Welcome to The Pipeline.

Which side of risk are you on? #BBSradio #podcast0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

Risk is a big factor is sales success and sales failure.  Being that people most people are risk averse, the traditional approach in sales has been to try to minimize risk associated with one’s product, the risk of change, and risk of the unknown inherent in a new vendor or product.  But as with many things the internet and social media have brought some balance and greater ability for buyers to better gauge and measure risk of vendors, product and switching.

But for those reps willing to do a bit of work, you can leverage risk in a slightly different way that will lead to action, rather than the usual inaction.

Take a listen, then let me know you thoughts.

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

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3 Reasons To Get Prospects to Look Back Drivers Future Sales2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Now Past Future

People are creatures of habit, and while we do change over time, most often these are gradual and incremental evolutions, only occasionally radical and sudden change. There are several way this can help sellers perform better, not only in terms of quota, but helping clients achieve their objectives, leading to more business as a result.

The goal in this piece is not to compare one type of buyer to another, but to help you adjust your approach to better align with the buyer, their habits, and expectations to help you be more effective with the type of buyer at hand.

While there may be other reasons, here are three in no particular order, that if you incorporate into your sale, will help you achieve better results for all involved.

  • Propensity to change
  • Why they buy
  • How they buy/make decisions

Propensity – In the past we have spoken about the market breaking down to three general groups, buyers who are Actively looking, Passively looking, Not looking (status quo). No matter which group they are in, there will be different levels of willingness to change. Even in the Actively looking group there will be those who are looking because there are external factors forcing them in to the market, without those external factors they would be status quo. Others are always looking to be leading edge and are looking on their own volition. Clearly the latter have a greater propensity to change and act, while the former will require more reassurance, more motivation, and at times more work. Again more work is not a bad thing, it’s just good to know up front. Don’t forget, that some will never change and take pride on going down with the ship, which means it is OK to disqualify and move on.

Why – Once they do make the decision to act, you need to understand why they chose the product or supplier they chose having decided to act. This will give you a lot of insight not only about the individual but the organization. Was there decision tied to a specific set of objectives, and is that consistent across a number of decision, or was it a result of “Me Too” at play. If we extrapolate out from the technology adoption lifecycle, how we sell to buyers at the left end of the curve will tangibly differ from those on the right end. It doesn’t matter which methodology you use, knowing why the buyer has made the selections they have in the past will give you clear guidance as to how to align with their current purchase decision.

How – This should be the most straight forward, once they have decided to make a change, and are comfortable with the reasons as to why, how they go about things will help you maximize the current purchase. You will understand who is involved in decisions; here you want to look for names that may have popped up in the “WHY” discussion. How those same people relate, influence or ignore the individual you are working. It will also give you a clear picture as to how (sometimes if) the organization makes decisions. If in exploring the last three or four purchase decision they made involved specific steps, inputs, and people, you can bet that these will be present and required to get the decision you are looking for.

The key in all this is to do this sort of questioning early, when it can seem informal, not central or pertinent to anything specific at the time. The close you get to the decision point, the more layers there are and some buyers will not share as freely. Everyone’s posture changes, and the information that flows, and how it flows changes. It is never too early to gather the above, but there could be a point where it may be a bit too late.

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Ready – Set – Go Part I0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

iStock_start biz race resized

Tuesday we enter the “final half” of the sales year, the unofficial intermission that is summer comes to a figurative end, and harvest season is upon us. Now if you did a good job of ploughing, seeding and nurturing (even fertilizing), in the spring, you are truly in a position to harvest. On the other hand, if you did not tend to your pipeline before the summer, you’re left hoping for rapid growth season before winter descends on your income; too bad they don’t make Miracle-Gro® for pipelines.

Based on which of the above groups you are in, you will need to attack September – December in different ways. If you are in the first group, and invested the time and effort early in the year, and set yourself up for a bumper crop, you have two areas of focus, first to fully harvest and maximize your opportunities; second to set yourself up for success in 2016.

