ProActive Selling

Control the Process--Win the Sale

 ProActive Selling

Author: William "Skip" Miller
Pub Date: August 2012
Print Edition: $17.95
Print ISBN: 9780814431924
Page Count: 240
Format: Paper or Softback
Edition: Second Edition
e-Book ISBN: 9780814431962

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SELLING. WHAT A PROFESSION. Why do so many people love selling so

much, whereas others hate even the thought of selling something? What

is it about the topic of selling that causes so many mixed emotions? Better

yet, why are some people so good at it, and others are always trying

to get it right?

They say successful salespeople can sell anything. They’re right.

They say successful salespeople are born, not made. They’re wrong.

Successful salespeople have five things in common:

1. They think like a customer.

2. They are proactive and always think one step ahead, and therefore

they pull to control the Buy/Sell process.

3. They have a natural curiosity. They ask. Great salespeople

do not have great answers . . . they have great


4. They qualify from a buyer’s perspective early and often. Yeses

are great, nos are great . . . maybes will kill you.

5. They use the right tool at the right time at the point of attack:

the sales call.

This is the second edition of ProActive Selling. The tools presented

in the first edition have stood the test of time. We’ve trained hundreds

of companies and tens of thousands of salespeople in all in-

dustries and all disciplines. The principles in this book apply to all

companies, whether the company had a $500 30-minute sales cycle or

whether the average sale was more than $1,000,000 and took one to

two years to complete. Companies in any domain or industry—hardware,

solutions, shoes, software, SaaS, cloud, products, HVAC, services,

and so forth—all have something in common: Salespeople who

qualify and control the Buy/Sell process usually win the deal.

In the years we’ve been doing sales and sales management training,

we’ve observed over and over again qualities in sales professionals and

the sales tools they use during a sales call that consistently set them

apart from the rest of the pack. ProActive Selling clearly identifies the

tools that successful salespeople use on a daily basis and presents them

for salespeople to use to add value in the way they are currently selling.

ProActive Selling is not another “sales process” book, nor is it about

“strategizing a sale.” There are too many books out there that define a

“new way of selling” or a “new sales methodology.” A salesperson will

likely get better results using his or her current, “ineffective” way than by

using those books.

Believe it or not, there is no one right way to sell. There are many different

approaches you can take to selling, and they are each very successful

in their own right.

However, what we need is a way to improve how we sell on each and

every sales call. You need to improve your sales skills and increase the

number of tools you use. ProActive Selling provides sales tools for the

your toolbox so that at the point of attack (i.e., the sales call), you can

feel you are fully armed, not just carrying a couple of bullets.

ProActive Selling describes what is going on in the buyer’s mind and

how you can use this information ProActively. It shows you how to use

the right tool at the right time so you can sell more effectively every time

you engage with a potential customer.

How Salespeople Sell the Right and the Wrong Way

There is a motto for ProActive salespeople, and it is: Tactics before

strategies within a process. It’s that simple. Successful salespeople sell

in a process. Within that process they should use tactics and then

combine them with a sales strategy, rather than strategize an account

and then implement tactics. It’s important to put the pieces of the

process in the right order, tactics before strategies, to be ProActive.

Otherwise, the customer controls the sale, and the salesperson is

forced into a reactive posture. Putting strategies first makes salespeople

reactive. Because their tactics are poor, they are getting poor information

in the development of their strategies. Putting tactics first

allows the salesperson to gather quality information during a sales

call so the strategy part of the sale has complete and competent


The number one reason salespeople lose an account is that they are

out of control of the sales process. Period. That’s worth saying again.

The number one reason a sale is lost is because the salesperson is not in

control of the Buy/Sell process. Salespeople will always claim the reason

they won a deal is because they were so smart, and that the reason they

lost a deal could be one of a host of other reasons, none of which are in

the salesperson’s control, of course.

What these salespeople don’t realize is that control of the Buy/Sell

cycle is the number one factor in determining whether a sale will be won

or lost, even above best fit of product or solution. In addition, this control

is totally the responsibility of the salesperson. Salespeople must

learn the tactics of how to control a sales process to increase their

chances for success

As a salesperson, you should feel free to combine the tactics and

tools of ProActive Selling with any of the strategic sales methodologies

you like to round out your selling experience. If you have only a strategic

piece of the sales puzzle, and then try to figure out the tactics to go

along with it, you may stumble at the point of attack. If you are armed

with tactics and the Buy/Sell process along with your own sales strategy,

you’ll increase your chance of success, dramatically.

In discussions we have had with senior sales management, we found

they all want the same things.

1. Shorter sales cycles: Shorten the sales process so more transactions

can be made per salesperson.

2. Better forecasts: Better quality and quantity of deals in the

pipeline—the ideal is 90+ percent accuracy in the 90-day

forecast, rather than the 50 to 60 percent accuracy they deal

with today.

3. Elimination of “maybe” or bad deals early in the cycle.

4. Control of the sale throughout the sales process, so value can

be sold instead of price.

5. Lower cost of sales while increasing the average selling price

(ASP) per order.

6. Implement a sales communication process into the sales

organization and the rest of the company.

7. Constantly increase the competencies in the sales team to take

the A players to A-plus status.

If you are a sales manager wrestling with these strategic issues day in

and day out, and want to help your staff understand how easily they can

be dealt with if they focus on the right things, then this is a book for you

as well. Instead of spending hours with a salesperson behind the scenes

dabbling in account strategies, you now have a better option.

Instead of working out the strategy before you get face to face with

the customer, you can have a major impact in all of the above issues if

you focus on the tactics of selling and help your sales staff focus on the

rule of putting tactics before strategies; it’s that straightforward.

