Welcome to The Pipeline.

The Best Day To Prospect Is Not Someday!0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Someday

I was talking to a rep the other day, he was telling me about his approach to structuring his week to help him succeed. He set certain activities to specific days, and filled in the rest of the time with things that were dependent on the buyers’ calendars. He had time set for writing account reviews, Thursday afternoons, this way if he had to get something from the clients he still had time in the week. Proposals were done on Wednesdays and Mondays, all he had to do is set the right expectation from the buyer. And so it went.

But when it came to prospecting, there were no allocations. I asked him about it, and he like others told me that he does it when he can, any time he can get around to it. I asked why he has clearly allocated time to all other key activities, does he not see prospecting and filling the funnel as a key activity? Of course he said. Well, then why does it not conform to the way you approach and execute the other key activities, I said “you have everything else all neatly in place in place, what’s the deal with prospecting?”

He hummed and haad, checking the tips of his shoes, but it was clear that the day he allocated to prospecting was Someday.

Now I don’t like prospecting any more than the next guy, especially cold calling, but it has to be done. Which is why I do it first, then it’s out of the way, and I can go on to doing what I like. But kicking the can down the road only works in Ottawa and Washington.

I know the beauty of Someday is that it never comes, but the deadline for your quota does come, and in light of the fact that those people who make quota hovers around 50%, and the number one reason most sales leaders give for that is a lack of prospects and too much dependence on their base, the day of reckoning will get here before Someday, specifically two months from Tomorrow, December 31.

Given the choice between Someday and Today, I would go with today!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

So Listen – – Sales eXecution 2733

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

So listen

There are certain universal concepts and sayings in sales that everybody just nods to, “sure, of course, that’s hockey, motherhood and apple pie, of course.” And then they go in about selling like they always have whether they implement the concept or not. One of these concepts is around listening. “Come on Tibor, everyone knows you gotta listen, this is nothing new.” Then they double down and tell me “Tibor, I am all about active listening.”

But what does that really mean? Especially given the fact that the original Active Listening, dates back to the days of consultative or solution selling. Just as aspects of those approaches have felt the effect of time, in some ways so has active listening. And let’s be clear, my focus is not on the intent or merit of active listening, but the manner in which it unfolds with some sales people.

As with most things in sales is it about the execution, everything else is just talk, and often not worth listening to.

My main concern with the way some people “do” Active Listening, is that all too often it is really Selective or Filtered listening. Specifically they are actively listening for those things that fit their solutions, their narrative. And if they don’t hear it they try to steer the conversation in that direction. How many time have you heard a rep start a question with “wouldn’t you agree Ms./Mr. Prospect that if you could….., then it would be …..?” Of course it is often hard to say no to the proposition even though it may not add to the discussion at hand. But by agreeing, the prospect is taken down a predetermined path, a path that the seller hopes leads to a sales, but often doesn’t, just leads to wasted time and emotions.

If you’re a buyer and want to have some fun, next time you hear those words just say “no I am not sure I agree”. If the question was sincere, the seller will be able to add context and build on the premise, and extend the discussion; but if it was meant to take you down a path, you’ll see a classic deer in the head light moment.

Real active listening is a lot like bungee jumping, where as a seller you are willing to throw yourself into a discussion with a buyer, tethered only by your genuine curiosity and the strength of your subject knowledge. If either one of those is weak, you risk plunging to the depths of the gorge, your landing only softened by the bodies of other sellers who came before you.

Listening takes practice, especially since we think faster than people speak, it is easy to race ahead. Which is why many end up listening for selective things rather than everything the buyer is telling them. To be a better listener, you really need to be a better questioner. By learning how to formulate questions based on what they buyer is saying, you can engage them better, and demonstrate your knowledge, and move the discussion forward. One technique I was taught a long time ago, is to challenge yourself to ask a question base on what the buyer just said. This forces me to listen, evaluate, and synthesis the information before speaking. By using their input as a means of asking the next question, one can interview instead of interrogate.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Sorry But Your New Is Not That New4

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

New Or Improved

There is an old saying that goes:

There is no such things as an old joke, just old people. Meaning no matter how old you are the first time you hear a joke it is new to you, no matter how long it has been out there.

Which explains why I am going to sound a bit old in this piece, which is alright, because I will be talking about all the “NEW” out there that sellers are being told (sold) they should be consuming if they want to succeed. I don’t have an issue with things that are really new, but when it comes to selling, “NEW” is more often than not, the “same old”, with at best new wrapping.

