Sales negotiation

Advanced Sales Techniques

Posted on August 9th, 2012

Like most salespeople, you probably started out making relatively small sales. You worked hard learning about your products or services and how to sell them. You worked on yourself and achieved significant success. You were then asked to manage one or more of your company’s key accounts. These are valuable, not just because of the revenue they produce, but because of the prestige, testimonials and references they provide for your company.


If this hasn’t happened to you yet, it almost certainly will in the future. In almost every sector of business, key accounts are contributing an ever-increasing percentage of a supplier’s business. It’s no longer the 80/20 rule, it’s 95/5.


The drawback is that when you move into key account sales, the usual small-ticket selling skills are no longer sufficient. The major sale is more complex. You are expected to quantify your proposals. You go from single to multiple decision makers, most of the selling takes place when you’re not there, you make more calls on the account, the sale takes more time, and risk and competitive issues take on more significance.


To succeed in this arena there are additional more advanced sales techniques and insights that must be mastered.


The first rule of advanced selling – Sell Business Improvement


You will almost certainly have heard the phrase ‘sell the sizzle not the steak’. However, if you want to sell a truckload of steak, you must sell the financial performance, the return on investment (ROI), of buying that truckload.


Moving from small sales to major sales requires a shift in emphasis. You are no longer a salesperson selling products and services. You must talk business. You must talk the language of the boardroom: money, profits, the big picture.


In any large sale there will be three levels in the customer’s organisation and your message must be positioned to suit each level.


Tier 3: The Buyer/Purchaser or User


This first level is the buyer or user of your product/service. What do these people buy?


They buy products and services, they are interested in features and benefits, and price versus performance comparisons. Basic sales skills are focused on this level. New salespeople spend a lot of time learning about selling matching benefits.


Tier 2: Business Function Manager/Department Head


Moving up the organisation we come to middle managers. These are the business function managers or department heads. They buy solutions to problems. Function managers are surrounded by problems, concerning people, productivity, manufacturing, quality, inventory, IT, sales or image. They want relief from their problems. They want their costs reduced and they want greater opportunities for more sales and greater productivity.


Tier 1: Top Management


Most sales training focuses on the first two levels. However, the major sale usually involves Tier 1, top management.


These people buy business performance, return on investment (ROI). They are concerned with profit. They have their eyes on the big picture. The large sale almost always involves these people. To sell here you must see yourself as a salesperson selling solutions with a good ROI.


Whatever you do, don’t waste your time selling features and benefits in the boardroom. What would happen if I spoke to your managing director about the nuts-and-bolts features of a major training programme? Their eyes would probably glaze over. To sell effectively at this level, you must talk about the financial performance of investing in training.


The mindset for major sales is business improvement not products. Every successful major account salesperson sells the same thing: improved business performance.


Think carefully about what you sell and decide whether you want to position your solution as a cost reducer or a revenue enhancer – or both. Business improvement is the ultimate benefit.


In the major sale you must move profits, not just products and services, to your customer.


Learn more about LDL sales and negotiation training.


Check out the Key Account Management programme.