Your sales team is one of the greatest assets your company has. But how do they maintain your company’s strong standing and keep the company moving forward? They utilize sales strategies. The organizational practices of your sales team can make or break your business. Without them, your business isn’t  going to produce the results you want to see.

A late businessman, William Clement Stone, once said: “Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman, not the attitude of the prospect.” A great place to start is by looking at your top sales people. What do they do to keep the prospect’s attention? How are they closing so many successful sales? How do they keep their head high when a sale falls through? Try analyzing the habits of your best sales people and see what you can come up with. Your sales team will succeed directly based on the attitudes and high standards they set for themselves.

Here are some practices to help maximize your team’s performance:

  1. Analyze your success

Don’t wait for the metrics and stats given to you by your manager to track your progress. Analyze each sale and failure to see how you can improve for the next time. Not only will this help you for future sales, but will also show your manager how on top of your work you are. It’s a win-win for everyone.

  1. Set rules in place, but don’t nag

Sales teams thrive when they have strict components to follow. However, that doesn’t mean that you need a sales manager to be breathing down your back each minute to make sure that you’re doing what you’re supposed to do. One of the keys to a successful sales team is to let each member get in their own schedule that works around the teams’ schedule. Sales people shouldn’t have to stop and check-in every 30 minutes. Let them find their own routine so they can work at the best of their abilities.

  1. Encourage your prospects to engage before the end of a meeting

Most sales people wait until the end of a meeting to allot time for questions and comments. Why wait until the end? Tell your prospect at the beginning of the meeting to ask questions or explain their concerns when one arises. This could make your prospect more satisfied because every question they have will already have been answered. This small change can increase your closing ratios significantly.

  1. Never skip a follow-up opportunity

Most sales don’t close on the first contact, maybe not even on the second. It can take multiple touches to get your potential clients to trust you and your product. Do not hesitate to follow up. These opportunities just may be your actual sale.

  1. Know what you want

Have a purpose before starting your sales. What goal do you want to achieve? Habits like this make your salespeople find a direction they want to take and stick to it throughout the process. The best sales people know what they want before starting so they know what they are aiming for and every action they make gets them closer to success.

  1. Utilize KPI’s

Meaningful metrics tie performance levels to behavioral changes that make good salespeople even better. KPIs are a good way to increase profitability for your business. Salespeople use KPIs to measure long-term success. While it isn’t an exact measurement, it is better than making an educated guess to forecast your sales growth. It can be useful to measure month-to-month growth, year-to-year, etc. Even using KPIs to measure the amount of time your salespeople are on the phone can be useful. Utilizing this technique can keep you ahead and focused on your firm’s goals.

  1. Celebrate

Celebrate after each sale! This is a habit that can be done with the sales manager. Hang up a bell that your sales people can ring each time they make a sale. Or find something else that your sales people can do to let others know they’ve helped the company get one step closer to your goal. Celebrating is a great way to boost morale.

Sales teams are key players in your business. Focus on collaboration. Each effective habit will lead the team to remember the bigger picture. Each sale is a celebration of your team, not just the individual. What other habits does your sales team use to maximize performance?

In a recent conference survey, all of our attendeesregardless of their title or the type of company they represent, agreed that reducing overall costs was a major priority for their organizations. But where to start? 


When we’re working with clients, one place we start is looking at the full time equivalent (FTE) cost of each sales employee. Then, we focus on each sales person’s attainment on revenue plan for the year to date, the time spent moving opportunities through the pipeline, and the resources required for them to win the sale. Examining all these factors allows us to calculate a percentage of the overall cost in relation to total revenue. Most industries have a percentage around 20%. If your percentage is higher, don’t fret. There are ways to get it down: 


1.Help customers clearly define the sales steps from lead to close and eliminate any superfluous or unproductive steps. A refined sales process leads to greater productivity, reduces waste, and increased conversion. 


2. Assign sales reps specific deliverables that enable them to move customers through the sales process more quickly. A clearly defined target is much easier to hit than a loosely defined goal. 


3. Coach the Coach! It’s unlikely for sales reps to improve if their managers don’t know where they need help. We help sales managers identify areas with room for improvement and then create an actionable plan with ways to improve each rep’s performance. 


The bottom line? Don’t assume where your organization’s inefficiencies lie. Perform a Cost of Sales Audit to determine if your percentage is too high. Then streamline your sales process to increase conversion and efficiency. Assign specific deliverables to hit sales targets more consistently. Create actionable plans for performance improvement on a per sales person basis.  


