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Saturday, 5 July 2014

Buying is CHANGING.

In study after study we can measure changes to the Buying Process.

  • The Buying Cycle is taking longer.
  • There are more people involved in the Buying Process.
  • Buying Criteria has increased and is more diverse.

These changes to the Buying Process are giving consequences to the Selling Process.
Sales are becoming “involved” later in the Buying Process.

The role of Sales, in the Buying Process, is changing from Informational to INSIGHTFUL.

insights lightbulb


Buying Decisions WERE being made on ‘Best’ argument, ‘Loudest’ voice or simply ‘Gut Instinct’!
Buying Decisions WERE often justified using post-decision rationality to highlight possible benefits,
mitigate possible risks and minimise likely costs.

Today, increasingly, the Buying Process is supported by Decision Science.
The Decision Making Unit is using tools, techniques and process to PREDICT likely outcomes from its Decision.
In many cases the decision support system will simple give a Red, Amber or Green light on options,
WITHOUT exposing the Decision TAKERS to the full underlying Data or even the actual analysis!

So What?

This means that Salespeople now NEED an awareness of Decision Science and Data Analytics if they hope to influence the Buying Decision in their favour, or at least AVOID influencing the Buying Decision AGAINST themselves! ‘Shooting themselves in the foot’ is, currently, a widespread Sales Activity.  Giving Information, instead of Constructing Insights which contain REAL Value Data Input to their Data Analytics.

What is Data Science?

Data Science turns Data into Actions.

The collection, storage, sharing and use of Data is about 50 years old.
The Analysis, inductive reasoning and Decision advice is about 10 years old.
Simply, most companies have acquired sufficient processing power to perform viable Predictive Analysis.
They can, with a reasonable degree of accuracy predict their future.
Or, at least ONE of their possible futures, based on historic data, analysis and extrapolation.

Science based guesswork, rather than ‘gut feel’.

What should you be doing?

Perhaps you think this does NOT apply to me, MY sales are based on Relationships.
Well, you may as well know “Relationship” is going to play a steadily DECREASING role in Buyer’s Decision Making.
And, INSIGHT input based on Analytics is going to play an increasingly IMPORTANT role.

imageData Analytics are the BEST “Insights” available to Buyers.

They are inductive reasoning based, patterns which indicate the best action for the best probable future.
They outperform ‘theory based’ deductive reasoning, in real time! The inherent ability of Data Science to offer NEW relationships from multiple domains in business, to spotlight new business insights, and to offer alternative paths based on Data, not instinct.

If you thought the Internet and Social Media changed Buying then that will be small change compared to the REVOLUTION that Decision Science is bringing to Buying then Selling.

Learn, at least a little,
about the Decision Science available to your Prospects and Customers, and probable applications.

Understand how information shapes your Web Page Ranking in Google!

It’s NOT gut feel, loudest voice or Best Argument.

It is Data Analytics.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

How important is Sales Education?

I don’t usually preamble a Sales Blog with my ‘qualifications’,
so the fact that I tell you, Dear Reader, that I have worked in Sales Education for 30 years, is significant.

For more than a decade I have wrestled with a really thorny question.

How important is Sales Education?


Here I included both Training as well as Coaching; and both Skills and Knowledge.

I am, I have been, and will continue to be VERY critical about much that is sold and delivered as Sales “Education”
most of it is, for the want of a better word, “BUNKUM”,

if you run your Thesaurus over that great word Bunkum you get:
Nonsense; Claptrap; Twaddle; Hogwash; Humbug; and Codswallop.

None of these words are too strong, to describe such ‘education’ as:
Always be Closing, Handle Objections, Never Discount, ‘steps’ of the sale, or the Sales ‘Gene’ theory.

Yet, that is not my worry.
Younger, and smarter, salespeople, with ‘Big Data’ tools and Analysis Apps can spot these dysfunctional selling skills in days,
rather than practice them fruitlessly for decades!

My worry is one which is facing Educators world-wide, and NOT just in Sales.

