Welcome to The Pipeline.

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 

Thank You For #CASL Mr. Harper0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Cold calling Harper 3

Tomorrow July 1, is Canada Day, a day where Canadians in our own way celebrate the difference that is Canada. But tomorrow will not be a happy day for many businesses, sales people and sales organizations. July 1, 2014 is the day the new Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation goes into effect. Known by its acronym: CASL, which makes it sound safe. Canadians can now feel protected from those African “nasties” who want to share their princely fortunes, or those Asian companies offering to share their collectibles if you act as their agent, and of course all those voodoo doctors who want to help reshape key parts of your anatomy, up top and below.

Learn about the CASL Relief Special

But the reality is that those Nigerian princes will still be hitting your inbox, of course given that it is 2014 most now end up directly in the junk box. And despite the bravado from the Canadian Government that they will pursue these spammers to the four corners of the world (I thought earth was round), I doubt they will be able to stop or even slow the usual abusers. Meaning that most will experience the downside of CASL.

CASL will impact small and medium businesses, the very group Harper’s Conservatives claim to champion, legitimate Canadian businesses and their sales organizations. While many larger companies, with resources, money and time will adopt various forms of marketing automation, many SMB’s lack the ability to take advantage of the alternative. Even if they did, the fuel of these automated alternative is content, and that will be a challenge. Of course they could outsource it, but for many an effective strategy will be too cost prohibitive.

While no one will argue the good idea and intent behind the legislation, the outcome is anything but. While some apologists have put off the severe negative effects of CASL on small and medium businesses to the law of unintended consequences, I am not sure it fits here. The consequences could and should have been predicted and more importantly with a bit of forethought and consideration easily minimized or avoided. Forethought? Sorry, what am I thinking, we’re talking about governments; BTW, guess who is exempt from some of the business killing effects of the law, yup, governments and Members of Parliament, nice.

One beneficiary of this debacle is Canada Post, direct mail marketing should see an uptick based on what many are planning to fill the gap. Let’s look at some of the unintended consequences here. More paper wasted, and I am not a tree hugger, but I do pay taxes. Everyday loads of useless paper is delivered in my mail box, I have to take that to my blue box, and pay the municipality to recycle it, and start the charade all over again, and they make the money, you and I pay the cost. Seems like a lot more bother than hitting the delete button, or better yet given that it is 2014, just have it go straight to junk. Maybe Canada Post should get into recycling the junk they deliver, charge it to the advertisers, and make up for some of their losses.

But for the most part I can’t complain here, because the other big winner here is: COLD CALLING!

Ya baby, you have fewer choices now. While social selling, inbound marketing, and various forms of automation are great, they are not all that effective in engaging with those people lopped off by CASL. No getting around the whole “electronic business communication” thing. But you can pick up the phone, say something worthwhile, and directly engage, and sell. Talk about great unintended consequences!

So here is my give to Canadian and American SMB’s alike. The Renbor CASL RELIEF SPECIAL. That’s right, book Renbor to deliver our world famous, road tested and proven Proactive Prospecting Program for your company, during July 2014, (to be delivered before September 15, 2014), and will give you a 20% Harper/CASL discount. Click here to learn more about our CASL Relief Special.

Thank You Mr. Harper!

casl button

Do You Confirm Set Appointments? – The Feedback3

 By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

eGrabber time

A few weeks ago I put out a question based on a discussion I had with a sales rep about the need for and, value of confirming appointments. To be specific, appointments where the prospect had accepted the appointment both verbally on the phone, and then again accepted the electronic invite (Outlook or Google) you e-mailed.

Thank you to everyone who responded. We had some great responses, and the result was in some ways different than what I had expected based on similar discussions with salespeople in workshops I have delivered, or other reps I have worked with directly.

Recognizing that this is not in any way a scientific poll, not one respondent said no to confirming set appointments.  About 75% said they indeed do confirm, the remaining 25%, offered a conditional response. The conditions usually related to distance, travel time, or effort.

“If I’m travelling more than 45 minutes, then I always confirm.”

“Usually I don’t; people get enough email the way it is. If, however, it’s a small, out-of-the-way account, I learned (the hard way) that it’s best to do so.”

In some ways I was surprised by the numbers. In most discussions I have had the split is usually more balanced, with some 30% saying they do not confirm, and I have had groups that were evenly split. I did wonder how much of the difference may have been due to people putting on their public face, giving the appropriate response rather than their SOP. But looking at some of the reasons people gave in support of their actions, one has to take the results at face value. One also has to factor in that people who do not usually confirm meetings, may not be inclined to take the time to respond.

Here are some comments from those who confirm, and what I thought were good twists and ways to tactically leverage the confirmation.

“I believe inherent in the confirmation you have once again inserted you, your company and its products in his mind – always a good thing, and professional, in my opinion.”

