It’s been said before: Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

What do you call a corporate sales program that impacts teams and culture? Right, a happy meal!

Frédéric had his team enrolled for an international corporate change program of the sales organization and participated too. He talked us through the experience of the entire program and the impact on the team and himself as a sales leader.

Frédéric, how did you experience the sales program? What feedback did you receive from your team?

The overarching program dealt with enabling growth. When Perpetos rolled out the first part of the program, that was directly linked to our go-to-market approach, we realized that this sales program was more than just providing a sales approach.

For example, the sessions were organized with mixed groups, meaning employees from different business units in one group. During the training, it became clear that those initial perceived segment differences, weren’t so different when approaching it from the customers perspective. Even more, because the teams saw the sales methodology worked independent of segments, a bond between the participants was created.

The workshops with role-play and realistic client cases, created an excellent opportunity to adopt a uniform and new way of working, which meanwhile all teams had bought into. Group learnings were brought to an individual level by individual coaching and it allowed further progress.

Extract from the interview

When did you see behavioral changes, signs of adoption and changes of habits?

Let me state clearly, that adopting new ways of working requires focus and effort. Applying the methodology demands people to take a step back and question themselves. Throughout the learning, the importance of an open mindset and the willingness to adopt, are stimulated by the approach of the training and the learner engagement support by Perpetos.

The Perpetos’ methodology was perceived as refreshing and just what sales teams need in today’s market. Our sales team was already a highly experienced team, so that was very important for the buy-in right from the start. Perpetos implemented a common vocabulary focusing on the customer buying cycle instead of traditional linear steps of sales. The use of the terminology across the different teams and departments became part of our day to day allowing everybody to know what to do when. The customer verifiable outcomes in combination with the common language heavily improved both the efficiency and effectiveness.

Extract from the interview

How did this methodology impact your teams and success?

Throughout the process, there were two important recurring elements.

First, the methodology and approach assured our teams which actions to take and gave them the necessary structure, avoiding too much tension at important moments.

Second, there are no bad actions, but you must know what to do at what time.

The combination of both these elements provided a structure to our teams and ensured we moved in the same direction. We learned to do less, with more focus. When we apply the methodology well, it significantly increases our chances of winning. During the 18-month period we were able to win all our ‘must-win’ targets, with involvement of our Perpetos’ coach.

Extract from the interview

Final observations?

The program brought not only a changed way of working, but also created a mental and culture shift. We no longer push our activities but align our activities with the customer’s decision cycle. Even in another business context, a similar program can help to install a more efficient structure amongst sales teams. It plays a bonding role in the context of restructurings and adapting sales teams to the new reality in the field.

Frédéric, big thanks!


During periods characterised by insecurity the general attitude towards salespeople changes. In addition, customers’ focus shifts to short-term solutions and the reduction of risk. Both constitute an opportunity for enterprises and salespeople who manage to adapt to this situation quickly. Adding value while responding to this situation and at the same time focussing on enhancing customer confidence.  

There are four elements that play a role in creating value for the customer:  

  • How can we improve our insight into the customer’s situation?  
  • What are the techniques we can use?  
  • How can we keep all conversations relevant?  
  • How can we ensure that customers are prepared to pay for it?  

In this respect it’s important to have a good insight into the customers’ “Buyer Journey”.  

Waarde creëren in tijden van grote onzekerheid

A few important things to take into account:  

  • A late entry in the buying cycle does not provide much room for value creation, as the customer already knows what he wants and has a preferred supplier with whom he compares other suppliers 
  • If you enter the cycle before the trigger moment, your chances of success are much better.  Nevertheless, your focus should be on messages that increase the willingness to change, i.e. messages that break through the status quo and the “loyalty loop”.  
  • As a salesperson, you must be able to guide the customer through his buying cycle by aligning the activities and messages to what is important to him.  

When you have contact with a customer, you can find out where he is in the buying cycle by asking a few questions. It’s not possible to reverse the cycle. If the customer is already at the end of the cycle, you need very strong conversation techniques to create an opening. Unfortunately, the consequence is that the price is a very important factor, unless you are lucky enough that others before you have made a significant mistake.  

