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A Four Letter Word Every Seller Should Learn – Sales eXecution 3180

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 


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



A Lead Is A Terrible Thing To Waste – Sales eXecution 3140

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 


Every day around the globe thousands if not hundreds of thousands of leads are created. Some are created by nice marketing folks, others by sales, some at trade shows, probably a few on your site, some are inbound, many are outbound, and frankly some are nowhere bound, but there is nothing but hope and blue skies at the point they are created.

But many of these leads never have the opportunity to grow into viable leads, delivering their full potential, evolving into prospects and finally full blown sales. No, many leads are wasted, ignored, sadly forgotten, and like so many before them, end up being another “might have been”, the latest addition to a pile of unrealized business cards.

Waste is never good, especially when what’s being wasted has real potential. It is especially sad when many sales people are begging or Jonesing for leads. Normally people are careful with a resource in shortage, in this case leads, and the ultimate finished good, sales and customers, sellers should be working leads full out, not wasting them. While leads may be a renewable resource, that’s no reason to waste or be casual with them, if you don’t want to work them, someone else will. Each of these leads has the opportunity to reward you now, and pay dividends well into the future. So why do people in sales allow, and at times deliberately set out to, waste and squander leads. After all, a lead is a terrible thing to waste.

Some have told me that they are not wasting these leads, but allowing them to “fully develop”. Why just last week, during a review with an IT sales rep, he told me that the lead was “not real, they are not looking to buy for another six months.” The sales version of the glass half full routine. Where I saw a good runway to build rapport and understanding, he only saw something wasting his time. “What’s a good lead?” I asked, “Someone ready to buy now, not next year.” I followed up and asked how long his sales cycle normally was, he told me six months. I tried explaining to him, but he insisted that there was no point in engaging with them for another six months.

While you can forgive the stupidity of the above, what is not forgivable, are those know what they have to do but don’t do it. Follow up once, twice and then punting, is wasting. But it takes effort to develop and execute a good pursuit plan. On the other hand so does whinging about the quality of leads you get from marketing, I mean how many times can we hear the same story.

Better use of that energy is to develop a plan for maximizing every lead. The plan should take the emotion and guess work out of maximizing a lead. Outlining the specific steps to take in converting a lead to a prospect will take the emotion and the effort out of it. You will be there early, you will do things to build rapport as time moves forward, and you’ll be the right person at the right time. Not late because you were were waiting for the perfect time, trying to get that right is a waste of time and leads. And you know what they say, “A Lead Is A Terrible Thing To Waste”.

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Un-Complicating Their Buy at #CEBSummit0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Richtung Pfeil

While there are a range of relevant topics relating to sales, selling and marketing presented at the CEB Sales and Marketing Summit, the one recurring theme is the power of simplification.

When you step back and see how selling have unfolded over the last for years, what a neutral observer would see is an exercise in layering. People would see an opportunity or a challenge and they would bolt something on to fix or “enhance” their current state as a means of improvement. This could be to their sales process, or their sales enablement technology or platform; the term “There’s an App for that”, was embraced by sales long before all sellers bought iPhones. This wasn’t lost on marketing, they joined the party and loaded on more. This often led one to wonder whether the sale was complex to begin with, or it was complicated by the participants.

Which brings us to the buyers, they further added to the complications, leading to challenges so well presented in CEB’s current book “The Challenger Customer”. As the authors spell out in detail, the dysfunctional buyers and buying process triggers a reaction in sellers, usually in the form of adding more, and just driving the problem further.

Much of discussion at the Summit, speaks to how simplifying the buying process could lead to a number of benefits for buyers and by extension sellers, and the role sales/marketing organizations can play in helping buyer simplify things and progress as a result. “Empowered Customers are Overwhelmed”, turns out “too much information, too many options, and too many people involved in the decision are grinding things to a halt, with 81% or respondents saying their sales cycles have gotten longer over last five years.

The Ease-O-Meter – So how can you make buying easier? You start by focusing on the buying process. This does not mean the traditional approach of imposing you sales process, your time lines, your market view on the buyer, but truly helping them with their purchase as a means of helping them achieve their business goals and objectives.

