Communication skills are the key to being successful in sales.  They serve two important purposes.  First, they help you understand the prospect’s business objectives.  Second, by focusing the conversation on the prospect, you are able to build a high level of trust and minimize the perception of self-interest.


Communication is a two-way street.  That is, it involves both speaking and listening.  Salespeople must have the skills to keep the focus on the prospect, to keep the prospect talking, to be a good listener and build a trusting relationship with the prospect.  After all, your job is to get information, not give it.  How else can you diagnose the prospect’s challenges effectively?  If the diagnosis is flawed, how much confidence will your prospect have in the solution?

When you are talking you are saying something that you already know.  When you listen you discover something that someone else knows.  Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much.

If you want to interact with someone, communication is essential.  If you want to influence or advise someone, understanding his or her point of view is critical.  A good rule of thumb is to keep your prospect speaking twice as much as you do.  After all, you have two ears and one mouth and you should use them in that ratio in professional selling.  Unfortunately, most salespeople are like alligators – all mouth and no ears.

In diagnosing the prospect’s challenges, and establishing their business objectives during a sales meeting, it is important to ask good questions, take notes and follow up. Taking notes really shows the customer that you are paying attention to what their needs are. At the end of the meeting:

  • Verbally summarize what you heard at the end of a sales meeting
  • Discuss what the next steps should be including time and date for the next discussion
  • Follow up by sending an email to the prospect outlining what was said during the meeting and what the next steps are

These simple tips, when followed on a regular basis, will help you to differentiate yourself by the way that you sell, and move you into the master communicator category.



Our new feature article, “Ask a Sales Leader” is designed to provide perspectives from the Sales Leaders that we have worked with and how they have used sales processes to win more business. We asked four questions below to capture this insight. In this edition, we feature Kevin Leak. Kevin is a two time customer of FSS, a 30+ year veteran in the Life Sciences/Pharmaceutical market and has lead teams in Sales, Product Management and Marketing capacities. To learn more above Kevin’s success click here.

1. Describe how your customer facing teams use your organization’s sales process.

They work together during opportunity development by asking a series of questions and listening to the customer, in order to identify and fully understand the root causes of the customer’s problem. In conjunction with Sales, the Product Engineering team has a check list of ways we could resolve the customer’s problem and deliver value through the four drivers of Speed, Cost, Quality and Innovation. Can our solution perform faster, thereby improving the customer’s efficiency? Can our solution help the customer lower their total costs? Can our solution help the customer improve the quality of their products and processes? How can our solution deliver innovation that creates a competitive advantage?

2. What is your Management’s approach to coaching sales reps?

The two key areas of coaching that we focus on are (1) opportunity development and (2) listening skills. Opportunity development coaching is the process we follow for identifying the critical factors that are required in refining an initially vague and undefined opportunity into a very specific and well defined opportunity that lists the decision makers, the timing, the value and the likelihood that we will be selected. Listening skills coaching is the process we follow for identifying, in the pre-call planning, the list of questions the sale rep should be asking, improving their ability to weave those important questions into the conversation with the customer and their ability during the post-call report (Meeting Summary) to show progress in our understanding of the customer’s situation.

3. How do you reinforce sales skill development for sales reps?

Repetition is the key. They must buy-in to our sales process that is repeatable and reproducible. The analogy I use to describe “repeatable” is that our sales process is a play book and everyone on our team has agreed that these are our plays, knows how to execute the plays and when we call those plays, everyone knows their role so that we professionally execute those plays. The analogy I use to describe reproducible is that our team plays at many venues (our different customers) with varied situational challenges (such as different competitors) and we sometimes need to bring in customized resources. When we execute our “plays”, based on the consistent use of our sales process, we successfully generate the consistent sales, margins and long term customer relationships that we are playing for.

4. What advice would you give to other sales leaders?

Break the “check the box” trap that many experienced sales reps fall into. Sales reps have their list of customers that they like and who like them in return. If the sales rep could, they would spend all of their time calling upon those “nice customers” and “check the box” each week when completing their sales call report. But frequently, they are not learning anything new that identifies new business opportunities or new influencers and decision makers, competitive threats or changes the customer is undergoing that could effect, for better or worse, our sales revenue with that customer. Challenge your sales reps to call upon the tough customers and learn something new about those customers.

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!