Welcome to The Pipeline.

Rethinking Sales Incentives0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Rethinking Sales Incentives

As part of a series of posts dealing with areas you should consider, better yet reconsider, going in to the New Year, today we look at incentive. No doubt everyone should be thinking about commissions, after all is in effect the cost of revenue. While there are other expenses, commissions/incentives, are the most direct “payment” you pay for bringing in revenue.

While there have been variations, updates and paint over through the years, little has changed in how and what you pay for.

In this article I penned for November issue of Sales and Service Excellence Essentials, I challenge and suggest an alternate way to spend incentive cash, and actually driving right behaviours that lead to results (revenues), and actually sustain both.

Take a read, let me know what you think, pro or con, some will call me names, others will want to pick up the phone and call me to discuss. In the end it’s your money, you should always be open to investing it more productively.

Read the piece here: Rethinking Sales Incentives Then comment below.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Key Sales Management Actions To Prepare for 2015 (#video)0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

2015 rocket

About a month ago I had the privilege to be part of a great panel exploring key issues sales leaders need to not just think about, but act on in preparing for a successfully 2015.

The panel included:

Lori Richardson – Score More Sales
Lee Salz – Sales Architects
Steven Rosen – STAR Results
Dan Enthoven – Enkata
Miles Austin – Fill the Funnel
And myself.

As the next instalment in this week’s posts dealing with kicking the New Year off right, meaning in a way that will help sales organisations and teams exceed quota in 2015. Below is an expert from that discussion, but I encourage you to take in the full discussion by clicking here. It is a lively and insightful discussion that will provide a number of ideas for helping your team crush their number.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Questioning Assumptions0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Assumptions

I remember reading somewhere about a company that had set up different office, each with a different motif. One would be full of things relating to fishing, another would be all decked up with pictures of golf courses and golf related chachkas. The goal was to stump the sales people who would come through, often it played out to be stump the chump. They wanted to see how many sales people would fall into the trap of trying to create rapport by making small talk, no let’s be honest and call it what it is, empty talk, by trying to relate to and talk to the motif in the room. You’ve seen it, the sales rep trying to chummy up to the buyer buy talking about his fishing adventures or golf outings.

What the sales people didn’t realize is that none of the pictures include the person they were meeting with, there were no names on the door, these were their “sales social experiment”, and not social in today’s context. If and when a sales rep bit, the company had a bit of a chuckle, and the rep’s stature went down a notch.

While we can talk about the merits of this little experiment, it does highlight how easily some sales people assume things through their filters, and run with those assumptions till they hit a wall or fall off a cliff, and it’s too late to recover. If you think something is so, even something as obvious as a person liking golf because of the pictures on the office wall, why not ask a question instead of making a statement. Put in the form of a question you give the prospect a chance to correct you, without putting yourself in a corner. What’s more, in the process of correcting you, they often share additional and valuable information or nuance that can prove to be valuable in moving the sale forward.

Even when things seem obvious, they are often not.  I’ll give a personal experience, on a regular basis I receive calls from strangers, who start by telling me how great they get along with someone I did a webinar with, or was on a panel with, making the assumption (and hoping) that because our names share a billboard it will warm their way into my heart.  The reality is that this just heightens my suspicions about their intents, given that other than that one event we have little in common; in fact at times, I am there as a counter to the other panelist’s view.  Yet if they would not lean on this false assumption who knows what they may be able to achieve?  Just because my name is Tibor does not mean I like goulash, I’ll take a hot vindaloo any day.

While it may take a bit of effort, it would be so much more profitable to validated things before betting the farm, or in this case the outcome of the sales call or the whole sale.

Yes, even when you think you know something, test it, because often you will find that you really didn’t know until it is much too late or costly.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Ego And Confidence In Sales Success – Sales eXecution 2782

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Clone not

Successful sales people share certain attributes, some can be learned and developed, some we come by naturally, and if we have less of those than other, we can spend time and effort developing them, and improving our sales habits and results in the process. Two that are common to many successful sales people are ego and confidence. The question and challenge is proportions and dominance, and as always, intent.

