Delivering meaningful value

  • Through skillful questioning technique you have uncovered the prospect's needs
  • It's very easy to bombard your prospect with the many features that your products offer
  • However, not every feature is of benefit to every customer
  • Features and USPs are meaningless if they do not deliver value in the customer's eyes

Features, Functions and BENEFITS

  • Feature - anything you can touch, feel, see or measure, answers the question "what is it?"
  • Function what the feature does, answers the question "what will it do?"
  • Benefit gain, save, advantage made from function, answers the question "what will it do for me?"
  • Customers buy features, functions and benefits; sales people sell features and at best functions
  • Ask yourself "so what?"
  • Explain to the customer "And this means to you"
  • "Let me show you anyway" means you are telling about features the customer may not have asked for

Questioning Technique

  • With skilful questioning (see funnel technique) you can uncover and develop customer needs
  • You can guide the customer in the direction of the products that you have on offer
  • Ask questions to see if your features and functions are going to be of benefit to this customer
  • If they are not - then why waste time and effort explaining them?

Explaining the Benefits

"So, Mr. Customer, with the new support agreement you can call our help desk day or night (the feature).  This will give you continuous support (the function) when you introduce your 24-hour shift pattern.  This means that should you experience any difficulties, say at the weekend, you will not lose any production capacity (the benefit) as you will get help with any problems straight away".

Adding value up-selling and cross-selling

  • Up-selling increasing revenue by selling similar products and services that have a higher price
  • Cross-selling (link selling) increasing revenue by selling complementary, additional products
  • Must be able to prove to the customer that there is "something in it for the customer" - added value
  • Value is "...the worth of something compared to something else......"
  • Value could be a high "pay back" for small outlay (also discussed in terms of ROI)
  • "Pay back" is the tangible return delivered by the benefits of your products and services
  • The greater the pay back the greater the value to your customer
  • It is rare that a customer buys just "for the sake of it" they want a return for the outlay

The Value formula

  • Value = benefit cost
  • The more needs we can uncover, the more benefits we can deliver
  • The more benefits the greater the pay back, the greater the pay back the higher the value
  • The higher the value the better the chance to up-sell and cross-sell

Proving value, THE VALUE GAP

  • Once the need is uncovered there has to be adequate pay back and value in fulfilling the need
  • The customer has to understand the implications of not fulfilling the needs (or fixing the problem)
  • You need to establish the difference between adopting your solution and not adopting it
  • The difference between status quo and adoption is the "value gap"
  • Find value gaps to which you can attach a monetary amount
  • Then you can justify the benefit in terms of tangible "added value"

Value Gap simple example

  • Manual sales order processing system
  • Company could sell 20% more orders if they could process them
  • Annual sales = £1,000,000
  • New automated SOP would mean processing the orders
  • Value gap = £200,000 per annum
  • New SOP system = £50,000, cost of implementing, training, operating = further £50,000
  • New SOP pays for itself in 6 months - if you can prove the system WILL process the additional 20%
  • Customer will never understand the value gap if they do not see how the features and functions deliver the benefits


  • The best product, at the best price does not always win the order
  • Sell benefits, don't simply tell about features
  • Look for the value gap and quantify it
  • Make the intangible tangible = monetary value
  • Do not leave the customers to work the value for themselves - they might not bother!

Posted in Weekly Sales Tips.

Advancing the Sale - the steps of the [B2B] sales cycle

In any sales and business development role one of the biggest traps that salespeople fall into is the confusion between activity and results - the "busy work" syndrome.  They are busy doing sales activity with little regard to effectiveness.  In other words, they are confusing activity with results.  When we run our solution sales courses or during coaching sessions we talk about Advancement versus Continuation where  Advancement = any action you take, or you get the customers to take, that moves you nearer to the order and Continuation = sales activity but no real progress towards the order.  Advancement versus continuation is a real light bulb moment for many of our participants.

What helps is to consider your sales cycle and your sales approach and understand what exactly you have to do to complete a sale.  Here are the steps in a typical solution selling sales cycle where you need to be advancing to the next stage.


