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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 

radio1

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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How To Lose A Sale With Your First Response – Sales eXecution 2826

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Child in calss

When you initially approach an unsuspecting prospect, how you present what you sell will go a long way in determining the outcome.

Yet when you ask sales people to tell you what they sell, a large majority and their managers get it wrong. They will usually tell me things like:

  • I sell hardware – software – any kindaware
  • Systems, or “high end” systems
  • Blah blah blah services
  • MFP Printers
  • Print solutions

These are all good, but in the end these are things that you deliver, literally, in most cases they are a means to an entirely different end. These are also how the user or implementer would define things, after all they are part of the process, not the ultimate beneficiary. If you are an IT person working on implementing a new finance package, the above type of response will suffice, because they are more likely to be part of the selection process, not the buying process, those who have the requirement that drives the selection and implementation.

One interesting follow on to the above is when we drill down on “solutions”, that crowd favourite, juicy, round, yet vague enough to fit most conversations. (Usually only a few words either side of the other great undefined – value) By implication, when you say you have a solution, you should be able to articulate what you can solve for the prospect, in terms they can relate to, not vis-à-vis your quota. Basing your answer to that on the list above will cost you sales. The problem the user or implementer are trying to solve are very different than those that got the project funded and backed. Without that you will always be in the selection pageant, not in the decision tent.

When we push this point a bit, we get a second round of answers, better but not quite there yet. We get:

  • Improved productivity
  • Improved work-flow
  • Efficiencies
  • Peace of mind

No doubt a step forward, but on their as they are above, and in most initial prospecting conversations, they mean nothing, they lack teeth. How can we improve their work-flow or productivity? What specific efficiencies can you introduce that are specific to them, not your offering Remember your offering and that of your two closest competitor, usually known as Column A and Column C, are most likely 85% the same, so if you can’t answer that, the discussion drops to line P, for price.

The answer is really “why do people buy?” People at all levels of the decision. The challenge in selling the first list is it only speaks to the selection folks, not the buying folks; the second list needs to have a lot more specifics aligned with the buyers’ objectives than just identifying their categories. You need to speak to those objectives and outcomes you have delivered. Understanding how they view productivity, and speaking to that in specific terms is a start. They need to be able to visualize and relate to the specifics of the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. Same for the financial aspect, time shifts, risk and more. Then you need to be able to present things in a way that aligns with their filters, and each role in the decision will be biased by their role.

The reality is that much has changed in sales, but the fact that first impressions are crucial has not, and how you answer that initial question of “What do you sell?” can make all the difference to your success.

Tibor Shanto

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Forget Social Selling, and Sell Socially2

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Doodle social media signs

There are two trends unfolding of in sales which to date have accidentally intersected, which should be proactively encouraged and facilitated by B2B sales organizations. The first not so new, but gaining and likely to continue to gain momentum in the coming years, is the migration by many to inside sales teams, especially types of sales that only a few years ago may not have been seen as feasible for a number of reasons. However given the advances in technology, specifically web meeting and collaboration related apps, it is now more economical, and often leads to a more effective exchange between buyer and seller. Beyond the cost factor of time for both, including travel time for the seller, sharing screens can not only allow for a more thorough exploration of issues, but there is also the ability present your product in a more fluid and contextual manner, without coming across like a heavy handed demo.

The second is newer, although given the incessant hype it just seems like it’s been hanging around for ever, is social media and social applications. While many struggle to define social selling, often resorting to contrasting it to “traditional” selling, most applications are not really new, just executed using new tools.

Taking advantage of social tools and a social approach does present an opportunity compensate for some of the differences between selling face to face, and selling remotely, I would go as far as to say you can fill or avoid some potentially risky gaps in inside/remote selling. Specifically the type of social interaction that directly occurs when you interact with people directly. Not so much between the seller and those people directly involved in the steps of the buy/sell, but more importantly the supporting cast. The receptionist, the EA, the tech support person who helps you when you are visiting.

Visiting being an important concept here. It is no surprise that many “old timers”, regularly interchange the word appointment with visit. There is a lot of to be gained via the social interactions that can be gained while “visiting”.

