Search Results for ‘selling skills’

Selling Skills: Part 1 – Sales Cycle Fundamentals

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Selling Skills

While preparing for this series I was looking through a set of posts that John Darrin did a while ago so there would be no overlap. When it came to selling skills, this is what John had to say:

“These three skills are used with varying emphasis from the start of the sales cycle (Probe – Probe – Probe and maybe a little Prove) to the end (Close – Prove – Close again). In fact, the sales cycle itself can be broken into stages defined by the application of the appropriate skill. The first stage is predominantly Probing with a little Proving. As you progress and learn and plan, you Prove much more and still Probe. Finally, there comes a time when you Close, still Proving as you encounter obstacles and Probing a little to be sure your knowledge is accurate and nothing has changed.

Go ahead – name a sales skill that doesn’t fit. “

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The TASC Top 10 – Number 3 You don’t know whether to talk or listen at a key customer meeting.

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Here’s number three in the “TASC Top 10” tip sheets for sales automation that come from the “legacy” days of SalesWays, originally written by our sister company Ardexus.

This one goes to the heart of how ASPEC looks at the sales cycle – as a natural flow of the the communications between the customer and the salesperson as the sales cycle evolves from start to end.

ASPEC says the sales cycle flows through three “phases” – Probe, Prove, and Close. These phases are as much a part of all sales as sunrise to sunset as day moves to night. All sales, from simple (retail) to complex (think BIG, like fleet of airplanes) follow this pattern. That’s how ASPEC can sensibly tell the salesperson what kind of strategies are needed for a precise point in the sale. 

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Using the Three Fundamental Selling Skills

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Early Notebook

This messy looking image shows part of my notes taken on 21 Nov 1996 in a discussion about what happens in the sales cycle.

I put the image here for two reasons:

1. Ed likes us to put a picture at the beginning of all our posts; and,

2. It serves to remind me of the legacy thinking that contributed to the ASPEC sales methodology.

There is a third reason that has to do with my age, how long I’ve been in this business, and . . . . well, I won’t get into that. (Ed. Heh heh heh)

The last post about selling skills showed the sales cycle divided into three phases—kind of a beginning, a middle, and an end. The salesperson is called upon to use a specific skill-set in each of these phases, driven by the underlying flow of the customer’s buying process. The skill sets are called “fundamental skills.” So, the salesperson uses Probing skills in the first Probe phase, Proving skills in the middle Prove phase, and Closing skills in the final Close phase.

Simple? No, nothing in sales is simple.

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Blending Selling Styles

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Blending Colors

The conclusion from the last post on selling styles was that there are just two that underpin the natural way salespeople go about selling—these are relationship focus and opportunity focus. The best salespeople will be comfortable with both and, according to the customer interaction, will use a blend of both. Before we take a look at that blending let’s be sure we understand both selling styles.

Opportunity-Focused Selling

Opportunity-focused salespeople are the planners and the tacticians. They treat the competition as the enemy, and the sales opportunity as the war zone. They compete by figuring out what their opponents are going to do, and neutralizing those actions before they have any effect. Relationships are less important to them than making the most of their sales know-how, and using it.

They are keenly aware that the more opportunities in the sales funnel, the more they will win, so they keep the funnel topped up by making it a mission to turn more leads into opportunities.

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Relationship Sales vs Opportunity Sales – Who Wins?

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Process Algorithm

Recently someone on a LinkedIn group sales thread asked the question, “what’s the difference between sales process and sales method.” Mostly the replies were spot on, but I noticed a couple of comments along the lines of “who cares?”

I think that most salespeople are using some form of process or method, but many don’t realize it. If you are computerizing the way you do sales, you have to be conscious of method and process. These two factors determine how good your sales automation will be.

For instance, today I’m writing about selling styles, which I would say fall under the category of sales method. But selling styles are also indelibly linked to sales process—at least, in the way we use them in Opportunity Portfolio Management.

