Welcome to The Pipeline.

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 

Game the Plan – With Chris Cabrera0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Game the plan

Almost everyone in sales will tell you that incentives drive behaviour, but beyond that there is often little agreement among the pundits as to what the right incentive plan is. Some see it as a black art, while others, usually sales people, see it as something to manipulate, hence the expression ‘gaming the plan’. But ask Christopher Cabrera, founder, president and CEO of Xactly Corporation, who has a different view, and believes that front line reps and CFOs do not need to be at odds when it comes to incentives. In fact, Cabrera literally wrote the book on incentives, “Game the Plan: Every Sales Rep’s Dream; Every CFO’s Nightmare”, which suggests that when it’s done right, reps can and should game and maximize the plan, and everyone wins.

I had the opportunity to discuss incentives and the book with Cabrera, and ask him some questions many of my clients ask when it comes to their challenges around incentives and driving behaviour that leads to everyone’s success, buyer, seller, and company.

One aspect of the incentive where the pendulum of opinion swings back and forth is between simplicity and complexity of a plan. While some try to engineer things down to the minute detail, others, look to perhaps over simplify by offering 100% commission based pay. As you would suspect, the reality is somewhere in between. Cabrera’s view is that 100% is not the most effective, but over engineering a plan has faults as well. He suggests that structure is much more important than the specifics. What “counts is the number of measures; there is a strong correlation between the number of measures and a successful plan.” Measures being the elements being paid on, Cabrera suggests that optimal number is three measures being incented. As you exceed that number, you lose focus and therefore the effectiveness of the plan.

Another factor was the number of people being paid on any given deal, an extreme example Cabrera gave was a company that had over a hundred people on any given deal. He suggest that the right number of people is five.

Cabrera is also a proponent of paying different rates on different products. While paying on net revenue is a start, companies should also incent higher margin products at a higher rate, thereby driving sales and higher profits. He also discussed that managing activity is the role of management not the incentive plan.

Another area of discussion was the use of SPIFFs (Sales Promotion Incentive Fund). Cabrera explained that while this was an effective practice, companies need to keep them fresh and not overuse them. “Keep them guessing by changing the annual cadence, if they know it is coming and when, it loses the desired effect.” He also recommends that they not be overused, three times a year, and at different times, for different element. Tying them to quarter end each time really misses the mark.

The thing that gives the book teeth and makes it a must read for sales leaders and sales people is not only Cabrera’s own extensive experience in the field of sales incentive and incentive management. But more importantly, the volume of data that is available to him as a result of the work Xactly does. The ability to leverage the empirical, anecdotal and other elements give Cabrera, the book, and by extension the reader, an unparalleled level of insight into incentives, and doing it right.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Customers, Employees and Influencers as High Performing Sales and Marketing Channels1

Beedon Headshot

The Pipeline Guest Post – Dick Beedon

Although brand advocacy has always been important, it is critical today. The path to purchase has changed forever. Because there is so much data available, and because communication is so easy, today’s buyer almost always seeks advice from a trusted friend or consumer source before making a purchase. Brands are now starting to realize that what others say and write about them defines who they are.

Smart brands know they must build strategies and systems to generate, track and manage brand advocacy. They know they must encourage and enable the people that know and trust them – their customers, employees and 3rd party influencers – to advocate on behalf of the brand.

And it works. By encouraging and empowering these customers, employees and influencers, they will drive peer-to-peer referrals, forward content, share information about new products and promotions, and write testimonials. And they can do it at scale and more efficiently than traditional channels.

The Benefits of New Channels are Compelling (examples)

  1. They Build Brand Awareness – when a customer shares something about the brand with a friend, there is no better way of building the brand.
  2. They Generate Leads – those friends that respond and go to the brand for more information become the best leads a brand can get. There are few people on earth who will argue that leads generated from referrals are the best leads. 
  3. They Drive New Customer Acquisition – Leads from referrals close faster, they buy more and they stay longer. 

