Product Knowledge and Sales Training are NOT Enough to Sustain Sales Growth

Sales training.png

Obviously product knowledge and sales training are imperative to success in sales. After 21 years in sales, I would never argue that they weren't.

But when we consider that . . .

  • Statistically speaking, an average of 47% of sales people fail to make quota each month, and
  • On average, 90% of the company's training budget is spent on product knowledge training, and only 10% is spent on some form of sales training,

there's obviously something missing. There's a gap.

4 arrows .002.png


Some would justify that an increase and decrease in sales, occasionally or seasonally, constitutes a normal cycle that the business or industry naturally goes through. "It's the nature of our business." At least that's the conversations many Sales VP's have with their CEO's when the numbers are down.

After working for more than 15 sales organizations during my sales career, and with more than 100 companies, across many industries, since starting my company, I would argue that this "cycle" shouldn't be the norm, acceptable, or even a necessary occurrence in any sales organization.

The reality is that this gap between product knowledge, sales training, and the achievement of ongoing, sustainable sales growth can be bridged, intentionally, with the right playbook on the part of the sales leadership, and the proper education of the salespeople, beyond product knowledge and sales training.

The bottom line is, in addition to product knowledge and sales training, salespeople also need to be equipped with right type and amount of . . .

  • Communication and Listening Skills
  • Advanced Questioning Skills
  • Negotiation Skills
  • Presentation Skills
  • Leadership (yes, leadership) Skills
  • Business Writing Skills

Over the past 8 years, small, medium and large companies like Abbot Laboratories, SAP, Baker Hughes, Verizon Wireless, Merrill Lynch, DELL and others have hired me to come in and teach their sales professionals these disciplines separately.

When they have, they've spent a small fortune to get the results and outcomes they desired. And though I love making more money each time they want to bring me in to teach each of these skills separately, one day it dawned on me . . .

"Why not take the very best practices, content, principles and concepts from each of these courses, and create one comprehensive solution that would help my clients achieve their desired outcomes, without having to destroy their training budget?"

I call it Comprehensive Sales Influence, and you can sample it for free through a complimentary video training course I created to help you/your sales team get measurable results, without having to make an investment.

You can access the first video in this complimentary course (without an email) by clicking here. If you enjoy the first video, and would like access to the second and third, simply request them by entering your name and email underneath the first video.

Don't have time to watch it now? No worries. I'll send it to your inbox and you can watch it at your convenience. Just tell me where to send the videos.

If you'd prefer a quick overview of the course description, you can get it here.

Obviously, if you like the complimentary course, and are able to get a measurable result from the content I share, I'd ask you to consider bringing me in to do the full live training with your team.

However, if all you do is watch and benefit from the free training, I will have done my job.

Go ahead and jump into the first video here. I can't wait to hear about the success and victories you/your sales team have as a result of apply what you/they learn.

How Negotiation Skills Can Help You Increase Your Sales

Sales Growth.jpg

Bottom Line: Learning how to negotiate will help you learn to have conversations that even the best sales training in the world can't and won't teach you to have.

These conversations are what open the doors to, and help you create, opportunities that many times don't even exist before you have said conversations. After all, your biggest sales opportunities come from 67% of your market who aren't actively looking for what you are selling.

As a result, you learn how to increase the frequency and size of your sales, increase sales revenue, and protect your margins. All the product knowledge and sales training in the world simply can't teach you these skills, and you simply won't acquire them until you learn to negotiate.  

Now for the specifics . . .

I learned the value and power of negotiation skills early in my sales career, when I read the negotiation skills classic, "Getting to Yes." That book started me on a journey to devour as much information as I could on the subject. But it wasn't until much later, when several mentors in my life, showed me how actively apply these principles in my sales conversations, that the whole game changed for me. 

I stopped letting customer and prospect "no's, not now's and maybe's" shut the door to opportunities. I started realizing that it was when they actually said "no, not now or maybe," that the real negotiation/selling conversation began. And I learned how to take those obstacles and delays, and literally transform them into more and greater sales opportunities. 

Here's how you can do the same in your own selling process . . .

1. Get to "no" faster. Make your customer/prospect tell you "no, not now or maybe" faster. Some call it "qualifying in and out early," but that's not enough. When you encourage, and even demand (professionally, of course) that the customer/prospect give you an answer, one way or another, the negotiating actually begins. How do you do this without being aggressive, confrontational, pushy, slimy or salesy? 

