Welcome to The Pipeline.

Sorry But Your New Is Not That New4

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

New Or Improved

There is an old saying that goes:

There is no such things as an old joke, just old people. Meaning no matter how old you are the first time you hear a joke it is new to you, no matter how long it has been out there.

Which explains why I am going to sound a bit old in this piece, which is alright, because I will be talking about all the “NEW” out there that sellers are being told (sold) they should be consuming if they want to succeed. I don’t have an issue with things that are really new, but when it comes to selling, “NEW” is more often than not, the “same old”, with at best new wrapping.

In some hands NEW becomes the lubricant used by sales pundits and marketers to ram more of the “same old” down unsuspecting throats. (Just think foie gras)

Of course the beauty of selling NEW is the opportunity to upsell plenty of CHANGE, “you need to change, and use this new, or do things in this new way, if you are not changing, you are bound to fail.” Well not exactly, in fact experience shows otherwise, sales is not like a baby, it doesn’t need to be changed all the time. Success in sales comes down to execution, in a continuously better way, it is hard to improve what you are doing if you are always CHANGING what you are doing.

One benefit of being 57 with your memory intact, is you’ve seen, a truckload of NEW, (or old jokes) where the only change is not in the content but in the packaging the pundits wrap it in.

A recent sermon from a pundit preached on about how times are changing and “you need to change or you’ll be left behind”, or worse. Duh, no kidding, but when was that not the case? I mean Dylan cashed in on that out 50 years ago, and Darwin laid it out in simple terms back when? But again, if you keep changing, when can you improve, surly there needs to be an opportunity to master things, not just change them!

I find it funny how pundits try to convince us that this time it is different, this change is “real change”, and this new change is it. If you don’t keep up with this change, if you don’t jump on this bandwagon, you’re beat; right.

Change is a fact, an old fact. “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change”, given to us by Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 BC – 475 BC) not such a NEW guy, best known for his doctrine of change being central to the universe.

What makes sellers great is not jumping from one bandwagon to another, but a focus on fundamentals, and a laser focus on improving those fundamentals, rather than chasing the latest shiny object, regardless of trends or packaging.

And this is the hard part for both pundits and sellers trying to evolve. The pundits need NEW, even when the only thing new is the sleeve of the new book. As Michael Jordan said: “You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly because the only thing that changes will be your attention to them.”

I recently read a piece that was supposed to boggle my mind, it talked about a stat that came from an executive at a social selling platform, at a social selling event, that suggested that sales professionals who use social selling are 51% more likely to exceed their quota. But is that really NEW, or a CHANGE from what has gone before? No.

Great sales people have always been early adopters of new tools, technologies and opportunities, embracing them to further, not necessarily change their selling. Not new, just think of Martin Luther and the print press; he went viral 500 years ago http://www.economist.com/node/21541719. More recently the telephone, the car, the answering service, or fax, or… This is what was always amusing about the notion of Sales 2.0, what was Telex Sales -3.0?

I would strongly argue that those same sales people would have exceeded quota no matter what tools they adopted or were in vogue at the time. It was the sales people who leveraged the tool, they made the medium look good, not the other way around. Proof, where are the stats relating to those exceeding quota without using the tool, where are the numbers around those who use social selling and fail to make quota. Oh yes, sales is not about numbers, it is about NEW.

Change also consumes a lot of time and energy, both of which may be better invested in improving your execution of the fundamentals. The goal is balance, balance between improving and acquiring skills. Change is addictive, and often becomes an end to itself, you may end up with something new but not better. Ask yourself will this help you execute better as measured by results, or is it something new to replace the last change? In the end, success in sales comes down to Execution – Everything Else Is Just Talk!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

The Value Deficit – Sales eXecution 2710

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sales scale

Sales is very much a balancing exercise, somewhat like a scale, to keep balanced, you need to ensure that there is as much weight on one side as there is on the other. When there isn’t it could lead to problems for the parties involved. The most common example of this in B2B selling is price. More often than not, when a sales person finds themselves negotiating on price, or selling on price it is the result of not having created enough value to merit the price they are demanding.