It is this:

Does Education really make a difference in Productivity?

And its subsidiary question:

Does Sales Productivity depend on Sales Education?

We have generations of Sales Educators,
Trainers and Coaches who have offered their “evidence” that Sales Education is the key to Sales Productivity.

But, they all have a vested interest in finding the positive correlation. I confess Guilt.
I have shown proof that MY Sales Education correlated with improved Sales results.
I have shown relationships between my Training and/or Coaching and improved results.

But, I have never answered my own question:

Does Sales Productivity depend on Education?

It is only since 2010 that I have delved into this question.

Here I share my results.

    • The best educated Sales people do not always make the best sales people.

    • The best educated Salespeople does not lead to Corporate Success.

    • Poorly educated Salespeople can be TOP Sales Performers.

    • Corporate success is linked to having the right Education, not the best.

Education, as I am presenting it, includes but is not limited to: Schooling, further education College/University, Continuing Professional development [Sales Skills, Product and Marketplace Knowledge, Negotiation Skills]. It includes Formal and Informal education as well as structured, semi-structured and self-directed Learning.


The conclusion has to be that Education=Productivity is a myth.

And, a very expensive myth as Sales Education is a multi-billion Dollar business.

Poor Sales performance CANNOT be explained by IGNORANCE,

because the ‘ignorant’ often sell and the ‘educated’ do often not sell!

Poor Sales Performance is NOT attributable to a “Lack of Education”;
nor is Sales Productivity the result of Sales Education.
We have to look deeper, and think a lot harder,
rather than simply prescribing “Education” by Training Knowledge, Skills or Coaching.


Before we run our next expensive Education program,
before we burn Valuable Salespeople’s, and Sales Manager’s time on Coaching,
we have to ask ourselves, and answer honestly

Does it really matter?

Or should you work on another aspect of Sales Performance?

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

How to Catch a Crocodile

: by Emma Clarke aged 9

elephant with a crocodile

As everyone knows,
crocodiles are large fearsome creatures so if you want to catch one you have to follow the rules really carefully.

If you want to catch a crocodile the first thing you have to do is to go where the crocodiles are.
(We know a lot of Sales and Marketing people who haven’t worked that one out yet)

Crocodiles as we all know live down at the swamp, so if you want to catch one you have to go down to the swamp,
but before you set out you must make sure you take the right tools.

What you need to take with you if you want to catch a crocodile is:

  • a blanket a pair of binoculars,
  • a pair of tweezers
  • and a match box.

So, making sure that you have remembered your tools, you set off down to the swamp.

When you get there you go down to the edge of the swamp and you spread your blanket out on the ground.

You take your tools and you carefully lay them out, then you lay down and go to sleep.

Eventually the big old crocodile will come by and poke his head up out of the swamp.
What will he see?

He will see you lying there asleep on the blanket!

“What’s going on here” the crocodile will think “I know what’s going on here, sleeping is what’s going on here”
and with that the big old crocodile will haul himself out of the swamp and lie down beside you on the blanket
and because you are sleeping he will go to sleep to.

(This technique is better than diving into the swamp with a net and a bowie knife)
[which many salespeople use to Close Deals!]

But because you went to sleep first you will wake up first , (this is the INSIGHT)
and there beside you on the blanket is this great big fearsome crocodile
and you think: “How can I deal with this?”


So you take your binoculars and you turn them round
and you look at the crocodile through the binoculars backwards
so that reduces him to a more manageable size.

Then you take the tweezers and you put him in the matchbox!  Simple!

Crocodile in a match box

In the case of Eating an Elephant, then this is BEST done in bite-sized chunks, which may be kept in a match box!

So you see nothing is impossible

and with the right approach it is possible to simplify the hardest task and make it seem easy!

  • The moral for Salespeople?  Take this nine year-olds advice:
    • Go where the Customers are.
    • Bring the RIGHT tools.
    • ADAPT to their situation
    • Bring INSIGHTS which enable you to “reverse the binoculars
      and VALUE to act as “tweezers” to put them in the Box!

