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Give Your Buyers The Gift of Time – Sales eXecution 3190

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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I have written several times about the importance of time in sales, how time really is the currency of sales; while everything else in sales may be variable, success will be determined by a number of unique and individual factors. Time is the only standard element we all share, what we do with it is the differentiator.

Download our “Sales Happen In Time” e-book

Time is also the only non-renewable resource that sales people deal with, everything else can be replayed, retried or redone, not time, once spent, it’s gone. And while this is a fact that sales people have to deal with every day, we often forget that our buyers have to deal with the exact same limitation every 24 hour day.

In prior posts I have presented our Actionable Definition of value:

Those services and/or products that remove barriers, obstacles, or help bridge GAPS between where the buyer is now – and – their OBJECTIVES!

In breaking down the elements or underpinnings of Objectives, we learn that shifting time, extending the life of an asset, shortening the time to revenue, etc., are common objectives for buyers. Therefore one of the best value adds you can deliver is bending time in favour of your buyers.

Recent Research released by CEB, show that buying cycles are often twice as long as the buyers themselves anticipated. This insight can help sellers a couple of ways. First, just understanding that things will not happen as fast as you “forecasted”, will help you in better managing your pipeline and delivering quota. I have seen many sales people give up because the buy did not take place in a timeframe that suited the seller.

Given that sales people are usually over optimistic about how long a sale should take, they often give up on a sale way too early. This requires them to prospect more and harder, and completely throws off the pipeline and success. Seems to me that whatever the answer is when you ask a buyer about their timeline, it is good to validate and add time to those expectations.

This reinforces the need to implement a sales process that is aligned to the buyer’s buying process. But again, this is one step, given that many buyers aren’t truly sure how long their buying cycle is.

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The other opportunity is to understand why buyers are so bad at estimating their timelines around a buy. The more you understand this, the more you can help buyers go through the full buying journey, but introduce some short cuts along the way, reducing the cycle time in the process.

The hard part for many sales people, is that much of this will have little or anything to do with their product or them, and almost entirely with the buyer. This leads to another piece of advice we have given before, and that is “leave your product in the car”, and make it about the buyer. Not how the buyer uses your product, but how the buyer buys.

By thoroughly reviews your successful cycles, and looking at it from the buyer’s view. Not what it took for you to get the sales, but what the buyer had to do to make the buy. These will vary from product to product, but with a disciplined approach to reviewing all opportunities, won – lost – no decision, will allow you to see where buyers linger, or get detoured, and where they make clear strides towards a decision.

Sharing these findings, not the features of your product or ROI, will give them the gift of time, and you more and better customers.

Tibor Shanto

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Here is to Single Tasking – Sales eXecution 3001

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

One

One of the realities of today’s economy, and always on work environments, is that we end up having to squeeze 16 hours in to a 10 hour day; and that’s on a good day, others can be worse, and weekends for many are just a chance to slow down, not disengage. People turn to different things to help them cope or keep up, is “multi-tasking”! A cute concept, with so much promise and appeal, yet rarely functional or practical, leaving most behind as a result. In fact it could get so bad, that many don’t even realise how far behind they because they are too busy rolling into the next task. Busy yes, productive, rarely. Which is why you should consider a new alternative, Single Tasking!

Let’s get past whether multi-tasking works or not, it does not. Don’t believe me, check these:

Multitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest
The True Cost Of Multi-Tasking 
12 Reasons to Stop Multitasking Now!

There is no productivity gain, there is just the opportunity to not get all the things you’re doing done right.

Learn how to avoid the multi-tasking trap in prospecting

To avoid this trap you need to step back and see why you find yourself needing to multi-task to begin with. In most cases it is because we have not planned or assigned sufficient time to high-value activities. Based on what you are selling this will vary, not only in terms of what those high-value activities are, but what percentage of your time need to be allocated to each.

One of the things that stresses people out and causes them to multi-task is that their planning is not aligned with their sales cycle. Not all high-value activities need to be done every day. But they do have to be done at different times throughout the cycle. But at some points in the cycle you may need to spend more time prospecting, others, selling, and at times managing accounts. By looking at things based on the cycle, you will give yourself the right not to do something one day, as long as you have allotted for that activity later in the cycle.

