Traits of Top Salespeople

"Top salespeople are flexible: they know how to adapt their sales presentation if their prospect’s situation changes."

Tag: competition

The Power of Decision Timelines in Streamlining Sales Processes

The Power of Decision Timelines in Streamlining Sales Processes

In situations where complex deals and large buying teams are the norms, the path to closing a deal often feels like navigating a labyrinth. My discussions with clients have illuminated the critical role of a well-structured approach in guiding selling and buying teams through this maze.

A pivotal element in this structured approach is the adoption of a Decision Timeline (DT): a collaborative project plan outlining action items for both parties to facilitate a decision that leads to a financial transaction for a product or service.

Understanding the Decision Timeline

A Decision Timeline serves as a high-level agreement on the activities between the sales organization and the prospect. It’s not about detailing every step with meticulous precision but about establishing a roadmap that guides both parties to a decision point. The timeline aims not to rigidify the sales process but to provide flexibility, allowing for negotiation and adaptation as new needs arise. It’s a tool to set expectations, with checkpoints for both parties to confirm their willingness to proceed. This approach fosters transparency and mutual understanding, addressing potential roadblocks early and ensuring alignment on the ultimate goal: a decision that culminates in an order.

A Decision Timeline is a strategic framework designed to address the buyer’s pain points throughout the sales cycle. By involving potential customers at every stage, DTs can significantly shorten sales cycles and increase the likelihood of closing deals. This collaborative approach aligns the selling team with the customer’s outcomes and actively engages the prospective customer in crafting the solution.

Benefits of Decision Timelines

One of the primary advantages of a DT is its ability to create a more engaging and collaborative environment for the prospective customer. Instead of being passive recipients of a sales pitch, customers become active participants in shaping the solution. This involvement can lead to quicker resolution of sales objections and a deeper understanding of the value and impact of the solution. Furthermore, DTs provide a clearer projected revenue forecast, allowing sales teams to predict deal closures with greater accuracy.

Implementing a Decision Timeline

Outline Roles and Responsibilities

A successful DT begins with clearly delineating roles and responsibilities, transcending traditional job titles. For instance, a salesperson might assume the role of project manager, while the primary contact might be responsible for data access and metrics. It’s crucial to define these roles within the context of the DT to ensure all needs are met and priorities are aligned, thereby facilitating buyer engagement.

Map Out Your Timeline

An explicit timeline is essential for guiding the mutual action plan to completion. This timeline should accommodate both parties’ deadlines, significant milestones, and any personal time off. Flexibility is key, as adjustments may be necessary, but proactive planning can mitigate potential disruptions.

Add Action Items and Deliverables

With the timeline established, the next step is to define specific action items and deliverables, assigning responsibility to team members. This clarity ensures accountability and facilitates progress tracking, keeping the plan on course towards completion.

Projected Outcomes and ROI

A critical element of the Decision Timeline is documenting projected outcomes and ROI calculations. This ensures that the expectations and interests of all stakeholders are addressed, reducing the risk of last-minute objections or deal loss. Engaging the buying team in this process is a safeguard, ensuring that the solution meets their needs and expectations.

Use Decision Timelines in all of your Complicated Deals

Adopting Decision Timelines represents a strategic shift towards a more collaborative and effective sales process. This tool facilitates better alignment between selling and buying teams and offers a structured approach to overcoming obstacles and achieving mutual success. By implementing these strategies, sales professionals can navigate the complexities of the sales cycle with greater clarity, efficiency, and predictability, ultimately leading to more closed deals and satisfied customers.

As we continue to navigate the evolving landscape of sales, the importance of mutual understanding, flexibility, and collaboration cannot be overstated. Adopting Decision Timelines is not merely a tactical choice but a strategic imperative for those seeking to thrive in the competitive arena of B2B sales.

You Can Win Business Against Larger Competitors

You Can Win Business Against Larger Competitors

In most industries, a single company controls the market. Compared with their competitors, they have a much larger market share, top-of-the-line products, a more significant marketing budget and reach, and more company cachet. Life can be very intimidating for salespeople who compete against these industry giants.

