Welcome to The Pipeline.

An Inclusive Approach to Prospecting – Sales eXecution 2600

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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You know sales is a lot like politics, some are isolationists, others realize we live in a big world with plenty of room for all to thrive, and not always at the expense of others, I guess these would be the inclusionary camp.

The way it plays out in sales is you have those zealots who will proclaim things dead, “never cold call again”, telling their unsuspecting followers that there is only one way to Nirvana, their’s, and no other, “all other roads will lead you to hell and financial ruin”. Sort of like the “Referral Über Alles” approach. For me, combining many approaches in a way that leads to maximum results is way better than betting the farm on one, and then hoping. I say take the inclusionary approach, that is, include as many viable methods, rather than the risk singular approach; if for no other reason than the fact that buyers come in many shapes and sizes and from many corners, some of which may not be known to us at the outset, and missed if you go down one street only.

I like to leverage cold calls to get referrals. Despite the scary things some will tell you about the responses to cold calls, most people you call are human and will behave that way even when they turn down your offer. They may not be interested in what you have to say or sell, (now), but most respect the fact that you are doing your job. Experience has shown that few hang up, and few swear at you, most tell you in a civil way why they are not interested at that moment in time. Managing those initial objections is part of the job.

Grab your Proactive Prospecting Call-Flow Chart

But once you see that you cannot take away their objections, you still have the opportunity to say:

“Based on what we spoke about, is there anyone you know I should call who may see merit in the conversation?” A vast majority will say no, and the call ends. But a number will say, “You know you may want to call….” At that point I thank them, and follow up with, “May I say you suggested the call, or am I cold calling them?” Some say “Sure, tell’em I sent you.” Others will say cold call. Either way is good by me, and I have direction.

Not only that, but in all instances, you have demonstrated yourself to be a professional who completed the “Prospecting Exercise”, and will be remembered for being that pro. (Believe me you’ll call them again).

Using both cold calling and the referral approach is all upside, an inclusive approach both in terms of methodologies, and people. Using this technique I get to speak to more qualified prospects while setting up future wins, than those relying strictly on one methodology.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Happy Endings in Cold Calling – Sales eXecution 2590

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

The end

It’s not that people don’t like cold calling, mostly they don’t like the outcome, which often is very little, leading to disappointed, and anemic pipelines. Frustrated, they seek expert advice on how to get more buyer engagement while avoiding the dreaded cold call. Much of the advice is more feel good than do good, especially when measured in real engagement, real pipeline opportunities, and resulting revenues. Much like the ab machines which promise a swimsuit figures in just five minutes a day.

A large part of the problem is that a lot of the advice is focused on how to avoid the unpleasant aspects of the exercise, most specifically the objection/rejection. While there may be ways to get around initial rejection here and there, for the most part these are temporary fixes, or can only be applied to small segments of buyers, leaving you in search of the next miracle cure or silver bullet. (I am the Zomby Woof)

For those who can’t survive through referrals only, or whose target market is not as active on social media, especially for business, (a large number of SMB’s) the phone remains a vital component of their prospecting effort/success. Part of that effort is the reality of interrupting prospects, making it more crucial that we engage that buyer as quickly as possible.

Most people start the call talking about their company, expertise, including some ambiguity about how they do things, followed by a barrage of buzzwords like: productivity, efficiency, work-flow, peace of mind, reliability, and the crowd favourite, “customer responsive”. Things the prospect has heard 30 times this week already, and it’s only Wednesday, and none of which was he or she thinking about when they answered the phone: bam – rejected.

Why not start with positive and measurable outcomes they will realize as a result using your product/service. Not many people care about how you do it (so long as it’s legal), fewer care about you or your company, they will as they get closer to committing, but that’s down the road, the object at hand now is getting them to engage. So instead of inflicting them to something like:

“We deliver sustainable improvements in financial performance to forward-thinking manufacturers by implementing custom productivity solutions. We offer a broad spectrum of work-flow efficiencies that can be configured to support our clients’ overall business strategies and best leverage their resources.

I am hoping to set up a time to discuss what we do and how it may help you like it has some of our clients. Is there a convenient time we may do that?”

Ya, like never.

I mean really, “hoping, discuss, may help, some of our clients?

Tell them exactly what will happen after they implement: “Increased profits each and every quarter since implemented 18 months ago”; “Improved forecast accuracy by 11%”; “Reduced wait time by 10%”, “Decreased abandoned carts by 22% over the last year”. This is more likely what was on the mind of the buyer when they answered the phone or responded to your voice mail, and what is likely to capture and get them to listen.

Unlike a book, take them right to the last page right away, and then work back from there when you meet. To improve your prospecting results, give them the happy ending right up front.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto
 

The Best Time To Cold Call? – Sales eXecution 2581

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

TV Head

Buyer beware!

It seems over the last few months there is more and more advice coming from many sources on the merits of cold calling, (ya I know), and some so called “Rules and Best Practices”. But consider the source of expertise before you jump in. As with many things in sales, especially cold calling, for lasting success, you’re better off looking to your buyers than people jumping on bandwagons.

