We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Tom Martin, former president of Miller Heiman and 20+ year veteran of the sales methodology and training industry. During our time together, we discussed many of the big ideas pervading the space today.

Below, please find an excerpt from our conversation on one of today’s biggest topics – social selling.

: There are a lot of trends affecting B2B salespeople, and one with a huge buzz is social selling.  Can you walk us through what “social selling” means to you?

Tom: You’re right John, social selling has a big buzz about it, and does not seem to be going away.  In most industries, sellers need to adapt to how social selling is impacting their sales process because of how it is affecting their prospect’s buying process.  Sales managers also need to adapt their sales training and reinforcement activities to coach their sellers in this new competency area.

John: Tom, tell us what social selling means to you. How can salespeople utilize social networks to improve their overall results?

Tom: When I think about what social selling means, I look at three different dimensions – three ways sellers can utilize “social” in their selling.

The first is listening. As Stephen Covey wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.

Adapting this to social selling, the advice to sellers is simple: use tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs to read what your prospects are reading and writing … and then after you understand what is important then, and only then, should you start “talking” in the social world.

Another key for listening is another quote from Covey, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”.

John: Interesting…that ties in nicely with Flannery Sales System’s methodology on how important it is to qualify prospects by listening and uncovering their pain before presenting solutions. You mentioned three dimensions. What are the other two?

Tom: The second is researching. While closely related to listening, I think the use of social tools for research is so critical for sellers it needs to be called out separately.  Typically this means using social to support their sales process, or opportunity and account management methodologies.

Researching also includes “searching & stalking” – and by that I mean searching out your friends (champions and coaches), and stalking your enemies (gathering competitive intel).

Finally, the third is telling. Only after you’ve understood your prospects by listening and researching should you start responding with your own social content.

John: This sounds very similar to how I would advise a seller to approach a sales call or meeting – seeking to listen and understand first and only then to solve the problems they have uncovered. Anything else we should know about social selling?

Tom: Some people start with social selling assuming it is the silver bullet they were looking for, and that all they need to do is post a few blogs and tweet once a week. These people inevitably end up disappointed.

I think about a concept I learned as an Advertising major – “impressions.”  It was said that it takes seven impressions for someone to fully ‘get’ who you are, what you do, and why they might need your services.

Adapting this to social selling means sellers need to consider integrating their social selling and traditional selling efforts to complement each other and achieve more impressions.  They can’t plan on a single tweet magically converting new prospects into opportunities.

One final Covey-ism for today, “Begin with the end in mind.”  To drive revenue and add qualified opportunities to the pipeline, your social sales message needs to be in sync with your overall sales message.

John: Any advice on integrating social selling into your sales process?

Tom: To create a lasting impact, you need to build social selling activities into your normal sales cadence – so set aside time each week to listen, research and tell across multiple platforms.  In business that typically means LinkedIn posts, blog entries, and Twitter, and possibly SlideShare and YouTube channels.

Stay tuned for more from my conversation with industry expert Tom Martin.

In a business-to-business environment, negotiating can be everything from a simple, one issue give and take to a very complex process requiring multiple meetings. Since most salespeople seldom “sit down across the negotiating table,” our intent here is to provide you with some basic negotiating tactics that will help you level the playing field.

Yes, level the playing field. Most salespeople are woefully unprepared to negotiate, since they are too emotionally involved in the outcome. They simply want the business too badly to be objective.

Common Negotiating Mistakes

Virtually all the experts would agree that that the following mistakes are commonplace when salespeople start to negotiate. Awareness of these challenges may improve your ability to negotiate considerably.

