Welcome to The Pipeline.

LinkedIn Serves Up Catholic Like Feature2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

endorsed 2

People always seem to be looking for a means to repent and ease their guilt. Whatever the cause or underlying motivation, people feel better when doing something, even if it is not the right thing for the wrong reasons, acting gives the illusion of accomplishment. So when it comes to sales, social media offers an outlet more immediate and less demanding than going to a confessional, when they know they have wronged and are feeling guilty.  All with the added bonus of being socially impersonal.

I look at this phenomenon as the sales equivalent of “slacktivism“.

I came to learn about this from a rep I am working with. He highlighted that a prospect had missed a scheduled call, one agreed to during the last meeting, invite accepted, and specific to the deal at the time. When he called as scheduled, he did not get a response. But the very next day the prospect in question “endorsed” said sales rep for two sales related skills on LinkedIn. Brad thought this just to be a coincidence, but saw it happen in other instances. He mentioned that he met someone at an industry event, the usual “ya, this is what we are looking for, definitely give me a call.” Follow up – no response; a few days later, follow up – no response, voice mails left on both calls, with return number. Lo and behold, a couple of days later, a LinkedIn endorsement.

I have always been flattered when I get LinkedIn endorsements, making a mental note, occasionally reaching out, but never looked for the correlation Brad mentioned. But, since it was brought to my attention, I have seen that I too have been a victim of this “social confessional”, a cleansing of guilt brought in when folks don’t follow through on commitments.

I say “social confessional” for two reasons. First, as people use social outlets to communicate things in a way different than the past, it only makes sense that it would creep into their communication of their guilt for not following through on their commitments, and in to their communication with whatever deity they hide behind when they mess up. So why make the trek down to the local church, just give them three endorsements, a “social” form of three Hail Mary’s and a candle. “It’s not like I ignored you, dude, in fact I endorsed you, three times man, let it go.”

The second reason, well, these days you stick “social” in front of any old thing, and it’ll just seem hipper.

So Catholic, or not, even atheists, can now endorse and move on with their day, without the bother of being accountable for their commitments. The Church can learn something here.

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What’s Your ROI on Sales Development #BBSradio #podcast0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

A lot of time and money invested in the development of sales professionals, but often the result and the returns fall short of expectations. The easy thing is to fault the sales people, the training program, or both. But what can organizations do differently to achieve better outcomes. That is the focus of this month’s segment with Michele Price and BREAKTHROUGH radio. Take a listen and let me know how you’heat you summer sales.

Check Out Marketing Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Breakthroughbusiness on BlogTalkRadio

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Challenge The Premise – Not The Individual2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

target

Sales is all about the execution, and execution, or at least good execution, is a result of proper planning, ignore or short cut any part of that, and you will have to work harder, or miss winnable opportunities. While there are many factors contributing to the outcome of any sale, there are two that are always present, and have to be dealt with.

First, the state of the buyer, are they actively looking, passively looking, (know they will need to make a purchase decision, but feel they have the “luxury” of deferring that decision for some time, usually past your current quota); and the largest group who are in the state of being completely removed from the market, and oblivious to the usual “sales pitch”.

The second, and more important factor, is the degree that you can get them to think and take on your point view.

There are many paths to bringing and unpacking these elements into every sale, and anyone of these will work at some point based on the convergence of different factors that align at that given moment, or sales cycle. The question is how to do it consistently and repeatedly in differing and varying circumstances, and different buyers we face during the fiscal year. The reason why many sellers have up and down performance, is that rather than their evolving their execution to meet changing times and objectives of buyers, their approach “occasionally” intersects rather than aligns with the buyer. When the two overlap, great, when not, slump. The goal then is to take proactive steps to ensure that both of the above factors are balanced and aligned.

The balance is knowing how we impact and alter the buyer’s preconceptions, in a way that does not put them on the defensive. While this may not be as big a challenge with buyers who are actively in the market, it is a real show stopper that large block of potential buyers who are removed in from the market, and have no intention of changing that when you first approach them.

The first thing that needs to happen, before you even think of or target a buyer, has to do with you and how you view your role in the buyer’s reality and success. First and foremost you need to be a Subject Matter Expert (SME). That does not mean being smarter than the buyer and constantly demonstrating that, it means having a deep understanding of how what you sell has impacted and delivered value to multiple buyers. Any given buyer may know more about their company and how they use offerings like yours in their specific environment. But successful sales professionals deal with hundreds, some thousands of buyers using their offering in a multitude of ways. Not only that, but they have witnessed and delivered a range of outcomes, some good, others we don’t need to talk about. But as a result, a good sales person, is, a conduit to not only best practices, but practices, which while popular, consistently lead to disastrous results. Part of our job is to point that out to buyers when they are thinking of embarking on the wrong path, in a way that serves the buyer. Meaning challenging their premise, not the individual buyers. The difference is in the execution.

