Welcome to The Pipeline.

Don’t Parrot – Integrate!1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 


Given the fact that we think a lot faster than people speak, and much faster than our ability to listen, it is always important to look for ways to stay focused on what a prospect is telling us, and not rush ahead or interrupt with a thought triggered by something they said. My favourite way, is one I was taught long ago by a mentor; his approach is to ask yourself what you can ask the prospect/buyer, based on what they just said, makes you focus, listen, process and fully and actively engage.

This goes beyond the common technique many use, one that I find really irritating rather than in any way effective, specifically restating or parting, what the prospect said. We have all seen it in action, reps repeat almost word for word what the buyer just said as a means of demonstrating their attentiveness. “So what I heard you say is…”. Just wake me up when you’re done.

Don’t get me wrong, I get and support the intent, to ensure clarity and avoid the mistakes of assumptions. But as with many things in sales, it comes down to execution, how we deliver the message sometimes matters as much as the message. Simply repeating what they just said does confirm you were listening, one point for you; but that is a long way from understanding, processing responding in a meaningful way for the buyer.

A better way of demonstrating and confirming that you not only heard the words, but actually took in and processed what they said, is to integrate what you gleaned, and then use it to continue, drive and focus the conversation. As mentioned above, use it as a basis for further discovery. Rather than just parroting what the prospect presented, ask a question that builds or expands on the topic, or drills down on a specific aspect, allowing the buyer to elaborate, get further involved and in the process serve up more useful information. The more you drill down on what they say, the more they are encouraged to continue.

While everyone agrees that a good sales meeting is one where the prospect speaks the majority of the time, (I’ll settle for 51%), the reality is that rarely the case in most sales calls. Partly this is a symptom of the problem mentioned above, the seller getting way ahead of the buyer, and worse the incessant interruptions every time a sales rep heard the “secret word”, most often the “secret word” is some trigger word marketing conjured up as part of ”The Value Prop”.  All this does is train the buyer not to talk, not to exchange information, after all, every time they are about to reveal something, the rep interrupts, clearly signalling they are not interested in what they buyer has to say, and would rather preach, leaving the buyer to just say amen to not buying.

One way to avoid this, and again demonstrate your attention and understanding, is to vary, ever so slightly, the way you take notes while the buyer is pouring their hearts out. May seem simple, but split your page into thirds, on two thirds take notes the way you normally would. The remaining third is for the “secret words”, the ones you are dying to hear, the ones you used to jump on, but won’t any more. Moving forward, you’ll right down the “secret word” and wait. This not only allows the buyer room to express themselves fully, but allows you take your time formulating a question, or a means of revisiting the subject triggered by the “secret word”, integrating it into a follow up question, again drilling down with a willing buyer. For example, “Earlier you mention consolidating, a lot of our clients have had success…, is that what you meant, or…?” Even if you are wrong, you will find out more, and have a buyer who feels they are not only being listened, but understood.  Now there is a proper use of triggers.

What you will also find as a side benefit of a more engaged buyer is that they are much more involved and inclined to open up, ask questions, and reciprocate the courtesy and respect when it is your turn to offer up your information, in the process establishing trust, and starting a relationship. What you will also notice is that the more trust they have, the more information they feel safe in sharing; the more information you have the better you can continue to build trust; and the process seems to snowball on its own.

It may have made sense in grade school to parrot back what the teacher said, but by the time you got to post-secondary, there was an expectation that you would demonstrate you understanding and command of a subject by assimilating and integrating it. Isn’t it time your selling graduated too?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Small Business Week – BNN Interview (#video)0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

This week is Small Business Week in Canada, as part of that BNN, Canada’s business news television network is running features highlighting the Canadian small business space, and looking at trend and advice for the small business community.


On Monday I had the pleasure of discussing how small business owners approach hiring sales talent, what works, and what they should avoid.


Take a look, and as always, share your thoughts, leave a comment.