  • Selecting where the best potential lies in your territory
  • The salesperson identifies / reviews the territory customers, non-users, businesses and industries, market trends, applications, opportunities, competitive installations
  • They decide which companies represent potential, how many exist, order they should be tackled
  • The salesperson ends up with a list of organizations to target and contact, advancing to:


  • Contacting people, we "suspect" may want to have the need for what you sell
  • The salesperson and/or their company make contact
  • Cold calling, mailers, e-mailers, seminars, exhibitions, web marketing
  • Leads are handled and responded to
  • Initial fact-finding calls and low-level contacts are made, the salesperson advances the sales by identifying how to qualify the suspects into prospects:


  • Initial engagement with the prospect
  • Is the company worth spending time with?
  • Do they really have a need for our products and services - now?
  • Will or does the decision maker recognize that need
  • If not, can they be educated?
  • Can you identify the people who will influence the decision?
  • Have they got; can they find budget?
  • The GO/NO GO decision stage
  • GO - the salesperson plans the approach call
  • what products, prices, services etc. will most likely satisfy the prospect's needs?
  • is the information enough that he/she will want to see me?
  • is the information enough that I can justify the time he/she gives me? If the decision is a GO, the salesperson advances to the next stage:


  • Salesperson opens the sales call and offers a reason to be heard (benefit statement)
  • The salesperson uncovers and develops the need
  • Buying criteria is identified, decision making processes are defined
  • Further qualification is undertaken
  • Prospect and salesperson agree what criteria must be met and what other actions must take place
  • Products, services, concepts are presented to match the prospect's needs


  • The salesperson together with the customer carry out the agreed actions
  • The salesperson continues to qualify the prospect
  • They sell to the decision influencers and obtains their commitment
  • Information is collated to present a cost/benefit justification
  • The sale is advanced by, for example: -
  • applications/usage surveys
  • identifying critical, time vital information
  • determination of whether to offer leasing or outright purchase
  • demonstrations
  • determining locations for deliveries, use, installations
  • proof of concepts
  • trials and pilots
  • VIP meetings
  • top level calls
  • The salesperson proves to the individual decision makers and influencers that: -
  • There is a real need for the products and services now
  • The suggested products, pricing, service etc. will satisfy his/her needs
  • The customer can rely on you and your company to implement the proposed solution
  • That your products and services are worth the money and that they can afford it


  • The salesperson has done enough justification
  • They have sold each individual involved in the decision and satisfied their needs and buying criteria
  • Terms are negotiated
  • They summarize the solution and the agreements reached previously
  • They obtain mutual agreement that the buying criteria have been met
  • They ask for the order


  • The salesperson obtains a signed agreement
  • Together with the customer they agree on the implementation plan
  • They schedule their own and the customer's personnel required to implement the proposal


  • The salesperson does everything required to get the proposed solution operational
  • They stay in contact to ensure delivery of the promised benefits.  
  • They ensure
  • the physical deliveries take place
  • that installations occur on time
  • that users are trained as suggested
  • that applications are developed and used
  • supplies are available
  • service requests can be placed
  • that the invoice is understood and paid
  • The salesperson establishes a smooth customer interface in the areas of:
  • sales and sales support
  • technical service
  • administration
  • supplies
  • training


  • The salesperson re-justifies the installed configuration to the decision makers and influencers.  
  • Account management reviews and customer (external) reviews are held
  • The salesperson makes it easy for the customer to re-order
  • They ensure customer satisfaction with the products, pricing, service, and support


  • The salesperson develops an account plan
  • Objective to ensure an on-going mutually beneficial business relationship
  • To ensure the customer has the best price and product configuration for their needs based on current and anticipated needs and financial requirements
  • To generate a prospect for additional and/or on-going profitable business

Don't fall into the trap of confusing activity for results.  Get into the habit of asking your prospect advancement style questions - "what is the next step?", "what do we need to do to move this forward?", "who else should we involve getting this to the next stage?".   Advancement is as much about attitude as it is technique, you need to be assertively pushing your prospect and moving the sale towards closure.

For more information call us NOW!

Effective business development demands presenting proposals not sending quotes!

Are you really presenting proposals or in reality are you sending your prospects and customers a glorified quote that is titled a proposal?

A quote tells the buyer the price.  A proposal sells the benefits, explains you know the prospect's business and details why they should go with your solution, product or service.  A proposal explains the cost as an investment, it details why your prospect can't afford not to do business with you.

So why don't sales people write proposals?  They think they have to be long, fully detailed works of art and they often do not get enough information on the sales call about the prospect's needs,  They probably don't have the facts and figures for a valid ROI argument either.  So a quote gets delivered, but on the front cover it says "A proposal for.........."