However, a Harvard Business Review study provides some good news in this regard. Buyers aren’t necessarily fixated on the market leader and are more than willing to select second-tier competitors than one might expect. In fact, only 33% of participants indicated they prefer the most prestigious, best-known brand with the highest functionality and cost. Conversely, 63% said they would select a fairly well-known brand with 85% of the functionality at 80% of the cost. However, only 5% would choose a relatively unknown brand with 75% of the functionality at 60% of the cost of the best-known brand.

There are a few keys to competing with more prominent companies. In general, they boil down to just being a competent salesperson but let’s list some of the elements.

  1. Do your research – know your competition and what they offer
  2. Create a unique selling proposition (USP) that sets you apart from the competition
  3. Focus on quality over quantity – make sure each product or service is the best it can be
  4. Offer customer service that is superior to your competitors
  5. Stay up to date with industry trends, and find ways to incorporate them into your business
  6. Promote yourself online and offline through social media, networking events, and advertising

1. Do your research – know your competition and what they offer

Knowing your competition and what they offer is essential, as any salesperson knows. By understanding what your competition is offering, you can be sure to target your sales pitch appropriately. In addition, you can use this knowledge to tailor your sales strategy to meet your potential customers’ needs best. For example, if your competition is offering a lower price point, you may want to focus on the quality of your product. Alternatively, if they target a different customer base, you may want to adjust your sales approach to appeal to your target market better.

In today’s competitive marketplace, trying to win sales by offering the lowest prices can be tempting. However, this is often not the best strategy in the long run:

  1. Competitors can always undercut you on cost, forcing you to lower your prices even further.
  2. Customers who only buy based on price are often the least loyal and likely to switch to a different supplier as soon as a better deal comes along.
  3. Focusing on price can distract you from other important aspects of your business, such as product quality and customer service.

For these reasons, it’s usually best to avoid competing on price. Instead, focus on offering a high-quality product or service at a fair price. This will help you attract and retain loyal customers willing to pay a little more for a company they trust.

2. Create a unique selling proposition (USP) that sets you apart from the competition

In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s more important than ever to have a unique selling proposition that sets you apart from the competition. Whether you’re selling products or services, your USP is what will make you stand out from the crowd and attract customers. There are a few critical components to creating a strong USP:

  1. You need to identify your target market and what needs or pain points they have that your business can address.
  2. It would help if you determined what makes your business unique and how you can best serve your target market.
  3. You must craft a clear and concise message that communicates your USP to your potential customers.

By taking the time to create a strong USP, you’ll be able to increase sales and grow your business.

It is essential to have a unique selling proposition (USP) that sets the business apart from its competitors. Many factors can contribute to a USP, but choosing one that is both relevant to the target market and achievable for the company is vital. For example, a business that sells eco-friendly products may focus on its sustainable manufacturing process, while a luxury retailer might highlight its exclusive range of designer labels.

By definition, a USP must be unique, so you should carefully consider what makes the business special before choosing a USP. Once the USP has been selected, it should be prominently featured in all marketing and sales communications to attract attention and drive sales.

3. Focus on quality over quantity – make sure each product or service is the best it can be

When running a successful business, there’s no substitute for quality. No matter how good your sales team is, they’ll never be able to sell an inferior product or service. That’s why it’s important to ensure that every one of your products or services is the best. Whether developing a new feature for an existing product or ensuring that your customer service is responsive and helpful, making quality a priority will always pay off in the long run. Not only will your customers be happier, but you’ll also see an increase in sales and loyalty. So don’t cut corners – instead, focus on making every one of your products or services the best they can be.

4. Offer customer service that is superior to your competitors

In today’s competitive marketplace, offering superior customer service is essential for businesses of all sizes. There are several ways to provide service that is superior to your competitors. One way is to ensure that your sales staff is knowledgeable about your products and services and can give informed recommendations. Another way is to offer a broader range of products and services than your competitors. You can also set yourself apart by offering more personalized service, such as customized product recommendations or assistance with troubleshooting problems. By providing superior customer service, you will be able to attract and retain more customers, giving you a significant advantage in the marketplace.

