A Seat At The Table

A Seat At The Table

by Marc Miller


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608320844
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group, LLC
Publication date: 07/01/2010
Pages: 186
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.60(d)

First Chapter


How Top Salespeople Connect and Drive Decisions at the Executive Level

Greenleaf Book Group Press
Copyright © 2009

Marc Miller
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-929774-69-2


Connecting to customer strategy is a game changer. This is not selling as usual. In fact, it's the opposite. When done properly, the client no longer sees you as a salesperson. You are now a businessperson focused exclusively on helping the customer achieve their strategic goals. And when that shift occurs, everything-and I mean everything-changes.

-John McVeigh, senior vice president of global sales, O.C. Tanner Corporation

Let's be frank-selling has an ugly connotation, even consultative selling. New research indicates that senior executives do not see salespeople as consultative at all-at least not consultants who can drive or grow their businesses. Instead, they see a group with blinders on-myopically focused on making the short-term sale that adds little value to the mission of their customer's enterprise. Candidly, how do you feel about those stockbrokers cold-calling you in the middle of the day? Do you really believe those people are worthy of your time, or have your best interest at heart? Unfortunately-justifiably or not-these are the people you are compared to when reaching out to new executives and prospects that you could help, given the chance.

This voice-of-customer research delivers both good and bad news for salespeople. The bad news is that business executives and corporate customers feel that far too many salespeople are tactical product-pushers disengaged from the real meaning and purpose of their organizations. These salespeople may have a genuine desire to help, but the help is in the wrong areas. This makes them a well-intentioned group, but misaligned and disconnected from what the customer really cares about.

Now here's the good news. All of the difficulties companies are facing in our turbulent, constantly shifting economy are actually creating the opportunity of a lifetime for salespeople-specifically, the opportunity to play a far more important role in the lives of the customers on whom they call. For those special salespeople who embrace this new role, the world will be one of endless opportunity. Their customers will see them as difference makers, champions who deliver value far surpassing that of any single product or service.

And there is even better news. There is new evidence to suggest that salespeople can transcend their current "brand" as product peddlers to achieve record levels of productivity. But, to do this, they must accept one simple truth:

The only thing your customer cares about is value.

The last page of this book states this in large print. Copy it and give it to everyone who talks to customers. It is the most important principle you'll read in these pages.

Based on this truism, there is only one foolproof strategy to drastically improve sales productivity. To achieve radically better sales results, you must become radically more valuable to customers-strategically valuable. This growth strategy trumps all others. The game has changed, and new research suggests customers are pleading for a new and different type of value from salespeople and account managers. And, when this new value is created, captured, and delivered, customers no longer view salespeople as salespeople at all. They now see "businesspeople who sell"-those worthy of a seat at their table.


Customers today are looking for value in the form of help-specifically, strategic help. Corporations are under duress as never before-business failure and executive turnover are at an all time high, and business models need adjusting not once every year, but seemingly every week. And executives-people not unlike you and me-often get lost in this rapid pace of change. They need to focus on the future, but the day to day of running a business is like gravity, a force that continuously drags them down into the daily muck, battling the fires necessary to drive short-term results. As a result, senior executives often get off track, becoming disconnected from the real purpose of their organizations-to sustain profitable growth.

And this is where you come in. You have an opportunity to play a new role, and that new role has two distinct parts. First, you have to help executives reconnect to their strategies. When you help customers reconnect to what's important, you connect to them. It's that simple. Second, you need to devise solutions that will help them achieve or expand their master strategic plan. When you suggest solutions that add value to critical customer strategies, you leave competitors in the dust. Since your competition is myopically focused on selling products and services that add little value to the bigger picture strategy of the customer, these traditional competitors will no longer even be on your radar of competition.

To help you prepare yourself for this new role, I'm going to teach you how to quit talking about expenses (products and services) and start having discussions about investments (productivity and differentiation). From the perspective of the executives you will be calling, these are polar opposites. I'm also going to show you how easy it is to comprehend your customer's strategies and connect your products and services to them. And this is how you will earn a seat at the table-that lofty position that executives reserve for those special businesspeople who add strategic value, who make a profound impact on their results, their enterprises, and their people.

