Apr 202020

Everyone in sales knows they have to speak to decision-makers. Everyone. I mean everybody. This explains why… so few people practice it!?!

That is one of the factors that differentiates a salesperson from someone whose business card says ‘salesperson.’ Please ignore the rest of this article if in your current sales process, or consistently, you do reach and engage with the decision-maker. Simply jump to the Comments’ section below and tell everybody how you do it!

Salespeople are always grateful for customer interaction and see any touch as progress so they often settle. It is the dichotomy of salespersons. They need someone to sell to and when the person they should speak with is unavailable they find recourse in anybody else. The second choice may in fact be an influencer or part of the process, but that does not take away from the fact that a decision-maker is not hearing from the seller. Speaking to non-decision-makers is not without merit. In today’s environment no one is able to make a decision on his or her own and increasingly the purchasing is done by the proverbial committee. More in defense of the salesperson, the pertinent point in not talking to the person they need to be speaking to the most. It is often the decision-maker who chooses not to engage with salespersons. The reason typically is a lack of time, which leads to salesperson being relegated or filtered.

With that said, there is a lot to be said about the professional salesperson who manages to speak with the decision-maker by making the case that the two need to communicate. Moreover, think about how much of the message and advantages of the good or service being offered is not reaching the ears of the person who needs to hear it the most because fact remains that no one can sell for you. No one can and no one will. If they could they would be in sales and they would work at your company. Sales cannot expect prospect company employees to know the selling company’s offering like they work at the vendor. Finally, think of the disadvantage a salesperson is in if his or her competitor has gained access to the person who needs to hear their message the most.

The above is reality.


Photograph Credit: Razvan Chisu


So what should a salesperson do?

Firstly, do not make demands. Remember, it is not about the needs of the salesperson. It is about the needs of the buyer. Instead follow a two-fold path as outlined below:

1- A good seller asks pertinent questions that go to the heart of the needs, wants and vision of the decision-maker. Not only good questions lead to the seller being considered an expert, but also the answers can best be supplied by the person in charge leading to contact between the two parties.

2- Instead of making demands, appeal to the better judgment of the middleman. If they, like you, see the benefit and if they, like you, want to do right then ask them how to go about it. In other words, recruit them to the cause. Just like the salesperson knows his or her products or services best, the contact knows his or her company and its staff better.

One more thing: please do not carry generic messages. Know your prospect, fine-tune a reason and make it non-generic.

Here is a bottom-line: if the salesperson believes in the reason for the call and believes the decision-maker’s company needs it and believes it is for the good of the prospect company then that conviction will carry the weight, power, presence and tonality to carry the salesperson through.


What do you think?


Things That Need To Go Away: sales pitches that generically claim to save time and money.

Jun 082016

In an earlier article I wrote, “Analyse your expenditure and revenue sources. Do some customers/vendors/partners cost you more than they bring in? Now is the time to discover them and ditch them. Be brave about it.”

It is a simple concept. Business is in it for the revenue and, more importantly, profitability. It is not about the sale. It is about the profitable sale. If you agree then how do companies come across unprofitable customers? The customers who make more demands than they are worth, the customers who rather bankrupt their supplier than establish a partnership, the customers who find success mutually exclusive…

There is no one to blame, but us, the sellers, the sales managers, the shortsighted companies who are the enablers of the shortsighted customer.

How does one end up there? First and foremost, the culprit is selling on price. When a customer has nothing to differentiate a vendor on then the easiest fallback is on the vendor’s price. As discussed here often there are many other differentiators you should sell on – service, after-sale service, education, reliability, industry knowledge, you!, etc. – and if you do and the customer is uninterested then you have reached the definition of the undesirable customer.

You might have come across the following anecdote about a company’s sales force:

CFO: What happens if we train them and they leave? CEO: What happens if we don’t and they stay?

Let’s turn that around to customers:

CEO: What happens if we do not discount and they go somewhere else? CFO: What happens if we do and they become our customers?

Companies need to shape up, get their chins up, become confident in their product or service and get a differentiator and acquire customers based on it. Otherwise, the cycle perpetuates itself. Is it a pipedream? Perhaps, but companies possibly have no choice either as natural selection will force their hands? Companies selling on price and acquiring customers at any cost are bound to go out of business.

Ask yourself: how are you serving your company by perpetuating a precedent-setting low, or no, profit transaction?

Then ask yourself: how are you serving your company by not understanding your customer and not articulating yourself based on it?

bad idea

Related articles:

Myth: Customers Value (The cheapest) Price Above Anything Else

Of haggling, discounting and price pressures

Not Competing On Price

*Things That Need To Go Away: Sales Managers Who Pressure Salesperson To Close The Sale At Any Cost And Salespersons Who Pressure Sales Managers To Close The Sale At Any Cost

Aug 122015

It is not the first time that I write about What Matters To Employees.

