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Crystal Balling 2015 – Sales eXecution 2790

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Magical Fortune Teller

Here we are at the height of the holiday season, a season filled with family gatherings, good cheer, forgotten poverty (please donate to the Salvation Army), and loony tune predictions and resolutions. And why not, what’s the risk when we live in an ADHD addled society that explores grand ideas 140 characters at a time; who will remember to check 12 months from now. I mean really, is anyone reviewing what they predicted last year, hell no, it is easier to double down and make new predictions.

Sales is right in there like a, a, a, “wanna go play outside?” Sure some are sticking with their predictions, because if you say it enough it may come true one century, and there will always be those lost souls who are so deathly afraid to pick up the phone to prospect who wish with all their hearts that this is the year that clod calling does die. Sorry Virginia, there ain’t no Santa Clause, and cold calling still works, deal with this, you can even “cold tweet”.

So what does 2015 hold for sales?

Apps for sales and sellers will continue to grow, as will the confusion around them. Meaning that the more of something there is, the more confusion that may result. The victim will be clarity, are we seeing the outcomes we see because of the improved economy, the apps we use, or improved execution. I suspect (ok predict) , that much of the uptick in results for many will be much more due to the economy, very little with improved execution, and even less with their feel good apps. According to a recent press release from Accenture titled: Mediocre Performance by a Majority of Sales Representatives Cost Companies 3.2 Percent in Potential Revenue, Accenture Research, shows, “Just 59 percent of sales representatives are expected to achieve his/her quota in 2014, down from 67 percent in 2013.” This despite the rise in “social selling” and related apps. At the same time “(72 percent) are raising their revenue target by 5 percent or more in the coming year, only 14 percent of chief sales officers (CSOs) are very confident that they can achieve increased revenue goals.” Something has to change, and it is execution, I’ve said it before, a fool with a tool is still a fool; more tools by and for more fools. Execution, everything else is just talk.

Data will continue to make its impact on quality selling, call it big data, actionable data, or a term Miles Austin recently introduced me to “fast data”. Call it what you like, data will help you make the decisions you need as a sales person to execute. About the only positive from the proliferation of apps is the data they provide. The key is how you action the data, better data with unchanged thinking does not drive improved execution or results.

One bold prediction, there will be an app that will take a traditional approach to client engagement, and deliver it in a way that will make it easy for everyone to consume follow and succeed, as long as they, you guessed it, they execute, because, yes, everything else is just talk.

Well that’s my crystal ball gazing, anything more would be foolish. As a stock broker friend of mine said when asked about predicting where a stock will go “If I had crystal balls, I’d make noise when I walk!”

Merry Christmas,
Tibor Shanto

Rethinking Sales Incentives0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Rethinking Sales Incentives

As part of a series of posts dealing with areas you should consider, better yet reconsider, going in to the New Year, today we look at incentive. No doubt everyone should be thinking about commissions, after all is in effect the cost of revenue. While there are other expenses, commissions/incentives, are the most direct “payment” you pay for bringing in revenue.

While there have been variations, updates and paint over through the years, little has changed in how and what you pay for.

In this article I penned for November issue of Sales and Service Excellence Essentials, I challenge and suggest an alternate way to spend incentive cash, and actually driving right behaviours that lead to results (revenues), and actually sustain both.

Take a read, let me know what you think, pro or con, some will call me names, others will want to pick up the phone and call me to discuss. In the end it’s your money, you should always be open to investing it more productively.

Read the piece here: Rethinking Sales Incentives Then comment below.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Key Sales Management Actions To Prepare for 2015 (#video)0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

2015 rocket

About a month ago I had the privilege to be part of a great panel exploring key issues sales leaders need to not just think about, but act on in preparing for a successfully 2015.

The panel included:

Lori Richardson – Score More Sales
Lee Salz – Sales Architects
Steven Rosen – STAR Results
Dan Enthoven – Enkata
Miles Austin – Fill the Funnel
And myself.

As the next instalment in this week’s posts dealing with kicking the New Year off right, meaning in a way that will help sales organisations and teams exceed quota in 2015. Below is an expert from that discussion, but I encourage you to take in the full discussion by clicking here. It is a lively and insightful discussion that will provide a number of ideas for helping your team crush their number.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Questioning Assumptions0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Assumptions

I remember reading somewhere about a company that had set up different office, each with a different motif. One would be full of things relating to fishing, another would be all decked up with pictures of golf courses and golf related chachkas. The goal was to stump the sales people who would come through, often it played out to be stump the chump. They wanted to see how many sales people would fall into the trap of trying to create rapport by making small talk, no let’s be honest and call it what it is, empty talk, by trying to relate to and talk to the motif in the room. You’ve seen it, the sales rep trying to chummy up to the buyer buy talking about his fishing adventures or golf outings.