Here is an example why:

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Thank You For #CASL Mr. Harper0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Cold calling Harper 3

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

Learn about the CASL Relief Special

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank You Mr. Harper!

casl button

Do You Confirm Set Appointments? – The Feedback3

 By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

eGrabber time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

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

Have a look, and tell me what you think:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

 

The Death of Cold Calling Has Been Greatly Exaggerated #webinar0

Join me on May 8th, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM PDT, as along with the folks from Exponential Sales, we explore sales from the singular view of execution.

The best sales organizations are those who excel at executing their sales process; from demand generation, to prospecting to closing and growing accounts. The best sales processes are those that evolve and reflect the changing nature of their clients and markets. While there will always be “new ways” to sell, the best sellers look for what works, not what is new or fashionable, including yes cold calling.

The challenge is adoption of process that continues to change as often and as fast as your clients’ markets; it is like building an airplane while it is flying.

Learn how winning sales teams are uncomplicating their sales with a focus on an activity based process. The clearly defined and executable sequence of high value activities that address clients’ requirements and move the sale forward with each activity.

Learn why and how consistently successful sales organizations understand that the focus is revenue, not sales or marketing, but an integrated approach to driving client success. The combination of process, high value activities and mutual accountability between sellers and buyers and the organization to their sellers, leads to revenue success, regardless of “style or fashion”.

Learn how:

  • Execution based selling beats and other selling
  • Its more efficient to develop a hybrid of sales skills
  • Why Cold Calling and social selling are not mutually exclusive
  • The mechanics of a functional and dynamic sales process
  • Why numbers matter
  • Why Execution is the last word in sales

If you lead a sales organization, manage a team or are a front line seller, you need to attend this webinar, the first in a series looking at why much of the buzz in sales is distracting you from success.

The second webinar in the series will examine the opportunity to leverage technology to execute your process and drive revenue for your company, not just those selling you the technology.

Register

Why Set Out For 2nd Prize?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

2nd prize

Every day I work with sales people who start their day by setting their sights on winning second prize, and then celebrate when they achieve it. No really, watch any group of sales people on the phone trying to set appointments, and it is only a question of minutes before you see a few telling you how they convinced the potential prospect to let them have second place, or take their place among the also-rans.

Now I am not sure it is always accurate, but there is something to be said for the saying that in sales “second place, is as good as seventh place.” Meaning only the rep who wins the deal has any bragging rights, and the money, the rest are quickly forgotten.

But seriously, how else can you explain sales people doing the following.

They get on the phone, get their indented target on the phone, who tells them “we’re all set, we already have a provider (insert your stuff here), thanks for calling though”. To which the sales rep responds “Well, maybe I can send you some info, and if you ever need a backup…” Sometimes it is a variation on that theme, their whole approach is to get permission to send information to the potential prospect, and then ask for permission to call back to follow up. I mean I could find it interesting if they asked for an appointment to review the material they send, but to ask for permission to call back, don’t we all know what will happen when they call back:

A.   They end up in voice mail, they don’t leave a message, or leave the wrong message; no call back, couple more tries and then they give up
B.   Mysteriously, despite improvements in technology, the prospect did not receive what they sent
C.   The prospect hasn’t had a chance to read, but will, and asks you to call in a week
D.   All of the above

Notice what one of the options wasn’t, that’s right, an appointment, which what the objective is, first prize!

Knowing how to handle objections is one thing, and if you download our Objection Handling Handbook, you’ll know how to handle the two above, (all set, and send me stuff), as well as the most common you are likely to face on the phone. But where most fail is in their attitude, which is really just a symptom of their preparedness and commitment.

While the reality is that most people you speak to will not meet with you first try; it is also true that often that first call is a chance to introduce yourself and initiate a process that may involve a number of calls before you have built enough rapport to have them take a meeting. But it is also true that that should be what you settle for, not your intent going into the call.

Assuming, (not always safe I know), as a seller who values their time and is intent on exceeding quota, you have at least minimally qualified the person and the opportunity before you picked up the phone. The company meets your criteria, you done some background work on the company and the individual you are calling, checked out their social activity, and have prepared for the call. If so, then you objective for the call is to get the meeting to initiate the sale, anything short of that is not a win. And that needs to be the attitude when you are on the phone – you and I need to meet, we’ll both get value!

Not only will that attitude come across on the phone, but it will inform what and how you present things to the buyer. Everything you say driving the need to meet and talk further, that you can add immediate value to their ability to meet their objective. Not in an overt way, but very specifically challenging the prospect to meet, and remember challenge like provoke can be done in a very positive way, it need not be a negative. But most sellers are so scared of the phone, so scared of rejection, so unprepared, they see any permission to end the call as a good one. The difference between the winners and the rest, is that the winners see the meeting as the only good outcome, while the rest want to get off so fast that they see the right to send, second prize, as the best way to achieve their objective, which “How fast can I get off this call without hearing no? Send you some stuff, sure that works, thank you.”

“Hey Boss, I looks like they’re interested, I am putting it at 25%!”

