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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

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Book Review Dan Pink’s To sell is human


Pink asks a profound question about the basis of selling:

“Who is doing who a favour?”

Is the Salesperson doing the Customer a favour,
by bringing much needed goods and service to the table?

Or, is the Customer doing the Salesperson a favour, by buying their goods and services?

After reading the book, I do not think it matters,
as this is not the Basis of Selling, anyway.

His final advice is: “Treat everyone like your Grandmother!” This is a loaded concept.



I would have just stuck to the Golden Rule:

  • One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. Or.
  • One should NOT treat others in ways that one would NOT like to be treated

The Golden Rule contains the essence of Selling, Selling is reciprocal,
and Selling and Buying are done together.

Selling is NOT something we do TO Buyers,
Selling is something we do WITH Buyers!

The nonsense themes in the book are:
  • Everybody sells. No they don’t!
    What he means is everybody TRY’s to influence or ATTEMPTS to persuade,
    and mostly we don’t do a very good job of it!
  • The “Fuller Brush” story is a red herring, it is not relevant.
    Door to door is “hawking”, always was, always will be.
    I speak from experience, something which Pink’s lack of shows throughout the book.
  • ABC never worked, Pink’s ABC will NOT work either. Selling is not about simple rules.

The end theme is the Salesperson’s Burden: “Leave the world a better place”, to sell is human.
This may be countered by another cliché to err is human


Pink does deliver some good, if not common, sense

  •  Improvisation. Although in the Behavioural Approach to Selling
    we have called it “Interactive Competence” for 4 decades.
    The ability of the salesperson to align their behaviour to their objective.

BUT, in Sales it is NOT about ACTING (improv),
it IS about INTER-ACTING, Inter Active Competence.

Selling is about what you DO, not WHO you are.

  • His writing on Greenleaf’s “Servant Leadership” should be encouraged for Sales Managers!


Although the book lists extensive references
and refers to “research” his conclusions are fundamentally speculative.

Pink ‘sows’ together a Patchwork to offer his ‘view’ of selling [or moving people]
from Brush Salesmen to pay rises.

There is no method, or system, just ideas and thoughts.

I read the book twice, firstly as an Evidence Based Sales Consultant,
then secondly through the eyes of a Sales Novice.

As a Sales Consultant, I would have score it as a Red 3/10
i.e. slightly more DYSFUNCTIONAL than FUNCTIONAL,
an experienced Sales person would be worse off after reading it.

However, as an ‘empty vessel’ I would have scored it as AMBER 6/10
because of the section on IMPROV.

This could be a solid base from which to learn Interactive Competence.

Dan Pink’s ‘To sell is Human’, would not be in my Top Ten,
but it is in the Sales Section in my Library.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Challenging - The Challenger Sale


The recent RAIN Group Report,
purports to ‘Challenge’ The Challenger Sale.

It is based on a survey of “Buyers” talking about “Sellers”.



Paradoxically they ignore their own advice:

“Sales research methods often focus on asking sellers, sales managers, and leaders what the top performers do versus average performers. Unfortunately, people’s perceptions of what they do and what they actually do tend to be quite different.

Our research looks at sales from the buyers’ perspective. Our objective was to find the answer to the following question: What are the winners of actual sales opportunities doing differently than the sellers who come in second place?

Their “research” ignores the very flaw which THEY highlight earlier!

Unfortunately, people’s perceptions of what they do
and what they actually do tend to be quite different.

This applies equally to both Sellers AND Buyers. The perceptions of what Buyers ‘believe’ Sellers DO will actually tend to be quite different from what Sellers actually ‘DO’! We are helped in this by having a body of research of 35,000 sales calls, carried out in 23 Countries, over a period of 12 years!

The second Paradox is using a Comparison of ‘winners’ to ‘losers’.  
N. Rackham and (Dick) Ruff published this flaw in their book ‘Managing Major Sales’ in 1991.
However, the ‘flaw’ of using this approach was widely known since the early 1980’s.

Learn from Neil Rackham:
And to not waste any time comparing Exemplar Performers (what I call Master Performers) to
Poor Performers. To Moderately Successful Performers, yes.
To see what truly ‘differentiates’ the true Masters.

