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Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The internal and external world of selling, and buying


We never KNOW what our Buyer is thinking or feeling.



Nor, do they KNOW our thoughts or feelings.

All we have is their behaviours, as they have our behaviours.

The sell/buy experience is in the external world of Activity and Behaviours,
which is what is said, and what is done.
[As well as what is NOT said, or NOT done]

It is notoriously unreliable to interpret a Buyer’s word or action
as a “window” into their interior world of Thoughts, Feelings or Motivations.

Nor, can our Buyer’s READ us.

We are what we say and do.



That is the reality of the Sales world

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Sales Forecasting Carefully, or beating Target?




Sara Catz President and CFO of Oracle reports:

“Now, to the guidance, and I want to remind you that last Q2 new license and cloud revenue increased 18% in constant currency. So this will be a very, very tough comparison. Though our pipelines and potential transactions for the quarter look really very exciting, our sales leaders remain very careful about what they are forecasting to us.”

The phrase that catches my eye is

“our sales leaders remain very careful about what they are forecasting to us.”

“Sales leaders, very careful, forecasting”

The word ‘semantics’, has become associated with ‘imagined’ differences, we hear the expression

“It’s just semantics”.

However, if I apply double-indexing semantics to Sara Catz’s words,
a depth of meaning appears which should be of interest to ALL Salespeople,
but specifically to the Sales Managers and Salespeople in Oracle.


  • “Sales Leaders”,

Catz is putting the responsibility, and accountability, for Sales Forecasting squarely on the shoulders of Sales Leaders.

  • “Very Careful”,

last year, Catz attributed a ‘missed forecast’ to Sales, further she attributed it to the recruitment, on-boarding and under-performance of many thousands of new Sales people, who did not perform as “Forecast”. Hence, she is NOT looking for Forecasting to “remain” [optimistic], but is in fact signalling that “careful” means “conservative” forecasts.Target on forecast

  • “Forecasting”,

in the context used is also “targeting” as it is
performance compared with last Quarter (Q2),
and has inherent risk, as expressed by Catz, in her use of “Constant Currency”,
when her Global Market is has a Volatile Currency uncertainty.

Catz is addressing the Investment and Analyst Community,
her audience expects to hear certain messages,
Risk Management, Growth, Returns,
so she inserts “safety” through “Very Careful”.






The stock performance was good after her report,
so her message, to her audience, was on song.





I am curious about the EXECUTION of her message INSIDE Oracle.

“Sales leaders, very careful, forecasting”

We have over the last 40 years, repeatedly looked at Sales Forecasting.

WHO owns the forecast?

HOW should it be done?

WHAT is the forecast used for?

The consensus from meta-analysis is that Forecasting should be owned at the level closest to the forecast event.
And, I am sure that Forecasting ‘starts’ at the Oracle Sales Executive level.
Should Sales Executives forecast “Very Carefully”?

In Sales, a very careful Forecaster is known as a “Sandbagger”.
They only forecast Rain, when it has already started raining!

The opposite  of a “very careful” forecaster is a very ‘careless’ forecaster, in Sales we call them “Dreamers”.

Every Lead is already a Sale!

Sometimes they are cynically optimistic, they present “Huge” pipelines, stuffed with opportunities which never happen.

The belief that a ‘Big’ pipeline protects poor performance, this is ‘reckless’ behaviour!

Careful”, cautious, suspicious, precise, judicious, cautious or shrewd;
these are just some of the ‘semantic’ differences using the word “Careful”.

But when you add “Very” then the meanings can bounce from:
Actual’ if she used it as an adjective, to ‘Extremely’ if her use was an adverb!

Let’s take the desired case scenario: Catz’s words urge the Oracle Sales force from
Top [Leaders] to Bottom [Sales Executives] to forecast accurately, to be precise, not dreaming nor sandbagging.
Let’s imagine that by so doing, Oracle delivers a good set of results, much as the Forecast. Success.

Or, was it?

Let’s take a poor case scenario:
Catz’s words urge the Sales Leadership to be “conservative”,
they believe that it is better to be accurate than bold.

Meeting Forecast, becomes more important than exceeding Target!

Care to ensure that what you forecast actually happens, then your forecast becomes the “reality”.

The illusion of “See, I told you so” has never been Sales Success,
“better than expected”, “Upside”, “BOLD”, have always been hallmarks in Sales, Corporate and Sporting success.

I have discussed Sales Leadership as a function of their “Maturity”, through the lens of Forecasting and Targeting

ORACLE’s results, and its stock performance, are dependent on Good Forecasting,
but they are equally dependent on PERFORMANCE in the Market and likely future performance.


