Xerox Sales Training Program

Widely known as Professional Selling Skills (PSS) ... the Xerox sales training program was considered by many to be one of the best, if not the best, sales courses available at the time.

I know there is a xerox training program but is PSS still around or has it been replaced with or evolved into something else? Given when it was created, do you think that training would be as relevant or appropriate today as it was in the 1970's and 1980's? - by Houston


Professional Selling Skills (PSS)

Gee, I took PSS I and PSS II way back in 1985.

Didn't Mike Bosworth develop or at least have significant input on the development of Professional Selling Skills (PSS) before he left to start up Solution Selling and now Customer-Centric Selling? I think Neil Rackham may have also had something to do with it.

PSS is probably okay for selling pencils between salespeople (an inside joke if you've ever taken PSS), but I consider it to be overly manipulative. I would think that anybody using it today in a sophisticated B2B selling environment would find themselves thrown out on their ear.

A quick GOOGLE search shows that there are some people who claim to offer some form of PSS training. - by jcundiff
The Xerox sales training program, Professional Selling Skills (PSS), was ultimately picked up by AchieveGlobal. I went through one of these sessions about 7 years ago; it's still a pretty solid all-around program. Having gone through both, I'd say the Professional Sales Coaching program is better (it's geared towards managers, so it's not a replacement for PSS). - by BrandonH
It's all evolutionary. To be biblical for a moment, PSS begat SPIN and SPIN begat Solution Selling. Each "generation" moved more toward being consultative and away from being manipulative. All three ignore the role of politics and pre-existing preference in a complex sale.

Jim Cundiff - by jcundiff
Jim, please expand on that last sentence. Not so much with an outline of the systems in that context, but rather with how you personally place a value on that particular reality.

In other words, in your opinion, is it good...or not so good?

Thanks. - by Joe Closer
While at Xerox, I was "dipped in these waters". As an ex-Xoid, I've been thru the spectrum of sales training since.

Vestiges of these XLS courses are beaten into the fabric of my selling style but, Jim's comment about being thrown out of B2B selling situations is not really accurate. If he genuinely has followed someone through that kind of quality training, he knows that they have adapted to change. AND, he knows that the really good SRs took the best of each and wove them into their selling style.

I'm sure that while I was still in the pin-stripes and starched whites, the PSS was close to the surface. I find it offensive, however, to have called my style (even then) "manipulative". Every SR out there has a personal style and I was diligent to inject some flavour into my approach.

Listening skills were the at the top of my list and, while probing, I was quite effective at getting the customer's point of view on the table early. We worked at identifying their needs and, in an effort to move the sales cycle along, I would close throughout (for more meetings, demonstration, presentation, etc.).

Yes, Xerox sales training (PSS) evolved into SPIN (situation, problems, implications, and needs pay-off). But there's a story behind it. At the time, Xerox was winning 4 out of 5 "sales confrontations" (according to 3rd party research paid for by Xerox corporate). BUT, on further review of the data: they were involved in only 4 out of 10 sales opportunities! Huthwaite in GB was tasked to get inside the issue as Rank Xerox was "sucking canal water" compared to the rest of the company. What they found (while making extensive 2 man calls with Rank Xerox SRs) was that those who were consistently successful spent more time asking questions about the customer's situation and problems ... you can see where this led.

I was part of the "alpha program" at Xerox Canada. It was our impression that SPIN was awkward but effective.

Good luck & Good Selling!
Pat - by OUTSource Sales
If I am not mistaken Xerox Learning Systems, a separate company set up to market the program that was originally developed for Xerox reps, later became known as International Learning Systems. I lost touch with it in the late eighties or early nineties ... do not know what happened after that.

And, I cannot agree more with what OUTSource Sales stated about "manipulative". Then or now, I not only don't feel like a manipulator, I feel very in touch with my prospect's needs and know how to satisfy them. Selling really is a need satisfaction process, though you could certainly invent a lot of ways to say essentially the same thing.

If you call directing sales dialog manipulative, the great majority of what is practiced in Need Satisfaction Selling is just letting the prospect talk (using open probes, also called open ended questions). I hardly call letting the prospect say whatever is on their mind controlling or manipulative.

Since I owned a copy of Xerox sales training (PSS III) and still have it, I can say that I know the product as well as just about anyone. I sat in on over 100 weekend events over the years, having taken the lead "coach" role more than 40 times.

