Welcome to The Pipeline.

You’re Only Fooling Yourself – Sales eXecution 2930

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Taking a look at oneself

Everyday people commit to doing things, only not to do them. There are many reasons for this, and I am sure a host of contributing factors, but none of that changes the results, or more accurately the lack of results. From my perch, being an observer and practitioner of sales and selling, the most common cause is laziness. People commit to doing things differently, to taking on new practices, decide to approach things differently, only to stay exactly where they started, and by virtue of that, and given the nature if sales these days, that is really a step back.

What many do not want to recognize or face is that selling is hard work, good selling, is really hard work, selling well in an evolving market is as hard as anything out there, requiring constant practice and upgrading of skills, then practicing them over and over endlessly. Take any endeavour where success is part core skill, part flare, few are born with their skills fully formed, be they athletes, musicians, actors, or authors. It is certainly no different for sales people. The difference is conviction and the effort that goes with it.

Go to any local music conservatory or ballet company, and watch the kids trying to get in to the program. Visit any of your local little leagues team, and observe. What you will see is endless practice, every day a regime of hours of practice, in some cases three to five hours of core training and practice. Sometimes the same, other times adding evolving elements. This is over and above the “on stage” or “on field” time, we are talking practice time.

I know some will point to “natural born” talent, geniuses in their field. But if you look at the most famous examples of these people, what you will find is less divine presence and more hard work. Look at someone like Charlie Parker, known as a jazz virtuoso, unparalleled improvisation. No doubt, but what many didn’t see was the hours of practice that allowed him to do what he did in the clubs at night. At times up to 15 hours a day; how much did you practice for your last sales meeting?

This is a level of commitment many in sales are not willing to make. I work with many sales people who come to me knowing and asking to make the changes they need to drive their success, and never follow up, as though having an invoice and certificate will make a difference.

Oh, but you’ve been in the business for 22 years you say. So what, does that give one the right to not improve? The market is changing, are you? Updating your LinkedIn profile is not the same as practicing and updating your skills, staying ahead of the competition, and ahead of the market.

But it is not just the sales people, many managers and organizations fail to create an environment that supports the level of commitment. Studies have shown that daily coaching with individual reps, as little as 10 minutes a day, can lead to a 17% increase in revenue. Not only do most companies not see this as viable, many pundits shy away from recommending this “daily practice”, for fear of losing gigs.

The question is straight forward, do you expect less of yourself than you would your favourite point guard?

Tibor Shanto

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Talking Sales Strategy – Sales eXecution 2921

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

TV Head

Earlier in the month, I was invited to sit in with Executive coach and Sales Coaching Expert Steven Rosen, and Emma Foster of expertise.tv. The questions came from the audience, and as such will hopefully be similar to those areas of sales you are interested in. You can view and excerpt below, and watch the entire program on my You Tube channel.

Have a look, and tell us what you think.

Tibor Shanto

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There Is More To Leadership Than Leading – #SPS15 Special0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

woman with sketched strong and muscled arms

There is a lot written about leadership in general, and more specifically sales leadership, I have contributed my share to the din. This is a clear indication that no one has really figured it out, if they had the book will have been written, millions of copies sold, and people move past the debate, and focus on the next thing.

One common theme in pieces about leadership is how the leader needs to be involved and leading the process. And while that is true, the nature of that involvement differs based on who you read. I have always been an advocate of “leading from the front, not behind a desk”, and the assumption many take is that this literally means out in front of the troops Napoleon style. But I truly think that the best form of leadership, and means of driving change, the right change, not just change for change sake, anyone can rearrange the furniture and replace the curtains, is to not be part of the action. The best leadership, and I see things through the sales filter, is change that comes about in what appears to be in an organic way, initiated and completed by the sales rep/team, with only partial prints from the leader.

Managing/Coaching sales people, is really an exercise in selling. In a conventional sale we are trying to get the buyer to purchase our “stuff”, as a means of helping them achieve their objectives. Well as a coach, you are trying to get the sales person to integrate and take on your view alongside or instead of their current view or means of executing. That being the case, it really is best approached as a sale itself. As such, you not only have the opportunity to get the rep to buy into the change, but the means by which you do that could itself be a model or at a minimum, reinforce the process.

