Businessman on rock mountain with idea bulb

3 Reason to Establish and Mine The Gap – Part II2

By Tibor Shanto – 

Monday, we looked and the need to establish a “Gap”, and gave an example that you can use to start the process with in your sales. Clearly you will need to build on that, and in today’s post we will offer specific steps you can take to surface and leverage Gaps in the process of helping buyers and winning deals.

As with most things worth doing, there is the investment part, and the pay-off part; please keep in mind that the pay-off will be after things have taken hold, not the next day. Make your plan, then execute the whole plan, not give up because you need to give things time to happen.

GAP PyramidCorpus of Knowledge

Step one is building a base of knowledge that allows you to step out as a Subject Matter Expert. You need to not only understand the objectives your market player may have and, should have. What makes you an expert is not all the information you have, but your ability to translate your knowledge into actionable insight; key here is actionable. The reality of “satisfied” prospects, is that they are by definition inert, not looking to move. Even when they have stated objectives, they have pre-conceptions about how to achieve them. To win you need to have them look at their objectives differently, look at objectives they may not have considered for different reasons, until an expert like you throws it into the mix.

Most sellers take in the prospect’s objectives at face value, and jump to trying to influence how the prospect might achieve those objectives. In other words, they focus on the “means” rather than the “end”; the problem with this, is that it is a crowded place to be, and if the “ends” have not changed, the “means” will be decided on in the feature/price filter.

Expert sellers, know they have to have the prospect re-evaluate their objectives, notice I did not say change, just re-evaluate, and if you are part of that re-evaluation, you can influence them, and marginalize the other sellers. How you ask, by focusing on the impacts you can deliver to their business. If they focus on the impacts, which are the ultimate “end”, an objective or a goal is a way to realize that impact. To do this you have to have the knowledge to understand why the buyer’s stated objectives may be, and a set of “Better” alternatives to get there.

Tribal Knowledge

To do that, you need to establish a discipline to review every opportunity that enters your pipeline, wins, losses, and “no decisions”. We use the 360 Degree Deal View, as it is uniquely designed to focus on objectives and impacts, and the Gaps that exist in the buyer’s current state, and the alternate state they are planning. Doing this gives you a level of understanding that will allow you to be the expert, be a conduit to best practices your prospects can learn and earn from.

Yes, this takes time, but not that much time, not as much time as it does chasing deals you won’t win.

Two key things you’ll learn will help you in Mining The Gap. First is the most common objectives and means of hitting those objectives currently favoured by market players, sellers and buyers. This will allow you to understand where there are Gaps or misalignment. For example, a VP may have a goal of 50/50 mix in revenues from product and services, but four months into the year it is tracking at 70% product, 30% services, where services fetches higher margin. You can surface this Gap with two simple questions, once the Gap is there, you can “Mine” it.

Second, you’ll discover where you have delivered unexpected impacts to objectives the buyer was not aware of or focused on before encountering you.

In all this it is important to look at the outs of 360’s right across your organization, look at other reps’ reviews, and expand your knowledge while expanding your value. Develop your Gap questions built on empirical data not third party wives’ tales or industry myths. There is a specific set of steps that when applied not only allow you to confirm and qualify Gaps, but Mine them, work them in a way that better engages your buyer, and separates you from also-rans. But it has to done right, or you may fall in to the Gap, sell like everyone else.

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16b - Value visual (640x465)

3 Reason to Establish and Mine The Gap – Part I0

By Tibor Shanto – 

Sales people are always trying to create urgency, or figure out how they can accelerate a decision. The conventional approach has been to either focus on a “pain point” the buyer may want to solve with haste. The other conventional strategy is to have the client agree to a needs analysis, and leverage the outcome based on that analysis. The beauty of the latter is that no matter what the inputs, in some miraculous way, the output always pints to your product or offering.

We can talk about the merits or efficacy of these methods, they work not because of the skills of the seller, but as a result of the state of the buyer. Specifically, they either have a pain and set out to address it on their own; or realise that their current state is not optimal, hence their willingness to participate in needs analysis. But what about those who are neither in pain, and see their current state as being “satisfied”? Those buyers who respond, “we’re good”, or “we’re all set”, or similar responses. that’s where you have to work The Gap.

