Welcome to The Pipeline.

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  

Prospects On The Revenue Express0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Detective

One reason I enjoy selling, and I mean selling not order taking, is it really is like a good mystery or thriller novel coming together. All the twists and turns, the intrigue in the form of competition, the unknown outcome, hidden decision makers and more. Not only do you get to participate, but when you participate well, you not only solve the situation, but make money for doing it, it makes selling great.

So I was a bit baffled last week when I met with a group of sales people who typified the 80% in the Pareto principle, they weren’t so much lazy or lethargic, more like completely uninspired and totally lacked the ability to have fun. They were with a top tier player in their field, and while they may not win every deal they were involved in they were in a position to win more than their share. Their product was more than competitive and they had managements backing to walk away from deals that were strictly price driven.

But it seems everything they had to do, which was no different than that expected from other B2B sales people, was a chore, and seemed to require a lot more effort from them than really necessary. It may be due to the fact that they had a good ride before the economy turned, but it was clear that they had forgotten some basics, specifically two critical musts in B2B sales, prospecting, and having fun.

To be clear they did prospect, but in such an uninspired way that it was painful to watch them, never mind listen to them. It was the typical “get me in front of the right guy, and I can close them”, well so could most trained monkeys. The money goes to those who can get in front of the right guy.

Thinking it may serve well to change their perspective, I suggested we approach prospecting as we would a mystery, not quite Agatha Christie, but then again. We had some clues, the company name, locations they can be found, even a couple of people on the inside willing to play. As usual we were lacking their direct numbers, e-mails; which is the first bit of fun, finding and navigating our way to finding those, to then contacting and engaging with our target.

The reality is that this may not always be easy, but rather than letting it frustrate you, get your Sherlock Holmes and discover. After all, when you solve this part of the mystery, we get the opportunity to get in front of that right guy. Further the work and effort invested in sleuthing at this stage of the sale will more than help us uncover important elements that help us close the sale later.

I know that none of this makes the work any easier, but at least approaching it like a grand mystery, a paperback classic, we can make it more fun, and more importantly doable, and more lucrative..

So pick your favourite sleuth, and let’s solve this sale.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

How Much Revenue Did You Lose at Quarter End?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Impact Question

There is an all too familiar ritual that unfolds at the end of every fiscal period, for some it is monthly, for most it is quarterly, and at year end. Being that Monday was quarter end, I was reminded again. A friend who is a rep with a technology company, cancelled a meeting we had set for this afternoon, and you know it, his voice mail this morning at 8:00 simply said, “Man, I need to change our meeting, last day of the quarter, you know how it is.”

On the one hand I do, on the other hand I don’t. I am sorry if your quarter comes down to the last day of the quarter, a Monday of all days, there is a whole bunch of things you are doing wrong, and a bunch of money you are leaving on the table.

To start with, a good number of the deals that are “Driven in” on the 30th of September, will happen because of some concession made by the seller to the buyer. Sometimes these are small things, baked in specifically so they can be “conceded”, often not. These can be a price concessions, either in the form of a price adjustment, or the inclusion of goods or services that normally would have had a price tag, but being the last day of the quarter, “and we need to bring in the numbers”, they are thrown in to secure the deal “today”. Although once you offer it, it’ll be there October 2, or even next week, the buyer has seen weakness and will not give it back. And – it will be the first of many to come, you’ve set the precedent, both you and the buyer have been conditioned.

Not only do you never see that money again, but there is the lost momentum and opportunities as you deviate from your routine, stop prospecting for a few days as you focus on closing. May not seem that bad, but if you don’t prospect for a few days, you’ll create weakness in your pipeline, and when the next quarter end comes around, guess what. So now you are out the revenue you gave away in concessions, and the revenue from prospects you will either never have, or will closer later than they could have.

The alternative is requires a bit more discipline, but results in less of a roller coaster ride and more money! It comes down to owning your time and being accountable for your actions, (grab this e-book for details). If you know your conversion rate at critical stages of the cycle, you can focus on executing the key tasks you have to throughout the cycle, and not sweat the days. Some things in sales are straight forward, if you have a three month cycle, and you close one of every five deals you qualify into your pipeline, it doesn’t take much to see how this quarter end dance will hurt. If you don’t prospect from the 27th to the 30th (of any quarter), then your next sale will be delayed by so many days. Sure you can make up for it in some ways, but then you’ll have other distractions, the ones you can’t help, but this one you can.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

Red Light Calls – Sales eXchange 2191

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

redlight

No no no, I am not switching from the second oldest profession to the oldest, but rather speaking about how to make small efforts pay off big. A Red Light Call is simply a call you can make while stopped at a red light driving between appointments or wherever. While it can be thought of being in the same group as Coma Calls, they are different. Red Light Calls can be used in a number of ways to help with a few specific scenarios.

