Welcome to The Pipeline.

Just Wondering…3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


So it is a holiday up here in Canada, Thanksgiving, we do ours early so we get all the good turkeys, and it is a holiday in the States as well, Columbus Day, a day to celebrate a guy who gets credit for discovering something long after it was discovered, and not what he set out to do to begin with. Sounds like sales already. But with the holiday mode, I thought it is a good day to ponder those things we may not have the luxury to think about when we are not luxuriating.

Here is one, I was recently interviewed for a B2B sales podcast. The host, a nice fellow, asked me a series of questions he said are put to all who appear on the podcast. “Go for it” I said; “Who is the best sales person you have ever known?” I gave him the name of two active sales people working for large sales organizations, and what I thought made one of them great. What he said next got me wondering. “Of all the times we asked this question, you are the only one who actually named real sales people”. Really, “What did the others say?” I asked.

“Some said Jesus, others Obama, or Steve Jobs”.

So I am not here to argue about these as being sales people, although if you’re gonna go biblical, isn’t the serpent a better choice, I mean did he not sell Eve like big time.

What really got me wondering is why the other pundits couldn’t name real sales people. We all put ourselves out there as making a difference for sales people and sales organizations. You would think in the course of that you may have met some great sales people, or better yet, been a significant factor is creating at least one great sales person. Why would they have to go for feel good bullshit choices like those?

Most of them I am willing to bet have not met Obama or Jobs, and certainly have not worked with them close enough to assess their selling skills. I mean what criteria would they have used? I am not even going to bring JC into this, I am sure that many pundits will have felt that they have met the son of God, but again, was he selling at the time? Looking at some of the sales people who have come out of that school, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart or Ernest Angley, you gotta wonder.

Hmm, what’s the deal then, are they working with sales people, are they selling? Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being a learned observer, the theoretical side of sales is important in ensuring improved execution. But there is a difference between talking about and talking to, between talking about and doing. I mean when someone asks who the best boxer was, you’re more likely to say Muhammad Ali than Howard Cosell; just wondering.

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner


Are Your Buyers Asking WTF?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sellers often have a distorted view of what is really important to buyers, leaving buyers to repeatedly ask WTF? Get your mind out of the gutter, the question is Why That Feature? Not what you’d be asking when the deal goes sideways, as it will if you are unable to nail the buyer’s WTF.

One thing that many executives and owners tell me regularly is that they are frustrated by some sales people’s inability to relate to the buyer’s perspective of things. As importantly, the incapability of sellers to have a fluid and malleable enough understanding of the products they sell to make it fit the buyer’s requirements, not just those of the selling organizations.

They feel that sellers come in and present features that may seem cool and useful to people in their own marketing group, or features someone in product development thought made sense. While some features may seem cool and useful to a developer, the same may not resonate with real world users. While secondary research may suggest a demand for a feature to the marketing group, it may not be top of mind for all buyers.

At times the disconnect is simply that buyers, especially executives are looking for specific outcomes, and don’t look at the product through functionality. One executive noted “I could care less how it does it, if it’s legal, and gets me what I want, that’s just fine!”

Sellers need to be able to relate aspects of the product to the buyer’s reality, and while there may be similarities in those realities, each buyer is just that different. Mat be it is only in terms of where they are in the buying cycle or as broad as market strategy. While everyone says that they are beyond feature/benefit in their sales approach, buyers tell me different. Sellers are still trying to bend the buyer to their feature, rather than highlighting how that feature gets the buyer to where they want to be.

Of course to do that, sellers need to be aware of what buyers are trying to achieve. And this is not more of something per minute, or faster processing, or social integration. It is more about something that starts with why, and ends with outcomes and impacts. The means are usually secondary.

Presentations where the seller filled with buzzwords still abound, as does communication from marketing. There is almost an expectation that the buyer will paint the same picture in response to single trigger word, as the seller or their marketing group did. Expecting buyers to come around to our view and our definitions just leads to more and harder work, a lot harder than changing the narrative to that of the buyer.

The same is true for unnecessary upgrades or changes in features that were working just fine. Change and new are not always better, especially if it change that was not driven by users/buyers. Users/paying customers don’t always see the same need for change as the developer. If it does not positively impact the buyer’s journey or ability to drive objectives, it is not a great feature or upgrade. These also lead buyer to ask Why That Feature, this not so much why do I need that (why do I wanna pay for that), but what was so bad about it that you had to change it.

Learn to speak with the buyer, not at the buyer, and avoid forcing them to ask WTF?

