Welcome to The Pipeline.

3 Must Have Attributes of a Real “NEXT STEP”1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Definitions are an important factor in sales success, talk to the best sales people, best here being measured in results, not likability, and you will find that they thrive on clear definitions, it is their competitive edge.  To identify weak sales people, look for those with plenty of opinion, but little or no clarity in approach or definitions for core elements of their success.  One common example is “Value”, it is part of almost every sales conversation, yet there are numerous, at times conflicting definitions.  I ask a group of five also rans to define value, and you’ll end up with seven different definitions, because the first two will change their mind based on what the next three say.

Another common element of successful selling that is all too often undefined (and usually unenforced), is the discipline of next steps.  Sure, everyone pays lip service to “next steps” (or advances, or other synonyms), but what they say is not what they mean, and not at all defined, agreed on, or universally supported.

I was brought up in the sales school that held that without a “next step” you are likely working with someone who is fully not engaged, if at all, and therefore not a prospect, but a lead.  This makes a “next step” a crucial delineator between real opportunities, or those pretend opportunities, taking up space in your pipeline or CRM, but lack any empirical evidence to suggest that you are working with a real prospect or an opportunity that will convert in a predictable time frame.

There is not an opportunity review that goes by where a reps is asked:

“Do you have a ‘next step’ with this prospect?”

Rep: “Sure do!”

“What is it?”

“I’m calling him Monday to set a meeting”, or “I told him I would call Monday to see what he thought of the proposal”

“What time is the call scheduled for?”

“I don’t have it formally scheduled, I told him I’d call Monday, and he said fine, I’ll do it after I am back from the Northern demo.”

Sorry, but that’s not a next step.  It’s a plan, may even be a good plan, but at this point it is little more than hope in the form of a thought, and you know what they say about hope, and people addicted to hopium.

For a “next step” to be real and productive it needs to have three attributes, that when combined and successfully executed form a platform for sales success that can use to plan, strategize and execute their sale, usually in a shorter time frame than they had anticipated.

1.   Must Be Agreed On By Both The Buyer And The Seller – by agreed I mean that it is booked and confirmed, not just a “ya OK”, whispered as you are walking out. These days you can have an invite fired from your phone while you are still there.  The physical act of pulling out your phone to put in the time and date will lead them to go to their calendar, if they don’t you may have a problem that you need to address right then and there.  It is not unusual for my prospects to have accepted the next meeting before I leave or by the time I am checking e-mail in the parking lot.

Many will settle for this as a “next step”, but I don’t want you to be one of those.  There are people, even with the demands on time, who will meet with a sales person without a specific reason.  This is why the next attribute is so important, in fact of the three the most important.

2.  Moves The Journey Forward – going back without a clear purpose is a waste of time, you can sit at your desk twiddle your thumbs without adding to you carbon footprint. You want to go back to continue to move the process forward in a way that helps the buyer make the decision that you can help them achieve their objectives.  This can be asking them to do something that will validate their engagement, involvement and commitment to the buy/sale moving forward.

I suggest that you think in advance what that may be, leveraging your personal and organizational experience, map out the journey, understand the critical milestones, and how you have successfully arrived there in the past.  If you know that achieving something opens the door to the next phase of the process, then think of what has to transpire in the meeting to get the buyer to see that as a logical path forward.   This could be any number of things based on what you sell.  One example is to ask for the opportunity to interview other people impacted by the decision, and set a time to comeback, debrief and plan the “next step”.  You’ll often hear me say:

“So we’ve agreed that it would help if I had a chance to get the front line view, if you can give the names of three sales people to interview, I can set that up for next week, and be in a position to come back to review with you by next Wednesday, does 2:00 work for you?”

Now if they do not agree to the action requested, i.e. the team interviews, but do agree to meet next week to hear my recommendations, you have some choices to make.  Does it make sense to have that meeting without the input, can you viably make progress without that.  If not, then you need to understand where you and the buyer parted ways during the meeting, what you may have missed, whether it is an indication that they are not a real buyer, or do you need to retrace and build the value up again.