  • Getting emotionally involved.  This one tops the list because, above all, your attitude toward something determines your success. If you appear needy, conveying the message to your prospect that you’ll do almost anything to get the business, your prospect will sense this weakness and exploit it. Avoid statements like, “We’d really like to get this done,” “I need this to make my quota this month,” “What do we need to do to get you to buy from us?,” etc. All indicate you are willing to do most anything to get the prospect to buy, and the smart prospect will try to see how far you actually will go. Remember, credibility is key in negotiations!
  • Making unilateral concessions.  A unilateral concession is agreeing to a prospect’s request too quickly, and without asking for something of equal or greater value in return. For example, your prospect asks you to lower your price by 5%. Your response is, “Sure, we can do that.” Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and reflect on what message your response sent. First, he’s undoubtedly thinking that since you agreed so easily, he should have asked for more. Second, he knows that since you dropped your prices so easily, you’ve probably overpriced the product or service. This creates doubt about the overall quality of what you’re selling. Finally, you’ve demonstrated your inexperience as a negotiator, opening yourself for more abuse as the negotiation goes on.
  • Not understanding the prospect’s pain and his alternatives.  This is your “ace in the hole” and without it you are defenseless. Most salespeople qualify poorly, betting on their powers of persuasion, features and benefits and charming personalities to get the job done. That doesn’t work. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to stand your ground if you don’t know what the prospect’s downside is if the problem is not fixed. Therefore, you must uncover how severe their pain is, how it impacts both the company and the individual you’re negotiating with, and what happens if the problem doesn’t get resolved through negotiations.
  • Talking too much.  When you are monopolizing the conversation, it’s impossible to “read” your adversary or learn what their specific needs are. You’re giving information, not receiving it. Falling into this trap is a sure way to lose.
  • Not understanding your objectives and value items.  Failure to have worked out, in advance, your list of primary (best case) and secondary (fall back) objectives will create confusion and indecision for you. If you don’t, you’ll just end up winging it, which is a surefire road to disaster.

Have you run into any of these mistakes in your sales negotiations? We’d love to hear from you.



At Flannery Sales Systems, we help companies drive revenue through sales process definition, sales team training and management coaching and reinforcement.

We are proud to unveil a new logo which represents these three important parts of our business. Our customized three pronged approach is what makes us different from other sales training programs, and we believe you need all three in order to drive meaningful, repeatable revenue.

Check out our updated website to learn more about how our services can help your organization, or request a free, personalized consultation with our sales experts.

Flannery Sales Systems traveled to the East Coast this month. In this video, John talks to us about his travels and what we have to look forward to in the upcoming FSS newsletter, namely an interview with sales thought leader Tom Martin as well as John’s perspective on the Challenger program.

scammperrWhat makes a great sales leader? Ask this question to a dozen sales executives and you may get a dozen different answers. Many great sales leaders rise up through an organization by being top performers themselves and leading by example. Others are known for recruiting top talent, providing excellent coaching and mentorship, or successfully aligning sales incentives with company goals.

All of these are important; however, one of the most vital traits of a sales leader is one that often goes unnoticed. That is their ability to tap into innovation or “out-of-the-box” thinking to help their reps unstick a stalled deal. Removing roadblocks for your team will help them achieve their monthly targets and, in turn, help your organization meet or exceed revenue goals.

But just how does a sales leader tap into that innovative thinking? One of the most effective ways we have found is through the use of a tool called SCAMMPERR. SCAMPPERR is an acronym for nine thinking techniques that help you come up with creative solutions to problems. We’ve seen it shortened to SCAMPERR or even SCAMPER, but in our minds, using the full set of techniques gives you the best opportunity for creative problem solving.


When you and a sales rep are trying to remove roadblocks in important deals, use the cues below to force yourselves to think in an arbitrarily different way.

S Substitute: What could be substituted in the situation to make the solution work?

C Combine: How could ideas or elements be combined to provide a solution?

A Adapt: How could the solution be adapted to make it work?

M Magnify: How could ideas or elements be magnified to make the solution work?

M Modify: What could be modified within the solution to make it work?

P Put: What might be put to a different use to make the solution work?

E Eliminate: What could be eliminated from the situation to allow the idea to work?

R Rearrange: How could elements be rearranged to enable the solution to work?

R Reverse: How might the solution be turned around to make it work?

Putting SCAMMPERR into Action

So how might you use SCAMMPERR to work with your sales team to remove roadblocks in stalled deals? Let’s look at an example.

When I was leading a team selling daily deals to local businesses, one of my reps was trying to sign a contract with a large amusement park, but the deal was stalled. The business was unwilling to significantly discount their ticket prices as they felt it would be too costly and would tarnish their brand. This had the potential to be a huge deal for us, but as the objections seemed insurmountable, my rep and I sat down together to see if we could come up with an innovative way to get the deal through. We used SCAMMPERR to guide our brainstorm.

After going through all the cues, it was “C-combine” that eventually led us to our answer. What if we combined admission tickets to the park with a local hotel stay? Local hotels already offered the park discounted room rates, so if we could get the hotel to kick in a bit more of a discount along with some other perks such as a free meal and parking, we could come up with a very compelling package price. Because the discount was now being applied to several businesses and not to the amusement park alone, they were not as concerned about negative impact on their brand. We presented our solution to the business and they were delighted. The deal closed and produced more revenue than any other offer that year.