Written by Guy W. Wallace, CPT, performance-based Instructional Analyst Architect - Since 1979 and Consultant - Since 1982 [from]




RAIN Group highlight the Winner/Loser flaw by showing what they top rank in ‘winners’
Educate with new ideas and perspectives
compared with ‘losers’ who have this as their 42nd from the top, or bottom Rank!

With this combination of two fatal flaws in their basic research approach,

no credibility can be attached to their conclusions

which, paradoxically, they claim contradict The Challenger Sale Model.
This is a surprising claim as they state Salespeople
can’t inspire buyers unless they ‘educate them with new ideas and perspectives’”
which sounds like a rephrasing of “Teach with Insights” to me!

In other words, they appear to endorse The Challenger Sale approach.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Simple Selling and Complex Selling


A Theoretical Foundation in Selling



This was the definition I used for 
twenty  years, it was based on Rackham’s research. Which he published in
‘Major Account Selling’, to distinguish between ‘simple’ and ‘complex’ Selling and then describe differences in successful Sales Behaviours. 

The multiple factors, in effect,
could be applied to almost any sale. 



In other words: ALL Selling was Complex!

By 2000 it was obvious that a Multi-factor definition was not working. 

One by one Factors which were not helpful or important were disappearing. 

First to go was “Competitive Situation”, this was not helpful in Contract Renewals with NO Competitor present, But the Sale was NOT simple! The “Long Sales Cycle” was a repetition of many meetings, in fact some Long Sales Cycles were Simple Selling, which just took a long time!

Decision means Major Change”, yet equally Minor Change with high Impact, could have a similar effect.  The amount of change often reflects the ‘Motivation to Change’, rather than a difference in Selling Behaviour.  “Long Term Partnerships”, let’s take out the word “Partnership” and just go with Long Term Seller/Buyer Relationships. 

We worked with the final two factors “Committee Decision” [not an individual] and “The Solution is Complex” from about 2000 until 2005, as it met most of our needs.  However, in 2005 we were offering some highly “Complex Solutions” in the Voice over IP and ‘Hosted Voice’ arena, and Buyers had NO interest in the Complexity, rather a desire for simplicity. “I don’t care how it works, Does it DO what we want done?”

in 2005, we wrote the final Definition of Simple and Complex Selling:



Selling is a Communication Process, an Interactive Competence,
which becomes increasingly COMPLEX as the number of Participants INCREASES.






One to One
is Simple Selling.

One to Many, or
Many to One,
is Complex Selling.

Many to Many is
VERY Complex Selling!





Observing Sales Behaviours in One-to-Many Sales Calls the level of INTERACTIVE COMPETENCE required for Successful Selling increases alarmingly.  Even the Observer is stretched identifying Behaviours. 

The Salesperson MUST have a Sales Behaviour Fluency many times higher than selling One to One.

If two Buyers means Complex Selling, then what if there are MANY Buyers?



A Sociogram of Big Telecom with a Major Bank Customer may look like this! 
Some Sales were simple Products, some were Complex Solutions. 
Some Sales had a Sales Cycle measured in minutes, some lasted for more than a year. 
Some were Major Changes [Telephone and Internet Banking], and
some were ‘Partnership’ projects with shared risk. 
There was a constant Competitive threat. 


Yet, the determining factor was Selling one to one or one to many!








Today in 2013,
this definition of

Simple and Complex Selling
is crucial






Friday, 19 April 2013

Customer Retention Strategy Selling in Recession


Dave Brock has written two insightful Blogs into Customer Retention.



In a recession your ability to keep and grow
existing Customers is the difference between
Business success and failure.


How do you set a Good Sales Defence Strategy?



I can no more give you a Formula,
than the plan that Napoleon had that ended in his ignominious retreat from Moscow,
instead of the victory parade in he planned.






Sales Defence Strategy will be determined by
YOU, your Customer and the Competition.