Other reasons customers, employees and influencers make good sales and marketing channels;

1.  Identify Brand Advocates and Build a Rich “Social” Data Set

Brand Advocates are identified when they register for or engage with your programs. By using technology systems, brands know who “opts-in” and advocates, how often they do it, what their sharing preferences are and how big their network is. We learn who they know and how influential they are. Brands are able to now get a deeper 360 view of their customer’s network value.

2. You’ll Know when Potential Customers are “In-Market”
Social channels provide insights and information not previously available. At the most basic level, social channels extend a brand’s sales force (with zero overhead) and they solve one of the biggest challenges brand’s face: knowing when a potential buyer is in-market. Only your current customers know when the people they know are ready to buy.
3. The cost of acquisition is lower.
This channel is always on and continually active – making referrals, amplifying products and promotions, and posting positive information about your brand. Brand advocates do this for a brand because they trust the brand and they want do it. Therefore, the time and cost invested into this channel is significantly less than other channels.
4. New customers that are referred by someone in your Social Channel are Valuable.
Research has consistently shown that consumers who convert as a result of a referral from a friend, are more loyal to a brand, spend more and stay longer.

Who are your Potential Channels and how Well can they Perform?

Customers, partners and employees are the fastest growing sales and marketing channel today. By utilizing the latest in social marketing software and technology, business leaders can mobilize these social relationships to generate new customers, and they can track and manage social behavior that is critical to the success of their company.

Customers recommend your products because they have first-hand, positive experience with them.

Today’s truly successful companies understand the importance of leveraging their customers into sales and marketing channels that drive corporate productivity. Creating and cultivating a large group of advocates can: pay huge dividends in the growth of your brand, increase subscribers, and boost profits. The financial investment to create this channel is minimal when you compare it to the long-term payoff for the brand.

About Richard Beedon

Richard Beedon is a founder and CEO of Amplifinity.  Beedon has led the acquisition of both Entyre Doc Prep (by Wolters Kluwer) and University Netcasting, who merged with Student Advantage (now collegesports.com) and was acquired by CBS. Dick’s thought leadership and early adaption of SaaS based technologies that allow brands to manage advocacy marketing has been instrumental in the success and growth of Amplifinity.

Dear Sales Diary3

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Diary

Those of you have kept or keep diaries, know that one of the reasons it has such great value is not just because you open up about intimate secrets, but that you share everything, not just the good, not just the bad, but all that and everything in between. You were able to go back and relive the experience, and more often than not glean lesson and things you would do differently if you had to do them all again. You didn’t just look at what you did well, or things that turned out to be good, living up to and beyond your expectations. You looked at the bad things that happened and tried to understand how you might avoid similar things in the future. The more honest you were the more rewarding the experience. If you skewed or slanted things one way, you may feel better for a while, but reality comes creeping back in, forcing us to deal with the bad, and the gray.

Sales people and sales organization need to keep a diary of their experiences, all of them, the good, the bad, and the in between. Most already do deal reviews in some format, but many do not, either choosing to them selectively, or just enough to satisfy a KPI or ScoreCard requirement. Few do the real deep dive required in order to get the most out of it, in the process allowing both a learning and revenue improvement get away. To be clear, and as you will see further on, “deep dive” does not have to be a laborious time consuming exercise with minimal payoffs, it can and should be an ongoing process that helps you with deals you are currently involved in, while also allowing you to capture and repurpose things on the fly. Done right, it should resemble the old EDS add about building an airplane while it is flying, the opportunity for sales people and organizations, is to build a continuously better sales, even as they are executing current sales, and prospecting for their next one.

Specifically this involves reviewing all deals you were involved in, those you won, those you lost, and those which go to “no decision”. Note, if you are involved in ten to a dozen deal a month, I recommend you review all of them; if on the other hand you are involved in dozens of deals, you may want to review a representative sample. If you have 7 wins, 15 losses, and 6 no decisions, review 25%, or seven, and you will get good, executable output. But as you’ll see, even if you don’t formally review each one, you will produce usable output.

Now some of you reading this may be aware that I am the coauthor of an award winning book about Trigger Events. In that book the recommendation was that you focus your reviews to only those deals you win. This will allow you to continuously repeat those things that are consistently help you win deals. Sound thinking, to a point. Let me explain, coauthoring a book is a lesson in compromise, you give you, you learn, you take, and in the end you produce a book that reflects the learning of both. But as you move on, the hope is that both authors evolve, not limited by the required compromises, and we each continue down our path, shaped by or experiences.