What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


Author #Interview – Josiane Chriqui Feigon – Smart Sales Manager0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Smart Sales Manager

If you are not familiar with Josiane Feigon, you should be, and if her predictions come to be you will be soon enough.  As you’ll read below, she boldly predicts that by 2015 inside sales will overtake field sales, as that unfolds, she will be in greater demand.  Josiane heads up TeleSmart Communications, and is leading practice and thought leader in the area of inside sales and management.  A recognized consulting, she has designed and delivered coaching, and training solutions for world class companies such as companies, including Cisco, Autodesk, Citrix Systems, Adobe, and others.  She is also the author of two books on inside sales, Smart Selling on the Phone and Online: Inside Sales That Gets Results, and her most recent, and a complement to the first book: Smart Sales Manager: The Ultimate Playbook for Building and Running a High-Performance Inside Sales Team.

It was this book that was the focus of a recent conversation I had with Josiane, below are exerpts of that conversation.

TS:  You say that inside sales is going to overtake field sales by 2015. How can that be? And how does that affect how companies sell?

JF:  Today’s inside sales organizations are growing rapidly – for every 15 inside salespeople being hired, only one field person is being hired. The traditional sales organization structure is changing to meet the needs of today’s elusive and busy customer who is mobile, connected, independent, and wants everything NOW. Inside sales can build more – and often better – relationships virtually in much less time than it used to take face-to-face.  TS: In your book, you start out by saying customers these days are “mad as hell.” What are they mad about? What is going on with them these days that’s affecting their buying decisions?

JF:  Customers have become incredibly intelligent and assertive- they are putting their foot down and saying “they are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” They are tired of outdated sales techniques, hundreds of powerpoint slides to make a point, being stalked and chased by desperate salespeople. They are also very independent AKA “elusive” and like to self-educate.

TS:  Many of today’s inside sales managers were promoted out of the cubicle into management. How is managing in today’s digital world different than when they were selling?

JF:  Most of today’s managers were once individual contributors. Many of them manage with the old, brutal sales blueprint of success: aggressively chasing down customers and holding them in a headlock while they present and coerce them into buying. They keep doing it today, even though it no longer works, on the theory that it has to work sometime! But managing a high-performing inside sales team in the dynamics Sales 2.0 ecosystem is completely different. This new world is digital, diverse, and connected. Customers do their own research, and talent expects works to be F-U-N.

TS:  How do organizations identify great inside sales managers?  What are the primary attributes successful managers need?

JF:  I believe a good manager must first be a good coach and in my book, I outline Ten Qualities of a Compassionate Coach

  1. Be a good listener. Use the same active listening skills that make you a good salesperson. Give the rep your full attention, and listen without interrupting. Be empathetic and compassionate, and don’t get defensive.
  2. Be observant. You can learn so much about your team members just by paying attention to the way they present themselves, the objects they choose to have around them, the friends they hang out with, whether they speak up during meetings, how they listen when you talk, how they interact with others . . . the list goes on and on….
  3. Be patient. Some people are quick studies, but not everyone. Behaviors can change; everyone has his or her own unique rhythm. Give them time to develop.
  4. Be supportive. Make sure that even the least skilled know that you believe they have what it takes to improve and get ahead. Some team members may just be waiting for permission to be seen as the top dog on the team. Treat them as if they deserve to be in that spotlight.
  5. Be flexible. Change can be effected in a number of ways. If one approach fails, try something else. Be creative. Keep an open mind, and become sensitive to differences and different ways of doing things.
  6. Be interested and aware. Take time to get to know the salesperson you are coaching. What do they like? How do they live? This will give you insight into what motivates them.
  7. Be perceptive. When your intuition kicks in—and it will! —trust it.
  8. Be energetic. A good coach has energy that is contagious and persuasive. Model the kind of positive energy you want to see.
  9. Be focused. As a coach you must detach yourself from your own pressures and focus on the person you are coaching.
  10. Be trustworthy. Above all, coaching must take place in an atmosphere of safety and trust. Your team must trust that you are working in their best interests. Your team members are your potential superheroes. Treat them with respect and confidence.

TS:   Some people think cold calling is dead. But in your book, you introduce the concept of potent prospecting. Can you explain what that is?