The value wedge combined with the phase in the buying cycle indicate how the added value can be created.  

value wedge

First let’s discuss the typical pitfalls and mistakes that are made on the basis of the value wedge.  The salesperson:  

  1. doesn’t distinguish himself from the competition, just tells the same story 
  1. tries to convince the customer with strong points of the competition that are not at all strong points of his own offer, as it is clear how important they are to the customer.  
  1. is too focused on outdoing the competition by focusing on strong points they both have but that are not relevant for the customer 
  1. fails completely by presenting entirely irrelevant advantages and messages on the basis of his own convictions or non-identical situations, causing irreparable damage to customer confidence.  

If the right conversations take place in line with the specific phase in the buying cycle, the essential confidence will be built quickly, and the critical insights will be acquired that enable the salesperson to focus on the messages that are important to the customer and that the competition overlooked.  

A few “must-do’s” during conversations:  

  • Tell a clear story about similar situations and thus quickly build confidence for the next steps.  
  • Use the right interview and conversation techniques to not only have full knowledge of the situation but also to quantify. This will have a major impact on the price the customer is willing to pay.  
  • Once preparations are complete, your first contact in the active sales cycle is preferably the person who is exposed to the most disadvantages and at the same time has the highest decision-making power. This way you structurally increase your chances of quickly breaking through the status quo.  
  • Ask closed questions to validate your assumptions and monitor your rapport with the person concerned.  
  • Provide a solid underpinning for a possible change, so as to make it easier to minimise discounts and therefore to sell at a higher price than the competition. 

Do you want to know more about these essential elements?  

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Every day we’re being confronted with increasing sales costs and margins under greater and greater pressure. In this blog, we explain why this is happening and look at the solution in detail.

Increasing sales costs and greater pressure on margins are usually the result of inadequate or non-existent internal sales training and supervision. There are also a few die-hard habits that many companies and sales reps cling on to which can cause even bigger problems for sales performance.

Directors will already be familiar with the changed buying behaviour and understand the impact it has on their sales and marketing organisation. The fact that up to 75% of decision-making criteria are influenced online means it’s important for us to allow sales to start a dialogue with customers at different times and with different messages.

If sales is forced to wait until customers are ‘ready-to-buy’ or in the quotation stage before they spring into action, it’s impossible to sell customer value, so:

  • Margins continue to fall
  • Products and services are experienced as commodities

This habit comes from:

  • Managers being mainly interested in the time frame that deals are agreed in
  • Sales who think it’s a waste of time to enter into a buying process early, and prefer to wait for ready-to-buy leads from marketing
  • Sales who are willing to start the buying process early and influence the customer, but don’t have the necessary skills and messages to appeal to customers in this early stage

The solution: do the right thing at the right time with the right person

Management behaviour and how to direct sales teams is crucial here, although that’s a separate topic just in itself. But how can we arm sales to face these new challenges?

The buying process in figure 1 shows the complete customer journey. Whether it’s for existing or new customers determines how sales deals with it.

For existing customers, sales mainly need to convey ‘why customers need to stay’

Combined with behaviour that we label as ‘account development’ rather than ‘account management’. With existing relationships, detailed knowledge of the customer and their environment provides a great opportunity for increasing the value perception, and so embedding the relationship more deeply.

For non-customers, the first question is: ‘Has the customer already decided to change?’

Has the customer not decided to change yet? Then it’s best to base your messages and interactions on breaking the status quo, and so increasing the willingness to change. Customers aren’t usually aware of what improvements are possible. Or the customer thinks the risks that come with the change look too big. Or they’re not familiar enough with exactly what’s required.

These ‘why change’ messages assume the customer’s point of view and are the best way of developing prospects. And this is where the biggest challenge is identified in terms of sales performance. Various studies and analyses of our customers show that up to 60% of opportunities simply disappear from the forecast without any decision being made by the customer. The biggest competitor isn’t another supplier, but the customers themselves simply not deciding to buy anything. So messages about how good your company and its solutions are, or the extra benefits that you can offer, won’t help stimulate the buying process.

Has the customer already decided to buy?

Then the next question is of course: who should I buy what from, and how much for? Sales responds to this with messages that underline why the customer should choose them. These ‘why us’ messages are most effective at this point in time. Most companies and a large proportion of sales reps score quite to very highly in this area.

Video shows when these three types of messages are most effective from a sales perspective

In summary, we therefore need to enable sales to convey three different types of messages convincingly according to the situation and depending on the product-market combination:

  • Why change
  • Why choose us
  • Why stay with us
Sales Performance Benchmark

Sales Performance Benchmark

How much do your sales convey these three sets of messages?
And to what extent can they discuss them with the customer at the right time?
Compare your sales performance and customer orientation with best in class companies.