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

Facts Vs. Reality2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 


The other day at the Sales Performance Summit, fellow presenter, Tim Hurson referenced an old Russian proverb; and I am paraphrasing:

” Nine pregnant women for one month do not make a baby.”

It reminded me a lot of many people in the revenue process. I say revenue process, because people in both sales and marketing say silly things, often causing the loss of revenue instead of enhancing the experience and leading to results.

Having watched many presentations and webinars, you see people falling into the trap of citing a string of unrelated facts that they believe will make for the truth, when in reality, they make for a string of unrelated facts and a loss of credibility with anyone listening.

I had a chance to take in a presentation from an expert making the case for how much things have changed, and that everything is being disrupted, and if you are not disrupting, blah, blah, blah. I mean really, when has that not been the case, just ask the horseshoe maker, and the guy who used to deliver ice blocks for the ice box in your granny’s kitchen. Another example of this intellectual masturbation, is when they cite facts that have been around for ages, as proof of change.

One example this person used was the fact that that over 80% of the companies that made up the Fortune 500 are no longer there. Not entirely true, as many are there in merged or reformed entities. Their argument is that this the fact that it is no longer business as usual, we are in the age of business unusual. Well I am sorry, when has there been a state of business as usual. Walk down any main street and see if the same store dominate as 25 years ago. Seems to me that a whole bunch of banks and investment houses disappeared in 2008, little to do with technology, millennials, or any new trends, same old corruption and rip offs.

The velocity of change has changed, but that change has been balanced on both sides, sellers are keeping up with market evolution and buyers evolving habits, and in many cases shaping and leading them. Same thing causing and allowing buyers to evolve are there also helping the seller evolve, just look at Amazon, Apple, Uber, and others that have led the buyers to do things, rather than the other way around.

As a seller you should take two things from this. Buyers will follow if you make sense. Just because it sounds good, it does not make sense. And if the buyer smell the BS, you’re fried, no matter how interactive or mobile friendly you are.

But they kept going, so let me share. Making the point that 2/3 of searches are now done on mobile devices, they couldn’t resist say that despite the number one search was still for pubs and bars, confirming that while people may change their method of searching to the most convenient and easiest mechanism, the underlining motivation has changed little.

Because it sounds good in a boardroom or focus group, it does not really going to help you sell. Another innovation that was supposed to enlighten us was the movement to benchmarking your company not against you peers, but other industries. Example given, two organization who apparently benchmark their timing/speed, against an F1 pit stop’s time for changing tires, seems they do that now in less than 3 seconds, vs. 67 in 1950, not sure what the point of that was other than ya, it’s faster. Oh what they failed to mention, in 1950 you can only have 4 crew members work on the care, whereas the 2013 example they were comparing it to had 18 crew members hands on car. But the belly laugh came when they told us about how now West Jet is benchmarking their turnaround time on the ground at airports against this. Further that operating rooms are also benchmarking themselves against the F1 pit stop. I don’t know about you, but given that the jet liner is already built on components provided by a lowest cost provider, I somehow wouldn’t mind if the pilot and crew took an extra minute on the ground, and take that walk a little slower to ensure that we don’t crash faster than we did in the 1950’s. Or that the surgeon take a couple of extra minutes before sowing me up. I know time is money, but there is cost to instruments being left in your body, and the cost of retrieving them.

The only purchase that resulted in this was me increasing my coverage to cover the downside of speed surgery.

Tibor Shanto

 LI Bottom banner

A Real Sales Hack0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


While there may be debate as to whether he said it or not, P.T. Barnum, is often credited with the statement: “There’s a sucker born every minute” And who said it really does not change the fact that it is true, and true across all spectrums of the population, including people who call themselves salespeople. Just look at the hoards who get sucked in (willingly) by shiny labels promising an alternate to the heavy lifting required at time to be a success in sales.

It is not lost on some spin-masters that if they offer up silver bullets, potions or “techniques of the day”, that they can cash in on people’s propensity to try the easy way out, rather than do the work it takes. Of course one way to resell the “same old”, is to rename it, repackage it, and slap some new promises on an old bum. A lesson no doubt learned from the infomercial industry, who seem to come up with a “new improved ab-machine” or “butt sculptors” every year, knowing full well that there will some disparate over weight person, who would rather pretend to take a short cut rather than do a proper work out and moderate their diet, because that would take work.