Everyone buys into the notion that “people don’t want to be sold”, and so you need to create a buying environment. The flaw with that in coaching is twofold. First While people may not want “to be sold”, they often need to be, that’s why we hire sales people. And the fact that the rep took on the job of selling, they have de facto declared that they want to buy, or buying to your process, otherwise, why are they working for you.

So how do we pull this together, simple, much like buyers like to hear things come out their mouth more than the sales reps, even when it was the sales person who choreographed the moment, sales people, especially established, good sales people who need to be taken to the next level, respond to ideas and actions that are their idea, not the managers. Meaning the best thing a manager can do lay down the bread crumbs, and let the rep discover things on their own, and when they do, you can become a resource in their journey to success.

How do you do that, I am old school, put the focus on your sales process. You have one right? Clear stages, specific activities in each stage, objectives, desired outcomes, tools, contingencies, and most importantly, clear reasons to disqualify. Each stage supported by an evolving playbook, and a clear next step go-no go, criteria. If you have this, you’re set to help the rep discover what you want them to, without directly leading them. If you don’t, you can call me and we can get you started.

As a first step, you can join me and my colleagues today for the 2015 Sales Performance Summit, webcast live from Toronto.

Tibor Shanto

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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 

Key Sales Management Actions To Prepare for 2015 – Live Panel Discussion0

November 12, 2:00 pm Eastern

2015 arrow

2015 is fast approaching, hey if your sales cycle is longer than 8 weeks, you’re already selling in 2015. All this adds up to the fact that you need to prepare now, well actually November 12, at 2:00 pm Eastern.

I am pleased to be part of a leading experts on sales, planning and sales leadership.

The time to start thinking about 2015 is here, planning should be well underway. Making time to plan for 2015 while closing 2014 can be a challenge. Take a break from Q4 to get some ideas on ways you can lay the groundwork for a great 2015. Join sales experts Steven Rosen, Lori Richardson, Lee Salz, Dan Enthoven and Miles Austin and I, as we present key actions that are important to focus on for a stellar 2015. With years of experience in sales and sales coaching behind them, our panelists will share what they have learned–saving you time and effort in your 2015 planning activities.

The Panel:

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

This will be a lively unscripted event that is sure to bring up some new things for you to think about. Please join us to give your 2015 planning a boost.

Register

Development vs. Budget Cycles0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

DvB

I, like many in my profession have a unique perch when it comes to looking at sales. We are actively selling, and as a result face many of the challenges and opportunities our customers do. But we have two added bonuses that many don’t. First is that we get to see how a host of sales organizations deal with specific aspects of sales, while any one of my customers may know more about how they sell, and why they are good, and what they want to develop, I have the benefit of seeing a range of best practices. I can see what works, what doesn’t, and what almost does and would with a bit of focus and development. Second, I can take the above and continuously synthesise into better methods, better execution and better development.

With that I, and I am sure many of my peers, have come to learn that is that budget cycles and development cycles are rarely in synch. How organizations deal with this is often the difference between great sales companies, and a bunch of also-rans.

Certain habits and changes take more than 12 moths to evolve, sales culture, processes and habits are one, but most companies spend silly time tying one to the other. This time of year, budget and planning time, really highlights that. One company I have been engaged with for some time is an example of how not to do it. They have decided that based on current numbers, they will need to cut budget for 2015, and her words, not mine, “training is on top of the cutting list”. I’m game, I asked, and “what forced you to cut?” You know what they said, lack of sales, “and the pipeline is weak going into Q4.” But she did ask me to call at the end of Q1, “maybe the numbers will improve”. Now I know what you are thinking, but I have been through this before, with them, they tie development to budget, not making the link to the possibilities of going the opposite way, budgeting the development.