“Yes, because then it’s top of mind and if they’re not interested you’re not wasting 15 minutes of your time sitting and waiting for them … It’s all about getting to the ‘no’ quicker so you can find people that are ‘yes’ …”

I have to agree with the concept of getting rid of the “no’s”, and saving time and resources who are likely to go through the cycle with you. The more you can “disqualify”, the more “qualified prospects you will end up with.

A couple of the responses offered similar reasons for confirming, that it is an opportunity to get you and your company in front of the prospect once more:

“I believe inherent in the confirmation you have once again inserted you, your company and its products in his mind – always a good thing, and professional, in my opinion.”

A variation was around how people confirm, choosing to present it in a way that not only confirms but opens other useful avenues:

“I would not call to ask if they will keep the appointment, but ask if there is any additional data or information or a specialist colleague I can bring to the meeting on the scheduled date and time, and that I am prepared to invest additional time doing the research. If we call them and ask if they will keep the appointment, there is a chance they will answer NO and hang up.”

For full disclosure, I usually do not confirm once the other party has accepted the electronic invite, I am not religious or black and white on this, but I tend to give other professionals the benefit of the doubt, and not often let down. Once I accept a meeting, I feel that it is my professional obligation to respect the other party and inform them as soon as circumstances change. Perhaps those of us who do not confirm are a bit naive. My view usually is that the appointment was agreed to, then followed up with an invite that puts the time, person and purpose right in their calendar, anything beyond that seemed redundant. Further, over 90% of the time the appointment happens as planned, or I get a call or note in advance about any required changes.

I also find that what you sell has something to do with it. I do notice that transactional sellers get forgotten more often than higher ticket product or what some would call more complex sales or solutions. I personally believe that this is more a reflection on the buyer than the seller, perhaps knowing that the rep is likely to call again, they have a choice in suppliers being contributing factors. All the more reason to focus on driving the buyer’s objective to raise one’s profile and importance of the meeting. Again a reason to leave the product in the car and base the appointment on objectives and impacts.

In the end, I am not sure there is a right or a wrong, there is what works for you. Be open to trying different approaches and don’t get stuck behind something that worked yesterday, but not today. The key is you are getting appointments, and while some may fall away, keep booking the next.

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Micromanage Me, Please0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

microscope

The best way to turn a positive in to a negative is to give it a nasty name. A great example in sales is the use of the word “Micromanagement”, a favourite among those looking to shirk some responsibility and/or accountability that comes with “Active Management”. VP’s, Directors, Managers, and Front-line reps all love to throw up the Word to avoid dealing with issues and/or challenges they face but don’t like, i.e. “Active Management”.

I do want to acknowledge that real micromanagement, the wet blanket type, in the classic sense is not good (most of the time), but what a lot of people in sales label as micromanagement, is nothing more than active management. This includes real expectations, measured or tied to benchmarks and metrics. And it is usually those who fall short on the measured areas who cry “Micromanagement”.

Regardless of the title, the role of the front line manager is to lead their teams in executing the process, by leveraging and balancing activities and the coaching of their team to consistently better execute the high value activities that drive the process. Straight forward enough but not necessarily simple.

Let’s use the example of a core metric important in driving sales, one of the simplest, proposal to closing ratio. You would expect that most sales people would know their own, and that their manager would too, otherwise how could they possibly coach them. There are a host of indicators that can be used to manage activity and coach for improvement, of course as a leader you want to focus on the leading indicators.

I was interviewing a team last week, including their manager (he’s been around a while, so his title was VP, but he was a line manager), and when I asked him about some key conversion rates, he responded that he did not want to “get involved to that level, I don’t want to micromanage”. This would seem OK if they were blowing their numbers away, but that’s not why I was there. I asked what expectations are set either in terms of activities, pipeline coverage, or territory contact/coverage/penetration. And in all instances, the reply was basically that the guys are professionals, “do things their way, and don’t like to be micromanaged.” Apparently, they don’t like to exceed quota either.

When I asked about how the team was coached, the typical, “we talk every day, they call me when they have issues with a deal, and we meet once a month as a team to talk about the market.” Any coaching plans for the reps? “We do a performance management meeting every six months.”

When I spoke to the reps, I got their version of the “I don’t want to be micromanaged” routine.

Now we all know if I went back and asked them what their favourite ball player’s batting average, or RBI numbers were; or +/- in hockey, they would know it. I am willing to bet that if a ball player didn’t follow the coach’s system, they would expect the coach to get involved, and why not, just look at the success Phil Jackson was able to drive with his process, was he micromanaging? Or if someone was not producing as many goals as in previous years, they would lead the “trade them” charge. If the team was underperforming they would be calling for the coach to be fired, but not when it comes to their performance, the very same expectation would be met with the “micromanagement” cry.

Active management is a must for any professional team to continue to outperform their competitors, sales is no less a profession. You want to succeed, embrace active management.

