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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?

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

Where Have All The Sellers Gone? – Sales eXecution 3012

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

Remember Your First Sale?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

49

There is no doubt that experience is a plus in any vocation, including sales, just look at any job posting for sales, and with the exception of entry level positions, they will demand experience both in terms of tenure and industry related. As with other things in life, there are no absolutes, it is usually a case of upside and downside. The upsides are clear and straight forward, so let’s look at the downside and risk of experience, both as it impacts individual sales people, and sales organizations.

In most disciplines the biggest victim of experience is creativity, in the form of the curiosity that comes with being new; a sense of exploration, a naïve ignorance that removes limits from many individuals, allowing them to go where others “with knowledge and experience” may not go. Given that these factors are usually the core components of creativity in sales, and that in sales creativity is one of the last differentiators, how do you reach the right balance?

Think back to your first sales position, everything was new, everything required learning. If you were with some bigger companies you got training as part of your on-boarding. But if you were with a smaller, not small, just smaller company, you likely got more product training and orientation than sales related training; and we are talking formal training not war stories from the “older guy. The older guy that you should not have been learning from, because if he did know better, he would have been out on calls, not in the office with time to hold court.

Left to your own devices, you improvised, tried different things, some worked, some were bruising, but collectively they added to you initial success and experience. As things got better and you committed to your sales career, and you likely did two things, you developed routines, and took some training, building experience. As you career evolved, and you “usually” made quota, or only missing by a “bit”, your experience grew, your training reinforced your routines and habits. As you had “more of it down” the less adventurous you got, and the narrower your curiosity and appreciation for alternatives, you were now set in your ways, or as someone I work with says “stuck in your ways”.

Over 40% of things we do every day, we do habitually or out of habit. Meaning we don’t need to think about it, we just do it. This applies to both good and bad habits. Runners run as a habit, they build their daily runs into their daily routine, it’s not a run by run question. Smokers light up habitually, they don’t think about it, they just do it.

The great thing about that is things that need to get done – get done, usually in a familiar, predictable and consistent fashion, without a lot of thought or consuming much of the energy required for the 60% that are not habit. The problem with that is we don’t think about it, we just do it, it’s easier for day to day things, the way we do it rarely change, rarely improve or rarely reinvent themselves. Not a good thing in a continuously changing and evolving market, where buyers are challenged by change, and have access to not only more information, but more choices.

So what’s a sales professional to do, deconstructing habits takes time and effort; forming new habits takes time and effort, and executing every aspect of every sale in a way that avoids routine or habits, also carries the same cost.

Start simple, as you review opportunities that did not close, ask yourself, what were some recurring things you do, or fail to do, that contributed to the loss. If you didn’t do specific things would things have turned out better, same for things you may have done. As you review opportunities that you win, ask yourself which things you did may have slowed the sale down or introduced risks. What are some things that you do that if you stopped doing would not slow or risk the sale. In hindsight, what are some things that if you did during the sale would have accelerated the sale or improved the outcome?

Give yourself a break, and at first just try to identify those things that you do by habit that you can stop doing without negative impact. This may be a challenge, especially when by definition we do not think about things we do by habit, this is why it is best to examine what you do in the context of a deal review, we are already (or should be) in critical mode.

A more challenging but valuable step is one often better done as a team, and led by the manager. Pick a current opportunity or a recent deal, and ask: “If I didn’t know better, if I were new to sales, what would I do?” It’ll take a bit of an effort to break out of your “experience”, but once you get rolling, and get past the familiar, you’ll find some great ideas. Resist the urge to “know better”, and examine it in context of the situation not your experience. Look for things that may solicit the response “that’s a rookie thing to do”, because those are the elements you can build on. You’ll also find that some suggestions will make you remember things you used to do but stopped. The great things is you can always start again.

While you do want to review every deal, you may not want to review your “habits” for every deal. If you started on a monthly basis, then move to quarterly, throw in a regular “What would I do if I didn’t know better” exercise, you’ll strike a balance, and develop a great new habit.

Tibor Shanto

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Sales Triggers: Don’t Wait – Create

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Are You Committing This Prospecting Sin? – Sales eXecution 2910

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Chrch candles

The biggest prospecting sin you can commit is not to prospect, but there are many others that are dangerous and can have almost as detrimental effect on your sales success, and more.

The one we’re going to look at today is a common technique used by many, encouraged by pundits is this one:

Your on the phone with a pre-qualified(?) prospect, and you say something to the effect of “I just need 15 minutes of your time…” Or it’s déclassée cousin “I just need 15 short minutes…” I mean really, what is the difference between the two, does the “short minutes” meeting have 50 second minutes, or will it just be that much less torturous?

Frankly this works well if you are selling a commodity, let’s see if the nut fits the bolt, can you deliver on time, and for two cents less. Yes, almost anyone can do that in 15 minutes. But selling something of value, selling “A Solution” that will take more than 15 minutes, no ifs ands or buts.

