The Fairytale Of The Salesman

Once upon a time, in a forgotten forest land, there was a man. His name was Mr Salesman and his job was to find People that would give him their last money they had.

Salesman horror fairytale

It was a time when People believed in what Mr Salesman (and other Mr Salesmen too) was saying. They believed they would get values Mr Salesman was talking about. If he mentioned it at all, of course. The truth was, most Mr Salesmen were not talking about any value at all.

Still, they wanted Peoples’ last money.

In an ever-increasing demand world, Mr Salesman didn’t get into any problem getting Peoples’ money, because People were believing in him. Mr Salesman got rich and high bonuses were adding up on his bank account.

Times went by and nothing was changed. Maybe, after some decades, Mr Salesman recognized he had to put a bit effort to persuade People to give him the money, but that was not really any problem since Mr Salesman was pretty good at lying. The Salesman developed great skills to use lies in all situations, where People was questioning him and most of the times he, finally, got Peoples’ last money anyhow.

Still, no value was delivered as exchange for the money.

After some more decades (yes, decades! People was still giving their last money for no real value), People was thinking: Am I alone just giving my last money away for no value? People was not. So People started to ask for the promised values. Mr Salesman had skills to lie, remember?

Still, People was asking for value.

Actually, this was not really a problem for Mr Salesman either. By this time, many more People had asked for value and many Mr Salesmen had faced People asking for the same thing (value. I told you!). Some Mr Salesmen thought: Hmm. This was a great business idea, to help Mr Salesmen to become better liars. So, Mr Salesman went to school and after some Sales Training Classes he was ready.

Still, he was able to persuade People to give him their last money.


Then, suddenly, a huge monster appeared on the stage; Mr Internet. Ehhh, it was not just a blitz moment, but rather a sneaky (or as Mr Salesman said: a creepy) event. After just some years, People didn’t go to Mr Salesman with their last money. Instead People trusted Mr Internet. Mr Internet gave People all information they needed for free. Mr Salesman was upset. When he reached out to receive “his” money, no People was answering his calls. Mr Salesman started to feel a bit chilly at first, then ice cold. Even smart new tools like digital letters (they called it e-mail marketing, today just spam) – promising at first – but soon just as cold as phone to get in touch with People.

Still, Mr Salesman needed Peoples’ last money. So, Mr Salesman started to lie even more.


But then, a new tremendous monster entered the scene: Mr Social Media. Mr Social Media was expert on viral things, you know. If things went bad or well, Mr Social Media was there to tell anybody who was following him. You may think of Mr Salesman’s lies? Well, they went viral at the same moment the button was hit.

When Mr Salesman didn’t get Peoples’ last money, he faded away. It took some years, but now he’s gone. Forever. I promise, he won’t come back.


Still, People need value. They need value more than ever. They need help. They need information. They need expertise. They need advise. They need all you Mr Experts out there, by their side!

What are you waiting for? To become a part of the horror fairytale with the sad end? Or write your own successful saga?




Do you know your sales costs to reach your sales plan?

In an industrial society, sales costs were negligible. Sales was easy to perform when demand was ever-increasing and focus was on how to produce as efficient as possible to meet demand. Now, the paradigm shift is happening with full power where customer is the new king, leading to exploding competition and harder to sell. Not only new competitors through globalization have seen the daylight, but also new methods like e-commerce gain market share at the expense of human based sales forces.

For those organizations that stick with their sales force, sales costs are peaking. The problem is that they just don’t know how to attack them. To decrease cost, companies use the first weapon they see – to fire sales reps. That’s because salary is the only clear choice there are. But at the same time they do, revenues decrease as well.

My standpoint is, firing healthy sales reps is a totally wrong action. Why?

Because the cost of sales salary is minor compared to sales overhead costs. Before, in an industrial society, a product calculation consisted almost only of costs that directly could be connected to a specific product, such as salary for workshop workers and material needed for producing the product. All overhead costs, like the cost for sales, were very small compared with production salaries and direct material costs.

Now, in a post-industrial society, the situation is the reverse. Overhead costs, such as sales costs, are in many cases dominating the product calculation. Many products have over 80% defined just as “overhead costs”.

So, firing a sales rep for the reason of cost is not an efficient way to improve your sales department. To decrease your sales costs, you need to get into those “sales overhead costs” to really understand how to improve.

