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Buyers are Not Liars – Sales eXchange 18911

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Buyers not liars

A few years ago I did a three day program in California, the first day one of the participants, a very likable fellow, kept repeating a common phrase used by sellers – “buyers are liars”.  I told him I did not agree and moved on.  The next day, same guy, had switched phrases slightly, and he was reminding me of another popular falsehood that “sellers are liars”; again I questioned the accuracy of the statement.  By the third morning I was a bit worried because the only one left in the equation who had not been accused of lying was me, the trainer, all day I waited for him to state “trainers are liars”, while he didn’t, I am sure he thought about it.

There are too many sales people who believe and will tell you that buyers are indeed liars; sadly there are some sales leaders who will reinforce this myth.  Buyers are people, and in general people are not liars (can’t speak for politicians), therefore buyers in general are not liars.

The reality is that prospects who do not buy, who lead you on, who go radio silent at a point, and fail to tell you why, are often lying.  Not in the evil way that many sales people in the heat of the moment believe, it is more the case of these prospects seeking a merciful way letting a seller down, while they have less than zero intentions of buying, they find it hard to come right out and tell you and break your heart.  If they did buy from you, you would overlook a white fib or two, after all you closed the deal, you got the “right” result, they bought.  It’s when they don’t buy that you get all out of sorts and resort to calling them liars; so if we’re going to resort names and labels, let’s get it right: prospects sometimes lie.

Most of the time they are not lying, they may be confused or undecided, or again, not sure how to let us down, but in any case the problem is ours, something many in sales do not want to face.

Did we ask the right questions?  A common occurrence is a seller going down the path with a buyer only to discover that the person is not empowered to make a decision.  Sure I can tell myself they lied, or I can ask myself how I could have discovered it earlier, and moved to engage the right people.

Another is when you “know” they need your product, or “know” they are looking, hey after all you were referred to them, yet they insist that they are “all set”.  Are they lying or are we not fully engaged, and conducting an effective discovery process?  Just because we are not getting the answers we want does not mean we are being lied to, I think it is more often the case of the wrong or bad question, rather than a bad answer.

As stated above, buyers are people, and people generally do not lie, unless they feel they have no other option in the situation, lying is easier than the alternative.  It is up to us as sellers to offer the alternative, and leave the buyer with lying as the only option to stop our assault.  Takes work, but pays off too.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

The Sales Bell Curve48

For maximum impact, sellers need to focus on changing and improving elements of their sale that they need to execute day in and day out.  All too many sales people fixate on unimportant elements of their sales, costing them time, sales, and stress.  Does not need to be that way, after all, you’ll need you health to spend your hard earned commissions.

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What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

3 Reasons To Call Senior Executives First – Sales eXchange 15046

Few sales people are true hunters, and even among hunters, few call outside of their comfort zone, specifically senior executives. We can pretend it’s not true, but based on my discussions with sales VP’s and business owners it is.  They tell me their people don’t do it enough, and they hardly hear from sales people selling things that impact critical parts of their business.  But let’s not dwell on why some don’t do it, and let’s focus on why they should and how it will help them win.

1.  Top Man/Woman on Totem Pole – no matter how big or small the company, the President along the VP’s set the strategic direction for their companies, and the more you are aligned with that the better you will do. The challenge is that these are rarely expressed in terms of product, but objectives, thing the want to and need to achieve. So if you sell using the the language of product, you need to stop, and start speaking the subject “here is how I, my offering and company will help you exceed your objectives”. Once you do that you will have a number of doors open to you, both figuratively and literally. The literal part segues us to the second reason.

2.  Use My Name, Please -  No one knows better who the real decision makers, influencers, movers and shakers are within their organizations. That knowledge and understanding alone is worth gold, but an introduction, a recommendation, a direct mandate, well, thats like a cocktail mix of gold, oil, and more. Want to be the gold standard, nothing beats being sanctioned by the leader of the organization.

