Selling Skills Feed

Three Scientifically Proven Behaviors That Will Increase Sales Effectiveness


Today’s post is by David Hoffeld, CEO and Chief Sales Trainer at Hoffeld Group, a science-based sales training, coaching, and consulting firm. For more information, visit



Over the past 50 years, there have been numerous scientific studies that have classified how the human brain is wired. Through this research, scientists have identified the behaviors that trigger influence.

This science is relevant in selling because it provides insights that guide salespeople in behaving in ways that enhance their ability to sell. Though there are many science-based behaviors that could be shared, the following are three that are easy to execute and will improve sales effectiveness.

1. Labeling

Labeling is when one person assigns a label to another person and then requests behavior that is consistent with the label. There have been many research studies verifying that labeling increases compliance with persuasive requests.

In one such study, behavioral scientists asked citizens about their previous voting behaviors. The researchers randomly told some of the participants that they were above-average citizens who are extremely likely to vote. The rest of the participants were told that there was only an average probability that they would vote in future elections. When the behavioral scientists analyzed whether the participants voted in an upcoming election, they found that those who had been told they were extremely likely to vote actually voted at a much higher rate.

When salespeople label prospects, they are priming those prospects to behave in ways that are consistent with the label. For instance, if a prospect is reluctantly answering a salesperson’s questions and that salesperson says, “You really know a lot about this issue. I appreciate your insights and willingness to answer my questions,” the prospect will become more responsive.

2. Reactance 

Why do prospects feel pressured when salespeople attempt to create urgency?

The answer is found in a powerful scientific principle called reactance. Reactance refers to the feelings that occur when people perceive that their ability to freely choose is being restricted. When this occurs, they will instinctively desire to rebel against what is being imposed upon them.This is why signs that say, “No littering” or “Don’t litter” have been shown to actually increase littering. 

Salespeople who want to increase sales effectiveness must understand reactance because, when attempting to advance the sale, reactance will often be activated. This is detrimental – when prospects feel reactance, they will reject both the salesperson and the salesperson’s message.

The key to minimizing reactance is to reduce the prospect’s perception that you are pressuring him or her. One example of this is found in a fascinating research study identifying that – when asking for funds – compliance rose by 400 percent when the request concluded with the statement, “Of course, it’s up to you.”

3. Tag Questions

How do you guide your prospects in thinking through and affirming the central value propositions upon which the sale is built?

Numerous scientific studies have validated that one way to promote the contemplation of a statement of value is through using tag questions. Tag questions are value building statements that are converted into questions. These questions have been proven to amplify the persuasiveness of sales messages because they guide prospects in mentally digesting and verbally appraising an assertion of value. 

To construct a tag question, simply add a concise questioning phrase to your value proposition. For instance, the statement, “This software would reduce your operational costs annually by $300,000” evolves into the tag question, “This software would reduce your operational costs annually by $300,000, wouldn’t it?” 

In summary, science has identified the causal factors that create and enable influence. When salespeople align how they sell with this science, their sales effectiveness will skyrocket. This is why merging science with the sales process is a concept that is just too important to ignore.

To learn more about merging science with the sales process, watch my video below.


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Three Reasons Deals Get Stuck (And How to Unstick Them)

TomSearcyToday’s post is by Tom Searcy, CEO and founder of Hunt Big Sales, a sales strategy company that helps CEOs double the size of their company. For more information, visit



Stuck deals are often why it’s called “selling” rather than “order taking” – and longer business-to-business (B2B) sales cycles mean there are even more opportunities for sales deals to get stuck (or die) in the process. In fact, SiriusDecisions reports a recent 24 percent increase in length of the average sales cycle – from 6.4 months in 2012 to 8 months in 2014.

Navigating through the issues and strategies of a stuck deal can show you when it’s time to change your approach and when it’s time to just walk away from a deal. 

Below are three reasons sales deals often get stuck, as well as insight into how to unstick them.

1. False Pretense

Sometimes companies engage with sales teams without having any intention of actually making a change. Why? 

  • They want to learn about the market.
  • They’re establishing budgetary parameters.
  • They’re reviewing vendors to make certain their vendor is still price relevant in the marketplace, as well as ensure they have negotiating leverage in an upcoming contract review. 