The challenge is that these overhead sales costs are hidden by a “cost fog” with no or very little transparency. But it shouldn’t be that way. I’m involved in the expertscenario initiative which propose a solution to remove the overhead fog and providing a way for your organization to implement continuous improvements and, finally, be able to attack the massive overhead costs.

sales overhead costs

The initiative, with methods like Post-Industrial Accounting Models and Management Models can be applied to all areas in your company, as well as value chain. Overhead sales costs are just one example. To make this example as clear as possible, the initiative has created an app where you may put in your sales plan – such as target revenue, average order size, no of sales reps, hitrate etc – and simulate your sales costs by the process stages Lead, Appointment and Quote, to fulfill your plan. You may also get into the details for each of the stages, to see how sales costs are distributed on different sales tasks, like meeting time, travel time, quote creation, segment prospect database, sales review etc. Very useful to start changing how to work with things in your sales process.

A certain sales plan gives specified costs not only per process stage, but also updates your product calculation, so are able to see how profitable (or not) your current products are, with sales overhead costs taken into account.

sales costs

The app is not yet launched, but you may get a great feeling how it will be working in a preview.

The app, as well as the models the expertscenario initiative provides, removes uncertainties about what costs that truly affect achievement of your sales plan. In the same perspective, you cannot overlook investments you do within your sales organization either. It may be investments in “soft” refinement such as strategy, process, human resources, CRM etc. Today, most of these investments are accounted upfront – the entire investment the first year – as an overhead lump sum. Instead, the right thing to do would be to spread the investment on several years the investment contribute to the value for the sales organization.

A clear picture of what sales costs you really have is still covered by the overhead fog. Why this is done, I don’t really know, but one clue is the fact that people sometimes don’t like to be measured too much. Better then, thinks leaders, to just spray those costs over entire organization than actually get the picture of what’s working and what’s not.

Believe it or not. It’s soon 2018…and still we are hiding from the scary truth…

The good news is that all I’ve written above is within the framework of GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) and the models were already featured in The Hidden Treasure Chests (1993), written by Bert-Olov Bergstrand and Christer Lundgren. The Hidden Treasure Chest has the Swedish Association of Graduates in Business Administration and Economics signature.




Why you should say no if you don’t match 100% of your prospect’s need

In the good old days, sales people were able to fill their portfolio with stock items and hit the road selling those, without much preferences if customers’ needs fit to that product. But now, customers are demanding 100% solution of their problems.

Some time ago, in a world of never ending market growth, goods had to be produced cheaper and cheaper, driving competition harder and harder. All eyes were focused on how to source and produce to the lowest cost as possible, not what customer really needed.

Customers thought they were needed the offered goods – and for sure, they couldn’t find anything else. And customers were right, not much were changing from year to year or even from decade to decade. Globalization – as we now it today – driven by the internet revolution hadn’t started yet. Companies were pretty happy to source their business with goods available.

Then something happened. A great paradigm shift, from producers’ point of view to customers’.

The introduction of internet started a customer education process. First at slow pace, but soon accelerating. Customers started to get informed using available information and with social media introduction, they were also able to discuss within their networks about their problems and needs, just to get as informed they could before they engaged with a salesman.

Today, this paradigm shift is fully completed. The customer has made himself comfortable in the driver’s seat and decisions are made fully informed. But they still need help to match products with their needs, in detail.

On the selling side, we meet with fully informed customers, so it shouldn’t be any problem – if you are informed at the same level about your products. In my blog post Why Expertise Outperforms Process , I explain why being an expert on your own products or services is mandatory these days.

But my point is, if the salesman’s offer don’t fit 100%, the customer don’t solve 100% of their problems. The result on your customer’s side is not reaching their fully potentials and goals, leading to decreased competiveness. On the selling side, you may lose the deal to a competitor meeting 100% of the needs. Or, have a lot more work to get it. Work including persuasion, product customizations, discussions, motivations an much more hassle to eventually end up with the signed contract.

My advice is simple. Only go for opportunities you know you will solve 100% of your customer’s needs.


In an efficient sales process, the first stage – qualification – secures no deal is allowed to pass if not a couple of qualification questions are having positive answers. Common questions are such as if customer has budget, if you talk to the decision makers, if investment is intended in reasonable time frame, if competition is not too overwhelmingly and so on.

“If your product fit” sometimes is one of these questions, but not too often the most important and never the only one. Why? It should be.

Think about the “good old days” when everything you produced could be sold, no matter what. The salesman was king and customers were trusted him as The Voice from the world outside.

Those days could be revived once again, if your product is solving 100% of your customers’ needs and most of your time is spent on helping your customer understand and trust that.

