Selling Skills Feed

Sales Reps, Stop Waiting for Marketers to Fill Your Pipeline

Joanne BlackToday's post is by Joanne Black, America’s top referral sales expert. Visit NoMoreColdCalling for more articles, tips, and free resources. You can also find Joanne on Twitter: @ReferralSales.

If you depend on marketing to score your leads, you can forget about hitting your numbers.

Prospecting is not your marketing department’s job. It’s your job – and it’s your most important job.

You’re not entitled to sit back and wait for great leads to fill your sales pipeline, which has  become common practice in most sales organizations. Many salespeople complain that marketing isn’t providing enough leads and definitely not qualified leads. Following up on poor leads is a waste of your sales time, but that’s what happens when you let someone else do your job.

Marketing Is Great, But…

Don’t get me wrong. Our marketing teams provide invaluable support. They bring prospects to our Websites, nurture relationships, conduct research, create demographics, write case studies, and build social-media strategies. I have worked with and learned from some great marketers, and I have seen well-aligned sales and marketing teams do some great things together. But marketing should not be qualifying our leads. We are the only ones who should do that.

An Unexpected Point of View

Ken Krogue, founder of, advocates for striking a balance between warm calling and inbound marketing. While many B2B companies stand to benefit from an expanded inbound-marketing presence, it’s not enough to score those big-name accounts.

Krogue says that, although his company uses inbound marketing extensively, it doesn’t generate the large-scale leads he needs in order to sell to large clients such as the Fortune 500. “If you look at a typical bell curve, 70 percent of all inbound leads that come in are small,” he explains. “To score deals with enterprise-class companies, we have to reach out and initiate conversations and then move to a Web-based type of nurturing.”

Quality Trumps Quantity

In most marketing departments, the focus is on lead volume when it should be on lead quality. They measure the success of inbound marketing by how many leads are generated, rather than on how many of those leads actually convert into new clients.

Matt Heinz, president of Heinz Marketing, suggests the following solution: “Start with a common definition between sales and marketing of a good lead. Then track lead performance through the pipeline to ensure your overall modeling on lead-opportunity-close is correct, but also to adjust resources and lead channel investments based on where the best conversions and lowest marketing cost per sale exists.”

Nurture marketing takes us only so far. It’s up to salespeople to nurture their own relationships, not just with marketing automation, but with a proactive, outbound, and disciplined sales-prospecting strategy.

How do leads that come from your marketing team compare with those you create through referrals and other business-development strategies? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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How to Influence Your New BFF: the Millennial Procurement Officer

JenniferStanley_75x100Today's guest post is by Jennifer Stanley, Associate Principle (Marketing and Sales Practice) at McKinsey & Company. Hear her speak at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on March 16.




What kind of relationship will you have with purchasing agents in 2020? 

Consider this: by that time, Millennials will be 50 percent of the workforce. That means the people you’re selling to will likely have different styles, preferences, and habits from your current buyers. But this generation is already in the workforce and having a massive impact on how people do business. This development is one of the critical megatrends shaping sales today.

Millennials have grown up in an era of easy access to just about any type of information and a greater willingness to share their personal information with strangers. To cater to this type of buyer, it’s important to be proactive. They expect you to research them and their business before you meet or make contact. Existing buyers expect you to keep up with the evolving landscape of personal and corporate information that is available 24/7. They want you to really understand how your solution will help them personally succeed in achieving their individual goals, as well as their procurement-department objectives.

To better connect with the Millennial buyer, there are four actions you should take now if you haven't already.

1 Get social.

Millennials are omnipresent on digital platforms and expect others to be, too. Your customers and prospects are regularly viewing your company’s (and your) presence on various platforms – LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs, etc. According to our research, 75 percent of Millennials use social networking as a primary communication tool versus 30 percent of baby boomers and 50 percent of Generation Xers.

If you aren’t proficient in social selling, you need to start now. That means improving your professional presence on social media. More importantly, start tuning in to and tracking appropriate conversations about relevant topics and your target procurement officers on social media.

2 Help the buyer shine. 

Think about at least three ways you're going to help this person win. Don't stop with understanding what his or her department objective is for the year, i.e., the typical saving a set percentage off of last year’s procurement spend. Help this person achieve his or her own goals. Can your solution contribute to a promotion? Can you introduce your customer to a new professional or social network?

