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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Three Great Selling Skills that really work.


Opening The Sale

is becoming a lost art.

During recent Sales Field Coaching
I have watched a few Rookies and some Veterans fumble the opening ball pretty badly.

We are in the Customer’s office;
the social pleasantries have been completed now it’s time to

OPEN THE SALE!selling to the CEO

· “Right then, down to business!”

· “How’s business?”

Both are equally BAD,
even though one is a statement and the other a Question they BOTH immediately lose you control of the call.

You are now on the Customer’s Agenda (usually ill-prepared; as you had asked to meet them so they thought you were going to prepare an agenda.)



There are three evidence based techniques to OPEN THE SALE.

They are:

1. Initial Benefit Statement

2. Initial Problem Statement

3. Initial Value Statement

None of these are elevator pitches.

An elevator pitch is a general statement about
What your Capabilities are and How that may be of general interest to Suspects.
Keep Elevator pitches for chance meetings with strangers and elevator journeys.

Bob Apollo has written a useful guide to Elevator Pitches on this link

Do NOT use Elevator Pitches in face-to-face sales calls, they DON’T work!

1. Initial Benefit Statements,
take a LIKELY need and show how your capability can fulfil it.

“Many Commodity Traders need the LOWEST POSSIBLE LATENCY (time delay) to make their trades early. We offer the lowest Latency from the City of London to the Frankfurt Market.”

“Would this be of interest to you?”

(36 words) with TWO simple ideas: The need for Speed and our ability to deliver Speed.
The Client was a the Head of Trading in a German Investment Bank


2. Initial Problem Statements, take a LIKELY Problem and show

how a Capability we have is being used to overcome the Problem.

Recently we are being asked by more and more Clients

to help them REDUCE STAFF TURNOVER, without increasing Payroll costs.”

“Could we show you how we would be able to help you do this?”

(34 words) with TWO simple ideas, lower staff turnover and no increased costs.
The Client was the Head of HR in a Call-Centre.

3. Initial Value Statement,
are clear statements of DELIVERED Value in similar situations.

“Typically our Inventory Management System increases stock turns in a business like yours from 6 to 7 or even 8 times a year. This has delivered a 13% up to a 25% stock cost saving.”

“Is this something you would Value?

(40 words) with TWO simple ideas Increased Stock Turns and Cost Savings.
The Client was the Head of Merchandising at a large store.

In all three cases we are INITIATING The Sale with an Idea,

that is LIKELY to be of interest to the Client,

and then we ask for the Client’s agreement to continue.

In the Research none of the three techniques worked ALL the time.
Each should work about 4 out of 5 times.
If they don’t work then review your CONTENT,
it may not be relevant to the Client or the Client doesn’t understand it!

The total words used should not exceed 40.

The Initial Statement should contain only TWO ideas, THEIR need and YOUR capability.





Initial Benefit Statement




Initial Problem Statement


(never a Solution)


Initial Value





Proof Statements, if appropriate, can be used if less than 40 words from Client referrals, Testimonials, Editorials or Articles.


In Golf you may “Open for Show” (Drive), but “Close for Dough” (Putt), but

in Sales if you don’t “Open for Dough”, then you never get to “Close for Dough” either!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Which Sales Skills DON’T work?


chaffAn expression I am using more and more with Clients is
sorting the "Wheat from the Chaff".

And there is more "Chaff" in Sales “stuff”
than in the RAF and the USAF combined!

I have tried to form a set of Beliefs based on “Sales Values”

Since my Values are that all people have near infinite potential, then all people given the right opportunity and encouragement can sell.

Like most worthwhile things learning to sell, like learning to speak a second language, is a lot of hard work but we are all capable of doing it!


wheat from the Chaff

I use a winnowing process on Selling Skills, when you throw both the Grain and the Chaff in the air, then because the Grains are heavier they fall straight down but the Chaff is light weight it just blows away in the wind! The Sales “grains of truth” are heavier because they have the weight of evidence but the “Chaff” has no weight, its a Lightweight Idea and blows away!



