Don’t fall in love with your product .. Fall in love with the customer ..

As a sales training company we receive many phone calls from frustrated sales managers asking us to please teach their salespeople how to close more deals. Their requests focus on the poor closing rate of their staff and they honestly believe that we can help by imparting assertive closing techniques. And there are endless techniques that we can teach – because this is what the market demands – but sadly the reality is that in the real world these closes do not actually work.

Become a master questioner
If you’re not happy with your sales team’s results, chances are high that the real problem is their questioning skills. And, your money will be better spent in training that helps them develop this skill and how to put it to best use during the discovery meeting. Yes, presenting and closing are important, but the discovery meeting is more important. A salesperson can’t even get to presentation and closing stage if he trips up in the discovery meeting.

So where does the close happen in the sales process?
Ask any top sales pro and they will tell you that the close starts at the beginning. But the question you should really be asking is: When does the “buy-in” start? The answer is that it starts during the Discovery Phase, where salespeople are working with the prospect to establish their pain points. If “buy-in” occurs at this stage, the close is easier to achieve. It’s really just a matter of summarising the points of agreement.

We play a game with delegates on our training programs to help them establish the prospect’s “buy-in”. One delegate is nominated to conjure up the profile of an ideal prospect and include at least three problem areas. The other delegates have to then try to find out what these As a sales training company we receive many phone calls from frustrated sales managers asking us to please teach their salespeople how to close more deals. Their requests focus on the poor closing rate of their staff and they honestly believe that we can help by imparting assertive closing techniques. And there are endless techniques that we can teach – because this is what the market demands – but sadly the reality is that in the real world these closes do not actually work. Finding the pain = closing.

1. No closed questions allowed. Closed questions are those that result in a “yes” or “no” answer. For example: “Do you want to go ahead?” Why are these types of questions best avoided? Because most people lean naturally towards a “no” because this seems the safest option. And, once you’ve received a “no”, that’s it, the discussion is over.
2. Find at least three points of “pain”. Other descriptions for this “pain” include; new opportunities, problem areas, gaps, unforeseen problems, and negative consequences of maintaining the status quo.
3. Get the prospect’s agreement to these points of “pain”. You could ask something like: Just to double-check that we are on the same page here, you agreed XYZ. Then repeat the points discussed and where you and the prospect have agreed.
4. You are not allowed to pitch or present your product or service before identifying three points of “pain”.
Which of these ground rules do you think is broken, time and time again? You’d be right if you said no. 4. This occurs 95% of the time and we know this to be a fact after 20 years’ experience in eight countries with over 140 000 delegates from around the world. With almost 100% certainty, we can safely predict that salespeople will jump at the first chance to tell a prospect how they can solve their problems. This is not selling, it is telling, and we know this doesn’t work. People like to buy, but dislike being sold to.

Why do salespeople jump so quickly into a telling mode? Because it’s a comfortable place for them. Salespeople can’t wait to tell prospects about the benefits of their products or services. Companies spend hours teaching their staff about a product. This conditioning process paves the way for salespeople to fall into the biggest trap in the sales process; the Presentation Trap. This is pitching the benefits of your product/service far too early, without having three points of “pain” clearly on the table. This mistake is as nonsensical as going to a doctor and expecting him to immediately prescribe medication without asking any questions about the reasons for your visit.

So how do you avoid this fatal temptation? You ask your salespeople to follow the following rules to the letter:

1. If you find yourself telling your prospects about the product; stop and ask yourself: Have I identified three points of “pain” and, more importantly, does my prospect concur?
2. Stop focusing on your product and listen to the prospect. Don’t fall in love with your product – fall in love with the customer. In fact, do yourself a favour and “divorce” your company, and only fall back in love with it when you present your benefits to the client.
3. Follow the 30/70 Rule. This means spending 30% of the time talking, and 70% of the time listening to your prospect talk. Recent research by Diana Tamir shows that talking about ourselves – whether in a personal conversation or through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter – triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money. Participants in the study chose to speak about themselves, even when tempted with financial rewards. If you can get your prospects to talk about themselves; you’ve made huge progress. If you can demonstrate that you are actively listening to them, the chances of them liking you are high. Salespeople need to find the triggers that will get prospects talking; it usually doesn’t require too much inducement.

