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The Complete Salesperson?2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I witnessed an interesting exchange the other day, two Sales VP’s were exchanging views on hiring, on=boarding and development of sales people. One offered up that he only wants to hire A players, “people who do not want to prospect all their career”. For context, this VP had a team of SDR’s and account managers. Before I could jump in, the other VP asked “what do you mean, prospecting is a key skill for A players.” Or at least his definition of an A Player.

We’re All The Same At The Start

There is no doubt that the pattern for a long time has been to start off a sales career prospecting, because unless you adopt a territory, there is no other way to build a base, (even if you’re good at referrals, you need someone to refer you). As we build the base we become victims of our success, demand on our time and attention turns to maintaining and organically growing the base. And eventually stop prospecting, or do a token amount.

The Turn

The other thing that happens is a change in attitude. Sales people hate it when a buyer chooses an alternate product, perhaps not as robust as ours, and tells us that despite everything, the alternative is good enough. While that hurts, many can deal with it, why? Because they have also adopted the same “good enough” attitude. The reach a level of income that is “good enough”, the effort it takes to prospect just becomes a bit more than they are willing to commit. Sure they could go from $250,000 to $300,000 or more with a bit of prospecting, “But hey, you know $250,000 is good enough, I’d much rather work on my putt and short game.” Usually this followed by one of the saddest statements a professional sales person can make: “I have earned the right not to have to prospect anymore.” I would argue that your product, customer service, finance and others in the company earned most of that. The key value any sales person bring is customers who represent new revenue streams. Other than direct referrals, prospecting is the optimal path to that.

With the exception of a few products, when you stop prospecting, you diminish your value as a sales person. It’s not about greed or just making more money, it is about continuing to be the best they can be. Can you imagine the blow back if an athlete said that they have earned the right not to pass, or slide, or anything required to win? A players have a different outlook.

Wisdom Of Success

I remember training a financial services professional, top three in his branch, been there 15 years, had a “book” of business he could milk for years. As I would work with new recruits, on his own, he would always come in and tell the participants why he loves to prospect, especially outside his network. He gave two compelling reasons:

1. If he could secure one or two new clients a year, he would have all that many more referrals to add to the ones his current clients were providing.
2. If one of his clients fell away, perhaps taking some of their referral with them, they would be replaced.

I am not sure I can agree with the VP when he say that A players are those that don’t want to prospect, I think A players do it, and don’t complain about it, because they know the rewards of their work.

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Pain Pills

Pick Your Pain0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

There is a lot of talk in sales about pain, sales people seem to be always looking for it in buyers, trying to avoid it in their world, yet selectively being open to some pain, while completely avers to the same or lesser pain served up differently.  Many sales people seem to live a variation of an old sayings, “Better the pain you know than the pain you don’t know”; “The lesser of two pains.”  For me it all stems from prospecting, sales people willingness to prospect thoroughly and consistently.

When I ask sales people why they don’t like to tele-prospect, the number one reason I get is the fear of rejection, the pain of rejection seems so big and painful, that people would rather forfeit success, than pick up the phone and talk to a real prospect.   No doubt there is a big rejection factor, chances are you will be rejected by about 86% of the people you speak with.

At the same time, studies have shown that on average the close ratio of Sales Qualified Leads in B2B sales is 16.4%.  Looked at the other way, this is an 83.4% rejection rate.  Yet I have never heard a rep tell me they don’t want to go to a first appointment for fear of being rejected at the end.  They happily march off to battle, giving it their all, never thinking twice about the impending rejection to come, they lean in to it and make it happen, well sometimes, really about 16.4% of the time.  So what am I missing 86.00% vs. 83.40%, where in the 2.6% difference is the tipping point?  While rejection in any form is undesirable, seems to me the quick bullet between the eyes when making a cold call is much better than the slow death.  I hate it when you go down to the wire and get a no, having invested the effort time and resources required moving the sale along.  You don’t know the guy who just hung up on you, and he would not have a clue who you are when you stand behind him waiting for his “skinny soy venti double shot Iced Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha”.  It is even worse with Marketing Qualified Leads, according to some, 98% will not lead to closed business.

The key difference is the complete lack of process and metrics around prospecting vs. the rest of the sale.  Most sales people and organizations have clear process for the sales from handshake to close.  The stages are defined, activities, tools, measurements all in place.  Contingencies for different road blocks, potential alternatives, and resources.  This allows for context and understanding, we may not like the results, but we can contextualize it based on the process, and take lessons into the next sale.

The same can be said for the lead generation process.  Clear rules around what happens when there is an inquiry, how they are nurtured, etc.

But when it comes to that first contact there is little process.  Sure some give you a script, but what about the dynamics, how to deal with environment created by an interruption, how to handle the most common objections.  Metrics are absolute, rather qualitative and individual, making them limiting not enabling.

