Do You Have a Cookie-cutter Sales Approach?

Denver-Based Sales Leadership Development Available Nationwide

Posted: November 19, 2012

Who would have predicted that Amazon and Netflix would raise the bar on what prospects and customers expect from salespeople? Both organizations excel at upselling, and suggesting things or movies you might enjoy based on your prior purchases. If you enjoy comedies, Netflix won’t suggest you watch “Rambo” or “Die Hard.”

Their customizations of suggestions make customers feel like the company really knows them. And in an information-overload world, their personal approach breaks through the noise of generic offerings and messages.

Today’s prospect doesn’t need or appreciate a generic sales approach. A cookie-cutter sales methodology just doesn’t work. Unfortunately, many salespeople have attended sales school at this bakery and default to this approach. It’s easier and requires no planning.

The cookie-cutter salesperson approaches every prospect the same way, with the same value proposition, offering the same solutions. The result is small, transactional sales that do nothing to grow revenue or win repeat customers.

The successful salesperson has a sales methodology. The difference is that he customizes and adapts key areas of the sales process to win business. Here are three areas to examine and personalize:

• First meeting: Your prospects may have similar titles, such as CFO or chief marketing officer — but very different personalities. One buyer likes a lot of detail, while the other prefers that you keep the conversation at the 50,000-foot level. Another buyer likes to chat it up before getting down to business, and another barely lets you get seated at the conference table before diving into the sales conversation.

Many salespeople lose the business during the first five minutes of the sales meeting because of their inability to read, relate and adapt their approach. They approach every buyer the same way and as result, leave money on the table because they don’t connect with half of their prospects.

The effective salesperson is highly focused on the other party, studying what they’re saying and doing. She adapts her approach to match her prospect or customer style. Good salespeople observe, adapt and personalize each interaction.

• Questions: Before going into an appointment, have you prepared a list of questions or a presentation? If you have a presentation but no questions written down, you’re running a cookie-cutter sales meeting. How can you possibly have a presentation prepared when you haven’t even had a good dialogue with your prospect?

If you do have questions prepared, what kind of questions are they? Are they customized to the potential buyer and industry? Or are they the same questions you ask of all your prospects?

For example, let’s say your solution works for a variety of industries and your buyer is the CFO. Do you have specific questions prepared for the CFO of a manufacturing company that are different than the questions prepared for the CFO of a technology company? Are your questions cookie cutter or customized for your prospects?

• Value propositions: This is the weakest selling skill in most organizations. Typical company value propositions are yawners, touting their features and benefits. Benefit language is commodity language and adds no value to the conversation. Most look and sound like your competition.

You know you have a cookie-cutter value proposition if you are telling prospects about:

(1) Your good customer service. (Is your competitor really going to say they have bad customer service?)

(2) Your cutting-edge technology and/or equipment that reduces waste and increases productivity. (Is your competitor telling prospects they’re clueless about increasing productivity?)

(3) Saving time and money. (OK, your prospect is dozing off by the time you get to this one.)

Strong sales organizations have value propositions designed and documented by the industries they serve. When a prospect tells their salesperson, “Tell me about your company,” the salesperson delivers a highly personalized value proposition that connects with problems the prospect is trying to solve or goals he’s trying to reach.

Personalized value propositions show prospects that you are empathetic and you understand their world. They open up bigger and better sales conversation because the prospect believes you know their world. And like all human beings, prospects want someone that understands where they’re coming from.

Take a cue from Netflix and Amazon, and get personal. Customize your sales approach, questions and value propositions.

Are you a cookie-cutter salesperson or master chef?

About the Author:

Colleen Stanley is president of SalesLeadership Inc., a business development consulting firm specializing in sales and sales management training. The company provides programs in prospecting, referral strategies, consultative sales training, sales management training, emotional intelligence and hiring/selection. She is the author of  ‘Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success’ and ‘Growing Great Sales Teams.’  Reach Colleen at 303-708-1128 or visit

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