To fully maximize opportunities, start early, segment your pipeline in to two general groups, those that are truly just in need of harvesting, and those that still need some work to complete. In this latter group I would take a close look at those opportunities that based on past experience have the attributes of a deal likely to close this year, and those that, on sober consideration, are not likely to close this year, but will/may likely slip into next year. To be clear this is not to say that you toss or forget or sandbag, in fact the opposite, work them, because they will contribute to next year’s quota, but be practical and think about how you spend your time proportionally. Time is not recyclable, leads (and opportunities) are, invest your time in a way that yields maximum results, now and in the future; divide your time to skew towards those opportunities that are ripe and ready to happen now.

With the opportunities that will close, it is all about coverage, and focus. Start with a recommitment to having a plan and executing that plan. The challenge as always, is having a plan aligned to the buyer’s objective and demonstrating your ability to impact and drive those objectives. Part of that plan is understanding what needs to happen at each stage in order to continue to move the opportunity forward based on previous deals. Map it out so you can identify critical points along the buy/sell trip, and critical actions required to successfully complete those critical points. The map is your planning tool for your meetings and encounters with buyers, helping both you and them agree on next steps and move towards desired and identified outcomes. This will help you accelerate deals, and free up bandwidth to prospect and set yourself up for next year.

Now if you are in the other group, in a panic to make something of the year, tune in next Monday for Part II of Ready – Set – Go.

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Simple Strategies to Help Your Business Succeed0

Aug 2015

The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka

Whether you are an entrepreneur in the midst of launching your business, or a successful business owner who wants to continue to prosper, there are always strategies you can implement to maximize your success rate. Keep in mind, sometimes it is critical for both startups and mature businesses to say no – and doing so doesn’t mean your business won’t be successful.

Here are seven easy strategies that can generate additional revenue:

Implement professional development.
It doesn’t matter what industry you serve, one thing is certain – you need to make the commitment to continuously learn more about trends in your field. If you don’t, you simply cannot provide your customers the top value they need.

If you spend about an hour each day to learn more about your field, you can rise above your competition and build your confidence and add credibility. The hours spent on new exposures each day will add up and eventually place you in a different category than your competition. Make sure to pay attention to what your market wants and needs, and what your customers are saying and never underestimate the power of continuing professional development.

Serve above everything else.
Listen to your customers! A business may know that it is right — but in this industry, the customer is always right. If you have a customer who is unhappy, you need to always make sure to do whatever is in your power to make sure he or she is satisfied. Take the initiative to fix any issues, even if you know your customer was wrong. If you start each day by concentrating on ways to better serve your customers, you will increase your business and success rate. Think in terms of serving and remember that finding success is an addiction, not a lottery.

Offer high quality products and/or services.
If you can offer your customers products that are high quality and not like everyone else’s, you will quickly set your business apart from the competition. Quality is where it’s at when it comes to growing your business. Take the time to plan, implement and deliver high quality products and services each and every day.

Understand your risks and rewards.
One key to success is taking calculated risks to help your business grow. A good question to ask yourself is “What is the downside?” If you are able to answer this question, then you have identified the worst-case scenario and can prepare for it. Take this knowledge and use it to your advantage. There are some risks that can generate significant rewards for your business, and those risks are ones worth taking.

Stay focused.
When you open a business, you likely won’t start making money right off the bat. Remember the old saying that “Rome was not built in a day.” It will take some time to let people know about your business. Stay focused and keep your eyes on what you hope to achieve, both in the short and long term time frames.

Engage with your target market.
The most successful brands out there excel at building strong relationships with their audience. Focus on building those relationships before you jump in and start selling. Build authentic relationships with your market – they, in turn will want to buy from you. People like to buy things from people they know well and trust. Always remember that engagement takes time and doesn’t happen in a few days’ time.

Every business needs to continue to work hard in order to succeed. Keep your focus on delivering high quality products and customer service and always be eager to learn more and better serve your customers.

What are your secrets to business success?

