By Rick Mullen
Maintenance Sales News Associate Editor
When Jim Pancero, who is an advanced sales and sales management training expert, finds himself sitting in first class on an airplane, he knows statistics from the frequent flyer program indicate there is an 80 percent chance the person next to him is in sales or a sales management position.
As Pancero tells it, “Whenever I get upgraded to first class, I turn to the person next to me and ask, ‘What do you do?’ The person most often says, ‘I’m in sales.’
“I ask him or her, how long have you been selling and what do you sell? After they tell me, I ask, ‘How much sales training have you had in the past 12 months?’ The average response I get on an airplane is, ‘I’ve been selling for 15 years.’ People tend to equate experience with training.
“So, I ask if he or she has had sales training. I often hear, ‘I’m experienced. I’m successful. Why do I need sales training?’”
Pancero told this story to a room full of attendees during an educational seminar at the ISSA/INTERCLEAN® North America 2014 trade show and convention in November in Orlando, FL.
“I’m assuming you are in this room because you are a principal, a senior executive or a CEO,” Pancero said. “The reality is we have more aggressive competitors in your industry, and new competitors (including non-traditional players in the jan/san segment, the Internet, etc.)”
Pancero referred to the Internet as an example of how the modern selling landscape has and continues to change.
“Today, a person can just ‘Google’ a product,” he said. “Look at how the whole selling arena has changed, and yet many sales people are still saying, ‘Well, I was trained 20 years ago, so why do I need it now?’”
Pancero’s presentation was titled “How to Coach and Train Your Sales Team in the Five Selling Skills That Can Best Increase Your Competitive Advantage.” During the seminar, he referenced a workbook by the same title, which can be downloaded from www.issa.com. Pancero has conducted an edcational session at 18 of the past 24 ISSA annual conventions, and is also scheduled to be a presenter in 2015.
Pancero outlined some skill sets and “tests” designed to help a company increase its competitive advantage.
“As a leader of a sales organization, what skills do you need from your team that would most increase your competitive advantage and your success?” Pancero asked those in attendance. “What I want to do is walk you through five skills and talk about why they are critical to a successful sales team.”
According to the workbook, the first skill is “sales consistency and professionalism.” The first “test” of this skill is to write down the steps of a sales call.
“Of all the sales people I meet, 95 percent cannot write down the steps of a sales call,” Pancero said.
As listed in the workbook, the five steps of a sales call are:
• Lower resistance;
• Ask questions and qualify; identify customer needs; learn/understand their environment; and qualify the relevance and appropriateness of your solution;
• Present your solution;
• Close. Where do we go from here? What happens now? What do we need to do next?; and,
• Agree to your next contact.
Pancero gave a little history lesson on when the steps of a sales call were first identified and published.
“The steps of a sales call were identified in 1925 in a book titled, ‘Birth of a Sales Person,’” Pancero said. “The Ford Motor Company was the first company to publish these steps. It was a revolutionary concept, because it defined structure to a process that nobody understood had structure. The steps of a sales call immediately became wildly popular and everybody copied them.”
Despite the popularity and reception the steps of a sales call have enjoyed, Pancero alluded to a problem in comparing what works in automotive sales to what works in selling jan/san products and services.
“In the process of selling a car, the final step is not agreeing to and setting up the next contact between the buyer and the car sales person — it is the close,” Pancero said. “When the steps were first published in 1925, they ended with the close. There was some follow-up and paperwork to clean up, but the call itself ended with the close.”
Pancero explained the sale of a car is an “event” sale. Sales in the jan/san industry typically fall under another category.
“Sales people do ‘process’ selling in the jan/san industry,” he said. “A sales person doesn’t call on customers just once, he or she calls on them forever. It is a process, however, if a sales staff is asked to write down the steps of a sales call, I’ll bet the last step they write down will be the close, even though it is not relevant to the industry.”
According to the workbook, the second skill is “thinking and planning multiple moves ahead, selling new business.”
