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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistTue, Aug 7, 2018 17 min read

'Sell' Is A Dirty Word: A Step-By-Step Guide On How To Replace Selling

Bad Sales People

Look Up Sell In The Dictionary – Its A Dirty Word: Embrace The Evolving Nature Of Sales And Make Major Changes Today

Bad Sales PeopleI’m sure this article will generate come conversation. Some people will passionately agree, and other people will passionately disagree.

Whether you agree with my commentary or not, few positive definitions are associated with the word sell.

Go ahead, look it up. Here are some definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary:

Sell – Give or hand over (something) in exchange for money. ... Persuade someone of the merits of. ... Trick or deceive (someone). Click here to see for yourself.

The first definition has the connotation of value in exchange for money (something people work hard to hold on to). It’s certainly an adversarial definition, at best. At worst, it puts the person with the money at odds with the person who wants it.

The second definition uses the word persuade, which denotes you might actually be trying to use words to get someone to do something they might not ordinarily do (a more confrontational relationship with the person you’re trying to persuade).

And the final definition speaks for itself, accurately illustrating how people feel when they are being sold to.

Not one of these three definitions provides any positive feelings.

Two conditions need to be in place for someone to buy something:

1) They need to have acute pain

2) They need to feel safe in that their purchase decision is the right one for them

Selling fails to satisfy either of these conditions.

Its why we think you should kill all of the old-school sales techniques your sales team has been taught over the past 10 years, and instead start designing an experience for your prospects that attempts to guide them instead of selling to them.

Here’s how anyone can build a guided sales process at their company.

Step 1 – Get Intimate With Your Prospect’s Buyer Journey

You’ve heard me talk about this a lot lately, but I think it’s the only place to start if you’re considering reworking how you go to market.

Take three or four of your most recent new customers. Ask them for 30 minutes to go back through how they made the decision to hire or select you.

Walk them through the early stages of their buyer journey, and ask them questions to clarify what was in their mind along the way. Try to see if they’re aligned with our eight stages of the buyer journey.

Who was involved and when did they get involved? What extra questions did those extra people add to the process?

What information did they have? What information did they need to get? What information was the most valuable and the least valuable? How did other vendors participate in their process?

What did they like about your process? You want to get as much information, intelligence and thinking as possible from your new customers. How did they evaluate all of their options?

Ask questions about your agreements or paperwork, too.

Draw some conclusions and consolidate some of their feedback to create a general representation of a prospect’s buyer journey with your product or service.

Remember to try and gain some idea of timing. How long did the entire journey take from first inquiry to final close?

Step 2 – Design A Guided Sales Process With Each Step In Mind

Now that you have a detailed and documented idea of the current prospect journey, go back and identify the step where the marketing stopped and the sales process started.

That hand-off is typically at or around the Evaluation Stage. This is where prospects can’t get information online or from current customers. They need a sales rep to help with pricing, delivery options, detailed product specs or customization requests.

Now go back in and start creating a series of touch points or experiences for each step in your sales reps handling of your prospect’s buyer journey. We call that the guided sales process.

Instead of selling, your reps should be guiding your prospects through their journey, giving them direction, advice and guidance along the way.

The way your sales reps (sales guides) take your prospects through their buyer journey is going to be a major influencer on whether you get the deal or not. With that in mind, start structuring an experience that features your guide, your content, educational information and touch points that make the experience remarkable.

Think about it like your prospects are working their way up Mount Everest. They might get there on their own, but they also might die on their own.

Your guides are the only surefire way they get to the top alive. How do you make sure your prospects are equipped properly, educated about the trek, choose the right route up the mountain, take the right precautions along the way, and ration food and air properly? You get the idea.

Give your sales guides all of the tools they need to dole out this guidance properly and at the right time, including early on, when the climbers might not even know they need a guide.

Oh, you want to go up without a guide? No worries. Just to let you know, people without guides die 69% more frequently than people who go up with guides. Still want to go up without a guide, or would you like our help?

It’s obvious that they’ll be more successful (and live) if they use a guide.

I know the choice of a (software/agency/manufacturer/professional services firm) is tricky. Recent research shows that most people make a mistake with their first purchase, typically costing them about 80% more than they should be paying to fix the situation.

You can try to figure it out on your own, or we can try to help. Whether you hire us or not, we view our role as that of a guide. We’ll help you along the way to make a good, safe purchase decision for your company. Do you want to talk about how we can help you?

Making your team guides and giving them a guided process is going to differentiate you from the salespeople your prospects are meeting along the way, and its going to make them start to know, like and trust you.

Know, like and trust is important to getting prospects to feel safe. You can try to sell to them (NOT SAFE) or try to guide them (SAFE). Up to you!

