It was November 2012,
when I received a phone call from John Jenkins, Senior Director of Microoft APAC.
He asked, if I can join the team and
coach a fast growing team of inside-sales representatives to
learn how to sell Microsoft technologies to these 8 countries:
- New Zealand
- The Philippines
And I said I’m happy to join.
Why would I reject such a great challenge!
As you read on, I’ll walk you through real life examples
of how I used a set of growth hacking strategies and a proven sales strategy
called ‘PRINCE Method”,
and enabled Microsoft inside-sales team to achieve
239% revenue target in 3 months.
Table of Contents.
The Ultimate goal of our sales strategy
Microsoft’s Challenge at the time
Sales Role Plays to shift your team’s mindset
Biggest Sales Mistakes That You Need To Avoid
How To Develop A Sales Plan
What Is BANT?
6 Golden Steps Of PRINCE Sales Strategy
In this article I’ve also elaborated every single steps
of a solid sales strategy that you need to follow to sell your product or service,
And “YES”, It work for both online, and traditional businesses.
One thing special about this sales strategy example, and case study is that
most certainly, I’ll be holding you by hand
and showing you a step by step ‘in and out’ of
the best sales strategy that you can use in your
Business, right away, and win against competitors, thus increase revenue.
Let’s jump right into it,
And help you get started with your startup sales strategy,
and become a successful entrepreneur.
How did it Start?
In 2012, I was invited to become the sales coach
of a group of more than 150 sales representatives and account managers
that Microsoft APAC (Asia Pacific) had employed,
both internal employees and outsourced resources.
The Ultimate goal of our sales strategy:
our ultimate goal at the time was to
nurture the team and equip them with sales strategies and tactics to be able to achieve 100% of their targets, every month.
What happened was quite interesting…
We surpassed our target by 239% within the space of 3 months.
The first thing you need to be able to address is this question:
“What is sales strategy?”
There are a lot of confusing definitions about sales strategy,
But I’m sure this one helps you get a better understanding.
Sales strategy, or strategic sales plan is a set of activities
that enable you, or your sales team, to have meaningful conversation
with your potential or existing customer
The main goal of having a sales strategy is to gain
competitive advantage over your rivals, and of course being able to sell more.
Our goal was to follow Microsoft’s sales process (Which is already established),
and add value to it to assist the sales team to:
- Know the product better
- Understand how to handle customer objections
- lead the sales call towards a productive conversation that befits both parties
- Understand customer’s pains, and gains
- pitch the right solution, the right time, and using the right approach
- close the deal
Let Me Share Some Awesome Sales Results With You:
Before I write this case study,
I’ve had to reach out to a few ex-colleagues in Microsoft
to request their permission to publish their results in this case study.
They were also happy to share their experience with you.
Here is one result from from Abir.
This result is just one of the proofs that show
how easy you can increase your revenue using the PRINCE sales methodology.
Now, you’re probably wondering :
How Can I Implement This Sales Strategy In My Business
I have carefully broken down this seemingly complex sales strategy
into easy, simplified little steps, one at a time.
Ever since I began using the amazing PRINCE sales strategy to help several businesses
I discovered that it can be literally implemented anywhere,
and be expected to produce a positive outcome all the time.
You’ll see that in a moment…
The first step in designing your sales plan
Is determining the problem, ad crafting a valid problem statement.
Let me share with you about the big challenge that we were facing at that time.
Working with experienced sales people has it’s own difficulties,
Especially if they ave been selling for quite a few years.
They develop a Sales Guru Ego,
And resist to listen to you, (And I knew how to handle it)
But there was more to this story..
I needed to understand where the sales team stand,
in terms of their understanding about sales methodology.
That’s why The first step I took
was to arrange series of collaborative sessions to collect data, and understand the status quo.
Then I scheduled a set of sales training for sales managers,
To let them know my plan,
And shared the possible outcomes of the PRINCE Sales methodology.
Once they were on-board, the big challenge started
As I began the sales training for sales representatives
to gauge their communication skills
Objective handling skills
Their knowledge about Microsoft’s core business
& of course their sales competency.
My goal was simple:
I wanted to help them understand that Customers don’t like to be pushed,
You need to understand their emotional needs, and functional needs, and only then offer a solution.
In a nutshell: “Efficient sales should not be pushy”.