“The second skill set involves working on ‘operational’ skills,” Pancero said. “Operational skills are a person’s personal persuasion skills. The knowledge of the steps of a sales call is an operational skill because it makes the sales person personally persuasive. Any kind of personality, flexibility or skill training is an operational skill. Also, technical industry knowledge is an operational skill, because it makes the sales person personally effective.”
Pancero suggested to audience members that they ask their sales people to write down what they do from the time an opportunity is identified to the closing of the sale.
In addition, Pancero said, “Ask your sales reps to list their best accounts. Also, ask, ‘What did you do on the first call to that account?’ Then ask, ‘What are you going to do on the second call on that account?’ Chances are you are not going to be happy with the answer.
“The most common answer I hear when I ask that question is whatever the sales person did on the first call is what he or she is going to do on the second call. Another common answer is, ‘I’m not going to know what to do on the second call until I see the outcome of the first call.’ These sales people are thinking one move ahead. Why is this a problem? If, in a game of chess, one player is thinking one move ahead, while the second player is thinking two moves ahead, the second player will win every game.”
Higher, Wider And Deeper
Pancero said rectifying “one-call” thinking depends on developing a proactive plan to get “higher, wider and deeper” with customers to increase a company’s competitive edge.
Without such a plan in place, Pancero said, sales forces tend to be reactive, rather than proactive in their sales methods.
“I tell sales people, we don’t need firefighters, we need arsonists,” he said.
Moreover, without a defined, proactive process, sales people tend to go about their jobs, “free-forming” and “shooting from the hip,” as Pancero described their methods.
“As the sales person reinvents the process each time for a new customer, when something goes wrong, there is nothing to learn, because no consistent process was followed,” he said.
For example, if a company devises a six-step proactive process designed to give it a competitive edge and then something goes wrong, there is a structure in place that can be studied and adjusted.
“Maybe we need to add a tool here or add a step there to neutralize what happened,” Pancero said. “With a plan in place, now even a loss has value, because it helps to improve the process.”
The third skill is “thinking and planning multiple moves ahead with your support of your most important customers,” according to the workbook.
The third set involves “tactical” skills, Pancero said, which include processes and/or structures. For example, how to manage and support an account from January 1 to December 31 is a multiple-step, tactical structure or process.
“One of the things I’ve observed is the reactive nature of sales reps,” Pancero said. “If I tell a sales rep I am ready to buy, he or she will be my best friend. After I buy and sign a contract, what happens? When does the sales rep come back? The answer is about a month before the contract comes up for renewal.
“The questions to ask are, ‘What is the plan to support your most important accounts when there is no major new opportunity in play? What is your plan to maintain support of your accounts?’
“When I ask that question, I get the same three answers. The first answer is people tell me how often they call on customers. They visit a customer on a regular basis every two to six weeks and ask him or her four questions — Anything you need? Anything coming up? Anything I can help with? How’s the family? They go to the next customer and ask, anything you need? Anything coming up? Anything I can help with? How’s the family? Then the sales people come back and say, ‘Boss, everything is stable. Nobody needs anything. My customers are locked in.’”
The second answer Pancero most often receives from sales reps is they have usually planned only one social activity during the year to help “bond” with a client.
The third answer is to the question, “Anything else?” The answer, Pancero said, is “no.”
“These are the three answers sales people give. They will tell me how frequently they call on customers — ‘I stop every four weeks to see if they need anything.’ They will tell me the social event they have planned in August to build a relationship, right before the contract ends. And then the third response only focuses on what they will personally be doing for the account. No one else helping this customer is usually ever mentioned by the rep.
“This scenario is a ‘Lone Ranger’ without a sales strategy as a ‘Tonto.’ Isn’t it amazing that, in the eyes of the sales rep, there is nobody else in the company who can help this customer. There is a sales mantra that says, ‘If you want it done right, do it yourself.’ How many people have this attitude? By not using his or her support team, about 30 percent of a sales person’s effectiveness is taken away doing service work that could easily be done by others. A sales person could spend this time selling if he or she trusted the support team. This is something a company needs to work on, as trust cannot be forced.”