3.  Friends in High Places – we have all faced scenarios where the decision was down to you and an alternate provider, that is when you want to have the right people in your corner, and who can be more “right” than the president or VP.  When there is a tie, you want to have a tie breaker, and of you master point number 1 above, that tie breaker will break for you.

These are three reasons why you ALWAYS WANT TO CALL HIGH, in the organization that is. Master this and you will win more deals, not only due to the points above, but the process of mastering them will set you up for continuous improvement and success in engaging with the entire organization, and help you play to win.

Next Step

  • Call everyone involved in the success you can deliver
  • Sell in a multilingual way
  • Don’t hesitate to lean on your friends
Tibor Shanto

Sales And Marketing Alignment In Terms Of Lead Generation In A 2.0 World53

The Pipeline Guest Post – Shannon Bryant
(Emerging Technology New Business Specialist for Hire)

(Edited by WimWilmsen)

It’s nothing new that we’re living in a changing world and economy today. Sales and marketing are merging for small businesses and require strong collaboration for larger companies. Sales and marketing lead generation tools follow this suit. Other leading content providers such as Olgilvy Advertising and CMO.com agree.

It’s usually marketing’s job to create campaigns and messaging, and set social media and web strategy. But the smaller a company is, the more their internal people need to do and the less tools they will have to help them. If you don’t have your inbound web strategy in place, outbound sales will have to work harder to find prospects and nurture them.

A solid inbound web strategy also includes nurturing, but if you don’t have marketing tools then outbound sales will have to manually nurture as well. If you don’t have an inbound strategy, then you better treat everyone willing to spend time with you via out-bounding like gold; be efficient, consultative and thankful for their time. Make sure you understand their initiatives and how you can help them, and follow through to ensure your help meets their initiatives.

Ask your prospects what you can do to help them learn your products and how they can help. Ask what their timeline is and schedule action items and follow-ups in conjunction with them. Ask them when they want their next follow-up, and follow up. This is small business lead nurturing. As you grow your inbound strategies, follow one of the leading software and content providers in this small and medium business space, Hubspot.

In bigger companies, your outbound staff is your ear to the world. Outbound reps are the people who can tell you what the market is interested in or how to change your product vision. For this reason, outbound reps and marketing should meet to establish vision and strategy and campaign in collaboration towards qualified leads.

This means your tools need to allow for this collaboration. And the larger your company (it’s reach, sales force, brand offerings, partner layout), the more robust your tools need to be. And the easier and more comprehensive your software, the better. Adobe’s Content Management System is a leader in simplicity and comprehensiveness. The Marketing Director of one of my target companies recently said about another system, “we don’t use that because it is not user friendly to sales.”  That told me he knows his tools need to support and collaborate with sales, and put me at ease knowing he would support me if hired!

Marketing needs to understand they are supporting sales.  If they don’t provide supportive messaging and qualified leads, it makes selling harder.  The closer marketing can get to qualifying a lead following BMANTR, the happier sales will be.  Here’s what this looks like:

Budget- method/process for purchasing
Authority- contact over the purchase
Need for the product
Timeframe of purchase
Risk that could drive the need, timeframe and even budget.

Regardless of your company size, if an outbound rep thinks they shouldn’t get involved in social media, they are mistaken. How are they going to learn their competitor’s offerings to know how to compete? How are they going to accelerate learning the initiatives of their clients and how their product offerings can help? How are they going to accelerate referral relationships? Sales has to know they are a voice for their company, and marketing can help them understand social media policy, strategy and vision in the case they want to contribute.

My opinion is social media participation should be mandatory for all sales and marketing drivers. As Mike Volpe of Hubspot says, “if you are not building your fan base now you are basically dooming yourself on SEO in the future.” Every tweet that follows the company’s vision and strategy in some way directs a company to growth. The more content, the better and more relevant it is, the better a company’s following. The better a company’s following, the better the leads and referrals. Then it’s also how sales and marketing nurtures these leads that they will effect the bottom line.

