Welcome to The Pipeline.

Rethinking Sales Incentives0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Rethinking Sales Incentives

As part of a series of posts dealing with areas you should consider, better yet reconsider, going in to the New Year, today we look at incentive. No doubt everyone should be thinking about commissions, after all is in effect the cost of revenue. While there are other expenses, commissions/incentives, are the most direct “payment” you pay for bringing in revenue.

While there have been variations, updates and paint over through the years, little has changed in how and what you pay for.

In this article I penned for November issue of Sales and Service Excellence Essentials, I challenge and suggest an alternate way to spend incentive cash, and actually driving right behaviours that lead to results (revenues), and actually sustain both.

Take a read, let me know what you think, pro or con, some will call me names, others will want to pick up the phone and call me to discuss. In the end it’s your money, you should always be open to investing it more productively.

Read the piece here: Rethinking Sales Incentives Then comment below.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Key Sales Management Actions To Prepare for 2015 (#video)0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

2015 rocket

About a month ago I had the privilege to be part of a great panel exploring key issues sales leaders need to not just think about, but act on in preparing for a successfully 2015.

The panel included:

Lori Richardson – Score More Sales
Lee Salz – Sales Architects
Steven Rosen – STAR Results
Dan Enthoven – Enkata
Miles Austin – Fill the Funnel
And myself.

As the next instalment in this week’s posts dealing with kicking the New Year off right, meaning in a way that will help sales organisations and teams exceed quota in 2015. Below is an expert from that discussion, but I encourage you to take in the full discussion by clicking here. It is a lively and insightful discussion that will provide a number of ideas for helping your team crush their number.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Ego And Confidence In Sales Success – Sales eXecution 2782

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Clone not

Successful sales people share certain attributes, some can be learned and developed, some we come by naturally, and if we have less of those than other, we can spend time and effort developing them, and improving our sales habits and results in the process. Two that are common to many successful sales people are ego and confidence. The question and challenge is proportions and dominance, and as always, intent.

Some sales people tend to confuse ego with confidence, and fall victim to this trait. When I was a young rep I had the fortune to learn the difference between the two, and learned to balance one with the other. My mentor kept telling me that if I have to tell people how great I am, rather than demonstrating it through my actions, ability and knowledge, I was letting my ego lead, and likely costing myself sales and friends. Demonstrating capabilities is confidence, a sign of security, attracting people and their confidence in me, and helping my sales success. Telling it to people signaled insecurity, thus causing them to pause before acting with me, and buying form me. Confidence is something you can build and more importantly share with others, bringing them into you process. An ego driven by insecurity is often sustained by having an air of superiority, expressed or implied, or both. Neither adding to ones sales success.

Let’s be clear there is nothing wrong with sales people having an ego, the question again is intent, and the risk of an unchecked ego. I remember once telling a director that I could not imagine or fathom going to our annual sales meeting and going up on stage to receive an award other than the one for making quota. This drove my activities, and gave her a great tool to motivate me when needed. I remember having a slow start to a fourth quarter, all she had to do was to remind me that I need X dollars to put me into the Platinum Club. No doubt it helped her bonus, but it was the reminder, the nudge I needed to get my act in gear; ego served a good purpose.

If confidence is a sign of ability and security, no doubt that is more than partly supported by knowledge and how to best apply that knowledge. In the case of sales how do we help buyers achieve their objectives, so they buy our product, pay their invoices and help us achieve Platinum or some such club. Some sale people are too lazy to acquire knowledge, after all it does take work, it often takes more than what your company will spoon feed you. Face with the choice of putting in the effort or faking it, many sales people opt for the latter. This is often manifested in some sales people compensating for knowledge with ego, or more accurately their lack of knowledge. As Einstein pointed out, the relationship is invers, Ego = 1/ Knowledge. By extension, the more knowledge the greater the confidence and less leading with ego. Buyers aren’t stupid, they can tell the difference, and their buying decisions reflect that. Leading to bruised egos and missed sales and numbers.

In the end the elements that make for a confident rep are usually the ones that make for a successful rep. When you find the balance tipping to ego, step back and ask what you need to do to re-calibrate, not only will it make you a better person, but a more successful seller.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

The Ultimate Beneficiary – Sales eXecution 2770

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Market-Research

There certain things that people tend to “speak” in sales circles, which tend to be “tribal” in nature and are often mouthed to suit the circumstance or attain peer acceptance. But when you dig a bit you find that some of the things they speak to or of, don’t always reflect the way they actually execute. And since talk is cheap and the payoff is in the action, it is important to look at some and see if we can get some change, no, not for the bus, but for better sales.

One area where is who they target and pursue to gain engagement and traction, if not the sale. When you ask some (not all) sales people who is important to them in getting a sale or a deal done, they often respond that they need to get to the decision maker. Since that is not usually a title and the function varies from deal to deal, I find that response wanting.

