We had Lee Salz conduct his 'Differentiators' workshop at our Enterprise Sales Team meeting. In our industry, we don’t create demand, but rather try to get prospects to buy from us instead of the competition. Lee taught our sales team strategies to position our differentiators and engage prospects in a unique way. My team loved this session and really embraced his methodology!
-Ann Losiewski, Director of Enterprise Sales, Hire Right
We asked Lee to present “Building a World-Class Sales Force” at our AA-ISP conference. The feedback was outstanding! As one attendee described it… ‘Intense and good dose of medicine. We had a lackadaisical approach to hiring…he set the record straight.’ I highly recommend Lee and this presentation to anyone responsible for managing and or hiring salespeople.
-Larry Reeves, Chief Operating Officer, American Association of Inside Sales Professionals
The role of salespeople in my company is to knock the current provider out of the account. Sales Architects helped us really understand what makes us unique and taught our salespeople an effective strategy to position differentiators with buyers. Lee helped us uncover ways to get prospects to buy from us and these techniques work!
-Mike Moroz, President/CEO, Walters Recycling and Refuse, Inc.
When I reached out to Sales Architects, I was at somewhat of a crossroads and contemplating the best ways to profitably grow my business. Lee Salz helped me gain clarity on some existing issues, and provided actionable information to take my firm to the next level. He provided a clear sales roadmap that I can implement in my company.
-Marc Fowler, President, Bullseye Media
Lee delivers! We contracted with Lee to keynote our national customer event to speak on hiring, onboarding and compensating salespeople. The feedback on his session was fantastic which we greatly attribute to Lee’s prework and intertwining our culture into his customized presentation.  He’s dynamic, fun, and engaging.
-Peter Dircks, Director of Marketing, Hearth & Home Technologies
We’ve engaged Sales Architects for both strategic and sales-focused initiatives. Each time, we’ve experienced Lee’s skill in thinking through complex problems to develop practical solutions. We used Sales Architects to optimize our sales efforts through their sales metric management strategy to focus our salespeople on the right behaviors. I will continue to use Sales Architects in the future.
-Marc Maloy, SVP of Worldwide Sales, HireRight
I hired Sales Architects to turn around an unproductive sales team member. Initially, I had doubts that Lee could do this, but I was pleasantly surprised. Lee systematically worked through all of the issues and processes that we were doing incorrectly and brought his lineup of tried and true sales systems to the table. Sales Architects will be the first call I make if I have sales issues in the future.
-Ron Anderson, President/CEO, Anderson Systems Integration
Lee’s Adapt & Thrive presentation will resonate with sales people regardless of their experience. From those just starting sales careers to sales professionals with many years experience, Lee’s simple and profound strategies will enrich your whole sales group and help them succeed!
-Dick Reynolds, Sales and Distribution Manager, Flexco
We’ve used Lee’s sales architecture methodology to bring discipline, structure, measurement and a degree of sophistication to our sales effort. We now have a clearly defined strategy, process and tools to pursue new KRM clients.
-Rick Olson, Chief Executive Officer, KRM Information Services
Thanks for speaking at the Dymo Mimio global sales kickoff. We found your Adapt & Thrive! keynote speech to be stimulating, motivating and full of good sense.
-Laurence Huntley, General Manager, Dymo Mimio, A Newell Rubbermaid Company
Sales & Marketing Management was extremely fortunate to have someone of Lee Salz's standing in its corner. A longtime columnist for SMM, as well as a member of its Editorial Advisory Board, his monthly Sales Architects installments demonstrated exactly why he's considered a sales management thought leader.
-Jeremy Cohen, Managing Editor, Sales and Marketing Management Magazine
Lee was instrumental in helping us develop a detailed profile for our ideal salesperson, invaluable as we interview new candidates. In addition, his process for working with us to develop a salesperson on-boarding program was world-class. With these two items in place, we feel very confident we will both find and help a new salesperson succeed quickly.
-Mike Moroz, President, Archway
By implementing Lee’s sales management strategies, our sales staff increased new season ticket sales by 65% over last season. This was accomplished with the same sales team as last season. What was different was our approach to sales management. Lee is a great sounding board, with practical solutions for increasing sales.
-Susan Savage, CEO and Majority Owner, Sacramento River Cats
Lee provided a structured and thoughtful approach to identifying key attributes that are important to our company’s sales process, helped us to create a detailed profile of an ideal sales person and guided us through the creation of our first ever sales onboarding program. He was truly instrumental in the design and development of our new sales process.
-Megan Effertz, Director of Marketing, Archway
Lee Salz provided the strategy and a “roll up your sleeves” approach which helped our sales organization improve significantly our approach to managing the sales process. Lee focused on evolving us from a people-based approach to one which is process-based. Going forward our sales team and, ultimately, our results will benefit from the strategies and processes he helped us develop.
-Alan Ledford, President, Sacramento River Cats
Lee's understanding of the development of sales strategies, marketing business tools and applications are exceptional. Sales Architects is a company that I know I will be doing business with again.
-Ken Mallette, Vice President, Witt Associates, a Global Options Company
