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Book, Exceptional Selling

Book, Exceptional Selling

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  • Nobody Buys a Value Proposition
  • Earning the Keys to the Elevator
  • “Show Me the Money”
  • Epilogue
  • Index



John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Advance Praise for Exceptional Selling
“I am a Jeff Thull fan. In Exceptional Selling he zeros in on the key ingredient of sales of any sort: intimate mental and emotional connection with the customer—which leads to deep understanding, a successful sale and its successful implementation. I call this ‘connection bit’ the ‘missing 98 percent’ of the selling process, over looked by most sales trainers and salespersons alike. Jeff ’s book has something profound to teach each of us, regardless of profession, from the pizza parlor to the pulpit, starting with me!” —Tom Peters, Author of Re-imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age “As a CEO, I highly recommend this book as a guide on executive and financial level conversations. Jeff shows you how to gain access and establish relevancy and credibility with people that hold the power and make the decisions. It’s without a doubt the best way to step out of the crowd and connect with executives.” —Chris Capdevilla, CEO, LogicalApps “If you want to be an exceptional communicator, you must read Jeff Thull’s books. Exceptional Selling is a complete no nonsense approach to sales—how to get in, how to connect and how to win! It conveys a vital message: Open, honest, and straight-forward communication is the shortest path to long-term success.” —Frank Toffoloni, U.S. Director of Sales, Diagnostica Stago Inc. “Jeff has been sharpening the skills of my sales organizations over the past 20 years. His latest book, Exceptional Selling keeps him out front with sensible techniques that work. Top sales producers will quickly recognize how to improve their results; rookies will find the finest road map to success in the selling profession.” —Peter Muldowney, Chairman, Specialty Materials Division, Morgan Crucible Co. PLC—Retired “Exceptional Selling is a comprehensive and powerful framework for building strong relationships based on integrity and trust. Just as he has done for our financial advisors, Jeff Thull shows you how to communicate with confidence and create exceptional value for both you and your customers.” —Richard G. Averitt III, Chairman and CEO, Raymond James Financial Services

“Get your Post-its® ready! From the very first chapter, I found myself tagging pages so I could present and put into practice the dozens of actionable takeaways. I highly recommend this book for any consultative sales team looking to make their product stand apart from the competition.” —Gary Robbins, Partner/Vice President, Frost & Sullivan “Exceptional Selling is the masterful continuation of Mastering the Complex Sale and The Prime Solution. At a time when we’re all searching for new ways to leverage our strengths, Jeff ’s ‘taking it to the street’ wisdom redefines communication strategies and sets a new benchmark for competitive differentiation. This book will dramatically shift your thinking and show you precisely how to achieve lucrative sales results.” —Nat Geissel, President, DMS Health Technologies “Jeff Thull has assembled a real street level guide that uncovers how true value is recognized, assembled, and realized. If you are a sales manager and your team is not having the kind of conversations outlined in this book, your sales opportunities will most likely be lost to someone who is.” —Brooks Hoff, Western Regional Sales Manager, Fluke Corporation “Jeff brings clarity to the sales process through his discovery and diagnostic methods that promise higher closing rates and help you convey, in cooperation with your clients, relevance and credibility to solving their problems. We’re all looking for that differentiation factor and Jeff shows you the way to gain new levels of respect and credibility from your clients that you may not have experienced in the past.” —Guy R. Manuel, President, Transcontinental Printing, Marketing Products & Services “Jeff Thull has done it again with Exceptional Selling—he truly provides a fresh and innovative perspective to the art of sales. By using logical and practical conversation examples throughout the book, Thull identifies and conquers common sales traps and defines successful keys to breaking down communication barriers. Geared toward the individual sales professional, Exceptional Selling is a powerful, applicable tool in the complex world of sales, and is a must-have in the library of any sales executive.” —Kerry Gilger, President and CEO, FYI Corporation “Exceptional Selling is a tremendous learning tool for sales professionals. Jeff ’s done a great job of expanding on the diagnostic selling concepts from his previous books by emphasizing the amplified role required of a salesperson to quarterback a complex sale—both externally and internally.” —Chris Ostrander, General Manager, Eaton Corporation

“It’s finally here—a word-for-word, step-by-step guide from Jeff Thull for those of us in the sales trenches each and every day. I have worked with Jeff and Prime Resource Group for over 10 years and have literally begged Jeff to put all of his best strategies in a single resource. Exceptional Selling is that resource. Jeff ’s past two books were wonderful, especially from a macro seniormanagement perspective, but this book contains the keys to the kingdom that the ‘prime resource’ in any sales profession is looking for. I look forward to using this as a tool to help our team take results to a new level.” —David B. Patchen, Regional Vice President, Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. “Exceptional Selling clearly articulates the skills and habits that hold back many sales professionals from maximizing their potential impact. Jeff provides tangible and specific techniques that you can start to implement immediately that will truly differentiate yourself in the eyes of your customer. Additionally, the Exceptional Selling message translates well into the sphere of marketing communications and provides a significant counter tactic to the intense ‘commoditization’ being experienced in our crowded market space.” —Bruce S. Moloznik, Vice President of Global Marketing, Cookson Electronics Assembly Materials “The Diagnostic Selling methods in Exceptional Selling represent a step change from consultative sales in working collaboratively with clients to jointly understanding and addressing the needs for complex business performance solutions. They give commercial staff the skills, discipline, and confidence to effectively engage at senior executive levels in client organizations to create and capture increased business value.” —Ian Galliard, Global Manager, Sales Development, Shell Global Solutions International BV. “While reading Jeff Thull’s Exceptional Selling, I was struck with the thought that this book not only teaches an exceptional sales process but shows how a healthy mind-set provides the foundation for effective communication for solving any complex problem. If you have watched helplessly as disapproving purchasing agents, onerous requests for proposals, and uncommunicative customers continually commoditize your business, Jeff ’s exceptional book will give you a solid path to building a healthy mind-set for effective communication and a powerful ‘nonsales’ sales process for creating true value, both for you and your customers.” —John Hines, PhD, Business Manager, Georgia-Pacific Resins, Inc. “To serve the global financial community with enterprise software solutions requires exceptional credibility and precise communication skills. Exceptional Selling is a great guide on how to do exactly that. Read it, follow it and enjoy your success!” —Pierre Gatignol, President and CEO, GL Trade



10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 . Hoboken.. MA 01923. 222 Rosewood Drive. or other damages. incidental. Some content that appears in print may not be available in electronic books.com. Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: While the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparing this book. John Wiley & Sons. photocopying. For general information on our other products and services or for technical support. or on the web at www. or otherwise. Inc. 111 River Street. except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act. For more information about Wiley products. You should consult with a professional where appropriate. electronic. or transmitted in any form or by any means. without either the prior written permission of the Publisher. fax (201) 748-6008. No part of this publication may be reproduced. they make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this book and specifically disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. (201) 748-6011. NJ 07030.. or online at http://www. including but not limited to special. recording. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other commercial damages. Inc. (978) 750-8400. Published by John Wiley & Sons.wiley. fax (978) 646-8600. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation.. please contact our Customer Care Department within the United States at (800) 762-2974. New Jersey. Danvers. ISBN-13: 978-0-470-03728-7 ISBN-10: 0-470-03728-8 Printed in the United States of America. stored in a retrieval system. Requests to the Publisher for permission should be addressed to the Permissions Department. Wiley also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. visit our web site at www. or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center. No warranty may be created or extended by sales representatives or written sales materials. Hoboken.copyright. scanning. consequential. All rights reserved. Inc. Published simultaneously in Canada.com/go/permissions.com.wiley. mechanical.Copyright © 2006 by Jeff Thull. outside the United States at (317) 572-3993 or fax (317) 572-4002.

.To Pat Thull. her tireless and self less efforts to assure our customers receive the highest quality programs and professional services. for making Prime Resource Group an exceptional place to work. and for her insights and experience that have greatly enhanced the content of Exceptional Selling. for her guidance in building this company. my lifelong spouse and business partner.


the Less You Sell 2 Nobody Buys a Value Proposition 3 You’ve Got to Get Your Mind Right Part II: Taking It to the Street 4 Earning the Keys to the Elevator 5 Diagnosis Trumps Presentation Every Time 6 Cutting Through the Smoke and Mirrors 7 It Doesn’t Pay to Surprise a Corporation Part III: Breaking Away with Exceptional Credibility 8 “Show Me the Money” 9 Connecting at the Level of Power and Decision Epilogue Index 187 209 229 231 ix xi xix xxix 9 31 53 83 107 131 159 .Contents Foreword Preface Acknowledgments Part I: “W hat We Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate” 1 The More You Sweat.


we often need to xi . are not design or solution constrained. Thus. In fact. and sales and business development professionals specifically.” Privileged access is what we need to tap into the best sources of information within our customer’s organizations. it struck me that business today in general. I made that observation to our group and Jeff was so moved by its brevity and its accuracy that he suggested it would be the perfect insight for the Foreword to his new book. I teach courses on social and organizational psychology in Duke’s Department of Psychology. especially in the world of complex sales and multicultural business relationships in which Jeff Thull works. we are far more “diagnose” constrained. I find myself introducing you to a book that is a great read. Authentic and compelling customer conversations are the key to what Jeff refers to as “privileged access” and “privileged insight. in fact. To gain the richest insights. There is a great tendency to leap before we listen. it’s a major challenge. Both aspects of my professional life have taught me that having a good conversation—in business or anywhere else for that matter—is not as simple as it might appear. As Jeff was leading a seminar with our managing directors.Foreword W hen I’m not looking after the Corporate Education Program at Duke University.

Jeff proposes that we become expert conversationalists and raise the bar of professional excellence. But more important is the fact that senior managers are the ones who best understand the critical issues in their businesses. Somehow. We should become so good. you have to understand your customers and their issues and bring them to a deeper understanding of their situation. their responsibilities. Instead of treating conversations as something we do all the time. you have to integrate all of that information in a collaborative effort with your customer to ensure that it yields a coherent and compelling exchange of value. and no particular analysis afterward. frequently with no preparation before. . To be the integrator. You also have to understand the solution capabilities your company offers and bring your customers to a deeper understanding of how those capabilities apply to their businesses. that the style and substance of our conversations create all of the credibility and relevance we need to win our customers’ confidence and their business. One of the insights that I drew from Jeff ’s first book is that the best salespeople are integrators—they orchestrate all the pieces needed to solve customers’ problems in novel and intriguing ways. How do you accomplish this? It is usually achieved through a structured series of conversations in which you listen to and talk with your customers at a higher level of understanding on both sides. The crass commercial reason is that the revenues are bigger up there. we need to earn access and develop insight. no special consciousness during. and their metrics. To create exceptional sales. It is the only way we can create compelling offers and it is the reason customers will understand and embrace those offers. in fact.xii FOREWORD hold conversations at senior levels and it seems like everyone is trying to gain access there. Jeff ’s book is about how to conduct exceptional conversations. Privileged insight is what we need to clearly understand our customers.

” Customers will actually want to tell you more. but the idea of being a good listener seriously oversimplifies what we need to be doing in successful business conversations. values. Finally. We need to understand the client’s meaning system—the whole set of assumptions. I need to acknowledge that you know your business better than I . You will be able to really hear what customers are telling you and add value to what you are hearing. and invite you deeper inside their world. judgments. Jeff ’s work can help you raise the tenor of your conversations on a number of levels. Understanding Your Customer’s World How do we understand their world? Most sales books tell us to become better listeners. How can this be done when everyone is competing for their attention? It’s not an easy task. Customers will clearly understand their situation and see how the value of your solution applies to the challenges in their business. you will be able to convert what you are hearing into compelling solutions. We need to establish peerto-peer relationships with them. give you access.Foreword xiii The strategies and techniques that Jeff describes in this book can help you improve your ability to communicate with customers in ways that will far exceed your expectations and theirs. experiences. I think of it as having “diagnostic ears. if I’m talking to you about the corporate educational curriculum we can provide to your business. They’re right. and decisions. and beliefs that create the context for their perceptions. As CEO of Duke Corporate Education. our customers have to be willing to talk to us as equals. We need to listen beyond our customer’s words and look beyond nuances of body language. Before we can listen at this level. of course.

Getting to the Customer’s Real Problem Together I frequently see salespeople jump to the solution. from that context of respect. We don’t have to insult customers by telling them everything we think they don’t know. I better recognize and respect what you know about education or you are not going to engage and pay attention to any advice I’m going to give you. furthermore. At the same time.xiv FOREWORD do. I need to have a point of view and be able to make some preliminary assumptions about your business or I don’t belong in the room with you. And then. We have to assume that our customers are experts in their businesses and. from that context of respect. demonstrate our own expertise in those solutions. It’s a great way to set the stage for a clearer and more useful understanding of the customer’s world. nor do we have to defer to them if they choose to treat us as inferiors. and again. it is likely that I know education better than you do. We also have to assume that our customers are knowledgeable about our solutions and capabilities. we need to establish parity by demonstrating our own expertise in the customer’s business. This is the most constructive and respectful way to approach a sales conversation. as soon as the customer mentions a . that they know their own organizations far better than any outsider ever will. In the rush to sell something. At the same time. Since I live in the world of professional development and education. Establishing a mind-set of mutual respect is the secret to walking this fine line.

causes.Foreword xv problem. They make premature judgments. you migrate to a more structured discourse in which you are trying to make sense of what customers are telling you in light of the frameworks in which you are expert. perspective. the salespeople start talking about how to solve it with their solution. founded on a mutually agreed upon premise that guides an inquiry and journey that is shared and jointly conducted. They begin to connect the conversation to their reality rather than some nebulous general perspective and give the access required to further explore the possibilities of a solution. You’re situating your expertise inside the customer’s world. The ideal sales conversation starts with actually hearing customers in their own terms and with their own meanings. The usual outcome is a dissatisfied customer—dissatisfied because he knows that the salesperson has stopped listening and won’t know enough about his situation to propose the best solution. and depth of knowledge that the customer could provide. They construct meaning together and develop a broader perspective on and deeper understanding of the customer’s situation. It has to be a true partnership. Jeff shows you how the diagnostic conversation is the mechanism that will allow you to place your expertise in the customer’s context. As a conversation progresses. you are simply selling. they shut down or change the direction of their conversations and miss the richness of insight. and in doing so. but one that gets deep into symptoms. . and consequences. This is what leads customers to begin to experience “ah-ha” moments and start to see their world in a new light. This is not a shallow interview that presumes the first hint of a problem justifies the solution. This is how customers and sales professionals avoid bias and predetermined outcomes. Otherwise.

I believe the fact that we are aware of it and struggle to avoid it. Salespeople don’t design solutions. That’s the way the whole system is designed. as opposed to client-in. there is no “close” required. He has virtually eliminated the unhealthy dependence on presentations that causes so much suffering among salespeople and their customers. That’s why education is not considered a strategic tool today—it’s expert centered rather than client centered. And we wonder why customers are skeptical about the efficacy of our offerings and don’t leap to take advantage of them. Even when design has a place in the sales process. Universities are based on specific disciplinary expertise. This is a problem that we face in the business of education. has helped earn Duke’s Corporate Education Program its number-one ranking. Jeff ’s work is well aligned to a client-in perspective. Students pass through the various disciplines and integrate them in their own minds. Jeff ’s emphasis on establishing design parameters that are based on customer criteria and independent of solutions is also an important factor in designing solutions that don’t need to be sold. solutions tend to be created in a vacuum by the seller with the customer having little or no participation. they most often present prepackaged and off-the-shelf solutions.xvi FOREWORD Designing Solutions That Sell Themselves Solution design doesn’t really exist in many sales processes. What usually happens . and if you look at most executive education programs. that we are working at understanding and solving clients’ problems rather than declaring our expertise. If you help the customer create the criteria that she needs to make a quality decision and then offer her a solution that meets those criteria. they are also designed supplier-out.

of course.Foreword xvii is that your customer looks at you and says. and the end game. USA www. This not only takes innate talent. They know the pattern of the board. “When can we get started?” That’s a great thing to hear a customer say. the strategies of the game. skills. In this book. and describes the detailed dynamics of each of those conversations in a way that you can apply to your own customer conversations. it also takes systems. a serious amount of practice. where they’re going. and they know where they are.dukece. He will help you raise the bar of excellence and achieve great results. CEO Duke Corporate Education Durham. BLAIR SHEPPARD. Sales professionals who are exceptional conversationalists as well as exceptional diagnosticians are like chess masters.com . the interactions of the middle game. and discipline and. and their options at every instant. an outcome of mutual benefit). Jeff identifies the conversations that need to happen in a successful business relationship (the openings. North Carolina.


I continually seek out and study high-performing salespeople. He sold granite that was used in the construction of multimillion-dollar commercial buildings. my dad created a very strong image in my mind of how professional salespeople sound and act. He talked with them about the aesthetics of their designs. In today’s world. talking up the quality of his product. I remember being impressed with the conversations my father had with his customers. poring over blueprints and renderings. I was privileged to watch my dad sell. the best of the best. I accompanied him on trips to visit the architects who could specify his company’s granite for the buildings they designed. They xix . Together they would examine samples my father brought and discuss the color of the stone. and the requirements and vision of the buildings’ owners. I didn’t recognize it at the time. Instead. but he wasn’t acting like the stereotypical salesperson. and how customers respond to them. he seemed to work with the architects as an equal. and the finish. pushing people to buy. In the summer during school break. or with order pad in hand.Preface A s a boy. what their firms were trying to accomplish with their projects. In retrospect. he would take me along on a few of his business trips. size of the panels.

and produce exceptional results.xx PREFACE think differently. . In this book. establishing systems. Over and over again. . skills. continue their self-sabotage and end up alienating and shutting down customers. Considering the thousands of people whom our practice has worked with over the years. I’ve watched them engage in conversations with their customers in which they unknowingly shoot themselves in the foot and undermine their own best efforts. and books espousing antiquated approaches to selling. behave differently. And those of you who have been very successful and are looking to notch up your skills to continually compete effectively in an everevolving market will see that fine-tuning some areas of your approach can make a major impact on your results. Even today. . with so much experience around us. the marketplace is cluttered with seminars. trainers. Many salespeople. and disciplines into a methodology that can be replicated to produce very profitable results. They’re so ingrained in their traditional and standardized approach that they have difficulty stopping to think about what they’re doing to themselves.” Both of these statements could very well be true. I have also encountered a lot of struggling salespeople. “You’ve probably never thought of this. and most importantly. providing research. . consultants. but . unknowingly caught up in the conventional sales approach. but they create what I refer to as “dangling insults. there are new. I have been defining the skills of highperforming sales professionals.” or “We save companies like yours millions of dollars in wasted . Have you ever heard yourself say to a customer. exceptional ways to sell that can set you apart and pull you ahead of the pack. But by replicating the top-performing professionals you read about in this book. you will also be warned about the pitfalls that can get us into trouble.” .

Preface xxi They imply that the customer doesn’t think and wastes millions of dollars. and shut down. and trust we are trying to create in our conversations with customers. promotes an adversarial style of communication that only exacerbates our . aggressive competitors. As an example. and unpredictable outcomes. the more we wrestle with indecisive customers. cross their arms. the more dependent we become on these unquestioned behaviors. we can turn most opportunities into sales. You can tell when customers and best-qualified prospects hear these dangling insults: They lean back. is that our conditioning. You will find it incredible how preprogrammed behaviors and reactions often get us into trouble. however. along with traditional selling lore. we’ve been indoctrinated to believe that if we can secure an appointment with the right people and put forth our best presentation. The salesperson can keep talking. and that with the proper grit and persistence. and compliance. This book exposes those traps and offers logical and proven alternatives that enhance the clarity. Sales conversations are rife with traps like these. they may be hearing a criticism. drawnout sales cycles. While you believe you are enlightening your customers. we should be able to close any account. The reality that we are ignoring. You will see how ingrained reactions and traditional selling strategies and techniques combine to create an atmosphere of confrontation between salespeople and their customers. In the chapters that follow. relevancy. comprehension. but the conversation is over. credibility. as salespeople. we drill down into the core of exceptional selling practices and expose three root causes of failure that can prevent us from succeeding: confrontation. However. that objections are meant to be overcome.

and really aren’t sure they need. in this book you will see how communication can fail when customers place pressure on salespeople with their buying processes in an attempt to control the sales process themselves. If our customers don’t have a complete comprehension of their problems and our solutions. compliance with their process has a high probability of suboptimal results. yet we have no idea whether this is a viable opportunity for the . not from you or your competitor. Then. how the customer’s workload has increased. the customer’s readiness to make decisions. Granted. to be persistent. and invite us to reply. And what are we doing in response? We are trained and encouraged to present relentlessly. Yet. Think about how the complexity of our products and services has escalated. invitation to tender bids (ITBs). or requests for information (RFIs). we wonder why they buy a suboptimal solution or. as happens too often. the solutions we propose. and how the pressure to perform has increased. This harsh reality becomes even more problematic. to work hard to convince. but for the most part. we will look at specific examples of how salespeople consistently overestimate the customer’s comprehension of the problem to be solved. don’t buy any solution at all. customers require more outside expertise to make high-quality decisions. our customers understand less and less of what we tell them. In this book. there is this irresistible tendency to jump. As complexity increases. to persuade. Finally. the customer may have made considerable efforts in preparing the request. and above all. when prospects send us requests for proposals (RFPs). can’t differentiate. and above all. how their staff and technical evaluation resources have decreased. We lecture our customers about solutions that they don’t comprehend.xxii PREFACE problems and causes us to work harder and with less successful outcomes.

I’ve devoted my career to studying sales strategy and the behaviors that drive exceptional conversations and have consulted with individuals and executive teams involved in high-stakes sales environments. it is a matter of scale and you can easily adjust that to match your situation. the conversation is between two people and therefore these conversational strategies and techniques will work in business-to-business as well as business-to-consumer sales. You may have the world’s greatest solution. the number of conversations will increase. The goal is exceptional selling systems. and disciplines to manage exceptional conversations for exceptional results for both you and your customers.Preface xxiii customer or our company. yet at the heart of any relationship is the one-to-one communications that we will focus on. Don’t feel constrained by that focus. build credibility and respect.” As you’ll see. yet we willingly contribute limited time and resources. Fundamentally. and build clarity for your customers. This book is loaded with conversation examples built around business-to-business sales scenarios. One of the commonly overlooked elements in a career in business-to-business sales is the fact that sales professionals often have to sell the same deals within their own companies that they sell to their customers. the internal sale is . The decisions may range in complexity from quick turnover transactions. Further. to the most complex multimillion-dollar multi-organizational “value exchanges. Highstakes or complex sales include any sale in which the customer requires personal assistance or guidance to make a high-quality decision. skills. your potential will be severely constrained. As the scale of the decision increases. this book can also help you become more effective within your own company. but if you can’t communicate with relevancy. More often than not.

their deals and credibility often fall apart because they did not equip their colleagues and superiors with what is needed to make high-quality business decisions. I don’t recommend using this as a guide to cherry-picking the text. no matter what the context. You can use the lessons in this book to ensure that doesn’t happen to you. An overview of the book’s chapters is important so you will have a sense of its contents and how it is organized. what they choose to talk to customers about. This book shows you how to be more efficient and more effective. and errors in substance. relevancy. In Part I. Each step in the process supports and facilitates the next step. This miscommunication has two facets: errors in style. “The More You Sweat.” we will examine the style facet. You will begin to understand why salespeople often have two strikes against them every time they engage a customer: they are relying on unconscious patterns that were already set in stone by the . and respect that you build throughout the sales process. The style and substance of exceptional sales conversations are based on the critical components of clarity. the Less You Sell. The bottom line is: This book is about creating conversations that achieve relevancy. The fact is that most salespeople are working harder for diminishing returns because of fundamental and widespread miscommunication with customers. especially for future reference. In Chapter 1. When sales professionals don’t approach their internal customers with the same processes and discipline. we will explore the communication barriers that stand between salespeople and their customers. but there aren’t any shortcuts to exceptional sales results. and respect between individuals. credibility. You are given a guided path. credibility.xxiv PREFACE even more difficult than the external sale. However. or how salespeople talk with customers.

” we will detail the conversations a salesperson must undertake . In Chapter 3.” we will explore the substance facet of customer conversations. “Earning the Keys to the Elevator. In Part II of “Exceptional Selling. as well as creating. You can make the greatest leaps in sales performance and raise your results from average to good or good to great by simply changing your mind. Customers find these propositions indistinguishable from one another and often. in hypothetical terms that do not have the power to compel customers to connect and therefore act. and they are working with a sales process that encourages an atmosphere of confrontation. They communicate in the simplistic. “Nobody Buys a Value Proposition. How we think precedes how we behave and our mind-set is without a doubt the critical foundation for success. This is why customers act as if all salespeople sound alike and the only relevant differentiating factor between their offerings is price. You will see how these combine the pressure and stress of sales to sabotage our relationships with customers. and protecting customer relationships. In Chapter 2. We will analyze the five fundamental elements of the mind-set that opens the way to value achievement. that is. These conversations enable sales professionals to guide customers through the value life cycle as it applies to the customer’s unique situation and how the sales professional can create a robust dialogue that yields privileged insight into the customer’s world. generic terms of value propositions. All sales. undistinguished to boot.” we get to the good news. “You’ve Got to Get Your Mind Right. but too often salespeople misunderstand the realities of value. are value transactions. at their essence. In Chapter 4.” we will travel through four series of conversations that result in exceptional sales. expanding.Preface xxv time they entered kindergarten.

“Diagnosis Trumps Presentation Every Time. and gain an inside track to winning the sale. . and as a result. In Part III. anchor the customer in your solution. and learn how to conduct diagnostic conversations that help customers fully comprehend the inefficiencies and performance gaps that are constraining their business results. In doing so. they end up losing customers because they are afraid to lose customers. you provide the customer with the incentive to change. In Chapter 7. we will explore how to establish exceptional credibility and cement it with the ability to overcome two of the most difficult conversational challenges in today’s complex sales environment: the urgent need to quantify value and the demand that salespeople engage with customers at the highest levels of their organizations. You will learn how to work with customers to define solutions. “Cutting Through the Smoke and Mirrors. In Chapter 5. and in doing so. You learn how to conduct constructive conversations about negative issues and how to further enhance your customer relationships.” we will explore the problems inherent in designing solutions in a vacuum. This is where you see how to give your customer the confidence to invest. capture an unparalleled opportunity to set yourself apart from your competitors. In Chapter 6. In essence. “It Doesn’t Pay to Surprise a Corporation.” you will see how salespeople sabotage themselves when they avoid discussing the challenges and risks associated with their offerings. set the stage for mistrust and destructive surprises. You will learn how to conduct initial engagements that quickly and effectively gain executive sponsorship and privileged access to the customer organization.” you will see why sales presentations stunt customer relationships and sales results.xxvi PREFACE to identify and initiate optimal opportunities.

Preface xxvii In Chapter 8. Let’s get started learning the conversational mind-set. You learn the five rules of senior executive conversations and discover how to gain credibility with. as well as to establish the expected return on solution and the appropriate investment to earn that return. “Connecting at the Level of Power and Decision.” you will see why salespeople lose their confidence and ruin their chances when they reach the C-level in their customers’ organizations. That’s the big picture and enough said. Finally.” you will see why customers do not respond to standard return on investment presentations and salespeople are intimidated by financial conversations. and guidance by the top leaders. and skills that power exceptional selling. You will learn how to harness the most effective sales accelerant. in Chapter 9. strategies. sponsorship of. “Show Me the Money. You will also learn how to guide customers through conversations that enable them to quantify the cost of their problems. .


Make sure your supporters know how much you appreciate each and every one of them. xxix . and coached you. Exceptional Selling has been published during my 25th year as a professional consultant / trainer / speaker and my 35th year as a business owner. One of the top characteristics of Exceptional Sellers is that they have learned the value of their team of supporters and deeply respect and care for their well being. I believe there are few areas where exceptional performance occurs as the result of a single individual’s effort.Acknowledgments I ’m not sure how many people read the Acknowledgments in a book. teach me. There is no one who has had a larger impact on my success and my joy. audiences. and coach me. send them all a copy of your Acknowledgments today! I’ve dedicated this book to my lifelong partner in business and marriage. listing all those who have educated you. but I would like to share some thoughts on exceptional performance as well as my personal thank-yous. I’d like to suggest you write your own Acknowledgments. supported you. equipment makers. You don’t have to wait to write a book. Before you go on to read my Acknowledgments. Pat continues to support me. coaches. Even individual athletic pursuits involve considerable support from teachers. and in some cases.

Thank you to Nancy Brenny. many times. I’ll go out on a limb and say her exceptional proofing skills have found every error in this book. . In 15 years. Raymond James. and coach clients. teach. our editor and his team at Wiley. We have learned as much as we have taught in every engagement. A special thank you to my executive assistant Gail Mueller. My thanks to John Willig of Literary Services who took this idea of a sales book that wasn’t about traditional selling to the publishers. Successful businesses have come to us. and each other and have contributed their expertise to the development of this book and the on-going support of our clients. but many are smaller companies or start-ups that do not yet have the global recognition. who has the uncanny ability to know everything important and take care of things before I think of them. and what we have learned is reflected in this book. Matt Holt. thankfully. and 3M. these are large enterprises such as Shell. There would not be a Prime Resource Group without the exceptional clients we serve. Putting a book together is no small task.xxx ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The number of people who have touched the writing of this book is in the hundreds. In some cases. our marketing director. whose exceptional efforts and skills are behind the successful promotional efforts to spread our message. Siemens. who did an exceptional job with us in Mastering the Complex Sale have done it again in positioning and supporting this book in the market. wanting to improve and replicate that success. we have gathered an incredibly gifted group of colleagues within Prime Resource Group who continue to support. and I can guarantee it would never happen if it was a solo project. even when I don’t think of them.

I am honored by his generosity. Ted and Donna have that exceptional skill. His very impressive insights led me to request that he write the Foreword. In Search of Excellence. and I’ve been an admirer and follower of his work ever since.Acknowledgments xxxi I also want to thank Ted and Donna Kinni who worked with me on organizing and writing (please pardon my bias) another great book. delight. Thanks to Blair Sheppard. two great sons-in-law—Favian and Stephen. and Brian. and endorsements. Jessica. suggestions. I asked him if he would read Exceptional Selling and consider endorsing it. He did. it is quite another to put it into an informative and enjoyable read. and inspire me with their exceptional lives: Jennifer. a valued client and colleague. and two most special additions to our family who joined us early this year and started a new chapter in our life—our two precious grand . His book. I was also honored and deeply flattered when Tom Peters recommended my book The Prime Solution to his readers last December. I suggested to him that doing nice things for people opens the door to other requests. A special thank you to all the individuals who took the time to read the early manuscript. It is one thing to have the ideas and the experience. provide their comments. namely. who has built Duke University’s Corporate Education program into the number one rated executive education resource in the world. came out during the second year of our business. A very special thank you to our children who continue to amaze. My special thanks for his willingness to take the time to write a Foreword that I believe captures the essence of Exceptional Selling. and his endorsement means a lot to me personally and professionally.

and those of you who will do the same with this book.xxxii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS daughters: Aviva Rebecca and Adilynn Isabela (photos available on request). and those of you who have called or e-mailed your questions and thoughts. thank you to all the readers of my first two books. I’m looking forward to your responses to Exceptional Selling. It’s great to know how our work has helped you. and it’s great to get your suggestions. Finally. .

I “What We Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate” .


generally remains unaddressed. as a result. they tend to attribute it to the wrong causes. undermining our credibility and alienating the very customers and prospects we count on for our livelihoods happens all too often.” Self-sabotage is rarely recognized or acknowledged by a salesperson and. but nevertheless. The far more common and harmful situations are those actions where we don’t even realize that we are losing or destroying the trust and credibility we worked so hard to create. I was misled. When they lose. such as “we just didn’t connect. salespeople don’t expect to win every encounter. From subtle inferences that customers hear as dangling insults to blaming customers for misusing your product. Further. salespeople can’t look to customers to clue them in. Many people operate with the attitude of “win a few. he wouldn’t open up. the challenge is recognizing all of the potential avenues of self-sabotage and developing the skills and disciplines that put us in control of our actions and the entire selling process. We usually recognize the “I can’t believe I said that— I should have known better” words that pop out in the heat of an emotional and high-pressure situation and if we had just stopped to think we would have never made such ridiculous and irrevocable statements. lose a few. Customers aren’t going to rationally discuss how 3 .N o sales professional in their right mind would sabotage their own efforts.” In other words.

All commu- . distracted by the competition’s smoke and mirrors. Often. the consequences of our actions are clearly visible in how the customer behaves. • The company suddenly instituted budget cuts. You know when it happens. with no plausible explanation. however. • Pricing pressure was relentless.4 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” you’ve insulted them or alienated them. • They became easily. • When it was time to sign agreements. there are many changes that occur. It’s as if the temperature in the room dropped 40 degrees. the customers themselves can’t articulate what’s rubbing them the wrong way or why they’re uncomfortable with the conversation and the thought of doing business with you. For example: • Even though the customer was responsive and engaged during your presentation. At times. All of these situations are indicators that you have likely self-sabotaged and undermined your best efforts. phantom decision makers suddenly appeared out of nowhere. they never returned calls and e-mails. • The sales cycle time was stretched out beyond reason. • Prospects and even customers were indifferent to your solutions even though the offer was clearly in their best interest. one minute you are having a very open and engaging conversation and suddenly there’s a chilling response from the customer. Have you ever found yourself working diligently on a promising and valuable opportunity when suddenly. the engagement spins into a downward spiral? When someone is in trouble and the situation is starting to deteriorate. and fatally for you.

achievable. Nevertheless. A viable sales opportunity can deliver value. as we will soon see. It reminds me of a scene in the classic film Cool Hand Luke in which the merciless warden coldly stares at his prisoner (played by Paul Newman) and drawls. honest dialogue and a productive and collaborative relationship is a failure to communicate. One of the core competencies of professional selling is communication. and they spend the vast majority of their time using both on their customers. In the next three chapters. failure to communicate effectively is the single biggest cause of substandard sales performance.” What is “a failure to communicate”? Anything that happens in a prospect or customer engagement that prevents an open. create customer value that is tangible. You can look at this as a substantial communication challenge or a great opportunity. every viable sale you lose represents a failure to communicate. not only to your customer. and produce a profit for your company that helps it meet its revenue targets and pass a lucrative check on to you. Any time you lose a viable sale—one in which the customer makes no decision at all or chooses to buy a similar solution from a competitor when you knew your solution was clearly more valuable—counts as a failure to communicate. lost revenues. missed targets. Of course. and measurable. It has the potential to solve substantiated customer problems. but also to you and your company. and career frustration. we’ll explore the traps of sales communication that lead to failure and examine the . you want to make as many of these profitable sales as possible. Salespeople often are hired for their outgoing personalities and inborn communication skills. “What we got here is a failure to communicate.“What We Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate” 5 nication stops. But how many sales do you lose that you should have won? Whatever your win/loss ratio is.

you’d realize . convince. these problems have been a long time in the making. some of the more successful companies in your industry have already been implementing . we’ll examine the style of our conversations. Put yourself in your customer’s place.6 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” root causes and ramifications of the failure to communicate effectively with our customers. “The customer is always right” and “Customer satisfaction is our highest priority.” or.” or even. the first way salespeople typically throw the conversation off track has to do with not conducting the conversation with mutual respect. we’ll explore how salespeople sabotage their conversations by what they are talking about. what we saw in watching others sell. . .” As we’ll see. . how we approach our customers and how we may be undermining the mutual respect that’s required for a successful sales conversation. and only slightly from what we’ve learned in our formal sales training. In Chapter 2. . “But if you really thought about the value of the entire range of what our solution offers. When a conversation turns into a train wreck. and then show you how to connect and win at a success rate you have not imagined was attainable before. Another way salespeople can throw a conversation off track has to do with relevance. We tell ourselves. The . . from what we observed as children.” But record your next face-to-face or phone conversation and listen to yourself afterward. “I’m afraid you may have misunderstood me when I said that . They come from the way our brains are wired. and persuade. the substance of the conversation. In Chapter 1. Do you hear yourself saying something like. “Actually. . Pay special attention to how you react under pressure or when a customer is not following your thoughts or expresses a view that is different from yours.

The good news is that. the customer does not see the relevance of most of this information. diagnostic style that is uniquely suited for exceptional communications. If we learn to recognize when we’re putting up barriers to communication. unlike many of the other challenges that we face as sales professionals. not opinions or blame. not our customers.” which provides the foundation of a conversational. style. Diagnosis is more effective than presentation. The diagnostic approach maintains and protects the customer’s self-esteem and engages the customer as a collaborative partner. That’s the focus of Chapter 3. it’s always focused on the customer. We quickly find ourselves in a presentation mode and providing tons of information. Diagnosis is about observable symptoms of problems and the parameters of solutions. In Chapter 3. and substance—is the focus of the first two chapters of this book. We assume the customer understands the priority issues that need to be addressed and has a quality process for making a decision of this kind. This approach. It’s very much about us. first because it is collaborative and second. and how our R&D operates at the leading edge. More frequently than most of us would like to admit. . we’ll explore what I call the Diagnostic Mind-Set. is the foundation of Prime Resource Group’s programs and you will get a heavy dose of this highly effective and rewarding process in this book.“What We Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate” 7 typical sales conversation is all about the seller: how our solution is superior. the way we choose to communicate is one of the things that is entirely within our control. It’s the antithesis of a presentation mind-set. we can choose a more productive alternative. how our customer support is extremely attentive. Diagnostic Selling®. Why and how we can miss the mark—because of respect and relevance. a point of view or set of beliefs or our “stance.

unlike many of the challenges that sales professionals must overcome. will be viewed as having exceptional credibility. In a world where every salesperson is presenting value. . I will also introduce you to powerful alternatives to conventional sales communication that can help you win your customers’ hearts. It can turn your results around or notch them up to the next level of professionalism. They win customer loyalty and trust through respectful. it differentiates you from your competition. honest. establish exceptional credibility. and diagnostic-based communication. the sales professional who takes a more advisory-based approach to identifying and confirming value. We will also see that. and their business. My goal is to expose both the subtle and the obvious sources of communication failure. This is a proven alternative that Prime Resource Group has been developing and teaching to sales professionals and management teams for years. It will enable you to rise above the conversational clutter.8 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” Most important. minds. and achieve extraordinary sales results. communication is a challenge that is entirely within our control. using similar or even identical words that customers have great difficulty sifting through. Successful professionals achieve credibility by guiding their customers through value-driven business decisions.

