Welcome to The Pipeline.

Where Have All The Sellers Gone? – Sales eXecution 3012

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Over the last few years there have been numerous articles and commentaries suggesting that the sales population will dramatically dwindle over the next few years. I don’t think there will be less real sellers than now, but the roles will be more clearly and accurately defined.

The reality is that many of those calling themselves sales people, or were hired to fill a role with a job description of sales person are not sales people at all. Many who pretended to be hunters to get the job were not; and many who were hired to manage and grow accounts, were in fact willing or capable of doing either. So if you redefined those to what they really were, rather than what you were hoping or pretending they were, you’d have a thinning of the ranks. In reality there are not as many sales people now as many would pretend.

Further to this point, last week I participated in an event hosted by SMB Acuity, a premier supplier of actionable business insights, where they presented the results of a survey of Small and Medium business in the USA and Canada specifically companies with 100 or less employees, those driving the economy. One interesting result they shared was that a large majority of upsells and cross sells were in fact initiated by the businesses themselves, not the sellers (by title anyway). The numbers were 57.8% of respondents in Canada, and 68.3 in the States. Confirming that many who say they are in sales, are in fact order takers.

What’s worse, is that these numbers clearly indicate that both types of sales people dropped the ball. Account managers should have been involved enough with the accounts to be in tune with potential demand, completely missed the opportunity. Leading to the question of how involved were they really, were they managing them in the real world, in their CRM, on a list, or as I suspect not at all. The other question is where was management? Why did they not have a process and the metrics in place to ensure coverage and get ahead of the opportunity?

One thing is sure, when the buyer initiated the conversation that lead to the upsell with you, they likely did so with your competitors as well. Given the scenario, I bet you don’t even know if and when they decided to buy more or another product, you don’t even know if they bought it from you or your competitor.

And where were the hunters, how did they miss this waiting opportunities?

It is almost an insult to real sellers to call these transactions “upsells” or “cross sells”, when it was buyer initiated. This is why they call people in department stores clerks, not sales people.

So yes, over the years as we fine tune the role, you will find less people classified as sellers, not because there will be less sellers than now, but because there will be a separation of sellers and clerks.

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Summer time and the Selling’s Easy #podcast0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

There are a lot of misconceptions about selling in the summer, but don’t be fooled, there is selling in the summer.  That is the focus of this month’s segment with Michele Price and BREAKTHROUGH radio.  Take a listen and let me know how you’heat you summer sales.

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

Mastering Tools and Methods of Prospecting Success #webinar0

Business man point: Turn Prospects Into Sales Appointments

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

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

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

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

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

By attending this webinar, sales professionals can learn about

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

About Clinton

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

Register

 

 

The Best Sales People – Trust, But Verify – Sales eXecution 2992

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Detective

Some may remember one of Reagan’s more famous statement in 1987, while he was addressing folks gathered at a nuclear treaty signing, Trust but Verify, could also be part of every keynote at your everyday B2B sales Kick-off.

I use this expression not to suggest or imply a lack of trust between sellers and their potential buyers, but to ensure that sales people make the most out of their most precious resource – Time. The better you do things the first time, the more time you have to execute other important parts of the sales day, instead of having to repeat things you thought you had completed last week. Some ways to bring this to your selling will insular, specific to things you do, and some will face externally, and ensure that others are also part of your sales success.

One great place to apply this mantra is your pipeline. We often find that we have a lot of opportunities in our pipelines, and it feels good, but if we were verify the quality, or reality of those prospects, we may not have as many as we thought. Verifying is easy if you want to do it. Does it meet your minimum thresholds, i.e. is the prospect a good fit for you, or are they just a placeholders because your manager has a silly rule of having a pipeline three times the size of your quota. Are they really engaged, one easy way to validate is to not only get next steps, but give they homework that will verify that they are. For example, I always like to ask for the opportunity to interview a sample number of their reps after my initial meeting and going any further. If they do, it is a clear indicator that they are willing to invest in the process.

Another area where sellers benefit from a Trust but Verify approach is during the process of prospecting and qualifying. It is easy to sprinkle things with a little sugar, go on appointments we know are not likely qualified but are available. A little scepticism goes a long way, and while it may result in less appointments, they will all be of a better quality. When qualifying a prospect, that crucial phase between hand shake to proposal, how well you choose to verify will dictate whether it will be a solid proposal that will lead to a close, or a not so solid one leaving you to having to resell and negotiate your way to the finish line, or an “oh so close death”. It is easy to have a positive outlook, take everything a prospect says with a sprinkling of hope. It is more practical to verify and deal with the best opportunities, not any old opportunity.

It’s nice to have a full pipeline, but it also creates a false sense of confidence, one that releases strange endorphins in a seller’s mind, endorphins that prevent sales people from prospecting for new prospects. It is true that the fuller a rep believes their pipeline to be full, the greater the likelihood that they will not prospect for new opportunities. Verify the pipeline, and a more honest view will dictate their emotions and resulting activities.

