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3 Ways The Beatles Will Make You A Better Cold Caller – Sales eXecution 2650

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/)

You Can’t or You Won’t?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Buyers not liars

I am luck in the fact that I work with sales professionals, at all levels of their organisations, and as a result learn almost daily. I also see many similarities in B2B sellers regardless of the industry that they serve. One interesting characteristic many share is confusing ability with will.

I find there are two common reasons for this, one is the fear of change, of the unknown, and the discomfort of breakthroughs. The second reason usually has to do with conditioning, and life experience, “built in” notions of “how” we are supposed to do in certain things given specific circumstances. And since some things in sales are by nature counter intuitive, it makes it difficult for some to act that way. This is compounded when people are focused more on relationship than revenue. I for one do not feel that there are mutually exclusive, but I do think that sometimes people are unnecessarily fixated on the sequence, some feeling they need to have a relationship before there can be talk of revenue. It’s so much better for both parties when that pressure is absent, some buyers do want to be your friend, but are ready to have a long and loyal business relationship if you help them achieve their objectives.

Overcoming fear of change, fear of the unknown is not easy, yet we ask our buyers to do it every day. So why not look at how you go about helping your buyers deal with the same challenge, and apply that to yourself. I would argue that if it truly works for them, it should work for you. So when someone offers up a new way of doing something in your sales cycle, something foreign to you, and you find yourself questioning it and saying “I don’t know if I could do that”, how would you help a buyer deal with it a similar challenge and help them overcome it?

I find having a plan with various contingencies is a start. Ask the same questions you would of a reluctant prospect. Just as it helps buyers articulate their doubts or concerns, making it easier for them to be broken down and dealt with. Do the same with your challenge to get the same results. Many like to present some form of ROI, and a good ROI discussion also looks at the risk and cost of inaction. As a sales rep reluctant to try something, that would be the biggest question to answer. If the road you are on now is not getting you what you want, how much worse can the alternative be, what is the upside to trying the alternate?

The question of conditioning is a bigger challenge, especially since we view everything through the filters of our own experiences. Sometimes reps or managers tell me not only that they can’t do something, they make it universal, applying their standard on all, they tell me “you can’t do that”, as though it was law. Thanks to the internet, I can now research federal, state and provincial laws, and counter this by letting them know that based on the law of the land indeed you can, your competitor probably did and won the deal as a result. But I understand, lifelong habits are hard to change, lifelong fears are hard to face, doing unnecessary work, losing deals in the process seems the easier choice.

But I would argue it is not. Think in your own life of a time when you had a real breakthrough, I bet like me, as soon as the breakthrough takes place, we never see what all the fuss, fear and reluctance was in advance. So as long as it is legal, moral, and helps both you and your buyer, invest your energy in building your abilities. Remember there are million reasons why something won’t work, but there is one reason it will, you doing it.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Seriously – You’re Not That Different – Sales eXecution 2640

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Different 3

Being different seems to be really important to some people in sales. From their buyers, to product, to the way the sell, people want to cling to being different. It is like “Difference” is some sort of badge of honour, a reason to pay a premium, or worse, a rationale for results.

You often hear people talk about how the complexity of their sale makes it different. But all sales are complex in their own way, just because one may have more moving parts than another, does not make it more complex or different. Sure the moving parts in selling desalination plants may differ from those found in selling business process outsourcing, but the core components and core execution, not that different. Wanting it to be different does not change the fact that it has to be executed along a defined path (or process, you know, that’s a bit more complex), and one step at a time.

The “sophistication of the solution”, does not equate to “different” or “complex”. Just ask someone selling a fairly simple and standard product, in a highly competitive, price sensitive environment; these sales people have a much more complex selling challenge, especially if they can maintain price integrity. But in the end there is less difference than many sales professionals would want to pretend.

I remember meeting with a VP of Sales with a “Solutions Provider “, and indeed they had a product that was “cool”, and in demand, addressing a common requirement in their target market. From the time we met at a conference he was into the “I am interested in what you do Tibor, but you gotta understand we’re different.” I don’t know, he like everyone at their booth, had two arms, two legs, a big mouth, didn’t seem that different, maybe I’ll figure it out when we meet at their office.

