Archive for May, 2011

Selling Added Value Within the Buyer’s Process

As a follow up to my recent post (Matching Buyers Needs and Sellers Activities), I promised to expand on the concept of selling added value.

As you already know, the “Four Drivers of Sales Performance” are:

  • Selling Skills
  • Knowledge
  • Relationship Building
  • Time and Territory Management

Old Protocol

Companies almost always hired the candidate with the best selling skills, charm and personality. The thought was that you could teach them the product knowledge.

New Protocol

Today’s salesperson is really a “knowledge broker” and companies today are hiring people with demonstrable knowledge as the first criteria.

The reason for this is that the customer has gotten a lot smarter and has much more information available today. The salesperson needs to be as knowledgeable as the buyer or he will be dismissed because he lacks value.

Some companies are buffering this trend by having presales technical support specialists as part of the selling process and some industries are moving to team selling. This phenomenon cannot continue because it nearly doubles the cost of sales at a time when companies are trying to reduce the cost of selling. There is also that added nuance that drives the prospect to want to deal with the technical specialist rather than the salesperson.

For selling in this new millennium, the name of the game is

“How do we deliver the most knowledge to our prospect”?

The following chart shows the “Three Areas of Sales Activity” within the buying process.


  Pre-Sales Area – knowledge prevails here. There is a huge knowledge gap here – prospect needs help today).  In this area, the salesperson needs to:

  • Know and understand general business practices
  • Know and understand the buyer’s needs
  • Know and understand how the product or service fits these needs
  • Know and understand where the industry is going
  • Know and understand your competitors positioning

Sales Cycle Area – knowledge and selling skills prevail here. In this are the salesperson needs to”

  • Know how to justify your products investment
  • Know how it contributes to the buyer’s needs
  • Show how it will solve his problem
  • Show how you will install it, train them, and support them
  • Make certain they know (and value) the “services after the sale”

Post Sales Area – relationship skills prevail here. In this area you need to demonstrate your support by providing:

  • Ongoing training
  • Upgrades and enhancements
  • Meeting deliverables
  • Service and support policies
  • Customer service attitude (We are all with you for the long haul)

 In the first two areas the buyers are on information overload. The seller’s role is not only to provide information, but to interpret it for them and make it relevant. This means the seller has to have a high degree of knowledge. The competencies required for this process include:


                        Questioning and Listening Skills

                        Strategic Thinking

                        Conviction, Confidence and Integrity

Today’s salesperson is a “knowledge broker” more than anything else.

If you need assistance in helping your team become knowledge brokers, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


The Sales Increase Analysis Test


The following test is an extension of one I originally published in Personal Selling Power Magazine entitled “How to Raise Sales Productivity”.

The test provides a method for you, as the business person, to test your sales and marketing processes for value.

Sales increases come from enhancing the sales side of the organization and/or improving your marketing programs.

You may wish to print this out to complete it.

Please answer all the questions quickly and honestly.

The scoring mechanism at the end tells you where to direct your resources to gain a sales productivity increase.

