ProActive Selling: Control the Process-Win the Sale

ProActive Selling: Control the Process-Win the Sale

by William Skip Miller

ISBN: 9780814431924

Publisher AMACOM

Published in Business & Investing/Marketing & Sales

Are you an AUTHOR? Click here to include your books on

Sample Chapter

ProActive Selling: Having the Right Tools at the Right Time to Be a Step Ahead

IT WAS THE END OF AN IMPORTANT MEETING. Brad had spent weeks getting this meeting together so he and his company could be included in the client company's evaluation. He had just made a presentation to the customer's senior management team and was very pleased with how it went.

"Brad, this looks very, very interesting to us," the senior vice president said, "and we like what we see. Why don't you call on Kurt and Seline, who are heading up this selection, and start working with them? They have been at this for a few weeks, and you should be considered along with the other people we are looking at right now."

Brad is certainly excited. He is happy with the way the presentation went, and the senior vice president is now telling him what he should do next. This follows the old sales rule that if you just do what the prospect tells you to do, and you do it well, then the order will follow. Right? Wrong!

If Brad does what the senior vice president wants him to do, he loses control of the sale, which puts him at a disadvantage. Remember the Law of Sales Control.


The buyer is always neutral. If you are not in control of the sale, and the buyer is neutral, then someone else is in control, and it is usually the competition. (And that competition could be an alternate choice of action, such as to do nothing, spend the money elsewhere, delay the process, or even another competitor. Anything that prevents you from getting an order is competition.)

Brad needs to stay in control of this meeting (and we give you a tool, Summarize, Bridge, and PullTool, that will help you do exactly this; see Chapter 5). He has to identify the next step and have the customer agree to it, not just do what the senior vice president tells him to do. Senior executives want to be guided just like lower level people in the buyer's organization. They just give you very little time to take control, since they are used to having it. They will give up control, however, if you have a planned-out next step that makes sense to them and is seen as helpful to them.

"Mr. Henry, that's a very good idea, bringing Kurt and Seline into this process. It sounds like we have had a good meeting today. You've stated your desire to increase capacity by 10 percent in your current channels while keeping costs constant. You've also stated you want to have a solution in place by the end of the year. We have brought to light some solutions that may be very appealing, so I think we have had a good meeting today, would you agree?"

"Yes, I would say so."

"Great. A good next step then would be for us to get together with Kurt and Seline to really dig into the business issues that are driving you right now on this decision, as well as getting together with you to discuss the overall risks to you and the business strategy by the end of next week. You will then be in a good position from a technical as well as a financial perspective to make a decision if you should continue to go forward with this process. Does this sound like a good next step to you?"

By using the Summarize, Bridge, and Pull tool, Brad stayed in control of this sale. He has now been ProActive, not reactive, and has increased his chances of getting this sale.

Tool-Based ProActive Selling

What happened here? What went on during this sales call? Isn't it common for a salesperson to get excited during a sale when the customer gives direction on what to do next, especially if it is a senior manager? All too often, the best sales strategy is planned out before the call, and then during the sales call, the salesperson makes a mistake and loses control. If Brad does what the senior executive asked him to do, that is, talk to Kurt and Seline next, Brad will be spending much more time adjusting the sales strategy with his sales manager than building his selling tactics around the new strategy. He will be in a reactive sales mode and will be hoping that the customer selects him and his company as the winning vendor. He will also be hoping to see the senior manager again at some time during the process. Hope is a good thing, but not in sales. Putting strategies in front of tactics results in merely hoping for a good outcome, and is the wrong approach.

Instead of just hoping for the best, salespeople need to develop a toolbox of selling tools, so that when they make their pitch, they can execute their sales tactics flawlessly. The strategic part of selling comes later.

Brad used the Summarize, Bridge, and Pull tool as a tactic to keep the Buy/Sell process under his control. By mastering his sales tools, Brad was able to keep this deal alive and own the Buy/Sell process.

When all is said and done, the salesperson who owns the process owns the deal. Keeping in control of the process is the hard part, especially if you don't have the tools to do the job correctly. ProActive Selling has twenty-seven sales tools that you can use during the sales call to establish, recover from, and maintain control of the sales process. These will help you to increase the chances a deal will go your way and minimize the chances you will hear a no, or worse, a maybe.

The Customer's Perspective

Successful salespeople understand the buyer's as well as the seller's perspective. They understand that the most critical element in a sale is the prospect, since the prospect is the one who is placing the order, will be using the product/service, and will be paying for it. It's the buyer's value proposition, not the salesperson's value proposition, that is really important.