In some hands NEW becomes the lubricant used by sales pundits and marketers to ram more of the “same old” down unsuspecting throats. (Just think foie gras)

Of course the beauty of selling NEW is the opportunity to upsell plenty of CHANGE, “you need to change, and use this new, or do things in this new way, if you are not changing, you are bound to fail.” Well not exactly, in fact experience shows otherwise, sales is not like a baby, it doesn’t need to be changed all the time. Success in sales comes down to execution, in a continuously better way, it is hard to improve what you are doing if you are always CHANGING what you are doing.

One benefit of being 57 with your memory intact, is you’ve seen, a truckload of NEW, (or old jokes) where the only change is not in the content but in the packaging the pundits wrap it in.

A recent sermon from a pundit preached on about how times are changing and “you need to change or you’ll be left behind”, or worse. Duh, no kidding, but when was that not the case? I mean Dylan cashed in on that out 50 years ago, and Darwin laid it out in simple terms back when? But again, if you keep changing, when can you improve, surly there needs to be an opportunity to master things, not just change them!

I find it funny how pundits try to convince us that this time it is different, this change is “real change”, and this new change is it. If you don’t keep up with this change, if you don’t jump on this bandwagon, you’re beat; right.

Change is a fact, an old fact. “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change”, given to us by Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 BC – 475 BC) not such a NEW guy, best known for his doctrine of change being central to the universe.

What makes sellers great is not jumping from one bandwagon to another, but a focus on fundamentals, and a laser focus on improving those fundamentals, rather than chasing the latest shiny object, regardless of trends or packaging.

And this is the hard part for both pundits and sellers trying to evolve. The pundits need NEW, even when the only thing new is the sleeve of the new book. As Michael Jordan said: “You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly because the only thing that changes will be your attention to them.”

I recently read a piece that was supposed to boggle my mind, it talked about a stat that came from an executive at a social selling platform, at a social selling event, that suggested that sales professionals who use social selling are 51% more likely to exceed their quota. But is that really NEW, or a CHANGE from what has gone before? No.

Great sales people have always been early adopters of new tools, technologies and opportunities, embracing them to further, not necessarily change their selling. Not new, just think of Martin Luther and the print press; he went viral 500 years ago http://www.economist.com/node/21541719. More recently the telephone, the car, the answering service, or fax, or… This is what was always amusing about the notion of Sales 2.0, what was Telex Sales -3.0?

I would strongly argue that those same sales people would have exceeded quota no matter what tools they adopted or were in vogue at the time. It was the sales people who leveraged the tool, they made the medium look good, not the other way around. Proof, where are the stats relating to those exceeding quota without using the tool, where are the numbers around those who use social selling and fail to make quota. Oh yes, sales is not about numbers, it is about NEW.

Change also consumes a lot of time and energy, both of which may be better invested in improving your execution of the fundamentals. The goal is balance, balance between improving and acquiring skills. Change is addictive, and often becomes an end to itself, you may end up with something new but not better. Ask yourself will this help you execute better as measured by results, or is it something new to replace the last change? In the end, success in sales comes down to Execution – Everything Else Is Just Talk!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

The Objective Seller #webinar0

Clone not

How to Shift the Conversation from Product to Objectives

Join us on Thurs., Oct. 9th, 2014 at 2:00PM ET / 11:00AM PT for this free webinar

Most salespeople are taught to look for pain and needs. However, 75% of customers who switch from one vendor to another say they were satisfied at the time that they switched. There was no pain, and no needs, so what was the catalyst?

Objectives!

In this webinar, sales expert, Tibor Shanto, covers how to shift the conversation from your product to your prospects’ objectives.
Areas addressed include:

  • Breaking down “value” to core components and why people buy
  • Leveraging past experiences – Won, Lost and No Decision deals – 360 Degree Deal View
  • Building a better question
  • Proactive exploration

And much, much more!

After that, meet RingLead CEO, Donato Diorio, for a quick preview of Capture!, which quickly and easily helps salespeople gather contact data from anywhere on the internet into your CRM.

Join me and Donato Diorio in this exciting and eye-opening journey to sales success.

Register

 

Don’t Wait To Ask For Referrals – Sales eXecution 2700

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Fast & happening

I continue to be amazed that despite all that is written about the importance and success of referrals, how few sales people actually leverage this proven and effective method of sourcing new sales opportunities. Whenever I ask a group of sales reps “How many people here ask for referrals?” I still find that way less than half raise their hand. When I follow up with the question “How many have sold to referrals, the same set of people raise their hand again; I am not sure what the others are waiting for.

