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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A practical guide
'Exceptional Selling' is a practical guide to sales success that shows sales professionals how to avoid the many traps of self-sabotage brought about by self, peer, and customer pressure and traditional sales approaches. It shows sales professionals how to create a different kind of relationship with the customer and to reframe the typical sales conversation into open,...
Published on August 14, 2007 by Sahra Badou

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Another sales staregy book
Easy read. Nothing new here however. Always looking for new info and reinforcement of effective techniques. This one works for that.
Published 12 months ago by James Simmonds


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A practical guide, August 14, 2007
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This review is from: Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales (Hardcover)
'Exceptional Selling' is a practical guide to sales success that shows sales professionals how to avoid the many traps of self-sabotage brought about by self, peer, and customer pressure and traditional sales approaches. It shows sales professionals how to create a different kind of relationship with the customer and to reframe the typical sales conversation into open, honest and straightforward communication. The author says that by replicating the practices of top-performing professionals, you'll learn new, exceptional ways to sell that can set you apart and pull you ahead of the pack.

Here are some notes I took while reading this book that might be helpful to you:

Every salesperson must understand the customer's world. This is done by not only being a good listener, but by understanding the client's meaning system--the whole set of assumptions, experiences, values, and beliefs that create the context for their perceptions, judgments, and decisions. Before we can listen at this level, our customers have to be willing to talk to us as equals. We need to establish peer-to-peer relationships with them. How can this be done when everyone is competing for their attention? According to the author, establishing a mind-set of mutual respect is the secret to walking this fine line. We have to assume that our customers are experts in their businesses and, furthermore, that they know their own organizations far better than any outsider ever will. We don't have to insult customers by telling them everything we think they don't know (p. xiii-xiv).

In the rush to sell something, as soon as the customer mentions a problem, the salespeople start talking about how to solve it with their solution. They make premature judgments, and in doing so, they shut down or change the direction of their conversations and miss the richness of insight, perspective, and depth of knowledge that the customer could provide. The usual outcome is a dissatisfied customer¡ªdissatisfied because he knows that the salesperson has stopped listening and won't know enough about his situation to propose the best solution. The ideal sales conversation starts with actually hearing customers in their own terms and with their own meanings. As a conversation progresses, you migrate to a more structured discourse in which you are trying to make sense of what customers are telling you in light of the frameworks in which you are expert. You're situating your expertise inside the customer's world (p. xiv-xv).

Sales professionals who are exceptional conversationalists as well as exceptional diagnosticians are like chess masters. They know the pattern of the board, the strategies of the game, and they know where they are, where they're going, and their options at every instant (p. xvii).

Salespeople often have two strikes against them every time they engage a customer: they are relying on unconscious patterns that were already set in stone by the time they entered kindergarten; and they are working with a sales process that encourages an atmosphere of confrontation. These sabotage our relationships with customers (p. xxv).

A study revealed that the number-one reason that patients change doctors was not based upon the doctor's competence, but on the doctor's bedside manner, that is, how well the doctor appeared to understand and respond to the patient (p. 10).

When you're feeling pressure, you're doing something wrong (p. 19).

Do not answer an unasked question (p. 11).

When customers are engaged, they learn. When what they learn is compelling enough to make them want to change and take action, they will buy (p. 10).

You may be sabotaging your own career. A very common scenario occurs when salespeople unwittingly play the parent with customers and alienate them at the very beginning of the sale. Many customers hear a parent or superior insinuating that they don't know their own business. Once the parent and the child manifest themselves in a business conversation, old patterns of reacting often kick in, and what's left of your connection and credibility with the customer quickly deteriorates. In the dialogue that follows, you'll see that salespeople often respond as the child to their customers:

Prospect: Our Company is planning to purchase an integrated CRM software package for our marketing, sales and service staff. We would like you to demonstrate your solution to our management team by the end of the month.

Salesperson: First, I need to get a better understanding of your company's needs and budget. I'd like to meet with several of the executives at your company.