3 Cut your standard pitch by 70 percent.

Better yet, get rid of all paper and put your pitch in an app, a video, or some form of interactive digital material. Our 2012 B2B Customer Survey indicated that at least 35 percent of prepurchase activities happen on digital channels.

Creating that digital experience for the customer is critical to standing out in a positive light.  Clearly there will be customer-specific requirements for RFPs (the typical Excel spreadsheet requesting cost decomposition comes to mind), but look for ways to be relevant and helpful to your audience. For example, you could embed links in the spreadsheet that take a buyer to more detailed information housed on a dedicated, tailored Website.

4 Be a connector.

Despite what can sometimes feel like an “us versus them” world, the procurement officer is looking for mutually advantageous relationships. Your responsibility is to help this person cultivate those relationships with your company. 

One way is to link procurement officers to relevant video content from leading industry thinkers or other customers. Purchasers may further share that information, expanding the reach of your message.  

Ignoring these ways to meet the needs of Millennial purchasers puts you at risk of being hopelessly out of touch and hopelessly out of the deal. 

For more information on trends in selling, please visit McKinsey on Marketing & Sales. Follow us on Twitter @McK_MktgSales.


Three Tips to Avoid Price-Discounting Pitfalls

Fleming Darrin headshotToday's post is by Darrin Fleming, managing director at Stratavant, which provides strategic marketing and value-based sales and marketing tools for B2B companies. Read the original post here on the Stratavant blog (this version has been slightly edited and is used here with permission).  

What are some common circumstances that often lead to price discounting? Let’s examine a quick list.

  • It’s the end of the quarter, and the sales team is not going to meet sales goals.

  • There’s an economic dip in your industry, and sales have been sluggish for an extended period.

  • There’s a structural component to the compensation plan that rewards discounting.

  • Some element of your pricing plan is confusing for reps and/or prospects.

  • You have a surplus of inventory that’s about to become obsolete or otherwise unmarketable.

  • Your competitor is offering endless discounts, and you feel you have to match those discounts to keep from losing new and existing customers.

No matter what your reasoning is for lowering your price, continual price discounting is going to end up creating two major problems for you.

PROBLEM #1: You will trade a temporary uptick in revenue for a substantial reduction in profit.

Almost all sales leaders are evaluated on their ability to post revenue gains each quarter. The more sales reps discount on price, however, the more units they need to sell to achieve those revenue gains. This can create an endless cycle of lower margins per deal and sales reps’ chasing long-shot prospects in lieu of finding high-value customers. A lack of profit is going to ultimately affect other critical areas, such as research and development and marketing.

PROBLEM #2: You will move your offering toward a commodity.

Most companies want to avoid competing on price alone. When you do this, your business becomes a ruthless race to make products cheaper and faster. For many business-to-business (B2B) companies, it’s nearly impossible to produce a quality product at extremely low margins. If your offering gets cheaper but shoddy, your brand will take a beating.

The other problem with selling in a commoditized market is that you are now courting and creating relationships with customers who have a transactional mind-set and want short-term gain. In general, they are not the kind of customers who will remain loyal to you for years or offer much in the way of up-selling or cross-selling opportunities. Key accounts and anyone willing to pay a premium for higher value will go elsewhere.

How can you avoid the pitfalls associated with price discounting? Here are three tips.

  1. Align your compensation plan and any incentives programs with strategic goals. If you reward sellers purely on volume, it’s only logical for your reps to offer discounts. This is a sign of a price-discounting culture, which means it’s up to leaders to take the reins and steer the company in a more balanced direction. Perform an audit of your incentives programs and compensation plan and make sure to encourage behavior that will help you meet your strategic initiatives.

  2. Train reps to talk about value. When reps are frequently hammered on price, they need a bigger toolbox than the standard role-plays on how to overcome price objections. Teach them how to strategically and systematically move their customer conversations away from price and in the direction of value. They should be able to uncover the measurable financial benefits that customers care about. This can then open discussions about what customers would be willing to pay for those benefits.

  3. Invest in an ROI tool. A return-on-investment (ROI) tool can be of invaluable service when it comes to having conversations around value. Even the act of making an ROI tool available on your Website for prospects can be transformative. How so? Any prospect that takes the time to interact with an ROI tool online is already thinking beyond price and about value. This is an organic way to help your sales team center the conversation on value and sidestep common objections about price. In addition, a discussion about ROI is just more compelling than a flat price negotiation.

