Welcome to The Pipeline.

Portrait angry young woman screaming on mobile phone

Phone Prospecting – Cool and Not Cool3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

People talk about prospecting as though it is open to interpretation, it should not be.  Prospecting is the act of engaging with someone with the purpose of initiating a sales cycle.  It is not about trying to sell, qualify, or any of the things that will never happen if you do not engage.  There is a singular purpose to prospecting, that is to engage.

It is not about striking a relationship that you hope will lead to something, that’s called dating; anyway, who says they can’t buy from you before you form a real relationship; who says there needs to be a whole lotta clicking, liking, and retweeting before you can engage?  The only ones who say things like that are people who do not prospect.  People who confuse prospecting with a social encounter, those who still believe the world will beat a path to their door if they built a better ____________ (insert product).

This post is more for those who have to prospect beyond the known, with people they have never met, not connected with on LinkedIn, or any previous contact.  Connecting and engaging with these prospects is a different effort and experience, and calls for some more effort than clicking around, steps like cold calling.


This requires a different approach with a different mindset and outlook.   I was describing one of these actions to rep recently, and he said “that’s not cool”.  You know what’s really not cool, is not having enough opportunities in your pipeline and not knowing what to do about it.  So here some cool and not so cool things when it comes to successful prospecting.

Cool: Leaving a voice mail.  Not only is it cool cause people call back, and you don’t get calluses on fingers dialing them over and over again, but even when they don’t call back it is a touch point, and you’re going to need 8 to 12 touch points before a potential prospect will respond.   You can get some insights about how I get 40 – 50 percent of messages I leave, returned within 72 or so hours, by click here.

Not cool: Wasting valuable time at the top of a prospecting call with your title, region, and other useless info that either puts the prospect to sleep or causes them to hang up.  Tell them what’s in it for them, not about you.  Worse and funnier, is when I call a number and the outbound voice mail message is:

“Hi you’ve reach Alfred Newman, regional mid-west sales manager, with ACME Corp, a Fortune 500 company.”  (Sometimes they even add their company’s tag line).  WHO CARES!  Sure, Mom and your significant other, but no one else.

Instead of boring them to tears with that drivel, why not leave the toll free number for your support team, the people they probably want to talk to anyway.

Not cool: One outbound voice mail crime, when I call someone on Friday October 7, and their message says “Hi, this Emma, I am currently out of the office on vacation returning on Monday June 27.”  What’s a prospect going to think when they return your message and it is October?

Cool: Leading the call with outcomes you have delivered against objectives similar to theirs, so they know what’s in it for them, rather than knowing your title (or corporate rank).

Not Cool:  When a prospect says they are not interested, asking “What are you not interested in?”  When a prospect says they are all set, responding “Well maybe I can send you some information so you know about us in case something comes up”.  I can’t believe people get paid to say that, I think they are paid to move past that and get the appointment.

Cool:  Calling everyone who is part of the decision, one after the other, and bringing them together rather than one by one.  Not only does that take more time and work, but will force you to cover the same ground over and over, whereas, if you reached out and got everyone involved at the same time, you can create the opposite effect.

Not Cool:  Asking “Can I speak to the person in charge of…”  Nothing says it’s time to put on a rain coat because we are about to experience some spray and pray.

Cool: Focusing on objectives not pain.  They all have objectives, very few will admit to pain, whether it is there or not.

Certainly not an exhaustive list, just things I experienced this week.  So these were some the things I observed, tell us what you think is cool or uncool in prospecting, drop your thoughts in the comment box below.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

Senior businessman being shocked after receiving bad news on cell phone, sitting at office desk behind alarm clock showing five minutes to twelve.

Stop Sabotaging Your Prospecting0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

We have all heard the expression that people make decisions based on emotion, then spend time rationalizing the decision. This interplay between our primal instinct and our later developed intellect, impacts sales success in other key ways. Our beliefs on a primal level have greater influence than we often realize, and despite our intellect and education, our beliefs will either limit us, or empower us beyond what many give them credit for.

Take telephone prospecting, yes cold calling, certainly a real and often emotional thing for all involved.  There are as many opinions out there about cold calling as there are minutes in a day.  Yet whether it works, or not, has less to do with technique and the times we live in.  It instead comes down to your beliefs and the actions those beliefs lead to, or more typically, actions they prevent.  And just like actions having consequences, in sales, especially lack of action, has greater consequences.

This leads to the question of which beliefs are interfering with your sales success, and can be recalibrated to change your beliefs, thoughts and actions.

