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Socializing Your Sales Success – Sales eXecution 2480

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

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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

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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.

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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

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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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