To start, this is not about objection handling in the context of cold call, for that click here. This is where you specifically target potential prospects who are “satisfied” in a way that allows them to understand that there are viable alternatives to their chosen path that they are not aware of or have ignored for any number of reasons. In other words, those who are not aware of any gaps in their current state.

Mine the gapThe GAP

The best way to have a prospect understand the “gap” in their current state is not to have them look in the past as many sellers do, or at their current state; people will naturally defend what they have done and what they are doing when their state is “satisfied”. Your only option is to take them into the future, then walk them back to the present to have them experience where a Gap you see exists, but they to date have not. Here is a simple and reusable example, it is somewhat general, if you would like to have it tailored to your vertical or target group, get in touch.

Seller: I am curious VP Jane, if we were sitting here 18 months from now, and you were telling me the team had hit a grand slam, what would that look like?

At this point you have to sit back and let the person talk, this may sound obvious, but I live in the real world. You have to be patient, it takes some people a couple of sentences to really get to it. You may have to help them by asking them to elaborate, expand, etc. But once they get going, once they buy into the fact that they can articulate their view for the future, i.e. their objectives, you will be amazed at the future state they paint.

What I find 95% of the time, is that “18 months from now” doesn’t look anything like “now”. Which allows you to ask the next question:

Seller: That’s a great view VP Jane, so help me understand why we are not there now?

The answer to that is the Gaps they see between where they are and where they say they actually want to be. Among the things they will lay out in their response (with help from you), will be the Gaps you can Mine to develop the opportunity.

To do this right you will need to do some work, understanding what are some common objectives similar people have had, which of those gaps they were willing to invest in, and which were only aspirational. But most importantly, you will need to be able to leverage how you have helped others “fill the Gap”, achieve their objectives, and the impacts you delivered to their business as a result. To be honest, this is not easy at first, you have to fly without product or brochure, and rely strictly on skill, knowledge, and the ability to transform that knowledge to actionable insights for your buyers. Once you can do that, you’ll be able to Mine those Gaps, and deliver sales success.

Beyond the example above, come back Thursday, and we’ll look at some ways to effectively Mine The Gap.

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Top Sales Academy – GAP Selling0

Join me today as I deliver my segment of the Internal Sales Curriculum for Top Sales World’s Top Sales Academy.

I will be focusing on how to best sell in changing times and markets by leveraging GAP Selling.  While the curriculum is billed for internal sales, this GAP Selling presentation is applicable to all B2B sellers, inside or field sales.  The presentation will present a sales framework that will allow you to succeed in changing markets.

Changing times and markets means you have to change how you sell and who you sell to.  This session will show you what you need to think about before you start your sales, and what you have to do to succeed in new or any buying environment.  You will be introduced to GAP Selling, a five plank platform for selling success based on an actionable definition of value for the buyer.  The planks are:

  1. Time utilization
  2. Identifying and validating buyer’s objectives
  3. Why Buyers buy and don’t buy from you and your company
  4. Converting the above to Impact Questions for quality conversations
  5. A structured follow-through approach to maximize impact and progress Participants will learn how to use the above to create alignment with the buyer, their objectives and buying process

Participants are introduced to the model and key steps they need to take to implement model, they will be able to go back to their organizations and evaluate they current model, and prepare to introduce elements they may be missing.

You can hear an interview I did with Top Sales World in advance of the event:

Win Tickets to see Tony Robbins in Toronto – July 24!

Price – A Hard Habit To Kick – Sales eXchange 171100

A couple of weeks ago I lost an opportunity I feel I should have won, and as you have read here in the past, you need to invest the time to understand why deals turn out the way they do. To do that I asked a couple of people I know, also involved in sales training to sit down to conduct the review, in essence to play the role of the manager, and keep me honest.  The goal is to learn if the deal was winnable, if so what could I have done differently.  If not winnable, are there any trends we can glean that we need to incorporate into future sales; or what can we learn that will help us recognize deals that are not going to happen earlier, so we can move on faster.

I was taken aback when the first question one of my peers asked was: “do you think you would have won had you priced it lower?”

Wow, what an uninspiring start.  I guess if I gave it away free I would be busy five days a week, but my kids would starve.  I looked at her hoping she would continue, and asked her why she started there, especially when I had shared with her and the other fellow involved the form/tool I use of our reviews, exploring many factors beyond price.  What worried me even more is that this person was involved in working with sales teams, and this was top of mind here, what is top of mind when they are out in field.

