

A recognizable example:

Thomas is Operational Manager for a logistics company with 23 lorries on the road. Tight margins in the sector brought the director of Thomas’ company to start looking for ways to cut costs. Together they’ve identified a number of issues that regularly cause problems, such as poor agreements about pick-up and delivery times and driving empty lorries back, all of which comes at a cost. Thomas’ bonus this year largely depends on him finding a solution!

How Thomas buys

He’s known for a long time that there’s software available for optimising the planning. And he’s already looked at how much it costs, but at the time he only saw the investment cost. Now, with pressure coming from management, Thomas decides to take to the internet again to get a global idea of the solutions available for his problem, work out roughly what it costs, and see how much it could help the company save in terms of unnecessary costs.

The conclusion of this ROI exercise is positive: Thomas finds that resolving the issue would cost considerably less than suffering more losses in the current situation. Then he keeps searching to see exactly what his company needs. He looks for opinions and feedback from peers, and tries to find out what differentiates the good software from the bad. He wants to know which providers are offering top notch solutions. And what differences there are between all these providers and their products.

With his list of ‘buying criteria’ ready, he invites three providers who seem to be offering more or less the same software. Together with his manager, Thomas decides to sign with the cheapest provider.

Sales reps still have an important role to play

There’s a good chance that Thomas’ story sounds familiar to many readers of this post. We speak with lots of companies whose margins are deteriorating in a price war with competitors.

But the fact that customers are smarter these days, and have already compared your product features with those of your competitors before ever contacting you, doesn’t mean that the salesperson no longer has a role to play. Online information isn’t always correct, for example, and it might even be irrelevant in the customer’s specific case. Buyers don’t always know how to get good value from the information they gathered, either. And that’s exactly how salespeople can help them – by leading them along the right lines.

Salespeople who succeed in the digital era often have this attitude:

  • Align the sales strategy with the phases the customer goes through in their buying cycle
  • Take the right action at the right time with the right contact person
  • Strongly believe that helping customers is their top priority

Read more about the CUSTOMER-CENTRIC SELLING open training, see if the next session fits into your schedule, and book your seat straight away:

CUSTOMER-CENTRIC SELLING open training

Click here if you want to organize an internal program on this theme and related competencies.


I used to be closely involved with a sales team at a medium-sized technology company. Nicolas, one of the salespeople there, often came away from meetings feeling a bit dazed, convinced that procurement’s only goal was to buy at the lowest possible price. But Bruno, one of his colleagues with the same types of customer, sells very successfully without always needing to lower the price. Is Nicolas just unlucky, or is there more to it?

What Nicolas isn’t seeing

Nicolas keeps falling into the same trap. He ends up negotiating on price because he hasn’t convinced the customer of his solution’s value, which leads to buyers trying to hammer the price down. Or he starts bargaining before other issues have been cleared up, such as delivery times or SLAs. And sometimes he simply gives up too quickly.

So what makes Bruno so successful?

Bruno, on the other hand, appreciates that negotiating actually means finding solutions. He understands his customers’ challenges and KPIs, and responds by offering them added value in his solutions. He keeps a ‘give and take’ list, which gives him self-assurance and helps him find a win-win situation together with the customer. Last but not least, he also always has a strategy and action plan. Customers see Bruno as a partner and adviser; he understands their situation and is there to help them.

Negotiating techniques

What’s crucial in negotiations?

  • That you, like Bruno, understand the procurement KPIs – there’s a lot more to it than simply buying at the lowest price
  • This knowledge gives the seller a certain amount of bargaining leverage
  • And that puts sales in a position to understand their discussion partners’ objectives and strategy, and predict their next move, so they can tailor their sales strategy accordingly

The moral of the story is to start negotiating as soon as the customer begins their buying journey, in the initial conversation. If you as the seller do everything right throughout the customer’s buying cycle, negotiating actually becomes very simple, even for complex matters. It turns the negotiation into a simple conversation that successfully concludes all previous discussions.

Read more about the COMPLEX NEGOTIATION SKILLS open training, see if the next session fits into your schedule, and book your seat straight away:

COMPLEX NEGOTIATION SKILLS open training

Click here if you are looking to set up a Sales Academy in your company


Marc has many years’ sales experience. But it’s still often difficult to make contact with the right decision-makers in prospective customers’ companies. He’s been trying to get his foot in the door of an international technology company for several weeks, but he keeps being sent from one contact person to the next. Marc therefore doesn’t appear to be making any progress, and is gradually becoming more and more frustrated.

Analyse problem situations as a team

In the next sales meeting, he decides to present the problem to his colleagues in a intervision exercise. Marc is the client, the other salespeople act as consultants, and their manager moderates and keeps an eye on the time. Marc outlines the scenario and the consultants ask factual, open questions. This is because it’s important to first have a clear picture of the situation before you can come up with any solutions. For example:

  • Who are you talking to?
  • Who is your most important contact?
  • Why are there so many contact persons?
  • Which questions should you ask?
    Etc.

