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 

Sales Management is not Cloning – Sales eXecution 2660

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Clone not
There has been lots written about the common mistake companies make in selecting new sales managers; specifically the habit of promoting some of their best sales people to the management ranks, whether they are suitable or not. To be fair, the thought behind the move is positive, rewarding deserving contributors, keeping good talent in house, and all that. There are also smart sales people who realise that management is not their first choice, who prefer and make the choice to stay in a sales role, usually with greater career satisfaction and financial rewards.

Adding to the challenge is that often these new managers are not given much help in the transition from being contributors, to effectively leading a sales team. Sure in companies of a certain size or better, they get basic training, you know, how to conduct performance review meetings, do’s and don’ts of harassment, racial sensitivity and other important “things”. But leading a sales team while managing a sales process is another thing, something HR often assumes will be provided by “the sales leadership”. In instances where this happens, it is sometimes worse that no help at all; what happens if the current sales leaders went through the same pattern of evolution, they just perpetuate the model; and the model is one of cloning.

While not isolated to the new managers above, cloning is a common and costly problem. The thought is “I was successful, they made me a manager, and they didn’t give clear direction to the contrary; so they must want me to make my team just like me.” Partially true, “they” do want you the make the team successful, as successful if not more than you were, after all the sign of a strong leader is one who surrounds themselves with people more talented than they. But this rarely means creating “mini me’s”, or even full size “me’s”.

The role of the sales manager, and other sales leaders, is to develop and bring the best out of all their teams. To shape individuals not in their image, (as man did with god), but into the best that their direct reports can be. People who can do that best, are not those who were the best front line reps. Just look and Wayne Gretzky, on the ice and behind the bench. Two different realities, two different results.

The notion that the best managers are those who have done it is simply not right. Most sales people know what they have to do, the challenge is getting them to do it. This requires a different skill set, different methods and tools, than those relied on for being a number 1 rep. Saying “here’s what I did, you can do it too”, is useless.

Every sales leader wants to surround himself with superstars, just as every coach wants a bench full of superstars. But they need to have excelled in the role of a coach. Hire someone who can lead a sales process, who can lead people to execute, the how is secondary.

Again, I understand wanting to reward star sellers, but there are other ways, ways that allow you to avoid leaving a territory short, and a disappointed sales team. The reality is that many of stars made managers often decide to go back in to the field to sell, and because of egos and politics, it is often with another company that is looking for a star, not a future manager or cloner.

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 

Easy Ways to Use Social Media for Sales1

CC Aug 14

The Pipeline Guest Post - Megan Totka

Let’s face it; social media is the future of sales. Actually, it’s the right now of sales, too! Social media is an inescapable force in the lives of billions of people. Are you harnessing its power for your sales initiatives?

There are so many different social networks; truthfully, it’s hard to keep track of them all. I think in general, unless you have a very specific business type, that it’s best to aim for the biggest social networks that people frequent. Facebook is an obvious one, but others that are popular in the business and marketing world are LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Here are a few easy ways that you can harness the power of social media for sales:

Facebook’s graph search. Use the graph search function to narrow down people who might be interested in your product or service. You can search by the company people work for, their interests, or the state/region/city that they live in. This can be really helpful when it comes to looking for a specific type of person that you want to sell your company to.

Twitter’s advanced search. Twitter offers users the opportunity to search for keywords or phrases that people have tweeted. For example, if you own a hair salon, you could search for people in your area that have recently tweeted that they need a haircut or are looking for a great salon or stylist. Twitter users will often reach out to their followers when they need a recommendation for a product or service. Be on their list!

Google +. While Google + may not have as many users as Facebook, it’s definitely a powerful influencer when it comes to search engine results. Add influential people in your industry to your Google + account and share, share, share.

LinkedIn. Arguably (or, really, not so arguably) the dominate social media force in the business world, LinkedIn has the one of the better search features that you can utilize to find new sales leads. LinkedIn’s advanced search can help you to find and target people in a certain job, field, by interest, or in a certain radius or zip code.

Using social media to increase your sales reach is a no-brainer. Use the networks that you are likely already a part of to boost sales.

Image via Shutterstock

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

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/)

You Can’t or You Won’t?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Buyers not liars

I am luck in the fact that I work with sales professionals, at all levels of their organisations, and as a result learn almost daily. I also see many similarities in B2B sellers regardless of the industry that they serve. One interesting characteristic many share is confusing ability with will.

