Thursday, August 18, 2011

Increase Your Win Ratio: Get to the Executive Sponsor

“Great. When do we get started?” are words you love to hear from a customer. But, if you’re not hearing these words often enough or if feedback from customers leaves you shaking your head because you were sure your proposal fully met with the customer’s objectives — at least as you understood them — then it may be time to elevate your customer conversations.

Deals are lost for a variety of reasons: better fit by the competitor’s product, stronger relationships, a more creative solution, cost, customer delays … Customer delays are cropping up more and more often. Certainly the economy is playing a role, but to commit, customers need more information. The problem is that much of the time the executive who will ultimately make the buying decision does not have convincing information because he or she is not involved in the process until decision time. When the executive is invisible or inaccessible until decision time, it is highly probable you won’t have reflected his or her strategic vision and therefore your solution isn’t compelling enough for him/her to commit the budget.

While your line contacts are a tremendous source of information, they often provide a technical vs. strategic perspective. The answer to this problem is to get to executives early in the process. While this is challenging, it is doable.

To Gain Access to the Executive Sponsor
Your daily contact for the opportunity and/or your client coach is most likely the person who can help you get to the executive. Ask them to help you gain access. Build relationships with them and demonstrate how you will create value for the organization. Ask them to help you gain access. Position benefits and how in your experience this kind of meeting has been received favorably by executives as an indication of commitment. Always make it clear to your contact that he or she would be part of the executive meeting.

Maximize Your Meeting with the Executive
To make the absolute most of the meeting, bridge from your meeting with your daily contact:
 Thank the executive for meeting with you, giving credit/showing appreciation to your contact for helping you understand the objectives of the initiative.
 Ask if the executive sponsor if he or she would like a brief background on your organization (and if so, provide a two minute or so overview). Check if he/she has any questions before you begin).
 State that your purpose is to gain a full understanding of the executive’s vision and position your understanding of the objectives (1 minute); for example, “I understand the objectives of the initiative are …”Would you like to add to this or provide any information or background? (They usually do!)“

Ask strategic questions (not rehash the technical information you already have gotten from your contact) and take notes judiciously and spend three quarters of your meeting time here.
 What is driving this initiative at this time?
 What do you see as the current strengths you’re building on?
 What is the end result you’re looking to achieve?
 What are the emerging needs and demands of your customers that are served in this initiative?
 What do you see as the challenge in implementing/reinforcing this initiative?
 What is most important to you?

Begin to Create Value by Positioning/Planting the Seed:
 Show you can help create value by offering relevant industry insight or information on what him/her competitors are doing (without breaching confidentiality).
 Take a few minutes to give an overview of how your organization can meet the objectives. Position broad ideas of your approach and a success story. Check if executive has any questions and for feedback.
 If you think there are additional ideas you’d like the executive to consider that were not mentioned in the RFP or as a part of the initiative, ask about that, but of course have cleared the idea this with your contact.

Follow up:
 Debrief with your contact.
 Send thank you e-mails.
 Enter data into your CRM.
 Use data from your notes to further customize your proposal with the strategic vision.

Executive Dialogue Model
 Introduction
– Thank executive.
– Compliment opportunity contact.
– State purpose.
– Ask if the executive would like a brief overview of your company.
– Briefly summarize your understanding of the objectives/check.

 Strategic Conversation
– Ask if the Executive wants to provide any background or add to the objectives before you ask questions.
– Ask your prepared strategic questions, use acknowledgment, drill down, and take notes judiciously.

 Begin to Create Value — Position an Overview of Your Capabilities
– Show you can help create value. For example, offer relevant industry insight or information on what his/her competitors are doing (without breaching confidentiality).
– Customize your broad ideas to the objectives shored by the executive.
– Ask for feedback.

 Follow up
– Debrief with your contact.
– Send thank you e-mails.
– Enter data into CRM.
– Integrate strategic needs/language into your proposal.

Best Practice Tip
To raise your win ratio, identify and get to executive-level decision makers as early as possible.