N.B. I have to thank Emma for her insight; we should all learn how to think like 9 year olds if we want to Sell!

I also MUST acknowledge Dave Brock’s Great posts on Sales Fundamentals

for putting me in the frame of mind
to see the TRUTH which Emma’s insights presented.


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The internal and external world of selling, and buying


We never KNOW what our Buyer is thinking or feeling.



Nor, do they KNOW our thoughts or feelings.

All we have is their behaviours, as they have our behaviours.

The sell/buy experience is in the external world of Activity and Behaviours,
which is what is said, and what is done.
[As well as what is NOT said, or NOT done]

It is notoriously unreliable to interpret a Buyer’s word or action
as a “window” into their interior world of Thoughts, Feelings or Motivations.

Nor, can our Buyer’s READ us.

We are what we say and do.



That is the reality of the Sales world

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Sales Forecasting Carefully, or beating Target?




Sara Catz President and CFO of Oracle reports:

“Now, to the guidance, and I want to remind you that last Q2 new license and cloud revenue increased 18% in constant currency. So this will be a very, very tough comparison. Though our pipelines and potential transactions for the quarter look really very exciting, our sales leaders remain very careful about what they are forecasting to us.”

The phrase that catches my eye is

“our sales leaders remain very careful about what they are forecasting to us.”

“Sales leaders, very careful, forecasting”

The word ‘semantics’, has become associated with ‘imagined’ differences, we hear the expression

“It’s just semantics”.

However, if I apply double-indexing semantics to Sara Catz’s words,
a depth of meaning appears which should be of interest to ALL Salespeople,
but specifically to the Sales Managers and Salespeople in Oracle.


  • “Sales Leaders”,

Catz is putting the responsibility, and accountability, for Sales Forecasting squarely on the shoulders of Sales Leaders.

  • “Very Careful”,

last year, Catz attributed a ‘missed forecast’ to Sales, further she attributed it to the recruitment, on-boarding and under-performance of many thousands of new Sales people, who did not perform as “Forecast”. Hence, she is NOT looking for Forecasting to “remain” [optimistic], but is in fact signalling that “careful” means “conservative” forecasts.Target on forecast

  • “Forecasting”,

in the context used is also “targeting” as it is
performance compared with last Quarter (Q2),
and has inherent risk, as expressed by Catz, in her use of “Constant Currency”,
when her Global Market is has a Volatile Currency uncertainty.

Catz is addressing the Investment and Analyst Community,
her audience expects to hear certain messages,
Risk Management, Growth, Returns,
so she inserts “safety” through “Very Careful”.






The stock performance was good after her report,
so her message, to her audience, was on song.





I am curious about the EXECUTION of her message INSIDE Oracle.

“Sales leaders, very careful, forecasting”

We have over the last 40 years, repeatedly looked at Sales Forecasting.

WHO owns the forecast?

HOW should it be done?

WHAT is the forecast used for?

The consensus from meta-analysis is that Forecasting should be owned at the level closest to the forecast event.
And, I am sure that Forecasting ‘starts’ at the Oracle Sales Executive level.
Should Sales Executives forecast “Very Carefully”?

In Sales, a very careful Forecaster is known as a “Sandbagger”.
They only forecast Rain, when it has already started raining!

The opposite  of a “very careful” forecaster is a very ‘careless’ forecaster, in Sales we call them “Dreamers”.

Every Lead is already a Sale!

Sometimes they are cynically optimistic, they present “Huge” pipelines, stuffed with opportunities which never happen.

The belief that a ‘Big’ pipeline protects poor performance, this is ‘reckless’ behaviour!

Careful”, cautious, suspicious, precise, judicious, cautious or shrewd;
these are just some of the ‘semantic’ differences using the word “Careful”.

But when you add “Very” then the meanings can bounce from:
Actual’ if she used it as an adjective, to ‘Extremely’ if her use was an adverb!