This is where “next steps” drive success long before the meeting, and how you bring the past to help you now.  Perhaps the most important aspect of “next step”, specifically how they help you plan, strategize and execute.  Since we can only speculate based on experience, it makes sense to visualize the meeting unfolding in a number of ways.  Again, we are not shooting for perfection, but to cover the most likely set of outcomes.  Therefore you need to have multiple “next steps” going into any meeting.  In essence, Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and more base on your reality.  Based on the above if Plan B is the follow up meeting without prior interviews, fine.  But if your experience shows that second meetings without an interview end in no sales, or lower margin or quality sales that take 50% longer than the average sale; you can comfortably walk away know you did not go into a trap.  Remember you can always revisit the opportunity down the road, rather than wasting time and energy traveling that unproductive road.

3.  Agreed On Timelines – This ties the first two elements together. And while it may seem too obvious, too many sales people have a plan going into a meeting, find areas of agreement and action, but leave the timing open ended.  Don’t believe, lock your office door, and have a true look at the opportunities in your pipeline, and see if you have any with no time lines.

Seems to me that if you are going to propose specific actions you and the prospect will take as a result of today’s meeting, and prospect agrees that it is something worth doing and they take on doing it, why not agree on a deadline or timeline.  Some sales people tell me they don’t want to seem pushy, when I hear that it sounds like “I am afraid of seeming professional”.

By suggesting a specific time you are helping the buyer (and yourself but let’s keep focused on the buyer), people have a lot coming at them, a lot of demand on the time.  Those things with times attached, deadlines, in their calendar, in their face, with purpose, leading to a desired and agreed on outcome, will be the ones that get done.  Those with any elements of looseness, like no specific time, who know, could be today, tomorrow, “hell, I lived with it this long, could be next quarter”.  Solidify you sales success using time.

Above I asked you to look at your pipeline and see how many opportunities are without a time line.  While you are in there, take a look at the 3 attributes highlighted above, and see where some opportunities in your pipeline come up short.  And then go and fix them, set a meeting, execute your plan, and secure the “next step”, as defined.

So if you are not using “next steps” as success driver, not just in the meeting, but long before, then you are probably working harder than you have to.  Further, if you are not clear on what “next steps” really are, and are working with a different definition than above, you are likely not as productive as you could be.

Your next step now, put the above into practice, it is a discipline.  Need help, your next step is call me: +1416 822-7781.

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Tibor Shanto



3 Reasons To Get Prospects to Look Back Drivers Future Sales2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Now Past Future

People are creatures of habit, and while we do change over time, most often these are gradual and incremental evolutions, only occasionally radical and sudden change. There are several way this can help sellers perform better, not only in terms of quota, but helping clients achieve their objectives, leading to more business as a result.

The goal in this piece is not to compare one type of buyer to another, but to help you adjust your approach to better align with the buyer, their habits, and expectations to help you be more effective with the type of buyer at hand.

While there may be other reasons, here are three in no particular order, that if you incorporate into your sale, will help you achieve better results for all involved.

  • Propensity to change
  • Why they buy
  • How they buy/make decisions

Propensity – In the past we have spoken about the market breaking down to three general groups, buyers who are Actively looking, Passively looking, Not looking (status quo). No matter which group they are in, there will be different levels of willingness to change. Even in the Actively looking group there will be those who are looking because there are external factors forcing them in to the market, without those external factors they would be status quo. Others are always looking to be leading edge and are looking on their own volition. Clearly the latter have a greater propensity to change and act, while the former will require more reassurance, more motivation, and at times more work. Again more work is not a bad thing, it’s just good to know up front. Don’t forget, that some will never change and take pride on going down with the ship, which means it is OK to disqualify and move on.

Why – Once they do make the decision to act, you need to understand why they chose the product or supplier they chose having decided to act. This will give you a lot of insight not only about the individual but the organization. Was there decision tied to a specific set of objectives, and is that consistent across a number of decision, or was it a result of “Me Too” at play. If we extrapolate out from the technology adoption lifecycle, how we sell to buyers at the left end of the curve will tangibly differ from those on the right end. It doesn’t matter which methodology you use, knowing why the buyer has made the selections they have in the past will give you clear guidance as to how to align with their current purchase decision.

How – This should be the most straight forward, once they have decided to make a change, and are comfortable with the reasons as to why, how they go about things will help you maximize the current purchase. You will understand who is involved in decisions; here you want to look for names that may have popped up in the “WHY” discussion. How those same people relate, influence or ignore the individual you are working. It will also give you a clear picture as to how (sometimes if) the organization makes decisions. If in exploring the last three or four purchase decision they made involved specific steps, inputs, and people, you can bet that these will be present and required to get the decision you are looking for.