JF:  New tools have eliminated the cold call and redefined prospecting: The days of robo-dialing and making cold calls without any information are gone – there’s no excuse for it. Potent prospecting works more holistically. It brings together the rest of the Sales 2.0 ecosystem – the customer, the talent, and the tools – and a working alignment with marketing. Prospecting efforts are strategic and sophisticated: they’re all about the best practices of engagement, collaboration, education, application, and social activity.

TS:  Why do so many inside sales managers insist on tracking dials & talk time as a primary metric of productivity? Is that lazy management, or just lack of knowing where else to look?

JF:  Metrics are definitely overdue for a metrics makeover because many metrics are outdated stereotypes of how to measure success. Managers must also redefine what productivity means so instead of saying “it’s awfully quiet out there, no one’s on the phone” they need to listen for the virtual, the digital and the social conversations and measure the new sounds of silence.

TS:  What are two takeaways from the book for finding and hiring new sales talent?

JF:  Every inside sales organization is unique. That’s because they each have different go-to-marketing strategies based on their individual provide/service, price points, sales cycle, direct/indirect purchase channels, target audience, sales locations, and talents. These are living, breathing micro businesses that are constantly in flux. But they all have one thing in common: the never-ending quest for good talent. Managers must develop an “always-be-recruiting” strategy that includes a referral network, and strong screening and interviewing techniques that help qualify and identify inside sales superheroes. Managers must also structure their inside sales organizations with the right roles and match them with people who fit those job functions. This is the first step in defining a “multicareer” ecosystem that attracts ambitious talent on a career trajectory.

That was just a bit of a great conversation. You can find more at TeleSmart Communications, and you get both books at Amazon, they make a good set.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


You Do It Now – They Can Talk Later – Sales eXchange 2010

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


Last Wednesday May 15th, I had the opportunity to be on the Charles Adler show.  We look at the potential fallacies in long term predictions, this on the heels of a piece I did for the Globe and Mail Report on Small Business, regarding the need for execution in sales, not long term predications, and the fact that in BC, the elections did produce a majority government, but not by the party everyone was “predicting” would form the government.

Have a short listen, then let us know how you’ve found action and results to be of more value than predictions.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

What if you could defeat the Status Quo0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

All this week I have posted clips from a recent interview with Ago Cluytens, for his Coaching Masters Series.  We dealt with a number of issues around selling to buyers who are traditionally referred to as being Status Quo.  Being the weekend, I thought it a good time to post the whole interview for your weekend lounging pleasure.

Always interested in what you think, and whether you are more prepared to go forth and sell where many sellers and pundits fear to go.  Take a look, and let me know.

If you enjoy this there are more on Ago’s site.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


To Err is Human – and When It Sells It’s Divine!0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


Too many sales people spend way too much time and effort trying to be or look perfect.  Whether it is refining that radio voice for telephone selling, or the right look for the call, using the fashionable buzzwords, or a host of other things sellers do. An awful amount of energy and resources go into image and looking good, to the point where the polish detracts and distracts from the purpose at hand.

The reality is that people are not perfect, at least not in the real world, and the perfection some seek could be at odds with the expectations of the buyer. Take the popular notion and adhered to buzz-phrase, popular among sales types is that “people buy from people”, implicit in that is that people by from people like them.  Being too polished to the point where we resemble the cover of GQ more than we do the people the buyer is used to dealing with on a daily basis, may lead to the opposite outcome to the one desired.

Being human, including the frailties and blemishes may put a seller in a better stead than trying to be the Madison Avenue or Hollywood version of a sales professional.  In fact imperfections can often work in your favour by making us look and feel human rather than something artificial.  Trying to be something most of us are not, that is perfect, can distance a buyer.

A common attribute of good sales people is being genuine, and one buyers appreciate and look for in a seller, if they sense a seller is not themselves or disingenuous they begin to question the seller’s intent.  Intent counts for a lot, and many will tell you that intent trumps skill, product knowledge, and certainly outranks polish, image or smoothness.

No matter how experienced or good you are as a sales person, it is better to focus and demonstrate that in the quality of your selling, your ability to gather the right information about the right issues, than relying on strictly polish.  To this day I do not have or use a radio voice when cold calling, I stumble and stutter at times in the same way I did 20 years ago, but he content of my talk track, the underlying intent helps me content with buyers and set appointments.

