Welcome to The Pipeline.

Go Ahead, Sell On Price – Sales eXchange – 12717

We all know the potential pitfalls of “selling on price”, but usually that statement is incomplete.  If you were to sell at a price that represented full value for you, your company, and the buyer then there wouldn’t be that much talk about the whole thing would there?  Why not, because everyone realised value, and since value is subjective, it is not tied to a specific number, but to other elements, usually the buyers’ objectives and the challenges they perceive in attaining them.

So rather than spending time talking and worrying about price, sellers need to spend that time and energy building value in the mind of buyer, based on their current requirements and circumstance.  First thing we need is a definition of value.  Because this is such an important element of sales success, the tendency among many in sales and those talking to sales (people like me), to over complicate the definition, often introducing the attributes rather than focusing on defining value; once defined you can look at some attributes, and how to leverage those in establishing the level of value required by the client and you.

Lets start with the definition:

Buyers will see value in those things that eliminate barriers and gaps between where they are now, and their objectives.

If their objectives were easily attained, they would get to it and do it.  The fact that they may be seeking a solution, suggests that they are facing some challenges, obstacles and gaps in their ability to attain those objectives, or what I call opportunity.

Knowing what those objectives are require leveraging experience, work and discipline.  Let’s be clear, this does not exclude new sellers, experience includes leveraging the collective experience of your company and fellow sales people.

Experience involves reviewing outcomes of previous deals, not just those you win, but losses, and the ones that went to no decision.  Simply stated, understanding the wins will help you understand what to look for and repeat.  The other two, allow you to spot changing trends and help you avoid the tunnel vision created when you look only at the wins.  The bonus to the no decision camp is the opportunity to rekindle the opportunity with elements learned, and create a win in shorter time frames.

Couple the above with the core elements that impact buying decisions, that is why people buy, and more specifically why they buy your product, and from you.  You now have the base to build from, building the question set, you need to nail the objectives, the related obstacles and gaps.  With this in place you are now ready to Mine The Gap for success.  The interesting aspect of this is that while it is simple, it takes real work to execute, and offers no short cuts; in fact if you do try to short cuts, it will punish you with failure.  Sorry, no silver bullet here.

On the other hand, if you do develop the discipline, you will be able to engage with those who seem to be all set or uninterested, and be pleasantly surprised by the fact that people see the value you bring, and be willing to pay full value for it.  So go ahead, sell on price, full price.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2011

Where to Start — Who will Own It?20

Having looked at what a sales process may look like, and then answering the question of whether all companies need one or just some, the discussion then turned to who should own the process in the sales organization.

It is all well and good to have a process, but the benefits are in the execution.  To ensure that you need to have people who will own and drive the process.  A direct and tangible benefit of adhering to a well defined and communicated process (and remember communication includes listening), is that it drives mutual accountability between reps and managers, sales and other departments, and among sales reps.  In that way all in the sales organization own it and its value is reflected and determined in the strength of its execution.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEj8TDuwvok

Related videos:

The EDGE Sales Process
Putting Process in to Action
Does everyone need a process?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Land Mine Questions – Sales eXchange – 8123

By now no one will argue that questions are the instrument of choice among sales “Artisans”.  They get the customer to think, they help you to mutually define requirements and value, and ultimately drive the impact you need to close the deal.  When it comes to fully engaging with a buyer, questions are indeed the way to go.  But while the buyer is the focus of the sale, there are other participants in the play who can impact the outcome who also need to be managed, not the least of these are your competitors.

Well those same questions you use to engage with the buyer and get them to openly discuss their objectives, frustrations etc.  The reality is no matter how god your product is, how great of a sales person you are, and what a great job you have done in the cycle to this point, few buyers will not also look at other potential providers of your product.  Knowing that, why not plant some questions with the buyer that will cause your competitors some real difficulty.

First step is to fully understand what is really important to the buyer, not features and specs, as much as the impact of your product on their objectives, the means of achieving them.  This is one reason to always utilize your “Right Client Profile”, it will help you understand what those critical factors are.  Based on your interview you will be able to focus in on the specific ones relating to the specific buyers in question.

Next, learn and understand your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses as they relate to the factors identified above.  You are now in a position to ask questions that allow you to highlight your understanding of the buyer’s requirements and in the process leave land mines for your competitors.  For instance, let’s say you knew that there three specific things that your product did that buyers demanded.  You know your competitor can only deliver on two.

