Welcome to The Pipeline.

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 

It’s Really Not This vs. That – Sales eXecution 2510

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

A few weeks back I asked in a post What’s Your Favourite Hyphenated Selling, and many missed the point, and actually told me why one “type” of selling is better than the other. Many pundits and so called experts will tell you that this “type selling does not work anymore, only that type (their type) does.” Good sellers understand that it is not vs. the other, but how do I combine and expand to make the best of all possible techniques and tools to deliver value for the buyer.

Have a look, and tell me what you think:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

 

First Post 2014 – Let’s Cut The S*#T – 14

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

No Shite

Buying Vs. Selling

As the first post of the years, I thought I would set the tone for the blog and hopefully sales in 2014. Let’s start by setting straight some unadulterated shit that has made its way into main stream sales over the last few years. It came out of the impact of the 2008 economic realities and the rise of social media in its sales form, commonly known as social selling. A cute marketing term that elevated the noise created by Sales 2.0, which just further drowned out reason in sales, and allowed people with social selling products to sell more, and pretend sales people keep their jobs.

History has taught us that when faced with a challenge you really only have three choices:

A. Get creative, apply your skills, and find a way to overcome the challenge
B. Redefine things in a way that allows you to avoid the challenge – not resolve or deal with it – but by changing the premise you mask the reality
C. Hide from it

Sadly, too often we opt for options B and/or C. Option B happily fueled and supported by pundits selling products or advice to sellers.

Let’s look at one of the biggest slices of crap peddled in sales these days:

slideshare attribute“60% of the sales cycle is over before a buyer talks to a sales person”, as quoted by James Wood, on Earnest About B2B Blog, Slide number 5, attributes the quote to Kieran Flanagan, Hubspot.  But when you follow the links to a slideshare presentation: Inbound marketing your secrets to success,  Kieran, on slide 9,  attributes it to the Corporate Executive Board.  The link in that attribution leads to a page on Latvian TV, featuring an interview with a musician on a bus, I don’t speak Latvian, and therefore not sure if he in fact stated the above (I’m betting not).  I am pretty sure he is not the one that set the absurd notion contained in the quote.

So we don’t know where it came from, but a whole bunch of people in the selling business are reciting it as though it was gospel. Problem.

What is described/discussed/contained in the quote, does not talk to a sales process, but a buying process! Big difference. The person a self-declared buyer talks to is not a sales person, but rather a quote/price dispensing order taker. It’s true, it doesn’t matter what it says on the business card, what it says on the web site or org chart, these are not sales people, they are process facilitators, and the process they are facilitation is the buying process, not a sales process. How can I tell, because order takers deal with buyers, buyers who on their own decided to explore a purchase, started defining their requirements on their own, unprompted by a (a real) seller. As they were at about 60% of their buying process, they needed some comparisons, some additional data that was not available on the company’s web site or the common social outlets, and some quotes so they could make their choice, So they reach out to the facilitator, happy to spew stats and facts, and quotes, that they are willing to negotiate.

This is not selling, it is order taking, and if it sounds like selling to you, well, I feel for you and I am here to help you.

Selling involves professionals who engage the best potential buyers based on criteria they, the seller, researched to identify the best opportunities for mutual success, their own and their buyers. This often leads to the reality that the best potential buyers, those will benefit and deliver revenue as a result, are not in the market. They are doing what they do until they are approached by the seller, which by definition means that the seller is likely about 20% – 25% through their sales cycle when they talk to a potential buyer who they are looking to convert to a prospect; and that potential prospect is at 0%, because their journey start when the seller calls.

Facilitators have no control over their success and destiny, as they are dependent on the buyer, who according to the pundits is in control. Scraps anyone?

Sellers not only control their success, income and destiny, but have more loyal clients, willing to pay full value, and rely on the seller based on their contribution to the customers’ success. You decide, not so much which you are or want to be, but how much work you are willing to invest to be the seller you ought to be.

Happy New Year!
Tibor Shanto

Clients Deal With Companies0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

building

We are all familiar with the battle cry of many in sales: People Buy From People.  This is all well and good (if not always true), it does not always turn out the way some expect.  Specifically for sales people who believe they have such a tight relationship with their buyers that they tend to ignore things that can cost them revenue and clients.

