Welcome to The Pipeline.

Key Sales Management Actions To Prepare for 2015 (#video)0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

2015 rocket

About a month ago I had the privilege to be part of a great panel exploring key issues sales leaders need to not just think about, but act on in preparing for a successfully 2015.

The panel included:

Lori Richardson – Score More Sales
Lee Salz – Sales Architects
Steven Rosen – STAR Results
Dan Enthoven – Enkata
Miles Austin – Fill the Funnel
And myself.

As the next instalment in this week’s posts dealing with kicking the New Year off right, meaning in a way that will help sales organisations and teams exceed quota in 2015. Below is an expert from that discussion, but I encourage you to take in the full discussion by clicking here. It is a lively and insightful discussion that will provide a number of ideas for helping your team crush their number.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

The Global 2015 STAR Sales Manager Survey0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

2015 survey

As we rush headlong in to the New Year, my next three posts will feature things sales leaders should be thinking about to drive success for their teams and their companies.

I want to start by inviting you to participate in a survey being conducted by my friends over at Star Solutions That Achieve Results Inc. (STAR Results), The Global 2015 STAR Sales Manager Survey.

The Sales Manager Survey seeks opinions and perceptions from sales executives and leaders around the world on key skills and development priorities for sales managers.

The goal of the study is to help organizations better meet the developmental gaps of their frontline sales managers.

“For companies to achieve better sales results they need to invest their resources into the proper training, support and coaching of their sales managers,” said Steven Rosen, founder of STAR Results. “Frontline sales managers are the key to unlocking the performance of the sales organization.”

The targeted audience for completing this survey is:

  • VP of Sales
  • Business Unit Managers/Directors
  • National Sales Managers/Directors
  • Regional Sales Directors
  • Front Line Sales Managers
  • Trainers

To participate in the study click on Take the Survey. Participants will receive a free copy of the final findings report – valued at $250.
Rosen observed that sales organizations invest millions of dollars on sales training, yet very little investment on their sales managers who develop top sales people. It isn’t surprising to see that so many sales managers are failing to delver the results their companies expect.

“Most sales managers are selected for management because they are excellent sales people but few are adequately prepared to help their sales team truly realize their potential,” said Rosen. “It’s assumed that because they can do it themselves, they can easily make the switch to getting the best out of others. But that’s just not true.”

As part of the process, Rosen will be presenting results and insights from the survey at the first Annual High Performance Sales Conference, in Toronto, Q1 2015. In addition to Rosen, the conference will feature Tim Hurson, myself and other industry leaders, keep you eyes here for more details to come.

About Steven Rosen/STAR Results

Steven Rosen, MBA is a top sales management consultant whose clients have included Fortune 100′s (including Novartis Pharmaceutical and Alcon), medium size businesses (including Red Rock Breweries) and select smaller businesses and charities for whom he helped grow the bottom line.

STAR Results, based in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada, is a sales management coaching, training and consulting organization dedicated to sales leadership development. Its mission is to inspire sales executive and managers to realize their vision, hire top-performing sales reps, transform managers into sales coaches and achieve greater personal and professional success

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Frontal Sales Blitz – Sales eXecution 2750

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Football biz

Several sources attribute the following statement to Gartner Group: “In a typical firm with 100-500 employees, an average of 7 people are involved in most buying decisions. Lesson: cold call multiple people in each account.” It does not take a firm like Gartner to come to the realization that more and more purchase decisions are going to consensus, and often the winner in a bake-off is not the best product, but the one most people in the buying group rally around, or at time settle for. Other sources will tell you that even the traditional uber-decision maker, will often support the product he/she feels his people will support and adopt over the best choice. If it doesn’t get used, it doesn’t matter what marginal advantages there may be.

The best way to respond to this is to execute a full “Frontal Sales Blitz”. A slight twist on the common football blitz, where additional players are sent to “rush the quarterback”—that is, try to tackle the quarterback or disrupt his pass attempt. The Sales Blitz approaches this a bit backwards, where the sales rep attempts to engage all the players on the decision team in order to build and create consensus around their offering. The disruption is perpetrated on the other sales people who like approach the team one at a time, and build consensus that way, I would argue the slow and wrong way.

Some sales people do this really well, especially those with experience in enterprise type sales, and who also see themselves as the central orchestrator in a hub and spoke approach to sales success. But many sales people are still reluctant to do this, especially when they have done business with one of the members of the buying team. Terms like “champion” or insider come to mind. They are reluctant to “go around”, “go over their head” or “risk the relationship”.

