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3 Reasons ‘Choice’ is Killing Your Pipeline0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Most people think they like choice, they think, contrary to practical experience, that choice empowers them, giving them “control”, and a sense of being in charge of their own destiny.  The reality is often different, and giving prospects choices can have unanticipated consequences.  While there are some pros and cons, there are three reasons you should not give choices, especially where you don’t have to, and you’re just doing it because you ran out of ideas.  So, in no specific order or importance here are three reasons not to provide choice.

Less Revenue

Less Revenue – I have heard from many that they give a choice of product, and related cost, as a means of helping the customer feel less pressure, and the opportunity to not go with the highest priced option.  I have had professional sales people tell me they give three choices, because they know that most will go for the middle tier.

I have a client that sell components, by far his best product is the middle of the three he presents clients.  Most clients love it, and give off “buying signals” indicating they will go for option B, till pricing comes up, when and most revert to the lower priced component.  When we changed the approach to presenting the best option, one price, one decision, much easier to make than three.  Quicker sales, more revenues, no unhappy customers.

Authority

Authority – One reason the above works so well, is that his sales people now are presenting themselves as subject matter experts.  They first spend time understanding what the prospect is trying to achieve and then present the right option.  Usually it is the former middle choice, but the reps often present the lower and higher cost point alternatives, based on what they uncover during discovery.

As a subject matter authority, you build the right to make a recommendation based on your expertise, experience, and support of the company.  Imagine if you went to an expert for help, a doctor, and after they talk to you, examine you, and share their prognoses, and then offered you three options.  Would you not look to them as the expert, to make a recommendation, it should not be like going to a restaurant, given a menu, and pick you cure.  One of the upsides of conducting a good discovery, is along the way you are earning the credibility to make a recommendation; I guess when you don’t have that credibility, you reach for the menu – look out for the sales bots, they’ll do it better.

Inability To Choose

Inability To Choose – We have all been in situations where given three or four choices, we ended up leaving with none.  This is not limited to impulse buying or something not having importance.  While not all, the reality is that many of the deals that end in no-decision, do so because the buyer could not make a choice, and ‘abandoning’ was the easiest option, of course had we not started them down the ‘option’ path, they may have found it easy to say yes to one thing, recommended by an expert at a rational price.

A friend expressed it best when speaking about having his car worked on.  He hates having to choose which type of oil he should pick when he has his car service, or choosing winter tires.  He is typical of the first example.  He is convinced that the highest priced tires are overpriced, with extras he feels he does not need.  He doesn’t want to be that guy that opts for the cheapest, after all his daughter often drives the car.  So, he goes for the middle, but here is the rub.  He never feels good, always second guessing, which makes the purchase much more dramatic and stressful than need be.  As he says “if the mechanic would just tell me what I need, why, and which one best does the job, I’d buy that one, even if it was the top of the line.  But when I have to make a choice, I’m never quite sure about the choice, and I just don’t feel good about it.

Choice is yours, want to make you buyer feel good about dealing with you, don’t make it about price, make it about them, and your ability to recommend and deliver on the best “solution” for them.

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tango basic steps

What Has To Happen Next?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

A simple question at first glance, but when you ask people in a given vocation or profession, it is staggering how many different answers one gets, and more stunning is the number of people who can’t give you a clear answer. Most read way too much into the question, and try to come up with elaborate responses that go well beyond and away from the question. “How you get across the road?”, is very different than Why did the chicken cross the road?” In sales, I find the responses break down to roughly three group: (1) Those who understand and answer the question asked; (2) Those interpret the question, changing it slightly in the process, and the response fits their repurposed question, both misleading the inquisitor and leaving them wanting; (3) People who don’t know, and can’t be bothered worrying about it.

If you are in sales, especially leading a team, this should be a major concern, especially if you “have a sales process” you think is driving your success. It may be more accurate that it is driving reps’ results, not how they achieve those results; in fact, if they did follow the process, the result would be more success. The good things is that in sales, you can get ahead of this and ensure greater success and results.

Next time your team is together, (and you can do this on your own if you are a rep), ask for a volunteer, and ask them the following:

“Who is your best prospect?” Not meant to be a trick question, but it is interesting the responses you get, but that’s for another post.

