Sales 101 Doesn’t Get The Job Done

Part of what ESR does is to identify, size, and prioritize the gaps that exist between our clients’ sales teams’ skill sets and what is required for them to win more business, sooner, and at higher contract values.

There are different ways to categorize those gaps. For the purposes of this post, let’s look at basic versus advanced selling capabilities.

Here is are just a few basic selling capabilities:

  • Managing a territory
  • Cold-calling
  • Planning and executing an end-to-end sales campaign
  • Uncovering and understanding the customer’s business challenges and opportunities
  • Planning and executing a successful meeting with a prospect
  • Ability to understand and state their company’s value proposition to customer executives
  • Delivering a presentation about their company, their products and basic information about their customer’s business
  • Ability to follow their company’s sales processes
  • Having a basic understanding of their competition’s company and products
  • Managing objections (should they arise)
  • Negotiation
  • Closing

And some selected advanced selling capabilities:

  • Determining the competition’s selling strategies and devising effective counter-strategies
  • Successfully employing competitive selling tactics, such as setting traps and immunizing the customer against a competitor’s negative selling
  • Ability to link the strategic value of a product or service to the customer’s long-term business objectives
  • Identifying, recruiting and leveraging politically powerful people to influence an evaluation team or decision-maker
  • Employing personal capital to effect an introduction to the CEO of a targeted company
  • Being seen as a trusted peer by customer executives
  • Effectively managing the long-term relationship with a strategic account

Here’s the problem: There isn’t enough sales skills training going on.1 What is taking place is mostly Sales 101—basic selling skills. Not enough attention is paid to the advanced selling capabilities I listed above, among others. There are several vendors that meet or exceed their clients’ requirements and expectations with respect to advanced selling IP, processes, coursework, and coaching.2 But, many vendors don’t. Even vendors with well-known brands. The problem with that is they can only get you so far. They can’t provide you with what you need to consistently and predictably outsell your competitors.

The basics are critically important for sales effectiveness. But they alone aren’t enough.

So, what happens when you have four companies with basically comparable offerings competing for the same business and none of the salespeople managing the deals have the advanced selling capabilities mentioned above? Decisions made on price, features, a sexy demo or the most well-known brand. It’s a toss-up as to who is going to win. But if one company’s sales team possesses advanced capabilities, how do you think they’re going to do?

Not every salesperson needs advanced selling skills. But, if you’re in a complex selling environment and your salespeople don’t have all the skills required to win, you’re asking to be outsold.

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1 A 2007 DePaul University Study reported that only 43% of companies responding said they had a formal sales training program. Of those, only 50% provided sales skills training.
2 Performance Methods, Inc. is one vendor that provides advanced selling solutions. Disclosure: Performance Methods subscribes to ESR’s research.

About the author:
Dave Stein is an internationally recognized thought-leader in the area of sales effectiveness, especially sales training. He wrote the Amazon best-selling How Winners Sell and currently serves as Visiting Professor of Sales and Sales Management at the Dublin (Ireland) Institute of Technology.
My website is at:


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