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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Getting Paid for Out of Control Projects

It could be the result of a miscalculation on your part in pricing the project, a misunderstanding on the part of the customer, etc. but particularly in complex situations, development and delivery costs can spiral out of control exceeding your contractual agreements. Especially when the relationship is new, you may be hesitant to approach your customer to ask for more money than initially agreed. Overruns in scope are common. Getting paid for them is not so common.

The things you have in your favor are that most customers know when costs are spiraling upwards particularly when the overruns are caused by their changes, delays, or demands and many will try to be fair. But understandably most customers will sit back and wait to see what you will do.

While of course, it is very important to catch the overrun early and to prepare your data for the meeting with your customer, the most important thing you can do to stop scope creep is to address it with your customer as soon as you are aware of it. Earlier is better. Later can take away much of your collection leverage but in reality later is legitimate too.

One thing for sure is that if you don’t ask, you won’t get paid. If you ask, you’ll have a good chance of succeeding. And you can stem the tide of continued overruns.

In seeking payment for out of scope work, you’ll need all of your negotiating skills, starting with your preparation and confidence. Make sure you know the customer’s perception including level of satisfaction and where he/she thinks things stand. If there is new or conflicting information, you may need time to go back and prepare your response. Meet with your customer face-to-face if at all possible. Lay out the situation and cost, make your request, and be silent. If your customer resists, acknowledge neutrally, probe, and make a second effort.

Oh, and don’t be surprised if you don’t need to make a second effort. One salesperson was pleasantly surprised after he set up a meeting to discuss the status of the project. When he met with the customer, the customer preempted him by saying, “OK, Jonathan, I’ve been waiting for this. What’s the number?” It was a big one and the salesperson got paid.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Coaching for Sales Success

Please Join Richardson's Andrea Grodnitzky, Senior Vice President of Global Performance Solutions for her new video blog, Coaching for Sales Success. In this first installment, Andrea focuses on the importance of separating managing from coaching and defining what it takes to be successful in both areas.

Learn more about Richardson's comprehensive sales training and coaching solutions by visiting us on the web at

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Sales Transformation

88% of companies are seeking to transform!

Before you train your sales team - assess your talent and sales process. Determine the strategies and tools to embed into your system to sustain the new learning. Then, customize your training to your business.

Questions to ask:

  • Is your sales process clear and effective?

  • Are the right people in the right roles?

  • Is your training customized to your strategy?

  • What sustainment strategies and tools do you have in place to support coaching and embed process and skills into the work stream where it will be used daily?

  • What financial and customer metrics do you have in place?

  • Is your training preparing your salesforce to execute your new strategy?

  • Are your sales managers super salespeople or coaches?

Best Presenters’ Best Practices

Congratulations! You learned you are a finalist! You know with a few real opportunities, it’s important to win every possible deal. Just as the solution you recommend is a critical factor in winning or losing, so is your presentation.

Best Presenters’ Best Practices:

  • Don’t wing it! Practice, practice, practice. Ask for feedback from your manager and team members. If it is a team presentation, practice with your team.

  • Assign roles and stick to them.

  • Make it easy for your customer to say yes:

Link your recommendations to your customer’s priority objectives — in priority order.

Incorporate the customer’s language and needs on every slide and page.

Make it a “you” presentation (meaning the customer) vs. “We will do this … we will do that … we offer.” (Meaning your company presentation. Count the you’s when you practice.)

Leverage your internal client coach (hopefully, you have developed one) to validate what you plan to present and tweak before the presentation.

  • Schedule yourself for the last presentation slot so your recommendations are fresh in the customer’s minds. By presenting last, you won’t educate your customers for your competitors and you’ll leverage what the customer knows and does not know.

  • Review a bulleted agenda and check if it meets the customer’s expectations and ask where the customer wants emphasis.

  • Create an interactive presentation by checking for questions throughout. Seek a 70% (you) and 30% (customer) mix of dialogue.

