Welcome to The Pipeline.

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 

Panel Discussion: Close the Year Strong with 8 Simple Sales Tips0

No bull

We are about to enter the silly season in sales, the run up to the end of the year. I say silly because all the theorist and soothsayers will be brimming with advice, pulled from their memories and favourite web sources. Soothsayers, because many spend more time advising than selling.

As a sales professional what you need is practical and executable inputs that will help you close the year strong, and set yourself up for a profitable 2015.

To that end, I invite you to join me, and two other leaders who spend their time on the front line doing and selling, Matt Heinz and Mike Weinberg, for a no holds barred panel discussion that will not only get you thinking, but doing. Moderated by KiteDesk CEO Sean Burke, this will be a no fluff, no theory – just real, practical, candid tactics that deliver results. Promise – money back guarantee.

Put it in your calendar now: Thursday, September 11th, 2014 2:00 pm Eastern

Social Sales. Sales 2.0. Modern Sales. The nomenclature is irrelevant. What really matters is what works; we will challenge each other and you in a blunt, holistic discussion about what constitutes smart selling.

This is NOT another Marketing-Still-Sucks-Here’s-What-You-Need-To-Do-Better rant. We will lay out what needs to be accomplished at each stage of the sales funnel and offer actionable insights for marketing and sales to work collaboratively on content development, defining the target market, refining prospect lists and generating engagement.

Smart sales is an ‘and’ not an ‘or.’ Focus on opportunities to capitalize on social networks’ unprecedented data, reach, and resonance within each stage of the sales process.

Register now and walk away with sales tips that have a material impact on your Q4 and 2014 results.

Register

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 

An Inclusive Approach to Prospecting – Sales eXecution 2601

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

circle group small

You know sales is a lot like politics, some are isolationists, others realize we live in a big world with plenty of room for all to thrive, and not always at the expense of others, I guess these would be the inclusionary camp.

The way it plays out in sales is you have those zealots who will proclaim things dead, “never cold call again”, telling their unsuspecting followers that there is only one way to Nirvana, their’s, and no other, “all other roads will lead you to hell and financial ruin”. Sort of like the “Referral Über Alles” approach. For me, combining many approaches in a way that leads to maximum results is way better than betting the farm on one, and then hoping. I say take the inclusionary approach, that is, include as many viable methods, rather than the risk singular approach; if for no other reason than the fact that buyers come in many shapes and sizes and from many corners, some of which may not be known to us at the outset, and missed if you go down one street only.

I like to leverage cold calls to get referrals. Despite the scary things some will tell you about the responses to cold calls, most people you call are human and will behave that way even when they turn down your offer. They may not be interested in what you have to say or sell, (now), but most respect the fact that you are doing your job. Experience has shown that few hang up, and few swear at you, most tell you in a civil way why they are not interested at that moment in time. Managing those initial objections is part of the job.

Grab your Proactive Prospecting Call-Flow Chart

But once you see that you cannot take away their objections, you still have the opportunity to say:

“Based on what we spoke about, is there anyone you know I should call who may see merit in the conversation?” A vast majority will say no, and the call ends. But a number will say, “You know you may want to call….” At that point I thank them, and follow up with, “May I say you suggested the call, or am I cold calling them?” Some say “Sure, tell’em I sent you.” Others will say cold call. Either way is good by me, and I have direction.

Not only that, but in all instances, you have demonstrated yourself to be a professional who completed the “Prospecting Exercise”, and will be remembered for being that pro. (Believe me you’ll call them again).

Using both cold calling and the referral approach is all upside, an inclusive approach both in terms of methodologies, and people. Using this technique I get to speak to more qualified prospects while setting up future wins, than those relying strictly on one methodology.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Using a Top Ten List to Grow Your Sales (#guestpost)0

ButchNewHeadshot1

The Pipeline Guest Post - Butch Bellah

How would you like to be able to easily (almost effortlessly) track your ten hottest prospect and keep them moving toward a sale? Well, you’re in luck! By using a Top Ten List, you can do just that. David Letterman has made a lot of money with a Top Ten list and now you can, too.
First, what is a Top Ten List? In my world it is simply the ten hottest prospects you are currently working, ranked in order of their ability to be closed. It is not a Wish List, it’s not an “I’d love to have that business” list, it is made up of the Ten best prospects you’ve made presentations to and are working through the sales cycle.

NOTE: If you don’t have ten today, that’s OK. But, if you don’t have ten a month from now there’s only one person to blame.

The Top Ten List depends on the old adage, “You can manage what you can measure”. Think about that, what we measure we have the ability to manage. In this case, if you leave your list of top prospects rattling around in your head or just as part of a massive database, they’ll get lost, forgotten and probably never become a customer.

The Top Ten List allows you to see at a glance who they are and allows you to ask yourself the most important question in sales: “What can I do to move this relationship forward?”

Assume your Top Ten List is completely fully. Position 1 is the person who should become your next new customer, Position 2 is the next most likely and so on. Every day—yes, every day you should look at this document and ask yourself, “What do I need to do to move them closer to a sale?”

How do you get number 6 into position 5? How do you get the prospect in position 4 into position 3? This is a fluid, living document and will change weekly. Just because someone is your hottest prospect this week (Position 1) doesn’t mean they’ll hold that spot next week. If something happens in the process with the prospect in position four that moves them to the top of the list, GREAT!

