Welcome to The Pipeline.

Don’t Parrot – Integrate!0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

parrot

Given the fact that we think a lot faster than people speak, and much faster than our ability to listen, it is always important to look for ways to stay focused on what a prospect is telling us, and not rush ahead or interrupt with a thought triggered by something they said. My favourite way, is one I was taught long ago by a mentor; his approach is to ask yourself what you can ask the prospect/buyer, based on what they just said, makes you focus, listen, process and fully and actively engage.

This goes beyond the common technique many use, one that I find really irritating rather than in any way effective, specifically restating or parting, what the prospect said. We have all seen it in action, reps repeat almost word for word what the buyer just said as a means of demonstrating their attentiveness. “So what I heard you say is…”. Just wake me up when you’re done.

Don’t get me wrong, I get and support the intent, to ensure clarity and avoid the mistakes of assumptions. But as with many things in sales, it comes down to execution, how we deliver the message sometimes matters as much as the message. Simply repeating what they just said does confirm you were listening, one point for you; but that is a long way from understanding, processing responding in a meaningful way for the buyer.

A better way of demonstrating and confirming that you not only heard the words, but actually took in and processed what they said, is to integrate what you gleaned, and then use it to continue, drive and focus the conversation. As mentioned above, use it as a basis for further discovery. Rather than just parroting what the prospect presented, ask a question that builds or expands on the topic, or drills down on a specific aspect, allowing the buyer to elaborate, get further involved and in the process serve up more useful information. The more you drill down on what they say, the more they are encouraged to continue.

While everyone agrees that a good sales meeting is one where the prospect speaks the majority of the time, (I’ll settle for 51%), the reality is that rarely the case in most sales calls. Partly this is a symptom of the problem mentioned above, the seller getting way ahead of the buyer, and worse the incessant interruptions every time a sales rep heard the “secret word”, most often the “secret word” is some trigger word marketing conjured up as part of ”The Value Prop”.  All this does is train the buyer not to talk, not to exchange information, after all, every time they are about to reveal something, the rep interrupts, clearly signalling they are not interested in what they buyer has to say, and would rather preach, leaving the buyer to just say amen to not buying.

One way to avoid this, and again demonstrate your attention and understanding, is to vary, ever so slightly, the way you take notes while the buyer is pouring their hearts out. May seem simple, but split your page into thirds, on two thirds take notes the way you normally would. The remaining third is for the “secret words”, the ones you are dying to hear, the ones you used to jump on, but won’t any more. Moving forward, you’ll right down the “secret word” and wait. This not only allows the buyer room to express themselves fully, but allows you take your time formulating a question, or a means of revisiting the subject triggered by the “secret word”, integrating it into a follow up question, again drilling down with a willing buyer. For example, “Earlier you mention consolidating, a lot of our clients have had success…, is that what you meant, or…?” Even if you are wrong, you will find out more, and have a buyer who feels they are not only being listened, but understood.  Now there is a proper use of triggers.

What you will also find as a side benefit of a more engaged buyer is that they are much more involved and inclined to open up, ask questions, and reciprocate the courtesy and respect when it is your turn to offer up your information, in the process establishing trust, and starting a relationship. What you will also notice is that the more trust they have, the more information they feel safe in sharing; the more information you have the better you can continue to build trust; and the process seems to snowball on its own.

It may have made sense in grade school to parrot back what the teacher said, but by the time you got to post-secondary, there was an expectation that you would demonstrate you understanding and command of a subject by assimilating and integrating it. Isn’t it time your selling graduated too?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Is Sales a Numbers Game? (#video)3

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

TV Head

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

The Labour Of Sales1

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Labour Day 2

Being that it is Labour Day both in the USA and Canada, the last long weekend of the summer, I thought I would keep things simple, and to one point. A simple but important point for those not in sales to understand, and those in sales to revel in.

On Friday I heard a radio ad from a labour union wishing everyone a happy Labour Day, then they went on to remind everyone of all the things they would be without if not for labourers and more specifically labour unions.