In the game described above, we mirrored examples of real-life events. Follow the rules of the game in your business and keep practicing them. The game is all about gradually encouraging “buy-in” from your prospects and ultimately getting to the point where you close the deal. As you uncover issues pertinent to your prospect, not your product, you will gain their “buy-in”. You can then close the deal by summarising the pain points and getting the prospect’s agreement. Now, make this “game” your reality and watch your sales soar.

How to regain a customer – turn a loss into a WIN

You can turn losing a customer into a win for your business…

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When we lose a customer the usual breezy advice is to move on or simply go and find another one. The advice is usually well meant, but losing a client is a huge disappointment and it can take more than a moment to recover. However, if you have the courage for it, it does create a great opportunity for some feedback. Your motive in organising this follow-up is to listen and learn, and you may well be surprised at the opportunities that arise as a result.

Thank your customer

When was the last time you went to thank a customer after losing their business? Have you ever thanked them? Do actually thank them from time to time for giving you their business and support in the first place?

Consider this scenario. You invite your customer to meet with no agenda except to thank them for the business they gave you. You meet and do just that, with total sincerity and no hidden motives. What happens? Your customer relaxes, defences are lowered and a natural conversation ensues. No ‘defence mechanisms’ are up because you make it clear you are not there to try and win the business back.

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  • In such a relaxed open environment you obtain a mine of information like:
  • Why their need for your services/ products dried up?
  • ‡Who replaced you as a supplier?
  • ‡What could you have done to prevent being substituted or ‘fired’?
  • ‡What you and your company must do to regain your competitive edge?
  • ‡What are their longer terms plans?
  • ‡How could you position yourself to be included in those plans?

This kind of market feedback is priceless

Research has shown that the key differentiator between top and mediocre salespeople is their ability to build and maintain healthy relationships. If you are truly working together as business partners, there might be a valid reason for the customer to discontinue buying from you for a while. But, the opportunity may open up again in the future, and if you fail to nurture that relationship, you are unlikely to get the call.

People move positions and move companies and when they do move they are likely to take their trusted advisors with them – this may well be you. Do you deserve the title of ‘trusted advisor’ or are you just a sales rep quick to take any old order?

Recently, I organised a meeting to thank the GM of a large bank for their business, which they had recently ended. During our chat I learned he was soon to be appointed as the GM for Development into Africa.

He went on to say that he will call on us to come back once the strategy and processes had been implemented. This happens when top salespeople make a lasting impression and view the service/product from the buyer’s perspective. It drives home the fact that trusted advisors are not in business for a ‘quick buck’. People will always buy from people they trust and like.

YOUR BUSINESS April/May 2018
Clive Price

How do you CREATE VALUE?

The answer could mean the difference between a pitch that goes nowhere and one that secures the customer’s business…

Over the last few years there has been a seismic shift in the selling environment. Top sellers are adopting a radically different approach and displaying a blend of collaborative behaviours to help them become the value of whatever they are selling. In fact, selling on value seems to be all everyone is talking about, but there is little advice on how to actually do this.

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Here are two lessons I’ve learnt:


Traditional sales lore tells us we need to try to engage buyers with powerful and intelligent questions. The aim is to drill down, find their pain, and then provide a solution. The problem is that there are hundreds of salespeople out there offering “solutions”. And, if the offerings are similar, it can be very difficult to differentiate yourself. The result? Price pressure and discounting. While consultative or solution selling is not dead, it is often not enough to bring home the win, and your approach may need reshaping.