5. Stay up to date with industry trends, and find ways to incorporate them into your business

Sales representatives should always be up to date with industry trends. This can help them identify new sales opportunities and also be able to speak knowledgeably with potential customers about the latest products and services. There are a few different ways to stay up to date with industry trends. Representatives can attend trade shows and conferences, read industry news sources, and follow relevant social media accounts. Additionally, they can reach out to colleagues and other contacts within the industry to get insights into what is happening. By taking these steps, sales representatives can ensure that they are always ahead of the curve and able to capitalize on new opportunities.

Businesses must stay up to date with industry trends. By understanding the latest trends, companies can adapt their sales strategies to suit the needs of their customers better. Additionally, staying up to date with industry trends can help businesses identify new growth opportunities. For example, if a new trend emerges that is closely related to a business’s products or services, the company may be able to capitalize on this trend by marketing its products or services in a new way. Finally, keeping abreast of industry trends can help businesses stay ahead of their competitors. If a company is aware of a trend before its competitors, it may gain a competitive advantage by being the first to market its products or services in a new way. In short, there are many good reasons for businesses to stay up to date with industry trends.

6. Promote yourself online and offline through social media, networking events, and advertising

As a small business owner, promoting yourself online and offline is essential. Social media is a great way to reach potential customers and build awareness for your business. But don’t stop there – networking events and advertising can also be effective marketing tools.

When it comes to promoting your business, sales are essential, but so are building relationships and connecting with potential customers. That’s where networking comes in. Attending industry events and meeting potential customers can help you make those critical connections.

And don’t forget about advertising. There are various ways to get the word out about your business, from print ads to radio commercials. While online marketing is essential, offline advertising can also be a great way to reach potential customers.

You can effectively promote your business online and offline with a little effort. By using a combination of social media, networking, and advertising, you’ll be able to reach more potential customers and grow your business.

It would help if you were the best professional that you could be. You must embrace work as a profession, not as just another job. A professional salesperson is proud of his craft and tries to be the best that s/he can be.

In my book, Eliminate Your Competition, I discuss there are three things that you must sell:

  1. your product,
  2. your company,
  3. yourself.

Since most products have competition that solves the core of the same problems, products rarely win the deal by themselves. Since most companies are high quality, the company’s reputation rarely wins the deal. The significant variable in all sales opportunities is you. You can show you are a better partner and advocate than the other salesperson. You can show that buying from you is better than buying from another person.

You may purchase my book from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at retailers like AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

There is a way to beat your competition, even if they have all their advantages. Believe it or not, this is possible with the right sales skills. Many small businesses have used effective selling techniques to overtake their larger counterparts. So don’t be discouraged; you can outsell any competitor with the right approach and attitude. Start honing your skills today! What are you waiting for?

Header Photo by Laura Tancredi:
Don’t Negotiate With Yourself! It’s Not Personal, It’s Business

Don’t Negotiate With Yourself! It’s Not Personal, It’s Business

Congratulations! You are approaching the end of your sales campaign with a new prospect. Now you need to put the final deal together.

In many companies, the salesperson will have to go through extreme hurdles to allow any special concessions to the prospect. However, in some companies (especially in smaller companies), you only have to work with your immediate manager and maybe someone in legal. In either case, the salesperson will be advocating for concessions that make it easier to win the customer and have them sign the order.

Most companies that you sell to understand that the first offer is not the final offer. There is no reason to make an offer that is your “walk away – take it or leave it” offer on the first written proposal to the customer. As a salesperson trying to bring in the commission to increase your W2, it is natural to be a bit apprehensive if you have to make multiple offers.

First, be comfortable with this process. It is a process that people have done every day for as long as two people have been exchanging goods or services. As the book/movie by Mario Puzo, The Godfather, frequently said, “It’s not personal, it’s business.”

Second, if you have followed my advice in my book Eliminate Your Competition, you have virtually eliminated your prospects other choices. If you are dealing with someone in the purchasing department, they may not acknowledge that reality to you, but your Coach and your Champion have already told you that you have won the deal.