Every time you make a major point, ask the customers what questions they have. This will enable you to adjust as you go.

  • Pause for a second after you make major points. For example, “Over two years we achieved savings of 35%, which means …” Pause and give your customer time to let the important points sink in! Use the Period Pause by maintaining silence for a second.

  • Use concise, impressive examples to bring your ideas to life. Instead of just saying, “Our system allows for X,” give a quick, specific example and check for questions. Examples increase your credibility and make what you say memorable. Without examples, your best selling points can fall flat.

  • Incoorporate your custom’s logo, color …

  • Use your presentation materials to support, not “make,” your presentation

Put a heading on the top of each slide or page, but don’t stop there.

Say “hello” to each new screen/page with a lead-in to help prepare customers. For example, rather than immediately beginning to discuss the content of the screen or page, say something such as, “Let’s now look at impressive results.”

Say “goodbye” to each slide to help your customers keep track with you with a quick benefit summary.

Although you should invite questions throughout, after your final summary, check for remaining questions. “The bottom line is, within six months you would benefit by …” “What questions do you have …”

Use and refer to sections and page numbers.

In preparing your materials, look at your material to make sure it is not crowded. Leave space and use bullets. Count your slides — one every three minutes is the maximum for most presentations.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Coaching Best Practices and Tips

You are likely out in the field more often with your salespeople. Here are some coaching best practices and tips to help you make the most of your team calls and use even limited post sales call time as a learning lab through coaching. After each call, along with discussing next steps and strategy, select one area of the call and coach to it.

Preparation: How prepared was the salesperson? How well did he or she prepare you?
- Briefed you for the call.
- Provided a copy of the sales call plan/agenda at least a day before the call to you.
- Requested a copy of sale call plan/agenda at least a day before the call.
- Used Social Media tools to research customers/prospects to help connect?
- Developed rapport topics/questions based on previous call notes and research.
- Included personal information in CRM along with business information?
- Use contacts such as receptionists, assistants, colleagues to gain personal insight to customer.

- Built rapport.
- Leveraged preparation.
- Recapped agenda and checked if it met client's expectations.
- Transition to Need Dialogue.

Need Dialogue
- Started with broader need questions - Why is customer doing X vs. getting details on X.
- Prefaced questions with reason/benefit to customer to encourage more open responses.
- Listened for and probed vague words, and picked up on words underscored to probe further.
- Took notes of key words, ideas, concerns, and personal data.
- Probed needs fully before asking about competitors, decision process, compelling event, time frame, and budget.

Solution Dialogue
- Customized your capabilities/solution to the customer's needs - addressed customer's priorities.
- Tied solution to the customer's business objectives/demonstrate measurable value.
-Provided success story/example to bring to life.
- Added value through insights/new ideas.
- Positioned alternatives when needed.
- Used customer's language.
- Clearly presented the solution/recommendation.
- Checked for customer feedback.

- Acknowledged concerns.
- Expressed empathy when customer's feelings were involved.
- Clarified the objective by asking for specifics. Didn't make assumptions.
- Customized capabilities/benefits to resolve the specific objection.
- Checked for agreement or understanding.

Action Close
- Summarized with benefits.
- Asked for action step that is tied to your call objective.
- Made a Second Effort by acknowledging and probing.
- Reinforced rapport to end on a personal note.

- Sent follow-up thank-you/recap e-mail.
- Entered data to CRM.
- Debriefed with team.
- Planned steps to maintain momentum.
- Followed up promptly.

Remember when you coach:

Coaching vs. Telling
- Ask for salesperson's perceptions before you give your feedback.
- Drill down and probe to help salespeople analyze their performance and take responsibility.
- Don't just talk about what to do differently - practice!
- Balance your feedback with strengths and areas for improvement.

To learn more about Richardson's comprehensive sales training, consulting and sales coaching solutions, please visit us on the web at

Friday, February 11, 2011

Complimentary Research Report

Richardson and CSO Insights are excited to offer a new research study - Sales Performance Optimization: Key Trends Analysis. This study provides an in-depth analysis on key selling trends and outlines some of the major issues and opportunities that companies see for the road ahead.