After they tell you who their best prospect is, follow up with this question (phrase it any way you like):

“Given where you are in the cycle, what is the very next thing that needs to happen to move the sale forward?”

You would think for experienced sales people, especially if they have been in the role for a few years and have been close to or at quota, meaning they have successfully executed the cycle several times, the answer should not only be straight forward, but something they are thinking about.

Those in group (1), always respond by telling what action has to be taken by them, the buyer, and mutually. Why that action, and the specifics it will lead to in moving the sale ahead, including what has to happen next, once this next step is completed, and the consequences and contingencies in case things do not go as planned. They can clearly and in specific detail provide the ingredients and recipe for making next happen.

Those in group (2), take the question, add some subjectivity to the mix, and hear “what should happen next”, then proceed to give you an answer that is more strategic and theoretical than the question required. Instead of speaking to specific actions and tools, as group (1) did, they general outcomes, skipping the how to make those outcomes happen. “We need to get buy in”; “we need to identify the decision maker(s)”; and other no-brainer feel good statements, but all absent the “what has to happen” for those things to come to be.

tango basic stepsYou can avoid this by being more specific in your process, perhaps start by changing the label to sales-flow, allowing you to get more prescriptive. Don’t assume that because your process calls for understanding the buying/decision process, that everyone on the team knows the specific steps they’ll need to execute to actually do that. On the other hand, many in group (2), when given specific and granular steps, improve their game and results measurably. There is a reason why NFL playbooks have drawings and arrows, Arthur Murray has the footprints on the floor, and Broadway stages have markers. Once you have that, they will need to practice, not just to get it, but once they got it, practice to master, and to ensure that you can adjust when the buyer and markets change.

Last, inspect, inspect that they are doing it, each step, as it has to happen. Don’t just assume they are doing it based on results (yikes), do you think gets a Tom Brady pass? Sure he wants to get to the end-zone, but getting there takes one down at a time, knowing exactly what has to happen after each play.

BTW, if you are wondering why I didn’t get to group number (3), don’t worry about it, they didn’t notice.

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dad teaching

Be The Play0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Being a holiday Monday here in Ontario, thought we’d look at something that can get you to think enough not to distract from the sun and water, yet enough to count. So for that our topic for today is that there two views (often more, but at least two) into every issue. As a seller, be that an individual rep, a specific VP or an entire company, must be full cognizant, understand the other view if they are to succeed. Let’s be clear, I am not suggestion you have to agree, but to sell better and more, you have to be aware, and include in your calculations and actions. Failing to do that will cost you sales and time, neither most sellers can afford to lose much of.

Some time ago I post a piece looking at how people sell like they buy, and buy like they sell, this becomes a problem when the leader of the sales team buys everything on price. This was played again recently when I approached a graphics design company. Spoke with the owner and president, we identified some areas to explore, but he wanted to do it through his VP of sales. While this makes perfect sense, it is already an indicator that there are differing views internally, we’ll see.

dad teachingAs you would expect, the VP did not feel that the team needed any attention at all, and was clearly speaking because the conversation started “upstairs”. After performing the customary “Seasoned Team” ritual, we got down to business. My first question was about markets they were currently in, and those they were targeting; his first question was about price. Five minutes in, two of which were introductions, we are down to price. Not what kind of outcomes I have been able to deliver against, not what are the dials he is trying to turn in his sales approach and team, what we do, how we do it; with a hint to any of that, boom, price. Now I know he was trying to take me down the budget path, not so much to blow me off, but to be able to offer a sacrifice other than training: “look at all the other better ways we could spend that money, the team is good.” If only the numbers supported that fantasy.

More importantly, how do you think his team sells? I would bet on price. How much help is he to his people when they come to him with prospect question other than price? Especially since price is such a here and now issue, and leaders need to be forward looking.

This goes beyond the price question, if a leader cannot clearly project the future state of his/her organization, it is difficult to get your reps to do the same with prospects. Which is why many default to asking “what’s your pain point” or some other equally lame question, like “Don’t you agree it would be great if you deliver 11% more widgets?” “Of course it would, except nothing in this meeting thus far indicates you can do that, so let me ask, how much?” Whereas a question about their desired future state, expressed not in the form of a question, but as an outcome, one other customers have achieved and leveraged.

