Sales Training Feed

5 Sales Training Tactics that Really Work

MattTusonToday's post is by Matt Tuson, EVP of Sales at NewVoiceMedia




Do your sales training efforts change the behavior of your sales reps and make your business more money? In many cases, sales training amounts to a booklet of old-fashioned ideas that have little to no impact on your business culture. 

However, proper sales training is essential – not only as a way to ensure you’re getting the best out of your team, but also to make sure processes are uniform across the company. And training isn’t just about new recruits. Every member of your team needs training from time to time.

Here are five tactics for effectively training your sales team – from beginners to experienced sellers.

1. Role play is still effective!

Most people learn best if they’re actually doing something, as opposed to just listening. Role play can give your team practical, hands-on training that forces them to think on their feet. Here are some good situations to role play:

  • how your team works in CRM
  • how they overcome objections
  • elevator pitches
  • cold calls
  • negotiation tactics

This is also a great opportunity to look for common selling mistakes, such as talking too much, over-educating, or failing to ask questions.

To make the most of role plays, record them. For example, ContactWorld for Sales allows you to record calls for training and legal compliance; this means you can analyze real calls with your team to see how they’re performing and whether they’re putting their training into action. Sometimes it’s only by evaluating what you do on a day-to-day basis that you can truly learn and improve.

2. Set up a peer mentor system

Peer mentoring is obviously essential during ramp-up for new hires, as there’s so much about the company itself to learn before you can begin selling effectively. But having input from a senior sales professional can also be useful later on in a sales person’s career.

3. Ensure your training covers why people buy

Too often, sales training covers the ‘logical side’ of sales – in other words, the features, functions and business benefits of the product or service and how to best communicate these to the prospect. While this is still important, sales training should also cover the emotional, political and subconscious forces that have an impact on the decision.

4. Build confidence with easy sells

Confidence is an essential skill for any salesperson. But, if you’re new in a job or you’re struggling to start out, your confidence – and, consequently, your ability to sell effectively – can take a knock.

For the first few months, focus new hires on products or prospects that you know to be an easy sell. Let your new sales team make sale after sale, and watch their confidence grow. When they come to tackle the riskier prospects later on, they’ll be filled with self-confidence, which will swing the sale their way.

5. Ensure training is consistent

Training needs to be consistent. This is because the only way you can get every member of your team to use a CRM the same way is if they all get the same information at the start. Experienced sales reps may be great at what they do, but, if the way they log progress on the CRM is different to everyone else (or lacking detail), they’ll be harder to manage and some information could get lost.

Without the right information, you’ll be missing valuable insights and will be unable to forecast accurately, which could have a direct impact on the business’ goals.

How do you train your sales team? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?


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The 3 Mistakes Salespeople Make with Decision Makers

Ron-LaVine-75x75Today’s post is by Ron LaVine, CEO of Accelerate Your Sales Results Sales Training Inc., a live-prospecting-call, sales-acceleration training firm in Oak Park, CA. For more information, call him at 818/991-6487 PST.


Many salespeople make three mistakes when dealing with decision makers:

  1. They assume that the person who has inquired about their solution through social media or the person they’ve called is the decision maker without confirming this beforehand.

  2. They deliver an need-solving message that is not targeted toward the customer or prospect but is based upon the benefits and corresponding measurable results produced by the rep’s other customers. 

  3. Once sales reps have reached decision makers, according to one study, almost 85 percent of inside sales reps fail to ask for a time- and date-specific action step at the end of every call.

How can you fix mistakes like these? First, call the prospect’s company and ask someone in upper management who is responsible for making decisions about acquiring your types of solutions. Then see if the recommended person is the same person who inquired or you plan to call.

Next, take the time to go through you customer successes and see if you can quantify the results they realized in terms of money, time, and/or resources. Once you have defined the decision maker’s typical personal and professional characteristics, then you can determine what types of short customer stories will resonate with this person BEFORE you speak with him or her.

