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Saturday, 10 December 2011

How to Change the way your Company Sells


The way Buyers “Buy” Products and the Markets that they buy from,
as we know changes, thus the WAY We Sell MUST also change!


The way a Company actually sells,
and they way individual Salespeople are selling,
is a function of the presence, or absence, of these Four Forces and their relative strengths.

Pragmatic Change is, without any doubt the most successful Sales Change,

but it needs the Conservative ‘restraint’ to prevent it running off-the-rails.

In my MBA Dissertation (1999) I identified FOUR Forces which cause Selling to “Change”,
i.e. from the Orthodox Approach or "Traditional" to the "New" or Unorthodox Approach

Four forces which cause the Sales Approach to Change:

primarily a “fall” in Sales Performance,
changes in the “Product/Market”,
changes by the “Competition” and “Economic” Change.

But, what was even more interesting was not the CAUSE of change,
but HOW Companies went about “changing” the way they Sell.

BMAC Consultants identified Four Ways that people CHANGE their Sales Approach



1. Pragmatic Change, based on evidence, what works?
This is akin to Mintzberg’s view of “Emergent” Strategy. 

Different Salespeople try different things with different Customers and
a "New Way of Selling" emerges, based on evidence.  It has basic Validation.


2. Conservative Change attempts to stop Pragmatic Change,

fearing that it won’t work, or is changing Selling too fast.

Let us just keep going” the Market will shift in our favour.

The old way is best and we have “evidence” that it USED to work,
even if it no longer works!


These first two were “evidence” based, the next two are NOT!



3. Utopian Change to a ‘new, ideal and perfect’ Sales world,
without evidence of its likely effectiveness.
Based on a New Book, a Charismatic Sales Trainer, a ‘Cult’ like approach
where blind faith, hope and trust in a Method, Process, Software, ‘Guru’ or ‘Expert’.
When initial performance reports say it’s NOT working this is explained by
the Change not being fully “accepted”,
it then forms into “Disciples” and “Rebels”.

4. Restorative Change is going back to the “Golden Age of Selling”.
This is again NOT evidence based.
It simply requires that the Sales “Techniques” believed to work in the past,
e.g. as used previously in IBM, XEROX, APPLE
or one of the ‘Door to Door’ Sales Companies be re-adopted.
It usually has several Senior Executives sponsoring it
and the introduction of the Sales Trainer who trained them.

Often, you will find both ‘Utopian’ and ‘Restorative’ Change at work
in the same Company, at the same time, as neither is "Evidence" based.

I collected substantial evidence that Evidence Based Selling works.


So, By Accident or by Design?

How are you Changing?


But, sometimes LUCK works too!

There is such a thing as the right product,

in the right place, at the right time;

it just doesn’t last!

This blog was originally entitled “Modern Selling”

Modern Selling will always be of its own age, and it will always be ‘unorthodox’.

‘Orthodox’ Selling will always be the one just before it.


The Key Constructs in this Blog are Copyright ©BMAC Consultants 1999,
and if used should be acknowledged.

Don’t Trust the Trusted Advisor.


I have just read TAS Group’s white paper “Moving from Vendor to Trusted Advisor.”

It’s well written. It is a typical piece of Marketing ‘Content’ designed to excite and to promote their “Product” TAS Deal Maker. However, it falls between two stools.
It neither excites, nor was I left gagging for a demo of the Product!

What struck me was The Story of “Salesman Matt”, published by the CEO of The TAS Group
Donal Daly’s “Select Selling Sales Field book” - about a man called Matt.



Daly describes Matt as: “the ‘personification’ of the Trusted Advisor.”
And, it is Daly’s detail of
what a Trusted Advisor actually DOES that disturbs me!

A lot!

“Over the 15 or so years we’ve known Matt,
he has had three different employers,
but he has always retained the same four major customers.”

They don’t say that Matt left Employers to join Competitors taking the “HIS” customer with him or not.
But, it is clear that Matt as a “Trusted Advisor” to ‘his’ Customer
should not be treated as a “Trusted Employee”.



The flaw in this ‘Trusted Advisor’ thinking is that Matt “OWNS” his Customers.



“HIS” personal ‘relationship’ is bought, and paid for, by his Employer.

Those ‘Customers’ are Customers of Matt’s Employer;
Matt simply has stewardship of the Account.

I have had the pain of Managing Salespeople like Matt;
they withhold Key Data about “their” Customers,
while spending Company money on developing “their” relationship “Trusted Advisor”.

Trusted Advisors accept both a Salary and a Bonus,
but reserve ‘their rights’ to act in their ownbest interest”.

They are really ‘self-employed’ Agents,
earning their living from exploiting an Employer to fund ‘their’ Business and
their Employer’s Customer to pay a second time for ‘their’ results.

Trusted Advisors should not be trusted.

Not trusted by their Customers as their income depends upon their “Sales”, not their advice.
Not trusted by their Employers in whose interest they are paid to act, to sell,
not to give ‘Trusted Advice’ to a Customer.

Thankfully, we have some Evidence to base our Sales Decision on.
The evidence based models of The Challenger Sale,
would show that the “Trusted Advisor” is in fact part ‘lone wolf’ in ‘relationship’ clothing.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Secrets of Sales Success in 2015


Many of you will be planning your 2015 Kick-off,

here is your BIGGEST Challenge for the sales Year

A 12% Sales Target hike!


“In 2015, you are going to have to produce
the work of 9 Salespeople from 8 Salespeople!”

So, BMAC what are my options?

There are only TWO options
Train or Coach your existing team!


Your are going to have to make existing Salespeople
both More Effective and More Efficient.


I suggest that you begin by Sales Assessment of your current Team,
what do you think?

Here are some ideas of what to look at:

dashboard 3


Having Assessed your Team into Top Performers, Average performers

and Low Performers, then I suggest you overboard poor performers:



You will fail to meet Target again in 2015 if…. 

You do not take this action NOW!

poorest performing sales people

Organise the Sales Training they need, but don't do it yourself,

unless you happen to be a Sales Trainer working as an interim Sales Manager.