Later at the office, he was right back at it, preaching the (invisible) difference. As one who likes to break the sale down to logical sequential steps, I thought I would explore.

TS:     So let me get this straight, your people do not have to prospect, you went to the conference because you had marketing budget to blow. You normally have prospects lined up out the door, but you knew I was coming this morning, so cleared a path for me?

VP:     No, no, our folks have to prospect, they need to make calls every day, I have them working the show leads now, those shows are expensive, I am always reviewing their activity, and we should be converting more of these leads, especially with our product.

TS:     OK, but once you get in front of the prospect, it is smooth sailing, they get it, and want to switch or buy right away, no?

VP:     I wish, we have to needs assessments, work through a bunch of data, and for sure three demos, sometimes more.

TS:     But at that point, they just ask for the proposal, and away we go.

VP:     Rarely, we have to help them maneuver internally, that’s why we end up doing multi demos, and data crunching, all the players involved.

TS:     All laid out in your process, right?

VP:     Not really, what we laid out should follow a different path.

TS:     But once you present the proposal, it’s done, no back and forth, no negotiations, no price haggling.

VP:     Are you kidding, even after all that, we still have to deal with that, all the ROI we show them, and we still go through that.

TS:     So tell me again how you are different?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

KPI’s – What Are They To You?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Impact Question

Talk to any ‘executoide’, and KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) are bound to be part of the conversation. Nice and practical concept, good resume fodder, often misused or abused by many, especially from a sales point of view. I often get the sense that many see KPI standing for Key Political Initiatives or Key (to my) Personal Incentive.

As a concept, KPI’s are great, helping sales organizations in defining and measuring progress against stated objectives or goals. Determined in advance, measurable and quantifiable, they are instrumental in helping to assess progress, and plan course correction if needed. Examples in sales may be lead to opportunity conversions, or proposals to close. Based on these measures you can make adjustments and respond to conditions on the ground to ensure those goals are attained. You often hear sales managers and director speak of how they are doing against their KPI’s. Looking at it that way can be a part of potential problems.

In the wrong hands, with wrong intents, the best concepts can come back to bite you; in sales it is usually the disconnect between what’s being measured and the desired results. There are many KPI’s being met without delivering the intended result or economic benefit, leading to a culture of measurement rather than success. When reps feel measured instead of being led to success, they turn to rationalizing their performance with the very same KPI’s. I hear reps say “well I delivered against the KPI, I got eight meetings every week this quarter.” Or “what do you want me to do, get sales or complete the KPI’s you gave me?”

It doesn’t help when sales leaders are incented on meeting KPI’s rather than result. While I am a big proponent of paying for success based on leading indicators, it should be on how those leading indicators are leading to consistent and improving results. Without that, when you pay for a checkmark, you get checkmarks, you pay for results you get results.

I was recently contacted by a sales director about training the team. As we discussed the program and roll-out, he insisted on doing things the first week of every quarter, when I asked why, he told me team quarterly development was one of his KPI’s, and the team meets the first week of each quarter. We assessed the team, had input from a number of people in the company, and customers, and designed training that required two days of delivery at the start, followed by Renbor’s Follow-Through Action Plan regimen. He loved the program, but asked that I cut it down to a half day. “What do you want me to cut?” “No no, I love the program as is, we just need to do it in half a day, I have to include some product training in October as well (another KPI no doubt).

No matter how much I tried to impress on him that he was making a mistake, he insisted. Knowing the type, that when things hit the fan, I will be blamed for the failure, even as he collects his KPI based bonus, I confronted him. I revamped the program to make it a one day affair, but he was still reluctant; half glancing at his phone as he explained his situation, including meeting KPI’s. I finally offered to send him some workbooks, pre-filled certificates he can distribute, come in and read a few pages to the team, and he could hit his KPI, and not bother with the challenge of training, but still be able to put the tick in the box next to training. “That’s your goal right?”. I swear he thought about it for a minute before realizing he was being mocked.

