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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?2

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 

Panel Discussion: Close the Year Strong with 8 Simple Sales Tips0

No bull

We are about to enter the silly season in sales, the run up to the end of the year. I say silly because all the theorist and soothsayers will be brimming with advice, pulled from their memories and favourite web sources. Soothsayers, because many spend more time advising than selling.

As a sales professional what you need is practical and executable inputs that will help you close the year strong, and set yourself up for a profitable 2015.

To that end, I invite you to join me, and two other leaders who spend their time on the front line doing and selling, Matt Heinz and Mike Weinberg, for a no holds barred panel discussion that will not only get you thinking, but doing. Moderated by KiteDesk CEO Sean Burke, this will be a no fluff, no theory – just real, practical, candid tactics that deliver results. Promise – money back guarantee.

Put it in your calendar now: Thursday, September 11th, 2014 2:00 pm Eastern

Social Sales. Sales 2.0. Modern Sales. The nomenclature is irrelevant. What really matters is what works; we will challenge each other and you in a blunt, holistic discussion about what constitutes smart selling.

This is NOT another Marketing-Still-Sucks-Here’s-What-You-Need-To-Do-Better rant. We will lay out what needs to be accomplished at each stage of the sales funnel and offer actionable insights for marketing and sales to work collaboratively on content development, defining the target market, refining prospect lists and generating engagement.

Smart sales is an ‘and’ not an ‘or.’ Focus on opportunities to capitalize on social networks’ unprecedented data, reach, and resonance within each stage of the sales process.

Register now and walk away with sales tips that have a material impact on your Q4 and 2014 results.

Register

The Labour Of Sales1

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Labour Day 2

Being that it is Labour Day both in the USA and Canada, the last long weekend of the summer, I thought I would keep things simple, and to one point. A simple but important point for those not in sales to understand, and those in sales to revel in.

On Friday I heard a radio ad from a labour union wishing everyone a happy Labour Day, then they went on to remind everyone of all the things they would be without if not for labourers and more specifically labour unions.

So I am here to remind them that none of that would be possible if not for the labour of sales people. Nothing happens until there is a sale. It is sales people that first sell the hammer and then sell the sickle. It is the sales person in every entrepreneur that sells their passion and idea to investors and the world.

If you are not a labourer, you still owe your fortunes to a sales type, don’t kid yourself. How many great ideas didn’t make it out of the garage because there was no sales power; how much crap has added to the wealth of capitalism all because there was a savvy sales person behind it.

So before you pat yourself on the back for your accomplishment, first find a sales person to thank for making it happen.

Happy Labour Day, and ya, You’re Welcome!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

3 Ways The Beatles Will Make You A Better Cold Caller – Sales eXecution 2652

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

The Beatles Is On The Phone – by NowhereGirl17

If you ask sales people why they hate/fear cold calling their response always revolves around them, their feelings, and rarely the buyer’s. Even when they mention the buyer, it is very much through their own filters, “I wouldn’t like that”, or about the buyer’s reaction to the call. It is important to remember that the reaction is exactly that, a response to what you said or did, so if you change the input, what you say and do, and you can change the outcome.

Get Your Cold Call-Flow Now!

This is where the Beatles come in – stop making the call about “me”. The real big downfall in cold calling is that it’s never about “me”, “my company”, “what we do”, etc. Make the call about “YOU”, the buyer. I know many are thinking they already do that, but only in thought, when you listen to cold calls, you hear a lot more “me” than ‘YOU”. “I am calling from ACME Corp, a Fortune 500 company, specializing in BLAH BLAH BLAH”. He didn’t hang up, he dozed off and fell on the phone. It is usually well in to the second act before their world is even mentioned.

Start with YOU:  Of the top 100 words used by the Beatles in their songs, the word YOU, was a distant first, 2,262 times, second was I, but only 1,36 time, and LOVE, was eighth at 613.

Not only did they use it often, but used it early, think of all the Beatles songs, especially early hits that had the word YOU, right in the first line. “Love Me Do”, their first hit: Love, “love me do You know I love you”; twice. “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, “She Loves You”, “All My Loving”, and more.

You have always been told that buyers live by WIFM, give it to them:

Stay with YOU:  Don’t go from the introduction about how great you are and all the great things your company does. Talk to the buyer in context of their world. “What YOU will get out of it”; how it will help YOU achieve YOUR objectives”. Doesn’t matter how cool, new or nifty your offering is, unless they called you, and it’s a cold call so they didn’t, they seem to be doing just fine, thank YOU! Warm the call up by speaking to direct impact and outcomes for them, moving them closer to their objectives, if you don’t, the call gets real cold – real fast.