Some sales people tend to confuse ego with confidence, and fall victim to this trait. When I was a young rep I had the fortune to learn the difference between the two, and learned to balance one with the other. My mentor kept telling me that if I have to tell people how great I am, rather than demonstrating it through my actions, ability and knowledge, I was letting my ego lead, and likely costing myself sales and friends. Demonstrating capabilities is confidence, a sign of security, attracting people and their confidence in me, and helping my sales success. Telling it to people signaled insecurity, thus causing them to pause before acting with me, and buying form me. Confidence is something you can build and more importantly share with others, bringing them into you process. An ego driven by insecurity is often sustained by having an air of superiority, expressed or implied, or both. Neither adding to ones sales success.

Let’s be clear there is nothing wrong with sales people having an ego, the question again is intent, and the risk of an unchecked ego. I remember once telling a director that I could not imagine or fathom going to our annual sales meeting and going up on stage to receive an award other than the one for making quota. This drove my activities, and gave her a great tool to motivate me when needed. I remember having a slow start to a fourth quarter, all she had to do was to remind me that I need X dollars to put me into the Platinum Club. No doubt it helped her bonus, but it was the reminder, the nudge I needed to get my act in gear; ego served a good purpose.

If confidence is a sign of ability and security, no doubt that is more than partly supported by knowledge and how to best apply that knowledge. In the case of sales how do we help buyers achieve their objectives, so they buy our product, pay their invoices and help us achieve Platinum or some such club. Some sale people are too lazy to acquire knowledge, after all it does take work, it often takes more than what your company will spoon feed you. Face with the choice of putting in the effort or faking it, many sales people opt for the latter. This is often manifested in some sales people compensating for knowledge with ego, or more accurately their lack of knowledge. As Einstein pointed out, the relationship is invers, Ego = 1/ Knowledge. By extension, the more knowledge the greater the confidence and less leading with ego. Buyers aren’t stupid, they can tell the difference, and their buying decisions reflect that. Leading to bruised egos and missed sales and numbers.

In the end the elements that make for a confident rep are usually the ones that make for a successful rep. When you find the balance tipping to ego, step back and ask what you need to do to re-calibrate, not only will it make you a better person, but a more successful seller.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Why Are You Trying To Kill Me?1

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Horrorfilm

Said the Cold Call To The Socialite.

Recent headlines about AC/DC’s drummer brush with the law, got me thinking why would someone want to kill someone? Such a passionate act must be a result of some big or egregious cause, or at the very least a means of avoiding harm. Then I remembered that in sales we see this all the time, over and over, people are trying to kill cold calling.

The most recent would be assassins are Socialites, social selling advocates, who seem to spend as much time sniping at and proclaiming the death of cold calling as they do speaking about what they sell, social selling products, seminars, remedies and dreams. I wish them all the luck, capitalism rules, everyone is allowed to make a buck, I just don’t understand why cold calling needs to be dead for their stuff to work. Cold calling does not present danger to them, in fact it complements and adds to social selling, just as social selling adds to cold calling success, so what’s the deal here Socialites?

You know I have never read an article or a post that was written by an advocate of cold calling, suggesting that social selling is bad, ridiculing people who use the practice to engage with prospects, suggest that it is inadequate, or about to die. Even though you can find stats that would suggested that on its own, it is not all the Socialites will have you believe.

I suspect the main reason is that cold callers do not see social as a threat, is because we do see it as a great addition to an existing set of tools and techniques we use to drive business. We cold callers seem to take a more inclusionary approach to engaging with clients and driving revenue. I would argue cold callers have taken a much more “social approach” than many Socialites who seem to either proclaim or wish that cold calling was dead. Now we all know it is not, you wouldn’t need to keep saying it if it was, it would be self-evident, when was the last time you read a piece about Plato being dead?

Let’s Spin Some Stats!

