Welcome to The Pipeline.

Remember Your First Sale?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

49

There is no doubt that experience is a plus in any vocation, including sales, just look at any job posting for sales, and with the exception of entry level positions, they will demand experience both in terms of tenure and industry related. As with other things in life, there are no absolutes, it is usually a case of upside and downside. The upsides are clear and straight forward, so let’s look at the downside and risk of experience, both as it impacts individual sales people, and sales organizations.

In most disciplines the biggest victim of experience is creativity, in the form of the curiosity that comes with being new; a sense of exploration, a naïve ignorance that removes limits from many individuals, allowing them to go where others “with knowledge and experience” may not go. Given that these factors are usually the core components of creativity in sales, and that in sales creativity is one of the last differentiators, how do you reach the right balance?

Think back to your first sales position, everything was new, everything required learning. If you were with some bigger companies you got training as part of your on-boarding. But if you were with a smaller, not small, just smaller company, you likely got more product training and orientation than sales related training; and we are talking formal training not war stories from the “older guy. The older guy that you should not have been learning from, because if he did know better, he would have been out on calls, not in the office with time to hold court.

Left to your own devices, you improvised, tried different things, some worked, some were bruising, but collectively they added to you initial success and experience. As things got better and you committed to your sales career, and you likely did two things, you developed routines, and took some training, building experience. As you career evolved, and you “usually” made quota, or only missing by a “bit”, your experience grew, your training reinforced your routines and habits. As you had “more of it down” the less adventurous you got, and the narrower your curiosity and appreciation for alternatives, you were now set in your ways, or as someone I work with says “stuck in your ways”.

Over 40% of things we do every day, we do habitually or out of habit. Meaning we don’t need to think about it, we just do it. This applies to both good and bad habits. Runners run as a habit, they build their daily runs into their daily routine, it’s not a run by run question. Smokers light up habitually, they don’t think about it, they just do it.

The great thing about that is things that need to get done – get done, usually in a familiar, predictable and consistent fashion, without a lot of thought or consuming much of the energy required for the 60% that are not habit. The problem with that is we don’t think about it, we just do it, it’s easier for day to day things, the way we do it rarely change, rarely improve or rarely reinvent themselves. Not a good thing in a continuously changing and evolving market, where buyers are challenged by change, and have access to not only more information, but more choices.

So what’s a sales professional to do, deconstructing habits takes time and effort; forming new habits takes time and effort, and executing every aspect of every sale in a way that avoids routine or habits, also carries the same cost.

Start simple, as you review opportunities that did not close, ask yourself, what were some recurring things you do, or fail to do, that contributed to the loss. If you didn’t do specific things would things have turned out better, same for things you may have done. As you review opportunities that you win, ask yourself which things you did may have slowed the sale down or introduced risks. What are some things that you do that if you stopped doing would not slow or risk the sale. In hindsight, what are some things that if you did during the sale would have accelerated the sale or improved the outcome?

Give yourself a break, and at first just try to identify those things that you do by habit that you can stop doing without negative impact. This may be a challenge, especially when by definition we do not think about things we do by habit, this is why it is best to examine what you do in the context of a deal review, we are already (or should be) in critical mode.

A more challenging but valuable step is one often better done as a team, and led by the manager. Pick a current opportunity or a recent deal, and ask: “If I didn’t know better, if I were new to sales, what would I do?” It’ll take a bit of an effort to break out of your “experience”, but once you get rolling, and get past the familiar, you’ll find some great ideas. Resist the urge to “know better”, and examine it in context of the situation not your experience. Look for things that may solicit the response “that’s a rookie thing to do”, because those are the elements you can build on. You’ll also find that some suggestions will make you remember things you used to do but stopped. The great things is you can always start again.

While you do want to review every deal, you may not want to review your “habits” for every deal. If you started on a monthly basis, then move to quarterly, throw in a regular “What would I do if I didn’t know better” exercise, you’ll strike a balance, and develop a great new habit.

Tibor Shanto

 LI Bottom banner

Sales Triggers: Don’t Wait – Create

Join me and DiscoverOrg for a Free Webinar today at 1:00 pm Eastern 10:00 am Pacific:

Register Now!

 

There Is More To Leadership Than Leading – #SPS15 Special0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

woman with sketched strong and muscled arms

There is a lot written about leadership in general, and more specifically sales leadership, I have contributed my share to the din. This is a clear indication that no one has really figured it out, if they had the book will have been written, millions of copies sold, and people move past the debate, and focus on the next thing.