About Shannon Bryant

Shannon Bryant has a track record of 15 years of driving new business. Specialties in:
•    Establishing marketing & sales tools and process
•    Finding your targets & territory mapping
•    Finding client’s needs & developing messaging around them
•    Growing interest to a purchasing level
•    Finding partners
•    Coaching Inside Sales
Targeting emerging tech players such as Invodo and Google, as well as partners around products like Sharepoint, Day and Omniture.  Targeting Eloqua to grow my knowledge of their industry leading lead generation tool.

She can be reached @Leads2FullCycle, Shannon_Bryant@austin.rr.com or (512) 983-3338.

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Are You Up To It?10

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Last week during a discussion, I was asked if some sales people felt that aspects of sales were beneath them.  An interesting question, and as I have mentioned here before, some to avoid those parts of selling that resemble “work”, some just don’t want to accept that sales is a blue collar job.  How you handle things you feel are “beneath you” could make the difference between average and triumph.

Take a view at the video, do an inventory of your habits, and then adjust to execute better.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brjQAytvjTY&feature=youtu.be

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


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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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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BANTER – Part 320

There are some old sayings that people use not because they are always true, but “they seem to fit”, you know “saving the best for last”, or “last but not least”, well today as we wrap up our BANTER series, it is entirely true that we saved the best for the last instalment.  BANTER again is the acronym for:

Budget
Accountability
Need
Timelines
Execution
Review

Monday we looked at Budget and Accountability, Wednesday we discussed Need and Timelines, today, the best, my favourite EXECUTION, followed by Review.

Execution – just the sound of it makes one feel good.  After all isn’t it the only thing that counts in the end.  How many sales books have been written?  Some great, others just sad.  How many sales training programs are there available to sales organizations, how many have you attended?  But no matter how good, even my programs, they are just words until they are executed.  Almost every sales person I have met knew what he/she had to do; the mystery has always been why they don’t do it.  Further, the difference between great and good is the execution.  I have seen reps put into practice what they have learned right away, they don’t always do it pretty, but they do it.  As they do it they improve, learn, refine and do it again, this time better.  The key is they execute, and as a result, they are way ahead of the ones who can rationalize why they haven’t done it yet.  We have all met that one rep, knows the whole book inside out, can quote you complete sections of SPIN, but haven’t made goal in the three years since the workshop because they haven’t put it into practice, no execution.

No matter what anyone tells you, the only silver bullet in sales is execution, everything else is just talk!

Review – The great thing about executing is it gives you something to review, learn from and build on.  I have never been a big football fan, but the one concept that has always appealed to me was the notion of “watching the game tapes”.  Every successful sales person I have worked with has spent part of their planning time reviewing, otherwise how could they really plan. 

They do this on a number of levels; starting with reviewing meetings to understand what worked what did not, why it did or did not.  How can they capture the pluses and build them into their playbook, and what can be avoided, or what has become outdated, etc.  Reviewing wins and losses are key; some do one, or the other, it is important to review both.  It is important to review, territories, personal sales skills and accounts.

When it comes to reviewing accounts, it is a good idea to do a review for you, but also a separate review with the client as well.  It is a great opportunity to take the focus off “selling”, and put it on what is important to the client.  It is a great way to demonstrate your responsiveness to their needs or to problems when they arise.  What evolves is an opportunity to get the client to discuss and review their priorities; it is amazing the type of insight and information you uncover during a review meeting.   You should involve everyone touched by your product, not just the buyer.  Often one of their people better makes the case for your quality and service than you.  You can also sit back and learn as they discuss internal issues among themselves.  You can then review you that and fine-tune your offering.  While reviews are not set up a sales calls, the fact that the client often get involved and let their “buyer face” down, it turns into a very productive sales meeting.

