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Business man point: Turn Prospects Into Sales Appointments

You Have To Sell Is The Appointment First1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

In the past I have posted about the attitude sales people have towards prospecting, some see it as a necessary evil and unpleasant part of their job, something they have to “tolerate” early in their career, until they build up a sufficient base to live off. How many times have you heard a rep with tenure say they “have earned the right not prospect”, or the less honest version “put me in front of the right guy and I’ll close them.” While that may be true, the big bucks in sales go to the ones who can get in front of the right guys on their own.

One thing that differentiates the complete sales person, the sales people who can execute all elements of the job, not just the easy ones or the ones they like, is their understanding that prospecting is a sale. Perhaps the hardest sale of all, selling the appointment. The same instincts, skills and disciplines it takes to sell the product or service, are involved in selling an appointment, it’s just that the prospect is not yet a willing participant. Which is why you need to take the attitude that the appointment has to be sold.

Beyond role play, one of the things that we do with clients is listen to recordings of actual calls by the reps we train. Not one or three calls when they know they are being listened, but recording of dozens and dozens of calls throughout their week, getting a real sense of what they are doing when it counts, not just to impress on one or two calls. What you hear across dozens of calls in consistent; sure you can explain one call, or two, but when you hear the same mistakes over the course of days and weeks as we do, there is no denying facts.

Right from the time the prospect answers you can tell which reps came to sell, and which came to take orders, hoping the prospect throws them a bone. The way they initiate the call, how they engage the prospect. Not just style and mannerism, but what they speak to, and the narrative they paint for the buyer. This is not just about enthusiasm, while that is key and infectious, when wrapped around the wrong message it becomes toxic, and no one wants to be infected with that. Or the diminutive subservient posture they take, if you close your eyes you see Goofy when they try to handle the “all set” objection: “Well maybe I can be your number two if you ever tire of number one, ah, gosh darn it.”

Those reps who sell the appointment are much more often the ones who sell the deal, while the others are more likely to be used for info and price concessions, or worse, as a means of getting concessions from the incumbent, and once that is achieved, they are tossed to the curb.

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How To Get A Meeting With Anyone – Book Review0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

One of the most common things I hear sales people say is “Get me in front of the right person, and I can sell them.” There is no doubt that is true, but it is also true that most find it difficult to get in front of the right person, and that the best and most sought after sales people are those who can consistently get in front of that “right” person and start selling. An added challenge is that often the person they need to get in front of is an executive surrounded by layers of people making it that much more difficult to contact them.

Well there is good news, Stu Heinecke, has produced a book to help people contact and connect with the most difficult to contact people. “How To Get A Meeting With Anyone”, explores the science and art of reaching those VIP contacts you want to sell to. Stu introduces the concept of Contact Marketing; a term he brings to full potential in the book. More than a turn of phrase, it is based not only on years of real world experience, but a series of interviews with all the players involved in the passion play of contacting and selling to anyone, especially VIP’s. Stu interviewed the very VIPs in question, executive assistants, market reactionaries, marketing experts and sales experts, including myself. He then distilled this collective knowledge and experience into a must-read book for anyone who needs to contact the un-contactable to be successful in their endeavourer.

One of the most refreshing elements of the book, and a direct result of the input, is that it does not start with a bias, and then sets out to prove it, while tearing down other forms of connecting. This is not cold calling vs. social selling; direct marketing vs. inbound market. But an exploration of how these things can be combined and leveraged in a way that helps the reader learn how to get a meeting with anyone, whether they are selling or for other reasons. Beyond sales and marketing, this book delivers for business owners, or start ups who need to contact that right person to fund the next phase.

For me what makes a sales book great is when it goes beyond the concepts of what and why, and takes the extra step of showing you how, with practical real world examples. As you read, you can tell Stu has lived it and as a reader you will benefit from that. This is not only important for learning, but for doing, the book will give you the confidence to act on things you may have been afraid or reluctant to try, or more commonly, someone told you won’t work, or you can’t do. The way Stu lays it out, you discover you can and how, and if you’re willing, you’ll discover a whole new market of people others will tell you are near impossible to reach.

