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Turn Your Proactive Prospecting Calls Upside-down – Sales eXecution 3072

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

upside down key

The primary, and one can argue the only purpose of a prospecting call is to gain engagement. It is not, as some pundits will tell you, to build rapport or start the relationship, or set yourself up for the future. These latter outcomes are things we sometimes have to settle for, but there is no doubt these are a distant second place to the primary goal; the singular objective and measure of success is to schedule a meeting, (live, phone, web, what have you), anything short of that is second place, which as you know is first place for those who missed the primary objective.

Adopting that attitude is key, as attitudes influence your actions, and how you act on that initial call will determine whether you engage with your potential buyer, or join the ranks of the Also-rans. The attitude is that we need to meet because there will be a mutual advantage to both as a result of the engagement. In the long run, the buyer will be closer to their objectives, and you will have a buyer. In the short term, they will learn from you, as they would from any encounter with a subject matter expert, and that is what you are; and you will learn something from them and their business. But none of that happens if you fail to engage.

Attitude also influences the message, what you say right out of the gate, most sales people, with help from the marketing team, tend to blow this important opportunity, and as a result the call. Listen to B2B sales people make prospecting calls, as I have done with hundreds of reps, thousands of calls, and you will discover that most end up delivering the wrong massage in the wrong way.

While everyone will tell you that the call has to be about the buyer and their “What’s in it for Me”, it rarely is. Most calls start off with an introduction to the company, what “we” do, and how “we” do it, how great “we” are, and then, well into the call they finally introduce the “what” may be in it for the buyer. Something like:

Hi Buyer, I my Name is Alfred E. Newman, do you have a few minutes, I am the North East Account Manager at YetAnother Corp. We are a leading manufacturer of something you already have, our clients recognize as being reliable and customer centric. We help them reduce the total cost of production by 8% while reducing their manufacturing process by 6%.

Now that last part is good, assuming the person you called is still awake, considering the precious seconds you wasted with boring non-relevant data. I know it is hard, but on that first call, in those early seconds, no one cares about us, our awards, place in the market, how we do things, seriously, they don’t, no matter what your marketing folks tell you.

What they DO care about is “what is in it for them”, more specifically “how will this help me get to my desired outcomes or objectives?” Which is the last part of the above intro. Which is why I say “turn it upside-down”; start with the outcome, what’s the tangible for the, meaning the “the reduction of their “total cost of production by 8% while reducing their manufacturing process by 6%.” The stuff before that is just filler for you, not for the buyer who may not be awake by the time you get to it.

Lead with that last part, it is more likely that they were thinking about that before you called; but many sales people can’t bring themselves to leave out the filler, the puff-pastry that brings nothing to the call but the risk of rejection, discouragement, and a lack of prospecting success.

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Their Only Pain is You6

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Ask a group of sales people what they want to know about their prospect, and the majority respond “I want to know about their pain or needs”. In theory a good concept, in practice highly over rated and ineffective. As discussed before, at any given time, only a small percentage of your total potential market is in play. The various estimates range from as low as 3% to 15%; so if we go with 10% for the sake of this piece, we are likely very generous. Of that 10%, almost all will recognise or admit to a need, and for some that need is in fact driven by or rooted in pain. So even when you perfect uncovering the pain and need, you are playing with a very narrow slice of opportunity. Not to mention a very visible and highly sought after slice, one that every sales person is pursuing, much like a lazy wild cat targets the weak of the herd.

A further 20% or so, don’t have an immediate pain or need, but they recognise that they will need to make a purchase decision 12 – 18 months out. Extremely good sales people, may be able to get a few of these folks to accelerate the need or heighten the pain, and thereby accelerate the purchase decision. But in the vast majority of instances, these people are future business, i.e. not this quota cycle. Having said that they are a good group to work with, as you have lots of runway to build a “relationship” and set yourself up as the obvious favourite when they going into buying mode.

This leaves the 70% plus, of the target market, the status quo, the complacent ones, the ones with no pain, no need, and no desire for a solution. Probing for pains or needs here gets the familiar “all set, we’re good, no need now, not interested” response; sometimes they’ll make you feel good and ask you to send them something. When was the last time you got paid for that?