If you are a sales leader, be that VP, or front-line manager, next time you in the midst of making a purchase, ask yourself how you’re reacting, and what would you sales team see in your behavior, and how they would deal with it. If all they hear from mom/dad is price, what do you think they talk about when they are out there on their own?

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An Endless Supply Of Tomorrows0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Proactive Prospecting Summer – Part 2

A common question I am asked is “What are the characteristics or attributes of great sellers?” While there are a number, one key one for me is their view and utilization of time. Generally speaking you can put folks into two groups, the larger 80%, those who view time as a unending commodity, and as such can be frittered away with little thought or concern. The minority 20%, the more consistently successful, see time as a precious resource that is to be maximized and fully exploited, understanding that once an hour passes, it can never be regained or reclaimed.

When it comes to prospecting, time is the silent killer. This why it is a core component of the Proactive Prospecting Program on Sales Gravy University. Many don’t want to do it, afraid to do it, and will willfully and by design waste their time on “other important things”, and thus run out of time to “prospect today, but I’ll do two hours tomorrow”. Bullshit, they couldn’t do an hour today, what makes the manager think that they do two tomorrow. The only truth in that is that they do in fact do twice as much: 2 X 0 = 0!

The thing that strikes me (and maybe it’s just me), is what can be more important than prospecting? Sure, we got to keep current clients happy, work on sales that are mid-stream, getting training on that new app you’re not going to really use, and of course, completing the football pool. But are any of those truly more important than prospecting, starting the next cycle, the next source of excuses for wasting prospecting time.

The best prospectors, allocate specific time to all of the activities highlighted above and others that are critical to winning and keeping happy customers. With the exception of the football pool, each of the above have to have time allocated and dedicated to completing. Based on what you sell, the nature of the buy/sale cycle, and other factors, the amount of time you allocate to each will vary, but there is no escaping that they all have to be completed throughout the cycle, and will require a specific time to complete.

To get a sense of how much time you need can be determined in a number of ways, none will be exact, but close enough to allow you to be in control of your time and your success. We use an Activity Calculator, (you can download it here). It works backwards from your goal, and uses your individual conversion rates from one stage the sales to the next, to close. Once you arrive at how many new prospects or meetings you need a week, you can then block off the time(s) in your calendar.

And that’s the hard part for most, blocking the time, as you would for a client meeting, and then actually doing it in the time allocated. Almost every sales person will tell me that they would never blow off a scheduled client meeting, yet they’re happy blowing off the activity that got them in front of a client to begin with.

It is not new, do the big important things first, there will always be room for the smaller things. What’s bigger than filling your pipeline with opportunities and future clients (who will make demands on your time)?

Sales people use their most precious resource to sabotage their most important activity – prospecting. To help you work through the time issue, download the white paper SALES HAPPEN IN TIME.

Feel free to e-mail me directly as you take advantage of the many things you’ll learn in your Proactive Prospecting Summer and the Proactive Prospecting Program on line.

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quiz score 2

Holiday Sales Quiz0

Given we are in holiday mode on both sides of the border, Independence holiday no less, I thought we’d keep things light today.

Below is a classic scene from Tin Men, take the time to watch, and then answer respond to the poll below, specifically what kind of sales style or school would you say was employed to win the sale.

Based on the video above, which sales style would you say was used to close the deal?

Bottom

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You Are Where You Are By Choice0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I had a couple of interesting conversations with two reps recently during a break in a workshop. Both centred around where each of the reps were currently, both in terms of quota in the current year, and their over all sales career. What was interesting is one was exactly where they wanted to be, on track to achieve his stated goals, for this year and beyond. The other, far short of their quota, was able to share little about their destination or any road that may get them there. Not surprisingly to me, was that both were exactly where their choices and resulting actions led them to be.

It may not surprise you that the successful rep was able to articulate why and how he made the choices that led to his success, and the specific process, choices and actions which got him there. The less successful rep, we’ll call him Average, a name more common than Bob in sales, could only articulate all the outside forces that he blamed for preventing him from being better than he was, a little less than average.