If you can't address the prospect's value position, your sales message will be loaded down with information the buyer is not interested in.

Here are some examples of poorly constructed sales messages that center around the "salesperson's value proposition":

"It is very important for us right now to succeed. For us to make that happen, the customer needs to understand our new value proposition."

"We have to be extremely clear in our value proposition to our potential clients."

"We have to lead with our value statements, then get into the rest of the presentation."

Have you ever heard anything so one-sided? The truth is, prospects couldn't care less about your value proposition. What they care about is their value proposition—the value they are supplying to their customers.

If you take the perspective of the customers in the value proposition theory, you will find out how your product or service will help make them money and help them become more competitive. The real value proposition is taking the prospect's perspective of value they need to supply to their customers, as well as yours.

The buyer's perspective in the Buy/Sell process is the key missing element in most sales processes. It's vital that you understand the perspective of the prospect as well as the seller. This is the basic sales premise you will start with, and then learn ProActive sales tools to assist you in controlling that process.

What Is a Buy/Sell Process?

As you read this book, you will find that the Buy/Sell sales process is different from what you may be used to, since we are asking you to think like a buyer as well as a seller.

So, just for a moment, forget everything you know about how you should sell. Forget about selling methodologies, selling processes, or how you go through a sales cycle. Instead, think like a buyer.

A little reflection shows there is a process in how people buy. If you can define that process, you can understand where a prospect is headed and what steps they are taking to get there. Because you know where the prospect is going, you can then be a step ahead and pull the prospect through their buying process. You can control the prospect's buying process. You don't have to guess at all.

If you understand the process of how a prospect moves to a purchase decision, you can be ProActive. You can be a step ahead and pull the prospect to the next step along the way—pulling, not pushing, the sale. When you pull, you are in control. When you pull, you are pulling the control to you. When you push, you wind up pushing control away. And remember, no one likes a pushy salesperson—ever!

A prospect goes through a number of different steps in a buying process (see Figure 1-1), each with its own unique set of requirements.

Step 1: Initial Interest

The first step in the buying process is for prospects to have an Initial Interest.

People can be interested in many things.

"I'm interested in buying a new car."

"I'm interested in a new TV."

"I need to buy a new machine for the factory floor."

"I am interested in looking at a consulting service right now."

"I need an answer to a current problem I have."

Although important, interests are not enough for the buyer to make a purchase or actually to do something. It's when the prospect is motivated to do something about that interest that he or she starts a buying process. Motivation is the difference between being interested and needing or desiring something; it has motion, and it starts to have a life of its own. Motivation is the prospect's reason for taking action. Initial Interest is more than just interest; it is motivation driving a need or desire.

A motivated prospect will start some action, but how can you motivate a prospect? How motivated is the prospect to begin with? How can you get a prospect to see she has a need for what your product or service can do for her?

Salespeople use several "sales" techniques to motivate their clients to buy:

* Find the pain.

* Press their hot button.

* Instill fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD factor).

* Appeal to value and Return on Investment (ROI).

* Identify the real need.

* Have them understand the value proposition.

It's hard to argue with these techniques, but they don't adequately address a buyer's motivation.

There are two motivators that affect human behavior: pain and pleasure. Therefore most people, and buyers are people, orient their behavior around the avoidance of pain or the obtainment of pleasure.

In sales, you are really not interested in motivation per se, since by itself, without a need, motivation is stagnant and has no time definition or motion, two critical elements of selling. So motivation with a need is still not very useful to a salesperson without a time and motion element. What is useful to a salesperson is motivational direction.

Motivational direction directly addresses the pain/pleasure motivation of a prospect. It covers the avoidance part of pain, which we will call AWAY, and the attainment part of pleasure, which we will call TOWARDS. TOWARDS and AWAY are what salespeople are really interested in during the Initial Interest part of the buy process (see Figure 1-2).


Prospects are either "TOWARDS buyers" or "AWAY buyers." For the most part, this is absolute. They tend either to move away from pain or towards pleasure, and how they are motivated affects their buying patterns. How do you find out whether someone is a TOWARDS or AWAY buyer? Listen to what they tell you.

AWAY buyers will always have that negative spin. They will tell you what motivates them is the avoidance of something. When asked a question like, "Why would you buy a new TV?" AWAY buyers would respond:

"The old one just isn't working right."

"It doesn't have the features on it I need."