In my view, an essential part of creating value is the ability to disrupt a buyer’s thinking. Your buyers are likely in one of these states: comfort, paralysis or fear. And, they will remain there forever, particularly if they hear the same old sales pitches day in and day out.

How do you disrupt this state and force them to start thinking? By shaking up their thought patterns and being controversial, that’s how. Does this sound crazy, even dangerous? This example may convince you otherwise. We sell sales training courses to companies and research has shown that 87% of all learning and retention is lost within three months of undergoing training.

Our answer to this is a sustainability programme that should be conducted after our training. You’d think it would be an obvious sell, but all buyers don’t go for this optional valueadd. To convince them, I ask a disruptive question like: “How long do you think the sales skills will last?”

The answer is usually: “Oh they won’t last too long, but we have to give our new staff some basic sales skills.” My next disruptive question would be: “Isn’t that a very poor return on you investment, pretty much a waste of money?” I then wait for an appropriate moment to introduce our programme of sustainability. What I want is a searching engagement with my prospective client, not a superficial chat.

Here are some generic examples of this disruptive approach:
>> I’d like to share up front what our service/product cannot do for you and here they are…
>> You are probably thinking, “this won’t work” and you are quite correct.
>> I am sorry to say this, but our service/ product won’t solve all your issues with XYZ.
>> Yes, there’s a temporary fix here, but it won’t last because of XYZ.
>> Can you take a moment to reflect on how this could be applied to your business?

Disruptive conversations aim to shock and shake the buyer, and ultimately engage them. Remember the buyer will try to stay in her comfort zone and will only make a change if seriously challenged. This may sound like “shock” therapy, but it’s what you have to do to get your buyers to start thinking. Of course, you may scare them away. But, those buyers who stay are the ones you want as they are true prospects and likely wins, not suspects who constantly sit on the fence.

Most people avoid confrontation at all costs. But to be a true trusted advisor means asking about those deep, maybe even sensitive issues, and even taking an adversarial stance.

You need to ask these uncomfortable questions and discover the real issues, not chat about symptoms. Top sellers challenge the buyer’s reality and are not scared to disagree with the buyer. It’s only by being courageous and disruptive that we gain the respect of the buyer.

Mike Shultz, author of Rain Selling, puts it like this: “Insight sellers must embrace their role of change agent and push buyers out of their comfort zone. To carry out this strategy, where the conversation can become uncomfortable, difficult, and risky, requires courage and ruthless honesty – assertiveness not arrogance.”


A recent Forrester Research survey revealed that the # 1 factor that separates sales winners from the pack is their ability to provide insights that provide new perspectives and ideas. These sales pros are seen as trusted advisors first and foremost. They earned this title right at the beginning of the relationship.

Now the seller becomes the value through using his insights to dig deeply, redefine the root causes of a problem, question the status quo, challenge current strategies, introduce a fresh perspective, create new solutions collaboratively, and inspire their clients to new heights.

Through these collaborative behaviours the seller helps the buyer achieve his goals. The seller then becomes an indispensable business partner, a member of the team; an accountable one at that. Buyers now perceive these “sellers” to be integral to their success.

Top salespeople start courageous conversations around the compelling reasons for change. These special sellers are called insight sellers. While other salespeople continue to do battle over the customer’s needs, the top salesperson “becomes” the value as exhibited in his insights and behaviours.

As a result of their actions, collaborative sellers build relationships, build trust and maximise sales conversions. By collaborating you make your prospective client an active participant in the sales process. It makes for a pleasant change.

W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, the authors of Blue Ocean Strategy, contend that winners succeed not by battling against competitors, but rather by creating a “leap in value for their customers, while making the competition irrelevant”.

This is what insight sellers do.

The real question is whether or not you have the courage to start disruptive conversations and whether or not you can produce these insights? Do you see yourself as a change agent or just a salesperson?

You’ll never know until you push yourself to the limit and you may even surprise yourself.

YOUR BUSINESS June/July 2016
Clive Price