This is not easy for sales and marketing types, as evidenced by one exercise that had us focus on the buy side of life. Even with all the great knowledge and experience about, this proved to be a real task. Adding to the challenge are two factors detailed in the Challenger Customer”, the combination of the “5.4” and the “good enough”. 5.4 being the number of people/groups involved in a buy decision, hence the dysfunction; “good enough”, the reality of buyers recognizing your value, but not willing to pay for it when there is a “good enough” lower cost alternative.

Another way to simplify things is to minimize options and choices, as stated above, too much choice is not working, as Barry Schwartz, Ph.D author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, choice is just killing buying, which is killing sales. While this may seem counter intuitive to many in sales, there were numerous example of why and how too much choice can lead to no choice, not what sellers want when they give choices. As Schwartz pointed out “the best way to avoid regretting a decision is not to make one!”

Not to be glib, but the choice is there, you can keep on the path you’re on, or pick up the book, focus on executing the the concepts and implementing elements to make your buyers’ journey easier and simplify your sales success.

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The Antidote To Micromanagement0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

People love to complain about micromanagement, even when at times they are just being actively managed , which is a perfectly good and welcome practice for front line management. While I agree that true micromanagement is neither effective nor desired, at times it is easy to understand why some managers turn to it. I also find that many who feel they are being micromanaged, are in fact just being managed, and can actually prevent the negative aspects of it if they were willing to take on a couple of core requirements for sales success. The biggest way to avoid being micromanaged is to embrace the other side of the coin – Accountability.

That’s right, if sellers were willing to be more accountable for their actions and outcomes, they would find that their managers would (or at least seem to) “micro manage” them less. I know that accountability is one of those “feel good” words in sales and business. Leaders talk about it, they want, even when they themselves are reluctant to be accountable to the team. Sales people love talk accountability, just rolls off the tongue, and talking heads like me, well what’s a good rant without accountability being bounced about. So let’s put a little teeth and definition into it.

One thing that continues to fascinate me even after all my years in sales is how many sales people know their own metrics. Let’s make it simple, let’s look at a few leading indicators, that when focused on, can have tremendously positive impact on sales success, and when ignored, well the opposite. Let’s take three simple examples, number of potential prospects you need to engage one “real” prospect; how many “real” prospects you need in order to generate one quality viable proposal; finally how many viable proposals lead to won deal. There are others I know, but for the sake of this discussion these will do. I am going to start by asking you to write down your own three metrics for the above, if you are a manger or higher, what is the average for your team?

Sales professionals need to “own” these numbers, and those who understand the importance of accountability for success do. One reason some feel they are being micromanaged is because their manager is asking for these numbers, (sorry, I forgot, sales is not a numbers game), metrics. Many managers are asking because they want to develop an improvement plan for the rep in question, i.e. taking accountability for their rep’s success. If they come with the number in hand and present it to the rep, it will be fuel for micromanagement fire, it is much better if the rep knows and owns the number and is an equal partner in the development plan, but without an agreed on starting point and end point it is hard to move forward.

The challenge for sales managers and organizations is commonly called the Accountability Paradox: the harder you try to create accountability, the less accountable people actual become. Many believe their only option is to try harder, which again just sends a different message than intended. While the goal may be coaching to success, the interpretation by some is that they are being micromanaged. This where frequent and consistent coaching comes in.

In many organizations there are regular meetings with reps, but it is often data processing not coaching. What coaching may take place seems skewed to the managers’ requirements, not as a means of helping the rep improve. The easiest way to encourage accountability, is to demonstrate it. As a manager, you should have a coaching plan for your team as a whole, and for each individual on the team. Coaching sessions should be frequent, at least weekly, more often where needed. In case you believe that this may not be a good use of time, some indicate that ten minutes of contextual coaching can lead to reps increasing revenues by up to 17%.

If coaching is not a regular expectation, it becomes an event, usually an event centered on a short coming. As someone once said, “you only get coached when you’re not doing as well as they want”. One way managers can drive accountability is to be accountable for the success of their people, not just the numbers, after all, if their people are successful and improving, the numbers will follow.