Knowing your industry and the customer’s marketplace and competition should help you further narrow down your message to one or two succinct sentences. Consider an opening benefits/results value statement like this:

“[Decision maker’s first name], we work with other [title, such as CIOs] like you in companies such as [three of the prospect company’s competitors, well-known customers of yours, or your customers who are located near the prospect company that the decision maker would probably recognize] to help them [a specific faster/slower, easier/harder, less expensive, or better benefit]. This means they’ve been able to [either an increased or decreased measurable numeric result in terms of money, percentages, time, or resources].”

For example:

“Tom, we work with CSOs like you in companies such as Your Competitor 1, Your Competitor 2, and Your Competitor 3 to help them speed up the qualified sales that make it through their pipelines. This means they’ve been able to increase their sales by 55 percent or more within the last six months while decreasing the costs of acquiring those sales by more than 22 percent.”

Finally, the sales rep needs to get in the habit of asking for a time- and date-specific action step – but not just once. Studies show that the likelihood of getting a decision maker to agree to action goes way up when a sales rep makes at least three requests for action. You might say something like this at the end of the conversation: “If we could help you do something similar, would that be of value to you?” The key to getting the next step is asking questions until you find out what the decision maker values or finds important as related to your solutions.

Using a well-constructed opening benefits/results value statement directly related to what the decision maker needs will get you a yes or a maybe. After the decision maker responds, immediately follow up with a recommendation such as, “What I’d like to do is to set up a brief [phone or face-to-face] meeting to introduce myself [or associate] and understand more about how your company does business. Then I can determine if we can be of service to you [or produce similar results for the decision maker’s company]. Do you have your calendar handy?”

Or you might ask, “When would be a good day and time for us to get together to discuss possible next steps? Is this typically a good time to reach you?”

Then ask, “Do you have your calendar handy?” or “What is your email address so I can email you a meeting invite with the purpose of the meeting and my contact information?”

Remember these tips and you will become more effective and efficient at producing measurable sales results and boosting your bottom line.

How do you influence decision makers? Share your thoughts in the comments section. 

An Unusual Way to Become a Better Seller

JeffreyLipsiusToday's post is by Jeffrey Lipsius, president of Selling To The Point® Sales Training and Consulting. Email him at





Could a salesperson sell more by applying a mindful approach to selling? Meditation and mindfulness expert John Kabat-Zinn has done much to bring mindfulness practice into the mainstream. He defines mindfulness as "paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment."

Can mindfulness practice be used to improve sales performance? What does it mean for a salesperson to purposely pay attention in the present moment?

The “present moment” for salespeople is when they’re selling. It's when they’re interacting with customers. The past is their preparation. The future is the outcome.

“Purposely paying attention” means the salesperson chooses to put aside how he or she had prepared for things to go. It also means the salesperson chooses to put aside expectations for a particular outcome. In exchange for setting aside the past and the future, the salesperson pays attention to his or her experience in the present, the customer interaction, as it's unfolding moment to moment. The attention will be nonjudgmental, meaning the salesperson won't deem the interaction to be going well or not going well.

Practicing mindfulness while selling flies in the face of some traditional sales-training assumptions. Traditional sales training puts an emphasis on presentation preparation. It also encourages salespeople to maintain control of customer interactions so that salespeople can create the desired outcome. Could salespeople be more productive putting their preparation and outcome aspirations aside while in the midst of a customer interaction? My answer is a resounding yes.

Mindfulness improves sales performance because the salesperson's attention is on his or her customer interaction as it unfolds moment by moment. This results in interactions with more depth and breadth. Customer interactions are where the rubber meets the road in terms of sales performance. Clinging to presentation preparation and expected outcomes can be as limiting for salespeople as they are helpful.

Mindfulness deepens customer interaction by inspiring buying decisions that the customer helped create. It sounds paradoxical, but it's better for buying decisions to be different from how the salesperson planned. It means the customer's buying fulfilled his or her own reason, rather than a salesperson's predetermined reason. Salespeople can't always be around to remind customers to use, recommend, and reorder their product. Salespeople must rely upon some degree of customer initiative. If a customer feels part of the buying decision, then it’s more likely that customers will follow through after the salesperson leaves.