While it is easy to put this off to both being products of the choices they made, one needs to examine how they make their choices, and as importantly, how they acted, or in the case of all Average sellers, did not act, on choices they made or ignored.

It may not be sexy, but success in most endeavours, is a simple iterative process, chose/decide – act – review – chose/decide again – a act – review – chose/decide again. Sometimes the simplicity of it seems deceptive, people feel there needs to be a correlation between success and complexity. The real alignment, correlation, is between choices we make, the process for those choices, and the resulting action.

While we make choices every day, there are some fundamental choices that can be made that have greater effect on your success than others. Consider that some 40% of things we do every day are done out of habit. Meaning we don’t make the choice each time we act, but once, while forming and committing to a habit.

If you can track the things you actually do during a day/week, not what you think or tell other people, but the actual activities in real time you’ll see two things. First is which things you do out of habits, and which you make conscious choices on before you act. Many of the things that we do out of habit don’t directly relate to sales, the B-line I make for the coffee drive-thru when I leave my driveway is a habit. When I chose to follow up with a prospect, the time I spend researching a prospect, the actual people I contact, are all choices I make that impact my sales. Just like choosing to wait for the buyer to almost complete their buying journey before we line up for the opportunity to take their order on their terms, is a choice.

Regardless which type of sales you are involved in, which dogma you choose to consume, whose colors you wear, your day to day, deal to deal success is based on one thing, the choices you make and how you choose to act on those choices.

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Frayed

Success Breeds Prospects0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Most sales people tend to ease off on their prospecting when they have a healthy pipeline. They feel that there is plenty to work, they have a number of prospects on the go, and tell me, that their time is better used to drive the opportunities in the pipeline, and figure that they will prospect for more opportunities once the current pipeline solidifies. While the disjointed thinking of that logic is obvious to most, like “lemmings“, many sales people follow a path that ultimately leads less success.

Let’s say you close all the deals in your pipeline, let’s say; what will you work on the next day? We have all been on the pipeline roller-coaster. All kinds of opportunities to close at the peak, desperately prospecting (praying and hoping), at the bottom. Sure, it’s absurd, but sales pros choose to repeat it over and over, even though changing their habits is less stressful in the long run. So, what’s the alternative?

We have all heard the expression, and many of us have experienced first hand that Success does indeed breed success. In sales, the reality is that pipeline success leads to more success. Prospecting when your pipeline is “overflowing”, is one of the most fun things you can do. Sales professionals who take a balanced approach to their pipeline, meaning prospecting, finding new opportunities, is as important as closing any opportunity in your pipeline.

FrayedMost people don’t like prospecting because of the stress of having to add an opportunity sooner rather than later. That pressure is amplified when you have depleted all the opportunities, the emptier your pipeline, the more that silence reverberates the further your quota is out of reach. This pressure is very apparent to your prospects, even when you are hiding behind a phone, e-mail, or LinkedIn. They can smell a desperate seller a mile away in a storm. Mistakes come easier, frustration surfaces faster, and most seller’s results are much worse than they have to be; accelerating the downward spiral.

On the other hand, when your pipeline is full, you can truly forecast a successful month or quarter, there is hardly pressure at all. Every day you are focused on things that are driving deals, allowing you to leverage not just the energy in your prospecting, but the things your buyers responding to positively are the very things you can use in your prospecting. Just as they can smell fear, they can sense and respond to success. The way we carry ourselves when things are good, is positive and attractive. Buyers want to deal with successful professionals, something we can’t claim to be when our pipeline is low, when our energy is drained before we even pick up the phone or send an e-mail.

I suspect one reason people leave dead opportunities is so they can fool themselves out of prospecting. “I don’t need to prospect, look at all the things in the pipeline I can work on”. Right.

The solution is simple, make prospecting a habit. Base on your metrics, how many “meetings” do you need to generate to have enough coverage to get you to goal. Once you calculate that, you can have a good sense of how much time you will need to allocate to the activity each week, all through the cycle. It is usually less than you would think, it is only because we let it build up in our mind that it seems ominous. (Well, that and the rejection). I know how long it takes me to get an appointment, and I know how many appointments I need to succeed. But there is no denying that I am much better when the pipe is full, frankly because the state of my pipeline gives me the confidence to relaxed, focus and successful, which in turn gets me more prospects.