First is to get closer to engaging with potential buyers. Depending on who you read, it could take anywhere from 8 to 12 or more touch points to just connect or engage with a potential prospect. A recent article I read from a credible source, suggested that her recent findings show an average of 8.4 tough points are required in B2B sales. The assumption is that you are ready for the call, know the talk track, salient points you want to hit, and it is just down to getting that other person “on the line”. These touch points can be a combination of e-mail, telephone/voice mail, text messages, snail mail, whatever you can think of, they should vary in the time carried out.

In the majority of instances, I am just looking to set an appointment with the person I am call, understanding that it is unrealistic to complete a quality call on an initial cold call, but it is more than doable to set an appointment where they commit to set aside time to at least listen to you, this can be either face to face or phone. I don’t need to be at my desk to make this appointment call, in fact if I wait for that, it may be hard to vary the times of the call. So one place to be efficient in the use of time and improve you odds is to call when stuck at a red light.

PSA: please take advantage of hands free technology to dial the number, don’t want you to get a ticket or worse.

You’re less inclined to talk, and therefore will be more inclined to focus on getting the appointment and selling from a position of strength. Even if you don’t connect with the party, you can still leave a voice mail, and complete another touch point; but if you connect….

The other great Red Light Call, are those elusive prospects who you just can’t seem to get a hold off in the office, or prospects who have gone “radio silent” in the middle of a sale. There is a certain quality to random calls, not to mention the ability to be productive during “windshield time”.

There is also the benefit of not being trapped to routine. While I am a big fan of structure and planning, there is also a risk of being trapped by it. We get used to a set of behaviours that become habit, and habits can be good or limiting. Including an element of random activities, allows you to make the most of structure, but at the same time do things the schedule does not always allow for. While you can make the most of calling time in the office to focus on your primary targets, Red Light Calls, allow you to go for third tier or other long shots. There goes the light, good bye.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Can You Use A Sales Caddy?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Caddy

While Labour Day may be behind us, it is still too early to put the golf clubs away, or to take in a tournament or two on the television. I am not much of a golfer, they have banned me from a number of courses on suspicion that I was there to set the world’s record for size of divot. What is interesting when you watch the pros is their reliance on their direct and extended team, while they may strike the ball alone, their caddy is right there on the battle field, intimately involved in key aspects of the game, and the outcome, be it a win or a loss.

While many sales professionals play golf, they don’t allow that kind of thinking to enter their day to day selling. While they are open to help, input and support on the links, they often turn away from or refuse help on the sales field. They are open to suggestions from their managers, or respected peers, but when the time to “play” comes, they tend to want to go it alone. No what you would expect, given that they carry the revenue responsibility for their companies. The best reason I can think of for this is ego, a necessary but not singular sales skill or trait.

I say this because I remember sitting with a VP of Sales some time ago, he understood he need outside help, felt that we could collaborate, but was reluctant to commit. When I asked why, he said:

VP: “If I bring you in, what does that say about me?”

He is not alone in thinking like this. On a regular basis I hear VP’s say, “Well that’s what they pay me for”, or something to that effect. The same lone wolf superman outlook many of his reps had, they didn’t need anyone telling them how to things, that would be a sign of weakness, not good for the ego; they can continue to bring in 95% of quota on their own, they don’t need help doing that, thank you.

As for the VP, I think that they are paid to drive performance, behaviour and success, I am not sure the intent is for them to do it all, strategy to tactical roll out and execution, hiring the right resources, internal and external, are like closer to the mark.

There is often a sense that if they hadn’t been able to drive a set of behaviours or to get the team to adhere to the sales process, it is a case of the people not getting it; rather than maybe the VP’s skills are vision, strategy, the ability to align that strategy with other internal departments, and buyers, gather a team who understands the strategy and has the means to execute the tactical steps needed to succeed, and make the VP look good, and stroke that ego.

Which is the realization the VP above had when I responded to him:

VP: “If I bring you in, what does that say about me?”

ME: “Well even Tiger Woods has a caddy”

He got it, his ego was able to deal with it, and more importantly the outcome, success, greed, recognition trumped, and in fact feed his ego.

Time you got a caddy!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

It’s Only an Emergency if You Haven’t Planned for It (#video)2

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Biz TV

Many emergencies can be anticipated and planned for, thereby limiting their impact and your ability to succeed. On the other hand, many prefer emergencies to some key sales activities, like prospecting, so any emergency will do. Take a look to see what I mean:

Not Emergency

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

 

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