Organizations used to stay up to date on the marketplace by attending trade shows or getting some MBA class at a local university to do a market scan. Now, however, instead of doing their own homework, companies gather industry intelligence by sending detailed RFPs to the top providers in the marketplace – and letting sales teams do the heavy lifting of research.

So how do you keep these deals from getting stuck in the “research” phase? The best place to start is getting a clear idea on the stakeholders’ threshold for making a change before getting too deep into a proposal. Maybe the prospect really isn’t interested in making a change immediately – or ever. Examine the RFP’s language to see if it defines the problem the prospect is trying to fix, including problems created by the current provider. If the RFP shows no identifiable problem, the company has no motivation for change – and you will end up residing in Stuckville.

2. Wrong Problem

A deal can get stuck when a sales team is trying to address the wrong problem.

For instance, the problem you are addressing may not be big enough to maintain the attention of the prospect company. On the flip side, the problem may be so big that the prospect doesn’t feel the company has the time or resources to make a dent in it.

Ownership of the problem might also shift over time. A prospect may decide the problem as currently defined is really the priority of another department, person, or division. Or you may find that the problem is being viewed as a “not now” problem by your prospect. Stuck, stuck, stuck.

What can you do to improve this situation? Consider adding people to the buyer’s table. This has a few potential benefits.

  • By adding people to the buyer’s table, you’re able to create a greater sense of appropriate scale and definition of the problem. If enough people see the problem as relevant to them, of value to them, and of the right scale and level of necessity to them, they’ll want to participate in the process.
  • By increasing the size of the buyer’s table, you can also broaden and reframe a problem that may have shifted ownership to include those who see the problem as relevant.
  • An additional champion coming into the conversation may add the necessary political muscle and motivation to move the organization along.

3. Bad Chemistry

Bad chemistry happens when personalities don’t match – not unusual in either business and personal settings. However, when there’s bad chemistry between individual players, departments, or areas of the business, you will not win the business even if your solution is perfect, your cost justification is exactly right, and your understanding of the overall problem to be solved is accurate.

When there is a personality mismatch, there is usually – inherent in that mismatch – a mismatch of trust. Try to uncover the root cause of the mistrust and address it directly. If all else fails, rather than risk losing the deal, it might be better to change out some folks to see if you can revive trust with one or more of the key decision makers.

When All Else Fails, Walk Away

If you are unable to reshape the buying organization’s perception of the problem – regardless of the reason – stop expending resources with this organization. Put the deal on hold. Maybe you can come back in two, three, four, or five months to revisit the discussion and see if the decision makers, urgency, or shape of the problem have changed. If one of those three things has changed, the window of opportunity may reopen and you can revisit with more energy to see if you can land a deal. Always leave yourself the option of walking away from a deal that’s not going anywhere any time soon.


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Stop Using Low Price as a Sales Crutch

DaveKurlanToday's post is by Dave Kurlan, founder and CEO of Objective Management Group Inc. and Kurlan & Associates, and author of Mindless Selling and Baseline Selling: How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know About the Game of Baseball


Recently, I spoke to an audience of sales leaders at the EcSell Institute’s Spring Coaching Summit. My topic, as it has been many times this year, was “The 4 Keys to Selling Value.” My presentation was filled with snafus. My movie clip didn’t play, my slides only showed the graphics but not the bullet points, and I fell off the stage (landed on my feet, but still!). Because of the technical issues (thank you, Office 2016 for Mac Preview – you suck!), my audience was more engaged, and more appreciative, than I could have expected. Thank you, everybody!

The interesting part for me came at the end, when I asked the audience, “How many of you believe that your salespeople are doing a good job selling value?” One hand went up. This despite the fact that exactly none of these companies sell on price. Low price leaders almost never attend conferences like these because they could send chimpanzees out to do their bidding. On the other hand, companies that are attempting to sell value need their salespeople to be effective.

Next, I asked them whether they thought the reason was because of:

  • Sales processes that don’t support value selling
  • Sales tactics that aren’t the best choices for value selling
  • Sales strategies that don’t support value selling

This time, I had a few hands for each choice – but most of the 100 or so hands did not go up.  


They aren’t sure what the real reason or combination of reasons might be.

The problem is that – as ill suited as many salespeople are for selling value – their sales managers and sales leaders are even more unprepared to identify the issues and help. That leaves us with a scenario similar to a drought. If we don’t have enough water, and no relief is in sight, we must begin to make compromises. We can’t water lawns, wash cars, or water flowers.  

