The Difficult Close

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Most closing strategies assume that you developed the correct selling strategy for the opportunity and properly executed effective tactics. Closing then becomes the natural result of the strategy and tactics, and done right, it is seamless and predictable. Of course, it usually doesn’t work that way

Take a look at your won/lost ratio. It’s your professional batting average and what it tells you is the probably 75% of the time, give or take, you lose. So three times out of four when you arrive at the closing phase of the sales cycle, it’s, if not clear, then at least likely that you’re not going to win this one. So what do you do at that point?

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Arm Yourself With A New Sales Strategy and Sales Tool: Change

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Change. It happens all the time, and sales cycles are no exception. Maybe even more often than in other professions, change happens. You’ve got a mix of personalities and factors. You’ve got a winner-takes-all process with dollars and careers on the line. There is competition, sometimes severe competition. There are others out there whose goal is to screw you over. They make plans, set their tactics to do so in secret and will spring them on you unannounced.

And that’s just on the selling side. On the buying side, you have many of the same factors. Budgets disappear, organizations re-organize, schedules expand or contract, urgency disappears or increases, new solutions to old problems are found, and so on.

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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 Trial Close Surprise: I Want To Buy From You, But…

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“I want to buy from you, but the rest of the committee doesn’t.”

The words struck fear and dread in my heart. I was hoping to close the biggest sale I’d ever made, but when I called expecting to hear that the PO was on the way, instead I heard:

“I want to buy from you, but the rest of the committee doesn’t.”

“What committee?” I stammered.

“The other four professors. The rest of the purchasing committee,” came the reply.

“I didn’t know there was a committee,” I blurted out, incredulity infecting my voice.

“Well, you never asked. I just assumed you knew.”

This was the first I had heard about any committee. What the heck was I going to do now?

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What is Selling Part 2

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I’m tackling the answer to this question by focusing on just one angle—building up a model sales process to work naturally with sales automation. It’s of particular interest to me because I’ve spent a fair chunk of my life doing just that. Because I describe sales predominantly in the language I’m defining in these posts, you might guess that a conversation between myself and a sales trainer or sales guru of the standard stripe has no option but to get very loud and even confrontational. They usually invent their clever terms and are unlikely to agree with my pursuit of a common, consistent language.

But that’s OK—as Paul Young sang, “Everything Must Change.

We designed our first production CRM application in the early nineties. It was very much sales centric. Basically, the three cornerstones of CRM technology are marketing, sales, and service. Our business was sales—we were a national distributor of high technology products and our foray into CRM was designed to make our sales team flourish. To make the story short, the sales methodology we devised centered around the sales opportunity, which we called an IBO (Identified Business Opportunity). There was strong workflow for lead conversion and the sales process to win deals. So when we commercialized the program, that’s what we promoted to people who were interested in purchasing the technology.

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What Is Selling?

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A big peeve of mine is the terrible inconsistency in the language of sales. Ask five salespeople what a sales cycle is and you’ll get five different answers, and it’s conceivable that a couple of those may have no relation to one another. Considering the dearth of formal sales training at academic level this is understandable, but it can lead to enormous frustration in discussions about how technology may improve selling.

I don’t know of any other professions where this is true. Most professional vocabularies were decided and locked centuries ago, and sooner rather than later, sales and selling will have to follow suit. In a previous post I referred to my 1950’s series of business books. The book on selling has a small section titled “What is Selling?” that goes on for around three pages. It basically condenses to this:

“The successful sale consists of the following elements:

1. It induces others to buy a commodity or service

2. Which confers some needed benefit on them, and

3. At a price which yields a profit to the company”

This is also the way I understand it — it’s not rocket science. Selling is the ability of the salesperson to persuade a customer to purchase their company’s commodity or service, thereby yielding a benefit to the customer and a profit for the company.

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