Close with YOU:  When you close for the appointment (live or virtual), it needs to be about them. “YOU Will…” I hear a lot of sales people say what they are going to get out of the meeting, why they want to meet. But I rarely hear “as a result of us meeting YOU will be able to …..”

The reason many calls are cold, is that there is more in it for and about the caller than the buyer, leaving the buyer out in the cold, and then having the same effect on the caller.

Make it about the buyer, talk about “YOU”, and not only will things be warmer, but more appointments to boot.  It worked for the Beatles!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

(Photo: http://nowheregirl17.deviantart.com/)

You Can’t or You Won’t?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Buyers not liars

I am luck in the fact that I work with sales professionals, at all levels of their organisations, and as a result learn almost daily. I also see many similarities in B2B sellers regardless of the industry that they serve. One interesting characteristic many share is confusing ability with will.

I find there are two common reasons for this, one is the fear of change, of the unknown, and the discomfort of breakthroughs. The second reason usually has to do with conditioning, and life experience, “built in” notions of “how” we are supposed to do in certain things given specific circumstances. And since some things in sales are by nature counter intuitive, it makes it difficult for some to act that way. This is compounded when people are focused more on relationship than revenue. I for one do not feel that there are mutually exclusive, but I do think that sometimes people are unnecessarily fixated on the sequence, some feeling they need to have a relationship before there can be talk of revenue. It’s so much better for both parties when that pressure is absent, some buyers do want to be your friend, but are ready to have a long and loyal business relationship if you help them achieve their objectives.

Overcoming fear of change, fear of the unknown is not easy, yet we ask our buyers to do it every day. So why not look at how you go about helping your buyers deal with the same challenge, and apply that to yourself. I would argue that if it truly works for them, it should work for you. So when someone offers up a new way of doing something in your sales cycle, something foreign to you, and you find yourself questioning it and saying “I don’t know if I could do that”, how would you help a buyer deal with it a similar challenge and help them overcome it?

I find having a plan with various contingencies is a start. Ask the same questions you would of a reluctant prospect. Just as it helps buyers articulate their doubts or concerns, making it easier for them to be broken down and dealt with. Do the same with your challenge to get the same results. Many like to present some form of ROI, and a good ROI discussion also looks at the risk and cost of inaction. As a sales rep reluctant to try something, that would be the biggest question to answer. If the road you are on now is not getting you what you want, how much worse can the alternative be, what is the upside to trying the alternate?

The question of conditioning is a bigger challenge, especially since we view everything through the filters of our own experiences. Sometimes reps or managers tell me not only that they can’t do something, they make it universal, applying their standard on all, they tell me “you can’t do that”, as though it was law. Thanks to the internet, I can now research federal, state and provincial laws, and counter this by letting them know that based on the law of the land indeed you can, your competitor probably did and won the deal as a result. But I understand, lifelong habits are hard to change, lifelong fears are hard to face, doing unnecessary work, losing deals in the process seems the easier choice.

But I would argue it is not. Think in your own life of a time when you had a real breakthrough, I bet like me, as soon as the breakthrough takes place, we never see what all the fuss, fear and reluctance was in advance. So as long as it is legal, moral, and helps both you and your buyer, invest your energy in building your abilities. Remember there are million reasons why something won’t work, but there is one reason it will, you doing it.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Seriously – You’re Not That Different – Sales eXecution 2640

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Different 3

Being different seems to be really important to some people in sales. From their buyers, to product, to the way the sell, people want to cling to being different. It is like “Difference” is some sort of badge of honour, a reason to pay a premium, or worse, a rationale for results.

You often hear people talk about how the complexity of their sale makes it different. But all sales are complex in their own way, just because one may have more moving parts than another, does not make it more complex or different. Sure the moving parts in selling desalination plants may differ from those found in selling business process outsourcing, but the core components and core execution, not that different. Wanting it to be different does not change the fact that it has to be executed along a defined path (or process, you know, that’s a bit more complex), and one step at a time.

The “sophistication of the solution”, does not equate to “different” or “complex”. Just ask someone selling a fairly simple and standard product, in a highly competitive, price sensitive environment; these sales people have a much more complex selling challenge, especially if they can maintain price integrity. But in the end there is less difference than many sales professionals would want to pretend.