How we talk with customers can easily undermine our ability to position ourselves to succeed and win business. Many sales professionals hear the word style in the context of communication and think of personality style or style in the sense of something cosmetic or trendy. Style in the sense I’m using it here is an expression of our mind-set. Customers aren’t going to hear you. They won’t care what you have to say. but the fact remains.1 The More You Sweat. No one does this intentionally. what you talk about doesn’t make much difference. if you don’t know how to effectively structure and conduct customer conversations. the Less You Sell T he most common forms of sales sabotage are stylistic. our 9 . They may even work actively against you.

Style is a critical key in the creation of engaging and compelling business relationships. You know that. how well the doctor appeared to understand and respond to the patient. What you may not realize. of doctors had little to do with who got sued and who didn’t. Your ability to constructively attract and engage a customer in a relevant dialogue requires a conversation style as well as substantive content. I’m assuming that you are not all that surprised when I say your style of conversation has a tremendous impact on your performance and establishing credibility with prospects and customers. What do you think was the most significant difference between doctors who were sued at least twice for malpractice and those who were never sued? “Interestingly. For years. or incompetence. “How do you see your role as a sales professional?” Our conversational style has a huge impact on building credibility and trust. How you speak with your customers has an equally powerful impact on your career. these studies found that the competence. to take action. and our approach to our relationships with customers.10 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” stance. When what they learn is compelling enough to make them want to change. they learn. that is. is that the style you are using right . 2005). I’ve cited a study that revealed that the number-one reason that patients change doctors was not based upon the doctor’s competence.” writes Gladwell. Brown and Company. Blink (Boston. 42). they will buy. Again. they didn’t provide more details about medication or the patient’s condition. This is further reinforced by recent studies of malpractice lawsuits described in Malcolm Gladwell’s book. but on the doctor’s bedside manner. It has a lot to do with the answer to the question. The difference was entirely in how they talked to their patients” (p. however. When customers are engaged. MA: Little. “there was no difference in the amount or quality of information they gave their patients.

The More You Sweat. For instance. Contrary to the popular image of salespeople as “born communicators.” most people. When salespeople get emotionally involved in the outcome of a customer engagement and start to try to drag the customer into compliance using outdated . Further. but here are three reasons that could be true: 1. and support professionals. The problem is that much of this sales dogma was not designed for the collaborative effort required in sales today (Era 3 in Figure 1. Salespeople have devoted countless hours to perfecting their presentation techniques and to understanding how to overcome objections and close sales. From the customer’s perspective. they tend not to know that about themselves. are not naturally effective communicators. I see wellmeaning professionals get emotionally involved in their conversations with customers all the time. they fall back into old habits and thoughtless reactions that are not pretty and that they often come to regret. the Less You Sell 11 now may very well be setting you up for failure in your critical conversations. service. they unconsciously link the success or failure of those conversations to their self-image and emotional well-being.1) and further alienates customers. As their stress levels shoot up. and that includes sales. The techniques promoted in the majority of sales training programs exaggerate our innate communication shortcomings. 3. When they do. This raises their personal stake in conversations and they start feeling self-imposed pressure. that’s strike one against a credible conversation. 2. That’s strike two against a credible conversation. It might be difficult to accept that you may be sabotaging your own career.

They think the customer just doesn’t get it! They don’t understand what really happened. . When customers believe salespeople have lost their credibility. They begin to see their customers as irrational. A fundamental communication disconnect has occurred. One moment they’re passionately pursuing the sale. using all of the techniques they have been taught. and that can be strike three in an attempt at a credible conversation. That’s when customers start to identify us with everything bad that a salesperson has ever done to them or that they have heard was done to others. what they are really doing is confirming the customer’s negative assumptions and stereotypes about the sales profession. Usually. salespeople are baffled by the customer’s unexpected response.12 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” FIGURE 1. rude. and the next moment the customer is treating them like annoying insects. and sometimes. unreasonable. they begin taking action to distance themselves and quickly shut down. Salespeople frequently have no idea why they struck out.1 Three Eras of Selling techniques.

Your mind-set derives from your personality and experiences and it manifests itself in the way you respond to others. It is also formed by the expectations and assumptions you have about the individual you are speaking with. . The Emotional Mind-Set— The Root of Miscommunication Your emotional mind-set can either provide the foundation on which all successful communications are built. just waiting to leap out at the most inopportune time. Your awareness of the emotional mind-set with which you are entering a customer engagement is going to vary widely. the Less You Sell 13 The last thing we want to be saying about our customers is.” One of our goals here is to help you understand the behaviors and words that drive customers to cut off communication and what we can do to prevent that behavior. there is nothing more important. We also need to look at what customers do and say that can trigger counterproductive behaviors in us and what are the most productive ways we can respond and maintain our credibility. nor harder to master. You will be very aware of some of its elements and others will be hidden deep in your mind. It’s the elements that you aren’t aware of that can become emotional blocks to open and honest communication with your customers and really hinder your successful outcomes. You embark on customer conversations with a pre-established view of the world or mind-set. the conversational flow. or it can be the primary instrument sabotaging your credibility. To be an exceptional salesperson. “I just don’t understand why they did that.The More You Sweat. than to get this mind-set right. and the outcomes you hope to achieve.

We understand you have one of the more flexible solutions. For instance. I’d like to schedule some time to meet with several of the executives at your company. preach. that part of us that tends to tell. salespeople often respond as the child to their customer-parents: PROSPECT: Our company is planning to purchase an integrated CRM software package for our marketing. and we would like you to demonstrate your solution to our management team by the end of the month. The adult is our objective. SALESPERSON: We’d be glad to demonstrate our solution. and prejudices—all those things we accepted and stored away without question in the first five or so years of our lives. and service staff. we can progress from there. sales. but first I need to get a better understanding of your company’s needs and budget. Sometimes the parent is a critical parent. as you’ll see in the dialogue that follows. and enforce—and sometimes the parent is nurturing. . PROSPECT: We’d rather not take the time for that. but the parent and the child pop up all the time and drive many suboptimal interactions. opinions. We’d like to start with an overview first and if things look good. The child is our subjective. reality-based self. The parent is composed of borrowed attitudes. like that parent and child in all of us. The adult is the ideal state for credible conversations. that part of us that is very supportive and empathetic. emotional self.14 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” Who’s Talking Now? One effective way to recognize the sources and effects of mind-set in conversation and relationships is by looking at patterns of adopted beliefs and observed behaviors.

and many sellers automatically obey. a normal and often costly part of the complex sales process. is an institutionalized version of a parent-child or superiorsubordinate transaction. The request for proposal (RFP). when would be the most convenient time for the demo? What happened here was driven by emotion. you may be responding from your child. commits to an expensive course of action that may very well have no chance of yielding a sale. and your budget constraints. The customer calls in and says he wants a product demonstration. The salesperson. and we don’t have time to waste on meetings. The customer sends out a parental command to bid a project.The More You Sweat. Do you want to work with us or not? SALESPERSON: Certainly. the “to-do” list. The customer responds like a parent. The salesperson responds as an adult and seeks to ensure that a demonstration of his product can be tailored and is appropriate for both the customer and his own company. in doing so. PROSPECT: We have a reasonable budget in place. it’s going to be his way or the highway. If you read this and think that the salesperson had no alternative but to agree to the customer’s demands. and other resources in the . responds like a child by complying and. As we’ll see in later chapters. by the way. the Less You Sell 15 SALESPERSON: It’s very difficult to present such a complex solution without understanding more about your situation. money. too. overly anxious to please and scared to lose the sale. your requirements. often investing huge amounts of time. there are viable and effective alternatives that are less likely to trigger these parent-type reactions by customers and that will be more effective than compliance to customers who take the parent role.

you can guess what just happened. The Amazing Old Brain Another hidden element of an emotional mind-set that negatively impacts salespeople resides in what scientists define as the Old Brain. old patterns of reacting often kick in. and what’s left of your connection and credibility with the customer quickly deteriorates. Another very common scenario occurs when salespeople unwittingly play the parent with customers and alienate them at the very beginning of the sale. Again. all in hopes of winning the sale. If you lead a sales conversation with a similar statement and your customer sits back in his chair and disengages. the idea that you have no alternative but compliance is seriously flawed. “You probably don’t realize how much defects in the silicon wafer fabrication process cost companies in your industry each year. . These preprogrammed reactions can play out automatically and unconsciously. I’ve often seen salespeople walk into a customer’s office very early in the meeting and in the guise of an “initial benefit statement” say something like. The reptilian brain is the most primitive part of the brain and controls our involuntary actions.” This is how salespeople have been taught to start their call in order to gain the customer’s attention. But what do customers hear? Many of them hear a parent or superior insinuating that they don’t know their own business.16 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” proposal process without question and without any real sense of their odds. The Old Brain consists of two parts: the brain stem (or reptilian brain) and the limbic system. Once the parent and the child manifest themselves in a business conversation. such as breathing.

submit. the Old Brain is ready to act. It also decides how to react with lightning speed. or be nurtured. Recently. how quickly a sale can get hung up on a trivial point in a contract. The Old Brain is not big on interpretation and analysis. reproduce. scientists have begun to believe that more and more of our behavior is created unconsciously. nurture. how quickly a customer can get upset and argumentative when you counter an objection by saying. . The limbic system generates basic emotions. a negative reaction in you.The More You Sweat. flee. He says our “adaptive unconscious” develops early in life. or worse. So. conversations can quickly get out of control and they become ever harder to turn around. finds that we are always switching between the conscious and unconscious brain. and our reflexes. Both parts of the brain operate automatically and unconsciously. the Less You Sell 17 sleeping. and plays a much larger role in our day-to-day behavior than previously believed. faster than the more evolved cerebral cortex—the part of the brain that “thinks” in the more rational sense. University of Virginia psychology professor and author of Strangers to Ourselves (New York: Reed Business Information. Timothy Wilson. such as the jerk that results when a doctor taps your knee with that little rubber hammer. while the cerebral cortex is thinking a situation through. learns patterns that become fixed and inviolable. such as fear and aggression.” There is a good chance you are seeing the Old Brain and the adaptive unconscious at work in these situations. When people react negatively and things start heading downhill. “I’m sorry. So how does this affect your conversations? Think about how quickly a customer’s gesture or tone of voice can trigger a negative perception. Scientists say that it reacts to situations and other people in just six ways: attack. 2002). but I think you misunderstood.

what part of the wording do you think should be revised?” Remember that the Old Brain and adaptive unconscious exist in all of us. it drives you back into a reactive mode and dangerous old beliefs. worrying about how they are going to salvage it. Stress is emotional reactions running rampant and it can easily power a self-reinforcing. When you react without thought to stress. the Old Brain is in the self-protection mode. They are emotion laden. “I can see the language I used may not be clear enough [our fault]. Stress can drop you back into quickly reacting versus thoughtful patterns of response. They are so involved in their own problems that they aren’t paying attention to the customer and they stop listening. you just didn’t get it. When the customer says something relevant. Stress can also close salespeople down. Stress Kills Credibility One more thing: Stress is produced when the emotional mind-set problems described previously manifest themselves. Note that the words “I think you misunderstood” places the blame on the customer.18 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” In this case. downward cycle that destroys credibility and trust in conversations. they operate automatically.” A more thoughtful response that nurtures the customer could be. They start thinking about the consequences of not closing this sale. The conversation becomes even clumsier and new communication problems are created. The implication is “What I said was clear. and what they are going to say next. . the salesperson either misses it or reacts seemingly out of the blue with disconnected thoughts. and many times we are not aware of the negative impact they can have on customer relationships and sales results.

it often does more harm than good. Unfortunately. instead of solving their problems and salvaging the sale. at worst. however. can irreparably damage their credibility and trust with a prospect or customer. as we will see. Presentation and persuasion are not inherently flawed sales tools. at best. Key Thought When you’re feeling pressure. their timing.The More You Sweat. ineffective and. the less you sell. If you are feeling pressure. When their aim is to convey information that the customer needs to reach a high-quality decision. the Less You Sell 19 Finally. what do they unwittingly do? They reach back into their subconscious and more aggressively apply the tools and techniques that they assume or have been told will help them win sales. content. . This is because of a flawed emphasis on two elements of conventional sales training: presentation and persuasion. you’re doing something wrong. higher stress levels cause salespeople to figuratively and perhaps even literally start sweating. it probably means that you are working harder and. and intended audience must be perfectly aligned. they can be effective. these tools and techniques are. To be effective. The rule of thumb about sweating in sales is simple: The more you sweat. when you’re under pressure. Presentation and Persuasion— Commoditize and Alienate When salespeople work under pressure.

Take a look at your typical presentation. A presentation is an answer to a question. Key Thought Do not answer an unasked question. What questions are you answering? How sure are you that those questions are in your customer’s minds? In other words. the worst presentations are answers to questions that haven’t been asked. Only 3 percent of sales professionals think that their customers score at 80 percent or above on the knowledge scale.20 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” Unfortunately. Ask yourself these questions: Do your customers know the true cost of the absence of the solutions you sell? Do they even know if they are experiencing the problems that your solutions are designed to resolve or the risks they are exposed to if they don’t buy that solution? If you are selling commercial insur- . how ready are your customers for your answers? Can your customers connect that answer to something relevant to their success? Presentations Commoditize Solutions How knowledgeable are your customers when you initiate your sales process? Roughly three-quarters of the sales professionals we have polled place their customers at 60 percent or less in terms of problem and solution knowledge. This type of presentation confuses the customer. this is rarely the case. This suggests that your prospects will almost always have a less-than-comprehensive grasp of their situation or the problem they should be solving.

consider the content of a typical sales presentation.The More You Sweat. can your customers quantify the risks in their current coverage? Do they recognize the gaps in the coverage? Can they recognize excess coverage? Do they understand what they should self-insure? The answer to all of these questions is “probably not. presentations have some major disadvantages in and of themselves. Ask yourself these questions: How often. have your customers purchased such a product or service? Can customers connect the value inherent in your solution to their situation? If you are selling software.” The solutions we sell are often more confusing to customers than the problems we solve. the more likely the answer to all of these questions is “probably not. Our experience suggests that these figures are conservative. relevance suffers and comprehension drops dramatically. for example. the experts still say that an audience only retains half of what they see and hear. have customers established the right decision criteria necessary to make a sound decision? Do they understand the difficulties of implementation? Again. all too many are devoted almost . one of the least effective ways to transfer knowledge. Even using the best adult learning techniques. But as we’ve begun to see. Second. Learning experts tell us that people retain only about 30 percent of what they hear. Based on our research.” How do most salespeople address these issues? They standardize their approach and depend on presentations to educate their customers. for example. they transform salespeople into professors giving lectures. There is no incentive to retain information that appears irrelevant. including a well-developed multimedia approach. When a presentation answers questions that have not been asked. if ever. First. the more complex the sale. the Less You Sell 21 ance.

you commoditize. they might see how valid those complaints really are. highly suspect. and then you buy based on what you do understand—which more often than not ends up being the price.) The presentations all looked and sounded alike. For 50 minutes of the 90-minute presentation. or you never felt any urgency in the first place. I constantly hear salespeople complain about “nodecision” customers and relentless price pressure. What do you do? The same thing you do when someone tries to sell you a generic value proposition that makes everything look and sound the same . and the positive future customers will enjoy once their companies buy it. that’s all they will absorb. They aren’t specifically tied to your business. If the prices all seem too high. you send everyone home to sharpen their pencils. presentations are loosely connected to the customer’s current reality and the only quantification metrics they contain are the price and the standard. you won’t buy.22 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” entirely (80 percent or better) to describing the salesperson’s exceptional company. It is hard to communicate how painful presentations can be to customers. Most often. You’ve only understood or cared about a fragment of what you heard in each one. ROI figures. the robust solution. (Between the customer’s lack of experience and knowledge and the inefficiencies of the presentation format. . If they entered their customer’s world for just a minute. If you’re convinced you must act. there is no reason to consider them credible. Step back into the customer’s shoes for a moment. You’re frustrated and likely confused. . A vice president of sales recently told me that he sat through a presentation from a vendor who hoped to sell a networking solution to his company. You’ve heard a number of these presentations. the sales team . You cut through the haze and compare the bottom lines.

and they must listen and learn. the answers to these questions seem obvious to customers and that is why this type of behavior doesn’t build credibility or engender trust. In fact. it’s only natural to question his motives. Why is he pushing me so hard? Whose interests is he actually looking out for? Justified or not. . or if he is implying that he knows better than you. If someone is trying to push you into taking a certain course of action. persuade. Ideas such as “Every prospect is a customer. Let’s step back into the customer’s world again. The only reason they stopped there was that the vice president finally interrupted with a question. The problem is that we rarely stop to think about how customers perceive the tactics of persuasion that salespeople are taught and encouraged to use. they just don’t know it yet” and “Anybody can be sold” are classic articulations of the persuasion school. Words like overcome. They are going to see you as the “lecturing professor. Persuasion Alienates Customers The second flaw in conventional sales training is the concept of the salesperson as persuader. the Less You Sell 23 went nonstop. that he is smart and you are not. even when you have misgivings about it.” You are acting as if they are ignorant. and convince are indicators of that school of selling. I’ve had customers tell me that they have been so irritated and insulted by overly persuasive salespeople that even though they decided to buy.The More You Sweat. or that you just don’t get it. only you have the power to set them straight. they purposely went out of their way to buy a similar solution from another source. how would you react? When someone pressures you to take a certain course. persist.

” The salesperson thinks. “You’re wrong. his stress increases.” Now. They are conspiring to hijack the conversation and most of the time we have no idea what’s happening. full service warranty—the best in the industry.24 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” Overzealous persuaders regularly trigger reactions like these that close down communications. Customer Expectations— Snake Oil and the Hard Sell Just as it takes two to tango.” Now. “Objection! Must overcome!” So. “Your price is too high. an outright argument. What you need to understand . They alienate customers. You just don’t get it. “The value we provide more than justifies our price. The interesting thing about this is how the unconscious mind and our past sales training baggage start reinforcing each other in a negative downward spiral. the customer feels challenged. We’re so convinced of this that we’ll give you a 10year. he quickly reacts: “Not really. The price is still too high. he’s wounded. “Your stuff isn’t worth it and you have some nerve asking for that much money. salespeople and customers enter conversations with preconceptions and expecta- . his Old Brain kicks in. and out comes the critical parent.” The salesperson hears. Here’s a common example: A customer makes a simple statement. This equipment will outlast anything on the market. and possibly the lecturing professor.” His self-esteem has been attacked and his response is quick: “The length of the warranty is not that important. The price is right. the meeting has turned into a debate or worse.” Suddenly. All he hears through his filter is. . . when you consider the exceptional durability of the components and our excellent support.

or book? It would be convenient to be able to blame others for the poor reputation of sales. There’s both good news and bad news in this. Key Thought Salespeople are guilty until proven innocent.S. the Less You Sell 25 tions. public on the subject of trust in professionals. when Gallup surveyed the U. it found that the second “least respected career” was sales.) The portrait of salespeople that has emerged in the arts and media reinforces this poor image. the bad news: In 2004. Customers tend to paint all salespeople with the same brush. all come out of the same mold. and even subtly encouraged. television program.com surveyed students and recent graduates. and especially about buying with a salesperson involved. The sales profession in general doesn’t rank much higher in people’s minds. to do whatever it takes. it found that the “least trusted” of all professions are automobile salespeople. To them. when Jobtrack. Unfortunately. How often have you seen a salesperson cast as the respected hero in a movie. salespeople. the customer’s preexisting mind-set about buying. no matter whether they sell advanced avionics or used cars. that is. Manipulative. dishonest people exist and often are allowed. Classics such as Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt (1922). their own mind-set. Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (1949). First. as long as they win business. but the hard fact is these unfavorable portraits didn’t appear out the blue. is generally not optimistic. In 2000.The More You Sweat. and David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross (1983) are typical representations. Further. (Politicians were the least respected. the sales function itself is often .

we’ve all built up defense systems designed to protect us from snake oil and the hard sell. fallen prey to the bait-and-switch ploy. our customers’ negative perception of salespeople is based on direct experience. been sold a product or service that didn’t live up to the hype. had to be rude to end a sales call. Until recent years. you are in for twice the anger and are highly unlikely to succeed. he is going to associate you with them. or were in the process of establishing. Your behavior will either confirm the customer’s mind-set or contradict the stereotype and set you apart. curriculums and degree tracks for professional selling. How often have you been pressured to buy a product that wasn’t right for your needs. (That is starting to change. in 2004 I was invited to speak at an academic conference attended by professors from some 60 colleges and universities that had all established. But the fact remains that your interaction with a customer is going to be affected by all the salespeople who came before you. For instance.26 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” treated like the Wild West of the business world.) Finally. taken a survey that is just a come-on for a sales pitch? We’ve all had these experiences and over time. You could be operating with . sales hasn’t received much respect as a profession with a body of knowledge and a code of conduct. If the customer hears you use the same line that the telemarketer or retail salesperson used on him last night or that the “persuader” used who called him the day before. Understanding the preexisting mind-set of the customer as you begin your communications will help maintain your emotional control. If your main competitor came in yesterday and unwittingly angered the customer by refusing to talk about the price before a lengthy presentation and you walk in today and do the same thing.

or an accusing policeman. . Policemen Salespeople confirm customers’ negative sales stereotypes when they tell them what to do. it’s a sequential reaction. politely thank you. or accusatory policemen. won’t contribute to the conversation. On the surface. they may listen and nod along. when they act like critical parents. Remember. that may well be exactly how you are unintentionally treating them. Often. But. when they lecture at them. Think about it. Is that how you see your customers? Probably not.The More You Sweat. Who do parents. inspiring professors. Parents. and criminals. . lecturing professors. professors. But they won’t open up. the odds are they won’t. it may not end that civilly. Even the positive aspects of these role models can create tension and conflict. the Less You Sell 27 all good intentions. it doesn’t matter. a lecturing professor. In fact. Professors. As you have perhaps noticed. students. and policemen deal with? Children. When first confronted by a salesperson who is acting like a critical parent. Things can easily get worse if you continue to be perceived as one of the . but adopting the negative behaviors of these roles in a selling environment is common and can have serious consequences. and heroic police officers. How do customers react to these roles? It depends on how sensitive they are and what kinds of messages are running in their adaptive unconscious minds. There are nurturing parents. and promise to be in touch. accept your brochure. Salespeople are guilty until proven innocent. the customer may go into a compliant. in other words. and when they imply customers are wrong . Of course. they will seem to be listening. I am talking about negative stereotypes here. subservient mode. and are a long way from trusting you.

The good news is that with that strong. or policeman. It sounds depressingly bad. or literally by doing the opposite of those expected behaviors. After all. Solving the Style Challenge All right. you’ve heard all the reasons why the traditional conversational style in sales is miscommunication and hopefully. and the customer takes offense. unless you know how to recover. you’ve got a new perspective on why customers often act and react in seemingly irrational and counterproductive ways (Figure 1. it is very easy to differentiate ourselves by acting against type. when customers begin a conversation with negative expectations and then realize that those thoughts were not justified in your case. too. negative image.28 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” negative versions of the parent. it accelerates the credibilitybuilding process and engenders trust. do the opposite of what a salesperson would do! . you might as well show yourself to the door before the customer does it for you. professor.2). At that point. An offended customer will often decide enough is enough and push back and now you’ve got an openly adversarial relationship. but I promised good news. Key Thought When in doubt. by not exhibiting the behaviors that customers expect.

Diagnostic Thinking Only certain customers will and should buy. That is simply not true. A good salesperson weeds out poor prospects and focuses on high-gain opportunities. the Less You Sell 29 Conventional Thinking All prospects will buy. Passionate means being dominated by and displaying strong emotion. Never take “no” for an answer. FIGURE 1. Persistence pays. The customer requires professional guidance to complete a quality decision. Look passionate up in your dictionary. my job is to do a good diagnosis. Customers know what they need.2 Conventional Thinking versus Diagnostic Thinking To break these patterns and establish credibility and trust with customers: • We need to be professionally involved and emotionally detached in our conversations with customers. Persistence in pursuing bad business wastes valuable resources. If you don’t succeed in finding pain you can address. try again and again. They believe they need to be enthusiastic and passionate about their solutions to win sales. If at first you don’t succeed. Customers can be unclear and even wrong about their needs. Sometimes salespeople and their managers push back when I tell them this. Always walk away unless you know you can improve your customer’s business. Give the customer room to breathe. A good salesperson can sell anything to anybody.The More You Sweat. it’s my job to deliver it. try again—with a different customer. More often than not. Never walk away when money is on the table. Always be leaving. strong . The customer is always right.

we also need to consider the substance of our conversations. Doctors who are confident about their diagnoses. • To be effective communicators. We have to stop persuading and start collaborating in a process of mutual diagnosis and confirmation. make them inclusive and interactive. You wouldn’t want a doctor getting excited about your affliction—that would be scary. and I will show you how. Think confident instead of passionate. . we want to do the opposite of what the stereotypical salesperson would do. think of the doctor role model. When you get too passionate. When in doubt. it is easy to cross the line and become emotionally involved. and establish ourselves as valued business advisors. and confident about their ability to treat you are professionally involved. Before we start exploring the qualities that will enable us to structure and engage in credible conversations that can consistently meet the above goals. We need to change the content of our presentations. Substance and style go hand in hand. We need to banish the alienating tactics of persuasion. and professional communication. and put them in their proper place in the sales process. confident about their recommendations. respectful. We have to stop presenting and start connecting. distance ourselves from stereotypical sales images.30 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” emotions interfere with honest. • We have to confront our conditioning and break the stereotypes. it is critical that we retrain ourselves and learn new conversational processes and skills.

the answer to these questions is one word: value. W hen I say this to an audience of sales professionals.2 Nobody Buys a Value Proposition T he overwhelming abundance of information in today’s world secures the issue of substance as the second major challenge in credible conversations. I don’t have to listen to this part. I see nods all around and I can almost hear their thoughts: “Check. when you enter into your first conversations and throughout the rest of the sales process? What is the one and only thing that your customers really want to know? In the sales world. That’s exactly what I do.” All salespeople are talking 31 . What is the one strategy that must be at the heart of every conversation with prospects and customers? What do you use to position yourself during the initial contact. I’m very into selling value. especially in business-to-business sales.

the driving force of conversational substance and customer relevancy in the business world is value. Translation: Show me how this dream will become reality and give me the confidence to invest in your solution. Customers want to know how your offering is going to add value to their business and help their careers. and for the foreseeable future. The reality is that if you can’t position yourself and your company as a source of value. prospects will not want to talk with you. but it remains top-of-mind in the business-to-business markets. your customers will not take any action and are not going to buy. Translation: What’s my incentive to change? They also want to be assured that your solution will deliver as promised. It is at the top of the list of what really matters to customers in today’s business-tobusiness sales environment.32 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” about value. Yet. it is not because customers aren’t vitally interested in value. they want value assurance. Value propositions and value added were first introduced in the mid-1980s when the idea of selling customer value was news and it set you apart. their sales cycle times are growing. Today. and every solution provider must remain vitally concerned with value. usually misunderstood. and it’s tougher than ever to engage C-level executives. at the same time. the number of “no decisions” is increasing. why aren’t customers responding? Certainly. If we’ve got the value strategy in play. the critical importance of selling value is blindingly obvious to everyone . and has been bandied about for years. There is a big challenge attached to the value imperative. and how it will reduce their company’s costs or generate additional revenues. They don’t just want value added. every conversation with a customer must be a conversation about value. If you can’t create and clarify value. The issue of value is inescapable. The “V ” word is overused. Today.

and the more we all sound the same. the more we focus on value. right? Not exactly. a generic statement of value that requires the customer to translate that value into terms relevant to their businesses and their job responsibilities. Commoditization of the Value Proposition The roots of this problem are anchored in the widespread misunderstanding and misuse of value propositions.Nobody Buys a Value Proposition 33 in the world of complex sales. PowerPoint decks. It does cost three cents per pound more. The salesforce is presenting the value proposition itself. thus. “Our adhesive agent bonds at a lower temperature.” That certainly sounds like value. at least in terms of the overall marketplace. The ubiquity of the concept and the creation of value in this environment in which every customer is demanding it and every seller is promising to deliver it have created a major communication challenge. For example. In the quest to differentiate our companies in the customer’s eyes and to win complex sales. Companies create these propositions to articulate the value they plan to offer customers. It’s a substantive communication challenge that most sales professionals are failing to meet. . their presentations and proposals are focused on value. we have no idea if our value has relevance with this customer. These statements become the basis and guiding force of the collateral materials that marketers develop for the sales organization—sales messaging. environmentally friendly product on the market. but the resulting energy savings make this the most cost-effective. However. and so on. They are selling value. Sales professionals fully realize the customer demand for value and. brochures. The salesforce dutifully takes all of this collateral and presents it to the prospect.

Lanning defined a value proposition as: The combination of resulting experiences. you would think that they have been around since the dawn of business. Given the emphasis that companies place on value propositions. I worked with a major company in the industrial automation business that fell into this trap. In fact. Lanning said that a business was a value delivery system and that this system could be articulated in a “value proposition.34 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” Often. It too frequently is an answer to a question that hasn’t been asked. This problem is magnified when value propositions are poorly conceived. in return for those customers buying/using and otherwise doing what the organization wants rather than taking some competing alternative. the idea of depending on a value proposition to do the job is another example of the same error that we discussed regarding presentations in Chapter 1. the customer doesn’t either. But as usually happens. a product . When their salespeople talked to customers. including price. very coherent and comprehensive. Actually. they proudly described how their company manufactured a high-quality product. Lanning’s concept has been misused and diluted in its real world use. 1998). which an organization delivers to a group of intended customers in some time frame. This was solid thinking. The concept of the value proposition has been distorted and stretched well beyond its originally intended role. This company was very focused on selling what I call sources of value— these are the elements of the solution that are capable of creating value for the customer. a former McKinsey & Company consultant named Michael Lanning coined the term in a 1984 white paper.” Fourteen years later. in his book Delivering Profitable Value (New York: Perseus Books.

Instead of being specific about the customer problems they could resolve and the “experiences” they could deliver. Now. too. compare your value proposition and sales collateral to those of your top three competitors. that turned out to be an erroneous assumption. undistinguished to boot. but. such as high-quality. let’s go back to Lanning for a minute. too often. By 1998. sellers began articulating value in generic. That’s a great thing: a high-quality product and a low price. and world-class. (And if you can’t. what are the odds that your customer can?) In highly competitive industries.” you are using the same words that all of your competitors are using. which are now the majority of industries. and. Shuffle them and reassign them. as we’ll see. How frequently are you using words like this? As a self-check. He added that value propositions were “not the trivialized and garbled notions that have been wrongly ascribed to this term. The second thing that happened was that value propositions evolved into value clichés. When you communicate value with words like “rapid response” and “limited breakdowns. You would think it couldn’t be beat. fast.” The consequences of the trivialization of the value proposition have flowed directly down the strategic chain . ultimately meaningless terms. These are examples of what I call loaded words and customers use them. the value propositions and sales collateral of various companies are indistinguishable from one another. We’ll talk more about their negative consequences and how to deal with them later in the book. the concept had become so misused that he felt the need to add another clause to its definition. Can you tell the difference? I’ll bet you can’t.Nobody Buys a Value Proposition 35 built so efficiently that it could be sold at the best price on the market. when he wrote the book on value propositions.

it might or might not have any basis in reality. But I always remind my audience that laughter does indicate guilt. wagging its tail. We are all guilty of over-presenting generic value and can immediately recognize this scenario in terms of our engagements with customers. you bad dog! What did you do. For that matter. the customer. I don’t remember the exact wording of the cartoon and I know I changed the dog’s name. The first frame is titled “What the pet owner said” and it shows the man shaking his finger at the dog as he delivers a stern lecture: “Fluffy. You’re a bad dog. Fluffy!” When we tell the “Fluffy” story in our seminars. you ruined the carpet. “Blah Blah. but the first frame shows a man arriving home to find that his dog has left a distinctly unpleasant deposit in the middle of his light-colored living room carpet. Fluffy.” we see the dog. Fluffy” How do customers react to this endless bombardment of value propositions? One of my favorite Gary Larson Far Side cartoons made this humorously and painfully clear. He answers . Fluffy!” In the second frame titled “What the dog heard. A value proposition might or might not be relevant and credible to a specific customer. and the caption: “Fluffy. blah blah blah blah. nods along. blah blah blah! Blah blah blah blah.36 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” to you and your customers. who has been through this countless times before. Fluffy. plainly overjoyed to see its master. the vast majority of marketing communications and sales professionals are relentlessly presenting value propositions. Nevertheless. Blah blah blah blah. it usually generates a good laugh. Here’s how it usually plays out: We present our value and Bob.

Rightly or wrongly. the more difficult it is for the customer to translate value proposed into value achieved. “So. “Bob really gets it. such as talking with others in the company about the new idea. They don’t buy value propositions because the more complex the value proposition. they shrug their shoulders and think. We might be offering distinctly superior customer value. Meanwhile.Nobody Buys a Value Proposition 37 and agrees when he is prompted. we go back to our offices and tell our managers that we think it went very well. our competitors are telling Bob all of the same things. he has disappeared. customers dismiss value propositions as empty words. When they hear them. (By the way.” But a week later. When we’re finished. “He’s taking it to the powers that be internally and we’ve got an 80 percent chance of winning this one. and they don’t buy them in the very real sense of investing their hard-earned or.” we say. It’s all “Blah blah. but what are the odds that Bob will clearly recognize that? With a twist here and there. He can see how our technology is beneficial. . Bob tells us how informative and helpful our presentation has been. He says he’ll f loat this opportunity around the building and asks us to check back with him in a week to 10 days. That’s why I’m suggesting that customers don’t buy value propositions. their borrowed capital. They don’t buy value propositions in the sense that they don’t find them relevant. Fluffy” to Bob. salespeople will believe that the presentation has gone well and leave. prospects have learned over the years that if they are positive during a presentation and suggest a next step. they don’t buy them in the sense that they don’t find them credible. Bob isn’t returning our calls.) Customers know that it’s much easier to go into hiding after the salesperson leaves than it is to try to end things while the salesperson is still in the room. even more precious. Bob doesn’t call because we haven’t established relevancy and credibility.

They’ll say things to me such as: “I took them through the unique value our solutions provide and they still treat us like a commodity. Salespeople usually act mystified by this pressure on price. They have received little or no help interpreting the value. Now.” That is what happens when you present a value proposition and assume customers can . are able to establish problem priority in terms of resolution. But these sales are going to be problematic. what do they do? Most of the time. and will be compelled to act. The biggest mistake we can make is to assume that customers recognize all of their problems. the biggest assumption of them all. but you can count on tough price negotiations and taking a painful hit in your margins. They have a problem or an opportunity that requires the kinds of solutions you provide. They don’t understand why their customer doesn’t get it. We then go on to assume that they understand all their requirements.38 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” what? You and who else? Every one of your competitors say they have a high-quality solution with a comprehensive service plan. The reality is that our customers have heard from a number of qualified solution providers who all sound very similar. but what’s that got to do with me?” Of course. So. Stand in the customer’s shoes for a minute. you might win this sale. some customers are going to buy. Some customers will make the value translation themselves and you are going to win a percentage of these sales. understand the financial impact of those problems. and you’ll also be working much harder than is necessary. they simply reduce the sale to something that they can easily get a handle on and use as a basis for comparison. they understand our value because it is superior. like the purchase price or availability. know what to look for and what to measure and compare in a solution and.

but you are the expert. and your primary responsibility is to make it relevant in this trial. whenever someone says something like. You must help the customer connect the dots. the guide. or accurately determine if they should pay its price. “Well. Key Thought In the absence of a quality decision process. there would be little need for salespeople. (If they could. you’ve come to a place where a value proposition is not enough to win the sale and get your full price.” someone else in the room responds. we tell the customer all about our six-sigma quality. you can’t count on customers to recognize on their own the value you bring to the table. it becomes a running gag throughout the rest of the session. because when I tell the “Fluffy” story. to calculate what it’s worth. when you’re sitting across the table from a prospect. I don’t really think this is such a mystery to salespeople.” and we get another good laugh. Fluffy. “Blah blah. A generalized . The value proposition is nothing more than a capability. The customer is the judge and jury in the sale.) That’s why.Nobody Buys a Value Proposition 39 and will interpret it on their own. the decision will degenerate to the lowest common denominator: price. After that. The Burden of Proof Remember. You put the sale at risk and you put your margins at risk.