I say this because the other day I witnessed a discussion lead by another Tony Little of sales variety, trying to push the same old under a new label, and as in the past, they borrow the label from other practices, usually in an effort to make things look cool. Remember Sales 2.0, just when everyone was talking about Enterprise 2.0 and web 2.0? And when you asked what it was all about, all you got was some babble about sales people selling using the latest tools, like that was new, like successful sales people were never early adopters of technology, especially technology that made them more efficient and effective.

Well this discussion was based on the latest borrowed trend, Sales Hacks. While it was an interesting discussion, it sorely lacked substance, mostly because the topic it was based on lacks substance. When pushed for definitions and clarity, all this person, I am sure an otherwise fine fellow, could offer up is that hacks are the use of tools by sales people to make their work easier. OK, but how are these ‘hacks’? How are these different than the latest ab machine, and the similar promise that you will look like Charles Atlas in just 5 minutes a day? In the end, it really seemed to be just a fresh coat of paint on social selling. One recent sales hack I saw touted the virtues of direct mail, hmm. The whole thing smells more like marketing than sales.

Urban dictionary defines a hacker as: “A person skilled with the use of computers that uses his talents to gain knowledge.” And it defines a hack as: “A person who is a professional at doing some sort of service, but does crappy work.” I am fairly sure that the discussion was about the latter. There is no silver bullet in sales, there are just good practices, and bad practices; there are those who do it, and those that avoid doing it by chasing empty promises that lead to no result.

While I did not know P.T. Barnum, I did know a very wise and gentle soul who had a more appropriate saying that relates to the topic: “Where there is horse shit, you’ll find sparrows!”

Tibor Shanto

LI Bottom banner

Are Buyers Liars?3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

TV Head


Of course not, prospects are liars. No no, that’s not true either. It is less about lying, and more about rationalizing why we lost, take a look at what I mean:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

What’s Your Favourite Hyphenated Selling – Sales eXecution 2460

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

un hy selling

Several pundits have presented the argument that we are all sellers and we are always selling, no surprise, selling is part of life and the human experience, right from the guy selling fragments of the big bang, or the serpent selling Eve the apple. As a result, just like people, sales comes in different ways, shapes, approaches, techniques, etc.

This brings with it a host of labels and subsets of sales selling. What I call the hyphenated sale. You’ve seen this and will continue to see it throughout sales. Different labels/qualifiers placed on sales, some times to better frame the technique, sometimes because it pertains to a very specific part of the sale, other times the name of the person who “created” (ya right) that type of selling, other times just to be catchy.

There are times when it is nothing more than a marketing label. Let’s face it, we are a target for someone’s product, someone trying to sell a product to us, a course, an app, an assessment, so slap a label on it and start sell it. Other times there are movements that want to adopt a particular sticky tag as a means of finding a readymade audience, or as a means of siphoning off their competitors. If there are a group of people who are terrified and terrible at old calling, what better way to attract them than to adopt the label of no more cold calling, whether it works or not is secondary, what great branding. Sometimes the branding evolves, Sales 2.0 was the rage a while back, till all the various flavours realised there was more to be sold by going Social Selling.

So what I am asking for today, is your list of hyphenated sales, you don’t have to follow the methods, or be a proponent, or you could in fact be it’s biggest groupie, not the point here, all I am asking for is a list of hyphenated or branded sales you are aware of. Here I’ll get you started:

Solution Selling
Impact selling
Sugar-free Selling
Kosher Selling
Consultative Selling
Trigger Event Selling
Interactive Selling
Social Selling

Go for it, have some fun with it, let’s see what we come up with.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Wasted Sales Opportunities – How One Bank Blew Theirs5

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


One of the big Canadian banks, we’ll call them the Green bank, has a current radio ad that I believe holds a great lesson for sales people.

In the ad, a customer of a competing bank, is complaining to a competing bank manager that all he got for switching to the bank was a toaster, “I already have a toaster; and it doesn’t even toast bagels.  I am a grown man, I have a toaster”, he proclaims.

At this point I am thinking what a great way for Green to highlight how they focus on your unique needs, how their offerings address the real requirements of Canadians, and how there is greater depth to their banking relationship than a mere utensil.  Surely they are not going to pretend that they can bribe us with a toaster or other kitchen appliance.

Well I was half right.  They were offering a 7” tablet.  I was wrong thinking that they may actually talk to things that are really important in these days of economic woe, helping one save, creative mortgages, proactive retirement options, and more.  But no, given the opportunity they offered up not quite a toaster, but a tablet, how 2013 is that?  And that is the half that I was right about, it wasn’t a kitchen appliance, but one you can use in the living room, bathroom or probably everywhere.