Being an SME, is more than just knowledge, product or market. You need to become an expert on translating that to your buyer’s objectives. Again, challenging their premise in a way that allows them to leave the comfort of their “box”, their selected path. Some buyers will have a clear vision, but are open to have input on how to achieve those objectives and realize the benefits that outcome brings. This requires you employ an interview routine that goes to the root of the issue and build out from there, instead of starting with the solution, and building to it.

First is understanding their objectives, then understanding what stands what stands between them, and their ability to achieve them. That’s the start, next is getting them emotionally engaged. How hard can that be you ask, after all, these are their objectives? Remember, often they have tried several things in the past, and may be reluctant to try again, without that emotional involvement, you may not be able to get them to question their own premise and commit to an alternate path. This takes not only knowing and understanding common objectives, based on role, industry, geography and a range of other inputs. Things which become apparent when you review all opportunities and outcomes that go into your funnel, not just wins. Then understanding how to conduct an interview in a way that challenges the buyer to open up not to clam up.

Knowing many of my clients are looking to have more and better, or better and more, (we need to appease the quality over quantity aristocrats who don’t see room for both). But trying to sell them a prospecting program without context can often fail, or take a long time. So how do we get them to open up and ask for program?

Rep: I am curious Henry, how much of your current revenue comes from Existing clients vs. New clients?
Prospect: About 88% Existing, 12% New.
Rep: So Henry, if I looked at your 2015 plan, what did you have there as your goal?
Prospect: Oh, I had planned 80% existing, 20% new

With two, simple but planned questions, based on subject expertise, the prospect self-identified a gap between their stated objective, and where they are now, The Gap. But this, as stated above is the start, now we need to get them emotionally engaged.

Rep: What do you attribute that to?
Prospect: Too much time with their base
Call reluctance
Dependency on marketing
Don’t deal/manage objections well
Rep: If you were at plan, what would be different?
Prospect: Bigger market share
Reduced cost per sale
Increase in higher margin services related revenues
Over all margins improved
Rep: What’s the downside if you continue to miss?
What’s the cost of not acting?
At your objective, what would be the potential return?

And so forth. Done right, prospects often follow this line of interviewing by asking “is that something you can help with?” Which is when the sale really begins.

This can be applied to any line of business, because it is all about the buyer, their objectives, and results. Getting them there is the effort. An effort that is focused on challenging the buyer’s premise and current beliefs, not them directly.

Tibor Shanto     

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Musical Chairs Sales Style – Sales eXecution 2944

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

babies in chairs

A few posts back I wrote about experience, and how it can either be a ceiling or a springboard to further success, all determined by the individual’s outlook and the route each rep chooses. On a corporate or organizational level, experience and how it is viewed and leveraged can be significant factor. The corporate version of the experience factor, unfolds more like a game we played as kid, and one it seems many sales leaders are still playing – musical chairs.

There are a number of verticals where leaders are fixated more on “industry experience” than “sales experience”; maybe more accurately “product experience” vs. “sales success”. Let’s face it while in the aforementioned piece we assumed experience equalled success, in reality it does not. I have said this before, there is a difference between 15 years of growth, development and improvement, and the same year 15 times over.

While in theory seeking and choosing “experience” may sound right, it often does not turn out as planned. Real “rock stars” rarely have a reason to move, at times there extenuating circumstances, there may be some financial incentives, but those are outside the bell curve. Meaning those available are usually the B players, not the worst, but they come with luggage.

From my vantage point, here is how it looks. At the start of an engagement, I’ll ask the teams I am working with to give me a bit of background. Time and again, a number of the “more experienced” reps will tell me that they have been in the industry for 16 years, starting off with company A, then moving to B for a spell, and now they are with Company C. It is also not unusual to have some say that this is their second go around with Company C, and we are not talking scenarios where this may be a result of industry consolidation.

I get why the individual has moved around, what I don’t get is why the companies are hiring them. Some say that it was for the “book” of business, never works out clients are smarter than that, they know who delivers the service day to day.

I had one leader in the wireless space tell me that the product and pricing is so complex, that the learning curve is too big. Right! What do most of you think will be easier:

A.   Teach a product guy how to sell effectively in a competitive and evolving market
B.   Teach or support a great seller product specs and/or pricing plans

I’ll take B, all day long.

One of the underlying causes for this is the propensity among sales leaders to want be at full headcount, rather than the right headcount. The solution to almost everything is “we need to add more reps”. Couple that with the tendency to higher fast and fire slow, rather than the other way around, and you have the classic trap.

While not exactly the same as it was in kindergarten, this version of musical chairs, looks for anyone to fill the empty chair, rather than having the right person in the right chair for the right reasons.