Join me Thursday for:

OBS Sales Experts

Win lose draw dice

Let’s Make A Decision!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

We’ve all been there, a real-life version of the popular game show. You’ve done your work, and have arrived at that final fateful stage of the sales.

Three possibilities, three doors:

  1. A positive Decision
  2. A negative Decision
  3. No Decision

While it is clear which door the individual sales person want, the question is how to get that. Much of that will depend on the state of the buyer and their organization at the time of decision. Broadly speaking three sates: 1) Actively looking, those people out there consuming all the content you dangle in front of them as they willingly march down their buying journey. You know all about these folks, 57% of the way… blah blah blah. They know what they want, why, and they are geared to get it. 2) Passively looking, they know they have to make a purchase, but they are not driven by the same urgency as their Active cousins. The things these two groups have in common include that they know they have to make a purchase, one now, the other sometime in the next 12 to 18 months. The other, is that they are both at the point of choosing the product, and will most likely end up with doors number 1 or 2. The other thing to consider is that these two groups make up less than 30% of the over target market.

But if you are only selling to this small group of buyers, an informed and opinionated set of buyers, you are most likely facing a decision based on price, features, or both. The good thing is that while you may not like the decision, at least you’ll get one.

What about the remaining 70%, the Status Quo, the complacent, set in their way, completely oblivious and removed from the market? Unlike Active or passive buyers, these people are not even thinking of playing, never mind deciding. Which is one of the key factors behind the high and rising number of deals that end up behind door number 3, no decision! According to sources some 30% of opportunities going into the top of your funnel will end in no decision. Take out the Active and Passive folks, who will make a decision, even when not in our favour, this means about half of deals initiated with Status Quo buyers go nowhere. Not the best use of time or resources.

While there a host of reason for this, but I think the key is what we are selling these folks. Because most sellers are practiced at selling to Folks who have made the decision to act, and are now down to selecting a product. Status Quo people are much further back down the road, they need to be convinced that a change is necessary. When we are successful at doing that, then they enter the product, or if you like, the solution, selection phase. The reason half don’t make a product decision is we were not successful at showing them why they need to leave the safety and warmth of their current means of doing things. Without that, they don’t need to decide on a product, feature, price or any of the common features of a buyer initiated and driven sale. Active and Passive buyers do most of the lifting, they just need someone to place an order with once they made up their mind.

Win lose draw diceSuccess with getting Status Quo buyers rests in being able to engage them on how they do things now, how that aligns with or detracts from their objectives. If we fail to get them to understand that there is another way to achieve those objectives, there is no need for a product decision.

Forget what makes you successful in winning what’s behind doors number 1 & 2, to win what’s behind door number 3, you need to create a reason for them to have to decide, this is about everything but the product. Active and Passive buyers have made the decision to decide on their own, leaving the sellers who service them no opportunity to exercise by sales people who are only selling to these buyers. Frankly a challenge for many inbound types, and others.

Adding to the challenge is that as soon as we go “product” with these buyers, they turn off, for them that is putting the cart way, way ahead of the horse. Your options need to look to their internal processes, and how those are enabling or preventing them from achieving current objectives, or objectives you can get them to adopt. The half of Status Quo buyers who choose not to make a decision, are not rejecting your product, but your inability to persuade based on anything other than product.

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pier

Are your prospecting calls a long run off a short pier?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sellers are a wonderfully optimistic lot, having drank the Kool Aid about their “solution”, believing that they are indeed the cavalry coming over the hill to heal all that pains their potential prospects. This unbridled optimism and energy works great when you have a willing audience, say a play, where the audience comes with interest and openness to the message. That however is not the reality of a prospecting call, or dare I say, cold call; enthusiasm is not enough, in fact can be your undoing.

In no way do I want to douse your enthusiasm, but I do want to infuse a bit of reality into how prospecting unfolds these days. While I use calls to demonstrate the points, the basics hold true for e-mails, or other forms of “disruptive selling”. You can dress it up any way you like, but if your call or e-mail or other method of approach is not scheduled, and is news to the recipient, then we are disrupting that buyer. Nothing wrong with that, you are practicing Disruptive Marketing; if they taught Sales 2.0 or 3.0 were cool, Disruptive Marketing is just plain Arctic. Take pride in what you do, change the title on your card to read “Professional Interrupter”.

