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How Can Good People Become Exceptional Sales Professionals?

I still remember the conversation as if it were yesterday. It was the second day of a three-day workshop when one of my students came in early. I was still setting up the classroom when she (we will call her Alisha, though that’s not her real name) asked if she could speak to me.

I love talking one-on-one with students, so naturally, I was all ears. Here is how the conversation went.


Alisha: “I want you to know that I was going to quit my job yesterday.”

Me: “Really? Why is that?”

Alisha: “Well, I’m really struggling right now. I’m only at about 65% of my quota, and, honestly, based on what I’d seen and heard about selling, I decided that to succeed, I’d have to become a person that I don’t want to be. But yesterday, you showed me that being a good person AND being successful in sales aren’t conflicting goals. You showed me that if I use this process, I can help my customers and sell significantly more! I’ve decided to apply what you’re teaching us and stick it out.”


Quick update: I understand that Alisha finished that year over 130% of her plan. I hope she’s continuing with her sales career because she’s the type of person we need to develop and support when it comes to sales skills — the type of person who elevates our entire profession through her commitment to customers and to her own development.

Bad Sales Training, Not Bad People

My student’s story illustrates one of the fundamental challenges we have in our profession: The idea that our salespeople compete with our customers — with the prize being the customer’s money. Nothing could be further from the truth or more damaging to our long-term success.

Too often, the sales techniques we provide our people put them at odds with our customers. We damage our relationships and alienate customers and prospects by teaching salespeople to “tie down” the customer or “ignore their objection until we hear it three times” or by using closing techniques designed to manipulate people into buying what they don’t want.

Unfortunately for many salespeople and their managers, the pressure to perform is so overwhelming that they feel they must do WHATEVER IS NECESSARY to close business.

There's a better alternative.

By helping salespeople develop the skill and knowledge needed to bring value to buyers throughout their engagement, we can elevate the perception that prospects and customers have of our company AND sell significantly more. Conceptually, this may make perfectly good sense. But let’s face it, we don’t operate on the conceptual plan.

We work in the real world where real competitors are vying for the same business.

4 Steps to Differentiate Ourselves

How do we differentiate ourselves by virtue of the conversations we have with our customers? These four simple steps will provide the framework for more productive conversations and a dramatically better relationship.

1. Make certain to explain the purpose of our discussion.

Our job is NOT to sell them something. It’s to help our prospects achieve THEIR objectives. We need to let them know from the very beginning that this is our MUTUAL objective and how we expect to accomplish it. A customer-focused objective and agenda will help set the stage for a productive discussion and keep us working FOR the customer, not against them.

2. Learn about them.

This isn’t idle conversation about the weather or local traffic. If we’re going to show a customer how our product helps them achieve their goals and objectives, we must know what those goals and objectives are, and we need to understand what obstacles are getting in the way of their success.

In a B2B selling environment, this means we learn about their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, their business processes, and how they’re organized — just to name a couple of the key topics we want to cover. It also means we dig deep enough to understand how these various business issues are impacting their success in terms of things like revenue, expenses, productivity, the image they project to their customers, and the safety and security of their people, customers, and information.

Retail salespeople aren’t exempt from this requirement; we need to understand how our customers live and work and what they do for recreation to understand the value our products and services can bring to them. 

3. Help them develop differentiated decision criteria.

Uncovering the buyer’s basic needs is not sufficient to differentiate us and bring real value to the customer. Today’s buyers face more choices than ever before and what they really need is help developing criteria that will enable them to determine which alternative is really best for them. When salespeople have the skills to help buyers with this, they build relationships that allow them to become trusted advisors and uncover tremendous opportunities to differentiate their products/services more meaningfully.

4. Present our solutions based on the impact they deliver.

Buyers don’t care how enthusiastic salespeople are about their solutions — they expect that. What they want to understand is how the solution will meet their criteria and help them achieve their objectives. If we’ve done an effective job of gathering this information, let’s not forget to use it properly when we present our recommendation.

We should never show any capability or feature of our product unless/until we can link it back to meaningful impact based on the buyer’s criteria and their goals and objectives. Moreover, it’s our obligation to show them everything that will impact them and/or their business so that they can make the most informed buying decision possible.

How Does Your Sales Team Measure Up?

  • How is your team doing in these areas?

  • Do they always begin meetings with clearly defined customer-focused objectives and agendas?

  • Can they tell you about their customers and their goals and objectives?

  • Do they know exactly how the customer will determine which alternative is best for them?

  • Are they prepared to address the customer’s criteria and demonstrate how their recommendation will deliver the best value to the customer based on the customer’s criteria?

Room for Improvement

Having worked with thousands of sales professionals over the past two decades, we know that when people like Alisha dedicate themselves to helping their customers make better decisions and achieve their goals and objectives, better relationships and dramatically better sales results ensue.

Want to learn more about how you can leverage these and other best practices to build a winning sales team and sustainable competitive advantage? Let’s connect.

Axiom provides a unique alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events, we embed our methodology into your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better sales results. To learn more about our Mindful Selling Methodology, Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at www.axiomsaleskinetics.com.

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