It’s about Expectation AND perceived Performance.

It’s about how well you did against how well you ‘might’ have done!

Managing Expectations is OK, but Managing Maximum Performance is more important!

I believe that Catz and her Sales leadership will have to communicate a clear message to their Sales force about what “our sales leaders remain very careful about what they are forecasting to us” really MEANS.

The Sales Leadership will need to turn this into HOW we want Sales Executives to behave,
as neither dreamers nor Sandbaggers, but bold and right!

Big Data, Big Numbers are made up from individuals and their actions,
getting your Sales force to do what is productive, not just careful, is in these days of BIG, quite a challenge!

Let’s just review how tough any forecasting is,

never mind ‘very careful’ forecasting!



Thursday, 29 August 2013

Sales Managers and Poor Performers


Making 2014 the Year of the Sales Leader

Two other blogs, were published on this:

Mike Kunkle of Richardson

and Dave Brock of Partners in Excellence

Both are worth reading and thinking about.

I add mine as a a contrast to both, as Sales Management is, in many ways, all about Managing Performance


HOW you deal with poor performers will
define your performance and your future as a Sales Manager.

road to perdition

© 2013 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved


The fastest route to Poor Performance, by a Sales Manager,
is to focus on poor performing Sales People.

This is not a casual observation by a casual observer, it is a causal analysis by a trained observer!
We have studied the roots of the failure of Sales Managers for 30 years,
and one of the recurring causes of failure is a focus on poor performers.

We use a bell curve to ‘identify’, or as an ‘indicator’ of Poor Sales Performance.

The axis that we use varies.

Bell Curve Normal_distribution_and_scales




At the simplistic level it is
Current Sales Performance,

at the Revenue Generation level.

This is easy to measure, and is acceptable to discuss at C-level.


But, really it’s a WHAT chart.

What happened,
not “WHY is it not happening?”





We then, put the Sales force through a FIVE level filter, five, separate, charts:


Activity,  Skill,  Knowledge,  Sales Attitude and  Sales Strategy.

Bell Curve Normal_distribution_and_scales   Bell Curve Normal_distribution_and_scales   Bell Curve Normal_distribution_and_scales    Bell Curve Normal_distribution_and_scales   Bell Curve Normal_distribution_and_scales


We “score” on the ‘standard nine’ scale, where 7 is the lowest ‘desired’ score,

1, 2 and 3 is poor performance,

4, 5 and 6 is needs improvement,

7, 8 and 9 is performance to excellence

Simple Performance Turn-around can be achieved if, for example,
ONLY Activity is wrong, or low, this is ‘fixed’ by Management Control and Supervision.

activity Calendar

Great Sales Management careers have been launched on the back of Diary Management!




strategy key2

Sales Strategy, is also a relatively straightforward fix.

If a competitive situation, changed product/market, or Customer shift has NOT been incorporated into strategy formulation and execution then,

Sales Management can re-direct.







When the Poor Performance is associated with low levels of Selling Skills,
poor Product/Market knowledge and/or wrong Sales Attitude, this then is a Business calculation.

The time/effort ‘Cost’ of fixing the performance problem,
weighed against the likely Revenue ‘Benefit’ derived from fixing the problem.

Unlike the first two areas, Activity Management and Strategy Formulation and Execution the Sales Manager does not ‘own’ Lack of Skill, Lack of Knowledge or Poor Attitude.


The problem ‘owner’ is the Salesperson.


Salespeople, NOT their Sales Managers,
are responsible for their own Selling Skills,

their Product/Market knowledge and their Sales Attitude.

Fixing these problems is the primary responsibility of the individual Salesperson,
the Sales Manager has a secondary ‘supporting’ role.

These problems affect your personal employability, now and in the future, take responsibility for them!

In order to ‘earn’ Sales Management support, Poor Performers must demonstrate progress with their Sales Skills, increases in Product/Knowledge and improvement in Sales Attitude. The time and effort put into fixing these poor sales performers primarily comes from them, not from their Sales Managers.

Sales Managers, effective high-performing Sales Managers, will be far too busy working with the top and high average performers to make investment is Sales poor performers who are not prepared to invest in themselves. 

There is no ‘Pareto formula’, to define effective time/effort usage by Sales Managers. 

There is no magic formula, no ‘right’ way.  There is only contingency, finding the right answer to your given situation, your people, their poor performance.  You will need diagnostic skills to find the cause, then flexible Leadership skills appropriate to giving the best outcome, Directing, Coaching, Supporting and Delegating.