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Success is an Addiction Not a Lottery0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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The most successful B2B sales people I have worked with have always been focused on winning and improving. A constant and unwavering quest for success and improvement. Each sales is like a fix, and like real sales junkies, they are focused on the next fix, a fix that has to be more, in the case of sales better, than the last.

Some may not like the comparison of sales to a habit, but get past the crust, and you have to admit their drive is second to none. Again, we may not condone or admire how they apply it, but the drive, sellers can learn a thing or two.

One convenience of hyphenated sales, is it allows practitioners to hide behind labels and abdicated responsibility for the outcome, and make excuses for doing necessary things they just refuse to do.

A sales junkie friend of mine recently attended a large trade show, and when he wasn’t helping prospects at his booth, he rolled up and down the aisles, allowing as many people as he could to “introduced” him to their solutions. He indicated interest to all, and allowed himself to be qualified and “scanned”, to their delight.  Four days after the event he had five generic e-mails pointing him to no end of landing pages, and no direct contact. In the same time frame he had prioritized his leads, made 10 phone calls, and set four appointments. Appointments are his habit, they feed his pipeline and feed his kids.

He is a hunter, and yes I know, “hunting” is politically incorrect. But what they naysayers fail or refuse to understand is that we are not hunting prospects, we are hunting revenue. Relationships are nice, but they don’t feed your kids. As many have said before me, if there are three sellers working the same deal, one gets commission, the other two have hungry babies, I love my babies.

One of the reasons I hate hyphenated sales, or qualified selling, you know, like “solution selling”, “consultative selling”, “complex-sales” or “social selling”, is these labels are often artificial and more a distraction adding value to the sale or how it is executed. And remember sales success is about Execution, everything else is just talk.

Seems that many sales people view sales success as a lottery, somehow the outcome is out of their hands, they pretend that their success rests with the buyer, the product, marketing or elsewhere. Well it doesn’t the buck stops with you, like it or not. Great sales hunters are focused and driven by success, not fear of not being like, or the fear of failure. They would rather execute, fail and learn in the process, and bring that to the next deal, than not execute for fear of failing now and forever.

Tibor Shanto    

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3 Strikes Not Out – Sales eXecution 2971

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Baseball biz 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tibor Shanto     

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Challenge The Premise – Not The Individual2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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Sales is all about the execution, and execution, or at least good execution, is a result of proper planning, ignore or short cut any part of that, and you will have to work harder, or miss winnable opportunities. While there are many factors contributing to the outcome of any sale, there are two that are always present, and have to be dealt with.

First, the state of the buyer, are they actively looking, passively looking, (know they will need to make a purchase decision, but feel they have the “luxury” of deferring that decision for some time, usually past your current quota); and the largest group who are in the state of being completely removed from the market, and oblivious to the usual “sales pitch”.

The second, and more important factor, is the degree that you can get them to think and take on your point view.

There are many paths to bringing and unpacking these elements into every sale, and anyone of these will work at some point based on the convergence of different factors that align at that given moment, or sales cycle. The question is how to do it consistently and repeatedly in differing and varying circumstances, and different buyers we face during the fiscal year. The reason why many sellers have up and down performance, is that rather than their evolving their execution to meet changing times and objectives of buyers, their approach “occasionally” intersects rather than aligns with the buyer. When the two overlap, great, when not, slump. The goal then is to take proactive steps to ensure that both of the above factors are balanced and aligned.

The balance is knowing how we impact and alter the buyer’s preconceptions, in a way that does not put them on the defensive. While this may not be as big a challenge with buyers who are actively in the market, it is a real show stopper that large block of potential buyers who are removed in from the market, and have no intention of changing that when you first approach them.

The first thing that needs to happen, before you even think of or target a buyer, has to do with you and how you view your role in the buyer’s reality and success. First and foremost you need to be a Subject Matter Expert (SME). That does not mean being smarter than the buyer and constantly demonstrating that, it means having a deep understanding of how what you sell has impacted and delivered value to multiple buyers. Any given buyer may know more about their company and how they use offerings like yours in their specific environment. But successful sales professionals deal with hundreds, some thousands of buyers using their offering in a multitude of ways. Not only that, but they have witnessed and delivered a range of outcomes, some good, others we don’t need to talk about. But as a result, a good sales person, is, a conduit to not only best practices, but practices, which while popular, consistently lead to disastrous results. Part of our job is to point that out to buyers when they are thinking of embarking on the wrong path, in a way that serves the buyer. Meaning challenging their premise, not the individual buyers. The difference is in the execution.

Being an SME, is more than just knowledge, product or market. You need to become an expert on translating that to your buyer’s objectives. Again, challenging their premise in a way that allows them to leave the comfort of their “box”, their selected path. Some buyers will have a clear vision, but are open to have input on how to achieve those objectives and realize the benefits that outcome brings. This requires you employ an interview routine that goes to the root of the issue and build out from there, instead of starting with the solution, and building to it.

