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2 Serious Mistakes To Avoid In Prospecting2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Most see selling and prospecting as two different things, as evidenced by the fact that while apply themselves to the former, but save their real creativity to avoiding the latter. But the fact remains that you can’t sell without prospecting, but sadder still, you can prospect a lot without selling. Mastering the skill-and-art of proactively prospect, especially buyers who don’t know them, is the ticket to continuous sales success. But people avoid prospecting because of the rejection factor; that nagging reminder that sellers are mere mortals after all.

Successful professional prospectors also know that sales and prospecting are different, and it is how they view that, and what they do that helps them deal and succeed.

Being that sales and prospecting are two of revenue process, each has its own set of objectives, and related activities, and desired outcomes. For prospecting, the singular and only objective is engagement with a buyer, plainly speaking, as many of you would express, “getting in”. To do that they avoid doing two common things, this in turn contributes to their prospecting and by extension sales success.

Thing 1 – “Gatekeeper”

People focused on leveraging clients’ objective for prospecting success, detest this term. It puts you and someone important to your success in adversarial posture. Conjures up the image of the bridge keeper from The Bridge of Death, keepers of the gate to sales Nirvana. To be clear, this is not about a receptionist in the lobby, (sometimes lock away from her colleagues), but an executive assistant or personal admin who work with the executives you want to sell to. They are not the enemy, nor do you want them to be, as they have a lot knowledge you’d love to tap into, and influence with the very individual whose influence you seek.

By now you are probably hip to the new number in town, 5.4, wonderfully unpacked by our friends at the CEB in the #ChallengerCustomer. No one knows those players better than what many mistakenly call the ‘Gatekeeper’. If you start treating them in the same way you would any of the 5.4. Furthermore, they are a unique source of insight as to who your Mobilizer may be. Rather than following the advice to isolate and exclude, you should think and do inclusion, tell them what you would tell the person he/she assists. Engage around who the executive may delegate the kind of projects or products your offering has improved or moved towards their objectives. Yes, Virginia, we are talking on the first call, I want to get in, not play coy.

Thing 2 – Decision Maker

It’s not about the maker, it’s about the decision. Hard for many Judeo-Christian sellers to just let go of the Maker.

Whenever I ask a group of sellers, who they want to reach out to when prospecting an organization. The answer is overwhelmingly “the decision maker”. Now I have used a range of directories and lists, and many had some on-depth information, but rarely did they have the title Decision Maker. And given that the studies show that there usually more people involved in the decision, looking for one maker may not be the best approach.

The thought process for prospecting should be about the decision, not the maker; about mapping the decision to objectives you can contribute to, who you impact internally and in their customer base, and most of all what your specific impact is. Looking at getting a decision and what is involved in that, and then building your track around that for all involved, will help you uncover anticipated advantages in creating and extending conversation, especially to where you can converge them around you. Looking for a Decision Maker, will narrow your focus and cause you to miss things you could leverage even if you found Salomon.

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Tomorrow Is Today – Sales eXecution 3240

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

A common discussion among sales people, or more accurately, sales people willing to make cold calls, that is complete sales people, is when is the best time to cold call? I have added my two cents on this in past. What is true about any element of success, is that the things that lead to it become routine, a habit, and there is no doubt that people are creatures of habit. This can be good and bad at the same time. Reports show that habit, things we do by rote, make up about 40% of what we do on a daily basis, so if develop good habits, this will serve you well. If you develop bad habits, well then, you have some work to do.

This notion of habits extends to cold calling as well, with all the implications and ramifications. One of those habits is when they choose to cold call. For the cold calling is dead crowd, the time is never, they have made the decision to go at it with one less tool in their toolkit. The rest seem to land on one of two days, oddly both start with T. Those who have developed good prospecting habits always prospect, including cold calling, Today. The others, with questionable habits, well, it’s always Tomorrow.

The Today group, uses their calendar to ensure that they get what has to get done in time for it to matter. Like many sales people they put all the important things in their calendar; be they client meetings, training, commission days, and yes, cold calling. If it is not in your diary it is likely not to get done, there will always be some things that come up that will distract you, and cause you to say “I can do that tomorrow, because I have this to do today. The question is if you don’t prospect today, who are you going to sell to tomorrow.