The factors in formulating a good defence are building high walls, in business this is “Barriers to Entry”, or at the very least a very high Cost of Entry. IBM, was very successful in this by using proprietary software, in the 1980’s if you wanted the software, it only ran on an IBM Computer. Open-architecture, and Plug-Compatibility put an end to this approach!


What are today’s ‘Barriers to Entry’?

Functionality can be a barrier

If you do what the Customer wants done, and others cannot do it, then you can defend the Account.
However, relying on USP’s and Functionality alone is, no more than, a short term defence,
it won’t last, the Competition will catch-up, they may even leap frog you! [Blackberry]


Today’s barriers are Customer Experience.

That is, in great part, how Sales sold the first deal.

What were the “Expectations” of the Customer,
what are their current “Perceptions” of their experience?

How satisfied are they with your Value delivery? 

In planning a ‘Defensive’ Sales Strategy, you MUST listen to the “voice” of the Customer.
One way is in Complaints Handling, if these are well done,
then you create a Positive ‘voice’,
if handled poorly then it’s a Negative ‘voice’.

Financial Barriers, can be the hardest to erect

And, during recession this can be the weakest point in your defence.

This is not only PRICE, but is VALUE as well.
A well-defended account, will have kept a ‘Customer Perceived’ Value REGISTER,
showing the Financial BENEFITS, which the Customer expected and they perceived that we delivered.
This is NOT a wall you want to try and erect AFTER you are under attack!

That is called ‘Panic Discounting’, a paper thin wall, offering little or no defence.

Relationships are the third wall in Sales Defensive Strategy.

We know that you cannot Sell on Relationships alone,
nor will you be able to defend on relationships alone.

But, they are a vital part of Defence! A good Account Defence, is based on a broad set of Sales-Customer relationships, from the front desk Receptionist through to the CEO.
The front desk may well be your first ‘early warning’ of Competitive Activity in the Account. 
Build an ever growing network inside your Customer,
connect them back into your Company, KEEP ON SELLING!

When I conduct Customer Retention Strategy Workshops,
I always ask the same starting question:

What would you do to win this account?

We spend a lot of time working out the BEST competitive Acquisition Strategy against us,
then, and only then, do we begin formulating our Customer Retention Strategy,
to hold onto [and often Develop] our Customer.

Just a final note, I was at Burroughs [now Unisys] when they adopted the Tactic of Hunters and Farmers.
Against IBM and Hewlett Packard this was a DISASTER,
as fast as our Hunters Won new Business,
our Farmers Lost existing business.

A New Business Salesperson with a Sales Acquisition Strategy
will always take Business from an Account Manager
who has not both planned AND executed their Customer Retention Strategy.

Start Building those walls today!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Predicting Future Sales Performance


MacIver’s Algorithm



The most accurate predictor
of Future Sales Performance,
and it is FREE, my gift to you.


It can be used to Recruit and Select, to Promote

or to Identify your Future Top Sales Performers.

I am prepared to state that this is more accurate
and has higher validity than any Psychometric ‘test’
or any Recruitment Agency.



This simple three-factor algorithm will substantially out perform any and all ‘Tests’,
and will do at least as well, but usually far better,
at predicting Future Sales Performance than any Expert.

a.) Average (%) of Annual (actual) Performance against target (last five years.)
                (Reduce the total by twenty per cent for each year less than five years)

b.) BEST Quarter’s (%) MINUS WORST Quarter’s (%) Sales Performance (last five years)

c.) Current Sales Velocity (%)   (Last quarter´s Performance against target)


Average last 5 year Annual performance = 87% 

Best quarter 137% minus worst quarter 48% = 89% 

Current Sales Velocity = 115%


(A times B times C) 87% times 89% times 115% = 89%


Then, 89% is the PROBABILITY of this Candidate achieving Target in their first 12 months; redo figures to predict year two when year one actual figure is achieved.


Thanks to Jeff Michaels of Intended Results (@IntendedResults) for encouraging me to Blog this.


Update 04/2013:  I have received a number of direct comments, and I am always happy to receive them here as well.  Based on this feedback and in particular some of the questions I have to caveat the USE of the Algorithm, not the Algorithm, but its use!