The book is full of clear concepts supported by “how to’s” and specific “what to do’s” cutting across current lines in the market. From building your prospect list, to crafting your message and deciding on the best medium to deliver it. As a result, it is not only a great read, but well paced, so even the most impatient sales person will find it a joy to read.

There are so many different “a-ha” moments, but for me there were a number of things that resonated and reinforced things I have believed and practiced and tried to get others to follow. One is the fact that if you want to sell to someone, especially a VIP, you need to become their peer. That does not mean you have to go out and become an executive, but understand and “live” in their world so you can relate to them, and more importantly they can relate to you. The other must-read and must-live chapter is chapter 15. Stu lays out why you need to stop thinking about the executive assistant or admin as a gatekeeper, and view them as your gateway to success in meeting with anyone.

There are two pleasant added bonuses, unique to the book, and specifically because of Stu and the fact that he is not just a proven marketer, but a cartoonist for The Wall Street Journal. First, the book has personality, one of the reasons it is such a great read. Unlike many sales books that try to be overly academic, or over the top, Stu’s style helps you connect with him and his concepts. The other are Stu’s cartoons throughout the book. They not only confirm that a picture is worth a 1,000 words, they add dimension to the concepts presented, making them easier to take in, digest, and put into practice.

If you need to contact and meet with hard to reach individuals for any reason, you need to buy and read “How To Get A Meeting With Anyone”, it will become one of your go-to manuals for having the meetings you want to have.

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Tomorrow Is Today – Sales eXecution 3240

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

A common discussion among sales people, or more accurately, sales people willing to make cold calls, that is complete sales people, is when is the best time to cold call? I have added my two cents on this in past. What is true about any element of success, is that the things that lead to it become routine, a habit, and there is no doubt that people are creatures of habit. This can be good and bad at the same time. Reports show that habit, things we do by rote, make up about 40% of what we do on a daily basis, so if develop good habits, this will serve you well. If you develop bad habits, well then, you have some work to do.

This notion of habits extends to cold calling as well, with all the implications and ramifications. One of those habits is when they choose to cold call. For the cold calling is dead crowd, the time is never, they have made the decision to go at it with one less tool in their toolkit. The rest seem to land on one of two days, oddly both start with T. Those who have developed good prospecting habits always prospect, including cold calling, Today. The others, with questionable habits, well, it’s always Tomorrow.

The Today group, uses their calendar to ensure that they get what has to get done in time for it to matter. Like many sales people they put all the important things in their calendar; be they client meetings, training, commission days, and yes, cold calling. If it is not in your diary it is likely not to get done, there will always be some things that come up that will distract you, and cause you to say “I can do that tomorrow, because I have this to do today. The question is if you don’t prospect today, who are you going to sell to tomorrow.

The Tomorrow crowd do not put prospecting time in their calendar because it would begin to resemble a commitment. Understanding what percentage of your “selling time” one has to commit to prospecting is where you start, once you have that you can begin to slot it in, along with the prep time it will take to generate the leads, understand their objectives, and all the other things that have to be in place for a successful cold call.

The other thing the Today crowd do is understand that rejection is part of the process. They study the most common objections and spend time preparing for them, understanding them, and developing means of taking those objections and transitioning them to conversations, and live another day by adding more opportunities to their pipeline. The Tomorrow crowd live another day by kicking the can down the road a few more inches each day.

What I have also found, is that with some coaching and effort, many Tomorrow people can be rehabilitated and converted to Today people. Since many had good sales habits alongside nonexistent cold calling habits, by doing what they need to today, they will likely be that much more successful.

Tibor Shanto

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Are You Selling or Visiting – Sales eXecution 3212

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Last week I wrote about the importance of words in the context of a sale, while in that case I highlighted the importance of words we select in communicating the right thing to the buyer. But the words we use also impact our attitudes, and our attitudes have a direct impact on our actions, their impact on the customer and sale, and ultimately our company’s and our own success. Yes, what you call something will drive how you prepare, how you prioritize, the actions you take, and the overall intent it communicates to the buyer and therefore their reaction and the progress, or often lack of progress, we make in the sale.