What the sales people didn’t realize is that none of the pictures include the person they were meeting with, there were no names on the door, these were their “sales social experiment”, and not social in today’s context. If and when a sales rep bit, the company had a bit of a chuckle, and the rep’s stature went down a notch.

While we can talk about the merits of this little experiment, it does highlight how easily some sales people assume things through their filters, and run with those assumptions till they hit a wall or fall off a cliff, and it’s too late to recover. If you think something is so, even something as obvious as a person liking golf because of the pictures on the office wall, why not ask a question instead of making a statement. Put in the form of a question you give the prospect a chance to correct you, without putting yourself in a corner. What’s more, in the process of correcting you, they often share additional and valuable information or nuance that can prove to be valuable in moving the sale forward.

Even when things seem obvious, they are often not.  I’ll give a personal experience, on a regular basis I receive calls from strangers, who start by telling me how great they get along with someone I did a webinar with, or was on a panel with, making the assumption (and hoping) that because our names share a billboard it will warm their way into my heart.  The reality is that this just heightens my suspicions about their intents, given that other than that one event we have little in common; in fact at times, I am there as a counter to the other panelist’s view.  Yet if they would not lean on this false assumption who knows what they may be able to achieve?  Just because my name is Tibor does not mean I like goulash, I’ll take a hot vindaloo any day.

While it may take a bit of effort, it would be so much more profitable to validated things before betting the farm, or in this case the outcome of the sales call or the whole sale.

Yes, even when you think you know something, test it, because often you will find that you really didn’t know until it is much too late or costly.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Ego And Confidence In Sales Success – Sales eXecution 2782

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Clone not

Successful sales people share certain attributes, some can be learned and developed, some we come by naturally, and if we have less of those than other, we can spend time and effort developing them, and improving our sales habits and results in the process. Two that are common to many successful sales people are ego and confidence. The question and challenge is proportions and dominance, and as always, intent.

Some sales people tend to confuse ego with confidence, and fall victim to this trait. When I was a young rep I had the fortune to learn the difference between the two, and learned to balance one with the other. My mentor kept telling me that if I have to tell people how great I am, rather than demonstrating it through my actions, ability and knowledge, I was letting my ego lead, and likely costing myself sales and friends. Demonstrating capabilities is confidence, a sign of security, attracting people and their confidence in me, and helping my sales success. Telling it to people signaled insecurity, thus causing them to pause before acting with me, and buying form me. Confidence is something you can build and more importantly share with others, bringing them into you process. An ego driven by insecurity is often sustained by having an air of superiority, expressed or implied, or both. Neither adding to ones sales success.

Let’s be clear there is nothing wrong with sales people having an ego, the question again is intent, and the risk of an unchecked ego. I remember once telling a director that I could not imagine or fathom going to our annual sales meeting and going up on stage to receive an award other than the one for making quota. This drove my activities, and gave her a great tool to motivate me when needed. I remember having a slow start to a fourth quarter, all she had to do was to remind me that I need X dollars to put me into the Platinum Club. No doubt it helped her bonus, but it was the reminder, the nudge I needed to get my act in gear; ego served a good purpose.

If confidence is a sign of ability and security, no doubt that is more than partly supported by knowledge and how to best apply that knowledge. In the case of sales how do we help buyers achieve their objectives, so they buy our product, pay their invoices and help us achieve Platinum or some such club. Some sale people are too lazy to acquire knowledge, after all it does take work, it often takes more than what your company will spoon feed you. Face with the choice of putting in the effort or faking it, many sales people opt for the latter. This is often manifested in some sales people compensating for knowledge with ego, or more accurately their lack of knowledge. As Einstein pointed out, the relationship is invers, Ego = 1/ Knowledge. By extension, the more knowledge the greater the confidence and less leading with ego. Buyers aren’t stupid, they can tell the difference, and their buying decisions reflect that. Leading to bruised egos and missed sales and numbers.

In the end the elements that make for a confident rep are usually the ones that make for a successful rep. When you find the balance tipping to ego, step back and ask what you need to do to re-calibrate, not only will it make you a better person, but a more successful seller.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

A Thanksgiving Audio Treat0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

Given that today is Thanksgiving in the States, it is not the time for heavy reading (maybe heavy eating), so today’s post is an audio delight that you can take with you and enjoy. It is a recent interview I did on Biz Radio Canada, talking about what else, Pipeline and Sales.

You can use it to distract you from the other in line or at the mall, or stop you from getting trampled as you reach for that last discounted super-duper flat screen. Hey, you never know, you may discover a nugget or two that will allow you to Sell Better next year and allow you to hire a personal shopper to troll the mall for specials, or just not worry about paying full price because of the increased sales you’ll make, and stay home and watch the game on your flat screen.