When you have a seat, you are seen as an investment, not an expense. You become the type of person customer executives seek for advice before making the big-bet decisions that forever shape the future of their enterprises. When you sit at the table of strategy, you are always welcome.

Most important, when you gain a seat at the table, sales productivity will rise significantly because of your ability to do the following:

1. Protect the core: Customer executives who consider you to be strategically valuable will not let their internal procurement people reduce the relationship to the lowest common denominator-that is, a cheaper price! ensuring that senior executives view your solutions as mission critical to their strategies will fortify your relationship with them. That will protect the consistent sales of your core products that you and your company rely on-and that are facing tougher competition in our globalized, transparent, and commoditized economy.

2. Gain access: when you have earned a seat at the table, you will be able to connect with more senior executives-the ones who can make big-bet, discretionary, risk/reward decisions that affect your offerings. Executives will not refer salespeople to their colleagues inside or outside of their companies, but they will gladly introduce "strategic advisors" to other executives. It's that simple.

3. Create demand: Creating demand for new products and solutions is the platinum competence of the very best sellers. This often requires building a case for change with multiple executives and decision makers. When you show executives that you not only understand their strategy but also can add significant value to it, you're halfway to constructing a rock-solid foundation for change. And this will help protect you from the ubiquitous "no decision" loss of a sale that we all face in long sales cycles.

4. Get the best of both worlds: when you successfully add value to the strategies of executives, you are able both to protect your core and to sell the new, without having to sacrifice one opportunity for the other. In other words, commodity products are protected and new solutions are sold. This happens in lockstep, because you are creating a valuable relationship with the client, and the client doesn't want to lose you.

How will you accomplish these things? That's what I intend to teach you-in specific detail, not broad generalities and philosophical bromides. Everyone knows they should be calling on more senior executives, but few know exactly how to do it. That is the mission of this book.


As a salesperson, you are in a constant battle for scarce budgetary dollars. And the best way to access a larger share of those dollars is to connect with senior executives-those within an organization who have the ability to make discretionary spend decisions outside of standard budgets. Since strategy-and the execution of strategy-is what executives weight most important, this is your fastest way to make a quick connection. To help you do this, I'll give you two critical tools:

1. A simple model: I will first give you a very simple model that will enable you to quickly cut through the clutter of strategy, focusing on the big picture first. When you can visually condense the strategy of a large, complex company onto a single sheet of paper, you will have a newfound power to connect the value you offer to all the stakeholders in a large decision and their big picture strategies.

2. A simple process: I will then give you the tools you need to nail the first few calls with executives. It is important to understand that sales success or failure is ultimately determined by what happens early in the selling cycle-not later. You can't gain closure if you can't open. Research has clearly shown that it's what happens early on that ultimately makes or breaks your ability to gain traction with senior executives.

Regarding this last point, investing time early on in a relationship to learn strategies, objectives, and challenges has another important benefit: it radically shortens potentially long selling cycles. Being patient on purpose early reduces the risk of opportunities spinning on endlessly at the back end of the cycle-the place where vast sales resources are wasted, according to current sales research. This counterintuitive solution to the classic long-cycle problem requires you to document the strategy of the client early on, and then clearly connect your solutions to their strategic direction.

What I'm going to teach you-and I've done this for thousands of salespeople-is how to uncover a company's strategy quickly. Once you learn the strategy of an organization, you've cracked the code. Immediately, you'll recognize multiple ways to add value to the customer, from bringing new resources to the table, to suggesting some simple services that would be helpful, to suggesting a more intricate and thorough total solution. In other words-and this is important-you don't have to have all of the answers. You just have to know what questions to ask that will help you both understand the master plan of the customer and unearth why the organization spends its resources as it does (hint: strategy dictates spend).


Case studies are an important dimension of this book. They reflect the variety of companies that have been deeply engaged in the effort to transition their sales teams. This shift has required salespeople to move from selling tangible products to selling intangible strategic concepts, from selling $1,500 industry-norm products to selling $100,000 vanguard solutions, and from selling to mid-level managers to consulting with senior executives. Many experts in the sales industry would say that such a transformation is almost impossible, yet many companies have done it-companies like O.C. Tanner, MasterCard, Trimble, Fairfield, and more. These companies have proved the experts wrong. They have transformed their salespeople into "businesspeople who sell," and the bottom-line results have exceeded even the most optimistic of expectations.