Download this must read study by visiting the following -

Chatter Matters

I am enamored of all the new technology tools made available through companies such as One feature in particular that I think can help revolutionize and accelerate call preparation, communication, sales coaching, and sharing of knowledge is’s Chatter. It’s like an internal twitter and for large and small sales organizations it can be a game changer.

For example, if a salesperson gets the opportunity to squeeze in a meeting with a prospect or customer between his/her scheduled calls and has little or no time to prepare, aside from using a CRM, social media, etc., or if a customer asks a question in a sales meeting the salesperson can’t answer, the salesperson can use “Chatter” by typing in the name of the prospect with a topic or question and the key words will direct the short message to anyone in the organization who has knowledge to share — allowing for an almost instantaneous answer.

But before using Chatter in the Customer’s Office consider the following:

Chatter Pros
 Allows for immediate response to the customer.
 Demonstrates a well-oiled sales team and operating sales system.
 Eliminates need to follow-up with a post sales call phone call or email.
 Helps move the sales process forward.

Chatter Cons

 The answer may not be one you wish to share at that time. (But the advantage is only you can read the reply on your Blackberry for example.)
 Removes a reason to follow up and connect with the customer post sales call.
 Puts you in the position of having to explain when no response from your team.

Salespeople often see CRMs as a two-edge sword — Super pain but also super hero as a faster and better way to organize and access information. As they say, there is almost nothing new in the universe but lucky for us creative technology features such as this makes sales research and responsiveness faster and farther reaching. CRMs aren’t going away. So embrace the best part and get friendly with all the tools available in your CRM to give you a sharp edge in a tough economy.

To learn more about Richardson's comprehensive sales training and performance improvement solutions please vist us

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sales Proposal Executive Summaries: Don’t … Unless

Your proposal can make or break your sale. It can get you in to see the customer or keep you out. When you do include an Executive Summary in a proposal, it’s the first thing most customers read. More importantly, it may be the only thing executives/key decision-makers read at all. Executive Summaries establish that all-important first impression. They can draw customers in — or turn them away. Unfortunately, many Executive Summaries are neither a summary nor executive. To maximize the best of an Executive Summary:

#1: Keep It Short

 Most Executive Summaries that I have seen defy the definition of a “summary.”

 Any summary is a condensed form or brief statement of main points, and that applies ten-fold to Executive Summaries. They must be brief but also provide substantive but not detailed coverage of all the key points covered throughout the proposal. Not only is this likely the only part seniors will read, it gives all decision makers the big picture.

An Executive Summary should show your customers how well you understand and are prepared to meet their business needs. It should spur them to want to go further.

Ideally, Executive Summaries are two pages maximum. Keep the focus on the customer’s strategic objectives and, in broad strokes, position what you will do to meet each objective.

#2: Focus on Your Customer, NOT You

 It’s easy to describe yourself and all your qualifications, but that’s not the way to start your Executive Summary.

 Instead articulate how you understand the customer’s business needs. Outline the key ways in which you will meet them and then expand on that in the proposal and outline the key ways you will meet them, which you expand on in the proposal.

Write your Executive Summary LAST, drawing from all the key sections. In the Executive Summary, help your customers’ think “This salesperson gets us.” In the process, make sure the customer “gets you” but only in an overview in the context of solving business problems and achieving objectives. Make sure what you included takes into consideration the customer’s strategic goals and make the connection.

We are privileged to be considered as your partner to support you in ______ (identify the customer’s strategic objective). We feel uniquely qualified to partner with _____ (name of prospect/customer) based on our _____ (capability) to _____ (outcome customer wants) — then key objective by key objective, show you get it and are the best one to deliver it. Focus on each of the customer’s key objectives and differentiate yourself by tying in your capabilities related to the customer’s objectives.


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