Practicing mindfulness gives customer interactions more breadth by helping salespeople be more versatile. In the real world, few customer interactions go as planned. A salesperson who is nonjudgmentally paying attention in the moment is best able to respond appropriately. A mindful salesperson's response is unencumbered by dependence on predetermined plans or a narrow limit of acceptable outcomes.

Practicing mindfulness allows salespeople to succeed beyond limits and expectations!

Solving the Sales-Training Retention Headache

Larissa gschwandtnerToday’s post is by Larissa Gschwandtner, vice president of sales and marketing at Selling Power.



Sales managers have long been frustrated by the fact that sales reps don’t fully retain all the information they learn in training sessions. Furthermore, the information they remember tends to decrease as time goes by. 

This can be a big revenue drain. Not only are sales leaders paying for an expensive program that will be a dim memory six months from now for many reps, but they’re also contributing to lost productivity by putting reps in classrooms, away from customers.

Traditionally, there haven’t been a lot of technological tools to help sales managers maximize their investment in sales training. Instead, managers have successfully leveraged ongoing coaching to make sales training stick. This year, however, as we were putting together our annual list of the Top 20 Sales Training Companies, I noticed that there’s a growing emphasis on both technology and coaching to solve the widespread problem of poor retention.

Overall, the applications submitted to us by sales-training companies showed that, to provide a vastly improved return on investment, many of these companies now offer managers real-time reinforcement tools, such as playbooks, Cloud-based coaching solutions, games, white boards, quizzes, customer relationship management (CRM) integration, and mobile reinforcement apps. The combination of coaching and real-time tools turns sales training into an ongoing activity rather than a fixed event that ends after a few days or weeks. The result is that sales leaders see consistent and continuous performance improvement among salespeople. 

In addition to retention, these tools are also having an impact in other areas. For example, in the past, training did not always match the sales process. By using training playbooks that integrate with CRM, sales managers have a way to monitor whether reps are leveraging sales training and how they’re doing it, if so. This empowers managers to better evaluate training providers and monitor rep performance.

As in previous years, we used predetermined criteria to evaluate the applications for our Top 20 Sales Training Companies list. (Note: the list is compiled exclusively on the basis of applications and customer feedback surveys.) Here are the elements we currently consider:

  1. Depth and breadth of training offered

  2. Innovative and new offerings (specific training courses or methodology) or delivery methods

  3. Ability to customize offerings

  4. Strength of client satisfaction

The client-satisfaction component is an important one, as it tends to reflect the current needs of the clients sales-training companies serve; however, the path to progress always involves trying new things and not sticking with the status quo. Over the next two years, as sales leaders’ training expectations shift, I expect that the Top 20 Sales Training companies will have a bigger focus on the innovative use of technology and expansion of sales-enablement capabilities to support and improve sales performance.

To see the full list of the Selling Power Top 20 Sales Training Companies in 2014, please visit

What changes have you seen in sales-training offerings in recent years? Share your thoughts in the comments section. 

The Sales Model of the Future: Interview with @Gitomer

I'm really enjoying my series of videos with top selling author Jeffrey Gitomer. He is a great thought leader who is always thinking about the future and energizing audiences with his enthusiasm and new ideas. In the video above, we discuss how mobile devices have changed the game of sales. As he points out, more than 70% of social is mobile. If you don't develop a mobile strategy now, you are dead in the water. Watch the video above to see his tips on how to develop a winning mobile strategy that will keep you selling successfully now and in the future.

If you want to learn more about how you can succeed in sales, I highly recommend you check out Jeffrey's virtual training center at


Developing Top Sales Talent

LaVonKoenerToday's post is by LaVon Koerner, Chief Revenue Officer of Revenue Storm, a global sales consulting and revenue acceleration firm. Hear him present "Decoding the DNA of a Rainmaker" at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on May 5–6, 2014.

