Welcome to The Pipeline.

The Best Day To Prospect Is Not Someday!0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Someday

I was talking to a rep the other day, he was telling me about his approach to structuring his week to help him succeed. He set certain activities to specific days, and filled in the rest of the time with things that were dependent on the buyers’ calendars. He had time set for writing account reviews, Thursday afternoons, this way if he had to get something from the clients he still had time in the week. Proposals were done on Wednesdays and Mondays, all he had to do is set the right expectation from the buyer. And so it went.

But when it came to prospecting, there were no allocations. I asked him about it, and he like others told me that he does it when he can, any time he can get around to it. I asked why he has clearly allocated time to all other key activities, does he not see prospecting and filling the funnel as a key activity? Of course he said. Well, then why does it not conform to the way you approach and execute the other key activities, I said “you have everything else all neatly in place in place, what’s the deal with prospecting?”

He hummed and haad, checking the tips of his shoes, but it was clear that the day he allocated to prospecting was Someday.

Now I don’t like prospecting any more than the next guy, especially cold calling, but it has to be done. Which is why I do it first, then it’s out of the way, and I can go on to doing what I like. But kicking the can down the road only works in Ottawa and Washington.

I know the beauty of Someday is that it never comes, but the deadline for your quota does come, and in light of the fact that those people who make quota hovers around 50%, and the number one reason most sales leaders give for that is a lack of prospects and too much dependence on their base, the day of reckoning will get here before Someday, specifically two months from Tomorrow, December 31.

Given the choice between Someday and Today, I would go with today!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

So Listen – – Sales eXecution 2732

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

So listen

There are certain universal concepts and sayings in sales that everybody just nods to, “sure, of course, that’s hockey, motherhood and apple pie, of course.” And then they go in about selling like they always have whether they implement the concept or not. One of these concepts is around listening. “Come on Tibor, everyone knows you gotta listen, this is nothing new.” Then they double down and tell me “Tibor, I am all about active listening.”

But what does that really mean? Especially given the fact that the original Active Listening, dates back to the days of consultative or solution selling. Just as aspects of those approaches have felt the effect of time, in some ways so has active listening. And let’s be clear, my focus is not on the intent or merit of active listening, but the manner in which it unfolds with some sales people.

As with most things in sales is it about the execution, everything else is just talk, and often not worth listening to.

My main concern with the way some people “do” Active Listening, is that all too often it is really Selective or Filtered listening. Specifically they are actively listening for those things that fit their solutions, their narrative. And if they don’t hear it they try to steer the conversation in that direction. How many time have you heard a rep start a question with “wouldn’t you agree Ms./Mr. Prospect that if you could….., then it would be …..?” Of course it is often hard to say no to the proposition even though it may not add to the discussion at hand. But by agreeing, the prospect is taken down a predetermined path, a path that the seller hopes leads to a sales, but often doesn’t, just leads to wasted time and emotions.

If you’re a buyer and want to have some fun, next time you hear those words just say “no I am not sure I agree”. If the question was sincere, the seller will be able to add context and build on the premise, and extend the discussion; but if it was meant to take you down a path, you’ll see a classic deer in the head light moment.

Real active listening is a lot like bungee jumping, where as a seller you are willing to throw yourself into a discussion with a buyer, tethered only by your genuine curiosity and the strength of your subject knowledge. If either one of those is weak, you risk plunging to the depths of the gorge, your landing only softened by the bodies of other sellers who came before you.

Listening takes practice, especially since we think faster than people speak, it is easy to race ahead. Which is why many end up listening for selective things rather than everything the buyer is telling them. To be a better listener, you really need to be a better questioner. By learning how to formulate questions based on what they buyer is saying, you can engage them better, and demonstrate your knowledge, and move the discussion forward. One technique I was taught a long time ago, is to challenge yourself to ask a question base on what the buyer just said. This forces me to listen, evaluate, and synthesis the information before speaking. By using their input as a means of asking the next question, one can interview instead of interrogate.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

3 Signs Of Bad Phone Breath – Sales eXecution 2724

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Phone breath

No one likes cold calling, well most don’t, so you can stop writing that e-mail telling me that you’re the exception that proves the rule. I don’t like it, I know it is god’s punishment to sales people, but it works, and I have made the connection between successful cold calls, a robust pipeline and the kids eating. I don’t know about you, but my kids get cranky when they don’t eat. But just because I don’t like it, I don’t tell myself it does not work, like many, I also figured out that if I don’t do it, for sure it will not work. So instead, I try to figure out how to do it better, so I have to do less of it, in the process have come to learn some things that stink a call out, literally like bad morning breath for the phone, and given that the people I am calling are not my lovers, they will not tolerate morning breath. So here three ways to avoid Bad Phone Breath.

Speak To them not At them

This one gets me every time, if you are going to interrupt someone during their busy day, make it worth their time, which means leading with and focusing on one of the oldest truths in sales, What’s In It For Them. Sure everyone knows this until the prospect answers the phone, and then they forget and bam, garlic breath. They start by talking about their company, “we’re a leading…”, or other things that mean nothing to the listener. What they want to know is how you can improve their lot, and specifically the outcomes you have delivered which they can relate to and would have an interest in. Start with that, grab their interest, save the rest for the meeting.

Soft In the Middle

I hate it when reps call me and say “I was wondering if we can meet?” I usually respond, “give me a call when you figured it out”; or “I was hoping we can meet” to which I say, “please call me when you get past hoping, and want to.” I know you are trying to be courteous, don’t want to come across pushy, but you need to make up for the fact that you are on the phone, and need to compensate for the lack of body language. People will follow a person with confidence who has a clear message that shows them what’s in it for them. Be clear, direct, and assertive, “I am calling to set a time to meet to share with you….”

Stop Telling Them There is No Reason to Talk to You

No getting away from the fact that if you are cold calling, you are talking to more voice mails than humans. So stop leaving code in your message that there is no need to call you, and they should go ahead and delete the message now. So here is the code buyers look for to hit 76 and flush your message: “Please call me back at your earliest convenience”, delivered in the Soft way described above. Sure, here is an empty message from a dude selling something I already have, because they didn’t tell me what’s in it for me, just what they do. So let me clear my calendar and set aside things I need to get done, so I can call you. Hmm, whose convenience is that for again?

There are other things you can do to improve the odor of a call, but this is start, get these down, call me and we share more.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

The Value Deficit – Sales eXecution 2710

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sales scale

Sales is very much a balancing exercise, somewhat like a scale, to keep balanced, you need to ensure that there is as much weight on one side as there is on the other. When there isn’t it could lead to problems for the parties involved. The most common example of this in B2B selling is price. More often than not, when a sales person finds themselves negotiating on price, or selling on price it is the result of not having created enough value to merit the price they are demanding.

It is easy to find one’s self with a value deficit just at the wrong time, and having to give unnecessary concessions to win the deal. A fundamental element is a lack of an understanding of value, after all, value is a subjective thing. Like beauty, value is in the eye of the beholder, some line up to pay for a high end performance auto, while others are loath to pay full price for even the most basic vehicle. Part of the problem is a lack of definition around value, just because it is subjective, does not mean it cannot be defined, especially in the context of a sale. This is especially so in a day when everyone is so keen to rest on their value proposition. As I have said in the past value propositions are useless, you can put lipstick on it but it is still a pitch.

So let’s define value, especially in a way that allows you to avoid a value deficit. This is an actionable definition we use with our clients:

“Buyers will see value in those offerings that remove barriers, obstacles, or helps bridge GAPS between where the buyer is now – and – their objectives!”

By helping clients move towards their objectives, or better yet achieve them, you can build value right from the start. Add to that the needed step of quantifying the outcomes you can deliver, you can in effect quantify the value you deliver, and expand that to the value your buyer will realize, which can be greater, especially if you sell it right. By that I mean that if you can help the client see how achieving specific steps or objectives will help open up opportunities beyond that, the payoff will seem and in fact be better than initially understood, and worth paying for.

As an example, let’s say you can demonstrate that you can help the client improve manufacturing process. A good enough objective and outcome on its own. But why stop there, why not explore further, further than your product goes, with the improvement in the process, can they reduce the cost of good, which can both reduce their requirement for operating funds and increased margins. With better margins, can they increase targeted market share, which in turn helps them negotiate better terms with suppliers, etc. Most sales people stop short of this because their product may not be directly delivering or involved in all steps taken, but all I need to be is the catalyst, not doing every bit of it. By extrapolating the value I bring to their objective, I can create a value surplus, or at the minimum, avoid a value deficit.  In other words, build value for the buyer, not value for your product.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Development vs. Budget Cycles0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

DvB

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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

The Objective Seller #webinar0

Clone not

How to Shift the Conversation from Product to Objectives

Join us on Thurs., Oct. 9th, 2014 at 2:00PM ET / 11:00AM PT for this free webinar

Most salespeople are taught to look for pain and needs. However, 75% of customers who switch from one vendor to another say they were satisfied at the time that they switched. There was no pain, and no needs, so what was the catalyst?

Objectives!

In this webinar, sales expert, Tibor Shanto, covers how to shift the conversation from your product to your prospects’ objectives.
Areas addressed include:

  • Breaking down “value” to core components and why people buy
  • Leveraging past experiences – Won, Lost and No Decision deals – 360 Degree Deal View
  • Building a better question
  • Proactive exploration

And much, much more!