The key is to understand each of these ten is at a different stage of the sales process and they have to be handled as such. However, each should be moving forward. If they aren’t, why aren’t they?

Your Top Ten List is a perfect tool for sales managers to use to work with their team and is the single most important piece of data you own. If you use it effectively and truly concentrate on developing it as a tool, you will see your sales and closing percentage increase.
Why? Because you are spending your time with the people most likely to do business with you. Keep pushing the prospect in position eight up the ladder and that will, in effect, keep pushing the prospects ahead of them toward becoming a customer.
The key is to be honest with yourself. Where do these prospective customers rank and are they really deserving of being on the Top Ten List. If they do, then by all means work daily to move them toward a sale.

Question: How can you use the Top Ten list to impact YOUR sales?

About Butch Bellah

Butch Bellah is a Sales Coach & Trainer, speaker and author. He operates B2 Training & Development and www.butchbellah.com. You can order his new book, “The 10 Essential Habits of Sales Superstars: Plugging into The Power of Ten” here and follow him on twitter @salespowertips. He can be reached at butch@butchbellah.com or at 337-384-9204

That’s My Name Don’t Ware I Out – Sales eXecution 2560

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

High wire

Over the last couple of weeks, I found myself as the prospect at two sales meetings I attended. I always find it hard to concentrate in these meetings, because of what I do, I tend be distracted from the topic at hand, and focusing more on form and format of the execution, and the meeting is unfolding.

For me a sales meeting is like a present, what’s inside the box is important, but the box itself, the wrapping, the ribbon, the bow, and finally how it is presented and unwrapped are integral to the experience. Done right it can enhance the experience, and as a result lead to faster cycles, firmer prices, and a series of knock-on benefits. Needless to say, do it wrong, and you get the opposite and detrimental effect. And while you can still get the sale in the end, why make things hard on yourself and the buyer.

This is why some may see some the “mechanics” of sales as being pedestrian, in some ways secondary to the “the technique” or “methodology”, the mechanics and dynamics of execution are still more important than many want to acknowledge.

Both were good products, both were good sales people, but in both cases their style of execution got in the way, and in one instance will likely cost her the sale. I want to be clear, it was not that I did not like the individuals, it was the way they executed, the unnecessary distractions, to the point where I lost interest in dealing with them. Just as a times buyers lose interest in us, despite the fact that we did everything by the book.

Let’s look at the salvageable sale first. She kept using my name. There are time that I recommend using the buyer’s name, probably for all the reasons you’ve heard, but not be very sentence. It was Tibor this, and Tibor that, Tibor everything. I love my name, and unlike many, she was pronouncing it correctly, but I was getting sick of hearing it. Instead of listening to her, I started counting how many times she used it in the hour, (21). (At one point I almost responded “yes Mom”.)

The other rep, he is unsalvageable, just pissed me off. Every question he asked me was prefaced by telling me how great he and his company were, as though I should apply to buy from them, and I’d be more than silly if I didn’t, even when there are a dozen more vendors like him in a stone’s throw, or certainly a click of a mouse. The questions were less about what I was out to achieve, but each was an assumptive close. What’s worse is he probably has the right product, top three potential fits, but I just can’t picture spending time with him, his ego, his company’s ego without eventually expressing my feelings in a very direct way.
When it comes to making the sale a great experience for a buyer, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Challenger, a SPINner, or any affiliation, pay attention to the “wrapping” too, it counts. Playing it by the book is good, but some things are not in the book, just in the room.

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

What’s Your Favourite Hyphenated Selling – Sales eXecution 2460

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

un hy selling

Several pundits have presented the argument that we are all sellers and we are always selling, no surprise, selling is part of life and the human experience, right from the guy selling fragments of the big bang, or the serpent selling Eve the apple. As a result, just like people, sales comes in different ways, shapes, approaches, techniques, etc.

This brings with it a host of labels and subsets of sales selling. What I call the hyphenated sale. You’ve seen this and will continue to see it throughout sales. Different labels/qualifiers placed on sales, some times to better frame the technique, sometimes because it pertains to a very specific part of the sale, other times the name of the person who “created” (ya right) that type of selling, other times just to be catchy.

There are times when it is nothing more than a marketing label. Let’s face it, we are a target for someone’s product, someone trying to sell a product to us, a course, an app, an assessment, so slap a label on it and start sell it. Other times there are movements that want to adopt a particular sticky tag as a means of finding a readymade audience, or as a means of siphoning off their competitors. If there are a group of people who are terrified and terrible at old calling, what better way to attract them than to adopt the label of no more cold calling, whether it works or not is secondary, what great branding. Sometimes the branding evolves, Sales 2.0 was the rage a while back, till all the various flavours realised there was more to be sold by going Social Selling.

So what I am asking for today, is your list of hyphenated sales, you don’t have to follow the methods, or be a proponent, or you could in fact be it’s biggest groupie, not the point here, all I am asking for is a list of hyphenated or branded sales you are aware of. Here I’ll get you started:

Solution Selling
Impact selling
Sugar-free Selling
Kosher Selling
Consultative Selling
Trigger Event Selling
Interactive Selling
Social Selling

Go for it, have some fun with it, let’s see what we come up with.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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