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Book Review: The Challenger Sale

July 30th, 2014

The Challenger Sale, Dixon and Adamson.2011. Penguin.

The Challenger Sale evokes reactions and disturbs conventional thinking. The authors want to encourage organizations, groups and sales people to “push the customer’s thinking and teach them something new” p 21. It is not surprising then that the reader is given a challenge to think about sales in different ways. Even the introduction by Neil Rackham stirs up controversy:

“How you sell has become more important than what you sell. An effective sales force is a more sustainable competitive advantage than a great product stream.” p XVI

Many believe that you are only as good as the product you sell (this was the first thing anyone ever said to me about sales). In social media discussions, my research found that many analysts, leaders and sales managers disagree with The Challenger Sale. However, I believe that is exactly what the authors want. By disturbing conventional thought, readers will think “I never thought of it that way’ or “I wonder if that is true?” This pattern of disturbance is a theme in the book leading the reader to question traditional views. For example, the authors defy the notion that sales is all about relationships. This one point has been the subject of multiple discussions with thought leaders, educators and fellow sales professionals. This makes The Challenger Sale valuable to me and worth the price of the book.

You will also find skills and perspective. Three behaviors that sales people can integrate into their profession are Teaching, Tailoring and Taking Control. p33 There are many positive aspects to these actions. Teaching helps customers learn, think and feel in new ways. Personally, I have an educational style and totally agree with this approach to selling. Tailoring is adjusting the message to the audience (visit http://youtu.be/31jZ1vaJlsg or search “The Persuasion Equation” on YouTube for tip). My favorite phrase from this book is “solution selling is customization in the moment” page 78. Taking control (another deliciously disturbing idea) is to push sales people to maintain momentum across the entire sales process. I believe the use of questions creates momentum in all phases of the sales process (search “The Art of the Q: Build Your Business with Questions” by Charlie Van Hecke on Google, Amazon.com, i-tunes or B&N.com for more information).

The best way to summarize is to confess that I have bought two copies of The Sales Challenger and one copy of The IT Sales Challenger (by Neil MacArthur which applies concepts to my industry). It makes me slightly upset, causes a rethinking of long held views and well, challenges me! In future reviews, we will visit the IT Sales Challenger and dig deeper into the question: ” What can leaders who seek sales excellence learn from The Sales Challenger?

 

Sales Enablement: Product Launch Collateral

March 1st, 2014

Sales Enablement is leadership strategy to equip and empower revenue generating employees to perform at the highest levels. This brief article provides Product Launch collateral as an example.

Sales and marketing often operate independently. Sales Enablement is an idea to bridge that gap. Product Launches overlap the two functions so this common element is a great place to start. Providing sales people with collateral that supports getting a new product to the market just makes sense.

Product Launch Collateral:

Product Guides

Presentations and Scripts

Demonstration Tools

Industry Information

Competitive Intelligence

Kicking these off with webinars and providing online access helps your sales force with education and tools. If you would like a white paper on the 3 D’s of Product Launch Sales Force Enablement, just email me at charlievanhecke@gmail.com

Managing The Opportunity Pipeline

November 5th, 2013

Every organization should have someone in the Sales Management Role. A very
important program will focus on the needs of Sales Management with programs
that will encourage sales activity, proposal generation and forecasting! The
more customers you can find and submit proposals to – the more money comes into the organization! Click on “Get Pipeline Up” link below for free video tip!

Get Pipeline Up!

Lower Costs and Get Sales Up!

If you are a small to medium size company,
you may want to first hire an inside sales person and then move them into
outside sales. Keep your costs of sales low while building a pipeline of new
business (proposals, estimates) opportunities. As cash flow improves, you can hire a replacement for inside sales and personally tackle the role of sales manager. If you are a medium-to-larger size company, you will want Sales Managers to improve because they directly impact cost control and revenue generation.

Growth should be managed so it does not strain your organizations ability to deliver on expectations!

Wows, Webinars and Whoops!

June 1st, 2013

Who loves to get a WOW!?  All sales people love to get a WOW! Sometimes, in our zest, we become too feature-function-gadget driven and forget about involving our buyers. Yes, we get a WOW, but we might also overwhelm our audience.  At least when we are face-to-face with our customers, we can see their reactions!