For many of these buyers, the only immediate pain is the sales person sitting across from them, and the way that many of those sales people sell. While many pride themselves on having “evolved” from asking silly questions like “what keeps you up at night?” From the buyer’s stand point many of the techniques used by many are no better even though they changed the wrapping.

Some fall pray to pundits who will have them go in and try to “create” pain or make the buyer feel inadequate by asking things like “wouldn’t you agree that ….?” or “What would it be like if you could….? But buyers are hip, they see when you snap on the rubber gloves and “probe”.

One pain many buyers complain to me about is the complete unpreparedness they experience when meeting with reps. Rather than truly understanding the buyer, doing a bit of work in advance. Actually research the industry and current and future trends, how those impact the buyer’s company and the buyer, exploring more than just their social stream and LinkedIn profile. Absent pain, you need to look forward, the “value” you bring as a seller is helping the buyer face and win in that future, kicking them in the shin or higher brings a pain that does not lead to sales.

So if you want to use pain to win sales, it needs to be the “pain” of the effort you put into properly engaging a buyer who left to their own devices feels no pain, and is more like in search of something that will help them achieve their objectives, while avoiding the pain that is bad selling.

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3 Elements of a First prospecting E-Mail – Sales eXecution 3051

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

e-mail new

While in Canada e-mail has been neutered by our supposed business friendly Prime Minister, in other parts of the free world, e-mail continues to be an effective way to initiate engagement with new potential buyers.  And while some may be shaking their head in disbelief, done right it contributes to prospecting success, but as usual, its down to what and how – the execution.

First thing is defining success. Many believe that success is the prospect calling you back and asking “where do I buy?” But remember “Prospects are Created – not Found”, e-mail plays a role in that creation. In an environment where it could take 8, 9, 10 or more attempts to get a response from a potential buyer, a good e-mail can be a good touch point, and lead to an initial contact, then engagement, purchase, relationship, kids, divorce, and all over again.

But let us approach as we would going for the Holy Grail, a cold e-mail that leads to engagement. What are the three crucial elements?

  1. Subject Line
  2. Body of Message
  3. The Close

Do all these well and you have a shot, miss the mark on one, and you’re beat.

In light of the fact that most e-mail these days will be viewed on a hand held, we’ll present things from that standpoint, the good news is that if you do the mobile e-mail right, it also translates to success for those reading it on a desktop or tablet.
1. Subject Line – if the party you are writing does not know you, the Subject Line becomes the first pint of triage. It will determine whether they open it, save it for later reading (ya, later, OK), or just delete it at the speed of light. As a result you have two choices, you can mix them up, see if you see a pattern based on role, industry or other factors.

First method, not mine but based on a study of some 30 million e-mails, suggests that having nothing in the Subject Line. Nothing or ‘RE:’ followed by nothing. In some ways it makes sense, human curiosity, drives people to bring down the thumb find out.

But my preferred method takes this further and drives the two elements that follow. I like to use the final call to action, The Close, element 3, as the Subject Line. So if at the end of your e-mail you propose a call Friday at 2:30 pm, then use that as the Subject Line, but add a question mark at the end.

Subject: Call Friday at 2:30?

The natural instinct is to see if you had in fact forgot a call, or scheduled one in error, or if your admin had put something in that you missed. The effect is the same “Did I miss something, let me check this out, let’s take a look.” Leading is to element 2.

2. Body of Massage – the body needs to have two must things, first brevity, second no fat.

I can’t emphasise the importance of being brief. Two lines at most. I want you to be guided by the “Two Flicks of the Thumb Rule.” The first flick is to scroll down once; the second is either Reply or Delete. Which is why we have no room for fat.

The best way to achieve that is to include and highlight only those things that speak to the prospect. Nothing about you, nothing about your company, just how you can help them deliver against their objectives. This is harder that it sounds, because as sales people are geared to talk about their value prop, and other irrelevant things.

Based on your research, previous experience, and those things you learn from 360 Degree Deal View,  Identify a specific impact or outcome you can deliver based on your assessment of their objectives, and speak to that.

I am writing to schedule a call to share with you how we helped Close Competitor Inc., add an additional service call for each of their trucks on a daily basis, leading to an 8% increase in revenue, 11% increase in margins, and a 12% improvement on return on assets…

Which brings us to the third element, The Close.