Let’s take the desired case scenario: Catz’s words urge the Oracle Sales force from
Top [Leaders] to Bottom [Sales Executives] to forecast accurately, to be precise, not dreaming nor sandbagging.
Let’s imagine that by so doing, Oracle delivers a good set of results, much as the Forecast. Success.

Or, was it?

Let’s take a poor case scenario:
Catz’s words urge the Sales Leadership to be “conservative”,
they believe that it is better to be accurate than bold.

Meeting Forecast, becomes more important than exceeding Target!

Care to ensure that what you forecast actually happens, then your forecast becomes the “reality”.

The illusion of “See, I told you so” has never been Sales Success,
“better than expected”, “Upside”, “BOLD”, have always been hallmarks in Sales, Corporate and Sporting success.

I have discussed Sales Leadership as a function of their “Maturity”, through the lens of Forecasting and Targeting

ORACLE’s results, and its stock performance, are dependent on Good Forecasting,
but they are equally dependent on PERFORMANCE in the Market and likely future performance.


It’s about Expectation AND perceived Performance.

It’s about how well you did against how well you ‘might’ have done!

Managing Expectations is OK, but Managing Maximum Performance is more important!

I believe that Catz and her Sales leadership will have to communicate a clear message to their Sales force about what “our sales leaders remain very careful about what they are forecasting to us” really MEANS.

The Sales Leadership will need to turn this into HOW we want Sales Executives to behave,
as neither dreamers nor Sandbaggers, but bold and right!

Big Data, Big Numbers are made up from individuals and their actions,
getting your Sales force to do what is productive, not just careful, is in these days of BIG, quite a challenge!

Let’s just review how tough any forecasting is,

never mind ‘very careful’ forecasting!



Thursday, 29 August 2013

Sales Managers and Poor Performers


Making 2014 the Year of the Sales Leader

Two other blogs, were published on this:

Mike Kunkle of Richardson

and Dave Brock of Partners in Excellence

Both are worth reading and thinking about.

I add mine as a a contrast to both, as Sales Management is, in many ways, all about Managing Performance


HOW you deal with poor performers will
define your performance and your future as a Sales Manager.

road to perdition

© 2013 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved


The fastest route to Poor Performance, by a Sales Manager,
is to focus on poor performing Sales People.

This is not a casual observation by a casual observer, it is a causal analysis by a trained observer!
We have studied the roots of the failure of Sales Managers for 30 years,
and one of the recurring causes of failure is a focus on poor performers.

We use a bell curve to ‘identify’, or as an ‘indicator’ of Poor Sales Performance.

The axis that we use varies.

Bell Curve Normal_distribution_and_scales




At the simplistic level it is
Current Sales Performance,

at the Revenue Generation level.

This is easy to measure, and is acceptable to discuss at C-level.


But, really it’s a WHAT chart.

What happened,
not “WHY is it not happening?”





We then, put the Sales force through a FIVE level filter, five, separate, charts:


Activity,  Skill,  Knowledge,  Sales Attitude and  Sales Strategy.

Bell Curve Normal_distribution_and_scales   Bell Curve Normal_distribution_and_scales   Bell Curve Normal_distribution_and_scales    Bell Curve Normal_distribution_and_scales   Bell Curve Normal_distribution_and_scales


We “score” on the ‘standard nine’ scale, where 7 is the lowest ‘desired’ score,

1, 2 and 3 is poor performance,

4, 5 and 6 is needs improvement,

7, 8 and 9 is performance to excellence

Simple Performance Turn-around can be achieved if, for example,
ONLY Activity is wrong, or low, this is ‘fixed’ by Management Control and Supervision.

activity Calendar

Great Sales Management careers have been launched on the back of Diary Management!




strategy key2

Sales Strategy, is also a relatively straightforward fix.

If a competitive situation, changed product/market, or Customer shift has NOT been incorporated into strategy formulation and execution then,

Sales Management can re-direct.







