Welcome to The Pipeline.

Don’t Parrot – Integrate!0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

parrot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Are Buyers Liars?2

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

TV Head

 

Of course not, prospects are liars. No no, that’s not true either. It is less about lying, and more about rationalizing why we lost, take a look at what I mean:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

3 Ways The Beatles Will Make You A Better Cold Caller – Sales eXecution 2652

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

The Beatles Is On The Phone – by NowhereGirl17

If you ask sales people why they hate/fear cold calling their response always revolves around them, their feelings, and rarely the buyer’s. Even when they mention the buyer, it is very much through their own filters, “I wouldn’t like that”, or about the buyer’s reaction to the call. It is important to remember that the reaction is exactly that, a response to what you said or did, so if you change the input, what you say and do, and you can change the outcome.

Get Your Cold Call-Flow Now!

This is where the Beatles come in – stop making the call about “me”. The real big downfall in cold calling is that it’s never about “me”, “my company”, “what we do”, etc. Make the call about “YOU”, the buyer. I know many are thinking they already do that, but only in thought, when you listen to cold calls, you hear a lot more “me” than ‘YOU”. “I am calling from ACME Corp, a Fortune 500 company, specializing in BLAH BLAH BLAH”. He didn’t hang up, he dozed off and fell on the phone. It is usually well in to the second act before their world is even mentioned.

Start with YOU:  Of the top 100 words used by the Beatles in their songs, the word YOU, was a distant first, 2,262 times, second was I, but only 1,36 time, and LOVE, was eighth at 613.

Not only did they use it often, but used it early, think of all the Beatles songs, especially early hits that had the word YOU, right in the first line. “Love Me Do”, their first hit: Love, “love me do You know I love you”; twice. “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, “She Loves You”, “All My Loving”, and more.

You have always been told that buyers live by WIFM, give it to them:

Stay with YOU:  Don’t go from the introduction about how great you are and all the great things your company does. Talk to the buyer in context of their world. “What YOU will get out of it”; how it will help YOU achieve YOUR objectives”. Doesn’t matter how cool, new or nifty your offering is, unless they called you, and it’s a cold call so they didn’t, they seem to be doing just fine, thank YOU! Warm the call up by speaking to direct impact and outcomes for them, moving them closer to their objectives, if you don’t, the call gets real cold – real fast.

Close with YOU:  When you close for the appointment (live or virtual), it needs to be about them. “YOU Will…” I hear a lot of sales people say what they are going to get out of the meeting, why they want to meet. But I rarely hear “as a result of us meeting YOU will be able to …..”

The reason many calls are cold, is that there is more in it for and about the caller than the buyer, leaving the buyer out in the cold, and then having the same effect on the caller.

Make it about the buyer, talk about “YOU”, and not only will things be warmer, but more appointments to boot.  It worked for the Beatles!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

(Photo: http://nowheregirl17.deviantart.com/)

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 

The Objective Seller #webinar0

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

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

The Objective Seller Webinar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Register

Driving Commerce Not Sales is Key To Success0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sales people are always looking for the secret to sales success, more revenue and glory. One path is to look beyond sales and see how they can drive commerce. At first glance one may be inclined to dismiss this as just semantics, but in as much as attitudes drive actions, and actions lead to results, the distinction is so much more.

Commerce is the whole system of an economy that constitutes an environment for business. The system includes legal, economic, political, social, cultural and technological systems that are in operation in any country. Thus, commerce is a system or an environment that affects the business prospects of an economy or a nation-state. It can also be defined as a component of business which includes all activities, functions and institutions involved in transferring goods from producers to consumers.”

Substitute “nation-state” in the above to vertical or market segment, and you can see why successful sales people focus on commerce over sales. For us to sell more, we require customers who need to and can buy more; and new prospects who see merit in buying from us. As sellers, there are steps we can execute that will help and benefit both groups in the same way, and other steps that will pertain to one of the above.

While all good sales people want to help their customers/buyers, and work diligently to do that, for the most part it is usually centered around our offering. Not taking anything away from many “solution focused” organizations, the fact remains that when I ask sales people or even many managers:

How can you directly support their goals?

The majority respond in a way that reflects what their product does in a very-specific way related to the nature of the product, for example: hardware specs, or the “User Experience” they deliver.

sellers

But few go into the clients’ world. Even many case studies focus on how their product helped the client achieve things, a more secure environment, faster speeds, etc. But little if anything about how and why the buyer interacts with their world. It is as though the buyer has nothing other than the product or process in question to worry about.