It is easy to find one’s self with a value deficit just at the wrong time, and having to give unnecessary concessions to win the deal. A fundamental element is a lack of an understanding of value, after all, value is a subjective thing. Like beauty, value is in the eye of the beholder, some line up to pay for a high end performance auto, while others are loath to pay full price for even the most basic vehicle. Part of the problem is a lack of definition around value, just because it is subjective, does not mean it cannot be defined, especially in the context of a sale. This is especially so in a day when everyone is so keen to rest on their value proposition. As I have said in the past value propositions are useless, you can put lipstick on it but it is still a pitch.

So let’s define value, especially in a way that allows you to avoid a value deficit. This is an actionable definition we use with our clients:

“Buyers will see value in those offerings that remove barriers, obstacles, or helps bridge GAPS between where the buyer is now – and – their objectives!”

By helping clients move towards their objectives, or better yet achieve them, you can build value right from the start. Add to that the needed step of quantifying the outcomes you can deliver, you can in effect quantify the value you deliver, and expand that to the value your buyer will realize, which can be greater, especially if you sell it right. By that I mean that if you can help the client see how achieving specific steps or objectives will help open up opportunities beyond that, the payoff will seem and in fact be better than initially understood, and worth paying for.

As an example, let’s say you can demonstrate that you can help the client improve manufacturing process. A good enough objective and outcome on its own. But why stop there, why not explore further, further than your product goes, with the improvement in the process, can they reduce the cost of good, which can both reduce their requirement for operating funds and increased margins. With better margins, can they increase targeted market share, which in turn helps them negotiate better terms with suppliers, etc. Most sales people stop short of this because their product may not be directly delivering or involved in all steps taken, but all I need to be is the catalyst, not doing every bit of it. By extrapolating the value I bring to their objective, I can create a value surplus, or at the minimum, avoid a value deficit.  In other words, build value for the buyer, not value for your product.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Development vs. Budget Cycles0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

DvB

I, like many in my profession have a unique perch when it comes to looking at sales. We are actively selling, and as a result face many of the challenges and opportunities our customers do. But we have two added bonuses that many don’t. First is that we get to see how a host of sales organizations deal with specific aspects of sales, while any one of my customers may know more about how they sell, and why they are good, and what they want to develop, I have the benefit of seeing a range of best practices. I can see what works, what doesn’t, and what almost does and would with a bit of focus and development. Second, I can take the above and continuously synthesise into better methods, better execution and better development.

With that I, and I am sure many of my peers, have come to learn that is that budget cycles and development cycles are rarely in synch. How organizations deal with this is often the difference between great sales companies, and a bunch of also-rans.

Certain habits and changes take more than 12 moths to evolve, sales culture, processes and habits are one, but most companies spend silly time tying one to the other. This time of year, budget and planning time, really highlights that. One company I have been engaged with for some time is an example of how not to do it. They have decided that based on current numbers, they will need to cut budget for 2015, and her words, not mine, “training is on top of the cutting list”. I’m game, I asked, and “what forced you to cut?” You know what they said, lack of sales, “and the pipeline is weak going into Q4.” But she did ask me to call at the end of Q1, “maybe the numbers will improve”. Now I know what you are thinking, but I have been through this before, with them, they tie development to budget, not making the link to the possibilities of going the opposite way, budgeting the development.

By contrast, I have clients who do not want to hear about anything less than a 24 to 36 month plan. Their growth plan is to go form the current revenue $350 million to $1.8 billion, three years. Not unusual to have a three year plan, but they also tie the development plan to three years, along with targets, incentive and what I and my peers bring to the table. Their cost is not greater, it is just amortized, differently. Their development is not governed by budgets, but their budgets are driven by development.