They regularly and diligently invest hundreds of millions of dollars and years of effort to create and bring to market innovations that are capable of delivering even more value to their customers. 2005). To solve this issue. which I discussed from the macro perspective in my book The Prime Solution (Chicago. I’m not saying that your company and other solution providers don’t have real value to offer. Surprisingly often. which is designed to bring extreme relevance to your conversations. the customer’s need or desire for the offering disappears before it reaches the market or the market rejects it for a myriad of other reasons. It is also highly likely that your company is going to extraordinary lengths to create customer value. that’s where value flounders in the marketplace. Sometimes. There is plenty of risk involved in the value creation gambles your company takes. IL: Dearborn Trade Publishing. Too often.40 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” opening statement about value and a briefcase full of circumstantial evidence aren’t going to fulfill that burden. The value gap. the new offering simply doesn’t work as intended. Look at all of the technology companies. we introduce you to what we call the value lifecycle. however. the competition beats you to the punch. is the chasm that exists between what value sellers believe they provide to their customers and what cus- . Sometimes. Sometimes. I’m positive that they do. There is probably more value in the marketplace today than has ever existed in the past. That short final distance is a critical step in the journey across the value gap. That’s the distance across the table when sales professionals meet with customers. value-rich new offerings do reach the market and the difference between success and failure comes down to a ridiculously short distance—the final three feet or the final meter.

These top professionals know how to translate their company’s value proposition—that general understanding of their ability to create and deliver customer value—into a unique. individualized value lifecycle that is customized and confirmed for each customer. They are able to answer for themselves those nagging questions that are always undermining the conventional sales presentation: “So what? Who cares?” . They are experts at creating relevant and credible conversations. you will compel them into action. They bring great clarity to their customers’ decision processes. If you can define value in stages that enable your customers to understand the absence of value and build confidence in their ability to acquire and achieve that value for themselves. their ability to translate value proposed to value achieved for their customers has resulted in exceptional sales success. The sale itself is only one step in that journey. they aren’t going to be achieving any value from it. Translation Skills Required The top sales professionals we have interviewed in the past 25 years have been able to take that step. the pieces of the customer’s puzzle come together and you get the credit.Nobody Buys a Value Proposition 41 tomers are willing to pay for—and the chasm that exists between the value the customer expects and the value that the customer ultimately achieves. but it’s obvious that if customers don’t buy your offering. Once you know how to translate value. When a value translation is done properly. They understand how your offering relates to their world and can evaluate its worth. Invariably. you are on your way to regular and predictable success in sales.

Bernard Baruch once said something that sums up the result: “If all you have is a hammer. They are the elements of value inherent in your company and its solutions. if you are stuck using the same old sales tools.42 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” The biggest barrier to effective value translation is that salespeople don’t have the translation tools they require. sales professionals accept the standard collateral materials that their companies hand them and use them on customers. it is not tremendously time consuming or terribly difficult to create your own translation tools. thus. uses of value.) You will be well on your way to becoming an expert value translator if you reorganize your value data into three separate categories that make up what I call the value triad: sources of value. and customers. They have picked it up in their engagements with customers and all they need to do is reorganize it and put it to work. colleagues.1). I’ve found that most experienced salespeople already have the raw material they need in their heads. and absence of value (Figure 2. don’t provide those tools. everything looks like a nail. It’s easy to see why: Most companies don’t recognize that sales professionals need to make value translations and. (If you’re new to your position. In fact. but it’s readily available from your company. They encompass the ability of the elements of your solutions (their features and . You aren’t going to be able to sell more effectively. Happily. you are going to be stuck with the same old sales results. At the same time.” In other words. Sources of Value Sources of value or value capabilities are the most familiar to sales professionals. you may have to ask a few questions to get this information.

They are the product and service attributes that you’ve probably been presenting all along. your company maintains a worldwide network of service technicians who will arrive on the scene. anywhere your customer is located. and how you guide your customer. one of my ambitions for this book is to help you transform and improve the substance and style of your sales communications such that you. They represent the value that derives from your solutions and no doubt some of them are competitively superior in the marketplace. . (By the way. within eight hours. For instance.Nobody Buys a Value Proposition 43 FIGURE 2. can become a source of value that your customers will find a differentiating factor in and of itself.) What are your offering’s most compelling value capabilities? List the top five and try to be as specific as you can about them.1 Value Triad functions) to create value for customers or that enable customers to create value for themselves.

44 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” Uses of Value Now. let’s turn our attention to the customer’s world. In what way will they be able to use the value you provide or require the value you provide? Solution providers usually think about these questions less often. For instance. they rarely consider this concept. Again. Absence of Value Finally. The absence of value is what it looks like within organizations that don’t have your value-creating solutions in place and/or what it looked like in existing customer’s organizations before they implemented your solutions. it is what we assume our customer has done or can do for themselves. let’s look at the absence of value. your company’s mildewresistant plywood enables cabinetmakers in humid climates to offer an expanded warranty to their customers at no additional cost because it eliminates costly cabinet replacements. Uncovering customers’ uses of value or their value requirements is as simple as asking how existing customers use your products and services and what they were experiencing prior to using your solution. but if they know their customers. being as specific as possible. What are the physical signs (the observable indi- . Look at the customer case studies and the success stories that are used to market your products and services. again. they have the answers they need. What did those customers do with the solution that they can’t do without it? What are your customers’ most compelling value requirements? List the top five requirements. Because most salespeople spend so much time focusing on the value they can create for customers.

Value capabilities in and of themselves are inert unless and until customers can connect them to a confirmed absence of value and valid value requirements within their business. W hen we make initial contact with prospective customers. How valuable is penicillin to a person who has no infection? Penicillin’s value capability is of no value to you unless you also have an indicated absence of value (high fever) and a value requirement (fever is being caused by a life-threatening infection). requirements. blah. you’ll be refining and applying the value triad—capabilities. it’s enough that you have identified the components. “Stores that don’t use our antishoplifting security system have inventory shrinkage rates 10 percent above the industry averages. What are the observable indicators of absence of value among your customers? List the top five and again. For instance. be specific. Fluffy” and no relevance. Take penicillin as an illustration. If we don’t.1).Nobody Buys a Value Proposition 45 cators) of the absence of your value? What costs did those organizations incur that your solution enabled them to eliminate? What revenues were customers not receiving that they now earn? The generic definitions of the absence of value are only the first step. You’ve started to get a handle on value relevancy and you’ve got a preliminary list of reality checks that you can use to quickly and accurately evaluate the true value of your sales opportunities. one of our very first tasks is to verify that these generic absences of value actually exist. For now. and the absence of value—throughout your conversations with customers.” The three elements just discussed are essential components of the value triad (see Figure 2. As we get deeper into the book. we are back to “Blah. .

We need to remember that all three levels offer customers distinct value capabilities and that customers have corresponding value requirements at all three levels.46 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” Leverage Your Value Triad The best sales professionals take the value triad another step and put it into motion. all the time.2). and absence of value through the interplay of two variable factors. requirements. quality. That’s the level you’re working at when you speak with customers about features. The first factor is all about positioning and the second is all about perspective.” All three levels in the value spectrum represent valid value capabilities (Figure 2. That’s the level you are working at when you talk about how your product or service will enhance the customer’s business processes. you can deliver value at the performance level. You can deliver value at the product level. It’s just good business to be able to cover the entire spectrum. You can also deliver value at the process level. A basic rule of thumb is that the further along the spectrum toward the performance range that you develop your value. and acquisition cost. That’s the level you’re working at when you discuss the impact of your product or service on the customer’s business results. Those who can’t or don’t do this substantially reduce their odds of success. They leverage the capabilities. Across-the-Spectrum Positioning Value can be delivered anywhere along a spectrum. the more valuable and compelling it becomes. such as reducing downtime. as in “Our product will allow you to expand the market for your product. Finally. Sales profes- .

W hen salespeople neglect the customer’s perspective.2 Value Spectrum sionals who can identify the indicators of value requirements for their customers throughout the spectrum and align those requirements with their value capabilities become a triple threat to their competitors and will stand out in their customers’ eyes. they put both their credibility and relevancy at risk. CEOs don’t really care about the actual rate of the mean time between failure of the . This is one of the primary reasons why salespeople have a difficult time working with C-level executives in customer organizations. For instance. Speaking in Perspective Knowing where and how to position your offering on the value spectrum also has a lot to do with the job responsibilities and concerns of each person you are talking with. and what level(s) of the value spectrum you should be working on.Nobody Buys a Value Proposition 47 FIGURE 2. In other words. each individual’s situation determines what is of value to him or her personally.

Imposing Order on the Value Translation Let’s look at the substance of sales conversations with some thoughts on how to sequence your value. market share. If you reposition your value based on those changes. Rather. you’re going to be able to shape your conversations with customers much more effectively. value propositions typi- . you can quickly prioritize your sales opportunities. and enhance each customer’s comprehension of the value he requires and the value your solution is capable of delivering. with the value proposition. We talk more about perspective later in the book. most value propositions are not designed for presentation directly to customers. what the CEO does care about is the consequences of that low rate on the company’s results in terms of customer satisfaction.48 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” component you sell that fits into a subassembly within one of their company’s best-selling products. but for now. The CEO certainly will be open to a productive conversation on those topics. The value lifecycle starts in the same place we started this chapter. start to picture the customer’s organizational structure as an elevator. As you enter the elevator and move between floors. and earnings. Value has a lifecycle and. In doing so. However. you can use it to bring order to the sales process and the conversations you have with customers. as well as devoting a chapter to C-level conversations and C-level selling. As we have already seen. always keep your efforts focused on the optimal customers. as a sales professional. your perspective is going to change.

When a mutually agreed upon value assumption is reached. You are willing for the hypothesis to be true or not true. they provide only the first checkpoint in the sales process. and make initial contact with an individual prospect chosen from this field of opportunities. you need to consider that the odds of a successful sale may not be worth the additional investment. This assumption is one that you and the customer agree on as a premise for further discussion and investigation.” The value assumption is a critical component in your credibility. This is a critical difference between the typical sales approach that sounds something like. it marks the beginning of the customer engagement.) The agreement is that there will be a mutual contribution of resources to investigate to what degree the hypothesis holds true. not a surety of value. A value assumption is just what it sounds like: It’s a preliminary hypothesis that the value capability you have can be matched up to relevant value requirements within this customer’s organization at a defined potential financial risk to the customer in the absence of your value. prepare. The absence of . research. and it may be advisable to move on to more viable opportunities. or the problem/opportunity.Nobody Buys a Value Proposition 49 cally are directed at a broad segment of prospective customers and. and it’s time to begin the process of validation. the value proposition begins to evolve into a value assumption. “We have provided blah blah value for many companies like yours and I’d like to have the opportunity to show you how we can do the same for you. your differentiation. As you identify. The first step in validation connects directly to the one area that has the greatest power to compel customers to act—the absence of value. in that sense. (If you don’t or can’t agree. You are saying to the customer that there is a possibility of value. and your relationship.

This lifecycle of value is the track that the most successful sales professionals follow as they translate value capabilities into value requirements. if you follow this track. where the customer’s value expectations are confirmed and their confidence to invest is established. it is focused on your solution. finally. Of course. the value is measured and reported.3). enhanced level of value. you have reached a new plateau on the value lifecycle. that doesn’t end your communication with the customer. this is the customer’s negative present. When the consequences of the absence of value are identified. which I call value required. The time to complete this process will vary according to the complexity of the sale. if appropriate. Now. There is only one step left after that—value achieved. you ensure that your conversations with customers have substance by rigorously clarifying value through each stage of the value lifecycle (Figure 2. delivery timing. and it is where and when customers make the decision to change/buy. your solution is delivered and implemented. deliver a new. If value doesn’t exist for either the customer or the seller.50 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” value is where the customer’s dissatisfaction resides. It simply signals the start of a new engagement in which you run through the cycle once more and. You and your customer are now working to establish the parameters of an effective solution—its characteristics. and deemed worthy of addressing. As we’ll see in greater detail in a later chapter. quantified. value expected and. value achieved for their customers. This next checkpoint in the value lifecycle is also based on confirmation. This time. though. If it’s 20 minutes or 20 conversations. This is where the customer’s value requirements are confirmed and their incentive to change is established. and so on. This is the value expected stage of the lifecycle. the . the appropriate investment.

Better yet. as long as the opportunity remains viable. as a result. you are on the inside track to win the business. you are making value real for your customers and.3 Value Lifecycle checkpoints along the track ensure that you will quickly discover that fact and be able to move to a more viable opportunity. .Nobody Buys a Value Proposition 51 FIGURE 2.


first and foremost. We discovered that their thought processes have far more in common with successful professionals in other disciplines who depend on credible communication.3 You’ve Got to Get Your Mind Right I n our studies of exceptional sales professionals. the qualities of top sales professionals run a close parallel with the qualities of top leaders: creativity. respect. integrity. and so on. than they do with other salespeople. an intense focus on bringing value to their clients. such as doctors. insight. they believe and 53 . lawyers. the numberone characteristic that they have in common is that they think differently than their less successful colleagues. In addition. In other words. What they taught us is that the foundation of their mind-sets is. and many others. psychologists. change management.

For example. Further. Changing your mind-set is truly the foundation for credible conversations and exceptional sales success. improve your results. As we’ll see in Part II. mutual self-interest. especially women (who tend to be more empathic and better listeners. Many of the salespeople I work with. this creates a significant barrier to listening and understanding our customers’ situations. are already aware of and uncomfortable with selling behaviors that smack of negative manipulation and . Change your mind-set. However. the ability to communicate effectively with customers requires systems and skills. I’m not talking about a sales lobotomy here. mutual self-esteem. and behaving accordingly. the mechanics will make sense and the words will flow naturally. and is further supported by conventional sales training. You can make the greatest leaps in performance and raise your results from average to good or good to great by changing your assumptions and perspective. their mind-set is driven by five principles: value relevancy.54 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” behave as if their success is an automatic by-product of their clients’ success.” to borrow another line from Cool Hand Luke. The easiest way to overcome the outmoded sales approaches and reactive patterns that put our communication and relationships with customers at risk is to drop that mental baggage at the door and approach sales with this new mind-set. our customers are more likely to stop reacting with stereotypical buyer behaviors. in general). This really is not a difficult adjustment for most professionals. but all of that is built on the right mind-set. Awareness is the first step in the process. change leadership. and emotional maturity. once you “get your mind right. Sure. the compulsion to have an immediate answer for everything is securely implanted in our minds during our school years. When we stop thinking and acting in those ineffective modes of sales behavior.

Besides. they continue to speak and further clarify what they are trying to say. . They’ve seen them backfire too many times and have witnessed the negative reactions they produce in customers. Once you become aware that something you’ve been taught is inadvertently threatening your credibility. For instance. Awareness enables us to recognize negative reactions. Chapters 1 and 2 gave us a good idea of how not to think and behave with customers. and in turn.You’ve Got to Get Your Mind Right 55 persuasion through verbal pressure. the mind-set. but dropping those bags leaves us empty-handed. It’s okay to think. This gives you a chance to process information. and it tempers the more primitive. Now. Silence is a sign of wisdom. we need to figure out how we should be thinking and communicating in order to establish exceptional credibility and extraordinary sales results. It is simply a matter of changing the thinking. the more likely they are to grant us the privileged access and reveal the privileged information we need to execute successfully. and the behavior. The more effective we become as a decision process guide. it makes customers listen more carefully to your responses and gives what you say more intellectual weight. it doesn’t take brain surgery to correct the problem. semiautomatic reactions that explode out of the Old Brain. the more likely customers are to support our efforts—that is. people tend to have a very interesting reaction to a listener who does not respond quickly. A pause suggests you are listening and considering your customers’ words. why not pause before you respond to customers? Think for a second or two instead of blurting out an answer. the value of our solutions and how to guide our customers to understand that value. Our ability to execute in sales is rooted in the mind-set and skill with which we understand our products and services.

. etc. .1). let’s introduce Diagnostic Selling®. Now. Value provides the substance of our conversations with customers and Diagnosis describes the style of those conversations. trust builds access and insight. Relevance and credibility build trust. We’ve already introduced the essential role that value plays in sales.56 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” FIGURE 3. Diagnosis—The Mind-Set of Success The communication mind-set that best supports our ability to create success for our customers is summed up in the concept of Value Diagnosis.1 Upward Reinforcing Cycle: Relevance and Credibility → Trust → Access and Insight → Relevance and Credibility → etc. access and insight build relevance and credibility (Figure 3. This creates a cycle of sales success that reinforces itself.

using similar or even identical words. you aren’t talking about your company. and advisory-based approach to identifying and confirming value is exceptional and stands out from the pack. or yourself. tangible. • It engages the customer as a collaborative partner.You’ve Got to Get Your Mind Right 57 The Diagnostic mind-set that provides the foundation of the conversational style that is best suited to sales is the antithesis of a presentation mind-set. Together. Diagnosis brings salespeople and customers together in collaboration to solve problems and co-create compelling business outcomes. • It is about the observable symptoms of problems and the parameters of solutions. If you are diagnosing properly. When customers collaborate. your solutions. the individual who takes a more thoughtful. not blame. they are more likely to act on them. Diagnosis is about the symptoms the customer is experiencing and the solutions that best address those symptoms. solving their problems and developing solution alternatives. Diagnosis is more effective than presentation because: • It is always focused on the customer. • It differentiates you from your competition. Instead of a one-sided presentation. • It promotes ownership. the likelihood that they will take ownership of the conclusions that it yields increases and. therefore. Diagnosis maintains and protects the customer’s self-esteem. you and your customer are taking a journey of discovery and reaching conclusions together. In a world where every salesperson is presenting value. value and diagnosis enable sales professionals to reframe their interactions with customers and create .

honest. Value relevancy Change leadership Mutual self-esteem Mutual self-interest Emotional maturity Value Relevancy—Connecting the Dots Creating value with customers is like helping them work a connect-the-dots puzzle. and creates. selling is something you do to your customer.58 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” productive. 5. that promote learning and change. expands. As we’ve seen. 4. opens the way to the achievement of mutual value. Value Diagnosis gives us professional footing with customers. the value of your solutions is only rarely obvious to the customer. and that result in high-quality decisions and successful sales built on integrity. 2. Key Thought Diagnosis is something you do with your customer. 3. and cooperative conversations—the kinds of conversations that define our most profitable business relationships. It’s the sales pro- . and protects customer relationships. they see random elements of your solution and random problems in their business or their job. The mind-set that supports Value Diagnosis is characterized by five traits and capabilities: 1. Instead.

They always made progress.” that is.You’ve Got to Get Your Mind Right 59 fessional’s job to help the customer connect those elements and create a coherent image of value. the more inextricably linked you and your solutions become to the customer’s organization. and even a challenge to reproduce through learning in our workshops. In doing so. but they were not marching in a straight line from here to there. we should be identifying the people in the customer’s organization who “get the call in the middle of night. we realized that the best and most experienced salespeople were operating like a skilled physician with a diagnostic map in mind. they tended to move around fluently. The more value elements you can help your customers understand and connect. this diagnostic map enables sales professionals to know where they and their customers are located at all times. When we first saw this. it seemed inefficient. As a result. These links should go deep into the various functions and levels of the customer’s organization. no matter what customers might say . they create a web of relevant value. Third. Generally speaking. or the proof of what they’re experiencing in the absence of value. we should help them focus on the elements that represent the solution capabilities required to address their problems. yet randomly. within their process. we should help these people focus on the elements that represent the physical indicators. those who most severely experience the consequences of the absence of our value. Second. there is a fixed process to working the customer’s connect-the-value puzzle. As we studied it in more depth. The creation of value relevancy isn’t necessarily as linear as just described. As a city map connects all the roads into a navigable network. it was difficult to understand. These connections link your solution capabilities to your customer’s requirements. As we watched the best sales professionals in action. First.

Good sales professionals know the major conditions that can derail their sales campaigns. Sales professionals also have less-than-complete control over the information flow in a sale. To ensure that they are not wasting their time. They don’t use this information prematurely.60 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” or ask. 2. they can quickly determine value relevancy and know where they are at all times. So. you should . As we looked at why this works so well. they test early and often to ensure that those conditions are not evident (Going for the No). but they do process and store it. the salesperson knows where on the map they are pointing and can respond appropriately and without losing value relevancy. Sales professionals can be dropped into opportunities at any of an infinite number of points in the customer’s decision process. If the classic 80/20 Rule holds true. List the reasons why. when we studied why the best sales professionals don’t approach their work in a more linear fashion. but because they have a clearly defined diagnostic map. These tests will often take them to widely dispersed points. two excellent answers to this question emerged: 1. WHY DO YOU LOSE SALES? Review the sales you proposed and did not win during the past 12 months. they pick up the information they need to make their value relevant as the opportunity evolves. Interestingly. we recognized that these maps represent the same kind of diagnostic strategies that physicians are taught and have in mind when treating patients.

) . or experience told me that this customer’s problems were not severe enough to compel them to change. If there is no value relevancy. or even step back temporarily. from a customer. you should be thinking seriously about moving on to another sales opportunity. and then discovered that the indicators of the problems that my solution addressed didn’t exist. 61 There is one more issue that we need to discuss before moving on: As soon as you discover that too large of a percentage of your value is not relevant. Voluntarily ending an engagement that has no value relevancy is a valid conclusion. chances are there is not going to be a sale. You can continue to monitor this prospect for future consideration. or you may decide that this sale will never happen. and is a professional course of action.” If I contacted a prospective customer. There is nothing wrong with confirming your diagnosis with a second opinion.You’ve Got to Get Your Mind Right find that 20 percent of the reasons you lost sales accounted for 80 percent of the sales you lost. it goes against their training to walk away. is certainly exceptional. I would promise to follow up as conditions change and move on to another opportunity. I’d suggest that it may not make sense to move forward. began working through the sales process. Create a short list of those reasons. (It’s also a good idea to discuss this course of action with your colleagues and manager. certainly not now and quite possibly never. Do yourself a big favor and purchase the Eagles CD Hell Freezes Over and listen to their great song: “Get Over It. This idea makes salespeople uncomfortable. builds credibility for the future. Build questions into the front end of your sales process that will reveal the existence of these elements and consider their potential impact on completing the sale successfully.

prospective customers aren’t sitting at their desks impatiently waiting for you to tell them they are not doing a good job and relieve them of their capital in order to help them improve. “What should we do next?” . Further. the decision to change is the customer’s decision.62 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” Salespeople who insist on pushing the sales engagement in the absence of value relevancy are playing into sales stereotypes. They occur when something somewhere in the sales engagement triggers a customer’s decision to change. When customers do decide to change. You would be properly positioned to shorten the decision cycle time. win the sale. The customer starts asking questions like. Every so often a salesperson experiences a sale like this. information is flowing. they will soon be dealing with the consequences of a bad sale. we have found that more often than not the decision to buy has also been made. It would be great if they did believe that continual change and improvement is important. Change Leadership—No One Likes Change If value relevancy expresses the sales process in the rational terms of observable and quantifiable gain. if you do establish a strong base of value relevancy. Let’s start by accepting the fact that most people don’t want to change. there is open access. Without the anchor of relevancy. and get your full price. and there are few if any objections to overcome. Even if they fight the odds and actually sell the customer a solution that has no value relevance. change leadership is about expressing it in emotional terms. working themselves into a sweat. you’re in the right place at the right time. but with a rare exception here and there. they end up out of control. and squandering valuable resources. Suddenly. Conversely.

it immediately becomes clear that successful selling is also about managing the customer’s emotional acceptance of change. Avoid change until it is clear that staying the same is more difficult. We should be working smarter. they fall into the “work harder” trap. the sales professional’s initial job is to ensure that the customer’s negative present state actually exists and that he or she fully understands it. focus on the emotional side of change.You’ve Got to Get Your Mind Right 63 “What do we need to do to get started?” That is the response when a customer is guided to a decision to change as opposed to being pushed into a decision to buy.3). We can sum up the typical customer’s emotional state with three simple axioms: 1. In doing so. not harder. When you think about sales from this perspective. Change is difficult to accept.2 and 3. Buying requires changing. So. 2. Once that is firmly established. 3. This all dovetails neatly with the work of value relevancy. Indicators of problems and the absence of value establish and clarify the customer’s negative present and . The smart way to create change in other people is to develop their awareness of the elements that create discomfort and dissatisfaction with staying the same—that is. If customers don’t want to change and that decision is the customer’s alone. the sales professional’s next job is to help the customer design a solution capable of transforming that negative present state into a positive future state (Figures 3. how do you produce sales like these? Many salespeople try to create change with more effort and glitzier approaches. to the degree that the facts merit it. They’re missing the point.

Solution criteria and parameters support the customer’s positive future and provide the confidence to invest. which we’ll discuss at greater length in Part II. in most cases.2 Psychology of Change Matrix: Showing Arrow to Negative Present and Yielding Incentive to Change provide the incentive to change. who. To create a sale. We have to guide our customers through the process. the sales process has to reveal that the cost of staying the same is too high not to change.64 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” FIGURE 3. It has to be experiential—we can’t just tell customers what to think (that’s presenting). Customers should always be fully involved. has . it’s our job to bring customers a change process. As sales professionals. We have to provide all of the information that the customer needs to make an informed decision to buy/change. a critical foundation for an effective sales process. they have to be involved in order to reach conclusions and gain insights on their own. but they aren’t qualified to lead. You surely have greater knowledge of your solutions than the customer.

First. There is no one better qualified than the sales professional and his or her team to guide the change process.You’ve Got to Get Your Mind Right 65 FIGURE 3. given the probability that you have been selling your solutions to numerous companies in your customers’ industries. winning an RFP-driven sale is akin to winning the lottery. your insights regarding the problems experienced in the absence of your solutions should also be more extensive than your customers’. Further. WHY REQUESTS FOR PROPOSALS RESULT IN BAD SALES Unless you are actively involved in helping a customer develop a request for a proposal (RFP). . Second. the RFP represents the customer’s wish list and it documents their decision process.3 Psychology of Change Matrix: Showing Arrow to Positive Future and Yielding Confidence to Invest only been exposed to the marketing materials.

and this is rightly so. Sales professionals associate winning sales with giving customers what they want. Wrong process. I can’t count the number of instances that I have seen in which salespeople misguidedly surrender their self-esteem in the quest of a sale and. Further. the customer becomes the de facto leader of the buying process. In other words. the customer will like them. lose their way and the respect of their customers. This thinking taps into strong conditioning that often goes all the way back to childhood. We must recognize that the RFP is part of a buying process more than it is part of a well-thought-out decision process. if you can’t respect and protect your selfesteem. However. The sales profession is intently focused on outcomes.66 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” if you pursue the sale according to the RFP’s instructions. We grew up being told that we must do what people in authority ask . I don’t think you can respect and protect the self-esteem of others. The right place to start this discussion is with the self-esteem of salespeople. wrong leader. the customer is more likely to buy from them. The only way salespeople and their companies prosper is if they win sales. What does self-esteem have to do with sales? It is the iceberg that sinks an incredibly large number of them. And if the customer likes them. in the process. they think that if they do what the customer wants. What are your odds of winning a sale with an ill-informed process and inexperienced leadership? Mutual Self-Esteem—We’re All Okay Successful sales professionals maintain and protect their self-esteem and their customer’s self-esteem at all times. problems can develop when salespeople link their self-esteem too tightly to complying with the customer’s request.

a proposal. When we did that. you are more prone to make concessions. Do you cave in. comply. It advanced to our teachers telling us to answer questions.You’ve Got to Get Your Mind Right 67 us to do. a demo. They want a quote. whatever. You can blame the customer for taking advantage of you and begin a vicious downward cycle as the same scenario plays out again and again on future opportunities. hand in our assignments. But what if it’s not the right time to quote. When you comply with inappropriate or ill-timed customer requests. and play nice with others. If you overemphasize doing what the customer asks you to do. and compromise the quality of your process. and that our life will then go much better. You risk commoditizing your solution. demo. Now the customer is the perceived authority. that they will like us if we do it. our self-esteem became dangerously tied to compliance. As you see. Or you can recognize compliance for what it is—an automatic reaction to conditioning—and the next time. propose. As professionals. Customers are always making demands of salespeople. you put a great deal at risk. and obey the rules. you can be prepared to guide the customer along a more mutually productive path. we need to be careful about the source of our self-esteem. When we did that. clean our rooms. our lives went better. you comply. our lives also went better. You risk sounding like everyone else. a presentation. It started with our parents telling us to clean our plates. Then you lose the sale and what happens? Your self-esteem takes a hit and you have two options. An unbalanced dependence on compliance . or do you take the time to act as a credible advisor and guide the customer to the appropriate next step? If your self-esteem is tied to the customer’s approval. You risk becoming an unpaid consultant. or present? What if you don’t know enough to quote or present? What if the customer doesn’t know enough to judge a proposal? Now you are faced with a dilemma.

. a client at a major consulting company. When salespeople inadvertently damage their customer’s self-esteem. These two billion- . Unfortunately. we need to exercise balance when it comes to self-esteem. When a customer asks for a demo. These two men had started with nothing and built a multibillion-dollar conglomerate. . The team from the consulting company walked into the meeting and gave a presentation that was driven by how they could make these men successful. Think about how salespeople have been taught to describe their companies to customers. and the quality of your execution.” Doesn’t sound so bad? One executive.68 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” can and will hurt our results. It’s better to link your selfesteem to your professionalism.” So what is the positioning with which they are taught to approach customers? “You likely have a problem here and we can solve it for you. the founders and leaders of a major Asian company. Professionals protect their self-esteem by respectfully refusing to participate in sales that devalue their offerings and abilities. the mishandling of the customer’s self-esteem is even more common and even more detrimental to sales success. conventional sales techniques are one of the biggest offenders in this regard. the process. One of the first things I would want to understand is.” As always. they risk losing the cooperation and participation that is so important to the sales process. they reply. We have to treat the customer’s self-esteem with the same respect and sensitivity that we accord our own. That is the common ingredient for all successful professionals. Let me walk you through how I would prepare for that demo. As we’ve begun to see. told me a story about a sales meeting they had with two brothers. we lead the industry at that. “I’ll be glad to provide that for you. “We’re number one at this.

basically. Our challenge is to make customers fully aware of their situation without insulting them. you can easily alienate the customer and destroy the relationship. including the value proposition. respond? If you “get to the pain” without being sensitive to self-esteem. We know much more than you do and it’s a good thing we are here because we can help you do so much better. They are asking the customer questions like: “What’s keeping you awake at night” and “What types of pain are you experiencing in your manufacturing process?” How hard should you be hitting the customer’s pain? The danger is that you are insinuating that the customer doesn’t know what he’s doing. For the past 10 years or so. kicked the team out of the building. helping the customer understand the depth of their problem rather than presenting features and benefits. How will the customer. like all salespeople who mean well. The way most salespeople are doing this is.” The team. it is too often the right approach poorly executed. You have to help . But as with many concepts. a very Era 2 approach. we introduced Diagnostic Selling® and the concept of creating pain. What did the two brothers hear? Probably something like this: “You’re not actually doing that well.You’ve Got to Get Your Mind Right 69 aires listened politely and then. who may have had an active hand in creating the pain. again. IS IT TIME THE PAIN? TO GET BEYOND In 1984. were inadvertently attacking the customer’s self-esteem. many people have been talking about getting to the customer’s pain as a way to propel the sale forward.

and honest discussion about the challenges their salesforce was facing. “You are all multimillionaires. separate problems from people. but for now. This was also their second successful company. let’s summarize where we are by saying that the mind-set of mutual self-esteem will enable us to eliminate inadvertent insults.70 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” customers understand the implications of their negative present and at the same time preserve their self-esteem.” This proved to be the opening to a frank. Here you are in your second business and it’s going extremely well. “I am a little bit humbled sitting in front of you guys. “Not any more than we have. who also happened to be the founding management. Instead of walking in and focusing on their problems. highly effective. flows naturally from mutual self-esteem. Mutual Self-Interest—We’re All in It for the Value Mutual self-interest. there is always the possibility that I could mess this up. I’m feeling a lot of pressure. We’ll go into how to protect self-esteem in greater detail in Part II. . They had built this $100 million-plus company from scratch in five years and were about to go public.” They all laughed and one executive joked. and eradicate the attitude of superiority that so many sellers promote. I sat down and reviewed their accomplishments. It will help us design conversations that help customers focus intently on problems and costs without accusations and blame. that is. the next quality of the Diagnostic mind-set.” I started. These men were all in their early 30s. It enables us to reconcile and serve the dual responsibilities that every sales professional eventually struggles with. I was called in to meet the executive team of a software company. Actually. We can accomplish this by conversing in a way that defuses potential insults. Recently.

They are supposed to be always going for the “yes. “I don’t care whether this is an exact fit or not. So. to persist and never give up until they win the sale. Both must generate profits. our customers must achieve value from our solutions. in this sense. What does this attitude communicate to customers? To customers. “No. they are being trained to behave like stereotypical salespeople and avoid questions that could yield “no” answers. we pursue these goals. Our employers must be able to capture value from a sale. As sales professionals. it’s not appropriate.” They fear that might give the customer an opportunity to say. the sales engagement should be over. we are always open for and going for the no. such as opening a first call by saying. At the same time salespeople are told they are consultants and trusted advisors to their customers.You’ve Got to Get Your Mind Right 71 the simultaneous responsibility to serve your customer and your employer while looking out for yourself. Whenever they become contradictory.” Salespeople are trained to never leave. We are open to . Most salespeople are trained to disregard this reality.” Mutual self-interest dictates that sales professionals turn conventional selling on its head.” We want to identify as quickly as possible if there are any conditions that exist that indicate that both our customers and our companies won’t succeed. the salesperson who is always going for the “yes” is thinking. such as when we discover that one or the other party to the sale cannot be properly served.” “always be closing.” even as they are being shown the door. Sales professionals should always be “going for the no. “I’m not sure if it’s appropriate that we talk. They are taught to avoid any statement or question that could end an engagement. My job is to sell this product and I’m going to stay right here until you buy it. An attitude of mutual self-interest frankly acknowledges that we are all in it for the value.

What are the odds you can actually close a sale in which the customer will not achieve value? What are the odds you are going to be rewarded for bringing home business on which your company can’t generate a profit? What opportunities are you missing while you struggle to keep this opportunity alive? The answers are obvious and that’s why the best sales professionals protect and ensure the self-interest of both buyer and seller. .72 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” the possibility that this is not a viable opportunity and that better opportunities exist elsewhere. This is why I said that the best sales professionals will “always be leaving” and never need to be shown the door. or to give our emotions free rein. They will go so far as to put a terminal sale on artificial life support. but emotionally detached. At the same time. a sales engagement is not the right place to get our emotional needs met. They are always driving toward the optimal opportunity. continually roll over their forecasts and pour resources into a dying case instead of disengaging professionally. Calm. Emotional Maturity—Cool. I know that on the surface this may sound frightening. Salespeople should be professionally involved. Collected The final element of the Diagnostic mind-set is emotional maturity. they are demonstrating their integrity by their willingness to “go for the no” and to disengage whenever it becomes clear that the interests of both buyer and seller are not aligned. It always comes back to odds and opportunities. This quality is the key to rational and effective communication. Salespeople are always reluctant to leave a potential sale as long as there is even the faintest glimmer of hope. As we saw in Chapter 2.

In their professions. the plane that lost an 18foot section of its passenger compartment in midflight on its way to Honolulu in 1988. If you listen to the tapes. The controller in the tower clears the path and requests emergency equipment. granted immediate clearance to runway 29 left. I sometimes talk about Aloha Airlines Flight 243. declares an emergency. They are talking about mothers and children. “Aloha 243. slides. Can you state fuel levels and souls on board. Screams and wind noise are all that could be heard on the tapes as the pilot put the plane into an emergency dive in order to reach an altitude at which the passengers could breath. They have been conditioned to deal with crisis situations. ambulances. thinking ahead to what will be required on landing—stairs. You hear the controller say. The co-pilot calls Maui Tower. calm. but they are professionals and their language reflects the need to keep their emotions in check. They work together. assistance for passengers.You’ve Got to Get Your Mind Right 73 I know that you are constantly being encouraged to jump into sales with all of your heart and soul and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t care about winning sales. In my keynote speeches. But the people on the plane were passengers when they took off and now they’re “souls. Think about pilots. and collected.” It’s all cool. . doctors. you can hear professionalism in the face of disaster. and requests clearance for an emergency landing. however. that those emotions can hurt your performance if they aren’t tempered and kept in their proper place. air traffic controllers. I am saying. friends and colleagues.” The fuel on board tells the controller how long they can stay in the air and how big an explosion to expect if they can’t land cleanly. Untrained and undisciplined teams would let emotions run rampant. and firefighters. gives the plane’s location. emotional detachment is a critical necessity.

In Part II. and emotional maturity. customers. mutual self-interest. It keeps us in the moment and away from that mental autopilot that kicks in when we feel insulted or threatened. It allows us to interact with integrity and discuss and solve problems as mature human beings. we see how these fundamentals supercharge customer conversations throughout the sales process. change leadership. we often find ourselves in emotionally challenging circumstances and most of us don’t have the benefit of the training that an emergency worker. a police officer. . we can’t let our emotions get in the way of our work. or a surgeon receives.74 “WHAT WE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE” Hopefully. These are the primary elements of the complex diagnostic mind-set and they create the foundation for successful value diagnosis. we will never face a life-and-death sales situation. Summary Value relevancy. mutual self-esteem. which is the basis for all of our communications with prospects. and colleagues. but as salespeople. Nevertheless. Emotional maturity enables us to not flinch when we face customer challenges.

