Is there a “right” way to sell? Perhaps. But, if the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the world can change in a flash and the “right” way may no longer work. 

In my role as asales trainerand consultant these past 16 years, I’ve seen a constantly changing new twist and turn on the “right” way to sell in light of current economic conditions. Personally, I have worked through four popular sales methodologies in my career: SPIN Selling, Miller Heiman, Solution Selling, and Customer Centric Selling. 

Admittedly, each of those methodologies provides an excellent framework for helping enterprise sales organizations understand how to organize themselves and face the market. However, the one aspect that has regularly challenged my clients is that these programs often have components that are too complex to use in a practical format. 

During many of the conversations I have with sales and executive leaders, I’m regularly told that they have “tried” two, three, or sometimes even four different methodologies but none of them worked. They just didn’t stick. What I hear loud and clear is that they want something that’s their own, a sales process that reflects how their customers buy, aligned with the tools and skills that their sales people can use to excel. 

The ultimate goal of a sales process in any organization is to help drive more revenue. Is there a right way to sell? I’d say yes. But it needs to be what’s right for your organization and sales team. And a popular sales methodology might not be the answer—especially when the economy takes a turn for the better or worse. On the other hand, a customizedsales processmight be a perfect fit. 


Nika Allahverdi
Global Marketing and Engagement Manager at Nimdzi Insights

Do you know many kids who dream of a career in sales? Maybe you do, but I wouldn’t bet on it. The idea never crossed my mind. Which may explain why I did not go into sales. But it would have been unquestionably rude if I didn’t open the door when Sales finally came knocking with a few words of wisdom about learning to ask the right questions and listening. Lessons we can all learn from.

As a marketer, I know that there will be crossover and collaboration with my colleagues working on deals with other organizations. As a company, we want to make sure people in need of our services can find and work with us. In order to do my job, I have to ask myself the same questions that you would hopefully hear in a sales call. And questions about challenges are challenging. For me, the change in perspective came through a Flannery Sales Systems workshop where a wee little question had a colossal effect on how I approach my marketing work. It was a paradigm shifter:

What are you looking to achieve?

It all starts here – the salesperson looking to see what a potential client identifies as a need and pinpointing a concrete business objective. You would be surprised at how often people are focused on a single puzzle piece without seeing the whole picture. Salespeople, on the other hand, not only map how products or services fill gaps but also shine a light on gaps the client may have completely missed. In a sense, the salesperson is the link between prospects identifying what they really need and actually getting it. It would not be ridiculous to say that the word “salesperson” doesn’t cover the work salespeople do, work that goes beyond “selling” and encompasses listening, understanding, and truly connecting the dots. 

The paradigm-shifting question above moves us away from voraciously closing deals and towards a hunger of truly understanding someone’s business challenges. Closing a deal prematurely and neglecting to understand a client’s business objective is a gateway for future misunderstandings. Losing a client down the line may not be the result of bad account management but rather the incomplete identification of what your client was looking to achieve in the beginning. Which is why I prefer “matchmaker” to “salesperson.”

What are you looking to achieve? I repeat the question to myself like a mantra in both business conversations and outside of work. You cannot fill a gap without knowing anything about it or why it was there in the first place. When your product is a service like market research, consulting, or custom workshops, as is the case for us at Nimdzi, it becomes more critical that early conversations have truly identified a concrete need the potential client has. I know my colleagues make it a priority before even mentioning what we can offer. And of course, the paradigm-shifter is only a part of the conversation. Flannery covered much more than asking an opening question and listening for concrete needs. Our team walked away calibrated and equipped with a framework that helps us serve our clients. 

If you’re a marketing manager not in direct sales, you could greatly benefit from understanding the sales process. This is because it will equip you with a new acuteness for identifying needs, listening for challenges, and orienting yourself. What are you looking to achieve?

Nika Allahverdi is the Global Marketing and Engagement Manager at Nimdzi Insights, an international market research and consulting firm. She drives the marketing efforts at Nimdzi and works with various departments to conceptualize campaigns and strategize to implement them. She is also Nimdzi’s marketing consultant for localization business professionals.

John participated with an elite panelist group for the “To The Point Innovative Strategies” Webinar. For anyone that’s looking to achieve sales success and drive revenue in this “new normal”, we highly recommend you watch this 10:18 recording of John’s part in the Webinar.

selling in uncertain times

Introducing a new program to help sales teams, and others in customer facing roles to navigate the new world. We have partnered with The Brevet Group again to bring you this exciting offering.

Selling in Uncertain Times (SIUT) includes a series of virtual training modules covering the mindset, skillset, and toolset sales reps and management need today. The content will inspire and equip your sellers to connect with buyers in these uncertain times.