Since the release of that book, my thinking has evolved to where I see focusing strictly on one segment of your activities and only one of many outcomes, brings an unnecessary level of risk to one’s sales success, regardless of which one of the three possible outcomes you focus on. Given that on average, wins make up less than half of potential deals, if for no other reason than to broaden you perspectives, you should review outcomes other than just wins.

This is why the 360 Deal View was developed. It allows you to capture relevant information about the sale, the outcome and specific contributors to that. As with most tools, it is less about the tool itself, and much more about the approach and behaviours it promotes, which in turn lead to the desired results in more repeatable, predictable and consistent ways. It allows you to evolve you selling along with the way your market and buyers evolve.

While there is no denying that you want to know exactly what you are doing that is helping you win, you want to know what unfolded on the buyer’s side that prompted them to engage, and what outside and inside factors accelerate your sales cycle or cause it to slow and stall. What were the buyer’s objectives that allowed you to gain traction, and how you were able to connect with those? All important things you want to leverage. But it would be dangerous if not naïve to not go through a similar exercise with the other outcomes, losses and “no decisions”. Two simple advantageous to knowing why you lose, first, it may just take a small adjustment to change some of the inputs that will move a loss to the won column. Second, you may discover that a segment that made sense on initial exploration made sense to pursue, based on practice does not. Looking at “no decisions” will often allow you to understand when would be the best time to reengage, and take the cycle to fruition. It will also help you detect tire kickers a lot earlier.

These will be fallouts if you only review wins, but there is no denying that focusing on just one area, will lead to tunnel vision, causing you to miss changing trends that are more evident in the other categories, and more importantly, leave you very open to be blindsided. If you rely on one set of data, you will continue to find others who fit the mold, but it does not speak to the size of a market, things can continue to look good in a shrinking market, and by the time you react, many opportunities will have been missed, and competitors will have made unnecessary gains at your expense.

Most CRM’s and related apps will allow you to do a complete all three, and even allow you to get more granular if need be. You can download our tool here, but the key to success is not the tool, but the philosophy, and more specifically the discipline of doing it in up, down, or sideways markets. Just as with a diary, the best ones were usually written in simple notebooks, not fancy specially diaries, what made them great was the depth and completeness of what was captured, and the consistency of execution.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Cold Calling is “IN” Again! – Sales eXchange 2346

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

frozen calls

Sadly I am at an age where I find myself saying “I remember the first time that was cool”, I have seen thin ties come and go enough times enough time to know not to throw out any ties, because it is only a question of time before someone says, “wow, that’s a cool tie, is it new?” The only thing I can’t remember if it was 1987, 1993 or 2007 when I actually first bought it.

Well it seems that cold calling is coming back into fashion. Not only do you find people dropping euphemisms when referring to the activity, companies popping up all over the place to perform a service many are needing but forgot how to execute. Many closet callers are coming out and proudly proclaiming not only that they regularly part take in cold calling, but that it producing results that exceed the expectations many, and helping many exceed quota.

Amazing what an Arctic Vortex will do.  Here we are less than two weeks into the New Year, and the signs are all over that cold calling is cool again. Just last week I had a notice for a webinar from one of the original Sales 2.0 gang, inviting me to a webinar on cold calling.  BTW, if you want to attend a webinar from someone who never wavered from cold calling, click here.

Other pundits who not so long ago wrapped themselves in the Sales 2.0 cloak, before dawning top layer of social selling, are now shedding their load, and freely speaking about the virtues of cold calling.

What is truly refreshing in some of their proclamations, is not so much their embracement of this staple and age old tool of sales success, but more importantly their abandonment of the “Us vs. Them” dribble that often dominates the debate.  The former stance that cold calling is dead, and it is all about the new thing, is now more reasoned and tempered, and sounds more like those of us who were out in the cold for a while.  Namely that it is about a blend of approaches and means of engaging with potential buyers, not one means vs. another.