  1. Do our salespeople have more sales leads than they are able to handle?       Yes (  )  No (  )
  2. Does our sales organization utilize both direct and indirect representatives (i.e. Manufacturer’s reps, ISO’s Distribution reps, etc.)?      Yes (  )  No (  )
  3. Have we implemented a specific sales process (steps) and do our salespeople  understand and utilize it?             Yes (  )  No (  )
  4. Do our salespeople have the proper sales presentation tools and know how to use them?   Yes (  )  No (  )
  5. Do we  have a formal sales training program in place to develop product and industry knowledge as well as selling skills?     Yes (  )  No (  )
  6. Do our sales people know how they are being measured in areas other than revenue?    Yes (  )  No (  )
  7. Is our Sales Manager conducting regular in-field coaching sessions on an individual basis with the sales people? Yes (  )  No (  )
  8. Does our Sales Manager have a formal plan in place to develop our sales people’s skills?   Yes (  )  No (  )
  9. Is our sales compensation plan designed to promote the proper product mix and does it reward high performance and penalize low performance?    Yes (  )  No (  )
  10. Does our Company have a formal performance improvement program in place to prescribe help needed and to set minimum requirements and expectations for acceptable levels of performance?    Yes (  )  No (  )
  11. Do we regularly communicate product and industry update information to our sales people?  Yes (  )  No (  )
  12. Do we have a formal program in place for reporting sales activity?   Yes (  )  No (  )
  13. Are our sales people providing regular product and industry feedback on a formal (written) basis?                       Yes (  )  No (  )
  14. Are our sales people reporting on sales which we lost and telling us why?   Yes (  )  No (  )
  15. Do our sales people have a program in place to contact accounts that should be buying, but are not?                  Yes (  )  No (  )
  16. Do we (the Company) and they know who these accounts are?   Yes (  )  No (  )
  17. Are we convinced that our product is being represented in the best possible manner by our sales people?       Yes (  )  No (  )
  18. Are our sales people complaining about geographic or territorial issues?   Yes (  )  No (  )
  19. Do we believe our sales organization is making the best use of it’s time?   Yes (  )  No (  )
  20. Is our sales organization using computers and contact management software?   Yes (  )  No (  )
  21. Are we receiving negative feedback about the product not meeting the markets needs?   Yes (  )  No (  )
  22. Are we experiencing significant price objections?   Yes (  )  No (  )
  23. Are we experiencing customer satisfaction complaints?  Yes (  )  No (  )
  24. Are we experiencing significant competitive pressure?   Yes (  )  No (  )
  25. Do we conduct regular customer satisfaction surveys?   Yes (  )  No (  )
  26. Do we have any market research or surveys results about our market and the customer needs?  Yes (  )  No (  )
  27. Do we have reliable competitive information and do we have answers for competitive objections? Yes (  )  No (  )
  28. Do we know if our product is meeting the needs of our customers?   Yes (  )  No (  )
  29. Are we selling into every market where our product fits, if it makes sense to sell there?  Yes (  )  No (  )
  30. Do we understand our market “position”?  Yes (  )  No (  )
  31. Do we have a formal (written) marketing plan developed and have we implemented it?  Yes (  )  No (  )
  32. Does our marketing plan address “all” of the following strategies?   (Product Strategies, Market Strategies, Selling Strategies, Distribution Strategies, Service and Support Strategies)  Yes (  )  No (  )
  33. Does our marketing plan provide a creative platform that has continuity of the marketing message?                    Yes (  )  No (  )
  34. Does our marketing plan provide the direction for the communications strategies (i.e.  Advertising, PR, Social Media, etc.)?   Yes (  )  No (  )
  35. Does our marketing plan provide for a specific budgeted amount of money to be spent on marketing activities? Yes (  )  No (  )
  36. Do we base our marketing activities on outcomes (ROI) rather than functions (ads, PR, etc) ?   Yes (  )  No (  )
  37. Do our advertising messages have a “call to action” (i.e. encourages the prospect to make an inquiry)?               Yes (  )  No (  )
  38. Have we selected a specific communications strategy?   Yes (  )  No (  )
  39. Does our present marketing strategy include at least three of the following programs?   (Web Based Social Media, Company Web Page, Webinars and Seminars, Space Advertising, Publicity, Direct Mail, Telemarketing, Event Marketing, Trade Shows)     Yes (  )  No (  )
  40. Do we have metrics in place and are we measuring the results of our communications vehicles and calculating return on investment?   Yes (  )  No (  )
  41. Do we have an effective “lead generation and closed loop lead management system” in place?  Yes (  )  No (  )
  42. Is the Sales Organization complaining about the quality of the leads we generate?  Yes (  )  No (  )
  43. Is our Sales Organization aware of the marketing strategies and is it involved in the decision making process about lead generation?   Yes (  )  No (  )
  44. Do our marketing people make occasional joint sales calls with the field sales organization?  Yes (  )  No (  )
  45. Is there agreement between marketing and sales about what constitutes a viable “lead”?  Yes (  )  No (  )
  46. Have we considered using or are we using any form of database marketing programs?  Yes (  )  No (  )
  47. Do we review our marketing plan every twelve months or less?  Yes (  )  No (  )
  48. Have we had an “marketing analysis” completed within the last twenty four months?  Yes (  )  No (  )
  49. Do we use an advertising or marketing specialty company to provide creative direction and to assist us in developing our marketing plans and programs?  Yes (  )  No (  )
  50. Have we had a Sales and Marketing Specialist conduct an audit or evaluation of our sales and/or marketing organization and processes within the last twenty four months?   Yes (  )  No (  )