First thing is to list those activities, prospecting, training, internal meetings, account management, selling; some will need to add other things like implementing if that is part of your job, for me, I have to set time aside to deliver the training I sell.

Then figure out which of these activities have to be done entirely in “Selling Time”, that 8:30 to 5:00 when prospects and clients are most likely to see you. Other activities can be executed during “Discretionary Time”. This does not mean that the activity is discretionary, but when you do them is. A proposal can be written at 5:00, probably in a less rushed way.

Then allocate what percentage of your Selling Time needs to be allocated to each high-value activity, then do the same for Discretionary Selling time. And remember this is over the course of you average cycle, not day in day out, no need to bring unnecessary pressure.

Develop the discipline to manage your activities to be focused only on the activity you allocated time to, and you will not be behind the eight ball when the deadline looms. We multi-task because that deadline, drop dead time, is coming and we have to get a whole bunch of things done. You may get them done, but will they be done to the best of your ability or just done?

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

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Getting More Out Of Your Selling Time – Sales eXecution 2894

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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24 hours is all any one of us get each day, how we choose to spend that time will determine our success.

In the past I have written and spoken about the importance focusing on time allocation and utilisation, and not worrying about time management. One key element on my approach is to allocate time to all high-value activities. While most understand the concept when it comes to basic, yet high-value activities like prospecting, admin, etc. Things that are there, have specific actions, desired outcomes, and some degree of measurability. Many have difficulty when it comes to more abstract things that do very much require that we spend time on them, but lack the shape a definition of say, prospecting, spherically like unplanned emergencies and planning.

One of the things you can bank on in sales is that there will be demands on your time that you will not be in control of, but you will need to concede to if you are going to win or maintain customers. There will always be client emergencies that will require you to drop whatever you are doing in order to deal with it, we all have to fight fires. Some sales people are good at see fires where there is no smoke as a way of avoiding things they don’t like to do, like cold calling.

But when a real fire come you have to deal with it. The challenge is you can’t predict when it will come, but you can, no ifs, and or buts, predict how much of your time in a given month will be required to deal with real fires. Just look at the last six months and you have a clear indicator moving forward. I have always counseled reps to set aside that much time in their calendars, so when it comes, it will not force them to not do some other important thing.

This is where the challenge comes in, say a rep saw that 4 hours a week were consumed by fires over the last year, and they set aside four hours a week moving forward, what do they do with that time if in fact the fire does not come? We all know how to use it when it materializes, but as one rep asked, “do I just sit around and wait when it does not come, especially when I have scheduled it?”

The answer is simple, what is your highest value activity. What is the one activity that always pays off, and the more of it you do, the better you are set to succeed. Is it prospecting, working referrals, upselling current clients, you know better than I what it is for you. If you find that in a given week not all the time you set aside for fires is utilised, simply reinvest that time in your highest value activity. Don’t be like those shmucks who figure they have free time to grab a coffee, or sit by your phone waiting for it to ring. Reinvest in your highest value activity. For me it is prospecting. No fire, I dial. Allowing me to get more out of my selling time.

Tibor Shanto

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Time Is The Currency Of Sales #BBSradio0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

This month’s piece on Michele Price’s BREAKTHROUGH radio program deals with time, as time runs out on Q1.

To hear my segment from last week, click on the image below.

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Breakthroughbusiness on BlogTalkRadio

I appear every 4th Monday, speaking of course about sales, but there a host of other great content, I encourage you to check Michele’s program out, and learn from a range of contributors.  You can find the program and more information click here.

Tibor Shanto

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Is Sales a Numbers Game? (#video)3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

TV Head

Nobody talks about the world being flat or round, so why does this topic merit discussion, there so many other more important unsolved mysteries in sales.  Take a look at what I mean:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Get Out Of Your Own Way!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

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Everyone in sales has heard the expression “You are your own worst enemy, or biggest obstacle.” Usually in the context is our ability to break through barriers, or reach new highs. But it is also true that we are our own biggest asset when it comes to the same opportunity. It really is just a question of how we choose to view and respond to things. Given this, I am always surprised to see how many sales professionals continue to get in their own way, rather than be a force of progress in their own success.

