Does Your Discovery Phase Deliver Value to Your Customers?

As a former “buy side” C-level executive, I believe one of the primary goals of the discovery phase of a sales process should be to deliver value to the buyer.  Unfortunately, many sales people believe discovery phase conversations are all about probing and asking questions and learning.  In other words, the discovery phase is designed to benefit the sales person.  This disconnect during the early sales stage will likely manifest itself in longer sales cycles or worse yet, stalled deals.

The Customer's "Discovery Phase"

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Want to Join Our Team of Former C-Level Executives at FASTpartners?

We are seeking former C-Level Executives (CEO, COO, CFO, CMO, CHRO, CIO, etc.) who have a passion to leverage their vast experience as senior decision makers.

This person will enjoy working with sales and account management teams in a formal learning and coaching environment to help them improve their business acumen and executive-level selling skills.

Our client learning engagements typically consist of 1-2 day workshop sessions (conducted on the client’s premises) and implementation coaching sessions (conducted via phone conference). As such, travel is required and associated expenses are reimbursed.


We offer highly competitive compensation and a flexible schedule that is mutually agreed in advance of every client training engagement. Additional compensation is available for material assistance in the acquisition of new clients. This position will be considered an independent 1099 contractor.

Profile of Ideal Candidate

An ideal candidate will have:
• Interest in flexible part-time work arrangements
• An approachable and outgoing personality with great communication skills
• A strong desire to help others learn and improve their business skills
• An admiration and respect for the sales and marketing profession and the value they deliver
• Significant experience in:
o Managing large operating and capital budgets
o Making and influencing large purchase and investment decisions
o Interacting with outside vendor/partner teams represented by sales, account management, product management, system engineering, marketing, and consulting
• A willingness to:
o Learn and deliver our workshop learning curriculum, including key messaging and application exercises
o Share experiences and stories (nothing confidential)
• A passion to positively impact and make a difference in the professional lives of others
• Global experience and multilingual capability are highly desired but not required

Our Commitment

We promise to:
• Treat you with the professional respect you deserve as a former C-Level executive
• Help you learn to deliver our workshop learning curriculum, including key messaging and applications exercises
• Provide advance notification of client learning engagements and solicit your agreement to participate


If you have preliminary interest and want to schedule a phone conversation to learn more, please contact:

Jack Dean
Co-Founder and Managing Partner
FASTpartners (Learn from Executives ~ How to Sell to Executives)

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Make the Customer of Your Customer Your "Sales Purpose"

Except for young children and occasionally teenagers, nothing keeps the CEO of a B2B company awake at night more than worrying about customers and the customers of customers.  Why?  Because an enlightened CEO knows his/her company’s customer loyalty is ultimately driven by the passion and purpose of employees to positively impact the loyalty of the customers’ customers.

For example, the CEO of a technology company selling branch systems to community banks worries about the commercial customers of the banks and whether their experience with cash collections is positively impacted by the expanded capabilities of the new branch system.  The technology CEO wants her company’s purpose-driven culture to be focused on helping commercial banking customers improve their cash flow and elevate their loyalty to the banks.  If the technology company can penetrate the customer-to-customer value chain, they will be rewarded with high levels of loyalty from their banking customers and the customer lifetime value that accompanies it.

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The Challenger Conundrum: What If Marketing Isn't Up to the Challenge?

You want to become a Challenger Rep®, but your company’s marketing organization is not supporting your personal aspiration.  Houston, we have a problem.

Reading between the lines of the The Challenger Sale (authored by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson of Corporate Executive Board or CEB), a sales rep acting alone faces almost insurmountable odds of becoming a Challenger Rep.  Marketing’s strong support is an essential prerequisite for transitioning a sales rep into a fully-credentialed Challenger Rep.  According to CEB, “Challenger Reps are made, not born”. “Challenging is about organizational capability, not just rep skills."  To reinforce the “organizational capabilities” messaging theme, CEB walks the talk and offers a provocative insight directed squarely at the marketing organization.  “It’s one thing to tell reps ‘Be a Challenger’.  It’s another thing altogether to tell them exactly what you want them to do.”

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Hello? Are C-Level Executives Listening?

Recently a technology sales manager posted a series of interesting questions on 'Selling to Executives', a LinkedIn discussion group I moderate.  His company is a leading provider of pricing optimization and management software.