But even those who make referrals a habit, many are not fully maximizing the opportunity. The main problem, waiting; generally sellers are waiting too long to ask, and are leaving the request till much too late in the process, or missing them altogether.

Ask any group of sales people when they in fact ask for the referral, an overwhelming majority, like 90%, will say ask for referrals after the sales is completed and the product/service is delivered. Most of these will say they will wait three to six months after, “so the value can set in and be proven, and the customer is happy.”

Why?

You should be thinking referral from the time you park your car in the visitors’ spot, until the end of your relationship. Let’s look at it from two perspectives. First is the question of value delivered. Your value comes in many shapes and forms, not just in the delivered product, so even when your referral process is tied to value, it will present itself much before the close or delivered goods.

How many times have you sat with a prospect and had a discussion not about you product, but about something within your field of expertise. Remember I have always stated in this blog that good sales people are subject matter experts. I often sit with prospects and will share a perspective, a view point, or just a way of doing something, and the prospect will respond positively in what I shared, they learned and can use. For example, when discussing forecasts, I may point out a way of calculating something in a better way than they are doing now, or just how they use a formula in their spreadsheet. Prospects often say “Wow, never looked at it that way, thanks for pointing that out”; or “Man, I wish I knew that years ago”; or other similar things.

In my view they just saw something of value in what I said, so why wait, I follow up with “Great, I am glad I can help, do you know anyone else who may see value in this type of conversation?” I don’t expect them to whip out their Rolodex, but I plant the seed, and build from there. You’d be surprised how many time they respond by saying they think so and so should know about this as well.

The other reason you need to think referral from the start, is because you may never close them, which means there is no “after”.

Some time ago I had an initial appointment with a manufacturer, this was a company that had their act together, frankly other than presenting at their annual meeting, and there were no other opportunities. But we had a good dialog, which included talking about their distributors. We agreed to meet again in November to talk about their kick-off, but before I left, I asked if he thought any of his distributors would benefit from some of the areas of expertise we presented. Not only did he list three, give me contact names, but encouraged me to use his name, in the end he even sent an e-mail to two. If I would have waited the opportunity may have been wasted.

Make things happen instead of waiting, all you have to do is plan and ask.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

What Can Sales People Learn From Ebola?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Haa2

Probably Absolutely Nothing At All!

I just wanted to be the first to jump on one of the silliest bandwagons among bloggers, sales blogs being no different; trying to squeeze a sales lesson or morals from every significant event to make headlines.

Just do a search and you’ll find titles of all sorts all linking sales to some insignificant angle in sales to some unrelated event in the headlines. “What Can Sales Learn from the World Cup?”. I don’t know, how to dive? Or “Sales Management Lessons can be had from the Swallows of Capistrano?”

So now that we have the first confirmed case on the continent, it’s time to start capturing lessons. Lesson One: People tell you what they think you want to hear – Thomas Eric Duncan, did exactly that, lying in answers to questions in order to get on his flight.

So what can sales learn from Ebola?

I haven’t a clue, do you?

I invite you share your ideas for lessons to learn, or actual lesson you learned from Ebola that helps you get more sales. Leave your comments, and maybe we’ll have a winner, or learn something.

Looking ahead to creative thinking and originality in new highs, or lows.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Why is it easier for when you do it for others? – Sales eXecution 2690

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Dialing for Prospects

No secret I am a big proponent of cold calling being an element of prospecting success, along with any other viable means of engaging with potential buyers. I also understand that one of the big reason people do not like cold calling is the whole objection – fear of rejection thing.

But over the years I have observed an interesting phenomenon which raises some key questions about how people execute their calls, how they react and respond to objections and rejection. In turn this could perhaps lead some re-examining of one’s views of cold calling.

Time and time again what I find is that when people are making appointment calls for others, be they an in-house who is tasked with setting appointments for their outside reps, or an outsourced service provider, they react differently to rejection than when they are making appointments for themselves. Specifically, they seem a lot less if at all bothered about getting objections and rejections when they are calling on someone else’s behalf.

Now before you jump to the conclusion that it is because of what they do, or they are just part of that small minority that actually likes to cold call, it is not as simple as that, I know from personal experience. A couple of years ago, a friend was launching a business and asked if I can help set appointments with potential buyers and financers. I spent a few weeks doing that, my conversion rate of conversations to meetings was about the same as when I call for myself, yet when they said no, it didn’t hit me the same way. While the finder’s fee was quite rich, the rejection did not sting nearly to the same degree. Further, when I spoke to people who made the transition from setting appointments for their colleagues, to a sales role that included prospecting for themselves, they found the same experience.

