Welcome to The Pipeline.

3 Reasons To Get Prospects to Look Back Drivers Future Sales0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Now Past Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“The Challenger Customer” – More Than A Sequel0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

challenger sale

A Review of The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results
by Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, Pat Spenner, Nick Toman

What often differentiates great sales people from the also-rans is their understanding that their success in delivering revenue and retiring quota, is the result of a dynamic alignment and balance between selling and buying. Any imbalance, leads to either no revenue, less or lesser quality revenue, longer time to revenue, or a toxic combination of all of these.

The great, focus more on the buy side, the Buyer and the purchasing process, leveraging that as a pull-through for sales. The pack is more likely to focus on selling and intentionally or unintentionally trying to impose their “sale” on the buyer. This difference may explain why nearly half of B2B reps do not make quota, and why many of their “sales” are in reality orders they were given, rather than being earned, or the proverbial nut blind squirrels tend to run in to.

A few years ago, in an effort to help differentiate and understand how sellers can better navigate through the buy/sell process, the folks at CEB, presented us with The Challenger Sale, which presented a number of insights, many of which are still being debated and digested. Among these was how sellers can drive and ensure that dynamic buy/sell balance leading to more success for all involved. But there is no denying that the perspective was very much that of the “sale”. Now the same team extends things, and presents a book looking more closely at the “Buyer” perspective in “The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results”.
While the book will resonate with sellers, front line to executive leaders, offering both perspectives and specific actions sellers can take to win more deals, it goes beyond and speaks directly to marketers, and buyers themselves.

The authors speak to the current state of the buying, starting with the acknowledgement that “buying” today is greatly dysfunctional, and the impact of that dysfunction on both buyers and sellers. Rather than starting from the common statement that “selling has changed”, the book explores more closely how buying has changed, and the opportunities and challenges that presents to sellers and suppliers.

With the growing trend of purchase decision being made by consensus, the book raises a couple of counter intuitive points. For instance how catering to the individuals in the consensus group will have diminishing if not negative returns for the seller. They highlight how understanding the dysfunction, and the key players in the drama, present an opportunity for sellers to facilitate consensus through by learning and focusing on the right people on the buy side.

The book goes beyond highlighting challenges, and lays out specific buyer personality types; which and how to harness, and which to avoid, including means of identifying, validating and helping them help build consensus and by extension the seller. In other words the book is full of specific and actionable steps not just broad concepts, providing sellers and marketers a playbook to build from.

While all sellers will tell you it is all about the buyer, “The Challenger Customer”, goes further, providing meaning and context by highlighting ho and why many sellers and marketers miss the mark. Most sellers and sales marketing teams focus time and effort on getting the buyer to see the supplier differently. But since change comes from within, the focus in the book is on how and why changing the buyers’ view of themselves and their process. You then go on to learn how to best leverage “Commercial Insights” as a means of changing the buyer’s view of themselves, why leading with that will lead to sales success.

Here again, the book not only highlights specifics, but reinforces the importance of Marketing and Sales working together in engaging buyers and succeeding in today’s buying environment.

Unlike many sales books that promote a methodology or viewpoint of a given aspect of sales, “The Challenger Customer” provides a clear framework supported by data, and more importantly, a means to implementing and integrating it into your sales organization. Unlike many sales books, there are no grandiose statements or claims, but instead you will find a reasoned discussion and means of putting the framework into practice. There is no claims of silver bullets, just the steps you need to take and work on to successfully implement, presenting concrete examples of companies that have done so. I have always said that success in sales is about execution, with everything else being just talk, well “The Challenger Customer”, delivers on the “What”, “Why” and “How” to execute and win in today’s buying climate. All that is left for you is to read and execute.

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Ready – Set – Go Part I0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

iStock_start biz race resized

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

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

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

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

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

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Their Only Pain is You6

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Are Your Buyers Asking WTF?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Decision Makers Want To Deal With Decisive People2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Decisions direction sign with sky background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Delivery Over Messaging In Prospecting Calls0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Bulls eye

When it comes to effective prospecting there is usually a complete imbalance between two critical components of an effective message. Effective here means leading to initial engagement. The two components are “the content” of the message, and the “delivery”. The being the ability to ensure that the content is packaged and delivered in a way that the recipient can full receive and digest it and get out of it what the seller intended. Most people tend to focus way too much on the message, and the content, then fail to pay sufficient focus and energy on the delivery, often resulting in great content and message being wasted.

The important part of the delivery is “dynamics”, what is happening on the prospects side of things that will enable them or prevent them from taking on the message. Your value prop is a flop if it lands on deaf ears, on the other hand if you can get the prospect to take in the message, even a semi polished message will go further than the perfect line that misses the target.

