Welcome to The Pipeline.

Talking Sales Strategy – Sales eXecution 2921

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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Earlier in the month, I was invited to sit in with Executive coach and Sales Coaching Expert Steven Rosen, and Emma Foster of expertise.tv. The questions came from the audience, and as such will hopefully be similar to those areas of sales you are interested in. You can view and excerpt below, and watch the entire program on my You Tube channel.

Have a look, and tell us what you think.

Tibor Shanto

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Looking for More and Better Prospects?0

Who isn’t right!

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Well the good news is that over the next couple of weeks I will be participating in two webinars aimed at helping you do just that.

On Thursday April 16, at 1:00 pm Eastern:

I will be part of a webinar with eGrabber, titled: Mastering two key elements of Sales and Prospecting success. Along with Clinton Rozario, we will be looking at the most efficient and effective ways to source leads and then connect with them so you can start selling.

To learn more and register, click here!

Later in the month on

On Thursday April 23, at 1:00 pm Eastern:

I will be joining my friends at DiscoverOrg, and will look at Sales Triggers: Don’t Wait – Create. We all know about trigger events, how they create opportunities, we will look at how to better leverage events, and how to trigger similar reactions without having to wait like everyone else.

If you need new prospects to fill your pipeline with the right opportunities, you should attend these webinars. You learn specific steps you can take, tools that will make you more effective and learn about new developments in helping you succeed in prospecting.

To learn more and register, click here!

Look forward to having you along,
Tibor

There Is More To Leadership Than Leading – #SPS15 Special0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

woman with sketched strong and muscled arms

There is a lot written about leadership in general, and more specifically sales leadership, I have contributed my share to the din. This is a clear indication that no one has really figured it out, if they had the book will have been written, millions of copies sold, and people move past the debate, and focus on the next thing.

One common theme in pieces about leadership is how the leader needs to be involved and leading the process. And while that is true, the nature of that involvement differs based on who you read. I have always been an advocate of “leading from the front, not behind a desk”, and the assumption many take is that this literally means out in front of the troops Napoleon style. But I truly think that the best form of leadership, and means of driving change, the right change, not just change for change sake, anyone can rearrange the furniture and replace the curtains, is to not be part of the action. The best leadership, and I see things through the sales filter, is change that comes about in what appears to be in an organic way, initiated and completed by the sales rep/team, with only partial prints from the leader.

Managing/Coaching sales people, is really an exercise in selling. In a conventional sale we are trying to get the buyer to purchase our “stuff”, as a means of helping them achieve their objectives. Well as a coach, you are trying to get the sales person to integrate and take on your view alongside or instead of their current view or means of executing. That being the case, it really is best approached as a sale itself. As such, you not only have the opportunity to get the rep to buy into the change, but the means by which you do that could itself be a model or at a minimum, reinforce the process.

Everyone buys into the notion that “people don’t want to be sold”, and so you need to create a buying environment. The flaw with that in coaching is twofold. First While people may not want “to be sold”, they often need to be, that’s why we hire sales people. And the fact that the rep took on the job of selling, they have de facto declared that they want to buy, or buying to your process, otherwise, why are they working for you.

So how do we pull this together, simple, much like buyers like to hear things come out their mouth more than the sales reps, even when it was the sales person who choreographed the moment, sales people, especially established, good sales people who need to be taken to the next level, respond to ideas and actions that are their idea, not the managers. Meaning the best thing a manager can do lay down the bread crumbs, and let the rep discover things on their own, and when they do, you can become a resource in their journey to success.

How do you do that, I am old school, put the focus on your sales process. You have one right? Clear stages, specific activities in each stage, objectives, desired outcomes, tools, contingencies, and most importantly, clear reasons to disqualify. Each stage supported by an evolving playbook, and a clear next step go-no go, criteria. If you have this, you’re set to help the rep discover what you want them to, without directly leading them. If you don’t, you can call me and we can get you started.

As a first step, you can join me and my colleagues today for the 2015 Sales Performance Summit, webcast live from Toronto.

Tibor Shanto

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Are You Committing This Prospecting Sin? – Sales eXecution 2910

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Chrch candles

The biggest prospecting sin you can commit is not to prospect, but there are many others that are dangerous and can have almost as detrimental effect on your sales success, and more.

The one we’re going to look at today is a common technique used by many, encouraged by pundits is this one:

Your on the phone with a pre-qualified(?) prospect, and you say something to the effect of “I just need 15 minutes of your time…” Or it’s déclassée cousin “I just need 15 short minutes…” I mean really, what is the difference between the two, does the “short minutes” meeting have 50 second minutes, or will it just be that much less torturous?

Frankly this works well if you are selling a commodity, let’s see if the nut fits the bolt, can you deliver on time, and for two cents less. Yes, almost anyone can do that in 15 minutes. But selling something of value, selling “A Solution” that will take more than 15 minutes, no ifs ands or buts.

People use this approach because they feel that it will make it easier for the prospect to accept a 15 minute meeting. Said differently, “I’ll waste 15 minutes on this guy, but not more.” Sure you’re thinking that if you put on a good performance in that first 15 minutes, they’ll give an encore in the form of a further 15 or 30 minutes. Sure, sometimes, not often, usually you try and cram a meeting that properly unfolds in longer time frame into 15 minutes. Instead of initiating a good discovery exchange, most revert to a product pitch, after all “we are pressed for time”, and you can’t risk without presenting your value prop and at least a minimal look at your product. Next thing you know it’s time to try and get that next step, and go. And what is that next step in most cases, the meeting you really wanted in the first place.

So why not gear your call to that to begin with? If you truly have a solution worth having, one that actually solves (solution – solve) an issue they may be having, you know a pain or a need, lead with that, and get the right meeting. But when you say “Just 15 minutes”, it sounds like “please man, I am desperate, do me a solid, be a KPI.” Sure this may work once in a while, usually with the wrong prospect, but if it’s not inside the Bell Curve it’s a Hail Mary.

Like any sin, smoking, illicit activities, being a politician, what have you, there is the momentary pleasure, and lingering dark side. In this case you are starting your relationship, regardless of how far it may go, based on a lie. You know at the time you propose the meeting that you are not being truthful, as do your prospects, the 15 minutes is their insurance policy, “if this guy sucks as badly as I think he may, I can pull the lever after 15 minutes; if by chance he is good, then we’ll see.” Sure this may work once in a while, usually with the wrong prospect, but if it’s not inside the Bell Curve it’s a Hail Mary. I have always been for a separation of church and sales.

Tibor Shanto

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You Can Play Nice or You Can Play To Win0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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There are times when you hit a wall in a given sale or opportunity, where you have some though choices to make: do you walk away, do you take a different approach with the buyer, or do you abandon the person you have been working with and go around or over them.

As interesting as the choices that people make in these situations, what’s even more interesting and noteworthy from a learning standpoint, is why and how the make those choices.

Not a negative, but a reality is that many sales people positive nature and disposition, a ray of sunshine buyers will be drawn to, a “can do” attitude spiced with plenty of optimism. This drives them to look for positive outcomes, which is often different than the right or profitable outcome.

As an interesting side note, according to recent Harvard Business Review article by Steve W. Martin, What Separates the Strongest Salespeople from the Weakest, the best sales people as measured by performance, are in fact inwardly pessimistic. Questioning the buyer, motives, aspects of the sale, etc. This allows them to qualify/disqualify and be more effective sales winners (as opposed to the large group of relationship starved professional visitors who are in sales). While “possibilities” are endless, reality comes down to fewer choices, some harder than the others.

Of the choices above, abandon, change the facts or change horses, most sales people will be most reluctant to changing horses, going around or above the person they have been dealing with. Odd, because it is generally the most effective, both in terms of outcomes and best use of time.

It all hinges on how you view one fact, what are the potential consequences. The most optimistic relation types see negative consequences (now who is pessimistic), they say “If I go around or over them, it may upset the person I am dealing with, and the deal won’t happen”. The best, high performing sales people say “If I stay on the current path, the deal ain’t happening, I need to engage someone who can make it happen”.

One major difference is that the high performers look at it from the perspective of what’s right and best for the buyer and their company; they look at deal, not the people. Most importantly, they look at the situation as being “who else can I engage”, not necessarily going around or over someone. If that’s what you are looking for, that is what you’ll find.

At it’s core the question is a common one in sales, are you reactive or proactive, do you put more faith in hope or action?

It is not a question of the cup being half full or half empty. What differentiates these two types of sales people is that they both see the half glass, they both aspire to have the glass full. One is hoping that being genteel, nice and smiling will hopefully fill the glass. The other group knows they need to take proactive steps to fill the glass.

Tibor Shanto

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You Can’t “Just Call It In” To Win In Cold Calling3

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Calling it in

Having trained hundreds of sales people in effective telephone prospecting, I have witnessed a number of recurring patterns which impact success, both negatively and positively. One key to success is being present and in the call, not “just calling it in”.

Coming out of the training most will apply what they learned quit literally, almost religiously. They are attentive to details, complying with what the process dictates, to the point where they are rigid, almost unnatural. But as a result of putting a structured and proven approach into practice, they usually have a measure of success, meaning more appointments, more returned voice mails, more confidence in facing objections, and usually a big boost to their confidence. It is this increased confidence that puts them at a fork in the road, one path leading to ongoing and growing success, the other back to where they started, if not worse.

Some begin to evolve the process and the technique, introducing their own style without changing the core approach. This allows them to be more conversational, more relaxed casual, more themselves, making the whole experience much more engaging for both the buyer and themselves. This in turn delivers even better results, and encourages reps with the right attitude and work ethic to continuously improve, evolve, and advance both the quality and quantity of their pipelines and sales.

The majority however, travel the other path. They take their initial success and interpret it differently. They see success, revel in it, and take their foot off the gas and their eyes off the ball. They see improvement as an event, not as a process. You can hear it in the way they execute the call, you can see it in their posture and body language. They become complacent and mechanical, believing the momentum will maintain itself, even believing that it will continue it the same trajectory without further effort.

Even as they pick up the phone and dial, it is clear they are not really present, the call is one of a number of things they are doing, whether it’s reading the newspaper, updating their status (even though I would bet they are not present enough to know what their status is), they begin to live a routine, instead of driving the process. They are literally “calling it in”.
Cold calling is like any other skill, it needs to be practiced and executed in the moment, atrophy will quickly set in, and before you know it, you are just going through the motions. Any progress made will quickly be reclaimed by mediocrity.

Doing it, is not the same as executing, and evolving. This is one of the reasons people fail at cold calling, because like most things worth doing, it takes effort and commitment to master and evolve. I think people do not like cold calling because it does require effort, it demands that you to commit and be present every day, every time you pick up the phone. Making a professional cold call is very different from just “call it in”.

Tibor Shanto

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Time Is The Currency Of Sales #BBSradio0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

This month’s piece on Michele Price’s BREAKTHROUGH radio program deals with time, as time runs out on Q1.

To hear my segment from last week, click on the image below.

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Breakthroughbusiness on BlogTalkRadio

I appear every 4th Monday, speaking of course about sales, but there a host of other great content, I encourage you to check Michele’s program out, and learn from a range of contributors.  You can find the program and more information click here.

Tibor Shanto

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3 Proactive Success Steps Every Sales Team Can Take – Sales eXecution 2870

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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I see a lot of sales organizations and individuals succeed despite what the experts tell them. Mostly because they know better than to follow the crowd, and are willing to try the unconventional. When told “you can’t do that!” They respond by asking “Why?” rather than “OK”, and moving on (usually to the sideline). Highlighting the negative impact Herd Mentality has on sales success, and the economy in general.

One way many (lots of) average or also-rans rationalise their performance, or non-performance, is by pointing to all the company they have with the same challenge. If misery loves company, the 80% will rarely be alone, and will always make more of an effort to convince you that something can’t be done, than the effort it takes to get it done. (How is that bandwagon looking now?)

So what does it take?

While there may be no single success formula, there is enough common elements among the consistently successful approaches to allow us to point to specific things that if you willing to undertake, will help you step out of the 80% club.

You can start with the following three:

1. A Plan - most sales people will argue that they have a plan, and they are right. They have a plan, one, that they try to apply to every circumstance no matter the differences. A plan done long ago, based a particular set of conditions, which fit a specific instance. When things evolve, and they do, they try to replicate that over and over no matter how reality changed.
The great thing about a plan, is to do it right, you have to stop and think, an activity many in our society avoid. But by thinking about each sale, and understanding the differences, nuanced, or great, you will gain a strategic and tactical advantage.

I remember working for a director who focused more on why you wanted to do things, much more than on what you wanted to do. He wanted to know that you had thought things through from all angels, looked at threats, contingencies, and other factors and possible outcomes your actions may result in. He wasn’t looking for me to be conventional, or outrageous, just that I was able to demonstrate that I had thought and planned things out. If there was a major flaws, he would point them out, if not, he’d send me off to execute, and we would review the results.

2. Active Leadership - I would describe the above as an example of Active Leadership, he was engaged, willing to help, leading from the front, hands-on in a way, but not in a restraining way. It’s not the time for a discussion on micromanagement, but too many sellers, usually those wanting to avoid accountability, try to paint active management as being too overbearing. One can be engaged without being domineering or too removed to make a difference. Actively Leading team members to consistently execute your organization’s process is an effective way to develop the right habits, maintain individuality but avoid the subjective trap many mangers fall in to, and drive results.

3. Permission To Fail – I have yet to meet a sales person with 100% closing ratio. Leaving us with the opportunity to learn from everything we do, especially when we fail at something, be that a big failure, or little things that can make a difference.

Hands down one of the best things managers can allow sellers to do is fail. You can then review, assess and learn. A learning culture is key to keeping up with or ahead of the market, and frankly just keeping up is second place.

Perfection is neither realistic nor desirable, so give them a chance to fail, as long as everyone is committed to capturing, learning and applying the lessons learned. It’s part of the plan, part of active leadership, part of success.

Again, these are not the only factors of sales success that managers and sellers need to focus on, but if only did master these three, you’ll be on your way of leaving the 80%, and joining the more elite 20%.

Tibor Shanto

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March Madness: 5 Small Business Lessons to Take Away0

Feb 15

The Pipeline Guest Post - Megan Totka

There are not many events that compare with the excitement that is the NCAA College Basketball Tournament. The Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby and World Series are all great spectacles. However, something about March Madness draws in a wider audience and sparks excitement of people of all ages around the country- 181 million viewers tune in throughout the NCAA tournament each year to cheer on their favorite teams.

Are you wondering if your small business can benefit from March Madness? It can, and you don’t have to run a popular sports bar; nearly any business can learn some valuable lessons from the month of madness, some even as simple as the power of simplifying your sales. Here are five small business lessons you can take away from March Madness.

The underdog might win.
Everyone loves a happy ending, and Cinderella teams are practically a guarantee during March Madness. There are always a couple teams that no one has heard of that win one game after another in the tourney. Teams, like businesses, aren’t always operating on equal footing. Some schools have more money and more talent. But bigger is not always better and the tournament doesn’t always play out according who “should” win. Like players on a winning team, owners of successful businesses have personal characteristics such as a positive attitude, commitment towards their effort, patience and persistence – traits that can all help a team go far and a business succeed.

Embracing new technologies is smart.
The NCAA hasn’t been content to stick with what technology has worked in past years. Like plenty of organizations of every size, they have tapped into technologies to help connect with their fans and find new ones too. Remember that change is important in an organization. The adoption of new technology can seem disruptive and intimidating initially, but ultimately the change almost always results in increased productivity and improved service. It’s one of many ways to create a customer-centric culture.

Take advantage of your biggest events to earn new fans.
March Madness is unlike other sporting events because it attracts non-sports fans. The popularity of office pools, game-viewing parties and other factors engage a broader audience and increase the hype around the tourney. Use the biggest moments in your business year to connect with a wider audience. Think about events your business held throughout the year, peak seasons, new product launches and charitable events. Always remember that as you earn new fans and strive to retain current fans, good customer service is essential to help your business thrive. Keep your sales simple and focus on activities that drive constant success.

Capitalize on momentum – run with it!
Basketball, like business, can come down to momentum: accept when its time to take a timeout, know when to ride the player and occasionally take a seat on the bench. Build upon short-term successes but continue to pursue long-term goals. When things aren’t going the best, don’t look too much into it – make the most of the momentum and rely on and trust in your teammates.

Encourage friendly controversy to create some buzz.
The tournament kicks off every year with “Selection Sunday.” This is the day when the tournament participants are placed, seeded accordingly and announced on TV. There is always some complaining and banter surrounding it all, and this day gives the media and fans plenty to discuss prior to tip off of the first game. Some friendly controversy can create some healthy hype around an event, product or brand, and in turn, result in a better turnout.
March Madness gives viewers the best of sports and entertainment, upsets, and a lot of fun. Those with the most wins are the teams who trust in each other. After all, the biggest wins happen when everyone works together and focuses on the team as a whole.

What valuable lessons has March Madness taught your small business?

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Megan has several years of experience on the topics of small business marketing, copywriting, SEO, online conversions and social media. Megan spends much of her time establishing new relationships for ChamberofCommerce.com, publishing weekly newsletters educating small business on the importance of web presence, and contributing to a number of publications on the web. Megan can be reached at megan@chamberofcommerce.com.

Photo via flickr.com

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3 Reasons You’ll Fail At Cold Calling – Sales eXecution 2861

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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I know, they told you cold calling is dead, but it’s not dead, it just smells funny, and those that tell you this, probably confuse Shinola with other matter.

You Don’t Know Your Own Metrics – Many in sales fail to own and be accountable for specific aspects of their success, in the case of cold calling, it is their specific metrics. These same people often know the stats of their favourite hockey or baseball players, but when it comes to key metrics involving their success, they are in the dark. If nothing, else sales people should know what their proposal to close ratio is; discovery to proposal; engagement (or first meeting) to discovery. Once you know how many first meeting you need to drive your quota, you can then understand how many cold calls you need to make, once you back out referrals, marketing generated leads, and sales to current customers. If you do not know this, you will fail at allocating the right time to pursue the right prospects. Without owning your own metrics, you are on a journey with no map and no hint of how much fuel you will need to get there, which why often many don’t get there.

Right Prospects – Above I mentioned the “right prospect”. Many think, and other pundits like to paint, cold calling is just a numbers game where you randomly call people in the hope that they will take mercy on you and give you an appointment. Where in reality the call is cold because you are not on the person’s calendar that day, and you are hitting them out of the blue. But this does not preclude you having done research, understand the value you can provide that person, and making sure that they are indeed the right prospect for you offering as much as you being a good fit for them. This is no different a process than the socialites would espouse, or the referrals only crowd would. Save the fact that those of us willing to pick up the phone and call them direct without waiting for an event, a “social interaction”, or a referral. While they for their own reason prefer to wait, we don’t and succeed by going direct. But it still has to be the right prospect.

Lack Of Process Or Methodology – Most sales people lack a methodology or set of best practices that help them not only succeed, but provide a means for continuous evaluation and by extension improvement. This why they end up with the symptoms above. Which ultimately leads to a lack of success, and doing anything to avoid the activity. But those of us who have a methodology, steps, actions, contingencies, and more, can not only contextualize the results, but deliver great success in prospecting. With that we build a pipeline that give us choices and the opportunity to work with the most interesting companies while delivering to our own goals and those of our employers.

Without the above three elements, you are working in the dark, operating blind, making things much more difficult and scary than it ever has to be.

Tibor Shanto

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