Needless to say that I don’t have the degrees to back the opinion, but it seems the difference is ego. Clearly wasn’t the money, or the nature of the rejection; they included the usual, including hang ups, and assorted accusations.

As a result of the experience, I began to focus on taking myself out of the call. While I have always made the call about the prospect, that is different than taking myself out of the picture. While there is no escaping the fact that my success and income are tied to the call, it becomes a question of perspective. I used to focus on the outcome of the call, and was very conscious about where success on the call led, and even more so if the call did not yield an appointment. Beyond the money, it was like any friendly game of golf, there is always a preference to winning. I now shift the win/lose scenario to what happens in the resulting meeting, not the call that leads to the meeting. Sure you can argue without the call there is no appointment, but I now adopt the outlook that the real test of my ability is in the meeting, not in the exercise that leads to it. My conversions have not changed, but the impact of rejection on me has, making the days even more fun.

Why do you think the results are different when the task is performed for someone else?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Personal Deficiency Bonus0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

2nd prize

With special thanks to S.G. and my friend B.P.

Everyone, including me, writes a piece this time of year about closing the year strong. For the most part these are aimed at front line sales people, and the better ones offer choices that make sense year-round even if initially implemented in Q4. Few are aimed at helping managers in helping their sales team adopt new habits, or create breakthroughs for their reps that can again be extended as a regular practice, and that is the thought here, helping managers, or actually sales coaches, which good sales managers are.

Often when speaking to managers they point to “that one thing”, that if the rep in question would change or address, it would have a dramatically beneficial impact on their execution and results. A personal deficiency. Could be anything, tardiness in updating the CRM, slow to move on renewals or price increases, insufficient preparation for prospecting, you name it. These elements are important to achieving results, and are often included as elements of a balanced scorecard. But the fact remains that most bonuses are paid out based on achieved results or specific objectives in the case of MBO.

Traditionally bonuses are meant to reward positives, and negatives either limit or eliminate rewards. But what if you turned things around. What if you put a positive focus on personal deficiencies, hence the Personal Deficiency Bonus.

Here is how it goes. Say you want a rep to develop a habit, any of the above, we’ll pick prospecting prep. Say a rep is consistently hovering just below quota, Based on their personal metrics, it is clear that two or three more first meeting with prospects would give him/her enough prospects to get them to quota, they just need to develop the habit of being prepared in order to land those meetings. You know, they know, you talk about it in the usual terms, but nothing changes. I would argue because the reward is paid out on something other than what needs to change. So let’s put a focus on what needs to change. And it’s not more sales, not more prospects, but more, better and consistent prep, bonus that.

In Q4, pay some portion of their bonus on changing that one habit, more prep for prospecting giving them more prospect meetings, leading to more pipeline opportunities, helping them exceed quota. It offers a coaching opportunity, with a more willing participant as they get paid not for an abstract related outcome, but for the specific deficiency, prep.

What you’ll find is that once they develop the habit, they will stick with it, next January and beyond. More importantly a rep who can now be coached and taken further, sometimes by focusing and rewarding the positive, but also by focusing on their Personal Deficiency Bonus.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

The Reason For My Call – Sales eXecution 2680

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Road sign objectives

For many, “The Reason For My Call”, is a crucial part of their prospecting call, probably more accurate to say cold call, as I would have to assume that if it were a warm call the recipient would know the reason for the call. All too often I cringe when I hear how most callers use this expression, especially when a couple of small adjustments in their approach may lead to better results.

Grab your Proactive Prospecting Call-Flow Now!

First thing is the timing of the statement. Most people use it at or near the start of the call, too soon. While some will tell you that you have 10 seconds at the start of the call, step back and think, (for more than 10 seconds). On a cold call, you just interrupted someone who was most likely doing something other than waiting for a cold call, since you call you address them and hopefully not make the most common time and call water, and say either “how are you?”, or “is this a good time?” Hello, you just interrupted them, how could it be a good time. Even if they did want to speak with you they would need a few seconds to disengage from what they were involved with when the phone rang. Then they’ll need a few more seconds and effort to focus in on your voice, accent, intonation, etc. So giving them your Reason For The call at this point is premature, as it completely lacks context, you know why you called, you need to give them a clue too.