Each session is customizable to your organization and the program can be launched immediately. The series modules include highly actionable buyer insights, best practices, virtual selling skills, and practical tips and tactics.

Our content will be continuously updated to reflect the changing market conditions.

For many companies, buying has changed again, which means that sales teams and their leaders have to adapt. And amongst the chaos in the current environment, adaptation must come quickly. So here is an offering for your teams to utilize to navigate through this maze.

SIUT will help you through. The perspective comes from conversations with customers and prospects and how to help them to better understand the value you can bring.

I have already spoken with several of you about this, and look forward to getting started. Call me directly (858 518-7039) to discuss how we can customize and deliver this for you, or get you ready to do the delivery.

Your sales team is one of the greatest assets your company has. A late businessman, William Clement Stone, once said, “Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman, not the attitude of the prospect.”  But how do you maintain your company’s strong standing and keep the company moving forward? One way is to turn simple habits into effective sales strategies.

Here are some great practices to help maximize your sales 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.
  • Encourage Your Prospects to Engage Before the end of a Meeting – Many 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 small change can increase your closing ratios significantly.
  • 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.
  • Know What You Want – Have a purpose before starting your sales. What goal do you want to achieve? The best sales people know what they want before starting so they know how to manage their buyers and every action they make gets them closer to success.
  • Celebrate – Celebrate after each sale. This is a habit that can be done with the rest of your team. Hang up a bell that you can ring each time you close a deal or find something else to let others know you’ve helped the company get one step closer to your goal. Celebrating is a great way to boost morale.

As a sales rep, you are a key player in your business. Focus on building simple habits that reinforce key selling behaviors and, when implemented, help create effective sales strategies. Are there other habits your sales team uses to maximize performance? We’d love to hear them!

For years, selling focused on making enthusiastic, detailed presentations. To that end, product knowledge was key. Companies invested heavily in teaching their salespeople product knowledge at the expense of selling skills. Even today, it’s estimated that roughly 80% of the training salespeople receive is about product knowledge. Clearly, sales skills training has taken a back seat to. But at what cost?  

Why the product-first focus fails

Here’s a typical scenario that results from this kind of approach: XZY Software has brought their entire sales force to corporate headquarters for three days of intensive product training on the latest version of their software. The salespeople are shown how to demo the product, and they’re taught all the features, specifications, applications and more. At the end of the three days, they’re product experts.  

Imagine what’s likely to happen on the first sales call they make after training. Unless the prospect beats them to the point by asking about new software featuresthe salesperson will likely to lead with, “Let me tell you about our newest release. It’s got (feature A, feature B and feature C), and here’s how it can help you solve (problem A, problem B and problem C).”  

The prospect doesn’t even get a chance to talk about their needs. The focus on teaching product knowledge takes the focus off qualifying and asking questions. And this kind of “premature presentation” will hurt you more than it will help you, as it turns prospects off but also backfires.  

When a features focus backfires

When skills training was considered necessary, salespeople learned ways to overcome objections and close deals for a very good reason: Product pushers who overwhelmed prospects with features and benefits desperately needed those skills. However, there’s a flaw in pushing features and benefits that’s often overlooked: Sales pitches sometimes give prospects ammunition they can use for objections. For example, if the salesperson starts discussing features, specifications or pricing, the prospect can find something that compares unfavorably to the product he or she is currently using.  

On the other hand, if the salesperson limits the amount of information given, it’s more difficult for the prospect to find something to object to. Plus this leads to question-asking, not feature-pushing, when the salesperson pulls back and withholds information to focus on learning information instead. Investigative skills are more important than presentation skills in today’s selling environment that rewards the problem solver, not the product pusher. 

Sales should not be adversarial

Another misunderstanding is that the entire selling process has to be adversarial. Both parties seem to think they must gain the upper hand and not let the other take advantage of them. Feeling you have been taken advantage of leads to resentment and possible retribution at some point in the future. This is not a good foundation for a long-term business relationship. Years and years of manipulation by both parties have caused this unfortunate imbalance in the typical sales process. 

Sales should result in a win-win

Selling has to become a cooperative effort. When a sale is made, both parties must win or they shouldn’t do business together. To make this happen, the salesperson should start out by communicating the need to exchange enough information to find out if there is a reason to start a business relationship. If after exchanging information it doesn’t look like a fit, either party has the right to disengage.  

The focus of qualifying should be for the salesperson to ask questions about the business objectives the prospect wants to achieve, not on what the seller has to offer. At the end of the process, the seller will make his or her recommendations based on the answers to the qualifying questions and the prospect will give the seller a decision. No manipulation will be necessary by either party to gain an advantage. 

And we can finally say goodbye to product-focused presentations all about features and benefits too.  

Your Sales Attitude: Aggressive or Inquisitive? 