Here is a typical, often overlooked, but clear example. One of the common topics I speak about here is the importance and role of next steps. Part of whether you get that next step or not is how you view the appointment, your role in the appointment and how you approach that appointment. And while it may not seem big it starts with what you call that appointment, which in turn reflects how you are thinking and preparing.

This is why I find it amusing (and at time sad), when sales professionals call an appointment a “visit”; as is “I have a visit scheduled with Harry at XYZ Inc.” (And let’s accept that this is a rep in Toronto, not someone selling sweet tea in Chatom Alabama). A visit? Really, think about that. You are going to go and “visit” a prospect.

1. go to see and spend time with (someone) socially.
“I came to visit my grandmother” synonyms: call on, pay a visit to, go to see, look in on;
2. inflict (something harmful or unpleasant) on someone.
“the mockery visited upon him by his schoolmates”

So which of the above do sales people mean when they speak about a visit?

I know some will say it is only semantics, and I say they are right, but semantics count, as stated above, in a number of ways. Some say they are visiting because they don’t want to appear “salesy”, why not, is that not what you are there to do? Before you leap to answer that think about it, are your sales people always going in with a clear intent, focused on a specific set of possible outcomes?

Intent counts as much as words. Buyers can read your intent, and if you’re intent signals something other than what you are saying AND, how you are saying it, you’re beat. Buyers can tune in and pick up on that incongruity every time. So you may think you are selling, but if your intent, body language and words are saying “Visit”, that is what you’ll have a visit, not a sales call. As the authors of The Hard Truth About Soft-selling: Restoring Pride & Purpose to the Sales Profession, we have created a class of professional visitors, hoping that the order comes up as they “visitin’”.

Reps are not alone in letting this phenomenon to happen. Managers or organizations fixated on a specific number of calls regardless of the facts on the ground, very much drive sales people to have visits. After all, if I need 10 calls a week, and that number is not directly tied to my goals and conversion rates, but are high on my manager’s personal KPI’s, then I am going to hit that 10 with sales calls and visits.

So go and visit if you must, but for continuous sales success, you will also need to go on first appointment and sales calls.

Tibor Shanto

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The Reason You are calling, is… – Sales eXecution 3200

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Child Phone

As a reader of this blog you have heard me say that whoever coined the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was not in sales. We all know that the wrong word at the wrong time can dramatically change the course of a sale or sales meeting, either for the better or….

This even more true on the telephone where you do not have the benefit of body language to balance out the picture. As more and more sales organizations turn to an inside sales approach, this becomes a greater factor. Without body language you and the prospects are left with only intonation and the words you choose, what and how you say will paint the picture and drive the prospect’s response. What you say, how you say it, and who you say it to, matters.

While I am not suggesting that there are “magic words” or “silver bullet” words or incantations that can turn a sceptic or close the deal, picking your words matters. And it has to be your words, it has to fit with your manner of speaking and it has to help the buyer not only better understand where you are coming from, but also how it helps them achieve their own objectives.

Whether you are in inside sales or a field rep, here is an example that you may relate to. Early on, during the appointment setting call, you will have to give the person at the other end of the line a reason to want to see you. What is that, is it your product, your company, your radio voice, no; it is, as it has always been and will be, what is in it for the prospect themselves.

Many sales people will say that they are looking to “learn” more about the buyer, their company, and buyi9ng process. Well with the demand on decision makers time, they really don’t have time to teach you. You want to learn, well that’s why Al Gore invented the internet, so you can learn about your buyers.

Second favourite reason spoken by reps trying to get appointments: “I want to discuss with you…” Again, do you think they have the time or inclination to discuss, likely not.

So what can you suggest as a reason for meeting? How about sharing some specific steps and impacts you helped others take to achieve their objectives, and how your offering specifically played a role in that, and the specific impact it had on their business. Now this isn’t a creative recital of your features and value props, but specific elements that are tide to OUTCOMES.

The reason I am calling you is to schedule an appointment where I can share with you how we haled XYZ Competitor reduce their logistics cost, allowing them to increase market share by 3% over 18 months.”