Tibor Shanto

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Remember Your First Sale?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

49

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tibor Shanto

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Sales Triggers: Don’t Wait – Create

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3 Proactive Success Steps Every Sales Team Can Take – Sales eXecution 2870

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

white puzzle

I see a lot of sales organizations and individuals succeed despite what the experts tell them. Mostly because they know better than to follow the crowd, and are willing to try the unconventional. When told “you can’t do that!” They respond by asking “Why?” rather than “OK”, and moving on (usually to the sideline). Highlighting the negative impact Herd Mentality has on sales success, and the economy in general.

One way many (lots of) average or also-rans rationalise their performance, or non-performance, is by pointing to all the company they have with the same challenge. If misery loves company, the 80% will rarely be alone, and will always make more of an effort to convince you that something can’t be done, than the effort it takes to get it done. (How is that bandwagon looking now?)

So what does it take?

While there may be no single success formula, there is enough common elements among the consistently successful approaches to allow us to point to specific things that if you willing to undertake, will help you step out of the 80% club.

You can start with the following three:

1. A Plan – most sales people will argue that they have a plan, and they are right. They have a plan, one, that they try to apply to every circumstance no matter the differences. A plan done long ago, based a particular set of conditions, which fit a specific instance. When things evolve, and they do, they try to replicate that over and over no matter how reality changed.
The great thing about a plan, is to do it right, you have to stop and think, an activity many in our society avoid. But by thinking about each sale, and understanding the differences, nuanced, or great, you will gain a strategic and tactical advantage.

I remember working for a director who focused more on why you wanted to do things, much more than on what you wanted to do. He wanted to know that you had thought things through from all angels, looked at threats, contingencies, and other factors and possible outcomes your actions may result in. He wasn’t looking for me to be conventional, or outrageous, just that I was able to demonstrate that I had thought and planned things out. If there was a major flaws, he would point them out, if not, he’d send me off to execute, and we would review the results.

2. Active Leadership – I would describe the above as an example of Active Leadership, he was engaged, willing to help, leading from the front, hands-on in a way, but not in a restraining way. It’s not the time for a discussion on micromanagement, but too many sellers, usually those wanting to avoid accountability, try to paint active management as being too overbearing. One can be engaged without being domineering or too removed to make a difference. Actively Leading team members to consistently execute your organization’s process is an effective way to develop the right habits, maintain individuality but avoid the subjective trap many mangers fall in to, and drive results.

3. Permission To Fail – I have yet to meet a sales person with 100% closing ratio. Leaving us with the opportunity to learn from everything we do, especially when we fail at something, be that a big failure, or little things that can make a difference.

Hands down one of the best things managers can allow sellers to do is fail. You can then review, assess and learn. A learning culture is key to keeping up with or ahead of the market, and frankly just keeping up is second place.

Perfection is neither realistic nor desirable, so give them a chance to fail, as long as everyone is committed to capturing, learning and applying the lessons learned. It’s part of the plan, part of active leadership, part of success.

Again, these are not the only factors of sales success that managers and sellers need to focus on, but if only did master these three, you’ll be on your way of leaving the 80%, and joining the more elite 20%.

Tibor Shanto

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A Real Sales Hack0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

  sparrow

While there may be debate as to whether he said it or not, P.T. Barnum, is often credited with the statement: “There’s a sucker born every minute” And who said it really does not change the fact that it is true, and true across all spectrums of the population, including people who call themselves salespeople. Just look at the hoards who get sucked in (willingly) by shiny labels promising an alternate to the heavy lifting required at time to be a success in sales.

It is not lost on some spin-masters that if they offer up silver bullets, potions or “techniques of the day”, that they can cash in on people’s propensity to try the easy way out, rather than do the work it takes. Of course one way to resell the “same old”, is to rename it, repackage it, and slap some new promises on an old bum. A lesson no doubt learned from the infomercial industry, who seem to come up with a “new improved ab-machine” or “butt sculptors” every year, knowing full well that there will some disparate over weight person, who would rather pretend to take a short cut rather than do a proper work out and moderate their diet, because that would take work.

I say this because the other day I witnessed a discussion lead by another Tony Little of sales variety, trying to push the same old under a new label, and as in the past, they borrow the label from other practices, usually in an effort to make things look cool. Remember Sales 2.0, just when everyone was talking about Enterprise 2.0 and web 2.0? And when you asked what it was all about, all you got was some babble about sales people selling using the latest tools, like that was new, like successful sales people were never early adopters of technology, especially technology that made them more efficient and effective.

