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Are You Committing This Prospecting Sin? – Sales eXecution 2910

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Chrch candles

The biggest prospecting sin you can commit is not to prospect, but there are many others that are dangerous and can have almost as detrimental effect on your sales success, and more.

The one we’re going to look at today is a common technique used by many, encouraged by pundits is this one:

Your on the phone with a pre-qualified(?) prospect, and you say something to the effect of “I just need 15 minutes of your time…” Or it’s déclassée cousin “I just need 15 short minutes…” I mean really, what is the difference between the two, does the “short minutes” meeting have 50 second minutes, or will it just be that much less torturous?

Frankly this works well if you are selling a commodity, let’s see if the nut fits the bolt, can you deliver on time, and for two cents less. Yes, almost anyone can do that in 15 minutes. But selling something of value, selling “A Solution” that will take more than 15 minutes, no ifs ands or buts.

People use this approach because they feel that it will make it easier for the prospect to accept a 15 minute meeting. Said differently, “I’ll waste 15 minutes on this guy, but not more.” Sure you’re thinking that if you put on a good performance in that first 15 minutes, they’ll give an encore in the form of a further 15 or 30 minutes. Sure, sometimes, not often, usually you try and cram a meeting that properly unfolds in longer time frame into 15 minutes. Instead of initiating a good discovery exchange, most revert to a product pitch, after all “we are pressed for time”, and you can’t risk without presenting your value prop and at least a minimal look at your product. Next thing you know it’s time to try and get that next step, and go. And what is that next step in most cases, the meeting you really wanted in the first place.

So why not gear your call to that to begin with? If you truly have a solution worth having, one that actually solves (solution – solve) an issue they may be having, you know a pain or a need, lead with that, and get the right meeting. But when you say “Just 15 minutes”, it sounds like “please man, I am desperate, do me a solid, be a KPI.” Sure this may work once in a while, usually with the wrong prospect, but if it’s not inside the Bell Curve it’s a Hail Mary.

Like any sin, smoking, illicit activities, being a politician, what have you, there is the momentary pleasure, and lingering dark side. In this case you are starting your relationship, regardless of how far it may go, based on a lie. You know at the time you propose the meeting that you are not being truthful, as do your prospects, the 15 minutes is their insurance policy, “if this guy sucks as badly as I think he may, I can pull the lever after 15 minutes; if by chance he is good, then we’ll see.” Sure this may work once in a while, usually with the wrong prospect, but if it’s not inside the Bell Curve it’s a Hail Mary. I have always been for a separation of church and sales.

Tibor Shanto

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2 Reason To Always Leave Voice Mail – and Get Called Back – Sales eXecution 2852

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Voicemail word cloud

Given that we are sitting in sub-zero temps in the north east, -25 C in Toronto, any call you’re going to make today is going to be a cold call. But if you’re a complete B2B sales professional, you’re probably making cold calls even if it is nice warm and sunny, cause that’s what pros do, not like those cheap plastic replicas that are afraid of picking up the phone and talking to a buyer. And if you are picking up the phone, you’re hitting voice mail, no two ways about it; and if you hit voice mail, you need to leave a message, again no debate about that either. Here are three reasons why.

1.   Pursuit Cadence – It takes a lot more effort to get the attention of buyers these days. Seems one of the side effects of the efficiencies achieved through reduced sales forces, is those who are left have a lot more to do, imagine that. Our buyer are struggling to pack 16 or more hours in to a 10 hour day, and taking bad calls from bad sales people is not on the list. As a result it takes that many more touch point, of different sorts to get not only the attention of buyers, but to get them to act or respond. As a result voice mail becomes one of many opportunities to touch the buyer, and cultivate a response, a response you can capitalize on to secure an appointment (live or virtual).

There is a bookend element at work here, which is first man in – and – last man standing. There are studies out there that show that the first man (or woman) in is that much more likely to get the deal. All the more reason to cold call and get ahead of the curve, and not be one of the saps who waits for the buyer to find their seller. So if you leave a voice mail while others don’t, you mail well end up being that first man in just by virtue of leaving a message.

At the other end is the fact that if you pursue the right opportunities further than others are willing, and let’s face it there are many who give up the chase too soon, you will increase you odds of winning the deal. I have had more than one executive tell me that this is a fact. Add to that many ignore the first few calls just to separate the strong. How hard you work at getting the sale is a clear indicator as to how hard you will work to satisfy them as clients.

2.   Getting Call Backs – Done right, you do get calls back, notice I said done right. The technique I use, and was taught years ago gets me up to 50% of call returned in 72 hours, this not only reduces stress, but builds pipeline. You can learn the technique by watching these two videos.  Make sure to watch part I first, eh?

The reality is that once you are getting calls back, you don’t need any other reasons to leave voice mail.

Tibor Shanto

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Does Length Matter? – Sales eXecution 2810

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Spinning time

Does length matter, or is it more a question of how you do it?

Get your mind out of the gutter for a second, and thing length of sales cycle.

I was recently approached to write a piece examining how to reduce the length of the sales cycle, or as some like to say increase the velocity of a sale, something I have written about in the past. But I am convinced that this is a red herring, a false premise or trap many in sales fall into.

Right off the top I will tell you that shorter cycles are not better, the goal is to understand your “optimal” cycle, and then focus your efforts on efficiently executing it. If your optimal cycle is three months, you really are going to gain little by trying to shave a couple of weeks off that.

When you ask people why they want a shorter cycles, the answers are usually more subjective than objective, and usually reflect their bias, or often fears of the person looking for a shorter cycle. Some will tell you that they believe it will drive more revenue, not true, because if you shorten a cycle for the sake of shortening, you will take shortcuts that will either cost you sales, or more often, you’ll have to go back and do things you should have done in the first place, leaving no gain or worse. Other reasons include ability to scale, greater focus, increased market share, but usually these things are more an element of execution than things impacted by the length of the cycle.

When it comes to executing sales fundamentals, it is better to focus on quality of execution, not speed. People tell me they can shorten their cycle by targeting the right prospect, duh! Or solve buyers’ problems rather than sell them product, double duh. Let’s not confuse optimization with acceleration.

What I have found and most don’t like, is the real question here is one of prospecting. If you have the right if you know you conversion rates between stages of the sale, and your close ratio, you will worry less about how fast you are closing deals. It is much more about metrics and accountability than speed. If you know how many prospects you need to close one deal, then it is much better to ensure that you maintain that level prospects, rather how fast you chew through them.

Once I know my quota or goal, I can use my metrics to chart a path to that number. If close one of every five prospects I engage, and I successfully engage one prospect each day of the working week, each is a cycle, and I do this consistently every week, it really does not matter who long my cycle is. But people would much rather spend time and effort shaving minutes off their cycle than prospect consistently. Once you have that down, it takes the pressure off closing faster, and allows you to fully sell the right prospects, and better yet, the permissions and means by which to disqualify less than optimal prospects.

What is ironic is that often it is the same voices who tell you that sales is not a numbers game, are the very ones who advocate for shorter cycles. But when you look at it, focusing on shortening the cycle, leads to much more selling by numbers, than the discipline of consistent and efficient execution of your sale, using metrics, data.

Tibor Shanto

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What’s Your Recovery Period? – Sales eXecution 2740

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

recover

No one likes rejection, and I would argue few professions have to put up with as much rejection as sales people do. We face rejection throughout the sale, from the time we try to prospect and engage with a potential buyer, right to the end when they finally agree to deal with us. We face rejection from prospects we lose, and from those we actually win, in fact we win by overcoming rejection.

Each rejection is like a blow, whether we overcome them or not, they consume effort, energy and they take their toll, much like a blow in any athlete in any contact sport. And yes, let there be no doubt that sales is a contact sport. What separate great athletes from also-rans, is not only their ability to deal with and overcome the blows, but how efficient their recover time is.

Of course it is best to start by trying to minimize rejection, and avoid being the guy who can survive by taking the most blows. But in the end, in sales there is no avoiding rejection of some form during the sale, could be mild, could be fatal, but much like death, taxes, and lying politicians, if you’re going to sell you will face rejection, and you need to learn to deal with it. The better you are at that the greater success you will have in sales. One way is to improve your recovery time, there is truth in the saying about getting back on the horse.

First is be prepared. It is coming, you can’t avoid it, so learn to deal with it. If you try to hide from it, you will also hide from successful sales. Often the best sales are a result of a well handled rejection, the rep that faced it head on, dealt with it, and moved to the next step with their prospect in tow, wins more often than those who avoided it. Part of engagement is push back, if you’re not getting any, you’re prospect is probably not engaged.