No product, no features, no discussion or learning. Instead you are going to show, teach, share, how you have been instrumental in helping others like them achieve specific objectives and results.

“How do I know what their objectives are?” I hear some of you asking. Not as hard as you may imagine, but the topic of a future post; stay tuned.

Tibor Shanto

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3 Elements of a First prospecting E-Mail – Sales eXecution 3051

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

e-mail new

While in Canada e-mail has been neutered by our supposed business friendly Prime Minister, in other parts of the free world, e-mail continues to be an effective way to initiate engagement with new potential buyers.  And while some may be shaking their head in disbelief, done right it contributes to prospecting success, but as usual, its down to what and how – the execution.

First thing is defining success. Many believe that success is the prospect calling you back and asking “where do I buy?” But remember “Prospects are Created – not Found”, e-mail plays a role in that creation. In an environment where it could take 8, 9, 10 or more attempts to get a response from a potential buyer, a good e-mail can be a good touch point, and lead to an initial contact, then engagement, purchase, relationship, kids, divorce, and all over again.

But let us approach as we would going for the Holy Grail, a cold e-mail that leads to engagement. What are the three crucial elements?

  1. Subject Line
  2. Body of Message
  3. The Close

Do all these well and you have a shot, miss the mark on one, and you’re beat.

In light of the fact that most e-mail these days will be viewed on a hand held, we’ll present things from that standpoint, the good news is that if you do the mobile e-mail right, it also translates to success for those reading it on a desktop or tablet.
1. Subject Line – if the party you are writing does not know you, the Subject Line becomes the first pint of triage. It will determine whether they open it, save it for later reading (ya, later, OK), or just delete it at the speed of light. As a result you have two choices, you can mix them up, see if you see a pattern based on role, industry or other factors.

First method, not mine but based on a study of some 30 million e-mails, suggests that having nothing in the Subject Line. Nothing or ‘RE:’ followed by nothing. In some ways it makes sense, human curiosity, drives people to bring down the thumb find out.

But my preferred method takes this further and drives the two elements that follow. I like to use the final call to action, The Close, element 3, as the Subject Line. So if at the end of your e-mail you propose a call Friday at 2:30 pm, then use that as the Subject Line, but add a question mark at the end.

Subject: Call Friday at 2:30?

The natural instinct is to see if you had in fact forgot a call, or scheduled one in error, or if your admin had put something in that you missed. The effect is the same “Did I miss something, let me check this out, let’s take a look.” Leading is to element 2.

2. Body of Massage – the body needs to have two must things, first brevity, second no fat.

I can’t emphasise the importance of being brief. Two lines at most. I want you to be guided by the “Two Flicks of the Thumb Rule.” The first flick is to scroll down once; the second is either Reply or Delete. Which is why we have no room for fat.

The best way to achieve that is to include and highlight only those things that speak to the prospect. Nothing about you, nothing about your company, just how you can help them deliver against their objectives. This is harder that it sounds, because as sales people are geared to talk about their value prop, and other irrelevant things.

Based on your research, previous experience, and those things you learn from 360 Degree Deal View,  Identify a specific impact or outcome you can deliver based on your assessment of their objectives, and speak to that.

I am writing to schedule a call to share with you how we helped Close Competitor Inc., add an additional service call for each of their trucks on a daily basis, leading to an 8% increase in revenue, 11% increase in margins, and a 12% improvement on return on assets…

Which brings us to the third element, The Close.

3. The Close – is your call to action, the ask from the call, and as we know from the Subject Line, it is a call Friday at 2:30 pm. So continuing from element 2:

“…leading to an 8% increased in revenue, 11% increase in margins, and a 12% improvement on return on assets. I will call you for an introductory call Friday at 2:30.

Thank you,
Alfred E. Neuman”

The important thing to remember is that this e-mail may be one of a number of touch points, and it is important that it is planned in context of a complete pursuit plan. If this e-mail is the first contact, what will follow, if you had phoned prior, how does this e-mail fit in? The specific version above is geared as a first e-mail, if you had called and sent a previous e-mail, you will need to vary it.

