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Where Have All The Sellers Gone? – Sales eXecution 3012

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Over the last few years there have been numerous articles and commentaries suggesting that the sales population will dramatically dwindle over the next few years. I don’t think there will be less real sellers than now, but the roles will be more clearly and accurately defined.

The reality is that many of those calling themselves sales people, or were hired to fill a role with a job description of sales person are not sales people at all. Many who pretended to be hunters to get the job were not; and many who were hired to manage and grow accounts, were in fact willing or capable of doing either. So if you redefined those to what they really were, rather than what you were hoping or pretending they were, you’d have a thinning of the ranks. In reality there are not as many sales people now as many would pretend.

Further to this point, last week I participated in an event hosted by SMB Acuity, a premier supplier of actionable business insights, where they presented the results of a survey of Small and Medium business in the USA and Canada specifically companies with 100 or less employees, those driving the economy. One interesting result they shared was that a large majority of upsells and cross sells were in fact initiated by the businesses themselves, not the sellers (by title anyway). The numbers were 57.8% of respondents in Canada, and 68.3 in the States. Confirming that many who say they are in sales, are in fact order takers.

What’s worse, is that these numbers clearly indicate that both types of sales people dropped the ball. Account managers should have been involved enough with the accounts to be in tune with potential demand, completely missed the opportunity. Leading to the question of how involved were they really, were they managing them in the real world, in their CRM, on a list, or as I suspect not at all. The other question is where was management? Why did they not have a process and the metrics in place to ensure coverage and get ahead of the opportunity?

One thing is sure, when the buyer initiated the conversation that lead to the upsell with you, they likely did so with your competitors as well. Given the scenario, I bet you don’t even know if and when they decided to buy more or another product, you don’t even know if they bought it from you or your competitor.

And where were the hunters, how did they miss this waiting opportunities?

It is almost an insult to real sellers to call these transactions “upsells” or “cross sells”, when it was buyer initiated. This is why they call people in department stores clerks, not sales people.

So yes, over the years as we fine tune the role, you will find less people classified as sellers, not because there will be less sellers than now, but because there will be a separation of sellers and clerks.

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Summer time and the Selling’s Easy #podcast0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

There are a lot of misconceptions about selling in the summer, but don’t be fooled, there is selling in the summer.  That is the focus of this month’s segment with Michele Price and BREAKTHROUGH radio.  Take a listen and let me know how you’heat you summer sales.

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What Are You Opening – Sales eXecution 2952

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Looking in

Sit in on any weekly sales meeting or pipeline review and you will hear the same question over and over: “What are you closing?” Nothing wrong with that question, especially if everyone is closing the right deals at sufficient levels. But given the fact that less than 60% of B2B reps hit quota, the above is not a safe assumption.

The real focus should be on the open, not the close. While I am not suggesting that the “What are you gonna close?” question should be dropped, I do think that it always needs to have a companion questions: “What are you gonna open?” Add to that if your close ratio is 4 to 1, you should ask the “gonna open” four times for every time you ask “gonna close” question.

While many will attribute their missing to a number of factors, it really comes down to two simple things. They either can’t sell, meaning they have more than enough engaged prospects, they just can’t close them; or they can sell just fine, but do not have enough prospects to take through the process. The former is easy to deal with, fire them, do fast, then hire slow, make sure the next sales person you hire can both sell and prospect.

If the issue is the latter which is more often the case, then the solution is creating a culture of prospecting. I regularly get reps telling “get me in front of the right prospect, and I can close them”, and it is usually the case, meaning they can’t prospect. Fortunately this is something you can fix, and continuously improve.

TEST DRIVE THE BEST ON-LINE PROSPECTING TRAINING PROGRAM AND APP AVAILABLE TO B2B SALES PROFESSIONALS

While many in sales like looking at the close, as we have discussed before, the close itself is a Lagging Indicator. Winning in sales is about managing and improving Leading Indicators, meaning activities that are executed early in the sales that determine the outcome, rather than dealing with the outcome after the fact.