Perhaps the single greatest mistake in developing sales talent today is operating in a go-to-market-strategy vacuum. A go-to-market strategy is the purposeful and defined strategy to serve customers, win market share, and outperform the competition. Before beginning any training or coaching, the go-to-market strategy your salespeople will be expected to execute must be identified.

So which go-to-market strategy should your salespeople execute? Each strategy demands different types and degrees of competencies and attributes for sales professionals to be successful.


  • Selling process: A transactional sales focus with short and uncomplicated sales cycles to one decision maker who has a budget for off-the-shelf products or services.
  • Distinguishing competencies and attributes: Sales professionals need to have solid product proficiency and tactical selling skills, as well as strong sales attributes that include enterprise, persistence, self-sufficiency, and emotional resilience.


  • Selling process: A process sales focus with longer and more complex sales cycles to multiple influencers across functions to sell a bundled combination of products and services.
  • Distinguishing competencies and attributes: Sales professionals need to be proficient in solution creation and consultative selling, as well as be creative, adaptable, and strong in solution orientation.


  • Selling process: Longer and more complex selling cycles as a result of the seller’s creating the buying cycle momentum with a key executive sponsor through thought leadership.
  • Distinguishing competencies and attributes: Sales professionals need to be business advisors with proficiency in thought leadership, establishing executive credibility, competitive selling, and financial acumen in the business domain, as well as posses perceptiveness, teamwork orientation, leadership skill, and a strong sense of responsibility.


  • Selling process: Long-term organizational partnership, with a sales cycle that could take years from start to finish and may require board-level involvement from both organizations.
  • Distinguishing competencies and attributes: Sales professionals should have mastery in the cluster skills of relational, demand-creation, and tactical selling, as well as strong social sophistication and decision-making skill, a high level of aspiration, and little aversion to risk taking.

Regardless of how you believe your sales organization should approach selling, your guiding principle should be hire to attributes and develop (train and coach) to competencies (knowledge and skills). If salespeople could be developed simply by good training, then the billions of dollars spent on sales training every year would yield a bountiful crop of rainmakers; however, this is simply not happening, and the old 80/20 Pareto principle of distribution (80 percent of the sustained revenue performance comes from 20 percent of the sales professionals) has actually become 90/10 in many organizations.

Success in such roles as entrepreneur, software designer, or salesperson is based on something over and above skills or knowledge: an individual’s attributes play a critical part in his or her success or failure in that role. Likewise, it is much easier to train and coach a person with strong sales attributes on the required product or selling skills than it is to try to teach a technical person without sales attributes to sell successfully. Once you’ve identified the people with the right potential based upon their alignment to your go-to-market strategy, then your attention should turn to profiling roles and development of the behaviors needed in order to advance your strategy.

Sales success no longer depends on how many salespeople you have; rather, it depends on how many of the right competencies you have judicially deployed in the pursuit of your targeted market. If a company has clearly defined its go-to-market strategy, calibrated the specific competencies necessary for advancing that strategy, can select people with the greatest potential, and can implement a competency-specific developmental program, then revenue acceleration will be achieved.

Join Revenue Storm at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on May 5–6, 2014, and hear LaVon Koerner present "Decoding the DNA of a Rainmaker."

New Sales Managers: Navigating the First Major Career Pivot

Behar 146 (2)Today's post is by Norman Behar, Managing Partner, Sales Readiness Group, Inc., a leading professional sales training company that develops customized sales and sales management programs for business-to-business sales organizations.



Here is an all too familiar story: A sales organization needs to fill an open position for a frontline sales manager and decides to promote its brightest, best performing sales professional into this position. Unfortunately, after three to six months it becomes apparent that the sales rep isn't able to get the performance from the team that was expected. To make matters worse, the team has lost their best hunter because this person is now spending his or her time trying to figure out how to motivate, lead, recruit, manage and coach their team. The new sales manager's days are numbered if he or she isn't able to quickly improve performance, and in the meantime, the organization struggles to hit its numbers.

