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A Sales Viewpoint – Sales eXecution 3250

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

With the election cycle in full swing in the USA, many (some) are reflecting on what their point of view is on key aspects of life to be impacted by the outcome of the election. This includes things like economic viewpoint, free market or centrally controlled economy; global viewpoint vs. protectionist, and more. The key here is not function or discipline in question, it is more that most people will have a viewpoint, and that view point drives their actions, and the result and impact of their action.

This fact is true for sales and sellers as well. A seller’s view point on sales, their market, their customers, and their sales methodology, will drive how they execute their sales, their success, and most importantly their impact on the success of their customers’ ability to achieve their objectives.

Unfortunately, as with political viewpoints, many in sales don’t ever develop and hone their own viewpoint. It is much easier to abdicate the work required to have a valid viewpoint, and they end up plugging into an outlet for their viewpoint and resulting action. Once they find one that is comfortable, fits well, they just go with it until it lets them down, be that the wrong guy getting into office or a loss of a big sales or significant existing client.

But when you take a close look you discover is an aspect of the old Pareto principle, where a large percentage of sales people, maybe even 80%, don’t really have a viewpoint. There is a large segment of this group that don’t see sales as their final destination, so why develop a viewpoint, “I’ll do that when I am in the role I really want.”

On the other hand, you do find the smaller group, let’s go with 20%, that have a specific viewpoint, and you see at the centre of everything they do in sales. This view point allows them to take the buyer and discussions with buyers to areas and depths that a viewless seller would not dare go, even if they were aware of them.

The important thing is that usually the person most aware of the difference is the buyer. They know when they are working with someone with a clear and centred sales viewpoint. Sellers with a viewpoint, one based on their standing as a subject matter expert, are in a much better position to not only help their clients achieve their objectives, but more importantly to influence the buyers’ objectives. Without a clear and strong viewpoint, you are left feature, benefit and groveling, oops, I mean relationship selling.

As a hiring manager you can begin to look for this in the interview process; are they telling you what you want to hear, or are they articulating a clear viewpoint on sales and how they execute on that viewpoint?

Given an equal set of skills and opportunities, the seller with a clear and thought out sales viewpoint will always outperform the one with out.

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How You Describe A Task Says A Lot About Your Results – Sales eXecution 3220

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Megaphone

It’s funny what you can learn from not just listening to someone, but actually hearing what they say. According to experts, you can tell a lot about a person by the words they choose. At a recent conference, two separate speakers, explained how the way people express themselves can tell you a lot about how to best communicate with them for maximum impact. For instance, if they say “here is the way I see it”, vs. “It sounds to me like”, it is better speak to the first in visual terms. This means your message will be better understood if you use visual references and use visual examples. Whereas with the latter are more auditory, as a result your communication geared to the spoken word, yours and theirs, leveraging sounds and noises to emphasize or accentuate things.

So what happens when we explore the concept a bit further and with respect to sales people, hiring and managing them, as well as to sales leaders. Not so much visual or auditory, but what telltale sign can their words or expression give? What can you observe from how they talk about their craft and work? What could we learn about their skills, how they execute, and as a result whether you should keep them (or hire them), and if so how to coach them to improve.

Again, this applies to sales leaders as well. Having spoken to my share, I find it interesting when they tell me “we’re doing OK.” Now this is not a cold call, there I expect that, and know how to deal with it too, but in conversation. Is that really the goal of a sales leader, to get his troops to OK? How do you present OK at a board meeting or leadership team gathering? When you ask what OK means, some redeem themselves with data and specifics, and can articulate what has to be done to move past OK. But when the response is ambiguous, almost surrendering in nature, surrendering to the reality of another missed month or quarter, OK, is not good enough or a plan.

Further, if you as a leader are good with OK, what will that say to your team?

The front line is often no different. Listen to a great sales person describe the role, vs. a veteran of 15 years, what I call one of the 80 Percenters. Not based on the 80/20 Pareto principle, one of those reps who may have met goal once or twice, but usually delivers 80% or so of quota. The former will tell you a key element of their role is to exceed quota, the latter will tell you “do what you can to try and hit goal”. Leading one to ask, is that 15 years in the business, 15 years of growth and improvement, or the same year 15 times over?

The former group can tell you exactly what they need to achieve their goal, right down to the number of prospects, and the effort it takes to secure those prospects. Ask the latter, and you get “depends”; on what? “You know”. I guess someone has to, but it is usually best if it is the person who has been tasked.