I have worked with Lee for a number of years and have found his knowledge of the sales process to be head and shoulders above most sales managers I speak with. His newsletter is packed with useful information and I recommend it highly!
-Harris Cohen, Managing Partner, PrincetonOne
Lee Salz is one of the true sales management thought leaders today. His expertise, energy, and down-to-earth communication style give him the unique ability to help sales organizations reach new levels of performance and excellence.
-Jeb Blount, Founder and CEO of SalesGravy.com
Lee, where were you 20 years ago when I started my career? If I had known you then, I would have eliminated a ton of mistakes and my income would have been a lot higher!
-Sam Richter, President, James J. Hill Reference Library and author “Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling”
I wish I had Lee's guidance when I started my sales career 27 years ago. It removes chance from the buying process and replaces them with a specific, almost scientific business plan.
-Victor Benoun, President, The Mortgage Source, Inc.
I’ve never met someone who positions a sales person for success more effectively than Lee Salz.
-Andrew Macdonald, Group President, First Advantage Corporation
Lee Salz is a sales leader that people follow. I've done business with Lee and his associates in the past, and the people that worked for Lee would jump off a bridge for him.
-Todd Bridges, President, Bridges & Associates
Any B2B sales person who follows Lee’s methodology is bound to sell more effectively.
-Gordon Graham, Editor, SoftwareCEO.com
In the crowded field of sales experts, Lee stands out because he doesn't just write about it, he actually did it, and with great results.
-Bruce Berg, President, Berg Consulting Group
Lee does a great job of breaking down the buying process into tasks that are easily understood and executed.
-Robert Deigh, author of "How Come No One Knows About Us?"
I have personally seen Lee take average performing sales organizations and turn them into top performers over and over again.
-Andy Miller, President, Sales Management Guru
All sales people can improve their performance by using Lee's sales architecture strategy.
-Edward Groark, former President, IKON Office Solutions, Technology Services
Lee was able to impart his sales techniques on his staff and there were measurable, positive sales results.
-Daryl Hancock, Corporate Account Manager, Microsoft Corporation
Lee is a great coach and mentor. His teachings stick so sales people and sales managers can reproduce desired results over and over again which translates into serious, sustainable bottom line performance improvement.
-Deborah Hoffmann, President, The Solutions Group
Lee Salz not only knows what it takes to master the art of sales, he knows how to teach the art of selling in an easy to understand way that can absolutely unlock the master salesperson inside you.
-Josh Hinds, author of Why Perfect Timing is a Myth: Tips for Staying Inspired and Motivated Day in and Day out!
If you want to unclog the bottom of your sales funnel, Lee can help you do it!
-C. Kevin Miller, Midwest Territory Manager, OraSure Technologies, Inc.
Lee details, in no uncertain terms, what today’s sales professionals need to know: how to win at this lonely, challenging profession even when your boss does little or nothing to help you...or even keeps getting in your way.
-Ken Lizotte, Chief Imaginative Officer, Emerson Consulting Group, Inc.
Lee Salz fills in the gap when your sales manager isn’t giving you what you need and gets you back in control of your career.
-Jill Konrath, author of the best selling books "Selling to Big Companies" and "Snap Selling"
Below the dodo sales managers are dodo reps who won't take responsibility for their own success. Don't adapt dangerous dodo thinking. Get this book and discover how to fly above ground bound performers and beyond your present sales success.
-Dan Seidman, President, SalesAutopsy.com
Lee’s mentoring style guides you through a planning process for developing your territory, navigating your way through accounts, presenting, and dealing with the unexpected. Using his sales architecture methodology, you’re sure to adapt and thrive.
-Tina LoSasso - Managing Editor, SalesDog.com
The system Lee teaches -- he calls it sales architecture --is one that you don't need a sales manager to help you implement… In fact, if you're not careful, you'll probably end up BEING the Sales Manager if you learn and apply this stuff.
-Bill Guertin, CEO, The 800-Pound Gorilla
If your sales manager isn’t providing value, Soar! certainly will. The sales architecture presented is practical and proven.
-Clayton Shold, President, Salesopedia
Reading Soar! and following its program is like giving a sales career a shot of high-octane adrenaline!
-Jim Schoonover, Chief Marketing Officer, MEDTOX Scientific, Inc.
I find myself revisiting knowledge that I gained from Soar! and applying it effectively in my business dealings, and am witnessing how it works (and it really does!).
-Drew Sachs, Vice President, James Lee Witt Associates
Lee’s book Soar! will reinvigorate your sales career!
-Paul Nolan, Editor-In-Chief, SalesforceXP
Lee presents sales managers with a toolkit that will greatly enhance their chances for success.
-Orrin Broberg, President, Employee Continuum
Lee has an uncanny ability for untapping the salesperson within.
-Chandrasekhar Valluri, Assistant Professor, St. Mary's University of Minnesota
Under Lee’s guidance and support as a sales manager; my confidence increased, I far exceeded sales quotas, and I tremendously increased my income. If you want to achieve the same results, I would highly recommend his proven sales techniques.
-Maria Maika Damjan, Business Development Manager, EDS
Lee truly helps sales people grab control of their success…
-Robyn M. Sachs, President & CEO, RMR& Associates, Inc.
Throughout my sales career, I must say that Lee Salz was certainly the most influential in driving me to develop as a sales representative.
-Jennifer Runyon, Program Manager, ESI International
Lee Salz is a leading sales management authority for a reason - he identifies what his clients need and he gets results.
-Kristin Osborne, President, Kensington PR