At Flannery Sales Systems, we help you analyze, define, and execute an effective cost reduction strategy in tandem with a customized plan for increasing sales performance and efficiency. We have over 26 years of experience in sales, sales management, and business ownership, and we’re committed to helping your organization succeed. 


As humans, we tend to want to swoop in and fix things, often starting with the things that are most broken and most in need of repair. As sales managers, we pride ourselves on being fixers and judge ourselves on our ability to effectively coach our teams and give them the resources they need to be successful.  

But, just as not all salespeople are created equal (see Bottom Third Sales Coaching) nor are the opportunities they put in the pipeline. In both cases, though our tendency may be to start with the team members and opportunities that are most in need, this impulse is often detrimental to our overall success. Just as with the bottom third of our sales reps, the bottom third of our opportunities will rarely move the needle regardless of how much time or energy we put into them. Often these are opportunities that have not been well qualified and are not well suited to our product or service capabilities. Additionally, despite equal or greater time investment, they may not have the revenue potential that some of the other opportunities have. 

So, what’s the answer? As difficult as it can be, the answer is to put less time into your bottom third. Instead, focus your time on B and C opportunities. Why not your A opportunities? Because your top 10% of opportunities are so well qualified and such a good fit, that they’ll likely close with little to no involvement from you. So, spend your time on the B and C opportunities, helping your reps understand how your product or service will help their prospects increase revenue, decrease costs or mitigate risks. Spend time thoroughly qualifying these ones up front so they have a higher likelihood to close.  

Neglecting the bottom third of your opportunities is not shirking your sales managerial responsibilities; in fact, reallocating your time to focus on the 60% of your core B and C opportunities will be the best way to support your sales reps going forward by helping them move the needle. 

It’s that time again when executives begin to finalize their plans and budgets for the next business year. 2020 is, and perhaps 2021 may be, unlike any other 365-day period in a long, long time. Never has unpredictability played a larger role than now. As the great Oscar Wilde once said, “Expect the unexpected, but don’t count on it.”

Companies spend millions of dollars to get their commercial strategies right. A global customer of ours just spent $ 4 million dollars to get their strategy aligned to the best markets for growth. Now what? The newly found information is delivered to sales and others in customer facing roles (CFRs), including marketing, customer service and technical support, and then they HOPE that they all get it right. They hope that all these roles just sync up in a well-coordinated unison. Unfortunately, we all know that it’s just not that simple.

At Flannery Sales Systems, we build process for our customers that include the tactical execution of the commercial/go to market (whatever you choose to call it) strategy. And what does that mean exactly? It is a clear plan for how the individuals in your CFRs conduct conversations to provide a customer or prospect with an understanding of how to use your product or service to increase revenue, reduce costs or minimize risk. Simple, right?

Our customers improve the quality of the sales opportunities they develop and increase the overall revenue in their pipeline when they embrace and execute this process. All sales organizations are focused on this, and we enable it with a skills-based program that is custom built for our customers based on the markets they compete in and how organizations BUY, not how they should be selling.

Whether it’s to prepare for next year or fine tune opportunities in the pipeline now, we can help. Take fifteen minutes to consider how we can enable you to meet and exceed your objectives. Ready? Let’s go!

For additional Sales Strategy information, check out some of our other blog posts here.

When we are working with a new customer, we want to get a self-assessment of the teams’ selling skills. The simple purpose of creating, delivering, and implementing a sales process is to improve your sales results, however you measure that.  But in order for you to know exactly what you want to improve skill-wise, you must first understand which skills you want to focus on.

Before we go any further, let’s assess the selling skills on your team and identify areas where you think your team could use some reinforcement or skills development. You may also find that refining your sales process will help address some of these skill gap areas. 

A stack ranking of selling skills forces the seller or the manager to place a “1” next to the skill that they feel is their strongest skill, and then a 6 next to the skill they believe to be the one that needs the most improvement. Thereafter, place a 2, 3, 4 and 5 next to the skills in a stack ranking that show the skills that are mastered and those that need to be improved.

The sales skills to be assessed are below.  Rank 1 for the strongest skill and 6 for the weakest.

             Proactive new business development 

             Assessing needs

             Establishing value

             Accessing key players  

             Managing the buying process

             Negotiating and closing

So, go ahead and use the open space to the left of the skills listed above to stack rank your skills. Remember, stack rank means that there can only be one 1, one 2, one 3, etc. on through 6. Managers should do the same ranking and then compare the results. If the results align, then there is a common path on which skills to work on. If they don’t, then there is some dialogue needed to clarify and prioritize training and coaching priorities.