One of my core beliefs, supported by real world experience, and empirical data, is that my customers benefit in very specific ways when they follow my programs.  They regularly achieve objectives they set out to accomplish, and realize direct impact on their business.  I am conduit to best practices, and as a result, can help prospects even before they commit to my programs.  This allows me to pick up the phone, and call someone I have not met, but have the confidence that I can help.

Now if you don’t have that core belief, the belief that you can help your clients, you are going to have difficulty prospecting, which equals difficulty selling.  Even though I am a professional interrupter, realizing that I am disrupting the prospects day, I both know and believe that the ultimate positive impact I will have on their sales team, will greatly outweigh the interruption.

What’s interesting is why people lack the belief that they can help their prospects.  Some tell me they sell a commodity, and as a result it is all down to price.  I get it, it is not easy, but you and I both know that there are people out there prospecting in your hen house and winning the business without dropping their price or pants.   What they have going for them is their focus on the outcomes they deliver, not how they deliver them.  This allows you to concentrate the message, avoid talking about yourself, and quickly have the prospect focus on the issue not the product.  The prospectors we turn out never talk about products, who their company is, or any of that intellectually rooted messaging, it is all about outcomes.

Start by going back and having straight conversations with your clients, ask them why they continue to deal with you, and then listen, and not selectively.  What you’ll find is that even if it is a commodity, door nails, is that price is not in the top three reasons, usually not in the top five.  Seems to me, those three things that keep them with you, but are not price, should be the things you lead a cold call with, even before talking about your company.  Frankly dear, no one cares that you are the Mid-West account rep for a Fortune 500 company, well maybe your mother, but no prospect, go to the outcomes.

It will take a few interviews with clients, and with people where you lost, or they did not take a decision.  But over time you will not only understand what you should focus on in prospecting calls, but as you get traction, you will confirm your ability to help people and change your beliefs to a healthier and more rewarding set of beliefs.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.   

Join Now!


Riding The Prospecting Wave0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

There are many things that influence a sales cycle, some within our control, others not.  Often we spend too much time, energy and emotion worrying about the things we can’t control, while deliberately ignoring and not attending to things we can control, and would make a difference if we did.  Some elements or factors are not that back and white, while we may not control them, we can ride and leverage them to help us succeed.

One example of this maybe momentum, we can’t directly initiate or ensure momentum, there are things we can do to leverage momentum to help us sell.  As with other forms of black art, sales people can best leverage momentum by grounding their sales approach in routine and discipline, this in turn helps you put you in the right place more often to create and increase momentum when it is with you, and to neutralize it when it is against you.

According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, “40% to 45% of what we do every day sort of feels like a decision, but it’s actually habit.”  Start by reviewing the things you do every day and through the sales cycle.   The first challenge is recognizing the habits that are holding you back, and then replacing them with habits that leads to success.  Then it gets a bit harder, actually replacing bad habits with good, this can be harder than quitting smoking, as someone who has done both, I know this first hand.

Funny thing about momentum, it seems to follow your habits, the more of the right basics, the more other elements fall into place.  We see this time and time again, when we work with people through the initial 12 weeks of the Proactive Prospecting Program, participants adopt and execute new practices and disciplines, i.e. change their habits, resulting in more opportunities in their pipeline, and they see momentum going their way.  Whereas before, when their habits kept them from having a healthy pipeline filled with choice, momentum seemed to be always against them.

surfingSo here is a simple example.  I repeatedly see reps commit to say an hour of prospecting a day, not that much in the scheme of things, but I would argue one of the most important hours of the day.  Usually this is based on their specific time range based on their individual output from The Activity Calculator.  Some have the habit of doing a whole bunch of things related to prospecting, without ever actually prospecting, this includes research, prep, BS, you name it; at the end of the hour, few if any new prospects.  So while they have built momentum for “getting ready”, they have added to the momentum keeping them for success, cause their ain’t nothing new in their pipeline.

Even when they get an appointment, they see it as an opportunity (excuse) to stop.  What a waste!  If you set aside for prospecting, do it for an hour; most people get more relaxed after they succeed, in this case secure an opportunity, so why not keep going, and have momentum work for you.   Same can be said for the rest of their pipeline, as soon as they get a few opportunities to Discovery, they figure that good times are here to stay.  They are but only for those who have developed the habit of making prospecting part of their ongoing routine.  Maybe it’s just me, but I do my best prospecting when my pipeline is full, and do the worst when my pipeline is depleted.  I would rather face having an overflowing pipeline offering choice, than the desperation an empty pipeline brings.  By seizing momentum when things are going my way, usually as a result of habit and execution, I can ensure that my pipeline and opportunities will always be sufficient.  Just as the reality of no pipeline, no opportunities, bring a momentum that is hard to reverse.  The right habits consistently applied, will help you build you momentum and ride the wave.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.   