I find there are two common reasons for this, one is the fear of change, of the unknown, and the discomfort of breakthroughs. The second reason usually has to do with conditioning, and life experience, “built in” notions of “how” we are supposed to do in certain things given specific circumstances. And since some things in sales are by nature counter intuitive, it makes it difficult for some to act that way. This is compounded when people are focused more on relationship than revenue. I for one do not feel that there are mutually exclusive, but I do think that sometimes people are unnecessarily fixated on the sequence, some feeling they need to have a relationship before there can be talk of revenue. It’s so much better for both parties when that pressure is absent, some buyers do want to be your friend, but are ready to have a long and loyal business relationship if you help them achieve their objectives.

Overcoming fear of change, fear of the unknown is not easy, yet we ask our buyers to do it every day. So why not look at how you go about helping your buyers deal with the same challenge, and apply that to yourself. I would argue that if it truly works for them, it should work for you. So when someone offers up a new way of doing something in your sales cycle, something foreign to you, and you find yourself questioning it and saying “I don’t know if I could do that”, how would you help a buyer deal with it a similar challenge and help them overcome it?

I find having a plan with various contingencies is a start. Ask the same questions you would of a reluctant prospect. Just as it helps buyers articulate their doubts or concerns, making it easier for them to be broken down and dealt with. Do the same with your challenge to get the same results. Many like to present some form of ROI, and a good ROI discussion also looks at the risk and cost of inaction. As a sales rep reluctant to try something, that would be the biggest question to answer. If the road you are on now is not getting you what you want, how much worse can the alternative be, what is the upside to trying the alternate?

The question of conditioning is a bigger challenge, especially since we view everything through the filters of our own experiences. Sometimes reps or managers tell me not only that they can’t do something, they make it universal, applying their standard on all, they tell me “you can’t do that”, as though it was law. Thanks to the internet, I can now research federal, state and provincial laws, and counter this by letting them know that based on the law of the land indeed you can, your competitor probably did and won the deal as a result. But I understand, lifelong habits are hard to change, lifelong fears are hard to face, doing unnecessary work, losing deals in the process seems the easier choice.

But I would argue it is not. Think in your own life of a time when you had a real breakthrough, I bet like me, as soon as the breakthrough takes place, we never see what all the fuss, fear and reluctance was in advance. So as long as it is legal, moral, and helps both you and your buyer, invest your energy in building your abilities. Remember there are million reasons why something won’t work, but there is one reason it will, you doing it.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

KPI’s – What Are They To You?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Impact Question

Talk to any ‘executoide’, and KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) are bound to be part of the conversation. Nice and practical concept, good resume fodder, often misused or abused by many, especially from a sales point of view. I often get the sense that many see KPI standing for Key Political Initiatives or Key (to my) Personal Incentive.

As a concept, KPI’s are great, helping sales organizations in defining and measuring progress against stated objectives or goals. Determined in advance, measurable and quantifiable, they are instrumental in helping to assess progress, and plan course correction if needed. Examples in sales may be lead to opportunity conversions, or proposals to close. Based on these measures you can make adjustments and respond to conditions on the ground to ensure those goals are attained. You often hear sales managers and director speak of how they are doing against their KPI’s. Looking at it that way can be a part of potential problems.

In the wrong hands, with wrong intents, the best concepts can come back to bite you; in sales it is usually the disconnect between what’s being measured and the desired results. There are many KPI’s being met without delivering the intended result or economic benefit, leading to a culture of measurement rather than success. When reps feel measured instead of being led to success, they turn to rationalizing their performance with the very same KPI’s. I hear reps say “well I delivered against the KPI, I got eight meetings every week this quarter.” Or “what do you want me to do, get sales or complete the KPI’s you gave me?”

It doesn’t help when sales leaders are incented on meeting KPI’s rather than result. While I am a big proponent of paying for success based on leading indicators, it should be on how those leading indicators are leading to consistent and improving results. Without that, when you pay for a checkmark, you get checkmarks, you pay for results you get results.

I was recently contacted by a sales director about training the team. As we discussed the program and roll-out, he insisted on doing things the first week of every quarter, when I asked why, he told me team quarterly development was one of his KPI’s, and the team meets the first week of each quarter. We assessed the team, had input from a number of people in the company, and customers, and designed training that required two days of delivery at the start, followed by Renbor’s Follow-Through Action Plan regimen. He loved the program, but asked that I cut it down to a half day. “What do you want me to cut?” “No no, I love the program as is, we just need to do it in half a day, I have to include some product training in October as well (another KPI no doubt).

No matter how much I tried to impress on him that he was making a mistake, he insisted. Knowing the type, that when things hit the fan, I will be blamed for the failure, even as he collects his KPI based bonus, I confronted him. I revamped the program to make it a one day affair, but he was still reluctant; half glancing at his phone as he explained his situation, including meeting KPI’s. I finally offered to send him some workbooks, pre-filled certificates he can distribute, come in and read a few pages to the team, and he could hit his KPI, and not bother with the challenge of training, but still be able to put the tick in the box next to training. “That’s your goal right?”. I swear he thought about it for a minute before realizing he was being mocked.

