Sales Advice Sales Tips

Let the Customer Sell

Ever wonder how you could decrease your sales cycle and at the same time increase the probability of closure? I have a tip that might allow you to accomplish just that.

Forget about writing proposals that are haphazardly read, instead, engage the customer, and let him do the selling. I used this method when I sold software to a hospital in South Carolina. Here’s how I did it.

image1First, I called the customer and set the appointment, but at the same time made sure I had a fairly good understanding of their IT infrastructure. On the day of the meeting, I cut right to the chase, went straight to their white board and began drawing their system in block diagram. If you have ever given a technical presentation to a group of IT professionals, then you know to expect interruptions; and that is exactly what I got.

I was immediately challenged for the board marker, which I happily relinquished. After all, this was my goal, Customer involvement. The customer then began to draw the infrastructure and all I did was to inject where our equipment would reside and how the benefits would be overwhelmingly positive for what they were seeking to accomplish. This allowed me to engage the customer, make him part of building “his own solution” which gives a greater sense of value in the end.

The greater good here is the ability to show and engage a wider audience for buy-off and at the same time it uncovers holes in what would have been a flat presentation if delivered in the typical paper form. If your design is off target it allows you to adjust, showing the client you do understand and care about their business processes. This way, you don’t mandate change, you solicit support for change.

image2If this is shot down in committee or by finance, I guarantee this group will fight tooth-n-nail to get it approved. I have actually seen the customer make a better case for ROI than I ever could.

This method can work if you sell over the phone too. You just have to ask the customer to describe their current situation and then ask if you could email or fax what you have to make sure you understood their requirements. Bottom line, Get the customer involved!


Using this method in as many cases as possible will decrease the sales cycle time simply by taking the onus off the customer to read your proposal. Admit it, would you want to read it? Hope you are able to use this and if you are, let me and others know by posting your comments. Maybe you used something similar? Hey, we want to know that too!

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

Sales Tips

Selling in Tough Times

I thought I would put my own spin on what I’ve experienced and in addition, what I currently see transpiring in today’s selling environment. Aimed mostly at sales management, I would like to share my thoughts from having been an active participant as both a sales professional and manager.

Selling in the toughest of economies can still be done, but it takes special leadership to navigate the waters. My career has taken me through broad as well as vertically tough times. The one element that must stand out is LEADERSHIP, not management. Given the events of the past 12-18 months, salespeople AND customers are more nervous than ever before. Now is the time to lead, not manage. Pressure is building on both sides of the selling/buying fence. Here’s what I suggest……

  • Don’t beat a dead horse– brow-beating the salesforce to make their numbers isn’t going to make it happen, rather, beating up on sales people will demoralize and damage their esteem and in the end won’t generate another $ of sales. It just poor management and shows zero leadership.
  • Turn the pressure down– Money is short and both the seller and buyer know it. Pressuring the customer with constant pinging will only result in resentment and anger towards you and your product. It also sets a precedent in future dealings; it shows your desperation. To counter, uncover additional pain points that show value for your product, then work to motivate the customer to buy.
  • Go back a few steps– In order to have a winning situation, you may need to revisit prior sales steps to uncover functionally better reasons to buy including the cost of delaying the purchase. Above all, you must have previously in the sales cycle built a mutually agreeable plan with the customer.
  • Climb the ladder– climb the corporate ladder for the funding. Upper management has, or can obtain the money, especially so in a down economy. If not, they know how to get it so your value proposition better be spot-on. Cultivate higher-level relationships, higher than you are now. When costs are trimmed, they are done at lower levels and if you are working at this level this might be why you are not selling!

The last thought an organization has right now is hiring; but it should be the first thing. NOW is the right time to hire. The market is full of very talented people and we all know GREAT salespeople are rare.

One last thought. Everyone naturally holds the sales organization responsible for revenue generation and even more so when times are tough. Sales knows what they have to do and how far they are out on the limb. –SUPPORT THE LIMB–

As always, Good, bad or indifferent, Contact Me and let me know your thoughts or better yet, post your comment here!

