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3 Signs Of Bad Phone Breath – Sales eXecution 2724

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Phone breath

No one likes cold calling, well most don’t, so you can stop writing that e-mail telling me that you’re the exception that proves the rule. I don’t like it, I know it is god’s punishment to sales people, but it works, and I have made the connection between successful cold calls, a robust pipeline and the kids eating. I don’t know about you, but my kids get cranky when they don’t eat. But just because I don’t like it, I don’t tell myself it does not work, like many, I also figured out that if I don’t do it, for sure it will not work. So instead, I try to figure out how to do it better, so I have to do less of it, in the process have come to learn some things that stink a call out, literally like bad morning breath for the phone, and given that the people I am calling are not my lovers, they will not tolerate morning breath. So here three ways to avoid Bad Phone Breath.

Speak To them not At them

This one gets me every time, if you are going to interrupt someone during their busy day, make it worth their time, which means leading with and focusing on one of the oldest truths in sales, What’s In It For Them. Sure everyone knows this until the prospect answers the phone, and then they forget and bam, garlic breath. They start by talking about their company, “we’re a leading…”, or other things that mean nothing to the listener. What they want to know is how you can improve their lot, and specifically the outcomes you have delivered which they can relate to and would have an interest in. Start with that, grab their interest, save the rest for the meeting.

Soft In the Middle

I hate it when reps call me and say “I was wondering if we can meet?” I usually respond, “give me a call when you figured it out”; or “I was hoping we can meet” to which I say, “please call me when you get past hoping, and want to.” I know you are trying to be courteous, don’t want to come across pushy, but you need to make up for the fact that you are on the phone, and need to compensate for the lack of body language. People will follow a person with confidence who has a clear message that shows them what’s in it for them. Be clear, direct, and assertive, “I am calling to set a time to meet to share with you….”

Stop Telling Them There is No Reason to Talk to You

No getting away from the fact that if you are cold calling, you are talking to more voice mails than humans. So stop leaving code in your message that there is no need to call you, and they should go ahead and delete the message now. So here is the code buyers look for to hit 76 and flush your message: “Please call me back at your earliest convenience”, delivered in the Soft way described above. Sure, here is an empty message from a dude selling something I already have, because they didn’t tell me what’s in it for me, just what they do. So let me clear my calendar and set aside things I need to get done, so I can call you. Hmm, whose convenience is that for again?

There are other things you can do to improve the odor of a call, but this is start, get these down, call me and we share more.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Sorry But Your New Is Not That New4

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

New Or Improved

There is an old saying that goes:

There is no such things as an old joke, just old people. Meaning no matter how old you are the first time you hear a joke it is new to you, no matter how long it has been out there.

Which explains why I am going to sound a bit old in this piece, which is alright, because I will be talking about all the “NEW” out there that sellers are being told (sold) they should be consuming if they want to succeed. I don’t have an issue with things that are really new, but when it comes to selling, “NEW” is more often than not, the “same old”, with at best new wrapping.

In some hands NEW becomes the lubricant used by sales pundits and marketers to ram more of the “same old” down unsuspecting throats. (Just think foie gras)

Of course the beauty of selling NEW is the opportunity to upsell plenty of CHANGE, “you need to change, and use this new, or do things in this new way, if you are not changing, you are bound to fail.” Well not exactly, in fact experience shows otherwise, sales is not like a baby, it doesn’t need to be changed all the time. Success in sales comes down to execution, in a continuously better way, it is hard to improve what you are doing if you are always CHANGING what you are doing.

One benefit of being 57 with your memory intact, is you’ve seen, a truckload of NEW, (or old jokes) where the only change is not in the content but in the packaging the pundits wrap it in.

A recent sermon from a pundit preached on about how times are changing and “you need to change or you’ll be left behind”, or worse. Duh, no kidding, but when was that not the case? I mean Dylan cashed in on that out 50 years ago, and Darwin laid it out in simple terms back when? But again, if you keep changing, when can you improve, surly there needs to be an opportunity to master things, not just change them!

I find it funny how pundits try to convince us that this time it is different, this change is “real change”, and this new change is it. If you don’t keep up with this change, if you don’t jump on this bandwagon, you’re beat; right.

Change is a fact, an old fact. “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change”, given to us by Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 BC – 475 BC) not such a NEW guy, best known for his doctrine of change being central to the universe.