A proposal does not have to be a long diatribe, it does not have to be a glossy, four color, spiral bound masterpiece.  In some circumstances even one page will do!

A proposal is about substance not volume and should include:

1.  An introduction
2.  The prospect's needs
3.  Your solution
4.  The investment and ROI
5.  Why your solution
6.  Appendices (terms, specs, warranty etc.)

Frequently a proposal will go on one or two pages and can be a simple Word template (ask for an example).  Don't forget if it is a long proposal then you do need an executive summary and a really usable contents page.

With prospects and sellers alike being so busy these days, we are even using PowerPoint slides with short sharp bullet points to present proposals.  We then export the slides into a .pdf and give it to the customer they love it!

Last point don't forget, if a proposal is worth writing, its worth taking in person.

For more information contact us now!

Sales Tip No. 29 - Who are you really competing against?

We frequently hear sales people saying "there's no competition on this deal".  When we dig deeper we find that there is competition after all, but not from where they think.  The "competition" is coming in the form of 1) lethargy, the easiest decision is no decision, do nothing or 2) competition for use of the funds earmarked for your deal - not a directly competing product, service of solution.
Lethargy is always a challenge - remind the prospect of why you are there in the first place - the need has not gone away, spell out the business drivers and compelling event that you are addressing and re-present your value / ROI case - proving how they can't afford to do nothing .
Competing for use of the funds - that's a bit trickier. In most organizations there is always someone with the power (the influence and/or the authority) to find budget where other people can't. The consequence?  If you have not made a strong case, if you don't have an ally or champion fighting for you, then you are exposed to the risk of having your budget stolen by that someone.
Make sure you have a good value based proposal with a strong ROI case with the prospect, coach your ally / champion on making your case on your behalf.  Ensure the budget owner is on your side and he/she wants to buy as much you want to sell and they will, as a result, be willing and able to defend their budget.

Posted in Weekly Sales Tips. Tagged as competition, Competitive Advantage, Power Base Selling, sales skills, the fox.

Why the best products, services and solutions don't always win the order.

Posted in Video Blogs. Tagged as compete selling, Competitive Advantage, complex selling, political alignment, Political plan, relationship selling, solution selling.

Is your sales team slipping into a dependency culture?

Posted in Video Blogs. Tagged as management skills, sales experience, sales management.

Sales Management Challenges: 6 of 6 - Managing for maximum performance

In the current market, we are seeing some complacency creeping into how sales leaders are operating. They seem to be thinking, "Business is going well, so what do we need training or development for?"  This doesn't refer to you, of course. You would not get complacent--you are far too professional!

I'd like to share the benefits of my 30-year experience in sales and marketing with you. This series of blogs tackles 6 of the top sales management challenges with sound advice and a practical 'do today' tip.

Sales Management Challenge #6: Managing for maximum performance

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.  But when the going is good, do the good get better?

Managing a sales team takes time, energy and resources--often more than you would think--and it can often be counter-intuitive.  For example, when business is good, some sales managers take their feet off their performance management gas pedals. Yet, they really should be rolling up their sleeves and using those 'good times breathing spaces' as opportunities to focus on managing their teams for maximum performance.

These are the times to make the top contributors even better, to up the skills of the team members who are struggling, and develop the people who are scraping by with [only just] on-target performances.

And, just so we are all speaking the same language, when I refer to 'performance management' I am not only referring to managing negative performance.

Where do you start?  Well, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. First, you need to know if your people want to improve their performances (Are they willing?) and if they have the skills to do so (Are they able?).

Once you know this, you can plan your performance management approach: Have you got motivation issues with some people? Are there training needs or do you need to coach and mentor people?  You will probably have a combination of all three, so here is a quick way to assess what you have to get to grips with: the "Skill:Will Matrix"

The matrix is self-explanatory, but here's an example just in case: You have a highly-skilled sales person who is not willing to perform. Your first step is a heart-to-heart, including a verbal kick in the ass. Then, you should do some motivating. If that fails, you most likely have a disciplinary situation on your hands.

A high performer (skill and will) rarely needs training. They need someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to empower them further. Your actions will be to mentor and collaborate with these people.

Do-today Tip #6: Put together a quick chart and write up where your people are in the Skill-Will Matrix.  Create a plan to get the biggest impact in the shortest time with your team.