Micromanagement sucks for all involved, why not commit to the antidote, and commit to mutual accountability.


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Just Wondering…2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


So it is a holiday up here in Canada, Thanksgiving, we do ours early so we get all the good turkeys, and it is a holiday in the States as well, Columbus Day, a day to celebrate a guy who gets credit for discovering something long after it was discovered, and not what he set out to do to begin with. Sounds like sales already. But with the holiday mode, I thought it is a good day to ponder those things we may not have the luxury to think about when we are not luxuriating.

Here is one, I was recently interviewed for a B2B sales podcast. The host, a nice fellow, asked me a series of questions he said are put to all who appear on the podcast. “Go for it” I said; “Who is the best sales person you have ever known?” I gave him the name of two active sales people working for large sales organizations, and what I thought made one of them great. What he said next got me wondering. “Of all the times we asked this question, you are the only one who actually named real sales people”. Really, “What did the others say?” I asked.

“Some said Jesus, others Obama, or Steve Jobs”.

So I am not here to argue about these as being sales people, although if you’re gonna go biblical, isn’t the serpent a better choice, I mean did he not sell Eve like big time.

What really got me wondering is why the other pundits couldn’t name real sales people. We all put ourselves out there as making a difference for sales people and sales organizations. You would think in the course of that you may have met some great sales people, or better yet, been a significant factor is creating at least one great sales person. Why would they have to go for feel good bullshit choices like those?

Most of them I am willing to bet have not met Obama or Jobs, and certainly have not worked with them close enough to assess their selling skills. I mean what criteria would they have used? I am not even going to bring JC into this, I am sure that many pundits will have felt that they have met the son of God, but again, was he selling at the time? Looking at some of the sales people who have come out of that school, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart or Ernest Angley, you gotta wonder.

Hmm, what’s the deal then, are they working with sales people, are they selling? Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being a learned observer, the theoretical side of sales is important in ensuring improved execution. But there is a difference between talking about and talking to, between talking about and doing. I mean when someone asks who the best boxer was, you’re more likely to say Muhammad Ali than Howard Cosell; just wondering.

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How Much Pain Can You Take? – Sales eXecution 3110

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sales people are always looking for “the pain” or “pain point”, I get it, not sure it’s always the right thing, but it is what it is. One I am often given for the search for pain is the response they anticipate. Many tell me, supported by a string of pundits, is that people will do more to avoid pain, than the steps or actions they will take to achieve pleasure. Theory being, if one can touch a nerve, a painful nerve, the Buyer is more likely to act, and therefore potentially buy the “fix” for that pain from the seller. On the other hand, potential pleasure is not as likely to drive action, therefore lead to less engagements and sales. Given the choice, they believe that focusing on pain yields better results than focusing on pleasure.

This piece is not meant to debate that, but rather explore how it plays out with sales people when the theory is applied to their own reality, specifically their own success.

I work with a lot of sales people, and have seen how willing or unwilling they are to take on new skills and practice’s. I know that when I carried a quota, the biggest pain I was trying to avoid, was the pain of not making quota. I did so by focusing on the pleasures my successes and resulting commissions would allow me to experience (vacations, good food, and more). Always seemed a better alternative to not making quota and having to tell the kids they can’t eat this quarter. But let’s pander to the masses and go to the pain side for a minute.

Given that less than 60% of B2B reps make quota, you have to wonder why those suffering the reality of not making quota don’t do much if anything to avoid that pain. They are ready to prescribe that very thing to their prospects, but refuse to apply it to their own success. Just the incongruity of that must be a daily challenge, adding more pressure to the pain point of not making your number.

Forget the financial reality, there is the tribal reality of being more of a burden than contributor. The percentage of companies achieving their financial goals is greater than the number of reps doing the same, meaning, if you are part of the 40% or so already suffering the pain of not making goal, there is the added pain of being a burden on those who driving their numbers and making up for yours. How does one live with the pain?

So with all that pain, why is it that a seller would not take steps to improve the outcome, take steps to change what they are doing. What they are doing is clearly not working, but a large number continue to choose to do nothing different.