II Taking It to the Street .


competitors have their own system and are going to stack the deck in their favor. 3. the sequence and phrasing of credible conversations is determined by your system or process. clarify. It must support the twin imperatives of conversational substance and style. and leaves the customer ill equipped to make a quality decision. 2. 77 . we need to spend a little time talking about systems. we know three things about this system: 1.B efore we can engage customers in a relevant and compelling value-driven diagnostic dialogue. We can’t work within the customer’s system or a competitor’s system and expect to win the sale. encourages commoditization. Customers are rarely experienced enough or have the specialized knowledge required to create an effective decision process. Just as form follows function in good design. Right now. Our sales system has to enable us to connect our value capabilities to the customer’s value requirements. It must be your system. It can’t be the traditional prospect-qualify-present-close system. it must enable us to uncover. That system doesn’t meet the demands of today’s complex sale. it inhibits our ability to differentiate ourselves from the competition.

it’s time to conduct a similar inquiry into potential solutions and determine their parameters. If the costs are serious enough to act on. and finally. Design. alternatives. it looks something like this: The sales professional locates a prospective customer and makes some preliminary assumptions about the problems the customer is experiencing and the value his company could deliver relative to those problems. and Deliver. (4) to ensure that the value promises made are fulfilled. That’s the four-step. the salesperson works with the customer to diagnose the customer’s situation in greater depth. . implements the solution and ensures that the customer receives the value that was promised.78 TAKING IT TO THE STREET and communicate those connections clearly and compellingly. I call it the Prime Process and it is the subject of my first book. (2) to provide the customer with the incentive to change. and if it is accepted. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. What are the salesperson’s goals in this process? They are: (1) to quickly and effectively identify the customer who has the highest probability of purchasing the offering. determining the extent of the risks and their costs. If the customer agrees to proceed. and costs. sequential process to complex sales success: Discover. When we reengineer the conventional sales process and alter its fundamental structure to reflect those demands. (3) to provide the customer with the confidence to invest. the salesperson prepares a discussion document for review followed by a formal proposal. Diagnose. He contacts the customer to discuss those assumptions and determines if the customer is willing to invest the time to prove or disprove the value assumption and discuss the ramifications and potential solutions. 2003). Mastering the Complex Sale (Hoboken. With the problems and the solution defined.

Taking It to the Street


This process provides a much-needed structure and synchronization for our sales conversations. Too often, salespeople approach conversations with customers in a scripted manner that is closer to presentation than conversation. (You’ve probably seen books of sales scripts, such as 101 Sure-Fire Sales Closes.) The results are usually disastrous. It’s a lot like a second-rate actor’s approach to a screenplay. He memorizes the words, but never puts his imprint on the role because there is no clear understanding of the larger picture, what is being said, why it is being said, and how it should be said. In business as well as in movies, a memorized script sounds canned and it triggers the customer’s autoimmune system. Another problem with scripts is that they are too often poorly rehearsed. If you place too much reliance on a script, when the customer zigs, you won’t know how to respond. You’re not prepared to be unprepared . . . and that’s a fatal flaw in the sales world. Instead of scripts, the Prime Process offers a conversational strategy. It’s a robust strategy that helps us define conversational structure, sequence, and phrasing without tying us down. It gives us a mental map to follow without imposing a fixed route. In his book, Failure Is Not an Option (New York: Berkley Publishing, 2000), NASA Mission Control Director Gene Kranz described the necessity of having a mental map in the world of test pilots. Test pilots, he said, are always trying to stay ahead of the airplane; they are trying to get ahead of the power curve. They work hard to “anticipate what could happen rather than just reacting to what was happening at the moment.” That is the mark of a professional in any field of endeavor and in Kranz’s case, his efforts to get Mission Control ahead of the power curve helped land Apollo 11 on the moon and saved the crew of Apollo 13. In sales, this mental map serves us best when we reach moments of truth . . . when we are one-to-one



with customers. It enables us to turn them into moments of magic instead of moments of misery and alienation. The conversational strategy supported by the Prime Process also creates an all-important outward focus on your sales (and marketing) efforts. That outward focus is the customer and the customer’s customer, instead of ourselves, our products and services, and our company. This is a huge competitive advantage in the complex sale. If you are having a conversation with a customer about the customer’s world, you aren’t raising questions about yourself. When the customer is busy thinking about his own situation and criteria of a solution that can resolve it, common customer questions that sidetrack sales engagements are minimized. You won’t be hearing or having to respond to as many tough, out-of-sequence questions, such as “How much does this cost?” and “Why should I pay that when this competing solution is less money?” If you are having a conversation with a customer about the customer’s world, you can plan the engagement to develop information in a logical sequence and answer critical questions as they appear in the customer’s mind. For instance, you can ensure that customers fully understand the magnitude of their problems before they begin considering solutions. This bridges one of the most common and troublesome communication gaps in sales and enables us to make sure that our customers are rationally and emotionally prepared to buy. If you’re having a conversation with a customer about the customer’s world, you are also more likely to be perceived as a unique and savvy advisor. Customers are used to the same old sales stuff. If you don’t use it, you stand apart from the competition and create differentiation. In the customer’s mind, you understand their business and the others don’t. Better yet, you stand apart from the standard sales

Taking It to the Street


stereotypes in general. Any business executive with whom you work is probably buying from untrained salespeople far more often than from sales professionals. The vast majority of personal purchases—home theaters, new cars, replacement windows, telephone services, and so on—fall into this category. In high-stakes sales, you don’t want to give the customer any reason to stereotype you. So with a strategy in hand that sets us apart, let’s move into the four chapters of Part II. They describe the structure, sequence, and phrasing of the conversations that will successfully carry us through the four phases of the complex sale: Discover, Diagnose, Design, and Deliver. This is where the rubber meets the road.

Earning the Keys to the Elevator


he initial contact with a prospective customer is the most critical and no doubt the least forgiving stage of the sale. You are considered guilty until proven innocent and you must strike the relevance and credibility cords simultaneously and instantly (within 15 seconds) out of the box. At this stage, the slightest lack of due diligence in terms of preparation can easily result in a full-blown sales engagement that is doomed from the start. The smallest misstep in the initial contact can also result in a closed door, which in many situations can translate into a serious setback or even the loss of one of a very limited number of viable prospects and a huge hit to revenue. Given the consequences of a bad start, it’s no wonder that salespeople spend more time worrying about and avoiding first calls than they invest in preparation.

How Qualified Is Qualified? Qualification. founder of Behavioral Sciences Research Press and coauthor of The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance (Dallas. You can use behavior modification techniques to overcome call reluctance. not the salesperson.” George Dudley. but does not overwhelm it.. if a company creates safety solutions for . fear of rejection is built into the process. 1999) has studied call reluctance as it applies to initial customer contact for two decades. the way it is most often conducted. Inc. Another 40 percent have minor. but in many cases. benefit statements. He reports that roughly 90 percent of salespeople suffer from it. Do 9 out of 10 salespeople fear first contact because of psychological maladies or is it more likely that they fear first contact because they are taught that its purpose is to get an appointment? This creates an unrealistic expectation and if the goal is not achieved. the traditional sales approach to initial customer contact and qualification that salespeople are trained and encouraged to use is fundamentally flawed. the salesperson is deemed to have failed. is problematic because it is quite shallow and relies too heavily on external profiles. Half of all salespeople have severe reluctance issues that require immediate attention says Dudley. the real problem is the sales process.84 TAKING IT TO THE STREET This fear often manifests itself in a psychological performance barrier of “call reluctance. and value propositions. Thus. Again. but chronic reluctance that affects their performance. Texas: Research Press. For instance.

gets the name of the corporate safety director . Face-to-face selling isn’t mass marketing. but when it is applied to a single. The doctor walks in. Contact Without Proper Preparation Is an Exercise in Futility The effectiveness and quality of the initial contact with the customer depends on the information that the salesperson has developed in the qualification process. we’ve got a qualified angioplasty customer here. Check. he looks over the patient. Okay. Smoker. The salesperson for the safety solutions company calls a “qualified” oil rig company. salespeople essentially do the same thing to prospects every day. this generic “every company is qualified” approach may work. asks who buys safety products. the initial contact can hardly be better. of course. it quickly loses its validity. let’s give him the presentation. Let’s go back to the oil rig example. For marketing or advertising purposes in which you must address a large audience. male. and something like this goes on in his head: “Let’s see. targeted customer. Overweight. Check. every company that owns or operates offshore oil rigs looks like a qualified customer. age 45 to 60.Earning the Keys to the Elevator 85 offshore oil rigs. but amazingly. They primarily judge prospective customers based on external characteristics and miss the much more relevant internal qualifiers. If qualification in most complex sales is woefully inadequate. I like to ask our clients to picture what the results might be if we applied the generic or external profile qualification approach of most sales processes to the process in a doctor’s office. Check.” It’s ludicrous.

That’s a pretty standard first call used by many salespeople and. Williams hear and how does she interpret this call? For starters. and calls her office. There is nothing wrong with her safety record. He is attempting to create interest by presenting the benefits and value his company has brought to other customers. Williams. I’m an account executive with Petro-Safety Technologies. it sounds professional enough. She knows he’s a salesman. She knows she’s dealing with someone who thinks he has all the answers—his company is “a leader” and his programs are “the most advanced”—and that makes her suspicious.86 TAKING IT TO THE STREET (the presumed decision maker who usually buys these solutions). Williams will be interested in hearing that. he introduced himself the same way the three telemarketers who called last night did. thinks Ms. He believes that Ms. Our programs will improve your safety record and save lives. No one has ever . Joe threw a few dangling insults in there when he talked about improving her safety record and saving lives and making her company a better place to work. she may feel insulted. I would like to get together with you and explain some of the more successful programs that we have created and how they can make your business a better place to work. If and when he reaches the director. Worse. The salesperson is doing what he has been taught. how are you today? My name is Joe James. he launches into an introduction: Hello. on the surface. Ms. Williams. But what does Ms. she’s pretty sure that Joe doesn’t really care how she is today and she is actually rather annoyed by people who ask. We are a leader in oil rig safety solutions and we have developed the most advanced safety programs in use by companies like yours.

we have to diagnose before we prescribe. Based on that external qualification. Williams for questioning the wisdom of taking this call any further. The best way to sound like everyone else is to start your sales process by talking about your solutions. We have to forget about our solutions and finding the ever-elusive decision maker for a few moments. you can’t blame Smith for running for the door or Ms. That’s a prescription for a suboptimal sales engagement. I often hear sales . “Mr. Like doctors. would the doctor say. middle-aged. He doesn’t know anything more about his prospect than the doctor who “qualified” the overweight. A critical prerequisite to calling on anyone who has the power to influence or decide is to make a preliminary determination of the existing symptoms. male smoker. he sees it as another rejection by a capricious customer and his reluctance to cold-call rises another notch. Have you considered the many benefits of angioplasty?” At this point. The Research Conversation—Forget About Solutions and Decision Makers Effective preparation and credible initial conversations lead to successful sales and they start with symptoms. Joe doesn’t really know who he’s talking to.Earning the Keys to the Elevator 87 died on the job here! W ho does this guy think he’s talking to? W hen you get right down to it. Williams heard in his words and the real reason she is ending the call. W hat’s worse. Furthermore. Joe is clueless as to what Ms. there is no doubt you have an above average risk of heart attack. Smith. not solutions.

the physical evidence of the absence of our value. It’s based on the typical customer reaction to conventional sales approaches. CYNIC’S SIDEBAR “But they won’t talk to me!” That’s a pushback I often hear when we are teaching sales professionals the art and science of discovery conversations. They are discovery conversations. The arrows that are far more capable of striking home with corporate customers are symptoms or indicators. Those elements are the symptoms. Let me ask you a question: Do you think that prospects are evasive and unwilling to grant access and answer questions because they have determined that the best way to make a quality decision is to keep vendors at arm’s length. We conduct these conversations with people who are closest to the action—people who are working at the point where the absence of our value manifests itself. The first conversations we should be having with customers are not sales conversations. or are they reacting with defense mechanisms they have built up through years of dealing with incompetent salespeople? . They are the “victims” of the absence of our value. we should be equipping ourselves with the elements that will make us credible and our value capabilities relevant. They are usually talking about having features and benefits ready to present. We shouldn’t be presenting or selling anything right now. that is. but it’s simply not true. W hat they should be talking about are symptoms to look for. the physical evidence that exists in the absence of the value your solutions deliver.88 TAKING IT TO THE STREET managers tell their people to “have your arrows in your quiver” before they meet the customer.

honest. they are flattered to be asked. as long as you are not selling. and how much defective product gets through to customers. what types. 89 Let me clarify this idea with an example. we are always open. such as how many. However. and straightforward. “Do you see this happen? Does that ever occur? What are the results?” Typically. the response is usually the latter option. Most salespeople would take the standard route in this sale and call the corporate vice president of manufacturing in prospective customer companies. We’ve made them with our clients’ salespeople and we’ve made them on behalf of clients. You ask her how the defective product that . We’ve made several thousand of these discovery calls to potential new clients for our company. they will also refer you to other people who have information on the subject. The next call may be to one of the company’s salespeople. You sell process manufacturing software that can drive output defects down to the optimal Six Sigma level. One call may be to a quality control manager in a plant in Texas. customers will shut down. We never ask for the names of decision makers or spend more than a few seconds talking about ourselves and our offerings. Try it and see. Often. You ask him about the plant’s current process defects. people will talk to you.” But make a few phone calls to the victims. who quickly refers them to the IT manager who very likely isn’t looking for “new software. people are very open.Earning the Keys to the Elevator When I ask this question. we ask for facts and consequences. the people who have to deal with the consequences of output defects. They not only answer questions. This suggests that if we act like salespeople. The quality of responses will surprise you. We are never covert. You listen to his observations.

That is how you start. You listen. Who Do You Call? Who you call for these discovery conversations depends on the various places where the symptoms of the absence of your value can be observed. three resource pools in and around your customer companies to draw from: their employees. be able to shed direct light on the situation and its conditions. You are seeking guidance and experience indicates that you will very likely receive the help you are asking for. Typically. The employees closest to the symptoms are the most likely candidates. and their customers. In the previous example. their vendors. You learn that defective products caused by software glitches do slip through quality control and that she recently lost a big account when the product produced in the Texas plant did not function properly when used in a customer’s manufacturing process. It is relaxed and informal. but nonetheless professional. We’ve already discussed the first pool. The vendor pool consists of employees. There are. often salespeople at noncompeting companies. . Follow the symptoms to value relevance. however. the process software salesperson could call the account executive at an equipment manufacturer who already does business with the customer in order to gain insight into the customer’s operation and symptoms. however. You are speaking peer to peer. who provide products and services to the prospective customer. Next we will discuss guidelines to conducting these conversations in an effective way. They should. these people may have little or nothing to do with the decision to buy your solution.90 TAKING IT TO THE STREET reaches customers impacts her sales efforts.

Nothing focuses a prospect’s attention as quickly as that. . The lawyer’s purpose at this point is the objective discovery of facts and evidence. As a quick example. but unappetizing clear liquid that consumers sometimes find when they open the lid of a yogurt container. You should be solely focused on the existence of the symptoms of the absence of your value. She is not presenting her case in front of a judge. You shouldn’t be asking about who buys your offerings or who might be interested in learning more about them.Earning the Keys to the Elevator 91 Finally. A simple way to identify prospects who might value this ingredient would be to go to a supermarket and find the brands that contain the liquid. Think like a lawyer during the discovery phase of a case. what it is they are experiencing. They can tell if they are noticing the absence of your value. you can check for the absence of your value with your customer’s customers who often represent the most valuable source of relevance. speak to the dairy manager and ask how well the brands sell. Then. This same purpose should be directly reflected in the questions you ask and don’t ask during these calls. No Selling These discovery conversations are not sales calls. and if they switch brands based on the liquid. how often customers return these products. We need to learn about this company’s reality—its internal characteristics. the potential consequences. and the customer’s viewpoint on those consequences. a client of ours makes an ingredient that prevents the formation of the harmless. The information generated by questions such as these has the potential to create and retain revenue and customers for your customer.

Did You Discover Relevancy? The purpose of discovery calls is to ascertain value relevancy. and Straightforward Research calls are not covert missions into enemy territory. and straightforward. I like to talk to a few quality control people like yourself in the organization to see if you’re encountering any of the issues or difficulties that we work with customers to address. open. and what we will do with the information we gather. We explain exactly what we are doing. honest. we proceed. I’m Wayne Stanley with Six Sigma Software and I’m not sure if it’s appropriate that we should be talking. Honest. why we are doing it. before I do that. If we provide value and our prospects have a potential requirement for that value. It could open like this: Jos. Typically. That will help me determine if it might make sense to speak with your management about the issue. in over 95 percent of our research calls. and honest way. Do you have a moment to speak? [They say yes. This all comes back to a professional mind-set. In fact. there is no reason why they would not be willing to discuss it in a straightforward. We are open.92 TAKING IT TO THE STREET Be Open. I’d like to ask you a couple of questions and see if there might be some application here. the people we contact are willing to help.] We work with companies like yours in the area of process manufacturing and I am thinking about calling your vice president of manufacturing about our software. We are fully disclosing what we are doing to the people we call. If the calls don’t reveal the existence of the symp- . but I’d like to run what I am trying to do by you and see if you can decide if it makes sense and if you might be able to help me or not. There is no reason to sneak around.

Its goal is to earn the “keys to the elevator.” that is. we introduce the value assumption that we’ve developed in our previous conversations and discuss it with the appropriate executive. the customer is not a qualified prospect at this time. the engagement . the substance of the engagement conversation is also anchored in symptoms. You want to have this conversation with an executive who has the power to drive the change process within the customer company. As you might expect. gain the sponsorship of the executive for our diagnosis. The obvious conclusion is that it is time to move toward a more viable opportunity. we do find the symptoms of the absence of value and we are in the process of formulating a value assumption regarding this prospect. We have determined that there is a basis to initiate a conversation with a suitable executive and the information that we have obtained is going to provide the relevancy and credibility we need to begin that conversation successfully. and receive access to individuals within the customer’s company who we will speak with to continue our process. In it.Earning the Keys to the Elevator 93 toms your solutions address. The Engagement Conversation— The Quest for Access and Sponsorship The engagement conversation is the first official customer communication in the sales process. More typically. This is someone who owns the cost of the problem and whose job performance metrics are impacted by the consequences of the absence of your solution. Thus. to achieve conceptual buy-in on the value assumption. We want to discover if the executive recognizes the relevancy of our value assumption and whether she wants to take the next step into the decision process.

I am not sure if it’s appropriate for us to talk. Here is an example of the format: Sam. their situation. Our introductions should be about customers and should raise questions in their minds about their business. highly relevant.) Is this something I want to take further? (That’s priority. It must be well-researched.94 TAKING IT TO THE STREET conversation must enable the executive to answer three questions: Who are you? (That’s positioning. Here is what we do.) Why me? (That’s relevancy. Crafting Your Introductory Statement The opening of any conversation is a critical moment. The salesperson is simply setting up the presentation. I recommend you open every engagement conversation (whether it be in person. We need to create engagement conversations that are actually engaging. or via mail or e-mail) the same way. We’re going to turn this on its head. and their performance. on the phone. Here is why what we do is really great and I would like some of your time so I can tell you all about it.) This is a significant departure from the traditional approach where the first contact is all about you. “Here is who we are. but we work with executives of enterprise software companies like yourself that from time to time find themselves frustrated with the accuracy of the forecasts they receive from the field. features and benefits.” This is all value proposition. and quite a few questions came up about . carefully prepared. you may not get a second chance. and capabilities and solutions. Jeff Thull with Prime Resource Group. I was listening to your recent analyst call. and thoroughly rehearsed because if you misspeak here.

. Sam’s specific and likely memorable analyst call. we work with executives of enterprise software companies like yourself . Jeff Thull with Prime Resource Group conveys professionalism and completeness. . Let’s break it down: • Sam. and quite a few questions came up about the volatility of your pipeline. In this example. • I was listening to your recent analyst call. the symptom we find our best prospects experience frequently. “the volatility of . it raises the listener’s suspicions. If you leave out your name and your company’s name. I know some people consider it polite to make small talk and ask the ubiquitous. . “That’s me. insincere sounding “how are you today?” but it’s more effective to demonstrate respect for the customer’s time by moving quickly through the introduction. . . Do you have a moment to speak on the phone? This takes roughly 20 seconds to say. This is extreme relevancy.” • .Earning the Keys to the Elevator 95 the volatility of your pipeline. but it covers a lot of ground. The customer now knows who you are and should be thinking. . It effectively negates sales stereotypes about cold calls. . speaks to relevancy and positioning. that from time to time find themselves frustrated with the accuracy of the forecasts they receive from the field. . • . • I am not sure if it’s appropriate for us to talk . is the disclaimer that says you don’t presume to know the customer’s mind and it is the customer’s right to determine if the call makes sense. We now introduce more specific relevancy.

” Salespeople really tend to push back on the idea of saying. Every four or five seconds you are addressing. • Do you have a moment to speak on the phone? The customer is ready to decide to take this to the next step but is given the opportunity to say no and end the call. They’ll ask. Who is this guy? Does he sound professional? Is this call appropriate? Is this about me? Is this an issue I’m experiencing? Should I continue this conversation? When we provide customers with the information they need to answer these questions.” They see it as an indication of weakness or lack of preparation. and they struggle to avoid it. . . “I’m not sure if it is appropriate. they invariably agree to continue the conversation. “Why would I call if it’s not appropriate?” Note we didn’t say it wasn’t appropriate—we said “I’m not sure. That’s relevancy! CYNIC’S SIDEBAR “Are you crazy? I can’t suggest that the call is inappropriate. the questions that are popping up in the customer’s mind and you are buying the next four or five seconds.” It’s actually the parent in their brains nagging at them: “Why are you calling if it’s not appropriate? . . in sequence. The key to this call is that the prospect recognizes that this call could not have been made to anyone else. There is actually a dialogue going on within this short monologue.96 TAKING IT TO THE STREET your pipeline” is the symptom that has the highest probability of connecting with this customer as well as the symptom that I explored in my initial discovery conversations.

“Why are you calling if you’re not sure it’s appropriate?” Further. which is. salespeople who use the phrase regularly tell me that the people they call are more relaxed and willing to talk after hearing it.000 engagement calls that our company’s salespeople have made over the years. As an example. let’s listen to a computer chip fabrication equipment salesperson calling on the COO of a major chipmaker. I have made a couple of assumptions about your customers’ demands for triple-etched chips. we can decide if we should take a deeper look.” One reason I insist on the phrase is that a few years back we worked with a Fortune 100 client who was preparing to sell to the CEOs of the 625 largest hospitals in the country. We surveyed a sampling of the CEOs to better understand how they responded to sales calls. that will be good to know as well. If they don’t line up. I’d like to run them by you and get your thoughts. The salesperson says something like this: Based on my research.Earning the Keys to the Elevator You know better than that. in the over 4. whether it’s during the same call or at a later date. Are you comfortable with that? [You are introducing the call’s agenda and indicating your willingness to leave. exactly what it is designed to do. What’s wrong with you? You are interrupting an important person. 97 Moving Toward a Diagnostic Agreement When the executive agrees to continue the engagement conversation. If they are on track. by the way.” By the way. What they did complain about were calls that weren’t relevant and over 75 percent actually used the words “not appropriate. it’s time to test your value assumption. None of the CEOs complained about getting sales calls. we’ve never had a single caller say.] .

get into more detail with them. Doesn’t sound like a typical sales call. Let’s continue. who represent the functions that are impacted by this situation. We talked a bit further and they estimated that it works out to about $10 million per month worth of bid requests.] When the COO agrees. This guy did his homework. These are the people I like to call your brain trust. that works out to about $3 million per month. sales.] What I’m wondering is. they are currently passing on about two to three of those bid requests per person per month. They mentioned that because your company doesn’t have that capability. [COO is impressed. if any. is the potential $36 million gain in revenue worth looking into any further to see to what degree it’s actually there and to what degree.] I’ve talked to a few of your sales managers to determine if they were getting any bid requests for triple-etched chips and how they were responding to them. I speak to a key person in manufacturing. If I take your normal conversation rate of 33 percent. The cus- . this company isn’t a viable opportunity at this time. I have conversations with these individuals. and figure out what this situation is costing you and how realistic it would be for your organization to capture this business. let’s assume the COO says. relative to all the other issues you are dealing with. again. quality. we would be able to help you capture it? [Going for the no. Usually. marketing.] For the moment. If this isn’t a priority. to return to the C-level.” The salesperson continues: What I would suggest is that you recommend a few of your top people to me. and finance. Would that be helpful? [Permission to gather the information needed to move the sale forward and. I’ll come back to you with a recommendation. most important.98 TAKING IT TO THE STREET [The prospect says yes and we continue. Then. the salesperson has achieved several important outcomes. The customer has accepted the value assumption as a premise worthy of diagnosis. “Yes.

Everything you learn will help you prepare for meeting them.Earning the Keys to the Elevator 99 tomer has acknowledged the salesperson’s expertise and has sponsored the diagnosis. by saying something like. open. . He can call on the executives and managers specified in the diagnostic agreement and say. “I spoke with the COO yesterday and discussed the triple etching problem.” or answer a question with a question. “Why is that important to you?” customers will see you as a stereotypical salesperson and the trust level will start to drop quickly. Do you have a minute?” It’s going to be tough for him to refuse. I volunteered to gather more information and report back. Honest. “It’s very difficult to answer that without knowing . tempt you to start presenting. or require answers that the customer is not yet prepared to fully understand. which is the next stage of the process. Often. You must answer these questions particularly early in the sales engagement. and you’re one of the people he wanted me to talk with. INVOKE THE 20-SECOND RULE It’s very common for customers to ask questions as they become involved in the engagement conversation or throughout the entire process for that matter. If you answer the question . Answer the question very succinctly and follow it immediately with a continuation of the diagnostic conversation with your next diagnostic question. when the executive gives you the names of the people to contact. By the way. it’s time to invoke the 20-second rule. straightforward—that’s the mind-set. In other words. . ask about their mind-sets and backgrounds. like. these are questions that may threaten to derail your process. however. If you refuse. When you answer. The salesperson has earned the keys to the elevator. he is now an adjunct member of the executive staff.

There is one last step to the engagement conversation. With that agreed to. it turns that first meeting into a “let’s roll up our sleeves” session. Limit yourself to 20 seconds for each answer. It could be to keep track of issues that pass their desk and are related to the issues you will discuss when you get together. One. Give the executive with whom you are meeting a little homework.100 TAKING IT TO THE STREET and stop. it automatically elicits another question from the customer and you’re caught in the loop of answering questions and learning nothing more about your customer’s situation. it’s memorable and helps keep your call and the issues “front of mind. and you. the next time you walk in the door. but it serves a variety of purposes. it tests to see whether this customer has a sense of urgency beyond simple interest. we have been discussing engagements that are initiated by the sales professional. but we also often get cus- . you then want to give the executive something to accomplish prior to your next meeting. Third. Salespeople rarely do anything like this. When Customers Come Knocking— A Word about Prospects That Come to You Thus far. It is also highly likely that your customers will ask questions from a short list of topics.” The executive will remember this conversation. The point is to keep the executive personally involved and thinking about this issue. Second. “How much does this cost? How long does it take?” Take some time to list those most frequently asked questions and prepare answers to the questions that you commonly hear and make sure that they fit within the 20-second time frame. You ask the executive to provide additional information that will assist you either in your preparation for meeting his staff or the next meeting with him.

please explain your solution and I’ll make my decision. they are probably suffering from information overload and confusion. when a new prospect says. the salesperson who gets this “hot” prospect is probably itching to schedule a meeting and start presenting. neither you nor the customer is properly prepared. you have no idea if the customer represents a viable opportunity. but you must. They are likely taking the traditional approach to buying. much less is ready to change. First. So.Earning the Keys to the Elevator 101 tomers via “qualified” leads generated from marketing efforts.” They appear to be in the market for the type of solution you provide and they want to know what you have to offer. It’s difficult to resist such a plum and the urge to dive right in. as is often the case. Second. that is: “I think I need to do something like this. Instead of being more aware of solution alternatives.” The fact that they may have been talking to multiple vendors only exacerbates the situation. Let’s not forget that it is also highly likely that this person is not the executive that you would typically approach if you were initiating contact with this company. “We need an XYZ solution and we’re going to be talking to five vendors including . They probably are aware that they have a problem and have a general idea of the kind of solution that can resolve it. as we have repeatedly seen. customer call-ins. the more complex that problem is. At the same time. the less likely it is they have a complete understanding of either their problem or the potential solutions. the customer comes to the salesperson? The problem is that it is highly unlikely that the customer who initiates a sales engagement with you is any better prepared to consider your solutions than the customer you call. This appears to be a customer who “gets it. What happens when. However. and bid requests.

they are usually telling you something very important. Is this a good time or would you like to schedule another time to go over that?” The next 10 minutes should be spent discussing your discovery process and pinpointing the people you would have conversations with to make an initial determination that enough value relevancy exists to pursue this sale.102 TAKING IT TO THE STREET you. You are laying the foundation for the same diagnostic agreement you would construct with any other prospective customer. I’d like to walk you through how I normally prepare for that type of overview. Customers who hesitate to work with you should be carefully scrutinized. It’s likely that every other salesperson they talked to was ready to start presenting on the spot. you get the customer moving through your decision process. In fact. A key consideration here is that truly viable customers are impressed by and attracted to this approach. you are generating more credibility through the questions you ask. you are asking questions that they may not have considered and are talking about the elements you need to explore to ensure that they will eventually be able to make a quality decision and achieve the maximum value from their purchase. it will take about 10 minutes. when customers are unwilling to answer questions. They may not be ready to take a serious look at the problem . We’d like to schedule a time for you to give us an overview of your solutions. In this way.” instead of complying and moving to set a presentation appointment. If a customer refuses to work within a sensible and high-quality approach. In contrast. Here again. you probably will not be able to differentiate your solutions from the rest of the competition and you are likely entering a no-win situation. the better answer is: “I’d be glad to do that and I appreciate the opportunity.

When customers’ behaviors do not match their words. If you replaced just half of the 40 suboptimal opportunities with higher probability sales.” Some salespeople resist the idea of walking away from a request for a proposal (RFP) or an invitation to present. A few. If those requirements are not met. it should be recognized as a strong warning sign. They all will admit that they probably miss an opportunity here and there that might have turned into a . Our most successful client companies and their most successful salespeople go to great lengths to clarify their rules of engagement.Earning the Keys to the Elevator 103 or. your results could skyrocket. Key Thought You can’t lose something you don’t have. the numbers might sound good.” For instance. when I question them about this reaction. I have no chance to make the sale. if you pursue 40 suboptimal opportunities per year and close 25 percent. provide a long list of reasons for pursuing the “opportunity. they may well be working closely with a competitor and need some ammunition to support their choice. if they are serious. they will not pursue what they know to be low-percentage prospects. CYNIC’S SIDEBAR “No way am I walking away from a live one. But are you optimizing your performance? You aren’t taking into account the lost opportunity cost.” not the least of which is “If I don’t propose.

and they continue to hit ambitious and above average sales and growth goals every year. you are ready to move to the next stage of the sales process.104 TAKING IT TO THE STREET sale. too. as a result. spend time with high quality prospects and. You’ve received the keys to the elevator. The highest probability is that they are located at “satisfied” or . and instilled the discipline to stick to them.1). but they are all experiencing the best proposals to sales ratios among their competitors. When we initiate contact with customers. Key Thought You’re either part of your system or somebody else’s. Progressing Toward Change— Discover’s Role in Change Psychology Once you have reached an informal diagnostic agreement with the customer. You have been given the endorsement of the executive to move through the customer organization and report back. hit their numbers without exception. You have established the value assumption as legitimate and worthy of inspection. we have no idea where they are sitting on this progression. They choose to pursue better opportunities. You have started to move the customer through a spectrum that I call the Progression to Change (Figure 4. developed the skills to execute them. You’ve done something else. Should they allow a phone call from a prospect to alter their plan and approach? They have created well-defined systems.

” but. they will advance to the concern stage and want to gain an understanding of how bad this is. They are open and ready to work with you to answer that question through the next stage: Diagnose.” If the customer is experiencing the telltale symptoms. .Earning the Keys to the Elevator 105 FIGURE 4. . the sales professional is raising the customer’s consciousness with regards to the incentive to change. the customer begins to realize that “this is something that could be happening to me and I want to check it out.1 Progression to Change or What the Customer Is Thinking in Each Stage “neutral. . of course. such as the customer who says.” (There will always be the rare exception. I was just thinking about . “Your timing is amazing. we don’t want to build a plan that depends on exceptions.) The objective of the Discover phase is to identify someone who has a high probability of progressing to “critical” and advance them through the progression to “aware” or “concern. In the aware stage.” In the Discover conversations.


but it is not compelling enough to create a decision to change/buy. it is most likely that this customer will not buy at all. “This could be happening to me and I want to check it out. A customer’s awareness that he might have a problem is a state of mind that can earn a salesperson the keys to the elevator. you are expecting them to make a decision. In fact. Where in the Progression to Change do you want your customer to be before you give them your sales presentation or proposal? The most common answers I get from salespeople are “aware” or “concern.” Unfortunately. this is a prescription for failure in sales. being optimistic.” Most salespeople will accept a customer who is thinking.5 Diagnosis Trumps Presentation Every Time W hen you give your customer a presentation/proposal. customers who are willing to 107 . Indeed.

. they start presenting. how the seller’s solution can meet the needs of customers who match the profile. it can help prepare customers for change. as soon as most salespeople receive permission to engage customers. however.” HOW SEVERE IS YOUR SOLUTION BIAS? Here’s a short self-exercise that can help you discover if you might be falling into the solution-bias trap. Yet. present. as soon as their customers hit “aware” or “concerned” on the Progression to Change.108 TAKING IT TO THE STREET make the level of financial investment and the organizational commitment required to undertake major change. When the needs analysis is conducted thoroughly and with rigor. “What are the decisions my customers need to make as they go from not having my . In other words.”) For a smaller percentage of sales organizations. . on the existence of a problem that “we might have” or a solution that “we might require. Typically. This is why these sellers have incorporated various forms of needs analysis in their sales processes. Even more disturbing is the fact that it requires customers to define those needs on their own. since this customer is showing interest and the conventional sales process encourages salespeople to present early and often following the old adage of “when in doubt . (This is not particularly surprising. the fact that customers must be psychologically prepared before they decide to buy will not come as startling news.” are few and far between. the needs analysis is almost always narrowly focused on the external profile of prospects. Ask yourself. as in “Is a 24/7 service response time important to you? Most of our customers find that is an indispensable feature of our program. In sales. salesforces use it as a thinly veiled excuse to present.

salespeople are working with customers almost exclusively from a solution (or their own) perspective. When customers do not understand the risk of doing nothing and are faced with the risk of change. not from a problem (or the customer’s) perspective. “What is this decision about?” Mark the decisions that are about the solution with an “S” and mark the decisions that are about the problem with a “P. when we conduct this exercise in our seminars. They may have an understanding of your solution. The Decision to Buy Lives in the Negative Present The best way to manage this risk is to move customers through the Progression to Change before you begin the discussion about solutions.” Count up the number of each. 109 There is a major risk here. our goal is to move them to the state of . The further we move customers along this progression. “Why should I change?” remains unaddressed and unresolved. Thus. Do not read any further until you have finished your list. most engagements that end in “no-decision” stem from this exact root cause.Diagnosis Trumps Presentation Every Time solution to having my solution?” Take 10 minutes to create a list of those decisions. but a most serious question. they are working on their solutions. In fact. examine each decision and ask yourself. two-thirds or more of the decisions are solution oriented. Typically. Further. they aren’t just working on solutions in general. most customers are not going to be able to find enough compelling reasons to undertake the degree of change that the sale represents. In other words. When the sales engagement is focused mainly on your solution. they tend to end up in the “do nothing” category. may even recognize how it differs from your competitor’s solution. the more ready they become to change. After it’s completed.