(Step back you don’t wanna get any on your shoes)
 

To start with not every buyer has a Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn account. Not only that but depending on who you are prospecting, it is important to note that some groups’ social media activity is in decline. According VentureBeat’s summary of the 2014 CEO.com Social CEO Report “an annual survey that investigates the social media habits of business leaders, has been released. The results show a depressingly small increase in social activity from Fortune 500 business leaders over last year’s analysis.” Further, “Amazingly, the CEO.com report shows that 68 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social presence on any of the major networks. Taking a deeper dive into the data reveals that while there has been significant growth in the number of Fortune 500 CEO accounts created versus last year’s results, the number of “active” accounts grew marginally. This suggests that nearly as many business leaders with existing accounts abandoned their use of social media.”

I’ll be the first to admit that you can probably find stats to the contrary, which just goes to show that sales and sales people are just as susceptible to hype as the next group. But hype is something decision makers have a radar for, serious decision makers want facts not hype, they want tangible things that help them achieve their objectives. This leads to the fact that the most effective means of communication with senior leaders is direct. And while 68% may shun a social presence, 100% have telephones and e-mails. The key is to have a meaningful message that leads to engagement.

Here are some famous stats that keep getting dragged out (and abused):

Corporate Executive Board reported that B2B buyers are 57% of the way to a buying decision before they are willing to talk to a sales rep.
• “A survey by DemandGen Report, reported that 77% of B2B buyers said they did not talk with a salesperson until after they had performed independent research, and 36% of buyers said they didn’t engage with a sales rep until after a short list of preferred vendors was established.”

I am not here to argue the stats, but I do want to point out that both stats refer to BUYERS. These are people who of their own volition initiated a buying cycle. Which means that by the time they are 57% – 77% of the way there, they are not looking for a sales person, but more an order taker. Sad but true. Sales People are paid to persuade and influence, not accept orders from someone who has for the most part made up their mind and is now looking to see which models are available and for someone to negotiate price and terms with. Definition of selling:

To Sell –
-   to persuade or induce (someone) to buy something:
-   to persuade or influence to a course of action or to the acceptance of something

The real problem with waiting for buyers, is that according to Chet Holmes and other sources, “About 3 percent of potential buyers at any given time are buying now” (The Ultimate Sales Machine – by Chet Holmes). Only 3% of your target market are active buyers, even if you social sold your share and then some, are you near quota? These 3% are the people calling you when they are more than half way through their journey, most are past persuasion or influence. If you want to talk SALES or SELLING, you need to be talking about the other 97%. If you want to sell to that 97%, you are likely going to have to pick up the phone and say something other than #wannabuy?

Since we are on stats, allow me to digress for a second. This is one quoted by a Socialite as proof of the “paradigm shift in the sales industry”

“10.8% of social sellers have closed 5 or more deals attributed to social media.” Or looked at from the other end, maybe it can be phrased “89.2% can’t attribute deals to social media”; and “54% of social salespeople have tracked their social selling back to at least 1 closed deal.” I bet the I can find unhyphenated sellers who can track a lot more deals to cold calling, and even more to just selling using all the tools available to them instead of just some.

Let’s look at the “short list claim”, and decision makers. DiscoverOrg surveyed 1,000 IT decision makers at Fortune ranked, small and medium-sized companies. It shows how outbound – today’s euphemism for cold – sales calls and e-mails affect and “more importantly disrupt vendor selection.” Further, some “Seventy-five per cent of IT executives have set an appointment or attended an event as a direct result of outbound email and call techniques.” Finally, “nearly 600 said an outbound call or e-mail led to an IT vendor being evaluated.”

So if you did cold call along with your socializing, you’d be in much better shape than narrowing your chances to one vs. the other, Socialite style.

“But I don’t sell to Fortune 500” I hear you say, “I target Small Business”, the other end of the spectrum. Well small business is only selectively accessible via social.  At a conference last summer, where attendees were owners or senior managers of business that were for the most part under $25M, way less than half said they were using LinkedIn. I am a firm believer in the value and power of social and selling, but if they are not there, there is not much point. And it will not surprise you that all of them had telephones and e-mail.