When the Poor Performance is associated with low levels of Selling Skills,
poor Product/Market knowledge and/or wrong Sales Attitude, this then is a Business calculation.

The time/effort ‘Cost’ of fixing the performance problem,
weighed against the likely Revenue ‘Benefit’ derived from fixing the problem.

Unlike the first two areas, Activity Management and Strategy Formulation and Execution the Sales Manager does not ‘own’ Lack of Skill, Lack of Knowledge or Poor Attitude.


The problem ‘owner’ is the Salesperson.


Salespeople, NOT their Sales Managers,
are responsible for their own Selling Skills,

their Product/Market knowledge and their Sales Attitude.

Fixing these problems is the primary responsibility of the individual Salesperson,
the Sales Manager has a secondary ‘supporting’ role.

These problems affect your personal employability, now and in the future, take responsibility for them!

In order to ‘earn’ Sales Management support, Poor Performers must demonstrate progress with their Sales Skills, increases in Product/Knowledge and improvement in Sales Attitude. The time and effort put into fixing these poor sales performers primarily comes from them, not from their Sales Managers.

Sales Managers, effective high-performing Sales Managers, will be far too busy working with the top and high average performers to make investment is Sales poor performers who are not prepared to invest in themselves. 

There is no ‘Pareto formula’, to define effective time/effort usage by Sales Managers. 

There is no magic formula, no ‘right’ way.  There is only contingency, finding the right answer to your given situation, your people, their poor performance.  You will need diagnostic skills to find the cause, then flexible Leadership skills appropriate to giving the best outcome, Directing, Coaching, Supporting and Delegating.



The “Learning from other High Performers”, is a decision which calls for good judgement on the part of the Sales Manager, and the willing cooperation and coordination from the High Performer. The poor performer MUST have great Sales Attitude, high energy and a real willingness to learn.

The Hollywood construct is “Master and Padawan”, the Jedi Apprentice. In Sales tradition it was “the bag carrier” and the Senior Salesperson. The success of this is not solely dependent on the Senior’s Selling Skills, Product Knowledge and Sales Attitude as well as the ‘trainees’ observation skills, but also on Senior's Training and Coaching skills, which are very, very rare!

In science ideas are tested for their fit with reality.

In business ideas are tested for their profitability in the Product/Market.

In Sales we MUST do both, fit with reality and demonstrate Profitability!

If you reduce it all to an axiom:

“Treat Poor Performers differently, and appropriately!

  Or, like a leaking ship, you will both sink.”



Further reading on Managing Poor Performers:

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

How NOT to Handle Customer’s Objections.


Beautiful young scientist  It is tempting to immediately share

30 years of research with you, and say
Buyer’s Objections Cannot be Overcome!


But, that would cause you far too much emotional distress. You don’t want to believe that is true, or you would not have started to read this Blog.



How to Handle Customer’s Objections?


The BEST way, by far, is to AVOID Objections completely!

In order to do that, you must first learn:
What causes objections?


Yes, that’s right; Sellers CAUSE Buyers to Object!

In thousands of Sales Calls I have logged the Customer Objection,
AND what the Salesperson said  before  the  Customer Objected:

blame-gameThe Sellers gave the price,
then the Buyer said “that’s too expensive!”

The Seller gave the dimensions,
then the Buyer said “that’s too small!”

The Seller gave a delivery date,
then the Buyer said “that’s too late!”

The Seller asked for the order,
then the buyer said “I am happy with my current supplier!”


In fact, evidence based fact, the two primary causes of Customer’s Objections are:

  1. The Seller giving features, Price, Size, style, speed, feed, location, colour, compatibility, etc.
  2. Or, The Seller asking for the order.

If Objections were GOOD things (Buying Signals),
then the best way to get Objections is: to ASK for the Order,
early in the Buying Cycle as this is almost certain to cause an Objection!


Are Objections GOOD things, are they buying Signals?

If you look at the straightforward evidence of:

What is the relationship between Customer Objections and Sales success?

This is easy to measure, just COUNT them!