The “Learning from other High Performers”, is a decision which calls for good judgement on the part of the Sales Manager, and the willing cooperation and coordination from the High Performer. The poor performer MUST have great Sales Attitude, high energy and a real willingness to learn.

The Hollywood construct is “Master and Padawan”, the Jedi Apprentice. In Sales tradition it was “the bag carrier” and the Senior Salesperson. The success of this is not solely dependent on the Senior’s Selling Skills, Product Knowledge and Sales Attitude as well as the ‘trainees’ observation skills, but also on Senior's Training and Coaching skills, which are very, very rare!

In science ideas are tested for their fit with reality.

In business ideas are tested for their profitability in the Product/Market.

In Sales we MUST do both, fit with reality and demonstrate Profitability!

If you reduce it all to an axiom:

“Treat Poor Performers differently, and appropriately!

  Or, like a leaking ship, you will both sink.”



Further reading on Managing Poor Performers:

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

How NOT to Handle Customer’s Objections.


Beautiful young scientist  It is tempting to immediately share

30 years of research with you, and say
Buyer’s Objections Cannot be Overcome!


But, that would cause you far too much emotional distress. You don’t want to believe that is true, or you would not have started to read this Blog.



How to Handle Customer’s Objections?


The BEST way, by far, is to AVOID Objections completely!

In order to do that, you must first learn:
What causes objections?


Yes, that’s right; Sellers CAUSE Buyers to Object!

In thousands of Sales Calls I have logged the Customer Objection,
AND what the Salesperson said  before  the  Customer Objected:

blame-gameThe Sellers gave the price,
then the Buyer said “that’s too expensive!”

The Seller gave the dimensions,
then the Buyer said “that’s too small!”

The Seller gave a delivery date,
then the Buyer said “that’s too late!”

The Seller asked for the order,
then the buyer said “I am happy with my current supplier!”


In fact, evidence based fact, the two primary causes of Customer’s Objections are:

  1. The Seller giving features, Price, Size, style, speed, feed, location, colour, compatibility, etc.
  2. Or, The Seller asking for the order.

If Objections were GOOD things (Buying Signals),
then the best way to get Objections is: to ASK for the Order,
early in the Buying Cycle as this is almost certain to cause an Objection!


Are Objections GOOD things, are they buying Signals?

If you look at the straightforward evidence of:

What is the relationship between Customer Objections and Sales success?

This is easy to measure, just COUNT them!

Objections word cloudThen,

the MORE Objections you get,
the LESS you sell !


YOU caused the Objection
by Talking Features or Asking for the Order.


ONE Objection?

for example: Price, this MAY be overcome if a ‘trade-off’ is made [often this is Value]

TWO objections?

You are unlikely to get the business, even if you have one good trade off.


THREE objections?

You have mis-sold your product or service and you won’t be getting the business.

Hopefully one of the three objections was PRICE,
now you can report to your Sales Manager,
that the Price is too high, rather than YOU cannot sell!


Objections are OBSTACLES.

If you believe Objections are welcome ‘buying signals’
then you have given up Rationality, rather than just giving up the sale [or selling].
When you extrapolate fiction, it then becomes fantasy!

Persistence is a trait of many Salespeople,
but continuing to repeat something with little chance of success is “Irrational Perseverance”

Objections are best Avoided.

You can avoid Objections by showing how your Product or Service meets the Buyer’s needs,
and by NOT Asking for the Order, until they are ‘Ready to Order’


OK, how do I Handle the one Objection I did get,
by giving them my Price BEFORE I gave them their Value?

First of all 99% of Sales “Objection Handling” techniques DO NOT work.

They are nonsense. I repeat, the techniques taught, and written about DO NOT WORK.


I have measured ‘overcoming’ Objections on thousands of occasions,
thousands of objections and the “Skills” to overcome objections DO NOT work.
You can easily measure them too.

Let’s take a widely taught Objection Handling technique “Feel, Felt, Found”.

I understand why you Feel the price is too high.

And other customers have Felt the same way.

However, when they saw the money they saved with it they Found it was really good Value!

I measured this against 300 uses for various objections,
it succeeded less often than just ‘ignoring’ the objection all together!
And, that was only “successful” in less than 15% of the time.

It does NOT work.

Or, “Preemptive” Objection Handling

using a “Script” to introduce a known shortcoming of your product or service,
then attempt to offer a scripted ‘answer’

By presenting these shortcomings or negatives, our aim is to create credibility and gain trust”. 
The actual effect on Buyers is the opposite!

The Seller ‘introduces’ additional Fears, Uncertainties and Doubts in the Buyer’s mind,
then uses a “Rebuttal” or “argument” to overcome it!  Nonsense!

