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January 09 Issue
Sales Success Secrets for 2009
By Dennis Sommer, Founder & CEO, Executive Business Advisers
The jury is still out about our current economy. Some say we will be
experiencing a mild recession and others say we are on the brink of a
depression. It doesn’t matter where you fall in the debate, one thing is
certain, business growth is not as easy as it once was. If you have been reading
the news headlines, many sales executives are focused on cutting costs and
laying off employees. This does help short-term profitability, however these
actions are precisely the wrong strategy to take if you want to grow your
company in a bad economy. Sales executives who want to increase sales, profit
margins and drive new business growth in 2009 should consider the following top
5 sales growth success secrets.
Have you ever wondered how some companies achieve dramatic sales growth during a
bad economy when everyone else in the same industry report sales declines of 25
to 50%? As a management consultant and business growth specialist I have
witnessed and analyzed this phenomenon over that past two decades. What I have
found is, companies that can grow sales during both good and bad economies have
unique sales characteristics that work in any business climate. Are you going to
settle with a sales decline in 2009 or are you ready to make a few minor changes
that can dramatically improve your sales growth?
After spending over 20 years working with top sales organizations and performing
years of research for my book “Adviser Secrets – How To Become a Top Performer,”
I was able to uncover the recipe for success of top sales organizations during
both good and bad economies. Quite simply, they don’t follow a popular sales
process you would find in a book or seminar. They don’t focus on developing
additional features for their products and services. They follow a simple
framework that is based on helping customers become successful while
I call this simple framework ‘The Adviser Success Model,’ which helps catapult
sales organizations to the top of their industry. The Adviser Success Model
contains four steps: Prepare, Understand, Deliver and Nurture. The focus of each
step is directly linked to the customer and the value you deliver. The amazing
thing about this framework is it works across all professions and industries.
Before we review the Adviser Success Model, let’s take a look at how top sales
organizations develop communication skills that help them effectively
communicate the value they deliver to a customer.
Top 5 Customer Communication Skills
Undeniably, one of the most important skills of a top sales organization is
effective communication skills. For this reason, customer communication is one
of the first elements we discuss in the Adviser Success Model. So, why do most
sales training programs and books either ignore or graze over this topic? Many
believe that technical and process knowledge is more important to their
business. Others see communication skills as something you can easily learn on
the job. When talking with top sales organizations, you will find the opposite
is true. After sales planning, customer communication is the skill set that
allows them to maximize sales revenue, customer satisfaction and customer
Let’s review the top five customer communication skills.
Now that we have covered how top sales organizations develop effective
communication skills, let’s take a look at the four steps in the Adviser Success
To solve a difficult challenge you must ask the right questions. Asking simple
yes/no questions is not sufficient. First, you need to understand the questions
that you must avoid. Next you need to learn how to ask powerful smart questions
for gathering key information. The type of questions you ask, how you ask them
and when you ask them will dramatically change how your customer perceives you.
Smart questions lead to smart answers, which in return leads you to providing
the best solution for your customer.
To truly understand, you can’t just listen to what people are saying. You must
effectively listen. Most sales professionals effectively listen only 25% of the
time. Unfortunately, effective listening is a very difficult skill to master.
Top sales organizations spend a good portion of their time mastering the 11
techniques of an effective listener. By talking less and listening effectively,
top sales organizations can solve problems quicker, promote new business
discussion, open up the customer’s mind to new ideas and earn the customer’s
The key to speaking is quality, not quantity. Most sales professionals talk too
much. Remember, sometimes less is more. Top sales organizations have learned
that speaking less is more productive when you master the speaking skills for
different situations. They learn how to eliminate objections and resistance
before they happen. When involved in public speaking it is important for you to
overcome the fear of speaking in front of groups no matter how large or small.
It is also important to become a master meeting planner and facilitator. Top
sales organizations learn the unique skills needed when talking with different
customers, gatekeepers and assistants.
- Written Word
In today’s world of email, texting and IM’ing we have forgotten the fine art of
great business communication. Top sales organizations focus on quality written
communication. They use the most effective words and stories based on the
customer’s profile and personality. They write memos and business documents that
make an impact and persuade their customers. Top sales organizations also find
tremendous benefit in the lost art of keeping a business journal and sending out
handwritten thank you notes.
Finally, when you tie together questioning, listening, speaking and the written
word you have all the skills to promote your organization to the top of your
industry. Top sales organizations learn how to tie these skills together into a
self-promotion tool package that attract customers quickly and earn them top
dollar for the products and services they provide.
4 Steps – Adviser Success Model
The first step involves preparation. In order to achieve success as a top sales
organization, you must do your homework before meeting the prospective customer.
You must learn how business and strategic planning will help you focus on the
right solutions and target the right customers. Part of the preparation process
is to master business communication skills. Articulating clearly to the customer
is a sign of true professionalism and will reassure the potential customer that
you mean serious business. Taking time to acquire an in-depth understanding of
the customer’s business and industry and finally, understanding your unique
value position compared to everyone else in your industry will solidly prepare
you to achieve success.
The second step focuses on completely understanding the customer’s needs and
expectations before you discuss products and solutions. Learn how to introduce
your unique value position to gain the attention of your target customer.
Uncover all customer survival challenges and priorities by digging deep into
current trouble areas and visualizing the perfect solution. Determine what
success barriers you may encounter. Understand what criteria you must meet for a
solution to be successful. Last, you decide if it is in everybody’s best
interest for you to walk away from the opportunity.
The third step contains the necessary elements for delivering an ultimate
solution exceeding customer expectations. Your solution must be focused on
delivering customer value, which increases revenue or reduces costs. Performance
metrics must be measurable and available for visibility in a scorecard. When
delivering your solution recommendations, your message needs to be inspiring and
persuasive. At this point, a ‘go’ decision to move forward should be nearly
The fourth step focuses on gaining the customer’s trust and becoming their
lifelong adviser. You will earn trust by over delivering on results. You will
strengthen your customer relationship by treating customers as a business
partner. A customer account strategy will become your strategic planning tool
that both you and your customer will use as a living success roadmap. And
finally, once you deliver a solution, you will monitor the solution value
metrics and you will take appropriate action if needed.
If you follow these proven communication and sales framework techniques, you
will find yourself exceeding sales expectations in 2009.
Dennis Sommer is the Founder and CEO of Executive Business
Advisers, a management consulting firm specializing in business growth, sales
and profit improvement. He helps CEOs increase sales revenue, reduce sales and
marketing costs, improve marketing ROI and drive new business growth by
improving and optimizing their sales, marketing, company strategy and financial
health. Dennis is a successful entrepreneur, management consultant and business
leader. Since 1985, he has started two successful growth-focused companies, a
high-tech product company and a technology consulting firm. Dennis has also held
executive positions in sales, business development, operations and information
technology. He is a highly sought after keynote and seminar speaker on sales,
leadership and business best practices. Dennis is an international author,
publishing over 70 articles on sales, leadership, project management and IT
management. He is the author of “Adviser Secrets – How to Become a Top
Performer” and contributing author for “49 Marketing Secrets (that work) To Grow
Sales” and “How Your Business Can Survive and Prosper in a Recession.” For
article feedback, contact Dennis at