For your learning purposes, I will refer to these best-practices sales teams-like the following discussion of O.C. Tanner-as a means to reinforce some key strategies, skills, and steps you'll need to learn to successfully connect with your customers strategically at senior executive levels.

A Best-Practices Sales Team

O.C. Tanner (OCT) is a market leader in the recognition rewards industry with about $350 million in revenues. The core offering of the company is long-term service awards, a product category sold to mid-level managers in the human resources and benefits departments. Due to increased competition, growth had flattened over the last decade, and profit margins were slowly deteriorating. Procurement departments were also a stronger voice in decisions, putting even more pressure on price integrity. As a result, the company leadership, guided by CEO Kent Murdoch, created a bold new differentiation strategy based on total recognition solutions.

John McVeigh, senior vice president of global sales, OCT, was ultimately tasked with the transformation of the sales team. He knew that a successful transition would require his approximately 150 salespeople to learn to create demand for the new total recognition solutions. This was a new sandbox-it would require teaching senior leaders in client companies how to use soft and ambiguous appreciation as a strategic mechanism that could help them achieve mission-critical objectives. But this would require selling to human resource executives at least two or three levels up from the mid-level relationships OCT already had in place. And this new total solution approach would go far beyond simple products; training, services, and technology would be important pieces of each configured customer solution. The stakes were large: often the opportunities they were shooting for would be ten times the size of an average service award sale.

Although not without its challenges, this sales force transition was remarkably successful. The core business was maintained as the new differentiation strategy was successfully implemented and the total solutions were sold. Today, the company is now on a fast revenue growth track, and employees are infused with a new sense of energy and excitement. In 2008, the company achieved record growth, and 2009 looks to be an even more impressive year in a very turbulent economy. Customers like Pepsi, Avis, and Quest Diagnostics are seeing important results by leveraging O.C. Tanner solutions to drive employee productivity. Consequently, even in an incredibly disruptive and difficult economy, customers of O.C. Tanner are reluctant to displace a relationship so connected to their mission critical strategies.


This is a book for salespeople who are ready to go beyond "normal" selling to succeed. That said, it has something to offer all salespeople, particularly those who

Sell complex offerings-total solutions that have big tickets and long sales cycles

Sell divergent offerings-products and services that present radically new ways for customers to accomplish their work, and thus require building a case for change at the highest levels

Sell mature, core offerings-commodities that require consistently new and innovative sales techniques to avoid being reduced to negotiations based solely on price

This is a book about how you can add high-impact value to your customers. This makes it relevant for all salespeople since value is all the customer cares about. Adding high-impact value is possible for all salespeople-even those selling intensely competitive commodity products. But adding high-impact value will require salespeople to do things differently, winning as much or more by business expertise as by the products and services being sold. Salespeople may not control products, but they do control their own know-how. That said, if understanding how to better connect and add value to customer strategy as a means to radically improve your sales sounds intriguing to you, then you're going to find this book incredibly valuable.

In a nutshell, that is what this book is all about-understanding how to help your customers win, win bigger, and win more often. When this happens, you win, win bigger, and win more often. You will achieve radical sales productivity improvement and a differentiated position because you added value to the productivity and differentiation strategies of your customers. They win-you win. End of story.

Are you ready to take your seat at the table?


Excerpted from A SEAT at the TABLE by MARC MILLER Copyright © 2009 by Marc 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 by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents Acknowledgments....................vii
1 Game Change....................1
2 A New Role, A New Mind-Set....................11
3 Velcro Value....................25
4 Bridging the Divide....................43
5 The Great Game of Strategy....................55
6 Connection Mastery....................79
7 Conversations That Connect....................97
8 FOCAS on Customer Strategy....................113
9 FOCAS on Building a Case for Change....................127
10 On the Same Side of the Table....................147
11 Difference Maker....................171

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