30 INDUSTRIAL DISTRIBUTION / March/April 2015 www.inddist.com
asked was, “We’ve got a four-step process that’s been working
for years. First step is the suck-up. Second step is the lie. Third
step is to beg and plead to get
the business. Fourth step is to
drop the price to get the order.”
I said, “At least you’ve got a
system.” And he said, “And it’s
working, baby.” As stupid as that
is, that’s a pretty well-defined
In selling, that same thing is
going to apply – if you have a
sales team that is thinking more
moves ahead than their
competition, they’ll tend to gain
a competitive advantage.
4. Active Selling Process
The sales manager is a selling-process coach, asking how
and why questions, and leading
a salesperson and team through account planning when
they have a new lead – not waiting until a proposal is
issued and then helping them to close the business. I
believe that 80 percent of the outflow of a selling-process
is locked in, is defined, during the first 20 percent of it.
But the average manager doesn’t even get involved in
the account until the midway point, when the proposal is
issued. Look at that major gap.
So what does it take to gain a competitive advantage
today? I don’t know that training all of our sales people
on the steps of the sales call would give us a competitive
advantage. There’s four levels of selling skills when you
talk about ‘How do you improve a sales force?’ When
you have a rookie, or someone at 5 years in, they really
need help at all levels, but the more senior the person is,
the less likely they are going to even listen to you talking
about the first two levels.
• The first level of all sales training is training on
attitude and energy. If you listen to Zig Zeigler’s sales
training, or even Tony Robbins’, it’s all about attitude
and energy: never give up, have a positive attitude, keep
working hard, accept a rejection, etc. Tom Hopkins used
to teach that if you make $100 on a sale that takes nine
no’s for every one yes, every time someone told you no,
you made $10. That’s pretty fundamental stuff, but that’s
the foundation of all sales training.
• The second skill is operational. Your operational
skills are your personal persuasive skills. Your knowl-
edge of the steps of the sales call, is operational. All the
technical, industry knowledge you have are operational
• The third skill is the tactical skills – best practices and
process. What do you do from the time you identify a
new opportunity to the time you close on the sale? – that
is a tactical discussion. How are you maintaining and
supporting your best customers from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31? –
that also is a tactical discussion.
• The fourth level is strategic, which deals with your
philosophy, approach, and positioning. Why, based on
all the competitive alternatives available to me, do I
want to buy from you? Showing someone your line card
their line card won’t give you a competitive advantage.
It’s going to be: What is your philosophy? What is your
approach? What is your brand? How are you going to
help us? What happens is, 90 percent of all sales training that’s done in the United States is done on product
knowledge. Of the 10 percent that’s left, 90 percent of
it is only on operational skills – making you personally
persuasive and better at your personal skills.
I believe competitive advantage today comes from
tactics and strategy, working on best practices of tactics
so we have consistency and replication and improvement.
It comes from working on strategy of philosophy and
positioning and differentiation.