Use these tips and eliminate price discounting, or at least keep it to a reasonable level in your organization. Your sales reps shouldn’t feel they have to offer constant discounts in order to make sales. Support them properly with the right tools and training, and you’ll soon start to see the payoff.

Do you discount price? How do you respond when customers ask for discounts? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Why Sellers Must Focus on Relationships, Not Their Networks

Joanne-square-250x250Today's blog post is by Joanne Black, America’s top referral sales expert. Visit for more articles, tips, and free resources. You can also find Joanne on Twitter: @ReferralSales.  



George thought he’d nailed the link between social selling and referrals, but as it turns out, he had merely bought into the popular misconception that social media would do his job for him.

George knew lots of people who surely knew lots of people. So he decided to use email and LinkedIn to ask his vast network for referrals, but no one responded. The problem was that George had forgotten about the social part of social selling.

Sales is social, but too many people forget that the quality of their relationships, not the quantity of their connections, really counts. You can collect LinkedIn connections like baseball cards and get nowhere, or you make the connections you already have stronger.

Yes, George knew a lot of people, but he hadn’t been in touch with many of them for a year or more. He had contacts, not relationships. Now he needed to reconnect on social media and schedule time to talk – to find out how their circumstances had changed and in what ways he might be able to help them.

“That’s a lot of work,” he said.

Of course it’s a lot of work, but it’s our job as salespeople. If bringing in new business was as simple as pushing a few buttons, we’d have to find new careers.

Stop Typing and Start Talking

Who doesn’t love a good shortcut? While there’s much to be said for efficiency, however, you can’t get caught taking shortcuts when it comes to conversations.

The art of conversation is your competitive advantage. Conversation is the key to problem solving and relationship building, which are at the core of social selling. It’s also become an increasingly unique skill set. The digital world, as great as it is, has left an entire generation of salespeople afraid to pick up the phone and have real conversations. Text messages with truncated words or 140-character Twitter posts do not facilitate the kind of meaningful, effective dialogue that increases sales conversions or gets you referrals.

People do business with people, not with robots or tweets or any other fancy technology. Social media is the place to start a conversation and begin a relationship, not to pitch your services or ask for referrals. That’s like walking up to someone and saying, “Hey, do me a favor,” without even asking how the other person is doing.

Show up online as you would in person. Just because you’re online doesn’t mean social etiquette is off the table.

Referral Selling IS Social Selling

There’s a direct correlation between your personal connections, ability to generate referral introductions, and sales success. Referral selling is the most personal, most social kind of selling you can do. When I refer you, my reputation’s on the line, so I need to be sure you’ll take care of my relationship as I would.

Social selling is a great way to expedite the first few important steps in prospecting: researching potential clients and identifying referral sources. Engage people on social media, then pick up the phone and take the conversation offline. Find out how your referral source knows the person you want to meet. Explain the business reason you want an introduction, and then ask how you can reciprocate.

It’s never too soon (or too late) to ask for referrals, help someone, contribute to a conversation, say thanks, or just catch up. Step out from behind the technology curtain and discover the real world. It’s waiting for you.

How to Create an Optimal Learning Experience for Sales Reps

Darik Volpa Today's guest post is by Darik Volpa, founder and CEO of Rehearsal VRP.



What’s the best way to learn how to sell? Practice, practice, and more practice.

Yet many sales organizations are not creating an optimal environment for salespeople to practice and perfect their selling skills. This creates at least five problems:

  1. Lost revenue. When salespeople aren’t ready to have conversations with customers, they’re more likely to lose deals. You also risk creating a poor impression of your company when you send unprepared sales reps into the field.

  2. High levels of stress. Yes, salespeople need a tough skin to succeed in sales, but what manager wants to contribute extra stress and anxiety by exposing salespeople to trial-by-fire experiences or failing to help them properly prepare for selling situations? The sink-or-swim approach forces salespeople to learn, but it’s not very enjoyable or efficient.

  3. On-boarding drag. The faster you can get new hires up and running, the faster you can see revenue gains. A lack of proper coaching and training only adds to the amount of time it takes for your new reps to ramp up.