Here is WHY YOU should NOT be the Sales Trainer:

driving lesson


After the Sales Training YOU MUST do the Sales Skills Coaching

Here is how you can be a GREAT Sales Coach:


Well if you stuck through all that,
things are looking a lot better for 2015:

You will have finished ALL your Recruitment by August 2015

You will have a performance improvement of 25% by June 2015,

You should easily make your Sales Target by November 2015.


Congratulations and

Is a Sales Methodology needed? Only if you want to succeed!

From Dave Stein's research area five of
The Real Reasons Sales Training Fails and What To Do About It

#5 Is an inadequate or completely absent Sales Methodology

(the organising principles underlying Selling)

In more than 20 of my Clients medium and small I have discovered that there was no methodology at all to their selling. They had a Sales Department, a Sales Manager and Salespeople but NO methodology for Selling. That is usually why I get called in because: “not having a Sales Methodology”
like “not having a Sales Strategy” means that you usually fail!

Dave Stein’s ESR site has a good enough definition of Sales Methodology and how it differs from Sales Process on

In my view, it is also about having a Sales Process that is driven by

That is Selling the way your Market wants to Buy.


Easy to Buy From!” is always the highest rated characteristic of a Supplier in the eyes of the Buyer when you survey Buyers.
Trusted Advice” scores low at 30%.

How do you know if you have a working Sales Methodology,
a broken Sales Methodology or no Sales methodology at all?

Well, you can retain a Sales Consultant like me, or you can ask your Customers:
How easy are we to buy from?”

Ask some of your Lost Business Prospects:
Were we easy to buy from, or did the difficulty in dealing with us play a part in why we lost the deal?”

Fixing a broken Sales Methodology (or a partly working Methodology), really does need a Consultant (internal or external). The output is ‘This is what we do wrong and why (PROOF),
and this is HOW through Changes we will put it right and these are the measures to prove its improving

Perhaps the toughest part of SALES METHODOLOGY is when you finally realize you cannot BUY one,
you have to CONSTRUCT one. Some great Companies like Huthwaite (SPIN is only a Part, you have to buy the Package), Miller Heiman, TAS, or Holden will sell you the components, BUT YOU will have to do the Assembly and the heavy lifting IMPLEMENTATION.

You can, if you are smart enough even mix and match
getting the Right, not just good enough, Components.

Methodology working

Sales Training without a Sales Methodology doesn’t work.


IBM (referring to their Structured Selling Methodology)
calls them their Cash Generating Machines!

So, save all your wasted expense on novelty courses
and one day training events, daft books, sales blogs and sales tips.
And, invest the money and time to build a Working Sales Methodology.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Is it true that 87 cents of every dollar spent on Sales Training is wasted.


87 per cent spent on Sales Training is wasted.

Google shows: About 555,000 results (0.22 seconds)

The “87 per cent belief” is widespread,
it is quoted endlessly,

But, is it TRUE?


In “The Challenger Sales” Book they write:

“Research by Neil Rackham has shown that 87 per cent of sales training content is forgotten by reps within thirty days”   (location 2705 the Challenger Sale - Kindle edition)

What is this REALLY all about?

The 87% Statistic was first published in the “American Society for Training and Development Journal” November 1979 and is credited as a Huthwaite Study. At first Publication it was an “87% loss of a “New Skill”, later in Neil Rackham’s 1991 book “Managing Major Sales”, the Graph fig 5.1 Page 130 is titled as : “Sales Training without systematic coaching wastes 87 cents in the Dollar”. However, seldom quoted is the comment on the previous page 129:
“Some Sales people showed a skills GAIN.
Where this happened, they had been systematically COACHED following training.”

And in 2001 Neil Rackham published an impassioned white paper
“The Coaching Controversy”, where he puts the context thus:
“The Xerox Corporation carried out several studies, one of which showed that
in the absence of follow-up coaching 87 per cent of the skills change brought about by the program was lost. That’s 87 cents in the skills dollar. Knowledge training, on the other hand, generally shows a much smaller loss.”

xerox copierSo, now we have a clear view of what it is all about.
Neil Rackham uses the 87¢ (cents) statistic,
taken from a study made before 1979,
(Part of the “Newcastle” Study?)
at Xerox based on the SKILL loss post-Sales Training of Photocopier Salespeople.

Indeed it is qualified, to distinguish between
the latter showing far less “Loss” than the former!
And, then it is further qualified (logically) to be
The loss of the Skills ‘Gained’ during the Training”.





This is a long way from:

The '87cents' has grown and changed into a "proof".

“Research by Neil Rackham has shown that 87 per cent of sales training content
is forgotten by reps within thirty days” (The  Challenger Sale)

This “Proof” is used to support
“Sales Training doesn’t work!”
usually followed by the Hollow Claim
“Except MY Sales Training, which is the only one which works!”

Neither is likely to be true!

Here are some other Statistics from before 1979:

In 1979 40% of males smoked versus 20% today a 100% change.

If we used the 1979 Data we would be 100% WRONG in its usage!

Why didn’t we instead focus on the KEY Information
Published in Neil Rackham’s Classic book “SPIN Selling”. Page 12

“Potential Customers remember just over 5 key points from the 8 key points presented during the Sales Presentation.  Just SEVEN DAYS later,
they can only recall just over 2 Key points.
A 50% Memory loss and a drop from “likely to buy” to “unlikely to buy!”

And “statistically speaking” it’s not just Sales:
“The average organization is losing an amount equal to 7% of their annual sales because of poor leadership practices.
The three main side effects of poor leadership practices are increased employee turnover,
decreased customer satisfaction, and reduced employee productivity,
according to David Witt, Program Director at The Ken Blanchard Companies.”

Really I just will not leave without talking about MY own Sales Training Courses

By design, my Sales Training Design takes “Skill Loss” into account. The use of Aide-memoires and Practicing the new skills in Simulation with both Video and Observation feedback helps. I recently had a comment from a delegate whom I trained over 25 years ago, he remembered vividly the story I told so he could learn the Sales Skill of “Supporting” !  I haven’t trained that particular skill for some 20 years,
but it was a very vivid story!


However, I cannot stress enough that Sales SKILLS Training includes
BOTH Training and Coaching, you MUST do both.

I don’t call Sales Skills Coaching “On-the -job Training” because it IS NOT.
Sales Skills COACHING is the COMPLETION of what you learned during the Training Event.

n-the- Job ‘training’ is somebody showing you how
to fill in your monthly expense report!


