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February 17, 2020

Negotiating in an Insight Sales Environment

Negotiations

Andres Lares

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Thanks to technology, customers are savvier than ever. A myriad of options are available for their consideration at the touch of a button – pricing data, user reviews, expert analysis, independent research, etc., making the buying process a looping, iterative engagement rather than the historical “feature – benefits – value” process of days gone by. Consider this – for the first time ever buyers are more than halfway through their purchasing process before they even reach out to sales!

In 2017, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) reported that, “U.S. companies spend over $70 billion annually on (sales) training, and an average of $1,459 per salesperson — almost 20 percent more than they spend on workers in all other functions.”[1]  Despite this significant investment of money and lost time in front of customers, the article reported ‘lackluster’ results for ROI, which can be elusive when measuring sales results in a fast-charging and changing marketplace. Why do disappointing results most commonly happen? Based on our 25 years of experience, SNI believes when training falls short it’s often because they miss one or more of these critical success factors:

  • Experiential – Should be simulation-based, this is what anchors the learning
  • Relevant – The answer to “how do I use this tomorrow?” must be obvious
  • Customized – Not only to the company, but to the specific role
  • Reinforced – It cannot be a one-time training event
  • On-going accountability – Requires management buy-in, on-going coaching, etc.

Yet, through all of the successes and failures companies continue to train. Perhaps it is because they believe they will get it right, even against the odds. Or, because they feel that regardless of impact on performance it will at least help employee retention. Or, because even if not perfect, companies expect a positive return on investment, which makes it worthwhile, even if not a home run. The motivations behind each organization are very difficult to deduce, but, what we do know is that there is a recipe for success, that if followed, makes it VERY likely that organizations will be satisfied with the result.

 

Negotiation is a Key Sales Skill…. and We are Expert Negotiators

SNI has 25 years of experience negotiating deals and teaching a proven process for negotiating with today’s informed buyer. We build foundational habits for negotiating, which are customized to align, enhance and reinforce your existing sales training and processes. Whether it is SPIN, Challenger, Insights, Sandler System, or any other out there, we have come behind it and helped optimize its results. It is what we do. We are experts on negotiation, and our training rarely fails to produce measurable results in concert with your sales model. What makes negotiation training in particular so attractive? How close it is to the bottom line. Revenues and margin are two easy ways to measure training impact – we are strong proponents of measuring those or other KPIs pre and post training.

 

We Know a Lot about Sales Training

The SNI team travels the world to design and deliver training that ‘fits’ the needs. From professional services to software to manufacturing to banking and even pharmaceuticals, we have seen just about every sales training out there. We learn new insights every single time. We ensure that our process not only references, but directly utilizes and reinforces the sales training your team has already received.

SNI stays focused on the art of influence and motivation while supporting your organization’s choice of sales methodology. We get right in the middle of it, while staying out of it. We see no need to overcomplicate things.

 

We Help Accelerate Your ROI Investment in Sales Training

HBR points out that sales training ROI can be hard to nail down. For example, Richardson is a leading sales training company.[2] We see their training all over the world, because it’s good and it works. Their Selling with Insights program teaches sales reps what to do in order to learn skills to help run engaging, productive sales calls; provide insights; link their prospects’ objectives and pain points to available solutions; resolve objections and resistance, and more.

They learn what to do in the classroom, practice it and then they go out and try it. Some skills have immediate impact while others take longer to develop in real situations.

Our negotiation program helps them learn different ways how to do it. SNI’s negotiation and influence programs reinforce and expand the skills delivered in Selling with Insights by coming in behind that program to re-examine, reinforce and apply new techniques to emerging skills in real situations.