Possible fundamental limitations of predictive model based on data fitting

1) History cannot always predict future: using relations derived from historical data to predict the future implicitly assumes there are certain steady-state conditions or constants in the complex system. This is almost always wrong when the system involves people.

2) The issue of unknown unknowns: in all data collection, the collector first defines the set of variables for which data is collected. However, no matter how extensive the collector considers his selection of the variables, there is always the possibility of new variables that have not been considered or even defined, yet critical to the outcome.

3) Self-defeat of the algorithm: after an algorithm becomes an accepted standard of measurement, it can be taken advantage of by people who understand the algorithm and have the incentive to fool or manipulate the outcome.



Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The SIX Hour Sales Call


bad lie

“What’s the ruling?” he asked.

I gave him the rule straight from the Rules of Golf.

“It’s an unplayable lie, you can move the ball [after marking it] under penalty of one shot.
Rule 27-1 lets you play your shot again from where you last played.
Or drop a ball on the line between your marker and the pin, as far back along the line as you wish.
Or, drop a ball no more than 2 club lengths from the marker NO nearer the hole.”

“It’s your choice!”

While he was thinking,

it occurred to me that Golf has RULES which make it fair and enjoyable.


What, I wondered, were the rules of SELLING?

When, like me, you have a Prospect [or Customer] with you on the golf course for six hours?

It is probably best to begin with a few DON’Ts:

    1. Do NOT try and have a six hour Sales Call!
      This will strain both you and your Client to breaking point
    2. Do NOT just have a ‘social’ round of Golf 
      Play a competitive round, which fairly tests both of you
    3. Do NOT play at your rhythm and speed of play but at the Client’s pace, Play READY Golf
      it’s their day If you are a fast golfer, take your time, if slow then get a move on!
    4. Do NOT drink alcohol DURING the Game 
      It will not improve either your game or, your behaviour!
    5. Do NOT talk business for the first six holes, or the last six,
      only the middle six and then in the bar afterwards.  That is a TWO Hour Sales Call,
      but it is best done between the Green and Tee, so it is only 20 minutes on the course.

Before talking about the DO rules,
its best to consider WHY you are inviting your client to a Golf Day.
[and why they are accepting]


It is Classic “Relationship Discovery and Development”,
getting to know one another, it’s about building Trust.


fairplay_golf_55Fair Play on a Golf Course may not indicate fair play in Business.  But, unhelpful, unfair and aggressive Play on the Golf Course, may indicate to a Buyer,
what you are like in business.

Demonstrate Fair Play, helpfulness and collaboration.

It’s important that you KNOW, and abide by, the Rules and, just as importantly, the Etiquette of the Game. The purpose of the day, no matter the actual Goal for the day is to establish that they would want to do business with you!

The Five DO’s are:

  1. DO Only invite People who matter.
    You want key people from the Decision Making Unit, NOT their best Golfers!
  2. DO have Goals for the day.
    Rehearse any Suggestions, or Requests, you may make, DO NOT be spontaneous!
  3. DO Play the best Golf you can on the day, do not play to lose.
    This is obvious manipulation, a fair win is better than a ‘planned’ loss.
  4. DO Be a good Golf host
    ENTERTAIN on the course have some great Stories, and tasteful jokes, be Great Company
  5. DO Play for the 20Th hole, not the 19th, it is what happens next that counts.
    Send a follow-up letter, a photo or souvenir of the day, to remind them of their Golf Day.

A Client Golf Day is all about Relationship and Trust,
it is NOT about Product or Company.

You have an ideal opportunity to observe [close-up] your Client’s Problem Solving,
their Decision Making process, and their Interpersonal Skills.

There are a number of models you can use:

One is the Socializer, Relator, Director, and Thinker model

Make use of these insights to appeal to your Client’s Personality Preferences.

problem solver




The Perception YOU make
with YOUR Customer,
will be their view of you,
and of your Company
…..Manage Yourself.




Non-Golfers can participate in Golf Days by being Hosts’
both before and after the game


If you are thinking of learning the Game of Golf,
then learn from a Golf Pro, that’s your advantage.