OK, so the pleasure of making more money, achieving Presidents Club and the perks it brings, the pleasure of being able to hold your head high as a contributor, are not enough to encourage change. But what about the pain of having to come up with new excuses, having to settle in so many ways, and just not being able to say you are a successful sales professional. Why does that not motivate these sales people to change? And then they wonder why their lame attempt at pain is not working on their prospects either.

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Ready Set Go – Part II0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 


Last Monday, in Ready Set Go – Part II  I wrote about how to plan and execute the rest of the calendar year (for many their fiscal year). We looked at two scenarios, one for sellers who set themselves up for success. The second, and the focus for today’s post, is for those in the other group, the “Holy s#*t, there are only how many working days left in the year?” Don’t panic, that would just be a waste of your time, and time is something you don’t have in abundance; instead, get prospecting. Prospecting in two ways, first reworking all your current assets, the second is going beyond to prospects and buyers that you will need to identify, engage and move through the process. In essence what you should have been doing before the summer.

What I mean by reworking all your current assets are two specific activities. One look at all your “no decision” opportunities over the las 12 months. Opportunities that went into your pipeline, or sales process, progressed but died before coming out the other end as customers. These are not opportunities that bought from someone else, but that tested the market, then went back to the sideline having changed or done anything. In some instances this group could exceed 30% of things that go into the top of the pipe. They know you, you know them, things have changes, they may be more ready now, it certainly is worth a call. Even if they don’t re-engage now, they are likely starting the planning cycle for 2016; early bird is a good thing to be.

The other method is to crank up your referral efforts, both in your client base and, your indirect network, and your Referral 2.0 network. While I still believe in cold calling, referrals are nice too.

But you will also need to go beyond the comfort zone, and that’s where cold calling will come in. Specifically in two directions, first looking for opportunities that have a reasonable chance of closing this year. This does not have to be the proverbial lower hanging fruit, but could smaller deals for example. This may mean having more of these to sell, but that could not only mean shorter cycles, but also provide an initial entry point to accounts. The idea is to both salvage the year, and set yourself up for future growth.

Second, much like the successful group above, start hunting for things that will close next year, and close early. A challenge many sales people have is the start of year lull, often because they spend a disproportionate time “closing” late in the year. They return in the New Year only to find a neglected pipeline that takes time to build up and get back in shape. This can easily be avoided by starting early, starting now. Think of it as a variation to the above scenario, except in this instance we seed now, harvest in January. To avoid this, but you have to start now. I always find it interesting that prospects are able to hold

Look at it this way, at least if you miss quota this year, you will have given your employer a reason to keep you around for next year.

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“The Challenger Customer” – More Than A Sequel0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

challenger sale

A Review of The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results
by Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, Pat Spenner, Nick Toman

What often differentiates great sales people from the also-rans is their understanding that their success in delivering revenue and retiring quota, is the result of a dynamic alignment and balance between selling and buying. Any imbalance, leads to either no revenue, less or lesser quality revenue, longer time to revenue, or a toxic combination of all of these.

The great, focus more on the buy side, the Buyer and the purchasing process, leveraging that as a pull-through for sales. The pack is more likely to focus on selling and intentionally or unintentionally trying to impose their “sale” on the buyer. This difference may explain why nearly half of B2B reps do not make quota, and why many of their “sales” are in reality orders they were given, rather than being earned, or the proverbial nut blind squirrels tend to run in to.

A few years ago, in an effort to help differentiate and understand how sellers can better navigate through the buy/sell process, the folks at CEB, presented us with The Challenger Sale, which presented a number of insights, many of which are still being debated and digested. Among these was how sellers can drive and ensure that dynamic buy/sell balance leading to more success for all involved. But there is no denying that the perspective was very much that of the “sale”. Now the same team extends things, and presents a book looking more closely at the “Buyer” perspective in “The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results”.
While the book will resonate with sellers, front line to executive leaders, offering both perspectives and specific actions sellers can take to win more deals, it goes beyond and speaks directly to marketers, and buyers themselves.

The authors speak to the current state of the buying, starting with the acknowledgement that “buying” today is greatly dysfunctional, and the impact of that dysfunction on both buyers and sellers. Rather than starting from the common statement that “selling has changed”, the book explores more closely how buying has changed, and the opportunities and challenges that presents to sellers and suppliers.

