Welcome to The Pipeline.

Sorry But Your New Is Not That New4

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

New Or Improved

There is an old saying that goes:

There is no such things as an old joke, just old people. Meaning no matter how old you are the first time you hear a joke it is new to you, no matter how long it has been out there.

Which explains why I am going to sound a bit old in this piece, which is alright, because I will be talking about all the “NEW” out there that sellers are being told (sold) they should be consuming if they want to succeed. I don’t have an issue with things that are really new, but when it comes to selling, “NEW” is more often than not, the “same old”, with at best new wrapping.

In some hands NEW becomes the lubricant used by sales pundits and marketers to ram more of the “same old” down unsuspecting throats. (Just think foie gras)

Of course the beauty of selling NEW is the opportunity to upsell plenty of CHANGE, “you need to change, and use this new, or do things in this new way, if you are not changing, you are bound to fail.” Well not exactly, in fact experience shows otherwise, sales is not like a baby, it doesn’t need to be changed all the time. Success in sales comes down to execution, in a continuously better way, it is hard to improve what you are doing if you are always CHANGING what you are doing.

One benefit of being 57 with your memory intact, is you’ve seen, a truckload of NEW, (or old jokes) where the only change is not in the content but in the packaging the pundits wrap it in.

A recent sermon from a pundit preached on about how times are changing and “you need to change or you’ll be left behind”, or worse. Duh, no kidding, but when was that not the case? I mean Dylan cashed in on that out 50 years ago, and Darwin laid it out in simple terms back when? But again, if you keep changing, when can you improve, surly there needs to be an opportunity to master things, not just change them!

I find it funny how pundits try to convince us that this time it is different, this change is “real change”, and this new change is it. If you don’t keep up with this change, if you don’t jump on this bandwagon, you’re beat; right.

Change is a fact, an old fact. “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change”, given to us by Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 BC – 475 BC) not such a NEW guy, best known for his doctrine of change being central to the universe.

What makes sellers great is not jumping from one bandwagon to another, but a focus on fundamentals, and a laser focus on improving those fundamentals, rather than chasing the latest shiny object, regardless of trends or packaging.

And this is the hard part for both pundits and sellers trying to evolve. The pundits need NEW, even when the only thing new is the sleeve of the new book. As Michael Jordan said: “You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly because the only thing that changes will be your attention to them.”

I recently read a piece that was supposed to boggle my mind, it talked about a stat that came from an executive at a social selling platform, at a social selling event, that suggested that sales professionals who use social selling are 51% more likely to exceed their quota. But is that really NEW, or a CHANGE from what has gone before? No.

Great sales people have always been early adopters of new tools, technologies and opportunities, embracing them to further, not necessarily change their selling. Not new, just think of Martin Luther and the print press; he went viral 500 years ago http://www.economist.com/node/21541719. More recently the telephone, the car, the answering service, or fax, or… This is what was always amusing about the notion of Sales 2.0, what was Telex Sales -3.0?

I would strongly argue that those same sales people would have exceeded quota no matter what tools they adopted or were in vogue at the time. It was the sales people who leveraged the tool, they made the medium look good, not the other way around. Proof, where are the stats relating to those exceeding quota without using the tool, where are the numbers around those who use social selling and fail to make quota. Oh yes, sales is not about numbers, it is about NEW.

Change also consumes a lot of time and energy, both of which may be better invested in improving your execution of the fundamentals. The goal is balance, balance between improving and acquiring skills. Change is addictive, and often becomes an end to itself, you may end up with something new but not better. Ask yourself will this help you execute better as measured by results, or is it something new to replace the last change? In the end, success in sales comes down to Execution – Everything Else Is Just Talk!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Driving Commerce Not Sales is Key To Success0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sales people are always looking for the secret to sales success, more revenue and glory. One path is to look beyond sales and see how they can drive commerce. At first glance one may be inclined to dismiss this as just semantics, but in as much as attitudes drive actions, and actions lead to results, the distinction is so much more.

Commerce is the whole system of an economy that constitutes an environment for business. The system includes legal, economic, political, social, cultural and technological systems that are in operation in any country. Thus, commerce is a system or an environment that affects the business prospects of an economy or a nation-state. It can also be defined as a component of business which includes all activities, functions and institutions involved in transferring goods from producers to consumers.”

Substitute “nation-state” in the above to vertical or market segment, and you can see why successful sales people focus on commerce over sales. For us to sell more, we require customers who need to and can buy more; and new prospects who see merit in buying from us. As sellers, there are steps we can execute that will help and benefit both groups in the same way, and other steps that will pertain to one of the above.

While all good sales people want to help their customers/buyers, and work diligently to do that, for the most part it is usually centered around our offering. Not taking anything away from many “solution focused” organizations, the fact remains that when I ask sales people or even many managers:

How can you directly support their goals?