Today we start with a motivational quote: “The customer is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.” This quote is attributed to Gandhi, but the point is that customer focus is of all times.

However, a clear break can be noticed, which took place some five years ago. Josh Bernoff from market research company Forrester calls this the beginning of “the age of the customer”, which heralds the end of the previous age of information. Due to rapid technological evolutions including social media and mobile computing, customers seek information in different ways and their purchase behaviour is gradually changing as a result. Consequently, the role of sales and marketing is also changing profoundly.

All customer experiences

A study by SiriusDecisions from earlier this year indicated that 71% of purchase decisions are based on the sum of the experiences customers have with their supplier. All experiences, both digital and personal as well as with staff from any department, play a role in this. It proves Bernoff’s earlier proposition that “the only sustainable competitive advantage is the knowledge of and engagement with the customer”.

Meeting customers’ expectations in every interaction is therefore the real challenge in the age of the customer and the best way to stay one step ahead of the competition. The seller’s role in this is no longer to provide information and thus try to convince customers. The seller now has to ensure interactions which enrich the customer’s vision, help to demonstrate the positive impact of a purchase decision and facilitate the entire purchasing process in an optimum manner.


Are sales still the exclusive domain of the sales department? If so, you may have a problem, as customer interaction has changed dramatically. Customer contacts increasingly take place via other channels, such as the Internet, social media or relations. The preparation of purchases is also strongly influenced online.

Everybody has a commercial role

Your salespersons are not the only ones who bear responsibility for your company’s lasting commercial success. Within their role, each employee needs to be aware of the ultimate aim of their activities, namely the customer. This requires a serious mentality change with plenty of companies, and perhaps also with you.

More than ever, customers expect to play a central role in your processes. This demands a targeted approach: any interaction between you and the customer matters and has to meet the customer’s expectations. You need to be able to quickly and adequately answer any question from them. In most industries this is the fastest way to strengthen your competitive position.

Your processes from the perspective of your customer’s purchase cycle

Are you ready to take your organisation to a higher level and to increase your growth potential? Then you need to organise your processes from the perspective of your customer’s purchase cycle. You have to meet their expectations with every contact. This also impacts the competencies of your employees and the manner in which technology supports your customer processes.

Create a Buyer’s Journey roadmap in five steps

For the sake of brevity we will not discuss this in depth, but in general terms you build your roadmap in five steps:

  1. describe the purchase cycle for each type of customer
  2. inventory the contact moments (including those with third parties)
  3. describe all those moments, every touch point
  4. identify the most important decision criteria and decision points
  5. convert the schedule into ready-to-use guidelines


No Lead Left BehindAs is the case in many companies, the cooperation between our marketing and sales departments used to be less than optimal where leads were concerned. Thanks to the internal project “No Lead Left Behind”, we have been able to find a solution for a rather unproductive situation.

Using marketing automation software, we are currently preparing the next steps such as lead scoring and automated nurturing. We should be able to the see the results in about one year.

Number of sales accepted leads doubled

We have developed a process where not a single lead is lost and where efforts are made to follow up on all leads. The cooperation between the sales and marketing departments has considerably improved as well. Generally speaking, the number of sales accepted leads has doubled, with a record 136% increase in the beginning of the year. We have achieved this thanks to the following four steps of our action plan.

1. We have created an unambiguous process to manage the pipeline from lead to deal, with clear agreements on all intermediate stages, definitions and nomenclature. The process also includes the possibility to refuse or requalify leads on the basis of fixed parameters.

2. We have defined all stages of the process in a very detailed manner in our software, so that they are monitored quickly and correctly.

3. Targets relating to data quality, timing and conversion have been calculated for each stage. These targets are documented in an internal Service Level Agreement, which has been accepted by all sales and marketing people.

4. Through coaching and training we have made sure that everyone is motivated and is working towards the same goal.

This blog post is a contribution by Inge Landerwyn, marketing manager at Basware


Visual and word artists are indispensable for marketing. However, a modern marketing communication department has to be able to do more than sending attractive newsletters, creating eye-catching designs or organising memorable events. An equally important part of the job is driven by data analysis. Clients and prospects leave a digital trace that, when interpreted correctly, may stimulate sales.