The Most Underutilized Strategic Advantage

Sales people are always looking for a way to differentiate themselves to win an account. Few use one of the most powerful tools in their bag, the right reference.
By Lee B. Salz | Views: 9,283

You have been chasing this account for six months and feeling optimistic as the buying process is coming to a conclusion. The sale is between you and two other firms. The competition is fierce, but you feel you are ahead. At 11am, the Procurement Agent asks for three references to be provided to her by the end of the day. In a panic, you send a company-wide email in search of these referenceable clients. At 4:58pm, you get the three references from your colleagues and quickly send them out to the Procurement Agent. Whew! Mission accomplished! They wanted three references and you got it done. And so did everyone else. You see the finish line, forgetting that many a sales person has fallen one step short of winning.

This scenario plays out in companies every day across the country. It doesn’t matter if the company is big or small, nor does it matter the type of industry. The request for references is a standard part of any buying process. However, few sales people use the reference stage of the process to their strategic advantage. They simply desire to provide a quick response to the prospect with their requested references. In the mind of the sales person, the speed of the response communicates supplier performance. While somewhat true, the discussions the prospect will have with the references carries more weight in the selection decision than the speed of the response from the potential supplier.

When I talk to sales people, one of their most common gripes is that they are selling a product that is viewed as a commodity in the marketplace. They cite "price” as their biggest bugaboo. Right behind that they lament about their inability to differentiate their product. (The truth is that price and differentiation are directly related, but that is a topic for another article.) When I ask sales people if they would like to learn of an easy way to get a competitive edge, they are all ears. After I share with them that they have the ability to differentiate themselves through managing the reference selection process, they look at me in shock as they can’t believe they have been missing this opportunity. Then the stories start to come out. "Yeah, I lost a deal because they called the reference and we had just screwed up their order. I should have checked before I used them” The stories just continue from there.