Maybe it has more to do with the fact that the economy is showing some life, revenue expectations by Wall Street and companies themselves, are causing people to realise that they will need to be more than found if they are going to make quota, they’re actually going to have to go out and find some potential buyers who are not currently in the market or expressed that they may care to be.

In a recent LinkedIn group discussion asking if cold calling is dead or not, the comments were absent of the usual posturing about how cold calling was bad or dead.  The tone was more logical, again, putting cold calling alongside social selling and other techniques and tools that make up a successful tool kit.

LinkedIn itself, seems to be leading the charge back.  Despite a recent article “Cold Calling is Dead, Thanks To LinkedIn”, seems to have jumped on the band wagon.  As with most leaders and pundits, the measure of their commitment lies in what they do, not always in what they say.  Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, let me point to a recent advert for a sales position at LinkedIn, promoted on LinkedIn. When it comes to Responsibilities, just look at what is number one on the list:

LinkIn CC wr

About the only thing that could make cold calling more fashionable is to call it Zombie Calling!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales Tactic: Using Your Own Brand0

CC Dec 2013

The Pipeline Guest Post - Megan Totka

Does everyone in your company, whether in the sales arena or not, use the products and services that your company offers? If they aren’t, they should be. If you want your customers to use a product, you’ve got to be a strong brand representative and utilize your products in your everyday life as well.

Now, if you are in sales for a wine company, am I saying that you should drink that wine exclusively? No. But if you are selling this type of wine, you need to be able to talk about its features honestly, and it’s best if personal experience is where you’re getting your information from.

I came across an interesting article that talked about salespeople who were pitching CRM software to companies. At the end of each sales pitch, the company that was hiring the CRM firm would ask the potential hire to input the sales report from their mobile device into their CRM system. Only 5 out of the 7 could actually input the information – it seems that the other two, while probably a good face for the company, couldn’t actually use the software.

So how do you avoid being one of the companies to fail the test of using your own product or service? Here are some ways to make your sales pitch stand out by using your product and services yourself:

  • Make sure that all of your salespeople are well-versed in your product’s everyday uses. This is the most important thing to consider – what do you sell. While it may be tempting to let someone who is really good at sales just do the pitch, they really do need to know how to use the product and service themselves as well. Plus, if they know the product, they’ll be better suited to answer questions on your products uses – making the sale more personal and less salesy/rehearsed.
  • Consider putting together a list of the features that your product has that other don’t. Then when you give this list to prospective clients, remind them to compare other companies that they interview to make sure that they have all of the same abilities. Or to make it really easy on prospective clients, compare what your product has with your competitors and show what they’re missing that you have.
  • Encourage your sales force to be honest if they don’t know something. Instead of trying to come up with an answer on the fly, have them tell potential customers that they would like to get them a more thorough answer. While it’s best to have everyone know everything about how your product or service works, memorizing every last detail can be tough.

If you want to easily sell customers your product, it’s best to start using it yourself. How has using your product or services helped your sales?

(Photo Source)

About Megan Totka

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

Give Up The Snooze Button of Sales – Sales eXchange 2280

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Wake up

I recently read a couple of pieces about common habits and traits of successful CEO’s, two that struck me most were that they plan in advance, and when it comes time to act they maximize that time to execute fully.  The second, not only do they all start their days early, but when the alarm goes off, they jump to it, and never hit the snooze button.  I think that sales people can learn and benefit from adopting one or both these habits.

Key to success in anything, especially in business is the ability to maximize, to get the most return from any resources you use to achieve your objectives.  Given that time is our most precious resource, the better one uses it, the greater the return.  The one thing we all have in common with even the most amazing CEO’s, is that we each start the day with 24 hours, and what we do with it is really what differentiates one person from the next.

Let’s look at planning, most are comfortable planning ‘big’, the year, the quarter, the month, even the week.  But not many sales people step back to plan the ‘little’, after all, it’s little.  But what’s the old saying that it’s the little things that kill you, or your success.  I have written her in the past about how other professions spend much more time planning and preparing, than sales people do, and even within sales, if you look at those who are consistently successful, they plan.  Especially for activities they know they don’t like or are not good at.  A simple example, when it comes to prospecting, I suggest to reps that they ready their call list the afternoon before, during low energy times.  But most will leave that task to when they actually make the calls, wasting high value time, and reducing their high value activities, and their success, one day at a time.