See the older iterations here and here.

Here is an update from 2015, which depicts the top 3 priority ‘wants’ of the employees as

1- Pay

2- Location

3- Flexible hours.

TOP 3 Employees





To speculate, the ‘top 3’ are likely not as cut and dry as it seems upon first glance. For example, ‘pay’ could mean base pay or variable or signing bonus, etc. ‘Flexible hours’ could mean number of hours worked or vacation days. Moreover, as always, negotiations and wants and needs are not win-lose. For example, a person might mean ‘signing bonus’ and not just ‘salary’ when discussing ‘pay.’ Similarly, an employee might mean ‘office hours’ when discussing ‘flexible hours,’ which may even be in sync with employer needs as they need people in different shifts.

For another perspective, which is different from the results of this survey, read my interview with author Beverly Kaye.

*Things That Need To Go Away: employers pretending the above are not priorities.


Sep 232012

So you want a raise and believe your work justifies asking for it. Salary is the company’s tool to hire, drive performance and keep employees motivated. An employee’s salary balances your and the company’s needs.

Before speaking to your manager do your research. Ask for a time and in a non-threatening, but firm, tone and setting pull out the results of your number crunching.

1- Do others with a similar job and length of experience in the industry receive a higher salary?

2- How about the benefits and other incomes? How does your benefit plan compare? Do you have pension or investment matching? How about education assistance or  other similar benefits?

3- How often does the company initiate a pay raise? Is it congruent with industry practices? How does it compare with the inflation rate?

4- How is your performance? How much time and effort do you put into it?

Inform your manager! Summarize and list the information for him and her politely. Make a case for yourself and prepare to negotiate. Also note that other items (flex time? extra vacation days? one-time bonus? etc.) might have value for you and be possible for your manager to award.




Jun 052012

I firmly ‘believe’ that having belief is one of the keys to success. This is not some spiritual intangible. It is an imperative. Wayne Gretzky, a Canadian hockey player, is often quoted as saying, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” It is as simple as that. Believing is about doing. Time and time again when a salespersons is convinced that an effort is futile it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Successful salespeople know that when all hope is lost the worst possible thing to (not) do is to give up. One last e-mail beseeching customers, one more call exploring alternatives, one strategic question to a prospect may turn things around.

One needs belief however. The belief that something may happen. Ironically, it is the more experienced and tenured salespeople that often fall victim to a lack of belief. They internalize the mistakes, failures and objections and project them into various current situations. It should be the opposite. The more pertinent question invoking belief is ‘have I sold before?” or ‘have I interviewed for such a job successfully before?’ or ‘Did I win in a similar situation in the last year?’… then why not again?

Your believing not only determines what you do, but it also determines that you do it. Moreover, it is the duty of the management and company to give, instill and maintain that belief. Salespeople are humans. They need support as much as anybody.


Nov 282011

Salespeople: do you know why you should undertake a task? Do you have a reason you can convey to customers that explains why doing something is beneficial? Has your sales manager explained to you the ‘why’ of what you are being asked to do or shortchanged you in the interest of simplicity and saving time and only given you the ‘what?’
Managers: Have you explained the ‘why’ to your teams? People who know why they need to do something, why they need to do it a certain way or in certain timeframe do it better as they are armed with a reason, rationale or logic. Take the time.

Asking ‘why’ also helps instill continuous improvement by questioning why something is done in a certain way and if a better process could come to be. Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story Of Success has a detailed briefing on the risks of ‘soldier mentality.’ For example, Korean Airlines’ poor safety record in the 20th Century is partly attributed to pilots, co-pilots and other personnel never questioning an order and never examining the ‘why.’ It makes for interesting reading.

Nov 272011


This is one of the conundrums of selling. Salespeople fear that all customers want is to obtain the lowest price or else… or else the customer will proceed to buy from someone else.

Several months ago I wrote about a pre-emptive approach to selling one’s value, as well as justifying one’s price. http://www.alighaemi.com/wp/?p=747


It might bear repeating the lowest price is not always the winning bid. In fact, more often than not the lowest price is not the winner. Product price point is a little like setting employee salaries. So long as the employee believes his or her salary is fair, and so long as it is near industry average and provides a level of comfort the amount goes away as a deciding factor and factors like relationship with one’s manager and co-workers, growth, learning and respect become job satisfaction criteria. In the same way, as long customers feel that they are not being taken ‘for a ride’ and have received fair value the selling conversation will shift from price to criteria like needs’ satisfaction, reliability, after-sales support, prestige, name brand and more.