Enjoy:

Happy Thanksgiving

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

The Ultimate Beneficiary – Sales eXecution 2770

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Market-Research

There certain things that people tend to “speak” in sales circles, which tend to be “tribal” in nature and are often mouthed to suit the circumstance or attain peer acceptance. But when you dig a bit you find that some of the things they speak to or of, don’t always reflect the way they actually execute. And since talk is cheap and the payoff is in the action, it is important to look at some and see if we can get some change, no, not for the bus, but for better sales.

One area where is who they target and pursue to gain engagement and traction, if not the sale. When you ask some (not all) sales people who is important to them in getting a sale or a deal done, they often respond that they need to get to the decision maker. Since that is not usually a title and the function varies from deal to deal, I find that response wanting.

When I ask some sales people who they sell to, especially without giving them a reason for the question, I often hear people who are users, and lower level decision makers, like managers, office manager as an example. Nothing wrong with these people, but they are often implementers or contributors to decisions, but not what we are looking for. When I push the issue, they’ll say “oh ya, well we also call on the executive or C suite”. Better but still, not the answer we were hoping for.

Given the way purchasing has gone over the last few years it is better to redefine the answer away from title, and more into roles. While I would not discourage anyone from going high in an organization, it is always good to be in tune with those setting the strategic decisions, they are not always the ones who decide, or decide the way some sales people would think.

Many senior executives place less importance on the actual product or services decided on, and put more emphasis on the how their teams see the offering, is there consensus around one product versus another. When there is, it means smoother (read less costly) implementation, greater adoption, and other more desirable outcomes, that in turn help drive objectives.

In light of the fact that there is often so little real differences between the offerings on the short list, senior leaders will often go for a product that may score 1% or 2% less on the comparative chart, but has the support of all, where the top one may have less than unanimous support.

In light of the fact that most leaders buy things to drive and attain objectives, and they rely and delegate aspects of that to others on the team, the goal of a seller is to identify and engage with the ultimate beneficiary. Sure it would be simple to say that’s the person at the top, but in day to day terms, it is the person who most relays or is impacted by the work and output generated by what’s being purchased.

Since buying and selling are economic activities, let’s stick to basic economies, supply and demand. Who generates the demand for the purchase in question? The person or people who are the ultimate beneficiaries. Based on the specifics it could be the VP of Marketing, or it could be brand manager for a specific segment. Identify the people who most benefit, and you will be in a position to not just create demand, but if it already exists, shape and influence it. Do that in a way that aligns with their objectives and those of the company, and you’ll be pleased with how those beneficiaries will influence the purchase process and decision.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Your Help and Support is Requested0

vote

For many this time of year is the holiday season, but we all know that in fact this is the awards season. The Best of 2014, Top Ten of 2014, and more. And so I find myself in the running for a few awards and need your help in the form of votes, in two polls.

The first is over at Top Sales World, where they are set to recognize a number of leaders in some key areas related to sales and marketing. I have the good fortune of being nominated in two categories, and am writing to as for your support.

The first is for Top Sales & Marketing Blog 2014, and if you are regular reader of this blog, I would truly appreciate your support.

The second category is for Top Sales & Marketing Webinar 2014, for the webinar I delivered for salesforce.com about The Objective Seller.

Now the great thing about the good folks running the Top Sales & Marketing Awards, is they really understand democracy. Unlike those malcontents in Ottawa and Washington, who limit the citizenry to one single vote per elections, Top Sales World rewards initiative, and allows you to exercise your vote over and over, in fact every 12 hours. So you can vote now, 12 hours from now, twice tomorrow, and every day after that until the voting closes on December 12, now that’s democracy.

The other award I would ask for your support, is run by the Sales and Lead Management Association, who are looking for votes to determine the 50 Most Influential in Sales Lead Management. Now SLMA, has a more traditional view of democracy, limiting each person to one vote throughout the voting, which closes November 30. I am asking for your support for this as well, your votes got me on the list last year, I hope we can do the same this year. You can vote by clicking here!

Thank you for your support in these votes, and in general through the whole year.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

A Verbal Painting is Worth A 1,000 Words0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Art Brush

We have all the expression above, but it really rings home in sales, especially for successful sales people. If you look at sales as being an educational process, that is you learning from the prospect, even while you are helping them learn how you can help them reach their objective, let’s focus on the latter, you helping the buyer learn about the potential value you can/may bring.