The importance of reviewing both deals you win and lose, is understanding the trends behind the decisions.  Every time a buyer does not buy from you is not a failure on your part, and the reviews will help you delineate between the two.  There are buyers who will not pay for the value of your offering regardless of how well you communicated.  It is important to understand which end of the communication failed.  If it was you, then you need to work to change how you do things, and reviews will help.  But if it was the buyer’s failure to understand/appreciate the value when you did everything you had to, it is better to know that and why, and how to recognize it moving forward.  Communication is two directional, and it could well be that the buyer does not see the value or does not want to pay for it, yes they are cheap.  And none of want cheap customers.  The quicker you can spot one vs. the other, the quicker you can decide who is worth your time and resources, or which opportunities you can abandon early.*

Fine Print – the above is predicated on having a healthy pipeline of real opportunities, it is a lot easier to walk away from a bad thing knowing there are other opportunities to work on, than to walk away from the only thing left in your pipe.

Price is easy, in fact it is addictive; sellers need to be value competitive, not  price competitive.  Much better to get your clients addicted to your value/quality, then you becoming addicted to discounting.  As with anything addictive, you run the risk of not just selling at a lower price, but for the wrong reasons.  At first you figure you hey what’s a 3% discount.  Once that is comfortable, you need a bigger fix.  When you come up to the next resistance, you hesitantly try one more point, then another, and you are at 5%.  You figure on $100,000 deal, say 8% commission, going to $95,000 will only impact you by $400, but could be the margin for your company.  Remember that next time you wonder about investment in product development, marketing, resources, and all the things the $5,000 you gave away could buy.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

A Sales Association #Webinar31

“Leveraging Value from Engaging the Buyer to Closing the Sale” – A Sales Association Webinar
Tuesday, October 30 – 2 p.m. EST / 1 p.m. CST / Noon MST / 11 a.m. PST (1 hour in length)

On Tuesday October 30, I have the privilege to deliver a webinar for The Sales Association – I will be talking to specific steps sellers can take to delivering and leveraging value throughout the sale.

Almost every conversation about selling starts or ends with the concept of value. At the same time, there are as many different understandings and definitions of value as there are sellers and buyers. Without a clear and actionable definition of value, many conversations between buyers and sellers are less than effective, and do not help create a buy.

Starting with a clear definition of value, participants will learn the five-step process to leveraging value throughout the sale, from the initial engagement to winning the client.

Steps include:

  • Identifying and validating buyer’s objectives
  • Understanding why buyers really buy
  • Why Buyers buy and don’t buy from you and your company
  • Converting the above to Impact Questions for quality conversations
  • A structured follow-through approach to maximize impact and progress

Participants will learn how to use this process to create alignment with the buyer, their objectives and buying process.

Click Her to Register Now!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

The Mighty Weak Link – Sales eXchange 16274

Most of the time in sale we focus on ensuring we connect with and sell to the key decision makers, influencers, those driving the strategy, in order to build a solid understanding of the buying organization’s objectives and capabilities to realize those objective.  We work hard to align our offering with their key business goals, and help ensure that they can realize maximum benefit, regardless of how they measure it (revenue, market share, productivity).

But we have all been in situations where we did all we had to, did it well, by the book, only to have no sale at the end, or the sale coming much much later than forecasted.  If you look back and examine these instances, what you will often find is that there were some key people overlooked and not engaged.  Not in the decision making process, but in the implementation process. 

The reality is that we are not just selling to get a decision made, but selling to have something delivered, implemented and paid for.  To be more successful you need to sell the organization not just specific people.  This cuts both ways, you need to ensure that your are engaged with everyone who can impact your success, this includes executive, middle management, users, AND implementers.  On your side it needs to include not just you, but other people/departments they will be dealing with once you have done your part.

For example, if you sell IT related solutions (software/hardware/applications) you have all faced a scenario where everything was in place, then someone in the IT group throws up the argument that they can build it better, or decide to put it so low on the priority list that you’ll likely retire before it moves far enough up the list.  What appears to be an unimportant link, undoes all the work you did to that point.

Awareness is the first step, with that in hand you can take steps to deal with it.  First and foremost, understand how and who will be responsible for implementing whatever it is you sell.  We often enquire who will “own” it, who the day-to-day administrators or users will be, but we take implementation for granted.  Find out who they are early, really early and then engage them.  Sell them on the upside to them the way you would anyone else.