Specific to prospecting, telephone prospecting, the first think you need to know, actively manage and constantly improve, are your conversion rates. Attempts to right person contact; right person contact to desired result (appointment). I know there are those socialites who will tell you sales is not a numbers game, (I guess to them it is just a cotillion or day at the country club), but knowing and managing these numbers will improve your recovery time and your success. It will also help you with your time allocation, know how much of an activity you need to do will help you set the right time; that in turn will help you set the right mind frame. Just like I know what it takes me to run a five kilometer run, I can know what it takes to secure the number of appointments to deliver quota. And BTW, having a few extras will give you options, who to let go and who to double down on. Not having enough prospects build pressure, and makes every prospect sacred, and losing one devastating, making it harder to recover, increasing your recovery time. A key preparation is to ensure that you are working from a “position of plenty”.

Again, knowing that rejections are part of the territory, learning how to handle and manage the most common objections before they come so you can help your prospect get from reactionary mode to interaction mode is also key.

The way to recover is to take your lessons from the event, and apply it, not retreat. Avoid what a lot of sales people do, they get rejected and they take time to recover, grab a coffee, call their mom, or question the quality of the lead. All adding to recovery time and reducing selling time.

The Best Day To Prospect Is Not Someday!2

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Someday

I was talking to a rep the other day, he was telling me about his approach to structuring his week to help him succeed. He set certain activities to specific days, and filled in the rest of the time with things that were dependent on the buyers’ calendars. He had time set for writing account reviews, Thursday afternoons, this way if he had to get something from the clients he still had time in the week. Proposals were done on Wednesdays and Mondays, all he had to do is set the right expectation from the buyer. And so it went.

But when it came to prospecting, there were no allocations. I asked him about it, and he like others told me that he does it when he can, any time he can get around to it. I asked why he has clearly allocated time to all other key activities, does he not see prospecting and filling the funnel as a key activity? Of course he said. Well, then why does it not conform to the way you approach and execute the other key activities, I said “you have everything else all neatly in place in place, what’s the deal with prospecting?”

He hummed and haad, checking the tips of his shoes, but it was clear that the day he allocated to prospecting was Someday.

Now I don’t like prospecting any more than the next guy, especially cold calling, but it has to be done. Which is why I do it first, then it’s out of the way, and I can go on to doing what I like. But kicking the can down the road only works in Ottawa and Washington.

I know the beauty of Someday is that it never comes, but the deadline for your quota does come, and in light of the fact that those people who make quota hovers around 50%, and the number one reason most sales leaders give for that is a lack of prospects and too much dependence on their base, the day of reckoning will get here before Someday, specifically two months from Tomorrow, December 31.

Given the choice between Someday and Today, I would go with today!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

3 Signs Of Bad Phone Breath – Sales eXecution 2724

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Phone breath

No one likes cold calling, well most don’t, so you can stop writing that e-mail telling me that you’re the exception that proves the rule. I don’t like it, I know it is god’s punishment to sales people, but it works, and I have made the connection between successful cold calls, a robust pipeline and the kids eating. I don’t know about you, but my kids get cranky when they don’t eat. But just because I don’t like it, I don’t tell myself it does not work, like many, I also figured out that if I don’t do it, for sure it will not work. So instead, I try to figure out how to do it better, so I have to do less of it, in the process have come to learn some things that stink a call out, literally like bad morning breath for the phone, and given that the people I am calling are not my lovers, they will not tolerate morning breath. So here three ways to avoid Bad Phone Breath.

Speak To them not At them

This one gets me every time, if you are going to interrupt someone during their busy day, make it worth their time, which means leading with and focusing on one of the oldest truths in sales, What’s In It For Them. Sure everyone knows this until the prospect answers the phone, and then they forget and bam, garlic breath. They start by talking about their company, “we’re a leading…”, or other things that mean nothing to the listener. What they want to know is how you can improve their lot, and specifically the outcomes you have delivered which they can relate to and would have an interest in. Start with that, grab their interest, save the rest for the meeting.

Soft In the Middle

I hate it when reps call me and say “I was wondering if we can meet?” I usually respond, “give me a call when you figured it out”; or “I was hoping we can meet” to which I say, “please call me when you get past hoping, and want to.” I know you are trying to be courteous, don’t want to come across pushy, but you need to make up for the fact that you are on the phone, and need to compensate for the lack of body language. People will follow a person with confidence who has a clear message that shows them what’s in it for them. Be clear, direct, and assertive, “I am calling to set a time to meet to share with you….”

Stop Telling Them There is No Reason to Talk to You

No getting away from the fact that if you are cold calling, you are talking to more voice mails than humans. So stop leaving code in your message that there is no need to call you, and they should go ahead and delete the message now. So here is the code buyers look for to hit 76 and flush your message: “Please call me back at your earliest convenience”, delivered in the Soft way described above. Sure, here is an empty message from a dude selling something I already have, because they didn’t tell me what’s in it for me, just what they do. So let me clear my calendar and set aside things I need to get done, so I can call you. Hmm, whose convenience is that for again?