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Selling Is a Full-Contact Sport

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Times they are a-changing… and so is the face of selling. While selling remains a full-contact sport, there are some rules changes. Before we look at these, let’s examine the sport of Buying.

Unlike selling, buying has moved to being a non-contact sport for many items. Nowadays, buyers can actually sit in front of their televisions with a remote control and a telephone and make purchases without ever coming in contact with a salesperson. Within a very few years, buyers won’t even need the telephone. You’ll simply push a few buttons on your remote control and a signal will be sent from the TV to the remote site and the order will be placed, your credit card debited, and, in some cases, the product might even be delivered before you turn off your TV for the day. Sound far-fetched? It’s already a reality for pay TV, so why not with simple commodities?

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The Four Selling Types and Where You Should Be

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matrix opporutnity vs relationship

Last time we finished at the point of declaring two basic selling styles, which we called relationship- and opportunity-focused. Only two? Well, we are at the 60,000 foot level here. Although these are broad generalizations, salespeople will have no trouble concluding in which camp they or their associates feel most comfortable. It boils down to selling through devising strategies or through relationship building, and at the end of the day, a bit of both. In this post we’ll use the 2 x 2 matrix tool to see how that works out.

Salespeople will have a comfort zone that lies to some degree with one of the two styles, and it’s important to know and recognize that. The affinity for one style over the other will also shift depending on circumstances, depending even how you feel physically or mentally on a particular day. It’s tough to appear to be the brightest star the room when you are sick with a bad case of the flu. Once you know which of the styles put you in your element, you can work on the other and become more proficient at blending it in.

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Selling Styles and Customer Interactions

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Interaction Styles

An earlier post discussed the two selling styles and how salespeople needed to blend them to suit the occasion—a particular point in the sales cycle. What is meant by blending styles? To answer this question, we need to revisit customer interactions. Most selling is done in face to face interactions with the customer, and sales cycles usually involve several meetings in which the salesperson plays out a scripted strategy to win the sale.

Although a good salesperson will have mapped out the objectives of a call beforehand, things don’t always go as planned. The customer may be having a bad day which will bring the salesperson’s personal skills into play. Conversely, the customer may be ready to take off for a weekend at the cottage, and the salesperson must try to get the business taken care of as there may not be another chance for a long time. The salesperson must hop between relationship and opportunity focus as appropriate.

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The Probing Demo: Using the Right Selling Skills At The Right Time

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In a previous article, I categorized the probing skill as the most overlooked of the three selling skills: probing, proving, and closing. Probing is asking the questions before giving the answers. It’s listening to what the customer says, thinking about that in relation to your own products and sales environment, asking follow-up questions and listening again, repeat. You never stop probing, you only do less of it as you learn more and are able to use that knowledge to move through the sales cycle.

Many sales people are reluctant to ask the questions, maybe thinking it shows their ignorance or something. And even those who do ask often don’t listen to the answers and think about them and react accordingly. They have accumulated information, but they haven’t gained any knowledge. It’s like hearing the weather forecast. If you don’t get your umbrella, it is useless information.

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Sales – An Art or a Science?

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Da Vinci Art or Science

This question is often debated. The most imaginative answer I’ve seen is “neither.” I think one of the reasons it comes up a lot is that people are also tied up in knots answering another question, “is sales a profession.” We won’t talk about that one now, other than to say, “yes it most certainly is a profession!”

It’s not only sales that gets this treatment though. A few years ago Tom Peters mused about economics. He pointed out that there is a Nobel Prize for Economics, but not one for Business Management. He goes on to say, “make no mistake: Management is an art . . . not a science. (Frankly, it’s not all that clear to many, even those in the field, that economics is a science).”

I find it interesting as to how broadly the question of art versus science can be applied to just about any profession. When people have a talent for the “art”, we say that they are “naturally” good at something. Being naturally good means that you have talent that you were born with. As people are so different, you can be good in many different ways.

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