It is funny how the same people look at other assets and are able to spread the cost and return expectations over the life of the asset, but when it comes to training they get hung up. Not training due to budget issues, is like not fueling up the truck due to the same budgetary reasons.

I know some are thinking “it’s different” (isn’t always when it comes to rationalizing) “other assets can’t get up and leave, what happens if I train them and the leave”, and many of you have heard y answer to that before: WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T TRAIN THEM AND THEY STAY?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Join me for The Objective Seller Webinar at 2:00 pm Eastern

The Objective Seller #webinar0

Clone not

How to Shift the Conversation from Product to Objectives

Join us on Thurs., Oct. 9th, 2014 at 2:00PM ET / 11:00AM PT for this free webinar

Most salespeople are taught to look for pain and needs. However, 75% of customers who switch from one vendor to another say they were satisfied at the time that they switched. There was no pain, and no needs, so what was the catalyst?

Objectives!

In this webinar, sales expert, Tibor Shanto, covers how to shift the conversation from your product to your prospects’ objectives.
Areas addressed include:

  • Breaking down “value” to core components and why people buy
  • Leveraging past experiences – Won, Lost and No Decision deals – 360 Degree Deal View
  • Building a better question
  • Proactive exploration

And much, much more!

After that, meet RingLead CEO, Donato Diorio, for a quick preview of Capture!, which quickly and easily helps salespeople gather contact data from anywhere on the internet into your CRM.

Join me and Donato Diorio in this exciting and eye-opening journey to sales success.

Register

 

Don’t Wait To Ask For Referrals – Sales eXecution 2700

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Fast & happening

I continue to be amazed that despite all that is written about the importance and success of referrals, how few sales people actually leverage this proven and effective method of sourcing new sales opportunities. Whenever I ask a group of sales reps “How many people here ask for referrals?” I still find that way less than half raise their hand. When I follow up with the question “How many have sold to referrals, the same set of people raise their hand again; I am not sure what the others are waiting for.

But even those who make referrals a habit, many are not fully maximizing the opportunity. The main problem, waiting; generally sellers are waiting too long to ask, and are leaving the request till much too late in the process, or missing them altogether.

Ask any group of sales people when they in fact ask for the referral, an overwhelming majority, like 90%, will say ask for referrals after the sales is completed and the product/service is delivered. Most of these will say they will wait three to six months after, “so the value can set in and be proven, and the customer is happy.”

Why?

You should be thinking referral from the time you park your car in the visitors’ spot, until the end of your relationship. Let’s look at it from two perspectives. First is the question of value delivered. Your value comes in many shapes and forms, not just in the delivered product, so even when your referral process is tied to value, it will present itself much before the close or delivered goods.

How many times have you sat with a prospect and had a discussion not about you product, but about something within your field of expertise. Remember I have always stated in this blog that good sales people are subject matter experts. I often sit with prospects and will share a perspective, a view point, or just a way of doing something, and the prospect will respond positively in what I shared, they learned and can use. For example, when discussing forecasts, I may point out a way of calculating something in a better way than they are doing now, or just how they use a formula in their spreadsheet. Prospects often say “Wow, never looked at it that way, thanks for pointing that out”; or “Man, I wish I knew that years ago”; or other similar things.

In my view they just saw something of value in what I said, so why wait, I follow up with “Great, I am glad I can help, do you know anyone else who may see value in this type of conversation?” I don’t expect them to whip out their Rolodex, but I plant the seed, and build from there. You’d be surprised how many time they respond by saying they think so and so should know about this as well.

The other reason you need to think referral from the start, is because you may never close them, which means there is no “after”.

Some time ago I had an initial appointment with a manufacturer, this was a company that had their act together, frankly other than presenting at their annual meeting, and there were no other opportunities. But we had a good dialog, which included talking about their distributors. We agreed to meet again in November to talk about their kick-off, but before I left, I asked if he thought any of his distributors would benefit from some of the areas of expertise we presented. Not only did he list three, give me contact names, but encouraged me to use his name, in the end he even sent an e-mail to two. If I would have waited the opportunity may have been wasted.