When I ask some sales people who they sell to, especially without giving them a reason for the question, I often hear people who are users, and lower level decision makers, like managers, office manager as an example. Nothing wrong with these people, but they are often implementers or contributors to decisions, but not what we are looking for. When I push the issue, they’ll say “oh ya, well we also call on the executive or C suite”. Better but still, not the answer we were hoping for.

Given the way purchasing has gone over the last few years it is better to redefine the answer away from title, and more into roles. While I would not discourage anyone from going high in an organization, it is always good to be in tune with those setting the strategic decisions, they are not always the ones who decide, or decide the way some sales people would think.

Many senior executives place less importance on the actual product or services decided on, and put more emphasis on the how their teams see the offering, is there consensus around one product versus another. When there is, it means smoother (read less costly) implementation, greater adoption, and other more desirable outcomes, that in turn help drive objectives.

In light of the fact that there is often so little real differences between the offerings on the short list, senior leaders will often go for a product that may score 1% or 2% less on the comparative chart, but has the support of all, where the top one may have less than unanimous support.

In light of the fact that most leaders buy things to drive and attain objectives, and they rely and delegate aspects of that to others on the team, the goal of a seller is to identify and engage with the ultimate beneficiary. Sure it would be simple to say that’s the person at the top, but in day to day terms, it is the person who most relays or is impacted by the work and output generated by what’s being purchased.

Since buying and selling are economic activities, let’s stick to basic economies, supply and demand. Who generates the demand for the purchase in question? The person or people who are the ultimate beneficiaries. Based on the specifics it could be the VP of Marketing, or it could be brand manager for a specific segment. Identify the people who most benefit, and you will be in a position to not just create demand, but if it already exists, shape and influence it. Do that in a way that aligns with their objectives and those of the company, and you’ll be pleased with how those beneficiaries will influence the purchase process and decision.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

A Verbal Painting is Worth A 1,000 Words0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Art Brush

We have all the expression above, but it really rings home in sales, especially for successful sales people. If you look at sales as being an educational process, that is you learning from the prospect, even while you are helping them learn how you can help them reach their objective, let’s focus on the latter, you helping the buyer learn about the potential value you can/may bring.

Broadly speaking people fall into one of three styles of learning

  • Visual Learners – Learn through observing, visualization; good visual recall of what they saw or read
  • Auditory Learners – Strong in Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence, listen and identify patterns, effective use of language
  • Tactile Learners – Learns through touching and physical interaction, activity, via demonstrations

The challenge is that as a sales person you can’t call in advance and as your buyer’s disposition, or start meetings by asking, not to mention that there may be multiple people in the process or a given meeting. I also believe that demos are only appropriate at certain point in the sale, and giving them something to read especially early could be counterproductive in so many ways. As a result sellers tend to lean on the visual and verbal, which can be effective, especially with a little planning and focus on how they execute.

The ability to paint a picture with words a number of benefits is selling. One is the ability to engage buyers on a deeper level, at a level where they make decisions. We have all heard the saying “people buy on emotion, then they rationalize it.” While not incorrect, it is also not complete. As I understand it, (or not), there a third element, the specific trigger that sets things into motion. With three layers in the brain (The Reptilian, Emotion and Thinking) each responding to outside triggers differently, it is probably more accurate to say that people buy in response or reaction to trigger – Reptilian; filtered by the Emotion, is this good or bad, pain or pleasure; the rationalized by the Thinking brain. Which is why despite all the data and objective facts available, people still make mistakes in buying.

As a sales people we have the opportunity to trigger responses and emotions that can cause a buyer to look at things differently and buy from us, versus. Unlike what some pundits will tell you, the goal of a sales person is not to stand around and wait for a random event to trigger something in the buyer, but to create the trigger to initiate the desired event(s).

Which is where the ability to paint a verbal story comes in. Think of a time in your life when stories, vivid stories were a key part of your daily routine. That’s right, when you were a child. The people who sharing the stories were people close to you who you trusted, parents, grandparents, kindergarten, teachers, etc.

“The Limbic (Emotional brain) system creates chemical messages that connect information to memory, the retention of which is significantly increased when that information is presented in an emotionally charged context.” Since having the buyer retain your message is a key challenge, there is a pay-off right there. But further, “This is why you are most likely to remember events that created a strong emotional response within you, and why other people will mostly remember the things you said or did to them that made them feel a certain way”

Most of us felt safe secure and happy when we were read stories when we were kids, that’s why leave movies or play with a good story feeling good and rewarded.

Learning to paint a quality verbal picture aligned with the buyer’s objectives, will not only enhance engagement, help the buyer retain more of what you are telling them, and feel good about buying from you. Trigger the right reaction in the reptilian and emotional brain, and you can move your sales forward in a measurable and repeatable way.