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

Sales Basics

Down the Sales 101 Trail- Part 2

This is the last half of Down the Sales 101 Trail. I hope this helps accelerate your close ratio. This is going to be a ONE topic discussion, so let’s get with it!


A Must Have image8

I can’t emphasize enough how important having a game plan is. Seasoned sales professional or just starting out, you have to have a game plan. If you are winging it day-by-day, go find something else to do because you are not going to survive without some divine intervention. The stakes are too high in the current economic atmosphere.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Old saying or not, it’s true, or at least true enough to do harm. When I started in sales, I struggled. One of my senior mentors sensed this as well and towards the end of the day came over to offer his advice. The first thing he asked me was, “What are your plans for tomorrow?”  Not knowing his intentions, and thinking he was going to ask me to lunch, I answered, “Nothing, what do you have in mind?” We certainly were not on the same wave length. He went on to tell me how at the end of each day or that evening, he would map out a strategy for the next workday. Never, ever did he leave tomorrow to chance. I have never forgotten his words of advice, nor that single question he asked me that day.

Start Small

Ok, now what?  It really doesn’t matter if you have a territory or assigned accounts, start by mapping out 10-20 companies to target. There are commercial services that can dissect a state or geographical area by Standard Industrial Codes (SIC). (It is being replaced by the newer six digit North American Industrial Classification System (NAIC). You can then filter companies to a very granular level by revenue, size, state, etc. This helps to build a match between your solution and companies you wish to engage. Build on this concept and grow your customer base.

Don’t Pull the Trigger Just Yet

The last thing you want to do is have contact with a company without doing your homework. I believe in “prepare before approach.” With the economy still sputtering, you need to make the most of every contact. You cannot do this without knowing what the company does, what kind of pain they are experiencing and how your solution can help. You will only know this by planning. (Click here to see 5 daily tips) Get your plan together then get your sales manager’s approval. Why? It does two things. First, it shows you know how to plan and tackle a problem, and two, gets his buy-in in case things go awry. The last thing you want is to be on your own unsupported.

If nothing else I hope this gives you a foundation to build/rebuild a stronger sales strategy. If you find this of value or feel I missed the mark, please consider taking the time to comment. Many people can and will benefit from YOUR experience. Continuing to share your tips on what basics work for you will in the end, benefit us all.

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

Sales Basics

Down the Sales 101 Trail- Part 1

Making use of simple sales fundamentals is something we all tend to forget, yet the very core of what we do as sales people is rooted in those rudimentary ideals.

These I find to be foundational to how I operate as a sales professional.

  1. Honesty – Honest with ourselves, our managers, and above all, honest with our customers.  A Fortune 500 customer of mine had been treated, let’s just say, unfairly by my predecessor. Acknowledging this fact, I asked what it would take to close this deal. “I want the product for $700k”, was the reply. Knowing I could not, I countered with an offer already approved. Not only was the deal done, but also because of my directness and honesty, I was introduced to others within the company that expanded my sales pipeline to $2M+.
  2. Understand – We must understand that without customers we don’t exist! Simple logic, yes, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this be totally forgotten when the game starts.
  3. Serve – We owe our allegiance to our company. No, I’m not talking about that blind faith-leadership following act, but your support to the company. If you are working for a company, then be your company’s strongest proponent: EVANGELIZE for this company! Driving revenue is not a spectator sport. Sales is the tip of the spear for a company and usually the FIRST contact point with the customer. Make it a good one!
  4. Back to Basics – When I’m stuck, had a bad quarter, or for whatever reason need to regroup, I always look at the basics.

It is important to ALWAYS keep this in mind. One last thing, Share your success….don’t flaunt it. In today’s environment, everyone needs to work together more than ever. I will be sharing some more thoughts on the basics in the coming few days.

I hope you get the idea. My goal is to make your day a little lighter and easier by revisiting some of the basics. With a down economy, it is tough out there, and every bit helps. In the end, we all benefit.

Good, bad or indifferent, Contact Me and let me know your thoughts.

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner