Welcome to The Pipeline.

Who Exactly Are You Selling To?2

May 14

The Pipeline Guest Post –  Megan Totka

We talk quite often about sales tactics and marketing ideas in a general sense. But who exactly is your company trying to sell to?

People can be classified in so many different ways. But one of the most common classifications is by generation. Most recently, the generation we’ve talked about the most has been the baby boomers. Born in the post-World War II era, from the years 1946-1964, baby boomers have made up a huge consumer base for many, many years. Many people consider baby boomers to be the first real consumer generation, raised after the Great Depression and in a time of pretty impressive technological advances.

In the no-so-distant past, the baby boomers have arguably been the most important group to market to, as they did (and still do) make up such a huge portion of the population.

But there’s a new group on the scene – the Millennials. This generation, made up of people born from 1980-2000, is estimated to encompass 80 million people. That’s more than the baby boomers.

The biggest thing that sets the millennial generation apart is their familiarity with the Internet. The Internet and related technology are not new and exciting to this generation; it’s been around since they were small children. While it might still be possible to impress other generations with technology, Millennial have come to expect it.

So how do we cater to this new generation of buyers? One thing is for sure – give them what they expect. This Forbes article likens hotels that don’t have free Wi-Fi to the same hotel charging to use a toilet. At this point, we’ve all come to expect free Internet, just about everywhere we go, millennials in particular. Millennials also respond to an “omnichannel” concept. This means that people should be able to contact you or your company in whatever way they want to, without having to do it the same way that they did the last time. For example, if a customer contacts your company once via Facebook, they should be able to expect the same information and level of service from any other avenue, such as phone, Twitter, email, etc.

Does your company have any lessons to share concerning marketing and sales that is geared towards a particular generation?

(Photo Source)

About Megan Totka

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

EDGY Conversations: How Ordinary People Can Achieve Outrageous Results0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

EDGY Conversations

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while are more than familiar with Dan Waldschmidt, we have done webinars and other events, and his guest post a couple of years back Retarded Sales Behavior and The Reasons We Under-Perform, had one of the biggest responses I have had to a guest post. He never fails to deliver to his moniker of EDDY CONVERSATIONS.

Well fortunately for all of us, who enjoy edgy, or want to get the EDGE, Dan has written a book, EDGY Conversations: How Ordinary People Can Achieve Outrageous Success, an exceptional “how to manual” for ordinary people who are out to achieve truly extraordinary things. What makes it a great read and must have, is not just the content, but Dan’s innate and unique way of articulating things, to borrow from the usual book parlance “It’s a page turner!”

Dan spent four years looking at what high performers were doing in business, math, science, sports and politics. He put together 1,000 stories of ordinary people who achieved success against the odds. As a result of its breadth, this book delivers right from the start. Open a page and you’ll find everything you’ve never seen before in a traditional business book. In presentation alone the book is differentiates and engages, beautiful illustrations and vibrant colors jumping off the page just punctuate and brings the messages to life. After reading a host of books of this nature, it was pleasantly surprising to feel the lift after reading EDGY Conversations. I felt powerful and motivated and encouraged to do the hard things that lead to extraordinary success.

I had a chance to speak with Dan about the book, and what he took away from the experience. I asked him what common connections he found when he looked at high performers in business, math, sports, science and politics? He pointed to “four characteristics that we call EDGY: extreme behavior, disciplined activity, a giving mindset and a human strategy, were all prevalent in high performers, even across completely different verticals, like science and sports. The same radical beliefs that enable an Olympic competitor to push themselves beyond human capacity is the exact same belief system that enables a researcher to uncover a human biological breakthrough.

Some folks see edgy or extreme as being out there, but Dan presents a different more compelling view. When suggested that extreme, by definition, “too much” of a good thing, Dan offered up that “no, being extreme is not too much of a good thing. Extreme behaviour starts with a mindset change. It is really the core belief that you can achieve success regardless of the obstacles in your way simply through a relentless pursuit of answers. It’s a belief that by working hard enough and long enough, there isn’t anything that you can’t do. When you have that belief system, you look at problems as just another opportunity to be creative rather than bad luck or “everyone picking on you”. That mindset is important because it’s inevitable that each of us will face problems in our struggle to be successful. You can’t ever believe in yourself too much.”

Whether you are edgy in your approach to life, success or just being, or thinking about becoming successfully with an edge, this is a must read, so rather than keep you waiting, all you have to do is click here, grab your copy, and hold on.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

The Fine Line Between Cool and Rude8

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Back 2 back sm

In an increasingly hurried world of too many things to do in too few hours, buyers seem to fall in to two groups: Cool and Rude. The cool are those who can deal with and clearly communicate what is on their mind, regardless of the impact on sellers. While what they communicate may not be what sellers want to hear, the upside is that the communication is clear, and they are offered the respect a potential partner deserves. The rude (and I suspect other shortcomings) are those who fail to communicate clearly for whatever reason, that, only they know since they are unable or willing to communicate properly.

Specifically I am speaking about the common act by many, but here specifically prospects, of going radio silent on sellers.

Context

This came about as a result of a coffee with a long-time associate Harry, a very professional and proven seller in his industry, with a solid track record of delivering results for both his employer and his clients. He has been around long enough to know that his offering is not for everyone, and that at times he does not sell as well as other times, but he has for years managed to sell and deliver value in an industry that continues to be commoditized daily. Add to that we were talking about not people not responding to initial approaches from e-mail, inbound marketing, cold calls, voice mails, LinkedIn InMails, Tweets, or any form of initial approach, the examples he was discussing were from people who were engaged in the process, went well past the initial exploration, and clearly expressed more than an interest in engaging. Harry was lamenting the loss of common courtesy, not that he expects everyone who starts the process to buy, just a simple communication as to where things are, even when they are nowhere.  BTW, I have heard this from a steady number of professional sellers of late.

The Reality

His comments came not from the frustration as a seller, but the deterioration of common courtesy in business. He has been around long enough to understand that many will not see value in what you sell, and may come to that determination after going part way through the cycle. Being old school, he is doggedly focused on next steps, and when he doesn’t get one, he understands that he needs to both ask why, and he needs to find a new prospect to replace the one that just said no. What he was puzzled by is why people who committed to a next meeting, next call, next action, not only do not follow through, but fail to communicate. Yes, silence clearly communicates their intent, he was just wondering why they just couldn’t say no. Again, for Harry it was not about the lost sales, but the lack of will, or ability to communicate.

Most professional sales people understand that they will hear more no’s than yes’s, in fact the better they are, the truer that is. Harry was just asking to hear something, even as he moved on to the next opportunity.

Yes, we know that buyers are crazy busy; busy, busy, busy; but busy is not permission to be rude. In fact most successful executives go out of their way to close conversations and discussions, I suspect because they know they may need to interact with that person at one point in the future; now that’s cool! As Harry said “I didn’t put a gun to their head to meet to begin with, some reached out to me, the least they can do is to tell me to FOD.”

In a selling world enamoured with the concept of relationship and etiquette, one where the mantra of people buy from people, rules supreme, it is a curiosity why so many seem to prefer to be rude and ignorant, rather than cool and communicative.

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What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

The Law of Least Effort (#guestpost)0

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The Pipeline Guest Post – Jeff Shore
Adapted from Be Bold and Win the Sale by Jeff Shore
Available from McGraw-Hill Business in January 2014
 

In his (amazing) book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman touches on a fascinating concept that he calls, “The Law of Least Effort.” Kahneman states that, “…if there are several ways of achieving the same goal, people will gravitate to the least demanding course of action.” The premise here is that people are not categorically lazy but are striving to be efficient.

Before reading on, it is worthwhile to consider some of the natural implications of this law.

  • Minimal effort o Acceptance of mediocrity
  • Blending in with everyone else
  • The dreaded “Minimum Performance Standards” (I despise that term!)

There is a strong psychological underpinning to all this. Finding ourselves unsure of the depth of a given threat (an opportunity to be bold), we revert to the instinct of energy preservation. It’s a survival technique.

Here’s the problem: this subconscious tendency actually helps us to feel better about ourselves when we yield to discomfort. There is a built-in justification for doing so. Our primal brain assures us: “Hey, I’m just preserving my energy in case a greater threat comes along.”

Of course, the penalty for taking the path of least resistance can be severe, coming in the form of limited potential and confining self-beliefs.   Every time we give in to discomfort we cement ourselves more fully into the familiar yet confining world of mediocrity. Just ask those around you who have taken bold but uncomfortable steps in their own lives. They will tell you that the so-called “law of least effort” is a sham, and that the richest treasures are not to be found on our existing mental maps.

Where are you guilty of offering only the least amount of effort? In this one case, I  encourage you to break the law: the law of least effort! Be bold and start making the effort to go the extra mile today.