There are other things you can do to improve the odor of a call, but this is start, get these down, call me and we share more.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Don’t Wait To Ask For Referrals – Sales eXecution 2700

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Fast & happening

I continue to be amazed that despite all that is written about the importance and success of referrals, how few sales people actually leverage this proven and effective method of sourcing new sales opportunities. Whenever I ask a group of sales reps “How many people here ask for referrals?” I still find that way less than half raise their hand. When I follow up with the question “How many have sold to referrals, the same set of people raise their hand again; I am not sure what the others are waiting for.

But even those who make referrals a habit, many are not fully maximizing the opportunity. The main problem, waiting; generally sellers are waiting too long to ask, and are leaving the request till much too late in the process, or missing them altogether.

Ask any group of sales people when they in fact ask for the referral, an overwhelming majority, like 90%, will say ask for referrals after the sales is completed and the product/service is delivered. Most of these will say they will wait three to six months after, “so the value can set in and be proven, and the customer is happy.”

Why?

You should be thinking referral from the time you park your car in the visitors’ spot, until the end of your relationship. Let’s look at it from two perspectives. First is the question of value delivered. Your value comes in many shapes and forms, not just in the delivered product, so even when your referral process is tied to value, it will present itself much before the close or delivered goods.

How many times have you sat with a prospect and had a discussion not about you product, but about something within your field of expertise. Remember I have always stated in this blog that good sales people are subject matter experts. I often sit with prospects and will share a perspective, a view point, or just a way of doing something, and the prospect will respond positively in what I shared, they learned and can use. For example, when discussing forecasts, I may point out a way of calculating something in a better way than they are doing now, or just how they use a formula in their spreadsheet. Prospects often say “Wow, never looked at it that way, thanks for pointing that out”; or “Man, I wish I knew that years ago”; or other similar things.

In my view they just saw something of value in what I said, so why wait, I follow up with “Great, I am glad I can help, do you know anyone else who may see value in this type of conversation?” I don’t expect them to whip out their Rolodex, but I plant the seed, and build from there. You’d be surprised how many time they respond by saying they think so and so should know about this as well.

The other reason you need to think referral from the start, is because you may never close them, which means there is no “after”.

Some time ago I had an initial appointment with a manufacturer, this was a company that had their act together, frankly other than presenting at their annual meeting, and there were no other opportunities. But we had a good dialog, which included talking about their distributors. We agreed to meet again in November to talk about their kick-off, but before I left, I asked if he thought any of his distributors would benefit from some of the areas of expertise we presented. Not only did he list three, give me contact names, but encouraged me to use his name, in the end he even sent an e-mail to two. If I would have waited the opportunity may have been wasted.

Make things happen instead of waiting, all you have to do is plan and ask.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Composed But Not Scripted4

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Composer

Whenever I do a piece about prospecting, specifically cold calling, one of the push backs I get is about the script. People feel limited and restricted by them, well not actors, who seemed to have found a way to take scripts, other people’s scripts, and not only use them creatively and expand beyond the words on the page (or screen), but make good money with in the process.

While I understand the reason for the resistance to scripts, I really don’t get it. As an industry we have tried to take the bite of scripts by hiding them in apps or software, even taking up new (and silly) labels like “Talk Track” and more. Yes indeed, I continue to be amazed at how the same people who rebel against scripts, are more than willing to work with Talk Tracks, one for the powers of branding.

But there is a lot that sales people can learn from the arts when it comes to balancing form, structure and personal expression. Where one can stay very much within the limits of a particular “school” or practice, yet still be individual and original.

The balance I try to help sales people achieve is one of being “Composed but Not Scripted”.

“Composed”, speaks to the need to be thoroughly prepared for the call. This is less about what you say in terms of the exact words you use, and more about the structure for the journey you want to take the prospect on, including the final outcome of the call, scheduled meeting, live or web or phone or …. As with any journey you need to know where it will start, where some turns will be, where you are likely to face heavy traffic or detours, and how you will respond to those in order to get to your destination on time.

When we look at a composition, there are all the elements you need to make it work, the parameters within which it is be played, all of which not only help the player play the piece, but helps the listener consume, enjoy and understand what the composer was trying to communicate. But these do not limit the ability of the player to interpret and enhance the piece while staying loyal to the composition.

The same is true for a sales call, having a structured approach including beginning, key points, and desired outcome, delivered in a way that the prospect can get involved, understand what you want, and what is in it for them, will not only lead to more success, but make it an easier and more pleasant experience for you, and your quota.