ProActive Selling has twenty-seven tools for the salesperson to use

during the sales call in order to maintain control of the process. A sales

manager can use these same tools to make sure the salesperson is really

in control of the sale, at the point of attack, the sales call.

The Two-Dimensional Process of Selling

Most salespeople do not have a sales process. They think they do, but try

to have them describe it for you. Most salespeople can’t. Without a defined

sales process, salespeople can react only passively to customers.

Such reactive salespeople base their approach on:

Customer selling: The customer leads the sales process and

the salesperson follows.

Experience selling: This is the process of hoping that past experience

will lead to future success.

Catch-up selling: The competition directs the sale and then

you have to play catch-up all the time.

Bad sales manager selling: The sales manager enforces the

“do it like I did” methodology.

Situational selling: Every sales call is “on a wing and a


There’s a process of selling that’s more successful than most socalled

selling processes. It is two-dimensional; it not only has the selling

process covered, but also addresses the buying process. As you will find

out in Chapter 1, there is a very specific process in how people buy.

Salespeople are drilled on controlling the sales cycle, but without the

added dimension of understanding the buying cycle and matching the

salesperson’s selling process to the buyer’s buying process, they will not

be in control of the overall sales process.

Traditional Tactics Are Not Enough

Salespeople are given sales tactics early on in their careers. These tactics

may have included open probes/close probes, elevator speeches, and

closing techniques. These are all good skills, but they’re much too elementary

for today’s sales environment—and are one-dimensional. They

can’t be combined and leveraged with other skills throughout the life of

a sale. Most, if not all, sales efforts today put strategies before tactics.

Develop the strategic side of the sale, regardless of what the buyer wants

to do, and then push the customer through a one-dimensional sales

process. The heck with what the buyer wants to do; push that sales

process. This can be a successful approach, but it is very reactionary and

is missing the two-dimensional part of selling. It forgets about what the

customer wants to do. You can argue that all the homework (strategy) a

salesperson does is selling-centric. It focuses on how a salesperson plans

for a sales process, regardless of the selling tactics required to accomplish

the strategy and align with a buyer/seller sales cycle.

Putting tactics before strategies within a process implies that the

salesperson is thinking what is needed for the next step in the buyer/seller

relationship, and then fitting the tactics into a buyer’s strategy, which

after all is what the buyer is following. What tactics are needed to keep

control of the sale and convince the buyer that he or she should follow

the salesperson in an atmosphere of mutual discovery, which of course

salespeople need to lead? This buying-centric nature of selling, this

nonreactionary sales approach, and this buyer-first approach is the core

of ProActive Selling, since it is all about Buy/Sell tactics that fit into a


Finally, ProActive Selling works even better the higher up you go in a

buying organization. We all know the “trick” of calling high in a customer’s


But calling high is not the trick. Anyone can do that. The trick is

when you’re there, what do you say?

What do you say to have the senior-level executive (CEO, CIO, CFO,

COO, etc.) treat the salesperson as a value-add asset and to have the executive

stay engaged? How can you avoid the C-level executive sending

you down into the bowels of the organization from which it is nearly impossible

to get back up?

ProActive Selling addresses not only what salespeople have to say at

the CXO (Chief X-fill in the blank Officer) level, but gets them comfortable

in calling high and staying high, as well as being a value-add to the

senior-level executive. ProActive Selling is so good at the CXO level that

salespeople frequently find the senior executives of the account calling

them and asking the salesperson what they should do next.

Tactics before strategies in a two-dimensional selling model is what

ProActive Selling is all about. It’s what makes successful salespeople great.

That is, their attitude of:

Focusing on how people buy, not how you want to sell.

Focusing on the Buy/Sell process, not just the sales process.

Looking at the sale as a series of buyer-related steps.

Qualifying early in the process and then deciding if you want

to spend time with an account, rather than hoping the buyer

wants to spend time with you.

Taking control and having the buyer follow your lead.

Closing at the beginning of the process, not at the end. There

is no such thing as a great closer, or “great closing skills.”

Having the right tools at the right time for the right call.

By successfully reading and implementing the tactics and processes

in ProActive Selling, you will be able to:

Accomplish more in less time.

Be ProActive and anticipate the next sales step.

Motivate yourself to call successfully at all levels in the


Control the sales process. The salesperson who controls the

sales process . . . wins.

Get rid of maybes in your sales funnel.

Learn where to hunt and use your time most effectively.

Plan and utilize homework on the sales call.

Lower the overall cost of sales.

Increase the average selling price per order.

Create a powerful sales introduction on every sales call.

End every sales call and stay in complete control of the sale.

Understand the buyer’s motivational direction.

Master the seven qualification questions to call on the right

accounts all the time.

Speak the right language to the right level of buyer.

Change a maybe to a decision easily and effectively. (“Yes” is

best, but even “no” sure beats “maybe.”)

On a final note, we use the term prospect in this book rather freely.

When we refer to a “prospect,” we mean an individual or a group of individuals

who are chartered to make a purchase decision. It could be

anyone from an individual buying a new computer to a major corporation

working through a committee to make a decision on a new infrastructure

automation system. There are many differences at the strategic

level between these examples, but the buy process and the tools a salesperson

uses during the sales call are easily transferable.

For the most part, selling is selling, so ProActive Selling works if you

are selling a product, service, or tangible or intangible item. It works

when selling over the phone, over the Internet, face to face, or through

channels. The examples in the book are simple and easy, but you

shouldn’t think that ProActive Selling is effective only for simple sales situations.

The strategies of a sale can and do change based on what you are

selling, usually based on the size of the order and length of the sales cycle.

The tactics and process of a sale rarely change, regardless of the sale

size or length of a sale, since it all involves sales calls, which is what

ProActive Selling is here to make you better at. Good luck, and learn how

to better your sales skills. . . . ProActively.

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