There is always someone or something that is less expensive in one’s category. Yet, the cheapest steakhouse is not always the most popular. There are plenty of diners that serve steak, but they are nowhere near as popular as the more expensive steakhouses. Does Prada sell more hand bags or ‘Joe?’ A Chevy will transport one from point A to point B. Yet, people still buy and drives Acuras, Lexuses and even Porsches. Indeed, the most expensive mobile smartphone is the most popular, Apple’s iPhone.


Salespersons need to remove the pricing-only mindset from their heads. Sell the value of the product or service and become comfortable that a less expensive alternative exists, and will always exist, and yet there is a market for other (more expensive) options – ones you might be representing.


Nov 012011

Many a sales technique teaches salespeople to adapt to a methodology and process and follow the ‘rules’ to a successful career and riches.

These sales courses are often beneficial and instructive, no doubt. I have both taken and taught many and remain a supporter of process and methodology.

I sat through a 317 Consulting training recently, which talked about, among other things, Verbal Aikido. Sandler Sales calls it Match & Mirror. These refer to the idea that a salesperson should match his or her words, tonality, posture and emphasis to a prospect’s. They reasonably argue that relating and bonding between buyer and seller are important.


Be that as it may, one point should not be lost. Unfortunately, it often is. Salespeople should not override their own personalities to become someone they are not. I often tell my salespeople that there is not one path to success and they should make their personalities work for them. Do not become someone your personality does not allow you to be. Improve yourself, invest in yourself, learn and grow, but do not become someone you do not enjoy being. It will adversely affect your sales.

Do not let your personality become subservient to a script. It is important to remain genuine. After all, every sales training will also tell you to not come across as phoney.




Aug 152011

If I were to ask you, as an enterprise salesperson, what the biggest headache or obstacle in your sales process would be, what would you say?
My guess would be that ‘price’ and ‘the competition’ or ‘discounting by the other guys’ are prime issues on, or near the, top of most salespeople’s list. Stating the obvious, it is a competitive environment out there. The advent of communication and the Internet has made matters worse. Customers are knowledgeable and informed. It is a toxic environment for sales and margins and an optimal situation for buyers.
Solution? You have to show value above and beyond the competition and you have to do it proactively and on your terms.

Your statements, presentations and discussions with your potential customers need to convey what you offer above those contending for the business. Reality is that often you will not be the cheapest offering. To stay in business one cannot consistently offer the cheapest price or show the lowest dollars figure to a prospect – that would be a recipe for bankruptcy, which does not serve either party. Most customers do not want to bankrupt a supplier. Find out (ask or anticipate if you must!) who the competition is. Include your value against theirs to your customer. Be positive and honest in disclosing their value. However, present your added value and why you are a better bargain. Why are you superior and where do you perform better than they do? Perhaps, your presentation can feature a check list depicting you versus the competition? Rationalize your higher price point positively. This also acts as a competitive trap for the competition. They will have to navigate through the landmines you left in their way.

Oh #1: you are up-to-date and an expert on your competition, right?
Oh #2: if you cannot show better value than whoever else is vying for the business then it is time to go back to the drawing board, isn’t it?


Aug 032011

I don’t mean to understate the value of facts, data or rationality, but when selling never forget the power of emotions.
As much as we like to think we make good choices based on regimented and thought-out reasons, emotions are a big factor in our buying decisions and often a bigger criterion than most of recognize or understand.

Think about it. We all make decisions based on how we feel about something. After all, if emotions were not a major buying factor wouldn’t everyone buy the same car with the highest price-to-feature rating based on the class of vehicle one required? Of course, we consider a car’s features, horse power and fuel efficiency, but when all is said and done, we must like the look and image of the car. Wouldn’t the market for CD cover designs diminish rapidly? After all, we would be buying the disc based on its content and its style. Many managers know, but may not openly admit, that they hired a candidate based on a ‘gut feeling.’ There are numerous examples.

What this means is we need to understand the power of emotions when selling. It follows that we need to consider the customer’s feelings. The buyer must be comfortable. They must trust. They must have that ‘gut feeling.’ This is why advanced selling is often called ‘relationship-based selling.’ This is why they say ‘you have to sell yourself.’ Give people a reason to buy from you. Give yourself some emotional appeal. Make yourself part of a story… at least until human beings evolve to more rational beings!
This is not to suggest creating and demonstrating value is meaningless. It is meant to address the need for a balanced (using that word in this context seems odd to me) approach.

Your manager or company will ultimately not care if you made the sale because the prospect felt sorry for you, laughed at your joke or counted the most number of benefits in your service versus something else.