We finally agreed to the abridged one day program, with a clear understanding that we would include the remaining material into the January training. Now I have four months to work with and on the executives to change things, either the director or his KPI’s.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Social Style Cold Calling – Sales eXecution 2630

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

social billboard

As we have all noticed more and more companies are putting the Twitter and Facebook icons/logos not only on their marketing materials, but on trucks, and the signs on their buildings. In some instances they include their twitter handles, other cases not. I know I put my handle out there to help follow me, view my content, get a chance to see what I am about, and in general to invite them and encourage them to interact with me and my work. While some have called me odd, I figure that others have similar motives for displaying their “social signs”.

But I see it as sort of a half effort if you just display the Twitter logo on your truck or sign in front of your building, without including your handle. Puts the onus on me to go and search it, make sure that it is the right one, in most cases more bother than worth. Unless it involves a company you want to approach in order to do business with them, basically someone you want to prospect.

Which brings us to a company I have had my eye on for a bit, building my approach, but have yet to formally “put into play”. Last week when I drove by I noticed their new (or perhaps just newly cleaned) sign on the corner their building occupied. As you have guessed, the sign had the Twitter icon, but no handle. Hmm, I thought, let’s try something different.

I walked into reception, and said that I had noticed their sign, and wanted to talk to someone about their participation with and on Twitter. The receptionist looked puzzled, ask what specifically I wanted, I said I was interested in the company, and saw the icon on the sign, and wanted to follow them to satisfy my interest; so I was looking for their handle, but more importantly to speak with the individual who was managing their social media, gave her my card, which has my social coordinates on it. She picked up the phone, and a few minutes later, out cam a young lady, introduced herself as the person in marketing responsible for social media.

We talked for a few minutes, she told me why the company had decided to become active, how she got the job, and some of her objectives. One of which was t better interact with their clients and prospects, ensure their message was not only getting out, but received and understood by the right people. I asked if that included their sales team, and how the sales team was leveraging her work and social media in general. She smiled and said I would have to ask the VP of sales about that. Bingo!

He wasn’t in, but she introduced us via e-mail, and I booked the appointment.

You gotta love cold calling in the social age, it’s so not different than ever before.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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 

Trade Deadline Sales Style0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Jump Start p

Most major sports have significant dates through the year when it comes to proactively developing the team, building a roster that will help you win now and into the future. We just had free agents day in the NHL, and the NBA and the NHL both had their entry draft in June; and all leagues have trade deadline, their last chance to make adjustments as they go into the final stretch of the season. With sales being a team experience at most companies, it is not all that different in this respect, save a couple of key areas.

First, there are no formal dates. While everyone knew well in advance that the NHL’s trade deadline was March 5th, companies do not formally announce such intentions, nor do they set self-imposed time limits for adding or shedding talent. But let there be no doubt sales leaders do review their rosters at critical times in the year. It is common knowledge that January is a time where there is “movement” once people have collected their annual bonuses, but summer is another time of year when you find movement, but this time it is predominantly driven by leaders.

While to many summer represents a lull, real leaders are looking forward, and calculating how they will not only close the year strong, coming out of Labour Day, and how to set things up right for next year. Summer is a good time to conduct a skills inventory and assess where there may be some shortcomings. This goes beyond the typical performance management process that also unfolds mid-year, and goes more to A) who is contributing, B) who is trying and needs to evolve (at times with additional help), and C) who is doing neither.

While some “leaders” feel hampered by their targeted headcount, feeling that if they are at full count there is little they can do other than train. The more enlightened leaders know that it is only a question of time before the C’s have to go (on their own, or with a wee push). Rather than worrying about headcount numbers, they hire the right talent when it presents itself, rather than when they have “cap room”, knowing that the talent may not be when it suits you. Rather than settling for a B or another C, due to timing and being afraid of having a vacant territory for more than week, smart sales leaders pick up the talent when it is available. Which means it is a great time for “the right talent” to go out and market themselves, demonstrate how they can fit in now and into future growth plans. A great opportunity to improve your lot as a seller while contributing to a smart leader’s success, a combination that pays dividends for both.

A key difference between sport GM’s and sales leaders, is the fact that VP’s of Sales cannot trade players for other talent or future considerations. Personally I think there would be merit if done right. I have seen people flourish and struggle based on leadership, product comp plans and other factors. But I think I may be the lone voice on that idea, or maybe not, what do you think?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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