Doing so before you qualify your opportunity in your sales process, will save tremendous amount of hassle and time. But to afford to spend all your time on fit matching, you need to say NO to opportunities that not have any potential to pass the “Fit Test”.

Good luck!




Buyers say they don’t want you there. But they are lying.

You’re a salesman, right? Surely you’ve heard it. Companies are doing their buying process themselves, without connecting to you. To know they are in a purchase process, you have call them; they never call you. But if you call, they don’t answer or get hung up.

And if you’re not in their loop, then you lose. Maybe, it doesn’t matter, since you always can win back. Anyhow, they increasingly regret their buying decisions.

Or, you may consider they’re all lying when they say they don’t need you.


According to new research, companies describe their complex-solutions purchase process as “hard”, “awful”, “painful”, “frustrating” or “minefield”. If they really describe their own selected purchase process in that manner, why do they decide not to involve you?

I think the reasons mainly are two:

  1. Companies believe they can manage a complex purchase themselves
  2. They think salesmen are too pushy

When companies think they are able to manage their purchase process themselves, they may think of the fact they have all information to make their decision. And certainly, they have. All information available on earth.

How efficient is that on a scale? The oceans of information make decisions almost impossible in first place. How to extract the right pieces of relevant information? How will they accomplish that? Maybe they perform another search on the internet, turn to their business and personal friends or industry colleagues for advice? That’s true.

According to the research, they increasingly involve more people to make their decisions. Two years ago, they involved 5.4 people to make a decision, but today 6.8. That’s more than two additional people!

Besides the cost to involve more people when decision-making, the time table for the final decision stretches a lot. According to the research, 65% of customers tell that they spent as much time as they’d expected to need for the entire purchase just getting ready to speak with a salesman. Isn’t that a waste of time, then?

Companies would be a lot more efficient making decisions with the expertise you as a salesman possess. So why do they not like to connect?

Then we come into #2. They think of salesmen as aggressive and too pushy, I believe. And I agree with that. After too many cold calls to me, trying to sell any- or something not relevant, I’ve decided just to hang up when a salesman call. Every now and then I let them answer my first objection: “What are you trying to sell to me?” before I’m clicking the red phone symbol. Because very few of them show any skill whatsoever being relevant to me, even if they do their pitch excellent.

What you should be aggressive about, is to find the potential customers’ need and pain. Do exactly as they do – use the net, social media, friends, colleagues  and so on to really find what pains people are talking about. Don’t look for “hot” solutions – search for dire pains.

The pains are real stuff. They cost money. They impact margins and make competition harder. They affect growth plans. They let management heads roll. They are the mothers of multiple layoffs. They shut factories down.

That’s really painful. So look for full pains. No little. Because with no huge and awful pains, there will be no awesome solutions to sell.

The great thing is, that you are the skilled expert of such pains. If you are able to transform yourself from a seller to a helper, you will be the decision-makers’ best friend.

Because you answer when they call, you are the expert to talk to on social media. You addresses the pains to defined problems. You understand them and connect them to real solvers of exactly that problem and finally suggest solutions that enable the elimination of the pains.

So the truth is that companies still need you. But don’t get upset when they are lying they don’t.

Customers increasingly regret their buying decisions – that’s your opportunity!

Lost the contract with your best client? No worries.

According to new research from CEB, customers that regret their buying decisions are increasing. CEB’s research says that in over 40% of all B2B buying decisions post-purchase anxiety occurs.

That’s your opportunity!


The reason for decision makers asking themselves questions like: “did we buy the right thing”, is that too many alternatives are presented to them and they’re flooded by information from too responsive sales reps, which makes customers’ buying process “awful”, customers say.

Besides that, we should look into the opportunity of customers’ post purchase anxiety and how that may turn up to be your opportunity.

Many years ago I had a sales process evaluation meeting with one of my valuable clients. We sketched their new process on the white board; Qualify to Quote to Negotiate to Close. A simple, traditional sales process which is working very well in most businesses.


“NO, NO !”, my client almost shouted; “You forget the most important phase”.

“Ehhh, what phase ?”, I said, slightly surprised.

“The WIN-BACK phase of course, that comes after you lost the deal.

“But if the deal is lost and contracts are signed, that shouldn’t be a sales process phase. It wouldn’t be possible to tear their contract?”, I opposed.

“Well, not really”, my client said, “but we are selling a lot more just after we lost a contract with a large existing client. That revenue are really important to our profitability, so we cannot ignore sales activities after we lost any deal”, my client explained.

So we just added the “Win-back” phase to the end of their sales process.


