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Sales Productivity is more Than Just Technology0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

There is no shortage of productivity or enablement tools available to sales people and sales organizations. Many may be useful, fun to use, and allow sales people to do things they may not have been able to do in the past, not everyone gets the same level of productivity improvement, if any.

Let’s start by defining productivity, the simplest definition from an execution standpoint is:
The rate of output per unit of input. This leaves you three ways to think about how to gain and get ahead in productivity:

I. Increase outputs while maintaining inputs the same
II. Maintain output levels but reduce the inputs required
III. Increase outputs while reducing inputs

The latter being the holy grail, but the first two work well too. In the past sales leaders would look to add headcount and increase goals to drive more output. Over the last decade or so they have also been able to bring sales enablement tools into the mix. But productivity continues to be a tale of two cities, on the one hand there are a number of organizations doing some great things to drive measurable gains. Others struggle, advancement in technology, has not brought the expected productivity gains. When measured by average outputs per person, productivity for the period between 2000 and 2013, was only about a third of that between 1939 – 2000, 0.9% vs. 2.7%.

There are many factors that go into this, one is time. At the core, productivity tools should shift time in your favour. Time being a static input, despite all the cute phrases about time, it continues to be 60 minutes to an hour, 24 hours to the day, etc. How you spend or reinvest the recaptured time, the inputs, and create more output, will result in increased outputs. But this is not about time management, but time utilization. Organizations need to ensure that introduction of productivity tool is accompanied by a plan on redeploying the freed up time in a way that drive more results.

Sales people, like most people, when left to figure it out on their own will approach time like a gas. The same volume of gas will fill any container even when the size of the container is doubled. So when you gain time from a productivity tool, you need to ensure that activity is increased, not just spread out over time.

Success starts before the roll-out of the tool, not just planning, but benchmarking. Where are we now, where to we want to be as a result of introducing the app or tool, what are the metrics and milestones we’ll use as we move towards the stated objective. That objective needs to be specific, and more than just “we are looking to increase sales by 5%”. Since the goal is to change behaviours, the focus has to be activity, what, when, how, why and how much. It is usually best to start with the ‘why’, if sales people can understand why something is being rolled out, they are more likely to be engaged and not only use the tool, but deliver desired results. People who do start with the ‘why’ at times make the mistake of stating it from the company perspective, better to do it from the perspective of the sales person, tell them what’s in it for them. Rather than introducing a tool by saying how it will give management more visibility and the data to make decisions. Tell them how it will help them execute better, helping them get more sales and more commissions. They’ll use it, and you’ll get more visibility and data than you’ll know what to do with.

Any investment in enablement technology should include budget for training both the front-line rep and their direct managers. This means more than a two-hour webinar led by someone who sold you the tool and a Chrome extension for reinforcement. Since you are changing how they sell, you need have one of your trainers relate things to how they sell, how they execute, and how a change in one aspect of that will drive productivity across the entire sale cycle.

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Spare Change1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I was recently invited to sit in on a presentation by a world famous (in Toronto anyways) sales speaker. After the big intro by the host, building anticipation just to the right boil, the keynote started off with a profound statement. I know it was profound, because the speaker told us he was going to share some profound observations with us, in fact he started by saying “here is what you need to understand”, I’m ready; “things have changed”; oh goodie, some new insights coming at me now; “and what we have to live with moving forward is that change is constant”.

I sat there wondering, did Heraclitus, who died in 475 BC, get it backwards when he said ‘The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change –‘or should he have stuck with his original premise ‘Nothing endures but change.’

I am always surprised by how people in and around sales react to change. Sales and change are synonymous, yet I continuously encounter people who seem bamboozled if not paralyzed by it, as though it was something new or unexpected. You can tell a lot about a seller by how they embrace or avoid change. For those who spend the majority of their time minding the base or taking order, change can seem risky and daunting, the last thing they want is for customers to change.