Self-taught Golfers, like Self-taught Salespeople, often don’t play by the rules and have more bad habits than good habits. So, take lessons!


BMAC Consultants run Business Golf Training sessions in both Spain and Scotland: 
“How to get the best from your Company Golf day”

Friday, 8 March 2013

Do you think The Challenger Sale methodology is superior?

jill rowley

Jill Rowley (‏@jill_rowley) of Eloqua
Winner of the 2013 Sales Representative of the Year – Stevie® Awards



Asked me a simple, straight forward question:

Do you think The Challenger Sale methodology is superior?”
[to the IBM Signature Selling Methodology SSM]

The short answer is “yes”.


The longer answer is below!

IBM’s ‘Structured’ Sales Methodology (SSM) gave them significant Competitive Advantage, across multiple Sales Channels. I was consulting with Big Data Storage when we noticed an increase in sales being lost to IBM Distributors in the early 2000’s. We were used to winning the lion’s share in this arena because it was not IBM, not IBM sales, not IBM process. It was a ‘soft’ Market. I did a number of lost business reviews, and we interviewed several job applicants from IBM Distributors.

We found SSM.

“Over one-third of IBM’s employees use the IBM Signature Selling Method every day as they develop solutions to client problems. IBM has learned that the professionals who have trained on and use this method sell two to three times more than sales personnel who have not. The method is supported by a portal to allow IBM sales representatives to hone their selling skills and to help with soft-skills development, such as self-image and rapport-building, that is necessary for sales success.

IBM’s learning transformation story. 2004

SSM is an elegant methodology which gives IBM and its Sales Channels a common language, allows for rapid scaling and experience sharing. IBM drove it from Marketing, which gave SSM reach and funding.

It is based on the process that Rackham had published several times, most specifically his 1999 “Rethinking the Salesforce”, accurately subtitled as: redefining selling to create and capture Customer value, which he co-authored with John De Vincentis.

Rackham’s Process is described in Chapter seven “Sales Process light in a long dark tunnel”,
where the basis of IBM SSM is covered.

The KEY point is that Sales, unlike other departments, do not have clear boundary “handoffs”, where ‘lean’ improvements can be made.

Rather Sales have an end to end process…….The BUYING Cycle!

And, Sales have to fit with that.

But then you knew that!  Jill, you are the EloQueen.

What you may find interesting is his “Seven Characteristics of a Good Sales Process” page 217.

And, that was what IBM did,
they tested their Sales Process against those seven Characteristics.

From 2003 on in Big Data Storage and Data Services which, compete head to head with IBM, we have used an SSM, underpinned by Consultative Selling Skills based on SPINFAB to successfully compete with IBM and its distributors. If you do not have a SSM, you will lose, a lot, against IBM. In Big Software we underpinned our SSM with Enterprise Selling based on Advanced Selling Skills using VALUE CONSTRUCTION.

When 2008 happened, we had problems all over. Delayed decisions, status quo decisions, losing to the cheapest competitor, and really, really tough Price/Cost negotiations with procurement. Sales were down, margin was down, and profits were down. Yet some Salespeople were doing OK, Revenue Growth, Margins held, and they were earning good Commission!

We audited and assessed the Salesforce. Compared to previous audits there was no skill drop off, but there was substantial activity change. Late entry [or even last minute entry] in the Buying Process was becoming the ‘Norm’. Selling was becoming a matter of weeks of FRANTIC activity followed by months of inactivity in both Strategic accounts and Major accounts.



Conference TableIn 2010, in London, I held a breakfast briefing with clients from Big IT, Big Data Storage, Big Telco and Big Software, where I suggested that Relationship Based Selling was NOT working.

It did NOT go down well!
We had a lot of toys thrown out of prams.




Some of these Corporations were betting their shirts that the ‘relationships’ they had been building [for 10 or more years] with their clients in Banking, Government, Industry, Transportation, Energy and Petro-Chem were going to sustain them through the “turbulent” economic climate.

Relationships, did not help.

By 2012, we had the following general situation.



Yes, SIXTY per cent of the Profit contribution
was coming from only 15% of the Salesforce.