One caution, that no matter how good you verbal painting is, it won’t overcome a crappy product, or if they are not aligned to buyer objective. The goal is not to become a spin master but to tell your story in a way meaningful to the buyer.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Perfection Is Overrated – Sales eXecution 2762

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Perfect

While I am sure that this is not limited to sales people, they are the group I get to observe most, thousands to date in fact. One thing I see over and over again is the amount of opportunities by sellers because e of their propensity to wait for the perfect moment, a moment that all too often never comes. Be that the perfect moment to speak to someone, or until they perfect a technique or a script, or they understand the product perfectly. You know one thing that is not on that list is the perfect understand of the prospect, their environment or their objectives.

The interesting things is that some of the most successful businesses and business innovators rarely waited for perfection. They had enough of the right elements in place, and went for it, in sales parlance, they executed, and applied the lessons from the outcome. There are countless companies that waited to perfect only to miss the window or blow up when they came to market. Yet others, had a workable plan, vision, the basics, and went for it. Then they perfected things as they gathered data and experience.

The best sales people I know understand that the game is played on the field not in the locker room. Practice is important, a playbook is important, but nothing comes close to doing it – executing. The best sales people learn a lot off the field but their best lessons come from doing it, getting bruised and doing it again. The best sales are like building a plane while it is in flight, as the sale unfolds.

I find that what causes people to wait for perfection is less a quest for quality, and more driven by fear. The best sales people have one fear, fear of failure, of not making quota, of not delivering value to their buyers and their companies. I don’t know about you, but I find buyers aren’t looking for perfection, they looking to achieve specific objectives. They understand that waiting for perfection will only leave them lagging in the market. Add to that given that people buy from people, perfection is rarely a criteria for buyers or for execution, since people are not perfect, being perfect may in fact scare buyers since it may appear to make one not human or genuine.

Intent and effort go a lot further for sales people than perfection. You can often achieve more when you make an honest and genuine effort, explore the results, and most importantly, apply the lessons learned. One can argue that if and when you perfect your sale, it will only ever apply to that one sale, and therefore be of little value moving forward. Whereas if you go for it, imperfections exposed, you can only learn and improve. I guess as with most things, perfection in sales is about the continuing journey, not the destination.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Why Are You Trying To Kill Me?1

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Horrorfilm

Said the Cold Call To The Socialite.

Recent headlines about AC/DC’s drummer brush with the law, got me thinking why would someone want to kill someone? Such a passionate act must be a result of some big or egregious cause, or at the very least a means of avoiding harm. Then I remembered that in sales we see this all the time, over and over, people are trying to kill cold calling.

The most recent would be assassins are Socialites, social selling advocates, who seem to spend as much time sniping at and proclaiming the death of cold calling as they do speaking about what they sell, social selling products, seminars, remedies and dreams. I wish them all the luck, capitalism rules, everyone is allowed to make a buck, I just don’t understand why cold calling needs to be dead for their stuff to work. Cold calling does not present danger to them, in fact it complements and adds to social selling, just as social selling adds to cold calling success, so what’s the deal here Socialites?

You know I have never read an article or a post that was written by an advocate of cold calling, suggesting that social selling is bad, ridiculing people who use the practice to engage with prospects, suggest that it is inadequate, or about to die. Even though you can find stats that would suggested that on its own, it is not all the Socialites will have you believe.

I suspect the main reason is that cold callers do not see social as a threat, is because we do see it as a great addition to an existing set of tools and techniques we use to drive business. We cold callers seem to take a more inclusionary approach to engaging with clients and driving revenue. I would argue cold callers have taken a much more “social approach” than many Socialites who seem to either proclaim or wish that cold calling was dead. Now we all know it is not, you wouldn’t need to keep saying it if it was, it would be self-evident, when was the last time you read a piece about Plato being dead?

Let’s Spin Some Stats!

(Step back you don’t wanna get any on your shoes)
 

To start with not every buyer has a Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn account. Not only that but depending on who you are prospecting, it is important to note that some groups’ social media activity is in decline. According VentureBeat’s summary of the 2014 CEO.com Social CEO Report “an annual survey that investigates the social media habits of business leaders, has been released. The results show a depressingly small increase in social activity from Fortune 500 business leaders over last year’s analysis.” Further, “Amazingly, the CEO.com report shows that 68 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social presence on any of the major networks. Taking a deeper dive into the data reveals that while there has been significant growth in the number of Fortune 500 CEO accounts created versus last year’s results, the number of “active” accounts grew marginally. This suggests that nearly as many business leaders with existing accounts abandoned their use of social media.”

I’ll be the first to admit that you can probably find stats to the contrary, which just goes to show that sales and sales people are just as susceptible to hype as the next group. But hype is something decision makers have a radar for, serious decision makers want facts not hype, they want tangible things that help them achieve their objectives. This leads to the fact that the most effective means of communication with senior leaders is direct. And while 68% may shun a social presence, 100% have telephones and e-mails. The key is to have a meaningful message that leads to engagement.