The right way to Sales Skills COACH can be found at:

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A Philosophical Criticism of The Challenger Sale

The Greek word “Mimesis”, from which the English word “Mimic” is derived,
literally it means “Representation” or Imitation.

The Challenger Sale describes five “imitations” of reality.

They are reflections of Salespeople, but in only a few dimensions and
not the full multi-dimensional Truth.

If the reader accepts the “Imitation” as a reality, then their minds are harmed, by confusing the “reflection” for the reality. Salespeople have to inoculate themselves by knowing the multi-dimensional true nature of Selling.
When a Writer depicts reality it is from their own perspective. If we view a bed from underneath it is still a bed, but its appearance is a distortion of the reality. Better to use a mirror if we want to examine or represent reality. But, it is still a reflection. If you had the only mirror then you would be a marvel who is able to “copy” everything!
clear-mirror-shaving-man[1]The writer, looking in the mirror makes a representation. The less the Reader knows of reality the more “REAL” the Writer’s imitation appears. And, that is the danger, that an imitation or “Representation” is mistaken and believed to be a Reality.

The art and the science of the writer in depiction is
a long way from reality.

When we mistake a representation for a reality it is because of our inability to distinguish knowledge, ignorance and representation. This is like the child who tries to eat wax fruit and is surprised at its character.

  Seller→ belief→ collection→ analysis→ view→ report

Writer→ Seller→ belief→ collection→ analysis→ view→ report

mirror cat and lionRepresentations (like Hunter/Farmer) are easy to reproduce without any knowledge of truth, because they are “appearances” not realities. Suppose that we could make either the reality or the refection, then would we devote the same energy to both or would we focus on reality?

If instead of Salespeople, the five descriptions applied to Doctors of Medicine which would we choose to heal us? Or, if we were Doctors which would we chose to imitate? This leaves us with the question: From reading about a “Representation” are we capable of judging the behaviours to imitate this representation?

The final Validation or the final Criticism of The Challenger Sale will be resolved in results.
When companies change or reform to “The Challenger Sale”, in part or in full will the Sales Community be better off?
Or, can any success be attributed to The Challenger Sale or to the advice given? 

Have the authors proven its effectiveness by Selling using their own methodologies?

The final thoughts we have to ponder is
has The Challenger Sale brought real insight or does it merely represent it? 
Are we persuaded by their admirers and ardent follower or by their insight to truth?
Which assumption should be made,
that it is again no grasp of truth but instead a mirrored reflection –
the clothing but not the substance or the truth.

When the Painter paints shoes can he do the Cobbler’s job?
Or, when the Writer writes a recipe can they replace the Chef?
The Writer is no less, they depict what is seen but they do not reproduce reality! 

Describing the steering wheel, brake and accelerator, however accurately, does not meet the skill of those who manufacture the real thing. Yet, even those who build them are only pleasing those who drive. The real purpose is neither in description, nor manufacture but in use!
The Car Driver will know of the defects or merits of both description and manufacture.

Only the Driver feels the steering or the forces of Acceleration and Braking.
The Builder will have a belief about the merits of his work,
but the reality can only come from The User.

However, the Writer on Selling Skills has neither knowledge nor correct view of the function or dysfunction of the things that they represent.  Nevertheless, they write, Readers read and Sellers adapt and fit.

The five Sales “types” are metaphors, not reality. 
Any “type” is a reflection of a stereotype, not a prototype.

We are all parts of all types, and the better for it!

In Sales we aspire only to do the right thing, in the right way,
at the right time in the hope of the right outcome.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

If you want to sell VALUE, then you had better know what Value Is!


Value is in the “Eye of the Customer”,
Whether we Sales and
Marketing believe it or not.
Customers assign Values to the attributes of our product or service, every Customer assigns different VALUE.

Anyone, who expresses their belief through “Gut Feel” or worse still “Experience” which Product or Service attributes are most important or Values which they ascribe are almost certainly WRONG.

If you want to Sell VALUE then you must first DISCOVER it.




Nor, can your Sales Managers, nor your Marketing Guru, ONLY Customers perceive Value.

And, what your Customer perceives as Value
and how much Value they perceive must be DISCOVERED by you to offer back to them.

Crucially, Value is always expressed in the Customers own words
hence it can never be written in a Marketing Brochure or Sales Playbook.
Leave the playbooks where they belong – in the playground!

Value, Real VALUE as Customer’s perceive it is first discovered,
and then it is developed by the Salesperson AND the Customer.

This interaction by Sales and Customer is called:


Value propositionInitially, Value Construction is both soft and subjective research in the Customer’s own world, their REALITY. Using one-to-one or one-to-few meetings which identify as many attributes and ideas as possible. These Attributes are “Constructs” which having been sorted, combined as a synthesis produce a Customer Sourced VALUE PROPOSITION.

A frequent Marketing mistake is to take old Value Propositions from existing Customers and PUSH them as Value Statements to New Customers.

it simply does not work

Value ‘Reviews’ with Lost Sales and Current Customers
find “their” Value NOT “True” Value,
which can only be found with the actual Customer.

Experience has given Salespeople the realisation,
that Requirement, Expectation and Want all have different Values.

Customer’s Expectations change, Value is NOT a predetermined significance.

The more difficult it is for a Customer to EVALUATE a Product/Service before purchase,
then the more important EXPLICIT VALUE becomes,
the more important Value Construction becomes!

BMAC Consultants offer Value Construction work shops
as part of their Customer Engagement Process.

Sales survival of the fittest

Does Darwinism (Survival of the Fittest) apply to sales?


Salespeople today are very diverse, young and not so young, male and female, of every creed,
colour and educational achievement – so, who is going to survive?

It has been predicted that 80% of Salespeople will be without their jobs by 2020.
Who are the fittest? The business environment, the habitat where salespeople live
is in constant change and the rules of the buying game have change dramatically.

The fittest are those who develop the ability to change, to evolve at least as fast as their environment changes.

It is ADAPT or become unemployed and a part of the archaeology of Selling and Sales.