So I am here to remind them that none of that would be possible if not for the labour of sales people. Nothing happens until there is a sale. It is sales people that first sell the hammer and then sell the sickle. It is the sales person in every entrepreneur that sells their passion and idea to investors and the world.

If you are not a labourer, you still owe your fortunes to a sales type, don’t kid yourself. How many great ideas didn’t make it out of the garage because there was no sales power; how much crap has added to the wealth of capitalism all because there was a savvy sales person behind it.

So before you pat yourself on the back for your accomplishment, first find a sales person to thank for making it happen.

Happy Labour Day, and ya, You’re Welcome!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

The Best Working E-Mail Subject Lines0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

mail

One of the critical elements to success in prospecting is getting the person to open you note. If they do not recognize the sender, the next most important factor is the subject line, and if you like many prospect using e-mail, the subject line becomes the key difference between being opened and potentially starting a sales cycle, or being deleted. While and some guests have shared proposed best practices around e-mails, ContactMonkey has just released some interesting insights about good, bad and other types of subject lines.

I have mentioned ContactMonkey in the past, I like many others use them to track the fate of e-mails I send out. Now based on 30 million emails sent from Outlook and Gmail, they have shared data the best and worst subject lines. Some will surprise others won’t, but it is worth checking out if you want to improve you open and by extension, engage ratios.

Subject lines with 2 words work well, more than 3 words dramatically reduce open rates. In fact they show that no subject line, yes blank, has a high open rate, much higher than 3 or more words. Not really a surprise if you think about it. Most go for subject lines that “will compel” someone to open it, but like with voice mail, the more they know about what is in the mail, the less the urgency to open and deal with it. Big subject lines, like big e-mails, get deleted; keep it short simple, if they can’t make a decision based on the subject, they will need to open the mail to know.

Given that 40% of e-mail are first read on a mobile device, real estate becomes important, both in the subject and the content. With only enough room for 4 – 7 words in a subject line on an average mobile device, don’t be tempted to pack everything in.

Asking questions or marketing jargon is out, short and direct works best, nothing at all even better.

Having RE: in the subject line boosts success; just having RE: and nothing else is the number one best subject line, 92% open rate. RE: Follow up was second. Again, goes to human nature, RE: makes it seem as though you are already in the conversation, and are about to see a response to a previous communication. This is why when you follow up to a voice mail, having RE: voice mail, is a good subject line. The worst is open rate with 7.25% is “the results are in”.

I encourage you to look at the output from ContactMonkey by clicking here. Keep in mind that it takes up to 12 touch points to make contact with prospects you are targeting, e-mail becomes a key element, and your subject line can be the difference.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto
 

The Present Has Been Delegated0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

iStock_000001262117Small

Earlier in the week I wrote about the need for sales people to be “multilingual” in order to better understand and communicate with the types of buyers they may not have prospected or sold to in the past. A common example of this is when sales people accustomed to selling to users or front line managers, are instructed by their leadership to go ‘upstream’, and sell to senior decision makers, executives or the ‘C’ suite.

It is important to remember that language and meaning are not the only thing that differentiates these two groups. While I am sure that many understood that “language” was a metaphor for a number of differences that need to be balanced and managed by sales people throughout the cycle. But there is one that is worth expanding on, specifically, time and the perception of time by some buyers.

Based on their role, different buyers will have, or more accurately, live in, different time frames. Front line folks, sales people, factory workers, database analysts, etc. tend to be in the here and now. Their targets and measures tend to be near term, which in turn drives their planning and execution. Their decision to execution to result cycle, is generally short in nature, using sales as an example, a sales person is more likely to focus on their current cycle, and partially into the next. So when we sell to these folks, we need to align our time frame and “language” accordingly.

