Traits of Top Salespeople

"Top salespeople are knowledgeable: they know their product, their market, and their competition very well."

Tag: strategy

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: https://www.pexels.com/photo/skyscrapers-with-reflecting-walls-in-modern-megapolis-7078666/
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)

The 5 Basic Sales Strategies – part 5 of 5 – Develop

The 5 Basic Sales Strategies – part 5 of 5 – Develop

This is the fifth and last part of my series discussing the five basic sales strategies. To remind you of the list, they are:

  1. Frontal
  2. Flanking
  3. Fragment
  4. Defend
  5. Develop

Every sales manager and salesperson should be familiar with these strategies. The sales team should understand which approach they should employ in various situations.

5. Develop

A develop strategy establishes a position for possible future engagements. It is used when you know that there is genuine potential in the account, but it is not ready to move forward at this time. In this case, it is vital to establish credibility with the prospect to take advantage of a future change of priorities.

I frequently talk on these pages as well as in my book, Eliminate Your Competition that you as a salesperson are selling three things:

  • your product,
  • your company,
  • yourself.

Being in develop mode means you have time to build the credibility of the latter two before the prospect realizes that they need the first one.

There are times when the prospect’s prioritization of pains versus goals do not allow the spending of money. This situation is where the develop strategy is used most often. While other sales philosophies will talk about identifying a prospect’s pain, that is simply not enough. There is a lot of pain in any given organization, but most people simply tolerate the pain. It is only when the organization has a goal of eliminating that pain that they will spend money. Identifying pain is simply not enough, you must create a goal to eliminate the pain.

Hunters despise this strategy. They will seldom use it. Their goal is not to have long, drawn-out sales campaigns. A prospect that is not ready to move forward simply slows down the Hunter.

Farmers and Gatherers relish this strategy. The difference between them and Trappers are the tools to develop a prospect into a customer. Typically, a Gatherer or a Farmer will wait for the customer to realize the pain needs to be solved.

A Trapper puts every account in his/her target list into the develop strategy. When a prospect starts to be interested in achieving a goal, the Trapper will evolve the approach to one of the other strategies.

This is the final post in my series of the five main sales strategies. I hope it made you think a little bit. I also hope it gave you some ideas to close that next deal.

If you don’t know what a Hunter, Gatherer, Farmer or Trapper is, you should read my book Eliminate Your Competition. 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.

Header Photo by geralt (Pixabay)

This post is the fifth in a series of posts covering the five basic sales strategies. I cover the five basic sales strategies in these posts:

The 5 Basic Sales Strategies – part 4 of 5 – Defend

The 5 Basic Sales Strategies – part 4 of 5 – Defend

This is the fourth part of my series discussing the five basic sales strategies. To remind you of the list, they are:

  1. Frontal
  2. Flanking
  3. Fragment
  4. Defend
  5. Develop

Every sales manager and salesperson should be familiar with these strategies.

4. Defend

A defend strategy protects your position from the inevitable assault from your competitors. It almost goes without saying that you need to be a vendor to the company to apply this strategy. The company must be a customer and not a prospect.

To effectively use this strategy, the salesperson must develop high-level customer relationships. Even if the original purchase was transacted at lower levels, the salesperson must take steps to move higher in the organization. This is not something that can be accomplished at the last minute. The wise salesperson will immediately start increasing executive conversations. This should happen almost from the minute the first deal is closed.

Remind these executives and their subordinates of the benefits that they are receiving by using your product. This sets the stage for defending your position when the inevitable competitor tries to come in and eat your lunch.

Also, you must be aware of changing conditions (especially organizational changes) that would hurt you. Any executives that may be replaced may allow your offering to be discounted in favor of a competitor. By continuously building your value at all levels of the organization, you will protect yourself when change happens. An organizational change could introduce a competitor’s friend into a position of influence.

Gatherers are the most frequent user of this sales strategy. I explained in my book that a Gatherer that does an effective job of using the defend strategy can be almost impossible to unseat.

Farmers can use this strategy, but the reality is that a Farmer that executes this strategy is far more likely to be a Gatherer than a Farmer.