Globally, business is changing, continuous variation. Some change is good bringing fresh opportunity and some change is threatening bringing extinction. Some Sales jobs will disappear due to poor Management Practice. Many Sales jobs will disappear due to Sales Training of ‘dysfunctional’ Selling Skills. Wherever you sell and whoever you sell to; you no longer enjoy geographic isolation.
We salespeople now live in a competitive environment where the best adapted sell, and those who can’t or won’t adapt – Fail!


Dramatic “Silver Bullet change will NOT save you, nor will “big bang” Crash programs.

Please don’t wait for messiahs, Gurus or Experts they can’t save you either.


The only thing that will save you is FITNESS, and the fittest Sales People and Sales Organisations are those which opt for flexibility and adapt to a constantly changing environment.

Continuous Learning, EVIDENCE Based Selling Skills will develop their fitness to be part of the fittest who survive. Continuous Learning means never ending Continuous Improvement, which is a career long journey of adaptation to your Product/Market and Competitive Environment.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

How do you lose market share, with the best product and best price?


It’s easy, give Marketing control over Customer Relationships.

market shareI have just finished a long assessment for Big IT, they told me to find a problem with Sales.

I did, they were losing deals to a ‘softer’ product and the customer was paying the same or even more.

When I made my initial report, they asked me to recommend a “Sales Training”. I could have said anything. But, I replied that I knew what was wrong, but we didn’t know what caused the problem.

They agreed reluctantly to fund some more Sales Consultancy, but they really wanted “Sales Training”, a good two day event that would ‘energise’ the sales force and bring the lost business back!



My role as a Sales Consultant is to eliminate mistakes.

That is it. Simple!

Find the mistake, then eliminate it.

At BMAC we call it “error detection and error recovery”.
(At least one of us used to design, test and repair Hard Disk drives).

If YOU are not doing something wrong (or not doing something right) then your business would be booming!

At big IT, we did the usual lost business reviews,
with some remarkable and consistent results across a wide range of
Salespeople, Customers, Customer Segments and Geography.

· Did we lose on Price – NO?

· Did we lose on Product – NO?


We drilled down, what was the price difference, little or none.

What was the product difference little or none.

Several (sincere) Lost Customers, even admitted that they had bought more expensively and
they believed the product that they bought although good enough may not be as good as Big IT’s.

So WHY did we lose? We asked. It came down to RELATIONSHIPS.

Over the last three years Marketing has taken over ‘Customer Relationships’. Marketing were responding to incoming queries and contacting “quiet” Customers. Sales were told to focus on ‘Closing deals’.

“Show the Prospect that we have the best Product and the Best price”.

CRM reportaMarketing had installed, at great expense, a new CRM. It collated web landing, Social Media searches, recorded incoming and out-going telephone contacts and had hounded Sales for their “Black Contact Books” to be put in the system. The initial results were great; the sales ‘lag time’ had dropped from entry in the pipeline to Order from 7 months to 4 months. Sales were only working ‘qualified’ leads. Marketing was holding ‘pre-qualified’ leads and “nurturing” them.

So, what was wrong? Where is the error?

The Customers had interpreted Marketing’s new CRM approach as:
We are Not Interested.”





The Customer wanted Sales Engagement!

So, they got it from the “interested” Competition.



Monday, 31 October 2011

The true secrets of Sales Coaching for Success


Traditionally Pre-call Questions:

"What are your goals for the call,"
"Do you have stretch goals,"
"What is the worst thing that might happen in the call, how do you plan to handle it?"
"What's the value the customer will get from this call?"


After the call, your Sales Manager might ask:

"Did you accomplish all your objectives,"
"Is there anything more that you might have accomplished,"
"Is there anything you would do differently?"

call-to-action EUN figure

Many of us were coached this way, therefore some of us Coach others this way too. There is not a lot of empirical evidence to support any style of Sales Coaching. So, we have no rules, no right way or wrong way, just the ways we know of, or the ways we experienced as Salespeople.


Let me ask you a question:

Would you use the same methods to Coach Children to read and write,
as your School Teacher used to Coach you?”


I have been blest by having been coached in Golf by three of Golf’s Top Coaches,
David Leadbetter, Butch Harman and Dave Pelz.
Each Coach in their own way is unique and very special.

Dave Pelz

is Golf’s “Scientist” he has produced more empirical evidence on the behaviour of the Golf Ball on the Putting Surface and in the air than anybody! His expertise in the short game is encyclopaedic. He “Demonstrates”, using a perfect Putting Machine called “Perfy” which can repeat the same perfect putt as often as you like!

Butch Harman

is, along with Tom Watson, just one of Golf’s Gentlemen, great company and you could listen to their discourse on the Great Game forever. Butch’s approach is “feel “and “shot making”, you will use clubs in new ways and play great shots as never before. His success in Golf Coaching is unsurpassed.

David Leadbetter

is a golfing phenomenon, he is sometimes called “The Swing Mechanic”, but if that makes you think of the guy who services your car, DON’T. Think of the “mechanic” who tunes the Ferraris to racing perfection before a F1 Gran Prix.
The DL Golf Academy’s proud boast is that they can help ANYONE to play better golf.

Three completely different approaches, three different styles YET they all coach the SAME WAY.

The True Secrets of Coaching are:

Analyse, Demonstrate, Prompt, Release, Four Stages,
repeated over and over until the Golfer Learns and Improves.


They ask you to show them how you currently play the shot,
you show them maybe three of four times.
They see your “problem”.



They “Demonstrate” the right way, to play the shot.
Then YOU attempt to make changes while they give you “Prompts”,
little changes to increase the chances of a good shot.

Then when you have reached a reasonable level,
they “Release” you to practice on the range or apply it on the course.

Before you leave they set expectations of “good performance”
so that you can analyse for yourself in the future.




Is there empirical evidence that this works, you bet!

I unhesitatingly recommend all three Golf Coaches.

For about fifteen years now I have used the same Analyse, Demonstrate, Prompt, and then Release approach to both Sales Skills Coaching and to Sales Strategy Coaching, with empirical success.

What Golf Coaches don’t do is:

Pre-Shot Questions:
"What are your goals for this golf shot,"
"Do you have stretch goals, for the shot"
"What is the worst thing that might happen in the shot, how do you plan to handle it?"
"What's the value your game will get from this shot?"