I would be easy to just look at attitude or self-limiting thinking, and if that is your challenge there plenty of good sources of information and ideas to address that. More often than not though, sales people know what they have to do, they just don’t do it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like they say “I know that I have to do that, but I just won’t.”, there are other factors. But the net effect of their inaction leads to the same result, and they end up getting in their own way.

There are some basic things, and yes I know basic is out of fashion in these days of ‘complex sales’, but making things complex when they don’t have to be is one way we get in our own way. There are clear steps we can take to get outta the way and move towards sales success.

First is how we choose to deal with our resources, especially non-renewable resources, the most precious of which is time. Time is the one thing we all have in equal portions, and in especially sales, how you use your time is usually the difference between success or not. While full speed ahead is a nice mantra, and “trying to stuff as much in to a day as we can” may sound politically correct, there are better ways to leverage this resource for sales success. Start by inventorying how much time you need to allocate to each of these high value activities over the course of the cycle, allocate that time, and focus on managing your activity within that time, not on managing time. (More on time click here)

Another is to develop a clear road map for the sale, beyond high value activities, what has to happen in what sequence. Which of these are “Musts” and which are non-fatal. Stage by stage, activity by activity, it should be mapped. Some will say that they have the experience, they don’t need this, but I disagree. You favourite athlete has a play book, and while they do execute in their own way, they still have their play book. Without it you can’t make adjustments, improvements, or see the small things that will help you run the play better, sell better, in less time.

These are but two elements, and there others. The key is to step back, really examine what you are doing that is getting in your way, and then address it directly and methodically.

Hey, if you liked what you saw here, invite me to speak at your next meeting!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

Don’t Be Afraid of the Empty Time – Sales eXecution 2450

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Appointment Time

Many people seem to equate action with productivity, doing things to “move forward”. And let’s be honest, in many ways some of the things I and my peers write and serve up on a regular basis, can easily be read to support that view. But the reality is that building in some flux to your sales time is an important element of success.

Planning your day week or month is not the same as filling your time. It is important to create some empty time. More importantly it is imperative that you do not feel guilty or fully productive because “you are not doing something”. We all hate it when someone else creates “busy work” for us, so why do it to yourself.

I work with a lot of sales people who tell me exactly that, “I need to be doing something, otherwise I feel like I am not contributing”. Sure sometimes this a result of just having a bad manager who believe you can only contribute if and when you are doing something. “Don’t just sit there, pick up the phone”.

While keeping a detailed calendar is key to ensuring success, and this may result in a “full calendar”, it does not mean that you have to be active and engaged in sales activities at all times. Just as you need to set time aside for the unexpected emergencies, (Grab you copy of the Sales Happen In Time white paper, to learn more), you need to include some down time, time to step back, re-energize, regroup, and re-emerge ready to conquer more.

If you run marathons, you know the 10-1 approach, run at race pace for 10 minutes and easy off for a minute, then 10 again. This gives runners the ability to run at a faster pace because the give themselves a chance to recoup. If you watch elite runners, they do it do, it is just that their off minute is not as noticeable as it is with old farts like me.

Create some empty time, allow yourself to not “do things”, idle time is not wasted time when consumed the right way.

One way, and from a timing stand point, a good one is today or tomorrow. The start of Q2, a good time to step back and not just assess how the last quarter went, what worked what didn’t, and then recalibrate. But to think about something other than selling that will in the end help you sell more. Here are three things you can try:

  1. If my line of product did not exist, how would my customers achieve the objective they achieve with the product I sell?
  2. If a law came out that required that everybody sell my product category at the same price, how would I differentiate?
  3. How can I help a prospect without involving my product?