On the other hand, I find that outstanding sellers, those focused on growing their base, and expanding their presence in their existing accounts, embrace and evangelize change. The best sales people are harbingers of change, they not only continuously change the way they sell, but encourage change in their customers and prospects, because they understand that change is good for their customers, and as a result for themselves.

While he went on to tell the sales team that the velocity of change continues to increase, he offered little in the way of how to embrace and lead change. He reminded me of a helicopter, lots of noise, stirring up a lot of dust, but no sooner than it’s gone, things settle back to being the same as before.

The challenge is that many equate continuous change with continuous improvement. While it may be true that most improvement requires some degree of change, not all change leads directly to improvement. Change for the sake of change is not good either, some change their approach to sales as a means of hiding their inabilities, inability to improve, or their inability to commit to a plan, and then execute that plan.

Knowing that change is constant should actually be comforting to sales professionals. It provides an opportunity and a means to experiment and grow. I liken it to physical exercise, if you keep doing the same routines, you quickly plateau, and while you continue to work hard, the benefits continue to diminish. Introducing variety and new practices not only challenges your muscles, but your buyers as well, leading to improved results all around. As discussed here in the past, you can’t expect your buyers to change when you are not willing to.

Look for ways to add to your selling approach, building sales muscle, avoid the temptation to choose one approach over the other, instead look for ways you can blend and combine the best of many schools. Just when you think you have it down, start again by asking how you can view where you are as a starting point rather than a destination.

The profound thing is not that change is constant, we’ve know that for 2000 years if not more. If you are looking to be profound, be the change. Buyers are used to the same old same old, their world is changing as fast as yours, if you can lead that process rather than follow or be run over by it, you’ll bring value to both you and the customers.

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

The Last Secret In Sales!3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

the last sales secret 2

I love reading articles, books, and all things sales. Some I read to learn, others for pleasure – some people just write well; and then there are those that I read just to see how badly I disagree with the writer and their views. Among these my favourite by far, the ones I read for a laugh, a good deep belly laugh, are the articles that usually have headlines such as “The Secret to…”, where the author wants readers to believe that they have discovered or uncovered THE SECRET element that will forever demystify sales and selling; along the lines of Edison’s light bulb. As though before reading the piece we were stuck in the dark ages, having to make wick and gather wax to make candles, then rub sticks together making fire to light our candles. But now, thanks to this immensely generous pundit, finding prospects and closing sales will be as easy as switching on the light. I know that when they wrote the thing they did not intend for me to giggle, but making the reader laugh is usually their only redeeming value.

(Photograph: Allstar/Black Bear Pictures/Sportsphoto Ltd.)

Pieces that read “Cracking The XYZ Code”. Every time I see a headline like that, I get out my life size cut out of Benedict Cumberbatch from The Imitation Game, and an

Photograph: Mail Online

autographed photo of Dan Brown, eagerly anticipating a life changing experience. After all, I can picture the author, having made great sacrifices, suffered through the process of cracking the “whatever” code, now sharing it and liberating mere mortal sellers from their toil.

Over the years pundits have offered secrets, incantations, amulets and more, yet the output seems to be steady, with no significant improvement in the pace of revenue growth, margins growth, and the number of reps attaining or exceeding quota.

Now you can’t blame the pundits, they are in the business of selling books, and as long as there are buyers, there’ll be someone cranking it out. I remember one of the big disagreements my co-author and I had was over unnecessary, stupid, misleading and not factual statement on the cover: “There is a sliver bullet in Sales”, no there isn’t, and anyways, what hunting, werewolves or revenue?

Add to the above the magic of technology, and you have “stupid” automated. This not a comment on the quality or worth of the technologies, but the stories spewed by some who will lead you to believe the technology will change and improve your selling and sales results. It is a lot like fitness fads and ab machines peddled by former athletes or fitness wannabes. You still need to eat wisely, commit to a program and find the discipline and accountability to execute an ongoing and evolving plan.