Trust is the foundation for success in sales. And the more complex the sale, the higher the dollar value of the sale, the more important trust is. Unfortunately, the general perception of salespeople causes buyers to be wary. As a result, the trust factor is very low initially—if any trust exists at all. Therefore the seller starts out at a distinct disadvantage and faces an uphill battle to earn trust. He or she has to first dispel the idea that their primary goal is to ensnare the buyer.  

To compound the problem, many salespeople show up with a misguided attitude. They come across as saying, “I’ve got the best solution available, and my job is to convince my prospects that I’m right. To do this, I will offer a precise, logical argument supported by as much data as necessary to prove my point. I will become skillful at overcoming their objections and if they don’t buy, I will be persistent and follow up relentlessly until I win their business.”  

This is the “try harder” approach: If you don’t get the sale, just try harder. These aggressive salespeople win points for effort, but not for effectiveness. This attitude just doesn’t fly. And certainly doesn’t build trust! 

An alternative approach: Ask questions

Contrast that attitude with an entirely different one, such as, “I firmly believe in my product or service. But I also realize not everyone is a prospect for what I sell. And I realize that the harder I try to sell, the less receptive my prospect will be. Therefore, my best strategy is an inquisitive approach, to ask questions and encourage the prospect to tell me about his/her situation without fear that I might take advantage of them. Coming to a point of understanding without the pressure of trying to sell will meet both the prospect’s needs and my company’s needs most effectively.”  

Put yourself in the prospect’s shoes. Which salesperson would you prefer to deal with, the aggressive one or the inquisitive one? Which person would you trust the most? Which attitude takes the pressure off? Most people would prefer—and be more likely to trust—the inquisitive salesperson. 

What kind of attitude are your salespeople taking? How’s that working for you?  


Each of the engagements we have with our customers begins with a thorough understanding of their business objectives. We then back up and attempt to help our customers to identify how their customers get to them or if they initiate the contact. We delve into questions such as, what steps did the prospects that looked at their organization go through to get from interest to onboarding?  

The concept of the buyer’s journey
There is a lot of noise in the sales enablement space today about mapping “the customer’s journey” and then aligning it to the sales process. This is hardly a new approach. It is a dustoff of a threedecadeold concept, decked out with fresh wrapping paper, buzzwords and a shiny bow to get companies to think more about customers than themselves and the products they sell. A dust-off yes, but still a useful approach if it helps sales teams to understand the phases of the buyer’s journey. 

In order to help our customers understand what is important to their customers, we rely on the research done by Neil Rackham. Rackham is the author of SPIN Selling. Rackham’s research yielded a chart that documents the three phases a buyer goes through, as well as what is important to the buyer in each of the phasesMuch has been written about this research, and the use of the model has gone through adaptations when major innovative and market forces, such as the Internet, have entered the environment. But in general, the phases hold true.  

  • Phase 1 is called Solution Development. At this time, the main concern of the buyer is their needs, although we often replace the word “needs” with “business objectives.”  
  • Phase 2 is called the Evaluation. During this phase, the most important component to the buyer is proof: proof that your organization’s services and capabilities can match the buyer’s business objectives.  
  • Phase 3 is called Commitment. The most important component to the buyer when they are ready to commit, or make a decision, is risk. The risk comes from the uncertainty of knowing if their selection will do what was promised. This is especially true when moving from one competitor and another in the same industry.   

Note that price and cost are of course concerns for the buyer, but never are they the most important concern at any point in the sales cycle. Despite what you have heard about phrases like “sharpen your pencil,” or “give me your best and final,” price is rarely the final factor, and you’ll see it’s conspicuously absent from the three phases described above.    

Do you know which phase your buyer is in? 
It’s important to understand what phase your customer is in when you engage with them and make sure you identify what’s important to them. You also must recognize when different buyers are in different phases. For example, you could have three different buyers in an organization at different places along the buying phases spectrum.  

It is the sales person job to make sure that they cover all three of the buyers’ phases, regardless of where the buyer is on the initial contact. This is one of the reasons that proactive new business development is critical for sales people. If they can initiate the identification of a business objective, they will be in the driver’s seat to shape how that gets addressed, preferably in a specified solution that your competition can’t offer.    

An engaged sales process means knowing your buyer’s business objectives, offering them proof, and getting them to commit.  

Value proposition is a phrase that became ubiquitous during the 90’s (dot bomb?) era. You may still encounter this, or the “value messaging” term on a regular basis in the business world. Buzz word or not, value messaging will help quickly convey the value of your product or service without overwhelming or boring potential customers away in a landslide of features and benefits dumping.

Based on the research performed by Sirius Decisions, communication plays the biggest role in sales failures. The number one inhibitor to achieving your sales quota is the inability to communicate value messages, followed closely by an information gap, and then by having too many products to know.