The Tomorrow crowd do not put prospecting time in their calendar because it would begin to resemble a commitment. Understanding what percentage of your “selling time” one has to commit to prospecting is where you start, once you have that you can begin to slot it in, along with the prep time it will take to generate the leads, understand their objectives, and all the other things that have to be in place for a successful cold call.

The other thing the Today crowd do is understand that rejection is part of the process. They study the most common objections and spend time preparing for them, understanding them, and developing means of taking those objections and transitioning them to conversations, and live another day by adding more opportunities to their pipeline. The Tomorrow crowd live another day by kicking the can down the road a few more inches each day.

What I have also found, is that with some coaching and effort, many Tomorrow people can be rehabilitated and converted to Today people. Since many had good sales habits alongside nonexistent cold calling habits, by doing what they need to today, they will likely be that much more successful.

Tibor Shanto

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The Reason You are calling, is… – Sales eXecution 3200

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Child Phone

As a reader of this blog you have heard me say that whoever coined the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was not in sales. We all know that the wrong word at the wrong time can dramatically change the course of a sale or sales meeting, either for the better or….

This even more true on the telephone where you do not have the benefit of body language to balance out the picture. As more and more sales organizations turn to an inside sales approach, this becomes a greater factor. Without body language you and the prospects are left with only intonation and the words you choose, what and how you say will paint the picture and drive the prospect’s response. What you say, how you say it, and who you say it to, matters.

While I am not suggesting that there are “magic words” or “silver bullet” words or incantations that can turn a sceptic or close the deal, picking your words matters. And it has to be your words, it has to fit with your manner of speaking and it has to help the buyer not only better understand where you are coming from, but also how it helps them achieve their own objectives.

Whether you are in inside sales or a field rep, here is an example that you may relate to. Early on, during the appointment setting call, you will have to give the person at the other end of the line a reason to want to see you. What is that, is it your product, your company, your radio voice, no; it is, as it has always been and will be, what is in it for the prospect themselves.

Many sales people will say that they are looking to “learn” more about the buyer, their company, and buyi9ng process. Well with the demand on decision makers time, they really don’t have time to teach you. You want to learn, well that’s why Al Gore invented the internet, so you can learn about your buyers.

Second favourite reason spoken by reps trying to get appointments: “I want to discuss with you…” Again, do you think they have the time or inclination to discuss, likely not.

So what can you suggest as a reason for meeting? How about sharing some specific steps and impacts you helped others take to achieve their objectives, and how your offering specifically played a role in that, and the specific impact it had on their business. Now this isn’t a creative recital of your features and value props, but specific elements that are tide to OUTCOMES.

The reason I am calling you is to schedule an appointment where I can share with you how we haled XYZ Competitor reduce their logistics cost, allowing them to increase market share by 3% over 18 months.”

No product, no features, no discussion or learning. Instead you are going to show, teach, share, how you have been instrumental in helping others like them achieve specific objectives and results.

“How do I know what their objectives are?” I hear some of you asking. Not as hard as you may imagine, but the topic of a future post; stay tuned.

Tibor Shanto

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Is It 2016 Already? #BBSradio #podcast0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

As we head to the finish line 0f 2015, there is a tendency among many in sales to maximize their “closing” activities.  Spurred on by their managers to close business, sales people get distracted from executing on the entire cycle, and focus on the here and now, and sacrifice future opportunities.  Balance is the key, if we focus only on the end of the year, we will pay for it at the start of the next year.  Take a listen to a discussion I had with Michele, and give us your thoughts.

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

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Q&A at Plug and Play #video – Sales eXecution 3130

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

In September I had the opportunity to meet with some up and coming companies at Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale.  After the meeting, I was asked to share some specifics about selling and our approach to driving value from prospecting call to growing your clients.  Take a look below, and feel free to reach out if anything strikes a chord or close to home.

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Ready – Set – Go Part I0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

iStock_start biz race resized

Tuesday we enter the “final half” of the sales year, the unofficial intermission that is summer comes to a figurative end, and harvest season is upon us. Now if you did a good job of ploughing, seeding and nurturing (even fertilizing), in the spring, you are truly in a position to harvest. On the other hand, if you did not tend to your pipeline before the summer, you’re left hoping for rapid growth season before winter descends on your income; too bad they don’t make Miracle-Gro® for pipelines.

Based on which of the above groups you are in, you will need to attack September – December in different ways. If you are in the first group, and invested the time and effort early in the year, and set yourself up for a bumper crop, you have two areas of focus, first to fully harvest and maximize your opportunities; second to set yourself up for success in 2016.