The key in all this is to do this sort of questioning early, when it can seem informal, not central or pertinent to anything specific at the time. The close you get to the decision point, the more layers there are and some buyers will not share as freely. Everyone’s posture changes, and the information that flows, and how it flows changes. It is never too early to gather the above, but there could be a point where it may be a bit too late.

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Learning What You Don’t Know to Win Deals – Sales eXecution 3060

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Second look

We all have deals we know we should have won, they had our name practically written on them, all we had to do was complete, yet in the end, the commission went to a rep from another company. First you need to do is dig in and understand why you won, much like you would when you win, or when the prospect takes no decision. While many do this, the findings are only as good as the answers to the questions posed allow. Meaning if you set out to review the wrong thing, you will reach the wrong conclusion, go back out and still lose the next similar deal.

The questions you pose in this review are important, but as or more important is who asks the questions. For example sending a rep back to ask why they lost the deal leads to a predictable yet useless response: PRICE. It is useless because it is usually not the case, but the most efficient way for someone to blow through the exercise. Think about it, they just made a decision they are not about to change or undo, as a result any time spent with talking reps who clearly missed the point to start with is hardly a good use of time, especially when for many, implementation and successfully delivering is often as or more risky than the purchase decision itself.

It is better to have a party not directly involved in the transaction be the one to go back in, say someone from sales ops, or better yet someone from marketing. The key is someone who can transcend “the deal”, and truly look at things from the buyer’s perspective. Going back in and asking all the product centric, “what we do, how we do it”, question, spiced with “my company” statements, will not only confirm to the buyer that they made the right decision, you will not learn anything that will help you win in the future. If you don’t think you can do this, there are companies that offer

Sending the rep in, only to hear it was price will just lead to the average rep coming back and telling you and anyone who will listen, including other reps: “I told you, we’re overpriced, that’s why we can’t close sales”. Not something that leads change and improvement moving forward.

If you are wondering what to ask about, here are two steps. First, get out of your head, your view of the world, and get into the buyer’s. Rather than thinking about what you or your company sells and more importantly why you think that, turn the telescope around and ask “what are companies trying to achieve, why, and how can they best get there; how can I contribute to that?” Sales and marketing people are often surprised how when looked at through that key hole, how badly off target they were with their questions and messaging. The other steps is know what to focus on. The simplest way to start this turnabout is to go to some of your best clients, current clients who have choice yet continue to do business with you, and ask them why they do, what they like and how that helps them achieve their objectives. You’ll find price is rarely in the top five things, and less so top three reasons. What you’ll hear about are things relating to your innovativeness in helping them achieve objectives, including R&D they benefit from, ability to understand and help their business, ease of total relationship, including issue resolution, ability to add value to their offering, and more.

Getting it right ensures more sales, more margins and winning team. This may take time and effort, but so does losing deals.

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Remember Your First Sale?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 


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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Dear Sales Diary3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


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

Do You Really Need/Want a Shorter Sales Cycle?4

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


Shorter sales cycles are one of those things that come up in many discussions with sales and corporate leaders.  When I ask them what specific improvements they would like to see 18 to 24 months out, a shorter cycle is usually one.

While I get it, there is more to the question than many have given serious and productive thought to. First, there is little agreement in and across sales organization as to what constitutes a sales cycle. Some will measure it from their initial attempt to engage with a buyer, some from initial contact, others will measure from the time they are able to get their first next step to close; it’s all over the place. Right off the top what you measure will dictate the length of the cycle; the same sale will be “longer” for the first group than the last. The length of a cycle should not vary based on the eye of the beholder, there should at least in the same organization be agreement of where it begins and ends.   While this sounds straight forward, just go and ask three sales people in your organization.

Not saying it is definitive, but for the remainder of this piece, I measure the CONTINUOS cycle from initial hand shake to close. I say continuous because there are many instances where I contact or engage with a potential buyer, but am unable to take things through to the end. The deal either dies mid way, or after an initial meeting the time is not right for one or both of us, etc.  Often, a few months later I will reengage with the same buyer and take him through to close.  The cycle would be that second round, which was continuous.  The rest of the time and effort for me is prospecting and nurturing, not active selling.  Semantics, to a degree, and that is why it is important to settle on a definition for your company and then stick to it so you can begin to make improvements.