We have all been in meetings where you may dropped something, or something goes wrong with technology you are relying on, but instead of the meeting going south, that awkward moment removes a layer of the barrier between buyer and seller.  I remember a meeting where the buyer was cold, tough, hardly engaged, and while reaching for something the sales person spilt a bottle of water on the conference room table and on her pants.  The buyer sprang into action, genuinely concerned for and her dilemma, and remained very engaged for the rest of the meeting, and ultimately bought.  The spill changed the dynamics and I would say the outcome of the interaction and the meeting.

Time and time again, common unintended errors, lead to an instant human connection that facilitates the connection between buyer and seller.  While I am not suggesting you go out and look to err on purpose, I am saying that the energy and time we spend trying to be perfect or avoid looking or being human, can be better invested in understanding the buyer, their objective and how you can help them.  If we do that in a genuinely human way, warts and all, rather than a superhuman way, we’ll see a much more genuine response from prospects, and achieve better results faster.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Impact Questions – Sales eXchange 1870

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Impact Question

Back in the 80’s or maybe even earlier, the purveyors of Consultative Selling, put a lot of emphasis on Open Ended Questions, for all the right reasons. It took some effort and focus to get sales people to adopt this style of interaction, especially after years of pitching and doing things the traditional (old) way.

Many sales people had difficulty being comfortable and effective in the vast openness provided by this style of questions. It was difficult to fight the urge to regress to their previous comfort zones, many sellers had to be continuously managed to adopt the new more effective question based selling.

One practice was to paint closed ended questions as being inferior, substandard, in those days, even communist in nature; may sound extreme, but in reality, closed ended question were uniformly vilified.  In fact the pendulum swung so far that closed ended question were just plain bad.  Today, in many workshops, you still hear people demonizing closed ended questions.

Well I am here to tell you that there are no such things as bad questions. There are very few if any absolutes in sales.  It’s more accurate to look at how appropriate a question is for a given circumstance.  If you look at questions as tools of the trade, there is no such thing as one tool fits all; there may be tools that are appropriate to various tasks, others may be useful less often
Which is why I am here to say that the much maligned closed ended question does have a place in B2B selling in 2013; hell I’ll go further to say it has a place in Sales 2.0 and/or Social Selling.  It is about the situation, what is the desired outcome, and what the next step needs to be from both parties perspectives.

Given the above there are regular occurrences in sales where closed ended question makes perfect sense. So I am on a mission to reintroduce this tool to your sales tool kit. A few years ago Timberlake made it his goal to being Sexy Back, so I am advocating the same for closed ended questions (although I am certain they will never be sexy, but the positive results delivered may be).

I am calling the updated version Impact Questions, a marketing friend told me that one needs to rebrand for re-launch; change the name and you change focus from potential negative connotations.

Let’s face it, there are times when you do want to focus things, narrow down the possibilities. Often you want close things off so you can move the process forward, or to realize that there is no forward to move to with a prospect and it may be time to move to the next opportunity.

During a cold call, oops, prospecting call, (need to be politically correct), open ended questions can take you off track; a question that works well in a sales call can be negative during a prospecting call.  There are other times when you do want a clear one or the other, a yes or a no.  It comes down to how the response serves the purpose.  What is the impact of the answer, and how that answer impacts the outcome.  For example, when I ask someone I called the first time if they “have ever worked with a third party trainer like Renbor?”, either answer serves to move the process forward, and could prove to be a benefit for both.  Rather than using a series of open ended questions to arrive at the same point, a simple impact question focuses bith the prospect and I on the same critical turning point.

So know where you are trying to go, know how you can help a prospect or a customer, then ask the Impact Question, and deal with the impact, not whether it is open ended, closed ended, or some other ended, work to achieve positive impact for the buyer and yourself.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Who Is a Better Closer? – Sales eXchange 17946

Don’t look around in your office for the answer, look at your prospects.

Who is a better closer, you or the buyer you are facing?  In most cases the argument can easily be made that the buyer is a better closer.  In more cases than not, they end up achieving their objective more than you do.