Make things happen instead of waiting, all you have to do is plan and ask.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Composed But Not Scripted4

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Composer

Whenever I do a piece about prospecting, specifically cold calling, one of the push backs I get is about the script. People feel limited and restricted by them, well not actors, who seemed to have found a way to take scripts, other people’s scripts, and not only use them creatively and expand beyond the words on the page (or screen), but make good money with in the process.

While I understand the reason for the resistance to scripts, I really don’t get it. As an industry we have tried to take the bite of scripts by hiding them in apps or software, even taking up new (and silly) labels like “Talk Track” and more. Yes indeed, I continue to be amazed at how the same people who rebel against scripts, are more than willing to work with Talk Tracks, one for the powers of branding.

But there is a lot that sales people can learn from the arts when it comes to balancing form, structure and personal expression. Where one can stay very much within the limits of a particular “school” or practice, yet still be individual and original.

The balance I try to help sales people achieve is one of being “Composed but Not Scripted”.

“Composed”, speaks to the need to be thoroughly prepared for the call. This is less about what you say in terms of the exact words you use, and more about the structure for the journey you want to take the prospect on, including the final outcome of the call, scheduled meeting, live or web or phone or …. As with any journey you need to know where it will start, where some turns will be, where you are likely to face heavy traffic or detours, and how you will respond to those in order to get to your destination on time.

When we look at a composition, there are all the elements you need to make it work, the parameters within which it is be played, all of which not only help the player play the piece, but helps the listener consume, enjoy and understand what the composer was trying to communicate. But these do not limit the ability of the player to interpret and enhance the piece while staying loyal to the composition.

The same is true for a sales call, having a structured approach including beginning, key points, and desired outcome, delivered in a way that the prospect can get involved, understand what you want, and what is in it for them, will not only lead to more success, but make it an easier and more pleasant experience for you, and your quota.

Remember you can be composed but not scripted.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto
 

3 Things You Can Do Now To Close The Year Strong – Sales eXecution 2670

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

strong

Last week I took part in a panel discussion sponsored by KiteDesk, along with two of my favourite pundits, Matt Heinz and Mike Weinberg. In the discussions leading up to the event we wanted to deliver something of substance, people can put into practice right away in almost every market segment, and something that would have impact now, before the end of the year. We each presented three things you can do to close the year strong. Hence the title of today’s post, featuring my contribution.

1.   Revisit “No decision” Opportunities – As I have argued in the past, it is important that we always understand why opportunities that made it into our pipeline delivered the results they did, usually one of three: Win – Loss – No Decision. Some do a good job of exploring wins or losses, some do both, but they often overlook the “No Decision”. But if you understand why they did not go further, you can understand when and why to re-engage.

There are some who may have passed because of budget, and now towards the end of the year, they may have some unused funds, or may be in the process of planning for next year. There could be a question of priorities and changing objectives; a host of factors that could make someone ready now that may have hesitated in February or March.

2.   Delegate – A lot of sales people have a Superman complex, they feel they have to do it all themselves, “no one is as capable as I am”. As a sales person, your territory is “your business”, and when you look at successful business people, one of the things executives do well is delegate. Even if you don’t have people working for you, you still delegate. Given that time is your most valuable and non-renewable resource, it is important that you maximize by focusing on the highest-value activities. Know what your time is worth, and if a task is well below that line “outsource” it. If you are part of a company use other groups, usually better suited to the task. One example is customer service, I see to many sales people dealing with “admin” type of requests from clients instead of sending it to where the task really belongs, customer support, who is usually much better prepared and equipped to deal with these things. I am sorry but the battle cry of looking after clients rings hollow, your job is to win and grow clients, let customer support do theirs. Even if you are in a small company where these resources don’t exist, think about how you can ensure that you are executing the highest value activities, stop doing low value activities others can do for you. Use third party resources, you can hire a Virtual Assistant, or for special tasks, go to something like oDesk, or others, and get things done by others, leaving you time to do the things that only you can do to move a sale forward.