There others, but create some empty time, don’t be afraid of it, the key is to make the most of the empty time, just as you need to make the most of the selling time.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Slow Down For Faster Results – Sales eXchange 2350

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Slow motion

I’m a firm believer that our habits and how we execute specific tasks do not vary widely from task to task. Sure we may be a bit more diligent when we are doing something important for the boss, bit more casual in social endeavours, but in most cases it is about degrees, not wholesale differences. Now if you are doing everything perfectly this isn’t a bad thing, but most of us are not perfect, we’re not living that idyllic reality, and therefore have to deal with our bad habits, and their consequences.

One thing that seems to get consistently worse is the tendency to rush things, and the problems that can lead to. This is accentuated by the many and growing number of things we have to get done in the same or less time than before.

It seems that more people today skim or scan documents, e-mails and other reading, rather than giving it full attention, as a result they miss things that are important to the outcome; they then have to backtrack wasting more precious time, more than they saved by skimming.

Same can be said for the way people read their e-mails, in fact it may be more accurate to say how many are not reading their e-mails. I have spoken to others about this, and I know I am not the only one who finds themselves posing a specific question in an e-mail, only to get back an answer that barely if at all answers the question posed. You can tell they rushed, skimmed the original, and responded to what they skimmed, not the question asked.

This leads to a couple of additional notes back and forth, this wastes time and energy on both sides, but while sellers are free to waste their own time, this end up also very much wastes the buyer’s time, which can lead to consequences, especially if they pose the same to another vendor who takes the time to respond completely and fully. At worse you come off as being evasive, at best tardy.

One of the goals of any good sales person is to make it easy for the buyer to deal with you, in essence to buy from you. While this may not always be in your control, slowing down so you can be more effective is. I know there is pressure coming from all side these days, but it is important to manage it, especially early in the relationship. If the buyer feels that you are rushing and taking short cuts through the selling phase, they can’t help but ask if that is the level of attention and care they will face once they commit?

One easy way to solve this is to actually set aside time through the day for e-mail and voice mail. One reason for the skimming is that we are doing e-mail while we are doing other things, and as I have said before, we are not built for multi-tasking regardless of what the pundits will tell you. As highlighted in the Sales Happen In Time Booklet, carving out time to do things properly, including e-mail, will make you more productive, less stressed, and come across as the pro you are.

Here is another real world example, I am currently running a contest to win tickets to the Art Of Sales, an opportunity to take in Dan Pink, Matt Dixon, and other sales thought leaders. To enter, all one need do is fill in three points of data, name, e-mail, phone, and to tweet the fact that they entered the contest. To make it even easier, the tweet is all set, they just have to hit the bird. In bold letters they are told the no tweet equals no entry, yet half the entrants skip that step. My guess they skimmed, went on auto pilot filling out the form, and rushed to the next thing. Oh well, better odds for those who read and completed the task they needed to in order to win.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

The 3 Legs of Sales Success0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Stool Success

As you finalise your 2014 sales plans, it is good idea to review and commit to some of the basics. Some of these may not be fashionable, on the other hand nothing is more fashionable in sales than exceeding quota.

As with many endeavours, we sometime focus too much effort on style and take our eyes of the fundamentals. As Michael Jordan once said:

“…You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly because the only thing that changes will be your attention to them”

While the framework for the fundamentals are process and quality of execution, the key fundamentals that we need to continuous focus on regardless of methodology or approach are:

  • Size of Sale (or order)
  • Volume of Sales
  • Price integrity

Size of Sale – Refers to the specific size of the order, specifically in two forms. One is the result of the type of prospects you pursue; if you are selling stuff measured in units, the larger the target company, the more units they will require. Since in most instances, the effort required to sell a $50 million dollar/40 employee company, is often not that different than selling a $100 million/100 employee company, why not focus on the larger end of the scale. A variation on this is a recent example from a company I worked with. They found that of the three batteries they sold, the mid-range one was the best product/value for the price, for both the customers and them, but people tended to opt for the entry level battery. They discontinued offering the bottom end, their unit sales did not decline, and their revenue and margins increased.

It is no different if you are selling services, if you target companies that can ‘consume’ more of what you sell, you will sell more by avoiding those who consume less. Since the time you have to make the sales does not change, why not target those opportunities that can give you size or scale. You can always go down stream once you have sold the ideal size first.