There are whole bunch of conversations that will never take place when selling remotely that are just part of a visit to a prospect or client. These conversation may not always pertain to the product, or the purchase itself. In fact many of these conversation will happen with people who are not part of the process, but are tuned in, and in a number of ways that sellers can find valuable and move the sale forward. Small talk can add up to a lot.

The social fabric of a company, and the social fabric of the sale is an important component. Especially in an economy where products are interchangeable, but where people are not. In an economy where many senior leaders are more likely to choose one product over another primarily due to consensus among “the group”. The buying group, the user group, the implementation group, and others. Often this consensus is driven by things other than specs and features, and more by things that evolve out of “social interactions”; you know, people buying from people. These secondary relationships are often the little things that give you an edge over a competitor, the ability to influence just a bit more.

So what happens when the opportunity for small talk and hallway conversations is gone? You turn to social. There is a host of information one can glean and utilize to make up for not being there. The art then is to leverage it during the sale. And while most sale people are good at doing this face to face, the phone limits their focus. But there is no reason you “have to rush by” the receptionist just because you are on the phone. It is up to us as professionals to “humanize” the remote selling experience for all parties.

Even if you have your “targets” direct number, there is no reason you can’t hit zero and speak with the admin or receptionist, you’d talk to them if you were there, it is up to us to “be there” even when remote, and you can do that by learning more about them from their Facebook page, tweets, Pinterest, and host of other sites that give you a window to the non-business person. LinkedIn can help you connect the dots between the players, I learn more about the person on other platforms. There is no law or reason why you cannot incorporate this into your selling, and make up for the lack of being there, change something potentially impersonal to something more personal, for the people at the prospect company, and for you. In fact you can bet that they are checking you out the same way, and making assumptions and decisions based on these things.

So while social is great for the current lead gen and sale, it has loads more value and application in actually preserving and enhancing the social side of any sale.

Does Length Matter? – Sales eXecution 2810

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Spinning time

Does length matter, or is it more a question of how you do it?

Get your mind out of the gutter for a second, and thing length of sales cycle.

I was recently approached to write a piece examining how to reduce the length of the sales cycle, or as some like to say increase the velocity of a sale, something I have written about in the past. But I am convinced that this is a red herring, a false premise or trap many in sales fall into.

Right off the top I will tell you that shorter cycles are not better, the goal is to understand your “optimal” cycle, and then focus your efforts on efficiently executing it. If your optimal cycle is three months, you really are going to gain little by trying to shave a couple of weeks off that.

When you ask people why they want a shorter cycles, the answers are usually more subjective than objective, and usually reflect their bias, or often fears of the person looking for a shorter cycle. Some will tell you that they believe it will drive more revenue, not true, because if you shorten a cycle for the sake of shortening, you will take shortcuts that will either cost you sales, or more often, you’ll have to go back and do things you should have done in the first place, leaving no gain or worse. Other reasons include ability to scale, greater focus, increased market share, but usually these things are more an element of execution than things impacted by the length of the cycle.

When it comes to executing sales fundamentals, it is better to focus on quality of execution, not speed. People tell me they can shorten their cycle by targeting the right prospect, duh! Or solve buyers’ problems rather than sell them product, double duh. Let’s not confuse optimization with acceleration.

What I have found and most don’t like, is the real question here is one of prospecting. If you have the right if you know you conversion rates between stages of the sale, and your close ratio, you will worry less about how fast you are closing deals. It is much more about metrics and accountability than speed. If you know how many prospects you need to close one deal, then it is much better to ensure that you maintain that level prospects, rather how fast you chew through them.

Once I know my quota or goal, I can use my metrics to chart a path to that number. If close one of every five prospects I engage, and I successfully engage one prospect each day of the working week, each is a cycle, and I do this consistently every week, it really does not matter who long my cycle is. But people would much rather spend time and effort shaving minutes off their cycle than prospect consistently. Once you have that down, it takes the pressure off closing faster, and allows you to fully sell the right prospects, and better yet, the permissions and means by which to disqualify less than optimal prospects.

What is ironic is that often it is the same voices who tell you that sales is not a numbers game, are the very ones who advocate for shorter cycles. But when you look at it, focusing on shortening the cycle, leads to much more selling by numbers, than the discipline of consistent and efficient execution of your sale, using metrics, data.

Tibor Shanto

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