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That’s My Name Don’t Ware I Out – Sales eXecution 2560

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

High wire

Over the last couple of weeks, I found myself as the prospect at two sales meetings I attended. I always find it hard to concentrate in these meetings, because of what I do, I tend be distracted from the topic at hand, and focusing more on form and format of the execution, and the meeting is unfolding.

For me a sales meeting is like a present, what’s inside the box is important, but the box itself, the wrapping, the ribbon, the bow, and finally how it is presented and unwrapped are integral to the experience. Done right it can enhance the experience, and as a result lead to faster cycles, firmer prices, and a series of knock-on benefits. Needless to say, do it wrong, and you get the opposite and detrimental effect. And while you can still get the sale in the end, why make things hard on yourself and the buyer.

This is why some may see some the “mechanics” of sales as being pedestrian, in some ways secondary to the “the technique” or “methodology”, the mechanics and dynamics of execution are still more important than many want to acknowledge.

Both were good products, both were good sales people, but in both cases their style of execution got in the way, and in one instance will likely cost her the sale. I want to be clear, it was not that I did not like the individuals, it was the way they executed, the unnecessary distractions, to the point where I lost interest in dealing with them. Just as a times buyers lose interest in us, despite the fact that we did everything by the book.

Let’s look at the salvageable sale first. She kept using my name. There are time that I recommend using the buyer’s name, probably for all the reasons you’ve heard, but not be very sentence. It was Tibor this, and Tibor that, Tibor everything. I love my name, and unlike many, she was pronouncing it correctly, but I was getting sick of hearing it. Instead of listening to her, I started counting how many times she used it in the hour, (21). (At one point I almost responded “yes Mom”.)

The other rep, he is unsalvageable, just pissed me off. Every question he asked me was prefaced by telling me how great he and his company were, as though I should apply to buy from them, and I’d be more than silly if I didn’t, even when there are a dozen more vendors like him in a stone’s throw, or certainly a click of a mouse. The questions were less about what I was out to achieve, but each was an assumptive close. What’s worse is he probably has the right product, top three potential fits, but I just can’t picture spending time with him, his ego, his company’s ego without eventually expressing my feelings in a very direct way.
When it comes to making the sale a great experience for a buyer, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Challenger, a SPINner, or any affiliation, pay attention to the “wrapping” too, it counts. Playing it by the book is good, but some things are not in the book, just in the room.

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Wasted Sales Opportunities – How One Bank Blew Theirs5

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


One of the big Canadian banks, we’ll call them the Green bank, has a current radio ad that I believe holds a great lesson for sales people.

In the ad, a customer of a competing bank, is complaining to a competing bank manager that all he got for switching to the bank was a toaster, “I already have a toaster; and it doesn’t even toast bagels.  I am a grown man, I have a toaster”, he proclaims.

At this point I am thinking what a great way for Green to highlight how they focus on your unique needs, how their offerings address the real requirements of Canadians, and how there is greater depth to their banking relationship than a mere utensil.  Surely they are not going to pretend that they can bribe us with a toaster or other kitchen appliance.

Well I was half right.  They were offering a 7” tablet.  I was wrong thinking that they may actually talk to things that are really important in these days of economic woe, helping one save, creative mortgages, proactive retirement options, and more.  But no, given the opportunity they offered up not quite a toaster, but a tablet, how 2013 is that?  And that is the half that I was right about, it wasn’t a kitchen appliance, but one you can use in the living room, bathroom or probably everywhere.

Some sellers fall into to the same trap, getting so focused and blinded by their needs, their agenda, and their world view, that the buyer and their reality are just incidental to the process.  Many of the questions posed, assumptions made, benefits highlighted during the sale, have more relevance to the seller, their marketing department and company, leaving the buyer underwhelmed, disappointed and looking for alternatives.  That was my thought, if this is the best Green can offer as alternative to Blue, Red or Black, what’s the point?  If their response to the old practice of enticing clients with old school utensils, is to offer up a new school utensil, than why would I switch, why would your customer?

As sellers we need fix our lens on the buyers’ objectives and priorities, and work with the buyer towards those ends.  It sounds straight forward, but continues to be a challenge.   I am part of many call plans and reviews, and time after time, sellers commit to the obvious, but then try to retrofit the buyer into their product or solution, rather than helping the buyer understand how their objectives, the buyer’s, can be achieved using our offering.  This requires a bit more effort since you first have to surface the objectives, but it is doable, especially if you have sold similar things to similar buyers.  But despite the modern veneer, sellers often fall into pitch mode, feature benefit, and some form of price concession at the end.  I bet some would just love to have a trunk full of toasters to hand out with each next step or close.

Sadly for Green, I already have a tablet, a 10”, and a mediocre Blue bank, only a few shades darker than Green.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

It Is Personal0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

The Happiness of Pursuit

One questionable piece of advice sellers are given is not to take “things personally”. While I understand the sentiment behind it, encouraging sellers to not go down a dark hole, there is something wrong with telling professional sales people, in fact professionals of any type, not to take it personally. The reality is that part of successful selling is conviction, not just in your ability to add value to the buyer, but and in how you sell. It is hard to have that and not be passionate about selling, and as soon as passion is involved, it also becomes personal.