Hitting the snooze button is the ultimate expression of procrastination.  Being in that state of getting ready, you know you gotta do it, but you put it off if only for nine minutes, ok, one more time, 18 minutes.  And that continues through the day, hit snooze button, here, then again there, and by the end of the day, we could lose up to an hour to hitting the snooze.

I know there are things in the day that we don’t like to do, but that should not be the measure, the measure is whether it helps you get prospects, get sales, get ahead.  Successful people attack their tasks, devouring those they don’t like, and reveling in the ones they do, but key is they do, and do to the max.

The reality is that certain tasks have to be completed, like them or not, putting them off does not change that, not does it complete them.  There is no better time, “I am better in the afternoon”, then afternoon comes, and you have to take that client call, or “I’ll do it right after I grab a coffee.”

Planning will help you avoid procrastinating, execute your plan and move on, but if you don’t have a plan, and you know you don’t like the task, when the time comes to doing it, you’ll hit that snooze button and lose a little more.

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What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

The Past is an Indicator of Future Action1

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Confident

Sellers are taught to ask probing questions, trying to discover what the opportunities can be uncovered, where the “pain” may be that will allow us to present “the solution”, win hearts and minds of buyer, win the sale, and win  the day.  But often despite a good execution of the “probing”, the prospect pouring their guts out, the sale does not follow.  While many turn to continuing to fine tune their probing, they should instead expand their area of probing.  They need to move off pain, product, solution track, and probe around the propensity of the buyer and their organizations to change and or act.

We have all seen scenarios where despite all the right elements being in place, there is no sale.  While that is not the worst thing, what is, is when sellers then spend a disproportionate time of energy, emotion and time, trying to get the sale based on the logic of the fit.  While they can recover from the wasted effort, they cannot ever get back is the time, a real non-renewable resource.  The answer is to add a line of questioning to the lines you already use.

It starts with a simple line of questioning around their current process or means of doing something, this will you a base to work with.  From there you can explore how they have traditionally dealt with specific things, and how they have progressed over the years.  If they have remained relatively constant, upgrading only when circumstances have forced them to, you are likely dealing with someone with little or no propensity to change until it is, or close to being late.  This is not a judgement, it may work for them, but is a clear indicator of someone slow to change, and you need to diagnose and act accordingly.

On the other hand, there are those who respond to your question by presenting a series of actions they have taken in anticipation of market conditions, or maybe even to force conditions.  If the reasons for taking proactive action, is tied to a proactive view of the market, they are likely a better prospect than someone with equal “requirements” and benefit profile, but with a history of inaction.

The key here is to spend more time with the right prospects, those most likely to buy (from you).  This is not about selling to your “dream client”, after all those only exists in your sleep/dream, what this offers you is an opportunity to deal more with those where the rewards truly match your efforts.  It is the best way to avoid the rabbit hole of a good solution fit, but a buyer with a history of inaction.  We are all good at moving on when the solution is not right, this enables us to walk away when the propensity is not right, not to be fooled by the fit of the solution.

You can’t change the buyer but you can very much change your approach!

One other thing to keep in mind to execute this approach to the fullest, explore this both on a personal level of the buyer, and on a corporate level.  The individual may be willing to act, but is prevented from doing so by their companies culture and policies.  Chances are a proactive individual will have moved on to an organization that appreciate and encourages their ability, but it is never a bad thing to test things on both levels.

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What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

Changing The Cycle Of Sales Abuse – Sales eXchange 2252

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

sales abuse

Many sales managers are in the wrong job, and for the wrong reasons, the intentions may have right, even noble, but outcome serves neither in individuals in question, the companies and customers. It is a familiar cycle, they were truly excellent reps, and consistently exceeding the most challenging quotas, liked by their peers, management and clients, and their reward was an invitation to management. Some resist the temptation, understanding that their passion is in selling and they follow that passion to their greater success for all, customers and employers. Others go into it with their eyes open, realising it will take work on their part to reinvent themselves in their new role, working at becoming as good a manager as they were a sales person. With the help and support of their companies, they grow into to their new role, and again there is broader win for everyone. But these are in the minority, a large number end up differently.