Executives, those tasked with the strategic success of the enterprise, are operating way in the future, minimum 12 – 18 month into the future. This is why they built the layers below them, the front line discussed above. The front line is tasked with executing the strategic plan the executive developed last year. The reality is that the executives have delegated the present to the front line, because they are too busy dealing with the future, making sense of the uncharted. So if you hope to engage with these, you need to get past the how, and deal with the why; you have to speak their language, and you have to be in synch and aligned with their time line, the future.

If you go in there and talk about the here and now you’re more than dead, you’re history, because today, is part of their history, again, they have delegated it.

It is for this reason that one my favourite questions is “If we were sitting here 18 months from, and you were telling me you had hit a grand slam, what would that look like?” Now you’re where they are, someone they can talk to. Let them tell you, make sure you take it all in, and then ask “so why aren’t we there now?”, That’s when they tell you what they need to make that future happen, and what you can sell them.

So if you want too sell higher up, you need to stop living in the past!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

Focus On The Why – The How Will Follow – Sales eXecution 2610

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

why-how

The headline seems simple enough, I bet most a nodding with familiar approval, yet when you watch many sales people in action, you see them focusing much more on the How, not the Why. This is especially fatal early in the process, when they start they prospecting, be that a call, an e-mail, or a social outlet, leading with the How, then wondering why they are not having the traction they seek.

Leading with the how is good if you are approaching users or implementers, they want to know “How it works”, or “How you do that”. The challenge is that many of these people are in a role of responding to projects or initiatives originated by others, line of business managers, heads of departments etc. Since success often depends engaging line of business people, and if there are more than one LOB, then it is likely that you will have to build consensus in order to win the business. In these circumstances, where say marketing and production have to find common ground, the focus, and as a result, the glue that will hold things together, is Why they are embarking on their chosen course to achieve their stated objectives. They are rarely thinking about the How, in their mind that will be delegated to the implementers and the users will learn what they have to make things run.

Now the implementers will have an influence, and they could derail or accelerate things, but that will not happen until the demand trickles down form the people asking for the implementation. As a seller who is looking for the deal to happen, you will need to engage the business side of the house, which means engaging on the basis of Why.

This means leaving the product in the car, and going in and speaking about how you can positively impact the Why; do that well and the How will follow. Start with the How, you’ll put them to sleep and never get your next step.

There two simple (not easy) ways to lead and win with the Why. 1) Know Why your current customers chose you. By this I do not mean the features of your product, not matter how well that is dressed up or disguised marketing babble; but what were they trying to achieve from a business standpoint, and Why they saw that as being important. Was it increasing market share, was it to improve margins, reduce their cost of capital, expand beyond current lines, reduce manual errors, or other business outcomes. Engage with them based on these, and the How will follow. 2) Meet with similar titles/roles in your company; your CFO will understand the drivers for other CFO’s, how to approach them, what they may respond to, and what a complete turn off is.

As sellers we are looking for ways to create urgency, nothing puts a spring the feet of a decision maker than when they see something that will help the achieve their goals, and again without much though about the how. The other benefit is when there is a bake-off at the time the implementers are selecting vendors. The folks whose ass is on the line for making the Why happen will prove to be valuable and powerful friends, even when another product has a better How; just look at DEC and IBM.

Leave your product in the car, leave your marketing phrasebook in the car, and go in and dig around the Why, and the How will follow, figuratively and literally.

What’s in Your Pipeline? (Grab the e-book) 
Tibor Shanto 

Using Referrals and Affiliate Links in Online Business1

CC July 14

The Pipeline Guest Post - Megan Totka

In the past, word of mouth was always considered the best form of advertising for business. The same is absolutely true now, but I’d say that the definition of word of mouth has shifted significantly. Word of mouth now consists of online reviews and ratings rather than actually talking to your neighbor (though that certainly does still happen). Another way that companies have been able to generate revenue from word of mouth type advertising is through referral and affiliate programs.

While affiliate programs are probably what you would think of a more typical sales pattern, referrals are person to person advertising at its finest. Many, many different companies and websites have referral programs now. Studies have shown that people who become customers through referrals go on to be more loyal and profitable than customers that are acquired through other sales channels.