Broadly speaking people fall into one of three styles of learning

  • Visual Learners – Learn through observing, visualization; good visual recall of what they saw or read
  • Auditory Learners – Strong in Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence, listen and identify patterns, effective use of language
  • Tactile Learners – Learns through touching and physical interaction, activity, via demonstrations

The challenge is that as a sales person you can’t call in advance and as your buyer’s disposition, or start meetings by asking, not to mention that there may be multiple people in the process or a given meeting. I also believe that demos are only appropriate at certain point in the sale, and giving them something to read especially early could be counterproductive in so many ways. As a result sellers tend to lean on the visual and verbal, which can be effective, especially with a little planning and focus on how they execute.

The ability to paint a picture with words a number of benefits is selling. One is the ability to engage buyers on a deeper level, at a level where they make decisions. We have all heard the saying “people buy on emotion, then they rationalize it.” While not incorrect, it is also not complete. As I understand it, (or not), there a third element, the specific trigger that sets things into motion. With three layers in the brain (The Reptilian, Emotion and Thinking) each responding to outside triggers differently, it is probably more accurate to say that people buy in response or reaction to trigger – Reptilian; filtered by the Emotion, is this good or bad, pain or pleasure; the rationalized by the Thinking brain. Which is why despite all the data and objective facts available, people still make mistakes in buying.

As a sales people we have the opportunity to trigger responses and emotions that can cause a buyer to look at things differently and buy from us, versus. Unlike what some pundits will tell you, the goal of a sales person is not to stand around and wait for a random event to trigger something in the buyer, but to create the trigger to initiate the desired event(s).

Which is where the ability to paint a verbal story comes in. Think of a time in your life when stories, vivid stories were a key part of your daily routine. That’s right, when you were a child. The people who sharing the stories were people close to you who you trusted, parents, grandparents, kindergarten, teachers, etc.

“The Limbic (Emotional brain) system creates chemical messages that connect information to memory, the retention of which is significantly increased when that information is presented in an emotionally charged context.” Since having the buyer retain your message is a key challenge, there is a pay-off right there. But further, “This is why you are most likely to remember events that created a strong emotional response within you, and why other people will mostly remember the things you said or did to them that made them feel a certain way”

Most of us felt safe secure and happy when we were read stories when we were kids, that’s why leave movies or play with a good story feeling good and rewarded.

Learning to paint a quality verbal picture aligned with the buyer’s objectives, will not only enhance engagement, help the buyer retain more of what you are telling them, and feel good about buying from you. Trigger the right reaction in the reptilian and emotional brain, and you can move your sales forward in a measurable and repeatable way.

One caution, that no matter how good you verbal painting is, it won’t overcome a crappy product, or if they are not aligned to buyer objective. The goal is not to become a spin master but to tell your story in a way meaningful to the buyer.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Perfection Is Overrated – Sales eXecution 2762

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Perfect

While I am sure that this is not limited to sales people, they are the group I get to observe most, thousands to date in fact. One thing I see over and over again is the amount of opportunities by sellers because e of their propensity to wait for the perfect moment, a moment that all too often never comes. Be that the perfect moment to speak to someone, or until they perfect a technique or a script, or they understand the product perfectly. You know one thing that is not on that list is the perfect understand of the prospect, their environment or their objectives.

The interesting things is that some of the most successful businesses and business innovators rarely waited for perfection. They had enough of the right elements in place, and went for it, in sales parlance, they executed, and applied the lessons from the outcome. There are countless companies that waited to perfect only to miss the window or blow up when they came to market. Yet others, had a workable plan, vision, the basics, and went for it. Then they perfected things as they gathered data and experience.

The best sales people I know understand that the game is played on the field not in the locker room. Practice is important, a playbook is important, but nothing comes close to doing it – executing. The best sales people learn a lot off the field but their best lessons come from doing it, getting bruised and doing it again. The best sales are like building a plane while it is in flight, as the sale unfolds.

I find that what causes people to wait for perfection is less a quest for quality, and more driven by fear. The best sales people have one fear, fear of failure, of not making quota, of not delivering value to their buyers and their companies. I don’t know about you, but I find buyers aren’t looking for perfection, they looking to achieve specific objectives. They understand that waiting for perfection will only leave them lagging in the market. Add to that given that people buy from people, perfection is rarely a criteria for buyers or for execution, since people are not perfect, being perfect may in fact scare buyers since it may appear to make one not human or genuine.

Intent and effort go a lot further for sales people than perfection. You can often achieve more when you make an honest and genuine effort, explore the results, and most importantly, apply the lessons learned. One can argue that if and when you perfect your sale, it will only ever apply to that one sale, and therefore be of little value moving forward. Whereas if you go for it, imperfections exposed, you can only learn and improve. I guess as with most things, perfection in sales is about the continuing journey, not the destination.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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