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

2014 Annual magazine with “Top Universities for Professional Sales Education” listing0

2014 Annual

In 2007, fewer than 30 universities had recognized sales programs. In 2014, the number has grown to close to 100, evidence of the success of sales programs in educating the next generation of sales professionals. One key factor driving that growth has to go to the good folks at the The Sales Education Foundation and their efforts in bringing attention to this overlooked faculty. In some ways it speaks to a reality that should be of great interest to companies and future professionals.

The average rate of student employment, within three months of graduation, hovers around 50%, sales programs report an average of 92%. Students from sales programs average 2.8 job offers before graduation. Add to that the fact that approximately half of all college of business graduates begin their professional careers in a sales role.

All this adds up to why you need to get a hold of and read the 2014 Annual magazine is housed on the Sales Education Foundation website, www.salesfoundation.org. The magazine includes the listing of “Top Universities for Professional Sales Education.”

As a college recruiter, hiring manager, sales organizations: you’ll find that statistics show sales graduates ramp up 50% faster and turn over 30% less than their non-sales educated peers. Partnering with a university sales programs ensures recruiters and their organizations with a pool of future top sales professionals.

If you are a student, you can research and choose a university that offers Professional Sales programs. Sales graduates report their career satisfaction at over 77%. The average starting salary for a sales representative is over $56,000.00. For those looking to pursue an undergraduate major that virtually guarantees employment, professional selling is the program of choice.

University looking to start a program, or connect with other programs, the “Top” listing provides contact information for these programs.
I had the opportunity to be introduced to the Sales Education Foundation, as a result of working with Dawn Deeter-Schmelz, Director, National Strategic Selling Institute, Kansas State University, where I had the pleasure of presenting during their Sales Week this past February.

The Sales Education Foundation’ tag line is ELEVATING THE SALES PROFESSION, something we should all get behind. Grab the Annual, get involved in make our profession an profession everyone aspires to be and improve.

Get Out Of Your Own Way!0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

iStock_000002705035XSmall

Everyone in sales has heard the expression “You are your own worst enemy, or biggest obstacle.” Usually in the context is our ability to break through barriers, or reach new highs. But it is also true that we are our own biggest asset when it comes to the same opportunity. It really is just a question of how we choose to view and respond to things. Given this, I am always surprised to see how many sales professionals continue to get in their own way, rather than be a force of progress in their own success.

I would be easy to just look at attitude or self-limiting thinking, and if that is your challenge there plenty of good sources of information and ideas to address that. More often than not though, sales people know what they have to do, they just don’t do it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like they say “I know that I have to do that, but I just won’t.”, there are other factors. But the net effect of their inaction leads to the same result, and they end up getting in their own way.

There are some basic things, and yes I know basic is out of fashion in these days of ‘complex sales’, but making things complex when they don’t have to be is one way we get in our own way. There are clear steps we can take to get outta the way and move towards sales success.

First is how we choose to deal with our resources, especially non-renewable resources, the most precious of which is time. Time is the one thing we all have in equal portions, and in especially sales, how you use your time is usually the difference between success or not. While full speed ahead is a nice mantra, and “trying to stuff as much in to a day as we can” may sound politically correct, there are better ways to leverage this resource for sales success. Start by inventorying how much time you need to allocate to each of these high value activities over the course of the cycle, allocate that time, and focus on managing your activity within that time, not on managing time. (More on time click here)

Another is to develop a clear road map for the sale, beyond high value activities, what has to happen in what sequence. Which of these are “Musts” and which are non-fatal. Stage by stage, activity by activity, it should be mapped. Some will say that they have the experience, they don’t need this, but I disagree. You favourite athlete has a play book, and while they do execute in their own way, they still have their play book. Without it you can’t make adjustments, improvements, or see the small things that will help you run the play better, sell better, in less time.

These are but two elements, and there others. The key is to step back, really examine what you are doing that is getting in your way, and then address it directly and methodically.

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

Starting On-line – Closing it Off-line (#video)0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

On May 8, 2014, I had the opportunity to do a Google Hangout with Stewart Rogers, of Salesformics (affiliate link). We touched on a range of topics relating to sales, sales tools, automation, social selling and more. The clip below is a highlight, we talk about the upside of marketing automation for sales people, and an example of a sales that started online, in a social discussion, moved off line and into the win column.

You can watch the entire 30 minute Hangout by clicking here.

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 

It’s Really Not This vs. That – Sales eXecution 2510

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

A few weeks back I asked in a post What’s Your Favourite Hyphenated Selling, and many missed the point, and actually told me why one “type” of selling is better than the other. Many pundits and so called experts will tell you that this “type selling does not work anymore, only that type (their type) does.” Good sellers understand that it is not vs. the other, but how do I combine and expand to make the best of all possible techniques and tools to deliver value for the buyer.

Have a look, and tell me what you think:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

 

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