Again, research shows that “When you extrapolate fiction, it then becomes fantasy!”


What does sometimes handle an Objection is a Trade-off.

In this case trading better Value for a higher Price


Let’s take three houses.



If we were selling the New House A, the most expensive,
then we would have the “That’s too expensive option”.

We have to Trade Value, for the higher Price.

Against the other house B our ‘Value’ is in a Better Location, with Good Schools.


Is it better to have a Good location?

Yes, because this property will increase in Value faster and further than House B
So it will be in demand, therefore it may work out cheaper overall!


And, what price do we put on having our children happy at school?

If taken over a 10 year period it would be 20,000, or 2,000 per year, or 40 per week.

This money will be recovered in a higher Price when we choose to sell!


Against, the current house which, after the new baby, is now too small,
it’s the increased cost of the mortgage 263 per month or less than 10 per day.
However, ALL of this money, and more, will be recouped when you sell the new larger house,
i.e. the extra bedroom will be free!

Trade-offs, against Drawbacks [objections] may convince Customers to buy.

Here are a few Key thoughts about Objections:

  • Objections are BEST avoided
  • Objections are Caused by Salespeople
  • Objections cause lost sales, they are NOT ‘Buying Signals’
  • Objections are “Drawbacks
  • Objections can be traded off, sometimes!
  • Objections are Statements, they are NOT Questions.
  • Objections cannot be overcome with flim-flam,
    psychological nonsense, and 99% of taught techniques do not work


BMAC Consultants have developed an Evidence Based Objection Handling model,
based on Avoidance and Trade-off.
This is a Sales Skill, an Interactive Skill based on the ACTUAL Sales Situation. 
If you wish to see other examples e mail

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Book Review Dan Pink’s To sell is human


Pink asks a profound question about the basis of selling:

“Who is doing who a favour?”

Is the Salesperson doing the Customer a favour,
by bringing much needed goods and service to the table?

Or, is the Customer doing the Salesperson a favour, by buying their goods and services?

After reading the book, I do not think it matters,
as this is not the Basis of Selling, anyway.

His final advice is: “Treat everyone like your Grandmother!” This is a loaded concept.



I would have just stuck to the Golden Rule:

  • One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. Or.
  • One should NOT treat others in ways that one would NOT like to be treated

The Golden Rule contains the essence of Selling, Selling is reciprocal,
and Selling and Buying are done together.

Selling is NOT something we do TO Buyers,
Selling is something we do WITH Buyers!

The nonsense themes in the book are:
  • Everybody sells. No they don’t!
    What he means is everybody TRY’s to influence or ATTEMPTS to persuade,
    and mostly we don’t do a very good job of it!
  • The “Fuller Brush” story is a red herring, it is not relevant.
    Door to door is “hawking”, always was, always will be.
    I speak from experience, something which Pink’s lack of shows throughout the book.
  • ABC never worked, Pink’s ABC will NOT work either. Selling is not about simple rules.

The end theme is the Salesperson’s Burden: “Leave the world a better place”, to sell is human.
This may be countered by another cliché to err is human


Pink does deliver some good, if not common, sense

  •  Improvisation. Although in the Behavioural Approach to Selling
    we have called it “Interactive Competence” for 4 decades.
    The ability of the salesperson to align their behaviour to their objective.

BUT, in Sales it is NOT about ACTING (improv),
it IS about INTER-ACTING, Inter Active Competence.

Selling is about what you DO, not WHO you are.

  • His writing on Greenleaf’s “Servant Leadership” should be encouraged for Sales Managers!


Although the book lists extensive references
and refers to “research” his conclusions are fundamentally speculative.

Pink ‘sows’ together a Patchwork to offer his ‘view’ of selling [or moving people]
from Brush Salesmen to pay rises.

There is no method, or system, just ideas and thoughts.

I read the book twice, firstly as an Evidence Based Sales Consultant,
then secondly through the eyes of a Sales Novice.

As a Sales Consultant, I would have score it as a Red 3/10
i.e. slightly more DYSFUNCTIONAL than FUNCTIONAL,
an experienced Sales person would be worse off after reading it.

However, as an ‘empty vessel’ I would have scored it as AMBER 6/10
because of the section on IMPROV.

This could be a solid base from which to learn Interactive Competence.

Dan Pink’s ‘To sell is Human’, would not be in my Top Ten,
but it is in the Sales Section in my Library.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Challenging - The Challenger Sale


The recent RAIN Group Report,
purports to ‘Challenge’ The Challenger Sale.

It is based on a survey of “Buyers” talking about “Sellers”.