There are six things you should know before rewarding your prospect with a proposal. In order to discover them, you’ll have to conduct a complete qualification of your prospect during the meetings leading up to this point in the sales. Here are the checkpoints. 

1.  You understand the PBOs thoroughly and are able to provide a satisfactory solution.

If you don’t understand the customer’s primary business objectives completely, how can you be sure you can suggest a solution that would be enthusiastically endorsed?

2.  The prospect has to do something – it is NOT an option to keep things the same.

If keeping things the same is an option for the prospect, they might very well select that option.  Problems tend to fall into the “fix it” or “forget it” categories. Unless there’s a compelling reason to change, most find it easier to do nothing.  Find the compelling reason they’d want to go through the hassle of changing suppliers or implementing something new. If they can’t present a compelling case for change, they probably won’t change.

3.  You have access to the decision maker and will make your presentation to him/her. 

You must have access to a decision maker before delivering a proposal. A good rule of thumb is never to make a presentation to someone who can’t say “yes.”  It’s that simple. 

4.  The prospect needs to implement a solution in a time frame that makes sense for you from a business standpoint.

Time kills deals. What’s the point if your prospect doesn’t want to do anything for 18 months? Too much can happen to in the interim to send the deal sideways.

5.  You understand the prospect’s selection criteria, and have a reasonable chance of meeting those criteria successfully. 

What are the top three things they’ll evaluate when selecting a business partner, and why are those things important?  This will give you a good handle on just how good your chances are.  If this is a price-driven deal, for example, and you can’t or won’t compete on price alone, why try to compete at all?  It’s a very competitive world out there and your competitors are trying just as hard to win the business as you are.  You’ve got to know their strengths and weaknesses, how they’re likely to react in certain situations, and how hard they’ll fight for the opportunity that you’re trying to win.

6.  The prospect is considering only a small number of suppliers and is not putting the deal out to every company in the area. 

Generally, “RFPs” are not an optimal type of business to win, since price plays such a major role in the selection process and the opportunity to communicate openly with the prospect is limited. Prospects whose attitude is “the more, the merrier” are more interested in price than a relationship. Finally, increasing the number of options for the prospect decreases your chances of winning.

If you made it through the checklist above with a reasonable chance of proceeding, your job is to now understand what will happen after you deliver the proposal. You must have this conversation BEFORE you provide the information the decision maker is looking for in your proposal. If you wait until after delivering the proposal, you will be in the age-old game of cat and mouse, chasing a decision with endless call backs and delays.

Join John and three other experts on Thursday, April 30th at 4PM EST/1PM PST who will cut to the chase to provide contrarian insights on how to navigate in this new environment. You will get perspectives from Strategic, Financial, Sales and Growth capacities that can be applied straight away to make a difference.

Forget the rest, join the best! See you on Thursday.

John will be discussing how to sell value when everyone else is selling themselves. There will also be 3 other expert speakers. Click on this Zoom Meeting link to register .

When a client engages us to help their sales staff, we often ask to interview their top performers. Our purpose is to decode their selling DNA and identify the markers that make them so successful. One common thing we’ve found is that top sales performers consistently help their customers to meet their objectives by selling business value.

There are three tactics these top sellers employ to establish value:

  1. Get to the cost of the problem today.  Buyers will face any number of problems. Great sales people help buyers define in totality all the costs those problems bring. The cost may be non-monetary like low morale or frustration, but costs that strike the bottom line are numbers that are heard by every person involved in making the buying decision. When you are the high-priced product in the market, it seems that every buyer asks about prices first. Great sellers shape and frame conversations around the costs of the buyer’s problems, not on the price of their solution.  
  2. Tell stories. Stories help the buyers discover for themselves the problems they are facing or the solutions that are needed. Great sales people have several stories, personal experiences that they share depending on the situation or desired outcome. They share stories when the conversation lulls and the buyer is unable to articulate problems.  Stories have purpose and you begin them by framing who they are about, their problem, a turning point, and a resolution. Stories not only get to problems, they can be used to describe how others use and derive business value from your products. 
  3. Summarize the conversation in writing. All sellers tell me that they create meeting summaries, but few do it well. We sell our services to many companies in different industries.  I am constantly referring to the meeting summary emails I’ve written as follow up after our conversations. These emails summarize the problems they are facing, the costs these problems are causing, the solutions we discussed and value of those solutions, and, of course, the next steps as discussed. This helps the customer and I keep the focus on the problems we are trying to solve. Great sales people don’t rely on memory.  They summarize the meeting conversations by writing it down, sharing it with the customer, and allowing the customer to give feedback.