110 TAKING IT TO THE STREET crisis. It is the point where the customer decides. in fact. Diagnosis Requires an Expert Most salespeople believe that they are already paying adequate attention to the customer’s negative present. you must focus on the customer’s present situation. This creates relevancy and if the situation is unacceptable. it creates the incentive to change and compels customers to act. They can also calculate how serious that problem actually is without having a solution in mind. . diagnosis. they are. There is very profound selling insight in this. not in the positive future. It is the realization that customers can decide that they have a problem without having a solution in mind. they can decide that they can’t live with a problem without having a solution in mind. And.” But when they ask customers to define their own problems. They think that they are “getting to the customer’s pain. “I have to tell you all about my solution to make you want to buy. So. Crisis is defined as the point of decision. they can decide they have a problem even if no solution exists. This work requires a primary and intense examination of the customer’s situation—that is. not your solutions or the future state that customers will be able to attain with the help of those solutions. In fact. which says.” How do you move a customer to the crisis stage? Crisis lives in the negative present in the Psychology of Change matrix.” This is the point where customers decide to change. This contradicts the conventional sales approach. “I don’t want this to happen to me any longer. falling prey to the implicit and erroneous assumption that customers understand the scope and severity of all of their problems and all of the opportunities they are not acting on. it’s where they decide to buy. You must raise customers’ consciousness of their current state as fully as possible.

this would never happen. or they don’t have the budget right now. They say they like what they see. the salespeople may ask a few additional clarifying questions. The real reason customers don’t buy is that they don’t actually understand the scope of their problems or the consequences of those problems. It is what happens when you allow and/or encourage the customer to define his own problem and the customer doesn’t have the expertise required to make the diagnosis. I saw a segment on the news last night about several cases of West Nile virus in the area and the symptoms sounded like my symptoms. Key Thought Do not allow the customer to self-diagnose. or they need approvals. salespeople are saying to customers. So. when they attempt to close the sale. but they aren’t ready.Diagnosis Trumps Presentation Every Time 111 Here’s how it plays out: In essence. Do you have concerns in these areas?” When customers answer in the affirmative. so there are no objections to handle. Even a . “I was bitten by a mosquito the other day and I’m not feeling well. or any one of a hundred other excuses. The irony is that they very likely do recognize the merits of your solution.” Of course. but quickly launch into their presentations.” “That’s serious. “My solutions address these kinds of issues. “Let me write you a prescription. It’s probably what I’ve got and they said I need penicillin. This is the danger of encouraging and accepting selfdiagnosis. But at the end of the presentation. they don’t.” replies the doctor. customers hesitate. They don’t know why they should change. This is like a doctor asking a patient. “What’s wrong?” The patient says.

112 TAKING IT TO THE STREET doctor treating another doctor would doublecheck the diagnosis before prescribing a treatment. “We just lost a big customer because our service department didn’t know what our sales department was promising. I read your white paper that pointed out how your customer relationship management (CRM) software will solve that problem. you are building on the foundation of access and sponsorship you established in the Discover phase. The Nature of Diagnosis—Cyclical Conversations That Cover All the Bases When you start your diagnosis within the customer’s organization. . and opening customers’ eyes to their current reality. Quality diagnosis requires an expert. surfacing critical issues. In the complex sale. How does next week on Tuesday look?” How does the salesperson know that CRM is the right answer? He doesn’t . We need to take a serious look at how this would work and perhaps get a system in place. “I’d be glad to arrange a demonstration. identifying symptoms. That doesn’t . you will be leading the diagnosis. A customer calls in and says. . demonstrating your business savvy.” How does the salesperson respond? “There’s no doubt that our CRM system will solve that problem for you. Expert diagnosis not only provides the data needed to evaluate and stimulate change. it also creates exceptional credibility in the customer’s mind. that expert is you along with other members of your team. asking questions. until he conducts his own diagnosis. But scenarios like this get played and replayed every day in sales engagements.” he says. While the rest of the competition is talking about their solutions and the success they have generated for other customers.

you will begin working with new contacts. it is too easy to be less respectful of individuals lower in the organization. but you are starting with the people who have first-hand knowledge of the symptoms of the problem and can help detect and quantify the absence of value. A properly chosen cast will reflect the functions in which the absence of the value you provide manifests itself. Their cooperation is essential to your mutual success. the financial impact of their software extends well beyond the obvious processes that are . a client company of ours provides compliance automation software that is designed to help public companies ensure compliance to financial regulations. We must treat each of them with the same respect and care that we accorded our sponsor. THE CAST OF CHARACTERS Once you leave your sponsor’s office and move into the customer’s organization. Although we tend to be on our best behavior with those we see as critical to the buying decision. such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the United States and their counterpart regulations in Europe and Asia. In their case. In this way. they gain direct insight into the vulnerabilities and exposures specific to each process. The traditional salesperson is looking for that elusive individual who has the power to make the decision to buy. members of what I call the cast of characters. they have extended the cast membership to include managers of the various business processes that their software will monitor. You need to protect their self-esteem. in order to create a viable cast of characters. As an example.Diagnosis Trumps Presentation Every Time 113 mean you can or should hold that over the cast of characters with whom you will be working within that organization. Their obvious contacts are the executives in finance and IT who buy financial software. However.

a fairly straightforward one. the cast of characters. They know how the problem impacts their segment of the business and are part of the mosaic you must create to fully define the problem. and different motivations. different kinds of information to offer. You will have to craft a unique but related conversation with each cast member. It is a cyclical conversation in two senses. Key Thought One opinion does not make a consensus. but in more complex sales. this is not just a matter of rote repetition. These new cast members have not been privy to your previous conversations. you will redesign the diagnostic conversation to fit each unique position in the cast and repeat it as often as necessary to uncover the full dimensions of the customer’s problem. We also want to talk with managers whose job responsibilities give them ownership of a significant aspect of the problem. they probably are not yet at . First. while the diagnostic conversation has a generic framework. The diagnostic conversation itself is. as we will soon see. they would be unable to position the full value they provide. If they did not expand the cast of characters accordingly. Thus. you will have the conversation with a variety of different people—that is. We need to hold this dialogue with those individuals who are observing the absence of value. depending on your sale.114 TAKING IT TO THE STREET subject to compliance regulations. Each of the sale’s cast members is responsible for a different function within the customer’s organization and each will have a different perspective on the problem. Accordingly.

For instance. parts and inventory. It’s your responsibility to move them through the progression relative to their job responsibility. the diagnostic conversation is specifically designed to help each cast member fully comprehend the negative present or the potential negative future. turnkey information system designed for large automobile dealerships.Diagnosis Trumps Presentation Every Time 115 the aware or concerned stage of the Progression to Change. In fact. Establishing the parameters of the absence of value that such a system provides. the service manager. This process serves another purpose: It anchors the cast members. to name just a few. Second. and the parts manager. as required. we are allowing the cast members to develop their own acute awareness of the situation and personal ownership of the problem/opportunity. service. In the event that they are called on later in the process. management reports. requires the salesforce to talk with and coordinate diagnostic conversations with a variety of functional managers within the dealership—the sales manager. When a customer comes in for service with such a vehicle. you will often find yourself cycling through a diagnostic conversation repeatedly with a single cast member. In a sense. they will clearly understand the nature of the problem and the need to resolve it. This is an integrated system that includes modules for accounting. used car sales. problems will have multiple impacts within functions. warranty reimbursement. and so on. Typically. the controller. A good illustration of these points is provided by a client company that sells a sophisticated. A full investigation of each impact requires a dedicated cycle through the diagnostic framework. sales. the used car manager has a “wish list” of fast-selling vehicles that he wants on his lot. our client’s system will prompt the service manager to inform the customer that there is a . finance.

The dealership system can create customized marketing communications and send them automatically. Because complex solutions typically address complex problems. The diagnostic process for the dealership system also requires multiple conversations with individual cast members. But while there are many nuances to the conversation. and the opportunities they create. Diagnosis is a relatively simple process. the problems they address. Whether this requires one or one hundred conversations. The stream of used vehicles is only one issue of concern to the used car manager. this conversation often appears more daunting than it actually is. the service manager to see how frequently that model is in for service. . The Diagnostic Conversation—What’s Happening? Why Is It Happening? How Bad Is It? Is It Bad Enough to Act On? No matter how many times you repeat it. The point here is that your solutions. compelling portrait of the customer’s negative present.116 TAKING IT TO THE STREET strong demand for her particular model and if she is interested in trading it in on a new model. there is one fundamental format for the diagnostic conversation. she would receive a very high trade-in allowance on the new car. What are the consequences and costs of the absence of that value? It requires a new conversation to diagnose for that. and the new car manager to establish the estimated profits on the new car sale. the greater the customer’s incentive to change. What’s the absence of that capability costing the dealer? You must have a conversation with the used car manager to establish the wish list. will dictate the direction and depth of the diagnosis. on the surface. The more detailed this portrait becomes. you must pursue them all until you’ve uncovered all the facets of the problem and established a credible. He also must get a steady stream of new customers.

it tells us whether and when the problem is worth resolving from the customer’s perspective—job responsibility. Questions are the levers for change. The doctor didn’t even .Diagnosis Trumps Presentation Every Time 117 The diagnostic conversation is a dialogue with the customer that progresses from job responsibility to indicator to cause to consequence to priority. it tells us and our customer what’s happening. During the call we were on. the sales rep attempts to convince the doctor to write prescriptions for his company’s medications. We once worked with a pharmaceutical company that created a new version of an ACE inhibitor. a commonly used medication. Consequence is the problem’s impact and its severity. it tells us why it is happening. it tells us what and who is being affected and how bad the problem is. We accompanied a sales rep on a call and watched what was basically a two-minute presentation. priority. This dialogue is driven by questions. but it wasn’t selling well. The indicator is the physical symptom (the evidence of the condition or problem affecting the job performance). indicator. The following is an example of the power of question-driven diagnosis. The answers we get to the questions tell us the viability of the business opportunity we are pursuing. the rep pitched the doctor on the cost savings of the new drug. priced 25 percent below competing products. The job responsibility of the person you are diagnosing is what makes the diagnosis relevant. That’s it. consequence. The doctor has to sign for the samples and during that two-minute process. cause. Pharmaceutical salespeople get an audience with doctors by giving them free samples. The salesforce introduced the economical drug to doctors during their regular calls. Priority is the problem’s position relative to other issues in the customer’s business. The cause is the problem’s origin. Those same answers provide customers with the insights they need to move through the Progression to Change.

” Suddenly.” A minor miracle occurred.” said the doctor.” said the rep. We saw it as a lack of mutual respect by the doctor and a demoralizing experience for the rep. it happens. . our consultant said to the rep. we had the tangible reason why a doctor should prescribe this drug and we quickly created a diagnostic strategy for the next call. “Yes. The next time the samples were delivered. What would the doctor care most about?” Then the rep said. “Why would she?” we asked. it would save her patients some money.” “But would the doctor really care about the cost? She’s not paying the bill. but when she asked the rep “What’s new?” the rep replied. That’s what a doctor should care about.118 TAKING IT TO THE STREET bother to look up. “I suppose it could be 10 percent to 15 percent of her patients. “Well. the doctor looked up. “It may be nothing and even if it is something. “If patients have trouble paying for meds. they often try to stretch their prescriptions. it impacts the doctor’s care plan and the well-being of the patient.” said the rep. If they don’t take their pills as prescribed. the doctor came to sign the receipt. Do you think she’s going to start writing that?” “Probably not. it probably would only apply to a small percentage of your patients. “Do you ever notice any of your patients stretching their ACE inhibitor prescriptions?” continued the rep.” “How many?” “I don’t know exactly.” “Aren’t the insurance companies paying?” “She probably has some patients who aren’t covered by insurance. This wasn’t what she expected to hear. After the call. “The doctor didn’t seem to be too intrigued.

but no matter whether your sales engagement is two minutes long or two years long. simple diagnostic dialogue. who is now picturing a tangible example of the prescription-stretching problem. a well-constructed diagnostic conversation can achieve the same impact and level of return for you. we have to establish our relevancy and build our credibility once again. would make it more affordable for uninsured patients. “Is it putting the patient at risk?” “It could. Then.Diagnosis Trumps Presentation Every Time 119 “Does a certain patient come to mind that has recently stretched his or her prescription?” asked the rep. This was a short. and the rep suggested. the rep asked.” said the rep. which costs 25 percent less.” replied the doctor. the salesperson is talking with a safety training manager at an oil company: . Do you think it might help this patient?” “I like the possibilities. Here’s how a typical conversation with a new cast member might go. The Flow of the Diagnostic Conversation Every time we begin a diagnostic conversation with a new cast member. After the introductions. You should start by bringing each individual up to speed.” said the doctor. “Well.” said the doctor. “I’m wondering if our new ACE inhibitor. I’m thinking they might use their meds as you prescribe them and ensure the integrity of your care plan. We taught the same strategy to the rest of the company’s reps and the new drug’s market share doubled within 60 days. “Why don’t you choose one or two of these patients and write this for them and we’ll see if it helps?” The doctor did prescribe the drug. The doctor nodded and the rep continued. “Is that patient insured?” “Likely uninsured.

You’ve established the reason why you are there (the physical indicators and tangible relevancy). For example. and that number led me to think that your liability costs might be on the high side. SALESPERSON: That’s good. I’m thinking you’ll be able to give me a little more insight into the training process for your offshore workers. you might ask the safety training manager: . It asks the individual to consider a specific business process that is within his or her job responsibility and pinpoint an area of concern within that process. and a sense of the information you hope to find. and I suggested as the next step I ought to meet with some of the key people. She thought that would be helpful. I recently verified that with your controller. We ran that by Ann [the CFO] and offered to take a closer look at some of the issues behind that. and your name came up relative to your role in safety training.120 TAKING IT TO THE STREET SALESPERSON: Did your CFO have a chance to give you much background on what we need to discuss? CUSTOMER: Yes. she dropped me an e-mail that said you would be calling to discuss our offshore safety programs. why you were given access (value assumption accepted by the CFO). It began with a conversation I had with your risk manager about the number of safety incidents last year. why it’s related to the cast member’s specific responsibility. Start at the Process Level We’ve developed what we call the A to Z question and have found it to be one of the most efficient questions you can ask to open a diagnostic conversation. let me give you a little more background.

4. 2. . . It is the springboard into an in-depth Diagnosis. . . As you look at the entire process of creating an effective safety training program for your offshore employees . continues the relevancy of the conversation. . . which part of this process concerns you the most? If you break down the A to Z question. . the optimal outcome of the process. . . focuses the field of inquiry on a job process the manager is responsible for. the first step in the process. . . even though it’s all been going well for you.” Here you’re protecting the customer’s self-esteem by acknowledging their achievements. is when you describe the “Z” of the question. . you’ll find five important parts: 1. and ending up with an accident-free environment . This prevents customers from feeling as if you are assuming they have a problem and/or are inept at doing their jobs. . which part of this process concerns you the most? is the question that harvests the thought process you have just guided your customer through. . . starting with identifying the primary behaviors that are creating the risk and ending up with an accident-free environment. . even though it’s all been going well for you . is the critical “acknowledgment. . . 3. starting with identifying the primary behaviors that are creating the risk . . 5. is when you state the “A” of the question. .Diagnosis Trumps Presentation Every Time 121 Let me start out by asking you this: As you look at the entire process of creating an effective safety training program for your offshore employees. and asks the manager to begin to think about the process. . and where you want the customer to begin his or her review of the process.

the sponsorship of a powerful executive. Don’t worry about it. but not so broad as to make the range overwhelming and too hard to pinpoint a concern. You should also understand how your solution and the absence of your solution affects the customer’s process. and are discussing an area that is of concern to the sponsoring executive. perhaps they are frightened that they will be blamed for the problem.122 TAKING IT TO THE STREET By studying the job processes that your customers are responsible for and the steps in the process. you will find yourself sitting across from a cast member who refuses to cooperate. or they believe that any change will make their jobs more difficult. which steps in the process your solution impacts. specifically. . CYNIC’S SIDEBAR “These people are going to stonewall me!” In fact. you will have a good idea of what kinds of answers your A to Z questions will elicit. Occasionally. Often they will have good reason not to . Further. These answers represent the major challenges that your customers typically experience. you have called on them with the keys to the elevator in hand. they are in denial that it exists. You’ll never . they are very open to discussing problems that directly affect their job performance. One of the keys to effective A to Z questions is focusing on a job responsibility that your solution can impact and choosing the A and Z points such that the scope is broad enough to give your customer the freedom to explore a wide range of the process. cast members not only tend to cooperate. . however.

is “quickly enough” and “thoroughly enough?” Words like “quickly” and “thoroughly” . Third.Diagnosis Trumps Presentation Every Time get all the votes in an election and the highest percentage of sales do not require unanimous decisions. calm. one opinion does not make a consensus. and collected. Stay professional and maintain an emotionally detached mind-set. First. Remember . while your credibility quotient rises. for instance. you can let the sponsor know that the cast member wasn’t comfortable with the situation and wasn’t able to provide much information. remain cool. What. Usually. Loaded Words and Subprocesses People never say what they really mean first. I’m concerned that our new people just aren’t getting up to speed quickly enough and thoroughly enough. senior executives are fully aware of the “problem children” in their organizations and will simply discount their testimony. Let’s say that there are four common answers to the safety training A to Z question we asked earlier and the training manager says. . “Well. You are working with other cast members. . you can always find another cast member who can speak to the issue at hand. but it doesn’t contain the level of detail we need to diagnose the problem. 123 Key Thought People never say what they really mean first. Second. and if a problem actually exists. when you report back to your sponsoring executive.” This is one of the answers we anticipated. the evidence can be verified elsewhere.

Be professional. a statement of truth. A buffer can be a compliment. as in “Can you help me understand . we should be asking for their help. . I’d start with just one of the loaded words (and as a general rule of thumb. we don’t ever want to challenge customers with confrontational language such as “Could you be more specific?” or “What do you mean by that?” These questions accuse the customer of not speaking clearly. . the least emotionally charged one). the phrasing is important: • I’ve heard that concern from other customers. not aggressive. or as it is used here. that’s twice as long as it takes the customer now and you’ve just created a barrier to the sale. I’d ask a clarifying question. Use a buffer to take a step back and maintain a conversational pace. OPERATOR’S SAFETY TIP When we clarify.” or “Could you help me with . a repeat of the loaded word. but you didn’t hear that and you create a proposal that promises to “ramp up your new hires within 30 days. .124 TAKING IT TO THE STREET are examples of loaded words—words that can have multiple meanings. such as: “We have heard that concern from other customers.” . • Can you help me understand what ‘quickly enough’ would be in your situation? This question is aimed at clarifying the loaded word. Instead. Can you help me understand what ‘quickly enough’ would be in your situation?” Again. . Let’s say that “quickly enough” to the customer is 15 days. If you don’t clarify and define these words. In this example.” Well. you can be working with your own interpretation rather than the customer’s. You need to transform loaded words into crystal clear communications.

it’s time to begin asking indicator questions. Could you give me an example of the unsafe behavior? • When did you first notice . For example. . Could you tell me more about the behaviors you are looking for? • Could you give me an example of . consequences. Indicator questions are used to check the customer’s experience and/or knowledge of problem symptoms. and priorities. and to determine their causes. .Diagnosis Trumps Presentation Every Time 125 Key Thought You must always protect the customer’s self-esteem. such as: • Could you tell me more about .” we should ask a series of indicator questions. “It’s taking longer than two weeks to get these people behaving safely. ? An indicator designed to establish duration of the problem. Probing the Symptoms When you and your customer have reached the level of process or subprocess where the detailed symptoms of the absence of value exist. When did you first notice the training program was not creating safe behaviors? . ? An indicator designed to extend and expand the conversation and elicit more information. ? An indicator designed to establish a specific example of the problem. They enable you to drill down into an issue to confirm that symptoms exist. . . if the training manager responds to our question about the loaded word with. . .

However. “Do you think your weight makes it difficult to breathe?” is a loaded question. . it’s important that we don’t include judgments in our indicator questions. ? An indicator designed to surface the problem’s causes. there are two points worth noting. our indicator questions should always start by asking for observations rather than opinions. if necessary. First. ? An indicator designed to surface the costs of the problem. . .126 TAKING IT TO THE STREET • What seem to be the key contributing factors to . if they don’t mention a cause that you know is likely. Observations don’t imply problems or blame as opposed to opinions. Now. we want to see what is on the customer’s mind first and then. One of the real challenges of the diagnostic con- . surface impacts that may have been left out. Second. As you read this list. Is it possible that ‘xxxx’ could be causing that to happen? • Have you had a chance to look at what this might be costing the business in terms of . you can take the customer into your cost of the problem formula and develop a complete picture of the financial impact. ? A question designed to establish the problem’s business consequences. Is it possible that ‘xxxx’ could be a contributing cause to the lack of safe behavior? • How has this affected . such as. . “Have you noticed any shortness of breath?” is an indicator that doesn’t assign a value to the existence of shortness of breath. just ask them later in the conversation. you can then ask a more direct question about the cause. which tend to put people on the defensive. they won’t answer them. What are the main impacts of unsafe behavior on the operation? Again. . Opinion questions are necessary and useful. What seems to be causing the lack of safe behavior? We should always let customers identify causes first. If you insult the customer with your questions. However. .

” This conversation between the salesperson and the training manager could and should go on and on as the salesperson drills down to causes. they’ll plug tools into nongrounded outlets and. but what do I do if I go in there and they don’t have any of these indicators?” It’s amazing how frequently we get asked this question. we want to clarify it and say. A salesperson asked me this question during a recent online seminar and it struck me that it was . CYNIC’S SIDEBAR “This all sounds really good. “I’ve got to put them out on the rigs and I am not comfortable with that. “What are you seeing as some of the consequences of these folks not being ready in terms of safety?” “Well. consequences.” Stupid is a loaded word. All diagnostic conversations follow a similar framework. let’s go back to the safety training manager and ask him. costs and priorities. So. Our objective is to uncover observable. and quantifiable information. all of which will guide a quality decision process. we’re asking for trouble. relevant. So. “We had a fire on one of our North Sea rigs recently. They go out there and do stupid things.” he replies. you understand what we are doing.” says the training manager. and we were lucky to get it under control. and we are always moving from indicators to causes to consequences to financial impact and priorities.Diagnosis Trumps Presentation Every Time 127 versation is protecting the self-esteem of your customers at the same time you lead them to the realization that they have a crisis that must be resolved. “What is one of the types of behavior that would make the ‘stupid’ list?” “Oh. but by now. if there are flammables nearby.

but what do I do if they don’t have real problems?” This question only makes sense if you believe your job is to sell each and every prospect. The goal of the A to Z question is to advance them to concern. Remember the diagnostic conversation is meant to confirm the reality of the absence of value. Would a surgeon operate if the patient didn’t have symptoms? Priority Is the Final Determination That Leads to Crisis The diagnostic conversation is always attempting to move customers toward “crisis” on the Progression to Change. If there is no absence of value. This is the point at which the diagnosis is complete. there is no absence of value. “I can see that this approach will work if customers really have problems. “How serious is it?” The indicator drilldown is designed to answer that question. If there are no indicators. When the customer realizes that “it’s happening to me to this degree.” which raises the question. It starts at the beginning of the diagnosis with aware when customers acknowledge that the indicator is something that could happen to them.” we help them place a dollar value on this condition (an essential conversation that we’ll discuss at length in Chapter 8). If it is decided that “we . It’s amazing how conditioned we are to believe that not selling to a prospect who doesn’t have the problem we solve is somehow an unacceptable outcome. This question is actually asking. and establish the priority of the situation.128 TAKING IT TO THE STREET yet another reflection of the conventional sales mind-set. there can be no value and the customer doesn’t require what you are selling. “it is happening to me.

1 The Levers for Change have to stop this from happening. You brought us to a better understanding of our problem unlike anyone . You’ve set the relevancy. have a privileged position as you take the customer into the Design phase. they have made the decision to change/buy. When our customers reach the crisis mind-set. and the odds that they will be able to match or exceed what you have achieved is highly unlikely. You took us to places we never thought of going before.Diagnosis Trumps Presentation Every Time 129 FIGURE 5. “You understand us better than anyone else.1).” and “we have to take action now.” we have met the criteria for “crisis” (Figure 5. Typically. competence. at this point. Since it is highly likely that you are the only salesperson whose approach and process have helped the customer develop the insights needed to understand the problem. most likely. you have achieved exceptional credibility and. and credibility bars for your competitors. customers are thinking. The next logical question is “What do we change to?” This signals the beginning of the Design phase of the complex sale and the topic of the next chapter.

” The corollary to this is: “You and your company are probably our safest assurance for getting this done right.130 TAKING IT TO THE STREET else. he or she is predisposed to buy from you. It also means that the customer is predisposed to provide you with unlimited access and candor in the forthcoming Design conversations. You have a customer who is not only predisposed to buy. .” This is a substantial competitive advantage as you move forward.

we must help them develop the confidence to invest. It’s our job to enable our customers to think through the optimal solution to the required change. As sales professionals.6 Cutting Through the Smoke and Mirrors C ustomers face a new and equally daunting challenge after they travel the Progression to Change and have developed the incentive to change. Now. If we want to win this sale. and then the next time you 131 . our job now becomes one that is best characterized as orchestrating the design of that solution. I’d like to step back from this task for just a minute and ask you a question: How often have you left a customer feeling like you have reached a meeting of the minds about his requirements. they must decide on the solution that will best resolve their situation.

the customer needs an adjustable whickersnacker on his manufacturing line and. It’s as if customers are floating above the sale in a balloon.132 TAKING IT TO THE STREET spoke. they feel like they are wandering through a labyrinth of smoke and mirrors. Every new blast of a competitor’s hot air pushes them in another direction—usually a direction that takes them away from deciding to buy from you. unfortunately. . Staying on the Inside Track by Co-Creating Solution Parameters It’s ironic. In fact. When our competitors present their solutions. Suddenly. How can they evaluate competing solutions? They can’t . the customer was off in another direction entirely? It’s a pretty common occurrence. that’s a feature that your equipment doesn’t include. they move customers down a different path. Salespeople tend to depend too heavily on the customer’s view when it comes to problem diagnosis and . What usually happens is that another salesperson has called on the customer and convinced him that her company’s solution is the one that best answers his needs. conventional selling is the cause of the problem. . we move customers down a specific path. It’s up to us to anchor the customer’s balloon with the relevancy we’ve developed in the Diagnose phase. but we can’t accomplish that task through conventional means. unless we tether the balloon with stakes of relevancy and equip them with the information and insight they need to cut through the smoke and mirrors and choose the optimal solution. How do our customers perceive these presentations? Often. When we present our solutions.

There are important advantages to this strategy. Salespeople hear these objections and. They co-create the parameters of the solution. • Design parameters supply customers with the questions that need to be asked in order to cut through . reflects the customer’s needs. You can guess how the story goes from here.Cutting Through the Smoke and Mirrors 133 not enough when it comes to solution design. Customers have had little or no input into the design of the solution. are unprepared for what they hear. unsurprisingly. objecting and challenging the proposal. Exceptional sales professionals. proceed to design the solution proposal. with all due respect. work through the Design phase with their customers. they return to their offices and. with this flawed diagnosis in hand. The best way to prepare customers to purchase your solution is not to create a glitzier presentation than the competition. They know. a critical factor in the successful implementation of many complex offerings. for instance. including: • Customers can provide important insights regarding the optimal solution. sales cycles increase. beg to differ. and. however. and sales results suffer. the capabilities of their own organization. Salespeople ask needs analysis questions that allow and encourage customers to diagnose their own situations and then. It is to work with customers to define the design parameters of a solution that can best solve their problem. start stalling or worse. without consulting their customers any further. proposal revisions are requested. Then they return to their customers with what is essentially a unilaterally prepared proposal that. Confrontation ( better known as handling objections) ensues. in their opinion.



competitive smoke and mirrors. By acting as coauthors of the design parameters, customers also become anchored in the solution and don’t get blown off course as easily. • Salespeople capture an unparalleled opportunity to set themselves apart from their competitors and gain an inside track to winning the sale by taking a leading role in the creation of the rules on which the solution decision will be made. It’s much easier to win the game if you’ve had a hand in establishing legitimate solution criteria.

Focus on Parameters, Not Features and Benefits
You’ll notice that I’m talking about solution parameters, not solutions themselves. I’m not talking about specifying the features and benefits of your product. The proper focus in the Design stage of a sale is on the solution decision, not the solution itself. In design conversations, the third set of customer dialogues, sales professionals help customers navigate the solution design which, in turn, prepares them to navigate the selection process. This is a collaborative and highly interactive effort aimed at helping customers sort through the myriad issues involved in achieving value in order to arrive at a set of optimal solution criteria. W hen we show customers how to evaluate solutions in light of their unique situations and specify all the information required to make a high-quality decision based on tangible value, we’ve enabled them to invest with confidence.

Cutting Through the Smoke and Mirrors


“Our solution is the optimal solution. I should be selling it, not wasting my time with decision parameters!”
You need to put yourself in the customer’s shoes here. At this point in the sales process, the customer has the incentive to change. He has made the decision that he must do something. But two big questions remain: What should he do, and with whom should he do it? When you focus on your solution and ignore the solution decision, you are combining these two very different questions and, at this stage in the sale, placing too much emphasis on the latter question. The customer hears: “Our solution is the best and only way to solve your problem.” Even if that statement is true, how does he know it? The customer has no credible assurance that what you are proposing will actually solve the problem. Do you believe everything that salespeople tell you? Do your customers?

Think of yourself as the architect of the solution. Architects don’t start designing a new home by creating drawings and presenting them to their clients. First, they question and listen to their clients, always working toward a clear understanding of the client’s building program. A building program defines the client’s objectives and goals—physically and emotionally. The program defines the scope of the project. Then, the architect discusses the alternatives for accomplishing the program, the costs, and the timing. All of these things go into the design; all are determined in collaboration with the



client. This is exactly what we should seek to do in our sales efforts.

The Design Conversation— Guiding Customers on a Journey into the Positive Future
When customers come to the point in a sale where they fully understand the absence of value, they are mired in the negative present. In the design conversation, it’s our responsibility to continue their journey through the Psychology of Change and lead them forward through the negative future and finally into the positive future. The positive future is the emotional and physical state we promise our customers that our products and services will deliver (Figure 6.1). The Design conversation enables customers to achieve these states by: • Clarifying expected outcomes. In Design, we help customers define the business, performance, and personal outcomes they expect to achieve with the solution. • Choosing the optimal solution alternative. We help customers analyze and rank the various ways in which the desired outcomes could be accomplished, and select the best approach. • Identifying the resources required to implement the solution and achieve its value. We help customers identify the appropriate financial and organizational resources to invest to achieve their desired outcomes.

Cutting Through the Smoke and Mirrors



Psychology of Change Highlighting the Positive Future

• Establishing the time frame in which the outcomes will be achieved. We help customers set an end date for value achievement in order to determine solution scheduling. • Finalizing the decision criteria that will be used to select the optimum solution provider and measure the value delivered by the solution. So when a customer who recognizes the full extent of his problem asks a sales professional a question such as, “Well, what should we do about this?” the right answer to that question is not an answer at all; it is the opening to another series of questions. The correct reply is:
I think there are several ways we could go to explore the options. As a next step, I’d like to get a better understanding about the outcomes you’d like to see. With that in mind, we’ll



identify the main ways we could achieve those outcomes and analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each. After we decide on the best possible alternative, I’d like to have us consider the combined resources we’ll need to implement the solution. Finally, we’ll see what the calendar tells us about the implementation schedule. All of these things will shape the optimal decision path for you to follow.

Outcomes, alternatives, resources, timing, and measurement criteria—these are the solution parameters we must help the customer define to win his or her business. How do we establish these parameters? Let’s explore this question by examining each dialogue in the Design conversation in more detail (Figure 6.2). Great Expectations Aren’t Always Realistic One of the more common complaints I hear from salespeople is that they have a difficult time managing their customers’ expectations. The simple reason that this problem occurs so often is that the conventional sales process mistakes needs for expectations. Needs do not equal expectations. In fact, it’s possible that a customer can have expectations


Design Conversation (Part 1)

he could say: “We might start by going over the outcomes we’d like to see. “We can’t afford them. Then. Let’s look into the future. if a salesperson was selling test equipment to the head of a hospital lab. These outcomes are business outcomes.” says the salesperson.” “Certainly.Cutting Through the Smoke and Mirrors 139 that bear no relation to his needs at all. the . “You helped us determine that false negatives represent 15 percent of our test results and we can’t live with that.” declares the customer. we help them explore and adjust each of those expectations to reflect an achievable outcome. who knows that no equipment on earth can achieve perfect results. That is why salespeople can design a solution that meets the customer’s needs and still find themselves with an unhappy customer. Key Thought Needs do not equal expectations. What should your results look like once you have a new system in place?” “The main issue we’ve got to deal with is those erroneous test results.” says the customer.” “That is above the average for false negatives. not solution-related features and benefits. The solution to this dilemma is to articulate the outcomes that our customers expect (and should expect) and create a portrait of that positive future. that would be ideal and I wish it was possible. “Unfortunately. Ask the Customer We should start this process by asking customers about their expectations. What figure sounds right to you?” “I don’t want any false negatives. For instance.

Introduce Critical Outcomes as Necessary While we should always start by asking customers to define their expectations. and which confers a competitive advantage on those salespeople who can apply it in their proposals. Where in that range do you expect your results to fall?” In this case. OPERATOR’S SAFETY TIP We should not allow any expectation to be set that cannot be connected to an indicator and its consequences. In that case. we also have to recognize that they may not be knowledgeable enough to cover all the outcomes themselves. you help him adjust his sights for greater value. When that occurs. we need to introduce additional outcomes. . and consequences that were identified in the diagnosis. or if it’s unrealistic and not a sound use of capital. the customer’s expectation was exaggerated. causes. when you hear an expectation that is either out-of-scope or unrealistic in the course of talking about outcomes. We can pinpoint those outcomes by looking back to the indicators. but it might just as well be too modest. (In that case. you have an opportunity to expand the customer’s expectations and perhaps the sales opportunity. This is valuable knowledge that salespeople who are designing the solution unilaterally will not have. The best equipment on the market is delivering rates of 2 percent and the average across the board is 7 percent. you can either help re-scope the project to accomplish that expectation. and ensure that each of the major elements of the problem is addressed in design decision parameters.) The point is. you can help the customer lower his sights.140 TAKING IT TO THE STREET state-of-the-art hasn’t progressed that far yet.

Surface and Align Competing Expectations When we talk about outcome expectations. For instance. and that will support the investment required to resolve the consequence. Assumptive questions are worded in such a way that the customer’s awareness and expertise remain unquestioned. but need not participate in the solution decision. “When you spoke with your team regarding on-the-job reinforcement. we are often talking about the expectations of more than one individual. linking back to the oilrig safety training example in Chapter 5. If she has not. if the customer doesn’t mention the need for reinforcement training once new hires are on the job. the sales professional can and should introduce that issue. what were one or two of the behavior elements they felt were the most critical to focus on?” Here the question introduces the reinforcement process with the assumption that the customer has already discussed it and come to some conclusions. This would include anyone . 141 We can introduce the design parameters in our dialogue with the customer and protect the customer’s selfesteem at the same time by using assumptive questions. An expectation without a corresponding consequence and financial impact has the potential of requiring a high price without any means of justification. He might ask.Cutting Through the Smoke and Mirrors This assures that there will be a cost of the problem associated with the consequence. we may well need to expand the cast at this point to include the expectations of other individuals who will have a say in the solution. We may not need to include the expectations of every cast member we worked with in the Diagnose stage of the sale. Alternatively. Some of these people have critical knowledge of the absence of value. she is flattered that you assumed she had and she is comfortable opening the topic for discussion.

prioritizing them based on the greater requirements of the customer. we will discover contradictory expectations. we need to clarify them with the respective members of the cast of characters. we should be asking the training director about his expectations and discussing expectations with the head of human resources. We also need to recognize that outcome expectations vary with perspective. downtime is a critical issue for the customer of a manufacturing controls company. You could ask: “When you spoke with Linda (the human resources director) about her thoughts on the timetable for the implementation. When we are working with multiple individuals within the customer organization. were they about what you expected?” Unfortunately. Finally. We need to assure there is alignment and if we find any disconnects or new and unique expectations. we should be keeping in mind the challenges inherent in the delivery of our solutions. you can use the expectations dialogue as an opportunity to begin sowing the seeds for successful solution implementation and even service recovery. If.142 TAKING IT TO THE STREET who will be responsible for the implementation as well as those who will be impacted by the solution. these conversations do not take place within your customer’s organizations as frequently as they should. . Part of our work here is to align those competing expectations by either reconciling or. The assumptive question would work well for this also. when that is impossible. we should be confirming expectations with more than one source. We’ll discuss this in greater detail in Chapter 7. we can help the customer set attainable expectations long in advance of any breakdown. Further. for example. The assumptive question will again compliment the customer and introduce another important topic for discussion. but for now. if you are truly proactive. For instance.

THE UNASKED QUESTION “Could you bring me up to date with some of the things you have worked on to resolve this situation prior to now?” It’s fascinating how few salespeople ask their customers this critical design question. there are all of the competing solutions in the marketplace. perhaps even made previous attempts to solve the problem? I don’t believe we intentionally ignore the past. there are a variety of solution alternatives available to the customer. in many cases. We immediately say we can fix that. or they don’t . it’s highly likely that your company can deliver that solution in a variety of ways. Who’s to say that the customer hasn’t already spent considerable time on the issue. even when you are in the enviable position of selling a product or service that no one else can provide. We jump in proposing solutions to problems that the customer has been struggling with and perhaps for quite some time. the next logical question is “What’s the best way to get there?” Typically. Here’s another great example of self-sabotage. Once you’ve helped your customer create a portrait of the positive future.Cutting Through the Smoke and Mirrors 143 Key Thought You have competitors. the customer can do all or part of the solution internally. Third. your customers have alternatives. Second. There are always options to be considered. First. but not asking about it implies that whatever our customers have done previously has no value to us.