To achieve that, we had to put together a solid sales framework
and enable the sales team to realize that
Knowing the product is just part of the story (In fact the easiest part to learn about your product)
The most important part is to follow an effective sales strategy and
Get connected with customers.
Now if you are experiencing similar situation in your business
Whether you’re running an online business, or a consulting firm, or selling tangible product
And you don’t see great outcome or higher revenue,
and your sales team resist to change their approach, you can use the following steps.
You need to embrace change, and shift mindset.
Let’s have a look at a series of shifting mindset activities” below.
You’d be amazed at what we found out.
Whenever you’re dealing with a sales team who is not performing,
The best thing to do is to understand the root of their problem.
it might be:
- The Sales manager set unrealistic sales KPI
- The team does not know the target market pretty well
- Your sales representatives don’t know the product, features, and most important;y the value proposition
- Your sales team does not spend enough time to connect with the customers, and build relationship
- You have implemented an inefficient sales approach
- The Sales team is using an script (either predefined, or in their mind) to promote your product and service
And the best way to understand the rot cause,
Is to ask them to join a role play.
In Microsoft, We started with a role play.
In fact, I encourage you to practice this role play with your sales partner now.
- Step #1 Empty your pocket and Pick one item randomly.
- Step #2 Write down the 5 main selling points, features, etc. about your item that helps you sell it.
- Step #3 try to have a genuine conversation, and sell that product to me or anyone in the room in 2 minutes.
Rather surprisingly, the session went on and on,
and 2 minutes was extended to around 20 minutes
with no significant closed deals.
Let me remind you that we are talking about highly experienced sales people here.
Biggest Sales Mistakes that you need to Avoid.
A LITTLE PEEP INTO WHAT WORKS AND WHAT DOES NOT…
Some of these mistakes were:
In B2B business, the sales process may be lengthy and exhausting.
For that specific reason, if you make one wrong move,
you can easily lose a huge lead.
Having said that, there are a lot of sales best practices that you and your sales team can implement
to improve your customer experience and close more deals.
but before you go ahead and implement any of these best practices,
You must know the most dangerous sales mistakes that you might be making.
Mistake No#1: Ignoring The client’s perspective.
Lots of sales man, sales women are so involved with their job (Which is making sales)
That they forget the fact that
Every client need different things,
And they just push for sales to close it ASAP.
The most important part of closing a sales deal
whether it’ during the probing phase,
Or even after you have won the client
Is to understand their Pains, and seeing things from your client’s perspective.
Mistake No#2: Wasting Time, No Follow-up
There were a few sale representative in my role plays who manage to follow a good process
and convince me to buy,
But the biggest mistake they made was to
Leave everything up to me (Which I was playing the role of client)
And not setting up a followup call.
And then there are lots of businesses that don’t
Follow-up with their leads.
General rule of thumb is to get in touch with your leads
As soon as possible
and engage with them.
You can either do it over a quick call a manual email template,
or automating your sales and marketing campaigns.
Mistake No#3: The Seller spoke too much.
In most of role plays that I had with the sales team,
it was a one-way conversation whereby
the seller talked 80% and the buyer (either me or their partner)
had a chance to respond less than 20% of the time.
It has to be the other way around!
Who on earth said that sales people should talk?
Don’t “over-pitch” your client because you may get a quick and direct “No”.
It’s vital to learn the art of active listening
And to listen to clients more and pitch less.
Mistake No 4: It Was All About their Product
(Ignoring the Competitor, and Customer’s choices)
Whether you re selling online goods, or offering services to your customers<
You have to understand one inevitable fact that
Your customers don’t care about your product.
If you thing you need to write about your product in your sales letter,
Your marketing campaigns,
And sales calls,
I have to be blond with you and say “Wake up my friend”
Because it’s not the 80s anymore!
You have to start implementing sales strategies that works in 21st century.
Customers have a lot of other alternatives that they can choose from.
Knowing your product is very important
but you have to know what values your product add to your customer’s life, and focus on that feature.
Besides, one of the most important part of being a top notch sales person
is to understand the fact that your customers have other choices to choose from your competitors,
So, it’s your job to know what differentiate your product from your rivals, and
How to prove it to your customers.
The Big Problem with sales calls?
during one to one role plays,
And listening to sales calls I could clearly observe that
The sellers are trying to sell their products to achieve their sales target and sales KPI.
Well, this is usually the case in almost 80% to 90% of companies,
where the secret to being a successful sales person is to listen to customers as much as you can
And only offer your product, or tailor your pitch to meet their demand.