Remember you can be composed but not scripted.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto
 

Why is it easier for when you do it for others? – Sales eXecution 2690

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Dialing for Prospects

No secret I am a big proponent of cold calling being an element of prospecting success, along with any other viable means of engaging with potential buyers. I also understand that one of the big reason people do not like cold calling is the whole objection – fear of rejection thing.

But over the years I have observed an interesting phenomenon which raises some key questions about how people execute their calls, how they react and respond to objections and rejection. In turn this could perhaps lead some re-examining of one’s views of cold calling.

Time and time again what I find is that when people are making appointment calls for others, be they an in-house who is tasked with setting appointments for their outside reps, or an outsourced service provider, they react differently to rejection than when they are making appointments for themselves. Specifically, they seem a lot less if at all bothered about getting objections and rejections when they are calling on someone else’s behalf.

Now before you jump to the conclusion that it is because of what they do, or they are just part of that small minority that actually likes to cold call, it is not as simple as that, I know from personal experience. A couple of years ago, a friend was launching a business and asked if I can help set appointments with potential buyers and financers. I spent a few weeks doing that, my conversion rate of conversations to meetings was about the same as when I call for myself, yet when they said no, it didn’t hit me the same way. While the finder’s fee was quite rich, the rejection did not sting nearly to the same degree. Further, when I spoke to people who made the transition from setting appointments for their colleagues, to a sales role that included prospecting for themselves, they found the same experience.

Needless to say that I don’t have the degrees to back the opinion, but it seems the difference is ego. Clearly wasn’t the money, or the nature of the rejection; they included the usual, including hang ups, and assorted accusations.

As a result of the experience, I began to focus on taking myself out of the call. While I have always made the call about the prospect, that is different than taking myself out of the picture. While there is no escaping the fact that my success and income are tied to the call, it becomes a question of perspective. I used to focus on the outcome of the call, and was very conscious about where success on the call led, and even more so if the call did not yield an appointment. Beyond the money, it was like any friendly game of golf, there is always a preference to winning. I now shift the win/lose scenario to what happens in the resulting meeting, not the call that leads to the meeting. Sure you can argue without the call there is no appointment, but I now adopt the outlook that the real test of my ability is in the meeting, not in the exercise that leads to it. My conversions have not changed, but the impact of rejection on me has, making the days even more fun.

Why do you think the results are different when the task is performed for someone else?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

The Reason For My Call – Sales eXecution 2680

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Road sign objectives

For many, “The Reason For My Call”, is a crucial part of their prospecting call, probably more accurate to say cold call, as I would have to assume that if it were a warm call the recipient would know the reason for the call. All too often I cringe when I hear how most callers use this expression, especially when a couple of small adjustments in their approach may lead to better results.

Grab your Proactive Prospecting Call-Flow Now!

First thing is the timing of the statement. Most people use it at or near the start of the call, too soon. While some will tell you that you have 10 seconds at the start of the call, step back and think, (for more than 10 seconds). On a cold call, you just interrupted someone who was most likely doing something other than waiting for a cold call, since you call you address them and hopefully not make the most common time and call water, and say either “how are you?”, or “is this a good time?” Hello, you just interrupted them, how could it be a good time. Even if they did want to speak with you they would need a few seconds to disengage from what they were involved with when the phone rang. Then they’ll need a few more seconds and effort to focus in on your voice, accent, intonation, etc. So giving them your Reason For The call at this point is premature, as it completely lacks context, you know why you called, you need to give them a clue too.

The Reason For Your Cal, should come after some context (a different post), and when it does come it should be a good reason, for them. The only reason someone would want to meet with us, is if there is a good indication that we can help them achieve their objectives, to deliver outcomes that will make a difference for them.

The Reason is certainly not to “learn”, they don’t have time to teach you. Remember you are asking, in my case, for an hour of their time, if they are working 10 hours a day that is a big chunk of time, big investment. If they going to make that investment, they have the right to learn and be smarter at the end, not you, they expect that you are coming prepared, (what happened to all that research I keep hearing about?). In the same way they do not have time to discuss.

I was once listening in on outbound calls, and one flower-child-caller, said The Reason They Were Calling was so they could meet to establish a relationship, after a brief pause, the prospect said, “You should go to church dance or singles club, I need help in my business.”

What prospect will make time for is hear how you can help them achieve specific objectives, how you can help them mitigate risk, have a positive financial impact, increase market share, and more, all based on how you have done that for others in a meaningful and measurable way. Those are good reasons for the call.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

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