Prospect: We'd rather not take the time for that. We'd like to start with an overview first and if things look good, we can progress from there.

Salesperson: It's very difficult to present such a complex solution without understanding more about your situation and budget constraints.

Prospect: We don't have time to waste on meetings. Do you want to work with us or not?

Salesperson: Certainly, when would be the most convenient time for the demo?

What happened here was driven by emotion. The customer says he wants a product demonstration, a normal and often costly part of the complex sales process. The salesperson responds as an adult and seeks to ensure that a demonstration of his product can be tailored and is appropriate for the customer and his own company. The customer responds like a parent; it's going to be his way or the highway. The salesperson, overly anxious to please and scared to lose the sale, responds like a child by complying and, in doing so, commits to an expensive course of action that may very well have no chance of yielding a sale (p. 14-15).

Just as it takes two to tango, salespeople and customers enter conversations with preconceived perceptions and expectations and distinct mind-sets. Customers tend to paint all salespeople with the same brush. To them, salespeople--no matter whether they sell advanced avionics or used cars--all come out of the same mold. And customers' negative perception of salespeople is often based on direct experience. To break these patterns and establish credibility and trust with customers, the author recommends the following:

1. Salespeople need to be professionally involved and emotionally detached in conversations with customers.
2. Salespeople must retrain themselves and learn new conversational processes and skills.
3. Salespeople have to confront their conditioning and establish themselves as valued business advisers.

What is the one and only thing your customers really want to know? Value. You can't count on customers to recognize on their own the value you bring to the table, to calculate what it's worth or accurately determine if they should pay its price. You must help the customer connect the dots. The customer is the judge and jury in the sale, but you are the expert, the guide. The value proposition is nothing more than a capability, and your primary responsibility is to make it relevant. Once you know how to translate value, you are on your way to regular and predictable success in sales. When a value translation is done properly, the pieces of the customer's puzzle come together and you get the credit (p. 39-40).

Successful sales professionals maintain and protect their self-esteem and their customer's self-esteem at all times. What does self-esteem have to do with sales? When salespeople inadvertently damage their customer's self-esteem, they risk losing the cooperation and participation that are so important to the sales process. Some salespeople ask the customer questions like: "What's keeping you awake at night?" and "What types of pain are you feeling in your manufacturing process?" The danger is you are insinuating that the customer doesn't know what he is doing. If you "get to the pain" without being sensitive to self-esteem, you can easily alienate the customer and destroy the relationship.

A sales engagement is not the right place to get our emotional needs met or give our emotions free rein. Salespeople should be professionally involved, but emotionally detached (p. 173).

There are only two reasons why customers don't buy:

1. They don't believe they have a problem, so they don't have incentive to change.
2. They don't believe the solution proposed will work.

Never be afraid or unwilling to tell a customer your price the moment the question is asked. The right question is not whether the price is reasonable or not. The right question is, "Does the customer's situation warrant our level of solution in financial terms?"

You have competitors; your customers have alternatives (p. 143).

In his book, 'Failure Is Not an Option', NASA Mission Control Director Gene Kranz described the necessity of having a mental map in the world of test pilots. Test pilots, he said, are always trying to stay ahead of the airplane; they are trying to get ahead of the power curve. They work hard to 'anticipate what could happen rather than just reacting to what was happening at the moment.' That is the mark of a professional in any field of endeavor (p. 79).

This is a good book to read if you want to master the art of selling. It offers great advice and workable methods.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional Selling is Exceptional, October 30, 2006
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This review is from: Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales (Hardcover)
With so many sales books in the market, it's rare that one book can be so different, and valuable. In Exceptional Selling, Thull explores how sales people can create exceptional sales conversations with customers that lead to exceptional results for the buyer and seller.

But this isn't a book about building rapport as a means to closing a sale. Instead, it's an in-depth approach to winning the complex sale. Thull suggests that many of the traditional sales techniques lead to lost sales, and he offers a new way to manage the sales process.