2. Activate tension, avoid pressure. "What's the difference," you ask? Tension is internal, pressure is external. When you ask a question of your customer/prospect that requires a "no, not now or maybe" answer, and then refuse to let them off the hook, or say another work until they give you that answer, you've activated tension in their mind. It's all on them, not on you. However, if you keep asking them that question, or any other question, or start trying to encourage them to say yes, you're pressuring them. And nobody, not even you, like that feeling. (Props to my mentor Lisa Sasevich for teaching me that little pearl of wisdom).

3. Commit yourself to their win, as much as you've committed to yours. Two of the most powerful words I've ever heard used in a negotiation, to foster a win-win outcome are the words "fair" and "comfortable." When you verbally express to your customer/prospect that you refuse to offer or provide a solution that is not both fair and comfortable for them, and for you, you've demonstrated your commitment to their win. 

4. Align with the "no, not now or maybe," and then spitball. I once brought a creative idea to my supervisor who, before even hearing the details or specifics about my idea, said, "we tried that and it didn't work." In other words, he said "no."

However, instead of tucking my tail and running away, I said, "interesting, can you tell me a little more about how that played out?" He gladly expounded, almost pounding his chest because he just knew he had me in an almost a checkmate-like position. (Side-note: Leaders don't treat their people this way, only poor managers. But I digress).

Once he finished elaborating, I acknowledged his obvious genius and profound insight by saying, "Wow! I can definitely see why that would fail miserably. You guys were very wise to shut that down when you did." Then without missing a beat, I asked, "what would you think about trying it this way?" I explained my intended approach, and then I went silent and waited. 

Without much delay and hesitation, he said, "Hey, I like that, and it just might work. Yes, go ahead and give it a go!" The spitballing happened when I asked "what would you think about . . . ?" Other forms of spitballing include, "suppose that, what if, how about, would you consider, have you tired, etc."

The moment they engage in the spitballing by saying, "well, we tried that, and it didn't work, but let's talk more about this . . . or some similar form of reciprocation, now you're collaborating - co-creating. And according to John C. Maxwell, "people support what they help create."

5. Add aligned value. "Adding value" has become, in my opinion, just another platitude. However, adding "aligned value" is a completely different approach. We constantly offer things to people in a negotiation that we believe they should want. In fact, countless businesses fail every year because they've attempted to offer customers what they believe they should want, but don't. Likewise, frustration and failure abound when we take the same approach. 

It's better to spend time learning what the other part truly values before we start offering concessions to facilitate an agreement. We could potentially lose the opportunity and not even know why.

Take these 5 insights, and immediately infuse them into your current sales process. I believe they will help you produce even greater results than you're currently experiencing. 

However, no matter how much you study, read, watch and listen to these negotiation skills being taught, you can't fully learn to effectively leverage and apply them to your own situation in a vacuum. It's imperative that you seek out an interactive learning experience that will allow you to test, and work through, the principles you learn. For this reason, I'd like to personally invite you to join me for our upcoming live seminar. You can get all the details here.



Where Most People Drop the Ball in a Negotiation

I'm sure you've heard this before, but it bears repeating, time and again, especially if you're anything like me:

"If you want to "win," and truly get what you really need, want and expect when you negotiate . . . prepare, prepare, prepare.

See, I told you that you've heard that before. But are you doing it? Enough? Consistently?

Or do you consistently drop the ball when it comes to the preparation because you're busy, overwhelmed, over scheduled, or plagued, like me, by a touch of "adult-onset-of-ADHD."

I admit it, I have the best intentions, I really do. But as good as those intentions are, there are far too many times I let "good enough" derail my "very best" because, let's face it . . . preparation takes time.

Honestly, though, I stated taking this whole preparation thing much more seriously when someone pointed out to me that, on average, across industries, professional buyers (anyone whose job, or job in part, is to purchase stuff for their company) invest 3 hours of prep time for every hour they plan on negotiations. Wow! 3 to 1! I know I hadn't been investing that much time. Not even close.

I am glad, however, that I took this statistic to heart when I was preparing to negotiate my salary at the last employer I worked for before I started my company, Influence Seminars. I literally spent close to five hours preparing for what turned out to be a thirty-minute conversation. I prepared three pages of notes, a spreadsheet, and had printed copies of evidence I would use as proof and salary justification, should I need to.

It's a good thing I prepared for this conversation as thoroughly as I did. Ultimately it came down to a one-on-one negotiation with the CEO, who I was certain had tons more negotiation experience than I did. And he had ALL the leverage (or at least it seemed).

When all was said and done, and all the smoke had cleared, the CEO and I both emerged with a win. He, with a world-class Director of Training (who had absolutely no experience on that role, only mad skills as a trainer), and me, with a salary, benefits and perks that would rival any other person in that role, in the United States.