 

We Deliver Just-in-Time and/or Customized Training Reinforcement

A critical strategy for making sales training ‘stick’ is to keep building on existing knowledge and skills. In a 2017 Forbes article, the author states: “Now that technology allows multimedia training and development, it’s easier than ever to reinforce the training to ensure the sales force has reinforcement through additional time and content, as well as virtual coaching. If you want change to stick, you need to be willing to stay the course for 24 months.”[3]

SNI has always felt that reinforcement is imperative to the success of training (see above list of critical success factors). As a result, SNI offers a mobile application, wallet cards, coaching field guides, online interactive sessions, video-taped roleplay, VR and AI based applications, integration into CRMs, and many other forms of reinforcement. Ultimately these are what bridge the gap between training and performance improvement and ensure long lasting accountability.

 

Preparation for Confidence and Direction

SNI’s Preparation Checklist tool helps sales professionals gather and organize information about the customer’s needs by looking at precedents, alternatives, interests, deadlines and other pertinent data prior to starting a dialogue. The confidence that comes from preparation before engaging the customer will enhance your sales process by forming a negotiation strategy to maximize results.

SNI customizes the Preparation Checklist to work with your pre-call planners, opportunity plans, value plans and account plans so your sales team isn’t overwhelmed or paralyzed by analysis or wholesale change.

For example, for those that have gone through Selling with Insights, alternatives would have a sales person think through what he/she offers other than money, strengths and weaknesses would be a tool to ensure one is not intimidated by the competition, strategy is a reminder that you have the right to suggest and direct the conversation appropriately, etc.

 

Probing for Information and Insights

SNI’s probing techniques allow for a natural, non-interrogative way to lead the conversation into a collaborative discussion of possible solutions, which in many cases leads to a more mutually satisfactory outcome. It is a standalone tool for deeper discovery – to truly understand what motivates the other side. However, how it is implemented is customized – for example, with one recent client that had just implemented Selling With Insights, the model fit into their questions around – what are the challenges, impact, need, and what does the other party really care about?  Not only did our negotiating training reinforce many of the sales training concepts, it also provided the sales organization with several additional tools and skills to implement them immediately, with precision, and to accomplish sustained success.

Simply stated, we help people close more deals, faster and with better outcomes.

 

Proposing to Maximize Results

In order to improve a sales organization’s ability to propose solutions, we put them through a simulation that reinforces good closing behavior while teaching strong skills for exchanging value and generating mutual satisfaction. It is a tough simulation that often allows them to self-discover areas of deficiency, which then allows us to provide several fundamental rules for effective proposing that lead to the close. This experiential-based teaching methodology allows participants to remember how it felt when they succeeded (or failed) in their closing behaviors.

Most ‘margin leak’ happens in the final stages of a negotiation, and our guidelines align with the desired outcomes of every sales opportunity. Using SNI’s rules for proposing gives sales professionals a way to protect margins by not leaving money on the table.

 

How to Make More, Faster….with Better Margins

Are your sales-people feeling overworked yet not producing the results you or they expect? Are your margins eroding? Are you feeling commoditization pressure from your clients? Are there new competitors in the space? These are the types of challenges that lead some of the most successful organizations in the world to call on SNI. We solve that problem by enveloping our skills and techniques around your sales process if you have one, or a standalone negotiation process if you don’t. We see no need to reinvent the wheel…let’s focus on making what works for you today even better tomorrow.

We put sales professionals into familiar scenarios, using language they know and giving them opportunities to explore how new negotiation skills can help drive better conversations without giving in to the temptation to sacrifice pricing and terms to close deals. They learn how and when to share information, ask better questions and make more insightful proposals. This builds on and accelerates any form of sales skills development.

Give us a call at 410-662-4764 if you are interested in learning more about SNI and how we work with an organization to optimize selling through the addition of negotiation and/or influence skills.

References:

[1] Harvard Business Review, June 12, 2017, Your Sales Training is Probably Lackluster. Here’s How to  Fix It. Cespedes and Lee.

[2] Hubspot Academy. Richardson ranked #6 in 2019 for Onsite Sales Training Programs. Originally published Aug 1, 2019 10:31:00 AM, updated December 03 2019

[3] Iannarino, Anthony, Four Ways to Make Sales Training Stick. Forbes, Sept. 19, 2018.

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