Oh yes, referrals. There is no denying that a warm referral is like first prize, and an indirect referral, second prize. But cold calling usually shows up as third in terms of return on time and effort. Me, I like to bet safe and spread my risk across all three rather than betting on just one. Besides, not everyone is in a position to get or generate referrals. If you are in a more transactional sale, a new rep to the company, in a new territory, referrals will have limited utility early on. Sure you can generate some from existing “happy” clients, but you may find your probation and bank account run out first. You will need to incorporate all tools available, including the dreaded cold call.

Dreaded being the operative word. Most people who kill cold calling suck at it, makes them hate, makes them bitter. Like overweight people looking for that magic pill, instead of understanding that the magic pill combined with regular exercise and activity will always deliver a slimmer tummy, and healthier state. Sure the Atkins Diet worked for some, but it worked better for those who combined it with exercise.

I don’t like cold calling any more than the next person, but I do it, and I do social, and I do it well, or so I am told. But I don’t need to insult or undermine anyone in the process of executing my total approach to prospecting. Why do Socialites?

Kumbaya Time

The point is to use all tools available, not just one or some.  The only reason for camps, social killing cold calls is to sell social products.  And that’s one thing that has not changed, “Buyer Beware”.  Few sales people I have met can live off referrals only, or off their base. Not everybody is selling social media strategies, inbound programs, or content. Way more sales people have to sell in the trenches, selling traditional products and services, where social has a presence, referrals may play a role, but new business success includes cold calling.

Cold calling is not dead, it just smells funny when done wrong, but done right, it has the sweet smell of sales success. So let’s break down the walls, let’s get rid of the camps, stop thinking about killing or dead things, and make some calls.

That’s my two cents, what about you?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Frontal Sales Blitz – Sales eXecution 2750

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Football biz

Several sources attribute the following statement to Gartner Group: “In a typical firm with 100-500 employees, an average of 7 people are involved in most buying decisions. Lesson: cold call multiple people in each account.” It does not take a firm like Gartner to come to the realization that more and more purchase decisions are going to consensus, and often the winner in a bake-off is not the best product, but the one most people in the buying group rally around, or at time settle for. Other sources will tell you that even the traditional uber-decision maker, will often support the product he/she feels his people will support and adopt over the best choice. If it doesn’t get used, it doesn’t matter what marginal advantages there may be.

The best way to respond to this is to execute a full “Frontal Sales Blitz”. A slight twist on the common football blitz, where additional players are sent to “rush the quarterback”—that is, try to tackle the quarterback or disrupt his pass attempt. The Sales Blitz approaches this a bit backwards, where the sales rep attempts to engage all the players on the decision team in order to build and create consensus around their offering. The disruption is perpetrated on the other sales people who like approach the team one at a time, and build consensus that way, I would argue the slow and wrong way.

Some sales people do this really well, especially those with experience in enterprise type sales, and who also see themselves as the central orchestrator in a hub and spoke approach to sales success. But many sales people are still reluctant to do this, especially when they have done business with one of the members of the buying team. Terms like “champion” or insider come to mind. They are reluctant to “go around”, “go over their head” or “risk the relationship”.

Let’s look at the last one, there is no relationship! Not one that counts anyway. You may have had a relationship with Buddy seven or eight years ago, and it was that relationship that got you in, and even kept you in, but times have progressed, and if they assembled a team to buy, you are at best assured to have one vote, and that’s no guarantee. I won’t even deny that when you lose the account it will be Buddy that will take you for a “last” drink while your competitor is installing.

You need to quickly learn from Buddy who is on the team, what their criteria are and then get to work. Tell Buddy you want to continue to serve the account and ask Buddy for help in doing that, if he/she is not wiling, they are telling you to do it on your own, and that’s what you’re going to do.