Getting good people is not a given, and neither is keeping them. The tips in this blog series will help you to find, hire, keep, and develop a high-performing team.

Read more:
How to Create Clearly Defined Sales Processes and Sales Objectives
Building the Right Team
Where are you on the Sales Management Continuum?
Motivating your Team
Gauging experience as you hire your Team

Are you good at choosing the right tools for the job? Perhaps you're looking for some answers? Our online community can't wait to read your comments and reply to your questions.

Tagged as management skills, people development, recruiting, sales leadership, sales management, sales team, skill will matrix.

Sales Management Challenges: 5 of 6 - Gauging experience as you hire your Team

The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as having said, "The years teach much which the days never know."

In general, I agree. HOWEVER, it depends what kind of education is happening during those years.

I'd like to share the benefits of my 30-year experience in sales and marketing with you. This series of blogs tackles 6 of the top sales challenges with sound advice and a practical 'do today' tip.

Sales Challenge #5: How to measure the experience of your team

10 years experience or 1 year's experience used 10 times?

When I learned to sell, you went to boot camp for two weeks, then another two weeks--and that was just for the basics.

You started off as a rookie trainee sales person, then worked your way through to being a sales manager (usually via new business sales, account management, senior sales, major account sales, and national account management).

ONLY THEN, as an accomplished sales and sales management professional, might you get a promotion to dealer / channel sales.

Often nowadays, many rookie sales folk start in dealer / channel sales with barely any training, except product features and functions (which they are misguidedly told are benefits). They don't really have the experience that the job they have been doing demands but in a buoyant market, with an 'in demand' product or service, they have gotten away with it.

So what am I driving at here?  Well, if you are not careful, it's very easy to hire people who look good on paper but, in reality, don't actually have the experience you are looking for to expertly fill the positions.

Then you are in the trap of what seems to be one of the biggest headaches in recruitment these days--candidates interview well and fail in their roles.

When recruiting or promoting, check on your candidate's or team's real skills and experience:

  • Have they really got 10 years of sales experience, or have they got one year's experience they have used 10 times?

  • Did they really do that big deal on their own or were they "on the team that did the deal"?

The current buoyant employment market means that good people get snapped up quickly. Our need to find employees encourages us to hire quickly, without doing a thorough background check on our candidates. This is compounded by recruiters pushing us to rush into a decision so we don't "miss out on this great salesperson".

Challenging as it may be, we need to find more time to interview / check out our candidates. We need to take references and actually contact them. We can also capitalize on social media--usually, you know someone who knows someone who knows your candidate.

The interview is one of the best opportunities to really get to know the person sitting before you. Make your interview process a rigorous one. For example, build a practical exercise into the process such as a recap of their 1st 90 days as a salesperson or a presentation on your major competitor. If you want an info paper that will give you more tips on how to do that effectively, email or call me.

Keep your #1 goal in mind: you are trying to gauge whether your candidate has 10 years experience or 1 year's experience used 10 times. In other words, you are looking for evidence of their REAL "individual contributor" experience.

Do-today Tip #5: work with HR to develop a rigorous interview process.

Next time, we'll take a look at how to choose the appropriate skill set when you are hiring / building the team.

Read more:
How to Create Clearly Defined Sales Processes and Sales Objectives
How to Build the Right Team
Where are you on the Sales Management Continuum?
Motivating your Team

What measuring tools are you using to assess the experience of your team members? Looking for more info about this issue? Leave me a comment or a question for a personal answer.

Posted in Sales Management. Tagged as fail in role, interviewing, recruiting, sales experience, sales leadership, sales management.

Sales Management Challenges: 4 of 6 - Motivating your Team

Quiz time: How 'engaged' (passionate/enthusiastic about their work) are the members of your sales team?

If they are like today's U.S. workers, then about half of them (51%) are not engaged and almost one fifth (18%) are actively disengaged.

I'd like to share the benefits of my 30-year experience in sales and marketing with you. This series of blogs tackles 6 of the top sales challenges with sound advice and a practical 'do today' tip.

Sales Challenge #4: Motivating your team

Being in the sales business I have focussed this blog on sales people but actually the information is valid for any team, in any business or role.

Motivation is the skill of getting people to do willingly and well the things that need to be done.

Motivation ceases and de-motivation kicks in when sales people feel compelled to surrender to a request.