Hunters rarely use this strategy. Almost by definition, a Hunter is not spending time with existing customers. In the event, that a natural Hunter has some existing customers, they are likely acting more like a Gather, Farmer, or Trapper than a Hunter.

Trappers will use the defend strategy combined with another approach. They will defend their installed base as I describe above. Trappers will also aggressively use one of the other four strategies to grow their presence in the account.

If you don’t know what a Hunter, Gatherer, Farmer or Trapper is, you should 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.

Header Photo by johnhain (Pixabay)

This post is the fourth in a series of posts covering the five basic sales strategies. I cover the five basic sales strategies in these posts:

The 5 Basic Sales Strategies – part 3 of 5 – Fragment

The 5 Basic Sales Strategies – part 3 of 5 – Fragment

This is the third part of my series discussing the five basic sales strategies. To remind you of the list, they are:

  1. Frontal
  2. Flanking
  3. Fragment
  4. Defend
  5. Develop

Every sales manager and salesperson should be familiar with these strategies. Everyone should understand which approach they should use in various situations.

3. Fragment

The fragment strategy is a great strategy when you are politically weak in an organization. It is also useful when your product is not as full-featured as other products. Younger companies should consider using a fragment strategy in most sales situations.

A fragment strategy divides the opportunity into smaller pieces and focuses the customer on a subset of the issues that you can address. It is a “divide and conquer” strategy. It is mainly used to get your foot in the door or to bypass direct competition from stronger competitors.

Every salesperson should understand this strategy. It is very effective at gaining a foothold in target accounts. It is far easier to sell more to a customer that is already happy with you, then it is to convince a brand new prospect. The fragment strategy helps get that first order.

The strategy depends on the salesperson identifying specific unique features within the product. He or she then explains the related benefits to individuals at the prospect that are primarily focused on the reduced goals. It is essential to bypass the main decision-making group and focus on targeted people.

A Hunter salesperson will often resort to this strategy if the Frontal strategy is ineffective. This is probably the second most used strategy. It allows them to achieve some success in the face of more entrenched competition.

A Farmer salesperson will also use this strategy effectively. It is almost the preferred method for Farmers because they thrive on understanding the needs of a few individuals.

A Gatherer will resort to a variation of the fragment strategy because of her relationships with the account. In the face of a superior competitor, a Gatherer will try to segment off part of the evaluation that is suited to her product. She will convince the customer that this smaller win combined with the long term relationship of the Gatherer is enough for the account.

A Trapper will use this strategy effectively whenever it makes sense to eliminate the competition.

If you don’t know what a Hunter, Gatherer, Farmer or Trapper is, you should read my book Eliminate Your Competition. 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.

Header Photo by wilhei (Pixabay)

This post is the third in a series of posts covering the five basic sales strategies. I cover the five basic sales strategies in these posts:

The 5 Basic Sales Strategies – part 2 of 5 – Flanking

The 5 Basic Sales Strategies – part 2 of 5 – Flanking

This is the second part of my series discussing the five basic sales strategies. To remind you of the list, they are:

  1. Frontal
  2. Flanking
  3. Fragment
  4. Defend
  5. Develop

Every sales manager and salesperson should be familiar with these strategies. They should understand which approach they should use in various situations.

2. Flanking

A flanking strategy shifts the focus of the customer’s buying criteria to new or different issues that favor your solution. It means you are not playing by the rules. You are taking a completely different approach then your competitors expect.

The challenge with a flanking strategy is that you need to truly understand the dynamics of the prospect. You must understand both the personal and organizational needs. It can only be used with opportunities where the salesperson has an influential inside advisor (a Coach). Ultimately, the strategy needs a strong Champion. The strategy requires you to have multiple value propositions that are relatively unique to your offering.

Trappers and Gatherers excel at this strategy. They tend to be the most efficient at convincing the customer to include other criteria. This extra criterion was not immediately obvious to the initial decision-making team. Trappers and Gatherers innately understand the prospect’s internal politics and long-term goals. This understanding is the power of a flanking strategy. The goal is to remind the customer of a more extensive set of issues than just the immediate need to purchase a specific type of product or service.