Focus a lot more questions around the area you have the advantage in.  Build up the importance and benefit of that one.  Using questions, at the same time highlight the risks and downside of not having that one element in place.  Through this process you can solidify the importance and ensure that the buyer will ask related questions of your competitor.  When the buyer does ask and the competitor is unable to respond favourably, it will raise doubts in he buyer’s mind, and make your product more desirable as a result.  In effect you have used a question as a land mine that your competitor steps on.  The more areas of importance to buyers you can use this line of questions with, the more land mines and the more dangerous you can make the terrain for you competitors.

As with most things in sales, this is a two way street, and your competitors could do the same to you, leave mines for you to step on unless you are prepared.  I remember visiting prospects, and knowing that a specific competitor had been there recently just because of the questions the buyer was asking.  First couple of times I thought “gee I wonder why they keep asking this?”  But once I figured it out, and developed a response, I was back on track.

So go ahead, arm yourself with some killer questions, and go mine the field.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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ZONE Based Selling11

In the last instalment of Renbor TV (RTV), I looked at the importance of having a sales process and the difference it can make between good, great and winners.  But having a sales process is just the start, you then need to define the stages of the process, or what we at Renbor call ZONES.  The specifics of the stages will differ from company to company when it comes to details, but the general ZONES you have to move through are consistent.  Again, length, velocity, number of steps and other factors will vary.

Each ZONE of the process needs to be clearly defined including objectives, tasks and activities one needs to complete before you complete one ZONE and move to the next, this included tools, resources and other team members as required.  Before moving to the next ZONE you will not only need to have a real next step, but make an objective go/no go decision based on how well and completely you execute the ZONE.

By ensuring that each ZONE if fully completed, without shortcuts or rushing, you will build a solid foundation for each sale, and not have to backtrack and lose time and momentum.  Understanding ZONES will not magically make the sale easier, but it will allow you to execute yours with confidence, structure and a complete focus on the buyer and their requirements to succeed.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntB-3BmPPEQ

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Price – What’s in a Number?8

Price will always be a key component of any sale, but it does not have to be the only factor in a decision, unless you as a sales person let it. Based on the studies you read, price can be as much as 40% of the final decision; and with certain individuals, it could go higher. However, when you step back and examine things, what is price?

At its most basic, it is the numerical value, nothing more. As with any number, there is no good or bad number, there is only the relative aspect it represents. It brings to mind the old joke explaining the concept of how numbers are relative by pointing out that three hairs on your head are relatively few, but those same three hairs in your soup, well. Just like +1 is not better than -1, they both represent a relative distance from zero; just as when it is zero degrees outside, it does not mean that there is no temperature, it is just a point between -1 and +1, slightly colder if you measure things in Fahrenheit.

Read On…

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Happy New Year!21

So here we are, December 31, last day of 2010, a year that many will be glad to see end, others having seen it as a brighter alternative to 2009, either way a day to celebrate accomplishments and to look forward to challenges of 2011.

In celebrating 2010, I looked back and selected a post from each month over the last 12 months.  These are not necessarily my best post from each month, but ones that on reflection caught my fancy.  See if you agree, and if you don’t we’ll still be friends.

January:
Socializing Sales

February:
Stoke Your Sales Fires

March:
Reputation 2.0

April:
Change – Or – Improvement

May:
Saturday Sales Tip – 18 – Take It Away!

June:
Out Of The Box Thinking

July:
What’s My Job?

August:
Velocity – Sales Myth or Objective – Sales eXchange – 57

September:
PRIDE – Part III – Initiative

October:
The Proactive 20% – Sales eXchange – 68

November:
Is Your Pipeline Managing You?

December:
Coming Attraction Call – Sales eXchange – 74

Looking forward to 2011, I will continue to post three times a week, but there will be some new and I think interesting features that will make The Pipeline a better experience for all of you.  One thing is the introduction of a weekly post by a guest blogger.  These bloggers will include the best in sales and other practices, sharing their views and best practices.  Stick with us and by this time next year you will have had the opportunity to be introduced to 52 different opinion leaders, and the ability to continue enjoying them on their blogs.

We will also be making more regular use of media other than print, including video, audio and who knows what else.

So are you ready for 2011, I am bring it on!

Happy New Year!
Tibor Shanto

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Status Quo? Really?19

Is this Zebra white with black stripes – or black with white stripes?

Status Quo, one of those expressions in sales that has a nudge – nudge, wink – wink sense to it, we all know how to deal with it, we all know what it means (?), or do we?