This group were good, not always great reps, they’ve around long enough, and when an opening presents itself, they are promoted to manager. Partly as a reward and recognition of their tenure, partly because senior management is impatient when there is a vacancy in the ranks, but usually not because they were best suited for sale management.

Worse, often they are not prepared or trained for sales management. In many companies they are offered “general” management training, how to administer performance reviews, sensitivity and harassment related training, etc. All important skills and knowledge for all managers, but managing a sales team, which by implication means managing a sales process, is a different and unique capability, and without that, they are only half ready.

Left alone to their own devices, the individual in question resorts to the obvious but incorrect conclusion: “They made me a manager because I was good, and they want more people like me, and so I will set out to make my newly adopted team in my image”. And that’s where the “Cycle of sales abuse” begins; or maybe continues depending on who their manager was.

I don’t mean to imply that these managers abuse their teams physically, but they do try to instill the habits they are familiar with rather than developing their team members. While changing behaviour is at the heart of changing and improving sales habits, skills and results, the most efficient way to do that is to manage the process rather than the individual. Behaviours and habits are very personal and subjective, and approached the wrong way, as often is the case with inexperienced managers. “That’s the way I did it”, makes for good stories, not good sales leadership, especially when many of these managers can’t always articulate why they succeeded, they just did.

Some organizations do invest time and resources into developing future managers with some form of high performance program, but those don’t always work as much as they hype would suggest, (imagine that), so while it’s an OK feel good exercise, it does not produce all its hyped up to be.

One overlooked opportunity is hiring professional managers, usually because of the misguided belief that you need to have product expertise to be successful. While product knowledge is important, it is easier learned than how to lead, transform and manage a sales team based on a process.

So now is the time to stop the cycle of managers trying to create mini-me’s, and embrace a better plan.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Clients Deal With Companies0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

building

We are all familiar with the battle cry of many in sales: People Buy From People.  This is all well and good (if not always true), it does not always turn out the way some expect.  Specifically for sales people who believe they have such a tight relationship with their buyers that they tend to ignore things that can cost them revenue and clients.

In a more specific way, it does not translate when it comes to sales people who think they own the account, and that the account will follow them no matter where they go.  We have seen companies hire sales reps less for their superior selling skills, and more for their “book”.  Worse we have all dealt with sales people who jump to competitors, extracting concessions in the form of bonuses, or compensation based on the fact that they will bring their book with them.  But the reality more often than not, is that most of the book stays put.

I remember reading the results of a purchasing manager’s survey, which detailed that they, purchasing managers, prefer to deal with sales people who can demonstrate that they can access and deliver their company’s broad resources.  While this may bode well for some sellers, it flies in the face of lone wolves, or those who want to be the centre of the deal, rather than the facilitator.  Sadly a high percentage of those who would barter their “book” or think they are the pied piper their clients will blindly follow.

What it also highlights is that savvy buyers will usually put more stock in the company they deal with than the person parked in the territory at the time of the deal.  Again, this is not universal, but if they see more contact from the company in forms other than the sales person, they usually see themselves as clients of the company, not the rep.  Here is a reality, they get an invoice from the company every month, if the rep is present less than that, the relationship will belong to the company.

Someone recently shared an interesting stat relating to client habits, they cited stats that showed only that only 10% of customers will actually switch when given a rate increase due to the high cost of change.  That cost does not go down if the rep switches, the considerations remain the same, if they are benefiting from the service, they will stay.  While loyalty is big, that loyalty is greater for the company than any given individual, including the sales rep.  Let’s not forget that the same people who will tell you they can bring their book, are the same ones that tell you the Status Quo rules supreme.

While people buy from people, clients deal with and stay with companies.  Clients are not lemmings, they know what is in their best interest, and stay loyal to that, and that is rarely based on one individual or relationship.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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