One common theme in pieces about leadership is how the leader needs to be involved and leading the process. And while that is true, the nature of that involvement differs based on who you read. I have always been an advocate of “leading from the front, not behind a desk”, and the assumption many take is that this literally means out in front of the troops Napoleon style. But I truly think that the best form of leadership, and means of driving change, the right change, not just change for change sake, anyone can rearrange the furniture and replace the curtains, is to not be part of the action. The best leadership, and I see things through the sales filter, is change that comes about in what appears to be in an organic way, initiated and completed by the sales rep/team, with only partial prints from the leader.

Managing/Coaching sales people, is really an exercise in selling. In a conventional sale we are trying to get the buyer to purchase our “stuff”, as a means of helping them achieve their objectives. Well as a coach, you are trying to get the sales person to integrate and take on your view alongside or instead of their current view or means of executing. That being the case, it really is best approached as a sale itself. As such, you not only have the opportunity to get the rep to buy into the change, but the means by which you do that could itself be a model or at a minimum, reinforce the process.

Everyone buys into the notion that “people don’t want to be sold”, and so you need to create a buying environment. The flaw with that in coaching is twofold. First While people may not want “to be sold”, they often need to be, that’s why we hire sales people. And the fact that the rep took on the job of selling, they have de facto declared that they want to buy, or buying to your process, otherwise, why are they working for you.

So how do we pull this together, simple, much like buyers like to hear things come out their mouth more than the sales reps, even when it was the sales person who choreographed the moment, sales people, especially established, good sales people who need to be taken to the next level, respond to ideas and actions that are their idea, not the managers. Meaning the best thing a manager can do lay down the bread crumbs, and let the rep discover things on their own, and when they do, you can become a resource in their journey to success.

How do you do that, I am old school, put the focus on your sales process. You have one right? Clear stages, specific activities in each stage, objectives, desired outcomes, tools, contingencies, and most importantly, clear reasons to disqualify. Each stage supported by an evolving playbook, and a clear next step go-no go, criteria. If you have this, you’re set to help the rep discover what you want them to, without directly leading them. If you don’t, you can call me and we can get you started.

As a first step, you can join me and my colleagues today for the 2015 Sales Performance Summit, webcast live from Toronto.

Tibor Shanto

 LI Bottom banner

A Chat About Prospecting #BBSradio0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

That time again, when Michele Price’ and I get together to talk sales on BREAKTHROUGH radio.  This month we talk prospecting, I know your favourite.

To hear my segment from last week, click on the image below.

Tibor Shanto

Live Cast

Are You Committing This Prospecting Sin? – Sales eXecution 2910

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Chrch candles

The biggest prospecting sin you can commit is not to prospect, but there are many others that are dangerous and can have almost as detrimental effect on your sales success, and more.

The one we’re going to look at today is a common technique used by many, encouraged by pundits is this one:

Your on the phone with a pre-qualified(?) prospect, and you say something to the effect of “I just need 15 minutes of your time…” Or it’s déclassée cousin “I just need 15 short minutes…” I mean really, what is the difference between the two, does the “short minutes” meeting have 50 second minutes, or will it just be that much less torturous?

Frankly this works well if you are selling a commodity, let’s see if the nut fits the bolt, can you deliver on time, and for two cents less. Yes, almost anyone can do that in 15 minutes. But selling something of value, selling “A Solution” that will take more than 15 minutes, no ifs ands or buts.

People use this approach because they feel that it will make it easier for the prospect to accept a 15 minute meeting. Said differently, “I’ll waste 15 minutes on this guy, but not more.” Sure you’re thinking that if you put on a good performance in that first 15 minutes, they’ll give an encore in the form of a further 15 or 30 minutes. Sure, sometimes, not often, usually you try and cram a meeting that properly unfolds in longer time frame into 15 minutes. Instead of initiating a good discovery exchange, most revert to a product pitch, after all “we are pressed for time”, and you can’t risk without presenting your value prop and at least a minimal look at your product. Next thing you know it’s time to try and get that next step, and go. And what is that next step in most cases, the meeting you really wanted in the first place.

So why not gear your call to that to begin with? If you truly have a solution worth having, one that actually solves (solution – solve) an issue they may be having, you know a pain or a need, lead with that, and get the right meeting. But when you say “Just 15 minutes”, it sounds like “please man, I am desperate, do me a solid, be a KPI.” Sure this may work once in a while, usually with the wrong prospect, but if it’s not inside the Bell Curve it’s a Hail Mary.