A. Selling is a Skill set which can be learned.

B. No one is a “natural sales person”, it’s not DNA based.

C. It is NOT Personality or Trait based, either.

D. Successful Selling Skills can be observed, it is what we DO, or don’t DO, which makes us successful.

E. Show me the proof, what evidence supports the “stuff”.

F. Never take a Salesperson’s word, ask for Proof.

G. People who have never sold for a living (and gone Hungry) don’t really get Sales!

H. People (like Marketers and HR) who drink beer with Salespeople don’t really get Sales either.

Based on these Values and Beliefs there are no easy answers, no short cuts, no magic moves, no silver bullets.
Finding new stuff that is not “Chaff” is like panning for gold in a mountain stream. You find the odd nugget,
but mostly you just get wet feet, cold hands and a whole load of sludge!

panning for gold


Then, there is the good day when you come across a Masterful mother load, like Neil Rackham’s work, not just SPIN but BA, Sales Management and the Buying Process and evidence based Negotiation Skills.
Or, there is Practitioner Stuff that Holden, Miller, Heiman and Tuleja as well as TAS have produced.

We were treated last year with “The Challenger Sale”, which my Clients in Big Data, Big IT and Big Telecom are already putting to work very successfully. At the lower end (B2C) TCS is working well for Property Sales in a depressed market and Home Furnishings and Fittings, where Value counts.

However, once you start SNAPing “sales stuff” of the Airport departure lounge’s book shelf you fall into
Crazy, Facilitation, Fable, Mystery, Myth and Magik.

I have never read a “Selling My Way” book of any worth or which presented any evidence other than “Popularity”. Remember we use the expression “Popular Misconception”,
to see how stupid this is have a look at :


You could add:

  1. “Cold” Calling,
  2. A.B.C.,
  3. Objection Handling,
  4. “Pain-Point” Questioning,
  5. Value “Creation”,
  6. Selling By SFA, APP, CRM or Numbers,
  7. Sales “forecasting”,
  8. the Sales “process”,
  9. “Hunters and Farmers”

but if you did then many Salespeople would have NO skills,
and Many authors would have NOTHING to write about.

My favourite is “Sell, without selling.”
The long awaited sequel is “Golfing, without Clubs!” should be out soon.
Or, did Wii already do it?

So, I continue to read, books and blogs, found via Twitter, about selling.
The most popular ones are written by people who don’t get it.

They offer quick tips, easy answers and proverbs,
none of which will enable you to sell;
any more than “keeping your head” down will enable you to play great Golf
or learning a few irregular verbs will help you to speak Spanish.

Then there are a few who DO get it, Dave Stein and Dick Ruff for example,
but they still want to earn a living so they are nice guys, much nicer than me! 
So, they don’t always argue when they read nonsense, even nonsense that has been registered, trademarked and copyrighted.

We don’t know the whole story, which is “How the Buyer buys”,
and HOW we as Sellers can impact, effect and influence their decisions.

Sales is the next best game to Golf, Sellers like Golfers come in all shapes and sizes, nationalities and backgrounds.
You learn how to play, you avoid the chaff, you manage your own game and you succeed.

I wouldn’t have it any other way!



Monday, 27 February 2012

7 ways to detect a Phoney Sales Trainer


  1. Do they quote from well known courses? 

    But fail to grasp the Meaning of the Material, e.g. TAS or SPIN


  2. Do they quote from self-appointed Gurus?

    Who come from the ‘self-help and actualization movement’
    e.g. Brian Tracy


  3. Do they offer clichés likefeel, felt, found
    or “people buy from people

    dysfunctional sales skills which never worked.


  4. Do they clip images from from expert blogs

    to give an air of pseudo-science and proof to their nonsense?


  5. Do they confuse pseudo-science about Personality,

    Psychometrics or Emotions for Real Selling Skills?


  6. Do they offer worthless Software Sales tools

    to help “Sell by Numbers?”

    sell by numbers

  7. Final proof, when you read THEIR LinkedIn Profile
    did they spend 20 years in Marketing or

    does their “profile” suddenly begin 3 years ago?


Monday, 13 February 2012

Can a 21st Century Sales Methodology be built on Proverbs?