Do you have examples of sales leaders using innovation to help their teams unstick stalled deals? Do you foster out-of-the-box thinking in your sales organization, and if so, have you used a tool like SCAMMPERR to drive results? We’d love to hear from you!

Guest article by Melissa Clemens, experienced Sales Leader and Writer.

As the Senior Director for a large, distributed sales team (20+ regional managers and nearly 300 sales associates), one of my most important jobs was training. Within my organization, I’d become known for my ability to bring in and develop top performers, and, as a result, I’d been put in charge of all sales training events – both new hire training as well as ongoing regional trainings. 

I had always prided myself on my ability to deliver great training programs. I spent weeks developing the agenda and curriculum, planning breakout sessions, and bringing in key executives. Having been with our company since its inception, I understood our sales processes and systems better than anyone, so who better to lead our training?  

At least that’s what I thought until I was invited to attend a sales training workshop led by Flannery Sales Systems (FSS). My “aha” moment came within the first 15 minutes. As I watched FSS “do their thing,” I realized that not only had not been delivering great training as I’d previously thought, I had actually been letting our team down. 

Here’s what I learned by watching the John and the FSS team: 

  • Training is not talking.  I may have been doing a good job talking at” our sales teams, but I was certainly not training them. Training must be much more interactive. 
  • Learning relies on self-discovery. In order to really learn, my team needed to come to key concepts on their own. The art of good training lies in fostering that discovery. 
  • Practice, practice, practice. Training is about teaching a new skill or behavior, and in order to master that, my sales associates needed a safe environment to practice and receive feedback on what they’d learned. 
  • Training shouldn’t be theoretical. Training should be specific and applicable – my sales associates had to be able to use what they’d learned right away to achieve better results. 
  • Training without process is pointless. FSS works with companies to better define and implement their sales processes.  Once trained, these skills and processes are then incorporated into the management team’s regular operating cadence. This tactical execution is critical if training is to lead to sustainable, repeatable sales growth. 

Sales leaders tend to be great sales performers, as well as great people developers. But what I learned from just one day in an FSS workshop is that most sales leaders, myself included, do not have the expertise to facilitate great training. And considering the cost of putting on a training event (travel, facilities, curriculum development, lost sales time), this is one area that companies can’t afford to get wrong. 

Although training alone does not equate to sales results, a great training platform coupled with excellent recruiting, a well-defined process, and effective leadership is critical to sales success. So, I’m grateful for my “aha” moment. I now have a new understanding of what it means to provide great sales training, and I can’t wait to bring that back to the companies for whom I now consult. I’m confident the results will follow. 

decision-makerOver half the problems encountered by salespeople are caused by their inability to gain access to the decision maker. Failure to be in front of the person with the ultimate authority to approve the purchase will, in every case, eliminate your ability to get a positive decision.  You will, however, get lots of stalls (“I need to run it by…”) and plenty of  “think it overs.”

Since one of your biggest challenges is to gain access to the decision maker, let’s take a moment to look at some proven tactics that will help you accomplish this difficult task and help you avoid spending your time with the wrong people.

  1. Assume it. Early in the sales call ask, “When am I meeting with the decision maker?” If you get some push back, you need to say, “I’m confused; why not?”
  2. Ask for it. Simply state, “I’ll need to meet with the decision maker.  Can you arrange the meeting?” (I’m confused; why not?)
  3. “Company policy.” “It’s company policy that we meet with the decision maker.”  (Maybe it isn’t, but maybe it should be.)
  4. Bargain for access. Some lower level folks who want to protect their “turf” or have an ego trip may deny you access until you’ve “proven” yourself. In cases like this it’s important to find out under what circumstances they would introduce you to the decision maker. When you’ve found that out simply state, “So if I understand this correctly, in return for proving to you that we can adequately address your challenges, you will introduce me to the decision maker. Right?”
  5. Justification.  “I need to understand the issues from everyone’s point of view. If I don’t understand what the decision maker’s issues are, my proposal may miss the mark. That’s probably not a good strategy for either of us, is it?”
  6. “Biggest concern.”  “My biggest concern is that I won’t be able to meet with the decision maker during this process and that might impact my ability to completely understand the company’s challenges and ultimately present a really good solution. Can we avoid that?”
  7. Peer to peer. “Our president (EVP) wants to come to the meeting and wants to meet your president.  Sorry, I have no control over this. Will you let the him know?” Obviously this tactic gets other people involved, but sometimes that’s important.
  8. Asking for help. People want to help other people. Use comments like, “I’ve got a problem and I need your help” or “I’m a little confused.” You’ll be surprised at how much mileage you get from this tactic.