Some sellers fall into to the same trap, getting so focused and blinded by their needs, their agenda, and their world view, that the buyer and their reality are just incidental to the process.  Many of the questions posed, assumptions made, benefits highlighted during the sale, have more relevance to the seller, their marketing department and company, leaving the buyer underwhelmed, disappointed and looking for alternatives.  That was my thought, if this is the best Green can offer as alternative to Blue, Red or Black, what’s the point?  If their response to the old practice of enticing clients with old school utensils, is to offer up a new school utensil, than why would I switch, why would your customer?

As sellers we need fix our lens on the buyers’ objectives and priorities, and work with the buyer towards those ends.  It sounds straight forward, but continues to be a challenge.   I am part of many call plans and reviews, and time after time, sellers commit to the obvious, but then try to retrofit the buyer into their product or solution, rather than helping the buyer understand how their objectives, the buyer’s, can be achieved using our offering.  This requires a bit more effort since you first have to surface the objectives, but it is doable, especially if you have sold similar things to similar buyers.  But despite the modern veneer, sellers often fall into pitch mode, feature benefit, and some form of price concession at the end.  I bet some would just love to have a trunk full of toasters to hand out with each next step or close.

Sadly for Green, I already have a tablet, a 10”, and a mediocre Blue bank, only a few shades darker than Green.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

It Is Still The Little Things Count88

Last week I was part of a meeting where a sales person that I introduced to my client was presenting her solution, sales force efficiency tool, to my client. While the solution was good, she clearly knew her stuff, and clearly understood the client’s requirement, she kept doing something that was bush league and potentially risking his success.

It seems our intrepid seller had a busy day prior to arriving; I didn’t need to ask, because as soon as she opened her laptop, she plugged in her smartphone for recharging.  Not a bad thing, almost efficient, (I say almost since she could buy a car charger and avoid the whole thing), makes her look busy, always on the go, in demand, and she gets his daily dose of multi-tasking.

The problem surfaced about 3 minutes in to the discussion; as we were mapping out some workflow on a big whiteboard at the front of the boardroom, her phone went off, traditional old phone ring (read shrill); to her credit, she did not answer the call but pressed the ignore button.  Two minutes later again, ring ignore.  You’d think that she would just turn the phone off as it was clear she wasn’t waiting for a specific call, she wasn’t checking the caller before ignoring them.  By the third time, one of my client’s IT people in the meeting asked if the device had an off button.  She politely smiled, but did nothing.

Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident; I see variations of this in sales meetings everywhere.  Some not as sever, but still people interacting with their device, rather than interacting with their buyer.

Sales people often wonder why they lose certain opportunities, they spend time reviewing the big issues, and how they could have done things differently or better.  They should also focus on and reviewing the little things, as often the quality of their presentation and or the quality of their solution is interrupted by the smallest of things.

Oddly some of the big things that cause us to lose or win deals are at times out of our control, but the little things are not.  This lady will not lose the deal, yet, but she could have dramatically change the impression she made by taking actions on the little things, like turning off her phone.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

“Did You Just Say…?” #218

In this instalment, we have a new high (or low depending on your perspective) in call reluctance.  In working with a rep who has avoided prospecting activities lately, during our most recent meeting I asked what he accomplished last week and what his plan was over the next two weeks.  He responded that because of his faith “I am giving up prospecting for Lent”.

Not sure how he meant it because he did not crack a smile, to his credit he did do some prospecting this week, but there you have it.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically. Go ahead, do it, click here now!

“Did You Just Say…?” #130


I spend a lot of time talking to sales types, for the most part a great bunch of folks.  But every once in a while, they say something that causes you to do a double take and wonder (sometimes out loud) “Did you just say…?”  Sometimes these are stupid sayings, sometimes funny or even profound, but they are worth sharing. 

Rather than just letting these slip, or forgetting them, I will start sharing them under the above title.  No long stories, set ups, or morals, just something someone said to me while talking about sales or selling that deserve a shake of the head.  Rather than providing a visual and asking for the caption, I’ll give you the sound bite, you make of it what you like.

Don’t let me have all the fun, if you hear anything worth sharing, send it along, and I’ll post it.  (Remember just the saying, no long stories).

I was talking to a sales rep last week, when he said:

“My closing ratio is well over 100%”

See what I mean, what can you add to that?  You can’t make this up!

Tibor Shanto

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically. Go ahead, do it, click here now!

wordpress stat