First is understanding their objectives, then understanding what stands what stands between them, and their ability to achieve them. That’s the start, next is getting them emotionally engaged. How hard can that be you ask, after all, these are their objectives? Remember, often they have tried several things in the past, and may be reluctant to try again, without that emotional involvement, you may not be able to get them to question their own premise and commit to an alternate path. This takes not only knowing and understanding common objectives, based on role, industry, geography and a range of other inputs. Things which become apparent when you review all opportunities and outcomes that go into your funnel, not just wins. Then understanding how to conduct an interview in a way that challenges the buyer to open up not to clam up.

Knowing many of my clients are looking to have more and better, or better and more, (we need to appease the quality over quantity aristocrats who don’t see room for both). But trying to sell them a prospecting program without context can often fail, or take a long time. So how do we get them to open up and ask for program?

Rep: I am curious Henry, how much of your current revenue comes from Existing clients vs. New clients?
Prospect: About 88% Existing, 12% New.
Rep: So Henry, if I looked at your 2015 plan, what did you have there as your goal?
Prospect: Oh, I had planned 80% existing, 20% new

With two, simple but planned questions, based on subject expertise, the prospect self-identified a gap between their stated objective, and where they are now, The Gap. But this, as stated above is the start, now we need to get them emotionally engaged.

Rep: What do you attribute that to?
Prospect: Too much time with their base
Call reluctance
Dependency on marketing
Don’t deal/manage objections well
Rep: If you were at plan, what would be different?
Prospect: Bigger market share
Reduced cost per sale
Increase in higher margin services related revenues
Over all margins improved
Rep: What’s the downside if you continue to miss?
What’s the cost of not acting?
At your objective, what would be the potential return?

And so forth. Done right, prospects often follow this line of interviewing by asking “is that something you can help with?” Which is when the sale really begins.

This can be applied to any line of business, because it is all about the buyer, their objectives, and results. Getting them there is the effort. An effort that is focused on challenging the buyer’s premise and current beliefs, not them directly.

Tibor Shanto     

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Kill The Cold Call™ – Ep. 4 – Sales Psychology, Tactics, & Technology (#video) – Sales eXecution 2960

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

TV Head

No, I haven’t lost my mind or support for cold calling, just doing my bit for the cause: better engagement with buyers.

At first I was a bit surprised when Andrew Schiestel invited me to be part of his webcast series, is this an ambush, an attempt to slay the noble art of telephone prospecting? It was anything but, Andrew led a fine discussion on all aspects of sales and prospect engagement. You can catch a clip below.

You can take in the whole episode at: https://youtu.be/FZeDmON_Bdc

Tibor Shanto     

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Trade In Your Sales Blinders2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

paraocchi

Sales people, including me, are plagued by a chronic challenge, one that has caused us to lose as many sales as it may have helped us win. The plague – sales blinders or self-serving selective perception. This disease affects, front line reps, managers, executives, and pundits like me and others you read, anyone who tells you they are free of plague is either lying, self-absorbed or likely both.

I see it when I am out on ride alongs, sales meetings, but most amusingly in responses to posts like this. People read what they want to read, and won’t let the words on the page get in the way.

I recently posted a piece on sales, and it was easy to who read it and took it in, and who skimmed it, picked out a few words, and built a soap box made of those five or six words, (the piece was over 500 words). Their comments had nothing to do with the piece’s core subject, but now that they built their soap box, they had to get on it and spew stuff unrelated to the piece.

What bothers me is not so much that they disagreed with me, like Howard Stern pointed, people who did not like his show spent more time listening, so please; but the fact that some of these people are pundits who want to teach sales people how to sell.

So what are they gonna teach them? “Don’t listen to what the prospect is say, pick out selective words that allow you to drive your agenda, whether it meets the buyers’ objective or requirements, or not.” Or “pitch baby pitch, ignore reality eventually they will come around.” Please!

If you can’t concentrate well enough through a 500 piece blog post, and deal with two or three core concepts or action items, how will you cope in a sales that has many more moving parts and demands? The answer is they don’t, they turn to dogma. As with any dogma, there is little room for alternate views, little room for mutual collaboration to move the process forward, and certainly no room for mutual gain.

Having an informed opinion and leveraging it to help buyers make the right decision is good, showing your product or offering will actually do that is also good. But as soon as you choose to ignore the buyer’s input or the facts facing you, you end up being less of a sales person and more of a sales bully. Focus is good, selective perception or sales blinders is not. The fact is that buyers have choices, and when they face dogma, they move on.

The choice is yours, whether you are in sales or a pundit, you can choose to narrow your focus to those few kernels that loosely support a narrow view, or you can shed your blenders, enhance your buyers’ experience, and make more sales.

Tibor Shanto     

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What Are You Opening – Sales eXecution 2952

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Looking in

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

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

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

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

TEST DRIVE THE BEST ON-LINE PROSPECTING TRAINING PROGRAM AND APP AVAILABLE TO B2B SALES PROFESSIONALS

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

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

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

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

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