The three biggest point of agreement are:

  1. Status Quo (buyer complacency) is your biggest competitor, the biggest barrier to change even where it is evidently needed
  2. The largest segment of the market is in Status Quo, or “not in the market”, or as has been said “happy and not looking”; depending on which data you use anywhere between 50% – 70% of the potential market
  3. And because of the above two points least likely to buy, again you can find data that will peg probability of closing someone in the Status Quo, is 0% – 25%

Time to question some of these views, or at least shine a different light on them to see if they hold up.

While buyer complacency is an issue, it is not as fatal as many will have you believe.  The reality is that Status Quo and/or client complacency is the barrier to selling many will lead you to believe it is.  The key is to understand why the buyer is not in the market, is it because they don’t have any issues, or is it because they do not believe that thee is in fact a suitable solution to the issue in question.

In the real world, where buyers are trying to 16 hours into a 10 hour day, not all is as it seems, or more specifically interpreted by sales people, many see closed doors where none exist.  Often buyers who can’t divine a solution on their own, convince themselves that one does not exist.  Given that they have a million things that have to get done, they have not only convinced themselves,  but have fortified that belief.  Without that fortification, they would occasionally stop and think about it, at times even allow a sales person to come in only to make no progress, and the only thing to show for it is wasted time, and when they look up they realise they now have 16 hours of work but only 9 hours instead of the 10.  As a result, the only solution in their mind is the status quo, complacency, the ability to marginalize the pain so they can continue to function through their day.

Along come the next sales person, averagely persistent, typically reactive, and the draw the conclusion the target is in the status quo, not ready to buy.  They put them into the CRM for follow up (well some), nurture, start a drip campaign, until such time that the target realizes that they want to change.  By this time they have probably gone to the internet, educated themselves, sometimes even with things the rep’s company put out there, and now they’re ready to talk, compare, whatever.

It is the job, the profession of a sales person to not only initiate the process, but to ignite it.  A buyer will not consider that you may have a solution, until they are convinced that someone understands their challenge or issue.  Turning an old saying on its side, “they will not buy until they feel you understand”.  That will take more than just saying it, and the only way to demonstrate it is through the questions you ask.  Questions that will first penetrate the fort, then get the buyer to believe that there “may be” an answer.  Only then will they begin Exploring possibilities, Define requirements, commit to a Game plan, and finally Execute, (EDGE).  How do you know what to ask, not easy, takes had work, as it would any time walls have to be broken down.  You need to stop thinking sales, and think business.

What is the target trying to achieve, what are their challenges, what are their opportunities.  On the other hand, this is not new or foreign, it is very similar to other buyers you have sold to, just as part of the answer is in deals that went to no decision.  The answer is not in the solution, but in the objective of the buyer, driven by their business realities.  So skip the next sales book, (ya, even the one with my name on the cover, that can be next), and pick up a business book, personally I have always liked the The Ten Day MBA, but there are others.  Understand their business, understand their objective, and they believe that you may have an answer, they will move with you out of status quo; absent that, Status Quo baby!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Please Vote

If you look to the left, you’ll see that I am also a nominee for two categories in the annual Top Sales Awards. Please take a minute to vote.  Thank you in advance.

Sales DMZ – Sales eXchange – 7320

No, we are not talking about recent events in Korea; DMZ is not that “Zone” separating sales and marketing departments, represented by the set of empty (but structurally reinforced) cubicles. In this case, the DMZ stands for the Decision Makers’ Zones. Specifically the various “Zones” and means of navigating a B2B buying decision, both the individuals involved in and the process of the buying decision.

During the workshop phase (one of three phases) of our Proactive Prospecting Program, we do an exercise where we ask participants “who they call on” in a given company (existing client or new), when they are prospecting for new business.    I get a lot of different answers, but one common one is “I call on the decision maker”.  OK, but I have used a lot of directories like Scott’s, I have used services like InsideView, and while they provide a lot of good leads and sources, titles and background info, I have yet to see anyone with the title of Decision Maker.

That’s because companies make decision in different ways for different products.  The goal is to be proficient at dealing across the entire “Decision Continuum“, and be able to effectively communicate with anyone at any point along the line, and align with each player’s specific priorities and agendas.  This unfolds in a number of different ways, Proactive vs. Reactive, at every level of the organization, and presented in a way that they understand and want to hear.