We finally agreed to the abridged one day program, with a clear understanding that we would include the remaining material into the January training. Now I have four months to work with and on the executives to change things, either the director or his KPI’s.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Social Style Cold Calling – Sales eXecution 2630

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

social billboard

As we have all noticed more and more companies are putting the Twitter and Facebook icons/logos not only on their marketing materials, but on trucks, and the signs on their buildings. In some instances they include their twitter handles, other cases not. I know I put my handle out there to help follow me, view my content, get a chance to see what I am about, and in general to invite them and encourage them to interact with me and my work. While some have called me odd, I figure that others have similar motives for displaying their “social signs”.

But I see it as sort of a half effort if you just display the Twitter logo on your truck or sign in front of your building, without including your handle. Puts the onus on me to go and search it, make sure that it is the right one, in most cases more bother than worth. Unless it involves a company you want to approach in order to do business with them, basically someone you want to prospect.

Which brings us to a company I have had my eye on for a bit, building my approach, but have yet to formally “put into play”. Last week when I drove by I noticed their new (or perhaps just newly cleaned) sign on the corner their building occupied. As you have guessed, the sign had the Twitter icon, but no handle. Hmm, I thought, let’s try something different.

I walked into reception, and said that I had noticed their sign, and wanted to talk to someone about their participation with and on Twitter. The receptionist looked puzzled, ask what specifically I wanted, I said I was interested in the company, and saw the icon on the sign, and wanted to follow them to satisfy my interest; so I was looking for their handle, but more importantly to speak with the individual who was managing their social media, gave her my card, which has my social coordinates on it. She picked up the phone, and a few minutes later, out cam a young lady, introduced herself as the person in marketing responsible for social media.

We talked for a few minutes, she told me why the company had decided to become active, how she got the job, and some of her objectives. One of which was t better interact with their clients and prospects, ensure their message was not only getting out, but received and understood by the right people. I asked if that included their sales team, and how the sales team was leveraging her work and social media in general. She smiled and said I would have to ask the VP of sales about that. Bingo!

He wasn’t in, but she introduced us via e-mail, and I booked the appointment.

You gotta love cold calling in the social age, it’s so not different than ever before.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

The Best Working E-Mail Subject Lines0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

mail

One of the critical elements to success in prospecting is getting the person to open you note. If they do not recognize the sender, the next most important factor is the subject line, and if you like many prospect using e-mail, the subject line becomes the key difference between being opened and potentially starting a sales cycle, or being deleted. While and some guests have shared proposed best practices around e-mails, ContactMonkey has just released some interesting insights about good, bad and other types of subject lines.

I have mentioned ContactMonkey in the past, I like many others use them to track the fate of e-mails I send out. Now based on 30 million emails sent from Outlook and Gmail, they have shared data the best and worst subject lines. Some will surprise others won’t, but it is worth checking out if you want to improve you open and by extension, engage ratios.

Subject lines with 2 words work well, more than 3 words dramatically reduce open rates. In fact they show that no subject line, yes blank, has a high open rate, much higher than 3 or more words. Not really a surprise if you think about it. Most go for subject lines that “will compel” someone to open it, but like with voice mail, the more they know about what is in the mail, the less the urgency to open and deal with it. Big subject lines, like big e-mails, get deleted; keep it short simple, if they can’t make a decision based on the subject, they will need to open the mail to know.

Given that 40% of e-mail are first read on a mobile device, real estate becomes important, both in the subject and the content. With only enough room for 4 – 7 words in a subject line on an average mobile device, don’t be tempted to pack everything in.

Asking questions or marketing jargon is out, short and direct works best, nothing at all even better.

Having RE: in the subject line boosts success; just having RE: and nothing else is the number one best subject line, 92% open rate. RE: Follow up was second. Again, goes to human nature, RE: makes it seem as though you are already in the conversation, and are about to see a response to a previous communication. This is why when you follow up to a voice mail, having RE: voice mail, is a good subject line. The worst is open rate with 7.25% is “the results are in”.

I encourage you to look at the output from ContactMonkey by clicking here. Keep in mind that it takes up to 12 touch points to make contact with prospects you are targeting, e-mail becomes a key element, and your subject line can be the difference.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto
 

The Objective Seller #webinar0

Yesterday on this blog, I wrote about sellers who drive commerce for their buyers have greater success than those who just drive sales. This led to a number of questions about how you specifically do that, beyond the things I spoke to in the post.