3.   Leverage Automation – The hidden cost of social selling is time, and to a lesser degree content. A variation on the delegate route, is automation. There are a host of tools you can leverage to cover clients, prospects, and keep an eye on the market and opportunities. One example I use is an app I use called Charlie. It is linked to my calendar, sends me both a social round up, latest tweets, LinkedIn updates, and news from traditional sources the morning of my meetings, and an hour before. I can be up to date in their real world and social activities. This allows me to be up-to-date, relevant, and formulate questions that have specific meaning to the prospect and their objectives, allowing me to focus on them and leave the product in the car.

These are three ideas that were discussed, Mike and Matt had some great, and more importantly, practical and immediately usable ideas that will you close the year strong, and stay strong right through 2015 and beyond.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Is Sales a Numbers Game? (#video)3

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

TV Head

Nobody talks about the world being flat or round, so why does this topic merit discussion, there so many other more important unsolved mysteries in sales.  Take a look at what I mean:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Sales Management is not Cloning – Sales eXecution 2660

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Clone not
There has been lots written about the common mistake companies make in selecting new sales managers; specifically the habit of promoting some of their best sales people to the management ranks, whether they are suitable or not. To be fair, the thought behind the move is positive, rewarding deserving contributors, keeping good talent in house, and all that. There are also smart sales people who realise that management is not their first choice, who prefer and make the choice to stay in a sales role, usually with greater career satisfaction and financial rewards.

Adding to the challenge is that often these new managers are not given much help in the transition from being contributors, to effectively leading a sales team. Sure in companies of a certain size or better, they get basic training, you know, how to conduct performance review meetings, do’s and don’ts of harassment, racial sensitivity and other important “things”. But leading a sales team while managing a sales process is another thing, something HR often assumes will be provided by “the sales leadership”. In instances where this happens, it is sometimes worse that no help at all; what happens if the current sales leaders went through the same pattern of evolution, they just perpetuate the model; and the model is one of cloning.

While not isolated to the new managers above, cloning is a common and costly problem. The thought is “I was successful, they made me a manager, and they didn’t give clear direction to the contrary; so they must want me to make my team just like me.” Partially true, “they” do want you the make the team successful, as successful if not more than you were, after all the sign of a strong leader is one who surrounds themselves with people more talented than they. But this rarely means creating “mini me’s”, or even full size “me’s”.

The role of the sales manager, and other sales leaders, is to develop and bring the best out of all their teams. To shape individuals not in their image, (as man did with god), but into the best that their direct reports can be. People who can do that best, are not those who were the best front line reps. Just look and Wayne Gretzky, on the ice and behind the bench. Two different realities, two different results.

The notion that the best managers are those who have done it is simply not right. Most sales people know what they have to do, the challenge is getting them to do it. This requires a different skill set, different methods and tools, than those relied on for being a number 1 rep. Saying “here’s what I did, you can do it too”, is useless.

Every sales leader wants to surround himself with superstars, just as every coach wants a bench full of superstars. But they need to have excelled in the role of a coach. Hire someone who can lead a sales process, who can lead people to execute, the how is secondary.

Again, I understand wanting to reward star sellers, but there are other ways, ways that allow you to avoid leaving a territory short, and a disappointed sales team. The reality is that many of stars made managers often decide to go back in to the field to sell, and because of egos and politics, it is often with another company that is looking for a star, not a future manager or cloner.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Are Buyers Liars?3

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

TV Head

 

Of course not, prospects are liars. No no, that’s not true either. It is less about lying, and more about rationalizing why we lost, take a look at what I mean:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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