The first step is knowing your conversion rates from one stage of the sale to the next. With that you will not only be in a position to plan and control your selling, but understand how many prospects you need to succeed, with that number in hand you are in control. Let’s look at a simple example, if you have a 4 to 1 handshake to close ratio, and you need 4 sales a month, it is clear that you need 16 prospects a month to interact with. It doesn’t matter how you get them, let’s not get side tracked. You can use referrals, cold calling, social selling, or smoke signals, the fact remains you need to shake 16 hands to meet your quota. If you get 16 or more, you are in control, you have options.

Any less than that, you are in trouble, you either need to instantly improve the way you sell to make your close better than 4 to 1, or begin praying to a better sales god. If you only engage with 12 prospects, you will be reluctant to get rid of prospects who do not qualify, or resort to concessions, or any number of desperate measure to try and scratch out your quota; continuously increasing the pressure on yourself in the process.

While selling and sales tools continue to evolve, the math does not, the choice is yours, while improving selling is a good option, improving how you sell and close as well as how you open will give you more options and more success.

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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

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Time Is The Currency Of Sales #BBSradio0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

This month’s piece on Michele Price’s BREAKTHROUGH radio program deals with time, as time runs out on Q1.

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

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Breakthroughbusiness on BlogTalkRadio

I appear every 4th Monday, speaking of course about sales, but there a host of other great content, I encourage you to check Michele’s program out, and learn from a range of contributors.  You can find the program and more information click here.

Tibor Shanto

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March Madness: 5 Small Business Lessons to Take Away0

Feb 15

The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka

There are not many events that compare with the excitement that is the NCAA College Basketball Tournament. The Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby and World Series are all great spectacles. However, something about March Madness draws in a wider audience and sparks excitement of people of all ages around the country- 181 million viewers tune in throughout the NCAA tournament each year to cheer on their favorite teams.

Are you wondering if your small business can benefit from March Madness? It can, and you don’t have to run a popular sports bar; nearly any business can learn some valuable lessons from the month of madness, some even as simple as the power of simplifying your sales. Here are five small business lessons you can take away from March Madness.

The underdog might win.
Everyone loves a happy ending, and Cinderella teams are practically a guarantee during March Madness. There are always a couple teams that no one has heard of that win one game after another in the tourney. Teams, like businesses, aren’t always operating on equal footing. Some schools have more money and more talent. But bigger is not always better and the tournament doesn’t always play out according who “should” win. Like players on a winning team, owners of successful businesses have personal characteristics such as a positive attitude, commitment towards their effort, patience and persistence – traits that can all help a team go far and a business succeed.

Embracing new technologies is smart.
The NCAA hasn’t been content to stick with what technology has worked in past years. Like plenty of organizations of every size, they have tapped into technologies to help connect with their fans and find new ones too. Remember that change is important in an organization. The adoption of new technology can seem disruptive and intimidating initially, but ultimately the change almost always results in increased productivity and improved service. It’s one of many ways to create a customer-centric culture.

Take advantage of your biggest events to earn new fans.
March Madness is unlike other sporting events because it attracts non-sports fans. The popularity of office pools, game-viewing parties and other factors engage a broader audience and increase the hype around the tourney. Use the biggest moments in your business year to connect with a wider audience. Think about events your business held throughout the year, peak seasons, new product launches and charitable events. Always remember that as you earn new fans and strive to retain current fans, good customer service is essential to help your business thrive. Keep your sales simple and focus on activities that drive constant success.

Capitalize on momentum – run with it!
Basketball, like business, can come down to momentum: accept when its time to take a timeout, know when to ride the player and occasionally take a seat on the bench. Build upon short-term successes but continue to pursue long-term goals. When things aren’t going the best, don’t look too much into it – make the most of the momentum and rely on and trust in your teammates.

Encourage friendly controversy to create some buzz.
The tournament kicks off every year with “Selection Sunday.” This is the day when the tournament participants are placed, seeded accordingly and announced on TV. There is always some complaining and banter surrounding it all, and this day gives the media and fans plenty to discuss prior to tip off of the first game. Some friendly controversy can create some healthy hype around an event, product or brand, and in turn, result in a better turnout.
March Madness gives viewers the best of sports and entertainment, upsets, and a lot of fun. Those with the most wins are the teams who trust in each other. After all, the biggest wins happen when everyone works together and focuses on the team as a whole.