For example.144 TAKING IT TO THE STREET know what they’re doing and it’s a good thing that that we are now here to save the day. engage an outside resource. they have thought through and eliminated the option of doing the project internally. Aside from the dangling insult. One useful frame is based on the source of the solution. In fact. you don’t have to wait until the alternatives dialogue to ask this question. It can help you eliminate competitive alternatives and alert you to potential obstacles early and efficiently. a software developer could say to a customer who has a programming staff that she could use to build an in-house solution. “Because we are talking about the possibilities of my company providing a solution for you. I’m wondering if you could . The assumption could be that since they are speaking with you. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the solution won’t work this time. externally. The primary difficulty with the alternatives dialogue is imposing some structure on the often bewildering number of options that exist. “As I look at the set of alternatives available for completing this project. or decide to split the project looking for a best-of-both-worlds approach. you better know why and what happened ahead of time. there is the very real risk that you are getting ready to recommend a course of action that the customer has already tried and failed with in the past. you could develop the solution inhouse. Ask it as soon in the sales engagement as is feasible. Thus. unsaid but implied. You could ask. or in some combination of both sources. Could you bring me up to speed on some of the internal discussions you and the team have had regarding these alternatives?” You could also use another assumptive question here. often a customer can source a solution internally. A good way to think through and organize options for customers is in terms of frames. but if they tried it before and it didn’t work.

and there is a lot of conversation about how serious this is and how we have to make the new behaviors stick. you might say to the customer: “There are various ways in which you could approach achieving your outcomes.” An alternative frame that encompasses competing solutions is always a sensitive issue. for instance. salespeople are taught to “manage” competing alternatives by pretending that they don’t exist. you can be sure someone else will—most probably. So. Too often. What direction would you say your internal conversations or previous experiences would tend to take you?” “Well. it may well be unavoidable. better.Cutting Through the Smoke and Mirrors 145 help me understand a few of the reasons you’ve decided not to take on this project internally. So I think the overall support around here would be toward the third option. You could look at conducting a single learning event to introduce the new behaviors to employees. If you don’t bring a viable competing alternative to the customer’s attention. So if you were selling a safety solution. and large” frame. medium.” says the customer. I think we need to include the managers and make sure they are equipped to see this through. Another option would be to add a training and coaching element that would engage your line managers in the responsibility of embedding the desired behaviors in their teams. a member of the competitor’s sales organization. but in reality.” Other common frames are the “good. “historically we haven’t gotten enough traction on new behaviors when we’ve tried the quick hit approach. . This is the setup for the hot air balloon scenario. and best” frame and the “small. A second approach would be to add a series of reinforcement sessions that would each focus on single behaviors and cover all of the desired behaviors over the next six months.



In discussing all of the primary alternatives with customers, we are teaching customers the questions they need to ask the vendors of alternative solutions that will enable them to sort through the competitive smoke and mirrors. Now, when a competitor starts pitching that whickersnacker, the customer won’t be so easily seduced. Keep in mind you are suggesting that these questions should be asked of all potential vendors, including you. Further, the customer’s state of mind at this point in the engagement lessens any risk inherent in the discussion of competing solutions. As I mentioned earlier, at this point in the sales process, customers have made the decision to change/buy implicitly, and because you helped them reach that decision, they are predisposed to buy from you.

“If I can’t avoid mentioning the competition altogether, I’m certainly not going to say anything nice about them.”
I’m always surprised when I hear salespeople taking potshots at their competitors. They may be our competitors, but they are viable alternatives for our customers. Typically, our competitors are more similar to us than we are comfortable admitting. They do the same work that we do, sell and serve the same customers, and at the end of the day, when they are not in the hotel room across the hall in whatever city we’re working, they return to the same kinds of homes and families that we have. So, you have to consider that any remarks made about a person like yourself with a solution very similar to yours could be describing you just as well.

Cutting Through the Smoke and Mirrors From the customer’s perspective, there is even less value in speaking poorly of the competition. First, it confirms negative sales stereotypes. Second, you aren’t talking about the customer’s competition; you are talking about one of their alternatives, perhaps an entirely viable alternative that they are already considering. If you unfairly misrepresent that option, you risk losing the customer’s trust and reducing your credibility. Always speak respectfully and fairly of the providers of competing solutions. We gain more advantage teaching customers the questions that expose competitors’ weaknesses than we ever could by pointing them out directly. By the way, if you speak well of the competition, customers will tend to be more open with their thoughts about the competition.


As with expectations, when you discuss alternatives with the cast of characters, you will uncover differing solution preferences. The difference is that addressing these preferences in the Design stage, before the they are committed to ink in a proposal, allows you to discuss them in an informal setting and before they can disrupt or misdirect the final decision. For instance, if you know one cast member is dead set against Alternative B and that Alternative B is the optimal solution, you can discuss it one-on-one and use the conversation to shape his outlook and thoughts. For example, if a prospect says: “There’s no way we can use the B approach,” all too many salespeople will take the traditional sales approach and react with the old “feel, felt, found” technique: “I know how you feel, many people have felt that way, but let me share with you what they found when they looked further into the approach.” Talk about a multifaceted dangling insult and serious attack on the customer’s self-esteem! Listen to the undertones:



• I know how you feel . . . in other words, I expected you would say something stupid like that. When you’re upset and someone says to you: “I know how you feel,” what’s the first thought that goes through your mind? That’s right—“No, you don’t!” So that’s a real good start at miscommunicating. • . . . many people have felt that way . . . implies you are not alone in this group of uninformed people. You are actually saying there are a lot of people who see it the way this person does, but nonetheless you are suggesting they are still wrong. • . . . but let me share with you what they found when they looked further into the approach . . . implies I’m about to tell you why you are wrong and what you should believe. This is really suggesting that other people who are smarter, more informed, and so on, see this different from you, and if you were like them you would see it differently, too. Instead of the feel, felt, found, let’s compliment the approach he’s favoring by saying something like this: SALES PROFESSIONAL: There are a number of concerns regarding the B approach and I know a lot of people have been successful coming at this from the A approach as you’re suggesting. One of the things I’m wondering is when your group did the simulations on the emissions, were they comfortable that the levels would be within a range that prevents regulatory penalties? (You’re asking this because you have an exclusive modeling program that can help the customer predict the emission outcomes from either approach.) This is part of your

Cutting Through the Smoke and Mirrors


quality design process that you are ready to introduce and the customer responds with: CUSTOMER: I appreciate that you think we’re that sophisticated around here. I wasn’t aware that there were simulations available for this type of thing. SALES PROFESSIONAL: Well, yes. We have a couple of engineers who specialize in this and if it would be helpful I could arrange to have them help you get a reading on this. Here we have complimented the approach he is considering (it does have its pluses) and we’ve raised a concern regarding the A approach by complimenting his thoroughness. He is now introduced to an element that he wasn’t aware existed, your ability to simulate the emissions. Let’s now go further into the alternatives dialogue and sift through the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative. In addition to the positive future, there is always a negative future. W hen we explore the disadvantages as well as the implementation challenges of alternatives, we are discussing the negative future. We want to partner with our customers in this task instead of letting them discover and draw conclusions on their own. Let’s drop in on an ongoing conversation about alternatives for a CRM system that illustrates this:
“Since you’ve ruled out an in-house solution,” says the salesperson, “why don’t we look at the two remaining alternatives in a little more detail? Since you’re leaning toward a proprietary system, let’s start there.” “Okay,” says the customer, “I like that route because we could fully integrate it with our current systems.”



“That’s true, a proprietary system belongs to you and it would be fully integrated. You also mentioned earlier that one of your outcome expectations was to keep this thing f lexible so that when your requirements change, you would be able to reengineer it easily if it didn’t deliver the new results you’ve targeted. How does this alternative measure up there?” “Hmmm, that’s a good question,” says the customer. “We have our doubts about the ultimate payoff and we certainly don’t need any more legacy headaches right now. Our sunk costs will be high, too. In terms of commitment, maybe it’s not the best alternative.”

Avoid questions that include implicit challenges. When you ask customers, “What will you do when X occurs?” you are implying that they haven’t fully considered the alternative. It’s confrontational. Instead, assume that the customer has already thought it through by asking an assumptive question, “When your group discussed the possibility of X occurring, were you comfortable that this alternative gives you enough flexibility to respond?”

These are abbreviated dialogues, of course, but the point is to pose questions that our customers may not be thinking of so that they come to understand how their requirements and beliefs relate to the advantages and disadvantages of the primary solution approaches, and the risks that each entails. We also help them to understand that there are no free moves. Every alternative has its benefits, its shortcomings, and its costs. Even doing nothing at all has a so-called opportunity cost associated with it. W hen you head in one direction, you are more than

however. This is the ultimate outcome of the alternatives dialogue. and “no decisions. successful implementation.” Resources and Timing Once the customer has an optimal approach in mind. They ignore the fact that customers don’t exist in a bubble . salespeople tend to avoid or underestimate one or both of these issues because they are afraid that by acknowledging the often difficult realities of implementing and achieving the full value of their solutions. they might discourage the customer and lose the sale. Yet. competitive challenges. Once again. I understand that building this level of comprehension involves more work on the front end of the design process. and the establishment of a positive. and when are the expected results desired? These dialogues are focused on resources and timing. we work with the customer to narrow down and eliminate alternatives until. As this dialogue continues.Cutting Through the Smoke and Mirrors 151 likely giving up something that comes with the alternative direction. there are no free moves. we identify the best fit for the customer’s situation. the Design conversation addresses the next two questions: What will the customer need to do to get this solution in place. The payoff. Key Thought There are no free moves. finally. long-term relationship with customers. Both resources and timing are critical issues with regard to winning the sale. is that it will save you lots of grief on the back end of the sale in terms of objections.

So. I’ll detail those aspects of the Design conversation in Chapter 8. For now. In keeping with the intent of the Design phase. In the CRM example we have been building. Resources The resource dialogue is focused on the people. a competitor will happily bring it to the customer’s attention. salespeople miss an important opportunity to inform customers. One way or another. process. Further. they probably already have some sense of the difficulties. we are not simply discussing the price of our products and services. They also miss the likelihood that if their solution has some inherent difficulty in any of these areas. What equipment will the staff need to use the software? Who will have access to what information? Of course there is always the critical issue of investment. and build their own credibility. they increase the risk that unpleasant surprises will pop up in the post-sale process and harm their relationship with the customer. our customers are going to travel through the negative future. we are talking about the total investment re- . It is better to escort them than it is for them to undertake the journey alone or with our competitors. it’s enough to understand that when we discuss investment in the Design conversation. How much of the customer’s staff need to become proficient with the new software? Who should receive this training? Process issues include technology and access. defuse potential problems.152 TAKING IT TO THE STREET and if they have done any research or reading at all. and financial elements that the customer will have to invest to realize the full value of the solution. in avoiding conversations about resources and timing. people issues would include training. Because of the special sensitivities that all financial conversations share.

Internal costs would include items like site modifications. You basically have two choices: 1.Cutting Through the Smoke and Mirrors 153 quired of the customer. Let them do it themselves and get the information from wherever they can (which could include your competition). you wouldn’t be this far along in the process if the Diagnosis and Design wasn’t pointing to your solution all along. Continue to be the trusted advisor and guide them through this critical part of a quality decision process. External costs could include additional equipment to handle the new output of your machine or perhaps. they will have to purchase a new server to handle the new capacity. or integrating the solution into their existing systems and procedures. This also could result in inaccurate information that could scare them off. CYNIC’S SIDEBAR “Why should I care how much customers need to spend internally to make this work? I’ve got enough to worry about just getting them to buy my solution!” The fact of the matter is that customers need to know their full investment to make this solution work. They need to look good for deciding to buy it. which will lengthen the sales cycle. if you are providing services to construct a new web site for your customer. training new staff. They will try to figure this out as a matter of due diligence. including all internal and external costs associated with achieving the value of the solution in addition to the purchase price. Keep in mind. 2. .

we can suggest a decision date and from there. The second establishes the level of investment such a return would justify. “If we decide to go ahead with this. The first establishes the level of financial return the customer should expect from the solution. For example: . complete the resources dialogue. Perhaps he even points out the backlog in a ploy designed to create an urgency to close. Instead. discussions of timing are far too restricted. a projected schedule that ensures that the sales proposal will meet the customer’s timing expectations. OPERATOR’S SAFETY TIP When it comes to questions. not from the customer’s perspective.” By focusing on the desired timing of outcomes. when can we get started?” The stereotypical salesperson responds by offering the next available installation date. One way to target the start date is to look at when you need to start seeing the outcomes we’ve discussed and work back from there. “We would be available to start within two weeks of your approval. Typically. The problem is that start dates don’t provide customers with any solid information about when they can expect to achieve the value they are buying. and they should be fairly exact figures. along with people and process considerations. Timing The next solution parameter is timing. You might say. These figures.154 TAKING IT TO THE STREET There are two related financial dialogues we need to undertake at this point in the Design conversation. The customer says something like. the salesperson should be helping the customer establish when to expect the desired outcomes. many salespeople ask questions from the salesperson’s perspective.

Cutting Through the Smoke and Mirrors “When do you see yourselves making a decision on this?” In other words—“When are you prepared to give me an order?” The same question from the customer’s perspective would be: “When do you want to have the solution up and running?” Front-end the answer with your lead time and implementation time and you have the answer to when they need to make a decision. These criteria will guide customers in what to test. Like the indicators. it’s highly likely that selection criteria have emerged . we are creating the means by which they can select between vendors. consistent measures for evaluating the solutions that they will be offered. that would suggest a start date of xxxx. causes. Credible Proposal The quest for solution parameters yields specific selection criteria. Do you see that as a reasonable date?” 155 Selection Criteria and the Discussion Document—A Solid Foundation for a Compelling. they provide the confidence to invest (Figure 6. and measure the results achieved after the solution is up and running. and when all of the criteria are met. You can then ask the question: “Given the normal lead time and the implementation time. and consequences of problems. Solution parameters give us the overall picture of an ideal solution.3). They provide anchors for the customer’s decision team. W hen we help our customers translate them into specific criteria. measure. and compare when evaluating competing proposals. It will give them the questions they need to ask the competition. that the competition ideally will be hard-pressed to answer.

That is the purpose of the discussion document. the document serves as a tool for aligning the customer’s decision team. didn’t the cast members themselves provide these criteria? Yes. It is the end product of our Design conversation and a tool for confirmation. A discussion document is the equivalent of an architect’s design sketch that incorporates the solution parameters and the selection criteria. before we build a formal sales proposal. but how often have you presented a solution based on criteria provided by one department within the customer’s company only to have it shot down by the members of another department? It’s a frustrating and common occurrence. After all. this might seem like more work than it’s worth. By proactively identifying sources and areas of misalignment among the cast members. you can . asking them to review and approve it. So.156 TAKING IT TO THE STREET FIGURE 6. we should review the criteria with each individual and ensure that the entire cast of characters agrees that the criteria accurately reflect their desires. In this sense.3 Design Conversation (Part 2) from various sources across the customer’s organization. The discussion document is the best way to surface hidden conflicts in the selection criteria. On the surface. We discuss it with the cast members.

. . Your competitors will be walking in with proposals prepared in a vacuum. They are like magicians pulling a rabbit out of a hat. As you read Chapter 7. . you will discover another important reason for establishing selection criteria and preparing discussion documents. will be delivering a proposal that is aligned and connected to the customer’s decision criteria and their expectations.” Which proposal would you accept? .Cutting Through the Smoke and Mirrors 157 either fine-tune the selection criteria or work to shape the thinking of out-of-alignment cast members. “Yes. . “I wonder where that came from?” You. you will be preparing and presenting your proposal. Yes. . They will be nodding along as the proposal progresses from point to point. Yes. The customer’s decision team recognizes the role that they and their colleagues played in authoring the discussion document. Ta-da! The customer will be thinking. . on the other hand. thinking. Soon.


7 It Doesn’t Pay to Surprise a Corporation C losing has long been looked at as the be all and end all. if the customer is hesitating or refusing to buy. The reason why closing a sale receives such special emphasis and becomes a focus of training is because conventional selling quickly moves to the presentation/proposal stage and. In the high-stakes sales environment. collaborative process. If we are managing the sales process properly. The problem is not in the close itself. in doing so. just the next step in a well executed. the final element in the conventional sales process. it’s more likely that the sales engagement has been mismanaged. positions the proposal as a document 159 . closing should never be a substantive issue. however. There are entire books and seminars devoted to manipulating customers into pulling the trigger.

we should be . but it’s not serious enough to do anything about). but they do not have confidence in the proposed solution. 2. This misguided focus on presentation insists that salespeople first propose solutions for the customer’s consideration and then deal with the ensuing questions and objections. They don’t believe the solution proposed will work. their relationship with the customer. They might be complimentary about the merits of the solution. There are fundamentally only two reasons why customers do not buy: 1. At worst. In this case. In our terms. Instead of leaving our customers’ reserve and resistance unaddressed until the end of the sales process. In our terms. They are jeopardizing their credibility. unconsidered information. and certainly they are putting the sale at risk. they don’t have the foundation they need to make a sound decision. salespeople call on their “closing skills” to push customers into making a decision. customers actively resist when they are surprised by new. these reactions are inherently confrontational and counterproductive. they don’t know why they should buy it. they are cautious and noncommittal. No matter how delicately they respond to their customers. they have a problem and they want to take action. but again. As we’ve already seen. Now. How do businesspeople naturally react in such circumstances? At best. So. they don’t have the incentive to change. when customers have not had the opportunity to thoroughly understand their situations and participate in the design of a solution. they don’t have the confidence to invest. salespeople struggle to overcome the objections.160 TAKING IT TO THE STREET for consideration. They don’t believe they have a problem (or they do have a problem. They raise objections.

Key Thought No surprises. as well as their causes and consequences. and trust. we have developed rapport. Everything the customer needs to know to make a high-quality decision is in place. That’s one of the primary goals of the journey we’ve been taking.) if customers are prepared for them ahead of time. credibility. or altered by a viable solution. Everything we need in order to successfully complete the sale is in place. eliminated. Ideally. We’ve identified and explored the actual indicators of the absence of value. We’ve guided the customer through a Design conversation that addressed how these indicators can be impacted. implementation hiccups. Let’s reflect on where we should be at this point in the sales engagement. unrealized value promises. It is always easier to deal with and defuse negative issues (unanticipated costs.” Business customers do not look kindly on surprises. etc. CYNIC’S SIDEBAR “There’s no point in bringing up tough issues unless and until they can’t be avoided. .It Doesn’t Pay to Surprise a Corporation 161 using a process that manages these issues in real time. The last thing we would want to do now is surprise the customer with previously unconsidered issues. we have established relevancy and gained privileged access to key individuals in the cast of characters. We’ve worked with the customer to determine the financial impact of those consequences. Our process should be front-loaded in terms of customer consideration. In the process.

but corporations and their stakeholders depend on predictability. and you move on to the next opportunity. If the sales process is focused solely on making the sale instead of the customer’s value achievement. of course. This lack of coordination and coherence is. too.000. but positive surprises are problematic. the markets are shrinking. you either win the sale or you don’t. Ford will give the lucky survivors . So. In this scenario. No one will fire a vendor for delivering more value than promised. piecemeal fashion. 2005. meet those forecasts. maybe you look to up-sell the customer or get a referral or two for future sales. For instance. By the way. there is no foundation for an extended relationship. business-to-business markets are specialized and often very limited. if you’re over-delivering unexpectedly. however. for many salespeople.500 vendors to 1. This represents the abandonment of your most valuable source of new business. completely counterproductive to the reality of today’s high-stakes sales environment. You might be able to sell ’em and move on if your prospect pool is infinitely large. In reality. the Wall Street Journal ran a front-page story reporting Ford Motor Company’s decision to shrink its supply base from 2. If you win.162 TAKING IT TO THE STREET It might not be obvious. Closing Is Not the End of the Sales Process Another fundamental flaw in conventional selling is that the postsale process tends to be treated as anticlimatic and is often addressed in a haphazard. it’s always better to be able to forecast improved results and then. Worse. on September 29. are you getting paid for it? You have to be able to factor in the full value of your offering to get the best price.

Thus. as well as the customer’s organization.000 vendors. This duality is inherent in effective Deliver conversations. but it is not going to be a viable option much longer. and New Opportunities The Deliver conversations are a direct reflection of the need for an extended sales process that supports both customer demands for value assurance and our need for closer ties to customers. Graceful Recoveries. Instead. such as winning the sale and ensuring that the value the customer is expecting is actually delivered. measuring and reporting value achievement to the customer. The ability to do this implies taking some accountability for solution implementation. expanding the . and longterm goals. existing customers. Keep in mind that Ford has been working on this consolidation process since the late 1980s. who are already a valuable source of sales. such as creating new value delivery opportunities and positioning yourself and your capabilities to enlarge the customer relationship. we need to adopt a broader perspective and a sales process that can support multiple goals: short-term goals. become even more important. Sales professionals need to “own” the relationship with the customer and orchestrate the cast of characters in their sales organization. as markets shrink and/or become more competitive.It Doesn’t Pay to Surprise a Corporation 163 of the purge long-term contracts and a larger share of the $90 billion it spends on global purchases annually. Everyone else will be on the outside with far fewer opportunities to earn Ford’s business. The Deliver Conversations— Fingerprints. The “sell ’em and move on” mindset may work for some. Mutual Feedback. when it had over 13.

and developing solid references and viable referrals to create new customer relationships. The purpose of a proposal is to document the series of decisions that have already been made. Here are some guidelines for creating and delivering your proposal: 1.164 TAKING IT TO THE STREET existing relationship. That pencil sketch isn’t going to change much. No surprises. Proposals and Presentations. Of course. before we can own a relationship. what should it be? This may sound anticlimactic. It should confirm everything we’ve done with the customer to this point. Instead. it’s in the fact that our customers have actively . The proposal is the official version of the discussion document that we prepared at the end of the Design phase. It connects all of the elements of value in a single. The proposal should reprise all of the elements of the incentive to change and the confidence to invest that we’ve already established with the customer. In effect. but it should be a document of confirmation. Finally If a proposal shouldn’t be a document of consideration. formal document. The power of this proposal isn’t in its multimedia graphics or its flowery prose. it is being rewritten in ink. we have to finish establishing it. to support the rationalization of a decision that has already been made. Key Thought The purpose of a proposal is to reinforce decisions that have already been made.

and return on investment. we have a series of problem indicators with their attendant costs that lead to design criteria that lead to a specific solution that meets and fulfills those criteria. customers will be thinking. customers will choose the solution . we have focused on parameters and criteria. We want to make sure that the customer’s fingerprints are all over the proposal. When they hear or read this proposal. cost. “This is what we were hoping for. Confronted by basically identical solutions. it’s time to identify and describe the specific solution we are offering to fulfill those requirements. low differentiation markets.” 2. implementation schedule. it will contain incremental information. The more your proposal reads like a document that might have been produced within the customer’s organization. the higher the comfort level. Again.It Doesn’t Pay to Surprise a Corporation 165 collaborated in its preparation and already agree with its conclusions. Now. This solution addresses our situation and matches our criteria exactly. We are adding a link in the chain of logic that started with the value assumption. Everything is us and we—that is. Don’t make customers translate your terms into their language. (Up until now. This new and final link is the solution we are offering the customer—its characteristics. This is not a small point. nothing in this material should be a surprise to customers. How do you accomplish this? Use the customer’s exact terminology and ideas as often as possible. Now. Fingerprints is a word I often use when talking about this stage of the engagement. Eliminate the verbal distinctions that separate you from the customer.) Each facet of your solution should be fully aligned with the material developed during the Diagnose and Design conversations. While there should not be any surprises in the proposal. you and the customer working together. especially in highly competitive. Use the customer’s fingerprints.

and you are describing the desired results in terms the customer is familiar with. The best word to describe it is synergy. That’s much more sophisticated than mere mimicry. Seek out one who fully supports your solution and ask. Solicit prepresentation feedback. 3. and attitude. the customers comprehend them to a degree that enables them to articulate them. I am not suggesting that we.166 TAKING IT TO THE STREET that sounds most relevant and familiar. There had been no mention of the client’s foundational concepts in our competitors’ proposals. we wrote our proposal and materials to reflect their view. Rather. It’s negligence if you don’t. The client’s team was delighted to see their ideas brought to life and later commented that it was a significant consideration in awarding us the contract. For instance. Inevitably. actions. it means that you and your customers work together to understand the problem and the design criteria. It is true collaboration. After all. you listen. the best way to accomplish this task is to enlist the help of a member of the existing cast of characters. can simply parrot customers’ words and win sales. you should solicit feedback on your proposal from a member of the senior decision team before the formal presentation. my firm’s programs are based on a foundation of “systems. there will be times when the final decision or approval is going to be made outside the cast of characters you have met with. or you. In these cases. Typically. You are combining the best of your company’s experience and knowledge with the best of your customer’s.” for . one of the main goals of an effective decision process is to surface and eliminate sticking points before they can knock the sale off track. and then weave their words and thinking into the proposal. “Who on the final committee are you most comfortable with personally?” If the person says “Mary Williams.” but we recently worked with a client who used a foundation of “roles. and discipline. So.” These are analogous concepts. skills.

Often. The sales team delivers a canned performance while searching for the smallest hint of approval from its audience. She doesn’t want to get hit with questions she can’t answer from the executive group making the final decision. and what does exist tends to be stilted and formal. With the open and trusting relationships we have established. the appropriate time for a presentation has finally arrived). The typical sales presentation is often a sterile event. . you reply. so why shouldn’t we invite them to continue to take an active role in the process? By asking members of the customer’s team to participate in the presentation. This would be an unfortunate way to end a sales engagement. we reinforce ownership in and passion for the solution. 4. there is no reason to drop back to conventional selling. “One of the things that my clients have found helpful at this stage of the process is to have someone like Mary take a look at our discussion document and provide some feedback as to any adjustments we should make before you bring it before the whole committee. Our customers have worked with us to establish the material being reviewed. there is very little interaction between the customer and the sales team. The participative presentation. The customer’s team sits back. We also continue to eliminate any barriers between our customers and ourselves. When we present proposals (yes. we need to apply the concept of the customer’s fingerprints once more. poker-faced and noncommittal.It Doesn’t Pay to Surprise a Corporation 167 example.” Why would the cast member want to help? Because she also has a stake in the outcome of this project and will want her superiors to see her as an effective and efficient manager who is on top of the buying decision process. silently acting as judge and jury. The solution belongs to everyone present rather than being something that you are trying to “sell” to the customer. as if real communication is somehow prohibited under the rules of engagement.

Remember. in internal meetings. and highlights the work and time they have invested in creating the solution. In some cases. Later. you work with him on the outline and content of “his area” of the proposal. during the presentation. “Ron was instrumental in working out an optimal implementation schedule. There is another very important reason for enlisting members of the customer’s team in the presentation. I think it would be great if you would walk us through an explanation of the whys and the wherefores of that. saying. the “no surprises” rule. You should always discuss their participation ahead of time and even coach them on the delivery process. These are areas to which the customer’s team members can speak with an insider’s authority and credibility. a customer team will hear your presentation and then. to establish an implementation schedule for your CRM solution. The greater the team’s ownership in and comprehension of . you may not be able to present your proposal to senior management. if you have worked with Ron. an IT manager. Members of the customer’s team are usually more than willing to cooperate—it gives them a chance to demonstrate their expertise to their superiors. Instead. Would you be comfortable doing that?” If Ron agrees. you would also introduce Ron. you might contact him before the final presentation and say. For instance. He was kind enough to agree to brief you on the proposed schedule.168 TAKING IT TO THE STREET Customer participation is particularly effective in the problem diagnosis and design criteria sections of the presentation. “Ron. given your contributions around the design of the implementation plan during our meetings.” and then hand it off to him. summarize the competing proposals to an executive committee or senior management before making their recommendations. as you introduce the topic of implementation.

We need to identify the links between the solution we are discussing today and future sales. that module could help David’s staff revalue and renegotiate the terms of your supplier contracts. we can also mention opportunities for future added value. the better the odds are that your proposal will stand out in these sessions. we have to be careful not to lose the larger sale. you can and should be setting anchors in the presentation to create a secure position for the future launching of the larger solution. As we talk about the value the solution delivers. don’t confuse selling with installing. and. Whenever the sale you are making today is only one piece of the broader solution you hope to provide. there is less change involved. Anchor the larger solution in the presentation. Often. At the same time. 5. “This inventory program fulfills your primary design expectation by allowing David’s staff to order materials in justin-time quantities. implementation is less complex. For instance. The initial cost is lower. It is also designed as a foundational piece that supports the purchasing module that will enable you to project and quantify the investment of these transactions on a biannual basis. . these links appear in the “outcomes” section of the presentation.It Doesn’t Pay to Surprise a Corporation 169 your proposal. Perhaps you are selling an initial survey that would set the stage for a full-blown consulting contract or an inventory software module that links to a whole enterprise solution. It’s always easier to sell one piece of a solution than a full package.” Key Thought When you are presenting a piece of a larger solution. Once we’ve recorded some inventory history in the database.

I’m a salesperson. When Things Go Wrong Unlike earlier eras of business-to-business selling. When Customer Relationship Management magazine asked its readers.170 TAKING IT TO THE STREET In other words. First. CYNIC’S SIDEBAR “Solving the customer’s problems after the sale isn’t my job. be clear that there are larger issues that your customer is facing and will likely want to move to resolve. This means that even though the customer may have been handed off to your implementation and support teams.” This is a statement that shouts ignorance in today’s marketplace. not a customer service rep. today’s high-stakes sales environment requires that salespeople remain accountable to the customer after the sale is concluded and during the solution implementation. 45 percent of respondents reported that there was “no separate support role” defined in their companies. “How do your salesforce and support staff interact?” in a July 2005 online reader poll. and that this solution represents one step in that effort. Second. At the same time we are selling and installing the short-term value. the best sales professionals embrace an extended sense of accountability for the value their customers achieve from the solutions they have been sold. in almost half of all cases. even if your company does pro- . salespeople are responsible for providing support to their customers. we need to be positioning and anchoring our long-term capabilities.

By the way. In other words. and have the ultimate responsibility for the customer’s success and well-being. It is a fact of life.” we should begin preparing our customers for problems before they occur. what makes you think that they will ever give you another sale. If we accept this fact and live by the dictum “no surprises. common implementation and use problems and ensure that the customer is aware not only that they may occur. be a reference. if customers can’t get your help after a deal is signed. no matter what problem resolution procedure you suggest to a customer. the sales professional. the condition of the customer relationship remains a critical priority for you. I know it’s tempting to sidestep potential problems. or provide a referral? 171 You need to understand and acknowledge that things will go wrong when customers implement and use complex solutions. you can surface and discuss their experiences during the Diagnose and Design conversations. make sure they know it and know what it looks like when it happens. (Remember the negative future.) If the prospect has had previous implementation problems with solutions like yours. no matter who they are supposed to call for help. Further. or introduce. if they don’t get the . If things are going to get rough.It Doesn’t Pay to Surprise a Corporation vide support as a separate function. we should be discussing the major risks and common challenges that our customers encounter and the systems we have in place to resolve those situations before the sale is complete. You own the account and the relationship. but how to react and who to call if and when they do. The Design conversations are also a natural spot to reintroduce. but you will save yourself an awful lot of grief by being straightforward with the customer.

So. as is typical. I don’t want you to have to go through multiple calls to get help. anticipated or not. He or she also sees you as someone who was prepared to resolve a problem before it even occurred.” One valuable dividend of the proactive discussion of potential problems is that it can often become an expectation that sets you apart from the competition. If you can discuss the implementation issues common to the solutions in your industry. I am your next phone call. the customer experiences a little less surprise. it’s abstract and everyone is . So. a little less panic. or. if your competitors are less forthcoming. Another dividend accrues during the implementation. “If there is ever any issue or concern that is not resolved to your satisfaction with one phone call.172 TAKING IT TO THE STREET help they expect.” In this way. it’s happening. It could go like this: “You know how we discussed the possibility that our employees would resist using the new program. you continue to enhance the credibility and transparency built during the previous stages. are highly stressful to customers. let’s schedule that informational e-mail program you suggested. So. the customer will begin to question their credibility. the next call they make should always be to you. When we discuss a potential problem during the Design conversation. the customer is prepared—not happy. If you prepare your customer to ask similar questions of competitors. further enhancing your professional reputation and relationship. it only makes sense to tell your customers up front. and a little less recrimination. if they downplay the likelihood of such problems. but at least prepared. If we do this preparatory work well and an anticipated problem does occur. The second insight of service recovery is the realization that problems. You are going to get these calls anyway. the call for help will often be a little less emotional. Well.

” We don’t need to take the blame. we don’t need to flinch. these kinds of responses will only add fuel to the fire. Now. Nobody has to be the parent or the child. emotionally detached. Next. more than ever. the customer’s production schedule is blown. “I’m sure it’s not that bad. That is very disappointing. and collected. and his major customer is threatening to cancel his major contract. the starting point of problem resolution and recovery is the “professionally involved. Our job is to orchestrate the resources needed to resolve the situation. We must begin by stepping up and acknowledging the customer’s frustration.” or “Sounds like we’ve got an operator error here.It Doesn’t Pay to Surprise a Corporation 173 cool. and we are going to fix them. Key Thought Professionally involved.” or “I tried to sell you the quality control module. We need to maintain our own perspective. We can’t be rushing for cover or shifting blame. This certainly isn’t the time to say. but you wouldn’t listen. they are anticipated. When your high-priced machinery is spitting out malformed parts. We can do that in just a few sentences: “We certainly don’t want to hear that. We need to know what is happening before we can act to . you’ve suddenly got a highly emotionally charged situation on your hands. We need to do whatever we can to get this resolved. Problems happen. emotionally detached” mind-set. calm. we shift immediately into a Diagnosis mode. This is the time to exhibit the same emotional stamina and diagnostic skill that you used to win the sale.” Whether they are accurate or not.

All the same rules of diagnosis apply. but a graceful recovery is often more memorable than a flawless performance. It might seem counterintuitive. You could say. . “I want to get an understanding of what is going on and figure out whatever we need to do to marshal the resources to address the problem.174 TAKING IT TO THE STREET resolve the problem. Then we need to respond—tell the customer the plan of action and execute that plan. angry customers into loyal. Could you describe .1 The Diagnostic Mind-Set on Problems . you can transform disappointed.” and head right into it. . clarify loaded words. If you learn to do it well. and that is certainly true of problem resolution.1). and dig down to causes and consequences. We must protect the customer’s self-esteem. FIGURE 7. lifetime clients (Figure 7.

including: • Ensuring customer awareness of the “value delivered. • Protecting the customer relationship from competitive threats. at best. If customers can measure and appreciate the value delivered. Happily. • Expanding the customer relationship. This represents the loss of a major opportunity. it doesn’t exist. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise then that customers usually try to avoid feedback conversations or. for all intents and purposes. • Gaining new customers. it is a relatively easy conversation because we’ve already established preset value criteria in the Diagnose and Design conversations. Customers who recognize value delivered are amenable to referrals and recommendations. they are more likely to ignore the advances of your competitors. There are several important reasons for discussing “how we’re doing” with our customers. We know the specific symptoms that our solution . pay them as little respect as salespeople. All of this depends on your ability to conduct a relevant and credible feedback conversation. Thus. Feedback conversations are intended to measure and confirm value delivery.” If no one recognizes value. In a time when customers are aggressively shrinking their supply bases. the conversation tends to be vague and to be blunt. valued vendors are in a great position to increase business. a worthless exercise for the customer.It Doesn’t Pay to Surprise a Corporation 175 Confirming and Communicating Value Delivery The typical feedback conversation is full of “Blah blah Fluffy” and many traditional salespeople use feedback as a thinly veiled excuse for up-selling.

Many of us aren’t naturally complimentary of others. “How are things going . now is the time to gently introduce and address those. The second question we should ask our customers is. We don’t need to ask the customer a nebulous question. “Is there anything we could have done differently?” This is a relatively painless and blameless way to start discussing negatives. you can move back into Diagnose and begin the process of addressing the problems. You don’t want to limit yourself by asking the customer to answer questions such as. we want to communicate what’s gone well and what hasn’t. we can say.176 TAKING IT TO THE STREET was supposed to alleviate and we know the specific outcomes it was supposed to produce. If you see shortfalls or potential improvements that the customer doesn’t recognize. we can add any “went well” details that the customer may have missed. “How are things going?” or “How would you rate your satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 5?” Instead. and it can be subjective. As shortfalls in value delivery begin to appear. At the same time we protect the customer’s self-esteem. “Our target was to lower the employee injury rate by 70 percent compared to last year. Once we have fully discussed the customer’s responses. no matter where the responsibility lies. The feedback conversation is concrete and empirical in nature. such as. A good way to start is to focus on the positive. so we should be able to ascertain the progress that has been made and be very concrete about the value delivered. If you are discussing an implementation. so we should remind ourselves that this is a good time to recognize the customer’s efforts and achievements. “What do you think went especially well?” But we should always bring the conversation back to specifics. How did we do this past quarter?” Effective feedback is a two-way street. mutually constructive. such as. you might ask the customer a subjective question.