You need to connect with each of the members of the buying team, with an understanding of the overall mandate, and their individual bias, be that role based or personal. You need to understand how your offering aligns to those elements and the overall objectives of the company and supports their individual “world view”. To successfully do this in as little time as possible, you need to go to you library of Sales Rosetta Stone. Meaning you need to be able to speak the language of each of the members of the team, including Financish, HRish, Marketingish, and all other languages represented at the decision table.

Once you have the start of momentum take it to the uber-decision maker, but instead of talking about your product, and how great it is, and how this and that you and your company are, talk to the uber-decision maker about the consensus on the team, and the buzz around their ability to accomplish their mandate. Chances are he/she are not going to be “end-users”, but more likely beneficiaries of the output, and what is going to produce the output is the consensus your Frontal Sales Blitz created.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

STRATEGIC SELLING – DECEMBER 4TH & 5TH IN TORONTO0

Logo Skillsharp

I have recently partnered with a great organization to deliver some of the core Renbor programs to individuals in a public setting. SkillSharp was developed for the purpose of delivering a wealth of knowledge to Canadians, committed to providing their clients with the best available skills to help them succeed and reach their full potential. They’ve enabled thousands of professionals to find their path and achieve significant milestones throughout all stages of their career.

As part of their ongoing effort, they have invited me to deliver a two-day Strategic Selling program built on The Objective Seller framework. The two days covers the entire client life cycle from lead to close to retention and growth. We cover it all in a student friendly environment designed to assist people in learning as much as they.

The program will be held at the BMO Institute for Learning, on December 4th and 5th. If you are from outside Toronto, there are plenty of quality accommodations nearby.

I invite you explore the curriculum, and join me and your fellow sales professionals for a two day hands-on, interactive and intensive program. Whether you are an individual reps, or a team, this is your opportunity to become The Objective Seller, and put Strategic Selling to work for your pipeline and success.

Feel free to reach out to me should you have questions or visit the course info on the SkillSharp site.

Look forward to seeing you there!

You Know How It Is!?!0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Detective

No I don’t!

I find when I am working with sales people resistant to change, which in itself funny because they are paid to help prospects to change, yet when it comes to their reality, they try persuade me why the status quo is right for them. If you work with sales people, don’t you wish you had a dollar for every time you heard one say “well this is how we have always done it”; and while that may be true, the sad thing is that prospect you are working on knows exactly that this is how you’ve always done it, and that’s why they won’t buy this time, just like they didn’t buy last time.

Often these rep really do not have an argument or a reason for not wanting to change, other than perhaps fear, specifically fear of success, the same fear a lot of their prospects have. As a result they often resort to rationalizing their position by saying “You know how it is?” Or if they are hip “you know what I’m saying?” It’s the questioning sound at the end that tells me they don’t buy into their own statement either, they just need to say something other than “no I am too scared or set in my ways to try something different.”

Change is hard, and at times frightening, but there is one universal truth insales, your quota will go up next year, and it will go up more than the rate of inflation. Another fact but not an absolute, is that customers who make up your current base will be looking for efficiencies, meaning to hold prices where they are (or even lower them). Which clearly suggests that you need to change, because doing what you did last year will lead to the same results you had last year, plus the rate of inflation, not much these days. What’s the old Einstein saying – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different result is the definition of – well – someone who will miss quota, if not something else.

Another popular saying sellers can adopt is FDR’s “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”; and the best way to overcome fear is proactively. Change is a process, so approach it as such, not emotionally, but objectively. Set specific and progressive goals, not just one but a series. The series should help you change a specific over a given time, this means deadlines are important. Setting out to change something without a deadline allows for procrastination and excuses, so set a time line and be hosnest with yourself.

Make each step progressively more challenging. Start with something easy, something that will act as a gateway to success. When you achieve that first thing, celebrate, give yourself a reward. Then build on it, until you achieve your change.