Words are a great window to the thinking behind the word, that thinking drives attitude, which in turn drives execution. Change how you describe your sales, and change the outcome.

Tibor Shanto

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Predictions to Results1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Magical Fortune Teller

“I may make you feel but I can’t make you think” (Gerald Bostock IA)

This post was originally prepared for a site catering to sales professionals that I occasionally contribute to. They were looking for pieces on predictions for big things in sales in 2016. I thought it would be a big thing if sales people started executing and selling, and having real forecasts rather than just predications. They decided not to run the piece, and to quote: “The premise being that predictions aren’t a super useful exercise would cast a bad light on the rest of the posts on our blog that are predictions”. Well far be it for me to cloud the issue with facts, contrast the other pundits. But having written the piece, and being convinced that there is still room for realism in predicting, I will share it here, and wait for your verdict.

Have at it, and enjoy!

This time of year brings a unique blend of traditions and rituals, mixed with a sense of urgency for ending the year right, and wide eyed anticipation for the possibilities the new year brings. Wild ass unrealistic, and never to be validated or reviewed predictions is one silly and repeated ritual; after all the pundits get busy and caught up in the season, and what’s easier when you’re behind deadline for a post or article, than to make predictions for the coming year. After all, no one ever checks to see how they turned out 12 months from now, especially if you make them “feel good” predictions with just a hint of sugar-plums scent. The challenge with predictions in sales is they lack accountability, and as a result are usually more aspirational than material.

On the other hand, predictions can be used to drive sales results by taking the aspirational, and using them to create concrete goals and action plans. Many already partially do this in the form of stretch goals. Stretch goals are used and defined in a number of ways. Here are two to help focus the discussion:

Business Dictionary: Goals “That cannot be achieved by incremental or small improvements but require extending oneself to the limit to be actualized. Expressed in the saying, “You cannot cross a chasm in two steps.””

From THE PARADOX OF STRETCH GOALS: ORGANIZATIONS IN PURSUIT OF THE SEEMINGLY IMPOSSIBLE: “An organizational goal with an objective probability of attainment that may be unknown but is seemingly impossible given current capabilities (i.e., current practices, skills, and knowledge).”

As the authors of the above suggest “stretch goals could influence organizational learning and performance”, and while they go on to explore potential paradoxes, done right, predictions can lead to positive sales results.

Predictions by nature tend to reach beyond what most would accept as normal or easily accomplished. In the sales context, they also can be used as targets, which in turn require an action plan. The fact that they may be a bit outlandish, will force reps to develop equally eccentric action plans. If what we are doing today is allowing us to get to X, then what will we need to change to achieve X plus? This will impact reps’ individual plans for their territories and accounts, as well as their execution.

Having reps reexamine their current plans against “predictions” you make as their leader, will force them to explore how they need to extend their thinking (and activities), often forcing them to develop completely new plans, or even who they may target as prospects or upsell opportunities, to maximize their selling time in order to hit the prediction.

This also serves as a great coaching opportunity. As they revise or develop new plans, it will require them to do things differently than before, to do that they will need input, guidance, and encouragement, giving you the chance to establish a culture of learning and growing through planning and execution.

So while I predict that next year will bring a slew of predictable predictions, how you action them can also bring more sales and means of selling better.

Tibor Shanto

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Are Sales People Masochists?4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

No Pain

Sales people are always looking for “the pain” or “pain point”. One reason I am told they are looking for the pain is that they can then offer up the cure along with an invoice, and have a happy client. Given that a relatively small part of the market will admit to pain, I am not sure this is the most prudent approach to starting a lasting relationship, but it is what it is.

Many tell me, backed by a string of pundits, that people will do more to avoid pain, than the steps or actions they will take to achieve pleasure. Theory being I am told, is if one can touch a raw nerve, a painful nerve, the buyer is more likely to act, and therefore potentially buy the “fix” for that pain from the seller. Given the choice, they believe that focusing on pain yields better results than focusing on pleasure.

I had one consultant, a successful one according to him, tell me that his role as a sales person is “to find the soft underbelly of the beast, stab it, and offer up the cure.” Nice, feel free to take a minute and wash.

This piece is not meant to debate that, but rather explore how this concept plays out when applied to sales people themselves, and their success.

I work with a lot of sales people, and have seen how willing or unwilling they are to take on new or alternate sales views, skills and practices. I know that when I carried a quota, the biggest pain I was trying to avoid, was the pain of not making quota. Not only because of the stigma associated with failing at your chosen craft, but because I had three kids to feed. Exceeding quota always struck me as a better alternative, especially not having to tell the kids they can’t eat this quarter. But let’s make like a pundit and pander to the masses and go to the pain side for a minute.