By contrast, I have clients who do not want to hear about anything less than a 24 to 36 month plan. Their growth plan is to go form the current revenue $350 million to $1.8 billion, three years. Not unusual to have a three year plan, but they also tie the development plan to three years, along with targets, incentive and what I and my peers bring to the table. Their cost is not greater, it is just amortized, differently. Their development is not governed by budgets, but their budgets are driven by development.

It is funny how the same people look at other assets and are able to spread the cost and return expectations over the life of the asset, but when it comes to training they get hung up. Not training due to budget issues, is like not fueling up the truck due to the same budgetary reasons.

I know some are thinking “it’s different” (isn’t always when it comes to rationalizing) “other assets can’t get up and leave, what happens if I train them and the leave”, and many of you have heard y answer to that before: WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T TRAIN THEM AND THEY STAY?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Join me for The Objective Seller Webinar at 2:00 pm Eastern

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

The “M” Word – Sales eXchange 2140

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

M

I’ve spoken before about how sales people seem to have a better grasp on the stats of their favourite athlete than their own numbers, just sit back watch them pick their football pool. When you speak to them in the context of coaching or training, they all recite the familiar quotes: “What gets measured gets done”, or “if it’s not measured it’s not managed”. Yet as soon as you introduce any form of metrics, and a means to manage the data/outcome, many sales people resort to the M word. Micromanagement!

One tool that our clients like is our Activity Calculator, not tracker, calculator (e-mail me if you would like the tool). It allows reps and managers to plan their activities based on their individual key conversion rates. It helps them use their time more effectively, and create an improvement plan based on the individual reps capabilities and specific metrics tied to sales cycle, their goals and process. It has helped managers coach better, and sales people improve specific attribute of their selling. But as with any calculator, you need data, or more specifically accurate data, without that it is just an empty tool, and no change or improvement.

While I am not for adding to reps’ work load, it is them that have to provide the data for the calculator. Just for clarity, we are talking a few data points a day, the tool calculates everything else, and the only other time commitment is to review (and benefit), in the first month this may be 10 minutes a week, after that once a month. Not a lot of time, certainly no more than that required for the pool, not a big investment to change the way you sell and the outcome, hey if nothing else, more commissions.

Some reps see the tool and embrace the opportunity, the ability to diagnose their performance, decide on what to change and how, they not only run with it, but take complete ownership of the process and outcome.

Others default to the M word, right away whinging not only about “all the extra work” they’re going to have to, it’s “gonna slow me down”, and “you know, I don’t need to be micromanaged.”  Please, being provided with a tool, any tool, or process that helps you sell better and make more money is not micromanaging. Especially given the fact that many of the very people complaining are the ones that should focus on changing most.
Micromanagement is having everything you do be managed and controlled by your manager with every thing you do, not being provided with a tool, and be expected to use it. Nothing less than the expectations one would have of the football players they are betting on in the pool.

At the same time, many of the reps who complain about micromanagement, are the same reps who complain that their companies don’t invest enough in their development, their managers are not invested in their success, and refuse to be accountable for their actions and outcomes.

Next time these reps feel like leaning on the “M” word, they should replace Micromanagement with Mindset.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

You Don’t Need To Be Manager To Be A Leader2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

E006746

I hope we can all agree that in sales, manager are better leading from the front than behind the desk. Yet despite the rousing and collective yes we just heard, and the fact that less managers manage from behind the desk, the reality remains that all too many managers still do not lead, or lead effectively. The major cause continues to be that managers come from the ranks of the best sales people on the team. In an attempt to keep them, companies will promote them to being managers, and without a managed and planed transition, they instantly create two problems. First a person not ready to manage who cannot get buy in from the team, becomes disillusioned and either leaves or becomes the ass hole manager from hell. Second, is a territory that flourished under the rep in question, now sits vacant while the “new manager is replaced”, risking customer satisfaction and retention.

Fortunately leadership can come from different corners of the team, and often in a way that does not threaten the managers, allowing the manager and the organization to make adjustments and develop the manager to assume their leadership role. In fact, even as the manager does grow in to their role as “leader” these other leaders do not need to go away or be silenced, they could enhance the leadership of the manager and the performance of the team.