Join Now!


Prospecting For Pearls2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Regardless of what some might tell you, there are elements of sales that are quite organic, and as a result there are lessons we can take from nature. One is that not all things that lead to real value start smoothly or simply, but as the process unfolds, the end result can be both a thing of beauty and value. That’s one way I like to look at prospecting, specifically telephone prospecting, yes cold calling.

I like to think of a cold call, the very start of an engagement with a prospect, as being very much like the start of the process in the making of a pearl. There is no denying that the pearl starts out as an irritant, an intrusion from the outside; but then over time, ongoing interaction, things develop, and where the end result is a thing of beauty and value.

Let’s be straight, I am not suggesting that you set out to irritate anyone intentionally, but at times you may not have a choice if you are going to help and win new customers. This is especially so with prospect who are removed from the market, the Status Quo, who left to their own, are not actively engaged in or thinking about buying anything, beyond “social” reach; this is usually in excess of 70% of you target market. These prospects, who are not self-declared buyers, may perceive the initial approach as a nuisance or aggravation.

I get it, cold calls are irritating, even cold calls that executed well; but I would also argue, not for the reason most think and fear. Sure bad calls are bad no matter what, but when done right, the reality is that we are making the prospect face things they have been able to ignore and burry, and avoid dealing with. They know what they have is not just far from not perfect, but not even close to ideal. It is just that they have decided that “the pain of the same is less that the pain of the change”. Initiating that change, the catalyst that leads to action, not just denying or ignoring the issue, may not be pleasant to start.

Those who a) understand that, and b) understand how they will manage the buyer experience, have the greatest success in telephone prospecting. To be successful at cold calls you need to be able to talk to outcomes and changes that will benefit the buyer and deliver the business impacts they are looking to achieve. This starts with understanding what outcomes you have been able to others in similar roles, in similar type of environments.

If you call a small fleet operator and initiate the call peaking about pains and needs they have not acknowledged, your fate is sealed before the first ring. Yet this is what most sales people and pundits go for: pains, needs, problems, (solutions), efficiencies, and all the things that prospects have turned a deaf ear to for years. Instead, you can call and speak to how you can help them get more service calls in a given day, or how you can help them extend the life of their vehicles, and improve their return on assets, or how you can help them reduce fuel costs while allowing them to wear a “green” halo. These are things not tied to pain, but to outcomes, things people are always thinking about, and more willing to hear more about.

The best sellers understand that part of their job description is “disruptive marketing”, which includes the willingness and ability to take an interruption to a conversation, an irritating grain of sand to a pearl.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.   

Join Now!


3 Things To Not Say In Prospecting Calls0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Many sellers ask me what they should add to or say in an initial telephone prospecting call.  Having listened to and analyzed thousands of calls, I have come to the conclusion that most sales would make great strides if they first focused on what to leave out of their calls.  There are things that people say in the call that make sense based in “normal” situations, but prospecting, cold calling people who you have never spoken to, who are not expecting your call, not looking for your product, and were busy doing something they thought was important at the time you called.

As discussed in the past, your prospect has heard it all before, if they get five calls a day, that’s 25 a week, 1,200 a year, some 6,000 calls over the last five years, so you have to break through the apathy and “deafness” if you are to have any chance at all.  This means not just being different from the others, but sounding different than all the other callers they’ll encounter this week.

To help you avoid sounding like the also rans who did not get the deal, here are three things to leave out of your initial prospecting call; BTW, I have heard all of these in the last week, by people who most would consider to be “good” sales people.  Here we go:

  1. How are you? – I know it sounds simple, polite, and innocent, but it adds little if anything to the call, and opens some risk. I have a very binary view of initial calls, if something does not add measurable upside to the call does not belong in the call, “how are you?” is definitely one.  It is one the things that we hate about the calls we get in the middle of dinner, where a strange voice asks how you are as though they were your best friends concerned about your day.  Skip it, respect their time and intelligence, instead of asking how they are, get to why you are calling.
  1. Is this a good time? – No! As I have spoken about on this blog in the past, our job is that of “professional disruptors”, professional interrupters.  By definition, a cold call is when we call someone who does not know us, is not expecting our call, but fits the profile of someone who would benefit from out offering.  With all that, no it is not a good time, but I really don’t care, because I have something important for the prospect, something that will help them achieve their objectives and improve their business.
  1. Who is in Charge Of? – I know, but this still goes on. Wanna tell a prospect you don’t care, you can’t be bothered, or that you really don’t enjoy your job, just start the call like that.  I swear if I had a dollar for every time I hear that each week, I could subsidize my coffee habit.  It is no longer impossible to find anyone, and if all else fails, ask for a specific title, “May I speak to the VP of Operations”.  Or pick an afternoon and call in advance to collect names to be ready when you make the money call.