The Puzzle

Given that over the past few years the number of B2B reps to hit quota has hovered at around 60%, you have to wonder why those suffering the reality of not making quota don’t do much if anything to avoid that pain. If they saw their prospects “suffering” in this way, they would be advising them to change, and change now, relieve themselves of this unnecessary pain. Just the incongruity of that must be a challenge, imagine suppressing your pain as you look your prospect in the eye telling them to take action (buy your product) and address that pain.

I am not even going to get into the financial reality, but there is the tribal reality of being a burden rather than a contributor. Many of the sources that show that only about 60% make quota also show that a higher percentage of sales organizations are hitting their collective number. This means that these people are carrying those who fall short, more than carrying, making up for.

The Answer

The answer is not jumping on every selling band wagon that comes through town, but to refocus on the fundamentals. As Michael Jordan said: “You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly, because the only thing that changes will be your attention to them”. There is no arguing that Jordan can razzle dazzle with the best of them, deliver consistently, all by building on the fundamentals, not by avoiding them. There is no doubt that the coach had a lot to do with it, as did the process or system executed. But it was the discipline and focus on execution on the part of Jordan, and the others on the team that made the difference. There did not seem to be anyone carrying a team mate.

While some might argue, it starts with process. A clear road map of the buy/sale journey, including objectives for each stage, tools, measurements, contingency plans, and more. Think of it as your sales TripTik®.  But in the end, there is no escaping the fact that it does come down to execution. The willingness to put the system into practice. The ability to try, fail, try again and improve.

As we go into a new sales year, the question to answer is the following: Which pain are you willing to suffer, the short term pain of effort practice and refinement, leading to ongoing success. Or the pain of missing quota “one more again”, letting the side down and burdening your team mates?

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.

vis·it
ˈvizit/
verb
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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How Do You Start Your Day? #FireStarters0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

FireStarter

Some of you are familiar with Miles Austin, if you are looking to learn about the latest tools and technology for sales and selling Miles is the source.  As a result, Miles is always trying out and introducing those of us in sales to new tools and apps to make selling more fun and profitable.

This month Miles is leveraging a new tool, Blab, and he is using it to help share ideas and best practices from people from all corners of sales.  What makes the whole process cool is that he is focused on a single theme, by asking all of us who participate the same question: How Do You Start Your Day? 

You can watch my segment below, including a technical glitch I had right at the start, and thanks to Billy Bob Brigmon, who was nice enough to jump in for the first 30 seconds while I got my act together.

Take a look, watch all the #FireStarter segments for some great insights on how to start your day.

Tell us what you think.

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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Drop It!2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Trashed

Last week I wrote a piece about the importance, and more specifically, the must have attributes of Next Steps. Had questions around the topic, most were relating to what to do if one of the three attributes were not attained. At that point you have a choice, retrace and see how you can firm up the loose attribute, or, drop it and move on to the next prospect.

When I suggest the latter, people say “ho, I can’t do that.”

Why not?

The answer lies in the state of their pipeline, and in the case of those people who don’t want to drop it and move on, it is usually the anemic state of their pipeline. You can’t force people to give you a next step, some pundits may have some questionable techniques or tricks, but next steps have to be earned. Assuming you did everything you could to earn that next step, and they don’t want to come along, there is only one logical action, move on to the next prospect. The challenge is that some have so few real opportunities in their pipeline that they are afraid to drop one, one less opportunity, real or not, just becomes too depressing and real. So rather than dropping it, they go for another fix, another hit of hopium, and waste more time and effort try to resurrect a dead opportunity.

And there is the rub, sales people spend so much time trying to breathe life into the dead that they don’t get around to prospecting to generate sufficient number of opportunities, Yes Virginia, Sales in a Numbers Game.  if you had a bushel of apples and one was bad, would you care? But if you had two apples, hadn’t eaten in days, and one was bad, you’ll find a way to rationalize taking a bite.

The first option above, also has to be tempered. It does make sense to review with the prospect why they may be reluctant to commit. You may find you overlooked something, which can be easily resolved. You may find that while they agree in principle, yet not enough to initiate a process they don’t see making much of a difference. I would encourage you to summarize points you thought, based on your plan going in, would resonate with the buyer, especially if during the meeting they in fact did. Do this with the prospect, quick concise, closing off each point. Often this will get things back on track. But if not, drop it and move on.