What valuable lessons has March Madness taught your small business?

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Megan has several years of experience on the topics of small business marketing, copywriting, SEO, online conversions and social media. Megan spends much of her time establishing new relationships for ChamberofCommerce.com, publishing weekly newsletters educating small business on the importance of web presence, and contributing to a number of publications on the web. Megan can be reached at megan@chamberofcommerce.com.

Photo via flickr.com

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3 Reasons You’ll Fail At Cold Calling – Sales eXecution 2861

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

laser phone

I know, they told you cold calling is dead, but it’s not dead, it just smells funny, and those that tell you this, probably confuse Shinola with other matter.

You Don’t Know Your Own Metrics – Many in sales fail to own and be accountable for specific aspects of their success, in the case of cold calling, it is their specific metrics. These same people often know the stats of their favourite hockey or baseball players, but when it comes to key metrics involving their success, they are in the dark. If nothing, else sales people should know what their proposal to close ratio is; discovery to proposal; engagement (or first meeting) to discovery. Once you know how many first meeting you need to drive your quota, you can then understand how many cold calls you need to make, once you back out referrals, marketing generated leads, and sales to current customers. If you do not know this, you will fail at allocating the right time to pursue the right prospects. Without owning your own metrics, you are on a journey with no map and no hint of how much fuel you will need to get there, which why often many don’t get there.

Right Prospects – Above I mentioned the “right prospect”. Many think, and other pundits like to paint, cold calling is just a numbers game where you randomly call people in the hope that they will take mercy on you and give you an appointment. Where in reality the call is cold because you are not on the person’s calendar that day, and you are hitting them out of the blue. But this does not preclude you having done research, understand the value you can provide that person, and making sure that they are indeed the right prospect for you offering as much as you being a good fit for them. This is no different a process than the socialites would espouse, or the referrals only crowd would. Save the fact that those of us willing to pick up the phone and call them direct without waiting for an event, a “social interaction”, or a referral. While they for their own reason prefer to wait, we don’t and succeed by going direct. But it still has to be the right prospect.

Lack Of Process Or Methodology – Most sales people lack a methodology or set of best practices that help them not only succeed, but provide a means for continuous evaluation and by extension improvement. This why they end up with the symptoms above. Which ultimately leads to a lack of success, and doing anything to avoid the activity. But those of us who have a methodology, steps, actions, contingencies, and more, can not only contextualize the results, but deliver great success in prospecting. With that we build a pipeline that give us choices and the opportunity to work with the most interesting companies while delivering to our own goals and those of our employers.

Without the above three elements, you are working in the dark, operating blind, making things much more difficult and scary than it ever has to be.

Tibor Shanto

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Maintaining Your Mojo #BBSradio0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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As some may be aware, I am now a regular on Michele Price’s BREAKTHROUGH radio program.  I appear every 4th Monday, speaking of course about sales, but there a host of other great content, I encourage you to check Michele’s program out, and learn from a range of contributors.  You can find the program and more information click here.

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

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Breakthroughbusiness on BlogTalkRadio

Do You Have Sellers or Pageant Contestants?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Happy to be a business leader. Cheerful businessman with outstre

Juliet:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

That may have worked for old Willie Shakespeare and sweet Juliet, but in sales names, labels and definitions count. While we already live with a lot of mislabelling, like sales people calling suspects prospects, or when they tell you a prospect is in “information gathering” stage, because a voice on the phone asked them to send a brochure. Usually you can roll with it, and put your energy into recalibrating their sales compass, rehabilitate and move on. But it is a bit harder to not laugh or even be concerned when it is the pundits who are off the mark.

I recently got a notice about a social selling event, as you know I hate hyphenated selling, it screams of sales people hiding things they don’t want to do behind a label; usually things one has to do if one is going to call themselves a sales professional.

The headline for the event read:

“90% of buyers start their journey online. Meet them where they are.”

OK, but if we are talking about selling, why are focused on just buyers? They are going to buy, they started the journey on their own. Let’s look at it through a B2C filter, where social media has truly impacted the sell/buy equation, they call these people shoppers. Yes, marketing and advertising got them to pay attention, they come to your shop, some high end shops may have specialist clerks, but I think if we look at Amazon, we see someone who has figured out what to do with shoppers, or buyers, and sales people are not part of that story.