The fourth skill set is “connecting within your most important accounts,” according to the workbook.
“The fourth skill set is strategic. Strategic deals with a company’s philosophy, approach, positioning and branding,” Pancero said. “Branding is predictability. The more predictable a company, the stronger its brand — this is a philosophy; this is a position.”
Pancero pointed out that 90 percent of all sales training done these days is on product knowledge, which he thinks is a problem found in the entire jan/san industry.
“Of the 10 percent of training that is left, 90 percent of that 10 percent is on attitude and operational skills,” he said. “If sales people have had any training, it most likely has been on how to ask questions, how to present, how to close, steps of a sales call, how to sell value against a low price — all this operational stuff.
“Here’s the problem, I don’t know of an industry that I can name where operational excellence gives a company a competitive edge. It does not exist. Operational excellence just makes a business competitive, it doesn’t give it an edge.”
Pancero asked the attendees how many of their customers have said, “You are higher priced, but I have to buy from you, because that was a perfect sales call?”
He added: “The reality is operational excellence makes a company competitive, but it doesn’t give it a competitive edge. A competitive edge comes from tactics, controlled processes, thinking more moves ahead than competitors, strategy, philosophy, positioning and communicating a business’ uniqueness. These are problems areas where most companies lack training.”
Pancero said a company’s profitability and sales force’s skill would not be increased by making the “perfect” sales call.
“Tactics and strategy are critical, but most people are not training on these topics,” Pancero said.
Because many companies do not have programs or the tools in place to train on tactics and strategy, their sales people tend to develop their own methods, according to Pancero.
“In these cases, when a customer buys from a sales rep, that company’s service people have no idea why the customer bought from them in the first place. They don’t know how to support the sale, because each sales rep is making this stuff up as he or she goes along,” Pancero said.
Another question Pancero suggested attendees put to their sales team is how are they going to get “higher, wider and deeper” into their accounts?
“‘Higher’ means calling on executives who can actually pay for stuff,” Pancero explained. “‘Wider’ is calling on other departments to understand what is happening and to understand the culture of a client’s company. It asks the question, ‘How we can provide more value or do something unique that is different from our competition.’
“‘Deeper’ indicates we are going down to the front-line users to understand them, which provides a perfect indicator if there are any challenges or concerns.”
A scenario is often played out that a company’s sales rep has not developed a trust for his or her support team. Furthermore, the sales person does not have a strategy to get higher, wider and deeper with his or her clients. In such a case, Pancero posed the following question, “What if this sales rep’s only contact in a company goes away or changes?”
“How many of your top accounts are one car wreck away from being lost?” Pancero asked the audience. “The average answer I get is 50 percent.”
Pancero asked what would happen if a company’s only contact at a client’s business suddenly dies or is replaced.
“All of a sudden it is like a new prospect for your company,” Pancero said. “It doesn’t matter that you have sold to them for 10 years. There is now a new person in charge and that person asks, ‘Why do I want to buy from you? We’ve done business with you in the past, but what are you going to do for me now? Show me what you got?’
“You are back to ground zero with this account, because there were no past efforts to get higher, wider and deeper.”
Another factor in training a sales staff on how to get higher, wider and deeper has to do with learning the lingo and subject matters that are associated with each level. Pancero drew the parallel between operational, tactical and strategic skills with the three levels in a company associated with the concept of higher, wider and deeper.
Pancero said most sales reps are “one-trick ponies” in that they mostly know about, and talk, products. However, when getting “deeper” with front-line users, the majority of the focus is going to be in the “operational” skills area. Likewise, “tactical” skills relate to the “wider” aspect, as the majority of a department head’s work is going to be tactical — what to do if a guy doesn’t show up for work today, for example.
When going “higher,” a sales rep needs to understand that an owner’s or CEO’s main concern is where their company is going to be in five years. A CEO or owner is going to want to know how the sales rep can contribute to the company’s competitive edge and help financially.