After that, meet RingLead CEO, Donato Diorio, for a quick preview of Capture!, which quickly and easily helps salespeople gather contact data from anywhere on the internet into your CRM.

Join me and Donato Diorio in this exciting and eye-opening journey to sales success.

Register

 

Don’t Wait To Ask For Referrals – Sales eXecution 2700

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Fast & happening

I continue to be amazed that despite all that is written about the importance and success of referrals, how few sales people actually leverage this proven and effective method of sourcing new sales opportunities. Whenever I ask a group of sales reps “How many people here ask for referrals?” I still find that way less than half raise their hand. When I follow up with the question “How many have sold to referrals, the same set of people raise their hand again; I am not sure what the others are waiting for.

But even those who make referrals a habit, many are not fully maximizing the opportunity. The main problem, waiting; generally sellers are waiting too long to ask, and are leaving the request till much too late in the process, or missing them altogether.

Ask any group of sales people when they in fact ask for the referral, an overwhelming majority, like 90%, will say ask for referrals after the sales is completed and the product/service is delivered. Most of these will say they will wait three to six months after, “so the value can set in and be proven, and the customer is happy.”

Why?

You should be thinking referral from the time you park your car in the visitors’ spot, until the end of your relationship. Let’s look at it from two perspectives. First is the question of value delivered. Your value comes in many shapes and forms, not just in the delivered product, so even when your referral process is tied to value, it will present itself much before the close or delivered goods.

How many times have you sat with a prospect and had a discussion not about you product, but about something within your field of expertise. Remember I have always stated in this blog that good sales people are subject matter experts. I often sit with prospects and will share a perspective, a view point, or just a way of doing something, and the prospect will respond positively in what I shared, they learned and can use. For example, when discussing forecasts, I may point out a way of calculating something in a better way than they are doing now, or just how they use a formula in their spreadsheet. Prospects often say “Wow, never looked at it that way, thanks for pointing that out”; or “Man, I wish I knew that years ago”; or other similar things.

In my view they just saw something of value in what I said, so why wait, I follow up with “Great, I am glad I can help, do you know anyone else who may see value in this type of conversation?” I don’t expect them to whip out their Rolodex, but I plant the seed, and build from there. You’d be surprised how many time they respond by saying they think so and so should know about this as well.

The other reason you need to think referral from the start, is because you may never close them, which means there is no “after”.

Some time ago I had an initial appointment with a manufacturer, this was a company that had their act together, frankly other than presenting at their annual meeting, and there were no other opportunities. But we had a good dialog, which included talking about their distributors. We agreed to meet again in November to talk about their kick-off, but before I left, I asked if he thought any of his distributors would benefit from some of the areas of expertise we presented. Not only did he list three, give me contact names, but encouraged me to use his name, in the end he even sent an e-mail to two. If I would have waited the opportunity may have been wasted.

Make things happen instead of waiting, all you have to do is plan and ask.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Composed But Not Scripted4

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Composer

Whenever I do a piece about prospecting, specifically cold calling, one of the push backs I get is about the script. People feel limited and restricted by them, well not actors, who seemed to have found a way to take scripts, other people’s scripts, and not only use them creatively and expand beyond the words on the page (or screen), but make good money with in the process.

While I understand the reason for the resistance to scripts, I really don’t get it. As an industry we have tried to take the bite of scripts by hiding them in apps or software, even taking up new (and silly) labels like “Talk Track” and more. Yes indeed, I continue to be amazed at how the same people who rebel against scripts, are more than willing to work with Talk Tracks, one for the powers of branding.

But there is a lot that sales people can learn from the arts when it comes to balancing form, structure and personal expression. Where one can stay very much within the limits of a particular “school” or practice, yet still be individual and original.

The balance I try to help sales people achieve is one of being “Composed but Not Scripted”.

“Composed”, speaks to the need to be thoroughly prepared for the call. This is less about what you say in terms of the exact words you use, and more about the structure for the journey you want to take the prospect on, including the final outcome of the call, scheduled meeting, live or web or phone or …. As with any journey you need to know where it will start, where some turns will be, where you are likely to face heavy traffic or detours, and how you will respond to those in order to get to your destination on time.

When we look at a composition, there are all the elements you need to make it work, the parameters within which it is be played, all of which not only help the player play the piece, but helps the listener consume, enjoy and understand what the composer was trying to communicate. But these do not limit the ability of the player to interpret and enhance the piece while staying loyal to the composition.