  4. Hiring difficulties. A great learning culture is a point of differentiation that can make or break your hiring effort. If your company becomes known for its poor learning environment, new hires might decide to take jobs at companies that invest in better training, coaching, and support. 

  5. Slow response times. The traditional weekly or monthly coaching model is slow compared to the pace of business. When a competitor undercuts your price, you want a well-trained team that can respond swiftly.

This last point is especially important: a poor learning environment is not just a front-end issue that affects new hires; it is a pervasive problem that affects the sales organization at all levels. Why? Because selling is a continual learning process. Think of all the instances that create new learning curves, even for veteran and top-performing salespeople: 

  • You launch a new product.
  • You change your pricing structure.
  • You open a new sales channel.
  • You reengineer your selling territories.
  • You move into a new market segment.
  • You adopt a new sales methodology/process.
  • You shift your marketing approach.
  • You adopt a new tool (for example, a new CRM system).
  • Your competitor does any of the above.

So what’s going to change the game for sales teams? I believe the answer is video role-play. Our clients use our video-based software, Rehearsal VRP, to help sales teams practice and perfect their selling and communication skills. The process is simple and requires only a Webcam and an Internet connection:

  1. Salespeople watch a short video and then record a response to the question or role-play prompt from their sales manager. (For example, sales managers could ask reps to respond to a prospect’s price objection or a question about how their offering differs from the competition’s.)

  2. Salespeople then submit the recording to their manager or mentor for review. The person who reviews the recording then provides video feedback, as well as a numerical score. 

  3. The numerical scores are tallied, and the top-ranked responses are added to a leaderboard. This allows an organization to build a library of best selling practices from which everyone can learn.

Rehearsal VRP software poses a number of advantages. First, sales managers are able to quickly scale the learning environment. So when a competitor comes out with a new product, managers can quickly disseminate a role-play to all salespeople so they can start crafting a successful response to use during conversations with customers. 

Second, salespeople have a safe space to practice their skills. They can record themselves as much as they need to before sending their video for review. I’ve found that salespeople gain more confidence when they’re able to practice a skill on their own, as opposed to being put on the spot in front of a group. Finally, the leaderboard allows salespeople to learn from the best possible responses to your organization’s particular selling challenges.

Our clients are reporting that Rehearsal VRP is helping them get a better return on their existing sales-training investment. One sales leader at Clorox has reported saving $1,500 a week in travel and expenses. Among a survey of 27 salespeople at AbbVie who are using Rehearsal VRP, 78 percent agree or strongly agree that it is helping them effectively understand and practice the Challenger Selling model.

Today, there’s no reason to let your reps sink or swim. Click here to chat with us live, or sign up to take Rehearsal for a test drive and see how you can start creating an optimal learning experience.

How did you develop your selling skills? What tools and techniques are you using to create a supportive learning environment? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

My Favorite Quotes from David Meerman Scott's New Book

One of the best things about hosting a conference for B2B sales leaders is that I get to meet very astute thought leaders and experts. In San Francisco earlier this year, I met David Meerman Scott, and I instantly felt a connection with his message. He spoke passionately about the new rules of selling, and he energized the audience as he enthusiastically participated in our chief networking officer’s challenge to tweet selfies of all the new people we met during the event.

During one of the breaks at the conference, we took some time to record this quick interview, in which he shared some of his background on how he got started in sales and how his early experiences shaped his worldview. I was struck by how many of his ideas about effective selling came from the formative experience of working as a sales rep for a Wall Street firm, back in the days when the salesperson owned the information and had all the power in the sales relationship.

Today I’m excited to announce that David has released a great new book, The New Rules of Sales and Service: How to Use Agile Selling, Real-Time Customer Engagement, Big Data, Content, and Storytelling to Grow Your Business. If you are in sales or marketing, I encourage you to order your copy today and discover what you need to be thinking about to be successful this year and beyond. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book so far:

On cold calling…

“Many organizations are still operating as if it were 1986, and they continue to focus massive investments on interrupting people with an army of salespeople making cold calls.”

On capturing customers…

“Content is the link between companies and customers. You are what you publish. You have to stop thinking like an advertiser of a product and start thinking like a publisher of information.”

On the new sales cycle…

“Because of the infinite amount of information available on the Web, buyers now have more information than sellers, and therefore buyers have the upper hand in negotiations.”