But for first mails, with a realistic expectation that there will need to be more touch points in the process of creating a prospect, this is a good start.

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

Changing the Odds In Your Prospecting0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

poker card player gambling casino chips selective focus

How much of a premium would you pay to bet on a sporting event where the odds favoured your team over the other by 6000 to 100? A no-brainer right, in fact too good to be real, right? Let’s look at it a bit differently, how would you like to be up against a professional opponent favoured by similar odds, an opponent who practices every day, honing their skills and techniques, improving their game day in and day out, while you only occasionally dabble in the sport?

I am guessing most of you are saying no to those odds, and would probably pass on getting in the ring with that level of mismatch. But I see sales people do this very thing on a regular basis, but instead of a five dollar bet, what is on the line is their income.

Sales people get into to the ring every day, unprepared and underestimating their opponent’s skills, abilities and level of preparedness. What I am talking about specifically is prospecting, especially for buyers in the deep sea of Status Quo. We are not talking about buyers who are actively looking, visiting your website, or buyers who were referred to you because they called their friend in a hurry looking for the exact thing you sell. No the buyers I am talking about did not expect your call or e-mail, these buyers would swear up and down that they don’t Need whatever value you are proposing. This is not to say that they would not derive value from what you offer, but left to their own devices, when you phone, what you are selling, or what you are proposing, is not on their radar.

Further, they are trained professionals at shutting down people who call them in the middle of their work day and ramble on about something that does not align with their perceived priorities.

I ask sales teams I work with: “how many unsolicited sales calls do you think your average target gets on a daily basis? Stop and ask yourself that; think of what you sell, think of all the things that individual buys that you don’t sell, how many calls do they get?” I get a wide range of answers, from five a day to 20 per day. Let’s take the lower end, five unsolicited sales call per day; 25 per week; assuming they work 48 weeks a year, that’s 1,200 calls per year. Now let’s bring some more reality to the scenario, say they have been on the job for five years, that’s 6,000 calls! Take that in a minute.

That’s a lot of practice in tuning out the beige and bland! How many times in those 6,000 calls do you figure they have heard empty words like:

  • Solution
  • Reliable
  • Productivity
  • Efficiencies
  • Customer centric
  • Improved work-flow
  • Dependable
  • Blah Blah Blah

After a time it all sounds like the teacher in the Peanuts cartoon, wha whawha, whawha wha wha.

How practiced are they in blowing you off and getting back to work? Infinitely more than the average seller. They have it down, so down they can do it without thinking or “being in the call”. When they give their initial objection, they don’t even think about what they are saying, they just deliver the fatal blow:

Seller: Increase productivity blah blah, work-flow.
Buyer: Thanks, but we’re all set
Seller: Well perhaps I can send you information in case you ever need a back-up, I can call you back in a few months (putz).
Buyer: Sure you do that, thanks! (back to work)

Knock out!

This why sales people hate telephone prospecting, high rate of rejection, low rate of success.

Does it have to be that way? Absolutely not!

Why is it that way? Because sales reps are nowhere nearly as prepared as the person at the other end of the phone.

Yet one of the hardest things is to get sales to practice and prepare. Rather than practicing, developing skills and a proper game plan, working on avoiding sounding like all the other voices, they do the same thing over and over again. What was it Einstein said about this type of behaviour?

Attracting Status Quo buyers is not that difficult, you just need to change a few small things, and practice. And I don’t mean on unsuspecting buyers, but before you pick up the phone or fire off that e-mail.

Start by changing the your goal for the call, your goal is not to impress them, not to have a conversation and develop rapport or trust; your goal is to get engagement in the form of an appointment, live, web or telephone, where the buyer has agreed to engage in a business conversation. Singular measure of success, engagement!

Change the narrative from needs or you and your company, not what you do, and how you do it, frankly no one cares, no really. Tell them what they will get out of it, speak to specific impacts and outcomes others in similar situations realized; not in feature benefit speak, they’re hip to that, but in business terms they speak every day. What will they tell their boss changed after you? This takes focus and practice, if you are going to wing it like most of the 6000 have done, if you are going to spew you value prop hoping it will impress them, forget it, you’ll just be 8001, they’ll go back to work, and you?