Let’s look at the last one, there is no relationship! Not one that counts anyway. You may have had a relationship with Buddy seven or eight years ago, and it was that relationship that got you in, and even kept you in, but times have progressed, and if they assembled a team to buy, you are at best assured to have one vote, and that’s no guarantee. I won’t even deny that when you lose the account it will be Buddy that will take you for a “last” drink while your competitor is installing.

You need to quickly learn from Buddy who is on the team, what their criteria are and then get to work. Tell Buddy you want to continue to serve the account and ask Buddy for help in doing that, if he/she is not wiling, they are telling you to do it on your own, and that’s what you’re going to do.

You need to connect with each of the members of the buying team, with an understanding of the overall mandate, and their individual bias, be that role based or personal. You need to understand how your offering aligns to those elements and the overall objectives of the company and supports their individual “world view”. To successfully do this in as little time as possible, you need to go to you library of Sales Rosetta Stone. Meaning you need to be able to speak the language of each of the members of the team, including Financish, HRish, Marketingish, and all other languages represented at the decision table.

Once you have the start of momentum take it to the uber-decision maker, but instead of talking about your product, and how great it is, and how this and that you and your company are, talk to the uber-decision maker about the consensus on the team, and the buzz around their ability to accomplish their mandate. Chances are he/she are not going to be “end-users”, but more likely beneficiaries of the output, and what is going to produce the output is the consensus your Frontal Sales Blitz created.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

You Know How It Is!?!0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Detective

No I don’t!

I find when I am working with sales people resistant to change, which in itself funny because they are paid to help prospects to change, yet when it comes to their reality, they try persuade me why the status quo is right for them. If you work with sales people, don’t you wish you had a dollar for every time you heard one say “well this is how we have always done it”; and while that may be true, the sad thing is that prospect you are working on knows exactly that this is how you’ve always done it, and that’s why they won’t buy this time, just like they didn’t buy last time.

Often these rep really do not have an argument or a reason for not wanting to change, other than perhaps fear, specifically fear of success, the same fear a lot of their prospects have. As a result they often resort to rationalizing their position by saying “You know how it is?” Or if they are hip “you know what I’m saying?” It’s the questioning sound at the end that tells me they don’t buy into their own statement either, they just need to say something other than “no I am too scared or set in my ways to try something different.”

Change is hard, and at times frightening, but there is one universal truth insales, your quota will go up next year, and it will go up more than the rate of inflation. Another fact but not an absolute, is that customers who make up your current base will be looking for efficiencies, meaning to hold prices where they are (or even lower them). Which clearly suggests that you need to change, because doing what you did last year will lead to the same results you had last year, plus the rate of inflation, not much these days. What’s the old Einstein saying – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different result is the definition of – well – someone who will miss quota, if not something else.

Another popular saying sellers can adopt is FDR’s “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”; and the best way to overcome fear is proactively. Change is a process, so approach it as such, not emotionally, but objectively. Set specific and progressive goals, not just one but a series. The series should help you change a specific over a given time, this means deadlines are important. Setting out to change something without a deadline allows for procrastination and excuses, so set a time line and be hosnest with yourself.

Make each step progressively more challenging. Start with something easy, something that will act as a gateway to success. When you achieve that first thing, celebrate, give yourself a reward. Then build on it, until you achieve your change.

So the question is, what are you more afraid of, the pain of change or the pain failing, specifically failing to deliver quota. My experience is that trying and failing still delivers benefits. But not trying and failing by default just builds a culture of losing. Once you are living in that spiral, well, you know how it is!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Why is it easier for when you do it for others? – Sales eXecution 2690

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Dialing for Prospects

No secret I am a big proponent of cold calling being an element of prospecting success, along with any other viable means of engaging with potential buyers. I also understand that one of the big reason people do not like cold calling is the whole objection – fear of rejection thing.

But over the years I have observed an interesting phenomenon which raises some key questions about how people execute their calls, how they react and respond to objections and rejection. In turn this could perhaps lead some re-examining of one’s views of cold calling.

Time and time again what I find is that when people are making appointment calls for others, be they an in-house who is tasked with setting appointments for their outside reps, or an outsourced service provider, they react differently to rejection than when they are making appointments for themselves. Specifically, they seem a lot less if at all bothered about getting objections and rejections when they are calling on someone else’s behalf.