The chapter on why no one buys a value proposition is worth the price of the book. And it's a good example of how Thull throws out conventional wisdom, while also giving us something to put in its place.

This is a well-written book, probably Thull's best one yet.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Secrets" of Excellence in Salesmanship, August 25, 2006
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This review is from: Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales (Hardcover)
In his previously published books, Jeff Thull introduced and then developed several separate but related core concepts which would help those in sales "to compete and win when the stakes are high" (Mastering the Complex Sale) and how to close the value gap, increase margins, and win the complex sale (The Prime Solution). In this volume, he explains "how [high-performing salespeople, `the best of the best'] connect and win in high stakes sales." Over time, Thull's core concepts remain essentially the same; however, as he interacts with those who hear him speak and with those who read his books, and as he observes changes in an increasingly more complex - and more competitive - marketplace, he fine-tunes his earlier insights and enriches the frame-of-reference within which he presents them as well as new insights. "The book is about creating conversations that achieve relevancy, credibility, and respect between individuals, no matter what the context."

Thull carefully organizes and presents his material within three Parts. First, in Chapters 1-3, he explores the communication barriers that stand between salespeople and their customers; next, in Chapters 4-7, he guides his reader through four series of conversations that result in exceptional sales; finally, in Chapters 8 and 9, he explores how to establish exceptional credibility and cement it with the ability to overcome two of the most difficult conversational challenges in today's complex sales environment: "the urgent need to quantify value and the demand that salespeople engage with customers at the highest levels of their organizations." Over the course of nine chapters, Thull establishes and then sustains a direct and informal (i.e. conversational) rapport with his reader. He thoroughly examines the conversational mind-set, strategies, and skills that power exceptional selling.

Of special interest to me is Thull's focus on various misconceptions about high-performance salesmanship. Those whom he refers to as "high-performing salespeople, `the best of the best'," consistently and convincingly demonstrate that most traditional ideas about sales are no longer appropriate. For example:

Myth: "All prospects will buy."

Reality: Only certain customers will and should buy.

Myth: "A good salesperson can sell anything to anybody."

Reality: A good salesperson weeds out poor prospects and focuses on high-gain opportunities.

Myth: "Customers know what they need; it's my job to deliver it."

Reality: Customers can be unclear and even wrong about their needs; the salesperson's responsibility is to complete an accurate diagnosis of need(s).

Myth: "Never walk away when money is on the table."

Reality: Always walk away unless certain that you can improve the prospect's business.

Myth: "The customer is always right."

Reality: The customer needs and deserves professional guidance to make an appropriate decision.

According to Thull, many (too many) salespersons never develop what he characterizes as the "Diagnostic Mindset," a point-of-view or set of beliefs which provides the foundation for a conversational, diagnostic style that is uniquely suited fvor exceptional communications. It's the antithesis of a presentation mindset. "Diagnosis is more effrective than presentation [a systematic but numbing review of functions, features, and benefits], first because it is collaborative and second, because it's always focused on the customer. Diagnosis is about observable symptoms of the problems and the parameters of solutions, not opinions or blame."

Thull explains what the "Diagnostic Mindset" is, why it works so well for the best salespeople , and how others can - and should - use it to achieve comparable success. Throughout his narrative, Thull includes all manner of reader-friendly devices which summarize key points, and, correlate them with real-world situations. One of my favorites is the "Key Thought" device, a boxed statement which challenges conventional wisdom. For example:

"Do not answer an unasked question."

"When in doubt, do the opposite of what a salesperson would do!"

"In the absence of a quality decision process, the decision will degenerate to the lowest common denominator: price."

"Do not allow the customer to self-diagnose."

"You have competitors; your customers have alternatives."

"The purpose of a proposal is to reinforce decisions which have already been made."