A seller focused on commerce, understands that his success is tied to the buyer’s success, and that happens beyond the product, on a bigger playing field. How do they help the buyer increase market share, extend return on assets, expand time, mitigate risk, manage reputations, exceed customer expectations, reduce to cost of doing business – not buying your product, or how to add value to the buyer’s customers.

commerce

The good news is that with a nudge in the right direction, and managerial support, most sellers can be given the broader vision of Commerce. Focus on commerce, and sales follow.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

The Best Time To Cold Call? – Sales eXecution 2581

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

TV Head

Buyer beware!

It seems over the last few months there is more and more advice coming from many sources on the merits of cold calling, (ya I know), and some so called “Rules and Best Practices”. But consider the source of expertise before you jump in. As with many things in sales, especially cold calling, for lasting success, you’re better off looking to your buyers than people jumping on bandwagons.

Here is an example why:

Hey, if you liked what you saw here, invite me to speak at your next meeting!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

It’s Your Job To Lead – Sales eXecution 2530

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Leading

No, I am not speaking to sales managers, directors or VP’s, but directly and specifically to front line sales professionals. It is your job to lead the customer to the right decision for their business based on their objectives. So why are you not stepping up, why are abdicating the only thing that justifies the job, why aren’t you doing your job?

Your job is to deliver the best solution or product to address the buyer’s requirements, which are driven by their objectives, often both business and personal objectives. While the buyer most often best knows their objectives, I say most often, because there are times where your input or influence can help fine tune or redefine those objectives based on elements you introduce into the dialog. The whole thing pivots on your ability and credibility as a subject matter expert.

I have argued on this blog the best sales people are those who are real subject matter experts, not product experts as many strive to be. As a subject matter expert you bring a number of value points that the buyer will make use of, and benefit from, that “product experts” will lack. This is why I encourage sales leaders to abandon their habit of hiring only sellers with product knowledge over candidates that may not have direct product experience but are truly qualified sellers, one qualification being the willingness to look beyond product, and embrace being an expert. One of the things the expert seller doe swell, and product sellers don’t, is become conduits of best practices.

What these sellers understand is that buyers want a perspective of what is happening in the market. What is working, what is not, what is new, and what is fading, what are others doing? I am not suggesting sharing details of what their direct competitor is doing, what is setting the winners apart from the also-rans. They also understand that often buyers are set in their ways and will need to be lead to new ways of looking at things, which sometimes means taking a stance that contradicts buyers’ premises and ways of thinking; to out and out change buyers’ views and ways of achieving their objectives. To do this you have to lead, you have to be someone they are a willing to have contradict them, someone they are willing to follow to places they have not been willing to go in the past.

When I present to sales people, many respond with a sad and often sickening response, “Oh, I don’t want to be pushy”. Pushy? There is a world of a difference between pushy and conviction. The conviction of an expert willing to share and make sure that the buyer truly achieves what they set out to do, even they do it in a different way than they set out or had ever considered.

Getting to the point where this conviction is justified is not that difficult, as with other elements of sales success, it is about the willingness to go there, and execution. Start by focusing on the buyers’ objectives, understand all the ways that can be achieved, not just those your product can do. Then leave your product in the car, and go and have a peer to peer discussion among experts, the buyer an expert in his/her business, you the expert in best practices around that.

Hey, if you liked what you, have invite me to speak at your next meeting!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Who Exactly Are You Selling To?2

May 14

The Pipeline Guest Post –  Megan Totka

We talk quite often about sales tactics and marketing ideas in a general sense. But who exactly is your company trying to sell to?

People can be classified in so many different ways. But one of the most common classifications is by generation. Most recently, the generation we’ve talked about the most has been the baby boomers. Born in the post-World War II era, from the years 1946-1964, baby boomers have made up a huge consumer base for many, many years. Many people consider baby boomers to be the first real consumer generation, raised after the Great Depression and in a time of pretty impressive technological advances.

In the no-so-distant past, the baby boomers have arguably been the most important group to market to, as they did (and still do) make up such a huge portion of the population.

But there’s a new group on the scene – the Millennials. This generation, made up of people born from 1980-2000, is estimated to encompass 80 million people. That’s more than the baby boomers.

The biggest thing that sets the millennial generation apart is their familiarity with the Internet. The Internet and related technology are not new and exciting to this generation; it’s been around since they were small children. While it might still be possible to impress other generations with technology, Millennial have come to expect it.

So how do we cater to this new generation of buyers? One thing is for sure – give them what they expect. This Forbes article likens hotels that don’t have free Wi-Fi to the same hotel charging to use a toilet. At this point, we’ve all come to expect free Internet, just about everywhere we go, millennials in particular. Millennials also respond to an “omnichannel” concept. This means that people should be able to contact you or your company in whatever way they want to, without having to do it the same way that they did the last time. For example, if a customer contacts your company once via Facebook, they should be able to expect the same information and level of service from any other avenue, such as phone, Twitter, email, etc.

Does your company have any lessons to share concerning marketing and sales that is geared towards a particular generation?

(Photo Source)

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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