Know your customer

Marketing communication is a powerless tool if it doesn’t include digital analysis. It also makes the job a lot more pleasant than it may seem. Like the owner of a local shop knows the personal preferences of many of his customers, each marketeer can acquire similar insights, mainly by using marketing automation tools.

However, we do not expect the marketeer to lock himself up in his digital laboratory and to gather all his information from visitors’ statistics, click behaviour and Excel pivot tables. He must also be active in the field, establish contacts with prospects and go to all major trade fairs. The ideal marketeer is a combination of both. We are calling him the “extraverted nerd”.

One-to-one is standard

We have prepared our marketing staff for their future through intensive internal communication: one-to-one is our standard, creativity and analysis go hand in hand. In addition, we obtain a relatively high turnover from each deal, which proves that one-to-one marketing is certainly not a useless investment. It has taken us more than one year to set up marketing divisions capable of linking creative concepts and dry data analysis all over Europe. In the past, we were mainly lacking knowledge of digital marketing, but we have in the mean time been able to make up for that lack.

Our teams consist of digital marketeers responsible for content and its highly varied distribution (the “Digital” team members), analysts who gain insights from our marketing software (the “Insight” people) and campaign experts whose task it is to stimulate demand (the “Demand” people). Together they are managing a detailed marketing funnel, the results of which are increasingly easy to predict and which accounts for an ever growing part of our turnover.

This blog post is a contribution by Philippe Gosseye, marketing director Western Europe at EMC.


Since last month, the Dutch Nyenrode Business Universiteit organises a modular master class of seven days spread over two months. The ‘Customer Experience Strategy & Execution’ master class focuses on the processes and technologies each company needs to master in order to change along with the continually evolving customers in this digital age. As I take care of part of the master class, I gladly give you a teaser of what is to come.

Until recently, things were very simple: your marketing department was responsible for product support and your salespeople took care of the sales. In the meantime, the interaction between both departments has intensified in order to increase your brand awareness and the demand for your services, for example by generating more leads, in particular through inbound marketing. How do you approach this?

Attach sufficient importance to the buyer’s journey and demand creation

Brand awareness is no longer sufficient as the buyer has more control over his purchasing process than ever before. So you can abandon your outdated sales strategies. Focus on customer-based segmentation so that you know which segments offer the most sales opportunities, provide supporting content in all stages of the buyer’s journey and develop lead scoring. This way you can quickly adapt your follow-up to the willingness to buy.

Align your sales and marketing processes and go digital

Your marketing and sales processes need to be perfectly aligned. To implement and support this, you have to go more digital. Complement CRM with marketing automation, online content marketing and sales enablement. Technology does not suffice in itself; give sufficient time and attention to the user friendliness and quality of the data in your CRM system so that your employees are more productive and especially like using the tools because of personal advantages.

Develop a tailored sales performance strategy

Selling involves an optimal cooperation between the marketing and sales divisions. It is important that each department is capable of approaching the right person at the right moment in his purchasing process (buyer’s journey) and performs the right activities with the right persons at the right time. Keep the common goal in mind: maximising revenue with the largest possible margin and at the lowest possible sales costs.

Join the digitisation trend

The digitisation trend continues. The focus of the marketing department shifts from creative processes to analytical processes. It comes down to filtering the right elements and presenting an inspiring story to the customer.

Make the difference with your content

Ensure that your customers find the information they are looking for. Information that inspires them, convinces them or teaches them something. This enables you to make the difference at the crucial contact moment. Content marketing guarantees a better defined brand awareness, generates more qualified leads and results in a stronger relationship with the customer. Through the development of a content portfolio, content marketing becomes a tactic that works across teams and allows to support the customer in his entire buying journey.

No sales process but a purchasing process

An increasing number of people are involved in a B2B purchasing decision. In addition, an increasingly larger part of the decision-making process is already over when sales comes into contact with the customer. As a result, the sales department needs to be able to easily map each contact’s willingness to buy. This makes it much easier to determine a win strategy and to ensure that the most effective action is carried out at the right moment.

This method is called Buyer-Aligned Selling and demonstrates how, when and with which messages and tools you can reach your contacts in the best manner, facilitate their purchasing process and convert leads into customers with significantly greater predictability.


