Welcome to The Pipeline.

Why Are You Trying To Kill Me?1

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Horrorfilm

Said the Cold Call To The Socialite.

Recent headlines about AC/DC’s drummer brush with the law, got me thinking why would someone want to kill someone? Such a passionate act must be a result of some big or egregious cause, or at the very least a means of avoiding harm. Then I remembered that in sales we see this all the time, over and over, people are trying to kill cold calling.

The most recent would be assassins are Socialites, social selling advocates, who seem to spend as much time sniping at and proclaiming the death of cold calling as they do speaking about what they sell, social selling products, seminars, remedies and dreams. I wish them all the luck, capitalism rules, everyone is allowed to make a buck, I just don’t understand why cold calling needs to be dead for their stuff to work. Cold calling does not present danger to them, in fact it complements and adds to social selling, just as social selling adds to cold calling success, so what’s the deal here Socialites?

You know I have never read an article or a post that was written by an advocate of cold calling, suggesting that social selling is bad, ridiculing people who use the practice to engage with prospects, suggest that it is inadequate, or about to die. Even though you can find stats that would suggested that on its own, it is not all the Socialites will have you believe.

I suspect the main reason is that cold callers do not see social as a threat, is because we do see it as a great addition to an existing set of tools and techniques we use to drive business. We cold callers seem to take a more inclusionary approach to engaging with clients and driving revenue. I would argue cold callers have taken a much more “social approach” than many Socialites who seem to either proclaim or wish that cold calling was dead. Now we all know it is not, you wouldn’t need to keep saying it if it was, it would be self-evident, when was the last time you read a piece about Plato being dead?

Let’s Spin Some Stats!

(Step back you don’t wanna get any on your shoes)
 

To start with not every buyer has a Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn account. Not only that but depending on who you are prospecting, it is important to note that some groups’ social media activity is in decline. According VentureBeat’s summary of the 2014 CEO.com Social CEO Report “an annual survey that investigates the social media habits of business leaders, has been released. The results show a depressingly small increase in social activity from Fortune 500 business leaders over last year’s analysis.” Further, “Amazingly, the CEO.com report shows that 68 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social presence on any of the major networks. Taking a deeper dive into the data reveals that while there has been significant growth in the number of Fortune 500 CEO accounts created versus last year’s results, the number of “active” accounts grew marginally. This suggests that nearly as many business leaders with existing accounts abandoned their use of social media.”

I’ll be the first to admit that you can probably find stats to the contrary, which just goes to show that sales and sales people are just as susceptible to hype as the next group. But hype is something decision makers have a radar for, serious decision makers want facts not hype, they want tangible things that help them achieve their objectives. This leads to the fact that the most effective means of communication with senior leaders is direct. And while 68% may shun a social presence, 100% have telephones and e-mails. The key is to have a meaningful message that leads to engagement.

Here are some famous stats that keep getting dragged out (and abused):

Corporate Executive Board reported that B2B buyers are 57% of the way to a buying decision before they are willing to talk to a sales rep.
• “A survey by DemandGen Report, reported that 77% of B2B buyers said they did not talk with a salesperson until after they had performed independent research, and 36% of buyers said they didn’t engage with a sales rep until after a short list of preferred vendors was established.”

I am not here to argue the stats, but I do want to point out that both stats refer to BUYERS. These are people who of their own volition initiated a buying cycle. Which means that by the time they are 57% – 77% of the way there, they are not looking for a sales person, but more an order taker. Sad but true. Sales People are paid to persuade and influence, not accept orders from someone who has for the most part made up their mind and is now looking to see which models are available and for someone to negotiate price and terms with. Definition of selling:

To Sell –
-   to persuade or induce (someone) to buy something:
-   to persuade or influence to a course of action or to the acceptance of something

The real problem with waiting for buyers, is that according to Chet Holmes and other sources, “About 3 percent of potential buyers at any given time are buying now” (The Ultimate Sales Machine – by Chet Holmes). Only 3% of your target market are active buyers, even if you social sold your share and then some, are you near quota? These 3% are the people calling you when they are more than half way through their journey, most are past persuasion or influence. If you want to talk SALES or SELLING, you need to be talking about the other 97%. If you want to sell to that 97%, you are likely going to have to pick up the phone and say something other than #wannabuy?

Since we are on stats, allow me to digress for a second. This is one quoted by a Socialite as proof of the “paradigm shift in the sales industry”

“10.8% of social sellers have closed 5 or more deals attributed to social media.” Or looked at from the other end, maybe it can be phrased “89.2% can’t attribute deals to social media”; and “54% of social salespeople have tracked their social selling back to at least 1 closed deal.” I bet the I can find unhyphenated sellers who can track a lot more deals to cold calling, and even more to just selling using all the tools available to them instead of just some.

Let’s look at the “short list claim”, and decision makers. DiscoverOrg surveyed 1,000 IT decision makers at Fortune ranked, small and medium-sized companies. It shows how outbound – today’s euphemism for cold – sales calls and e-mails affect and “more importantly disrupt vendor selection.” Further, some “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.” Finally, “nearly 600 said an outbound call or e-mail led to an IT vendor being evaluated.”

So if you did cold call along with your socializing, you’d be in much better shape than narrowing your chances to one vs. the other, Socialite style.

“But I don’t sell to Fortune 500” I hear you say, “I target Small Business”, the other end of the spectrum. Well small business is only selectively accessible via social.  At a conference last summer, where attendees were owners or senior managers of business that were for the most part under $25M, way less than half said they were using LinkedIn. I am a firm believer in the value and power of social and selling, but if they are not there, there is not much point. And it will not surprise you that all of them had telephones and e-mail.

Oh yes, referrals. There is no denying that a warm referral is like first prize, and an indirect referral, second prize. But cold calling usually shows up as third in terms of return on time and effort. Me, I like to bet safe and spread my risk across all three rather than betting on just one. Besides, not everyone is in a position to get or generate referrals. If you are in a more transactional sale, a new rep to the company, in a new territory, referrals will have limited utility early on. Sure you can generate some from existing “happy” clients, but you may find your probation and bank account run out first. You will need to incorporate all tools available, including the dreaded cold call.

Dreaded being the operative word. Most people who kill cold calling suck at it, makes them hate, makes them bitter. Like overweight people looking for that magic pill, instead of understanding that the magic pill combined with regular exercise and activity will always deliver a slimmer tummy, and healthier state. Sure the Atkins Diet worked for some, but it worked better for those who combined it with exercise.

I don’t like cold calling any more than the next person, but I do it, and I do social, and I do it well, or so I am told. But I don’t need to insult or undermine anyone in the process of executing my total approach to prospecting. Why do Socialites?

Kumbaya Time

The point is to use all tools available, not just one or some.  The only reason for camps, social killing cold calls is to sell social products.  And that’s one thing that has not changed, “Buyer Beware”.  Few sales people I have met can live off referrals only, or off their base. Not everybody is selling social media strategies, inbound programs, or content. Way more sales people have to sell in the trenches, selling traditional products and services, where social has a presence, referrals may play a role, but new business success includes cold calling.

Cold calling is not dead, it just smells funny when done wrong, but done right, it has the sweet smell of sales success. So let’s break down the walls, let’s get rid of the camps, stop thinking about killing or dead things, and make some calls.

That’s my two cents, what about you?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Socializing Your Sales Success – Sales eXecution 2480

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

change

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to it down for a discussion with Heidi Schwende, Chief Digital Officer & Certified Internet Consultant WSI Digital Moxie, part of WSI Internet Consulting. The interview explored the importance of and the “how to’s” of SOCIALIZING YOUR SALES SUCCESS.

Today I am presenting a small taste specifically focused on the shift in buyer behaviour, expectation and the impact of social selling on sales people and the way we sell.