The pattern is familiar, sellers jump on a trend, acquire the related consumable, but don’t change the way they execute in the field. After a few weeks of effort, and only minor uptick in results, the ab machine or sales tool or methodology ends up in the closet or under the desk, and it’s back to how we sold all along.

Change, long term sustainable and ongoing change, takes effort, and commitment. Often a greater level of effort than many have had to commit to in the past. The other element required that many don’t want or have access to, is support, just as with fitness programs, people who commit to a health plan and engage a professional trainer or fitness pro are more likely to not only succeed, but maintain the new discipline, than those who go it alone.

It is also important to remember that improving your selling is best achieved by building and adding to your skills and tools, not by narrowing, restricting or limiting your tools and techniques. The problem with SECRETS and CRACKED CODES, is they seem to need to displace or “kill” other methodologies that came before it. Witness the need by “Social Sellers” to start all discussion by saying “cold calling is dead”. The best sellers I know take from all methodologies and piece them together in a way that enhances and expands their skills, opportunities and sales.

So here is the last SECRET in Sales: There Are No More Secrets!

It’s all out there, all that is left is to execute. Some find it easier to blame the last fad, the latest technology, the new app, anything but the fact that we don’t do, or want to do certain things that have to be done in the course of a sale. This is no secret, but success in sales is less about methodology or tools, or attitude; success in sales is about execution – everything else is just talk.

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

Maintaining Your Mojo #BBSradio0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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As some may be aware, I am now a regular on Michele Price’s BREAKTHROUGH radio program.  I appear every 4th Monday, speaking of course about sales, but there a host of other great content, I encourage you to check Michele’s program out, and learn from a range of contributors.  You can find the program and more information click here.

To hear my segment from last week, click on the image below.

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Breakthroughbusiness on BlogTalkRadio

A Thanksgiving Audio Treat0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

Given that today is Thanksgiving in the States, it is not the time for heavy reading (maybe heavy eating), so today’s post is an audio delight that you can take with you and enjoy. It is a recent interview I did on Biz Radio Canada, talking about what else, Pipeline and Sales.

You can use it to distract you from the other in line or at the mall, or stop you from getting trampled as you reach for that last discounted super-duper flat screen. Hey, you never know, you may discover a nugget or two that will allow you to Sell Better next year and allow you to hire a personal shopper to troll the mall for specials, or just not worry about paying full price because of the increased sales you’ll make, and stay home and watch the game on your flat screen.

Enjoy:

Happy Thanksgiving

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

A Verbal Painting is Worth A 1,000 Words0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Art Brush

We have all the expression above, but it really rings home in sales, especially for successful sales people. If you look at sales as being an educational process, that is you learning from the prospect, even while you are helping them learn how you can help them reach their objective, let’s focus on the latter, you helping the buyer learn about the potential value you can/may bring.

Broadly speaking people fall into one of three styles of learning

  • Visual Learners – Learn through observing, visualization; good visual recall of what they saw or read
  • Auditory Learners – Strong in Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence, listen and identify patterns, effective use of language
  • Tactile Learners – Learns through touching and physical interaction, activity, via demonstrations

The challenge is that as a sales person you can’t call in advance and as your buyer’s disposition, or start meetings by asking, not to mention that there may be multiple people in the process or a given meeting. I also believe that demos are only appropriate at certain point in the sale, and giving them something to read especially early could be counterproductive in so many ways. As a result sellers tend to lean on the visual and verbal, which can be effective, especially with a little planning and focus on how they execute.

The ability to paint a picture with words a number of benefits is selling. One is the ability to engage buyers on a deeper level, at a level where they make decisions. We have all heard the saying “people buy on emotion, then they rationalize it.” While not incorrect, it is also not complete. As I understand it, (or not), there a third element, the specific trigger that sets things into motion. With three layers in the brain (The Reptilian, Emotion and Thinking) each responding to outside triggers differently, it is probably more accurate to say that people buy in response or reaction to trigger – Reptilian; filtered by the Emotion, is this good or bad, pain or pleasure; the rationalized by the Thinking brain. Which is why despite all the data and objective facts available, people still make mistakes in buying.