In selling, lack of understanding around value means we can’t depend on reps to sell value, uphold pricing, and maintain margins. So, when a great opportunity presents itself and the prospect needs better pricing to choose us, we make an exception.

What’s wrong with that?

It violates the first rule of strategy for selling value – no exceptions. When you make an exception, a number of things occur:

  • You show the prospect or customer that you will drop the price
  • You show your salespeople that, when push comes to shove, you will drop the price
  • You get used to using price as a crutch to land deals
  • You develop a reputation for coming through with the required pricing

It’s one thing to state that you want your salespeople to sell value, but, if you can’t help them become value sellers, you don’t recruit salespeople who have value selling capabilities in their sales DNA, and you make exceptions to the number-one strategy rule of value selling, it’s all a farce. You aren’t really a value provider at all. You’re just like everyone else, and are using price as a crutch.

To learn more about value-based selling, watch my video interview with Gerhard Gschwandtner, CEO of Selling Power.

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4 Ideas to Help You Build Rapport and Relationships with Clients

LaVon Koener 2 (1)Today's post is by LaVon Koerner, chief revenue officer of Revenue Storm, a global sales consulting and revenue acceleration firm. Join LaVon and Selling Power for this Webinar on June 3rd, "How to Accurately Qualify Opportunities." 


What’s the best way for sellers to build relationships and rapport with prospects and customers these days? 

Back in the golden era of selling, you’d walk into a client’s office and desperately search for something on their walls or desk to talk about. The goal was to find something that mattered to them and connect on a more personal level. If you weren’t thrown out, you’d quickly leverage one of your tried-and-true relationship weapons – lunch, golf, dinner, a gift, or even the occasional ride on the corporate jet. 

Boy, how things have changed! Besides the governance policies that most companies employ today – where accepting even a coffee mug with your logo on it is a violation – admiring the stuffed swordfish on the wall and asking, “What keeps you up at night?” isn’t going to cut it. The old rules of selling simply no longer apply.

The fact is, today’s business relationships – and all relationships, really – are built on value. Executives want to know what’s in it for them before they will consider investing time in you.

Most executives aren’t interested in golf games or idle chatter that leads to you showing them a 100-plus-slide capabilities presentation. Nor do executives want to train you on their company and issues so you can turn around and try to sell them something.

But don’t lose heart. There are potentially many ways you can deliver value. Consider the following four ideas.

  1. Provide thought leadership around how you might help them improve results or attain certain goals.

  2. Help them achieve recognition in their organization or industry for something they are doing or something you can help them do.

  3. Make key connections and introductions for them.

  4. Support events, programs, committees, or charitable/community organizations that are important to them.  

The most successful sales professionals understand that individual human beings – not companies – make decisions to buy. Relationship development is an intentional process that requires you to invest time doing careful research before walking through the door to determine the potential value you can offer. Additionally, it requires continued nurturing. You need to continually ask yourself, “what have I done for them lately?”  

Most importantly, building successful relationships requires you to take risks and work outside your comfort zone. Instead of “safe” discussions around your products, features, price, and company, you have to be savvy and brave enough to earn the right to have discussions around personal agendas, what they really want, and the personal motivations that are driving them. Only then can you begin to create bonds based on mutual trust, value, and success.

Business relationships today are oftentimes situational and temporary. They exist as long as the other party believes you still deliver value. Keep in mind that business relationships do not necessarily equal friendships. Just because someone “likes” you, doesn’t mean they will buy from you. Sure, everyone knows your name and smiles when you visit, but when was the last time your “friends” actually bought something from you?  

The next time you have an important meeting, think of it as a first date. Don’t make the critical error of talking about yourself, your company, or your products. The harsh reality is that no one cares about you until they understand what you can do for them. Do your homework, leave the logoed mug and your capabilities presentation at home, and (whatever you do) don’t ask about the stuffed fish on the wall!


The Dirty Secret to Increasing Win Rates: It’s Not Call Quantity

LinaErohToday's post is by Lina Eroh, director of marketing and communications at Accuvit. Accuvit provides "conversation science" for inside sales teams, unearthing the data hidden in sales calls and using it to improve the quality of conversations.


You’ve hired the best reps. You’ve trained them on your script and armed them with the latest sales tools in the industry – yet close rates are still lagging. 