So, what happened here? The organization promoted a top performer based on his or her strong performance as an individual contributor and then expected these skills to transfer over to being a sales manager. They optimistically (and somewhat naively) expected the top performer to navigate this first significant career pivot – moving from being an individual contributor to managing a team - without a roadmap or the appropriate training support.  Unfortunately, the skills, knowledge and expertise necessary to perform as a great frontline sales manager are fundamentally different than the skills that made the individual excel as a sales professional -- yet we often fail to appropriately equip the new manager with the tools and skills to do the new job.

Selling vs. Managing

Consider the specific selling skills that top sales professionals excel:

  • Prospecting
  • Asking questions
  • Building rapport
  • Listening
  • Presenting solutions
  • Handling objections
  • Negotiating
  • Gaining commitment

While a sales manager must be proficient in these selling skills, ultimately the sales manager must excel at achieving results through others. This requires a completely different set of skills, including:

  • Recruiting and selecting the right team members
  • Setting team goals and priorities
  • Managing performance
  • Coaching and developing selling skills in others
  • Leading and motivating

These management skills are not obvious to the new sales manager or easy to develop on their own. That is why making this first major career pivot is so challenging for many sales managers.

This is similar to the phenomena in sports where the best athletes in the game do not necessarily make the best coaches and managers. There are numerous of examples in every sport where the greatest individual contributors become mediocre managers, often because they lack the skills and aptitude necessary to make this career pivot. This is not to say that star performers can’t become successful managers, but we shouldn’t assume that the transition will be automatic based on exceptional performance in a different position.

Making the Pivot

Sales managers face numerous challenges making this first major career pivot. While in some cases the new sales manager will have a good mentor or senior manager to teach them these skills and they can emulate their behavior, this is usually the exception. The new manager is more likely to use trial and error to develop their own repertoire of management techniques that enable them to achieve a reasonable level performance from their team members. Hopefully the manager is able to develop these skills quickly enough allow them to keep their position and become proficient as a manager. 

If the organization decides to procure training for their sales managers, they may find that many programs marketed as Sales Management Training are actually retooled sales process training programs designed to go along with a proprietary sales methodology also offered by the training vendor (e.g., “here’s how to manage the steps of the sales process we just trained your reps on”). They may also find generic management and leadership training programs that are lacking sales specifics, such as training on the key behaviors, skills, performance indicators and sales coaching conversations necessary to manage a high-performing sales team. 

So how can a sales manager successfully make this first major career pivot? What is needed is a training program designed to develop the specific skills needed by the sales manager, conducted over a period of time necessary to practice, adopt and perfect the new skills. It is not enough to send the manager to a one or two day workshop – the training needs to be integrated into an ongoing sales management development program.  

In part two of this blog, we’ll discuss how to implement a successful Sales Management Development Program.

Ten Truths about Sales Training

BobButlerToday's post is by Bob Butler is president/CEO of Butler Learning Systems in Dayton, OH. 




For more than 35 years, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of being in the sales trenches, as well as facilitating sales-training seminars for hundreds of thousands of sales professionals in various industries throughout North America and beyond. Whether training a large group of sales executives or a small wholesale or distributor sales group, there are truisms that are revealed with all salespeople, regardless of industry or profession. Here are my top 10 truths about sales training that sales leaders should bear in mind as they plan their training initiatives.

TRUTH #1: Training is the vehicle to communicate sales strategies and initiatives.

All too often, sales training is provided without a common focus or goal. Communicate your strategic initiatives through training for better acceptance and successful implementation. Let your sales team know exactly what is expected and the outcome to achieve. When you communicate this to your sales team, everyone is in alignment with your sales objectives, so progress can be tracked accordingly. Structure must follow strategy, so use the training format and disciplines to help explain the “why,” and your sales goals will be better accepted and executed by the sales team.