About Megan Totka 

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Megan has several years of experience on the topics of small business marketing, copywriting, SEO, online conversions and social media. Megan spends much of her time establishing new relationships for ChamberofCommerce.com, publishing weekly newsletters educating small business on the importance of web presence, and contributing to a number of publications on the web. Megan can be reached at megan@chamberofcommerce.com

Website: www.chamberofcommerce.com
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Experiment and Extend0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 


Every human being has an X chromosome, and in sales people that X will stand for one of two characteristics. In some it denotes those spend their time and energy making excuses as to why they are not succeeding. In others it is all about how they execute and drive their own success and by extension the success of their customers. But in truly exceptional sellers, the mythical 20 in the 80/20 rule, the X goes deeper, it drive them to experiment and as a result, continuously extend their skills and successes.

Sounds simple, yet difficult for many sales people, and sales organisations. And this is definitely an instance where you have to go past the “messaging”, and explore the action.

While it is easy to look at the front line and find fault, but the ground work, expectations, culture and accountability is the date main of the executive, both sales leadership and other leaders accountable for the success of the company. Often the lack of experimentation is a result of the leader’s inability to distinguish between focus and limits. One can focus on outcomes for buyers without limiting execution, especially when winning deals is about helping buyers achieve objectives, not product differentiation.

Leaders need to lead from the front, not from behind a desk, and this means leading by example. If you as a leader are not will to continuously expand the bounds of you sales and sales approach, how can you expect your people to. Forget all the flowery communications, the old adage of so as I do, not as I say do looms large here. If your activities show as unwilling to grow and expand, then how can you expect your team to?

Change is key to sales success. Front line sales people are trying to get buyers to change, change the way the see things, the way they do things, the things they are willing to do. As I have mentioned in the past, one of the biggest barriers to this is the seller’s own propensity to change. Why would a customer make a change with you when your actions reinforce the fact that you yourself are closed to change. The way you sell informs a buyer reaction and response to you. If you sell the way the hundreds of others who have tried to, and failed to sell to that buyer, why would they change with you when you don’t represent change. But if the example they see from their leaders is resistance to change, how are they supposed to change, and on it goes from there.

One way is to establish and ,maintain a dynamic, continuously evolving process. This will not only allow leaders to demonstrate change, but drive it through every level of the organization. Central to this is a deal review process, we use one called the 360 Degree Deal Review. This allows organizations to identify and capture movements in the market, and respond accordingly. Front line can expand according to findings, sales and marketing leadership can support that change by introducing initiatives that support the front line, and at same time make the organization as a whole responsive to the market and clients.

New tools can also be introduced, or at a minimum, existing tools can find new life and utility for the front line reps and ROI for the organization. For example, clients who were challenged in getting adoption of CRM, found this approach as a good carrot. Front line sellers see a direct link to their success and commissions. Front line managers become more efficient coaches, driving benefits both up-stream and downstream. The executive finally get the visibility on aspects of the business and trends they need to have to meet their objectives.

Another area where leaders can experiment and expand in in their hiring approach. Looking for reps who are capable, yet different than their current crew. Hiring lookalikes, or people we like just perpetuates things and again confirms the lack of change, if not stagnation. In one example I was involved with, a VP had a habit of hiring only those with “industry experience”, meaning they knew the product, but sold no differently than his current team. After some convincing and arm twisting, he went out hired someone from a very different industry, different style, and a track record of exceeding quota. The goal was to be disruptive and shake things up from within, creating a nervous energy that one can never get from threats or heavy handed approaches. Result was that many of the habits rubbed off on others, managers actively encouraged others to follow suit, we built coaching plans to help willing reps change and grow. There were those who did not like the experiment, and are now working elsewhere, they were replace by others with varied backgrounds and styles, and the culture and success has continued to expand.

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Turn Your Proactive Prospecting Calls Upside-down – Sales eXecution 3072

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

upside down key

The primary, and one can argue the only purpose of a prospecting call is to gain engagement. It is not, as some pundits will tell you, to build rapport or start the relationship, or set yourself up for the future. These latter outcomes are things we sometimes have to settle for, but there is no doubt these are a distant second place to the primary goal; the singular objective and measure of success is to schedule a meeting, (live, phone, web, what have you), anything short of that is second place, which as you know is first place for those who missed the primary objective.