Nor do they ask you post shot:
”Did you accomplish all your objectives,"
"Is there anything more that you might have accomplished,"
"Is there anything you would do differently?"

They already knew the answers to all these questions,
and they want to change your behaviour using a simple process Analyse, Demonstrate, Prompt and then Release.

Sales Coaching for Skills are best done with a Customer Visit, and then three more visits.
More on:

Coaching for Sales Strategy is best done in the office, or on SKYPE, NOT the Customer’s Office

Coaching 2

Is there empirical evidence that this works,  you bet!


Being a Sales Coach is great fun,

it’s really rewarding and it brings great results.


But, Coaching demands we learn
how to Coach effectively,

and that WE should be “coached” in Coaching.

But, like Golf, Coaching, after you learn how ‘to play well’ it’s a lifelong friend.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Advanced Selling Skills in 30 minutes, the long version.


How long does it take to learn Advanced Selling?

Recently, I was asked what could be done in 30 minutes?



A One Minute Message:
Advanced Selling Skills are competences
which only the top 5% of sales people have.

The 3 Minute Message:
Advanced Selling Skills which are held by less than 5% of Sales people are Interactive Skills ,
composed of 20 Verbal Behaviours.
Interactively Competent Salespeople, Practitioners of Advanced Selling Skills, know the Behavioural Effect of the 20 different Verbal Behaviours.
They are able to use Behavioural Modification (BMod.), on themselves in order to increase significantly successful outcomes in interactions with Prospects and Customers.




The 9 Minute message

include details of the 20 Verbal Behaviours, how B. Mod changes other people’s verbal behaviour,
e.g. How to double the chances of a Prospect agreeing to your offer.
It is supported by 9 slides using Beyond Bullet points to tell the Story.

The 27 minute message

gives examples of Gaining Agreement, avoiding Disagreement and Managing Successful Interactions.
It identifies 5 “deadly” behaviours and 3 “Golden Behaviours”
It is supported by 25 slides (Beyond Bullet points) to tell the story.

The 40 minute Presentation

“Why Advanced Selling Skills?” is an interactive version of all 4 of the above Messages,
it has a reduced Pack of 14 slides, requires two flip charts and a 3M post-it pad and a medium point Felt tip for each person.


If YOU still want to do ‘something’ in 30 minutes then.
I suggest that YOU:

Spend the 30 minutes “interactively” establishing (by them) how important it is to have Advanced Selling Skills.  You can do this by asking THEM to list the implications of NOT having Advanced Selling Skills and the Value of having better Selling Skills than 95% of their Competitors.

If your Salespeople have written long lists in both columns,
then run a 2 hour Interactive session with "Desert Survival" from the Copyright holder Human Synergistics, Inc.
(Don’t use a plagiarised copy, it is probably wrong anyway!)

While the Delegates solve the Survival Problem in groups of up to 8,
YOU use Behavioural Analysis (Observation and Categorisation) to identify the Behaviours they currently use (pretty basic).

You then present a Benchmark Model Behavioural Analysis of Advanced Sales Behaviours, together with the EVIDENCE that previous delegates, with Advanced Selling Skills achieved substantially better results at the exercise, than they did. My, BMAC Consultants, Behavioural Bench mark has n=1500 approx., but the copyright holders have a substantially larger one, for all kinds of people.


so use them!


The real answer is;
Advanced Selling Skills is a 3 day learning event,
it takes 3-9 months of coaching to “internalise” the skills and
about 2 years for the Salesperson to be a “Confident Practitioner”.



Imagine, your Cardiologist telling you,
just before he carries out the by-pass,

“I learned this off of a 30 minute YouTube video”


…good luck!



Send me a request for the 5 “deadly” behaviours and 3 “Golden Behaviours” to

Or, ask me to send you a copy of the 1, 3, 27 or 40 minute messages.



Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A Major Problem in Selling has been identified

A major problem in Selling has been identified by the CSO 2011 Sales Training /Sales Effectiveness key trends Survey.

It is the following simple statistic:
65% of Sales Managers are actively involved in Sales Training delivery and development and 35% of the Sales Managers act as Sales Training Instructors!

Let me use a simple metaphor:
driving lessonWhat would happen to the standard of driving if 65% of parents were actively involved in the development and 35% in the delivery of driving instruction?
Further if there was no driving test to measure Competence, Driving Skill, traffic awareness, decision making and attitudes to other road users.... then I guess we would never know the impact!

I carried out an Assessment of 350 Sales people at Big Telco, to measure their Product Knowledge and Selling Skills.  We did this first by testing their product/market Knowledge, and then their Selling Skills in Sales Simulation. Before the assessment we asked their Sales Managers to “rate” their own sales people. Previously, the Sales Managers had actively taken part in the development and delivery of the Sales Training.

The Sales Mangers gave 90% of their Salespeople a pass mark. 315 passes, and 35 Fails.

After external assessment,
185 of the Salespeople FAILED to pass the Assessment (their “Driving” Test).

The Sales Managers had a 500% error in Assessment of their own people .

7 of the 35 “failures” rated by their sales managers passed the external assessment,
and 150+ who had been passed by their Sales Managers “failed” the test and/or the simulation.

30% of the Sales Managers themselves failed the Assessment first time and 10% STILL FAILED THE RE-SITS 6 WEEKS LATER.  125 ‘failed’ Salespeople passed their re-sits 6 weeks later after receiving external Sales Training (not mine!) and on-demand Product training.
They also received some coaching from some Sales Managers.

My conclusion is the skill set for a Sales Trainer is a lot more than PowerPoint Operator.


Sales Trainer skills include Validated Selling Skills and Adult Trainer Skills including training needs analysis, diagnostics, training delivery and training evaluation.


Realistically, how many Sales Managers have both
Current Selling Skills and Adult Training Skills?teacher

The truthful answer is very few.


The “Sales Skills” that Sales Managers do have are being used less and less, may be out of date and in many cases are dysfunctional (ABC, Objection Handling, Steps of the Sale etc.)

Adult Trainer Skills include, as well as subject matter knowledge, adult training techniques.
An understanding of Learner Motivation,
both how to generate it and how to maintain it. 
This is the minimum for the Sales Trainer’s Tool kit


CEO’s, VP’s Sales and CMO’s have to ask themselves two hard question:
“Is it worth saving a little money to do a poor job of Sales Training ?”
and “Can just ‘anybody’ really do Sales Training?”