"It doesn't interface to the Internet."

"My old one is pretty well shot."

"I am tired of looking at such a small screen."

All focused on the negative part of the sale. AWAY people are moving away from something, usually away from some sort of pain.

"I am an AWAY buyer. Don't tell me how great something is, or how much more use I will get out of something, because I do not care! I will agree with your logic, but it will not motivate me. Tell me what I can't have, won't get, or will lose by not having, and you have my attention."

The prospect who is a TOWARDS buyer would have a very different reaction to the same question.

"I like the new features."

"I like the looks of it."

"It will fit great in my living room."

"I want to watch my movies on a big screen."

"I want to feel the action in my living room."

There's nothing negative about their responses. Instead, they identify all positive, forward-moving reasons, and this marks the characteristics of a TOWARDS buyer. They don't express any thoughts on the previous product, but rather focus on the desirable features of the new one.

"I am a TOWARDS buyer. I have to have the latest, coolest thing. My old one ... geez, let me think ... I don't even remember if I have an old one."

There is one other type of buyer who tries to evade the question. When asked, "Why would you want a new TV?" these buyers respond with comments like:

"I just want one."

"I need one."

"I don't know, I just have to have one."

For this type of buyer, you need to ask again gently, "Why would you really buy one? When it comes down to it, why would you buy a new TV?" They usually then really search their feelings and tell you their reasons. Nine times out of ten, they will give you an AWAY reason.

Here's a story from my own life that perfectly illustrates AWAY motivation.

Many years ago, I had an old Mercedes Benz. It was well over ten years old, and I was thinking about getting a new car. People would come up and tell me about new features certain cars had, and how one car had a new this or a new that, and I really agreed with their logic. Even so, I was not motivated to do anything about it.

Then one day, my brother came up to me and said I needed a new car. I assured him I was looking but had not seen a reason to buy something other than what I already had. His comment to me was that I should not care about those other reasons either.

The reason he offered for why I should buy a new car was that the car I owned was starting to look old, and quite frankly, I was starting to look old in that old car.

Me? Looking old? In my car?

I started to drive past retail store windows to see if in fact the car was starting to look old, or if I was starting to look old in the car. It didn't matter what I thought; the damage was done. I didn't want to start looking old in an old car! Within thirty days, I bought a new car.

Psychologically, between 70 and 80 percent of the world's population is AWAY. One hundred percent of your company's sales literature is TOWARDS. It's no wonder that the TOWARDS sales literature that pronounces the latest and greatest features and functions about your product or service quickly becomes trash basket fodder for senior salespeople. But if sales and marketing people tell customers what they won't get, can't have, can avoid doing—they will get the attention of 70+ percent of the audience.

Although the vast majority of your prospects are AWAY buyers, don't forget to also find the pleasure (TOWARDS). Twenty percent of the buyers are TOWARDS, early adopters, and they have no concept of "finding the pain." They have a vision, a mission, a path they are on, and they need those TOWARDS reasons. You want to be able to sell to buyers with both types of motivational direction.

Additionally, when buyers transfer ownership (see Chapter 10, Validate), they need TOWARDS reasons to do so. TOWARDS reasons and statements do have a place with AWAY buyers ... just not in Step 1: Initial Interest.

Play the odds tip: If 80 percent of buyers are AWAY at the Initial Interest stage, then make sure you have more AWAY words and questions than TOWARDS words and questions in your e-mails, voice mails, and introductions at prospecting meetings. Place these words by your phone so you have access to these buyer motivational drivers.

Why is this important? Because, you'll never guess what customers are trying to do. They are not trying to buy your products or solution, that's for sure. You want to know what they are trying to do? Ready? OK, here goes—customer's mission statement!

Buyers are interested in many things. Based on how they prioritize and are motivated over time, their motivational direction to do something about it will determine whether their interest level is high enough for them to continue their movement and to go to the next phase, called Educate.


Excerpted from "ProActive Selling: Control the Process-Win the Sale" by William Skip Miller. Copyright © 0 by William Skip Miller. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Thanks for reading!

Join BookDaily now and receive featured titles to sample for free by email.
Reading a book excerpt is the best way to evaluate it before you spend your time or money.

Just enter your email address and password below to get started:


Your email address is safe with us. Privacy policy
By clicking ”Get Started“ you agree to the Terms of Use. All fields are required

Instant Bonus: Get immediate access to a daily updated listing of free ebooks from Amazon when you confirm your account!

Author Profile

Amazon Reviews