The same is true for a sales call, having a structured approach including beginning, key points, and desired outcome, delivered in a way that the prospect can get involved, understand what you want, and what is in it for them, will not only lead to more success, but make it an easier and more pleasant experience for you, and your quota.

Remember you can be composed but not scripted.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto
 

Why is it easier for when you do it for others? – Sales eXecution 2690

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Dialing for Prospects

No secret I am a big proponent of cold calling being an element of prospecting success, along with any other viable means of engaging with potential buyers. I also understand that one of the big reason people do not like cold calling is the whole objection – fear of rejection thing.

But over the years I have observed an interesting phenomenon which raises some key questions about how people execute their calls, how they react and respond to objections and rejection. In turn this could perhaps lead some re-examining of one’s views of cold calling.

Time and time again what I find is that when people are making appointment calls for others, be they an in-house who is tasked with setting appointments for their outside reps, or an outsourced service provider, they react differently to rejection than when they are making appointments for themselves. Specifically, they seem a lot less if at all bothered about getting objections and rejections when they are calling on someone else’s behalf.

Now before you jump to the conclusion that it is because of what they do, or they are just part of that small minority that actually likes to cold call, it is not as simple as that, I know from personal experience. A couple of years ago, a friend was launching a business and asked if I can help set appointments with potential buyers and financers. I spent a few weeks doing that, my conversion rate of conversations to meetings was about the same as when I call for myself, yet when they said no, it didn’t hit me the same way. While the finder’s fee was quite rich, the rejection did not sting nearly to the same degree. Further, when I spoke to people who made the transition from setting appointments for their colleagues, to a sales role that included prospecting for themselves, they found the same experience.

Needless to say that I don’t have the degrees to back the opinion, but it seems the difference is ego. Clearly wasn’t the money, or the nature of the rejection; they included the usual, including hang ups, and assorted accusations.

As a result of the experience, I began to focus on taking myself out of the call. While I have always made the call about the prospect, that is different than taking myself out of the picture. While there is no escaping the fact that my success and income are tied to the call, it becomes a question of perspective. I used to focus on the outcome of the call, and was very conscious about where success on the call led, and even more so if the call did not yield an appointment. Beyond the money, it was like any friendly game of golf, there is always a preference to winning. I now shift the win/lose scenario to what happens in the resulting meeting, not the call that leads to the meeting. Sure you can argue without the call there is no appointment, but I now adopt the outlook that the real test of my ability is in the meeting, not in the exercise that leads to it. My conversions have not changed, but the impact of rejection on me has, making the days even more fun.

Why do you think the results are different when the task is performed for someone else?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

The Reason For My Call – Sales eXecution 2680

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Road sign objectives

For many, “The Reason For My Call”, is a crucial part of their prospecting call, probably more accurate to say cold call, as I would have to assume that if it were a warm call the recipient would know the reason for the call. All too often I cringe when I hear how most callers use this expression, especially when a couple of small adjustments in their approach may lead to better results.

Grab your Proactive Prospecting Call-Flow Now!

First thing is the timing of the statement. Most people use it at or near the start of the call, too soon. While some will tell you that you have 10 seconds at the start of the call, step back and think, (for more than 10 seconds). On a cold call, you just interrupted someone who was most likely doing something other than waiting for a cold call, since you call you address them and hopefully not make the most common time and call water, and say either “how are you?”, or “is this a good time?” Hello, you just interrupted them, how could it be a good time. Even if they did want to speak with you they would need a few seconds to disengage from what they were involved with when the phone rang. Then they’ll need a few more seconds and effort to focus in on your voice, accent, intonation, etc. So giving them your Reason For The call at this point is premature, as it completely lacks context, you know why you called, you need to give them a clue too.

The Reason For Your Cal, should come after some context (a different post), and when it does come it should be a good reason, for them. The only reason someone would want to meet with us, is if there is a good indication that we can help them achieve their objectives, to deliver outcomes that will make a difference for them.

The Reason is certainly not to “learn”, they don’t have time to teach you. Remember you are asking, in my case, for an hour of their time, if they are working 10 hours a day that is a big chunk of time, big investment. If they going to make that investment, they have the right to learn and be smarter at the end, not you, they expect that you are coming prepared, (what happened to all that research I keep hearing about?). In the same way they do not have time to discuss.

I was once listening in on outbound calls, and one flower-child-caller, said The Reason They Were Calling was so they could meet to establish a relationship, after a brief pause, the prospect said, “You should go to church dance or singles club, I need help in my business.”

What prospect will make time for is hear how you can help them achieve specific objectives, how you can help them mitigate risk, have a positive financial impact, increase market share, and more, all based on how you have done that for others in a meaningful and measurable way. Those are good reasons for the call.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

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