What’s the deal?

What if I told you that your focus on quantity of dials was hurting your team? Would you believe that?

It might seem counterintuitive, especially to sales managers who have staked their careers on a faithful adherence to the philosophy that more calls will lead to more deals and higher revenue. At Accuvit, however, we theorized that call quantity was not necessarily the defining factor of success for sales teams. So we performed an interesting experiment at two different sales organizations, both aiming for 100-plus dials a day, to see whether we could find proof that quantity hurts win rates.

The short answer: both organizations saw diminishing returns after 65 dials and a sweet spot of 40 to 60 dials a day. Reps who “failed” to meet the quantity target actually closed the most deals and brought in the most revenue.

Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be. Longer calls by definition take more time, which means fewer calls a day. 

Longer calls also lead to more deals. When we calculated the total length of calls that led to closed versus lost deals, we saw that “winning” calls lasted 1.8 times longer than “losing” calls. In other words, reps making winning calls should be making only half the number of calls that other reps make, since they’re on the phone for double the length of time. Of course, it’s not just the call that counts but what’s said on the phone, or as we like to think of it, the quality of the conversation.

Call quality is the mystery variable in sales analytics, because measuring the quality of a conversation is far from straightforward. Outside of listening to each call, it’s nearly impossible to train reps to have better conversations. Yet quality is a key metric when it comes to improving sales efficiency. Ignoring it affects your bottom line. 

That’s where we come in. Using a process we call Conversation Science™, we make it easy for managers to measure and track the quality of a pitch. We look at several measures to compute the quality score, including cadence mirroring and filler words, but today we’ll focus on adherence to scripts or call guides. After all, you spend tons of time writing these for your reps. Do they actually work to increase win rates?

The answer is a resounding yes. Our data shows the following:  

  • Using keywords from a well-written script leads to longer conversations.
  • Calls that progress through the funnel use 2.5 times the number of keywords!
  • The best conversations use 3.8 keywords a minute.
  • Using keywords at the very beginning of calls leads to longer calls (which lead to more wins). 

The bad news: our data showed that more than 30 percent of callers did not use any keywords. Considering that using keywords triples your chances of closing a deal, that’s nothing short of a fail.

One of the key benefits of Accuvit is that we can quickly show you who among your reps are using keywords and who are not. A side benefit is that you can see exactly what your best reps are doing – and saying.

After one month on Accuvit, leaders at one of our client companies noticed that their best salespeople were not the ones using the most keywords. When they looked at the transcripts, they also noticed that they were not sticking to the call guide. So they took a gamble and rewrote the guide to better mirror the tactics used by the best reps.

The results were astonishing. The close rate increased 41 percent when reps used the new script versus the old one, yet the managers wouldn’t have known to change the script had they not seen the stark contrast.

What would you do for a 40 percent increase in win rates? Here’s our answer: stop focusing on call quantity.

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No Decision: Avoid This Dreaded Enterprise Technology Deal Killer

Drew Wright Today’s guest post is by Drew Wright, cofounder and principal consultant of Technology Finance Partners. Find him on Twitter @DrewTFP.



In sales, deals can be delayed or lost for many reasons, but almost no reason is more frustrating than the customer’s “decision” to do nothing.  

I know this, having worked with hundreds of enterprise technology salespeople on thousands of opportunities. We’ve faced many competitive selling situations, against incumbents, other market leaders, and niche players. If you lose a sale to a competitive technology provider, at least you can say you fought the good fight, came to closure, learned something, and most importantly, got the chance to move on.

By contrast, losing to no decision keeps most salespeople engaged in the hunt. They waste time and resources and wind up with heartache. These deals, as they repeatedly jump in and out of various forecast categories, drive sales managers crazy.

What’s the Real Objection?

Sure, there are legitimate reasons for no decision (mergers and acquisitions, new management, a project sponsor’s departure), but customers often give reasons that are suspect. For example, if you hear such statements as, “This solution isn’t high enough on the priority list,” or “We don’t have enough budget,” your Spider-Sense should kick in. The customer is probably not interested in moving forward for one or more of the following reasons:

  • You haven’t articulated the total value of your technology solution.
  • You haven’t helped your prospect understand the pain associated with the cost of decision delay.
  • You don’t have the financial decision maker fully engaged (or, certainly, motivated to buy).