I am not going to spend a lot of time on Proactive vs. Reactive, except to say that all to many sales people and methodologies don’t get much past reactive.  If you look at the diagram, many sales people, often through no fault of their own, mostly with the marching orders they are given and marketing support, end up playing in the Reactive Zone, doing a good job of being a vendor.  Being Proactive allows sellers to shape the decision and put themselves in a position that by the time the buyer is looking for a vendor to implement, they don’t see much point of looking beyond the person/organization that help them shape their vision.  The much talked about, often elusive role of trusted adviser; elusive not because it’s unattainable, but because the approach and resulting conversation with the client is executed from the role of a vendor.

Caution, this does not always come down to calling high in an organization, but more to ensuring that you are talking to the priorities and realities of the different levels involved.  While it is always a good idea to call high with in a target company, it is that much more important to call every level of the organization and to ensure that the message is delivered in a relevant way, so they all reach the right conclusion > buying from you, for their own reasons and requirements.

To do that, you have to remember that they all look at things with different filters and different definitions.  In a simple way, this means more than speaking their language, which helps.  Two simple examples; you ever notice that Sales Managers talk “deals and sales”, while VP’s talk about revenue.  The other, is, which one of these two is playing football:

But beyond that, understanding their time horizons may be, a manager likely to be shorter than a VP.  What is their budgetary authority.  Managers clearly lower than VP’s, how many of us “broke a deal in two” to bring it in under a buying manager’s spending limits to avoid scrutiny.  At the same time, I am sure I am not the only one to have closed a deal with a VP who insisted that he/she had no budget, only to “create” one once they bought into the solutions.

The reality is that a decision is rarely “A Decision” but in reality a series of decisions, even when it may seem simple.  There internal decisions, and external decisions, being aware and proactive in managing them, and being in the right Zone at the right time, with the right approach is key in navigating and winning in the DMZ.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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You May Have Noticed

If you look to the top of the column to the right, you will see that I have been nominated for one of the Top 50 Influential People In Sales Lead Management 2010.  If you look to the left, you’ll see that I am also a nominee for two categories in the annual Top Sales Awards. Please take a minute to vote, you can vote for up to three people, so in addition to me, you select two others.  Thank you in advance.

Weekend Musings – Sales eXchange – 7130

I am confused (sort of), by a lot of the sales advice that is out there, a lot of the chatter coming from experts, conferences, and media of all type.  Part of the confusion stems from trying to understand the “buyer”, is he an informed rational being, leveraging modern tools, web 2.0, sales 2.0, and others available today, to make an informed rational decision when it comes to purchasing.  Or, is he a bag of emotions and instincts, open to manoeuvring by manipulative sales predators.   After all, depending who you read and on what day, or what they are trying to sell, combined with the state of the economy, you read that it is any or all of the above.

On the one hand you read that sales is a people game, “people by from people”, manage the relationship is the key.  At the same time you read that buyers are much more informed today, having access to all the information they need before engaging with potential sellers, forcing sellers to elevate their game as never before or run the risk of being figuratively and literally, tossed aside in favour of a solution that better meets their requirements based on empirical facts.  Lastly I am told, people by on emotion then spend time rationalizing that emotion.  So confusing.

There is no doubt that information available to buyers today is greater than ever before, as is the information available to sellers.  But is information knowledge, not always, especially if the information is skewed and filtered based on bias and other irrational factors.  Most agree that two factors that cause people to buy are risk avoidance and self-interest, with those on the mind, there is a very real possibility that a buyer will search and gather information that strictly answers those two requirements and completely ignore economic or efficiency factors.

We have all seen instances where someone made a purchase decision based on self preservation, or despite the facts pointing to the contrary, select a product because their friend liked it, or “everyone is using ZoomVroomBoom”.  I guess the easy way to explain it is that people are all different, but I think that is a bit simplistic, sounds a lot like “buyers that buy my product are knowledgeable and informed, and the ones that don’t are not.”  If knowledge is power in sales too, why is it that knowledgeable sellers with a factually superior products don’t always out sell sellers who lack these components.  Why is it that no one ever gets fired buying IBM, I should ask a DEC sales person.

Again the conventional wisdom is that “knowledge is power”, but it seems that it does not always override other factors.  As stated above, buy on emotion, then rationalize, but is it just emotion, or other primal levers that can be pulled by a savvy seller.  In buying, or with some sellers, is knowledge just a veneer over decisions made on a primal level?