Most of the other training systems I have studied simply use different terminology to explain the same important elements of the sale or, for example, customer attitudes. And, though I never sat through SPIN, I'm 100% comfortable with not having taken it.

OUTSource Sales was bang on when he stated that PSS III was quality training. - by Gold Calling
Okay, perhaps the term manipulative is a bit strong. The research that Rackham and Huthwaite and Bosworth used was and is ground-breaking. When I took PSS I and PSS II and Solution Selling, I was enlightened by the way research into a sales person's best practices could be applied to my selling methodology.

I still contend that Professional Selling Skills (PSS) and Solution-Selling and other similar methods ignore the role of politics and preference in their approach. No matter how strong a solution I can build with a prospect, if they are politically aligned against me Solution-Selling has no method to address this. These methods also do not cover the degree to which a particular prospect contact prefers my solution to that of competitors - either negative or positive.

The company I work for - The Complex Sale founded by Rick Page in 1994 - combines the best concepts of solution-oriented selling with methods to address politics and preference. It's a modern, proven method that actually sticks with sales people because it works for the long term.

Finally, these older methods ignore the changes that have occurred with buyers. Because of the internet and other information sources, buyers can be very far down the buying cycle path before a salesperson ever gets a hint that a prospect is in buying mode. Salespeople risk becoming a negative to the sales process if they don't add value to the equation by helping to solve a business problem with their products and services.

Buyers don't want to be put through some mechanical process. They want someone to come in, identify a problem and provide a cost-effective solution.

Okay, I'll bet I've really lit the fuse now. - by jcundiff
Jim, it's unclear to me how I've survived in sales by ignoring politics and preference (your inference).

From a mulitude of threads to date, the implication from numerous (Junior?) members seems to be that "whatever the sales course says is real" (ie. no room for personalities, no room for - in this case - customer preference, etc.). PSS/SPIN-trained Xeroids covered the globe and, throughout, they excelled against the competition. I'm not sure where your comment originates ...

In business, I am not a strong believer in following the writing of any single individual. In fact, it's been decades since I opened a business-oriented book.

Nowhere in any of my training did it say, "crank down the listening skills"! There simply isn't a successful SR out there who has ignored what's transpiring across the desk during their calls.

In my 30 plus years, NOT a single client would call our interface "mechanical". I don't consider myself an "exemplary" example of a PSS-trained SR (many were ahead of me then and now). But I certainly have done well with the fundamentals provided by this type of training. It's uncertain where your comment originates ...

Interestingly, wrt your comments about "older/newer" styles and the advent of the internet impacting selling cycles:
1. as an individual, I never failed to exceed plan; and,
2. my team(s) have over-achieved consistently throughout;

The style which I have evolved include listening skills at the top, a touch of my sense of humour (somewhat dangerous), excellent skills at qualifying/probing, great presentation skills, and superb closing skills. Years of experience added business acumen (I was quite naive on this topic through the initial period). As the gray hair takes over, I've morphed into a strong mentor/motivator.

I do not believe that any sales training course is measurably "better" than any of the others. I do, however, believe that not all training courses are meant for all SRs. This is a niche which fits well within the scope of OUTSource Sales Consulting (ie. assisting organizations to find the right training for their specific needs).

Sorry Jim but I think you need to see the sales skill training landscape for what it truly is: broad, competitive and multi-faceted.

Good luck & Good selling!
Pat - by OUTSource Sales
Jim, it's unclear to me how I've survived in sales by ignoring politics and preference (your inference).
You don't need to be catty, Pat. I didn't say I ignored politics and preference. I said that the sales methodologies I mentioned did not account for politics and preference in their approach.

In fact, it's been decades since I opened a business-oriented book.
I would love to make some recommendations for your reading list.

I do not believe that any sales training course is measurably "better" than any of the others.
I disagree. I think that a sales methodology that actually helps a salesperson close deals; is easy to use; doesn't just exist as a tool to produce information for upper management; and 'sticks' (i.e., is used for more than the 30 to 45 days that most sales training actually lasts) IS better than those that don't. Now, that said, if a particular method works for you (collectively) then that method is the best one for you (again, collectively).

I think you need to see the sales skill training landscape for what it truly is: broad, competitive and multi-faceted.

Jim - by jcundiff
Jim, no "cattiness" intended, however, you must admit that your post was directed at those with my background. So, rather than cattiness, I would have preferred that you see my comments in the context in which they were intended.