Well this discussion was based on the latest borrowed trend, Sales Hacks. While it was an interesting discussion, it sorely lacked substance, mostly because the topic it was based on lacks substance. When pushed for definitions and clarity, all this person, I am sure an otherwise fine fellow, could offer up is that hacks are the use of tools by sales people to make their work easier. OK, but how are these ‘hacks’? How are these different than the latest ab machine, and the similar promise that you will look like Charles Atlas in just 5 minutes a day? In the end, it really seemed to be just a fresh coat of paint on social selling. One recent sales hack I saw touted the virtues of direct mail, hmm. The whole thing smells more like marketing than sales.

Urban dictionary defines a hacker as: “A person skilled with the use of computers that uses his talents to gain knowledge.” And it defines a hack as: “A person who is a professional at doing some sort of service, but does crappy work.” I am fairly sure that the discussion was about the latter. There is no silver bullet in sales, there are just good practices, and bad practices; there are those who do it, and those that avoid doing it by chasing empty promises that lead to no result.

While I did not know P.T. Barnum, I did know a very wise and gentle soul who had a more appropriate saying that relates to the topic: “Where there is horse shit, you’ll find sparrows!”

Tibor Shanto

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Rethinking Sales Incentives0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Rethinking Sales Incentives

As part of a series of posts dealing with areas you should consider, better yet reconsider, going in to the New Year, today we look at incentive. No doubt everyone should be thinking about commissions, after all is in effect the cost of revenue. While there are other expenses, commissions/incentives, are the most direct “payment” you pay for bringing in revenue.

While there have been variations, updates and paint over through the years, little has changed in how and what you pay for.

In this article I penned for November issue of Sales and Service Excellence Essentials, I challenge and suggest an alternate way to spend incentive cash, and actually driving right behaviours that lead to results (revenues), and actually sustain both.

Take a read, let me know what you think, pro or con, some will call me names, others will want to pick up the phone and call me to discuss. In the end it’s your money, you should always be open to investing it more productively.

Read the piece here: Rethinking Sales Incentives Then comment below.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Key Sales Management Actions To Prepare for 2015 (#video)0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

2015 rocket

About a month ago I had the privilege to be part of a great panel exploring key issues sales leaders need to not just think about, but act on in preparing for a successfully 2015.

The panel included:

Lori Richardson – Score More Sales
Lee Salz – Sales Architects
Steven Rosen – STAR Results
Dan Enthoven – Enkata
Miles Austin – Fill the Funnel
And myself.

As the next instalment in this week’s posts dealing with kicking the New Year off right, meaning in a way that will help sales organisations and teams exceed quota in 2015. Below is an expert from that discussion, but I encourage you to take in the full discussion by clicking here. It is a lively and insightful discussion that will provide a number of ideas for helping your team crush their number.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Personal Deficiency Bonus0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

2nd prize

With special thanks to S.G. and my friend B.P.

Everyone, including me, writes a piece this time of year about closing the year strong. For the most part these are aimed at front line sales people, and the better ones offer choices that make sense year-round even if initially implemented in Q4. Few are aimed at helping managers in helping their sales team adopt new habits, or create breakthroughs for their reps that can again be extended as a regular practice, and that is the thought here, helping managers, or actually sales coaches, which good sales managers are.

Often when speaking to managers they point to “that one thing”, that if the rep in question would change or address, it would have a dramatically beneficial impact on their execution and results. A personal deficiency. Could be anything, tardiness in updating the CRM, slow to move on renewals or price increases, insufficient preparation for prospecting, you name it. These elements are important to achieving results, and are often included as elements of a balanced scorecard. But the fact remains that most bonuses are paid out based on achieved results or specific objectives in the case of MBO.

Traditionally bonuses are meant to reward positives, and negatives either limit or eliminate rewards. But what if you turned things around. What if you put a positive focus on personal deficiencies, hence the Personal Deficiency Bonus.

Here is how it goes. Say you want a rep to develop a habit, any of the above, we’ll pick prospecting prep. Say a rep is consistently hovering just below quota, Based on their personal metrics, it is clear that two or three more first meeting with prospects would give him/her enough prospects to get them to quota, they just need to develop the habit of being prepared in order to land those meetings. You know, they know, you talk about it in the usual terms, but nothing changes. I would argue because the reward is paid out on something other than what needs to change. So let’s put a focus on what needs to change. And it’s not more sales, not more prospects, but more, better and consistent prep, bonus that.

In Q4, pay some portion of their bonus on changing that one habit, more prep for prospecting giving them more prospect meetings, leading to more pipeline opportunities, helping them exceed quota. It offers a coaching opportunity, with a more willing participant as they get paid not for an abstract related outcome, but for the specific deficiency, prep.

What you’ll find is that once they develop the habit, they will stick with it, next January and beyond. More importantly a rep who can now be coached and taken further, sometimes by focusing and rewarding the positive, but also by focusing on their Personal Deficiency Bonus.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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