There are really very few downsides to referral marketing. Typically, both an existing customer and their refer-ee are rewarded for giving your company business. Online referral links tend to be more one-sided. The person whose link is followed typically reaps all of the rewards. Some companies that have used referral links really successfully include Ebates, StitchFix, and DropBox.

Affiliate marketing is different from referral marketing, but the two types of marketing to increase sales share several similar qualities. Affiliate marketing allows a business to reward people who drive traffic to their site and purchase their products. For lack of a better term, affiliate marketing can be a little sneakier. Affiliates can bury links to products inside just about anything, from blog posts to paid advertisements. There are even entire “review” sites that are nothing but product plugs and affiliate links. Affiliate links can be great, though, if used the right way. Think of affiliate marketing as earning commission by promoting another company’s product.

Both affiliate marketing and referral programs are good ways to gain new customers – as long as you’re following sales referral etiquette. Referral programs have been popular for years and years, and have a great track record when it comes to acquiring and keeping new customers. Affiliate marketing is a somewhat newer tactic, but can also be considered successful when done right.

Image via Shutterstock

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. 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.

An Inclusive Approach to Prospecting – Sales eXecution 2601

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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You know sales is a lot like politics, some are isolationists, others realize we live in a big world with plenty of room for all to thrive, and not always at the expense of others, I guess these would be the inclusionary camp.

The way it plays out in sales is you have those zealots who will proclaim things dead, “never cold call again”, telling their unsuspecting followers that there is only one way to Nirvana, their’s, and no other, “all other roads will lead you to hell and financial ruin”. Sort of like the “Referral Über Alles” approach. For me, combining many approaches in a way that leads to maximum results is way better than betting the farm on one, and then hoping. I say take the inclusionary approach, that is, include as many viable methods, rather than the risk singular approach; if for no other reason than the fact that buyers come in many shapes and sizes and from many corners, some of which may not be known to us at the outset, and missed if you go down one street only.

I like to leverage cold calls to get referrals. Despite the scary things some will tell you about the responses to cold calls, most people you call are human and will behave that way even when they turn down your offer. They may not be interested in what you have to say or sell, (now), but most respect the fact that you are doing your job. Experience has shown that few hang up, and few swear at you, most tell you in a civil way why they are not interested at that moment in time. Managing those initial objections is part of the job.

Grab your Proactive Prospecting Call-Flow Chart

But once you see that you cannot take away their objections, you still have the opportunity to say:

“Based on what we spoke about, is there anyone you know I should call who may see merit in the conversation?” A vast majority will say no, and the call ends. But a number will say, “You know you may want to call….” At that point I thank them, and follow up with, “May I say you suggested the call, or am I cold calling them?” Some say “Sure, tell’em I sent you.” Others will say cold call. Either way is good by me, and I have direction.

Not only that, but in all instances, you have demonstrated yourself to be a professional who completed the “Prospecting Exercise”, and will be remembered for being that pro. (Believe me you’ll call them again).

Using both cold calling and the referral approach is all upside, an inclusive approach both in terms of methodologies, and people. Using this technique I get to speak to more qualified prospects while setting up future wins, than those relying strictly on one methodology.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

FU Is For Follow Up2

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Follow up

If you follow this blog, you may have seen that several times I have suggested that those people who are not cut out for a career in sales, should seriously consider transitioning to a career in hospitality. Based on recent experiences I’ve had as a prospect, and seeing how some sales people execute their sale, I am beginning to firmly believe that there is an expert on clairvoyance, who on his blog, is recommending to his readers that those who can’t cut it as clairvoyants, strongly consider a career in sales.

The reason I say this is the number of instances I have seen where people, who have a sales title of some sort on their business card, seem to be selling by using the ESP sales methodology. That’s right, you’ve heard of SPIN, The Challenger Sale, The Objective Seller, and other sales methodologies; but all of those combined, don’t come close to the number of sellers who use the Extra Sensory Perception approach to sales and prospecting.