One obvious question is to have them tell you about an implementation that went bad, really bad, take in the specifics, ask them how it specifically impacted them.  Most importantly ask how they would have done things differently, what the vendor should have done things differently, focus on different – not better – you want their view on things need to be done, not value judgments.   You will now be able to position your offering in a way that aligns with their views and wishes. 

The implementers can also be a great source for information about some of the business decision makers, users, and others involved in the deal.  Remember they have been through this type of thing before, they know who is mover and makes things happen, and who is all talk no results.  Great way to know who can help you move the deal forward, better, and faster.  Getting their support early may take away any reluctance or doubt from the business decision makers, knowing they will be able to get things done; by removing even a small unspoken doubt, you can move things along and gain velocity in the process.

Since you are already there, talking to all the “key” people, you may as well include everyone who can help you, or stop the deal dead, they may seem inconsequential early, they could be your eak link in the long run.  So don’t forget the guy with the screw driver.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

School Is In53

A reminder that there is a class this afternoon, 4:00 pm Eastern
GAP Selling – Leveraging Process and Execution

GAP Selling – Looks at how to deliver value to buyers across the entire sales cycle.
Almost every sales conversation starts or ends with the concept of value; at the same time there are as many different understandings and definitions of value as there are sellers and buyers.
This course delivers clear and actionable definition of value. Starting with that definition of value, participants will learn the five step platform to leveraging that value right through the sale, from the initial engagement to winning the client. The overarching goal of the platform is to focus on the buyer’s objectives, and delivering specific means of helping them achieve those objectives.
These include:

  1. Identifying and validating buyer’s objectives
  2. Understanding why buyers really buy 
  3. Why Buyers buy and don’t buy from you and your company 
  4. Converting the above to impact questions and quality conversation 
  5. A structured follow-through approach to maximize impact and progress Participants will learn how to use the above to create alignment with the buyer, their objectives and buying process

Join us at 4:00 pm Eastern today
Prerequisite – An open mind to learning and selling better
Test – Your weekly Pipeline Review

Sales Summer School34

The most valuable, complete sales training of the summer!

Featuring me and 18 other well-respected sales innovators, authors and trainers from across North America, Sales Summer School delivers ideas and actions that you can take immediately to improve your sales results.

You can select from over 30 courses with a wide variety of topics ranging from tips and techniques for interviewing for your next sales position to obtaining strategic referrals and partners, through to coaching your sales teams as an effective leader.

My course is GAP Selling – Leveraging Process and Execution, is coming up next Thursday, August 2, at 4:00 pm Eastern.  GAP Selling – Looks at hoe to deliver value.  Almost every sales conversation starts or ends with the concept of value; at the same time there are as many different understandings and definitions of value as there are sellers and buyers. Without a clear and actionable definition of value, many conversations between buyers and sellers are less than effective, and do not help create a buy. Starting with that definition of value, participants will then learn the five step process to leveraging that value right through the sale, from the initial engagement to winning the client. The overarching goal of the process is to focus on the buyer’s objectives, and delivering specific means of helping the achieve those objectives. Steps include: 1) Identifying and validating buyer’s objectives 2) Understanding why buyers really buy 3) Why Buyers buy and don’t buy from you and your company 4) Converting the above to impact questions and quality conversation 5) A structured follow-through approach to maximize impact and progress Participants will learn how to use the above to create alignment with the buyer, their objectives and buying process.

You can see the other courses, schedules, and register by clicking here.

Each course is scheduled for 60 minutes and there is always time available for live Q&A with the audience.

You would have to pay thousands of dollars to hear these speakers live. Your investment of $47.00 per event will prove to be the most valuable career investment you will make this year.

Look down the list of Presentations and Speakers, select those that you would like to attend, and the rest will  be taken care of behind the scenes.

As an attendee, you will receive access to a recording of the event for your review later on, and will also be given exclusive access to a private LinkedIn Group reserved only for attendees of Sales Summer School. Each of the instructors is an active member, and are available to answer your questions on sales and sales management. Private access to this group of experts is worth more than the price of the ticket itself.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Top 25 Sales Influencers for 201220

One great thing about this time of year is the research done by others to help you kick-start your year.  The advantage is that you have experts in the field researching specific areas of interest, and delivering valuable resources you can use, thereby saving you time and effort, and allow to utilize and benefit from those resources.