This means that losing a Sales Top Performer, a Rock Star,
was really hitting the bottom line.

Just promoting the Top Performer, could seriously impact Profit performance.


In several Telecom Clients in 2010-2012
we took the step of cutting the bottom 15% of Salespeople
who were causing a 20% profit contribution LOSS.

We then gave their accounts/territories to the Top 15%.

It had a very positive Profit Contribution response.
(This technique was used by Unisys in the 1970’s)



Then, in late 2011, we began hearing about some of the SEC-CEB research,
and the forthcoming Challenger Sale. I read Rackham’s endorsement,
and obtained an early copy of the book.

Jill, I have worked in Evidence Based Selling skills for 30 years, ~
I am NOT taken in by Fads, silver bullets or Hyperbole. I am a Sales Skills Sceptic.
To be even more precise I use an ‘eliminative philosophy’ which simply says:

“If what you tell me is true, then show me the proof and let me TEST it!”

I wrote a Philosophical Criticism about The Challenger Sale in November 2011.

I cautioned, TCS would be misunderstood, and it is now the most misrepresented Sales Methodology around. It has ‘disciples’ who don’t get it, and it has “critics and detractors” who don’t get it, either. I suspect that many who comment for, or against, the book have never read it!  Not understanding the Book, the Research, or the Practice does not seem to stop anybody from commenting about it.


2011, and The Challenger Sale, I already knew that Relationship Selling was NOT working. The startling new Information that the book offered was a sound statistical basis to take a fresh look at Selling,
since the 2008 financial collapse

The emergence of The “Challenger” profile, as distinct from the “Lone Wolf” was really helpful, as both in my research, and is most other research, they were both in the SAME category “Top Performer”. However, now we could measure that one type of ‘top’ performer was in decline, and the other in ascendancy in current Market conditions.

The TCS comparative Statistical Analysis on the ‘Challenger’ out-performing the ‘Relationship Builder’ by more than 10:1 in Complex Selling, was even more than our calculated 7:1.  We had a Validation for what we had perceived in 2010, and had implemented by restructuring the Salesforce population.

Now Jan 2012, the real work began:
“What were the Sales BEHAVIOURS being used by Challengers, and Relationship Builders,
which were defining their success and failure?”

Challengers are “Challengers” because of what they DO,
not because of who they ARE!

Likewise for Relationship Builders.

Early research, we had a 15 year database of Sales Behaviours and Sales Performance results to examine, (n=3000 approx.) We had 300 hours of Video to review. And a current base of 350 audited and assessed salespeople to improve behaviourally.


We had several early wins.

Challengers and “Lone Wolf” both used more Suggestions than Proposals unlike Relationship Builders, who used almost exclusively Proposals. This is NOT published in the TCS book and is unique to BMAC Consultants.

What do I mean?

  • A “Proposal” is a Statement: “You should do this!”
  • A “Suggestion” is a Question: “How would it be if you (or we) did this?”

Challengers and the Lone Wolf by using Suggestions
were having a 60% Buyer agreement rate and a 40% disagreement rate.

Relationship Builders by using Proposals
were having a 60% Buyer rejection rate and a 40% agreement rate.

i.e. this behaviour alone was proving to be 50% MORE successful.

The second early win was on Challenger “Insights.”


This was the method we used, very successfully,
to generate insights for Big Software to sell Cloud Based substitutes for Enterprise Software.

We then looked at the Behavioural Practice to deliver the insight content.
Again using the Challenger group and comparing behaviours to Relationship builders.

Challenger exhibited a 60:40 ratio of DISAGREEING to Agreeing

Relationship Builders exhibited a ratio of 40:60 disagreeing to AGREEING

It has to be noted that Challengers disagreed rationally, by saying WHY they disagreed,
and delivering an insight, RB’s tended to agree with Customers without saying WHY they agreed.

The Impact on the Buyer is noticeably different!

The Buyer would accept the RB’s agreement and reinforce their current approach.

The Challenger’s rational disagreement would cause the Buyer to defend their current approach and enter into Customer Engagement where the Challenger could PROVE their insight.

