How The Five Abilities(TM) is different

Since I started The Five Abilities™, people ask me how my sales methodology is different from the many well-known models.  My answer: 

In just a half-day session, not 3-5 days, attendees will have actions to complete, by tomorrow, which will advance their sales processes.  Most importantly, they will have the tools to independently figure out their next best actions to drive any sales process.  They will know why customers buy and how to apply the next best actions that help customers make buying decisions. 

The Five Abilities™ is less a difference and more of an action amendment.  It can complement existing models or it can be the model.  It’s about understanding Why Customers Buy From You.

The Birth of The Five Abilities™

Over 30+ years in sales, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from both experience and training.  At American Bank Stationery we used Xerox Professional Selling Skills.  At HP, we used Miller-Heiman’s Strategic Selling.  At Microsoft, we used Jim Holden’s Power Based Selling and later Nathan Steele’s Strategic Clarity.  As good as all these programs are people would finish the course still unclear on their next best actions. 

At HP I saw it in the questions at the end of training sessions.  I’d been there long enough to become a mentor and would get questions after every planning session that started with, “What do we do next?”  People knew their sales priorities, the key decision makers and how to present the offering, but it still wasn’t clear what next best actions were the most needed.  I would coach what to do but I wasn’t helping them understand why.  This left my mentees without the tools to identify their next best actions.  I needed to improve my coaching skills, which became more apparent after a key win in the early 1990s. 

We won a large contract at Boeing in partnership with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). This was the largest win HP had that year, within the manufacturing industry, so there were many requests for win reports.  I was asked to give a 30-minute presentation to the Global Accounts leadership team with a focus on what others could repeat.  I kept hearing from my management, “Just present what you did that is repeatable.”   

I was excited and built a 30-page presentation on specific things we did.  I got feedback from my manager, Pat McNiff, who said, “Nobody will get that.  It’s too specific to Boeing.”  Rick Justice, VP Global Account Sales, gave me similar feedback and said, “I just want 7-8 slides that people will remember.  Something clever and catchy that others can repeat with their customers.”  I was preparing to tell this group “what” we did without telling them “why” which is what makes it repeatable.  The same mistake I made with my mentees.

I talked with my partner from Andersen Consulting, Mike Gilkey, and during that conversation he said, “Well… we made more sales calls than any other project I’ve been on.”  We had a standard presentation and met with over 200 Boeing executives, most multiple times.  Up to then we were invisible compared to IBM and DEC so increasing our VISABILITY was important.

We also had a routine where Mike would present why Andersen preferred HP servers and software and I’d present why Andersen’s solutions were the best.  We had to build up our CREDABILITY and felt it would be better for Andersen to be touting the benefits of HP and vice versa.  It worked. 

Through this reenactment of what we did and why, I was able to create a presentation that was just seven slides.  My talk was about the five things customers asked us for, which drove the actions we took.

  • Because the competitors were incumbents, we needed to create the right VISABILITY with all decision makers and influencers.
  • Because Boeing lacked experience with us, we needed to build up our CREDABILITY by Mike touting the benefits of HP and me touting the benefits of Andersen.
  • Choosing us meant a change to their computing standards, which meant we had to convince them of the VIABILITY of our solution in comparison with the incumbents.
  • We had to give proof of our collective CAPABILITY through references, presentations and demonstrations.
  • We proved RELIABILITY throughout the process by always being accessible and quick to respond to requests.

At the leadership meeting, I got many compliments on the presentation.  On the flight home, I thought through past sales experiences to see if what I had just presented would apply to wins I had selling music, checks for American Bank Stationery and other wins I had at HP.  Without exception, the answer was yes.  Thus was born The Five Abilities™.

So back to the original question:  How is The Five Abilities™ different from other selling models?  For large companies with an existing sales methodology, The Five Abilities™ can be that last mile of execution with tools that allow sales managers and people to know their next best actions.

For small and medium businesses, who need a consistent model and can’t take their people out of the field for a week, The Five Abilities™ helps managers and sales people quickly identify actions that give customers what they need to make buying decisions.  Why customers buy from you is the focus of selling.

©2013 Rick Wong – The Five Abilities™ LLC


Winning Lifelong Customers with The Five Abilities