3. The Close – is your call to action, the ask from the call, and as we know from the Subject Line, it is a call Friday at 2:30 pm. So continuing from element 2:

“…leading to an 8% increased in revenue, 11% increase in margins, and a 12% improvement on return on assets. I will call you for an introductory call Friday at 2:30.

Thank you,
Alfred E. Neuman”

The important thing to remember is that this e-mail may be one of a number of touch points, and it is important that it is planned in context of a complete pursuit plan. If this e-mail is the first contact, what will follow, if you had phoned prior, how does this e-mail fit in? The specific version above is geared as a first e-mail, if you had called and sent a previous e-mail, you will need to vary it.

But for first mails, with a realistic expectation that there will need to be more touch points in the process of creating a prospect, this is a good start.

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LinkedIn Serves Up Catholic Like Feature2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

endorsed 2

People always seem to be looking for a means to repent and ease their guilt. Whatever the cause or underlying motivation, people feel better when doing something, even if it is not the right thing for the wrong reasons, acting gives the illusion of accomplishment. So when it comes to sales, social media offers an outlet more immediate and less demanding than going to a confessional, when they know they have wronged and are feeling guilty.  All with the added bonus of being socially impersonal.

I look at this phenomenon as the sales equivalent of “slacktivism“.

I came to learn about this from a rep I am working with. He highlighted that a prospect had missed a scheduled call, one agreed to during the last meeting, invite accepted, and specific to the deal at the time. When he called as scheduled, he did not get a response. But the very next day the prospect in question “endorsed” said sales rep for two sales related skills on LinkedIn. Brad thought this just to be a coincidence, but saw it happen in other instances. He mentioned that he met someone at an industry event, the usual “ya, this is what we are looking for, definitely give me a call.” Follow up – no response; a few days later, follow up – no response, voice mails left on both calls, with return number. Lo and behold, a couple of days later, a LinkedIn endorsement.

I have always been flattered when I get LinkedIn endorsements, making a mental note, occasionally reaching out, but never looked for the correlation Brad mentioned. But, since it was brought to my attention, I have seen that I too have been a victim of this “social confessional”, a cleansing of guilt brought in when folks don’t follow through on commitments.

I say “social confessional” for two reasons. First, as people use social outlets to communicate things in a way different than the past, it only makes sense that it would creep into their communication of their guilt for not following through on their commitments, and in to their communication with whatever deity they hide behind when they mess up. So why make the trek down to the local church, just give them three endorsements, a “social” form of three Hail Mary’s and a candle. “It’s not like I ignored you, dude, in fact I endorsed you, three times man, let it go.”

The second reason, well, these days you stick “social” in front of any old thing, and it’ll just seem hipper.

So Catholic, or not, even atheists, can now endorse and move on with their day, without the bother of being accountable for their commitments. The Church can learn something here.

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Decision Makers Want To Deal With Decisive People2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Decisions direction sign with sky background

A question I regularly ask when working with a group of reps on prospecting, is “who do you call on?” or “who do you want to call on?” The answer I get is “the decision maker”. Now I have used a lot of different directories and databases, and they all give a title, not role in decision. But let’s say they did, the real question is what happens when you speak to that decision maker. Unfortunately often this opportunity does not go as well as hoped, for the sales person, and the decision maker.

It has been shown in a number of studies that many decision makers are disappointed with many of their meetings with sales people, often seeing it as a waste of their time. Reps come in unprepared in so many ways. Despite all the information out there, all the research sales people supposedly do in advance of their meetings, they seem to bring little knowledge or real valuable or actionable insight to these meetings.

While there are more, I will look at two that if addressed and improved will dramatically improve your success. First is the focus of all the research and information reps do going into the meeting. When I ask, I still get the same old same old. It is all very product and sales centric. Mercifully you hear less and less of “what keeps you awake at night?” But while the words have changed, the posture and the way it rubs the executive has not. The reality is that much of what many sales people “probe for”, are things many senior executives and decision makers have delegated to others in the organization.