TRUTH #2: Sales culture is dependent on a standardized selling process.

One of the biggest mistakes sales management makes is not adopting, structuring, or standardizing a process for precall planning. A sales process provides a common sales language to which reps can relate. You get consistency of message in the field, and best practices start to evolve with repeated use and preparation. Overall, you deliver a better value story in a shorter amount of time so you can call on more customers. Productivity and performance are enhanced, which leads to increased market share.

I worked with a food service manufacturer that attributed its sales growth and national footprint to using our 6 A’s selling process for more than 10 years. It helped my client’s team members stay focused to achieve sales plan and raise the bar on sales excellence throughout the industry.

TRUTH #3: Relationship selling first, product selling second.

Sales leaders, why are your reps in such a hurry to give their pitch? I was recently in the field with a salesperson, and the buyer said to him, “Let’s cut to the chase and give me your pitch.” The seller was astonished, looked up at the customer, and said, “Not yet. Right now I’m catching.”

What’s the hurry? After hello, the salesperson goes right into a sales pitch and ends up “puking” it all over the customer. Remember, it’s not about the seller; it’s about the buyer. So salespeople should take the time to establish rapport and get to know their customers. When your reps create mind share and the customer thinks of your company first, your salespeople have done their job. Discipline reps to develop relationships in order to sell deeper and wider in existing accounts. That’s where the low-hanging fruit is, ready to be picked!

TRUTH #4: Understand customer needs first before providing recommendations.

When I train rookie salespeople, I say, “Listen first and talk second, and you never go wrong.” Why do salespeople continually disregard this practice? How can we make recommendations without diagnosing? We’re “doctors of selling.” So no more sales malpractice! No more recommendations without an analysis first. It’s our due diligence as sales professionals.

TRUTH #5: Asking questions is our finest selling skill but is weakly applied.

There is an art to probing. Why do so many reps start out with close-ended questions, giving the customer an easy opportunity to say no? Question as a servant would, not as an attorney. My dad was a master at probing. He could carry on a conversation just by probing, allowing the customer to respond freely and willingly. He developed a concept that I call the layering technique in probing: OPEN – OPEN – CLOSED – OPEN – OPEN – CLOSED. He got the customer accustomed to saying yes, thereby creating the right selling environment with probing. Sales leaders, develop your top open- and closed-ended questions, document them, and provide them to all of your sales reps. Their calls-made to calls-closed ratio will improve.

TRUTH #6: Salespeople continue to sell features but not benefits.

This is the big difference between transitioning from a seller perspective to a buyer perspective. Emphasizing benefits is not passé. Talking about them still creates value in the customer’s mind. Without benefits, all the customer thinks about is price, and the battle begins.

I was on a call with a rep who handed the customer a benefits sheet and went through the presentation methodically, talking benefits and advantages, and ended with the product features that were specific to the customer’s needs. By the time the rep finished, the customer had his hands out, saying, “Give it to me!” Leaders, think about it. When was the last time you had a “benefits clinic” on your products and services?

TRUTH #7: Salespeople must learn to sell value and not price.

Consider the old saying, “If you live by price, you die by price.” Who created price sensitivity? We did! I always talk with the purchasing team while training in sales organizations and ask, “What don’t you like about sales reps?” The response is that salespeople talk too much, are not prepared, and cave on price.

One buyer shared with me that she handed a rep a competitive quote and said, “Match this price, and you’ve got it!” The rep not only matched it but went back to management for additional discounts and concessions that the buyer didn’t expect. Never lay your cards down until you ask, “What do you want?” The customer’s expectations may be less than what most salespeople are willing to give away. How much money have you left on the table?

TRUTH #8: Eliminate the fear of answering objections.

I love watching and critiquing salespeople as they handle objections in the field and role-play while being recorded. The skillful ones go right to the answer immediately and end up defending it while being cornered by the customer. Why do we fear objections? Don’t we ask the customers questions? Why can’t they ask questions? Objections are opportunities that lead to buying signals, which means you go for a trial close. When you create this positive mind-set, you welcome objections, anticipate them, and even come to expect them.