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Cost saving or shaving costs?


I don’t want to blame “Porter”, although his promotion of the Lowest Cost Provider has confused and caused a few problems over the years.  The idea is blindingly simple, and once known is obvious, the Lowest Cost Provider wins

If you have the lowest costs you can sell at Market Price for more Profit or you can sell below Market Price and win market share grow your volume and make more Profit.   Great!

However when you turn the company over to the Accountants, take care.

Financial Engineering was another FAD that I survived.

But, only just!

Enter the Cost Accountants and let the dance begin.


Ketchup has the key ingredient of Tomatoes.

Our Cost Accountants showed how we could reduce costs by reducing Tomatoes in our Ketchup. We put 10% less Tomatoes on our Ketchup and changed to a lower cost if lower quality Tomatoes. Total saving was 20%. No complaints, so apparently the consumer didn’t notice.


‘Flushed’ with success, the Cost Accountants were back with more proposals “Packaging, Storage and transportation” cost savings. We changed from a bottle size of 500 grams to 1000 grams; Marketing not only supported the change but insisted we use 1200 grams to enable a 20% extra free campaign. Our Consumers seemed to accept the changes, but our Distributers, Wholesalers and Retailers grumbled about ‘problems’ in the background.


To achieve all of the changes, involved some costs, but these were justified by the Cost Accountants Graphs, Charts and Tables all of which agreed that break-even, cost recovery and profits would flow shortly. Marketing agreed and talked of Product “consolidation”, improved Margins, Market share capture and increased Profits. In Sales we just raised our eyebrows.

After a set of disappointing Sales results, the Cost Accountants cut a further 15% of Tomatoes used in our Ketchup, we now bought our Key ingredient on the open Market at a “Tomatoes Commodity Auction”; it came from any part of the world and was always the cheapest they could find.

During a Product Management review the Cost Accountants refused to allow a new Self-seal dispenser to be used as it put 4 cents on the cost line. But, it was being advertised heavily on TV by our Competitor.


Ketchup-2Our next two quarters Sales results were terrible.

Big and loyal customers were only placing maintenance orders, or cancelling. Or, they were trying to return stock they described as ‘non-spec’. In Sales we knew what was wrong, but nobody listened.

So, Sales organised a Customer Engagement Event (paid for by Marketing)
and brought our Executives, our Distributors and our Consumers together Face-to-face:

“You can’t taste the Tomatoes!”;
“the bottles are too big for their fridge”;
“We can’t shelf the product!”;
“The Box is too heavy to lift!”

In summary “We don’t like your Product, anymore!”



This Parable really took place in Information Technology;
it was not “Ketchup”.


The moral of the story is:
to “Listen to your Customer”

and put tasty and plentiful ‘Tomatoes’
in your ‘Ketchup’.



ketchup Heinz


Heinz® Tomato Ketchup, America's Favorite Ketchup®,

is made with only the firmest, juiciest, freshest tomatoes.



Heinz make, and have always made, a truly great product!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

TQM or Total Quality Madness

I am a survivor.

I have survived 17 different management “initiatives” during a 40 year working life. One of them was TQM, Total Quality “Madness”.

Like most fads it started with a Prophet, but now the surviving “Disciples” argue over who the true ‘Prophet’ was. I will not enter their debate, I don’t care who invented it or whose fault it was.

Like all fads, TQM begins with some good ideas and catchy slogans. The ‘higher’ thinking is kept secret and instead anecdotes replace research. “Right first time” was an enchanting idea, which soon cast its spell over millions of workers. But, How?

The “Magic Circle” was invented. Workers who had never had any “voice”, who had never been heard were invited to speak; Assembly Worker, Production Operator and all. “How could we do it better?

Brainstorming, Coffee and Flipcharts soon became a ‘heady’ mixture. And, more anecdotal “results” than you could read on a quiet rainy Sunday.
Up 3%, down 7%,
improved by 13%,
decreased by 5%
and saved 100%

I remember that TQM came with a distant Japanese High Priesthood - their message of Purpose, Process and People conveniently translated into English still seemed somehow ‘Oriental’. But, then “Local Priests” began appearing, people we had known as of little importance and scarce education. Now, these Demi-gurus spoke in parables, “Zero defects”, “Hassle free” (or friction free), “Delighted Customers” and “Employee involvement”. Soon, many otherwise quite smart people had “bought-in.”
They began attending the Circles listened to “Quality” talk from the Local Priests.
Quality, quality, quality was the answer to everything.
Quality assured our collective future.
Quality assured our Profitability.
Quality assured our jobs.

The sceptical few (myself included) asked “Quality at what cost?”
When we tried to change the slogan to “Quality, at a profit” we were howled down, named as “negative non-co-operators” (as opposed to “Collaborators”, which we thought was politically incorrect French.). Our “resistance” was short lived, the Local Priests issued the “Book of Compliance”, and there could be no dissention, Total Quality Rules.

It was then that a most curious thing happened. Those same self-important, not too bright people who had become Local Priests, they underwent a metamorphosis!
Using their “Book of Compliance”, they first became TQM Assessors, and then they became the TQM Police.

At the same time “results” were beginning to come in, both Customers and Sales were being affected. Customers were being asked to accept “Quality” exceeding their requirements. Good enough wasn’t any good, only “Right” was what we now offered!

Along with the “Quality” came cost, building-in quality isn’t cheap,
in fact building-in more quality than the Customer wants is very expensive.

So, now we began losing sales, “more quality than we need, at a price we can’t afford” complained long term Customers, who left for cheaper Competitors. “It’s Sale’s fault” howled the TQM Police,
They can’t sell the Quality!” And, they were right, we could not even find the "Quality" Market, never mind sell to it! We just couldn’t find Buyers who bought more than they needed for prices higher than ‘good enough’ Quality.

Capitalism, has an inbuilt “evolution system”. It’s not the strongest that survives; it’s the most appropriate for the Product/Market. Don’t build more “quality” than your Market wants, don’t price higher than your Market is willing to pay. And, don’t give people who have never succeeded in any Commercial environment the ability to destroy your Company in the name of Compliance.