How did we solve the problem?
I asked the team to leave their experience behind the door
and come fresh for the training because it did matter to us to be able to have a productive conversation.
After the role play and of course having a bit of “robust conversation”,
they eventually agreed to do so, but at that time
I was asked “What’s really different about your sales methodology Ehsan”?
Here is the exact quote: “End of the day sales is sales right?”
If you think the same way,
Let me share with you a real life sales pitch example:
Think about a busy day that you have received a cold call from
maybe a training provider,
weight loss product promoter,
The person who called you does not allow you to say you’re busy,
And bombard you with a huge amount of information
about what they had to sell…
it was so much that you just wanted to hang up…
If you had such an experience, then keep reading.
When it comes to crafting your sales strategy,
This is exactly the kind of experience that you don’t want your customers to have.
If you’re planning to be in this business for a very long time, you probably hope,
then forget the Touch and go Approach that many immature startups and businesses use to keep the lights on.
To effectively develop your sales skill,
you must remember to be flexible,
and only think of developing a solution to address the customer’s problem.
Your objective should be to connect with your customers,
and build a professional relationship with them to discover their pans, gains, and incomplete jobs.
Then, you may get help from empathy map, and define your customer’s persona.
Here is a proven fact about successful sales strategy:
“Active Listening” and “Genuinely Caring About Customers”
From observation, and by listening to hundreds of recorded sales calls,
“Active Listening” and “Genuinely Caring About Customers” are known to be
the two most significant skills that differentiate outstanding sales approaches from others.
Like I mentioned earlier,
to be able to effectively promote your products or services,
you’d need to have a proven sales framework
And that’s why it’s time to reveal that best sales methodology “The PRINCE method”.
It is a 5 (+1) phase framework which stands for:
- P -Profile
- R -Research
- I -Increase & Amplify
- N -Need
- C -Close
- E -Establish
Phase 1, Focus on ‘Profiling” your customers
The PRINCE Method is simple, yet profound.
Let’s examine the first “P”, Profile, and help you learn it smoothly.
This first sales technique encapsulates two significant skills
that every startup, business owner, marketer, and entrepreneur need to master.
- Understanding your customer requirements
- The art of profiling your prospective customer’s persona.
To help you easily articulate with this phase, I created a technique called “The onion technique”
That’s right. The layered onions.
Profiling your customer’s and knowing their needs is exactly
like chopping an Onion and peeling it off.
Here is how it works:
Your customers, in general humans, are like Onions.
They have different layers of
and as a sales person or entrepreneur,
you’d need to discover ‘different layers’ of their needs one at a time, as you would, the onion layers.
Your sales strategy is all about
getting to know your customer in a completely different way
and address their needs with your unique value proposition, and solutions.
This is where the “Onion sales Technique” comes to the picture.
At this stage, which I call ‘P-profiling’,
you won’t be making any call or contact for sales purposes.
Rather, you’d start ‘peeling off the first layer of onion’ in other words, your prospect;
And write down every detail about them, including the details you think aren’t relevant.
You’d soon find out that
the more you know about your customers,
the better positioned your business will be.
What isn’t immediately obvious is the fact that
when profiling your customers,
you are like a Miner in a strange Minefield.
It is imperative that you take note of every information you can find and discover their persona,
however irrelevant they may seem to what you sell or offer.
You will need it in next steps.
Here are a few examples of question that you should be asking:
- What’s the customer’s dog’s name?
- What does s/he do in the evenings? Weekends?
- When was the last time s/he went for a holiday?
- What type of character is s/he?
- What causes s/he stand for in life?
- What keeps hr up at night?
- What competitor’s is she exposed to on a daily basis?
- What do her fiends talk about?
- Who and what can influence her?
If you are in online B2C business,
try to use google barometer, and discover more about your industry,
And how do people make online purchases in your niche,
or take the game to a different level, and
use n empathy map to find out your customer’s persona
and find out the online behavior of your customers.
You can think of questions like:
- Where do they drink?
- What page do they follow in their preferred social network?
- What are their interests?
- What do they post on Facebook, twitter, etc.?
- What celebrity do they follow?
- What’s their favorite device to use, when it comes to online shopping?
- Do they prefer to receive their good from local stores, or they are open to international shipping too?