As it happens, rather than having to do a post about that, this coming Thursday, July 17th, I will be delivering a webinar along with the good folks at DiscoverOrg, addressing that specific process.

The Objective Seller Webinar

Date: July 17, 2014 at 1:00 PM Eastern

The webinar will discuss how all businesses have objectives relating to their market, their commerce, and their opportunities. Focusing on those objectives, and how they impact and are impacted by the commerce environment our clients compete and live in will drive more and better sales for all.

Objectives and the buyer’s desired return on those objectives, are the most effective way to engage and align with buyers, and help them win in a their commerce environment. With changes in the buying and selling dynamic, B2B buyers who are ready to buy are much better informed and more empowered than ever, you need to shift the conversation from your product to their objectives.

The webinar will cover how to take advantage of current realities and present specific ways sellers can successfully approach and engage prospects, and create selling opportunities where others may not see any, and in the process build credibility, expert status, and loyalty with existing and new buyers. You will be presented a process based, value driven approach for success in selling to Status Quo buyers, the most overlooked segment of the market.

  • Breaking down “Value” to core components and why people buy
  • Leveraging past experiences – Won, Lost and No Decision deals – 360 Degree Deal View
  • Building a better question
  • Proactive exploration

“I attended your presentation on Objective Selling, It was the most useful sales presentation I’ve viewed in a long time and I wanted to thank you for the insight you shared.” – Aous Shakra

Register

Driving Commerce Not Sales is Key To Success0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sales people are always looking for the secret to sales success, more revenue and glory. One path is to look beyond sales and see how they can drive commerce. At first glance one may be inclined to dismiss this as just semantics, but in as much as attitudes drive actions, and actions lead to results, the distinction is so much more.

Commerce is the whole system of an economy that constitutes an environment for business. The system includes legal, economic, political, social, cultural and technological systems that are in operation in any country. Thus, commerce is a system or an environment that affects the business prospects of an economy or a nation-state. It can also be defined as a component of business which includes all activities, functions and institutions involved in transferring goods from producers to consumers.”

Substitute “nation-state” in the above to vertical or market segment, and you can see why successful sales people focus on commerce over sales. For us to sell more, we require customers who need to and can buy more; and new prospects who see merit in buying from us. As sellers, there are steps we can execute that will help and benefit both groups in the same way, and other steps that will pertain to one of the above.

While all good sales people want to help their customers/buyers, and work diligently to do that, for the most part it is usually centered around our offering. Not taking anything away from many “solution focused” organizations, the fact remains that when I ask sales people or even many managers:

How can you directly support their goals?

The majority respond in a way that reflects what their product does in a very-specific way related to the nature of the product, for example: hardware specs, or the “User Experience” they deliver.

sellers

But few go into the clients’ world. Even many case studies focus on how their product helped the client achieve things, a more secure environment, faster speeds, etc. But little if anything about how and why the buyer interacts with their world. It is as though the buyer has nothing other than the product or process in question to worry about.

A seller focused on commerce, understands that his success is tied to the buyer’s success, and that happens beyond the product, on a bigger playing field. How do they help the buyer increase market share, extend return on assets, expand time, mitigate risk, manage reputations, exceed customer expectations, reduce to cost of doing business – not buying your product, or how to add value to the buyer’s customers.

commerce

The good news is that with a nudge in the right direction, and managerial support, most sellers can be given the broader vision of Commerce. Focus on commerce, and sales follow.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Goodwill And Selling Now – – Sales eXecution 2570

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Road to success

Goodwill: “a kindly feeling of approval and support: benevolent interest or concern”

I sales there is always talk of trust, easy to see why. But trust is not an instantaneous thing, nor can it be acquired by the pound, it has to be earned, demonstrated through actions, it needs to be reciprocal, and to the chagrin of some marketing folks, it is much more than an italicized bullet point in a brochure. Further, in sales, talk of trust brings with it an ever expanding range of opinions and advice from a number of “knowledgeable experts”.