People use this approach because they feel that it will make it easier for the prospect to accept a 15 minute meeting. Said differently, “I’ll waste 15 minutes on this guy, but not more.” Sure you’re thinking that if you put on a good performance in that first 15 minutes, they’ll give an encore in the form of a further 15 or 30 minutes. Sure, sometimes, not often, usually you try and cram a meeting that properly unfolds in longer time frame into 15 minutes. Instead of initiating a good discovery exchange, most revert to a product pitch, after all “we are pressed for time”, and you can’t risk without presenting your value prop and at least a minimal look at your product. Next thing you know it’s time to try and get that next step, and go. And what is that next step in most cases, the meeting you really wanted in the first place.

So why not gear your call to that to begin with? If you truly have a solution worth having, one that actually solves (solution – solve) an issue they may be having, you know a pain or a need, lead with that, and get the right meeting. But when you say “Just 15 minutes”, it sounds like “please man, I am desperate, do me a solid, be a KPI.” Sure this may work once in a while, usually with the wrong prospect, but if it’s not inside the Bell Curve it’s a Hail Mary.

Like any sin, smoking, illicit activities, being a politician, what have you, there is the momentary pleasure, and lingering dark side. In this case you are starting your relationship, regardless of how far it may go, based on a lie. You know at the time you propose the meeting that you are not being truthful, as do your prospects, the 15 minutes is their insurance policy, “if this guy sucks as badly as I think he may, I can pull the lever after 15 minutes; if by chance he is good, then we’ll see.” Sure this may work once in a while, usually with the wrong prospect, but if it’s not inside the Bell Curve it’s a Hail Mary. I have always been for a separation of church and sales.

Tibor Shanto

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Neither Either0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Confused by Too Many Choices Arrow Street Signs

While I am all for having a sales process or road map, there is plenty of room for choice, and there are some elements of sales success that are achievable via many paths. You have choice within a defined structure, the result is pretty much the same regardless how of the path taken. As a seller, your success will not be adversely impacted by the choice. On the other hand, there are areas where you are presented with the option between two paths, but one does not deliver the same results, where one path may be easier but consistently yields lesser returns than another, at times more demanding alternative. Often the alternative delivering better results may not be as comfortable at first, require a different effort. One common reason people will choose the less effective/more comfortable route is they do not want to come across as being “salesy”, you know for some, just asking for the order is “salesy” or pushy; or that’s what they tell me.

An example of the above is “choice” or “options”, specifically sellers giving the buyer options for no real reason or benefit other than their own comfort, not at all that of the buyer. Too many sales people offer up choices or options to their buyers throughout the sales cycle, where they are not necessary, where they could negatively impact the sale or momentum, and are usually deployed not because they make sense for the sale or the buyer, but because they help sale people cope.

Here is a common example early in the engagement, while on a prospecting call. You’ve positioned how you can help them achieve objectives based on you experience and credible validation, and you get to the point where you ask for the time to meet, and instead of creating focus and a call to action, too many sales people make the mistake of saying:

“So what’s better for you, Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning?”

Why? Don’t you know when you want to meet, don’t you utilize your time efficiently and set appointments based on where other meetings take place that day?

Rather than communicating “gee any time is good, I got nothing else going on, so Monday afternoon, Tuesday morning, makes no difference to me, any one of those, please I need an appointment.”

There really are those who tell me they don’t want to be pushy, they don’t want to “box” the prospect. So now instead of thinking about what you called them about, any potential value that you may have communicated to this point in the call, you get them to go back and forth between two points in their calendar, instead of focusing on one time.

Hands down, it is better to give them one time, focus them on that time in their calendar, and make it easy for them to say yes, or no, you can always offer up the other time at that point. But why introduce slackness into an otherwise tight call? Is it for the buyer’s benefit? No! If you want to make it easy for them, especially if you have set up the call well to this point, give them one specific time, their eyes will go there and bam! Give them choice, they’ll look at both, maybe see that they have a meeting Tuesday afternoon that they are not ready for, and what could have been an appointment becomes “It’s not the best time, give me a call next month”.

Another example where offering choice is not the best plan is at the time of proposal, too many sellers offer up options, A, B and C. Some even believe that buyers will always go to the middle price point, on the other hand if you offered only one choice, you would get a yes or a no, giving you the option of offering the mid-price at that time. As you have heard me say in the past, good sellers are subject matter experts, as such, you should demonstrate that expertise by putting the best option forward, not a range of options. Order takers offer options, because they do not create the sale, just react to it.

If you have truly sold the deal, addressed the buyer’s objectives, and have gotten confirmation of that throughout the sale, then the only choice is the best one based on the process that just unfolded. For me, go with the best, other than that, I’ll have neither either.

Tibor Shanto

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So What If You’re Wrong – Sales eXecution 2842

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Wrong Lens

The other day I was on a call with a rep, she was well prepared, she met with her manager and I in advance, and started the call as planned. A few minutes in she asked a question laced with assumptions, and as luck would have it, all wrong assumption. It wasn’t a major point, but you could feel her discomfort. While I understood, I also know from experience that this could actually turn out to be a good thing.