So the question is, what are you more afraid of, the pain of change or the pain failing, specifically failing to deliver quota. My experience is that trying and failing still delivers benefits. But not trying and failing by default just builds a culture of losing. Once you are living in that spiral, well, you know how it is!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Key Sales Management Actions To Prepare for 2015 – Live Panel Discussion0

November 12, 2:00 pm Eastern

2015 arrow

2015 is fast approaching, hey if your sales cycle is longer than 8 weeks, you’re already selling in 2015. All this adds up to the fact that you need to prepare now, well actually November 12, at 2:00 pm Eastern.

I am pleased to be part of a leading experts on sales, planning and sales leadership.

The time to start thinking about 2015 is here, planning should be well underway. Making time to plan for 2015 while closing 2014 can be a challenge. Take a break from Q4 to get some ideas on ways you can lay the groundwork for a great 2015. Join sales experts Steven Rosen, Lori Richardson, Lee Salz, Dan Enthoven and Miles Austin and I, as we present key actions that are important to focus on for a stellar 2015. With years of experience in sales and sales coaching behind them, our panelists will share what they have learned–saving you time and effort in your 2015 planning activities.

The Panel:

Lori Richardson – Score More Sales
Lee Salz – Sales Architects
Steven Rosen – STAR Results
Dan Enthoven – Enkata
Miles Austin – Fill the Funnel
And I

This will be a lively unscripted event that is sure to bring up some new things for you to think about. Please join us to give your 2015 planning a boost.

Register

What’s Your Recovery Period? – Sales eXecution 2740

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

recover

No one likes rejection, and I would argue few professions have to put up with as much rejection as sales people do. We face rejection throughout the sale, from the time we try to prospect and engage with a potential buyer, right to the end when they finally agree to deal with us. We face rejection from prospects we lose, and from those we actually win, in fact we win by overcoming rejection.

Each rejection is like a blow, whether we overcome them or not, they consume effort, energy and they take their toll, much like a blow in any athlete in any contact sport. And yes, let there be no doubt that sales is a contact sport. What separate great athletes from also-rans, is not only their ability to deal with and overcome the blows, but how efficient their recover time is.

Of course it is best to start by trying to minimize rejection, and avoid being the guy who can survive by taking the most blows. But in the end, in sales there is no avoiding rejection of some form during the sale, could be mild, could be fatal, but much like death, taxes, and lying politicians, if you’re going to sell you will face rejection, and you need to learn to deal with it. The better you are at that the greater success you will have in sales. One way is to improve your recovery time, there is truth in the saying about getting back on the horse.

First is be prepared. It is coming, you can’t avoid it, so learn to deal with it. If you try to hide from it, you will also hide from successful sales. Often the best sales are a result of a well handled rejection, the rep that faced it head on, dealt with it, and moved to the next step with their prospect in tow, wins more often than those who avoided it. Part of engagement is push back, if you’re not getting any, you’re prospect is probably not engaged.

Specific to prospecting, telephone prospecting, the first think you need to know, actively manage and constantly improve, are your conversion rates. Attempts to right person contact; right person contact to desired result (appointment). I know there are those socialites who will tell you sales is not a numbers game, (I guess to them it is just a cotillion or day at the country club), but knowing and managing these numbers will improve your recovery time and your success. It will also help you with your time allocation, know how much of an activity you need to do will help you set the right time; that in turn will help you set the right mind frame. Just like I know what it takes me to run a five kilometer run, I can know what it takes to secure the number of appointments to deliver quota. And BTW, having a few extras will give you options, who to let go and who to double down on. Not having enough prospects build pressure, and makes every prospect sacred, and losing one devastating, making it harder to recover, increasing your recovery time. A key preparation is to ensure that you are working from a “position of plenty”.

Again, knowing that rejections are part of the territory, learning how to handle and manage the most common objections before they come so you can help your prospect get from reactionary mode to interaction mode is also key.

The way to recover is to take your lessons from the event, and apply it, not retreat. Avoid what a lot of sales people do, they get rejected and they take time to recover, grab a coffee, call their mom, or question the quality of the lead. All adding to recovery time and reducing selling time.

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