All because I was prepared. Over prepared!

So let me ask you . . . what is your time in preparation worth to you? What if you were absolutely "loaded for bear" the next time you stepped to the negotiations table? Can you put a number on it? If so, please don't forsake the preparation process ever again. You now know what is at stake.

So when you prepare, here's a checklist to help you do so effectively, efficiently and meticulously, so that you can get exactly what you need, want and expect:

1.    Know whom you're negotiating with. Spend time with the person if you can. That's the best way. If not, spend time researching them on social media, talking to people who have worked with them, or picking up the phone and having a conversation with them prior to the actual negotiation.

2. Add value to their business or life. Once you know who they are, what they like, what they think about, what they focus on, and what they value, help them get more of it. One of my mentors, John Maxwell says it best: "Influence is adding value to the lives and businesses of others. There's a story of a lady who landed a ten-minute interview with Warren Buffet. When she entered his office for that ten-minute interview, she entered carrying his favorite beverage. The first thing out of his mouth was, "young lady, you can have as much time as you need."

3. Get clear and specific with what you want, how much and why. Write it down. Going in with vague expectations in your head is a recipe for disaster and failure in negotiations. Know what you want, need and expect in advance. Then write it down to carry in with you.

4. Anticipate their need, wants and expectations. Just like you, there's a reason they're at the negotiations table. Find out what that may be. If you're not sure, just ask. If they won't tell you it's because you haven't yet built a relationship of trust. Or it's because you asked them first without sharing yours first.

5. Have a list of questions. Now how much time, effort and energy you invest into preparation, there are always going to be things you still don’t know. Write down questions that will help you uncover the answers during the conversation. The last thing you want is to be caught like a dear in the headlights, searching for the right question to ask.

I sincerely hope this article served you. If you'd like to learn more about how negotiate a win-win, every time you have an opportunity to negotiate, join me for one of our upcoming live seminars. I'd be honored to work with you and help you achieve the outcomes you deserve.






How to Run your Business, So You Can Live the Lifestyle You Want to Live

Did you start your small business to that you could baby sit a bunch of adult children, stress out every month about making payroll,  or eat crow while angry customers rail on you? 

Or did you  start your company because you wanted to call the shots, be in control of your own destiny, grow it being enough to sell it, or because you just wanted to make a go at something you were passionate about?

So, is the business you created living up to your expectations? More importantly, is it affording you the opportunity to live the lifestyle you envisioned when you started the business?

In this video, I share the one essential element you need to focus on, to make all the moving parts come together, so you can have your business run the way you need it to, to live the life you lifestyle you want.

Would you like to discuss more creative ways to make your business run like clockwork? Schedule a complimentary, no obligation consultation, and I'll be glad to brainstorm some possibilities with you.

Name *



How to Influence Your Customers Through Connection

In this video, Duane shares how to be more influential with your customers by the way you connect with them. You'll learn: 

  1. How different people connect
  2. Where they connect
  3. The most important thing you can do once you've connected with someone

Get FREE instant access to the 1 hour LIVE behavioral styles teach Duane did at a national sale meeting in San Diego by submitting the form below.

Name *

How to Increase Your Sales Influence by Positioning Yourself as a Trusted Advisor

In this video, Duane shares how you can instantly increase your sales influence by positioning yourself as a trusted advisor to your customers and prospects, and why it's so important that you do so. In this short, content rich video, you'll learn:

1. What you need to let go of and set aside to be seen as a trusted advisor.

2. The most powerful question you can and should ask your customers.

3. What you really should do when the customer wants to drive the conversation.

4. The one thing you can do consistently that will have your customers sending endless referrals to you without you having to ask.

Please leave a comment below, and share this video with a colleague or business associate.

The Missing Link to Ongoing Sustainable Sales Growth

Statistically, across industries, employers spend approximately 90% of their efforts training their sales team on product knowledge. The remaining 10% is spent training their sales force how to develop connection, relationship and trust with customers. 

Obviously, both are very important but in and of themselves, or even collectively, these disciplines are not enough to achieve the ultimate goal of any sales organization - ongoing, sustainable sales growth.

So what's the missing link? What does it take to get sales people off of the sales rollercoaster, and on to a consistent growth pattern that continues?

While more emphasis on sales training (i.e., connection, relationship and trust) would definitely improve results short term, the only true long-term solution is in developing and increasing the sales professionals ability to influence customers and outcomes.

To improve your own ability, or the ability of your sales team to influence customers and customer outcomes, register below for our complimentary video training series on Sales Influence.

Complete the form below to request the complimentary training. 

Name *