If you don’t know how to enter into the negotiations after beating all of your competition and eliminating them from consideration, I suggest that you read my book. You may purchase my book, Eliminate Your Competition, from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

Your Coach probably told you, “You’ve won, so don’t blow it with Purchasing.” This advice is nagging at you. If you work for a big company with lots of approvals, you have probably nicknamed that black hole of deal approval “The Order Prevention Department.” You don’t want to lose the deal at this point.

If you work for a small or a large company, always remember that your company wants the order, but they need to make sure that the order doesn’t violate internal processes (some you may not fully understand). There is no one on the Executive Committee trying to get LESS money into the company by walking away from deals.

It is tempting to pitch to your management a series of concessions so that the prospect buys at first sight.

Don’t Do It!

You cannot negotiate with yourself. You will always lose. You cannot say that if you give this discount or concede this term or condition, you will get credit for it in the customer’s eyes. The customer will never give you credit for something that they do not know about.

Think of it this way. Quite a while ago, there was a popular movie titled Pay It Forward. The film’s premise is that you pay for a favor by doing a favor for someone else. After that movie, some people would pay for the drive-thru order of someone in line behind them. The goal was that someone who really could not afford that meal but was quite hungry and had to eat would get a free meal.

What if you received such a gift, but the teller did not inform you who paid your bill. The teller didn’t say the car in front of you paid your fee, but instead, said there was no charge? Would you return that favor by paying for the car behind you? Of course not. You would assume that the restaurant manager granted you that favor and not by another good-willed person in your community. The person that did you that favor did not receive the credit; therefore, the ‘pay it forward’ chain breaks.

Even the book and movie by Mario Puzo, The Godfather, was famous for offering to do a favor in advance with the understanding that at some time in the future, a return favor will be requested.

By giving a concession to a buyer that they are not aware of, you are not getting credit for that concession. This favor works against you even more as corporate buyers frequently have to report to their superiors how much money they saved during the purchase process. By giving a concession without the buyer’s knowledge, you are not giving him that credit, and he will work hard to get further discounts (and these will be harder to grant on top of the original discounted offer).

Don’t ever give a customer a discount that the customer didn’t request or is not aware of receiving. Even “standard discounts” shown in the initial offer are assumed to be available to every customer and are accommodations of a list price that is not in keeping with the street price. The discount or concession is much more appreciated if the buyer is aware of a great deal and assumes you worked hard to get the approval.

Be confident in the process. Don’t negotiate with yourself as you will always lose – you will give without getting anything valuable in return.

Header photo The Godfather – 1 by komersreal

10 Things Sales Managers Should Know About Performance

10 Things Sales Managers Should Know About Performance

The following are key statistics every smart sales manager should know. The source of the following data is TAS Group which is now Altify, part of Upland Software.

  1. 2/3 of all salespeople miss quota
  2. 1/2 of all salespeople close at less than 40% of their quota
  3. The best reps are 250% better at qualifying leads
  4. 40% of salespeople can’t understand customer pain
  5. Only 46% of reps feel their pipeline is accurate
  6. Almost 1/2 of all sales teams don’t have a playbook
  7. Only 52% of salespeople can access key players at their prospects and customers
  8. When Sales/Marketing works well together, it adds 25% quota achievement and 15% win rate
  9. As I talk about in my book Eliminate Your Competiton if you make your response to your competitors part of your strategy, you are 39% more likely to be a high performing salesperson.
  10. Sales contribution to company strategy means a 15% revenue increase
Header Photo by PublicDomainPictures (Pixabay)

You Lost The Deal – Get Over It! There’s No Crying In Sales

You Lost The Deal – Get Over It! There’s No Crying In Sales

You lost. The customer decided to use a competitor’s product. You will not be getting that commission check.


I will not insult you by saying that it is just business and wasn’t personal. It is affecting you in a very particular way. You may feel inadequate or anger. You may also be in disbelief. You may be frustrated and disenfranchised. You may also have some fear and doubt. There may be some loss of income or anticipated income due to this loss, and now you will have to tell your significant other that the check won’t be as big.