Click here to see the entire interview, and come back Thursday for another snippet.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

It Is About The Realization Not The Need – Sales eXchange 2290

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

change

I had some interesting feedback to a recent post on my blog The Pipeline, titled Is BANT Helping You Lose Sales?   The gist of the piece was that many put an over emphasis on “need”, and thereby limit their success. (There is so much more to it, you really should read it).  Two in particular stood out, one gave the argument I was making further context, and the other added a layer that provides clearer focus to those willing to apply the line of thought.

First was the feedback relating to a point I touched on, specifically the role of BANT in the sale, I mentioned that it is a means of qualifying a buyer or opportunity. But the reader took it further in an important way. They pointed out that many forget that BANT is for qualifying, and instead use it as means of selling. By doing that they fall into the trap outlined in the piece, specifically, since BANT is focused on needs, it limits one’s ability to sell to those who don’t immediately have or perceive a need. For qualifying it works because it highlights areas that must be present if you are to achieve a sales. While a buyer may have budget, authority, and has a record of acting in a timely way, but may not have a real or perceived need. They will always have objectives, but not always have a realized need associated with those objectives. Without that need, BANT fails as a means of selling, even while helping you qualify (or disqualify).

That’s where the second comment picks up, it highlighted the fact that by taking the focus off the need, and putting it squarely on the buyers’ objectives, the conversation will inevitably lead back to need. For successful sales people it is about the realization, not the need. By focusing on the buyer’s objectives, you open a line of discussion that surfaces what those objectives are, and people love talking about themselves, their plans and aspirations. Remember to explore both the ‘personal’ and ‘organizational’ objectives.

A simple and proven way to start this is to simply ask: “If we were sitting here 18 months from now and you were telling me that you and the team had hit a grand slam, what would that look like?” In framing the question that way, you not only introduced a timeframe, but allowed them to look beyond their current state, and describe their ‘ideal’ state. Once they have completed telling you, ask, “So I am curious, why aren’t we there now?” And that is when the realization comes, as they tell you what stands between them and their stated objectives, the obstacles and gaps, in essence telling you and them what they “need” to get there. That’s the realization takes someone from status quo, the majority of the market, to engaged prospect. Not the need, but the realization, the acceptance, and the energy in realizing that they can in fact achieve their objectives, and achieve them with your help. Without realization, there is no need.

vote

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

A Painless Decision2

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Waiting room

Most sales people stay well to the centre of the road, and well within their comfort zone, leading to selling styles that are narrow and shallow, thereby often limiting their success. Some of this is due to “sales folklore” and mythology, some of which are broadly accepted as fact, often reinforced by the pundits, which just perpetuates questionable practices.

One that has puzzled me for a long time is the role of ‘Pain’ in selling, and its appeal to sellers, and always hanging around with their companion ‘Need’. Ask any group of sellers why people buy, and the vast majority will reply “to satisfy a need”. Not sure that is the best place for a B2B sales person to start, after-all, if they identified their ‘need’ on their own, doesn’t that just make the sales person the “demo person” and an order taker in the equation. When you further test the notion by asking “OK, what’s driving the need”, and they tell me “It’s to address or avoid a pain”.

Ouch!

Beyond the fact I don’t like pain, don’t like to give pain, it is such a limiting view point when it comes to professional selling. One that many cling to for no apparent reason, especially when you look at their results. Yet sellers continue to speak of “finding the pain”, I even had one “consultative sales person” describe his role as “finding the soft underbelly of the beast, stabbing it, then offering up the cure”. Seems like a messy affair, especially when better results can be achieved in easier and cleaner ways.

Pain is a hard habit to break, especially when so many pundits reinforce the concept. I recall debating this issue a few years back, and when I asked where was the pain for buyers looking to expand their business, improve a winning process further, or any purchase decision made for positive reasons, they told me “that they were avoiding the pain of not achieving their objective”. Would’ve been easier for them to say that those buyer were seeking the pleasure (the other motivator) of success, but the pain culture is so deep, they went to the dark side instead.

As result, sellers go out every day looking for pain, and you know how it is, if you go out looking for something, that is what you’ll find, even as you miss other opportunities around you. As the month goes on, if they can’t find pain, i.e. not enough opportunities in the pipeline, they turn to creating pain, and it all becomes an uneasy exercise.

There is no denying that many purchase decisions are rooted in people’s lack of satisfaction of their current state, and that needs to be explored and leveraged by sales people, but there is also the impact of being focused solely on pain, before and above other states the seller may be in. It is a negative place to start, and if you start off looking for the negative, it clouds your sight and ability to create action and value from positive developments in the buyer’s world.

Not to appear overly Pollyannaish, but why not start off by focusing on the buyer’s objectives, not only a much more pleasant start to things, but one with so much more potential. If in the end, their pain is involved in shaping their objectives, then yes, deal with it for what it is. But the reality is that there are as many objectives are rooted in the positive, they make for a more pleasant and better sale, people will spend as much for the positive as the negative; yes they’ll pay to avoid pain, but they will also pay to extend pleasure. I have sold to, and worked with clients not because sale were bad, or they were not making their numbers. Instead they were market leaders and wanted to expand the distance between themselves and the pack, their only “Pain” was that there wasn’t more distance between them and number 2.

One reason many default to pain is that they spend too much time with the wrong segment of the market. As we have discussed in the past, one can loosely split the market in to three:

  1. Actively looking (15%)
  2. Passively looking (15%)
  3. Status quo (30%)

Most will spend their time and effort on the first two, some 30% of the market. Clearly this group is approachable and susceptible to “Pain”, after all they entered or are considering entering the market of their own volition. Something took them to the point of considering an alternative to their current state. Sure, some of these buyers may be responding to and acting on a positive, but chances are the majority are no longer happy with the way things are, and are seeking alternatives. They took the first step, began the exploration on their own, and will look to vendors playing the “be found” game, to play the role of “demo guy”, then play you off your competitor, order taker.

The 70% Status quo, by definition is not looking, but that does not mean they are not looking. Every intelligent business leader is looking for improvement. And while the popular myth is that these status quo buyers are satisfied and therefore not looking, this is so wrong it is dangerous and costing you money. Consider what Bell & Patterson present in their book ‘Customer Loyalty Guaranteed’:

75% of customers who leave or switch vendors for a competitor, when asked, say they were ‘satisfied or completely satisfied’ with the vendor they left, at the time they switched.

Good news – presented with the right alternative, satisfied and completely satisfied buyers will switch.

Bad news – it will not be because of pain.

It takes work to uncover their objectives, work to initiate a discussion that is focused on achieving something good, rather than avoiding something bad. How you do this has been the subject of previous piece, and you can find more on my You Tube channel.

On the other hand, how many times have you “found the pain”, “worked it”, only to not get the deal?

Let’s leave pain to doctors, and focus on helping our buyers achieve or exceed their objectives.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

You Should Lead With Price – Sales eXchange 2072

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

change

If sales were presented as a play, the typical flow would seem to be: segment, identify, qualify, engage, discovery, gain commitment, negotiate and close. Somewhere towards the latter part of “gain commitment” and “negotiate”, the issue of price becomes central to the plot, in fact with some sellers “negotiate” is really just a code word for “price haggling”.  This would explain why so many sales these days are won or lost on price, especially when “discovery” is rushed or executed in a cookie-cutter way.

The plan (I guess), is build value (place your methodology here, ours is good too), and align to price. The frustration for many is that they may not know the relative role of price till late in the game, especially when there is a low cost provider in the mix.  Wouldn’t it be better if you could learn if price will be the breaking factor much earlier in the play?

That’s the catch 22 of selling I guess, if you don’t build value you can’t justify or rationalize the price; on the other hand, you could spend time and energy building value and be defeated by price. What’s a seller to do?

Well, why not lead with price?

Counter-intuitive, maybe? Risky? Could be, but most things worth archiving involve a level of risk.  The opportunity and skill is in managing the risk and finding the balance where calculated risk consistently rewards the risk taker.

This is not to say that your meetings should start:

“Hi I am George, with ACME Solutions, the price is $42,000, plus 20% annual maintenance fee, ready to go?”