Gangs we keepI had the great fortune to know my wife’s Grandmother. Born in 1900, at the province of Soria, Castile and León, Spain. She lived to be 93 years old. She left her village Castillejo de Robledo for the first time when she was 65 years old. Leaving behind the three story house which had been the family home for 4 generations, without the benefit of running Water, Gas or Electricity. The family had lived off the land for 200 years, a few acres of Vines which made the fine Ribera de Duero Wine, a few pigs, chickens and goats in a “corral”, a Burro to help till their wheat field and a “huerta” to grow vegetables besides the river.

It would be easy to label her a Peasant Farmer or even “Peon”, and she had had no formal education being unable to read or write.  Yet she and her husband had raised and ensured that her three children were well fed and educated. All of her children left the village and they came back to take her and her husband with them when they were able to. The house now with all utilities including Broadband, has passed, along with Vineyards, to her son who summers and harvests the grapes with some of his family.

I met “Abuela Germana” in her early eighties, by turns she could be talkative or silent. She was a very interesting Old Lady.
Although she had no formal education, she could neither be described as ignorant nor un-educated. She was wise.
Her wisdom was expressed by Proverbs.

“You know a person by the company they keep.”

She repeated this to her Children, her Grand-children, and Great-grandchildren.
She would deliver the saying then explain what it meant, and how to apply it to life.

We reckon, for nobody ever counted, she had more than 500 proverbs. I first noticed that her “recipes” for Cooking were expressed this way, to give the ingredients and their ratios. She recounted Proverbs for Life, for married life and family life, for Farming, relationships with the land and water, when to sow and when to harvest, the best time for the “matanza” to turn Pig into Chorizo and Jamon, for relations with friends and neighbours:

“Good walls make for good neighbours!”

Many sayings were derived from the Biblical Book of Proverbs,
but even more clearly came from folk wisdom,
garnered through centuries living and working in the same part of Spain.

You will be glad to know that I will spare you from lists of examples,
mainly because she spoke them in Castilian Spanish, but often in a dialectal form.
They were understood by her and were “her way of thinking”.

So, I am no stranger to Proverbs.

My question is “Can a 21st century Sales Methodology be built on Proverbs?”

We could use expressions like :

better late than never

· Haste makes waste

· A stitch in time saves nine.

· Ignorance is bliss

· Better late than never

· You can catch more flies with honey than
   you can with vinegar.

· You can lead a horse to water, 
but you can't make him drink.





· Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

· A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

· A little learning is a dangerous thing.

And easily make them apply to Sales and Selling,

“People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones” could apply to relationships with the Competition.

A commonly used proverb is “Don’t knock the Competition”
but what does that mean in a 21st century “Modern Selling” setting.

Is it glib? Has it become a cliché?

Does “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” mean that in Sales we should only pursue “sure things?”
or only take small deals or stay out of the sales underbrush and beware of Poison Ivy?

Could a Salesperson justify keeping damaging information from a customer by declaring
“Ignorance is bliss?”

Can unethical behaviour by Salespeople be justified under cover of Hyperbole
“All is fair in love and war [or sales]”

Or should we use the nemesis to successful Selling “ABC Always be Closing!”

In these “modern times” the anti-proverb is more widely used:
"Nerds of a feather flock together” could describe Facebook or perhaps better Twitter!

My answer to the question is NO!

A 21st Century Sales Methodology,  CANNOT be based on Proverbs.


It leads to Sales Myopia and a Dysfunctional Selling situation.

Sales time and energy is wasted on a simple quick answer inappropriate to a Complex Selling. The basis of all FUNCTIONAL Sales methodologies is in Sales Behaviour. DOING the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, during the right circumstances not regurgitating a cliché.


Evidence Based Selling Skills

rest in Identifying FUNCTIONAL Selling Behaviours,
in LEARNING how to execute those Behaviours
and in actually DOING them.

Here is a little evidence, a BMAC Study of 150 Salespeople identified as Sales “Poor Performers” by their Manager and Peers’ opinions, as well as by their actual Sales Results and confirmed by the results of Sales Skills Assessment;

90% described themselves as “Skilled in Sales Methodology.”

Almost all long-term “Poor Performers” describe themselves as able to sell,
yet the evidence is overwhelming that they cannot!


The use of Proverbs as a Sales methodology
I would simply describe as:

“A little learning is a dangerous thing.”

a little learning