The Sales Process – “All the World’s a Stage …”

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Sales Process on Stage

“All the world’s a stage and we’re all players and salespeople.”

This quote is from an article by Liz Guthridge called, “Learn to love selling in the year of the snake.”

Actually, Liz was reviewing a recent book by Dan Pink called “To Sell Is Human.” I checked out the inside of the book on Amazon and placed an order—looks like good stuff to me.

Liz is enamored by a suggestion in the book to enhance the skills of pitching, improvisation, and serving. To focus on improvisation, she involves herself in a course of improv and finds it has a positive impact on her selling. Summing up she says, “With apologies to Shakespeare, I prefer selling to acting as influencing seems more natural to me . . .”

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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 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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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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Lean Sales – Every Activity Has a Context

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Puzzle Solution

Ed. Today we welcome a new guest contributor with an article from his blog. David Brock has over 20 years of sales, marketing, and management experience with high-tech manufacturers. As president of Partners In Excellence, Dave manages a team providing sales, marketing, service, and business strategy to his clients. We are pleased to present this and future contributions to The HUB, and here is a link to the original article at Dave’s blog.

I’m at the Forrester Sales Enablement Conference.  It’s fascinating, I’ll have a lot more to write over the coming weeks.  Last night, however, I was at dinner with a sales person.  We had a fascinating conversation — at least I thought so.

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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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Sales Effectiveness in CRM and Sales Automation

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Sales Effectiveness

Among the main objectives of listed in a recent survey of sales professionals conducted by CSO Insights with companies of various sizes and market segments, we find:

– Increase sales effectiveness
– Increase revenue
– Capture new accounts

The revenue increase goal is not surprising. After all, in our business environment this has always been the main driver of a company’s commercial activities. In times of fluctuating economic activity like those we are going through now, it is normal for companies to turn to their customer base where they feel more comfortable to deal with the difficulties that arise in these periods.

To meet the growth demands coming from shareholders and the market itself, it is not enough to act on existing customers. It is necessary not only to maintain and, if possible, to increase business in the customer base, but the main focus has to be on acquiring new customers. However, closing deals on new accounts requires more effort and more commitment from the sales team.

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Sales Tip: Know When To Give It Up

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Sales people often tend to concentrate on opportunities in the closing phase, no matter what the chances are. While there is so much to do in sales cycles in earlier stages, all the effort gets concentrated on the final battle. This leaves many other opportunities on the road – a wasteful, vicious circle.

But why is it? Why don´t sales people concentrate their effort more effectively? I think there are three main answers to this question: Loss aversion, sunk cost fallacy, and fear of criticism.

Loss aversion is an effect which is very well known in economic theory. We all have a tendency to avoid losses versus acquiring gains. A good example is the stock market where we may have invested in some shares which are starting to drop. Anticipating that the value of our investment is going to decline, it would be the right decision to sell at the very beginning of the decline and take a minor loss. But most people don´t do that.

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The Most Hated Selling Skill

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The most overlooked selling skill is Probing, asking the right questions and learning your opportunity environment. The most abused selling skill is Proving, demonstrating how your product fills the customers need. Closing is the most hated selling skill.

Hated might be overstatement. There are many sales people who claim to love closing. That’s generally because they’re doing it wrong.

“What will it take to put you in this car today” is not a good close even if you’re a used car salesman. And if it works once, it was probably because they were too motivated to buy to be chased off by such a contrived question. Don’t expect it to work again on that customer.

“Is this the kind of car that fits your family’s needs,” is a good trial close to discover product objections. Or, “would you like to see our financing terms so you can see how they compare to yours” might uncover some budget issues. When you get a positive answer to these and all of your other trial close questions, then you can ask for the business in a professional way. “It seems we’ve met all your needs and I’m ready to seal this deal if you’re comfortable with it.”

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The Most Abused Selling Skill – Proving

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You lead with “have I got a deal for you,” and you generally leave with nothing. Proving you have the best right-handed wrench in the world is useless to a left-hander.

Proving is the skill or persuading your customer that your solution fills his need and cures his pain better than your competitors. To do this, you have to thoroughly understand that need and feel that pain. Successful proving means you have to know what you have to prove.

But proving isn’t just about your solution. It’s also about you and your company and it starts the first time you speak to the customer or meet them. The way you dress, the design of your business card, your vocabulary, and everything about you that the customer can sense is proving. Your spaghetti sauce-stained tie doesn’t matter on a phone conversation, but slurring your words after too many Martinis would.

Many sales people go right to proving because it is the easiest and most natural thing to do. You know your product, you know your market, so you assume you know your customer. And maybe you do.

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