Do you use an objection-handling method or technique to develop best-practice responses, document them in a book, and distribute them to all salespeople? Shame on you if you don’t! Sales leaders, here’s a topic for your next sales meeting: develop best-practice responses to your most frequent objections, especially ones on price. Eliminate this fear factor once and for all and be ready to close!

TRUTH #9: It’s never too early to ask for the order or commitment or go for sales action.

I’ll never forget what a buyer once told me about a salesperson: “I would have given her the purchase order if she had just asked me.” The end results of that lost opportunity were a plant shutdown because the needed parts weren’t obtained, a reprimand and relocation for the buyer, and a dismissal for the sales rep. Never feel that it is premature to ask the customer for a commitment. Remember, interaction dictates our actions, so close and keep closing until the customer says yes. How many times can you ask? As many times as you want, as long as the customer continues to interact through the stages of the buying process. If you feel you’ve asked enough, change the subject, go back to relationship building, and keep the door open. But before you leave or hang up the telephone, set the next call objective with that customer to keep the stages of the buying process moving. Too often, we miss the opportunity when the customer says, “Let us think about it, and we’ll get back to you,” and later you can’t even get back in the door. So during the call, set the time and date for the next meeting with the objective to close the sale.

TRUTH #10: Training brings the sales team together.

I have enjoyed watching Urban Meyer, coach of the Buckeyes, who seems to bring out the top performers both on and off of the field. His training philosophy and leadership are symbolized in his huddle concept. So many of us base our success on material things, such as how much money we have, how big our house is, how fancy our cars are, and whether we can take exotic vacations. But when we come together, none of this matters anymore. In the huddle, professionals come together: one team, one goal.

Sales leaders, have you run a sales-training boot camp lately? If not, maybe it’s time to bring ‘em together and ignite your sales reps to exceed their sales plans for 2014. Today, we don’t train just for skills and knowledge, we train for high performance and sales excellence, just like the pros do, week in and week out. Remember, the team that executes wins. Mastering sales fundamentals takes skills, practice, and repetition: TRAINING + PRACTICE = HABIT. Are your sales professionals able to sell their value story instinctively? It’s never too late for a refresher!

Sales Negotiations: Collaborative vs. Competitive Styles

Behar 146 (2)Today's post is by Norman Behar, Managing Partner, Sales Readiness Group, Inc., a leading professional sales training company that develops customized sales and sales management programs for business-to-business sales organizations.



Much of the advice on how to conduct effective sales negotiations counsels you to use a collaborative sales negotiation style to achieve a "win-win" outcome. And you do want to be thought of as a good person, right? Someone who is not out only for your own gain? Someone who doesn't exploit other people's weaknesses?

There are many times when you work hard to achieve a win-win outcome from your sales negotiations, but there are situations where you are better off to be competitive or even adversarial in your negotiating style.

Collaborative vs. Competitive

Before we get into the question of when to be competitive or collaborative when you negotiate, let's define the outcomes of the two negotiations.

Collaborative negotiating, or achieving a win-win outcome, in sales negotiations generally means an agreement in which both parties get something of value AND they are happy with the outcome. If you arrive at an agreement through a competitive or adversarial process, each party will have gotten something of value (otherwise they shouldn't have agreed), but only one party is happy with the outcome. The other one feels like a schmuck. (Just think of your last auto purchase.)

When should you use a competitive negotiating style? First of all, the issue can't be very important or doesn't have long-term consequences. Second, you either have to get to an agreement quickly or you can postpone the issue. Third, you either don't really need or want the item or issue you are negotiating for, or there are many other suppliers for the item. Fourth, there is a single issue or only a couple issues to negotiate. But key to all of this is that you have no plans to do business with the person or company again.