Worse than all of those feelings, you may feel shame within your peer group and your company.

These are all common feelings, and you shouldn’t kid yourself into believing that they aren’t there. Instead, you should deal with these feelings head on and accept them. Plenty of ‘feel good’ books out there will lift your spirits, and my book is not one of them, and this site is not for crying.

To steal Tom Hanks’ line:

There is no crying in sales.

The best advice I have is to get right back out there and keep selling. You need to internalize these feelings and make them motivate you to accomplish more and be more successful. You have just felt emotions that you don’t like and don’t want to feel again. Use this as motivation to avoid these bad feelings again or to have the desire to inflict these emotions on your competitors.

Ask yourself these questions (if you haven’t read my book Eliminate Your Competition then these may not make sense – maybe that is why you lost).

  • Did you fill in every box of the Power Matrix? Were all those people unique?
  • Did you set up a Relationship Map that mapped all of your resources to the appropriate person at the prospect?
  • Did you set up Personal Vision Goals for every person in the Power Matrix?
  • Were you late to the deal and you acted like a Hunter rather than a Trapper?
  • Did you lay out the evaluation plan for the prospect?
  • Did you lay traps for all of your competitors?
  • Should you have focused on the winning competitor differently? Was it an A competitor that has similar capabilities or was it a B or C competitor that took the evaluation into your weaknesses.
  • Did you effectively sell your product, your company, and yourself?

If you don’t understand these questions, then you need to spend time with my book Eliminate Your Competition. It is designed to help you win more frequently and maximize your commission. You may purchase my book Eliminate Your Competition from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

You were outsold! Don’t make any other excuses for the loss. Accept it – you got beat. Now you must figure out what things caused you to be outsold. The wise outdoorsman trapper inspects all of his traps that are empty to find out if there is something wrong that the prey got away. You need to do that yourself if you want to be a Trapper. Hunter’s miss the target all the time and they make the excuse that the prey moved at the last second causing the miss. Farmer’s blame it on the environment when their efforts don’t produce results. Gatherers talk about all of the other business that they still have for that customer. However, a Trapper figures out what went wrong:

  • Did they not understand the prey?
  • Why didn’t the trap work?
  • Did they not place the trap in the correct location?
  • Did they use the wrong type of bait?

The big issue here is that you do not lie to yourself. You can lie to your boss. You can lie to your spouse. You can lie to everyone else, but do not lie to yourself.

Did you really do everything you could to win that deal?

Answer the above questions. Learn from your loss. Now get back up on that horse and make it happen.

Header Photo by JamesDeMers (Pixabay)
Is Your Prospect a Decision Maker OR a Decision Accepter

Is Your Prospect a Decision Maker OR a Decision Accepter

Many salespeople make the mistake of confusing Decision Makers with Decision Accepters. In the worst case, this leads to a lost sale. In the best case, this leads to lost selling cycles. You can recover from the lost selling cycles, but a lost deal is extremely detrimental to your compensation.

What is a Decision Accepter?

Frequently, salespeople confuse the organizational chart with the decision-making apparatus of a prospect. This most often happens with Hunters that do not have a history with the prospect. It also can occur with Farmers that trust that everything is going to go perfectly and therefore rarely plan for the inevitable curveball in the sales campaign. It rarely happens with Gatherers that have made a living out of extracting money from the prospect. Of course, it rarely happens with Trappers who plan ahead on their sales campaigns. If you are confused by these terms, I suggest you check out my book “Eliminate Your Competition” where I go into great detail on these subjects. You can also reach out to me through social media or direct contact on my blog

A Decision Accepter is a person of authority that “rubber stamps” the decision of others in his/her circle of influence. Most of the hard work of gathering data about a product and comparing that information with the needs of the organization is done by others. These influencers collate all of that positive and negative information and then make a decision on what to present to the final decision authority. I explain in my book “Eliminate Your Competition” that this process actually goes through several iterations as it goes through a Decision Making Triangle.