JohnFlannery3-12_152There are a lot of sales training courses out there – seminars, webinars, workshops, audio books, and more. So many, in fact, that it can become hard to tell one from another. And even harder to determine if any of them can really improve your sales performance in a meaningful way.

So, what makes Flannery Sales Systems different?

We’re not just another training program.

Training alone does not drive revenue. It’s the implementation of that training that yields results. Before we begin training your customer-facing team, we’ll work with your sales leaders to define or refine your sales process so there’s a clear understanding of how the team will reach its revenue goals. After training, we’ll help you implement a reinforcement plan that will solidify process adoption and equip management with critical coaching skills and tools for success.

We’re customized.

Everything we do is customized for your organization. We are not a one-size-fits-all methodology that you then need to adapt to your team and selling environment. Our training curriculum is developed specifically for your company. Your sales reps will leave our workshops with the process, tools and skills they need to drive meaningful revenue right away. In addition, we’ll work with your management team to define a reinforcement plan critical for ongoing process adoption and continued sales success.

We’re about results.

We care about results as much as you do. And because we do, we will help you measure your progress at each stage within your sales process. The end goal is to drive revenue, but what are the individual activities necessary to achieve that goal, and how do you track your improvement over time? We will ensure you have full visibility into your performance at each stage of the sales cycle and a clear understanding of how our services have positively impacted your bottom line.

Business ProposalThere are six things you must know in order to let your prospect pass – in other words, before you reward your prospect with a proposal. Your ability to conduct a professional and complete qualification of your prospect during the meetings leading up to this point in the sales cycle will provide you with the answers. Here are the checkpoints.


1.  You understand the prospect’s problem thoroughly and are able to provide, at a minimum, a satisfactory solution.

If you don’t understand the problem 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 just to do nothing. No pain, no change.  Find the compelling reason why 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. 

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, 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 the most 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 often quite 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.


ELIA Riga Apr 25 2014On April 24 and 25, I attended and delivered a Sales Process Workshop at the European Language Industry Association (ELIA) Conference in Riga, Latvia. ELIA is an international organization of professionals in the translation and location industry, bringing multi-lingual content to the world through the web, printed materials and simultaneous interpretations. There were 36 countries represented at the conference, which always makes for great conversation at the event and at cocktail parties and dinners. Here is a summary of the main topics discussed:

Closing the Digital Divide: Facebook Gives Back

The keynote speaker was Iris Oriss, who is in charge of all Internationalization and Translation efforts for Facebook’s multi-lingual platform. Iris’s keynote focused on Facebook’s dedication to closing the global digital divide, as only 2.7 of the 7 billion people worldwide have access to the Internet.  To close this gap, Facebook is supporting an effort called, a consortium of companies who donate time and resources to get the web to the most remote reaches of our population.

The resource-based economy that we grew up with has now been replaced by a knowledge-based environment, and as knowledge spreads to a greater segment of our global population, how will your selling style adapt? Does this open new markets for you? Or perhaps increase the number of competitors in your space? Be prepared to answer the question and react quickly – it is happening now.

“The Who” Said It 1971: “Going Mobile” is the Direction

Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey were prophetic when they wrote and sang the song “Going Mobile” in 1971. Mobile devices have become the desktops of the 80’s. Do you recall the first desktop computer that you had? I felt like I was in the space age. Well today, mobile devices offer us more capabilities than ever before. As a result, our buyers are relying more and more on information that is pushed to them while they are on the go.

Mark Zuckerberg re-iterated Facebook’s commitment to mobile at the recent F8 Conference in San Francisco, saying the company will run mobile promotions on smartphones and tablets as it pushes to drive revenue (we like that phrase/ URL!) from a larger audience. So, as sellers, we must be ready to leverage mobile to deliver key insights and solutions. According to Robert Peck, an industry analyst at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, this market may be worth $3 billion dollars in a few years.

All Customers are Unique (with the Same Challenges and Goals)

The Sales Process Workshop I delivered was attended by 16 professionals representing 7 countries, with at least 10 languages spoken among them (see picture). As you know if you’ve attended one of my programs, the focus is always on the customer. In this workshop, we worked together to determine the best ways to differentiate yourself by the way you sell.

Customers usually claim that they, or their customers/markets, are unique. In our workshop, we determined that business objectives and challenges are actually very similar, regardless of industry. What is not the same is the company’s culture as organizations represent many different countries and languages, and as sellers we must be prepared to address those nuances as we help companies meet their business objectives and improve their bottom line.