Channel Partners

March 1, 2000

6 Min Read
The Pitch: Lampooned Telemarketing Still Effective

Posted: 04/2000

Unifying the Newly Merged Sales Force
By Kevin Davis

or a recently merged organization to achieve its growth goals, it must analyze its sales force’s skills to determine what it lacks. Then it can create a unified sales force by installing a common selling language, which delivers a single message to its customers.

Failure to do this can confuse customers, depress sales, erode customer loyalty–and delight your competitors.

Analyze Your Current Condition

Your decision to merge likely was based on your vision of increased value the new company could provide and create. Once the company has been redesigned, is it time to analyze your sales process to determine whether it is capable of achieving your new goals?

You need to ask: What are your customers’ priorities? Where do your customers allow you to make a profit? How must your salespeople sell to gain profitable market share? What type of skills will your salespeople need to win over more of these “profit-laden” customers? What skills do your salespeople possess now?

A merger brings together sales organizations that have different cultures, often a varied commitment to learning and different levels of sophistication.

For example, one recently merged company, with whom we are working, has salespeople skilled at “going for the throat.” The problem is that if the company is to achieve its full potential, its salespeople must become more consultative.

They must learn to sell value-added solutions, not just products–because solution sales and the resulting spin-off revenue are higher margin sales.

To help our client identify best consultative sales practices, we conducted a series of “Behavior Analysis Brainstorm Sessions.” We brought together peak performers and facilitated a discussion of consultative sales task analysis.

By documenting the results, we identified model behavior–the specific knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for salespeople to maximize new market opportunities. Next, working closely with our client, we customized our consultative sales training materials and delivered the skill-building workshops.

Install a Common
Language of Selling

Years ago, as a telecom equipment sales manager, I sent a memo to all my salespeople asking them to describe our company’s sales process. No two responses were alike.

Table: The Buy-Learning Process & Sales Roles that Match the

If you sent a similar memo to your salespeople, how many different answers would you receive?

It doesn’t matter who you are, if your sales force fails to provide a consistent message but gives conflicting signals, you erode your name and for what you stand. Without a unified selling system, recently merged firms may find they’re fielding bands of “selling nomads,” salespeople that complicate, rather than simplify, clients’ lives.

This is particularly true when a firm has national accounts with multiple client locations, and multiple salespeople calling on that account. Varying communication styles, standards and levels of expertise can cause clients to go elsewhere if another firm is more coherent and efficient in its approach.

The most progressive telecommunications firms must create a new sales culture superior to predecessors. The successfully merged sales force will have shared standards of value, customer responsiveness and communication systems.

For instance, IKON Office Solutions
(, a leading supplier of technology products, had purchased 85 office equipment dealerships throughout North America, each with its own corporate culture, psychology and approaches to selling.

Commitment to sales training and sophistication in sales technique varied widely, with one unit providing sales training only to those who survived 10 months on the job.

A leading provider of technology products and services, with more than $5 billion in sales, IKON wanted to maximize market opportunity with a highly skilled, unified, customer-driven sales force. Its vision is to strengthen customer relationships by teaching salespeople to sell solutions, not products.

I was asked to work with the company to customize our consultative sales and sales management training programs to create the new “IKON Selling Process” for its 6,000-person sales team.

IKON’s customers likely are similar to yours; more sophisticated, more cost-conscious, and less loyal. They don’t like cookie-cutter sales techniques, and they’re sick and tired of the “self-focused product pusher with commission breath.”

Sophisticated Seller

To grow sales, salespeople must be more sophisticated, too.

Much of my work with telecommunications equipment and service providers has centered on helping salespeople diagnose each sales opportunity from the customer’s perspective, then tailor their selling style to each individual sales situation. In essence, salespeople learn how to become partners in the customer’s buying process.

Many telecom salespeople with whom I’ve worked think primarily in terms of the steps of the sale; i.e., approach, identify needs, present and close. The consequence is that they think too much about themselves and not enough about the customer.

On the other hand, salespeople who modify their approach to focus on the steps of the purchase–what’s going on inside the customer’s head–are perceived as more consultative and persuasive.

Research shows that when people feel a need to buy but sense the risk of making a mistake, they will engage in a rational buying process that unfolds in eight predictable steps, which salespeople can anticipate: change, discontent, research, comparison, fear, commitment, expectations and satisfaction.

Customer needs, and on how they should be sold, change from step to step.

Having the ability to determine where individual decision makers are in the buying process, and to sell in sync with that process, gives salespeople a powerful skill that can pay big dividends.

Salespeople are less likely to waste time with low-level decision makers and overlook key behind-the-scenes decision makers. They become more capable of communicating your company’s value in the customer’s terms.

Salespeople become more professional, strategic thinkers. They become more adept at identifying needs and differentiating your company’s services.

Last but not least, you have a system for analyzing sales opportunities, coaching and carrying out customer-focused strategies.

The Elite Eight

To support customers in their buying process, I suggest adopting eight sales roles:

* The student studies the change affecting customers and opens closed doors;

* The doctor diagnoses the customer’s discontent and uncovers needs that may not have been considered;

* The architect designs unique solutions that simplify the customer’s research and provide a good solution;

* The coach compares the offering to the competition’s and helps the client win;

* The therapist draws out the customer’s last-minute fears and helps to resolve them;

* The negotiator discusses to identify any other details that need resolution to reach mutual commitment;

* The teacher shows the customer how to maximize value;

* The farmer cultivates satisfaction and grows the account.

After working with this system, IKON has reported excellent results from their newly aligned sales force. Jim Lee, National Sales Trainer for IKON’s Business Document Services division says, “We are finding that within six months of attending the training, existing account managers are producing personal record sales months. In addition, new-hire graduates are ramping up to expected revenue levels 30 percent faster, on average. In many cases, 50 percent to 60 percent is not uncommon.”

Going the Same Direction

Your newly merged company now is headed in a new direction, but your sales force may not be headed in the same direction. The problem is, from most prospects’ and customers’ perspectives, your salespeople are your company.

You can get your sales force in sync with your new corporate strategy by analyzing your sales force’s existing skills and installing a new common sales language.

When you do, you’ll give your competition fits!

Kevin Davis teaches sales and sales management training seminars based on 25 years of corporate sales, sales management and training experience, including many in the telecom industry. He is the author of Getting Into Your Customer’s Head. For a free report, “Overcoming the Fifteen Biggest Mistakes

in Sales,” call +1 888 545 SELL, or contact him at Kevin Davis Selling Systems (

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