Objections word cloudThen,

the MORE Objections you get,
the LESS you sell !


YOU caused the Objection
by Talking Features or Asking for the Order.


ONE Objection?

for example: Price, this MAY be overcome if a ‘trade-off’ is made [often this is Value]

TWO objections?

You are unlikely to get the business, even if you have one good trade off.


THREE objections?

You have mis-sold your product or service and you won’t be getting the business.

Hopefully one of the three objections was PRICE,
now you can report to your Sales Manager,
that the Price is too high, rather than YOU cannot sell!


Objections are OBSTACLES.

If you believe Objections are welcome ‘buying signals’
then you have given up Rationality, rather than just giving up the sale [or selling].
When you extrapolate fiction, it then becomes fantasy!

Persistence is a trait of many Salespeople,
but continuing to repeat something with little chance of success is “Irrational Perseverance”

Objections are best Avoided.

You can avoid Objections by showing how your Product or Service meets the Buyer’s needs,
and by NOT Asking for the Order, until they are ‘Ready to Order’


OK, how do I Handle the one Objection I did get,
by giving them my Price BEFORE I gave them their Value?

First of all 99% of Sales “Objection Handling” techniques DO NOT work.

They are nonsense. I repeat, the techniques taught, and written about DO NOT WORK.


I have measured ‘overcoming’ Objections on thousands of occasions,
thousands of objections and the “Skills” to overcome objections DO NOT work.
You can easily measure them too.

Let’s take a widely taught Objection Handling technique “Feel, Felt, Found”.

I understand why you Feel the price is too high.

And other customers have Felt the same way.

However, when they saw the money they saved with it they Found it was really good Value!

I measured this against 300 uses for various objections,
it succeeded less often than just ‘ignoring’ the objection all together!
And, that was only “successful” in less than 15% of the time.

It does NOT work.

Or, “Preemptive” Objection Handling

using a “Script” to introduce a known shortcoming of your product or service,
then attempt to offer a scripted ‘answer’

By presenting these shortcomings or negatives, our aim is to create credibility and gain trust”. 
The actual effect on Buyers is the opposite!

The Seller ‘introduces’ additional Fears, Uncertainties and Doubts in the Buyer’s mind,
then uses a “Rebuttal” or “argument” to overcome it!  Nonsense!

Again, research shows that “When you extrapolate fiction, it then becomes fantasy!”


What does sometimes handle an Objection is a Trade-off.

In this case trading better Value for a higher Price


Let’s take three houses.



If we were selling the New House A, the most expensive,
then we would have the “That’s too expensive option”.

We have to Trade Value, for the higher Price.

Against the other house B our ‘Value’ is in a Better Location, with Good Schools.


Is it better to have a Good location?

Yes, because this property will increase in Value faster and further than House B
So it will be in demand, therefore it may work out cheaper overall!


And, what price do we put on having our children happy at school?

If taken over a 10 year period it would be 20,000, or 2,000 per year, or 40 per week.

This money will be recovered in a higher Price when we choose to sell!


Against, the current house which, after the new baby, is now too small,
it’s the increased cost of the mortgage 263 per month or less than 10 per day.
However, ALL of this money, and more, will be recouped when you sell the new larger house,
i.e. the extra bedroom will be free!

Trade-offs, against Drawbacks [objections] may convince Customers to buy.

Here are a few Key thoughts about Objections:

  • Objections are BEST avoided
  • Objections are Caused by Salespeople
  • Objections cause lost sales, they are NOT ‘Buying Signals’
  • Objections are “Drawbacks
  • Objections can be traded off, sometimes!
  • Objections are Statements, they are NOT Questions.
  • Objections cannot be overcome with flim-flam,
    psychological nonsense, and 99% of taught techniques do not work


BMAC Consultants have developed an Evidence Based Objection Handling model,
based on Avoidance and Trade-off.
This is a Sales Skill, an Interactive Skill based on the ACTUAL Sales Situation. 
If you wish to see other examples e mail