Once you do settle on the points to measure, you can look at shortening it, there are a number of ways, I did a piece a few years back on “How to Shorten Your Sales Cycle”, and there are other ways you can find from many pundits.  While getting to the shortest cycle possible is a worthwhile endeavour, you have to ensure that it is a productive one.  Many spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to shorten the cycle, almost making that the objective as opposed to just an element of success, which ultimately is delivering the revenue targets.

There is a point that is optimal, meaning any time and energy spent on further reducing the cycle is wasted, and distracts from the real goal.  Yes, there is merit to the thinking that if we can shorten the cycle we can sell more, but the reality is that every sale and seller will find the point where it is the RIGHT length of cycle; a point beyond which it can’t get any shorter without damaging the sales, the state of the pipeline, and your success.  Based on what you sell, your strengths and challenges, this could be 12 months, six months or two weeks, but there is that point that constitutes the shortest time in which you can deliver a sale with maximum and consistent results; a point beyond which it does not get better.

It will take a bit of effort at first as it involves two specific routines.  First you’ll need to go back and look at the last 20 – 25 deals you did and measure the cycle (as defined above), and then look at the average length.  If you sell multiple offerings with different buyers and attributes, you may have to do this for all lines.  The idea is not to get too granular, but to have a measure for the typical sale.  Second, you will need to start reviewing and analysing all your sales.  (You can access a worksheet here) The ones you win, to see where there is commonality and opportunities to shorted, or just to validate that you are still at the right length.  Don’t forget to review your losses as well, there could be lessons there as well, not just for length of cycle (maybe you rushed some sales), or there could be realistic adjustments that can turn a loss to a win.  Those who tell you to just analyse wins are just setting you up to be blindsided.

Many leaders continue to believe that if you keep at it, you will be able to increase velocity in the sale,  this is not always true and is a view which brings a real risk because it is centred around the seller’s need to sell, not on the buyer’s reason for buying.  While this may not be important when you are selling to willing and active buyers, those who have done their research, and are shopping (price shopping), and have evaluate you and your product in that light before ever contacting you.  But if you are pursuing buyers who are not actively looking, you risk building velocity and leaving the buyer and the sale behind.  This may numerically bring down the length of your average cycle, allowing you to pick up some sales faster, but also causes you to lose some potential sales because you rushed the process, coming out behind in the long run as a result.

I don’t want to discourage you from exploring ways to be more productive and time efficient in selling.  As new technologies are introduced, as markets evolve, or other factors kick in, there may in fact be an opportunity to achieve gains.  But you need to ensure that these gains are attainable and how.  There two keys to doing this right, one is the review process discussed above, and the corresponding adjustments that will result.  The other is don’t hesitate to experiment, if what you are doing now is not getting you what you want, try something new, beyond the current norm.  Even if it does not reduce the cycle, but helps you sell better in other ways, experimenting is a great way to change and improve. Not only the way to sell, but the cycle and the outcome.  Experimenting is a better waste of time than time spent shaving one day off a three month cycle.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Why Waste Time Waiting for Events – Trigger The Reaction – Sales eXchange 197 (#video)0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Don't Wait

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to sit down with Ago Cluytens, for one his Coaching Masters Series interviews.  All this week, the posts will feature snippets of the interview, below we will also tell you where you can find the whole interview, but now let’s go to the first extract.

Trigger Events are fine, but there is no escaping that you have to wait for the “event”.  But here’s the deal, what you are leveraging is not the event, but the buyer’s reaction to the event.  So why not take the training wheels off, forget the “event”, and learn to trigger the reaction without having to wait, with the others looking for the same sign.

Take a look at what I mean.

If you would like to see the entire discussion you can either visit my You Tube channel, or go the Ago’ site by clicking here.  Always open to comments and views.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Plan Z – Sales eXchange 1831

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


I think (hope ) it is safe to say that every seller, especially B2B, has a Plan A.  A road map or process for how they plan to engage with a buyer, and work with them to mutually navigate the buy and sale process to arrive at a mutually beneficial situation, each party attaining their objectives.  Having said that, I still see many who wing it.

What surprises me is the number of sales people or organizations who have a game plan or playbook, that is totally one dimensional in nature.  It starts by completing a pastel coloured sheet, same info, same way, every time; some have a Plan B, they go to it based on the push back to Plan A.  Now this would not be a big problem if you are selling a commodity, in what can be described as a “binary” sale, but it is an absolute killer if you are selling anything that involves more than a price decision.