The ultimate goal. Instead. And I thought now that things were settled down it would be good to set up some time within the next couple of weeks to show you how that works. we should continue to focus on symptoms and return to the Diagnose stage. “Oh. and concrete suggestions for improving results. Salespeople typically say something like. One good way to ensure this is to specify value measurement and reporting timetables in the proposal. We could say something like. I think it’s going pretty good. Like the sales process itself. “You know. is to report value in real time as it occurs. you don’t approach it in the usual manner.It Doesn’t Pay to Surprise a Corporation 177 with the new equipment?” and accepting responses such as. we are discussing targets.” Instantly they are back to the same old sales pitch. the progress toward achieving them. one that the most advanced companies are already hitting. W hat kind of message do you think that sends to customers? We want to make sure that value continues to be delivered and that our customers continue to be aware that it is being delivered. now that this is up and running smoothly. Expanding the customer relationship with additional solutions is an entirely acceptable topic to introduce during the feedback conversation.” Instead. It is amazing how often salespeople will wait to discuss the value delivered in multiyear customer contracts until just before renewal. This important factor can differentiate you from your competitors. Everybody seems pretty satisfied with the new training. It’s likely that the value your solution delivers is ongoing and feedback conversations should be scheduled regularly. “I was thinking about a couple of things you said the last . I wanted to mention that we also have a refresher training program for veteran employees that I think would dovetail really nicely with this.

As you are finishing that conversation.” In either case.178 TAKING IT TO THE STREET time we were together. they are simply asking for a list of names. I’m wondering. you might say. If they ask at all. The best time to initiate the referral conversation is in conjunction with and toward the end of a feedback conversation. Now is the time to ask one or both of two questions: “Is there anyone else in the organization who is experiencing similar symptoms to what you had?” and “Is there anyone you know from other companies who may be experiencing these same symptoms?” . You mentioned you had some concerns about accident rates among long-time employees. we are using symptoms to initiate diagnosis and then. A Name Isn’t a Referral The last of the Deliver conversations is the referral conversation. What they are really doing is asking the customer to picture another customer. that’s an unrealistic request with a high risk of failure. Have you noticed that? I am wondering if it makes any sense to take a look at that in the same way we took a look at the new employee problem. if the topic hasn’t come up before. and most people decline this request. have you still been experiencing that?” Or. “One of the things we see a lot with people in your situation is after they get this up and running they are still faced with high accident rates among veteran employees. As you might expect. your customer should be at a peak in terms of value delivery awareness. we follow the decision process as before to expand the relationship with the customer. “Do you know anyone else who would be interested in our solution?” the salesperson asks. and predict whether that customer will buy. Most salespeople pay little attention to the gathering of referrals. diagnose that customer’s situation.

When we contact the new prospect we repeat the same conversations that we discussed in the previous chapters of this section. and these names will have a higher probability of being viable prospects. we are asking for a factual observation. But before you set out.It Doesn’t Pay to Surprise a Corporation 179 These questions do not ask the customer for a complete diagnosis. It’s our job to determine that. These questions generate more and more thoughtful referrals. and we shouldn’t ask our existing customer to make that judgment. We’ve now come full circle in the process. if you’ve been employing the diagnostic process. Moreover. In fact. . using the same skills and the same mind-set that enable us to win the high-stakes sale. When a customer gives us the names of prospects who are experiencing the symptoms our solutions address. We’ve completed one sale and are prepared to undertake many more. your customers will be less afraid that their colleagues will be subjected to hard sales pitches and more willing to share names. we should ask a few more questions. Instead. I’d like to offer some insight and advice regarding two conversations that salespeople are finding particularly challenging in today’s environment. The symptoms may or may not mean your solution is the appropriate solution. We can and should ask the same kinds of preliminary research questions that we used before we formally contacted this customer. we are actually relaunching into the Discover conversation and a new sales cycle.


III Breaking Away with Exceptional Credibility .


This is not particularly surprising. The majority of salespeople are meeting the standard of expected credibility. they understand their business and the products and services they sell. The minimum level of expected credibility. so have the demands on sales professionals. The Prime Solution. I’m reminded of the many poker tournaments now 183 . The more credibility we earn. They have earned the right to engage the customer. that is. sales success is easy to measure and substandard results torpedo salespeople in today’s highly competitive and operationally lean sales environment. their chances of winning start dropping precipitously. Our ability to understand and meet those demands determines the degree of credibility that customers assign to us. However.I n my second book. the more exceptional our sales success will be. Salespeople who do not meet the ever-rising minimum standard are quick to disappear. As customer requirements have expanded. I described how the value requirements of our corporate customers have steadily grown through three phases of evolution over the past decades. expected credibility only represents the table stakes in today’s world of sales. the minimum level at which customers expect salespeople to operate. has certainly risen. that is. but their chances of winning the sale are determined by the luck of the draw. If they are unfortunate enough to be competing against a more credible player.

more than your share—of the complex sales you undertake. They are themselves an added value in their customers’ eyes. . These are the conversations that salespeople find quite intimidating and challenging. and another? Success in selling is not all that different. Exceptional salespeople create their own luck through a combination of opportunity and preparation. If you want to win your share—or. They understand that. Not coincidently. you need to execute at a higher level. and Deliver—and the mind-set. Customers see them as exceptionally credible and reward them. . You don’t have to see many final tables to realize that the same small group of professionals repeatedly earns seats. You need to be able to operate well above the standard for expected credibility. Design. demonstrated their depth of knowledge of their customers’ businesses by doing many of the things we discussed in this book. from the customer’s perspective. We’ve covered the fundamental elements of value diagnosis—the process of Discover. that is. Diagnose. how often do you see any of the amateurs make the cut and earn a spot at the final table in another tournament . these two conversa- . a sale is a business decision-making process driven by the value customers obtain from their purchases. They bring a diagnostic-based mind-set and expertise to the sale that supports that process. I’ve purposely reserved discussion of two categories of customer conversations until now: financial conversations and executive conversations. let’s be ambitious. Sales professionals who win an out-sized number of sales are almost invariably operating at a higher level of customer credibility. They have earned exceptional credibility. and skills that support the process.184 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY being televised. but how often do they win the final pot? More significantly. conversational flow. A random amateur or two usually finish in the money.

The need to assist our customers in the quantification of value in the complex sale is urgent. quantitative conversations and. the majority of our customers do not have the expertise needed to conduct them. This is the subject of Chapter 8. and for the foreseeable future. They want to know what the absence of value is costing them. These are customized. The material that you have learned thus far will give you the foundation and the confidence to do just that. Both trends are driving decisions to higher levels of power in the chain of command. If you want to earn exceptional credibility and exceptional results. The need to engage with customers at higher levels of their organizations is also urgent. We must have executive sponsorship to successfully sell in the high-stakes arena. the monetary gain the solution will deliver. it’s our job to guide customers through these calculations. and how it will support their corporate strategies. Today.Breaking Away with Exceptional Credibility 185 tions are also crucial in the high-stakes sale. They want to know the true cost—the total cost of the solution. we are answering their demands for value and our own competitive challenges with ever more complex solutions. our customers are demanding much more than vague value promises and biased spreadsheets. and stopped throwing money at speculative solutions when the market melted down in 2001. Corporate customers became immune to self-serving return on investment (ROI ) and total cost of ownership (TCO) models. As sales professionals. they want to know the appropriate investment that must be made to realize that gain. At the same time. you must master them. And finally. We need access to multiple individuals inside the customers’ organizations to track the many variables that go into the decision . Our customers’ organizations are leaner and thriftier than ever. as we’ve seen.

186 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY equation. and we discover how to master their challenges in order to earn exceptional credibility and exceptional sales results. We need to report our results to someone who sees the big picture and has the power to act on our findings. . The capabilities that enable us to hold conversations at the highest levels of power and influence that our solutions require are the subject of the book’s final chapter. we explore the internal and external barriers that salespeople encounter as they conduct financial and executive conversations. We learn the principles and structure of these conversations. In Part III.

” too. money talks loud and clear. Corporations communicate the success and failure of all of their business activities in Euros. 187 . Operations. they even more frequently cannot accurately determine the financial impact of a situation and its proposed resolution. But just as customers typically do not have a quality decision process. dollars. So. if we want to sell exceptionally in business-to-business markets. or whatever their respective currencies may be. we must become fluent in this language and develop models and our ability to make the required calculations. we enhance their decisions and our own credibility.8 “Show Me the Money” I n business. The buying decisions of executives are “dollarized. If we bring that capability to an engagement. and even the value of employees and customers. are expressed in financial terms.

and total “value of ownership”—these are the financial figures that have the power to motivate customers to consummate sales and to expand their relationships with vendors. but only when they recognize that the cost of a particular situation has become too high to ignore and that they can address the problem economically. and pressure to reduce price. expand the customer relationship. you face less price pressure (as long as you follow the dictum of “no surprises”). All of our customers live with problems or conditions that could be improved. reluctance to commit. When the customer has a balanced view of the financial ramifications of a decision. The many benefits notwithstanding. it can also serve as a highly effective motivational force. Financial acuity adds to your credibility with the customer and creates a benchmark that your competitors must meet. return on solution. and ultimately. the value delivered. . communicate the value at risk. a thorough and accurate financial analysis provides the baselines and the targets that enable you to monitor the performance of your solution. most salespeople are neither comfortable nor skilled at translating value propositions into compelling financial terms. Cost of the problem. It is a sales accelerant. investment to resolve. will they act to resolve it. By bringing financial clarity to their view. you greatly reduce the perceived risk of the decision by quantifying the risk of doing nothing as well as the risk of changing and the rewards for changing.188 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY Not only is money a primary determinant in our customer’s decision process. objections around the price. This is evident in the customer challenges that salespeople are consistently struggling to overcome and that create adversarial situations that pit salespeople against customers: long sales cycles. Finally. There are other benefits of developing an expertise in financial discussions.

Many salespeople resist talking about money because they have been taught that it’s . design their own solutions. our products and services would be commodities and we wouldn’t have jobs. Customers don’t have budgets to solve problems they didn’t know existed or to buy solutions they didn’t know they needed. The only financial metrics that most salespeople are taught to identify are the ability of customers to buy ( How big is your budget?) and the willingness of customers to pay ( What is it worth to you to solve this problem?). and value all of that properly. a question such as “How much does this cost you?” is simply too broad and multifaceted to answer without breaking it down into manageable chunks. even if we helped a customer establish the full extent of a problem. Even when customers do know they have a problem.“Show Me the Money” 189 Barriers to Financial Conversations The conventional sales paradigm is responsible for a lion’s share of the blame for the inability of salespeople to guide customers through credible. These are self-serving and rather inane questions. One major barrier in this quest for financial expertise is the lack of recognition that this is a skill that is urgently needed in the high-stakes sale. The fact that the financial challenges we listed earlier continue to trouble a vast majority of salespeople is the best evidence that conventional selling does not take a constructive view of financial analysis. effective financial conversations. Further. If customers could accomplish these tasks without our help. honest financial analysis. The second barrier to effective financial conversations lies in the mind-set of salespeople. it’s self-talk that creates a seemingly insurmountable internal barrier to open. Often. asking them. “How much is this costing you?” or “What would it be worth to solve this?” requires that they self-diagnose their situations.

a salesperson told me that his prospects would never share a particular cost figure with him. Well. Still others avoid financial conversations because they feel as if they are doing something underhanded and manipulative when they use cost to drive action. and then replied. it reminds me of an exchange that occurred in one of my seminars. In no uncertain terms. yeah. the issue is not whether customers will answer . He assumes that the customer will see it the same way. “Well. They don’t feel qualified to quantify cost. it’s my job. what if his job was to serve as a business advisor and help customers understand the financial implications of their situations and make a decision based on an accurate financial picture? Would the customer answer the question then? Of course. So. The salesperson sees himself using financial information he thinks he shouldn’t have as a weapon against the customer in the traditional closing process.” This is a clear case of transference. Other salespeople resist because they believe the language of finance is intimidating and somehow beyond their abilities. Their parents scolded them if they asked about other people’s money.190 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY not polite. and investment. and that prohibition lingers in their minds.” he snapped back. CYNIC’S SIDEBAR “Customers are not going to share that number with me!” Whenever I hear this pushback from salespeople. “Because they believe I am just going to use that number against them. got a strange look on his face. return. “Is there a reason you don’t think they will?” I asked him. “Will you?” He paused.

we should be more concerned with why customers won’t answer and what we can change in our own mind-set and behavior to change their responses. the customer doesn’t know the answers to financial questions. 191 Customers themselves represent the third barrier to effective financial conversations. Instead. if we are providing valuable information that the customer has never considered before. any hesitancy that the customer has about confiding in you will become less and less of a barrier with each new step in the process. They have answered financial questions and had salespeople use it as fuel for a hard sell or to jack up their pricing. There will always be a few customers who are reluctant to share financial data because of past experiences. Return. To conduct effective financial conversations with customers. Investment One of the most misguided instructions salespeople receive is “never give the customer the price before you’ve completed your pitch.“Show Me the Money” financial questions. we need to consider all of these barriers and construct our conversations in ways that address and resolve them. Or. and if we are always protecting the customer’s self-esteem. and this will always be the case to one degree or another. Financial Conversations— Cost. If we are following a decision process that builds trust and credibility. Or the numbers themselves may represent sensitive competitive information that the customer is afraid to release to any outsider.” The idea behind this is that customers will walk away if they hear your price before they .

. provide as honest an estimate as you can at the moment the question is asked. The right question is not whether the price is reasonable or not. and one that also helps build the credibility of our numbers. They are designed to inform our customers and ourselves: • What is the absence of our value costing the customer? • What return (net financial impact) can the customer reasonably expect from the solution? • How much should the customer invest to achieve their desired results? When we help a customer answer these questions. or at least. In business. but they do have to be believed. You should never be afraid or unwilling to tell a customer your price. the price of our offering becomes a simple fact that can easily be evaluated. is that the customer must have . Instead of using this as an excuse not to put a number on the major elements of the sale. as long as they are credible. we should accept the fact that estimates are fine . I don’t agree. The right question is “Does the customer’s situation warrant our level of solution in financial terms?” The financial conversations that we conduct during the sales engagement are all aimed at answering that question. It either meets the customer’s predetermined investment criteria or it does not. A second principle. . costs and returns have myriad variables and are often impossible for a financial lay person to calculate exactly. The first principle is that the numbers we establish with our customers don’t have to be exact. Before we examine how the conversations answer these questions. we need to address a few principles that carry through all financial conversations.192 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY hear everything they are going to get for their money.

No Problem The most important financial conversation. If you are going to calculate cost. is the cost of the problem. return.5 million annually. Figures that magically appear at the touch of a computer key are not very credible. and investment must be conceptually sound and logically unassailable. That means that the formulas or models that we use to calculate cost. they will have confidence in the numbers the model yields. The third principle is that the customer must “own” the resulting numbers. This lack of transparency is no doubt the largest reason customers are highly suspect of the majority of ROI models in use today. Our models must be transparent and our customers must be able to see every variable and how they relate to the final number. return. you don’t have a problem.“Show Me the Money” 193 confidence in the method we use to obtain the numbers. they are neither immediate nor overly relevant in light of the customer’s unique situation. If they don’t have confidence in the model. we need to alter it to fit the customer’s world before we put it to use. While these can be very valuable to customers as benchmarks. your model must use the customer’s numbers and your customer must participate in the process. When they have confidence in the model. No Cost. If you can’t establish the cost of a problem. The former fact . Also. Many sellers use averages and industry databases to calculate costs and returns. and ask them for their feedback. and investment. we must be willing to take the time to explain the basis of our numbers to our customers. There is a world of difference between the fact that a customer has a problem and the fact that a customer has a problem that he believes is costing him approximately $2. and the one that provides the basis for all that follows.

Your company’s margins and your commissions will suffer. customers are far less likely to buy.194 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY may interest the customer. CYNIC’S SIDEBAR “The customer told me that the problem is huge and his company can’t live with it any longer. they are more likely to object to your price. it’s hard to say. but only the latter has the power to create change.” replies the customer. “but I know it’s significant and I know we need to . Key Thought If you don’t have a cost of the problem— you don’t have a problem. How much do you think this problem is costing you?” “Well. If you don’t establish a credible cost of the problem. “That sounds as if it is impacting your business quite a lot.5 million each year”) or asking the customer to establish the cost (“How much do you think this problem is costing you?”) is risky business. Your conversion rate will be negatively impacted and you will have to work harder to earn the same money. Ignoring the cost of the problem or reporting it in nonspecific terms (“We’ve discovered that order entry errors cost companies like yours $2. Why beat a dead horse?” Far too many cost of the problem conversations begin when the salesperson asks. Even when customers are going to buy without a credible cost of the problem.

At this point. “You seemed quite sure that this was a big problem that had to be solved. The salesperson knows he can solve the problem and jumps in with both feet. “No way could we spend that much money. shocked at the apparent loss of a sure thing. It is very likely the customer can live with the problem he hasn’t quantified. We just need your approval right here and we can get on this immediately. 195 So. the salesperson gets to the price and pushes the contract across the table. at the end of a masterful presentation. What happens next? Somewhere down the road. What can he do to rescue himself and the sale? Not much.” Now the customer delivers the punch line. That’s why we are talking to you. more often than not people retreat to the less painful of the two alternatives.“Show Me the Money” do something about it.” “What?” the customer pushes the unsigned contract back and says. but it’s not that big a problem!” When the cost of the problem is a figment of the customer’s imagination and the cost of the solution is laid out in black and white in a legally binding contract. The customer knows he’s got a bad problem and can’t live with the cost. “We can solve your problem within 90 days for $320. the salesperson is up to his neck in quicksand. how do we establish the cost of the problem in a way that overcomes the many barriers to financial conversations and fulfills the demand for a credible cost estimate? Let’s start by placing the conversation in the decision process. rather than paying the price you are asking. “We know we have a problem. except cut the price.” The salesperson. The cost of the problem conversation occurs during the .” End of conversation. responds.000.

In almost every complex sale. Describe the consequence(s) of the indicator that you’ve called to discuss. As we think about the financial implications of consequences. The next logical step in this diagnostic progression is costs. and consequences of the customer’s problem. lost labor. State the purpose of your call and name the indicator you’re focused on. we need to identify the proper cast members to engage in cost of the problem conversations. waste. we will need to follow the trail elsewhere. these cast members will be the same people we worked with to establish the consequences. 2. expand the breakdown of consequences based on your experience and knowledge. however. no one person knows the entire cost. 3. and tally those costs. calculate. who pays the penalty? Often. (As necessary. causes.) . rework. accidents. who is affected directly by these consequences—and “Whose budget is affected?” or. Sometimes. When you engage the appropriate cast members in cost of the problem conversations. There are costs associated with each consequence—idle assembly lines. there are multiple consequences stemming from the customer’s situation or problem. that’s when we explored the indicators. and so on.) We can do this by focusing on two questions: “Who gets the call?”—that is. Each consequence has one or more costs and it’s our job to help customers identify. you can follow a generic four-step pattern: 1. ( Just as no one person in the customer organization sees the entire problem.196 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY Diagnose phase of the sale. As we discussed in Chapter 4. Break down each consequence by asking the cast member to describe what happens in his part of the business when it occurs.

I’d like to start by walking through what happens when you have to call a customer and tell him his paper shipment will be delayed. but he isn’t clear on the cost impacts that involve customers—“the head of sales gets those calls.” So. The consequences of the problem include offspec material that needs to be downgraded and resold. might go: SALESPERSON: James. Instead. I want to find out more about how the shipping delays caused by off-spec production affect sales. and delays in shipments to customers. we need to help him break down the cost of the problem. The vast majority of customers won’t. We work with Bert. the plant manager. Here’s an example of how the cost of the problem process might play out on a sales engagement at a tissue manufacturer that is experiencing an increase in off-spec production. we call on James. JAMES: It’s not a pretty sight. lost production time. .“Show Me the Money” 197 4. We could ask James what the cost of defective product is in sales. If we break a large answer down to its individual components. focusing on the cost of shipment delays. to determine the costs of the first three consequences. Let’s listen in on how one piece of that conversation. The customer goes ballistic. Ask the customer to put a dollar amount on the cost of each element within each consequence. comprehend. the head of sales. and estimate. measure. the labor costs to fix the line. SALESPERSON: How is that penalty structured? JAMES: We give them a 5 percent discount on the next order. then reminds me of the penalty clause for late deliveries in our contract. but it’s likely he won’t have a number on the tip of his tongue. it’s easier to understand.

500 each occurrence. an account manager. . in dollar terms that would work out to be . but four days a month is about 20 percent of a salesperson’s time. Would it make sense to say that this issue could be costing 20 percent of a typical sales quota? . what number comes to mind? JAMES: Maybe $1. if you had to guess. But just a ballpark estimate would help me put this into perspective. [Here’s another dimension of the cost of the problem we will postpone pursuing for the moment. SALESPERSON: Okay.198 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY SALESPERSON: So. But the worst part is we could lose the customer. that makes sense. SALESPERSON: What would you say that costs you? JAMES: Hard to say. JAMES: Well. But just to take this conversation a little further. SALESPERSON: Oh certainly. we certainly are. Does anything else happen when a shipment is delayed? JAMES: You bet. JAMES: Let’s call it $2. SALESPERSON: I would imagine it does. . and one tech support guy to do damage control with the account. It varies.000 for each person. Two guys spend a whole day straightening things out and holding hands with the customer. it’s tough to estimate.] SALESPERSON: When I was talking with Bert at the plant he felt that these delays are happening three to four times a month. We have to send a sales team. there are quite a few variables. SALESPERSON: I don’t know if this is valid. Is it fair to say that we’re talking about four days of selling time each month? JAMES: Yes.

That’s strike one and strike two. SALESPERSON: What would you say is the average revenue on one of those accounts? JAMES: The average is just shy of $600. about $400. We’re talking about $2 million in annual revenue. but it also seems quite drastic. SALESPERSON: That sounds like $200. Strike three and you’re out. SALESPERSON: So. The only option to solve that one is to add more salespeople.500 if you don’t . and say it’s costing that much to be distracted from your sales activity? JAMES: Oh. SALESPERSON: What would be the average amount of revenue a salesperson is expected to generate? JAMES: I have an exact number on that.“Show Me the Money” 199 JAMES: I think that’s very realistic. I think management will push back on that one a bit. let me see if I have the numbers right. SALESPERSON: Out of how many customers where you’ve missed deliveries? JAMES: That’s out of 15 or so.000 per year. SALESPERSON: Is it fair to take 20 percent of that. but I think they’d have to agree to half of that. Is there anything else that happens when you call the customer about the delay? JAMES: Yeah.000. I get reminded of it frequently. How frequently have you lost a customer over delayed shipments? JAMES: Well.000 plus the penalties and staff time. I would say it happens at least once a year. It sounds like that one phone call about a delayed delivery can cost upward of $4. SALESPERSON: You mentioned that earlier.

Customers do want to add clarity to their decisions. [The conversation continues to explore the second consequence. the downgrade issue. I don’t think we’ve really put the numbers together before—probably didn’t really want to know. Let me ask you about one other aspect of the off-spec production. it’s not something we normally like to think about. There really is little reason for them to refuse to participate. The simpler the question and the easier the measurement or calculation.000 in lost revenue ($600. .000 divided by 15 plus the $200. Does that sound realistic? JAMES: You know. There will be rare cases where customers aren’t as forthcoming as we might like.” Break down the question even more if you can and start with activities instead of costs. be particularly sensitive to self-esteem issues. more often than not. . and the financial aspects are the most critical in their minds. If you’re asking about the cost of plant downtime.000 in lost sales time) if you do. .200 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY lose the customer and well over $240. . customers are intrigued and fully engaged by cost of the problem conversations. When you encounter a customer who appears reluctant to participate. Use buffer statements such as. take it to the level of the production on a single machine.] Like James. the more likely you’ll receive an answer. . SALESPERSON: Well.” or “But I think knowing the answer would really help you decide if it makes financial sense to look into this type of solution any further. What happens to the product you’ve downgraded? .” or “Most people find this one hard to answer. “I know this isn’t an easy question.” Follow it with “But it would really help me understand . I guess it does.

If you ask. you’re ready to complete your cost of the problem analysis. if I ask a customer. Create a cost of the problem report that lists the incident. The conscious mind then decides whether to release the number. but what would be a rough estimate of the cost?” If you still get the same answer. At the end of this report is the sum of these costs—the total cost of the problem (Figure 8. “If you had to guess. like all of the Design conversations. “How many employees are there in your company?” He automatically hears the answer internally. When the subconscious mind hears a number question. the actions taken to respond to them. and their costs as they’ve been given to you or estimated by you and your customers. Financial Return on Solution The second integral financial conversation in the complex sale defines the financial impact that the customer expects from the solution.“Show Me the Money” 201 We need to make it safer for the customer to answer our questions. the consequences. what would your guess be?” Remember when you ask a number question.1). it automatically calculates the answer and sends it to the conscious mind. “I don’t know. the customer will always have a number answer in his head. Our job is to create an environment that’s safe enough for the customer to share that number with us. ask.” use a buffer and follow up by asking. “Yeah. For example. When you have all the data you require from these conversations. that’s probably a tough number to get exact. Its aim. This is a conversation that occurs during the Design phase of the sale (as discussed in Chapter 6). “What does that cost you?” and the customer says. is to help eliminate the smoke and mirrors that lead customers to poor .

Return on investment is perhaps the least accurate of all the figures that customers hear from salespeople. At worst. The return-onsolution conversation tallies the gains (cost savings and/or . Unfortunately. The best way to counter this situation is the returnon-solution conversation. they are as wildly overinflated as the claims we hear from brokers flogging penny stocks from boiler rooms. customers have good reason for treating sellers’ financial return estimates with skepticism and cynicism. They are less than comprehensive figures that are selfserving to sellers and misleading to customers. customers participate in the calculation of return-on-solution and it is built on numbers that they can verify.202 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY FIGURE 8.1 Cost of the Problem Worksheet/Report buying decisions and provide the anchors that keep them from getting blown off course by competitors. In this conversation.

income is more direct. Like the consequences in the cost of the problem conversation. for instance. Return-on-solution conversations start with the outcome expectations we established with the customer in the Design phase. what does that translate to in terms of increased business with existing customers and how many new customers can our customer . It is also likely that we will be working with the same cast members. In fact. each outcome has cost reductions and/or new revenues associated with it.“Show Me the Money” 203 new revenues) that will be generated by the solution and the total cost of the solution in order to estimate the net financial impact of the solution on the customer’s business. we can calculate that the gain should be $500. we know that the solution will eliminate 50 percent of the current defects and we know (from the cost of the problem conversation) that these defects cost the customer $1 million annually. Solution Outcomes Generate Income In the case of cost reductions. income is generated from the money the customer will not have to spend in the future. but also often more nebulous in terms of estimation. In the case of new revenue. If our customer can guarantee his customers a defect-free product.000 annually. In that sense. to help the customer identify those solution gains. but it is fairly simple to establish. we may well have to break the outcomes down into smaller components and deal with a variety of cast members. it is only the financial focus and the input that change. instead of using a conversational example. The conversation format and mind-set remain the same as for the cost of the problem. each element in the return-on-solution conversation corresponds to a cost that has already been identified in the cost of the problem conversation. Because of the similarities. If. Further. I’d like to talk about the two major elements of the return-on-solution conversation. it is an indirect gain.

As always. How much employee training . as always. with the full participation of our customer. But. Too often. The purchase cost of the solution is usually clearly defined and gets plenty of attention. if you are making your customer aware of less-than-obvious costs and your competitor is not. As we’ve seen. Customers are going to pay money to you for your solution. Further. you are building trust. A sales manager can help establish the revenues generated by new accounts and enhanced retention rates. a manufacturing manager can help establish the return generated by a more efficient production process. Solutions Have Costs. we must assign credible numbers to these questions. The involvement of cast members is essential if we expect them to defend the numbers with their colleagues and support them during the presentation of the final solution. salespeople purposely and/or inadvertently gloss over these costs in a misguided effort to win a sale. the negative surprises associated with this habit will always outweigh the short-term advantage. but there is no doubt that they are also going to pay out additional monies to use your solution. there are two areas of solution cost that are less often fully calculated: implementation costs and usage costs. however. For example. Too The second major element in the return-on-solution conversation is the cost of the solution. quantification is a bit of a balancing act in which the customer is the final judge of what’s reasonable and believable. and your customer will soon see you as a more valuable partner.204 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY expect to win at the expense of competitors who can’t meet these new quality levels? On one hand. On the other hand. we don’t want to overlook any of the dollars that our solutions can produce. We need to calculate them conservatively and. creating traps for the competition to fall into.

if we know that the return on the solution is $135.000 annually and that the customer must make a 30 percent annual return on capital invested. and the costs associated with them. The remainder is the return-onsolution. As in the cost of the problem conversation. . You already know what return the customer can expect from the solution.000 or less would meet the customer’s investment requirements. The customer’s required return on investment tells us the final figure we need. We also need to add in the major factors in the purchase.“Show Me the Money” 205 does it take to fully implement the solution and how much will that cost? Do we need to construct a special environment for the solution and how much will that cost? Does the solution require ongoing maintenance and at what cost? These are just some of the questions that could make up the total cost of the solution and must be included in your calculations. The final element of the return-on-solution conversation is a return-on-solution report. The last step is to subtract solution costs from the solution gains. The goal of the investment conversation is to establish the threshold at which it makes sense for the customer to buy a solution. For instance. you must make sure your return-on-solution model is sound. we need to lay out the outcome expectations and the gains associated with them. Right-Sizing the Investment The third financial conversation that is integral to highstakes sales defines the level of investment that the customer can appropriately make to obtain the full value of the solution. we can calculate that a total solution investment of $450. implementation. and use of the solution. As in the cost of the problem.

. rather than asking questions about the final answer to the equation. We aren’t asking customers how much they want to spend. and now. the amount they can invest and still meet their financial requirements is a simple calculation. you may not know how much they want to spend. but you do know how much your customers’ financial criteria says they should be willing to invest for your solution. We know how much the problem is costing them. Monetized Results Lead to Executive Conversations The final issue in financial conversations is reporting the results. With those known. Customers won’t tell you how much they want to spend. Once customers arrive at and accept that figure.206 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY CYNIC’S SIDEBAR “Customers are not going to tell you what they want to spend!” Actually. especially if we ask them questions that are solely aimed at uncovering that fact. We began our journey with a sponsoring executive. we are helping them determine the amount it would make financial sense to spend to eliminate a problem or gain an opportunity. we are asking them for their internal investment requirements. we’re ready to report back. we’ve worked through the organization. Now. will pay huge dividends in openness and trust. you’re right. This is an interesting issue because cast members at different levels in an organization have different financial perspectives. We know how much their solution design will return. But this is another case when asking questions about the variables in a formula.

The company’s salespeople were dutifully reporting these figures to the laboratory managers they called on and not one of the managers would pay the additional 10 percent for the reagent. the new reagent lowered false positives enough that it returned the additional expense over 50 times in the reduction of misdiagnoses and associated costs. This is the person we have targeted during the . In fact. The moral of the story is even though we worked with the lab managers to calculate the financial aspects of the situation. The lab managers didn’t bear the cost of erroneous test results. We needed to return to our sponsoring executives to get the most impact from the numbers we had uncovered. but they did have to pay for the new reagent. This is someone who cares about the financial performance of the unit and would probably have the funding authority for a solution as well. but they would bear the cost of the solution.“Show Me the Money” 207 The danger of reporting financial results to the wrong people is well illustrated by a company I worked with that provides blood testing to hospitals. they were reporting the financial figures to the wrong people. In other words. We want to go as high in the organization as necessary to reach this person. Its tests cost 10 percent more when using a new reagent. but the results of the tests were of substantially higher quality as a result. As we discussed in Chapter 4. they didn’t bear the cost of the problem. we want to begin our engagement with higher-level executives who have financial and operational accountability for the aspects of the business that are most affected by the absence of our solutions. but no higher. W hy not? In addition to the fact that the salespeople were presenting prematurely. they were not the right people to hear and act on those figures.

This is the person we will report back to with our financial findings.208 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY Discover process for the initial engagement as the sponsoring executive and to give us the keys to the elevator. working with these executives is a challenge in and of itself and that is the topic of my final chapter. Of course. .

The first is the increasing complexity of 209 . The ability to sell to executives at ever higher levels and into the C-suite itself has become a nonnegotiable prerequisite of success in the high-stakes sale. What used to be bought primarily on its technical. But recently. Most salespeople are comfortable operating at these longestablished levels. for more salespeople than ever before. the level of power and influence at which they must connect with customers to win the sale has risen dramatically. operational.9 Connecting at the Level of Power and Decision T he nature of high-stakes sales has always required sales professionals to connect with operating managers and functional executives within their customers’ organizations. or clinical merits has fallen under intense financial scrutiny. There are two primary trends driving sales professionals up the elevator.

In the process. the balance between price and value often migrates to the price side of the equation. The second trend is the changing nature of our customers’ organizations. As a result. organizational. and little in between. often. and outsource everything except for core competencies. When this occurs. their purchases require broad-based. monitored. These decisions should be initiated. Middle layers of management have shrunk and. and ultimately approved by senior executives. That has left frontline managers responsible for execution and day-to-day issues. Add these factors together and you can see why sales professionals are under so much pressure to connect further up the customer’s hierarchy of command. they are buying solutions that have whole business impacts and strategic C-level implications. and often across national boundaries. internal consensus and alignment to successfully implement. Our goal is to help executives reach more balanced decisions. it is likely that you will soon be dealing with more senior executives. If you . buying decisions are being consolidated and transformed from technical/operations-based decisions into financial/ purchasing-based decisions. cut costs. and often these solutions carry substantially higher purchase prices and total costs that are “extra-budgetary” and require extraordinary approval authority. disappeared altogether.210 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY products and services we are selling. They are growing leaner as their leaders are driven to increase productivity. Increased complexity creates a variety of challenges for our customers: their buying decisions require that they understand situations that are cross-functional. senior executives responsible for strategic issues. senior executives become critical in the decision-making balance. but they will be executed by teams of operational managers. This means that if you are already working with executives.

Salespeople and their managers are quickly discovering that selling up the ladder is a major challenge.Connecting at the Level of Power and Decision 211 aren’t dealing with executives yet. it is likely you will be in the near future.” Salespeople follow orders and a great majority of them hit a wall (or. This realization hits with full force when sales executives tell their salesforces.” Cisco isn’t the only company that has added executives to its sales team. In a series of surveys published as The Customer-Selected World Class Sales Excellence Ten Year Research Report. because my company’s phones ring when these professionals start looking for help. a ceiling). which involves executive briefings as well as a rigorous schedule of customer calls and on-site client meetings. Many sellers tried (and are still trying) to skirt the issue by adding their own executives to the sales mix. The HR Chally Group found that there was a substantial increase in the numbers of executives at selling companies who were actively participating in engagements. “Start selling to the C-suite. is the fact that Cisco executives are compensated based on their personal involvement in the customer-oriented programs. In 1993. the number of vendors using executives to sell had risen to 22 percent. By 2000.” It described Cisco Systems’ solution to the problem: “an executive sponsorship program that assigns account involvement responsibility to each of its vice presidents and directors. buyers reported that only 8 percent of vendor companies utilized their executives in sales efforts. Critical to the success of the program. “Salespeople generally lack the credibility and experience to sell at the executive level where high-impact decisions are made.” 1to1 Magazine reported. In a May/June 2004 article titled “Future Force. Connecting at the level of power and influence by including your company’s executives in the sales team is also . more accurately. I know.

That means. Senior executives are even less interested in our products and services than operational managers. Thus. sales professionals have no choice but to follow. I have seen far too many salespeople try to sell to senior executives using the same approach and even the same content that they use to sell at the customer’s operational and functional levels. Worse. it was neither intended nor designed to work at this higher level. as high-stakes sales are driven up the elevator. who is leading your company? Finally. as professionals. although executives may be comfortable talking peer-to-peer with their colleagues at customer companies. Barriers to Executive Conversations The systemic barrier to executive conversations is that most salespeople have not been properly trained to deal with the higher levels of the customer’s corporate hierarchy. Unfortunately.212 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY critical in today’s high-stakes sales. some serious drawbacks quickly emerge. We’ve already seen that the conventional sales process is antiquated and ineffective. whether it is formally accounted for or not. They won’t understand . When salespeople look to their own executives for a quick fix. salvaging a poorly prepared sale engagement is extremely difficult. if they are selling. all too many salespeople use this trend to abdicate their responsibility and introduce executives into poorly prepared engagements. we must understand why it’s difficult to engage executives and master the strategy and tactics of the executive conversation. Further. executive time is limited. This seriously dilutes the positive potential of the executive-to-executive relationship. the cost of sales rises when executives get involved. Executives are the most expensive of all employees.

or out the front door. care about the lower level implications of solutions. He told her. for the most part. make decisions in this way. make recommendations. They simply do not see or. They don’t have time to sit through the salesperson’s process and/or presentation. in all probability. not the details. the salesperson either gets directed back down the elevator (never to return). .Connecting at the Level of Power and Decision 213 the usefulness of features and benefits that are described in operational terms. When a salesperson tries to force an executive to sit through the process. and consider and approve solutions that represent a consensus of the cast members responsible for its success. CYNIC’S SIDEBAR “Just get me in front of the decision maker and I’ll make the sale!” No. Traditional sales systems teach salespeople to get in front of the key decision maker and run through the entire sales process. you won’t make the sale when the key decision maker is a senior executive. Senior executives are responsible for the big picture. They do give permission for the process to begin. “No one wants to listen to my problems!” As clichéd as this sounds. but senior executives rarely. delegate the responsibility for information gathering. This point was driven home at a recent conference at which a vice president of sales of a multibillion-dollar private company told me her CEO was “fed up” with vendors who wanted to tell him about their solutions. if ever. it is a powerful comment on the willingness of senior executives to engage in relevant sales conversations and the inability of salespeople to respond.