On social media…

“The secret to building a following on social networks is that there is no secret. You must participate.”

On sales and marketing alignment…

“Break down the walls between sales and marketing, and your business will improve. We are no longer in a world where marketing passes the baton to sales and sales leaders are seen as the primary measurement of marketing’s success.”

Great thought leaders are always thinking several steps ahead. I am impressed by David’s insight and the very real value he offers all of us who are operating in sales today.

What are some of your biggest current challenges as a seller? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Why Knowing Your Customer's Business Isn't Enough

LaVonKoener_smToday's post is by LaVon Koerner, chief revenue officer of Revenue Storm, a global sales consulting and revenue acceleration firm.



How many times have you been told to understand your customer’s business? Well-meaning sales trainers and coaches often imply that, if you have a thorough understanding of the current points of pain within your customer’s business, then you will be able to sell more to that customer. While this may have some impact with capturing just preexisting demand, it is less helpful if you are inclined or have a need to create new demand for your products and services. 

Here is where the cold business reality meets sales reality: you will never be able to understand your customer’s business better than your customer does. If you pretend that you do, you make yourself unnecessarily vulnerable. You are always just one step or one question away from being exposed. If your limited business understanding gets uncovered, any respect or sales advantage can quickly dissipate. Additionally, there may not be any flexibility in the customer’s current business structure and cemented plans to enable you to force yourself and your products and services into their preconstructed strategies. 

There is, however, a better approach that positions you on a level playing field with the executives in your customer’s company. This approach instantly puts you into an intense executive conversation in which you have a real opportunity to create demand. Once you expand your thinking and conversation beyond the customer’s business and step into the customer’s world and industry, you have instantly broken through a knowledge barrier and stepped onto a new stage.

Focusing on your customer’s industry will enable you to discuss what could beand not be encumbered or limited by what is. It is precisely in this discussion that new and often unthought-of opportunities can be put on the table. Here, the sales professional’s thought leadership carries real weight, and his or her innovative ideas will be heard and considered. This is where demand creation can most easily be accomplished.

The reason for this improved potential is simple: your customer’s expectations are lowered when it comes to matters of the future. Often, the customer has yet to sort out his or her own views about what new opportunities are unfolding and how to capitalize on them to gain competitive advantage in the industry. In short, in the absence of preconceived ideas of potential courses of action, the sales professional has a legitimate chance of making a case for some new course of action. Here, sales professionals can differentiate themselves not only from their own competitors but also from other executives within the customer’s organization.

To be clear, a spirited conversation about exciting possibilities, unfolding because of new and emerging industry trends, can disrupt the customer’s current status quo. These new colliding and often conflicting trends will upset the way your customer is currently doing business and open up new possibilities. Once spotted, the race is on. The first ones to identify these trends and act will often be able to capitalize on them at the expense of their competitors. Here lies the spark of invention, the catalyst for doing something new and really different. This is when a customer looking for an edge will pause to listen to you. This is the home of demand creation!

To learn more about demand creation, listen to Revenue Storm’s recent Webinar,The End of Sales As We Know It.

Read This before You Talk about ROI

Fleming Darrin headshotToday's post is by Darrin Fleming, managing director at Stratavant, which provides strategic marketing and value-based sales and marketing tools for B2B companies. Read the original post here on the Stratavant blog (this version has been slightly edited and is used here with permission).  

How frequently do you use the term “ROI” (return on investment) in front of customers and potential buyers?

I frequently hear sales and marketing professionals talk about ROI inaccurately. In a casual conversation, people might give you the benefit of the doubt and have faith that you know your stuff; however, if you’re making a formal presentation or having a serious conversation with a prospect who’s well versed in financial terminology, misuse of the term could obviously leave a disastrous impression of you and your company on your conversation partner.

For example, I hear both sellers and marketers say things like this all the time: “Your ROI is $100,000.” Here’s why this is incorrect: if you’ve ever expressed ROI in dollars, you’ve likely confused it with net present value (NPV). NPV answers this question: “What is the cash benefit minus the expenses required to achieve the benefit worth in today’s dollars?” ROI is not a dollar amount, it’s a percentage. Specifically, it’s a percentage that represents what your net gain will be on any investment.