Rather than using a “plan” or playbook approach, it is more effective to use a mind map approach.  This allows you to evolve with the buyer as you uncover facts, opportunities and aspirations.  You can use Plan A to engage, and begin the process, but as each client is different (in big or small ways) you need to adapt rather than try to get the client to fit the plan or playbook.

The way to achieve this is to commit to two basic disciplines.  First, is to commit to reviewing all sales transactions you are involved in, whether you won them or not.  This will allow you to anticipate broad and narrow trends,  and adjust your game in real time.   Think of this like watching the game tapes.

To support this, you need to adopt the practice of follow through questions, not question, but questions.  Most sellers tend to stay narrow and shallow, they hear something that sounds like what they need to hear, and they go with it.  But if you develop the skill to ask several layers of “impact questions”, you not only get to the root of the opportunity, but differentiate yourself from those who stop at the surface or layer two.  Combined these give you the grounding to go beyond what you practiced with on the nice coloured sheet, while not meandering, because in the end you still need to bring home the revenue.

Mind mapDiscipline is one thing, rigidity is another, this is why we introduce the concept of fluidity.  Visually it may be easiest to think of this approach as a three dimensional “Sales Mind Map”.   It forces you to think, anticipate and respond based on client input, while leveraging market and sales experience.  It allows you to not only have a Plan A, Plan B, but a method for having options that may take you to Plan Z, all based on the buyer’s objectives and requirements.

Enter the Art of Sales Contest – Win Tickets

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

The Three Rs of Sales – Sales eXchange 18243


While I have always supported the concept and the focus behind the three R’s of academics; although I never understood why the academic community would go for the label, given that only on of the three words in question start with an R.

We in sales hold to a higher standard, and therefore the three words that make up the three R’s of Sales, all do indeed start with the letter R!

  • Reciprocate – It should not be news that the most successful sales people look at sales from a giving standpoint, rather than a what can I get standpoint.  Unfortunately, the latter makes up the majority of the sales population, often this is a result of the “message” and “motivation” they get from their management.  While I do not shy away from the sales rep as a “hunter”, the prey is not the buyer.

While most of think of reciprocating as giving back, you can also think of is as just giving; specifically giving to you buyers and prospects.  The notion of giving is not new, but often sellers give in return for something they “have gotten”, like a next step, an introduction to a decision maker, or an order.

But if you can think of it in that if you give value to buyers in any number of ways right through the process, the buyer will reciprocate.  At time this may be in the form of a referral, next step, or the order.  Reciprocate forward as it were.

  • Reinvent – This may seem straight forward, but is probably the most difficult for many sellers.  It involves two disciplines, one is reviewing sales to see what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to be done to change that.  The second is change itself, sellers find it hard to change, even though they spend their time and effort trying to get buyers to change in a number of ways.

The need to review every or a significant sample of your transactions is crucial.  I have spoken about it extensively on this blog, the need to review all sales initiated, win – lose – draw.  You can still download the 360 Deal Review tool, and start what is an easy but valuable exercise.   The key is what you identify as working, what is not, and more importantly, what you are prepared to do about it.

There a many teams I see who review, note, but do not implement change.  Without the last step, it’s just a validation exercise with little or no value.

Change is an interesting thing, it does not have to be wholesale or instantaneous, and it is exponential, sometimes it is the smallest things that have the biggest impact.  Meaning you can start small, limited risk, and tangible benefits.  The hardest is always the first step; so pick something easy, develop an action plan, a period of review, and do it a bit at a time.

  • Reputation –  There is one thing you have to hold on to throughout your career, that is your reputation.  Skills, clients, successes come and go, they can all be rebuilt or reinvented, reputations are a bit more delicate.   They can be rebuilt, but there is always a cost.  Reputation not only precedes you, which is crucial to success, but it also lags, people have a way to remember more of the bad than the good.  Of the three R’s this is fundamental, and without which the other two R’s are difficult to execute.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Standard Not Stagnant41

The great thing about sales is that every day is different, bringing new challenges, or familiar challenges with new wrinkles, testing your skills and agility.  This constant change directly impacts both sales people, their sales organization, and by extension their sales process.  Some organizations dodge this by not having a process, allowing their sales people to rely on their “creativity” or god given skills to deliver the numbers.  One of the risks with this approach is not knowing the quality of their execution efforts until after the numbers are in; in other words, after the fact, and after they can do anything to change the outcome.  Given the stats on the level of success of many sales organizations and individuals, it is clear that having a defined and standardized sales process is crucial to success even for companies selling the most basic products.

Read On…

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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