I remember meeting with a VP of Sales with a “Solutions Provider “, and indeed they had a product that was “cool”, and in demand, addressing a common requirement in their target market. From the time we met at a conference he was into the “I am interested in what you do Tibor, but you gotta understand we’re different.” I don’t know, he like everyone at their booth, had two arms, two legs, a big mouth, didn’t seem that different, maybe I’ll figure it out when we meet at their office.

Later at the office, he was right back at it, preaching the (invisible) difference. As one who likes to break the sale down to logical sequential steps, I thought I would explore.

TS:     So let me get this straight, your people do not have to prospect, you went to the conference because you had marketing budget to blow. You normally have prospects lined up out the door, but you knew I was coming this morning, so cleared a path for me?

VP:     No, no, our folks have to prospect, they need to make calls every day, I have them working the show leads now, those shows are expensive, I am always reviewing their activity, and we should be converting more of these leads, especially with our product.

TS:     OK, but once you get in front of the prospect, it is smooth sailing, they get it, and want to switch or buy right away, no?

VP:     I wish, we have to needs assessments, work through a bunch of data, and for sure three demos, sometimes more.

TS:     But at that point, they just ask for the proposal, and away we go.

VP:     Rarely, we have to help them maneuver internally, that’s why we end up doing multi demos, and data crunching, all the players involved.

TS:     All laid out in your process, right?

VP:     Not really, what we laid out should follow a different path.

TS:     But once you present the proposal, it’s done, no back and forth, no negotiations, no price haggling.

VP:     Are you kidding, even after all that, we still have to deal with that, all the ROI we show them, and we still go through that.

TS:     So tell me again how you are different?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

KPI’s – What Are They To You?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Impact Question

Talk to any ‘executoide’, and KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) are bound to be part of the conversation. Nice and practical concept, good resume fodder, often misused or abused by many, especially from a sales point of view. I often get the sense that many see KPI standing for Key Political Initiatives or Key (to my) Personal Incentive.

As a concept, KPI’s are great, helping sales organizations in defining and measuring progress against stated objectives or goals. Determined in advance, measurable and quantifiable, they are instrumental in helping to assess progress, and plan course correction if needed. Examples in sales may be lead to opportunity conversions, or proposals to close. Based on these measures you can make adjustments and respond to conditions on the ground to ensure those goals are attained. You often hear sales managers and director speak of how they are doing against their KPI’s. Looking at it that way can be a part of potential problems.

In the wrong hands, with wrong intents, the best concepts can come back to bite you; in sales it is usually the disconnect between what’s being measured and the desired results. There are many KPI’s being met without delivering the intended result or economic benefit, leading to a culture of measurement rather than success. When reps feel measured instead of being led to success, they turn to rationalizing their performance with the very same KPI’s. I hear reps say “well I delivered against the KPI, I got eight meetings every week this quarter.” Or “what do you want me to do, get sales or complete the KPI’s you gave me?”

It doesn’t help when sales leaders are incented on meeting KPI’s rather than result. While I am a big proponent of paying for success based on leading indicators, it should be on how those leading indicators are leading to consistent and improving results. Without that, when you pay for a checkmark, you get checkmarks, you pay for results you get results.

I was recently contacted by a sales director about training the team. As we discussed the program and roll-out, he insisted on doing things the first week of every quarter, when I asked why, he told me team quarterly development was one of his KPI’s, and the team meets the first week of each quarter. We assessed the team, had input from a number of people in the company, and customers, and designed training that required two days of delivery at the start, followed by Renbor’s Follow-Through Action Plan regimen. He loved the program, but asked that I cut it down to a half day. “What do you want me to cut?” “No no, I love the program as is, we just need to do it in half a day, I have to include some product training in October as well (another KPI no doubt).

No matter how much I tried to impress on him that he was making a mistake, he insisted. Knowing the type, that when things hit the fan, I will be blamed for the failure, even as he collects his KPI based bonus, I confronted him. I revamped the program to make it a one day affair, but he was still reluctant; half glancing at his phone as he explained his situation, including meeting KPI’s. I finally offered to send him some workbooks, pre-filled certificates he can distribute, come in and read a few pages to the team, and he could hit his KPI, and not bother with the challenge of training, but still be able to put the tick in the box next to training. “That’s your goal right?”. I swear he thought about it for a minute before realizing he was being mocked.

We finally agreed to the abridged one day program, with a clear understanding that we would include the remaining material into the January training. Now I have four months to work with and on the executives to change things, either the director or his KPI’s.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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