The reason that a Gatherer is so dominant in an account is because a Gatherer will frequently be in the circle of influence of a Decision Acceptor. A Gatherer that is appropriately motivated to close the deal can frequently bypass all of the organization’s decision-making apparatus and convince the Decision Accepter of a decision that the organization actually didn’t consciously make. To eliminate a Gatherer, you must force the decision back down to the decision-making apparatus, and the only practical way to do that is to start your sales campaign very early in the decision process.

The biggest thing to remember is that no one individual person makes a big decision in corporate sales. Instead, there are multiple decision makers, and there may be numerous Decision Acceptors. Understanding how the individuals in the organization work together is incredibly important to be successful at controlling the decision process.

While it is important to call to higher levels of an organization, it is equally important to call wide in an organization and to call low. In my book “Eliminate Your Competition” I explain the Power Matrix. The Power Matrix will help you develop a sales campaign that covers all of the Decision Makers and the Decision Accepter. You may purchase my book “Eliminate Your Competition” from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

The organization chart of your prospect will tell you who the Decision Accepter is within the organization. You will only know who the true Decision Makers are by doing the hard work of understanding your prospect’s goals and aspirations.

Are salespeople necessary in the Internet age?

Are salespeople necessary in the Internet age?

The question is often asked, “Are salespeople necessary in the Internet age?” The theory is that with the ability of the Internet to allow for massive research of technologies and products, what role does the salesperson have in the modern economy.

I will cut to the chase on my answer and then explain it later: The CFO can eliminate his sales force only if all of the following is true:

  • Your product is so simple and your relationship with the buyer is so straightforward that no Internet research is required. In other words, think of things that you buy in a mall or a grocery store (although I will explain an important caveat later in this post).
  • You have a commanding market share – probably in excess of 50%.
  • Your VP of Manufacturing and your VP of Supply Chain has told you that they cannot handle any increase in orders.

In every other case, your sales force is ABSOLUTELY necessary.

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Did you win or did the competition lose?

Did you win or did the competition lose?

You may not have won the deal. Instead, it is possible that your competition lost the deal.

You have probably been selling for a long time. Personally, I have been selling for three decades. I have sold tens of millions of dollars of products. If I tabulated it all, I might have sold in the hundreds of millions of dollars of products. I have probably won 500 deals in my career and thankfully have lost much fewer. I have sold deals measured in multiple millions of dollars and sold deals much smaller. My sales cycles have taken years, and they have taken days.

In short, I have seen a lot in my career, and I know that I still have 10-20 more years to build on my success.

With all of the deals that I have done, I can think of many times that I have screwed up and still won the deal. I am sure that if you tried to remember all of your closed deals, you could remember a few times that you didn’t do everything correctly.

Of course, when I say doing something correctly, I am saying following the specific steps of the published masters. The books teaching selling skills such as Solution Selling, Strategic Selling, Conceptual Selling, The Challenger Sale, Power Based Selling, Spin Selling, World Class Selling, and Customer Centric Selling.

This observation leads many people to say that these books are wrong. Since you violated every rule in these books and still won the deal, the books must be junk. Their advice is useless and irrelevant.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that you do not need to follow the advice of the masters. All you need is a competitor that does a worse job than you do! Let’s face it, many times a prospect is going to buy, and they are going to buy the best product that they can afford. If your competition is lousy, you just might win the deal because the competition lost the deal, and you didn’t screw up as badly.

In other words, you might be lousy at sales, but your competition could be even lousier.

There is an old joke. Two men were walking through the woods when a large bear walked out into the clearing no more than 50 feet in front of them. The first man dropped his backpack and dug out a pair of running shoes, then began to lace them up as the bear slowly approached them. The second man looked at the first, confused, and said, “What are you doing? Running shoes aren’t going to help, you can’t outrun that bear.” “I don’t need to,” said the first man, “I just need to outrun you.”

And now you know the reason there is a polar bear image in my header (BTW, the image was taken by one of my very good friends, Don Tredinnick).

Did you outrun your competition or were they just slow? Maybe you should invest in some self-learning and read a few of those books so that you can beat faster runners! Better yet, subscribe to this site so that you can read my book when it is published.