Here are but two examples. I was recently in the market for something that I can either buy some apps and do myself, or hire a service to do it for me. I pursued the latter, and met with a couple of providers in and around Toronto. One I met with did a good job qualifying the opportunity, there was good alignment between their offering and my objectives. For me it was a low energy day, so I was not jumping up and down every time we identified a fit, nor did I high-five them as I was leaving. We agreed that based on the exchange they would forward a proposal by the following Monday, and “follow up with in a few days of sending.” (First mistake, they should have confirmed a time, especially with people not tied to their desk.)

Here we are more than month later, no proposal – no follow up. The only conclusion I can come to is that A) they didn’t like me and didn’t want to help me, not the first time, but it was a nice slice of revenue. B) They are useless. C) They are clairvoyant, they were able to use the ESP method to know that I will not buy their service, so why waste time, effort, or router capacity to send the proposal. Although I have to believe that if they did possess this skill (power) they would have known this the minute I walked in, or even before, and not wasted any time on me.

Myself, I think they are useless, not following up is just not acceptable. Even when I have meetings where I know we will not do business now, or ever, I still send a follow up note, if for no other reason than to keep up my reputation, not being clairvoyant, I don’t know what will happen in the future, where they may end up working next year. If I have any inkling of possible business, I follow up for the obvious (may be not to some) reasons.

Another example is when sales people are tasked with calling either people who stopped by their booth at a trade show, or sales people who spend part of their day collecting cards to use for potential appointments. Time after time, I see people just look at the name on a list, or hold the business card, at a certain angle at given distance from their eyes, and the miraculously divine not only whether the person will give them an appointment, but whether they will buy.

Not possessing that skill, I find that following up by making the call often leads to the same results, no appointment – no sale; but sometimes these people invite me in, and then buy, who would’ve known?

I know it takes effort, not just the actual act of follow up, but the planning, the flow, the means, and more. Start with a plan, map out the various potential outcomes to each stage of the sale, including next steps, (plans A, B, and C). Once you have that flow, just execute, complete the plan; it won’t make non-buyers buyers, but those people on the fence, will more likely fall your way, especially when the competitors don’t follow up.
Seems to me that if you are going to start something, following up, and bringing it to whatever closure, regardless of final outcome, is just more professional and profitable than letting things hang.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

The Objective Seller #webinar0

Yesterday on this blog, I wrote about sellers who drive commerce for their buyers have greater success than those who just drive sales. This led to a number of questions about how you specifically do that, beyond the things I spoke to in the post.

As it happens, rather than having to do a post about that, this coming Thursday, July 17th, I will be delivering a webinar along with the good folks at DiscoverOrg, addressing that specific process.

The Objective Seller Webinar

Date: July 17, 2014 at 1:00 PM Eastern

The webinar will discuss how all businesses have objectives relating to their market, their commerce, and their opportunities. Focusing on those objectives, and how they impact and are impacted by the commerce environment our clients compete and live in will drive more and better sales for all.

Objectives and the buyer’s desired return on those objectives, are the most effective way to engage and align with buyers, and help them win in a their commerce environment. With changes in the buying and selling dynamic, B2B buyers who are ready to buy are much better informed and more empowered than ever, you need to shift the conversation from your product to their objectives.

The webinar will cover how to take advantage of current realities and present specific ways sellers can successfully approach and engage prospects, and create selling opportunities where others may not see any, and in the process build credibility, expert status, and loyalty with existing and new buyers. You will be presented a process based, value driven approach for success in selling to Status Quo buyers, the most overlooked segment of the market.

  • Breaking down “Value” to core components and why people buy
  • Leveraging past experiences – Won, Lost and No Decision deals – 360 Degree Deal View
  • Building a better question
  • Proactive exploration

“I attended your presentation on Objective Selling, It was the most useful sales presentation I’ve viewed in a long time and I wanted to thank you for the insight you shared.” – Aous Shakra

Register

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