If you are going to interrupt someone, make it count, make every second of the call count, especially the first few. Even in an e-mail, if your subject line sucks, and your opening line is subpar, you’re beat from the start, as the prospect will never take in the real reason you called or they should speak with you. Those first few seconds are crucial, which is why I don’t understand why some many seller, so many professional interrupters, squander those important seconds.

Time after time I hear sales people talk about the most irrelevant things when the prospect unsuspectingly answers the phone. Rather than dealing with and delivering to the most important thing the prospect wants to know, i.e. “What’s In It For Me?” They ramble on about stuff not even their wives care about.

Caller: “Hi my name is Harvey Brown, I am the mid-Atlantic Account Executive for Blah Blah Inc., a Fortune 500 company and award winning manufacture of Machines Learning Widgets”. Frankly who really cares, Mom?

From the prospects’ perspective, you are almost at the end of the pier, and you haven’t even turned the corner of saying anything of interest to the prospect. With this approach, by the time you get to anything they may be able to evaluate and base a meeting on, the prospect has certainly checked out mentally if not hung up. In the case of e-mail, you can bet your last dollar that they have deleted your e-mail by now and have moved on.

What’s in it for them is not who you are, what you do, who you sell for, or what you sell. What’s in it for them are the outcomes and impacts on their business. So, start your call with that.

pier

Start with the very end, and then use your sales meeting to work back to why your product. Lead with the impacts on their business, what it will look like after they buy from you, don’t focus on what they are buying from you. If they don’t see the “how things will be different (better), then they could care less about what you sell. To do this you need to inject it into the call early, and not waste time giving long rambling demographical data that will make you run out of pier long before you can deliver the impact.

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stranger in their own deal

A Stranger In Your Own Deal?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

It’s interesting to see how different sales people and organisations deal with lost deals. In light of the fact that most sales people including me, have an initial engagement to close ratio of less than 50%, meaning we lose more than we win, you’d think there would be more of a focus on understanding the reason for the outcomes of our opportunities. A better understand of why things turned out as they did, more importantly, how to change things to change the outcome moving forward should be of interest to sales types.

Even among those who do have a formal review process, they at times are limited by their scope and process.

A proper review of a loss is not easy, and may in fact be bruising to the rep involved. Which is one reason, I believe, that the rep involved in a lost deal should not be part of the process for loss review, at least not in parts involving the prospect in question. This is not some form of punishment, it is to ensure you get the best feedback for driving change.

Almost always, when you send the rep in to find out why they lost, you get no usable feedback. First off, the prospect, having made their choice has now shifted to implementing what they just bought (from the other guy). The easiest thing is to tell the rep it was price and product related differences. The reps have egos to protect, so what better than having the convenience of having price and product to blame. “See, it’s just as I and the rest of the team have been telling you….”

You really want this guy walking around the sales floor looking good for loosing?

stranger in their own dealIf you are looking for loss reviews to have real meaning and bring change, not only should you have someone else do it, but have a plan and specific areas that you will probe. Depending on the size of your deals and company, your best option is to go with a third part specializing doing post mortems.

One such professional I spoke to, told me that most of the time they uncover things the rep was not even aware of. As you may expect, reps spent their time on the “product selection” elements, even before the prospect(s) were at that stage of their buying process. As a result, the rep was beat long before price and features were even on the table.

In essence, the rep brought nothing new to the discussion, and early in the buying process was relegated to being the “low end benchmark”. As soon as another vendor/rep took the discussion to a direction that had nothing to do with product, but instead, to place that everything to do with the buyers’ objectives, business realities, and impacts they were seeking, the PP rep (Price Product), became the designated low end comparable, which is why he/she was allowed to stick around, and also why you need someone else to do the post mortems.

While you can’t relitigate the deal, you do have to make sure that you get to the core issue(s). On the surface this may seem like it is about why the rep blew it, but it is really about understanding what needs to be different next time. And if the rep objects, you just remind them that in reality, they were a stranger in their own deal to begin with, so it may as well be so in the post mortem, especially if you really want to learn and change.

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