 Scoring Mechanism:

  1. Count the number of “No” responses in questions 1-25 and enter that number here. (      )
  2. Count the number of “No” responses in questions 26-50 and enter that number here. (     )
  3. Add the amounts in “a” and “b” and enter that number here. (    )

Which group has the larger number? a. (  ) or b. ( )

If “a” had the larger number of “No” answers, you probably need to look at the sales side of the business to increase sales.

If “b” had the larger number of “No” answers, you probably need to look at the marketing side of the business to increase sales.

  1. Look at Question # 1 again. If you answered “Yes” this may be another indication that you probably need to look at the sales side of the business to increase sales.
  2. Look at Question # 50 again. If you answered “No” and if the total number of “No” answers (totaled in “3” above) exceeds 20, you may want to consider seeking some     additional outside assistance in helping you determine where and how to increase your      sales.

If you have questions, need additional assistance, or simply want to discuss this further, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Matching Buyer’s Needs and Seller’s Activity

Are your prospects and customers are like mine?

If they are, then you know that it is getting harder and harder to sell them “added value”.

I believe it is because they have access to more and more product information up front on the web and from peers and they probably don’t want to engage a salesperson any sooner than they need to. This puts them in control of the sales cycle.

Perhaps we need to understand their process in order to find a way around this obstacle.

The chart below depicts the steps in the buying process and areas where the buyer needs help.


What do we know about the customer??

He is being asked to produce more in less time with less resources and getting paid less to do it.

He wants (needs) help, but not from someone who “appears” to be selling

What is the buyer’s area of need at each stage?

Planning –  Higher level decision making about business issues that need resolution.

Recognizing Needs –  Defining the specific need to be met or problem to be solved.

Search for Solutions – Buyer looks for potential solutions to the issue or problem.

Evaluating Solutions – Compares the potential solutions in terms of evaluation criteria.

Selecting Suppliers – Potential supplier list is whittled down to 2-3 possible candidates.

Commit to Solution – The contractual commitment to make the investment.

Implement Solution –  Customer introduces solution into operation.

Tracking Results –  Assessment of the solution and the supplier’s performance

                                                (Tracking always leads back to new planning)

Note:  If we enter the sales cycle to late, the buyer establishes the buying criteria (sales cycle)

Value Added Seller’s Focus – must be on long term needs, not today’s price or “the deal”

Old Protocol

Buyers used to feel (and many still do) that the sales people lacked insight and understanding and had no genuine interest in the planning process.  Therefore, sellers did as buyer’s told them and waited for the specifications and then responded

New Protocol

Today “value added” sellers are asking “how can we be of assistance if we are not involved in the objectives and strategies developed in the planning process?

Prospects are asking “how can we use your expertise and product toward solving my problem?

Knowledge (information) is the difference between need based selling and playing the price game.

A word of caution….. Be careful here – if you don’t have the competencies to get involved in the planning process you may be dismissed early.  

Organizations that seek to differentiate themselves by adding value must deliver value that the customer perceives as true value.

The following chart overlays where most salespeople spend time trying to add value.


Salespeople  traditionally have spent most of their time becoming “selected” as the favored supplier and did very little selling in the early stages of the “buyer’s cycle” because they were rarely invited to participate.

Buyers are now saying that the “Planning” and “Recognizing Needs” steps are the most challenging areas for them, we need to reorient our approach to selling.

In these two stages the buyers are on information overload. The seller’s role is not only to provide information, but to interpret it for them and make it relevant. This means the seller has to have a high degree of knowledge. The competencies required for this process include:


                                    Of general business

                                    Of the prospect’s business

                                    Of the industry

                                    Of the competition

                        Questioning and Listening Skills

                        Strategic Thinking

                        Conviction, Confidence and Integrity

Today’s salesperson is a “knowledge broker” more than anything else.

If your prospects and customers are like mine, stay tuned.  I will offer some thoughts on how to reorient your sales force in my next BLOG.


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