The reality is there is no one clear answer, if there were the book would have been written, story done.  The reality is despite all intellect and rational, knowledge, information or data, there is no clear rationale.  Take the most informed, knowledgeable individual, pop a paper bag full of air right in front of them and you will still see them jolt, can’t help it.  Just like a buyer, don’t believe me, think about this.  Why is it that most investors, no matter how informed, armed and knowledgeable, moved to and stayed on the side line in March of 2009 and again this past July.  Why did iPhone users overlook the flaws initially identified in the iPhone 4?

I guess it is not that confusing, but does demand that sellers have a handle on all aspects of the process.  Not easy, but certainly not solved by a single silver bullet, as soon as it involves people, it involves a myriad of possibilities and factors, each with a different answer; add to this the fact that many B2B decisions are now made by more than one person, everything gets compounded.  Even here, I am told to work the committee, only to be told that I am wasting my time because Ms. Big in the corner office will make the decision.  “But don’t go after Ms. Big, because you can’t go over their heads.”

In the end, information IS key, knowledge IS good to have, sales experience will trump product knowledge, and rather than putting all hopes in one or the other, as a sales person your success will grow by embracing as many sales inputs as possible to be able to execute in more circumstances.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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You May Have Noticed

If you look to the top of the column to the right, you will see that I have been nominated for one of the Top 50 Influential People In Sales Lead Management 2010.  Please take a minute to vote, you can vote for up to three people, so in addition to me, you select two others.  Thank you in advance.

Making It Real31

Early in the week I was having a conversation with a Director of sales I have had an ongoing dialogue with for some time.  As he was telling me about their plans for 2011, specifically sales training, my fifth favourite topic, his frustration came to the surface.  He turned to me and said, “You know Tibor, we are having such a bad year, I don’t think we are going to do anything different next year”.  I am sure it is not what he meant to say, but I also didn’t want to pick at it, so I waited for about probably a few seconds, which seemed like minutes, but instead of correcting himself, he continued to tell me that they have no appetite for change, or doing things in a new way. 

At first I thought he was talking directly to the topic of training, but as he continued, it became clear that his frustration had locked him in a bad groove.  As we talked about things some more, it was clear that he was not only frustrated by the market, the performance of some of his people, but mostly at senior management who were placing him in a tough spot.  They were looking for higher numbers, and asking him to do it with fewer resources.  With a hiring freeze in place, he was hesitant to let some under performers go, and could not spend on helping them improve.

He finally recognized that he could have phrased things differently, but was so harassed by people offering him a “silver bullet for sales” that his pat answer to people approaching him, was that “we are not doing anything different this year or next”.  However, as we talked, and because we had a prior relationship, he calmed down, and we began to explore what does need to change if he was to get back on the right track in 2011.  Beyond the fact that there is now an opportunity on the table for me, the key take aways for me were as follows. 

First, people tend to give off the cuff reactions to certain questions that are not necessarily reflective of reality, what they are really thinking, if in fact they were thinking out at all, rather than just reacting.  He told me that most of the time when he is approached by sales people from CRM companies, sales training, or DISC types, he just says “we are not planning to do anything new or different in the near or mid future”, it seems to end the conversation and he can get back to where he was before they called.  It is we sales people who must be prepared for how to respond to and manage answers that are clearly absent of thought, and rather than reacting to what is being said, focusing on why it is being said, the root cause.

The other is the need not to always focus on the obvious, forest – tree, and all that sort of thing, but to look past it, in two directions.  First, as stated above, looking for the cause, so rather than reacting to the challenge of “we don’t need what you got”, deal with where they are and how they got there.  Once you have that established, you can turn the conversation to where they actually want to be, and what it would mean to them to be there.  Help them see it, taste it, and be it.  Help them feel the impact of being there.  Without making that point real and possible for them to see, and believe that it is achievable, they are not likely to want to talk about how to get there, because it is not “real” for them at that point.  I simply asked him what would a grand slam would look like at the end of 2011, after think a bit he told me, then I asked, “why aren’t you there now?”  By helping describe the issues, getting him to articulate where he wants to be and what has to change, helping him visualize where he wanted to be, it became real.  Then it was just a question of drilling down on what each step would look like, impact it would bring, and which on the list would be the easiest to achieve first; by the way, that is the one we are starting with in December.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically.  Go ahead, do it, click here now!

You May Have Noticed

If you look to the top of the column to the right, you will see that I have been nominated for one of the Top 50 Influential People In Sales Lead Management 2010.  Please take a minute to vote, you can vote for up to three people, so in addition to me, you select two others.  Thank you in advance.

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