While B2B shoppers, buyers by any other name, may require servicing between the time they made up their mind to enter the market and shop, about the only role a rep working for the winning “shop” is to provide price (or price concessions), and take the order. Again, we’re talking buyers, self-initiated buyers, which is why they went on line. Sellers add value to their company and earn their commissions by engaging with non-self-initiated-buyers, people not shopping, and bringing them in to the market and selling them.

These buyers are more like judges in the Miss America Pageant, and if you choose to sell this way, you are one of a long line of vendor-contestants, they will slowly narrow down till they crown their favorite order taker. Sure you can charm them during the on-stage questions segment, give it your all during the talent segment, (this is where the marketing team can really help), or pack a bit more oomph in the bathing suit stride across the stage. But there is no getting away from the fact that in this scenario, when working with self-initiated-buyers, you are one of many contestants, not a seller. You see sellers sell, they let others in the company handle the buyers. And as tools and technology make capturing and servicing BUYERS more effective and efficient, both from an experience and cost standpoint, the less requirement there will be contestants, and a greater opportunity for real sellers.

So what is your team made up of, sellers or contestants?

Tibor Shanto

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Why Are You Still Doing Pipeline Reviews?2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Nigeria Sale Concept

Why?

While this long entrenched ritual has some utility, it more often than not ends up being a painful and torturous waste of time. Reps are rarely truly prepared and while this is not excusable, it is usually because they feel that regularly these are a CYA exercise their managers go through. Numerous times I have seen mangers schedule their pipeline reviews just in advance of their review with their higher ups in the hierarchy, not much in that for the rep but the stress.

The whole concept of a pipeline “review” is flawed and a practice that should be a relic of the past, a past where CRM’s did not exist, and managers had to submit everyone to the grind, be that one-on-one or a group agony. Some still tell me that a pipeline review meeting is conducted to confirm and validate the information in the pipeline on each deal, be that end date, deal size, weighted likelihood of closing, and other data are all accurate. Why? Their answer “Managers need to ensure that their sales forecast is accurate, questionable opportunities that could impact accuracy, need to be identified, flagged and or removed.” CYA, fun with numbers, the manager brings his/her subjective bias to things, the Director adds his/hers, and by the time it makes it “upstairs” the plot and theme of the story has little to do with the rep.

The other subtexts is about coaching “Great coaching opportunity”, but is it. I find most use it to talk deal and tactical strategies to closing the deal now, a good thing, but not coaching. In fact when I ask most front-line managers if they have an annual coaching plan for individual reps, the answer is no, which is why the coaching is tactical and situation, all of which would improve if they were aligned to an ongoing development plan.

Others will point to the need for data quality, but I have always wondered why focus on the quality of the data rather than the quality of execution, if you had that, the data would be much better to start with.

So what is the alternative?

Switch gears, go from reverse to forward, from Reviews to Previews. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against reviewing deals, why we win, lose or get no decision at all, and there are many lessons to be gained. But if you want to help reps with their pipeline, and change ongoing performance, close more and beat quota, you need to look forward. Do pipeline Previews. Look at active opportunities they will be interacting with in the coming week, a better focus. Who are they going to see, why that person, what are they looking to specifically accomplish that will move the opportunity forward or allow them to disqualify it, yes take it out of the mix, what are the potential roadblocks, resources they may require achieve things. Examine how many new (real) opportunities are in the pipeline this week over last. These are not only more forward looking, more telling about the quality of execution but an opportunity to coach in the present, when it can make an immediate and long term impact, rather than review the past. Question of Leading vs. Lagging indicators and related actions. Do this regularly, weekly, rather than monthly, do it as a team, great learning by osmosis opportunity. Do not do this at the same time as a coaching meeting, schedule those individually, and another day of the week; yes formal coaching every week, over and above the situational daily coaching.

As I said above, want to increase quality of data, focus on improving the quality of execution. If they were allowed and instructed to take trash out of the pipeline, and coached on how to get real opportunities in, and then how to usher them through to close, the data would not only be impeccable, as well as the results.

Tibor Shanto

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