Like any sin, smoking, illicit activities, being a politician, what have you, there is the momentary pleasure, and lingering dark side. In this case you are starting your relationship, regardless of how far it may go, based on a lie. You know at the time you propose the meeting that you are not being truthful, as do your prospects, the 15 minutes is their insurance policy, “if this guy sucks as badly as I think he may, I can pull the lever after 15 minutes; if by chance he is good, then we’ll see.” Sure this may work once in a while, usually with the wrong prospect, but if it’s not inside the Bell Curve it’s a Hail Mary. I have always been for a separation of church and sales.

Tibor Shanto

Live Cast

You Can Play Nice or You Can Play To Win0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

iStock_000003854002Small

There are times when you hit a wall in a given sale or opportunity, where you have some though choices to make: do you walk away, do you take a different approach with the buyer, or do you abandon the person you have been working with and go around or over them.

As interesting as the choices that people make in these situations, what’s even more interesting and noteworthy from a learning standpoint, is why and how the make those choices.

Not a negative, but a reality is that many sales people positive nature and disposition, a ray of sunshine buyers will be drawn to, a “can do” attitude spiced with plenty of optimism. This drives them to look for positive outcomes, which is often different than the right or profitable outcome.

As an interesting side note, according to recent Harvard Business Review article by Steve W. Martin, What Separates the Strongest Salespeople from the Weakest, the best sales people as measured by performance, are in fact inwardly pessimistic. Questioning the buyer, motives, aspects of the sale, etc. This allows them to qualify/disqualify and be more effective sales winners (as opposed to the large group of relationship starved professional visitors who are in sales). While “possibilities” are endless, reality comes down to fewer choices, some harder than the others.

Of the choices above, abandon, change the facts or change horses, most sales people will be most reluctant to changing horses, going around or above the person they have been dealing with. Odd, because it is generally the most effective, both in terms of outcomes and best use of time.

It all hinges on how you view one fact, what are the potential consequences. The most optimistic relation types see negative consequences (now who is pessimistic), they say “If I go around or over them, it may upset the person I am dealing with, and the deal won’t happen”. The best, high performing sales people say “If I stay on the current path, the deal ain’t happening, I need to engage someone who can make it happen”.

One major difference is that the high performers look at it from the perspective of what’s right and best for the buyer and their company; they look at deal, not the people. Most importantly, they look at the situation as being “who else can I engage”, not necessarily going around or over someone. If that’s what you are looking for, that is what you’ll find.

At it’s core the question is a common one in sales, are you reactive or proactive, do you put more faith in hope or action?

It is not a question of the cup being half full or half empty. What differentiates these two types of sales people is that they both see the half glass, they both aspire to have the glass full. One is hoping that being genteel, nice and smiling will hopefully fill the glass. The other group knows they need to take proactive steps to fill the glass.

Tibor Shanto

Live Cast

You Can’t “Just Call It In” To Win In Cold Calling3

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Calling it in

Having trained hundreds of sales people in effective telephone prospecting, I have witnessed a number of recurring patterns which impact success, both negatively and positively. One key to success is being present and in the call, not “just calling it in”.

Coming out of the training most will apply what they learned quit literally, almost religiously. They are attentive to details, complying with what the process dictates, to the point where they are rigid, almost unnatural. But as a result of putting a structured and proven approach into practice, they usually have a measure of success, meaning more appointments, more returned voice mails, more confidence in facing objections, and usually a big boost to their confidence. It is this increased confidence that puts them at a fork in the road, one path leading to ongoing and growing success, the other back to where they started, if not worse.

Some begin to evolve the process and the technique, introducing their own style without changing the core approach. This allows them to be more conversational, more relaxed casual, more themselves, making the whole experience much more engaging for both the buyer and themselves. This in turn delivers even better results, and encourages reps with the right attitude and work ethic to continuously improve, evolve, and advance both the quality and quantity of their pipelines and sales.

The majority however, travel the other path. They take their initial success and interpret it differently. They see success, revel in it, and take their foot off the gas and their eyes off the ball. They see improvement as an event, not as a process. You can hear it in the way they execute the call, you can see it in their posture and body language. They become complacent and mechanical, believing the momentum will maintain itself, even believing that it will continue it the same trajectory without further effort.