As often happens, the prospect started correcting her, not to in a mean or demeaning way, just wanting to keep the facts accurate. But in the process of explaining, the prospect actually shared a lot of useful information which really helped our intrepid rep to better understanding the buyer’s biases, preferences, mode of thinking and purchase decisions.

Our friend the seller recovered quickly, and picked up on the fact and perpetuated the dialogue by asking more questions, presenting different scenarios, which got the buyer to open up even more, allowing our rep to gain insight better align her and her company’s vision and real value. By the end of the meeting she was a lot further than she had hoped to be, and the buyer was much more engaged and looking forward to the next meeting.

I see this a lot, human nature kicks in, the willingness to help others when they may have made a mistake, and nicely correcting them; only human right?

But most sales people are too hung up on being right, maintaining the facade that comes with that, they spend time trying to cover innocent mistakes, rather than leveraging them. There is nothing wrong with making an honest mistake at times – better yet there is nothing wrong with planning that mistake in advance.

If you know that there some area you need to uncover that may take some work, like a subject area that would be good to nail down earlier rather than later. A subject that you traditionally feel you have to wait till later in the sale to broach, think about making a mistake, specifically to be corrected, specifically to learn.

Reps tell me they are hesitant to go in certain directions in the discussion because they feel the prospect may not be ready. Well, rather than using the front door, why not go to the side door instead? Ask a question or make a statement that you know is based on a wrong premise, but is related to the topic you need to explore, and then wait to be corrected. Letting human nature kick in and accelerate the sale, or most often just break down barriers or log jams in the conversation.

I remember being with one of the best sales people I know, who was presenting at a well-known company. The meeting was very one sided, he couldn’t get them to engage or exchange information at all, they just sat stoned faced. Without their input and contribution, he was dead in the water. As a natural break came between subject areas, he asked if anyone had questions, a few shook their head to indicate no. Rather than continuing, he looked at the room, a dozen or so senior people, and asked “So, no one wants to play stump the sales person?”

A bit of a chuckle from some, quickly followed by a stream of questions. Some taking him up on the challenge, working hard to stump him, but most took the invitation lightly and asked some great questions. The ice melted, they were now fully engaged and he was learning more than had he continued with the presentation as many would have and do.

Don’t worry about being wrong, worry about moving the sale forward.

Tibor Shanto

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Do You Have Sellers or Pageant Contestants?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Happy to be a business leader. Cheerful businessman with outstre

Juliet:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

That may have worked for old Willie Shakespeare and sweet Juliet, but in sales names, labels and definitions count. While we already live with a lot of mislabelling, like sales people calling suspects prospects, or when they tell you a prospect is in “information gathering” stage, because a voice on the phone asked them to send a brochure. Usually you can roll with it, and put your energy into recalibrating their sales compass, rehabilitate and move on. But it is a bit harder to not laugh or even be concerned when it is the pundits who are off the mark.

I recently got a notice about a social selling event, as you know I hate hyphenated selling, it screams of sales people hiding things they don’t want to do behind a label; usually things one has to do if one is going to call themselves a sales professional.

The headline for the event read:

“90% of buyers start their journey online. Meet them where they are.”

OK, but if we are talking about selling, why are focused on just buyers? They are going to buy, they started the journey on their own. Let’s look at it through a B2C filter, where social media has truly impacted the sell/buy equation, they call these people shoppers. Yes, marketing and advertising got them to pay attention, they come to your shop, some high end shops may have specialist clerks, but I think if we look at Amazon, we see someone who has figured out what to do with shoppers, or buyers, and sales people are not part of that story.

While B2B shoppers, buyers by any other name, may require servicing between the time they made up their mind to enter the market and shop, about the only role a rep working for the winning “shop” is to provide price (or price concessions), and take the order. Again, we’re talking buyers, self-initiated buyers, which is why they went on line. Sellers add value to their company and earn their commissions by engaging with non-self-initiated-buyers, people not shopping, and bringing them in to the market and selling them.

These buyers are more like judges in the Miss America Pageant, and if you choose to sell this way, you are one of a long line of vendor-contestants, they will slowly narrow down till they crown their favorite order taker. Sure you can charm them during the on-stage questions segment, give it your all during the talent segment, (this is where the marketing team can really help), or pack a bit more oomph in the bathing suit stride across the stage. But there is no getting away from the fact that in this scenario, when working with self-initiated-buyers, you are one of many contestants, not a seller. You see sellers sell, they let others in the company handle the buyers. And as tools and technology make capturing and servicing BUYERS more effective and efficient, both from an experience and cost standpoint, the less requirement there will be contestants, and a greater opportunity for real sellers.

So what is your team made up of, sellers or contestants?

Tibor Shanto

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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 

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 

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