In a more specific way, it does not translate when it comes to sales people who think they own the account, and that the account will follow them no matter where they go.  We have seen companies hire sales reps less for their superior selling skills, and more for their “book”.  Worse we have all dealt with sales people who jump to competitors, extracting concessions in the form of bonuses, or compensation based on the fact that they will bring their book with them.  But the reality more often than not, is that most of the book stays put.

I remember reading the results of a purchasing manager’s survey, which detailed that they, purchasing managers, prefer to deal with sales people who can demonstrate that they can access and deliver their company’s broad resources.  While this may bode well for some sellers, it flies in the face of lone wolves, or those who want to be the centre of the deal, rather than the facilitator.  Sadly a high percentage of those who would barter their “book” or think they are the pied piper their clients will blindly follow.

What it also highlights is that savvy buyers will usually put more stock in the company they deal with than the person parked in the territory at the time of the deal.  Again, this is not universal, but if they see more contact from the company in forms other than the sales person, they usually see themselves as clients of the company, not the rep.  Here is a reality, they get an invoice from the company every month, if the rep is present less than that, the relationship will belong to the company.

Someone recently shared an interesting stat relating to client habits, they cited stats that showed only that only 10% of customers will actually switch when given a rate increase due to the high cost of change.  That cost does not go down if the rep switches, the considerations remain the same, if they are benefiting from the service, they will stay.  While loyalty is big, that loyalty is greater for the company than any given individual, including the sales rep.  Let’s not forget that the same people who will tell you they can bring their book, are the same ones that tell you the Status Quo rules supreme.

While people buy from people, clients deal with and stay with companies.  Clients are not lemmings, they know what is in their best interest, and stay loyal to that, and that is rarely based on one individual or relationship.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

A Painless Decision2

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Waiting room

Most sales people stay well to the centre of the road, and well within their comfort zone, leading to selling styles that are narrow and shallow, thereby often limiting their success. Some of this is due to “sales folklore” and mythology, some of which are broadly accepted as fact, often reinforced by the pundits, which just perpetuates questionable practices.

One that has puzzled me for a long time is the role of ‘Pain’ in selling, and its appeal to sellers, and always hanging around with their companion ‘Need’. Ask any group of sellers why people buy, and the vast majority will reply “to satisfy a need”. Not sure that is the best place for a B2B sales person to start, after-all, if they identified their ‘need’ on their own, doesn’t that just make the sales person the “demo person” and an order taker in the equation. When you further test the notion by asking “OK, what’s driving the need”, and they tell me “It’s to address or avoid a pain”.

Ouch!

Beyond the fact I don’t like pain, don’t like to give pain, it is such a limiting view point when it comes to professional selling. One that many cling to for no apparent reason, especially when you look at their results. Yet sellers continue to speak of “finding the pain”, I even had one “consultative sales person” describe his role as “finding the soft underbelly of the beast, stabbing it, then offering up the cure”. Seems like a messy affair, especially when better results can be achieved in easier and cleaner ways.

Pain is a hard habit to break, especially when so many pundits reinforce the concept. I recall debating this issue a few years back, and when I asked where was the pain for buyers looking to expand their business, improve a winning process further, or any purchase decision made for positive reasons, they told me “that they were avoiding the pain of not achieving their objective”. Would’ve been easier for them to say that those buyer were seeking the pleasure (the other motivator) of success, but the pain culture is so deep, they went to the dark side instead.

As result, sellers go out every day looking for pain, and you know how it is, if you go out looking for something, that is what you’ll find, even as you miss other opportunities around you. As the month goes on, if they can’t find pain, i.e. not enough opportunities in the pipeline, they turn to creating pain, and it all becomes an uneasy exercise.

There is no denying that many purchase decisions are rooted in people’s lack of satisfaction of their current state, and that needs to be explored and leveraged by sales people, but there is also the impact of being focused solely on pain, before and above other states the seller may be in. It is a negative place to start, and if you start off looking for the negative, it clouds your sight and ability to create action and value from positive developments in the buyer’s world.

Not to appear overly Pollyannaish, but why not start off by focusing on the buyer’s objectives, not only a much more pleasant start to things, but one with so much more potential. If in the end, their pain is involved in shaping their objectives, then yes, deal with it for what it is. But the reality is that there are as many objectives are rooted in the positive, they make for a more pleasant and better sale, people will spend as much for the positive as the negative; yes they’ll pay to avoid pain, but they will also pay to extend pleasure. I have sold to, and worked with clients not because sale were bad, or they were not making their numbers. Instead they were market leaders and wanted to expand the distance between themselves and the pack, their only “Pain” was that there wasn’t more distance between them and number 2.