Certainly there are parts of the sales cycle that you can remove yourself somewhat from the emotions of the sale, usually during the prospecting stage, especially if you are a proactive rather than a passive prospector. When you first reach out to a potential buyer they don’t know you from Adam, and the goal is to get them engaged. Initial rejections are more situational than directed; meaning that they are not rejecting you as an individual, but what you represent, an interruption. But as you get engaged and are working through the sale, you get more emotionally involved, things do become a lot more personal.

It is that emotional involvement that often allows you to go deep with a buyer. Passion and enthusiasm are contagious, and it’s something you want your buyers to catch. After all, we are constantly reminded that people buy on emotion, then rationalize their decision, so it only helps if you are going to connect with the buyer on that level as well.

A more workable and realistic goal is to understand that you do need to get involved on a number of levels, that it does get personal, and that you need to be able to deal with and manage the outcomes whether they go your way or not. The ability to step back, assess the circumstance, and move on to the next sale. No different than the expectation and practice in professional sport.

By assessing the outcome you achieve a number of positives that help with the personal aspect. First you can evaluate how well you did execute you plan and process and understand why perhaps you lost the deal. I say perhaps, because there isn’t always a clear answer all nicely wrapped, if the result of the assessment is ambiguous, you will still have to deal with the outcome and move on.

But if the analysis of the deal and outcome are not ambiguous, then you are in a great position to learn, both what you want to repeat and to accentuate moving forward, and what to avoid and improve. While this may not take away the sting of a lost deal, it does help you benefit in some way, cope, and have a reason to give it another go with your new insight.

It is very much the emotion we bring at sellers that helps us win deals where most all other things are equal. It is precisely then that you need to go deep, and leave yourself open to disappointment, and yes it does become personal precisely because of that; and given the opportunity I would advise you to get emotionally involved and deal with the outcome win or lose. After all, they only give you the advice about it not being personal when you lose, it seems they are OK with it being personal when you win.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

It’s Your Mini Resume Dude!0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

As some of you may know, last week was have fun with voice mail on LinkedIn, with people taking different reactions to a voice mail technique that gets me a 50% rate of returned calls.  In response to comments on an LinkedIn group, I posted on Friday about a specific dynamic that makes the technique in question successful.  The piece resulted in more comments, so I wanted to take another view that may help some understand what’s behind it, why it resembles something almost every critic of the technique already does without feel they are unethical, misleading and so on.

This storm reminded me of a similar reaction three or four years ago when I suggested that sales people should use text (SMS) as a prospecting tool.  People saw the suggestion as being unethical, underhanded, and just not professional.  This despite the fact that an executive, a prospect, was the one that suggested that I would have connected with him a lot sooner had I not limited my use of his cell number on his card to strictly voice.  But the overwhelming reaction at the time was that text to prospect was déclassé.  But now four years later it is a mainstream techniques acceptable to all.  Maybe time does not heal all wounds, but it does seem to wipe memory.

So I would suggest that when something seems uncomfortable you have two choices, try it and see, or pass an uninformed opinion.  So lets take a different look at the technique in question and see if we can get you to try.

The technique, (summarized here),  is very much like a mini resume.  Much the same way we use resumes to create the opportunity to entice a potential employer to call us back and invite us in for an interview that we hope will lead to employment and a mutually profitable relationship.

Let’s look at resumes, they exist to communicate in a concise way you capabilities vis-à-vis the position, anchored in our history in similar positions with similar company.  If you have been an A/R manager with one distributor, and a position opens up with another company you want to work for, you submit your resume featuring your experience with their competitor.   The potential employer, like most, will begin to begin to sort the hundreds of resumes they receive based on who they think will fit their requirement; and one of the most common means of selecting those that make the consideration list is their experience with similar companies.

As we all have been told, it is important to keep resumes short, using highlights, and then expanding once in the interview.  Depending on the source, some will tell you to keep it to two pages or less, a small amount of space to include past experience as well as other attributes we may have that would make us a suitable candidate.

It is also often a topic of discussion, that many resumes are the stuff of fiction and or embellishment.  Very different than the technique in question, which repeatedly emphasizes the need for honesty and ethical use of past experience.

It seems interesting that in the age where people are actively participating in micro-blogging, they would find problems with micro messaging when it comes to engaging with prospect.  I suspect the reality is one that is all too familiar in sales; sales people complaining that clients hang onto the Status Quo irrationally, while they do that very same things when it comes to embracing new or alternate – non-middle of the road – sales approaches.  Almost ironic as the group professes to be the home of fresh sales ideas.

