Return to site

Sales Transformation

Learning plus Decisioning increases sales effectiveness.


Ian H Smith

Knowledge-intensive firms in all industries are under siege. Selling high-value solutions via mechanical procurement techniques is inappropriate. Responding to a Request For Proposal (RFP) is simply relegating business to a commodity transaction, where the buyer knows-all and what's being purchased is, in reality driven by price, not value.

Value v. Price

In sales it might be a high-price deal, but not necessarily a high-value deal. Deal size size alone is not enough to qualify to what extent the seller can add value through creative, innovative thinking, services and/or products.

For example, a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) deal priced at US$/UK£10million over say, 5 years, may be a very high-price, yet lowest-price-wins scenario. This is where an arm's length, formal procurement via the multi-supplier RFP response may be the best way to source the most competitive provider of a routinised, mature and proven set of services. Perfectly honourable, but for sure, does not need a highly-paid Sales Professional driving the deal.

On the other hand, selecting a digital agency to help transform online customer experience might be a deal based on a budget of say, US$/UK£500,000 - but the value and need for creativity and innovation from the supplier is not in doubt. In such a high-value, high-touch sell, the buyer does not know all, and therefore, making the purchasing decision from evaluating a number of RFP responses makes no sense. The seller helps to shape the buyers needs and therefore, the Basis of Decision.

In the high-value, high-touch sell, the seller has the opportunity to engage with the buyer in a more open way - and crucially, if it's earlier, it will be a competitive advantage won. This is what I call Demand Creation Selling versus Demand Fulfilment Selling and you can read more about this in my Sales Method blog post.

Two Key Things

The high-value, high-touch sell is more important than ever for knowledge-intensive firms. This is where defending value over price is increasingly difficult to achieve. Increasing sales effectiveness in the knowledge-intensive firm requires the combination of two things to be introduced:

  • Learning: through applying continuous Mentoring.
  • Decisioning: through using Interactive Decisioning Tools.

The Sales Professional who embraces Learning and Decisioning is someone who also accepts - as does his/her boss - that this is never the one-time training process but a commitment to continuous improvement and 'mastery'.

The symbiosis of Learning and Decisioning is all about the seller building the ability to create 'receptivity' with the buyer at a human level - regardless of whether the buyside is organised as individuals or teams. In turn, receptivity leads to rapport - and crucially, results in trust between buyer and seller.  


Classroom-based sales training is good, but not practicable as a continuous learning programme for busy, knowledge-intensive firms. Sales Professionals are like top-performing sports people: they need to be continuous Mentoring to improve. What's missing from most sales organisations is a Mentoring Programme. In this context, this means everyone in the firm should be both Mentors and Mentorees - in sales and beyond.

Everyone has something to offer to someone else - and more. So, although Mentoring goes beyond the environment of Sales Professional, the customer-facing challenges are a great place to start. The best way to get Mentoring started in sales is to do the following:

  • Invest in a Mentoring Platform. See LOOP Mentoring.
  • Enable the Sales Leader to be the first Mentor. 
  • Create an initial Mentoring Circle with say, 3-10 Sales Professionals.
  • Work with an outside Co-Mentor to identify key Mentoring Topics.

Of course, a key part of the first steps here is Learning and Mentoring Topics that are relevant to the Sales Professional. I have provided some examples of my own Mentoring Programme in the Topics section of this blog post below. The power of the outsider as Co-Mentor allows the perspective of 'outside-in' to challenge any institutionalised 'inside-out' mindset from curtailing change.


The second key foundation for increasing sales effectiveness in the high-value, high-touch sell is Decisioning. Based on my Sales Method called Demand Creation Selling, Decisioning requires a way of buyer and seller engaging that is open to new ideas - and new ways to calculate the value related to a particular would-be purchase.

The process is called a Mutual Value Discovery and the technology enablers are Interactive Decisioning Tools. Here, the solution may be a product, a service - or combination of products and services, described and communicated as a compelling Value Proposition.

For a high-value solution - and from the buyer's perspective - a Mutual Value Discovery enables the safe discovery and validation of the true value of a particular solution - by applying a series of 'What-If' scenarios to a given Value Proposition. This requires a solid foundation for Decisioning: a set of Return On Investment (ROI) Models and Calculators to compare Current State ('As Is') with Future State ('To Be').

ROI Modelling must quantify both the Economic Basis of Decision ('EBOD1') and Emotional Basis of Decision ('EBOD2') related to a timely purchase (or rejection) of the Value Proposition. We know that both economics and emotion govern all purchasing decisions. Remember the famous point made in the 1980s - 'no one ever got fired for buying IBM'. So, if the seller does not have the comfort of brand leadership - understanding and quantifying EBOD2 as a tempering value on EBOD1 is vital. It is highly subjective, of course - but essential to success in Decisioning.

Decisioning requires the physicality of Interactive Decisioning Tools: spreadsheet, Web or CRM technologies (such as XCELD) that enable buyer-validated sales forecasting. These technologies must be underpinned by Design Thinking and Mutual Value Discovery.

Learning how to be effective in applying a Mutual Value Discovery means understanding how to follow a Design Thinking process and use Interactive Decisioning Tools with empowered buyers. This is non-trivial and requires Learning through Mentoring too - not simply the applying say, the XCELD add-on to a CRM system - but achieving 'mastery' in achieving receptivity, rapport and trust between buyer and seller.


When implementing Mentoring with Sales Professionals, it can be challenging to organise the Learning in a structured, yet appealing way. Of course, the power of Mentoring can and should be applied across all areas of the firm, not just the customer-facing sales and business development areas. But starting with Sales Professionals, you can consider the Mentoring Topics I make available. Here are three examples to start the first Mentoring Circles with Sales Professionals:

  • Creating a Mutual Value Discovery. Learn about how to build simple, effective ROI Models and Calculators, applied to your solutions and how value is created in the 'What-If' journey from Current State ("As Is') to Future State ('To Be').
  • Quantifying the Basis of Decision. Building ROI Models that bring together and quantify both the objective Economic Basis of Decision ("EBOD1') and the subjective Emotional Basis of Decision ('EBOD2'). This leads to calculating the Cost of Delay/Doing Nothing.
  • Design Thinking in Sales. How focusing on the mastery of building receptivity, then rapport, and eventually, trust is key to achieving open communications between buyer and seller. This is the human underpinning of a 5-step Design Thinking process, starting with Empathize.


The combination of XCELD and LOOP provides the tech foundation to implement Learning through Mentoring and Value Creation through Decisioning - all focused on a clear Value Proposition Design. You can explore and agree appropriate initial Mentoring Topics and form your first 'Mentoring Circle' with a handful of Sales Professionals.

This leads to true Sales Transformation, based on:

  • Enable Demand Creation Selling - a proactive Sales Method to engage with empowered buyers earlier - not waiting for the RFP and price-driven procurements.
  • Engage buyers in Mutual Value Discovery - determine Deal Value and Close Date based on a ROI Model resulting in the buyer - not the seller - validating the sales forecast.
  • Embrace continuous learning and measure the results through integrating XCELD and LOOP with your CRM system. 

What this results in is the achievement of positive, measurable Sales Transformation outcomes - underpinned by tangible increases in employee motivation, productivity and retention.

All Posts

Almost done…

We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!

OKSubscriptions powered by Strikingly