Even as they pick up the phone and dial, it is clear they are not really present, the call is one of a number of things they are doing, whether it’s reading the newspaper, updating their status (even though I would bet they are not present enough to know what their status is), they begin to live a routine, instead of driving the process. They are literally “calling it in”.
Cold calling is like any other skill, it needs to be practiced and executed in the moment, atrophy will quickly set in, and before you know it, you are just going through the motions. Any progress made will quickly be reclaimed by mediocrity.

Doing it, is not the same as executing, and evolving. This is one of the reasons people fail at cold calling, because like most things worth doing, it takes effort and commitment to master and evolve. I think people do not like cold calling because it does require effort, it demands that you to commit and be present every day, every time you pick up the phone. Making a professional cold call is very different from just “call it in”.

Tibor Shanto

Live sold out

Leading From The Front – The Role Leadership and Accountability0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I know nothing about leading or they don't follow

There is much discussion about leadership, or more accurately, a lot of talk, some of it actionable, some of it not. The less actionable it is, the less interesting, and as a result ending up more talk than action. Many of those who like to talk about leadership, often include a blurb on accountability. At times a practical add on, but more often than not, it is more like a required a condiment, like ketchup on fries, rather than a substantial value add to the topic at hand, i.e. leadership.

One of the challenges of these two related subjects is that it is demonstrating versus talking about them. This is why some of the better piece don’t pretend to want to explain this complicated but important aspect of tribal life, be that a sales tribe, regional tribe, or any other collection of beings needing to coexist and interact for a common purpose.

Read On…

 

 

FB 2

3 Proactive Success Steps Every Sales Team Can Take – Sales eXecution 2870

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

white puzzle

I see a lot of sales organizations and individuals succeed despite what the experts tell them. Mostly because they know better than to follow the crowd, and are willing to try the unconventional. When told “you can’t do that!” They respond by asking “Why?” rather than “OK”, and moving on (usually to the sideline). Highlighting the negative impact Herd Mentality has on sales success, and the economy in general.

One way many (lots of) average or also-rans rationalise their performance, or non-performance, is by pointing to all the company they have with the same challenge. If misery loves company, the 80% will rarely be alone, and will always make more of an effort to convince you that something can’t be done, than the effort it takes to get it done. (How is that bandwagon looking now?)

So what does it take?

While there may be no single success formula, there is enough common elements among the consistently successful approaches to allow us to point to specific things that if you willing to undertake, will help you step out of the 80% club.

You can start with the following three:

1. A Plan - most sales people will argue that they have a plan, and they are right. They have a plan, one, that they try to apply to every circumstance no matter the differences. A plan done long ago, based a particular set of conditions, which fit a specific instance. When things evolve, and they do, they try to replicate that over and over no matter how reality changed.
The great thing about a plan, is to do it right, you have to stop and think, an activity many in our society avoid. But by thinking about each sale, and understanding the differences, nuanced, or great, you will gain a strategic and tactical advantage.

I remember working for a director who focused more on why you wanted to do things, much more than on what you wanted to do. He wanted to know that you had thought things through from all angels, looked at threats, contingencies, and other factors and possible outcomes your actions may result in. He wasn’t looking for me to be conventional, or outrageous, just that I was able to demonstrate that I had thought and planned things out. If there was a major flaws, he would point them out, if not, he’d send me off to execute, and we would review the results.

2. Active Leadership - I would describe the above as an example of Active Leadership, he was engaged, willing to help, leading from the front, hands-on in a way, but not in a restraining way. It’s not the time for a discussion on micromanagement, but too many sellers, usually those wanting to avoid accountability, try to paint active management as being too overbearing. One can be engaged without being domineering or too removed to make a difference. Actively Leading team members to consistently execute your organization’s process is an effective way to develop the right habits, maintain individuality but avoid the subjective trap many mangers fall in to, and drive results.

3. Permission To Fail – I have yet to meet a sales person with 100% closing ratio. Leaving us with the opportunity to learn from everything we do, especially when we fail at something, be that a big failure, or little things that can make a difference.

Hands down one of the best things managers can allow sellers to do is fail. You can then review, assess and learn. A learning culture is key to keeping up with or ahead of the market, and frankly just keeping up is second place.

Perfection is neither realistic nor desirable, so give them a chance to fail, as long as everyone is committed to capturing, learning and applying the lessons learned. It’s part of the plan, part of active leadership, part of success.

Again, these are not the only factors of sales success that managers and sellers need to focus on, but if only did master these three, you’ll be on your way of leaving the 80%, and joining the more elite 20%.