Those who develop the "Diagnostic Mindset" will always be focused on a customer's needs; will recognize observable symptoms of problems and the parameters of solutions, not blame; will engage the customer as a collaborative partner; promote customer ownership of the solutions identified; and thereby, the salesperson will differentiate herself or himself from competitors. Not all of those in sales who read this book will be both willing and able to develop the "Diagnostic Mindset." In fact, many will remain hostage to what James O'Toole characterizes as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom." Those who do develop this mindset will stand apart not so much by what they sell as by how they sell. Thull concludes his brilliant book with the following definition of exceptional:

"Far beyond what is usual in magnitude or degree.

Surpassing what is common or usual or expected.

Having or showing intelligence or ability well above average.

Not like others of the same type.

"That is as good a definition as you will find of an exceptional sales professional. May all of your customers and colleagues describe you as exceptional."

Amen.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-have for your sales education, October 11, 2006
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This review is from: Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales (Hardcover)
First of all, a disclaimer. I've known Jeff Thull for six years and when I came to him I had been successful at selling. Six year later, my "game" looks nothing like it did back then. I now know that I was typical of most persuasive salespeople--one who talked too much, listened too little and relied on the very paradigm that Jeff so eloquently describes early in this book. I had been trained in the gold standards of my time, including Professional Selling Skills, Miller-Heiman, SPIN, Solution Selling, Target Account Selling and the like. When I failed to connect with my prospects on getting started, I frequently blamed it on the inability for them to understand my value offering, which caused me to think they weren't sophisticated enough to get it because I was certainly explaining it well.

This book will help those of you who always thought there was something fundamentally wrong with the so called "consultative selling processes" and haven't been able to understand what that might be. It clearly defines for you the things you might be doing which only reinforce the typical sales stereotype. And it gives a clear roadmap to accomplish that goal (it's always amazed me how many authors talk so academically about how the sales process should go, yet never give instruction on how-to.)

If you have the privilege of knowing Jeff personally, you know that he's a modest, down-to-earth communicator whose temperament and unassuming mindset are ideal for establishing what he calls the "atmosphere of cooperation." If you don't, you'll readily see that his writing style isn't one of "I've been there and I know", but rather one that reasons with you and gets you to question the real truths of your client communication. There are far too many lessons in this latest effort to crystallize them here, but if I can allow me to make one recommendation--don't cherry pick the nuggets and adopt them to your current sales process. Instead, approach this work as a litmus test for the true effectiveness of your current customer interaction strategy and be willing to realize that there's a better way.

Unless you're a competitor of mine. Then keep on interrogating your prospects and giving those great presentations.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stop Selling to Sell More, September 19, 2006
This review is from: Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales (Hardcover)
I sell ERP software in Southern California. The past year has been a real struggle-increased competition, a lot of no-decisions and long sales cycles. While I've been exposed to sales theories such as "Solution Selling" before, it's been a real struggle to implement it. I find myself slipping into "sales" mode too often.

But "Exceptional Selling" has been a TRUE eye-opener. Jeff Thull's concept of becoming a trusted advisor instead of a sales person WORKS. After studying the book, I went to my first appointment with the sole intention of using the diagnostic mindset-asking questions to see where the problems really are. Even though the company is just looking for a small CRM package, I told them that I wanted to talk to all the different departments to make sure that CRM is the right answer to solve their issues. At the end of our meeting the prospect told me that she wanted to sign an NDA because I was asking questions and acting like a "Business Analyst" rather than a sales person. I've got appointments with the different departments next week. Talk about validation!

Today I met with a prospect who describes himself as a "Tough Sell." You should have seen the surprise on his face when, in my opening statement, I told the prospect that I wasn't there to sell him anything and that I had no product to show him or to talk about; I was just there to explore so that we could both make a quality business decision. Our scheduled half-hour meeting stretched to two hours and I'm going back next week to meet with other departments.