Salespeople are not only motivated by money. In fact, there frequently comes a point in many sales careers when money is nowhere near the top of the motivators list.

Never has this been truer than now that "Millennials" are entering the sales profession. We get to hear a lot of negative comments about their attitudes in the working environment.  But have you ever stopped to think: maybe it's not them, it's us?  Typically, we find that most millennials bring bright, vibrant, and creative ideas along to the workplace - if only you can motivate them to do so.  Contrary to what we think, EVEN in sales, it's not always the commission check that provides the incentive. Having your ideas used is very satisfying and thus, a super motivator - being a contributor is certainly high on most millennials' lists of what they want from a job.

So, what do you need to take into consideration when motivating your people?

Successful [sales] management requires the manager to perform a balancing act with her/his time between the team, the individual, and the task (in this case where the task is selling):

  • Focus on the team and the task and the individual gets neglected.

  • Focus on the task and the team and the individual gets neglected.

  • Focus on the individual to the detriment of the team and the task.    

As a manager, you need to make sure you are balancing the needs of the team, the task, and the individuals as well as putting motivators in place (and trying to remove the de-motivators) that will resonate specifically with your people.

You need to get to understand the personal individual motivations of your team (and your manager).  I find that for the sake of expediency, if you distill all the common workplace/industrial motivation theories (Maslow, Herzberg, McGregor, FW Taylor, et al.) you get 5 traits you can work with quite  easily: Achievement, Recognition, Finance, Job Content, Personal Needs.

Do-today Tip #4: Spend some time finding out what motivates your team. Make sure you understand what motivates and de-motivates the individuals on your sales team--ask them!  Undertake formally or informally a motivation audit (click here for a simple example to get you started).

Next time, we'll take a look at how to assess the real experience level of your team.

Read more:
How to Create Clearly Defined Sales Processes and Sales Objectives
How to Build the Right Team
How to Choose the Correct Spot on the Sales Management Continuum

What carrots and sticks are you using to motivate your team? Got a question I can help with? Our online community looks forward to reading your comment and helping with your question.

Sales Management Challenges: 3 of 6 - Where are you on the Sales Management Continuum?

It's so important that universities offer courses about it, scholarly publications are written about it, and towns hold meetings about it.

We're talking about management. In particular, the sales management continuum.

I'd like to share the benefits of my 30-year experience in sales and marketing with you. This series of blogs tackles 6 of the top sales challenges with sound advice and a practical 'do today' tip.

Sales Challenge #3: How to choose the correct spot on the Sales Management Continuum

Managing the sales process is more than just giving direction and forecasting.

Managing, or leading a motivated, high performing sales team is both an art and a science. It requires the leader to adopt the right approach for the right people at the right time--it's a dynamic role.

As I frequently remind many of my clients when something goes wrong - it may not be your fault, but it's your problem, and nothing could be truer than when you are managing a sales team. The challenge is to understand how you should be managing the current challenge (or opportunity) that you are faced with.

We get sales leaders to look at what we call the management continuum. The continuum spans:   

Supervisor < > Manager < > Coach < > Mentor.

Supervisors (usually nicely) tell people what to do, usually in the areas of policy, process and procedure.  Your new team member joins and you tell him how to fill out his expenses and how you use CRM, etc.

Managers plan, direct and support their sales people. They point them in the right direction and keep them on track, focused, and motivated to "do willingly and well the tasks that need to be done" - selling!  

Coaches get the best out of their teams by unlocking each person's potential to maximize his or her own performance. Coaches focus on helping people learn rather than teaching them--you don't coach someone on filling out their expenses or using CRM!

Mentors treat their mentees (carefully if they are, in reality, subordinates) as peers, working collegially to get the job done and improve [an already good] performance.  Mentors and mentees work things out between them.

There is a time and a place for everything. As a sales leader, you need to operate back and forth along the continuum as is appropriate for the situation in which you find yourself.

Do-today Tip #3: Ask yourself--I am managing or leading? Am I using the appropriate style for the sales management issue at hand, in this specific instance, with this specific person?

Next time, we'll take a look at how to motivate your team.

Read more:
How to Create Clearly Defined Sales Processes and Sales Objectives
How to Build the Right Team

How good are you at navigating the sales management continuum? Got a tip to share? I'll personally give you a 'thumbs up' if it's a good one. I am also ready to tackle your questions. You know what to do--comment box, type, hit 'post'...

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