Adopting that attitude is key, as attitudes influence your actions, and how you act on that initial call will determine whether you engage with your potential buyer, or join the ranks of the Also-rans. The attitude is that we need to meet because there will be a mutual advantage to both as a result of the engagement. In the long run, the buyer will be closer to their objectives, and you will have a buyer. In the short term, they will learn from you, as they would from any encounter with a subject matter expert, and that is what you are; and you will learn something from them and their business. But none of that happens if you fail to engage.

Attitude also influences the message, what you say right out of the gate, most sales people, with help from the marketing team, tend to blow this important opportunity, and as a result the call. Listen to B2B sales people make prospecting calls, as I have done with hundreds of reps, thousands of calls, and you will discover that most end up delivering the wrong massage in the wrong way.

While everyone will tell you that the call has to be about the buyer and their “What’s in it for Me”, it rarely is. Most calls start off with an introduction to the company, what “we” do, and how “we” do it, how great “we” are, and then, well into the call they finally introduce the “what” may be in it for the buyer. Something like:

Hi Buyer, I my Name is Alfred E. Newman, do you have a few minutes, I am the North East Account Manager at YetAnother Corp. We are a leading manufacturer of something you already have, our clients recognize as being reliable and customer centric. We help them reduce the total cost of production by 8% while reducing their manufacturing process by 6%.

Now that last part is good, assuming the person you called is still awake, considering the precious seconds you wasted with boring non-relevant data. I know it is hard, but on that first call, in those early seconds, no one cares about us, our awards, place in the market, how we do things, seriously, they don’t, no matter what your marketing folks tell you.

What they DO care about is “what is in it for them”, more specifically “how will this help me get to my desired outcomes or objectives?” Which is the last part of the above intro. Which is why I say “turn it upside-down”; start with the outcome, what’s the tangible for the, meaning the “the reduction of their “total cost of production by 8% while reducing their manufacturing process by 6%.” The stuff before that is just filler for you, not for the buyer who may not be awake by the time you get to it.

Lead with that last part, it is more likely that they were thinking about that before you called; but many sales people can’t bring themselves to leave out the filler, the puff-pastry that brings nothing to the call but the risk of rejection, discouragement, and a lack of prospecting success.

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Their Only Pain is You6

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Ask a group of sales people what they want to know about their prospect, and the majority respond “I want to know about their pain or needs”. In theory a good concept, in practice highly over rated and ineffective. As discussed before, at any given time, only a small percentage of your total potential market is in play. The various estimates range from as low as 3% to 15%; so if we go with 10% for the sake of this piece, we are likely very generous. Of that 10%, almost all will recognise or admit to a need, and for some that need is in fact driven by or rooted in pain. So even when you perfect uncovering the pain and need, you are playing with a very narrow slice of opportunity. Not to mention a very visible and highly sought after slice, one that every sales person is pursuing, much like a lazy wild cat targets the weak of the herd.

A further 20% or so, don’t have an immediate pain or need, but they recognise that they will need to make a purchase decision 12 – 18 months out. Extremely good sales people, may be able to get a few of these folks to accelerate the need or heighten the pain, and thereby accelerate the purchase decision. But in the vast majority of instances, these people are future business, i.e. not this quota cycle. Having said that they are a good group to work with, as you have lots of runway to build a “relationship” and set yourself up as the obvious favourite when they going into buying mode.

This leaves the 70% plus, of the target market, the status quo, the complacent ones, the ones with no pain, no need, and no desire for a solution. Probing for pains or needs here gets the familiar “all set, we’re good, no need now, not interested” response; sometimes they’ll make you feel good and ask you to send them something. When was the last time you got paid for that?

For many of these buyers, the only immediate pain is the sales person sitting across from them, and the way that many of those sales people sell. While many pride themselves on having “evolved” from asking silly questions like “what keeps you up at night?” From the buyer’s stand point many of the techniques used by many are no better even though they changed the wrapping.

Some fall pray to pundits who will have them go in and try to “create” pain or make the buyer feel inadequate by asking things like “wouldn’t you agree that ….?” or “What would it be like if you could….? But buyers are hip, they see when you snap on the rubber gloves and “probe”.