But there may be merit to putting price front and centre much earlier in the process. There is an element of this accepted, if not always executed, by many sellers in the form of exploring budget; in terms of its existence, availability, control and commitment.   But budget is different than price, how many times have you been able to check all the tick marks around budget but still lose on price?

But what if we did introduce process earlier?  The reality in many instances, the price is based on some formula, be it unit based or other elements, and sellers have a sense of what a deal is worth early in the play.  Before you protest the last statement in an effort to seem above the fray, go look at yours or any other forecast.  So why not put it on the table, and make it a way of introducing, driving and accelerating the value discussion.  After all, if they object to the price at that point you can get to the heart of the matter by asking them what they base their remarks on.  It is a great way to go to the real value discussion.  As both price and value are relative, you can find out what they see as value in their reaction to the price.

You can then use all the tools and techniques you would normally use to build value, but this time it can be much more collaborative.  The key is not think of it as defending the price, but as a mutual and collaborative value definition.  In the course of executing it, you can uncover objectives, separate needs from wants and a range of other things that make for a successful sale.  All without the suspense of the traditional ending.

As with most things in sales, we can stick to the same old, or so called fresh techniques that are the same old in new packaging.  Or you can try something that will not only differentiate you, the way you sell, and most importantly the outcome.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

How Many Sales People Can Dance On The Head Of A Pin?0

by Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Sales Pin

Ever wonder why some companies can generate as much revenues with less sales people than others with more?  I think it has to do with the hoarder mentality that permeates sales thinking.  “The more territory, the more accounts I get, the better I will do”.  Yet often the opposite is true, more often than not, less is more in sales accounts and territories.

I remember when I was given responsibility for a new region, eight sales people looking after 13 states.  First thing I asked them to review the status of their top ten accounts, recent activity, and their specific plans for the next 12 months (pre CRM days).  Each of the eight territories, had some 300 – 500 accounts; on average, the top ten accounted for 72% of revenues in the territories, ranging from a low of 64% to a high of 82%.  Coincidentally, around the percentage mark of where they were to quota.  Their coverage plan was routine rather than inspiring, and growth was going to be more from momentum and rhythm, rather than execution of a structured plan.

I then asked them when they last saw or spoke to account number 25, account number 51, and number 100.  As you may expect, #25, sometime in the last six months, one remembered speaking to number 100 at Christmas, mostly because they called in to update their password, a call they transferred to their inside account support person.

When I asked them what can be done to hit their goals, all but one suggested that we add accounts to their territories that were homeless due to a recent departure.  When I suggested that I was actually planning to go the other way, reduce the number of accounts down to about 50 per rep, the hording gene really kicked in.  “That crazy Canadian, I always knew they were socialists, he is looking to nationalize my accounts, reduce my empire”.

Well I wasn’t going to nationalize, but give it to the support team, who were dealing with accounts number 50 and on as it was.  This would make for less clutter for the territory reps, and provide the clarity they needed to work with their clients, prospect for new opportunities, and drive success.  They thought I was nuts, when I suggested they can have as many accounts as they want to prospect and bring on, 20, 50, 100, whatever they liked.  But with nearly 72% of their revenue coming from ten accounts, it would be easier to grow the ten, add a few juicy new accounts to make goal, rather than spending their time counting accounts from a distance.

The hoarding gene is strong in sales; after all, some of these reps become managers, then directors, and eventually VP’s.  You can tell when you meet them, the solution to everything is adding more resources, more territory, more reps, more accounts; behind on the numbers, “give me another rep”.  At the same time you meet others, who after analysing the data, look to optimize territories to maximize client experience and revenues, shrinking territories to create focus, rather than growing them and creating dilution.

One of the only good things to be said for the recession is it showed many organizations that they could in fact deliver more numbers with less headcount.  Reducing creates focus which drives creativity, when you reduce, the competent reps step up and deliver, while others demonstrate why you may be better off with less.  Sellers always tell you that in sales it is “quality over quantity”, why not apply that to territories and reps as well?