To fully maximize opportunities, start early, segment your pipeline in to two general groups, those that are truly just in need of harvesting, and those that still need some work to complete. In this latter group I would take a close look at those opportunities that based on past experience have the attributes of a deal likely to close this year, and those that, on sober consideration, are not likely to close this year, but will/may likely slip into next year. To be clear this is not to say that you toss or forget or sandbag, in fact the opposite, work them, because they will contribute to next year’s quota, but be practical and think about how you spend your time proportionally. Time is not recyclable, leads (and opportunities) are, invest your time in a way that yields maximum results, now and in the future; divide your time to skew towards those opportunities that are ripe and ready to happen now.

With the opportunities that will close, it is all about coverage, and focus. Start with a recommitment to having a plan and executing that plan. The challenge as always, is having a plan aligned to the buyer’s objective and demonstrating your ability to impact and drive those objectives. Part of that plan is understanding what needs to happen at each stage in order to continue to move the opportunity forward based on previous deals. Map it out so you can identify critical points along the buy/sell trip, and critical actions required to successfully complete those critical points. The map is your planning tool for your meetings and encounters with buyers, helping both you and them agree on next steps and move towards desired and identified outcomes. This will help you accelerate deals, and free up bandwidth to prospect and set yourself up for next year.

Now if you are in the other group, in a panic to make something of the year, tune in next Monday for Part II of Ready – Set – Go.

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Successful Voice Mails are like Bikinis! – Sales eXecution 3091

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Voice mail 3

They always say it is good to borrow perspectives from different fields as a means of perhaps learning something unanticipated about your day-to-day work. With that in mind, I’d like to use a perspective I learned some time back from someone in finance. This individual had an interesting view of financial statements:

“Financial statements are like bikinis, what they reveal is interesting, but what hide or don’t show is even more compelling.”

And that’s a great perspective to bring to voice mail.

There is no middle ground with voice mail, you either have those who leave no message, and at the other end are people who don’t just leave a message, but proceed to dump their brains out when leaving a voice mail.

Not leaving a message is just silly, why invest the time and effort in making the call, then listening to the target’s out going message (and most listen), only to hang up without a mark. Those who do leave a big fat message, tell me “well if I leave a compelling enough message, the prospect is bound to call me back”. Ya, because the world is such a rational place, let me guess, they probably call with a checkbook in hand asking “where do I sign?” Right.

If you listen to 90% of outgoing voice mail messages, they ask you to “please leave a detailed message”. And most sellers, wanting be liked and looking to form a relationship, comply. If you thought sales people can “spray and pray” live, they take it to an entirely different art form when it comes to voice mail messages they leave.

Why do these prospects want “a detailed message”? Because they want to protect their most precious resource, time. They want to know exactly why NOT to call you back. The more your message conforms to their request for detail, the more they know why they don’t need to call you back, and they can use that time and energy to deal with one of the other many things they are trying to cram in to their day.

Which is why you want your voice mail to be like a bikini, seductive yet not completely revealing. Seductive enough for you to say “OK, this interesting, show me more”.

Your goal or objective for voice mail is to get a call back and nothing else; a crucial point many miss. This is why we often get the Tolstoy equivalent of voice mail, rambling messages that provide every detail about the caller and the reason for the call. Detail leads to no call back. A lack of detail, where crucial elements are not revealed, think bikini, leads to more call backs, and more of the only measure of success with voice mail, a return call.

The human mind hates a mystery, and will take steps to resolve them, all relative to the context. Ever been talking about a movie with a group of people, and none of you can remember the name of the lead actor. It gnaws away until someone remembers the name, and there is a collective sense of relief.

The best voice mail are ones that create that same feel, a mix of compelling facts, and insufficient data. Info that is compelling enough, but insufficient enough to draw a conclusion. This will leave the recipient with the choice of putting the whole message out of their mind, or pick up the phone, dial the number left, in the hope of completing the picture.

For specific details of a quality voice mail, watch these videos:

youtube Understanding and Leveraging the Dynamics of Voice Mail 

 The Step by Step of a Great Voice Mail

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3 Elements of a First prospecting E-Mail – Sales eXecution 3051

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

e-mail new

While in Canada e-mail has been neutered by our supposed business friendly Prime Minister, in other parts of the free world, e-mail continues to be an effective way to initiate engagement with new potential buyers.  And while some may be shaking their head in disbelief, done right it contributes to prospecting success, but as usual, its down to what and how – the execution.