B2B sales is not different, the good folks over at OpenView Labs, have put together a list of Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012.  Needless to say this is a great resource for all in B2B sales, and needless to say the list includes your humble writer, and not so humble sales trainer, myself Tibor Shanto.  On the list with me are some old friends and some new friends, including Mike Weinberg, S. Anthony Iannarino, Elinor Stutz, Jonathan Farrington, and Kenrad Lee.

Check out the list, explore, learn and profit.

Start by downloading our new book: Sales & Consequences

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Not Different – Sales eXchange – 13221

Friday I posted a piece on taking control of your selling, in which I mentioned a VP of sales who felt his circumstance was “different”.  I get that a lot, and I am sure most sellers hear that all the time; companies or individuals who feel they are different, but with all due deference they most often are not.  For that fact neither you or I are that different when looked at specifically from a sales standpoint, what you might sell can be a little different from the alternatives, but studies have shown that most products in the market place share many of the same features and attributes.

As a result, often the only difference is the way sales people sell not the product itself, it is the seller that can best engage, spark the imagination and understanding of the buyer that will truly differentiate the experience and the outcome, not the product itself.  I understand that in the heat of battle it feels like you are experiencing things different from other sellers, but at the core, sorry, not that different. Claiming to be different, especially when you are not achieving the desired results, is just one card in a deck of excuses.

There are however way you can use this sense of “being different” to your advantage, primarily by challenging it.  The most practical thing you can do is challenge their sense of being different.  Yes challenge it, may seem odd, but it is your edge.  As long as the buyer thinks that they are different and unique, they will be stuck in that mode and rarely move to buying.  Thinking they are unique drives them to look for unique solutions; solutions that either have to be “customised”, which usually carries a prohibitive cost point, or solutions that may not exist.

By challenging their perception of being unique, you can focus on those points that lead the buyer to believe that they are that different.  In other words, your offering may meet 90% of the buyers “real” requirements, but if you don’t break it down to that, than you will be allowing the 10% to be the entire thing.  Once you have narrowed it down to the 10%, you can deal with it in specific terms, alternatives, plugins, professional services, all which should address the buyers need, and drive revenue for your company.

More importantly, the mere fact that you are willing to (professionally) challenge the notion of “being different” will make you seem different from the other vendors, who will play the game of chasing the unattainable, especially if they have not isolated the difference, and placed context around it.  One way to this consistently is to use the GAP Selling model.   If you play into their notion of being different, you will suffer the same fate as those looking to satisfy a concept rather than bringing it in to real terms that can be defined, addressed, eliminated.

Most time the process of challenging the “difference” will set you apart, and help the buyer see where they are miss-focusing time and energy.  I remember meeting with a sales VP a few years back, nice guy, I still do some work for him.  When we first met he was crusty and challenging, telling me in a very commanding way that I needed to understand that they were different; every time I tried to explore an area of their sale, he kept coming bank “yes Tibor, but you see we are different”.  I clearly needed to challenge this:

TS:  OK John, I want to better understand how you are different than the hundreds of companies I have worked with.  Let me get this straight, normally you have prospects lined up out the door, round the block, but because I was coming today you cleared the lot, right?

John: No no, my people have to go out find leads and prospect, in fact, I wish they would do more; but they work trade shows, networking, cold calls.  It’s not easy either, they have to work at it and there is always room to improve.

TS: OK, but once they engage with prospect, there is not much selling, no competition, buyers just want to know where to sign.

John: No man, we have to prove our value especially against key competitors, offer up the right solution, and help them sell it internally.

TS: OK, but once you accomplish that, they just sign, no negotiations, bargaining, it is straight to the dotted line?

John: I wish, we go back and forth, I am never sure if it is my team or the customers, but we have even built a cushion in to the price to be able to have a bit of give and wiggle.

TS: So where are you different, because you have just described 90% of my clients?

It was after this point that the discussion really got going, where we were able to deal with some of the things that did make aspects of what they do unique.  Had I allowed myself to go down the “wow is me, we are different” road, there would have been no sale, or a much longer sale cycle.

So when you hear they are different, smile and ask WHY?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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