One pain many buyers complain to me about is the complete unpreparedness they experience when meeting with reps. Rather than truly understanding the buyer, doing a bit of work in advance. Actually research the industry and current and future trends, how those impact the buyer’s company and the buyer, exploring more than just their social stream and LinkedIn profile. Absent pain, you need to look forward, the “value” you bring as a seller is helping the buyer face and win in that future, kicking them in the shin or higher brings a pain that does not lead to sales.

So if you want to use pain to win sales, it needs to be the “pain” of the effort you put into properly engaging a buyer who left to their own devices feels no pain, and is more like in search of something that will help them achieve their objectives, while avoiding the pain that is bad selling.

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Learning What You Don’t Know to Win Deals – Sales eXecution 3060

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Second look

We all have deals we know we should have won, they had our name practically written on them, all we had to do was complete, yet in the end, the commission went to a rep from another company. First you need to do is dig in and understand why you won, much like you would when you win, or when the prospect takes no decision. While many do this, the findings are only as good as the answers to the questions posed allow. Meaning if you set out to review the wrong thing, you will reach the wrong conclusion, go back out and still lose the next similar deal.

The questions you pose in this review are important, but as or more important is who asks the questions. For example sending a rep back to ask why they lost the deal leads to a predictable yet useless response: PRICE. It is useless because it is usually not the case, but the most efficient way for someone to blow through the exercise. Think about it, they just made a decision they are not about to change or undo, as a result any time spent with talking reps who clearly missed the point to start with is hardly a good use of time, especially when for many, implementation and successfully delivering is often as or more risky than the purchase decision itself.

It is better to have a party not directly involved in the transaction be the one to go back in, say someone from sales ops, or better yet someone from marketing. The key is someone who can transcend “the deal”, and truly look at things from the buyer’s perspective. Going back in and asking all the product centric, “what we do, how we do it”, question, spiced with “my company” statements, will not only confirm to the buyer that they made the right decision, you will not learn anything that will help you win in the future. If you don’t think you can do this, there are companies that offer

Sending the rep in, only to hear it was price will just lead to the average rep coming back and telling you and anyone who will listen, including other reps: “I told you, we’re overpriced, that’s why we can’t close sales”. Not something that leads change and improvement moving forward.

If you are wondering what to ask about, here are two steps. First, get out of your head, your view of the world, and get into the buyer’s. Rather than thinking about what you or your company sells and more importantly why you think that, turn the telescope around and ask “what are companies trying to achieve, why, and how can they best get there; how can I contribute to that?” Sales and marketing people are often surprised how when looked at through that key hole, how badly off target they were with their questions and messaging. The other steps is know what to focus on. The simplest way to start this turnabout is to go to some of your best clients, current clients who have choice yet continue to do business with you, and ask them why they do, what they like and how that helps them achieve their objectives. You’ll find price is rarely in the top five things, and less so top three reasons. What you’ll hear about are things relating to your innovativeness in helping them achieve objectives, including R&D they benefit from, ability to understand and help their business, ease of total relationship, including issue resolution, ability to add value to their offering, and more.

Getting it right ensures more sales, more margins and winning team. This may take time and effort, but so does losing deals.

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Are Your Buyers Asking WTF?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sellers often have a distorted view of what is really important to buyers, leaving buyers to repeatedly ask WTF? Get your mind out of the gutter, the question is Why That Feature? Not what you’d be asking when the deal goes sideways, as it will if you are unable to nail the buyer’s WTF.

One thing that many executives and owners tell me regularly is that they are frustrated by some sales people’s inability to relate to the buyer’s perspective of things. As importantly, the incapability of sellers to have a fluid and malleable enough understanding of the products they sell to make it fit the buyer’s requirements, not just those of the selling organizations.

They feel that sellers come in and present features that may seem cool and useful to people in their own marketing group, or features someone in product development thought made sense. While some features may seem cool and useful to a developer, the same may not resonate with real world users. While secondary research may suggest a demand for a feature to the marketing group, it may not be top of mind for all buyers.

At times the disconnect is simply that buyers, especially executives are looking for specific outcomes, and don’t look at the product through functionality. One executive noted “I could care less how it does it, if it’s legal, and gets me what I want, that’s just fine!”