With the growing trend of purchase decision being made by consensus, the book raises a couple of counter intuitive points. For instance how catering to the individuals in the consensus group will have diminishing if not negative returns for the seller. They highlight how understanding the dysfunction, and the key players in the drama, present an opportunity for sellers to facilitate consensus through by learning and focusing on the right people on the buy side.

The book goes beyond highlighting challenges, and lays out specific buyer personality types; which and how to harness, and which to avoid, including means of identifying, validating and helping them help build consensus and by extension the seller. In other words the book is full of specific and actionable steps not just broad concepts, providing sellers and marketers a playbook to build from.

While all sellers will tell you it is all about the buyer, “The Challenger Customer”, goes further, providing meaning and context by highlighting ho and why many sellers and marketers miss the mark. Most sellers and sales marketing teams focus time and effort on getting the buyer to see the supplier differently. But since change comes from within, the focus in the book is on how and why changing the buyers’ view of themselves and their process. You then go on to learn how to best leverage “Commercial Insights” as a means of changing the buyer’s view of themselves, why leading with that will lead to sales success.

Here again, the book not only highlights specifics, but reinforces the importance of Marketing and Sales working together in engaging buyers and succeeding in today’s buying environment.

Unlike many sales books that promote a methodology or viewpoint of a given aspect of sales, “The Challenger Customer” provides a clear framework supported by data, and more importantly, a means to implementing and integrating it into your sales organization. Unlike many sales books, there are no grandiose statements or claims, but instead you will find a reasoned discussion and means of putting the framework into practice. There is no claims of silver bullets, just the steps you need to take and work on to successfully implement, presenting concrete examples of companies that have done so. I have always said that success in sales is about execution, with everything else being just talk, well “The Challenger Customer”, delivers on the “What”, “Why” and “How” to execute and win in today’s buying climate. All that is left for you is to read and execute.

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Ready – Set – Go Part I0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

iStock_start biz race resized

Tuesday we enter the “final half” of the sales year, the unofficial intermission that is summer comes to a figurative end, and harvest season is upon us. Now if you did a good job of ploughing, seeding and nurturing (even fertilizing), in the spring, you are truly in a position to harvest. On the other hand, if you did not tend to your pipeline before the summer, you’re left hoping for rapid growth season before winter descends on your income; too bad they don’t make Miracle-Gro® for pipelines.

Based on which of the above groups you are in, you will need to attack September – December in different ways. If you are in the first group, and invested the time and effort early in the year, and set yourself up for a bumper crop, you have two areas of focus, first to fully harvest and maximize your opportunities; second to set yourself up for success in 2016.

To fully maximize opportunities, start early, segment your pipeline in to two general groups, those that are truly just in need of harvesting, and those that still need some work to complete. In this latter group I would take a close look at those opportunities that based on past experience have the attributes of a deal likely to close this year, and those that, on sober consideration, are not likely to close this year, but will/may likely slip into next year. To be clear this is not to say that you toss or forget or sandbag, in fact the opposite, work them, because they will contribute to next year’s quota, but be practical and think about how you spend your time proportionally. Time is not recyclable, leads (and opportunities) are, invest your time in a way that yields maximum results, now and in the future; divide your time to skew towards those opportunities that are ripe and ready to happen now.

With the opportunities that will close, it is all about coverage, and focus. Start with a recommitment to having a plan and executing that plan. The challenge as always, is having a plan aligned to the buyer’s objective and demonstrating your ability to impact and drive those objectives. Part of that plan is understanding what needs to happen at each stage in order to continue to move the opportunity forward based on previous deals. Map it out so you can identify critical points along the buy/sell trip, and critical actions required to successfully complete those critical points. The map is your planning tool for your meetings and encounters with buyers, helping both you and them agree on next steps and move towards desired and identified outcomes. This will help you accelerate deals, and free up bandwidth to prospect and set yourself up for next year.

Now if you are in the other group, in a panic to make something of the year, tune in next Monday for Part II of Ready – Set – Go.

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