But why do prospects ask for references? Webster’s defines "reference” as someone who can make a statement about a person’s qualifications, character, and dependability. Interestingly, there is a perception disconnect on references between sales people and prospects. When I talk to sales people, I usually hear that references are just a standard part of due diligence. Some use the term "rubber stamp” of an award. However, when I talk to buyers, I hear a very different message. Many buyers look at the reference step of the buying process as their opportunity to validate the message that they have been hearing from the potential supplier. In essence, prospects are searching to ascertain whether a supplier can deliver on the promises made during the buying process. Can the supplier really handle this size account? Are they really that fast? Or that accurate? Is the service as good as they described?

In many cases, the change of provider carries with it the ownership of the supplier’s performance. If the new supplier does not perform to the expectations that have been represented, there is risk for those who selected it. Heads will roll! Sometimes, prospects ask the same questions of the reference that they asked of the sales person to see if there is a difference in response. Other times, they ask specific questions relative to their needs that may not have been shared with the sales person. For the prospect, this is their most critical evaluation step of a supplier’s expected performance.

It is the little things that winning sales people do that makes them winners. So, if all of the competing sales people are going to provide "good” references, can you provide the "best” references? You most certainly can! However, there is a process to do so as "best” is different for each prospect.”

The first step is a conversation with the Procurement Agent. "I received your request for references and I’m happy to provide them. So that I can provide you with the references that best support your initiative, what are you hoping to learn from our clients?” If you can gather that information from the Procurement Agent (don’t say it can’t be done until you try it), you have the roadmap to identifying references. Even if they can’t or won’t provide you with this information, you have at least shown that you care. And "care” can be the differentiator that pushes you across the finish line. All is not lost if you can’t get that information either.

Going forward by taking a step back, think about the account and what is important to them. Reflect on what was learned during the needs analysis discussions. Thinking about that, imagine a different approach to responding to the request for references. If they were concerned about implementation, you provide an account that your company recently implemented. Perhaps, the decision is being made by a CFO, and you provide a reference of a CFO from one of your clients that can speak to your performance. For the third reference, you provide a client that is purchasing the same amount of the same product. From the prospect’s perspective, how great is the opportunity to speak to three clients who can relate to their needs. They are able to gather the information they desire from someone with whom they share something in common. They feel confident in their ability to perform due diligence on their potential supplier. They can make an informed decision.

To take it a step further, imagine rather than simply sending the contact names and phone numbers to that Procurement Agent, you provide a brief narrative explaining to what each client was serving as a reference. How many sales people are doing that?

Still raising the bar, imagine contacting each of the three references and informing them that a call was coming their way to discuss your performance as a supplier. During that call, you share that this prospect is calling to discuss particular areas of the business. Thus, when the prospect calls the reference, the reference is expecting the call and is prepared for the conversation. What a great experience for your prospect and your client. Keep in mind, one great way to burn a relationship with a happy client is to surprise them with a reference phone call. No one likes to be blind-sided or unprepared. I’ve seen more than a few opportunities lost where the prospect cited the reference experience as the deciding factor. An unprepared reference reflects negatively on the supplier.

In a competitive marketplace, every opportunity that you have to demonstrate value to a prospect is critical. Leveraging the reference step of the process can give you just that little edge that pushes you over the top.

Lee B. Salz is a leading sales management strategist specializing in helping companies build scalable, high-performance sales organizations through hiring the right salespeople, effectively onboarding them, and aligning their sales activities with business objectives through process, metrics and compensation. He is the Founder and CEO of Sales Architects, Business Expert Webinars and The Revenue Accelerator. Lee has authored several books including the award-winning book Soar Despite Your Dodo Sales Manager.  He is a results-driven sales management consultant and a passionate, dynamic speaker. Lee can be reached at lsalz@SalesArchitects.net or 763.416.4321.
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