What makes sellers great is not jumping from one bandwagon to another, but a focus on fundamentals, and a laser focus on improving those fundamentals, rather than chasing the latest shiny object, regardless of trends or packaging.

And this is the hard part for both pundits and sellers trying to evolve. The pundits need NEW, even when the only thing new is the sleeve of the new book. As Michael Jordan said: “You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly because the only thing that changes will be your attention to them.”

I recently read a piece that was supposed to boggle my mind, it talked about a stat that came from an executive at a social selling platform, at a social selling event, that suggested that sales professionals who use social selling are 51% more likely to exceed their quota. But is that really NEW, or a CHANGE from what has gone before? No.

Great sales people have always been early adopters of new tools, technologies and opportunities, embracing them to further, not necessarily change their selling. Not new, just think of Martin Luther and the print press; he went viral 500 years ago http://www.economist.com/node/21541719. More recently the telephone, the car, the answering service, or fax, or… This is what was always amusing about the notion of Sales 2.0, what was Telex Sales -3.0?

I would strongly argue that those same sales people would have exceeded quota no matter what tools they adopted or were in vogue at the time. It was the sales people who leveraged the tool, they made the medium look good, not the other way around. Proof, where are the stats relating to those exceeding quota without using the tool, where are the numbers around those who use social selling and fail to make quota. Oh yes, sales is not about numbers, it is about NEW.

Change also consumes a lot of time and energy, both of which may be better invested in improving your execution of the fundamentals. The goal is balance, balance between improving and acquiring skills. Change is addictive, and often becomes an end to itself, you may end up with something new but not better. Ask yourself will this help you execute better as measured by results, or is it something new to replace the last change? In the end, success in sales comes down to Execution – Everything Else Is Just Talk!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Don’t Wait To Ask For Referrals – Sales eXecution 2700

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Fast & happening

I continue to be amazed that despite all that is written about the importance and success of referrals, how few sales people actually leverage this proven and effective method of sourcing new sales opportunities. Whenever I ask a group of sales reps “How many people here ask for referrals?” I still find that way less than half raise their hand. When I follow up with the question “How many have sold to referrals, the same set of people raise their hand again; I am not sure what the others are waiting for.

But even those who make referrals a habit, many are not fully maximizing the opportunity. The main problem, waiting; generally sellers are waiting too long to ask, and are leaving the request till much too late in the process, or missing them altogether.

Ask any group of sales people when they in fact ask for the referral, an overwhelming majority, like 90%, will say ask for referrals after the sales is completed and the product/service is delivered. Most of these will say they will wait three to six months after, “so the value can set in and be proven, and the customer is happy.”

Why?

You should be thinking referral from the time you park your car in the visitors’ spot, until the end of your relationship. Let’s look at it from two perspectives. First is the question of value delivered. Your value comes in many shapes and forms, not just in the delivered product, so even when your referral process is tied to value, it will present itself much before the close or delivered goods.

How many times have you sat with a prospect and had a discussion not about you product, but about something within your field of expertise. Remember I have always stated in this blog that good sales people are subject matter experts. I often sit with prospects and will share a perspective, a view point, or just a way of doing something, and the prospect will respond positively in what I shared, they learned and can use. For example, when discussing forecasts, I may point out a way of calculating something in a better way than they are doing now, or just how they use a formula in their spreadsheet. Prospects often say “Wow, never looked at it that way, thanks for pointing that out”; or “Man, I wish I knew that years ago”; or other similar things.

In my view they just saw something of value in what I said, so why wait, I follow up with “Great, I am glad I can help, do you know anyone else who may see value in this type of conversation?” I don’t expect them to whip out their Rolodex, but I plant the seed, and build from there. You’d be surprised how many time they respond by saying they think so and so should know about this as well.

The other reason you need to think referral from the start, is because you may never close them, which means there is no “after”.

Some time ago I had an initial appointment with a manufacturer, this was a company that had their act together, frankly other than presenting at their annual meeting, and there were no other opportunities. But we had a good dialog, which included talking about their distributors. We agreed to meet again in November to talk about their kick-off, but before I left, I asked if he thought any of his distributors would benefit from some of the areas of expertise we presented. Not only did he list three, give me contact names, but encouraged me to use his name, in the end he even sent an e-mail to two. If I would have waited the opportunity may have been wasted.

Make things happen instead of waiting, all you have to do is plan and ask.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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.

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