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September 22, 2006

News & Opinion: Exceptional Selling by Jeff Thull

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 4:00 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture


Jeff Thull's latest recently came out. This excerpt comes from the preface of Exceptional Selling. Read on as Jeff introduces you to the highlights of his book.
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Excerpt From: The Preface of Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales

In today's world, I continually seek out and study high-performing salespeople, the best of the best. They think differently, behave differently, and produce exceptional results. I have been defining the skills of high performing sales professionals, providing research, and most importantly, establishing systems, skills, and disciplines into a methodology that can be replicated to produce very profitable results.

Considering the thousands of people whom our practice has worked with over the years, I have also encountered a lot of struggling salespeople. Over and over again, I've watched them engage in conversations with their customers in which they unknowingly shoot themselves in the foot and undermine their own best efforts. They're so ingrained in their traditional and standardized approach that they have difficulty stopping to think about what they're doing to themselves.

Even today, with so much experience around us, the marketplace is cluttered with seminars, consultants, trainers, and books espousing antiquated approaches to selling. Many salespeople, unknowingly caught up in the conventional sales approach, continue their self-sabotage and end up alienating and shutting down customers. But by replicating the top-performing professionals you read about in this book, there are new, exceptional ways to sell that can set you apart and pull you ahead of the pack. And those of you who have been very successful and are looking to notch up your skills to continually compete effectively in an ever evolving market will see that fine-tuning some areas of your approach can make a major impact on your results.

In this book, you will also be warned about the pitfalls that can get us into trouble. Have you ever heard yourself say to a customer, "You've probably never thought of this, but . . ." or "We save companies like yours millions of dollars in wasted . . ." Both of these statements could very well be true, but they create what I refer to as "dangling insults."

They imply that the customer doesn't think and wastes millions of dollars. While you believe you are enlightening your customers, they may be hearing a criticism. You can tell when customers and best-qualified prospects hear these dangling insults: They lean back, cross their arms, and shut down. The salesperson can keep talking, but the conversation is over.

Sales conversations are rife with traps like these. This book exposes those traps and offers logical and proven alternatives that enhance the clarity, relevancy, credibility, and trust we are trying to create in our conversations with customers.

In the chapters that follow, we drill down into the core of exceptional selling practices and expose three root causes of failure that can prevent us from succeeding: confrontation, comprehension, and compliance.

You will see how ingrained reactions and traditional selling strategies and techniques combine to create an atmosphere of confrontation between salespeople and their customers.

You will find it incredible how preprogrammed behaviors and reactions often get us into trouble. As an example, as salespeople, we've been indoctrinated to believe that if we can secure an appointment with the right people and put forth our best presentation, we can turn most opportunities into sales, that objections are meant to be overcome, and that with the proper grit and persistence, we should be able to close any account. However, the more we wrestle with indecisive customers, aggressive competitors, drawn out sales cycles, and unpredictable outcomes, the more dependent we become on these unquestioned behaviors. The reality that we are ignoring, however, is that our conditioning, along with traditional selling lore, promotes an adversarial style of communication that only exacerbates our problems and causes us to work harder and with less successful outcomes.

In this book, we will look at specific examples of how salespeople consistently overestimate the customer's comprehension of the problem to be solved, the solutions we propose, and above all, the customer's readiness to make decisions. Think about how the complexity of our products and services has escalated, how the customer's workload has increased, how their staff and technical evaluation resources have decreased, and how the pressure to perform has increased. This harsh reality becomes even more problematic. As complexity increases, customers require more outside expertise to make high-quality decisions, but for the most part, our customers understand less and less of what we tell them. And what are we doing in response? We are trained and encouraged to present relentlessly, to work hard to convince, to persuade, and above all, to be persistent. We lecture our customers about solutions that they don't comprehend, can't differentiate, and really aren't sure they need. Then, we wonder why they buy a sub optimal solution or, as happens too often, don't buy any solution at all, not from you or your competitor.

Finally, in this book you will see how communication can fail when customers place pressure on salespeople with their buying processes in an attempt to control the sales process themselves. If our customers don't have a complete comprehension of their problems and our solutions, compliance with their process has a high probability of sub optimal results. Yet, when prospects send us requests for proposals (RFPs), invitation to tender bids (ITBs), or requests for information (RFIs), and invite us to reply, there is this irresistible tendency to jump. Granted, the customer may have made considerable efforts in preparing the request, yet we have no idea whether this is a viable opportunity for the customer or our company, yet we willingly contribute limited time and resources.

The goal is exceptional selling systems, skills, and disciplines to manage exceptional conversations for exceptional results for both you and your customers. You may have the world's greatest solution, but if you can't communicate with relevancy, build credibility and respect, and build clarity for your customers, your potential will be severely constrained.

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Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc. from Exceptional Selling. Copyright (c) 2006 by Jeff Thull, CEO and President of Prime Resource Group.

About Jeff Thull

Jeff Thull is a leading-edge strategist and valued advisor for executive teams of major companies worldwide. As President and CEO of Prime Resource Group, he has designed and implemented business transformation and professional development programs for companies like Shell Global Solutions, Siemens, 3M, Microsoft, Intel, Citicorp, IBM and Georgia-Pacific, as well as many fast track, start-up companies. He has gained the reputation for being a thought leader in the arena of sales and marketing strategies for companies involved in complex sales.

Jeff is a compelling, entertaining and thought-provoking keynote speaker with a track record of over 2,500 speeches and seminars delivered to corporations and professional associations worldwide. Jeff Thull's work is published in hundreds of business and trade publications. He is also the author of the best selling books Mastering the Complex Sale: How to Compete and Win When the Stakes are High, and The Prime Solution: Close the Value Gap, Increase Margins, and Win the Complex Sale. Jeff's new book, Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales is released September 2006.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.