Don’t forget, leads are recyclable, you can always go back. But if you hang on for dear life, you’re just going to waste time, emotion and piss off the prospect risking future opportunities. Better to move on and reenergize and get back on the winning track. Sometimes your personal next step needs to be stepping on to the next prospect.

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Tibor Shanto

A Four Letter Word Every Seller Should Learn – Sales eXecution 3182

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Help

One attribute many successful sales people possess is clarity of purpose, this helps them plan and execute more effectively, as well as help them review their actions and results more objectively. Because they are more focused on ‘purpose’ rather than self, any negatives that may surface during those reviews are weighed against results and how they may have moved them towards their purpose.

In case you are wondering, the purpose is usually a balance of helping the customers and their employers achieve their objectives, while ensuring their own success.

As a result they are much more naked to the world than their less successful counterparts. The also-rans, spend time and energy building up calluses to protect their egos from constructive input, and change. While consistently success sales people contiguously seek feedback and critical input, understanding its importance to success.

Part of this is their willingness and ability to ask for HELP.

“Know-it-alls”, by definition don’t feel they need help, because hey, they know it all. I work with my share of these folks, most of the time nice people in every other respect, but just refuse to take steps to ensure they are improving. (Sounds like some prospects we know, n’est-ce pas?) They can do it all on their own, and would rather piss their pants than ask where the washroom is. If they can’t, it won’t get done. Which is not the worst thing in some cases, not getting it done in sales lets down two of the three parties mentioned above, remember the Buyer will always have other, better, options.

Many sales people have difficulty asking for help internally or from assets provided by their organizations, such as me or other providers like me. One thing I offer my clients is availability, if you need to better understand something I have introduced, you are about to go into a call and want to bounce ideas, anything pertaining to sales and the areas I have been hired to help with, call, no need to wait or schedule, help is at hand. You know how many people take me up on this offer? Exactly, only the proverbial 20%. The ones who were likely succeeding before I came, and get the most out of what they are taught, the ones who will drive the ROI on their company’s investment. The rest, well, the “know-it-all”, and need little or no help in not making quota.

But you know where asking for help has the most profound effect and return? Asking your buyers for help.

Now I am not suggesting that you undermine your position as a Subject Matter Expert, but there are other ways. Buyers are people, and people invariably like to help, it is the way we are built. It is amazing the power of asking someone for help, you would not believe what you can find out by using a simple phrase like “Help me understand”. No this does not mean you are wake, stupid, incapable, or uninformed; it just means you are open to learning. That just as you are willing to ask for help, you are willing to offer it.

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Tibor Shanto

3 Must Have Attributes of a Real “NEXT STEP”1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Definitions are an important factor in sales success, talk to the best sales people, best here being measured in results, not likability, and you will find that they thrive on clear definitions, it is their competitive edge.  To identify weak sales people, look for those with plenty of opinion, but little or no clarity in approach or definitions for core elements of their success.  One common example is “Value”, it is part of almost every sales conversation, yet there are numerous, at times conflicting definitions.  I ask a group of five also rans to define value, and you’ll end up with seven different definitions, because the first two will change their mind based on what the next three say.

Another common element of successful selling that is all too often undefined (and usually unenforced), is the discipline of next steps.  Sure, everyone pays lip service to “next steps” (or advances, or other synonyms), but what they say is not what they mean, and not at all defined, agreed on, or universally supported.

I was brought up in the sales school that held that without a “next step” you are likely working with someone who is fully not engaged, if at all, and therefore not a prospect, but a lead.  This makes a “next step” a crucial delineator between real opportunities, or those pretend opportunities, taking up space in your pipeline or CRM, but lack any empirical evidence to suggest that you are working with a real prospect or an opportunity that will convert in a predictable time frame.

There is not an opportunity review that goes by where a reps is asked:

“Do you have a ‘next step’ with this prospect?”

Rep: “Sure do!”

“What is it?”

“I’m calling him Monday to set a meeting”, or “I told him I would call Monday to see what he thought of the proposal”

“What time is the call scheduled for?”

“I don’t have it formally scheduled, I told him I’d call Monday, and he said fine, I’ll do it after I am back from the Northern demo.”

Sorry, but that’s not a next step.  It’s a plan, may even be a good plan, but at this point it is little more than hope in the form of a thought, and you know what they say about hope, and people addicted to hopium.

For a “next step” to be real and productive it needs to have three attributes, that when combined and successfully executed form a platform for sales success that can use to plan, strategize and execute their sale, usually in a shorter time frame than they had anticipated.

