Saturday, April 30, 2016

You’re Only as Good as Your Last Idea

By Conrad Smith, VP Consulting Services, Corporate Visions

Have you ever sold Smith04the big deal that eventually became the big customer and is now your company’s top account? Winning the big deal is one of the rewards of a sales effort done well. Long-lasting customer relationships are rewarded with repeat revenue. You achieve your quota, get rewarded with club trips, and your quota increases, which is good because your company is growing. It’s all a wonderful thing, until it isn’t.

The nightmare begins when you get the call informing you, “We decided to make a few changes.” In that moment, the relationship seems lost without reason. Your subconscious recalls that buying and consuming doesn’t always equal value and you remember from all your sales training and business experience that business value is different than product performance. Then you break into a cold sweat. Losing a big account is never a good thing.

We work with thousands of salespeople every year and when we ask why customers buy from them, we hear answers like “we’re embedded,” or “we’ve got long-standing relationships.” The one I like the most is, “it’s just too hard to change”. Getting a customer to change their status quo is far more difficult than it seems. In fact, 60 percent of customers will choose no decision when faced with a purchase decision. Changing vendors without business value is rare. If changing is so hard, why do some companies end long-standing relationships?

You only get credit for the value you create.

When you allow a competitor the opportunity to create, or re-create, the buying vision, you open the door to lose everything. When ideas stop flowing, when the relationship becomes stale, and when the focus comes off the customer, you create the opportunity for your customer to find better solutions elsewhere. Executives don’t wake up in the morning thinking that they’d like to expend the effort, energy, and expense of bringing on a new supplier. So you have to ask yourself: How is it that companies find themselves in a situation where their customer says they have to make a change?

Think about it. Your customer knows you, your company, your products or services, and your processes. They didn’t throw you out after the first trial or even after the first couple of years. They kept buying your solutions and services for years, perhaps decades, and then something changed. Or did it? Every business is searching for new ideas. Executives create initiatives to drive change throughout their organization. Every business is striving to create an unfair competitive advantage by bringing ideas to their organization to differentiate themselves in the market. Executives are going to find those ideas from within their organization, they’re going to seek ideas from their suppliers, or they will go to the market to find the ideas. You can either be part of the solution or stand by and watch as your competitors step up to the challenge. Embrace the expanding pie theory as you bring new ideas. Become fearless and forget about protecting your entrenched revenue. Your ideas will bring growth, not only for your customer but also to your organization. Look to change the way your customer is running their business versus how you can sell more of your product. Challenge yourself to create a list of ideas about business improvements. Constantly refresh the list. Don’t get stuck with trying to find the one big idea. Small ideas executed very well and focused on a specific improvement will end up having a big impact. And no matter what you do, always have the next idea ready.

Stay tuned for my follow-up piece on keeping your most important accounts coming back to your solutions.

Good luck and good selling.

To learn more about making a compelling business case to executives in your existing accounts—and about making an impact in new ones—check out this short whiteboard video:

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Monday, April 11, 2016

CVI Perspectives: Do Sales People Really Know What Training They Need Most?

By Tim Riesterer, chief strategy officer, Corporate Visions

Tim-1-close.jpgMany companies rely on asking salespeople what training they think they most need and want when planning their skills training program. Is it possible, however, that salespeople may not actually know what training is best for them? And, asking this question may actually lead your training plans astray?

I’ve talked before about the concept of “declared preferences” (what they say or feel) versus “revealed” preferences (what they actually do). It’s a concept most often referred to by behavioral economists to explain the discrepancies between opinion polls and actual behaviors.

Well, the same can possibly be said for salespeople’s ability to judge their needs training versus what the results of a behavioral outcomes-based assessment says they actually need most.

First a quick backstory: Last year, when we published our latest book, The Three Value Conversations (McGraw-Hill), we launched a parallel self-assessment tool aligned to the key skills and concepts detailed in the book.

Specifically, the assessment measures sales reps’ proficiency in three critical areas: creating value (differentiation skills), elevating value (executive conversation skills), and capturing value (negotiation skills). Since that time, nearly 300 sales professionals have taken the online behavioral assessment.

In each of the three value scenarios, we asked reps what selling challenge they felt was their biggest selling hurdle (from a list of six). And, then we compared their feelings with what their actual answers to the behavioral outcome survey indicated.

In each case, we found a discrepancy. The challenge reps believed was their biggest problem area did not correspond to the one that was indicated by their answers to the questions:

Create Value (Objective: Defeat the status quo and differentiate your solutions)

  • Participants declared: Illustrating a sharp contrast between a customer’s current state and a desired future state was their top challenge.
  • The data revealed, however: Creating and confirming urgency by stirring emotions is their actual top challenge.