So, the question

Do I think The Challenger Sale methodology is superior?”
[To IBM’s SSM], is:

That they work together!

Using a Structured Selling Process is better than not using a Structured Process.

(NB. it’s very worthwhile to test your “Structure” against Rackham’s Checklist,
just any old “structure” will not do!)

Using the Challenger Approach to initiating Customer Engagement, is superior to most alternatives, especially the Problem Discovery Question based, then Solution offered approaches.

Hence, the furore over “solution selling” is dead discussion.

My research leads me to conclude that Salespeople will NOT learn the ‘behaviours’ of a Challenger just by reading the book, but anyone in Selling can become a successful Challenger by learning the Challenger behaviours and USING them correctly!




The Golden Triangle, the very Top 5%, Performers in Sales can be developed by careful construction and combination of:
  • Revenue Generating Sales Activity [an SSM],
  • Evidence Based Selling Skills [including TCS] and
  • Business Knowledge [access to Business Insights or an Insight Generation system].




And, all of this fits right on top of current best Practice in Marketing from Companies like Eloqua’s cloud-based marketing automation and revenue performance management software.

Eloqua’s modern marketing cloud delivers best-in-class capabilities to ensure every component of marketing works harder and more efficiently to drive revenue. Having a robust Evidence Based Structured Selling Methodology and an Evidence Based Sales approach, with Validated Sales Behaviours delivers the REVENUE and PROFIT results!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Closing is a Dysfunctional Selling Skill


In his blog

Mark Hunter offers advice on how ‘Closing’ [asking for continuance in this case] should be done when a Sales Call is going badly. The premise he uses for this is the “Try Harder”, “persist longer”,
the “never give up” Sales school.



Mark writes:


“It is essential to always remember there is no such thing as a final sales call. If a sale can’t be made, there is still a sale that can be made and that’s selling yourself and creating a next step.”




What is the Evidence Basis for this view?

Well, Top Sales Performers use the opposite approach.

They ask themselves what is the likelihood of winning this business?
Unless their chances are high [the algorithm they use I will write about at a later date] they cut and run.

Their most important resource is their TIME, and they don’t waste it, on unlikely sales.

Poor Sales Performers, on the other hand, don’t give up.

They flog dead horses. Poor Sales Performers appear to lack judgement,
they do not use an Algorithm.
They spend 4 times as much time on No-sales as Top Performers.

Mark then writes:

“Minimally, strive to agree on what is keeping the customer from making a decision to buy.
Doing this helps to clarify in both your mind and your customer’s mind where the issues are.”

This is a highly Dysfunctional Selling Skill!

Agreeing with a Customer’s Objection is called “Objection Reinforcement.”

This was used disastrously with the Positive-Negative Close.

“You’re too expensive!”
“Yes, we are expensive, and it’s this Price ‘exclusivity’ which many of our Customers enjoy!

Agreeing with ANY Customer objection reinforces the Objection.

Xerox PSS in the 1970’s used a step in Objection Handling called “Confirm and Isolate
e.g. “You believe we are expensive, is this the only reason why you won’t go ahead?”

Salespeople who used this were found to be 10 times less likely to get the business,
than Salespeople who missed this step out!


First of all recognise,
that YOU have most likely made mistakes both before, and during, the call.

Poor pre-call qualification, poor proposition or insight preparation or just poor selling skills during the call.

Don’t make it worse by “Reinforcing the Objection”,
or by causing further Objections through more ‘Closing’ or Commitment requests.


So, how can you manage the ending to a ‘difficult’ call?


DISAGREE with what is keeping you apart,
ask for a time-out and a new appointment.


Give a positive reason for the next meeting,
see three great selling skills that really work.

And, finally if you did a good job in the Call, and it did not payoff, use the Algorithm “Move on!”

Sometimes Your Cheese really has Moved!

Be the Type of Salesperson who uses an Evidence base to Support their Sales Behaviours, not speculation.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Sales, a Job for Life! Part Two


Why some Sales people consistently outperform others.

Transferable Selling Skills are not COMMON sense.