Collective intelligence

Marc answers the consultants’ questions one by one, and then clearly explains what he expects from the participants: “I’ve got lost in the customer organisation. I’m looking for specific advice to structure my approach better, find the right angle, get my foot in the door and develop this opportunity – without wasting any more time on conversations with the wrong people.” Thanks to this clear question, the other participants can now give advice and offer solutions.

Marc in turn provides feedback about the advice and presents his action plan. He remains in control of the scenario and retains the solutions he finds interesting to get out of the impasse.

Finally, the consultants are given the chance to offer their opinion about Marc’s action plan, and the sales manager asks what lessons the team can learn from the collaborative exercise.

Everybody learns from a joint effort to find solutions

The strict procedures in Marc’s example force all participants to ask relevant questions and form a clear picture of the situation. There’s no competition between the salespeople – about who comes up with the best proposal – because Marc remains the master of his case. The consultants are forced to actively listen, and aren’t allowed to interact with each other. Marc gradually develops the exercise to find a solution for his impasse, using the advice that he deems useful. The group then helps him to consider his solution in detail.

This technique is called Intervision or Co-development and relies on Collective Intelligence. The solution is created through collaboration and collective efforts focusing on one and the same person: the customer.

Benefits of Collective Intelligence

This technique has a number of interesting benefits:

  • Strong sense of collaboration: everyone is prepared to help Marc and trusts the other participants, so any doubts and concerns are easily shared
  • Efficiency: Marc moves off the beaten track and tries to have faith in the new solutions suggested by his team, so he can integrate them in his action plan
  • Strong commitment to each other and the company: Marc’s case is taken from the daily reality – it’s the type of situation that all the salespeople in the team could come across. They now feel more connected to each other

Read more about the INTERVISION AND SALES TEAM COACHING open training, see if the next session fits into your schedule, and book your seat straight away:

INTERVISION AND SALES TEAM COACHING Open training

Click here if you are looking to set up a Sales Academy in your company


After a few weeks in his new role as Sales Manager, Eric has a number Coaching sessions scheduled. He already benefited greatly from the coaching he received earlier in his career. In fact, the reason for him being promoted so soon by his new employer is precisely because of the excellent coaching  which helped him develop his skills so quickly in a previous job. He has very high expectations for the one-to-one session with his manager, and is therefore preparing for it very carefully.

He explains his objectives and challenges in his first Wednesday afternoon session. His manager appears to show commitment, listening attentively and asking a couple of guiding, closed questions. When Eric then explains a difficult situation that developed within the team, his manager starts to offer some coaching advice: “You’re going to have to tackle it like this: …

This sets of alarm bells for Eric: that’s not coaching!

What is coaching?

Many managers are still convinced that coaching is the same thing as listening, asking a few questions, and then providing unilateral advice. But that’s not coaching …

So what is coaching?

Coaching enables your team to create new possibilities themselves.
And the person being coached is always the focus here.

The coach’s mindset

As a coach, you enable your team to come up with their own creative solutions by approaching the discussion with the following attitude:

  • Asking meaningful questions
  • Active listening
  • Offering constructive ‘feed-forward’

Read more about the COACHING SALES PEOPLE open training, see if the next session fits into your schedule, and book your seat straight away:

COACHING SALES PEOPLE open training

Click here if you are looking to set up a Sales Academy in your company

 


We received this e-mail from Michael Hebda, Director of Marketing North America at MEGA International. Perpetos trained Mega’s Sales teams globally. We implemented a Buyer-Aligned sales process that enables Sales reps to align their approach with the customer’s buying cycle. We like to thank Mike greatly for his willingness to have us share an example of the impact of this change.

Pascal,

I wanted to share a quick story with you. David was on the phone with a prospect the other day and the gentleman was pressuring David for a demo.

The prospect pushed further by telling David that he already had demos scheduled with two of our competitors, and wanted to see MEGA’s as well. David engaged the gentleman in a conversation about expectations, executive support, etc., and determined the prospect was between 6 and 8 o’clock on the buying clock.

When David summarized the scenario for the prospect by saying that we first wanted to get an understanding of the CIO’s goals, discuss specific pains, short- and long-term goals, etc., the gentleman had an epiphany …
He told David “You’re right. Moving forward at this stage, with none of the necessary information in place, would be a waste of time. I’m going to cancel the other two demos and re-approach this initiative correctly.”MEGA new logo

I thought it was worth sharing that David used Buyer-Aligned Selling methods to establish himself as a trusted advisor, and did it so well that the prospect canceled competitor demos.

Talk soon,
Mike

 

Read more about the open training EFFECTIVE SELLING SKILLS for the NEW SALES PERSON, see if the next session fits into your schedule, and book your seat straight away:

Open training EFFECTIVE SELLING SKILLS

Click here if you are looking to set up a Sales Academy in your company