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

Mastering Tools and Methods of Prospecting Success #webinar0

Business man point: Turn Prospects Into Sales Appointments

Wednesday June 10, 10:00 am PT/1:00 pm ET

Prospecting continues to be the most sought after skill when companies hire and promote sales professionals. The better you are at identifying and engaging with the right prospects, the more success you will have in your sales career. But to achieve success in prospecting, you will need to master two key elements

1. Sourcing the right leads and crucial information needed to reach that prospect
2. Connecting and engaging with those leads and converting them to pipeline opportunities

Join me and Clinton Rozario, as we present you the methodologies and tools that will help you master the two elements above, and keep you pipeline full and healthy.

By attending this 60 minute expert talk, you will learn how to become more efficient at both lead generation and prospecting and following up, thereby allowing you to spend less time in gaining more prospects and freeing up time to sell more to new and existing clients.

By attending this webinar, sales professionals can learn about

• Leveraging Social Platforms for Micro Targeting
• Reaching C-Level Decision Makers on Social Networks
• Proven method for successful B2B Prospecting
• How to sustain a continuous flow of opportunities
• Lead Gen and Prospecting Tools that will make you more efficient and successful

About Clinton

Clinton Rozario is an expert in B2B lead generation and prospecting on social networks. He has been the chief architect of several such patented products at eGrabber. He offers his expert advice about B2B sales lead generation at various forums and has written numerous articles on the same.




3 Strikes Not Out – Sales eXecution 2971

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Baseball biz 2

One of the downsides of today’s technology driven “always connected” world, is the expectation of instant response or gratification. I watch teenagers suffer great angst and sweat profusely when one of their text or messages is not returned instantly. I see a version of this in sales, specifically prospecting, the lack of patience causing people to abandon perfectly good leads may too soon. This not only leads to a voracious appetite for leads, but creates a number of bad habits and lost deals.

There seems to be a “3 Strikes and Out” approach to prospecting or engaging with potential buyers. But this is not baseball or the criminal justice system, where you can in fact be beat after three strikes, in prospecting and sales, this is certainly not the case. It is interesting that in this particular area, how many millennials have much in common with the characters from Glengarry Glen Ross, “Can I have me those Inbound Leads”.

In sales and prospecting the third try is often be just the starting point, and contact or success can often come much later. If we want to stick to the whole baseball theme, the game is nine innings if not more.

When prospecting, you can expect to make eight or more attempts before a given prospect may respond. Remember, business people today are usually trying to pack 16 hours into a ten hour day, meaning they are behind the eight ball from the moment they are brushing their teeth. Breaking through that not only takes creativity and solid value, but patience and persistence; a much greater level than some sales people are willing to give, and managers may tolerate. Which is too bad, because there is a lot of truth to the notion of last man or woman standing.

The key is having a plan, a system, and the wherewithal to execute. Doing it right does not mean doing the same thing eight or more times, idea is to engage not repel. First you need to pick the tools of the trade. Often one of the challenges is that we are just not getting through, I like the phone, the prospect responds to e-mail, if I don’t identify their mode of communication, the best messaging will be lost. Important to remember that not everyone is like us (thank god), so we need to make sure we that we are covering the spectrum.

Given the times we are selling in, you have to think:

Bottom line is you have choices to make, which means planning. You need to have a Pursuit Cadence planned, and implemented into your CRM. If you think you can do it from memory you are wrong. You need to plan it out and systemize it, much like marketing automation, this needs to happen regardless of your mood or workload. Below is one an example, you can learn more here.

One last consideration, leads and prospects are recyclable, how many times have you sold to someone you first prospected four years ago, missed, tried again, and then finally connected and went through the cycle, and now have a happy customer. Remember, sales is about execution, execution of a plan. Done right, it is very much a game of 3 strikes, not out.

Tibor Shanto     

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What Are You Opening – Sales eXecution 2952

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Looking in

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Tibor Shanto     LI Bottom banner

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