So to answer the question as to how many reps can dance on the head of a pin?  A lot less than you think you need to have on that head.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

You Do It Now – They Can Talk Later – Sales eXchange 2010

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

radio1

Last Wednesday May 15th, I had the opportunity to be on the Charles Adler show.  We look at the potential fallacies in long term predictions, this on the heels of a piece I did for the Globe and Mail Report on Small Business, regarding the need for execution in sales, not long term predications, and the fact that in BC, the elections did produce a majority government, but not by the party everyone was “predicting” would form the government.

Have a short listen, then let us know how you’ve found action and results to be of more value than predictions.

 
What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Can You Switch Hit For Sales Success?4

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Switch hitter

I remember when I first started working for a company back in the early 1990’s (before we had web mail), the company had two main product lines, and had the usual territories across the continent, primarily driven by geography.   Each territory had two hunters, one for each product, two account development/management (AD) people, again one for each product, and an administrative person, all supported by a central customer care group, as to not overwork the front line folks.  The flow was simple, the hunter was in charge of finding and landing accounts, they would then hand off the account to the AD, who would work on maintaining and growing the account.  No one ever had to move out of their comfort zone, mine was hunting.

As the competition heated up, and costs had to be cut to maintain operating margins, the two teams were collapsed into one that handled both product lines, there was still a clear line between hunting and development of accounts.  While we had to learn a bit about the new product, we were still left in our functional comfort zones.

As in most similar scenarios, the hunter was always in a better position to earn more.  I am not saying that hunters were or are more important than the AD role, the fact was, that there were less qualified hunters than AD types, and this is still so now.

The next round of cuts was a bit more drastic for almost all involved.  Administrative resources were reduced, and more significantly, they collapsed the two roles into one, no more hunters and AD’s, just one person who had to execute both functions.  In some territories the hunter had to learn how to actually manage and develop the accounts they brought on; and the AD’s had to learn to hunt and bring on the accounts they were going to work on growing and retaining.   Since the company had a union to deal with, (yes I know, sales and unions, what a concept, nonetheless), the choice of who stayed and who left was not always made based on abilities and potential.  Many of those who remained were AD types who had to learn how to hunt, in most instances, a much bigger ask than the other way around.  At the same time it turned out that some of the hunter role were in fact “closet account developers”, and gravitated to the AD side of the job, increasing the value of real hunters even more.

To be clear, I am not saying that hunters are naturally better rounded, and are able to easily become good or even adequate AD’s, I was living proof that this was not the case, but hunting was a better cover for AD skill deficiencies; where as you can be a great AD, but if an account leaves for factors beyond your control, and you can’t hunt, you will be in a difficult hole.

As you would expect there were a number of reactions, outcomes and repercussions to the new reality, about 20% – 25% floundered and struggled, and eventually were replaced.  At the other end of the spectrum, about 20% or so, turned out to be natural switch hitters, not losing a stride in the transition, relishing the new found opportunities in the job and the rewards.  They stepped back, reformulated their action plan and then marched forward as if nothing had changed.

A large majority 55% – 60% worked diligently at developing the “other” skill, and over time found the required balance, but as you would expect things were usually skewed towards their original skill set and comfort zone, but they were able to generate both organic growth and new account growth.  No surprise the hunters had just as hard a time, if not harder, in developing their AD skills, than AD’s had in developing enough hunting skills to make sales happen.  What was interesting is that in the end both groups leaned more on improved hunting than improved maintenance skills.

Again this is not to say that being an AD does not require skills, is easy or any other “better/worse” comparison, but does speak to the fact that getting to the right person to have the right conversation with, is still the biggest challenge in sales.  Most sales people I speak to, be they traditional sellers, social sellers, or other, tell me something along the lines of “get me in front of the right prospect, and I will close them”; and they probably will.  But the ability to find and engage with the right person, and then talk about the right things, those things that will lead to real engagement, is a rarer skill, but one that can be learned and with practice, and mastered.  Those that do, are your switch hitters, they can deliver revenue in by succeeding in both cases, prospecting and selling.  The difference between baseball and the revenue game, is you need to do both to succeed, you need to be a switch hitter.