Most prospecting calls, OK, cold calls, usually fall short because the caller is thinking too much about their end of the call, not the prospects end. First and foremost they are trying, and frankly encouraged by many pundits, to come up with a message that will avoid or side step an objection. Well forget it, that is not happening, when you are interrupting someone trying to pack 16 hours into a ten hour day, you will get an objection, because you are an interruption, no matter how golden your message or revolutionary your product. The only way to avoid objections is to not make the call, and I know some resort to that method. Add to that the fact that no matter how cool or “disruptive” your product, they think they already have it or something like it, remember you called them.

So you have to make it about them. Now I know you’re all sitting there saying I already do that, but having listened to thousands of call delivered by hundreds of reps, you’re not. What I hear is people telling the prospect about their company, what they do, and their product, and only after that do they get to the good stuff, what’s in it for the buyer, but even then, it is often to general. What reps tell me is that they need to introduce themselves, no you don’t. You need to introduce what’s in it for them. By the time you get through your intro they are either asleep or looking for a window, not to jump, but to throw the phone through. Lead with the outcome, the happy ending, the punch line, whatever you wanna call it, give them the end, then work back from there. This will help you get their attention, ensure the message gets through, and will set you up to manage their objectives more effectively. Now, if you want to better manage their objectives download the Objective Handling Handbook, normally $12.97, free today.

This but one example of how the delivery can make a difference. There is also the words, the tone, the cadence, and more, the key is to not focus entirely on the message, and put more attention to the delivery and dynamics involved.

BTW – you can start by joining me today at 1:00 pm Eastern, for a webinar I am present with data.com, I will be showing you how to Mastering voice mail, e-mail, and other tools of Prospect Pursuit Success! 

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Sales Data Or Insight Driven?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

The other day I go a resume that had a familiar phrase in it, “John Smith – A Data Driven Sales Professional. While I understand what they were going for, I am not sure it landed right. (Or maybe it was just me). No doubt the age of “big data” or perhaps a better label being used by some, “fast data”, is upon us. Sales is impacted by this as much as any part of business, but there some unique opportunities for sales and sales departments, both good and not so good opportunities.

The amount and quality of data allows sales organizations to be much more efficient at targeting and accelerating sales, by bringing the right resources at each step of the cycle, and leveraged well, to the nature of the sales organization itself. As Miles Austin recently commented on a panel we were, progressive sales organizations with open headcount should look at hiring a sales data analyst instead of another rep. He is right, the proper use of the valuable data in a typical CRM, processed by a sales savvy analyst with the right mandate from leadership can produce more margin, quicker and for a longer term, than hiring another rep.

One example is territory optimization, and not just in the traditional sense, but by matching types of buyers with types of sellers. Think about taking buyer persona to a different level. Much like a sporting coach will mix up his line up based on what they are facing, last minute line changes, all to ensure maximum impact, sales organization can move from geo or vertical views of the world, to what kind of buyer is Johnny best suited to?

Sales organizations who have had SWAT teams to penetrate accounts given specific attributes, have long realized that the minor uptick in selling cost is more than made up in margins and volumes. With the right analysis, you can take this to a level of alignment that could more than likely allow you to run leaner, making up for additional costs that have led to traditional territory make ups.

Analysis can help organizations better plan in a number of ways, allowing them to avoid certain activities, while maximizing others. Patterns in the data that would be lost on most sales ops people, would be gold in the right analyst’s hands. It is not a question of sales ops being deficient, it is more of training and function, and analyst will go deeper and further into the data, extracting more actionable insights. Not coming from sales is in fact their strength, they will approach and read the data differently.

Actionable insight being the key, and what caught my eye in the resume. This candidate would have made a much better impact had they put the emphasis on insights than data. Data is a commodity, information is a commodity. Insights, and the knowledge derived from it, leading to differences measured in revenue and margin are of interest, and yes, you can do both. Being data driven sounds good, but data is data, being driven by insights gleaned from data is the winning proposition.

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Changing the Odds In Your Prospecting0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

poker card player gambling casino chips selective focus

How much of a premium would you pay to bet on a sporting event where the odds favoured your team over the other by 6000 to 100? A no-brainer right, in fact too good to be real, right? Let’s look at it a bit differently, how would you like to be up against a professional opponent favoured by similar odds, an opponent who practices every day, honing their skills and techniques, improving their game day in and day out, while you only occasionally dabble in the sport?

I am guessing most of you are saying no to those odds, and would probably pass on getting in the ring with that level of mismatch. But I see sales people do this very thing on a regular basis, but instead of a five dollar bet, what is on the line is their income.

Sales people get into to the ring every day, unprepared and underestimating their opponent’s skills, abilities and level of preparedness. What I am talking about specifically is prospecting, especially for buyers in the deep sea of Status Quo. We are not talking about buyers who are actively looking, visiting your website, or buyers who were referred to you because they called their friend in a hurry looking for the exact thing you sell. No the buyers I am talking about did not expect your call or e-mail, these buyers would swear up and down that they don’t Need whatever value you are proposing. This is not to say that they would not derive value from what you offer, but left to their own devices, when you phone, what you are selling, or what you are proposing, is not on their radar.

