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12 Days of Xmas #10: My Sales Director said to me “We are all miserable and down-trodden, even though we’re bringing sales in”

On the 10th day of Christmas my Sales Director said to me “We’re all miserable and down-trodden, even though we’re bringing sales in.”

There is no doubt that many B2B businesses are still finding it hard going. Budgets remain tight and cost reduction in the supply chain will remain a challenging reality next year.

My response would be to focus on two things – negotiating skills and celebrating success.

Negotiating is a key B2B competence that applies to both new bids and repeat or retendered business. You should take a systemic approach to ensure that your sales and technical staff never lose bids because of poor preparation or negotiation – and also don’t win bids that turn out unprofitable! Does your current approach cover:

  • Knowledge of Buying Behaviour – Have you developed insight into the wants & needs of your customer and their customers? Have you identified key stakeholders involved? Have you mapped the value chain and analysed decision making behaviour?
  • Negotiation Strategy – Is there a transparent basis for the allocation of time & budget to negotiating? Are your trade terms and investment in-line with potential profit? Is relationship balanced with risk? Is there a clear negotiating point defined that you will not go beyond?
  • Selling Methodologies – Do sales plans sync with contractual agreements, etc? Is there a negotiation planning structure – roles, responsibilities, conditioning, decision trees, opening/fall-back positions, etc? Do you have a model to systematically identify & plan cross selling?
  • Executing Negotiations – Do you flex your negotiation style according to customer needs? Do pitches reflect the customer’s success measures and language? Do you exert early influence? Do teams work to a contact plan to develop business within new divisions, group companies, etc.?
  • Sales Conversion – Do you openly & honestly measure the rate of proposal conversion? Do you review their outcomes and ensure you consistently learn from them? Do you monitor your total cost of selling over time as a % of sales?

This leads to the second thing to focus on – to celebrate success. The primary rule of this is to keep it real. Companies can fall into a “Great Job” culture that’s aiming to motivate staff but in effect is only celebrating mediocrity because it doesn’t tie back to achievement of, or contribution to, a business objective. Companies that do this well are really clear about what constitutes a success (which do not all have to be big things) – and then recognises and rewards the achievement in a way that other teams/staff are motivated to behave in a similar way.

Negotiating & selling is one of the ‘golden threads’ that runs through the Customer Attuned model, and we can help to improve the way in which your sales people negotiate hard but fairly, have broad commercial skills as well as technical ability, and gain ‘trusted advisor’ status within clients.

Have a view on this?  // or //

Contact us at hello@customerattuned.com




Peter Lavers

Peter Lavers is a co-founder and Director of Customer Attuned Ltd.

An expert in CRM and customer experience management and recognised as a top influencer in the subject e.g. IBM Futurist Roundtable member; Satmetrix Top 50 & SAP Top 60 Customer Experience influencers; Huffington Post Top 100 Customer Service professionals; MindTouch Top 50 Customer Success influencers; and Business Coach Top 100 Management Experts.

Peter's early career was with Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motors, where he trained as an engineer and went on to hold senior roles in commercial and logistics, market analysis, customer satisfaction, regional marketing and in his last client-side position as head of relationship marketing.