The Reason For Your Cal, should come after some context (a different post), and when it does come it should be a good reason, for them. The only reason someone would want to meet with us, is if there is a good indication that we can help them achieve their objectives, to deliver outcomes that will make a difference for them.

The Reason is certainly not to “learn”, they don’t have time to teach you. Remember you are asking, in my case, for an hour of their time, if they are working 10 hours a day that is a big chunk of time, big investment. If they going to make that investment, they have the right to learn and be smarter at the end, not you, they expect that you are coming prepared, (what happened to all that research I keep hearing about?). In the same way they do not have time to discuss.

I was once listening in on outbound calls, and one flower-child-caller, said The Reason They Were Calling was so they could meet to establish a relationship, after a brief pause, the prospect said, “You should go to church dance or singles club, I need help in my business.”

What prospect will make time for is hear how you can help them achieve specific objectives, how you can help them mitigate risk, have a positive financial impact, increase market share, and more, all based on how you have done that for others in a meaningful and measurable way. Those are good reasons for the call.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

Don’t Parrot – Integrate!0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

parrot

Given the fact that we think a lot faster than people speak, and much faster than our ability to listen, it is always important to look for ways to stay focused on what a prospect is telling us, and not rush ahead or interrupt with a thought triggered by something they said. My favourite way, is one I was taught long ago by a mentor; his approach is to ask yourself what you can ask the prospect/buyer, based on what they just said, makes you focus, listen, process and fully and actively engage.

This goes beyond the common technique many use, one that I find really irritating rather than in any way effective, specifically restating or parting, what the prospect said. We have all seen it in action, reps repeat almost word for word what the buyer just said as a means of demonstrating their attentiveness. “So what I heard you say is…”. Just wake me up when you’re done.

Don’t get me wrong, I get and support the intent, to ensure clarity and avoid the mistakes of assumptions. But as with many things in sales, it comes down to execution, how we deliver the message sometimes matters as much as the message. Simply repeating what they just said does confirm you were listening, one point for you; but that is a long way from understanding, processing responding in a meaningful way for the buyer.

A better way of demonstrating and confirming that you not only heard the words, but actually took in and processed what they said, is to integrate what you gleaned, and then use it to continue, drive and focus the conversation. As mentioned above, use it as a basis for further discovery. Rather than just parroting what the prospect presented, ask a question that builds or expands on the topic, or drills down on a specific aspect, allowing the buyer to elaborate, get further involved and in the process serve up more useful information. The more you drill down on what they say, the more they are encouraged to continue.

While everyone agrees that a good sales meeting is one where the prospect speaks the majority of the time, (I’ll settle for 51%), the reality is that rarely the case in most sales calls. Partly this is a symptom of the problem mentioned above, the seller getting way ahead of the buyer, and worse the incessant interruptions every time a sales rep heard the “secret word”, most often the “secret word” is some trigger word marketing conjured up as part of ”The Value Prop”.  All this does is train the buyer not to talk, not to exchange information, after all, every time they are about to reveal something, the rep interrupts, clearly signalling they are not interested in what they buyer has to say, and would rather preach, leaving the buyer to just say amen to not buying.

One way to avoid this, and again demonstrate your attention and understanding, is to vary, ever so slightly, the way you take notes while the buyer is pouring their hearts out. May seem simple, but split your page into thirds, on two thirds take notes the way you normally would. The remaining third is for the “secret words”, the ones you are dying to hear, the ones you used to jump on, but won’t any more. Moving forward, you’ll right down the “secret word” and wait. This not only allows the buyer room to express themselves fully, but allows you take your time formulating a question, or a means of revisiting the subject triggered by the “secret word”, integrating it into a follow up question, again drilling down with a willing buyer. For example, “Earlier you mention consolidating, a lot of our clients have had success…, is that what you meant, or…?” Even if you are wrong, you will find out more, and have a buyer who feels they are not only being listened, but understood.  Now there is a proper use of triggers.

What you will also find as a side benefit of a more engaged buyer is that they are much more involved and inclined to open up, ask questions, and reciprocate the courtesy and respect when it is your turn to offer up your information, in the process establishing trust, and starting a relationship. What you will also notice is that the more trust they have, the more information they feel safe in sharing; the more information you have the better you can continue to build trust; and the process seems to snowball on its own.

It may have made sense in grade school to parrot back what the teacher said, but by the time you got to post-secondary, there was an expectation that you would demonstrate you understanding and command of a subject by assimilating and integrating it. Isn’t it time your selling graduated too?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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