How to Avoid No-Decision Delays in the Sales Cycle

For early-stage opportunities, you can take these preventative measures to avoid end-of-sales-cycle decision delays:

  • Support early-stage value messaging through customer success stories that include quantifiable value metrics (e.g., cost savings or revenue increases).
  • Seed early presentations with “value slides” that describe, illustrate, and provide the value calculation for economic-impact elements of your solution.
  • Develop a business-value hypothesis based on targeted discovery questions and public information (as available) to provide a range of potential value and entice a deeper-dive business case analysis.

For opportunities that are deeper into the sales process, you can take these actions around prioritization, budget, and engaging financial decision makers:

  • Collaborate with your prospect to develop a business case to demonstrate the value, economic impact, and likely return on investment in your solution. The analysis can be leveraged to move your initiative up the priority list. Also, if your sponsor does not want to invest time or energy in the business case, you’ll have learned that you’re not as far along in the sales process as you thought.
  • Use the math from the business case to show the cost of maintaining the status quo and decision delay.
  • Structure the deal so that solution costs are overwhelmed by receipt of benefits or spread out over multiple budget cycles.
  • Combine this effort with a time-sensitive incentive offer that creates urgency, but don’t forget to show the multiyear value of the incentive offer – lower price, lower out-year maintenance, or lower subscription pricing (if providing a Cloud solution).

Much more could be written on each of these strategies, but the key takeaway here is that value selling throughout the sales cycle can help to overcome no decision and decision delay. It requires rigor, leveraging resources, and collaborative customer engagement. The alternative, however, is deal slippage, sales reps’ not meeting quota, and forecast inaccuracy…and you get only so many hall passes for those results.

For more information, read “Overcoming No Decision,” a white paper written by Technology Finance Partners principal analyst Alex Corman. You can also join us at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, April 27-28, 2015, where we’ll elaborate on this topic in a breakout session.


How to Evolve Your Sales Process

19192c8Today’s guest post is by Bill Butler, CEO of Journey Sales.




How can sellers take control of today’s sales cycle?

Today’s buyer is well educated, always connected, and likely to move in any direction at any time. So why are sellers relying on a one-size-fits-all sales process built around CRM systems?

The CRM system is a management tool for internal reporting, and it’s not agile enough to handle an evolved sales process – it’s like a football team using one play all season long. We often guess or interpret buyer activity, but to drive an effective sales process, we need actual data on buyer behavior.

At Journey Sales, we decided CRM needed some help. By adding our Smart Rooms to Salesforce, we allow companies to engage customers in a secure and personalized space that’s available 24/7. Once the sales team invites a buyer into a room, buyers can do the following:

Work independently or with sales, invite colleagues, and collaborate. These personalized experiences support the buyer’s entire journey.

Access relevant content that delivers powerful insight. Many buyers prefer thought-leadership content early in the sales process. Toward the middle of the process, they want product differentiators. At the end, they want proposals. You can nurture the customer’s Smart Room with content to increase insight and engagement.

Stay in touch with sales. Sellers get real-time alerts when a customer enters a Smart Room. This way, sellers can review the customer’s “digital body language” to increase engagement. Compare the engagement index across multiple opportunities to improve predictability.

The new sales process is about delivering powerful insight to everyone involved in a decision. More than five people, on average, participate in a B2B purchase decision, so consensus building is critical. Smart Rooms are designed for closing deals, but they benefit the entire customer life cycle:

  • Acquisition – close more new customers

  • Expansion – improve new-product introduction and cross sell

  • Onboarding – effectively share best practices to drive customer success

  • Retention – continue education and engagement to improve retention

Companies need a sales process that consistently and predictably grows revenue. Engaging the buyer along the buyer’s journey is the new sales playbook. Take control of your sales cycle so you can turn average reps into star performers, successfully launch new products, and drive predictable sales growth across the entire organization.

You can learn more about Smart Rooms by going to, or visit the Salesforce AppExchange.

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How Baseball Can Make You a Better Seller

GarciaGlover_200Today’s guest post is by Garcia Glover, managing partner at Axle Sales Partners LLC, a sales-training company that helps organizations build high-performing sales teams by arming their salespeople with the proprietary Axle 60/20/20 Sales Approach™.