Instead they are focused on their objectives 12 – 18 months forward, they are consumed by those outcomes, and their impact on their company, be that profits, market share, Wall Street reaction, and more. It is not about “the” enterprise software, but the impact as they view it. Talk about that and they will engage, and exchange information with you, but with all due deference, the SPIN stuff makes their head spin. Show them that you can help them achieve their objectives, and you’re on.

The second common obstacle is the general demeanour of many reps. There is a difference between respecting someone and their position, and putting them on a pedestal. This needs to be a conversation of peers; not equals, but peers. Why would I open up to someone whose words, gestures and posture suggest that they have not faced the type of scenarios and objectives I deal with every day? Many sales people, especially the relationship types or the social types, are reluctant to ask the direct and difficult questions that not only demonstrates that you understand the day to day world of the person you are with, much less help them resolve the gaps that stand between them and their objectives. You can talk probing, but doing it right, is another story. Executives I have spoken to tell straight out that they don’t have time to educate reps on the types of things they are trying to achieve or resolve. “I can tell from the questions they ask, and the way they ask them if they really get, are faking it, or just scared shitless because they know they are in over their heads when it comes to my world and day to day”.

The reason some reps never get the appointment is not because the executive or decision maker is not open to input, but they want that from a peer, who understands what they are dealing with, and can demonstrate that they have fought the battle and won. Not with a glossy case study but how they conduct themselves. In short, Decision makers want to deal with decisive people, people who can lead them to success, not just follow hoping for relationship.

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Delivery Over Messaging In Prospecting Calls0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Bulls eye

When it comes to effective prospecting there is usually a complete imbalance between two critical components of an effective message. Effective here means leading to initial engagement. The two components are “the content” of the message, and the “delivery”. The being the ability to ensure that the content is packaged and delivered in a way that the recipient can full receive and digest it and get out of it what the seller intended. Most people tend to focus way too much on the message, and the content, then fail to pay sufficient focus and energy on the delivery, often resulting in great content and message being wasted.

The important part of the delivery is “dynamics”, what is happening on the prospects side of things that will enable them or prevent them from taking on the message. Your value prop is a flop if it lands on deaf ears, on the other hand if you can get the prospect to take in the message, even a semi polished message will go further than the perfect line that misses the target.

Most prospecting calls, OK, cold calls, usually fall short because the caller is thinking too much about their end of the call, not the prospects end. First and foremost they are trying, and frankly encouraged by many pundits, to come up with a message that will avoid or side step an objection. Well forget it, that is not happening, when you are interrupting someone trying to pack 16 hours into a ten hour day, you will get an objection, because you are an interruption, no matter how golden your message or revolutionary your product. The only way to avoid objections is to not make the call, and I know some resort to that method. Add to that the fact that no matter how cool or “disruptive” your product, they think they already have it or something like it, remember you called them.

So you have to make it about them. Now I know you’re all sitting there saying I already do that, but having listened to thousands of call delivered by hundreds of reps, you’re not. What I hear is people telling the prospect about their company, what they do, and their product, and only after that do they get to the good stuff, what’s in it for the buyer, but even then, it is often to general. What reps tell me is that they need to introduce themselves, no you don’t. You need to introduce what’s in it for them. By the time you get through your intro they are either asleep or looking for a window, not to jump, but to throw the phone through. Lead with the outcome, the happy ending, the punch line, whatever you wanna call it, give them the end, then work back from there. This will help you get their attention, ensure the message gets through, and will set you up to manage their objectives more effectively. Now, if you want to better manage their objectives download the Objective Handling Handbook, normally $12.97, free today.

This but one example of how the delivery can make a difference. There is also the words, the tone, the cadence, and more, the key is to not focus entirely on the message, and put more attention to the delivery and dynamics involved.

BTW – you can start by joining me today at 1:00 pm Eastern, for a webinar I am present with data.com, I will be showing you how to Mastering voice mail, e-mail, and other tools of Prospect Pursuit Success! 

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Mastering voice mail, e-mail, and other tools of Prospect Pursuit Success! #webinar0

data dot com logo

Thursday July 16, 1:00 pm Eastern – 10:00 am Pacific

content (2)Having great leads, being social, and ready are all important, but it takes a lot more to connect and engage these days.  Sometimes the biggest challenge is not the message but the ability to deliver it.  This webinar will look at the tools of trade, how you use and leverage will be the difference between connecting and selling or being left behind.