One reason many default to pain is that they spend too much time with the wrong segment of the market. As we have discussed in the past, one can loosely split the market in to three:

  1. Actively looking (15%)
  2. Passively looking (15%)
  3. Status quo (30%)

Most will spend their time and effort on the first two, some 30% of the market. Clearly this group is approachable and susceptible to “Pain”, after all they entered or are considering entering the market of their own volition. Something took them to the point of considering an alternative to their current state. Sure, some of these buyers may be responding to and acting on a positive, but chances are the majority are no longer happy with the way things are, and are seeking alternatives. They took the first step, began the exploration on their own, and will look to vendors playing the “be found” game, to play the role of “demo guy”, then play you off your competitor, order taker.

The 70% Status quo, by definition is not looking, but that does not mean they are not looking. Every intelligent business leader is looking for improvement. And while the popular myth is that these status quo buyers are satisfied and therefore not looking, this is so wrong it is dangerous and costing you money. Consider what Bell & Patterson present in their book ‘Customer Loyalty Guaranteed’:

75% of customers who leave or switch vendors for a competitor, when asked, say they were ‘satisfied or completely satisfied’ with the vendor they left, at the time they switched.

Good news – presented with the right alternative, satisfied and completely satisfied buyers will switch.

Bad news – it will not be because of pain.

It takes work to uncover their objectives, work to initiate a discussion that is focused on achieving something good, rather than avoiding something bad. How you do this has been the subject of previous piece, and you can find more on my You Tube channel.

On the other hand, how many times have you “found the pain”, “worked it”, only to not get the deal?

Let’s leave pain to doctors, and focus on helping our buyers achieve or exceed their objectives.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

What’s A Better Seller? – Sales eXchange 1990

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Blue Collar

Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of discussing sales and selling with Charles Adler, Canada’s Boss of Talk.  Charles had read my piece in the Globe and Mail on the difference between a blue-collar approach to selling and the white-collar approach.  We explored other aspects of sales and successful people, take a listen, and let me know or Charles (@charlesadler), know what you think.


What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Time To Grow Up – Sales eXchange 1980

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

grow up

When my kids were young and they would wish for something not real, or as a way to avoid a task, like “I wish I didn’t have to clean my room”, “I wish I could grow up to be a princess”, their grandmother always responded by saying “If wishes were horses then beggars would ride”.  It’s interesting how that expression has great significance and application to many sales people and sales advisors, all now grown-ups.

I am speaking specially of advice doled out by some sales pundits that serves more to placate and patronize readers than help them improve their selling skills and success, delivering clichés and politically correct feel good myth, instead of proven and practical road tested advice based on experience.  While we all want to make our audience feel good, I think it is more important to provide pragmatic advice that yields measurable results, even when it requires effort on the part of the reader and will often force them from their comfort zones.  I for one do not see a problem in challenging readers and sellers, and do not apologize for creating some discomfort in helping them succeed.  Much better than some of the sugar coated buzzword riddled schmaltz others seem to be peddling in an effort to make sellers feel good and allow them to rationalize their lack of effort, inventiveness and results.  But as we all know sugar highs don’t last.

If you are wondering why I am on about this, it’s because once again I have someone taking a shot at my often debated, never disproven voice mail technique, not because it doesn’t work, it does, but because it does not appeal to their “sensibilities”, a sensibility that leads to no returned calls.  As usual the technique is misrepresented, making it easier to cast in a questionable light, they then schmear a load of subjectivity mixed with value judgment, and raising but not speaking to the specifics of words like “trust” or “ethics”.

The reality is that there are no absolutes in sales, nothing works all the time, every time, most things don’t work most the time, so when you have a technique that proves to be 30% – 50% effective, you have something worth adopting.  What’s more, while the technique may seem counter intuitive at first, those who try it, report back a consistent success rate.  Recently there was a debate in a LinkedIn group, there were many who questioned the technique, who once they tried it, liked it, mostly because it got them call backs and appointments.