Selling Challenge:

  • If we host a web meeting or webinar, we cannot see their faces.

On a recent Webinar, this happened to me.  My blue tooth headset was charged, the 4G internet connection has 4 bars and like magic, I am presenting my solution to a
buyer hundreds of miles away. It was a competitive situation, so I wanted to show as many capabilities and exclusives as possible.  In the online meeting, the buyer did say WOW
a number of times.

Later that week, a fellow sales person called to discuss this particular buyer. Because he is selling a non-competitive product, we network, share sales tips and try to help each other succeed. He told me that a mutual customer shared that she was overwhelmed by my products and services.  Yes, this is the same buyer that participated in the Webinar. In the demonstration, too many applications came at the buyer in too short of time.

  • Yes, I got WOWS – but at what cost? Whoops! I had made a basic selling mistake.

My friend provides vital feedback to me that webinars are a great time saver but are very dangerous because you cannot judge the buyer’s reaction. His advice was to slow down and ask questions like:

  • “How do you see that working for you?”

The risk of having experience is that we become very confident. That confidence can often lead to mistakes and we can spiral into a negative sales cycle.  My friend shares his  feedback and helps me avoid losing an account. I call the buyer immediately and set up a follow up call. This time, the pace of the call was slower. The review of capabilities became interactive and customer focused. There were questions like:

  • “Where will this help you?”
  • “Why?”

This WOW junkie had to tame the urge to show too many features. The enthusiasm is there, but tempered. Now when I get on Webinars, I avoid the trap of talking too much. Questions help slow the pace and get the buyer involved. It takes focus, concentration, questions and listening.  These are some of the fundamental skills of selling. Just because we have new technology does not mean we stop practicing the fundamentals. If we forget this lesson, the result is WHOOPS! Mistakes can cost us customers, commissions and even,careers. This career sales person just got a lesson he will not forget.

If you have a tip, please post a response. If you have a question, please post that or visit facebook/salestrainer4U for a steady stream of tips and relevant sales education.

Why Sales People Need to Train Like Olympic Athletes

June 30th, 2012

The top sales people in the world want to be the very best. To be at the top of your game, it takes knowing your products and what they can do for your customers. Learning about the competition is one of the best ways to learn about your industry. When you compare and contrast, it helps you differentiate your value proposition from the competitive offerings. Behind each company that you are competing against is another sales person – just like you!

Olympic Athletes have a training mentality because the difference between winning and losing can be a split second. 60 Minutes ran an interview with Michael Phelps and Anderson Cooper after the Beijing Olympics. It is widely known that Phelps won the gold in the 100-meter butterfly final at the Water Cube. What is not widely known because it was impossible to see with the naked eye was that he won by ONE-Hundredth of a second due to one small difference.

On the final stroke, Phelps kept his head down remaining streamline while Serbian competitor, Cavic, lifted his head creating a speed bump effect. The training and conditioning Phelps endured day after day, month after month; year after year mattered to qualify him for the Olympics, but what mattered more at the end was a slight difference in execution.

Well, check out this June 29, 2012 headline:

2012 Olympic Swimming Trials: Michael Phelps Dominate In Men’s 200m IM Semifinal

That’s right. Phelps is back to his winning ways.

Do you want to win at sales? There are a lot of people that answer yes to that question without understanding the commitment. Notice that I didn’t ask you if you want to get by, be second best or even be a member of your local country club. I asked you if you want to win! Winning means organizing your life, rearranging your attitudes and getting all your activities into a winning pattern.

Winning at sales means that you recognize a gold medal mentality. When you are called upon to sell, you must be ready. Readiness suggests that you have trained for the NOW moment and can achieve at the highest levels. You can compete against the best in the world and walk away victorious. Do you have this gold medal mentality? A gold medal mentality means that you want to be marginally better today than you were yesterday. It means that you have a competitive fire that burns brighter than the pretender they call your competition. A gold mental mentality means that you can separate your ego from your behavior to learn new strategies, tactics and methods.

