“A Sure Fire Remedy for Discounting”

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Back on March 30, John Barrows posted a blog on his site that I’m going to re-post here with some comments. I like the topic John addressed, discounting, and I liked his solution – be in a position where you don’t have to. It’s an answer to the temptation to offer discounts to fatten your sales numbers at the end of a reporting period.

But there is another discounting pressure besides your end-of-period report – winning the individual sales opportunity. It’s coming to a close and you’re sure you’re not in a position to win, so you drop your price and even if you still don’t win, at least you’ve cut into the competition’s profit margin when the customer uses your price to leverage a discount out of them.

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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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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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Putting Theory into Practice: The Never-Ending Close and Why You Will Lose the Sale

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Never Ending

A couple of weeks ago, Keith Thompson talked about how the sales cycle should be viewed as an elastic band, expanding or contracting as things inevitably change. Today, I’d like to talk about a classic example that many of us have been through – and that is the never-ending close phase.  You get to the end, and the buyer keeps putting you off. Why is this happening, and what should you do?

Lets describe the opportunity. You’re speaking with a new potential customer and you learn of a need for your product and they tell you they’re going to evaluate three suppliers and pick one within two months. They ask for product information, a demonstration/presentation, and ultimately pricing, and you provide everything as requested and on schedule. Everything seems to fit and you’re feeling pretty good.

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Sales Types: The Bag Diver

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Bag Diver

A while back, a customer of ours used a term that I really liked and often refer to. We were talking about the process of selling, and he said something along the lines of how salespeople need to avoid becoming “Bag Divers.” I’d like to talk about this concept a bit more.

When you make your first visit to a potential customer, do you make sure you’ve learned everything you can about their business before you arrive? Is your presentation tailored to them, or is it the same one you give to every customer on a first visit? If you are doing a demonstration, is it a general exposition of your solution, or is it a focused presentation on how your solution can help your customer reach their goals?

Remember, in most solution-style sales situations, you are there to help the customer identify their specific pain, and show them exactly how your company and product can help them.

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The Ever-Changing Sales Cycle

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Rubber Bands

Many years ago I studied physics at the University of Reading in the UK. The physics building was called the J J Thomson Physical Laboratory. J J Thomson was famous for developing the “plum pudding” model of the atom. J J didn’t call his work that, other scientists did. Using homely metaphors is common in science to help explain complicated things to people having trouble understanding them.

I’m keen on this technique, that’s why in my book on sales automation I wrote:

“The origin of the earth in a “big bang” can be described in the few lines of an equation. Why can’t an accurate sales forecast depend on a nine-point Probability Matrix and the three-dimensional Priority Cube? In fact, it can, because logic and mathematics are the easiest languages for computers to understand.”

Following on in this vein, this post introduces the “elastic band” theory of the sales cycle. I know that comparing the sales cycle to an elastic band is s-t-r-e-t-c-hing things a bit . . . but bare with me.

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An IBO Has a Persona

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Let me explain. First off, an IBO is short for the fancy name Identified Business Opportunity. At SalesWays, we prefer the term IBO because it reinforces that the deal we are working on is a real sales opportunity. John Darrin talks about filtering real opportunities from the salesperson’s pile of “stuff” in in his ongoing series “Getting Sales Done”.

A salesperson’s working existence is focused fair and square behind the sales opportunity. Without the sales opportunity there is no sale, selling or salesperson. I think a sales opportunity can have a persona just like a person. A persona is the distinct way that you may be perceived by others. It’s not difficult to tie a persona to a person who shows a distinct personality or face to the world.

The way I’m using the term here, though, is in the sense of putting character, style or image on something inanimate, in this case a sales opportunity. The reason I think I can do that goes like this. Sit down with any salesperson and review with them a list of their current active sales situations. I wager that each potential deal will engender some kind of personal response from the salesperson, ranging from positive to negative and a slice of blah in between.

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What Are Sales Skills

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Sales Skills

If you ask that question of ten different sales people, you’ll get twelve different answers. Try Googling “sales skills” and see what comes up.

What doesn’t come up is any consistency whatsoever. You’ll find everything from “managing the buyer/seller relationship” to “good listening” to “controlling your state of mind.” At just the first four hits, there are twenty-one different skills, with only six of those appearing on two or more sites. With this kind of latitude, I could classify good grooming as a sales skill. The only clarity gained here is that everyone has an opinion about the critical sales skills, and we don’t agree too often.

Now, each and every one of those twenty-one skills are valid and important (although “having more fun” is really a universal skill, not so much sales-specific, and one I try to practice at every opportunity), but aren’t these really more techniques that you practice rather than skills that you learn? The dictionary defines “skill” as “the ability, coming from one’s knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc. to do something well.”

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