As a sales people we have the opportunity to trigger responses and emotions that can cause a buyer to look at things differently and buy from us, versus. Unlike what some pundits will tell you, the goal of a sales person is not to stand around and wait for a random event to trigger something in the buyer, but to create the trigger to initiate the desired event(s).

Which is where the ability to paint a verbal story comes in. Think of a time in your life when stories, vivid stories were a key part of your daily routine. That’s right, when you were a child. The people who sharing the stories were people close to you who you trusted, parents, grandparents, kindergarten, teachers, etc.

“The Limbic (Emotional brain) system creates chemical messages that connect information to memory, the retention of which is significantly increased when that information is presented in an emotionally charged context.” Since having the buyer retain your message is a key challenge, there is a pay-off right there. But further, “This is why you are most likely to remember events that created a strong emotional response within you, and why other people will mostly remember the things you said or did to them that made them feel a certain way”

Most of us felt safe secure and happy when we were read stories when we were kids, that’s why leave movies or play with a good story feeling good and rewarded.

Learning to paint a quality verbal picture aligned with the buyer’s objectives, will not only enhance engagement, help the buyer retain more of what you are telling them, and feel good about buying from you. Trigger the right reaction in the reptilian and emotional brain, and you can move your sales forward in a measurable and repeatable way.

One caution, that no matter how good you verbal painting is, it won’t overcome a crappy product, or if they are not aligned to buyer objective. The goal is not to become a spin master but to tell your story in a way meaningful to the buyer.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Using a Top Ten List to Grow Your Sales (#guestpost)0

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The Pipeline Guest Post – Butch Bellah

How would you like to be able to easily (almost effortlessly) track your ten hottest prospect and keep them moving toward a sale? Well, you’re in luck! By using a Top Ten List, you can do just that. David Letterman has made a lot of money with a Top Ten list and now you can, too.
First, what is a Top Ten List? In my world it is simply the ten hottest prospects you are currently working, ranked in order of their ability to be closed. It is not a Wish List, it’s not an “I’d love to have that business” list, it is made up of the Ten best prospects you’ve made presentations to and are working through the sales cycle.

NOTE: If you don’t have ten today, that’s OK. But, if you don’t have ten a month from now there’s only one person to blame.

The Top Ten List depends on the old adage, “You can manage what you can measure”. Think about that, what we measure we have the ability to manage. In this case, if you leave your list of top prospects rattling around in your head or just as part of a massive database, they’ll get lost, forgotten and probably never become a customer.

The Top Ten List allows you to see at a glance who they are and allows you to ask yourself the most important question in sales: “What can I do to move this relationship forward?”

Assume your Top Ten List is completely fully. Position 1 is the person who should become your next new customer, Position 2 is the next most likely and so on. Every day—yes, every day you should look at this document and ask yourself, “What do I need to do to move them closer to a sale?”

How do you get number 6 into position 5? How do you get the prospect in position 4 into position 3? This is a fluid, living document and will change weekly. Just because someone is your hottest prospect this week (Position 1) doesn’t mean they’ll hold that spot next week. If something happens in the process with the prospect in position four that moves them to the top of the list, GREAT!

The key is to understand each of these ten is at a different stage of the sales process and they have to be handled as such. However, each should be moving forward. If they aren’t, why aren’t they?

Your Top Ten List is a perfect tool for sales managers to use to work with their team and is the single most important piece of data you own. If you use it effectively and truly concentrate on developing it as a tool, you will see your sales and closing percentage increase.
Why? Because you are spending your time with the people most likely to do business with you. Keep pushing the prospect in position eight up the ladder and that will, in effect, keep pushing the prospects ahead of them toward becoming a customer.
The key is to be honest with yourself. Where do these prospective customers rank and are they really deserving of being on the Top Ten List. If they do, then by all means work daily to move them toward a sale.