Step 3 – Fire Your Sales Reps And Rehire Them As Sales Guides

This is more ceremonial than anything else, but it does make a point. Fire Your Sales Team Today! was the title for our last book for a very good reason: Your sales team has to realize their old sales skills and tool kit no longer work.

Firing them and then instantly rehiring them to be sales guides is how you get them to understand they have a new role, a new set of tools and a new mandate: Guide instead of sell.

Give them a new job description and share their new metrics. Talk about the revised and new guided sales process they’ll be following.

Ask them to consider their own buyer behavior. How do they feel when someone is trying to sell them something, as opposed to trying to help them or guide them toward a decision?

Let them know that you’ll be arming them with new content offers, new tools like chat and new educational materials to help prospects get smarter. It might take a little convincing, but you need their full commitment.

There are no partial participants. If they don’t go all-in, you’ll never realize the full value of transitioning the entire effort from selling to guiding.

Step 4 – Retrain Them On Your New Guided Sales Process And Their Role As Guides

If you’ve been selling and now you’re going to start guiding prospects, it makes sense that you’ll need a new process.

While its not hard to redesign a guided sales process for almost any organization, that’s not the hard part. The hard part is training everyone, getting them to use the new process, teaching old dogs new tricks and tracking their progress with the new process vs. the old process.

The good news is that CRM and other new software tools make it easy to see who is following the process and who is not, who is using the right tools at the right times and who is not, and who is having productive guided conversations with prospects and who is not.

You are going to want this oversight, insight and analytics to be part of your next-generation sales and marketing effort. This is not overly expensive software to add to your company. In some cases, it might be as low as $400 a month.

Redesign the process, retrain people on the process, install the software to keep track of them and their use of the new process, set benchmarks for current performance, and use the new software to highlight how you’re doing and where additional progress is needed over time.

Follow this order and you’ll be running a highly guided, highly analytical and highly effective sales process in no time at all.

Step 5 – Take A Fresh Look At Their Comp Plan

This is a short step. Sales reps do what they’re paid to do. Their comp plan is usually very relevant to changing behavior. However, I’m not suggesting that your comp plan is not aligned, just that it might be a good idea to look at it in the context of your new guided sales process.

Step 6 – Monitor, Support And Track Their Key Metrics

If you’re following this guide, or if you already have CRM software in place, then it should be easy to monitor, support and track performance.

Who is reaching out to prospects and using the new tools? How is that affecting their performance? Whose sales cycle is decreasing (and by how much)? Whose close rate is increasing (and by how much)? Who is doing better vs. their revenue goals, and how much of this is because of the process and tool upgrades?

Sales isn’t only about metrics. Spend some time talking to the guides and finding out what stories are resonating, which messages are getting people to move forward, what obstacles still exist and how you are doing against competitive situations.

Collecting qualitative data and quantitative data gives you the broadest picture of what’s going on, so you can make smart adjustments in strategy along the way.

Step 7 – Align This New Process With The Marketing Experience

Today, research studies show that prospects are managing 75% of the buyer journey without sales. This means marketing has to step in and facilitate that 75%.

You have to make sure that your marketing is 100% aligned with your sales effort. What marketing says on the website, in emails, in educational content, on podcasts and in videos must be completely backed up and supported by what the sales guides say when prospects connect with them.

This means you need 100% alignment across every tactic for both marketing and sales.

Anytime marketing sends something out, sales should get it, too. It’s a simple but highly effective way to keep everyone on the same page and get instant feedback from sales on the message, delivery or responses from their customers or prospects.

BONUS Step – Consider Applying This Same Thinking To Customer Service

Many of the concepts here should be considered for your customer service teams, too.

Your customers should have their journey mapped. Your customers should have someone (or a team of people) to create an amazing experience for them. Your customers should be constantly monitored for their level of advocacy, and if they’re not an active and vocal advocate, you need to understand why and what you can do about it.

You should be using marketing- and sales-related tools (like all of the ones we discussed above) to get customers to buy more, buy more frequently, continue buying from you and be active in their advocacy for your company.

You should be applying some of the same software technologies to help them talk to you more efficiently, help you respond more quickly to any concerns and allow you to give them an amazing experience, even though they needed something from your company.

This might seem extreme to some of you. It might even seem like a crazy idea.

For some of you, this is going to make you uncomfortable. What you might not be aware of is how dramatically consumers are influencing companies to change the way they market and sell. Netflix, Amazon, Zappos and others are raising the bar, and progressive B2B companies are showing up with new and innovative ways to work with prospects.

Chat, preference centers, video, personalized content, virtual meeting rooms and advocacy are reshaping how you should be thinking about marketing and selling to your prospects.

The sooner you take advantage of this new thinking, these new tools and this new approach, the faster you’ll be beating your competition, closing more new customers and shortening the time it takes to get new customers. 

Square 2 — Building The Agency You’ll LOVE!


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.