In the end though the worst pain is that of being “Rejected from President’s Club”.   Somehow some sales people would rather live with the pain, stigma and reality of missing quota, than a brief rejection from someone they do not know, who will forget them long before the next call.

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don't do this on cold calls

3 Things To Leave Out Of Your Prospecting Call1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Not only do I get to listen to a lot of outbound calls, but I get a fair bit of cold calls, (I guess they did not get the memo that cold calling is dead), and there are a number of things that if people would just stop doing, they would be so much more successful. These aren’t the top ones, or worst ones, they are just the ones that irritated me most this week.

1.  Who Is In Charge Of…?

These are the people who give cold calling a bad name, lazy people who can’t be bothered to go to your web site or LinkedIn and do some basic scraping to get basic info. Even if the above were to leave you wondering, asking this question is just going to make more work, and lead to less results. The receptionist may have a different idea of who is in charge of. As far as he/she is concerned the person in charge of office supply is the person asking them if the need that supply. The person in charge of telecommunication is the one who works on their telco problems, not the one making the decision about carriers. So if you are really unable to find the right person before you pick up the phone, hard to believe these days given the resources available, just ask for a specific title. Not any harder, not much better, but if you have to, it is better to ask for the CTO, than the person in charge of telephones or IT.

2.  What you or your company does

Really no one cares, if they did, they would have phoned you, not the other way around. Beyond the name of your company, no one cares. Tell them what you have done for others with similar objectives, what the economic outcome was, and how it impacted their business. Anything other than that is saying please hang up on me, I prefer to talk about me and my company not you and your opportunities. Instead of who you are and what you do, talk about outcomes, lead with outcomes they are looking for and thinking about, it is about the end, not the means.

3 Your Title (or lot in life)

I rarely laugh at sales people when they call, I know the effort it takes, and they are doing their job, I usually listen, and if they are open, make suggestions. But one thing that always gets a belly laugh is when I hear someone include their title. “hi this Josie Broune, regional account manager for Canada”, or the voice mail version, “hi you’ve reached Mike Smith, Eastern Canada Sales Director at Another Company”.

I am sure your mother and spouse are proud of your title, and for many I am sure your title defines some aspect of your life, but for the person listening it means nothing, in fact those people who hang up on you, for them it means less than nothing.

I am not saying it is not impressive or that you should not be proud, but it adds nothing to the call, which means it needs to be eliminated. I’ve had some tell me that it communicates their capabilities and demonstrates some credibility. It doesn’t. You want to impress, and create credibility, get to what is in it for them, the business impacts you have delivered to others with similar objectives. Start and stay with that and you’ll get their attention, anything other than that, and they are just waiting for a pause where they can shut you down, and if that opening does not come in time – – click.

Don’t do it Len, leave these things out.

Achieving success with the Passively Looking segment of B2B prospects

Achieving Prospecting Success by Segmentation – 20

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

This past Monday we looked at how to tailor your approach to engaging with different segments in your potential buyer pool.  Monday we looked at the readiest segment of three groups you are likely to encounter in the course of prospecting, those who are Actively Looking. The next segment is slightly larger, but brings a different set of challenges, this group is the Passively Looking segment. This group is aware that they will need to engage, to make a purchase decision, but do not have the same sense of urgency as the Actively Looking segment.

Those in this group may be planning an expansion or a new facility to open in 24 months, and what you sell is relegated to be purchased six months before opening; or they have a piece of equipment that will need to be replaced in say 18 months; or any scenario where the potential prospect believes they have the luxury of time. Last time it took them six to nine months to select and buy, as a result their mind set is they have nine months before they need to fully engage. This group may be 20% or more of any given segment.

I find many sellers fall into one of two groups. The first are those who when they hear 18 months, think their “sales cycle” is usually three to six months, so they abandon the opportunity to look for Actively Looking prospects. The second, believe that their “solution” is “so right”, that they spend their time trying to convince the buyer that they should make their purchase now. Ignoring the buyer and their organizations objectives, timing, budgeting and more. They figure if they can create “urgency”, everything will fall into place, after all, that’s what their brochure says.

The reality is that the Passively Looking buyer segment is full of potential as long as you understand what you are dealing with and adjust for it.

The first thing to take into account is that while at ties you can shorten the buyer’s timelines; it is the anomaly rather than the rule. This does not mean the first group has it right, you should not walk away or park the opportunity for later. But you have to be real and understand that most likely the deal will come in later, usually next year’s quota, not this year. But that’s not a bad thing, having a number of good and real opportunities lined up for next year will pay dividends. Even better, you have a real long runway to work with the prospect, educating, becoming a great resource in process of becoming their emotional favourite. You have the opportunity to prove your worth long before they a) have to pay for it; b) before the crowd shows up and starts pitching price. This is why the first group tends to lose, by the time they come back, when they estimated the buyer will be actively looking, you have built your credibility and dependence.