If you need a Slogan, use Nike’s “Just Do It!”
But, do it at an appropriate Quality with an acceptable Price.

That’s why you have a sales force.

The Voice of the Customer!


Friday, 1 July 2011

The Success of a Sales led Business

I recently consulted for a “sales” led firm, a Software Company.  The CEO had been a Sales Professional, very successful and very wealthy.  He had taken a year out completed his MBA, then came back and bought the Company.

He changed the Culture of the Company from Product “centric” to a focus on Sales, a ‘Sales’ culture was established.  Everybody worked in, on and with Sales. 
His results were spectacular, he doubled the business each year for three years.


Having spent three years as CEO and having proved his point, that Sales Led = Success,
he wanted more.  After attending a Software ‘Jamboree’ run by the charismatic boss of another Software Company, he whole heartedly adopted and installed a state of the art CRM and SFA, (at great expense!)

Overnight his people who had been treated as ‘Professionals’ felt they were now being treated as ‘naughty children’,  They felt that they no longer could use initiative or judgement, they felt that they were no longer “trusted”.

In public and in private the CEO continued to treat his people with confidence, but the new Software ‘systems’ were running the day-to-day business.  According to the ‘systems’ 21 DIFFERENT things were all “high” priority. 

Sales success was no longer appreciated,
compliance with the system was more valued.

The ‘crunch’ came when his top ten sales people were taken off-the-road, to play in a “sandbox”, before the release of of yet another version of the SFA and modified Sales Process. 

His leading Sales Manager and six Sales people left and joined their competitor.

The CEO’s ambivalence has proved to be very expensive, wanting to trust yet being afraid to trust at the same time.  Make up your mind, choose, then have a consistent set of behaviours. 

Enjoy the success or accept the consequences. 

Leadership is owning the Company’s Culture. 

Know which culture you want and do not change it by accident.

“You can turn fish into fish soup,fish soup

but you can never turn fish soup back into fish!”

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Three out of four Sales Proposals fail because of basic mistakes

It’s been a long week!

So, why has it been a long week?  Because of a few statistics!

100% of Buyers know what a “Benefit” is,

but less than 10% of Salespeople
and Only 2% of Marketing people
write Benefits Statements correctly!


And, imperfectly written “benefits”
are NOT Benefits they are just words.


99% of Buyers (100% of Financial Buyers) know what a “Value Proposition” is,
but only 5% of Salespeople write Value Propositions correctly,
(I have not yet seen a Value Proposition in the Marketing Boilerplate, so they score 0%).

Since the New Year I have audited 23 Proposals, they contended against 78 Competitive Proposals,
the win statistic I can’t reveal is how many of my reviews won (due to Client confidentiality).
But you can see that 78 Proposals LOST, THREE out of FOUR are losers!

It is like missing three out of four short putts on long Par 4’s,
you have done all the hard work then you fail at the finish,
change this and you will be a Top Performer!

I launched this new product back in December 2010,

Sales Proposal Evaluation.

You e-mail me your Sales Proposal before you send it to the Prospect

then I ‘audit’ it and give it a rating 1-9.

  • 1, 2, or 3 (Red), sure Loser

  • 4, 5, or 6 (Amber), doubtful winner

  • 7, 8, or 9 (Green), a Winner

I won’t go into the technicalities of the scoring, but I will overview results.

Red, simply means that your proposal has no Buying Reason.
Yes, the Proposal has managed to avoid giving the Prospect any reason to buy.

No Benefits, no Value Proposition, no understanding of the Prospects, needs or purpose.

A Red 2 has also failed basic proof reading, with Grammar and Spelling mistakes.

A Red 1, is actually ‘unreadable’, even if you had nothing to read on a long boring night-time train journey you would not read this Proposal. Microsoft Word detects these with its “Readability Function”, so why do Salespeople (or Marketing) continue to write ‘boilerplate’ this way.

Amber (5 and 4) will have proofreading and readability problems,
but they will also have some BUYING REASONS.
Once they have been tidied up, then they have a chance of succeeding.
They succeed only against Competitor’s Proposals ranked as RED.

If they are against a Competitive GREEN proposal you will LOSE.

Green (7 and 8) will have proofreading and readability problems, but they contain a feast of BUYING REASONS.
If sent out an un-Readable Proposal and with serious Grammar and Spelling problems they could still LOSE,
but when ‘tidied up’ they are sure winners. They cover all the BENEFITS;
they have an understandable VALUE PROPOSITION
(what some people have now ‘reinvented’ into an “outcome”).

Successful Proposals show:

  • WHY the Prospect should accept your offer?
  • HOW your offer fulfils their requirements and needs?
  • WHAT is the Financial Value the Proposition will deliver?

The Proposal does all of this as simply as possible,
as unambiguously and unmistakably as possible and in as few words as possible.
Ideally in a summary with a Picture and a Chart! 

I give my Sales Proposal Rating, then my suggested corrections.

My Pricing reflects my confidence in my ability to do the Audit.

If a RED rated Proposal wins I don’t Charge, and if a Green rating that Loses then I don’t charge.
I always charge for Amber, (win or lose) WHETHER you use my suggestions or not!

£225 value, given FREE of charge

Send me one of your Sales Proposals in “Complete Confidence”,
I delete the file after you acknowledge receipt of the my rating
(test me send me one where you know the out come!)

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Problem Based Selling is not the only way!

I enjoy The Inflexion-Point Blog, they often address current issues in Sales and Marketing and are well written. However, on The 10 Key Questions your Business Model Must Address.

We disagreed on the first one.

1: What business critical problems do you solve for your customers?

Why this is important: because unless your prospect acknowledges a clear and compelling business problem, you have little opportunity to sell them a solution.

This, 'Problem Solving', is still being offered as a holy grail, and certainly Prospects with a “compelling business problem” are likely to buy. But, I will not wait to find these nuggets. We have to include in the Sales spectrum Prospects that don’t have compelling business problems. Instead I also have to search for prospects that would be interested in an opportunity!

We label Prospects with 'compelling business problems' as “Opportunities”, but we mean THEY have a problem.
And, WE have a Sales Opportunity.

In “Opportunistic” Selling we invert this.
We look for Prospects with Opportunities then we have the Problem of delivering on it!