Now before you jump to the conclusion that it is because of what they do, or they are just part of that small minority that actually likes to cold call, it is not as simple as that, I know from personal experience. A couple of years ago, a friend was launching a business and asked if I can help set appointments with potential buyers and financers. I spent a few weeks doing that, my conversion rate of conversations to meetings was about the same as when I call for myself, yet when they said no, it didn’t hit me the same way. While the finder’s fee was quite rich, the rejection did not sting nearly to the same degree. Further, when I spoke to people who made the transition from setting appointments for their colleagues, to a sales role that included prospecting for themselves, they found the same experience.

Needless to say that I don’t have the degrees to back the opinion, but it seems the difference is ego. Clearly wasn’t the money, or the nature of the rejection; they included the usual, including hang ups, and assorted accusations.

As a result of the experience, I began to focus on taking myself out of the call. While I have always made the call about the prospect, that is different than taking myself out of the picture. While there is no escaping the fact that my success and income are tied to the call, it becomes a question of perspective. I used to focus on the outcome of the call, and was very conscious about where success on the call led, and even more so if the call did not yield an appointment. Beyond the money, it was like any friendly game of golf, there is always a preference to winning. I now shift the win/lose scenario to what happens in the resulting meeting, not the call that leads to the meeting. Sure you can argue without the call there is no appointment, but I now adopt the outlook that the real test of my ability is in the meeting, not in the exercise that leads to it. My conversions have not changed, but the impact of rejection on me has, making the days even more fun.

Why do you think the results are different when the task is performed for someone else?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

The Reason For My Call – Sales eXecution 2680

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Road sign objectives

For many, “The Reason For My Call”, is a crucial part of their prospecting call, probably more accurate to say cold call, as I would have to assume that if it were a warm call the recipient would know the reason for the call. All too often I cringe when I hear how most callers use this expression, especially when a couple of small adjustments in their approach may lead to better results.

Grab your Proactive Prospecting Call-Flow Now!

First thing is the timing of the statement. Most people use it at or near the start of the call, too soon. While some will tell you that you have 10 seconds at the start of the call, step back and think, (for more than 10 seconds). On a cold call, you just interrupted someone who was most likely doing something other than waiting for a cold call, since you call you address them and hopefully not make the most common time and call water, and say either “how are you?”, or “is this a good time?” Hello, you just interrupted them, how could it be a good time. Even if they did want to speak with you they would need a few seconds to disengage from what they were involved with when the phone rang. Then they’ll need a few more seconds and effort to focus in on your voice, accent, intonation, etc. So giving them your Reason For The call at this point is premature, as it completely lacks context, you know why you called, you need to give them a clue too.

The Reason For Your Cal, should come after some context (a different post), and when it does come it should be a good reason, for them. The only reason someone would want to meet with us, is if there is a good indication that we can help them achieve their objectives, to deliver outcomes that will make a difference for them.

The Reason is certainly not to “learn”, they don’t have time to teach you. Remember you are asking, in my case, for an hour of their time, if they are working 10 hours a day that is a big chunk of time, big investment. If they going to make that investment, they have the right to learn and be smarter at the end, not you, they expect that you are coming prepared, (what happened to all that research I keep hearing about?). In the same way they do not have time to discuss.

I was once listening in on outbound calls, and one flower-child-caller, said The Reason They Were Calling was so they could meet to establish a relationship, after a brief pause, the prospect said, “You should go to church dance or singles club, I need help in my business.”

What prospect will make time for is hear how you can help them achieve specific objectives, how you can help them mitigate risk, have a positive financial impact, increase market share, and more, all based on how you have done that for others in a meaningful and measurable way. Those are good reasons for the call.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

Don’t Parrot – Integrate!0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

parrot

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 

3 Things You Can Do Now To Close The Year Strong – Sales eXecution 2670

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

strong

Last week I took part in a panel discussion sponsored by KiteDesk, along with two of my favourite pundits, Matt Heinz and Mike Weinberg. In the discussions leading up to the event we wanted to deliver something of substance, people can put into practice right away in almost every market segment, and something that would have impact now, before the end of the year. We each presented three things you can do to close the year strong. Hence the title of today’s post, featuring my contribution.

1.   Revisit “No decision” Opportunities – As I have argued in the past, it is important that we always understand why opportunities that made it into our pipeline delivered the results they did, usually one of three: Win – Loss – No Decision. Some do a good job of exploring wins or losses, some do both, but they often overlook the “No Decision”. But if you understand why they did not go further, you can understand when and why to re-engage.