Further, they are trained professionals at shutting down people who call them in the middle of their work day and ramble on about something that does not align with their perceived priorities.

I ask sales teams I work with: “how many unsolicited sales calls do you think your average target gets on a daily basis? Stop and ask yourself that; think of what you sell, think of all the things that individual buys that you don’t sell, how many calls do they get?” I get a wide range of answers, from five a day to 20 per day. Let’s take the lower end, five unsolicited sales call per day; 25 per week; assuming they work 48 weeks a year, that’s 1,200 calls per year. Now let’s bring some more reality to the scenario, say they have been on the job for five years, that’s 6,000 calls! Take that in a minute.

That’s a lot of practice in tuning out the beige and bland! How many times in those 6,000 calls do you figure they have heard empty words like:

  • Solution
  • Reliable
  • Productivity
  • Efficiencies
  • Customer centric
  • Improved work-flow
  • Dependable
  • Blah Blah Blah

After a time it all sounds like the teacher in the Peanuts cartoon, wha whawha, whawha wha wha.

How practiced are they in blowing you off and getting back to work? Infinitely more than the average seller. They have it down, so down they can do it without thinking or “being in the call”. When they give their initial objection, they don’t even think about what they are saying, they just deliver the fatal blow:

Seller: Increase productivity blah blah, work-flow.
Buyer: Thanks, but we’re all set
Seller: Well perhaps I can send you information in case you ever need a back-up, I can call you back in a few months (putz).
Buyer: Sure you do that, thanks! (back to work)

Knock out!

This why sales people hate telephone prospecting, high rate of rejection, low rate of success.

Does it have to be that way? Absolutely not!

Why is it that way? Because sales reps are nowhere nearly as prepared as the person at the other end of the phone.

Yet one of the hardest things is to get sales to practice and prepare. Rather than practicing, developing skills and a proper game plan, working on avoiding sounding like all the other voices, they do the same thing over and over again. What was it Einstein said about this type of behaviour?

Attracting Status Quo buyers is not that difficult, you just need to change a few small things, and practice. And I don’t mean on unsuspecting buyers, but before you pick up the phone or fire off that e-mail.

Start by changing the your goal for the call, your goal is not to impress them, not to have a conversation and develop rapport or trust; your goal is to get engagement in the form of an appointment, live, web or telephone, where the buyer has agreed to engage in a business conversation. Singular measure of success, engagement!

Change the narrative from needs or you and your company, not what you do, and how you do it, frankly no one cares, no really. Tell them what they will get out of it, speak to specific impacts and outcomes others in similar situations realized; not in feature benefit speak, they’re hip to that, but in business terms they speak every day. What will they tell their boss changed after you? This takes focus and practice, if you are going to wing it like most of the 6000 have done, if you are going to spew you value prop hoping it will impress them, forget it, you’ll just be 8001, they’ll go back to work, and you?

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Where Have All The Sellers Gone? – Sales eXecution 3013

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Over the last few years there have been numerous articles and commentaries suggesting that the sales population will dramatically dwindle over the next few years. I don’t think there will be less real sellers than now, but the roles will be more clearly and accurately defined.

The reality is that many of those calling themselves sales people, or were hired to fill a role with a job description of sales person are not sales people at all. Many who pretended to be hunters to get the job were not; and many who were hired to manage and grow accounts, were in fact willing or capable of doing either. So if you redefined those to what they really were, rather than what you were hoping or pretending they were, you’d have a thinning of the ranks. In reality there are not as many sales people now as many would pretend.

Further to this point, last week I participated in an event hosted by SMB Acuity, a premier supplier of actionable business insights, where they presented the results of a survey of Small and Medium business in the USA and Canada specifically companies with 100 or less employees, those driving the economy. One interesting result they shared was that a large majority of upsells and cross sells were in fact initiated by the businesses themselves, not the sellers (by title anyway). The numbers were 57.8% of respondents in Canada, and 68.3 in the States. Confirming that many who say they are in sales, are in fact order takers.

What’s worse, is that these numbers clearly indicate that both types of sales people dropped the ball. Account managers should have been involved enough with the accounts to be in tune with potential demand, completely missed the opportunity. Leading to the question of how involved were they really, were they managing them in the real world, in their CRM, on a list, or as I suspect not at all. The other question is where was management? Why did they not have a process and the metrics in place to ensure coverage and get ahead of the opportunity?

One thing is sure, when the buyer initiated the conversation that lead to the upsell with you, they likely did so with your competitors as well. Given the scenario, I bet you don’t even know if and when they decided to buy more or another product, you don’t even know if they bought it from you or your competitor.

And where were the hunters, how did they miss this waiting opportunities?

It is almost an insult to real sellers to call these transactions “upsells” or “cross sells”, when it was buyer initiated. This is why they call people in department stores clerks, not sales people.

So yes, over the years as we fine tune the role, you will find less people classified as sellers, not because there will be less sellers than now, but because there will be a separation of sellers and clerks.

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

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