But why was my client selling a lot more after they lost their big contract?

The meeting with my client was many years ago, but adding a win-back phased to their sales process was valuable even then. My client explained their newly lost client was struggling to implement the new contract with your competitor, new contact channels were to be set up, new processes were to be implemented.

Those things are not easy to fix and takes time. During this period you can become the “good guy” and with just a little more attention you may get a star status of service. All your processes are in place, all contact channels are tuned, you are in a favorable position to make them happy.

Like in a guerrilla war, you may with a very little effort make a lot revenue, until your competitor has learned how to make service excellence at your client – but that takes a while and cost them big money. If you’re great and lucky they will not succeed until next purchase round is to take place.

According to the new research I believe the reason to add the extra win-back phase now has just become more important since customers are increasingly anxious making the right decisions in a world of information overload. There are too many options, too many alternatives, too many suggestions, too much information available, too many…of everything. And it’s expected that customers’ are doing more than 57% of the entire buying process before they even get in touch with a sales rep. So they stumble, trying to get the right information, not getting any help from intrusive sales reps.

And worse, great sales reps that earlier was promoting and pitching about their specific product and features, are – nowadays – banned to make sales pitches in social media since they are just transformed to become experts, not sales reps, anymore!

Ambivalent, yes. Confused, yes. I leave that to another blog post. But if you lose, be aware of the revenue after you lose. That revenue seems to be increasing nowadays…

Good luck losing 😉


Being analogue take you further in sales

I’m just reading a book about the possible danger of always being connected. The innermost sentence of the book is to illustrate the importance of being offline – analogue – from time to time, in an online, digital world. More than having a sense when to disconnect and relax in these times of summer and vacations, you need to develop skills to float between being digital and analogue during your sales process, which contains elements of high pace, unexpected events and intense competition combat, just like rafting in white water.


The book is not in the category of business literature, but most of the book’s contents are definitely applicable in business.

The book points out that today’s standard of always being online is not necessarily good for your health. Nor in sales as well.

My thought is that if we go all-in and always use the internet, social media or e-mails for prospecting , as many sales experts nowadays are suggesting, and not feel when to switch from digital to analogue, then I think you would lose more deals.

I know, prospects are much more researching vendors online today, before they get in touch with you, leaving you offside of their buying process. The obvious answer on this has for some years now been the concept of social selling, where you’re supposed to create and nurture prospect relations. Social selling lets your prospect being able to make their investigations according to their extents, timings and relevance, without being distracted by intrusive sales people. Being an expert to them, you’ll become (one of) “the man to talk to” when it comes to an eventual procurement.

Using social media and other digital tools for taking care of your first selling phase is great, but not necessarily in all phases. My feeling is that the further you raft along the white water stream, your sales process, the more analogue you have to be. Much of the job in early phases of selling is to create visibility and existence, but not to provide solutions to complex prospect problems. That belongs to the upcoming phases where insightful discussions have to take place to be competitive.

To win sales deals, you need to get to the selling phases where “talking” takes place, and need to get much deeper in your conversations than you possible can with help of digital tools, such as social media or sending e-mails. Most conversations on those type of tools are mostly too general or too public to really manage helping your prospect solve his problems, but also for you to win the deal.

The phases of talking includes physical meetings, where emotions, body language and nuances are central things that counts. Here’s where the real sales takes place, even if it’s activities often are initiated as social selling activities.

In the phases of talking, you may be able to consider in-depth relations based on feelings that unveil situations and implications you really can help to solve and put yourself ahead of your competition. BTW, did you know that we are equipped with 24 different muscles in our face, optimized to express different feelings? To translate all these expressions, you need a lot of training which is only obtainable by plenty of prospect meetings.

The tricky part may be to get the feeling of how to handle a certain activity – digital or analogue. Social media is an excellent way of getting in touch and convey prospects through early phases of why they should invest and what, but seldom how to get the business value.

My recommendation is when it comes to more detailed questions from your prospect, always consider to switch to analogue tools, by just picking up your phone and call them. Start a more detailed discussion, and try to book an on-site workshop. Further on, use the opportunity to use efficient digital tools as chats or Skype sessions for additional minor questions, but always have your eyes open when to shift being analogue again – especially when it comes to deeper discussions. These discussions require an analogue approach to develop your deal forward.

You need to learn when to switch from digital conversations to in-depth on-site activities, and maybe back again, as the white water stream flows further on. Also, when you’ve made the switch, train your skills in empathy and body language, to get the discussion to a deeper level.