“Ask your people what they say to an owner of a company, compared to what they say to a purchasing agent,” Pancero urged attendees. “Many of them will not be able to tell you the difference. When it comes to how to get higher, wider and deeper, we must teach sales people that at each level the language is different. The topics of discussion and the hot-button issues of organizations are all different.”
The fifth skill, as outlined in the workbook, is “communicating a stronger message of competitive positioning, value and uniqueness.” It attempts to answer the question, “Why, based on the alternatives available to me, do I want to buy from you?”
“I find this is the toughest single question in selling,” Pancero said. “A sales rep begins talking with a prospect, who says, ‘You are the third vendor I have talked to about this stuff this week. Based on all the competitive alternatives available to me, why do I want to buy from you?’”
Part of what has traditionally made it difficult for many companies to define and establish a consistent, unified message on their competitive positioning, value and uniqueness has been what Pancero calls the “Baby Boomer” model.
“The Baby Boomer model for most companies refers to a sales force, in which each person has his or her own style, like independent ‘gunfighters,’” Pancero said. “Most Baby Boomer sales people view selling like a game of tennis. They might have a coach on the side, but when they walk out onto the court to play, they are on their own.
“What happens is, because the company has never worked on it, each sales person has developed his or her own message of why people want to buy from them. Therefore, every customer brought in can’t be supported, because no one really knows why they bought in the first place. Secondly, the reason a customer made a purchase might run completely counter to a company’s beliefs.”
10 Steps To Strengthening Message Of Competitive Uniqueness
The workbook outlines in more detail the following 10 steps to strengthening a company’s sales team’s message of competitive uniqueness:
• Agreement — You are not in a price driven market;
• Identification — Your uniqueness and competitive edge will no longer likely come from your products, but from your support organization to help your customers increase their utilization and ease of using your products.
“I can’t think of an industry today where products are a competitive advantage,” Pancero said. “It just doesn’t exist. Remember when Apple phones were a competitive edge because they were so unique? This is no longer the case.”;
• Build a team list — Write on a flip chart pad or white board the major points to answer a customer or prospect asking, “Why, based on all the competitive alternatives available to me, do I want to buy from you?”;
• Put your completed “Why buy” list through the four consistent problems or tests of your uniqueness message (outlined in the program workbook);
• Discuss the “Four Core Values” and how they apply to your organization;
• Discuss as a team how you can repackage your value and uniqueness into one consistent message delivered by all members of your team;
• Test your message to ensure you are moving in the correct direction;
• Discuss your expectations of how much of your message you expect each member of your team to be able to communicate;
• Work with all members of your team to learn and consistently communicate your new message of value and uniqueness to all prospects and customers; and,
• Monitor your customers and competitors to ensure your message continues to accurately communicate your competitive value and uniqueness.
“Invoke your leadership. Baby Boomers are phasing out,” Pancero told the audience. “Value is you, as a leader of your sales team, putting the direction, the message, and the tools in place to increase your company’s competitive edge.”
Times are constantly changing, and the younger generation often approaches its job differently than its older counterparts.
“When you were 10 to 14 years old, what sports did you play and in what environment,” Pancero asked. “If you are a Baby Boomer, I’ll bet it was all neighborhood play. Somebody had a bat, somebody had a ball and you had a game.
“If you are about 30 years old, what sports did you play when you were 10 to 14? I’ll bet whatever sport it was, it involved a uniform, a coach and a team. There wasn’t as much independent play for the next generation of workers coming into the marketplace.
“‘Boomer’ law was to ignore everybody. Leave Boomers alone and watch them create magic. There was no team. Now all of a sudden, the sons and daughters of Boomers are joining a sales team, and what’s their first question? It is, who is the coach? The second is, where is the uniform, and the third is, where is the team?”
Contact: Jim Pancero, Inc.,
2006 Robin Hill Lane, Carrollton, TX 75007.