Question: How can you use the Top Ten list to impact YOUR sales?

About Butch Bellah

Butch Bellah is a Sales Coach & Trainer, speaker and author. He operates B2 Training & Development and www.butchbellah.com. You can order his new book, “The 10 Essential Habits of Sales Superstars: Plugging into The Power of Ten” here and follow him on twitter @salespowertips. He can be reached at butch@butchbellah.com or at 337-384-9204

Using Content Marketing to Drive Sales1

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The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka 

Using content marketing to drive sales will certainly only continue to grow exponentially in 2014. Nearly every company, small or large, will use this tactic to increase their sales.

If you look back on content marketing, you’ll come across examples that predate the Internet. Content marketing is certainly not a new strategy, but it is one that has been made easier by technology. Several hundred years ago, content marketing was possible, but it was certainly a little tougher to get your sales message out there. A few of the examples offered were John Deere, who published a magazine offering farming tips, and the Jell-O company, who distributed free cookbooks full of recipes using their product. Both companies have obviously done quite well for themselves.

So what should you do to effectively use content marketing to drive sales in 2014? Here are a few things to consider:

Visual content – infographics, which gained lots of popularity in 2013, will continue to be on the rise in 2014. People love getting their information in a visual manner – less reading, more colors. Infographics were used by 51% of B2B content marketers in 2013.

In-person events still rule – a survey of B2B marketers showed that people still think that in-person events are the most effective way to market and sell to potential customers. While most of the time, the Internet is king, in person marketing is still very much an effective strategy.

Strategy vs. no strategy – while we can argue that anyone who is involved in marketing has needed to devise a strategy, not everyone actually records a concrete marketing plan to follow. However, the same survey as mentioned above shows that companies who have a documented content strategy think that they are successful about 66 percent of the time, compared to companies that don’t have a recorded strategy thinking that they are successful only 11 percent.

Content marketing still poses some challenges – the B2B marketing group reported that there are definitely still some challenges to be overcome when it comes to content marketing. Some of the top concerns are not having enough time to produce quality content, a budget shortfall, and a lack of vision.

We all know that sales and marketing need a delicate balance in order to work well without overwhelming your customers. Content marketing is a way to build your brand while offering useful information at the same time.

(Photo Source)

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

Slow Down For Faster Results – Sales eXchange 2350

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Slow motion

I’m a firm believer that our habits and how we execute specific tasks do not vary widely from task to task. Sure we may be a bit more diligent when we are doing something important for the boss, bit more casual in social endeavours, but in most cases it is about degrees, not wholesale differences. Now if you are doing everything perfectly this isn’t a bad thing, but most of us are not perfect, we’re not living that idyllic reality, and therefore have to deal with our bad habits, and their consequences.

One thing that seems to get consistently worse is the tendency to rush things, and the problems that can lead to. This is accentuated by the many and growing number of things we have to get done in the same or less time than before.

It seems that more people today skim or scan documents, e-mails and other reading, rather than giving it full attention, as a result they miss things that are important to the outcome; they then have to backtrack wasting more precious time, more than they saved by skimming.

Same can be said for the way people read their e-mails, in fact it may be more accurate to say how many are not reading their e-mails. I have spoken to others about this, and I know I am not the only one who finds themselves posing a specific question in an e-mail, only to get back an answer that barely if at all answers the question posed. You can tell they rushed, skimmed the original, and responded to what they skimmed, not the question asked.

This leads to a couple of additional notes back and forth, this wastes time and energy on both sides, but while sellers are free to waste their own time, this end up also very much wastes the buyer’s time, which can lead to consequences, especially if they pose the same to another vendor who takes the time to respond completely and fully. At worse you come off as being evasive, at best tardy.