In the case of active buyers, those in the market, reaching out directly to sellers, or actively seeking input from their peer network; or passive buyers – those buyers who are not actively looking but are no longer happy with their current situation, making entrees into the market, searching the web for “what’s out there”.  The buyers are usually the better closers, simply by closing you on the fact that they have other options, and unless things are done entirely on their terms, you’ll lose the deal.  The more one capitulates here, the clearer it becomes that the buyer is closing the seller on the deal they want.  Discounting is an issue in most verticals, either you close the buyer on the value you deliver, or they close you on what you have to surrender to win the deal.

In circumstances where there is no deal, either because the buyer bought from someone else, or decided not to make a decision, again the buyer was the better closer because they closed themselves on not buying, where the seller was not able to close them on buying.  Assuming you were truly convinced that they had a need, and you qualified them, and they didn’t buy, they were the better closer.

Where sellers seems to be much better closers are with those buyers commonly called as status quo.  Where the seller was able to engage in a proper manner, meaning not waiting around to be found by someone with preconceived ideas and price points, but engaged as two peers around a common opportunity.  This involves a proactive approach by the seller, doing the research as to who is in a position to benefit from their offering and engaging with them as a potential means of achieving objectives, not as a latter part of a buying process that started long before the seller was aware.  Where the seller takes the initiative rather than the buyer, the odds are much more even.

The reason for this is obvious but often overlooked.  In the end, it is not about the close but everything that precedes it.  All the elements of the EDGE Process; beyond the research, it is the prospecting Engage long before the buyer goes to market; the Discovery to help confirm the buyer’s objectives, and build value through a collaborative process that encourages the buyer to be part of the process – and part of the outcome.  Leading to the point where you Gain commitment based on the mutual definition of value, and then of course Execute together with the buyer.

The ability to change the focus from close to outcome allows you to help more clients close on you.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Yes, and…37

Sometimes it is not what you say but how you say that help the buyer get engaged.  Take a look and give it a go.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Know The Why – Sales eXchange 17689

While the sales industry continues to improve and move the dial on “pitching” less, and asking more questions, adopting the “Don’t Ask – Don’t Sell” http://www.sellbetter.ca/?p=1938 philosophy.  But many are still asking questions that serve their purposes only, not so much for the buyer’s, and even when they do they seem to lack the skills or courage to deep enough with their question to truly make a difference for either.

Probing question most often concentrate on the ‘what’, ‘when, ‘where’, and the ‘how’ of the situation at hand.  No doubt these are important, but on their own, they fail to deal with factors that underpin value and foster a true relationship, one delivering mutual benefits for both seller and buyer.  Sadly one contributor to this shortcoming are sales experts in my own field.  Many actively tell their clients not to ask ‘Why”.  I have yet to get a good answer as to why they say this.

Most tell me that it is too intrusive.  What does that mean?  It is my job to be intrusive in that way.  Most present intrusive in a negative way, but being “disruptive” is part of my mandate to help my clients evolve, change and move forward for the better.  After all they don’t buy things to stay the same.

The main purpose for asking the why question is to get to the real underlying reason for them engaging with you.  Now it’s one thing if you’re one of those “wait to be found sellers”, the buyer is way ahead of you in their buying cycle, and you’re just one of a number of participants in the bathing suit contest.  But if you got to the potential buyer before they were even thinking of being in the market, you need to ask a whole bunch of ‘why’ questions before you are in a position to offer up a solution.  Unless you want to be a solution running around looking for a problem or pain, you need to get used to asking why, and even when the buyer answers the first why, you will likely have to ask follow up whys.

To understand the buyer’s real motivation, to get them to understand that you really do have their interest at heart, you need to park the product, and focus on the person.  It takes courage to ask a buyer why they are thinking of doing something or doing it in a specific way, especially if all the other sellers lined up and say whatever they think the buyer wants to hear to get the order.

I sometimes wonder if the main reason some are afraid to ask why is because they don’t know what to do with the answer they get.  They haven’t been trained again, because it is still about selling the product.  If only they accepted that more sales made when it is about really helping the buyer, even when the buyer initially thinks they need to go one way, but end up in a better place after a genuine and intrusive why.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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