Let's turn this around and look at when it is in our best interest to use collaborative negotiating. The most important reason that you will use collaborative negotiation is that you want to preserve or enhance your relationship with the customer. You plan on doing business again or continue to enjoy an ongoing relationship that benefits both of you. There are multiple issues on the table. You have sold the customer on the value and superiority of your product or service over other suppliers. You have convinced the customer that he/she needs to act now to achieve his/her goal and you have time to work out the terms of the agreement. And lastly, you will be negotiating issues that are important and have long-term consequences. Because there are long term consequences, at the end of the negotiation, both parties have committed to support the terms of the agreement and make it work.

Techniques that Help Ensure a Win-Win Solution

First of all, both you and the customer want to come to an agreement that helps both of you achieve your individual and mutual goals. If you have done a good job of identifying the customer's priorities, relating and reinforcing the benefits of your product/service that align to those priorities, you probably already have a good idea of the customer's position and the interests behind the position. Often in a large sales negotiation you will have additional stakeholders add other issues (for example, procurement or a CxO), so if you can get prior information on the nature of those issues from your supporter in the company, you can be prepared.

As you offer a trade, you always reinforce the value of that trade by relating the benefit to the customer based on his or her priority. You have to be patient and allow the issues to unfold. You will be holding some of your offers back as will the customer. If you have done effective questioning, research and planning, you can be prepared with what you can trade for the customer's requests for additional consideration. You will not only be patient but also persistent, using the negotiation process to gather additional information on why the customer wants or desires something from you. This is especially important if additional stakeholders with new demands show up after you think you have gotten all the issues identified and perhaps agreed to.

As when you are selling, as you negotiate, you will paint the picture of what it will be like in the future when the customer achieves his or her important goal (and it will be great!). When negotiating you will relate the value of what you trade to the customer, you will let him or her know the total value of what you trade and how that value will be there for a long period of time.

If you can identify multiple issues, you will have a greater ability to provide a creative solution that will benefit the customer than if you negotiate on a single issue such as price. Issues are either tangible or intangible. Tangible issues are easily identified costs, such as cost of goods. Intangible issues can be competitive advantage, time to market or enhanced image. Intangible issues are harder to value, but it offers you the creativity and flexibility to trade something that is of low cost to you (such as consulting hours), but of high value to the customer (improved productivity). Here is a Harvard Gazette article on being open-minded in negotiation to provide creative solutions.

Besides building a stronger relationship and the increased probability of future business, when you use collaborative negotiating, you have an equal partner in supporting the solution. Your customer is as invested as you are in seeing the solution implemented and effective. And as they say, a satisfied customer is a repeat customer.

To answer the question, should you always use a collaborative sales negotiating style? No, only if you want a customer for life.

Jay Leno's Secrets of Sales Success

Jay Leno has ranked No. 1 among the broadcast networks in the 11:35 p.m. time slot since 1995. The success of the Tonight Show has helped NBC rake in over $1 billion in profits. As Jimmy Fallon takes over as the new host it is time to review what we can learn from Jay Leno's consistent success. 

First, success in comedy and in sales hinges on your ability to sell yourself. When Jay started out he had to deal with a ton of adversity and a lot of rejection. He once performed in a place in Atlanta where he had to step into a wire-cage that the owner installed to protect the performers from flying beer bottles. Selling yourself takes guts and courage. 

Second, to overcome the objection that he was an unknown performer he challenged club owners with this creative approach: "I'd like to perform on stage." At this point he slapped a $50 bill on the counter saying, "If you don't think I do a good job, you can keep the $50. But if you like my act, I'd like you to hire me." By showing the customer that he was not afraid to put some skin in the game, Jay got more chances to perform.

Third, after Jay got invited to perform on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, he looked like an overnight success. But the second and third time he didn't do as well and he wasn't invited back. Jay went back on the road, tested out new material with new audiences and honed his skills. Successful salespeople use the same strategy: after each setback they prepare themselves for a a comeback. 

To learn the fourth success secret, watch this three minute video. Please share your thoughts on Jay's apoproach. To subscribe to Selling Power magazine in the Cloud visit

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