First thing is defining success. Many believe that success is the prospect calling you back and asking “where do I buy?” But remember “Prospects are Created – not Found”, e-mail plays a role in that creation. In an environment where it could take 8, 9, 10 or more attempts to get a response from a potential buyer, a good e-mail can be a good touch point, and lead to an initial contact, then engagement, purchase, relationship, kids, divorce, and all over again.

But let us approach as we would going for the Holy Grail, a cold e-mail that leads to engagement. What are the three crucial elements?

  1. Subject Line
  2. Body of Message
  3. The Close

Do all these well and you have a shot, miss the mark on one, and you’re beat.

In light of the fact that most e-mail these days will be viewed on a hand held, we’ll present things from that standpoint, the good news is that if you do the mobile e-mail right, it also translates to success for those reading it on a desktop or tablet.
1. Subject Line – if the party you are writing does not know you, the Subject Line becomes the first pint of triage. It will determine whether they open it, save it for later reading (ya, later, OK), or just delete it at the speed of light. As a result you have two choices, you can mix them up, see if you see a pattern based on role, industry or other factors.

First method, not mine but based on a study of some 30 million e-mails, suggests that having nothing in the Subject Line. Nothing or ‘RE:’ followed by nothing. In some ways it makes sense, human curiosity, drives people to bring down the thumb find out.

But my preferred method takes this further and drives the two elements that follow. I like to use the final call to action, The Close, element 3, as the Subject Line. So if at the end of your e-mail you propose a call Friday at 2:30 pm, then use that as the Subject Line, but add a question mark at the end.

Subject: Call Friday at 2:30?

The natural instinct is to see if you had in fact forgot a call, or scheduled one in error, or if your admin had put something in that you missed. The effect is the same “Did I miss something, let me check this out, let’s take a look.” Leading is to element 2.

2. Body of Massage – the body needs to have two must things, first brevity, second no fat.

I can’t emphasise the importance of being brief. Two lines at most. I want you to be guided by the “Two Flicks of the Thumb Rule.” The first flick is to scroll down once; the second is either Reply or Delete. Which is why we have no room for fat.

The best way to achieve that is to include and highlight only those things that speak to the prospect. Nothing about you, nothing about your company, just how you can help them deliver against their objectives. This is harder that it sounds, because as sales people are geared to talk about their value prop, and other irrelevant things.

Based on your research, previous experience, and those things you learn from 360 Degree Deal View,  Identify a specific impact or outcome you can deliver based on your assessment of their objectives, and speak to that.

I am writing to schedule a call to share with you how we helped Close Competitor Inc., add an additional service call for each of their trucks on a daily basis, leading to an 8% increase in revenue, 11% increase in margins, and a 12% improvement on return on assets…

Which brings us to the third element, The Close.

3. The Close – is your call to action, the ask from the call, and as we know from the Subject Line, it is a call Friday at 2:30 pm. So continuing from element 2:

“…leading to an 8% increased in revenue, 11% increase in margins, and a 12% improvement on return on assets. I will call you for an introductory call Friday at 2:30.

Thank you,
Alfred E. Neuman”

The important thing to remember is that this e-mail may be one of a number of touch points, and it is important that it is planned in context of a complete pursuit plan. If this e-mail is the first contact, what will follow, if you had phoned prior, how does this e-mail fit in? The specific version above is geared as a first e-mail, if you had called and sent a previous e-mail, you will need to vary it.

But for first mails, with a realistic expectation that there will need to be more touch points in the process of creating a prospect, this is a good start.

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3 Words to Ditch To Improve Your Sales – Sales eXecution 3042

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Garbage

Words are a big part of selling, seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how little attention some in sales pay to the words they choose. Words impact not only what your prospects hear and their reactions to them, but almost as important is the effect they have on you as the seller. Words impact and reflect you view of things and situations, and while many will argue that it’s just semantics, they fail to realize or acknowledge the degree to which words you choose reflect and signal your intent; something that your buyers pick up and are influenced by as much as anything.