Top Inhibitors to Achieving Sales Quotas
Insufficient leads: 13.3%
Poor sales skills: 16%
Too many products to know: 21.4%
Information gap: 24.3%
Inability to communicate value message: 26%

If you can’t articulate what your product is in a simple manner that is easy to digest, how do you expect customers to understand why they should choose you over the competition? To get you on the right track, here are three strategy development tips to work against these statistics and help you develop and convey a powerful value message:

    1. Learn about your customers – Develop an ideal customer persona.  First, from a demographic or “firmographic” perspective, do your research.  Learn about their market, what they sell, how much they sell, the organization size and the roles involved in the decision making process.  Next, conduct informational interviews within your network.  Talk to anyone in the industry who has been exposed to your ideal customer.  Even third hand knowledge can be valuable in preparing for the next step – which is to talk to your customers and/or prospects.  Find out about their goals, how they measure and track their success, and ask about their pain points.  Once you have a solid definition of your ideal customer persona, you’re equipped with the knowledge to successfully position yourself to appeal to your target audience.
    2. Demonstrate value – Take what you’ve learned about your customer; their pain points, needs and goals to start crafting a message that demonstrates the value of your product from their perspective. How will your product eliminate pain points and help them achieve daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly goals? Messaging that shows that you, the seller, understands the customer’s view point will make your message much more powerful than an organization that suffers from “Me Syndrome” and constantly talks about themselves and product capabilities.  Here are two examples of how you can paint a picture for the customer:
        • “Imagine a day without the stress of x, y, and z. With the time you save you’ll be able to accomplish twice as much of what you need to do.”
        • “Whether it’s daily, weekly or yearly we understand that goals are always top of mind. Let (product X) help reduce the time it takes to meet those goals by taking advantage of x and y capabilities.”
    3. Position and differentiate –What makes you different from your competitors? Is it your exceptional customer service, large number of capabilities, or the price of your product? Whatever it is, be sure to reiterate the difference across all sales and marketing channels, and especially when you’re physically speaking with a prospect or customer. Proper positioning involves being able to identify who you, as an organization are, and consistently demonstrate that to prospects and customers. A mistake some companies make is forgetting to consistently use the same positioning statements and language in sales and marketing when speaking about how they help your customers create value. Make sure what you’re saying on your website is demonstrated similarly on your social channels, in your marketing materials and through the words that sales reps use with customers. It sounds obvious, but unfortunately many organizations fail to do this.

Successful sales strategies are all about the creativity and adaptability that your sales management can create in conjunction with Marketing. Understanding your customer, demonstrating value and positioning yourself are all simple strategies to help streamline the sales process. Don’t fall into the 26% that are unable to communicate value messages about their product consistently and effectively.

A Go To Market Strategy is the high level view of the vision or mission of an organization’s long and short term objectives. The strategy is carefully formulated by upper management to move an organization toward their specific destination. If, for example, an organization has the desire to increase revenue, a sales strategy for increased revenue may be formulated with the careful consideration of many different factors: assets, competition, the marketplace, margins, operational costs, the number of product lines, distribution, channels, value propositions, and plans for growth, to state a few.

We recently worked with an organization who wanted us to help them build a sales process to “get more sales now”! Their short-sightedness of only looking at the “close up” of the map gave them the misguided idea that their destination was nothing more than to get the reps out there selling better!  We were able to guide them through a sales strategy exercise, and THEN helped them build a sales process on how to execute their strategy.

One Conversation At a Time

The principal component of a sales strategy is execution. Sales process outlines the step-by-step, most efficient, customized directions of execution to get to the final destination.  It provides information on how to get to the destinations in specific detail, based on selling skills. The steps are broken down one conversation at a time for practice and mastery.  This specificity enables the implementation of strategy by providing the following advantages to the entire team:

  • A common path and language
  • Functional messaging tools based on the strategy
  • Skill sets that are tied to process steps
  • Flexibility to use the process in practical terms as competencies are mastered
  • Process steps that are tied pipeline milestones

Visibility with Leading Indicators for Success

If you ensure that all sales reps and managers follow the sales process, you can outline expectations and more easily benchmark your sales team against common criteria, providing an excellent evaluation of the strategy at the rep level.  A sales process provides:

  • Confirmation that opportunities are moving, or stalled, as the case may be
  • A measure of the skill of individual sales reps
  • An opportunity for focused skill coaching of sales people by managers
  • The backbone of reporting tools for leading KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) of performance measurement against key outcomes of the sales strategy.

When determining your organization’s sales strategy, take the time to ensure your understanding of the entire landscape.  Then, implement a sales process that allows you to execute toward your objectives, with the ability to gauge your success along the route, and soon, you’ll arrive at your destination:  Success!