Have you used any of these techniques to establish value in your sales process? Do you have others you use? We’d love to hear from you. Send us an email to


Last week, we published The Art of Referrals (Part 1). If you haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet, click here.

Now, we’re going to delve even further into this important selling skill.

How to Ask for a Referral

Knowing what to say is half the battle.  First, qualify for their interest in referring people to you.  Here are some ways to do that.

  • “How do you feel about helping me grow my business?”
  • “How do you feel about helping me tell my story to people who might have an interest in what I do?”
  • “I want to build my business through referrals.  I have a goal for the quarter to secure ten new clients through referrals.  If I can help you so it takes very little time and you are confident that I will represent you well, would you be willing to help me?”

 Asking “who do you know…?” (an open-ended question) as opposed to “do you know anyone …” (closed-end question) is a far more effective way to get referrals. 

Here are a few options.

  • “Who do you know who would benefit from my product or service?”
  • “Who do you know that has plans for the future that require what I do?”
  • “Who do you know that is facing the same kinds of challenges that you are?”

Your Ideal Client Profile

Salespeople will experience more success if they can be specific when asking people for referrals.  After all, it’s easier for the referring source if you can take the guesswork out of referrals.  If you can clearly describe the title of the Key Player or company you are looking for, your referring source will find it easier to focus on someone that fits your ideal profile.  This will result in better quality referrals, and more of them.

Finally, Give More to Get More

Referring should not be a one-sided activity.  The more referrals you give, the more you will get.  There should always be something in it for your referring source. 

Try to provide them with referrals in return.  Make a point of asking your clients whom they would like to be introduced to and see if you can help them.

You might provide a reward such as lunch or small token of appreciation.

Mastering the art of the referral is a proven way to effectively build your sales pipeline without having to rely on cold calls. Do you have referral techniques that have helped you build your business? If so, we’d love to hear about them. Send emails to

If your sales conversations with buyers seem too focused on price, they probably are. Why is that happening? Because the buyer only sees what you’re selling as a commodity, meaning interchangeable goods indistinguishable from the competition’s.

In a buyer-seller relationship, the verb commoditize often applies. It’s what the buyer tries to do to you during a sales cycle, to make you think that your product or service is interchangeable with other brands so they can beat you up on price.

Does that sound familiar? Probably! No matter what you’re selling, at some point in the sales cycle, usually near the end after the deal is forecast to close at “the end of this quarter,” the buyer starts treating your product or service and even YOU as a commodity. You will suddenly hear them say things like, “I can get the same thing elsewhere for a lower price.” They would happily replace you too as well with a different salesperson. That is unless, of course, you’ll admit that they are right by discounting the price.

How Buyers Get the Seller to Only Talk About Price

You know that your products or services aren’t the same as the competition’s, but you probably find yourself in this price-focused situation more often than you would like. And now you’re “buying in” to the idea that yes, it is just a commodity you’re selling. Buyers repeatedly tell you that the criterion for product or service selection in your industry is based on “best price,” so you’ve become convinced that you have to discount in order to win business. And now you too are price-focused.

Here’s what typically happens: You meet with a potential customer, anxious to describe or demonstrate the high-quality, amazing, customer-friendly, popular, easy-to-use, etc. capabilities and benefits of your offering. The customer seems interested and asks you for a price quote. Back at the office, you convince your manager that you could “win this” if she’d just discount a little bit.

What has happened? You let the buyer make it about price and you fell for the idea that you’re only selling a commodity. You were guilty of prescribing your products or services without first diagnosing the unique needs of the person you were talking to. And that’s a form of selling malpractice. You accepted the product or service and even yourself as a “me-too” solution, allowing commoditization to occur.nAt Flannery Sales Systems, we’ve heard stories like these for years, in every industry we have worked in.

You set yourself up as a commodity by failing to position the unique capabilities of your offering in order to differentiate your product or service within a competitive environment. Your customers didn’t have the experience to know what separated you from your competitor. It was your job to assist them in making a valuable connection between their needs and your unique selling proposition so they could see that your organization could provide them with something that the competition couldn’t. You missed the opportunity to win.

Differentiation Takes the Conversation Away from Price

Flannery Sales Systems helps organizations develop a process for diagnosing the potential needs and objectives of target customers, and providing those customers with specific objectives that they should be focused on in their industry. In doing so, we can help you position your unique products or services in a way that a potential customer will see your differentiator as a “must have,” avoiding the “It’s all the same to me” scenario. You have the option: position your own goods, or your competition will do it for you, and you’ll end up with the limited options of discount or be dismissed.