To show you how efficient the Price method is,
And how much you get get out of it,
I asked another colleague in Microsoft to share his results with you
Here is another amazing sales result that we achieved from Arqum:
Since Microsoft ha a separate team for profiling, and data gathering,
We assigned different account to the team
and asked them to find as many accurate data as they can about the clients.
If you’ve just started your business, and dont have budget to have a separate team
You may get help from virtual assistants on
Crowd sourcing websites like upwork, fiver, etc.
or do a lot of these activities yourself.
As you profile them,
be sure to ask questions that helps you understand the customer’s status-quo.
You can use a Microsoft Excel worksheet,
if you don’t have a Customer Relationship Management software like
HubSpot, Dynamics CRM, Zoho, etc.
In any case, be sure to keep all information up to date.
What is BANT?
Using the BANT criteria,
which is a global and well known term to sales people,
you’re able to minimize the risk of not wasting your time
on targeting a potential lead that is never going to be your customer.
Bear in mind that selecting your target accurately is equally as important as approaching them .
Depending on your business nature, and whether you’re in B2B or B2C business
You can use the B.A.N.T criteria to address the following questions
- Who has the authority to approve the budge. That helps you get in touch with the right person in B2B businesses.
- When do your customers make their purchases, in a month, or quarter. for B2C businesses, that helps you promote your products, the right time
- When is the est time to approach the B2B companies, and offer them our solution
- What are their pain points, and how severe is that pain. This helps you to tailor your sales pitch, and focus on what works for them.
Since PRINCE method is a practical approach,
we started to apply the technique on the floor, and monitor the sales progress on a daily basis.
Just a reminder: the role of a “Profiler” is to mine data and get as much information about the customer through direct or indirect contact.
let’s speed up a little, in understanding PRINCE in detail.
Phase 2, “Get to know your competitors”
and find out your competitive advantages.
In phase two,
the team and I focused on the key advantages that Microsoft Products had
in comparison with other competitor’s products.
Th truth is that,
before you initiate any contact to promote your product or service,
you should take necessary steps to know the key advantages that you have,
and make sure you are able to highlight the great outcomes of it,
and also prepare yourself to handle objections
about those areas that your prospective customers might compare you with your competitors,
and they question or critique you.
To begin with, simply Create a worksheet and compare the following factors:
- What do your competitors highlight about their products/services?
- What do you consider as the competitive advantage of your products/services?
- What’s your position in the market?
- Use the market research approach that I described in The absolute Market research guide and gauge both scenarios to compare market responses.
Then based on the available data,
develop a portfolio,
or product guide
and share it with your customers, and leads.
How to Execute your Sales Strategy Properly
“Focus on relationship”
The sales/account managers in Microsoft were in charge of making daily sales calls,
and and getting in touch with leads.
you can follow these six steps:
Here is exactly how you implement The PRINCE Method, Step By Step.
Step One: PROFILE
It’s all about understanding your customer’s persona, and learning about their background, their needs, issues, challenges, etc
- Take note of details such as customer’s age, gender, etc.
- Where s/he lives?
- what does s/he do in her spare time
- How much does she know about your product? what about your competitors?
- Adjust your sales pitch to match the above information
- Talk to your customers naturally, and Never read a script
- Be genuine and show that you care about your customer.
- You can always start with a genuine smile, even over the phone
Step Two: Research your competitors,
- Do your research about your the other alternatives that your customers may choose from.
- Highlight your strengths and their weakness
- (in B2B business) Once you have enough fact, white paper, case study, and information to convince your customer,
initiate the first contact by making a call or sending an email to ask for permission to have a few moments with them.
- In your call or email, don’t begin by pitching your product, or talk about your business, instead, make it about them and show them how much you know about their business, and how did others solved their problems with your solution.
- Make sure it is the right timing otherwise, reschedule the sales call or sales meeting.
- If it’s the right time, proceed by asking open ended questions. Avoid asking questions that result in “YES”, or “NO” answers
- Let the Customer talk, (even if it’s about their dog) as much as she wants. Focus on building rapport.
- Remember, do not pitch any product or service YET.
Step Three: Increase & Amplify
The more you know about your customers, the easier you can find their pain points,
The secret is in amplifying their pains, and show them the implications of not making a decision to solve the problem,
and increase heir awareness about the consequences of their current pain.
- When the customer speaks, jot down their high level pain points.
- In the meantime, ask specific questions to Amplify their pains
and find a product or service you have that could potentially benefit the customer, then pen it down.