Tibor Shanto

Live Cast

Neither Either0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Confused by Too Many Choices Arrow Street Signs

While I am all for having a sales process or road map, there is plenty of room for choice, and there are some elements of sales success that are achievable via many paths. You have choice within a defined structure, the result is pretty much the same regardless how of the path taken. As a seller, your success will not be adversely impacted by the choice. On the other hand, there are areas where you are presented with the option between two paths, but one does not deliver the same results, where one path may be easier but consistently yields lesser returns than another, at times more demanding alternative. Often the alternative delivering better results may not be as comfortable at first, require a different effort. One common reason people will choose the less effective/more comfortable route is they do not want to come across as being “salesy”, you know for some, just asking for the order is “salesy” or pushy; or that’s what they tell me.

An example of the above is “choice” or “options”, specifically sellers giving the buyer options for no real reason or benefit other than their own comfort, not at all that of the buyer. Too many sales people offer up choices or options to their buyers throughout the sales cycle, where they are not necessary, where they could negatively impact the sale or momentum, and are usually deployed not because they make sense for the sale or the buyer, but because they help sale people cope.

Here is a common example early in the engagement, while on a prospecting call. You’ve positioned how you can help them achieve objectives based on you experience and credible validation, and you get to the point where you ask for the time to meet, and instead of creating focus and a call to action, too many sales people make the mistake of saying:

“So what’s better for you, Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning?”

Why? Don’t you know when you want to meet, don’t you utilize your time efficiently and set appointments based on where other meetings take place that day?

Rather than communicating “gee any time is good, I got nothing else going on, so Monday afternoon, Tuesday morning, makes no difference to me, any one of those, please I need an appointment.”

There really are those who tell me they don’t want to be pushy, they don’t want to “box” the prospect. So now instead of thinking about what you called them about, any potential value that you may have communicated to this point in the call, you get them to go back and forth between two points in their calendar, instead of focusing on one time.

Hands down, it is better to give them one time, focus them on that time in their calendar, and make it easy for them to say yes, or no, you can always offer up the other time at that point. But why introduce slackness into an otherwise tight call? Is it for the buyer’s benefit? No! If you want to make it easy for them, especially if you have set up the call well to this point, give them one specific time, their eyes will go there and bam! Give them choice, they’ll look at both, maybe see that they have a meeting Tuesday afternoon that they are not ready for, and what could have been an appointment becomes “It’s not the best time, give me a call next month”.

Another example where offering choice is not the best plan is at the time of proposal, too many sellers offer up options, A, B and C. Some even believe that buyers will always go to the middle price point, on the other hand if you offered only one choice, you would get a yes or a no, giving you the option of offering the mid-price at that time. As you have heard me say in the past, good sellers are subject matter experts, as such, you should demonstrate that expertise by putting the best option forward, not a range of options. Order takers offer options, because they do not create the sale, just react to it.

If you have truly sold the deal, addressed the buyer’s objectives, and have gotten confirmation of that throughout the sale, then the only choice is the best one based on the process that just unfolded. For me, go with the best, other than that, I’ll have neither either.

Tibor Shanto

Banner 2

Sales Performance Summit0

Sales Performance Summit

April 6, 2015

Banner 2

JOIN US AT
The Rotman School of Management
105 St. George Street, Toronto, ON, Canada

According to STAR Results’ global 2015 STAR Sales Manager Survey, the number one area of focus for sales leaders is Improving Performance Management.

Nearly half of sales reps did not achieve quota over the past few years. The challenge and opportunity for sales leaders is to ensure that their managers can impact performance and that their front lines will follow. These two imperatives are key to developing a sales culture designed to succeed.

Performance is no longer an individual measure. It is a mission critical strategy. According to the STAR Results 2015 Sales Manager Survey, in the new sales reality, characterized by increasingly knowledgeable and discriminating buyers, performance and performance management are the burning issues for sales leaders around the world.

The Sales Performance Summit will not offer sales training or promote specific sales methodologies. What it will do is offer proven ways for sales leaders to positively impact performance regardless of methodology. The reason most reps struggle is not that they can’t ‘SPIN’ or ‘Challenge’, but that they aren’t aligned with a performance-driven culture.

The summit will focus on performance improvement for better results and sustainable competitive advantage by unpacking five key strategic issues:

  • The importance of performance management throughout the organization
  • The role of metrics and data in driving performance
  • Proven approaches to extend the performance culture in every sales call
  • Recruiting top performing salespeople
  • The benefits of developing sales coaches instead of line managers

For Details Click Here

early Reg
wordpress stat