The majority respond in a way that reflects what their product does in a very-specific way related to the nature of the product, for example: hardware specs, or the “User Experience” they deliver.

sellers

But few go into the clients’ world. Even many case studies focus on how their product helped the client achieve things, a more secure environment, faster speeds, etc. But little if anything about how and why the buyer interacts with their world. It is as though the buyer has nothing other than the product or process in question to worry about.

A seller focused on commerce, understands that his success is tied to the buyer’s success, and that happens beyond the product, on a bigger playing field. How do they help the buyer increase market share, extend return on assets, expand time, mitigate risk, manage reputations, exceed customer expectations, reduce to cost of doing business – not buying your product, or how to add value to the buyer’s customers.

commerce

The good news is that with a nudge in the right direction, and managerial support, most sellers can be given the broader vision of Commerce. Focus on commerce, and sales follow.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Return On Objectives #Webinar0

Return On Objectives - Harnessing Objectives to Drive Better Sales Conversations

Learn how to change the sales conversation and who should be having that conversation with!

Presented by  

Join me on March 19, at 3:00 pm Eastern.  

Objective Based Selling looks at how to align the conversation with the buyer’s objectives, and leveraging those objectives to create a better conversation that drives mutual opportunities and success. With changes in the buying and selling dynamic, B2B buyers who are ready to buy are much better informed and more empowered than ever, and unless sellers are that much better prepared they risk being reduced to glorified order takers. Buyers who are not in the market, the so called Status Quo, are more time deprived than ever and are much less susceptible to traditional sales approaches and conversations. Impervious to pains, needs or solutions, a large segment of your market is better able to cocoon themselves from traditional sellers and sales conversations.

The presentation will cover how to take advantage of current realities and present specific ways sellers can successfully approach and engage prospects, but create selling opportunities where others may not see any, and in the process build credibility, expert status, and loyalty with existing and new buyers. Objective based selling is a process based, value driven four plank platform for success in selling to Status Quo buyers, the most overlooked segment of the market:

  • 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

D & R

Dear Sales Diary3

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Diary

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

The Sales Version of Chicken or Egg – Sales eXchange 2050

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Chicken or egg

For many the age old question continues to be which came first the chicken or the egg, and while some have claimed to have the answer, there is a similar one playing out in B2B sales.

Most agree that you need to develop and maintain relationships with buyers (then clients) to succeed in B2B selling, but there is lot of debate about which comes first the relationship, or the sale?

First thing you have to do is define “relationship”, it is one of those words in sales that people use without often quantifying or defining its meaning.  Maybe the assumption is that “everyone knows” the meaning, but that is a false and risky assumption.  Some use it to hide their lack of knowledge or understanding of sales, and relationship is one of those sunshine words, if you keep using it, you sound as though you are in the know and good at sales.  I see this a lot when I ask sellers I work with to define sales, they’ll talk around the question, and throw in “relationship” at a few critical junctures where their response looks weak.

When you get into more formal definitions, you find two main camps. One basically states that the primary objective is the building of long-term relationships with customers from which repeat business will flow.  The other, believes that relationships evolve from good results delivered on sales that were initially made before there was a relationship, based on a positive experience, the interaction continues, relationships build and evolve.

Both agree that relationships are important and make for better and more sustained business, but like the chicken and the egg, they seem to disagree on which comes first, the initial sale or the relationship.  For the sake of disclosure, I tend to line up with the “sales comes first, relationships evolve” camp, rather than the camp that feels that sellers need to focus on the relationship first, and then business will flow, a definition borrowed from a popular sales glossary.

Relationship do not ensure sales.  I remember having a rep in Ottawa who finally landed a big government department, when asked by her peers how she did it, she told them she established a solid relationship.  She failed to mention the 10% discount she negotiated with me to close the deal.  A year later, she lost the department, the only one of the many we had as clients, as we were reviewing the deal, I couldn’t help but ask what happened to the relationship?

We have all seen or experienced where buyers, not just new buyers, but established customers, ones  sellers thought they had a relationship with, who end up buying from someone else. It usually comes down to either price, the other seller, the one without the relationship, being cheaper. Or even more biting, the other seller was able to convince the buyer that they can move them closer to their objectives than you.  In outselling the relationship, they show that attaining objectives will trump relationship for a buyer every time.

We work in a world where companies and reps need sales to thrive, sales in the current month and quarter.  This is why companies all pay commissions for sales, not for relationships.  This is why it makes more sense to develop a sale, delver to or above expectations and use that as the platform for building a relationship, rather than building relationships with customers from which repeat business will flow.  To be clear, I am not saying no relationship, or relationships have no vale, but that there is a sequence that delivers more for both parties, and that sequence is, start building the relationship and the sales as soon as you engage, but get the sale first, it will take time to build a real and worthwhile relationship.

So there, we have solved that one, and if you are interested, and have a sense of humour, the question of which came first the chicken or the egg, has also been answered.  Again, if you have a sense of humour, you can learn about it here.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

It Is Personal0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

The Happiness of Pursuit

One questionable piece of advice sellers are given is not to take “things personally”. While I understand the sentiment behind it, encouraging sellers to not go down a dark hole, there is something wrong with telling professional sales people, in fact professionals of any type, not to take it personally. The reality is that part of successful selling is conviction, not just in your ability to add value to the buyer, but and in how you sell. It is hard to have that and not be passionate about selling, and as soon as passion is involved, it also becomes personal.