We will explore:

  • The Pursuit and Pursuit Cadence
  • Voice mail messages that get returned
  • E-mail and role in the pursuit
  • Referrals 2.0
  • Everything New is old again
Register

Are You A Pompous LinkedIn Stink Bomber?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

LI Stink

Wherever one may land on the whole social selling vs. all other forms of selling, there is no denying that one of the best attributes of social is the ability to share your views, learn from others, especially those with opposing or different views. When you look at a platform like LinkedIn, it offers various means of seeking out many views of an issue, and engage others with differing. Long before it was fashionable I joined as many groups as possible and sought discussion, rebuttals and other reactions to my posts, now we can add LinkedIn Publisher as yet another channel to debate and discovery.

The pay offs for putting my opinions out there have been great and rewarding, not only in terms of learning, expanding or hardening my views, most importantly financially, and often in the most unexpected ways. Sure I have been able to connect “with just the right person” to make a deal happen; I have had people who read something I posted that resonated with them so much that they reached and hired me on because they felt so aligned with what I wrote. But most rewarding is when someone initially comp[lately disagreed with what I said, strongly challenged me, sometime harshly at first, but then as we went back and forth, first on LinkedIn, then in the real world, where we found common ground, leading to them hiring me.

But then there are those that I call “Stink Bombers”, I am sure some of you know who you are right now without me going any further, but I will. Stink Bombers come in two form, the everyday no lead incidental types. These people innocently get in the middle of something that they don’t get, and quickly retreat when faced with alternative views. Then there are the fully leaded, no ethanol, super premium, self-indulgent “Pompous Stinkers”. These are the people who will throw their opinion into a discussion, drawing different reactions, but don’t engage any further.

As a rule, I try to respond to all comments or feedback to my posts or comments I contribute to other’s discussions. Not only is that “social”, but that is how you encourage dialog and learning. After all, if someone is kind enough to take the time and share their view, on or about something I said, the least I can do is respond. But that’s not how the “Pompous Bombers” roll, they will come into a discussion, drop their “bomb”, in the form of an opinion or comment, usually self-serving, and then disappear. People respond, challenge, ask for clarification, but they get nothing back for the “Pompous Bombers”, I have seen and been part of instances where people directly address the “Pompous Bombers”, only to have no response at all. Now I know people are busy, but if you are going take the time to throw something out there, you should be prepared to truly participate. This is about discussion, not declaration.

What makes this phenomenon very amusing is that the “Pompous” variety are very often people who call themselves, “Social Sellers”, people who should more than others understand the importance and frankly the pay-off and benefit of interaction, engagement and debate. But of the dozens of examples of this, be they in the form of a published post, or comment to someone else’s post, most often, they are “socialites”.

While I can almost understand (but not forgive) when they don’t respond to comments on their posts, I really don’t get it when it comes to people responding to a comment they left on someone else’s post. In the case of the former, they have stated their views in the post, what can they add. Save the fact that they seem to uniformly respond to positive comments, but never to challenging or alternate views.

But when they jump in on someone else’s thread it is very different. You put it out there, I believe you owe those challenging the view a response. I recently had a socialite jump into to a thread where people were responding to one of my posts. Their comment was in my opinion, not only of topic, but was baseless. I made an effort to engage, and nothing.

I know a lot of people don’t know me or like me and therefore may not want to engage, but in these cases they choose to engage, throw their “stink bomb” in the “room”, then why not continue? That is the genuine question I put to the “Pompous Bombers”. A friend of mine suggested that they are just arrogant, “I have spoken”, and so be it. Maybe, but I think that in many instances, they really don’t have much to add, they saw an opportunity to parrot something they heard in the echo chamber, and never expected someone would engage. They were looking for their 15 seconds of thread fame, and expected the statement would speak for itself, after all no one in the echo chamber where they picked it up questioned it, so why would they outside that environment.

No matter what the venue or medium, if you are going to enter a “discussion”, you should be ready to discuss, dropping a bomb and hiding, is not only childish, but intellectually void, and if you are that, just sit the whole thing out, not just the important part.

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Where Have All The Sellers Gone? – Sales eXecution 3013

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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