If the skill is just “COMMON” in Sales then it is usually “Common Nonsense.”



“The last thing the Sales Manager saw and heard
before the Salesperson won the business was the Salesperson Asking for the Order.”

The Sales Manager used inductive reasoning
and made note of what he had seen. 

He saw it again soon after.
Then, again and again.






Considering the “evidence” he had seen, the only conclusion he could draw,

by INDUCTIVE REASONING, was Asking for Orders, CAUSED Buyers to Buy!


He labelled this Sales Behaviour “Closing” –

Closing the Sale or Asking for the Order.

The Sales Manager left his job and became an independent Sales Trainer.
He called himself an “Expert” and claimed to have discovered the “Secret of Selling”.

BossLecturingHe promoted his Master Class in Selling under the Title

“Close the Sale!”

So sure was he about his “secret” that he offered a money back guarantee, if you did not win more sales by learning his secret!

Some people tried to claim their money back.
But, he simply said “It works for everybody else!”
And, then he added
You are not doing it properly,
with great confidence and a positive mental attitude
So, he did not refund their money.

But, he did carry out some more research.

He found that Closing did NOT always work, the first time,
so he altered the “secret” and said you have to ‘Close’ FIVE TIMES to win the Business.

His Training now said “you can’t close too early and you can’t close too often!
He developed many ‘types’ of Closing to give variety to the repetitive close five times!

The Assumptive, and the step by step,

The direct ask, and the indirect ask,

The alternative, and the trial close,

The Ben Franklin, and the Half Nelson close,

The Sharp-angle close, and the Positive-negative close.

His original 2 hour session was now a TWO DAY Sales Workshop called:
101 ways to Close the Sale, the SECRETS to Sales Success.”

He performed in larger and larger venues.
He was a Rock Star, and the show went from Teaching to Theatre.



He trained over 200,000 people.


His Sales Training ‘heirs’ have passed his secret on to Millions of Salespeople,

through several generations of Salespeople.

But, He never conducted the simplest of all research, a behavioural experiment:

“Do Salespeople who Close MORE often, SELL more,

  than Salespeople who Close LESS often?”

If he had conducted that experiment,
then he would have uncovered that:
People who ‘Close’ LESS often SELL MORE, and
People who ‘Close’ MORE often SELL LESS.

What he had been selling as “The Secret to Selling”,

was in fact, a DYSFUNCTIONAL Selling Skill.


If he had used Evidence Based Research, simple behavioural research,
instead of Inductive Reasoning, then he would have found that:

The most likely Buyer response to an “Early Close” is an OBJECTION.

He would have also been able to observe that:
the more often you close, the more objections you get!

And, he would have been able to empirically measure that:
the MORE Objections you get then, the LESS YOU SELL!!

When a Positive Attitude to Closing is displayed
by “Closing” too Soon and too Often then:

You do NOT succeed in Sales!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Sales, Jobs for life!


Nobody has a lifetime Contract of Employment,

which is strange because Employers want Customers for life.



How do we understand a “Job for Life” in 2013?

I believe it is found in the concept of “EMPLOYABILITY

An ‘employable’ person is one who has desired Skills and Competencies,
which they can use to generate Value for their Employers, they are always in demand.



From point A to point B

As a Sales “Employee” you have the right that your Employer shall at least maintain your current employability.

It is to their current benefit
and it is of vital future importance to YOU.

Employability, for a Salesperson, is having a Portfolio of transferrable Selling Skills,
which will enable you to bring Value to your Employer whoever that is.






If a Salesperson’s Selling Skills are developed and maintained,
then I believe they will have a job for life.

Selling skills, FUNCTIONAL Selling skills, serve as a good foundation for Management and a great foundation for General Management.

Insist that your Selling skills, hence your future EMPLOYABILITY are at the highest level.

If your current Employer will not do this, then before you lose what employability you have.
Leave and find an Employer willing to maintain your Selling skills.

clip_image004In all events, recognise that YOUR future employability,
YOUR Job for Life, rests in YOUR own hands.

Take actions to safeguard your employability, do it for yourself!