Volume of Sales – this is different than the first point, it goes more to how many sales you get irrespective of size. If right now you are doing four deals a month, and were to increase that to say 4 ½ deals per month, you would move to 54 sales a year, a 12% increase. Even if you have a long cycle, big ticket, say only six sales a year, increase it to 7, may not sound like much, but.

This involves better use of time, primarily through the discipline of disqualifying those opportunities that will not close now, they may close a year from now or even in the summer, just not now. This is where your process gives you the confidence to say no, rather than spending time to try and get a yes where one does not exist. Like the old gold rush 49ers, the quicker they got rid of the sand and stones, the quicker they got to the gold, increasing their daily take. Get rid of the crap in your pipeline, and you’ll work with more gold.

Price Integrity – as straight forward as it gets, the less we concede the more we succeed. Resist the temptation to “give a good price to get in”, because you will never recover.

As you evaluate your opportunities, it is important to consider how any or all of the above can be leveraged to deliver better and consistent results, and how misalignment can be detrimental to success.

With all of the above methodology and improved execution will help you sell more to more of the right people, but merely adopting a methodology without target one of the three elements above is not enough. You may want to start by targeting one, or better yet explore opportunities that allow you to move the dial on all. We use a simple matrix allowing clients to plot opportunities based on these elements with the added element of time. This allows them to visualize and focus on the right number of highest value opportunities sold at full price.

Everything we do in sales should have a positive impact on one or all of those three elements. It is when we take our eyes off these fundamentals, that the level of effort, training, coach or other initiatives, will always be greater than the results. The start of the year, (quarter, month, day) is a good time to refocus.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Give Up The Snooze Button of Sales – Sales eXchange 2280

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Wake up

I recently read a couple of pieces about common habits and traits of successful CEO’s, two that struck me most were that they plan in advance, and when it comes time to act they maximize that time to execute fully.  The second, not only do they all start their days early, but when the alarm goes off, they jump to it, and never hit the snooze button.  I think that sales people can learn and benefit from adopting one or both these habits.

Key to success in anything, especially in business is the ability to maximize, to get the most return from any resources you use to achieve your objectives.  Given that time is our most precious resource, the better one uses it, the greater the return.  The one thing we all have in common with even the most amazing CEO’s, is that we each start the day with 24 hours, and what we do with it is really what differentiates one person from the next.

Let’s look at planning, most are comfortable planning ‘big’, the year, the quarter, the month, even the week.  But not many sales people step back to plan the ‘little’, after all, it’s little.  But what’s the old saying that it’s the little things that kill you, or your success.  I have written her in the past about how other professions spend much more time planning and preparing, than sales people do, and even within sales, if you look at those who are consistently successful, they plan.  Especially for activities they know they don’t like or are not good at.  A simple example, when it comes to prospecting, I suggest to reps that they ready their call list the afternoon before, during low energy times.  But most will leave that task to when they actually make the calls, wasting high value time, and reducing their high value activities, and their success, one day at a time.

Hitting the snooze button is the ultimate expression of procrastination.  Being in that state of getting ready, you know you gotta do it, but you put it off if only for nine minutes, ok, one more time, 18 minutes.  And that continues through the day, hit snooze button, here, then again there, and by the end of the day, we could lose up to an hour to hitting the snooze.

I know there are things in the day that we don’t like to do, but that should not be the measure, the measure is whether it helps you get prospects, get sales, get ahead.  Successful people attack their tasks, devouring those they don’t like, and reveling in the ones they do, but key is they do, and do to the max.

The reality is that certain tasks have to be completed, like them or not, putting them off does not change that, not does it complete them.  There is no better time, “I am better in the afternoon”, then afternoon comes, and you have to take that client call, or “I’ll do it right after I grab a coffee.”

Planning will help you avoid procrastinating, execute your plan and move on, but if you don’t have a plan, and you know you don’t like the task, when the time comes to doing it, you’ll hit that snooze button and lose a little more.

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What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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