I wanted to share his questions (and how I responded in the group discussion) because I consistently see the “access” issue as a major focus of sales reps trying to develop executive-level relationships.

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Three Reasons Why B2B Sales People MUST Engage Executives

Today, the new sales reality is that the buying process is more convoluted and confusing than it has been in the past. This “buy-side” complexity manifests itself in a number of dimensions: More stakeholders, greater caution, higher levels of scrutiny, and numerous signature approvals.

Most of the B2B sales professionals I work with in sales training engagements report longer customer sales cycles and growing levels of personal frustration.

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Resolve to Boost Your Competence (and Career) in 2012

This is a guest blog post from Karen Dean, CEO and co-founder of FASTpartners LLC, a sales training firm that specializes in helping sales professionals improve their business/financial competence and executive selling skills.

I’m not a big fan of the proverbial New Year’s resolutions.  That said, I do take an opportunity at year-end to assess what I need to do in the new year to make progress on personal and professional goals.   Whether you’re making resolutions or just planning ahead to better yourself in 2012, now is the time to start that process.  It’s much more fun going into the holidays with a clear mind and a solid plan to execute in the new year.

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Financial Competence is the Key to Successful Selling at the Executive Level

In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey says trust is not built solely on integrity, but on competence as well.  For sales people wanting to become trusted advisors to customer executives, I believe business competence is an essential personal capability.  In my view, business competence is more important than “softer” communication/negotiation skills or detailed product knowledge.  I also believe that financial acumen skills, knowledge, and capabilities are the foundation of business competence and that most sales people underestimate the importance of financial competence in building trust with senior decision-makers. 

According to Wikipedia, “Financial literacy is an important tenet of business acumen, but is not a synonym.  Ram Charan, the influential author and consultant, suggests that financial knowledge is the foundation of business acumen, and has described business acumen as, "…the art of linking an insightful assessment of the external business landscape with the keen awareness of how money can be made — and then executing the strategy to deliver the desired results.””

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Are Your Customer Success Stories “Executive Sticky”?

Customer testimonials are a widely used prospecting tool by most of you who sell technology solutions.   I’ll let you in on a little secret … most of your customer success stories aren’t “executive sticky”.  They don’t provide sufficient business value insights or compelling financial reasons to dig deeper into your solution.  They don’t act as a catalyst to make your executive engagements, well, more “engaging”.

Today’s executives know a lot about your company before they ever agree to talk with you.  As a buy-sideexecutive, I did my homework to get ready to meet prospecting B2B sales professionals.  If they piqued my interest enough to get on my calendar, I intended to get a ROI on the meeting.

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Generic Industry Knowledge Won’t Pass the “Smell Test” with Customer Executives

If you are a B2B sales professional who aspires to achieve trusted advisor status with your customer, gaining industry insight is a critical success factor.

But a surface layer of generic industry knowledge won’t be nearly enough to establish relevance with a sophisticated decision-maker who is looking to gain competitive advantage in the marketplace.

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The Ultimate Missed Opportunity for B2B Sales Professionals: The Customer Strategic Planning Cycle

During my career as a buy-side executive, B2B sales professionals rarely expressed interest in my company’s strategic planning process. That surprised me. In my current role helping sales teams understand customer executive mindset and perspective, I’ve confirmed my fears: most B2B sales professionals are not engaged in their customer’s strategic planning cycle.

In my view this represents the ultimate missed opportunity to influence the customer’s investment decision process. So, why are B2B sales professionals M.I.A.?

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The Post-Financial Crisis B2B Sales Professional

We’ve come a long way back from the depths of the global financial crisis. There have been many lessons learned on both sides of the buy/sell equation. For B2B sales professionals, this much should be abundantly clear: it’s a changed sales environment.

A Changed Sales Environment

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“Pain-full” Discussions For Customer Executives

An Executive Encounter

Sales Professional (SP): Thanks for agreeing to meet with me.  I understand you spoke to Robert, a mutual friend.

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Technology Investment Decisions Are Being Kicked UP and OVER

If you’re not convinced that customers of technology solutions are adapting to a new market reality, listen to what SAP, one of the largest technology purveyors in the world, said in the first paragraph of the CEO’s Letter to Shareholders in their most recent annual report.