Customer satisfaction and customer experience are crucial elements to maintain or increase your competitiveness. This is a crucial issue today, but how does one go about it? How can it be measured and improved? Is it really that important? That’s what I thought about when I recently booked a hotel room via Booking and received an unpleasant surprise. But first a few words about the customer’s expectations.

The best way to find out how you are doing in this respect is by mapping all moments on which a customer has virtual or physical contact with your company. You can link the customer’s expectations to these moments and check whether you meet these expectations. Your competitiveness entirely depends on the extent to which your processes, your staff’s attitude, your software and your competencies are adjusted to the customer’s experience during the entire cycle.

This means that your marketing department must conduct research with customers from all your market segments. The right and relevant questions and an adequate processing method should result in the most efficient way to implement measures for improvement.

Let’s see what happens

My own customer experience was far from good this week, due to the “lowest price guarantee” offered by Booking.com. Probably out of professional habit, I decided to go through the entire process, just to see what would happen, and whether something would happen at all.

I was looking for a hotel situated as closely as possible to my client’s premises in order to optimise my use of time. Booking.com was the fastest way for me to find a room in a part of Paris I wasn’t familiar with.

In the morning, when checking out, I found I had to pay more than the standard price for a room, posted at the reception desk. When I asked the hotel staff to adjust the price on my invoice to that maximum price, my request was denied: “I’m sorry, but I’m just charging the price of your booking with booking.com. I can’t help you. You will have to claim the difference from them.”

The perfect procedure

So I sent an e-mail message to booking.com. The procedure they followed to deal with my complaint was perfect, very swift and specific. First I received a standard automatic reply, immediately followed, after a reaction, by a personal follow-up by e-mail. In spite of the fact that the procedure was very efficient, the contents of the reply was disappointing: “We can’t help you, as we work with the prices provided by us by the hotel managers. We also refer to our ‘lowest price guarantee’ description”.

Imagine what my customer experience would have been if Booking.com had suggested a discount, equalling the difference, with my next booking before a specific date. For them, it would have been an investment of only 15 euro to keep a customer satisfied.

The final blow

Finally, I don’t want to keep the hotel manager’s last statement from you: “I advise you to contact us directly next time, it’s cheaper.”

I am curious to learn about your experiences, which may help companies to improve their strategies to attract and retain customers.


Buying behaviour has fundamentally changed over the past ten years. But there are still lots of companies approaching buyers of today with outdated best practices and mindsets, or continuing to advocate the old way of selling.

Until recently, it was still possible to achieve reasonable B2B sales results by simply highlighting solution benefits. Clients had no alternative but to take the sales person’s advice when making their buying decisions. People who still have this mindset should beware: buyers have taken over the sales process, and now they have the power. And they want to avoid risk as much as possible.

How can we adapt to today’s buyer?

A lot has already been said about the switch from product sales to solution sales, or from transactional into consultative selling. But we still see that neither has delivered on its full potential, and results remain far below expectations. This is why:

  • Both aim to implement a repeatable, linear and mechanical step-by-step process (not a ‘real’ sales environment!)
  • The sales support environment is not upgraded simultaneously; bonuses, product training and literature, events, CRM and even reporting remain largely unchanged
  • Management tries to resolve this with sales skills training and there is no change programme

You can fix this by focusing on the buyer, and learning about your clients and their markets.It’s also important to factor in risk mitigation. The ‘customer trust equation’ by David Maister, one of the world’s leading authorities on the management of professional service companies, is an excellent formula for clarifying the idea of risk mitigation:

T = (C+R+I) / S

T: trustworthiness (or perceived risk of working with you)

C: credibility = words (I can trust what he says)

R: reliability = actions (I can trust him to …)

I: intimacy = emotions (I feel comfortable discussing the subject)

S: self-orientation (I can trust that he cares)

The denominator of this fraction is (of course) what has the biggest impact here. You have to convince your clients that you really understand their requirements and objectives. The conversion rate will be lower if the client thinks the seller is focussing on themselves, regardless of the quality of your products or your sales person’s knowledge. In this case the seller is not being driven by the client but by a bonus that depends on the deal being struck, the internal pressure of a forecast, the special offer they want to sell, management’s desire to sell more of these solutions, or the belief that they’re an expert and want to prove it to you.

So consider risk management and look at all the conditions that can have an impact on sales when deciding how to improve your sales performance.