For these reasons, sales people need to train like Olympic Athletes. In the weeks ahead, we will be tracking the Olympic athletes preparing for the London 2012 Games. Stories will appear on the salestrainer4u/blog and on facebook/salestrainer4U about Olympic athletes, their training regimen, their attitudes and their discipline.

Why? There will be winners and losers, just like in sales. Even athletes who train hard can lose. Will they keep their focus? Will they practice and perform under pressure? Will they dig deep when other people have written them off? Not all sales people want to be the best. But if you have read to this point of the article, my belief is that you do. You want to win at the highest levels of sales greatness. In that case, stay tuned to this blog and join in the facebook/salestrainer4u dialog. It’s time to go for the gold!

Living the Dream – One Cupcake at a Time!

August 14th, 2011

The bakery shop was in a small shopping center, just up the street from my customer’s office. As most sales people know, bringing food to a meeting is a goodwill gesture. As I ordered a dozen cupcakes, a young Latino baker asked me for some tips on selling. I picked up a cupcake and asked her “can you put a logo on this cupcake?” ‘Si’ she replied.

Bakery Sales Plan:

“Pick a business in the area and put the company logo on the cupcakes:

• Drop off a box of the branded cupcakes – made especially for that company
• Tape the bakery business card to the box
• Ask to speak to a manager
• Suggest that they use you for meetings, birthday parties and other events.”

She was a little confused, so I took a cupcake and drew the logo from the business across the street – a popular soft drink distributor. Then, I pointed at the sign and said ‘logo.’ Her eyes lit up; she picked up her icing tool and made a beautiful replication of the logo. Then, she showed her husband, who spoke better English. He got very excited and I explained to him that taking samples to nearby businesses would probably lead to orders. There were several businesses nearby and I suggested that they visit all of their neighbors.

The young couple hugged and then said something that I wasn’t expecting:

• “We want to live the American dream.”

Well – I’m a softy and this almost choked me up. What I thought had been a simple errand turned out to be very inspiring to me. I had offered a little assistance to a small business, and in return, I had the American Dream reignited in my own heart. As I turned to leave, they were already at work – living the dream – one cupcake at a time!

The New Alphabet of Selling

July 29th, 2011

Some people say the A-B-C of selling is ‘Always Be Closing.’ Those people aren’t selling much in an economy that demands due diligence and with buyers who are very sophisticated. After a very competitive sales situation, this veteran discovered a new alphabet of selling:

A = Attitude
This week, a customer booked a competitor to come in on the same date and time as my appointment. My first reaction was disbelief and then I felt insulted. ‘Wait! – I thought to myself… this is a negative thought.’ Then, I pretended to be the buyer. I was going on the sales call with another team member, so I called her and said ‘if I was in their shoes, I’d shop around too.’ Then, we developed a plan to present our competitive advantages. You may be a novice or a veteran – but maintaining a Positive Mental Attitude is not a place you arrive at. It’s a state of mind that accepts a challenge with a ‘can do’ spirit.

B = Belief
If you really believe that your product is best, there is no limit to the hard work that will go into earning the business. When we arrived – I could hear the competition in the next room. My heart was beating – and yes, I was a little nervous. My colleague and I were both very determined and neither of us wanted to lose the business. When my buyer arrived, I looked him in the eye and said ‘I drove 6 hours to tell you that I want your business.’ Our research and preparation then kicked in as we showed how our solution would lower costs and improve staff efficiency. There was passion in our presentation – we believed.

C = Commitment
You have to show a customer your level of commitment before you can expect loyalty from the buyer.
• In our sales situation this week, it took a lot of hard work and travel to secure the business.
• Our internal support teams provided supporting information.
• Our management team provided some incentives for the customer.
• There were lots of little agreements that ultimately lead to getting the business.

We left the account and found a local restaurant for lunch. While eating, my team mate and I talked about how our momentum had changed when we focused on the customer’s point of view. It energized our efforts and unleashed our belief in the solutions offered. Our commitment lead to a positive, constructive agreement that everyone could live with. We earned the business and it was exhilarating!

Hours later, I arrived home after a 16 hour day. You’ll get no clichés out of me or fancy closing lines. Selling is hard work – period.

 

 
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