Your comments about sales methodologies "ignoring politics & preference" infers that people who are founded in those methodologies would suffer some difficulties ... it's simply untrue in real life, Jim. I am a successful example and I could point out my peers who "went thru" with me.

With regard to business books, I have a shelf full of unread material. Thanks anyway. My point wasn't that there aren't good ones out there, rather, I get concerned when I hear junior SRs re-reading phrases and throwing them out in meetings. It also concerns me when SRs feel that any single book on selling skills has "changed the world". I frequently read epic novels which span generations because they are complex and entertaining.

Your selective quote about one course being better than the other is somewhat demeaning as you've chosen to ignore the point which I was making: sales skills training is VERY dependent upon the individual/org'ns specific needs. In this regard, there is NOT a course which is "better" (ie. my comment taken out of context). In point of fact, you're re-phrasing the essence of my comments in this area.

Jim, this isn't being catty and it's not delivering a spanking. But you've struck a nerve with your selective use of my well considered comments which were based on 30 plus years of experience. I'd like to think that my input to these forums is both enjoyable and the content is meaningful. If that is not the case, I'll move to another thread.

Good luck & Good selling!
Pat - by OUTSource Sales

My guess is that we are closer to agreeing on this than either of us will admit. However, I agree that we've beat this horse to death. I'll move along, too.

Good Luck and Good Selling to you, as well.

Jim - by jcundiff
Buyers don't want to be put through some mechanical process. They want someone to come in, identify a problem and provide a cost-effective solution.
Could not agree more. Business people do not have time to waste. They want you to get to the point and discuss what is of interest to them. And, ultimately, money is behind most decisions, for instance; even if the benefit is employee moral. Staff can certainly be said to be more productive when they are happy and thus the company makes more money.

No argument in that regard, none at all.

What I do not see in your post Jim is what it is about PSS that does not hone in on exactly this very importance. It is a Need Satisfaction Process, what you apparently refer to as Solution Selling, in that you are going to uncover or identify a problem. This is the very core of the training.

I am sorry, I am sure your company and it's training is outstanding, that anyone taking it would benefit tremendously but the two things that I cannot go along with are; (1) for training to STICK it needs to be practiced, and; (2) Need Staifaction Selling definetly does uncover or "identify a problem and provide a cost-effective solution".

Furthermore, I wholeheartedly agree with OUTSource Sales. "It's unclear to me how I've survived in sales by ignoring politics and preference." And, having spoke to him on the phone, I do not think he intended to be "catty" at all. I think he truly believes 100% what he stated in his post.

Jim, I would love to study some of your materials. I am the most open minded sales professional and sales trainer on the planet. I just cannot see a difference nor place much weight on politics. I think what you said was absolutely correct - "They want someone to come in, identify a problem and provide a cost-effective solution." With the key word in that sentence being WANT. WANT as in NEED ... as NEED SATISFACTION.

We can call a spade a shovel, it does not change what that tool does. It simply another name for it.

The only significant changes I have seen in sales training in three decades of studying the subject is the industry has renamed the spade (several times)! - by Gold Calling
Jim, thanks for the post (we are beating it to death ... you're right)! I'm probably a little touchy as I'm a week out of some surgery (this time last week, the epidural & catheter were still in). Apologies if I was a little heavy!

Gold, where did you find that line:
The only significant changes I have seen in sales training in three decades of studying the subject is the industry has renamed the spade (several times)!

Keep the faith, guys!

Pat - by OUTSource Sales
Hey OUTSource Sales ... in answer to your question ...

where did you find that line?
It came from a fit of desperation, brought on by the frustration of having to read a pile of crap from people who could not hold a candle to my ... seriously. All I can think of this evening is that line from Death of a salesman, the one that goes; "Why I could out box ..."

To everyone, OUTSource Sales is certainly more politcally correct than I will ever be. My hats off to him. A good man and a great sales guy, no doubt.

As for me, I am completely convinced that nothing has changed that would make Og Mandini's Biblical Carpet Salesman, the hero of "The World's Greatest Salesman", unable to excel on the streets of Chicago, New York, Toronto or L.A in today's world.

The only significant development in sales since I began is the Internet. And it is hugely negative in most aspects except the ability to demonstrate live (your desktop) without having to travel to the prospect.

And the sales training benefits ... which could be positive. But most of what is online is lousy. - by Gold Calling