ROI = (Gain of Investment – Cost of Investment)/Cost of Investment

In other words, if your benefit is $100 but you spend $50 to achieve that benefit, your ROI is 100 percent.

NPV is still an important consideration because the term takes into account the value of a dollar over time. Let’s say you invest $100,000 with an expected return of $120,000 within the next two months. That investment would be worth more to you than an investment of the same amount of money with an expected return of $120,000 five years from now. The reason is that $120,000 is worth more two months from now than it will be five years from now.

I’ve also heard sellers and marketers say things like this: “You’ll get a six-month ROI with our solution.” Here’s why this is incorrect: if you’ve ever expressed ROI in terms of a period of time, you’ve likely confused ROI with payback period. Again, ROI is always a percentage, never a period of time. If I invest $100,000 in a project, the payback is the length of time it takes for the cumulative benefits to become greater than the cumulative investment. Payback period is always measured in time (typically months).

In my first job out of college, I was an economic evaluator. That meant part of my job was to evaluate capital investments and decide whether they represented a good investment for the company (including evaluating the payback period, NPV, and ROI). So that was where I learned a lot about financial analysis and how to talk about numbers with chief financial officers.

The magic of these financial metrics is that together they give you a great picture of the impact of an investment. Essentially, you can measure ROI on anything. The formula is simply to subtract the cost of your investment from the gain of your investment, and divide it by the cost of your investment. That’s how we’re able to build ROI calculators for so many different scenarios for our clients.

People confuse financial terms all the time, so if you’ve gotten this one wrong in the past, don’t feel bad – just don’t let it jeopardize your ability to close a deal.

What’s your understanding of the term “ROI,” and how frequently does it crop up in your discussions with prospects and clients? 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!

How to Negotiate Successfully through the Sales Process

Marty FinkleToday’s post is by Marty Finkle, CPT, CEO of the Parsippany, New Jersey-based Scotwork North America ( Contact him at



It’s time to make a deal with the prospect, so you unleash your negotiation skills – but by then, it may be too late to make a meaningful difference. You need to incorporate strategic negotiation into the entire sales process, from start to finish, for each lead you qualify.

Be Curious and Ask the Right Questions

Begin by analyzing the key issues from the prospect’s standpoint. Be curious about the person’s intentions, goals, motivation, limits, and areas he or she can be flexible. Some questions to ask:

  • “What are your intended results?”

  • “What type of agreement would make you look good to colleagues at your company?”

  • “What are your priorities when making this purchase, e.g., price, service, or duration of contract?”

  • “On what terms can you be flexible?”

Listen carefully to the responses, and at various points during the negotiation, summarize the other side’s point of view out loud so there are no misunderstandings. These practices may also help you uncover a hidden agenda and recognize when your negotiating partner is ready to close. Plus, you’ll be able to shape your negotiation strategy throughout the rest of the sales process.

Practice 8 Steps to Successful Negotiation

1. Prepare

Clarify your objectives and develop wish and concession lists, while anticipating what will be important to the client.

2. Argue

Rehearse your opening statements, ask questions, listen carefully to the answers, and exchange additional information.

3. Signal

Be alert to the prospect’s signals (verbal and nonverbal), which may reveal needs that you didn’t pick up in prior sessions.

4. Propose

Trade with the prospect to secure specific and practical items of greater value to you (e.g., higher prices, longer-term contract, and later deadlines) while conceding items of lesser value.  

5. Package

Give those on the other side what they want – on your terms – and shape your proposal based on any uncovered needs.

6. Bargain

Set a price for the prospect’s demands, and put conditions before offers with this type of statement: “If you agree to sign a two-year contract, then we’ll provide delivery at a 25 percent discount for the first twelve months.”

7. Close

For a trial closing, you can ask, “Are you saying that if we agree to provide delivery at a 25 percent discount for the first twelve months, you’ll sign a two-year contract?” This type of question encourages the prospect to reveal any hidden issues and should enable you to close the negotiation.

8. Agree

Clarify potential ambiguities, and confirm that the terms of the agreement are acceptable and can be implemented by both parties.

Negotiate So Both Sides Come out Smiling

Don’t view success as “we win, you lose,” an approach that won’t lead to long-term relationships. Instead, seek to understand the prospect’s needs so you can offer a practical solution while at the same time getting what’s important to you, such as a longer-term contract, flexibility in service, and ultimately higher revenue.