About the Author

Jeff Shore is a highly sought-after sales expert, speaker, author and executive coach whose innovative BE BOLD methodology teaches you how to change your mindset and change your world. His latest book, Be Bold and Win the Sale: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone and Boost Your Performance, is forthcoming from McGraw-Hill in January 2014. Learn more at jeffshore.com or follow Jeff on Twitter.

More About the Author: For more than three decades, Jeff has guided executives and sales teams in large and small companies across the globe to embrace their discomforts and deliver BOLD sales results. In a crowded field of sales experts and training programs, Jeff Shore stands out with his research-based BE BOLD methodology. Combining his extensive front-line sales experience with the latest Cognitive Behavioral Therapy research, Jeff has created a highly effective, personalized way to reset sales paradigms and deliver industry-leading results. Jeff doesn’t just teach you how to sell, he shows you how to change your mindset and change your world.

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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

Small Business Week – BNN Interview (#video)0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

This week is Small Business Week in Canada, as part of that BNN, Canada’s business news television network is running features highlighting the Canadian small business space, and looking at trend and advice for the small business community.

 

On Monday I had the pleasure of discussing how small business owners approach hiring sales talent, what works, and what they should avoid.

 

Take a look, and as always, share your thoughts, leave a comment.

 

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

Exceeding Your Sales Expectations0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Solar Scape

Many adhere to the saying that goes “perception is reality”, no arguing that, but for sales professionals the mantra needs to be “Expectations are reality”. Regular sales people let their perceptions dictate their reality, and are often limited by their own perceptions, those of their buyers’, and of course the perceptions they glean from the pundits’. As a result they often settle for things they perceive, rather than achieving the things they can do given the right expectations.

I was working with a reps last week, helping him be more effective on the phone in the process of setting appointments. While he got the words and the flow of the approach and talk track down quickly, he was still not getting traction, especially when compared to others. What he was lacking was conviction and the dynamics that come with that.

Those dynamics, nuances in attitude and delivery, can make the difference between another prospecting call, and an appointment. The better the call, the more appointments; the more choice you have in your pipeline and your success. One specific is the attitude you have about the outcome, which directly influenced by what you expect to happen on and as a result of the call.

His expectations were all focused on the negative less than fun side of the call. He expected to get voice mail rather than a live person, he expected to be greeted by the admin or what sales people like to call gate keepers, (talk about setting the battle lines with labels). If those hurdles didn’t pop up, he expected the target to be irritated, not interested, and almost pissed for getting the call. If he got past that, he expected objections by the boat load, and finally he expected that there was little he could say to take away the objections and get the appointment.

I felt for him, he was piling up all these limiting obstacles, and he hadn’t even looked at the phone, no wonder it seemed like a five ton dumbbell. I suggested he had reset his expectations. “To what” he asked, “what are your expectations when you make calls?”

“I expect to get the appointment”

Those words are not magic, I still need to deliver an effective introduction, and while I get objections like the rest, I expect to deal with them and get past them. My expectations are focused on the outcome, the appointment, the opportunity in the pipeline, the sales, the commission and the meal at my favourite restaurant, I can taste that vindaloo now. If you expect to meet and be defeated by obstacles, then that is what you’ll get, and that will dictate your perception, and the reality of your effort.

Sure perception is reality, and if your perception is that you can’t do it, prospecting doesn’t work, then that will be your reality. If you expect to get the appointment, expect to get the next step, expect to win the deal, then that will inform your preparation, actions, reactions and outcomes. Those who set expectations, and settle for nothing less than what they expect can go further and overcome more hurdles more effectively than those guided by perceptions. What are your expectations today?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

3 Things Some Pundits Won’t Tell you about Cold Calling – Part 34

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Ice Call

 It Actually Works

I am a terrible dancer, I make Elaine from Seinfeld  look like Ginger Rogers, and so as a courtesy to myself, and others at weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, or funerals, I don’t dance. But at the same time, I don’t so anything to spoil other people’s fun with dancing, especially those who do it well. Just because I don’t like it or do it well, does not mean that it cannot be done and enjoyed by others. It also doesn’t mean that those who do it well need to get off the dance floor. You don’t see me running around saying that dancing is an outdated tribal custom, outdated and beneath dignity in today’s socially advanced society.

But it seems that that’s exactly what some of the “never cold call again” crowds are suggesting, no insisting. They don’t cold call, they don’t like to cold call, they don’t get results, meaning they can’t cold call, and therefore cold calling does not work; and that’s that, no one should do it, it is outdated and anti-social; as though everyone who practiced the craft was somehow déclassé.

The problem for me and the no-callers is that dancing is fun for those who enjoy and know how to do it, and I don’t; and cold calling works for those willing to and can do it, which clearly the no-callers can’t. If they could do it right they would find that it help fill and round out the opportunities in their pipeline, and help them make more sales and money. And I have to assume that they want to sell and make money, otherwise they wouldn’t want to sell you their “don’t cold call” stuff, and they would just give it to you.

The fact is that cold calling works, especially in the hands of those who know how to use it. The reason it works is that there as many type of buyers as there are sellers. Each have their own characteristics, which in turn dictate their preferred mode of communication. Some prefer calls, others e-mail, magazine ads, etc. Study after study show that cold calling is only second to referrals in effectiveness for engaging with potential buyers. Factors such as timing, buyer’s current market view, and other inputs will determine what may work when, even with the same buyer. A survey presented in Businessweek showed “referrals from clients or partners (22%), general referrals (16%), and cold-calling or telephone prospecting (13%).” Sure I would prefer to have all warm referrals, but even then, why not add to those with a few well-placed intelligent cold calls.

DiscoverOrg, recently surveyed 1,000 IT decision makers at Fortune ranked, small and medium-sized companies. It showed how outbound sales calls and e-mails affect and “more importantly disrupt vendor selection.” “Seventy-five per cent of IT executives have set an appointment or attended an event as a direct result of outbound email and call techniques.” Further, “nearly 600 said an outbound call or e-mail led to an IT vendor being evaluated.”

I know cold calls can be irritating, but no more so than the endless stream of completely irrelevant, often cheesy e-mail I receive from the hub and Mecca of inbound marketing. At times I am even interested in what they have to say, but they never follow up.

Which leads us back to the central theme of the series this week, the need for a balanced and well thought out pursuit of the right prospects for the right reasons. A combination of strategies, tactics and delivery mechanisms to achieve maximum results and return on effort. Just as I would not give up content marketing, blogging, my social efforts, it is equally silly to ask me or any successful seller to abandon one of the most proven means of engaging with real buyer, specifically cold calling. Maybe it is because I am in Canada, and winter is coming, but combined with other efforts, cold calling works, if you do it right.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Are You Selling Like A Child?10

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Child with PC asking

Maybe You Should!

When you get to be my age you end up spending a lot of time with adults, full of expectations, bound by ritual, shackled by their habits, blinded by their opinions, limited by their knowledge. So it was refreshing to spend some time with some so five to seven year olds last week. Beyond their energy level, I came to see why kids are the best sales people on the planet.

Once I adjusted for the noise level and energy I began to notice their sales skills come to the fore. First I noticed is that they have little or no inhibitions. They will try anything without stopping to figure out “why not”, they are just happy to have the experience. How many times have you coached a “professional sales rep”, asked them to do something they knew needed to be done to move the sale forward or close it, only to have recite a laundry list of why they can’t do that? Keep in mind that what they are being asked to do is not illegal, immoral, or unethical. In many cases these are the very things their colleagues are executing day in and day out to win deals, and exceed goal. Yet the reps in question will tell you why they can’t or won’t, and sadly, often the reasons are the same no matter the activity, a closed mind that limits only their success. While these kids are willing to try anything, especially when their friends are doing it and having fun in the act. In fact you are more likely to tell them not to do things, and they respond by asking “Why?” every sales person secret weapon word.

I was answering a prospect’s e-mail on my handset, and right a barrage of question, “who you writing, what are you writing, why, why them, what for, what are you gonna get out of it, why now, what are they gonna get out of it, what if you didn’t write them, do you have to answer everything they asked, will you buy me an ice cream with the money you make?”

And a million other questions. Brilliant, so energizing, because it made me have to think, just like questions make your prospect think, it challenges them to look beyond the race that is their day, to thinking about specific things. The questions they asked made me think about what and how I answered the e-mail. Credit for getting the next step I wanted should got to the kids.

One other thing about their questions is that they didn’t give a rat’ what about being politically correct, they just wanted the facts, they were not rude, nasty, or anything negative, just not hung up on all the adult things sales people tend to get hung up on.

They are also great closers, the best man. They know what they want, laser focus, and totally consumed by figuring out what they want and how to get it. Can you say persistent? I remember my oldest son approaching me when he was around seven, trying to get cookies for his brother and he.

“Dad, can Ez and I have a cookie? One or Two”

I had to give him permission for two, how many did your prospect give you?

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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