Paradoxically they ignore their own advice:

“Sales research methods often focus on asking sellers, sales managers, and leaders what the top performers do versus average performers. Unfortunately, people’s perceptions of what they do and what they actually do tend to be quite different.

Our research looks at sales from the buyers’ perspective. Our objective was to find the answer to the following question: What are the winners of actual sales opportunities doing differently than the sellers who come in second place?

Their “research” ignores the very flaw which THEY highlight earlier!

Unfortunately, people’s perceptions of what they do
and what they actually do tend to be quite different.

This applies equally to both Sellers AND Buyers. The perceptions of what Buyers ‘believe’ Sellers DO will actually tend to be quite different from what Sellers actually ‘DO’! We are helped in this by having a body of research of 35,000 sales calls, carried out in 23 Countries, over a period of 12 years!

The second Paradox is using a Comparison of ‘winners’ to ‘losers’.  
N. Rackham and (Dick) Ruff published this flaw in their book ‘Managing Major Sales’ in 1991.
However, the ‘flaw’ of using this approach was widely known since the early 1980’s.

Learn from Neil Rackham:
And to not waste any time comparing Exemplar Performers (what I call Master Performers) to
Poor Performers. To Moderately Successful Performers, yes.
To see what truly ‘differentiates’ the true Masters.

Written by Guy W. Wallace, CPT, performance-based Instructional Analyst Architect - Since 1979 and Consultant - Since 1982 [from]




RAIN Group highlight the Winner/Loser flaw by showing what they top rank in ‘winners’
Educate with new ideas and perspectives
compared with ‘losers’ who have this as their 42nd from the top, or bottom Rank!

With this combination of two fatal flaws in their basic research approach,

no credibility can be attached to their conclusions

which, paradoxically, they claim contradict The Challenger Sale Model.
This is a surprising claim as they state Salespeople
can’t inspire buyers unless they ‘educate them with new ideas and perspectives’”
which sounds like a rephrasing of “Teach with Insights” to me!

In other words, they appear to endorse The Challenger Sale approach.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Simple Selling and Complex Selling


A Theoretical Foundation in Selling



This was the definition I used for 
twenty  years, it was based on Rackham’s research. Which he published in
‘Major Account Selling’, to distinguish between ‘simple’ and ‘complex’ Selling and then describe differences in successful Sales Behaviours. 

The multiple factors, in effect,
could be applied to almost any sale. 



In other words: ALL Selling was Complex!

By 2000 it was obvious that a Multi-factor definition was not working. 

One by one Factors which were not helpful or important were disappearing. 

First to go was “Competitive Situation”, this was not helpful in Contract Renewals with NO Competitor present, But the Sale was NOT simple! The “Long Sales Cycle” was a repetition of many meetings, in fact some Long Sales Cycles were Simple Selling, which just took a long time!

Decision means Major Change”, yet equally Minor Change with high Impact, could have a similar effect.  The amount of change often reflects the ‘Motivation to Change’, rather than a difference in Selling Behaviour.  “Long Term Partnerships”, let’s take out the word “Partnership” and just go with Long Term Seller/Buyer Relationships. 

We worked with the final two factors “Committee Decision” [not an individual] and “The Solution is Complex” from about 2000 until 2005, as it met most of our needs.  However, in 2005 we were offering some highly “Complex Solutions” in the Voice over IP and ‘Hosted Voice’ arena, and Buyers had NO interest in the Complexity, rather a desire for simplicity. “I don’t care how it works, Does it DO what we want done?”

in 2005, we wrote the final Definition of Simple and Complex Selling:



Selling is a Communication Process, an Interactive Competence,
which becomes increasingly COMPLEX as the number of Participants INCREASES.






One to One
is Simple Selling.

One to Many, or
Many to One,
is Complex Selling.

Many to Many is
VERY Complex Selling!





Observing Sales Behaviours in One-to-Many Sales Calls the level of INTERACTIVE COMPETENCE required for Successful Selling increases alarmingly.  Even the Observer is stretched identifying Behaviours. 

The Salesperson MUST have a Sales Behaviour Fluency many times higher than selling One to One.

If two Buyers means Complex Selling, then what if there are MANY Buyers?



A Sociogram of Big Telecom with a Major Bank Customer may look like this! 
Some Sales were simple Products, some were Complex Solutions. 
Some Sales had a Sales Cycle measured in minutes, some lasted for more than a year. 
Some were Major Changes [Telephone and Internet Banking], and
some were ‘Partnership’ projects with shared risk. 
There was a constant Competitive threat. 


Yet, the determining factor was Selling one to one or one to many!








Today in 2013,
this definition of

Simple and Complex Selling
is crucial