Since then sales teams have continued to contract, sales goals have continued to grow, as has the number of sales people who almost, but don’t always make goal.  These are the group of sellers I call the “80-90 Percenters”; year after year they deliver 80% to 90% of plan, and when you strip back the layers, most often you’ll find that they are great at growing their base, but not as good at finding, engaging with and brining on new clients.  Their new business growth is usually from referrals, or people who are like people who have already bought from them.  Again, nothing wrong with the thinking or reality, just the lack of consistently delivering against plan.

In today’s market there are a number of parallels; a specific one can be found in those industries that are making the transition from selling products, to managed services.  You see this trend in any number of industries, from copiers to managed print service; break fix to managed it services; in transport from loads or lanes to managed freight services; really, in any industry where before you sold “stuff”, “stuff” that is becoming commoditised, to selling a complete service that allows clients to reduce costs while allowing you to grow, both products sold and the services around them, while locking in revenue streams and locking out competitors.

Product sellers need to learn to switch hit and hunt not only in new jungles, but for prey they have not encountered before, a prey that is smarter, more demanding and usually less accessible.  The prey speaks a different language and have entirely different set of objectives and expectations than the people they used to sell “stuff” to, or account they maintained.  Further, the new prey does very much have to be hunted, they are not out there declaring their readiness or willingness to buy, they are the Status Quo, doing their thing deep in the jungle where only hunters go and maintainers and posers avoid.  Selling to the willing will leave them short unless they step up and learn to hunt a bit more, learn to switch hit.

Hunting in this environment requires skills upgrades whether you are coming from an AD background, or have successfully hunted while selling products, “stuff”.  Unless you take the time and make the effort to become a true switch hitter, you are bound to the beige of the “80-90 Percenters”

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

 

More Information ≠ Better Informed90

Last week I got an e-mail from one of the traditional providers in the sales enablement business.  It seems they have discovered social media, Sales 2.0, and felt they had to let the world know.  Further, they shared a couple of “big reveals”; one was that “buyers” will go to the web and the social web long before they will “call a sales person or company”, in fact completing over 60% of the buy cycle.  Second, that there is a whole lot more information available to buyers than ever before; according to these oracles of sales, a customer can access some “20 times more data about you and your competitors than they could 5 years ago”.

Let’s deal with the first one, for those buyers who have completed over 50% of the buy cycle before engaging, it is more accurate to say that the seller involved is an Order Taker, not a Salesperson.  You can tell your friends and family that you are in sales, but if that’s you, you’re an order taker, end of story.  I am sure order takers need training too, may I recommend George Clinton.

The second, is mistaking data with information, and information with knowledge and action.  There is no arguing that there is a lot more data out there, but I would argue that rather than that being an impediment or reducing the role of the sales person (real ones), it offers the prepared sales person an opportunity to succeed further.  With that fire hose of information/data, comes confusion, misinformation, and the opportunity to misdirect.  Real decision makers are seeking clarity and judgement above all.

I see it as an opportunity for a seller to bring clarity, advice and recommendation and direction based on the buyers’ objectives rather than the buyer’s digital footprint.  Sellers have to rise above the data, but many seem to feel more comfortable swimming in it, hoping it will lead them to a sale.  Good sellers will filter the data, and present actionable advice to decision makers looking to change where they are as opposed to getting more information, real sellers provide better and more actionable knowledge.

More is not better, clarity and action are!  In the last couple of weeks we have had concrete examples of this.  Apparently on Monday night there were millions of tweets about the storm, great, were you better informed?  There was also a whole lot more water out there too.  Did you know more?  During the presidential debates, there were millions of tweets, one media outlet counted how many tweeted out #bindersfullofwomen, it was in the millions, lots ha, but were people better informed?  Knowledge and the ability to act on it have value, data is sold (or given away) by the pound.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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