I've always been PROUD of my career but the one thing I've NEVER wanted to be was a stereotypical sales person. Now I have a NEW role--Trusted Advisor

If you're tired of average sales; tired of long sales cycles, cut-throat competition and eroding profits then you owe it to yourself to read "Exceptional Selling" and use the material. I believe it can truly be a career-changing event for you.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is truly Exceptional, September 12, 2006
This review is from: Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales (Hardcover)
If you are a sales, business developer or account representative that sells complex services or products, this is a must-read that can't help but change your career in a very positive way. The strategic process and tactical how-to's included in this book are truly as the title suggests. They are Exceptional. Implementing this process will take you from a good consultative sales person to an excellent diagnostic business developer. I would strongly suggest not just reading this, but rather studying and implementing this if you want to see a behavioral change for the positive. The Prime Process described in the book promotes and requires genuine integrity by diagnosing a prospective client's situation to see if there are symptoms that require a need for the value of your offering. Salespeople can now discover early in the process if a prospective client is genuinely in need of their product or service long before they waste a lot of their own time as well as the client's time with an unneeded solution. With this in mind, long-term client loyalty is much more likely than with the typical "consultative" sales approach that most salespeople use. The framework for the process and the research done through multiple internal and external sources of client intelligence will allow you to formulate a value assumption (instead of a "canned" value proposition)that shows your prospective client respect and relevancy when it's time to get face-to-face with the "C-Suite" people. In a nutshell, the Prime Process is a four fold process of discover, diagnose, design and deliver. I've read dozens of business development, client loyalty and sales books and have attended a number of high-level sales courses...this one tops them all.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended Reading for All Loan Officers, March 30, 2007
This review is from: Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales (Hardcover)
It's one of the best sales books I have read in years.

What you will learn from it:

As one who is an advisor, you realize that not every client is a perfect fit for you. This book focuses on the language and mindsets you use with clients. With the right mindset and approach, you come off far more credible and actually sound like an advisor -- rather than just saying you are one.

Further, the book focuses on first diagnosing (like a doctor would) before prescribing solutions. Again, taking this approach creates a true advisor relationship -- rather than just saying you're an advisor.

Secondly, when approaching referral sources like Financial Planners and CPAs, they are going to be very perceptive in sensing if someone is presenting them with a hard close and pressuring their clients. Their relationships are the life blood of their business and they will not jeopardize them by referring them to someone they may perceive as a wolf. Again, the "maybe, maybe not" type approach in the book is essential in building relationships that demand both professionalism and credibility.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get, December 27, 2006
This review is from: Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales (Hardcover)
An excellent book. I reviewed it in my December "The Investment Edge" column at [...], and gave it high marks. If you are interested in getting to the deep water of sales communications, "Exceptional Selling" is for you.

From the column--

...helps the sales professional create a satisfying decision-making process. Thull says, "In the absence of a quality decision process, the decision will degenerate to the lowest common denomiator: price."

Early in the book, Thull writes, "You can make the greatest leaps in sales performance and raise your results from average to tood or good to great by simply changing your mind. How we think precedes how we behave and our mind-set is without a dobubt the critical foundation for success."

Richard Hoe
[...]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended for any aspiring or practicing professional in the field., December 9, 2006
This review is from: Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales (Hardcover)
Written by Jeff Thull (President and CEO of Prime Resource Group), Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales is a guide especially for people who work in the high-pressure realm of complex sales. Chapters discuss the general negotiating tools for selling to businesses, corporations and corporate representatives, from entry-level workers to CEOs. Exceptional Selling dispenses with harmful traditional sales mindsets, such as the impression that the salesperson must use any quoted hard figures against the customer, or that the best thing to do with any potential surprises in the transaction is to hide them until the last minute. Exceptional Selling draws upon the author's expertise to build the practical, confident, cooperative and highly persuasive mindset necessary to succeed in the increasingly connected and fast-paced world of twenty-first century sales. Highly recommended for any aspiring or practicing professional in the field.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional Selling Delivers Exceptional Results, November 9, 2006
This review is from: Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales (Hardcover)
The concepts in this book have helped me to make more sales more quickly by showing me how to avoid unproductive activities. Jeff Thull lays out a clear, logical process for gaining trust and access at the most important levels of a business involved with complex purchasing decisions. If you follow Jeff's program, you will be more successful. It's that simple.
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Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales
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