Sellers need to be able to relate aspects of the product to the buyer’s reality, and while there may be similarities in those realities, each buyer is just that different. Mat be it is only in terms of where they are in the buying cycle or as broad as market strategy. While everyone says that they are beyond feature/benefit in their sales approach, buyers tell me different. Sellers are still trying to bend the buyer to their feature, rather than highlighting how that feature gets the buyer to where they want to be.

Of course to do that, sellers need to be aware of what buyers are trying to achieve. And this is not more of something per minute, or faster processing, or social integration. It is more about something that starts with why, and ends with outcomes and impacts. The means are usually secondary.

Presentations where the seller filled with buzzwords still abound, as does communication from marketing. There is almost an expectation that the buyer will paint the same picture in response to single trigger word, as the seller or their marketing group did. Expecting buyers to come around to our view and our definitions just leads to more and harder work, a lot harder than changing the narrative to that of the buyer.

The same is true for unnecessary upgrades or changes in features that were working just fine. Change and new are not always better, especially if it change that was not driven by users/buyers. Users/paying customers don’t always see the same need for change as the developer. If it does not positively impact the buyer’s journey or ability to drive objectives, it is not a great feature or upgrade. These also lead buyer to ask Why That Feature, this not so much why do I need that (why do I wanna pay for that), but what was so bad about it that you had to change it.

Learn to speak with the buyer, not at the buyer, and avoid forcing them to ask WTF?

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Decision Makers Want To Deal With Decisive People2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Decisions direction sign with sky background

A question I regularly ask when working with a group of reps on prospecting, is “who do you call on?” or “who do you want to call on?” The answer I get is “the decision maker”. Now I have used a lot of different directories and databases, and they all give a title, not role in decision. But let’s say they did, the real question is what happens when you speak to that decision maker. Unfortunately often this opportunity does not go as well as hoped, for the sales person, and the decision maker.

It has been shown in a number of studies that many decision makers are disappointed with many of their meetings with sales people, often seeing it as a waste of their time. Reps come in unprepared in so many ways. Despite all the information out there, all the research sales people supposedly do in advance of their meetings, they seem to bring little knowledge or real valuable or actionable insight to these meetings.

While there are more, I will look at two that if addressed and improved will dramatically improve your success. First is the focus of all the research and information reps do going into the meeting. When I ask, I still get the same old same old. It is all very product and sales centric. Mercifully you hear less and less of “what keeps you awake at night?” But while the words have changed, the posture and the way it rubs the executive has not. The reality is that much of what many sales people “probe for”, are things many senior executives and decision makers have delegated to others in the organization.

Instead they are focused on their objectives 12 – 18 months forward, they are consumed by those outcomes, and their impact on their company, be that profits, market share, Wall Street reaction, and more. It is not about “the” enterprise software, but the impact as they view it. Talk about that and they will engage, and exchange information with you, but with all due deference, the SPIN stuff makes their head spin. Show them that you can help them achieve their objectives, and you’re on.

The second common obstacle is the general demeanour of many reps. There is a difference between respecting someone and their position, and putting them on a pedestal. This needs to be a conversation of peers; not equals, but peers. Why would I open up to someone whose words, gestures and posture suggest that they have not faced the type of scenarios and objectives I deal with every day? Many sales people, especially the relationship types or the social types, are reluctant to ask the direct and difficult questions that not only demonstrates that you understand the day to day world of the person you are with, much less help them resolve the gaps that stand between them and their objectives. You can talk probing, but doing it right, is another story. Executives I have spoken to tell straight out that they don’t have time to educate reps on the types of things they are trying to achieve or resolve. “I can tell from the questions they ask, and the way they ask them if they really get, are faking it, or just scared shitless because they know they are in over their heads when it comes to my world and day to day”.

The reason some reps never get the appointment is not because the executive or decision maker is not open to input, but they want that from a peer, who understands what they are dealing with, and can demonstrate that they have fought the battle and won. Not with a glossy case study but how they conduct themselves. In short, Decision makers want to deal with decisive people, people who can lead them to success, not just follow hoping for relationship.

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