As you would expect, the wider the range of opinions, the less likely it is that any one single source has the right, or even the “righter” answer. With trust, it is better to master a given element, learn, and build a base of success from which you can move to the next set of elements. This then becomes the iterative road should define your sales career. Unless you can definitively prove that you have figured trust, and you don’t need to evolve it further. (Hint number one, if someone claims to have the definitive answer, be suspect).

What I disagree with is the view held by some that people will not buy until a seller has established trust, or more important for sellers, that they cannot sell until they have developed trust. But since it takes time and action to establish trust, and buyers often have objectives with shorter timeframes, what do you do, especially in a quota driven reality?

The answer is Goodwill. As there is no ”Express to Trust”, think of Goodwill as the stations along the way; and great thing for you and your buyer, is that you can get sales as a result of building goodwill, avoiding the “what comes first the trust or the sale?” puzzle. We have all heard the sales expression “they don’t care how much you know until they see how much you care”; goodwill allows you to do just that.

There are myriad of ways of building goodwill with a buyer, much of it will be dictated by what you sell and your buyers objectives, another reason to implement a disciplined opportunity post-mortem routine.

As with other aspects of sales you can build goodwill if you stop doing certain things. For example, there is a leading expert, whose stuff I used to like. I say used to because every time they send out useful information, it is merely a teaser, the meaningful part is always “locked” behind a form, with a lot more detail than most forms request. While I utilize forms, there is a bunch downloads I provide to prospects that don’t require one. There are times I send prospects info and direct them right to the download, bypassing the required form. If the information is of use, I get an opportunity to engage, some goodwill, and a brick in building trust. Every time this this person writes me, I remember what a pain they are, and I score one against them.

Giving prospect access to something you normally save for clients; introducing prospects to some of your clients who could be their buyers; one company I knew had their product development folks available for a monthly Q&A for prospects the sales people selected, no selling just discussion. The choice is yours, both in terms of what and why, and the best why is it builds revenue now, and trust along the way.

Hey, if you liked what you saw here, invite me to speak at your next meeting!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Get Out Of Your Own Way!0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

iStock_000002705035XSmall

Everyone in sales has heard the expression “You are your own worst enemy, or biggest obstacle.” Usually in the context is our ability to break through barriers, or reach new highs. But it is also true that we are our own biggest asset when it comes to the same opportunity. It really is just a question of how we choose to view and respond to things. Given this, I am always surprised to see how many sales professionals continue to get in their own way, rather than be a force of progress in their own success.

I would be easy to just look at attitude or self-limiting thinking, and if that is your challenge there plenty of good sources of information and ideas to address that. More often than not though, sales people know what they have to do, they just don’t do it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like they say “I know that I have to do that, but I just won’t.”, there are other factors. But the net effect of their inaction leads to the same result, and they end up getting in their own way.

There are some basic things, and yes I know basic is out of fashion in these days of ‘complex sales’, but making things complex when they don’t have to be is one way we get in our own way. There are clear steps we can take to get outta the way and move towards sales success.

First is how we choose to deal with our resources, especially non-renewable resources, the most precious of which is time. Time is the one thing we all have in equal portions, and in especially sales, how you use your time is usually the difference between success or not. While full speed ahead is a nice mantra, and “trying to stuff as much in to a day as we can” may sound politically correct, there are better ways to leverage this resource for sales success. Start by inventorying how much time you need to allocate to each of these high value activities over the course of the cycle, allocate that time, and focus on managing your activity within that time, not on managing time. (More on time click here)

Another is to develop a clear road map for the sale, beyond high value activities, what has to happen in what sequence. Which of these are “Musts” and which are non-fatal. Stage by stage, activity by activity, it should be mapped. Some will say that they have the experience, they don’t need this, but I disagree. You favourite athlete has a play book, and while they do execute in their own way, they still have their play book. Without it you can’t make adjustments, improvements, or see the small things that will help you run the play better, sell better, in less time.

These are but two elements, and there others. The key is to step back, really examine what you are doing that is getting in your way, and then address it directly and methodically.

Hey, if you liked what you saw here, invite me to speak at your next meeting!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

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