A Farmer salesperson rarely uses this type of strategy effectively. As the Farmer increases his or her individual sales skills, the use of flanking becomes more natural, and the Farmer evolves into a Trapper.

A Hunter salesperson will rarely use a flanking strategy initially. The Hunter may turn to it after the successful use of a different approach such as Fragment. It usually takes too much innate knowledge of the prospect to pull off for a Hunter that has just recently started calling on the company.

If you don’t know what a Hunter, Gatherer, Farmer or Trapper is, you should 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.

Header Photo by O12 (Pixabay)

This post is the second in a series of posts covering the five basic sales strategies. I cover the five basic sales strategies in these posts:

The 5 Basic Sales Strategies – part 1 of 5 – Frontal

The 5 Basic Sales Strategies – part 1 of 5 – Frontal

There are five basic approaches to a sales campaign. Each strategy will work some of the time. Unfortunately, none of the strategies will work every time. Unless your product is currently unbeatable in the marketplace, you will have to be flexible in the chosen strategy.

  1. Frontal
  2. Flanking
  3. Fragment
  4. Defend
  5. Develop

Three “Fs” and two “Ds” are an easy way to remember this list. In school, these grades would have you fail the semester and kick you off the sports team. In sales, they are the key to your next series of steps to eliminate your competition and increase your commission.

Over the next 5 days, I am going to review each of these strategies. I hope you come back to read all five.

1. Frontal

A frontal strategy requires you to have a clear and concise advantage over your competition. This can be an overconfidence trap that you might temper when you lose a few crucial deals. It requires execution excellence, speed, or surprise to put you ahead. Because you must be front and center with your prospect, it is also resource-intensive. It requires that you are always pressing your advantage.

Unfortunately, the frontal strategy is the most often used and the easiest to defeat.

A frontal strategy is a direct approach due to your overwhelming superiority in solution, price, or reputation. It requires that the three things that you sell are all significantly better than everything else on the market.

Those three things are:

  • your product,
  • your company,
  • yourself.

If you look at this list from the bottom up, do you honestly think you are significantly better than the individual that you are competing against? I am sure you do feel superior but are you so much better that there is no question that you would beat them in every sales situation? If you really are that amazing, reach out to me (Twitter or LinkedIn) as I will want to hire you at my current company where I am the Chief Revenue Officer.

Continuing up the list, you should ask yourself the same question about your employer. Is your employer so amazing that it cannot be compared to any of your competitors?

Finally, at the top of the list is your product. It is quite possible that your product has leapfrogged all of the competition and there is no comparison. In this situation, you cannot ever lose because a truly superior product will overcome all of the deficiencies of your company and you personally. This does occasionally happen and selling this type of product is quite literally like taking candy from babies. However, you need to be very confident that this is the case because if your product superiority is not there, it is very possible that one of the other sales strategies will ensure that you eliminate your competition instead of your competition eliminating you.

The allure of the Frontal strategy is that it is obvious. It reminds you of a sporting event: you versus your competitor. Let the best package win. Unfortunately, most sporting teams eventually lose. So you risk your commission if you cannot produce a consistently superior package.

Because it is so apparent, it is the one strategy that you can execute if you know nothing about your prospect. For this reason, it is the most common strategy of Hunters. Hunters usually arrive at a deal when it is well underway by the prospect and they are actively looking for a way to achieve one of their goals. Because of the late arrival of a Hunter, it is effortless to fall into a frontal attack.

Conversely, a Gatherer and a Farmer will rarely use a frontal strategy. A Trapper will only use it when it is evident that the Trapper has an overwhelming advantage.

If you don’t know what a Hunter, Gatherer, Farmer or Trapper is, you should read my book Eliminate Your Competition which is available wherever books are sold. 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.

Header Photo by jarmoluk (Pixabay)

This post is the first in a series of posts covering the five basic sales strategies. I cover the five basic sales strategies in these posts: