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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 2860

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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Neither Either0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Confused by Too Many Choices Arrow Street Signs

While I am all for having a sales process or road map, there is plenty of room for choice, and there are some elements of sales success that are achievable via many paths. You have choice within a defined structure, the result is pretty much the same regardless how of the path taken. As a seller, your success will not be adversely impacted by the choice. On the other hand, there are areas where you are presented with the option between two paths, but one does not deliver the same results, where one path may be easier but consistently yields lesser returns than another, at times more demanding alternative. Often the alternative delivering better results may not be as comfortable at first, require a different effort. One common reason people will choose the less effective/more comfortable route is they do not want to come across as being “salesy”, you know for some, just asking for the order is “salesy” or pushy; or that’s what they tell me.

An example of the above is “choice” or “options”, specifically sellers giving the buyer options for no real reason or benefit other than their own comfort, not at all that of the buyer. Too many sales people offer up choices or options to their buyers throughout the sales cycle, where they are not necessary, where they could negatively impact the sale or momentum, and are usually deployed not because they make sense for the sale or the buyer, but because they help sale people cope.

Here is a common example early in the engagement, while on a prospecting call. You’ve positioned how you can help them achieve objectives based on you experience and credible validation, and you get to the point where you ask for the time to meet, and instead of creating focus and a call to action, too many sales people make the mistake of saying:

“So what’s better for you, Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning?”

Why? Don’t you know when you want to meet, don’t you utilize your time efficiently and set appointments based on where other meetings take place that day?

Rather than communicating “gee any time is good, I got nothing else going on, so Monday afternoon, Tuesday morning, makes no difference to me, any one of those, please I need an appointment.”

There really are those who tell me they don’t want to be pushy, they don’t want to “box” the prospect. So now instead of thinking about what you called them about, any potential value that you may have communicated to this point in the call, you get them to go back and forth between two points in their calendar, instead of focusing on one time.

Hands down, it is better to give them one time, focus them on that time in their calendar, and make it easy for them to say yes, or no, you can always offer up the other time at that point. But why introduce slackness into an otherwise tight call? Is it for the buyer’s benefit? No! If you want to make it easy for them, especially if you have set up the call well to this point, give them one specific time, their eyes will go there and bam! Give them choice, they’ll look at both, maybe see that they have a meeting Tuesday afternoon that they are not ready for, and what could have been an appointment becomes “It’s not the best time, give me a call next month”.

Another example where offering choice is not the best plan is at the time of proposal, too many sellers offer up options, A, B and C. Some even believe that buyers will always go to the middle price point, on the other hand if you offered only one choice, you would get a yes or a no, giving you the option of offering the mid-price at that time. As you have heard me say in the past, good sellers are subject matter experts, as such, you should demonstrate that expertise by putting the best option forward, not a range of options. Order takers offer options, because they do not create the sale, just react to it.

If you have truly sold the deal, addressed the buyer’s objectives, and have gotten confirmation of that throughout the sale, then the only choice is the best one based on the process that just unfolded. For me, go with the best, other than that, I’ll have neither either.

Tibor Shanto

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2 Reason To Always Leave Voice Mail – and Get Called Back – Sales eXecution 2852

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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Given that we are sitting in sub-zero temps in the north east, -25 C in Toronto, any call you’re going to make today is going to be a cold call. But if you’re a complete B2B sales professional, you’re probably making cold calls even if it is nice warm and sunny, cause that’s what pros do, not like those cheap plastic replicas that are afraid of picking up the phone and talking to a buyer. And if you are picking up the phone, you’re hitting voice mail, no two ways about it; and if you hit voice mail, you need to leave a message, again no debate about that either. Here are three reasons why.

1.   Pursuit Cadence – It takes a lot more effort to get the attention of buyers these days. Seems one of the side effects of the efficiencies achieved through reduced sales forces, is those who are left have a lot more to do, imagine that. Our buyer are struggling to pack 16 or more hours in to a 10 hour day, and taking bad calls from bad sales people is not on the list. As a result it takes that many more touch point, of different sorts to get not only the attention of buyers, but to get them to act or respond. As a result voice mail becomes one of many opportunities to touch the buyer, and cultivate a response, a response you can capitalize on to secure an appointment (live or virtual).

There is a bookend element at work here, which is first man in – and – last man standing. There are studies out there that show that the first man (or woman) in is that much more likely to get the deal. All the more reason to cold call and get ahead of the curve, and not be one of the saps who waits for the buyer to find their seller. So if you leave a voice mail while others don’t, you mail well end up being that first man in just by virtue of leaving a message.

At the other end is the fact that if you pursue the right opportunities further than others are willing, and let’s face it there are many who give up the chase too soon, you will increase you odds of winning the deal. I have had more than one executive tell me that this is a fact. Add to that many ignore the first few calls just to separate the strong. How hard you work at getting the sale is a clear indicator as to how hard you will work to satisfy them as clients.

2.   Getting Call Backs – Done right, you do get calls back, notice I said done right. The technique I use, and was taught years ago gets me up to 50% of call returned in 72 hours, this not only reduces stress, but builds pipeline. You can learn the technique by watching these two videos.  Make sure to watch part I first, eh?

The reality is that once you are getting calls back, you don’t need any other reasons to leave voice mail.

Tibor Shanto

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So What If You’re Wrong – Sales eXecution 2842

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Wrong Lens

The other day I was on a call with a rep, she was well prepared, she met with her manager and I in advance, and started the call as planned. A few minutes in she asked a question laced with assumptions, and as luck would have it, all wrong assumption. It wasn’t a major point, but you could feel her discomfort. While I understood, I also know from experience that this could actually turn out to be a good thing.

As often happens, the prospect started correcting her, not to in a mean or demeaning way, just wanting to keep the facts accurate. But in the process of explaining, the prospect actually shared a lot of useful information which really helped our intrepid rep to better understanding the buyer’s biases, preferences, mode of thinking and purchase decisions.

Our friend the seller recovered quickly, and picked up on the fact and perpetuated the dialogue by asking more questions, presenting different scenarios, which got the buyer to open up even more, allowing our rep to gain insight better align her and her company’s vision and real value. By the end of the meeting she was a lot further than she had hoped to be, and the buyer was much more engaged and looking forward to the next meeting.

I see this a lot, human nature kicks in, the willingness to help others when they may have made a mistake, and nicely correcting them; only human right?

But most sales people are too hung up on being right, maintaining the facade that comes with that, they spend time trying to cover innocent mistakes, rather than leveraging them. There is nothing wrong with making an honest mistake at times – better yet there is nothing wrong with planning that mistake in advance.

If you know that there some area you need to uncover that may take some work, like a subject area that would be good to nail down earlier rather than later. A subject that you traditionally feel you have to wait till later in the sale to broach, think about making a mistake, specifically to be corrected, specifically to learn.

Reps tell me they are hesitant to go in certain directions in the discussion because they feel the prospect may not be ready. Well, rather than using the front door, why not go to the side door instead? Ask a question or make a statement that you know is based on a wrong premise, but is related to the topic you need to explore, and then wait to be corrected. Letting human nature kick in and accelerate the sale, or most often just break down barriers or log jams in the conversation.

I remember being with one of the best sales people I know, who was presenting at a well-known company. The meeting was very one sided, he couldn’t get them to engage or exchange information at all, they just sat stoned faced. Without their input and contribution, he was dead in the water. As a natural break came between subject areas, he asked if anyone had questions, a few shook their head to indicate no. Rather than continuing, he looked at the room, a dozen or so senior people, and asked “So, no one wants to play stump the sales person?”

A bit of a chuckle from some, quickly followed by a stream of questions. Some taking him up on the challenge, working hard to stump him, but most took the invitation lightly and asked some great questions. The ice melted, they were now fully engaged and he was learning more than had he continued with the presentation as many would have and do.

Don’t worry about being wrong, worry about moving the sale forward.

Tibor Shanto

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Maintaining Your Mojo #BBSradio0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

radio1

As some may be aware, I am now a regular on Michele Price’s BREAKTHROUGH radio program.  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.

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

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

Do You Have Sellers or Pageant Contestants?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Happy to be a business leader. Cheerful businessman with outstre

Juliet:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

That may have worked for old Willie Shakespeare and sweet Juliet, but in sales names, labels and definitions count. While we already live with a lot of mislabelling, like sales people calling suspects prospects, or when they tell you a prospect is in “information gathering” stage, because a voice on the phone asked them to send a brochure. Usually you can roll with it, and put your energy into recalibrating their sales compass, rehabilitate and move on. But it is a bit harder to not laugh or even be concerned when it is the pundits who are off the mark.

I recently got a notice about a social selling event, as you know I hate hyphenated selling, it screams of sales people hiding things they don’t want to do behind a label; usually things one has to do if one is going to call themselves a sales professional.

The headline for the event read:

“90% of buyers start their journey online. Meet them where they are.”

OK, but if we are talking about selling, why are focused on just buyers? They are going to buy, they started the journey on their own. Let’s look at it through a B2C filter, where social media has truly impacted the sell/buy equation, they call these people shoppers. Yes, marketing and advertising got them to pay attention, they come to your shop, some high end shops may have specialist clerks, but I think if we look at Amazon, we see someone who has figured out what to do with shoppers, or buyers, and sales people are not part of that story.

While B2B shoppers, buyers by any other name, may require servicing between the time they made up their mind to enter the market and shop, about the only role a rep working for the winning “shop” is to provide price (or price concessions), and take the order. Again, we’re talking buyers, self-initiated buyers, which is why they went on line. Sellers add value to their company and earn their commissions by engaging with non-self-initiated-buyers, people not shopping, and bringing them in to the market and selling them.

These buyers are more like judges in the Miss America Pageant, and if you choose to sell this way, you are one of a long line of vendor-contestants, they will slowly narrow down till they crown their favorite order taker. Sure you can charm them during the on-stage questions segment, give it your all during the talent segment, (this is where the marketing team can really help), or pack a bit more oomph in the bathing suit stride across the stage. But there is no getting away from the fact that in this scenario, when working with self-initiated-buyers, you are one of many contestants, not a seller. You see sellers sell, they let others in the company handle the buyers. And as tools and technology make capturing and servicing BUYERS more effective and efficient, both from an experience and cost standpoint, the less requirement there will be contestants, and a greater opportunity for real sellers.

So what is your team made up of, sellers or contestants?

Tibor Shanto

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Are You A Relationship Manager?2

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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While I don’t want to get into the discussion as to whether relationship selling is dead, limping or doing just fine, there some aspects of relationship selling that need to be rethought. Specifically the kind of sales managers that relationship sellers end up being. If you are a reader of this blog over the years you know that while I think relationships and the ability to foster and maintain relationships are very important traits of a successful seller, I have always taken issue with the sequence of things.

There too many sellers who give a disproportionate, if not too much, of their focus and energy for gaining a relationship, rather than getting the sale, which what they are paid to do. As is clearly articulated in: “The Hard Truth About Soft-Selling: Restoring Pride and Purpose to the Sales Profession”, sales people get paid commissions for closing sales, not relationships. There are too many sales people try to secure the relationship first, then worry about the sale, rather than the other way around. The best way to build and grow a real and solid relationship is to deliver value, and keep delivering it. You can argue, but there are too many examples of people sellers thought they had a relationship with who ended up buying from someone else, despite that relationship.

Most sales people mistake the need for loyalty with relationship. Consider that “75% of customers who leave or switch vendors for a competitor, when asked, say they were ‘satisfied or completely satisfied’ with the vendor they left, at the time they switched.” Customer Loyalty Guaranteed’ Bell & Patterson. I’ll bet you every one of those sales people would tell you they had a good relationship with their buyer, but they still lost the revenue. Like it or not, The Challenger crowd raises some interesting questions about relationship sellers.

So what happens when a relationship seller gets promoted to a manager? They have spent their careers nurturing relationships as a means of achieving revenue, wanting more to be the customer’s friend and advisor, rather than a subject matter expert fit to challenge convention, willing to shake it up a bit and get the buyer to buy what’s right, leading the process instead of trailing behind or just being a passenger.

Well they continue being that same way when it comes to managing. They don’t so much lead from the front, but more manage from behind a desk. They present expectations rather than set them. But mostly they fail to help their reps because they would rather have a relationship above all else.

I see too many sales managers (former relationship sellers), who dance around expectations, who don’t inforce and reinforce things, who see metrics as a nice to have not as a means of driving change and improvement, as something that needs to be inspected, and no it is not OK if it is missed. Managers’ goal should be to lead sales people out of their comfort zones, build calluses and develop their skills and talents. Sometimes getting them to stretch requires more than a smile and suggestions, it requires challenging the rep, setting some nonnegotiables, and following through with the consequences. Hard to do when you are fixated on relationships above all, some of your best sales people will not always be your best friends.

Speak to most people who were in the service, and one of the people they speak most highly of after the fact, the ones they have the most lasting and genuine relationships with, and they’ll point to their first drill sergeant, the one who helped them most to make the transition from civilian life to military success. And believe me, it wasn’t based on relationship first. It was success first, and relationship on that foundation.

3 Reasons To Stand Up To Sell Better – Sales eXecution 2832

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Standing

Not only is standing up healthy, especially for a profession that spends a lot of time on its ass, but there are some specific ways why selling on your feet will help you sell better.

  1. While Prospecting – Most people will prospect sitting behind a desk, some although less and less, will have the phone in one hand, and a pen in the other, or one hand on the keyboard. Leaving them in an awkward position and unnatural position. Better to get a headset, ditch the chair and stand up, walk around, use your hands, and speak as though the person was in the room with you. You can get animated, step into key statements and sound like you are having a conversation, not pitching. If you need to take notes, elevate your notebook (paper or computer). Moving around with help you listen, think and respond better.
  2. When Presenting – Whether you are presenting to an individual or a group, stand up. Most sellers naturally sit down and conduct presentations that way, but it is better to stand, even when presenting to just one person. It gives you an air of authority, expertise, and leadership. Just the simple act of having them look up at you helps reinforce your expertise, and gives greater impact to what you are saying. This important not only when you presenting early in the cycle, but when you are presenting a proposal. As you move around, you become the focus, as you respond to questions you continue to demand attention. You can approach each person as they speak or you want to make a point, you can make a large room an intimate sale.
  3. When You Have To Think – We have all heard the expression “thinking on your feet”, well it is more than a figure of speech. I remember working for an executive who had a smart habit, she looked after her own health and that of the business in an interesting way. Whenever you scheduled an appointment with her, wanting to discuss something, she would take you for a walk, a brisk walk, she could move, outside. Her thinking was that it would limit the junk one would bring, not wanting to schlep stuff around while trying to keep up. You had to come prepared to not only speak what’s on your mind, but also to answer any questions she may have, and with no supporting documentation, or laptop, you had to know your stuff. On the other hand if you did, you would be free of all the paraphernalia, and as with the above two, free to think on your feet and have a great one-on-one with your boss.

Not only is standing and walking better for your health, it is better for selling and winning. Try it out, and when you are truly a convert, and the whether permits, take your new prospect for a walk, on your very first meeting, demonstrate your expertise and value, and get him/her out of the office and usually distractions that come with it.

Tibor Shanto

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