- Don’t pitch your product, instead talk about the other benefits that they get
by solving the current issues with your solution. Focus on highlighting the social benefits, emotional needs, and desires.
For example, if you are selling an automated integration service,
and your customers are typically IT managers who spend hours and days exporting a report manually,
you can use the Increase and Amplify technique in this good case
and talk about his spare time to weekend, and ask her how often does he have to work over the weekendd to prepare the reports.
or how often does he take a week off for a holiday.
Then you may highlight the fact that
he can have them all by automating his reporting activities with your solution,
and spend the rest of his time, do what he really love to do.
Don’t sell yet, and ask him if he is interested in seeing a case study, or a white paper that
you’ve helped other businesses solve similar problems and increased productivity.
- Guide the customer with open-ended questions to talk about their challenges.
- Use your market research data to show your customer that others in their industry have the same pain point.
- Show empathy and Listen to them all the time.
- Manage your time carefully, if time allows provide a few example about those companies or cases that have had similar pain points and are now improving by using your product.
- Ask if s/he is interested to see a demo or have a sample about the challenge and how your company have helped others improve their business.
- If your sales cycle is long, it’e best if you could resist to make any offer yet.
Step Four: Probe for more details
Once you manage to build relationship,
Know about your customer’s pains, and gains,
and amplified their pains to show them the consequences of not making a quick decision to solve it<
It would be the best time to probe more, and find out cross selling, and up selling opportunities
At this phase, try to ask more specific questions with regards to the identified challenges, and their NEEDS.
- Simply ask them to share the effect of their challenges on their
long term goals,
Golden Step:ask about the impact of that challenge on (if personal – his/her daily life) – (If company – Business Productivity); C-CLOSE the deal.
- Be specific, but never get trapped in a technical conversation.
If a technical question was raised and you’re not sure how to address it, promise to egt back tothem with a solid answer, and lead the conversation with new open-ended questions.
- Find out how long is she dealing with every new challenge that you’ve identified, and find out what solutions do they have at this moment.
- Make sure you are not pushy and always respond by signals such as nodding your head, making sounds like ‘Aha’, acknowledge and say ‘I can understand’ or ‘Interesting’ or ‘I couldn’t have thought of that’, etc.
- Ask them about their strategy to address their challenge, and jot down everything.
- At this point you may hear some competitors name too,
do not talk bad about the competitors and maintain your professional attitude,
instead, try to focus on your key differentiation, and how you can add value to their business/life.
- Guide the conversation towards the
Revenue they could save if they address their pain with your solution
The Productivity ratio they could increase
Or even more pleasure personal time she could have
- You are politely reminding them that they need to do something about their pain points,
you may hear back what do you have to offer
and the decision to make the offer or not really depends on the level of rapport you have build at the beginning. you can share your product catalog with them, or send them to your sales letter, or sales page to know more about your offer.
Final Step: Close the Deal, and Establish Relationship
It’s time to E-ESTABLISH a relationship
that shows them how they could benefit from working with you.
- Never start by talking about details of your service or product features,
instead begin with connecting their challenges and your product or solution.
- Go through the list of pain points that you have prepared earlier,
and walk them through their top 3 challenges and connect your product to those issues.
- The difference between what you do now and the previous steps is that
you should now focus on showing the values that you can add to their business by addressing their challenges. You can ask for having a proof of concept, or on site demo, and move the lead to the final stages and close the deal.
- Always be aware of your customer ‘s persona,
if your customer is introvert, talk about the details
and if s/he is extrovert, speak high level and let them talk.
- Once they have made the purchase, and started either using your product, or implemented your solution,
always do follow up and see how happy they are with their product.
- It’s important to Close the deal but it’s even more important to maintain a professional relationship with customers, as it can lead to referrals, and more customers.
Always remember this rule:
your customer want to have genuine and tangible answers to
“What is in it for me?” and show it to them right at the beginning.
Post close Step:
If you need to implement the solution for your partner, customer, or B2B client,
make sure the solution is completely implemented,
and ensure that the service is rendered completely,
and your customer is absolutely happy. Don’t compromise that experience for money.
Your aim should not be a one-time deal a.k.a “touch and go”.
What sales strategy do you use?
Now I want to hear from you.
What sales strategy or sales methods do you use to sell your product?
How similar or how different is it in comparison with the PRINCE sales process.
By all means, feel free to Post your thoughts, insights and opinions in the comment box below, and let me know what you think..