Now let’s be clear, most don’t set out to use words that may hinder their success, and often they use certain words or phrases because they were brought up right. Like asking “is this a good time” when they interrupt a busy person in the middle of their day. Most people do it to be polite, a good thing, but the result is counter to the objective of the call. In most instances the prospect says “not really”, the sellers asks “when is a good time?” Prospect offers up a random time, and the rest is just painful.

As with most things it needs to be brought to their attention, and then the hard part, putting it into practice instead of going back to the same old, same old.

So here we go:

Gatekeeper – Talk about starting off on the wrong foot. Right out of the gate, us vs. them. Sadly, many of the people that sellers refer to as gatekeepers, can actually be helpful in moving your agenda forward. Today’s executive assistants are part of the “inner circle” and are very aware of their boss’ and organizations’ priorities and objectives, the better you align with those the more likely that the person in question can move from being a “gatekeeper” to a “gateway” to your success. Rather than looking past them as some would suggest, work with them, engage them the way you would any decision maker, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Just – Nothing cuts you and or your message down a notch more than the word just. Look at the definition: only or merely – “He was just a clerk until he became ambitious.” Not a way you want you, your product or message to be framed. Most use it to minimize the intrusion or effort required, but all it does is minimize everything. If you can truly add value to their world, help them achieve objectives, then go bold, not minimize by putting a just in front of it.

Hope – Such an uplifting work that can do so much damage to your pipeline. You hear this drug sprinkled into sales conversations all over. “I was hoping to set up a time to meet”, no you wanted to meet, but had to settle for hoping because your talk track was not good. In pipeline reviews, “I am hoping to hear from them this week.” Rather than hoping, would it not have been a better idea to set the next step before one left. I can be humorous and say I was hoping reps do that, but when those words come out, all hope is dashed. Decision makers want to deal with decisive people, hoping is not an attitude that conveys that.

So there you have three words in sales that hurt, cut them out, if you replace them replace them with something strong and forward looking, but you don’t really need to replace them at all, just sell.

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Delivery Over Messaging In Prospecting Calls0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Bulls eye

When it comes to effective prospecting there is usually a complete imbalance between two critical components of an effective message. Effective here means leading to initial engagement. The two components are “the content” of the message, and the “delivery”. The being the ability to ensure that the content is packaged and delivered in a way that the recipient can full receive and digest it and get out of it what the seller intended. Most people tend to focus way too much on the message, and the content, then fail to pay sufficient focus and energy on the delivery, often resulting in great content and message being wasted.

The important part of the delivery is “dynamics”, what is happening on the prospects side of things that will enable them or prevent them from taking on the message. Your value prop is a flop if it lands on deaf ears, on the other hand if you can get the prospect to take in the message, even a semi polished message will go further than the perfect line that misses the target.

Most prospecting calls, OK, cold calls, usually fall short because the caller is thinking too much about their end of the call, not the prospects end. First and foremost they are trying, and frankly encouraged by many pundits, to come up with a message that will avoid or side step an objection. Well forget it, that is not happening, when you are interrupting someone trying to pack 16 hours into a ten hour day, you will get an objection, because you are an interruption, no matter how golden your message or revolutionary your product. The only way to avoid objections is to not make the call, and I know some resort to that method. Add to that the fact that no matter how cool or “disruptive” your product, they think they already have it or something like it, remember you called them.

So you have to make it about them. Now I know you’re all sitting there saying I already do that, but having listened to thousands of call delivered by hundreds of reps, you’re not. What I hear is people telling the prospect about their company, what they do, and their product, and only after that do they get to the good stuff, what’s in it for the buyer, but even then, it is often to general. What reps tell me is that they need to introduce themselves, no you don’t. You need to introduce what’s in it for them. By the time you get through your intro they are either asleep or looking for a window, not to jump, but to throw the phone through. Lead with the outcome, the happy ending, the punch line, whatever you wanna call it, give them the end, then work back from there. This will help you get their attention, ensure the message gets through, and will set you up to manage their objectives more effectively. Now, if you want to better manage their objectives download the Objective Handling Handbook, normally $12.97, free today.

This but one example of how the delivery can make a difference. There is also the words, the tone, the cadence, and more, the key is to not focus entirely on the message, and put more attention to the delivery and dynamics involved.

BTW – you can start by joining me today at 1:00 pm Eastern, for a webinar I am present with data.com, I will be showing you how to Mastering voice mail, e-mail, and other tools of Prospect Pursuit Success! 

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