The other distraction for many is the “all or none” approach. They are so fixated on the “big prize”, that they miss opportunities to build a commercial relationship on small pieces at a time. Sure we all want to share the big solution, but the buyer has made it clear that is not going to happen for a time. But the more you understand their objectives, and how they plan to achieve them, the more you can introduce other ideas, things they have yet to consider, again challenging the premise, not the individual. In the process you can get them to consider things they can use now in their current setting, these can be small add-ons, software that enhances their current solution, ways of testing alternatives, and more. The result of this may not be big revenue, but it makes you a vendor, and incumbent, someone that will very much be included in the big discussion when it comes. And if the current incumbent waits, you could also be the one that sets the agenda for the big buy. A bit of revenue now, the set up for the ultimate decision. If you can make quota from others, ready to act now, position yourself as the emotional favourite with the Passively looking buyers, you will succeed now, and moving forward; everyone wants a blended pipeline, don’t they.

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video intro 2016

Prospecting Call Mistakes You Can Avoid #Video0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Making outbound prospecting calls can be challenging and stressful, for both the prospect and the rep making the call. To be more effective you need to change some things that may work in day to day life, even in a scheduled sales call, because this is not a scheduled call, so the dynamics will be different, and as a pro you have to make up for that difference. Take a look at the video below to learn to common mistakes to avoid.

Tell me what you think; and if you have doubts about what you heard, read what the University of San Francisco has to say about building credibility in prospecting calls.

Hey if you liked the segment and the ideas, join me this Wednesday, when I and dozens of other sales thought leaders share best practices during the Sales Acceleration Summit, the world’s largest on line sales event. Click here to see the agenda and to register. My session is on the Dynamics of Successful SDR and prospecting calls.

Disapproval thumbs down by a male executive.

Who Is That For, You or the Buyer?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Prospecting can be a nerve racking experience for many in sales, especially outbound telephone prospecting, which explains why so few are good at the practice. The rejection, the unknown, the boos looking at you output and shaking his head, and clock on the wall ticking louder and louder. This triggers series of primal responses from nesting and protection to fight-or-flight. Let’s be clear we’re not talking about fighting the customer, but fighting the urge to give up and go back to inbound prospecting, or perhaps flight to a better strategy and approach to telephone prospecting.

When the nerves kick in, we try to compensate for it and comfort ourselves in the hope that things will get better. But hope is really not a path to successful prospecting, and the best comfort comes from having a pipeline full of real opportunities. Most of the other comforts are really there to make the prospector feel better, not necessarily to improve the scenario and results. To do that you have to actually go the other way. While being counter intuitive may not be immediately comfortable, it will lead to more opportunities, which will in turn will allow you to indulge in some real comfort, no matter what that is for you.

So here are somethings you should stop doing specifically on a first call, things that may make you feel better and more comfortable, but has the opposite effect on the buyer, and thereby detrimental to your success. Your litmus test should be: “Is this for me or for the buyer?” If the answer is for the buyer, great; if the answer is you don’t know or for you, then cut it out, full stop. There is no grey, it truly is black and white, and any time you waste debating it is time you are not selling.

First off, stop asking the buyer how they are two seconds in to the call. Yes, I know we were brought up that way, Mom always told you to be polite. While I may agree with Mom that you should be courteous and respectful of the prospect, she probably wasn’t thinking that raising an outbound sales person. Asking that question consumes valuable seconds at the start of the call, and keeps the conversation from the focus, which is what is in in for the buyer, and how it helps them achieve their objectives. How they are, is not germane, and you know, there will be times when it they are jammed, feeling harassed, and all the question does is accentuates that. Whereas getting to the point of what’s in it for them, allows them to focus on that, which is what you want. If you want to feel how useless asking how they are, just think of the last time a duct cleaner asked you how you were.

litmus

Next pacifier that needs to go, asking them “is this a good time?” or “Do you have a couple of minutes?”. That’s like asking for the bullet to the head, might as well save the prospect the time and do it yourself. When we do outbound calling, to people who did not have us on their calendar, people who are trying to pack 16 hours into a ten-hour day, people who only see their kids awake on the weekend, time is a premium, and we are a disruption. So by definition they do not have time for the unknown, and at the time of the question in the call we are an unknown. Now if you started with what is in in for the buyer, and how it helps them achieve their objectives, they will make time. But again, you want to be polite and hope that they like you, instead of helping them like what you represent, you know a “solution”.

litmus

I know going cold turkey on these bad habits is hard, so here is something that will help you let off some social steam, make you feel better but not risk the call. Right where you would blurt out either of the above questions, and normally stop to wait for the answer, instead say “Thanks for taking my call.” Statement not a question, so you don’t have to stop, and you can get to what really counts, the real upside for the buyer.

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Twin sisters making stop sign

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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