Elevate Value (Objective: Make a business case that passes muster with executive buyers)

  • Participants declared: Winning access to executive buyers rather than being delegated down was their top challenge.
  • The data revealed, however: Identifying specific financial metrics that their solution will impact is their actual top challenge.

Capture Value (Objective: Protect pricing and expand deal size during tense negotiations)

  • Participants declared: Getting customers to reveal underlying motivations was their top challenge.
  • The data revealed, however: Gaining agreement to mutually beneficial terms in response to your concession plan is their actual top challenge.

These findings hint at a natural contradiction between the results of personal opinion-based questions (declared preference) and behavioral outcomes-based questions (revealed preference).

In light of these results, you may be wondering: Is my team underperforming where I think (or they believe) they’re underperforming, or does my team have skills gaps I’ve either underestimated or haven’t even considered?

Only one way to find out: Have them take this short self-assessment to see where your team is performing well and where there may be room for improvement.

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Monday, April 4, 2016

IBM, in Partnership with Corporate Visions, Named ATD Excellence in Practice Winner

PLEASANTON, Calif., April 4, 2016 — Corporate Visions’ work with IBM will be honored at the 2016 Association for Talent Development Conference & Exposition, May 22-25 in Denver. The leading marketing and sales messaging, content and skills training company, Corporate Visions Inc. is one of two training partners who, in partnership with IBM, will be recognized as a 2015 Excellence in Practice Awards winner. The other IBM training partner set to be honored is Alpharetta, Ga.-based FinListics Solutions.

Specifically, IBM and their training partners will be recognized in the area of Financial Selling Enablement for Sellers and Sales Leaders, part of the Sales Enablement category. The award recognizes practices that foster and enable world-class sales competencies and standards that guide and empower sales leaders and sales training professionals to develop the next generation of salespeople, according to the ATD website.

Conrad Smith, VP Consulting at Corporate Visions, said companies like IBM rely on Corporate Visions’ Executive Conversations skills training to build confidence and develop the critical competencies needed to deliver the right business conversation to the right business executive.

“IBM’s sellers apply five competencies to an active account to develop a more compelling conversation that’s in the right language for their targeted executive,” Smith said. “The five competencies include business knowledge, customer research, financial acumen, executive engagement and return on investment.”

Smith, who will co-present with IBM’s Dave Jenkins at the 2016 ATD Conference & Expo, added that on the strength of this engagement, Corporate Visions and IBM have been able to forge a true partnership that’s led to above average financial and organizational results.

According to ATD, past award winners in the category have demonstrated “clear and measurable results of achieving organizational goals, meeting a demonstrated need, having appropriate design values, and clearly aligning with other performance improvement initiatives.”

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Friday, April 1, 2016

New Study with Persuasion Expert Reveals Leading with Insight Outperforms Traditional Sales Questioning Approaches

CVI Perspectives: Rethinking “Best Practices” and Whether They’re Really Best for You

By Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy Officer, Corporate Visions

With two sentences, the magazine Fast Company may have destroyed everything you’ve ever thought about so-called “best practices.” In a recent article they wrote:

Tim-1-close“Best practices don’t make you the best. They make you the average of everyone else who follows them.”

Whoa. Mind blown!

There’s an entire industry of analysts who identify and report on best practices and thousands of subscribing companies and professionals who get those findings and attempt to imitate the recommendations.

Admittedly, there’s a deep-seated human instinct to play it safe and follow, rather than to be audacious and lead, at work here. Otherwise, people wouldn’t be paying tens of thousands of dollars to get the annual best practices reports. And, then paying even more to have those analysts come to your company and provide color commentary on their observations of other people’s work.

But, why is the reliance on best practices so pervasive? After all, those who adhere to best practices surely understand the importance of competitive differentiation. And certainly no one wants to look or sound or feel like carbon copies of their competition. So why are so many companies doing something that keeps them in lockstep with everyone else, potentially at the cost of one of the most important business goals—differentiation?

One of the strongest points in the article is that the term “best practices” is itself a misnomer, based on the creaky logic that what is “good” or “smart” now will remain so indefinitely. As the author notes, seldom are people willing to do the work to find out how long a practice actually stays the ‘best,’ or whether it’s applicable across various situations and contexts.

If you’re interested in how this applies to marketing and sales messaging… Download our award-winning eBook to discover why putting too much stock in best practices could be leading you astray.

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