So now, you can review the whole BANTER series, and get to executing it.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

BANTER 221

On Monday – I introduced a framework allowing sales people to fully engage when working with buyers, an easy to follow (which does not always mean easy to execute) process called BANTER:

Budget
Accountability
Need
Timelines
Execution
Review

We looked at the first two, Budget and Accountability, today we will look at Need and Timelines or Time.

Before we get into today’s elements, there are two very important things to remember as you read this series. As I introduce each of these elements, I am giving a couple of common examples based on the work I do with different B2B sales teams. These are not exhaustive by any means, and will vary greatly depending on your product or offering, so look at this as a starting point, but you will have work to do in fitting them in to your routine.

Second and more important is that there is no magic or silver bullet in sales, there is just EXECUTION. You can learn the BANTER elements, you can learn other methodologies, there are plenty out there, but if you do not execute and continuously work on improving your execution, it’s all just words.

Need – This is the one I struggle with a bit, as it fits the flow and the acronym, but may be misleading.  When it comes to discovery, many sales people think their job is to ask the prospect what their needs are, but those prospects who can answer that specifically are past the defining stage and well into the shopping phase, which is usually a disadvantage.   In fact, this is the flaw with some reactive approaches that prepare you for a “ready buyer”; these buyers exist, they have done their research, “know” what they “want”, are preyed upon by many sales people, and will tend to lean to price. 

The goal in the Need phase is to work with and help the prospect define the requirement and the relating opportunity.  By focusing on the buyer’s specific and organizational objectives, you can better link your solutions to those and build a sale where others may not see one.  The goal is to ignite rather than wait for a trigger obvious to all. 

This involves work, knowledge and the discipline to execute the discovery process in a consistent and methodical fashion, without shortcuts or assumptions.  Not always exciting, not sexy, but rewarding when properly executed. 

Timelines or Time – This works on so many levels, and you need to manage them all.  The obvious one is what is the buyer’s timeline?  Can it be accelerated?  Most importantly, can it be leveraged to accelerate the decision cycle?  There is a balancing act in managing your perception of time, and the buyer’s perception.  While it is unwise to push the buyer because you have a sale to make, you also can’t let the sale and cycle linger.  Again, Discovery is key.  By tying time to the clients objectives, and critical times or compelling event you can motivate a client to act.  Quite simply, if you can understand when the critical points in time are for the client, no matter how far in the future, you can usually work a timeline that will show them they need to engage and act well before that, like maybe now.  Internal planning, ordering equipment, training, budgets, implementation times, process alignment and adjustments, and other key steps can be highlighted as the impetus for acting now rather than later.  Again all based on the buyer’s realities.

There is also your timelines, what is the average length of your cycle.  How is that aligned with the buyer’s buy cycle.  Often a small misalignment here will cause great delay or a “no decision” situation.  To keep the sale on track you need to understand the proper timeline between stages; plan and manage what has to be in place at each stage to ensure forward movement.  To do this you need to plan each stage and meeting to fit within the proper timeline.  The challenge is more the number of moving parts, parallel processes, than the complexity of each part.  This why there is the temptation to take short cuts by ignoring some hoping that the others will get you through.  Not a good idea, it is much better to plan things out, I often map it out on paper, and even share it with the prospect.  This not only gets them involved and achieve buy in, but builds credibility and differentiation well before the field gets crowded by those who are sniffing around for “Needs”.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

BANTER – Sales eXchange – 5628

Thank you!

Well I am back, and I want to thank all those who contributed guest posts while I was away.