Most recently, the technique was again misrepresented, and labeled asinine.  I bet I can find some internal memos at most record companies dating back to 10 years ago that called iTunes an asinine way to sell and consume music.  I bet there were some Blockbuster folks who called Netflix asinine.  Interestingly few are willing to challenge it head on.  One challenger was invited to debate the technique on “This Week In Sales” webcast, but declined, I wonder why; not the worst thing, I had the whole show to myself.

As an industry, “sales enablers”, we keep highlighting the fact that only 50% of B2B reps make quota, well what is our role in that?  If we do not push them to better themselves by trying, new, alternative, and yes at times outlandish but effective methods.  We should challenge our audience, not just dust off the edges of tired techniques that play to the emotion of the reader even while ignoring the fact that what is being peddled are just retreads with new labels.

In the end it is down to the reader, our consumer, they choose how they want to make or not make quota.  In the end the readers are like we the pundits, some know what is Shinola, and what’s not.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

What if you could defeat the Status Quo0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

All this week I have posted clips from a recent interview with Ago Cluytens, for his Coaching Masters Series.  We dealt with a number of issues around selling to buyers who are traditionally referred to as being Status Quo.  Being the weekend, I thought it a good time to post the whole interview for your weekend lounging pleasure.

Always interested in what you think, and whether you are more prepared to go forth and sell where many sellers and pundits fear to go.  Take a look, and let me know.

If you enjoy this there are more on Ago’s site.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

Emotion + Risk in Getting Buyers to React and Act! (#video)0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

roller coaster

Today I feature the third excerpt from my discussion with Ago Cluytens, for one his Coaching Masters Series interviews.  Today we look at the roles played risk and emotion in getting buyers to not only react, but act.

In Monday’s clip, I talked about the fact that you don’t need to waste time in waiting for an event to engage with a potential buyer, what you are looking for is the reaction, not the event.  Two things that get reactions every time are risk and emotion.

But while it is true that buyers buy on emotion and the rationalize that decision, it is also true that there are other factors such as risk, stories, sounds, and other factors a seller can leverage to get a buyer to react and more importantly to act.  It is easy to get a ready buyer to react and act, but you need to use many things to get a complacent buyer to engage, react and act.

Take a look:

If you would like to see the entire discussion you can either visit my You Tube channel, or go the Ago’ site by clicking here.  Always open to comments and views.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

‘Why Not’, Not Why83

Sales people are aware that their biggest competitor in the market is complacency, the lack of the buyer willingness to change, the status quo. Change is hard; it involves time, effort, and the need to overcome the fear of the unknown.  This is why even when things are not perfect, visibly not meeting expectations, buyers will stick with less than they deserve, fear is a strong emotion.

Add to this the fact that sellers are already predisposed to the view that people buy based on emotions, which they then rationalize.  As stated above fear is an emotion, and as a result sellers are up against the dynamic that buyer feel a strong reaction to a strong emotion, one that keeps buyers spending a lot of time rationalizing why they do not need to change, why they can “make due” rather than risk change.

This triggers two common approaches in sales and marketing types.  The first, probably the most common, and well disguised when presented by the guru community, never quiet expressed as this, but essentially: “wait till something changes, then pounce”.  To which I say, there is no sales metric for waiting, do you know why, because it is not your job to wait, it is your job to sales happen.

The second, a bit more logical, is to try to minimize the fear and risk associated with changing (to your product), by putting a lot of effort into proving why your offering is better, safer, and economically more sound that the buyer’s current circumstance.  Unfortunately in the process we are pushing up against the buyer’s safety zone, heightening their fear of the unknown.  Every feature and benefit we recite causes them to cling more firmly to the safety of the status quo. We unintentionally work against ourselves.

Given all this, why not turn you efforts to undermining where they are now?  Rather than trying to entice them to go where you want them to go, introduce some doubt and uncertainty into where they are now, and where their current path will lead them.  The one emotion that is worse than the fear of the unknown is the fear of the known. If I can focus the discussion on why the current situation is untenable, why if they left it unaddressed it will bring exposure, the discussion turns to how to avoid that, rather than avoiding the risk of change, the unknown.

If you know how to articulate why your product is truly better for the buyer, what the benefits are, financial, productivity, time advantage, etc., then you have the speaking points you’ll need to turn the table.  Use that knowledge to develop the type of questions that drive the discussion to WHY NOT for the status quo, rather than WHY change.  Your why is the safe alternative to the why not.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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