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Join me - Return On Objectives #Webinar

 

3 Ways to Minimize or Marginalize Objections – Sales eXecution 2402

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

bad phone day

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I have pointed out that salespeople and sales organizations spend too much time and energy trying to avoid objections, when they should be spending time on learning to deal with them, redirect and leverage them to move the sale forward. Here are three things you can do at the outset of the call that will make objections more manageable.

1.  Framing The Conversation – How you frame a question will have a direct impact on the type of response you get. At times it is simple semantics, other time it is where you can get the recipient of a call to focus. When you ask me about a specific, I will answer that specific. This is where many get in trouble, often led astray by pundits who’ve told them to focus on pain, needs or solutions. If you ask me about a need I do not have or perceive at the time, you are inviting me say no, even when I could use your product had you asked me differently.

Ask me about specific objectives someone in my role and type of company have, and it would lead to conversation. Your product could in fact move me towards achieving the objective, even when my perception of needs are different. There are things all business people want to achieve in areas where they are not feeling pain.

While I may still object, it will be in context of something I am interested in discussing, not in context of a pain or need I do not have, or at best not acknowledge.

2.  Take It Away In The Introduction – I was working with a group of salespeople with a well know international band, they were targeting small local companies. A big sticking point was when the prospects said “oh we’re too small”. Conversations always went sideways, having to defend misconception around cost, complexity, and more. So I had them include the following in their introduction “I am the small company specialist”. This did not eliminate the usual objections, but it marginalized a big hurdle, and allowed the conversation to move past it easily, and allow it to unfold in more familiar ground.

3.  Lead With Positive Measurable – In point number one above, I asked you to align your talk track with their objectives, not perceived pains. If for whatever reason you are not sure what those may be, there is a plan B. Highlight, clearly and strongly, a specific and measurable outcome, making that the focus of your talk track, not a product or “solution”. “I have helped (provide example) increase margins by 6%, – or – increase turnover by 8%”, etc. No guarantee that you will get engagement, but it will focus the conversation on positives, and limit the objections you will face.

Again, objections while prospecting are inevitable, no matter what some pundits will peddle, but you have the power to set things up in a way that allow you to manage and move past them to a real sales conversation.

What to be better at handling objection, download our Objection Handling Handbook.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Best time to Prospect – Sales eXecution 2391

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

time management

One question I am asked regularly is what is the best time to prospect, be that of day, time of week, etc. While trying to avoid the word depends, there are some variables that will impact the answer.  But what many are really looking for for is that secret answer, “call them at 4:33 on a the third Tuesday of the month, except I. A leap year, then it’s 4:36″.

While with some potential prospects there may be times that will yield more results, I believe it is not a good idea to look for one time over another, especially when that time is selected anecdotally, based on superstition, or as a means of avoiding the activity altogether.  I say this not to be cynical, but because I have seen people target a specific time, and then refuse to make calls at any other time.

Some sellers tell me emphatically that “you can’t prospect on Monday mornings, no way no how”.  Their rationale is that people are just getting back to work after the weekend and “have their minds on other important things”.  But when is that not the case given all the things the average business person has to juggle?  As with many things, there two side to every coin, I find my target audience uses the weekend to decompress, and on Monday are open to the right suggestion(s) as to how to move sales and salespeople forward, for me Monday mornings have proven to be productive.  I have also had just as many people swear that Friday afternoons are the best, as those who tell me its the worst.  

Some struggle to strike a balance between their own habits and those of their targets.  Many sales pundits will insist that you should prospect first thing in the day, giving a bounce to your day, allowing you to spend the rest of  it selling. The theory is sound, in practice it is not alway so.  I worked with an industrial supply company, they had a great work ethic, their manager instilled a prospecting discipline, on the phone from 7:45 am to 9:00 am, every day.  Their conversion rate from conversation to appointment was great, but they were finding it difficult to connect to have the conversations. When I got involved we stepped back and focused on the work habits of their target group, senior people in plant management and operations. What surfaced was that many of these people were either out on the “shop floor”, or in operations meetings first thing in the morning, around the same time my client’s team was diligently calling. Further, we learned that many of the targets were back in their office around 10:00 am, filling out reports, etc.

As a result of this I had them switch their “calling time” to 10:00 am; their conversion of conversation to appointment continued to be great, but their call to conversation rate tripled.  This increased the number of appointments to record levels, but had the added benefit of reducing the amount of time they actually had to spend on the activity. Think of it as a “double double” of prospecting.  As with all things sales, it is so much better to view the world through the buyer’s eyes.

Given that there are more ways to communicate with buyers than ever, there less reason than ever to think of “best times” to prospect. Given that you can send an e-mail or LiknkedIn inmail any time, or that you can schedule e-mail to go out at a pre-scheduled time, you are no longer tied to time,  A well placed voicemail in off hours can yield great returns, without it impacting your “selling time”.  Rather than spending energy to pinpoint the ultimate time to call, use that energy to create quality talking points for when you connect.

Unless you are doing something specific and measurable to realize revenue, (a retweet does not count), the best time to prospect is now.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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