Here are some famous stats that keep getting dragged out (and abused):

Corporate Executive Board reported that B2B buyers are 57% of the way to a buying decision before they are willing to talk to a sales rep.
• “A survey by DemandGen Report, reported that 77% of B2B buyers said they did not talk with a salesperson until after they had performed independent research, and 36% of buyers said they didn’t engage with a sales rep until after a short list of preferred vendors was established.”

I am not here to argue the stats, but I do want to point out that both stats refer to BUYERS. These are people who of their own volition initiated a buying cycle. Which means that by the time they are 57% – 77% of the way there, they are not looking for a sales person, but more an order taker. Sad but true. Sales People are paid to persuade and influence, not accept orders from someone who has for the most part made up their mind and is now looking to see which models are available and for someone to negotiate price and terms with. Definition of selling:

To Sell –
-   to persuade or induce (someone) to buy something:
-   to persuade or influence to a course of action or to the acceptance of something

The real problem with waiting for buyers, is that according to Chet Holmes and other sources, “About 3 percent of potential buyers at any given time are buying now” (The Ultimate Sales Machine – by Chet Holmes). Only 3% of your target market are active buyers, even if you social sold your share and then some, are you near quota? These 3% are the people calling you when they are more than half way through their journey, most are past persuasion or influence. If you want to talk SALES or SELLING, you need to be talking about the other 97%. If you want to sell to that 97%, you are likely going to have to pick up the phone and say something other than #wannabuy?

Since we are on stats, allow me to digress for a second. This is one quoted by a Socialite as proof of the “paradigm shift in the sales industry”

“10.8% of social sellers have closed 5 or more deals attributed to social media.” Or looked at from the other end, maybe it can be phrased “89.2% can’t attribute deals to social media”; and “54% of social salespeople have tracked their social selling back to at least 1 closed deal.” I bet the I can find unhyphenated sellers who can track a lot more deals to cold calling, and even more to just selling using all the tools available to them instead of just some.

Let’s look at the “short list claim”, and decision makers. DiscoverOrg surveyed 1,000 IT decision makers at Fortune ranked, small and medium-sized companies. It shows how outbound – today’s euphemism for cold – sales calls and e-mails affect and “more importantly disrupt vendor selection.” Further, some “Seventy-five per cent of IT executives have set an appointment or attended an event as a direct result of outbound email and call techniques.” Finally, “nearly 600 said an outbound call or e-mail led to an IT vendor being evaluated.”

So if you did cold call along with your socializing, you’d be in much better shape than narrowing your chances to one vs. the other, Socialite style.

“But I don’t sell to Fortune 500” I hear you say, “I target Small Business”, the other end of the spectrum. Well small business is only selectively accessible via social.  At a conference last summer, where attendees were owners or senior managers of business that were for the most part under $25M, way less than half said they were using LinkedIn. I am a firm believer in the value and power of social and selling, but if they are not there, there is not much point. And it will not surprise you that all of them had telephones and e-mail.

Oh yes, referrals. There is no denying that a warm referral is like first prize, and an indirect referral, second prize. But cold calling usually shows up as third in terms of return on time and effort. Me, I like to bet safe and spread my risk across all three rather than betting on just one. Besides, not everyone is in a position to get or generate referrals. If you are in a more transactional sale, a new rep to the company, in a new territory, referrals will have limited utility early on. Sure you can generate some from existing “happy” clients, but you may find your probation and bank account run out first. You will need to incorporate all tools available, including the dreaded cold call.

Dreaded being the operative word. Most people who kill cold calling suck at it, makes them hate, makes them bitter. Like overweight people looking for that magic pill, instead of understanding that the magic pill combined with regular exercise and activity will always deliver a slimmer tummy, and healthier state. Sure the Atkins Diet worked for some, but it worked better for those who combined it with exercise.

I don’t like cold calling any more than the next person, but I do it, and I do social, and I do it well, or so I am told. But I don’t need to insult or undermine anyone in the process of executing my total approach to prospecting. Why do Socialites?

Kumbaya Time

The point is to use all tools available, not just one or some.  The only reason for camps, social killing cold calls is to sell social products.  And that’s one thing that has not changed, “Buyer Beware”.  Few sales people I have met can live off referrals only, or off their base. Not everybody is selling social media strategies, inbound programs, or content. Way more sales people have to sell in the trenches, selling traditional products and services, where social has a presence, referrals may play a role, but new business success includes cold calling.

Cold calling is not dead, it just smells funny when done wrong, but done right, it has the sweet smell of sales success. So let’s break down the walls, let’s get rid of the camps, stop thinking about killing or dead things, and make some calls.

That’s my two cents, what about you?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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 

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