1.   Must Be Agreed On By Both The Buyer And The Seller – by agreed I mean that it is booked and confirmed, not just a “ya OK”, whispered as you are walking out. These days you can have an invite fired from your phone while you are still there.  The physical act of pulling out your phone to put in the time and date will lead them to go to their calendar, if they don’t you may have a problem that you need to address right then and there.  It is not unusual for my prospects to have accepted the next meeting before I leave or by the time I am checking e-mail in the parking lot.

Many will settle for this as a “next step”, but I don’t want you to be one of those.  There are people, even with the demands on time, who will meet with a sales person without a specific reason.  This is why the next attribute is so important, in fact of the three the most important.

2.  Moves The Journey Forward – going back without a clear purpose is a waste of time, you can sit at your desk twiddle your thumbs without adding to you carbon footprint. You want to go back to continue to move the process forward in a way that helps the buyer make the decision that you can help them achieve their objectives.  This can be asking them to do something that will validate their engagement, involvement and commitment to the buy/sale moving forward.

I suggest that you think in advance what that may be, leveraging your personal and organizational experience, map out the journey, understand the critical milestones, and how you have successfully arrived there in the past.  If you know that achieving something opens the door to the next phase of the process, then think of what has to transpire in the meeting to get the buyer to see that as a logical path forward.   This could be any number of things based on what you sell.  One example is to ask for the opportunity to interview other people impacted by the decision, and set a time to comeback, debrief and plan the “next step”.  You’ll often hear me say:

“So we’ve agreed that it would help if I had a chance to get the front line view, if you can give the names of three sales people to interview, I can set that up for next week, and be in a position to come back to review with you by next Wednesday, does 2:00 work for you?”

Now if they do not agree to the action requested, i.e. the team interviews, but do agree to meet next week to hear my recommendations, you have some choices to make.  Does it make sense to have that meeting without the input, can you viably make progress without that.  If not, then you need to understand where you and the buyer parted ways during the meeting, what you may have missed, whether it is an indication that they are not a real buyer, or do you need to retrace and build the value up again.

This is where “next steps” drive success long before the meeting, and how you bring the past to help you now.  Perhaps the most important aspect of “next step”, specifically how they help you plan, strategize and execute.  Since we can only speculate based on experience, it makes sense to visualize the meeting unfolding in a number of ways.  Again, we are not shooting for perfection, but to cover the most likely set of outcomes.  Therefore you need to have multiple “next steps” going into any meeting.  In essence, Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and more base on your reality.  Based on the above if Plan B is the follow up meeting without prior interviews, fine.  But if your experience shows that second meetings without an interview end in no sales, or lower margin or quality sales that take 50% longer than the average sale; you can comfortably walk away know you did not go into a trap.  Remember you can always revisit the opportunity down the road, rather than wasting time and energy traveling that unproductive road.

3.  Agreed On Timelines – This ties the first two elements together. And while it may seem too obvious, too many sales people have a plan going into a meeting, find areas of agreement and action, but leave the timing open ended.  Don’t believe, lock your office door, and have a true look at the opportunities in your pipeline, and see if you have any with no time lines.

Seems to me that if you are going to propose specific actions you and the prospect will take as a result of today’s meeting, and prospect agrees that it is something worth doing and they take on doing it, why not agree on a deadline or timeline.  Some sales people tell me they don’t want to seem pushy, when I hear that it sounds like “I am afraid of seeming professional”.

By suggesting a specific time you are helping the buyer (and yourself but let’s keep focused on the buyer), people have a lot coming at them, a lot of demand on the time.  Those things with times attached, deadlines, in their calendar, in their face, with purpose, leading to a desired and agreed on outcome, will be the ones that get done.  Those with any elements of looseness, like no specific time, who know, could be today, tomorrow, “hell, I lived with it this long, could be next quarter”.  Solidify you sales success using time.

Above I asked you to look at your pipeline and see how many opportunities are without a time line.  While you are in there, take a look at the 3 attributes highlighted above, and see where some opportunities in your pipeline come up short.  And then go and fix them, set a meeting, execute your plan, and secure the “next step”, as defined.

So if you are not using “next steps” as success driver, not just in the meeting, but long before, then you are probably working harder than you have to.  Further, if you are not clear on what “next steps” really are, and are working with a different definition than above, you are likely not as productive as you could be.

Your next step now, put the above into practice, it is a discipline.  Need help, your next step is call me: +1416 822-7781.

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Tibor Shanto

 

 

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