Sales managers also need to look for a new skill. They should look for individuals that master the combination of being both digital and analogue, to really drive your sales processes forward, and take the rafts and deals safely down the stream.

Why Price Is Becoming Everything In Sales

In today’s rapidly changing market landscape, buying decisions are made long before any sales rep is contacted. When you’re finally are being contacted, the only question still left to be answered is the one of price.


My question is: If you’re a sales rep, why bother spending your valuable time on building any relationship if your prospect already has done all evaluation beforehand and only has this single question to you?

No reason at all.

Why not just publish your pricing on your web and you get rid of that last question as well?

Perhaps, I’m starting a revolution within The Sales Community. But I’ve got this topic on my mind for so long. Now, I cannot bear it anymore; I’ve got to start this discussion. My excuses if I’m tend to be a bit provocative.

Some time ago I was planning to build a sundeck to our house. I did my investigation; what type of wood, construction and other materials that we needed. Finally I called a couple of lumberyards for prices. Lumberyards offer exactly the same goods, so pricing was the only thing to compare. I had my favorite – where I used to buy this type of stuff – so I started to call them. It was a friendly and nice conversation, but I decided to buy from a completely new supplier where I hadn’t bought anything from before.

Why? The pricing difference was just a few dollars? Why was the change to a completely new supplier so easy to make, without any chance for my existing supplier to control?

I’m sure the increasingly importance of price is a huge trend, and it’s not just about selecting local lumberyards. Look at the global brands. Ten years ago, I saw major differences between brands. In phone industry a great example comes from the story of Nokia. Technology was more or less the same – the goods was the same – but companies like Samsung or Huawei was lacking the value of a strong brand, which Nokia possessed. You bought the Nokia phone to belong to a hip community. Now, the Samsung brand is one of the strongest on the market and Huawei is the third largest phone company on the planet. Nokia doesn’t even exist anymore.

Look at the Car Industry and you’ll find exactly the same thing; the brand image gap is decreasing very fast and it’s accelerating. KIA, the Korean car manufacturer, was some years ago considered to be cheap and deliver low quality. Today, KIA is one of the fastest growing car companies in the world. Why? Because they are still cheap but it’s brand has recovered to be much stronger diminishing the gap to premium car brands at an accelerating pace.

Another example is Microsoft’s e-mail client Outlook. Only a few years ago, it was considered to be unbeatable and any attempt to get market shares were completely unfruitful. What happened? Well, many companies are now leaving for Google cloud suites and even Windows operating system are now under fire – new Google Chromebooks are all over the marketplace.

Why? Lower price of course.

The last ten years, companies have learned their lessons. Focusing on design, marketing, efficient processes and brand have almost taken away the only weapons available for sales reps to differentiate. In a very near future there will not be any gaps left to work with at all.

The core question is; why would you pay more for exactly the same delivery?

Soon; no reason at all. For now; well, let me pick some reasons you still may come around with a higher price.

  1. Your prospect is lazy
  2. Your prospect is afraid of change
  3. The change itself is costly


Your prospect is not doing any great research on current available solutions and they trust you to be the one to deliver the optimal solution for them.

But the compelling question is: Are there still companies with space in their bottom line to be lazy? If you’re lucky finding them today, certainly you’re not gonna find them tomorrow. So, be aware to change your price level before they are forced to be proactive and reshape their profitability.

Afraid of change.

Most companies manage risks. Even if you’re promoting exactly the same goods but to a lower price than all your competitors, you may lose your deal. That’s because the prospect sets a price on the risk. If they discover any higher risk doing business with you, they judge the risk within a price span, and if you exceed that span it turns out as a price of that risk. That price is put on top of your proposal. If you still are lower in price, you will get the deal but if not, you’ll lose.

Costly change.

In the same mindset, your prospect may add a price of change on top of your quote. They may have to rewrite manuals, set new routines in place, train people etc when changing to your solution. Nowadays, companies take a good look into changing costs much more than before. These “internal” costs is a little harder to collect and estimate but companies are doing more than a guess.

The challenge is to force yourself being lowest priced solution but still earn money. You have to find other sources to get paid. You need to be innovative or you’re out. Great brand creators have followed the trails of making buyers belong to lifestyle communities, but tomorrow you can’t lean on a great brand, since low-price companies have captured and closed the gap of brand value.

You may survive for some years if you are lucky to find companies that are lazy, afraid of change or where the change itself is too costly. But why wait just to die?

Act. Now. Remember: Why pay more for exactly the same stuff?