There are some who may have passed because of budget, and now towards the end of the year, they may have some unused funds, or may be in the process of planning for next year. There could be a question of priorities and changing objectives; a host of factors that could make someone ready now that may have hesitated in February or March.

2.   Delegate – A lot of sales people have a Superman complex, they feel they have to do it all themselves, “no one is as capable as I am”. As a sales person, your territory is “your business”, and when you look at successful business people, one of the things executives do well is delegate. Even if you don’t have people working for you, you still delegate. Given that time is your most valuable and non-renewable resource, it is important that you maximize by focusing on the highest-value activities. Know what your time is worth, and if a task is well below that line “outsource” it. If you are part of a company use other groups, usually better suited to the task. One example is customer service, I see to many sales people dealing with “admin” type of requests from clients instead of sending it to where the task really belongs, customer support, who is usually much better prepared and equipped to deal with these things. I am sorry but the battle cry of looking after clients rings hollow, your job is to win and grow clients, let customer support do theirs. Even if you are in a small company where these resources don’t exist, think about how you can ensure that you are executing the highest value activities, stop doing low value activities others can do for you. Use third party resources, you can hire a Virtual Assistant, or for special tasks, go to something like oDesk, or others, and get things done by others, leaving you time to do the things that only you can do to move a sale forward.

3.   Leverage Automation – The hidden cost of social selling is time, and to a lesser degree content. A variation on the delegate route, is automation. There are a host of tools you can leverage to cover clients, prospects, and keep an eye on the market and opportunities. One example I use is an app I use called Charlie. It is linked to my calendar, sends me both a social round up, latest tweets, LinkedIn updates, and news from traditional sources the morning of my meetings, and an hour before. I can be up to date in their real world and social activities. This allows me to be up-to-date, relevant, and formulate questions that have specific meaning to the prospect and their objectives, allowing me to focus on them and leave the product in the car.

These are three ideas that were discussed, Mike and Matt had some great, and more importantly, practical and immediately usable ideas that will you close the year strong, and stay strong right through 2015 and beyond.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Sales Management is not Cloning – Sales eXecution 2660

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Clone not
There has been lots written about the common mistake companies make in selecting new sales managers; specifically the habit of promoting some of their best sales people to the management ranks, whether they are suitable or not. To be fair, the thought behind the move is positive, rewarding deserving contributors, keeping good talent in house, and all that. There are also smart sales people who realise that management is not their first choice, who prefer and make the choice to stay in a sales role, usually with greater career satisfaction and financial rewards.

Adding to the challenge is that often these new managers are not given much help in the transition from being contributors, to effectively leading a sales team. Sure in companies of a certain size or better, they get basic training, you know, how to conduct performance review meetings, do’s and don’ts of harassment, racial sensitivity and other important “things”. But leading a sales team while managing a sales process is another thing, something HR often assumes will be provided by “the sales leadership”. In instances where this happens, it is sometimes worse that no help at all; what happens if the current sales leaders went through the same pattern of evolution, they just perpetuate the model; and the model is one of cloning.

While not isolated to the new managers above, cloning is a common and costly problem. The thought is “I was successful, they made me a manager, and they didn’t give clear direction to the contrary; so they must want me to make my team just like me.” Partially true, “they” do want you the make the team successful, as successful if not more than you were, after all the sign of a strong leader is one who surrounds themselves with people more talented than they. But this rarely means creating “mini me’s”, or even full size “me’s”.

The role of the sales manager, and other sales leaders, is to develop and bring the best out of all their teams. To shape individuals not in their image, (as man did with god), but into the best that their direct reports can be. People who can do that best, are not those who were the best front line reps. Just look and Wayne Gretzky, on the ice and behind the bench. Two different realities, two different results.

The notion that the best managers are those who have done it is simply not right. Most sales people know what they have to do, the challenge is getting them to do it. This requires a different skill set, different methods and tools, than those relied on for being a number 1 rep. Saying “here’s what I did, you can do it too”, is useless.

Every sales leader wants to surround himself with superstars, just as every coach wants a bench full of superstars. But they need to have excelled in the role of a coach. Hire someone who can lead a sales process, who can lead people to execute, the how is secondary.

Again, I understand wanting to reward star sellers, but there are other ways, ways that allow you to avoid leaving a territory short, and a disappointed sales team. The reality is that many of stars made managers often decide to go back in to the field to sell, and because of egos and politics, it is often with another company that is looking for a star, not a future manager or cloner.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

The Beatles Is On The Phone – by NowhereGirl17

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

Get Your Cold Call-Flow Now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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

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