The personal barrier to executive conversations exists in the negative self-talk that poisons so many salespeople’s minds. Typically, salespeople become less and less confident and more and more uncomfortable as they travel up the elevator. One aspect of this condition may go back to childhood. Many of us were told never to bother important people. If those admonitions are echoing in a salesperson’s head when he or she attempts to contact and/or speak to a CEO, he or she is not going to be very comfortable with the task at hand or positive about the outcome. Another aspect of negative self-talk is the respect for authority we are taught as children and the resulting intimidation many of us feel in the presence of authority figures. I received a very clear reminder of the power of that inhibition when I worked with the consulting division of a major company. We were teaching the highly professional and expert salesforce of this division how to call on CEOs at petrochemical companies globally. They were getting comfortable with dealing with executives at that level except when it came to high-level executives within their own corporate family. Orchestrating these sales involved the buy-in of senior executives in their own company. The salespeople were visibly shaken by the idea of talking to an executive who resided three or four levels above them in their own company’s hierarchy. One salesperson told me, “Here’s what is going through my mind when you ask me to go talk to these guys: ‘I rarely speak with my boss’s boss; their boss wouldn’t give me the time of day.’ ” If this is an accurate reflection of your mind-set going into an executive conversation, your own beliefs are going to be working against you all the way.

Connecting at the Level of Power and Decision


“Forget about it. CEOs won’t give me the time of day.”
The reality is that senior executives do talk to salespeople. Peter Muldowney, a former CEO who has run a number of companies including a billiondollar corporation where he had 21 business units reporting to him, serves as one of our “CEOs in residence” during our Mastering Executive Relationships® workshops. During a recent workshop, one of the participants insisted that CEOs wouldn’t see him. The salesperson claimed that he had to bring an upper level executive with him to gain an audience with the CEO of a customer company. Peter’s response was simple and direct. “I don’t care what your title is,” he said. “If you have something that is going to help my business, I will talk to you.” Peter is not the exception. When my firm surveyed the CEOs of major hospitals, we asked them how large a problem would have to be for them to want to know about it and assign it for resolution. The average response was $50,000. These leaders of multimillion-dollar health-care organizations said they would listen to a salesperson who had identified a potential $50,000 impact and assign someone to help see it through. We are absolutely not saying that CEOs will sit through the entire sale with you, nor are we saying that they will participate in the details of every project or initiative they set in motion. We are saying that there is no doubt they will see you and sponsor you within their organizations (often on the basis of a quick phone call) if you can quickly establish relevancy and credibility.



Finally, there are environmental barriers to connecting at higher levels of power and decision. It is more difficult to contact senior executives. Corporate leaders have less time for anybody. They are often impossible to reach directly. If you start calling CEOs and hang up unless they are available to take the call personally, chances are pretty good that you will never get the opportunity to speak to a CEO. (The odd thing is how many salespeople follow that exact stratagem when attempting to establish contact with senior executives.) An ancillary barrier is one of our own making: In attempting to engage executives using poorly designed sales strategies, salespeople are teaching customers that speaking to them is often a waste of time. A few executives respond to this lesson by simply refusing to take sales calls; most respond by severely limiting their exposure. Thus, salespeople have less and less time to connect with executives, and the intimidation and pressure they feel as a result grows with each call. This can easily create a self-reinforcing downward spiral that makes executive conversations ever more difficult to conduct successfully. Add it all up and it is clear that the key to effective executive engagement is a problem that has fixed parameters and can be solved. We need to approach the issues of conversational style and substance with the executive in mind. We need to craft executive conversations that will enable us to enter customer organizations at the highest level necessary to support the engagement and the sale. We need to position our findings throughout the process in ways that continually engage senior leaders and motivate them to take action. We’ve already described several executive conversations in Part II. Now, I’ll describe the principles that will assure your ability to engage executives in conversations no matter where they occur in the sales process.

Connecting at the Level of Power and Decision


The Executive Conversation— Rules for Engaging Rulers
Executive customers shouldn’t have to, and usually won’t, bother to translate our technical talk into their language. Yet, I think many salespeople shoot themselves in the foot by talking to executives in the language of the product or service they sell. If we want to craft compelling executive conversations, it is important to speak to executives in their own language. The specifics of this language vary industry by industry and, to a lesser but still significant extent, company by company. Generally, I’ve found that salespeople know the language of their markets and they are often quick studies when it comes to corporate dialects. The language they do not speak very well, however, is the language of executive decision making. Because our sale is contingent on our executive customer’s business decision, we need to consider how executives approach decision making and adapt our conversations to that paradigm. In short, we need to stop thinking and speaking like salespeople and start thinking and speaking like businesspeople. What do executives want to know before they buy? One good way to think about their decision criteria is in terms of five rules:

1. The Issues We Propose to Address Must Be Relevant in the Larger Context of the Business The first major issue that concerns executives is whether or not they should be talking to you at all. They want to know if the issues your solutions address have any relevance in their business and therefore, we’ve got to begin



by establishing that relevancy based on their level of responsibility. When we move up to the customer’s executive suites, we can’t describe problems in the same terms as we do at the operational level. For instance, if I’m selling manufacturing equipment, one of the symptoms that occurs in the absence of my solution might be oil on the plant floor, as in lower quality or over-used machines that leak oil. The significance of the oil on the floor changes as we move up the command hierarchy. A line supervisor sees the hours of downtime when the equipment freezes. A plant manager sees a dip in daily production levels. In the C-suite, these consequences are not likely to have made a significant impact unless you can translate them into more relevant terms (Figure 9.1). The senior vice president of sales and marketing doesn’t see 50 plants with 50 leaking machines, he or she sees higher prices that, in turn, equal lost orders. In the CFO’s office, that means higher quarterly operating expenses and lower net profit. In the CEO’s office, the same problem can be translated into lower earnings per share, a fact that will surely capture the attention of any CEO in a public company. (This isn’t to say that we call a CEO and talk exclusively about raising earnings per share. Rather, we would quickly, in a minute or two, discuss our value chain and how the oil on the floor connects to earnings per share.)


Impact of Oil on the Floor

it is possible that we are trying to sell too high in the customer’s organization. You are going to talk to an EA. As we saw earlier. CYNIC’S SIDEBAR “Executive assistants are gatekeepers who keep me away from the boss. Executive assistants usually know the executive and the executive’s job better than anyone else. It’s the goal of the Discover phase. call in. Executive conversations rarely start with executives. They start with executive assistants (EAs). If we can’t establish positional relevancy. but no further than that. The Real Key Executive—The Executive Assistant We fulfill the rule of relevancy at the beginning of the complex sale. We discussed this at length in Chapter 4. I don’t know if you .Connecting at the Level of Power and Decision 219 The rule of relevancy requires that we identify the business issues on the executive’s dashboard and translate our value capabilities into those terms. but there is a related issue here that is worth taking a short detour to consider. our goal is to work as far up the customer’s chain of command as we need to go.” If you are still thinking of EAs as gatekeepers who have to be circumvented or otherwise manipulated to gain access to an executive. we simply won’t be able to successfully engage executives and we shouldn’t try. The odds that you are going to pick up the phone. which is one reason why they often move with the executive from company to company and even into retirement. Good EAs are indispensable to busy executives. If we don’t have something that directly impacts their jobs. and talk to a C-level executive are barely measurable. We shouldn’t be driving toward the C-level unless we have something relevant to C-level job measurements.

That makes me want to ask you if. sounding boards. JEFF: Hi.220 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY can be or should be allowed to pass. JEFF: We work with the senior vice presidents of sales of companies like yours and in listening to your last quarter’s analyst call I noted that Ted was taking a lot of questions about the volatility of the sales pipeline. This is Gail. We need to treat them accordingly and with respect. I’d open a call with an EA essentially the same way I would speak to a vice president of sales: EA: Hello. this is Jeff Thull with the Prime Resource Group. around forecasting time. Executive assistants are invaluable resources in the complex sale. role models. The whole concept of the gatekeeper as a person salespeople have to “get past” reflects a mind-set that sabotages sales success. Ted Taylor’s office. but I am not really sure if it’s appropriate that I speak with him and perhaps you could help me. So instead of treating EAs as human voice mail systems. Do you have a moment? EA: Sure. credible conversations as eagerly as we would engage a key decision maker. you find him walking around his office mumbling and talking to himself? . Executive assistants serve as expeditors. I am calling for Ted. I’d be happy to help. they allow us to test our value hypothesis before we get in front of the executive whom we believe will give us the keys to the elevator. Salespeople who see and treat EAs as barriers to be overcome are actually creating barriers that can’t be overcome. we should be engaging them in high-quality. and mentors for savvy sales professionals. Gail. Most importantly.

2.Connecting at the Level of Power and Decision 221 EA: [laughing] Well. In this conversation with Gail. I’ve established mutual respect. I am explaining to Gail that I’ve done my homework. The Statement of Value Assumption Must Be Valid The rule of validity demands that we demonstrate to executives that the situations or problems that our solutions address exist. I will send her a package containing two envelopes: one will be addressed to Ted and contain a letter with a summary of my value assumption. I’ve confirmed that one of the major symptoms we address actually exists. it is an issue. he never takes unscheduled phone calls from anyone but customers. and relevance. credibility. as you said. the other envelope is addressed to Gail and contains Ted’s envelope and a letter to Gail that recaps our conversation. I’ve made some assumptions about your business situation and I’d like to run them by you and if they appear to be relevant perhaps it would make sense for Ted and I to talk. but. JEFF: Well. thanks her. Or do you think I should talk to Ted straight away? EA: Well. What are some of the assumptions you’ve made? I am creating relevance with this conversation. this means that the problem is actually . First. Any competitor who doesn’t bother to engage Gail in a similar conversation is already extremely behind. I’m not going to confirm any mumbling. If Gail agrees that my value assumption is relevant. and prepares her for a follow-up call. it is a symptom that Gail sees also and I’m moving on to the next step. I’ve also learned something about how the senior vice president of sales works with salespeople.

but typically. of the Diagnose phase. (Remember. we’re leaving. and financial issues. the consequences of a customer problem or missed opportunity must encompass significant people. To keep an executive engaged. it is likely that your sales engagement will either be ended or delegated down the ladder without executive backing. consequences.) Validity is incontrovertibly established during the problem diagnosis. causes. process. if we can show that significant consequences exist. • Stick to the facts. However. It’s counterintuitive.222 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY occurring in the customer organization. it means that the potential cost of the problem is significant enough to require investigation. And third. executives are not directly involved in most. aside from any diagnostic conversations we have with executives during the process. (This incentive for change is built from a portrait of the customer’s negative present. we must also conduct an important executive conversation at its conclusion—a reporting conversation that confirms validity and results in permission to continue with the decision process.) . We are not acting as salespeople. So. If one or more of these do not exist at a level that requires the executive’s involvement. and cost of the customer’s problem to a single sheet of paper. it means that the nature of the problem continues to require executive involvement. as well as confirm and specify the relevancy of the situation. Here are some tips for that conversation: • Be succinct. we satisfy the rule of validity. we are reporting the current reality to the executive. if not all. if the facts don’t support the incentive to change. Second. but we can often get the biggest impact by allowing facts to speak for themselves. You should be able to and must reduce the indicators. Instead. You are briefing your executive as a staff member.

• Ask for the executive’s feedback. we want to be sure to cover the people. Can she provide additional insight? Have we missed any bases? Is this issue worth pursuing? 3. we don’t want to violate the rule of relevancy. the nature of the executive conversation is again a report. how processes will be altered and adjusted. how the change will be managed. Solutions require change and the executive needs to be assured that this is a change that can be successfully managed. we give them the confidence to invest. As with validity. The Problem and the Solution Must Be Actionable The rule of actionability demands that we address whether and how the customer’s situation can be viably resolved. executives will likely participate in little or none of the Design phase. So. when we report to the executive.) 4. Actionability is determined in the Design phase. and financial considerations of solution design. The Solution’s Value Must Be Measurable The rule of measurability is critical to senior executives. Again. (When we show executives that the problem and solution are actionable. their ability to measure . In addition. This report should follow all the same guidelines we discussed in Rule 2.Connecting at the Level of Power and Decision 223 • Make sure your report speaks the executive’s language. We want to explain how people’s behavior will be impacted and changed. Put the facts in terms that relate to the upper management perspective. There is no reason to discuss the oil on the floor with the executive. We need to know how the executive is responding to the report. process. With limited resources to invest. and how the financial impact is supportive of the investment required.

5. we need to summarize these results to executives. it must be strong enough to support the decisions.224 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY and quantify issues. allocate funds accordingly. In the Deliver phase. we need to demonstrate that consensus and alignment exist throughout each of our executive conversations. Typically. Conclusions. and Final Decision The final rule of consensus and alignment is one that salespeople miss most often in executive engagements. we report results in order to expand the relationship and win new opportunities. validity. executives will not implement and/or directly utilize the solutions they buy. Any savvy executive also knows that the consensus and alignment of his managers and other employees are critical prerequisites of successful change. actionability. However. There Must Be Consensus and Alignment Around the Findings. In the Diagnose phase. Further. It isn’t necessary or even likely that agreement will be unanimous. . Consensus and alignment require that a working majority of the cast of characters agree about the relevance. and measurability of the problem and solution before the salesperson arrives at the executive suite with any recommendation or proposal. and track the returns is a constant concern. we quantify the cost of the problem by measuring the impact of the absence of our solution (and create the incentive to change). Further. In each instance. They are “sanity checks” that ensure the engagement is still on course. We are constantly developing the answers to measurability questions. we quantify the cost of the solution and expected return in order to build the executive’s confidence to invest. During the Design phase. Thus. they are very aware that they must depend on other people to carry out the solution’s implementation and to utilize the solution in a way that captures its full value.

the sanity checks that communicate findings. A Final Word on the Sequence of Executive Conversations Most often. In fact. You aren’t “selling” to them at all. In this role. executives simultaneously play two roles in highstakes sales. they are positioned outside the action. At the same time. This new role can be challenging for salespeople to manage and it bears additional examination.Connecting at the Level of Power and Decision 225 we should also be alerting executives to those cast members who may be obstacles when it comes time to maximize the value received from their purchase. When executives act as sponsors. That is. they act as cast members. their direct participation is required only at key milestones. executives act as sponsors. we ask them to provide direct input into the “nuts and bolts” of the decision and work with them to develop the information we need in the diagnosis of the problem and the design of the solution. An executive will not approach a solution if he doesn’t believe his organization can achieve its promised value. . First. such as the sponsorship decision. and value reportage. When we work with sponsoring executives. our role in the sale changes. The larger and more complex your sale. the more important the creation of this constituency becomes in the executive’s eyes. But in between. with their own job responsibilities and personal perspective. they are only indirectly involved in the mechanics of the sale. We should always remember that executives have come up on the short end of value promise more often than not and they are rightly skeptical and vigilant about our promises. however. you are more like one of the executive’s staff members than a salesperson.

226 BREAKING AWAY WITH EXCEPTIONAL CREDIBILITY The best way to master the sequence of these sponsoring executive conversations is to approach them as if you had accepted a senior staff position for a specific project. You keep your boss informed of the progress of the project by summarizing and reporting the salient facts during the Diagnose and Design phases. You discuss where we are in the process. and delivered. what we have accomplished. and what we will most likely do next. you receive a new assignment (see Figure 9. manage the implementation. You are getting the sponsoring executive’s feedback and reaction to what has been discovered. The conversational pattern you would follow in this sequence is the same pattern a project manager would follow in reporting his results. You submit a final recommendation. If you do this work well. designed.2). and report on the results in the Deliver phase. In each sponsoring executive conversation. Think of your sales process as a project that you have been assigned by your new boss in the customer’s company. you are responsible for keeping the executive informed. You received the project assignment in the Discover phase. what we expect to find there. diagnosed.2 “Access Strategies” . In essence. you are providing and receiving guidance as you both progress through the engagement. FIGURE 9.

You can begin to evolve into a trusted advisor and a valuable business partner. you can achieve a goal that salespeople are often given. but are rarely prepared to achieve. your executive customers will begin to treat you as a Prime Resource and your sales success will multiply exponentially. discipline. and skills.Connecting at the Level of Power and Decision 227 If you start to picture yourself in this new role and if you can adopt its mind-set. In response. .


and that results in the achievement of one another’s success. and demonstrating emotional maturity. honest. 229 . In doing so. and straightforward conversation that is based on mutual trust and respect. In fact. protecting the self-esteem and selfinterest of both parties. the vast majority of customers are looking for the same thing we are—an open. minimizing the risk of change. We can approach conversations with our customers with a mind-set that is committed to ensuring value relevancy. The path to that goal starts with mind-set.Epilogue T o close our discussion on Exceptional Selling. We don’t need to manipulate or push customers. nor do they have to protect themselves from us. leave behind the dictates of conventional selling and transform our customers’ responses to us. we can change our patterns of response. Credibility and relevance will rule in our relationships with customers. This new mind-set clears the way for customer conversations that reach new levels of candor and clarity. by now you’ve come to see that your conversations with customers don’t have to be adversarial in nature or even constrained by the conflicts of interest that the traditional sales mind-set and approach create between buyers and sellers.

With that said. I’d like to leave you with the following definition of exceptional: • Far beyond what is usual in magnitude or degree • Surpassing what is common or usual or expected • Having or showing intelligence or ability well above average • Not like others of the same type That is as good a definition as you will find of an exceptional sales professional. Further. You will stand apart not so much by what you sell as by how you sell. but that your customers come to recognize you as a unique resource that clearly stands apart from the competition.230 EPILOGUE I’m not saying that if you master the mind-set and these conversations that you will win every sales opportunity you undertake. you will expand the amount of business you earn from them. I am also saying that your business will increase in other ways. That’s not a realistic goal. Exceptional sales professionals are always in demand. May all of your customers and colleagues describe you as exceptional. Exceptional success means winning every sale that you should win. It’s my final wish that you not only become one of the best at what you do. Exceptional success means the early recognition of the viability of your opportunities— whether they are low or high—and the optimal use of your resources. the number of recommendations and referrals you receive will increase exponentially. That’s every opportunity where your customers’ decisions to buy your solutions represent highquality sales—sales that deliver value to both parties. I am saying that you will have exceptional success. If you transform your communication with existing customers. .

trust survey result. 192 customer’s customers and. 73 Alternatives: optimal solution. 144 A-to-Z questions. 113–115 discussing design alternatives with. 155 CEOs. 224–225 Aloha Airlines Flight 243. 105 Balloon analogy. 136 observable symptoms. 136 solution parameters. 104–105. 134–136 Blah Blah. 117. 54–55 customer’s Progression to Change. 226 in upward reinforcing cycle. 107–108. 147 expectations of stonewalling from. 189 Building program analogy. 141. 3–8. See Executive conversations Change: emotional state of typical customer. 49–50 value triad. See also Deliver phase Collaboration. 49–50. 137 resistance to. 91 negative present. 57 Budgets. 223 Adaptive unconscious. 212–216 to financial conversations. 20–21. rule of. and insight. 13–19 231 . 58. 14–16 Cisco Systems. 143 Architect analogy. 44–45 Access: engagement conversation. 9–30 answering unasked questions. parameters versus. 62–65 mind-set.” 5 emotional mind-set as root of miscommunication. 135 Asian company example. 122–123 Causes of problems. 128. 36–39. 11. Fluffy. 25 Awareness: changing your mind-set and. 112 strategies. 65. 138 your competitors versus customers’ alternatives. 38 Communication style. 43. 135 Call reluctance. 115. 68–69 Assumptive questions. in diagnostic conversation. 159–160. 63 leadership. 54 Progression to Change. fourstep pattern. 166 Commoditization of solutions. Discover phase. 29 definition of “failure to communicate. 175 Blame-assigning. 84 Cast of characters: anchoring. 20 conventional thinking versus diagnostic thinking. 132. 142. 115 cost of the problem conversation. 120–122. 56 sponsorship and. 123. 189–191 Benefits/features. 64. 17–18 Alignment. 129. 196–200 diagnostic conversation. See Executive conversations Closing. 20–23.Index Absence of value: cost of. rule of consensus and. 145 Barriers: to executive conversations. 90 validation process. 62–65 Child/parent roles. 131 Psychology of Change matrix. 93–100 privileged. 57. 128 Automobile salespeople. 211 C-level conversations/selling. 56 Actionability.

191–208 of absence of value. 166–167 fingerprints. 112. 202 solutions. 80 Customer relationship management (CRM) as example. 6. 54 Cost(s). 28–30 stress and credibility. 188 relevance and. 23–24 presentations commoditizing solutions. 84–85 resistance to change. 164–165. 224 no-surprises dictum. 90 feedback (see Feedback) focus on. 175 hot air balloon scenario. four phases of. 129. 202 Credibility: achieving. with A-to-Z questions. See Prime Process Cool Hand Luke. 204–205 total cost of ownership (TCO). 156 feedback confirming and communicating value delivery. 184 Concern: advancing to. rule of. 165–166. 57 nature of industries today. 140–141. 19–23 self-sabotage. 167 larger sale. 10. 171 presentation. 137. 124 Consensus and alignment. 78–81. 175. 168. 211 Decision criteria. 142. 67 as judge/jury. 145 mind-set as differentiation. 196 Conversational style. 155–157 Customer(s): CEOs (see Executive conversations) checking for absence of your value with customers of. 170–174 Communication style (Continued) negative stereotypes. not losing. 169–170 measurability. 16–18 parent/child roles. decision. 111 world of.232 INDEX Crisis mind-set/stage. 62–65 self-diagnosis and. 149–150 Customer-Selected World Class Sales Excellence Ten Year Research Report (HR Chally Group). 155–156. 192 internal/external. 18–19 Communication substance. 184 customer objections. 193–201. avoiding. 129 Criteria. 91 conversations with (see Prime Process) demos. 160–161 Design conversation and. 3–5 solving challenge of. 167–169 problems. 209–210 Complex sale. 57. 68 employees closest to the symptoms. 159–160 contextual framework of Prime Process. using customer. 105. 155–157 Decision process. 39–40 language in proposals. 210 Progression to Change. 35 talking about competitors. 146–147 your competitors versus customers’ alternatives. See Value Competition: feedback as protection from competitive threats. 105 prospects who come to you. 185 worksheet/report. 100–104 qualification of. having conversation about. 78–79. 164–166 objections. 132. 178–179 inappropriate/ill-timed requests by. 229–230 in upward reinforcing cycle. 14–16 persuasion alienating customers. 56 . 137. 8 financial acuity adding to. 143 Complexity of products/services. 19. participative. 153 of the problem. See also Communication style Conversations in selling. 175–178 solicit prepresentation feedback. lowest common denominator. 224–225 Consequences of problems. 160–161 organizations. 128 on Progression to Change. 24–28 Old Brain. 105 Confidence versus passion. 39 Deliver phase. 81. changing nature of. 5. 109–110. rule of. 117. 154–155 gaining new. 29 Confrontational language. 159–179 closing a sale.

142. 196–197 contextual framework of Prime Process. 109–110 Design phase and. 223. 119–120 getting to customer’s pain. 164 referral conversations. 154. 110–112 flow of. 128 cast of characters. 142. role of. 155–156 time frame. 184 . 129 small-medium-large. 144 avoiding implicit challenges in questions. 141–151 competitors. 138. 141. 107–130 A-to-Z questions. 140–141. 138–139 no free moves. 56–74 advantages. 156 measurement. 155. 224 crisis stage. 184 cost of the problem conversation. 104 moving toward. 108–109 starting at process level. 125–127. 117. 140–141 decision criteria/parameters. surfacing/aligning. 147 choosing optimal solution alternative. 109–110 cyclical nature of. customer requests for. 140–141 feel-felt-found approach. sequencing. discussing alternatives with. 132–136. 156–157 essential questions. 112–113 drilling down. 117. introducing.Index proposals. 136 competing expectations. 97–100 Diagnostic mind-set. 146–147 contextual framework of Prime Process. 132 Diagnostic conversations. 145 solution parameters. 132 resources/investment. 135 assumptive questions. 116 sequencing executive conversations. 154–156 Progression to Change. 129. 135. 117. 116–130 Discover phase and. 147–148 signal for beginning of. 78–81. 161–162 Demo. connecting to indicators and consequences. 148–149 frames. 78–81. avoiding versus dealing with. 150–151 perspectives. 120–122. 115. 184 costs. 226 expertise required. 156 Diagnose phase. 162–163 sequencing executive conversations. 153 critical outcomes. 226 expectations. 7–8 exceptional credibility and. 128–130 probing symptoms. 226 solution bias. 151. 112–130 decision to buy living in the negative present. 136 clarifying expected outcomes. 107–108. 145 hot air balloon scenario. 125–128 Progression to Change. 129 loaded words/subprocesses. 160. 144–145 good-better-best. 159–160 as document of confirmation. 178–179 sale process continuing after closing. 137 relevancy. versus presentation. in engagement conversation. 156 executives. 145 investment expectations. 155–157 self-esteem. 117. 125–127 executive conversations. 125–126 indicators. 132. 155 consequences of problems. 123–124 priority. 156. 131–157 architect/building program analogy. 123. 113–115 causes of problems. 137. 155–156 job responsibility. internal/external costs. 164–170 as document for consideration. 120–122 Diagnostic agreement: informal. 143. 136. 129. 195–197. 68 Design phase. 29 defined. 137. 156 discussion document. 152–157 return on solution conversation. 57 versus conventional thinking. protecting customer’s selfesteem. 150 cast of characters. 125–130. 129 levers for change. 141. 145. 117. 201–205 233 selection criteria. 226 tough issues. 110–111 indicator questions. 143–144 needs versus expectations. 140–141. 131 Psychology of Change. 224 needed question.

93–100 assigning homework. 212–216 engagement conversation (quest for access and sponsorship). 95.234 INDEX moving toward diagnostic agreement. 97–100 questioning appropriateness of call. 7–8. 224–225 rule of measurability. 226 goals/purpose. 93–100 crafting introductory statement. 93 suggesting call is inappropriate. 184 engagement conversation. 12 requirements of corporate customers. 229–230 Executive Assistant (EA). 181. salesperson assuming role of. 221–223 senior staff position. 69 shift to diagnosis mode. 173 Emotional involvement in outcome of customer engagement. 93 suggesting call is inappropriate. 96–97 20-second rule. 219–221 Executive conversations. 206–208 rule of actionability. 85–87 prospects who come to you. 10 diagnosis. 91 targeted persons. 223 rule of consensus and alignment. 173–174 Discover phase. 83–105 contextual framework of Prime Process. George. 47–48 Executive sponsorship. 219 preparation for initial contact. 93–100. 183 Exceptional credibility/selling. 63 Engagement conversation. 217–221 rule of validity. 177 Expectations: alignment of competing. 93–100 crafting introductory statement. 138 Diagnostic mind-set (Continued) Prime Resource Group’s Diagnostic Selling. 94–96 executives and. 13–19 Emotional stamina. 97–100 sales process and. 93–94 giving executive homework. sales. potential problem in Deliver phase. 156–157 Doctor analogies: bedside manner. 85 role model. 94–96 executives and. perspective on. 60–61 Emotional. 225–227 trends driving sales professionals up the elevator. 173 Emotional state of typical customer. 100 crafting introductory statement. 208 Discussion documents. 11 overview. 226–227 sequence. 96–97 20-second rule. 209–227 access strategies. 100 moving toward diagnostic agreement. 58. 99–100 executives. 100–104 qualification. 92–93. 216 Eras of selling: Era 2 approach. 11 Drilling down. 209–210 value spectrum. 94–96 diagnostic agreement. 111-112 qualification approach. 78–81. 207–208. 69 Era 3 effort required. 72–74 Emotional mind-set and miscommunication. 99–100 Environmental barriers to executive conversations. 56. 100 . 84 80/20 rule. 136 Design conversation. 11–12 Emotional maturity. detachment. 175. essential question. 84–85 research conversations. 125–127 Dudley. 96–97 20-second rule. 223–224 rule of relevancy. 29–30 Dogma. 90–91. 185–186. 97–100 sales process and. moving toward. 207 Expanding customer relationship. 99–100 monetized results leading to. 141–151 clarifying expected outcomes. 183–186. 87–93 versus sales calls. 93–94 giving executive homework. 226 barriers to.

154. 183–186 Expert. 177–179 gaining new customers. 192–193 return on solution. short-term/long-term. 79 Language: confrontational. 152–155. 156 return on (ROI). parameters versus. and monetized results. placing customers on. 35 loaded words/subprocesses. 21 Lecturing professor stereotype. 187–208 barriers to. 175 prepresentation. 145 Inappropriate/ill-timed customer requests. 127 Lost opportunity cost. 35 Lanning. Malcolm (Blink). 215 Hot air balloon scenario. 145 235 Hospitals: example. 144–145 Gallup survey (2004) on trust. 96–97 Indicators. financial conversations. 189–191 cost. 175 Ford Motor Company. 205 Invitation to Tender a Bid (ITB). trend toward. 163 Going for the no. 165–166. Michael (Delivering Profitable Value). 27–28 Leveraging value triad. 193–201 of the problem. 97. 103–104 . 129 Knowledge scale. 86–87 guilty until proven innocent. 185 right-sizing. 226 expanding customer relationship. 125–130. 175 executive. 175–178 ensuring customer awareness of value delivered. 165–166 executives’ in your report. 188 design phase. 204–205 credibility and. 134–136 Feedback: confirming/communicating value delivery. 148–149 Financial conversations. 25 needs versus. 124 customers’. 166–167 protecting customer relationship from competitive threats. 223 loaded words. 56 Insurance. 69. 177 focus on symptoms. 25 Getting to the pain. 207 survey of CEOs. xxii Job responsibility. 83–84 importance of preparation. 110–111 Gladwell. 24–28 Expected Credibility. 193–201 of the solution. 140–141. 83–87 example of traditional first call. 117. in upward reinforcing cycle. in proposals. 34. 71 Good-better-best frame. 175. 152–154. 123–124. 117. 175 two-way. See Initial contact Fluffy story. 223. 35 Larger sale. 167 First contact. 127 value clichés. 155–156 Initial contact. 23. 110–112 Failure Is Not an Option (Kranz). 155. 79 Far Side (Larson). diagnosis requiring. delivery presentation. 206–208 investment level. 60. 8 Features/benefits. 123–124. 36–39. 210 Learning/retention. and. 201–205 Fingerprints. 46–48 Limbic system. 205–206 principles. 138–139 poor reputation of sales. 162–163 Frames. 20–21 Investment: design and. 20 Kranz. 67 Inappropriate sales calls. 132. 176 Feel-felt-found approach. Gene (Failure Is Not an Option). 16–17 Loaded words. customer. 10 Goals.Index guilty until proven innocent. 85–87 Insight. 153–155 executives. 169–170 Leaner customer organizations. 36 Fear of rejection.

131 Proposal. 22–23 diagnosis versus presentation. 223 with delivery. 46. 117. Requests for (RFPs). 57 as document of confirmation. 70 mutual self-interest. 210 Mind-set. 85–87 Presentations. 115. 110–111 Parameters versus features/benefits. 104–105. 58–62 Muldowney. rule of. 46–48 Positive future. 20. 169–170 reasons for. 164–170 participative presentations. rule of. across-the-spectrum. 215 Needs versus expectations. 117–119 Politicians. 14–16 Penicillin example. 138–139 Negative present. alienating tactics of. 169 answering unasked questions. 184. 193 promoting. 164 Psychology of change matrix. See Proposals/presentations Price. importance of. 167–168 persuasion alienating customers. 223–224 Mental maps. 137 Qualification of customers. 214 No. 54 value relevancy. 34 assumptive. 218 Old Brain. 71 No-decision customers. 20 commoditization of solutions. 164 as documents for consideration. 62–65 emotional maturity. 65–66. 24. 141. Peter. 55 Pharmaceutical company example. 170–174 after the sale. 22. 164–165. 66–69. 58. 47–48 Persuasion. 23–24 purpose of. 185 Question(s): answering unasked. 22 No free moves. 162–163. getting to the. The (Thull). 120–122 Professor stereotype. 150–151 No-surprises dictum. 27–28 Progression to Change. 129 Problems: actionability. 144 . 8 Prime Solution. 168. survey on trust. and larger sale. 137. 142. going for the. diagnostic. 79 1to1 Magazine. 45 INDEX Performance level. critical. 25 Positioning. Design conversation and. 107–108. 142 leveraging value triad. 72–74 exceptional success and. 78 Mastering the Executive Sale workshop. 134–136 Parent/child roles. 183 Priority of the problem. 109–110 Negative self-talk. Design phase. 5 delivery presentation. 40–41. value triad. 64. 58. 57 total cost of (TCO). 65. 47 Perspectives: customer versus salesperson. 16–18. 23. 215 Measurability. 159–160 guidelines. 30. 38. Discover phase Prime Resource Group. trend away from. 79–80 Middle management. 171 Oil on the floor example. 189–190 mutual self-esteem. 140–141 Ownership: of numbers. 53–74 change leadership. choosing. principle of financial conversations. 7–8.236 Lost sales: as communication failure. 136 Outcomes. Diagnose phase. 154–155 expectations varying with. 70–72 principles. 164–170 anchoring larger solution in. 103 Proposals/presentations. 58. See also Deliver phase. 128. 69. 229–230 financial conversations and. 211 Optimal solution alternative. 78–81. 60. 170–172 Process level. 15. 191–192 Prime Process. 23–24. 58. 54. 143 Preparation. 55 101 Sure-Fire Sales Closes. 185 Pain. 20–23 customer difficulty with. 61–62 Mastering the Complex Sale (Thull). 50. 60–61 voluntarily ending engagement. 84–85 Quantification of value.

120–122. 7 Stereotypes. financial. 65–66. 209–210 Trust: credibility and. 128 avoiding implicit challenges in. mutual. 79 Selection criteria. 92–93 Reptilian brain. 3–5 Sequence of executive conversations. 223–224 Rule of relevancy. 221–223 Sales: call reluctance. 166 Systems. 127–128 needed. 223 Rule of consensus and alignment. See Communication style Symptoms. 92–93 in upward reinforcing cycle. negative sales. 84 conversations (see Prime Process) dogma. sales. 20–21. 137. 20 Up-selling. 58. 56 Validity. 58. 185 Return on solution. 27–28. 23. 77–81. 48–51 Silence as sign of wisdom. 217–221 Rule of validity. 147–148 Self-interest. 145 Solution: actionability. 223 bias. need for. 37 Discovery and. 175 Upward reinforcing cycle. 141. 25 poor reputation of. See Executive conversations Stance. 103 Research conversations. 224–225 Rule of measurability. 156 indicator. 154–155 timing. 153 questioning from customer perspective. 136 internal/external costs. 30.Index A-to-Z. 62. rule of. 201–205 Rule of actionability. 27–28 survey on trust. 91 . 154. 111 Self-esteem. 143–144 perspective of. 56 20-second rule. 11 evolution of (three eras). 225 Scripts. customer versus salespeople. 132–136 Sponsoring executives. 151–155 essential question. 177–179 Synergy. 156 Total cost of ownership (TCO). 152–154 Design conversations. 11. 12. 154 Return on investment (ROI). in Design phase. focus on. 15. 125–126. 154–155 Referrals. 81 Stress: credibility and. 221–223 Value. 183 installing versus selling. 55 Small-medium-large frame. 24–28 presentations: content of typical. 25 237 Sanity checks. mutual. conventional versus diagnostic. 87–93 Resources: critical issue of investment. 3 Gallup survey (2004). 68–69. 25 in upward reinforcing cycle. 138. 185 Trends. 16–17 Requests for Proposal (RFPs). 79 stereotypes. 18–19 customer. 224. 178–179 Relevance: credibility and. rule of. 29 Time frame/timing. 138 identifying requirements. 172–173 Style. 192 customer’s customers and. 150 essential. 58–62. 137. 21–22 Prime Process (see Proposals/presentations) scripts. 40 Thinking. 56 value. 21. 123. 31–51 absence of: cost of. 99–100 Unasked questions. 12. 108–109 parameters. 69. 169 movies about. 70–72 Self-sabotage. 104 Technology companies. 155–157 Self-diagnosis. 225–227 Sequencing value.

51. 35–36 value lifecycle and. 32 Value triad. 94. 51 Value requirements. 51 INDEX Value gap. 5 Value-achieved stage of lifecycle. 56. 219 Value delivery: confirming and communicating. 46. 50. 46–48 translating. 45. 88. 32–33 term coined. 51 Value-assumption stage of lifecycle. 184 Value-expected stage of lifecycle. 49–50. 90 Wilson. 163 Value capability. 50. 63 . 40. 32 sources of. 77. 45. 44 validity and. 90 validation process. Timothy (Strangers to Ourselves). 34 trivialization of. 47. 32. 48–49 Value relevance. 33–36 defined. 48–51 Value-proposition stage of lifecycle. 221–223 Value assurance. 40–41 Value imperative. 92–93 Value-required stage of lifecycle. 50. 49–50 value triad. 49–50. 48–49 commoditization of. 42–45 leveraging. 136 symptoms. 42–45 defined.238 Value (Continued) negative present. 90. 34 history of concept. 58–62. 41–45 uses of. 175–178 system. 39–41 clarity of. 221–223 viable sales opportunity delivering. 43. 49. 34 Value Diagnosis. 32 Value lifecycle. 50. 17 Working harder versus smarter. 42–43 spectrum. 104. 43 overuse of word. 46–48 Vendor pool. 44. 34–35. 44–45 burden of proof. 77 Value strategy.

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