As a 20-year, business-to-business, outside sales practitioner, and now as managing partner for a sales-training company, I often find myself using baseball analogies in my sales “pitches.”

That’s probably because sales and baseball are what I know most. A baseball scholarship paid my way through college, and I was a college coach for a number of years. I started in professional sales selling copiers door-to-door before everyone had a cell phone – hell, before everyone had a pager. (You may be asking, “What’s a pager?”) But before you dismiss me as old and out of touch with today’s selling environment, let it be known that my last full-time sales job was in 2011, selling for a large multimedia company.

I’ve used many baseball analogies in sales over the years, and my favorite is this: selling, like baseball, is a team sport played by individuals. In baseball, an opposing batter hits the ball to the fence, then the outfielder picks up the ball and throws it to a teammate. That player in turn throws it to another teammate standing at a base. Now that’s great teamwork! When that same outfielder goes up to bat one-on-one with the pitcher, however, the team can’t help.

Selling is the same: the sales team can be supportive in many ways, but when a rep is one-on-one with a buyer, the team can’t help.

Recently, my thinking about sales and baseball has gone deeper than analogies when I started looking deeply at the parallels between my baseball experiences and selling. My new thought process began when a sales prospect asked, “Your sales training isn’t elementary, is it?” My immediate response was no. Later, I began to wonder what she meant by “elementary” and what would be wrong if it were. I thought back to my coaching days and remembered that players had to constantly work on the “elementary” fundamentals to become better ballplayers.

So why are salespeople (and managers) reluctant to work on the so-called elementary aspects that are fundamental to their sales game?

Maybe it’s because we in sales have become so enamored with 50,000-foot views, technology, big data, complex processes, and systems that we’ve lost focus and don’t have time to work on the simple stuff that really makes and keeps us successful. In baseball, we used an acronym, ACES, which we recited at practice to remind the ballplayers about what it takes to get better. ACES is simple and straightforward and proved to be effective:  

Attitude: Your attitude is what you bring to everything. Maintain a positive attitude, because it’s what enables you to get up (no matter how many times you’ve been knocked down).

Confidence: This isn’t swagger. It’s the silent, inner confidence you build by knowing that you’ve done everything possible to prepare for and win the game.

Execution: This is the planned approach you take to achieve peak performance. The key is to set goals and have an executable plan to reach those goals.

Skill: Skill has nothing to do with talent. Skill refers to the acknowledgement of your strengths and weaknesses. Exploit your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses until they become strengths through learning and dedicated work.

ACES can apply to any vocation, especially sales. I had no idea that my experience as a baseball coach and player would make me a better seller. So my advice for anybody in sales is this: Don’t lose focus on the elementary stuff, no matter where it comes from, because it could possibly make you better.

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Four Selling Skills I Learned from David Sandler

IMG_2827David Sandler had a winning smile and a refreshing, no-nonsense attitude. I felt privileged to spend time with him when I interviewed him years ago for Selling Power magazine and had no idea that he would pass away only four years later in the prime of life.

Today the Sandler Training organization is growing at a steady pace and his idea of reinforcing learning is helping tens of thousands of salespeople generate more sales. While other sales trainers that I've interviewed taught formulas that began to wear out after a few weeks of use, Sandler was teaching a practical process that any salesperson could use to win more business.

Here are four things David Sandler told me about how to sell. 

1) A sales call is like a Broadway play. 

“A sales call is like a Broadway play performed by a psychiatrist. What I mean by that is that you've got to be an actor who can slip into many different roles and you've got to be a psychiatrist who can see past the intellectual defenses people build around them.” 

2) The salesperson’s attitude in the opening phase of the call matters. 

“Psychiatrists begin with very nurturing questions to establish trust. People feel vulnerable and have learned not to be up front with salespeople. In general, prospects won't tell you about their real problems. Psychiatrists learn very early in their training that what the patient brings to them is never the real problem. Patients can only describe symptoms, the psychiatrist must find the causes, not just relieve the symptoms. The same is true with a prospect. That's why it takes three or four questions about a specific subject before you can go past a prospect's natural defenses. Each answer becomes a little more revealing than the previous one.”  

3) There are five critical steps in the sales process. 

“There are five steps to the formula: well, hurt, sick, critical and well. As soon as you talk to a prospect, you begin by finding a hurt through reversing questions. Then you expand your questions to a group of pains until the prospect is sick.