These are leaders are sales people who exemplify the best practices captured in you company’s sales process, and their willingness to share their experience with other willing and open minded members of the team. These are the sales people who have made the decision not to pursue management, and continue to get a thrill from continuously improve their sales skills, and the improved benefit of money is just a spin-off of their pursuit.

These individuals are easily recognized but do not necessarily conform to the profile of many company’s HYPO programs. The non-conformity is usually on the social or corporate politics side; their selling usually exemplifies the prototypical person to execute and win, they just have an aversion to puckering up, probably because they know they can make more money and have greater career satisfaction staying on their own course.

They don’t rock the boat, they just sell, and as a result are an asset to revenue and team development and leadership. One example would be reinforcement, not in the ra ra sort of way, but by actually doing it, someone you can point to exemplify what it takes to succeed beyond, a real live example for willing reps.

In essence these reps are good leaders precisely because they are great sales people. They are able to lead prospect through a range of choices, challenges, noise and alternatives, cheaper and easier solutions, and get them to arrive at choosing them. The same qualities that managers need to lead sales people and sales teams, selling them on an outcome that meets their needs and that of their company.

As in sports, it is a good thing to have great coaching leaders and great teammate leaders, they can coexist and serve the greater good. Companies should encourage this, first step would be to talk to these reps and understand their aspirations, and not assume that they want to be promoted, just because you did when the time came. You hear about leaders in the dressing room, there is room for leaders in the sales room.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales Apprenticeship – Sales eXchange 2122

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

apprentice

Sales like any other craft takes practice, evaluation, more practice, repeated coaching, and just when we think we have it down, we need to practice some more; and then things change, which means we get to practice some more.

I recently saw Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, and Mastery, discussing what it takes to become a master at something. One thing he pointed to was the effectiveness of the “apprenticeship” programs developed as far back as the middle ages. Specifically, that the years of apprenticing, the constant practice of the craft, led to the critical number of 10,000 hours of active practice and execution that led to mastering the craft. A concept later popularized by Malcolm Gladwell.  Of course those who truly mastered their craft kept practicing and improving throughout their career, building on the 10,000 hour base, not resting on it.

Consider that in North America, there is an average 1,760 hours of active sales time. Add to that many studies peg the amount of active selling time for B2B reps from a low of 15% to somewhere just under 50%. Going with the 50% range, it means that a committed sales person will take almost 12 years full time selling to hit that 10,000 hour mark.

Given that most sales people are only evaluated by the results, rather than the quality of the effort, it often clouds how effective their apprenticeship is. Often they make quota for reasons other than sales ability, market conditions, weak or easy quotas, and more. Many sales people are unleashed on the buying public well before they are ready to succeed for their clients, companies, and most importantly for themselves.

Add to that many are offered little training or leadership in their formidable years (which again could be their first 12 years on the job). Based on stats, only about half of B2B companies offer formal sales raining, and some that think they are delivering sales training, are in fact focused on product training, or order processing training. You can find other interesting stats by reading Why a Lack of Sales Training is Hurting Your Company–and What to Do About It.

Many sales leaders who don’t hesitate to cuss out the manager of their favourite sports team for being slack on training or practice, will regularly tell me that their people do not require training, “my people have five, ten, 12 years of experience”. When I ask if that is ten years of continuous growth and improvement, or the same year ten times over, I either get a silent look or the door. None of which changes the fact that only about 60% of reps made their quota based on the latest studies. Many of those are repeat achievers, and still employed by the same company. On an individual level, very few sales people will pick up and read a sales book a year, and then put into practice the things they read, next time you are interviewing the next superstar, ask them what the last book they read was.

The great thing about apprenticeship is it was a proactive approach to ensuring one was qualified based on practice and experience and supervised coaching, all leading to the perpetuation of the craft and a flow of qualified craftsman. Something available and mandatory for other mission critical roles in most enterprises in the form of Continuing Education, often tied to licences and keeping their job. A standard that would not be bad for sales either.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

 

 

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