Oddly,  one very vocal opponent, using words like misleading, deceiving, and so on, has held IT sales related positions with four or more different companies in the last 10 years, I bet if we looked at his resume, we would see all the previous companies he worked for, his related capabilities, and his accomplishments prominently listed in his resume.  Where is the difference?  Why is it OK to dangle past companies in one form, but not another?  We know the answer.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Oops, What Now?47

A couple of interesting conversations I wanted to share with and see if I can get some feedback on.

The first was an age old challenge for many hiring sales managers, specifically when hiring a rep from a competitor.  The great promise of not only getting a “seasoned” rep, but also the bonus of the same rep bringing their “book”.  My experience has been that in most cases, especially in product related sales, this is usually a pipe-dream, and rarely if ever materializes.

In most instances I have found that less than 20% of the book follows the rep, and unless the person you hired is a “real rock star”, the pay-off is rare.  Of course if they were a “real rock star” they would rarely be willing to move.  Most rock stars, like most smart customers, understand that rep is only one element of a broader picture.  The company, from ops to finance and beyond all contribute to the clients’ satisfaction, as well as contributing to the rock starts success.  There is a team element to sales success, one member of the team moving to another environment will not ensure that individual’s success, or that of the team; in fact the team will likely continue to succeed based on established processes which not only help sustain the team’s momentum, but make it easier to indoctrinate the new (soon to be rock star) rep.

Managers who are offered the rep’s book as a reason to hire that rep, should run as fast as they can the other way.  If that manager does hire the rep for their book, their future should be tied to the success of bringing the book over.  To me in 80% of instances, it is a sign that the manager has no plan and is hoping for a rescue.  What do you think?

Did I Say That?

I have a friend who like to listed to audio books in the car, the other day he was playing us Tony Robbins on the way to a call.  I like Tony, so I listened as he talked about some aspect of overcoming challenges and moving forward towards your goal and greater things.  To accentuate the point, he talked about Lance Armstrong, as a glowing example of someone who did not let caner beat or slow him down, he overcame it and went on to bigger and better things.   Tony went on to say how Lance got back on his bike and won seven Tour de France crowns.


Again, I like Tony, I don’t think it diminishes the point he was making, and he had no way of looking into the future, but Lance’s exploits certainly overshadow the point he was making, because that is what we talked about once the segment was over, not the broader message being delivered.

The question is should people and organizations who used Lance in this way, go back and talk to the point?  Sponsors have a way of expressing their view, and distancing themselves, do people like Tony and others who choose to bask in Lance’s sunshine have to go back and deal with it now that sunshine has given way to a storm?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Prospectors’ Guide To Objection Handling Part V – Send Me Your Experience42

Continuing our journey through the joys of Prospecting Rejection we arrive at two common objections, one my least favourite, the other which is probably not really so bad, but some sellers just take it the wrong way, and end up on the short end of the conversation.

My least favourite is the “send me some information” objection, not so much because it is hard to handle, but because I find them to be wimps, like Nancy said, just say no, don’t pretend to be interested just to get rid of someone, because if nothing else you are inviting another interruption when they call back to follow up on what ever they sent based on your request.

You could to the extreme one company I know, where they make it a policy not to send, based on observation, this has not cost them opportunity.  But let’s take them at their word and their statement at face value, specifically a level of interest.  Rather than risking that interest, work to specify it.  Highlight the fact that you have delivered many solutions to clients based on their situation, rather than send a lot of generic information, it has proven to be a better use of time to meet, specify, and leave behind the information that makes sense, and again end with a call to action.

With a bit of practice you can take this up a notch.  Confirm that they are asking in order to better evaluate the need to meet, when they do, direct them to you web site, should be as practical as any brochure. If they are unwilling, you have saved time and effort. If they do, you can highlight the many aspects of your offering, continue to qualify, and move towards your goal with your call(s) to action.

One other thing you have to determine before you start, and that is what you will send.  I stopped sending hard copies years ago, strictly e-mail, much more practical given the tools at hand these days. For me in the end I do send, as a VP once told me:

“Tibor it’s like this, you send, you have a shot, you don’t, we’ll you don’t”

Bad Experience

Not the send objection, but the objection that we all encounter. In many ways this is really not a rejection but an opportunity, but some sellers interpret it as one, and at times miss the opportunity.

In most instances people feel they had a bad a experience not because of what happened, but how it was resolved; more accurately not resolved in their view. We have all been to restaurants where the service or food was bad, but management took proactive steps to resolve things to the customer’s satisfaction.

Face the issue head on, ask them to tell you exactly what happened, take interest, clearly no one did at the time things happened.  Help them have a catharsis, until they rid themselves of the luggage they are carrying around, they will remained closed, so help them unload.  Once they do, you’ll have two opportunities, first they will see you as someone who was willing to listen to them; second, having relived them of their burden, you are in a position to offer a new alternative.

Word of caution, do not take ownership of whatever perceived issues they may have had.  It is one thing to say you are sorry they felt that way, another to say “I am sorry that happened”.  The latter can be fatal as you are inadvertently acknowledging that it did happen the way they see it, and that you (your company) was responsible.

Friday, the last in this series, the “None Objection”.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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