Certainly there are parts of the sales cycle that you can remove yourself somewhat from the emotions of the sale, usually during the prospecting stage, especially if you are a proactive rather than a passive prospector. When you first reach out to a potential buyer they don’t know you from Adam, and the goal is to get them engaged. Initial rejections are more situational than directed; meaning that they are not rejecting you as an individual, but what you represent, an interruption. But as you get engaged and are working through the sale, you get more emotionally involved, things do become a lot more personal.

It is that emotional involvement that often allows you to go deep with a buyer. Passion and enthusiasm are contagious, and it’s something you want your buyers to catch. After all, we are constantly reminded that people buy on emotion, then rationalize their decision, so it only helps if you are going to connect with the buyer on that level as well.

A more workable and realistic goal is to understand that you do need to get involved on a number of levels, that it does get personal, and that you need to be able to deal with and manage the outcomes whether they go your way or not. The ability to step back, assess the circumstance, and move on to the next sale. No different than the expectation and practice in professional sport.

By assessing the outcome you achieve a number of positives that help with the personal aspect. First you can evaluate how well you did execute you plan and process and understand why perhaps you lost the deal. I say perhaps, because there isn’t always a clear answer all nicely wrapped, if the result of the assessment is ambiguous, you will still have to deal with the outcome and move on.

But if the analysis of the deal and outcome are not ambiguous, then you are in a great position to learn, both what you want to repeat and to accentuate moving forward, and what to avoid and improve. While this may not take away the sting of a lost deal, it does help you benefit in some way, cope, and have a reason to give it another go with your new insight.

It is very much the emotion we bring at sellers that helps us win deals where most all other things are equal. It is precisely then that you need to go deep, and leave yourself open to disappointment, and yes it does become personal precisely because of that; and given the opportunity I would advise you to get emotionally involved and deal with the outcome win or lose. After all, they only give you the advice about it not being personal when you lose, it seems they are OK with it being personal when you win.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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

What’s Improving – Your Sales OR Orders?2

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Bubbling up

As the economy continues to show hints of progress, and business picks up, it is important to understand the nature of the improvements in sales you and your company experience. Taking into account the old adage “all boats rise with the tide”, you need to be able to discern where your growth is coming from.  Is it from increased sales, or just an increase in orders due to an improving economic environment; and yes Sunshine, there is a difference, much like the difference between sales professionals and order takers.

More than ever, having a defined sales process, with supporting metrics is a must. Without that, you may easily mistake increased revenues with improved sales or selling, when in reality the improvement may be organic.  Increased demand, leading to an uptick in orders or improved selling, the two are very different, but often mistaken.

In fact, this is one of the risks of relying strictly on a single lagging indicator – Revenues, rather than a mix of leading and lagging indicators.  In many ways you can look at it the way investors look at interest rates paid on fixed income instruments, where they back out the rate of inflation from the total rate they receive from an instrument to arrive at the real rate.  Think of the organic increase in orders as inflation, and the real rate as YOUR ability to sell more or better in a given market.  All sellers benefit from a rise in demand, only those who focus on selling will grow sales beyond the herd, and get more than their share of growth.  Increased market share is always a good thing.

To avoid being caught, you need understand your intra-sale conversion rates, understanding if in fact you are doing a better job of converting leads to prospects, prospects to proposals and proposals to wins.  By measuring these and other critical points you will know if you are just benefiting from an increase in demand – more leads, or ability to convert those leads.  If you have a 4:1 lead to prospect rate, then it goes without saying that you’ll have more sales from six leads than 4, 1.5 sales vs. 1.  But if your sales and selling skills improve, and you can move to a 3:1 ratio, you’ll sell proportionally more.  This is important in down markets too, but people get fooled in up markets when the wind is in their sails.

Once you understand these measures, you can set goals for theses (or other) conversions from stage to stage, and benefit from the compounding effect, and increase both real and organic sales.  With goals and metrics in place, it is much easier to develop and Execute a tactical plan, you will be in a position to adjust or change your model to ensure continuous growth and skills improvements.

Not knowing can create more than false comfort, it could lead you to make wrong decisions, and by the time you realize, you may be left too far behind the competition.

What’s In Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

The Three Rs of Sales – Sales eXchange 18243

change

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

Hanging Out with @GlobeSmallBiz: How to develop a Winning Sales strategy45

Hanging Out with @GlobeSmallBiz: How to develop a Winning Sales strategy

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business’ Small Business interview series on Google+ Hangout. As the title suggests, we discussed a number of topics relating to sales, and sales challenges important for small business owners.

This was not only a great use of the technology, but we covered a number of key issues potential pitfalls, and opportunities for small business owners.

Take a look, comment, enjoy, and profit.

httpvh://youtu.be/A3FEyN2B4dE

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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