“The past year was marked by changes to the business environment, as customers adapted to a new market reality. Customer buying behavior shifted to an emphasis on smaller transactions and projects with immediate return; decision making moved increasingly to line of business executives and away from the traditional IT power base of the CIO; and there were increased requirements for solutions to help CEOs, COOs, and CFOs manage performance, compliance, and gain more business insight for faster decision making.”

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5 Ideas to Improve Your Executive Relevancy in 2011

How relevant are you to your customer executives? What would they say about you and your company? Do they need you as much as you need them? Is there interdependence?

Many sales professionals confide in me that they don’t know the answers to these questions. They do recognize the negative consequences of beingirrelevant to customer executives and far from the radar screen.

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Train Wreck or On Track: When Your Company CXO Meets Your Customer

I’ve been a buy-side executive most of my professional career.  I never counted, but my guess is I’ve “experienced” over two-thousand face-to-face encounters with sales people, five-thousand phone calls, and probably twenty-thousand emails, voice messages, text messages, and old-fashioned letters.  As you can imagine, I’ve seen all kind of sales strategies, methodologies, techniques and gimmicks ranging from the truly outstanding to the very ugly.

Interestingly, I only remember the extremes: the 10% of the very best sales campaigns and the 10% of the very worst.  The 80% in the middle are undifferentiated fuzz in my mind.  If I remember your name and the company you represented, there’s a 50/50 chance I either loved you or hated you … not personally mind you, but professionally.

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Ten Dirty Little Secrets About ROI Analysis

Have you noticed that ‘ROI’, a term formerly reserved for the outcome of an in-depth investment analysis, has evolved to a catch-all buzzword used by sales and marketing people?  Everyone touts ROI to the point it has become meaningless noise to most buy-side executives.  ROI has morphed into another financial benefit waste word along with efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity.  Many sales professionals pull out the ROI wand as if the mere mention of the word carries some magical influence over their customer’s investment analysis.

I’m not suggesting that discussing ROI with your customers is inappropriate.  But I am suggesting that you stop using the R-word if you can’t say something more substantive and quantitative about the financial benefits of your solution.   If you want to improve your relevancy with customer executives, you better be able to engage them in a dialog about the financial impact your solution will have on their business.  This goes way beyond throwing out a ROI number.

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Catch The First FinReg Waves Washing Up On Investment Banks

Hang ten in the financial services industry and catch some of the first waves of business model changes washing up on the investment banking shores … dude. As I advised in a prior blog post, Selling Into FinReg, NOW is the time to sell the financial value of your solutions. Catch the wave! SeeWSJ article.

The regulatory sea change, that is andwill be (with 243 rules remaining to be written) the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (HR 4173), has begun to upend business models across the financial services industry. And Basel III, the global bank reform standards issued last month and scheduled to be finalized next month, has raised the wind speed and accelerated the pace of structural changes.

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How To Break Open The Corporate Piggy Bank

In business, cash is king; but the king is starting to hoard his riches. Sales professionals better get a big hammer to break open this bulging piggy bank.

By now you’ve probably heard that companies around the world, particularly in the U.S., are building up record cash piles. U.S. corporations hold more cash on their balance sheet than at any point on record. Nonfinancial companies in the S&P500 stock index are sitting on a record $2 trillion, according to FactSet. S&P reports the average company in its flagship index is carrying cash in the bank equal to 11.6% of their stock market value compared to less than 3% a decade ago. According to J.P. Morgan Chase, if cash balances for the companies in the S&P500 index returned to normal levels (about 7% of assets from the current 11%), it would result in spending of $428 billion!

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FASTalert: New Medical Loss Ratio Threshold Mandated by Feds Will Jumpstart Technology Spending by Health Insurers

See WSJ Article.  The new minimum Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) requirements mandated by the federal health overhaul will force health insurers to adjust their business models and aggressively reduce administrative expenses.  The fastest way to reduce the MLR is to implement technology initiatives to automate and streamline processes and transactions.

MLR is a performance metric that measures the amount of spending on medical expenses as a percentage of total premiums or revenues.  The new law stipulates that the MLR must exceed 80% for providers of individual and small-business health plans, and 85% for large-company health plans.  Said another way, providers of individual and small-business health plans must not allocate more than 20% of total premiums to administrative costs plus profits, and providers of large-company health plans must not exceed 25%.

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