Prospects do signal their ‘opportunities’ to us,
with key phrases “If only…..” or
“What we really could use would be….”

Sales don’t listen because they are not
compelling business problems”, and
they seldom fit our standard product offer!

What is the key ‘quality’ in Opportunistic Selling? Imagination!

Both Seller and Buyer need Imagination.

The rudimentary skills were initially described in Miller, Heiman and Tuleja’s “Conceptual Selling”(1987), however, in my opinion, this has now been diluted with an emphasis on 'Finding Problems' and using a Sales Process based on 'Problem Solving'.

In the original text P.280 they outline the concept of Valid Business Reason,
and in Ch. 12 they give as one Criteria of Valid Business Reason:

“Related to their business (not necessarily to your Product)”

It’s worth defining the Two Selling Styles to clarify and distinguish between them:

“Problem/Solution” Selling is based upon Problem Solving where the Prospect has
an unfavourable set of circumstances which, if not addressed, will damage their business.

Opportunistic” Selling is based on uncovering an opportunity,
a favourable set of circumstances in the Prospect’s business environment,
which if taken advantage of will improve their Business.

This is not semantics;

it IS semantics to argue that a Customer’s "Problem" is also their "Opportunity".

Here is a Harvard Business Review article saying the same thing, but SPIN® based!

A concrete example:

A client is ordering a small incremental data storage upgrade.
They still have a single point of failure. (Which is NOT perceived by the Client as a Compelling Business Problem as the MTBF is 10 years and they have had no issues for last 3 years).

The Salesperson engages the Buyer’s imagination by asking:
“What their ‘Ideal’ Data Storage System would be, if they had no legacy system or cost constraints?”

The Prospect imaginatively describes a ‘Mirrored’ Data Storage System,
with Geographical and Mains Power separation, a truly 'no single point of failure' Data Storage System.

Now, the Prospect has an Opportunity and the Seller has a Problem,
how to overcome the Cost and Legacy constraints and take the Prospect to their “Ideal” solution.

Or, they can just take the order for the small incremental upgrade and
hope that an Opportunistic Sales Competitor doesn’t ask the same question and solve the Problems!

Top Performers 'Engage Emotionally' with Prospects


In looking at what makes a great salesperson, I would include a factor,
which is that: “They ‘Engage Emotionally’ with the Prospect.”

This manifests itself in that, Sales Top Performers Understand their Prospects “substantive” Issues.

Further, they are able to discern their Customer/Prospect’s “Emotional Issues”;
anxieties, fears, uncertainties and doubts,
which will often be expressed as
“Pseudo-substantive issues”.




These are the “Pseudo-substantive” issues that often cause the conflict
between Seller and Buyer.

The Seller “Behaviour”, which is significantly different in Top Performers,
is their ability to confront and to reconcile, reaching an agreement or harmony with the Prospect.

These conciliatory gestures may take the form of either Questions or Statements, are based on openness, which makes the Salesperson Vulnerable.  Expressions of sorrow or regret may be used for past occurrences (even if the salesperson held no direct responsibility or liability).

Top Sales Performers show a marked increase in personal disclosure;

of their thoughts, feelings, motivation and past history.

They also seek feedback and accept direct personal responsibility for the outcomes.
They are able, appropriately, to express positive feelings towards the Prospect
including affection, admiration and respect.
This is the emotional basis upon which they build, to initiate a search for mutual-gain outcomes.

Although these appear to be ‘soft skills’,
their execution and use is in ‘hard’ Interpersonal Behaviour usage.

Top Performers have a Behavioural range including Questions, Statements, Suggestions, Checking Understanding and Comment Summaries which enable a Prospect’s conversation
to encompass their Emotional Issues, comfortably.

Emotional Engagement, as I am describing it, is improvised in real time.
The Process, which is not story telling, attempts to limit 3 key factors:

· Ambivalence,
· Projection and
· Polarisation.

Buyers feel ‘Ambivalence’ about Sales People, they are both attracted and repelled at the same time,
and this is Cognitive Dissonance.  Un-aided the Buyer will adjust their perception to
Sellers cannot be trusted” or “I trust this Person”.

Since it is the second condition, which we as sales people desire,
then we behave in a manner that engenders trust,
i.e. sincerity, truthfulness and open disclosure.

The Buyer will often ‘Project’ either their own “undesirable characteristics” onto the Seller,
or the “undesirable characteristics” of previous Salespeople  onto the Seller.

“I am economical with the truth, therefore this salesperson will also be economical with the truth”.

They do this again to reduce their Cognitive Dissonance,
we should not validate “Projected” Characteristics, and instead we establish Trustworthy Characteristics.

Finally, ‘Polarisation’ is to be avoided.
The sales person believes that they are truthful and sincere, whereas the Buyer believes sales people are inherently untruthful and insincere. Reaching agreement with Polarised views, can be impossible.
Tolerating the ambivalence can enable agreement.

Hence to move the Buyer position to:
“Sales people are inherently untruthful (their belief), but on this occasion, this seller appears truthful”.
Is congruent with their belief but allows latitude in behaviour.
The salesperson has to “accept” the Buyer’s view that “Sellers are inherently untruthful”.
Yet, exhibit behaviours that will show the Buyer’s belief ‘unjustified’ on this occasion with this Seller.

“Emotional Engagement” is for both parties Buyer and Seller, an Intra-Personal and an Inter-Personal Process. Whether we acknowledge it, or not, it is present during every Complex Choice,
and as Sellers we ignore it at our peril.

Just as an aside, this is all from Mainstream ‘Regular’ Psychology, mainly Behavioural Psychology,
i.e. the ‘SPIN’ School. However, it includes some Cognitive Psychology from CBT,
especially the view that emotions (feelings) stem from thoughts and beliefs.

It is not, “New Wave” or ‘pseudo’ Psych, or NLP,

or EI (‘Emotional Intelligence’).

Sales Emotional Engagement is Sales Skills based.

Behavioural Modification (B.Mod.), in our Own Behaviour to achieve an appropriate Modification in our Buyer’s Behaviour. It is akin to pre-call Questioning Preparation to identify Buyer’s needs or pain points.
The difference is this preparation is to minimise Ambivalence, Projection and Polarisation.
It used to be called “Empathy”, except we couldn’t measure or compare empathy.