One of the goals of any good sales person is to make it easy for the buyer to deal with you, in essence to buy from you. While this may not always be in your control, slowing down so you can be more effective is. I know there is pressure coming from all side these days, but it is important to manage it, especially early in the relationship. If the buyer feels that you are rushing and taking short cuts through the selling phase, they can’t help but ask if that is the level of attention and care they will face once they commit?

One easy way to solve this is to actually set aside time through the day for e-mail and voice mail. One reason for the skimming is that we are doing e-mail while we are doing other things, and as I have said before, we are not built for multi-tasking regardless of what the pundits will tell you. As highlighted in the Sales Happen In Time Booklet, carving out time to do things properly, including e-mail, will make you more productive, less stressed, and come across as the pro you are.

Here is another real world example, I am currently running a contest to win tickets to the Art Of Sales, an opportunity to take in Dan Pink, Matt Dixon, and other sales thought leaders. To enter, all one need do is fill in three points of data, name, e-mail, phone, and to tweet the fact that they entered the contest. To make it even easier, the tweet is all set, they just have to hit the bird. In bold letters they are told the no tweet equals no entry, yet half the entrants skip that step. My guess they skimmed, went on auto pilot filling out the form, and rushed to the next thing. Oh well, better odds for those who read and completed the task they needed to in order to win.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Managers – Give Up Your Phone Addiction – Sales eXchange 2230

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Multi tasking Manager

With all the challenges sales professionals have to face in the field, the amount of tests they endure to their patience, it is sometimes disheartening when they are disrespected by their own colleagues, especially their front line managers.

One common example is managers who answer their phone, text, e-mail during a meeting with one of their direct reports, especially during scheduled coaching or review meetings. But this happens much more regularly than many think, and I suspect, more than many of the managers guilty of the act actually realise.

While many fancy themselves as being great multi-takers, few are, we are not built that way. While we may be able to talk on the phone and press the elevator button, we are not able to do really important tasks with any degree of real quality. And what can be more important than coaching and leading your team, those people who either make you look good or real bad based on how they perform. There is no doubt on occasion, let me repeat, once in a while, something really important will come up to disturb a meeting with a team member, but I am talking about the other time.

How many times have you sat there in you managers office, and they are checking their e-mail as you speak, first on their desktop monitor and then on their smartphone just for good measure. They answer the phone, flashing the obligatory smile and the one minute gesture, which only adds to their insincerity and effectiveness as a leader.

It is bad enough that sales people to endure this type of thing in the field, they should not face it in their managers’ office. Sales people put up with people answering their phones only to tell them that they are in a meeting. Given all the tools available to people today, the overwhelming pervasiveness of caller ID and voice mail, it is hard to understand why people would answer a phone from an unknown number while they are in a meeting, unless of course they are sales managers meeting with a member of their team.

Sales people also have to put up with this in meeting with prospects, fidgeting about with their electronic pacifiers, or modern day worry-beads. While one can argue that if the prospect is so disengaged a rep should move on, it is also true that many are behind quota and see any meeting as a meeting, I guess they need to look at the outcome to come to their own conclusion. But in the end it should not be a scene they have to deal with internally with their manager, especially when the time was scheduled for them to be coached.

As an aside, I often wondered when I called someone and they tell me that they are in a meeting, whether I work my magic and get them to engage, or it is a short call, I wonder what the other person in their office feels like at the time, how fast are their priorities fading?

I remember I had a boss who felt he needed to be involved in everything, right then and there, the phone would not ring a second time before he answered it. I remember he would take a call while meeting with me, then answer his mobile when that rang, what a circus. The next time I was meeting with him and he answered his phone, I got up and walked out, I think the first time he did not even notice he got so involved in the call. The next time he looked up and asked “Where are you going?” “You must be busy, I got things to get done, and I don’t want to hold you up.” After that he never answered the phone while meeting with me.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

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