Cindy King
Bill Rice
Kelly Robertson

S. Anthony Iannarino
Todd Youngblood
Dave Brock
Daniel Waldschmidt
Trevor Stevens

Banter

With help from Bill Bruton

Those who know me know I am a big Tull fan, yes still blowing it out, great shows this summer again. One of the things that makes a Tull show a great experience is Anderson’s banter between songs, creating a connection with the audience. And so it is in sales, the greater your ability to create a connection with buyers, the greater success you will have. What’s the connection between sales and Tull -> BANTER, master the elements of BANTER, and you will increase your sales and client loyalty:

Budget
Accountability
Need
Timelines
Execution
Review

Over the next few posts we will look at each element, how to prepare, utilize and execute.  As with most things in sales these may not be new to everyone, the goal is to put a focus on some specifics and help link them together for maximum impact.  I’ve said it before, when it comes to sales, the wheel has been invented, the question is how you spin it.

Budget – It goes without saying that without budget, there is not much likelihood of a sale.  But many sales people forget that there are different types of budgets, and budgets can be created even where at first they may not exist.

At the core, the two different types of budgets are capital and operating.  Knowing which is the most common used to purchase your product helps one position their product in a way that aligns with the specific budget.  Knowing this should also help you think about how to position your product as something that can also fit the other class.  Specifically if your product is usually bought through an operating budget, and you are working with a prospect who has no operating budget left, you still have choices.  One is to be able to move the discussion to how you product can be made to qualify as a purchase from the capital budget.  This may not work for all products, but it does in others, it just takes a bit of understanding of the buyers’ environment, priorities, and buying process.

A second factor is the language you buyer speaks.  If they are accustomed to spending capital budgets and you persist on presenting your product as something that is understood by the buyer to be an operational in nature, you could end up facing an unnecessary barrier.  Based on the situation and your research, it is important that you describe and define things in a way that helps the buyer understand and perceive your offering as something that does fit into their budget, in this case capital.

There is also the reality that some people are given a budget and once allocated or spent, it is done.  They cannot create new budgets, and in some cases lower down in the decision tree, they may not even be able to reallocate budget without permission from above, which sometimes requires a massive case plan that many see as not being worth their time.  But there are those in organizations who can reallocate budget with ease, further they can create budgets and make unplanned purchases.  These are usually people at the higher end, I guess commonly called the ‘C’ Suite.  I know I have sold to Sales VP’s who initially swore up and down that they had no budget for training, then based on validation of the results Renbor has been able to deliver, went ahead.  I have seen the same with CFO’s who saw efficiency gains by buying an application; VP’s of Operation who chose to contract with an outsourcing organization based on specific returns and payback periods.  Key as always is the ability to deliver.

Accountability – It is important to remember that accountability is multi-directional.  In sales a primary accountability is that of the vendor to the customer.  Some of this is simple as motherhood and apple pie, which it is less about the definition, and more about the delivery.  Talking about accountability is one thing demonstrating and living by it is a different challenge.  The commonly accepted tactic of “under promise and over deliver” is one example, but a common one that can help a long way is the way we as sellers deal with problems before and after a sale.  No one is perfect; the test is in how we handle issues when they arise, studies have shown that buyers consider how problems are handled as a key balance to price.  If you are accountable, deal with issues, and save the customer time and money in resolving them, you can usually expect that the buyer will be less price conscious, as they are realizing savings and value in other forms.

This takes us back to budget for a second.  Another form of accountability is who is your buyer accountable to internally.  A senior person, who has power and can play above the rules, can also be the ones who can create or easily redirect funds.  We have all sold to senior buyers who stepped outside the buying process to make things happen.  They saw that they were accountable for the success of the company or their group, you are accountable for helping them see the real value that will make them take the step.  Even last year as budgets were slashed or removed, these people were buying those things they saw as critical for their companies’ success.  All this of course results from the quality of the interaction between you and them, the interactive nature of the sale, the banter.  More on Wednesday.

Note of a change:

Up to this point I posted on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.  The comments and feedback I have received suggest that readers have less opportunity to read the Saturday post.  Moving forward I will post Mondays – Sales eXchange, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you still need your fill, I also contribute weekly to Sales Blogcast’s Mindshare, and monthly to The Sales Bloggers Union.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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