If you continue to work on that sickness with more questions, you will have a prospect on the critical list. Then your selling job becomes easy, because all you have to do is make him well again. It’s not easy for people to remember intellectual formulas. To help them remember, I tell them a story like this one:

Let’s say you go to see your doctor for your annual physical. A complete checkup will probably cost you about $300. Your doctor will ask you to strip down in the examining room. Then he'll come in and poke at you, hook you up to an EKG, X-ray your chest, then put you on a stress test that can kill you if you're not a runner. He feeds you chalk, he punches you and pokes you everywhere. And you're saying to yourself, 'This isn't worth $300. I should be out there making calls. What am I doing here spending an hour and a half with this guy?'

Finally he says, 'Okay, the examination is over, get dressed and come into my office.' In his office he has a little light box with your X-ray clipped on it. It's a picture of you. The doctor looks at this picture while you're wondering how quickly you can get out of there. You think, 'Let's give him the $300 and get going.' Then he looks at these things closer, turns to you and asks, 'Has anybody in your family ever had kidney problems?' You say 'No.' Then he looks back at that X-ray again. Now, this time he talks to the X-ray saying, 'Now, there is nothing really serious here. I don't think we want to worry too much and we can take our time on this. What are you doing tomorrow morning? I want you to go down to the hospital because I want to check this out. I don't like what I see.' 

At that moment, your mind went from $300 to a blank check. That's what a good salesperson does.”  

4) You must develop the right attitude for success

“Sales success begins with an internal attitude. I want salespeople to generate this attitude in order for them to succeed. When you are sitting in front of a prospect, at some point in the presentation you will hear a little voice inside that says,'This is a lot of pressure, perhaps it's easier outside.' Or you'll hear, 'Let's get out of here, this is too much.' Or, 'This guy is not worth the hassle.' At this moment -- if you let your killer instincts guide you -- you won't give in, but forge ahead and win. The job needs to be done, that's why they pay you. Your boss is not buying your need to be liked; your boss is buying your need to go to the bank. At the same time, you need to be honest and ethical. You can't lie, you can't mislead a customer and you can't break the law to get a sale.”

A version of this post appeared on LinkedIn Pulse. For more information on David Sandler training methodologies visit

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Why a Sales Demo Won't Win You the Business

Dave Kurlan Today's post is by Dave Kurlan, CEO of Kurlan & Associates.


Do you follow a sales process that’s largely built around getting a prospect to agree to watch a demo?

If so, then you’re following the herd. You’re probably also wondering why you can’t get prospects to take action after you show them your demo.

Part of the problem is that experts and thought leaders are not creating enough content that helps salespeople sell based on value. For example, when I look at what people are writing and speaking about, here’s what I see:

  • Social selling (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.)
  • Inbound marketing
  • CRM
  • Lead nurturing

There's nothing wrong with these topics, of course, and some of the insight shared about them might even help you to become a better seller; however, I worry that experts have become too focused on addressing topics related to top-of-the-funnel issues. What sellers should be focused on is the fundamental of selling value.

Why? Selling value is the one thing that salespeople, operating without benefit of the lowest price, absolutely, positively must be able to do well in order to consistently earn business.  

Admittedly, selling value isn’t a simple equation; it's an outcome of a variety of actions and highly developed skills, including

  • differentiating your offering;
  • making purchases that are not based on price;
  • being tolerant of higher prices;
  • selling in a consultative fashion;
  • easily discussing financial terms (e.g., return on investment, payback period, and net present value) with decision makers.

Unfortunately, selling value happens to be one thing that salespeople often do inadequately. According to Objective Management Group's statistics (close to one million salespeople assessed), most salespeople have as strengths or skills, on average, only two of the six most important factors required to sell value.

Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder of Selling Power magazine, and I discussed this topic in this five-minute video. As Gerhard noted, there are two ways to “slip on the banana peel” with customers today. One is having irrelevant conversations. The other is having obsolete conversations. Those conversations happen when sales teams rely on techniques and insight learned in previous decades.

If you want to read more about selling value, here are three of my favorite articles on the subject. They provide nice guidelines for selling value.

The One Thing Most Salespeople Are Unable to Do

Why There is No Value When You Provide Value Via Special Pricing

How to Add Value to Your Sales Offering

Do you think a demo hurts or helps your chance to close the sale? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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