Now I know some will sit there and say “I know this, this is too basic”, and you would be right, which is what makes these kind of calls so wrong.

Young beautiful business woman with heartache.

The Rejection Reflex0

Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

We are all familiar with a gag reflex, a hypersensitive response to a stimulus, if you ever want a live demo, just offer me some fish.  The hypersensitivity is generally a conditioned response, usually a result of previous experiences. The experience element is key for both prospects and sellers when it comes to Direct prospecting vs. Passive prospecting.

Pundits will tell you the number one reason salespeople don’t like prospecting, especially telephone prospecting is rejection, wrong!  In actuality, it is the fear of rejection, a fear that looms so large that it often prevents salespeople from picking up the phone and actually experiencing the possibilities that exist beyond the initial rejection, the bounties of Direct prospecting.  This why they would rather spend time and energy looking for the “safer” harbour of Passive Indirect prospecting. There is no less rejection, they just don’t have to deal with it directly, and can pretend that it didn’t happen.

Learn how to handle the 5 most common prospecting objections

Rejection is not fatal, witness all the sales professionals who survive rejection daily, yet live healthy, happy and more prosperous lives than the average and passive sales person.  It first needs to be put in context, and dealt with.  The good news is that how you deal with rejection can be altered with training.  Most people look at sword swallowers with freakish fascination.  Most people gag when a sharp foreign object hits the back of their throat.  Sword swallowers train to manage and control the very muscles that causes the majority to gag.   They are not freaks, but committed to understanding and practicing what it takes to get things done.   The average person will use the gag reflex to rationalize their lack of willingness to try something new or different.  For the sword swallower it’s just another day in the office.

But that gag or Rejection reflex is not limited to just the sellers in the equation.  Based on the call, the prospects often experience a gag reflex of their own.  Remember that the reflex is an involuntary reaction to previous experiences, in my case fish, in the case of the prospects, it is all the crappy prospecting calls they have received prior to the current one.

One way to avoid the “Reflex” on both side is for sellers to take a different approach to how they prospect.  Most sellers and passive prospecting approaches, say social selling, use a tired and worn out approach, one based on “pain points”, “Solutions” or “needs”, leading to very similar talk tracks.  After a few hundred(s) of these calls, it only takes a few choice words from the seller to trigger the gagging and hacking that leads to rejection, and usually in very predictable ways.   80% of the time 80% of prospects will have one of five most common reflexes, the five most common objections.  This means that a pro who not only takes the time to craft a better talk track based on future looking objectives, and then also spends time preparing to Take Away the most common objections, will engage with more prospects, more often, leading to greater success, and way fewer “Reflex” incidents.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

Need to Convert More Leads To Opportunities?0

There is no one single approach to converting more leads to real opportunities, it takes a blend of technology, messaging, and the dynamics.

You are invited to learn how to best combine these elements to generate more opportunities and sales. On Thursday July 21, join Paul Alves, Co-Founder & CRO of Quota Factory, and I, as we present concrete steps to “Increase Outbound Conversions with Objective Based Selling”.

Paul and I will present how to increase the number of lead you actually connect with, how to convert more of those leads leveraging Objective Based Selling and managing the dynamics of the call.

If you are using the phone to sell or set appointments, you need to attend.

  • What a sales development representative needs to be successful and optimize their time
  • The need for, and positive effects of implementing a workflow management system for sales
  • The difference in dialing techniques and selecting the best kind for your sales team
  • How to transform your messaging from solution-based to persona-based
  • Persona-based objective selling techniques
  • How to understand and translate prospects’ dynamics

If you have a team of SDR’s this webinar will help you understand how our clients increased conversions by over 20%.



Richtung Pfeil

A Sweeter Approach To Prospecting Success4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

As we head in to the second half of the year you realize you need to prospect and get some more opportunities in your pipeline. As you seek advice from your peers, one veteran tells you “You gotta buckle down and make more calls”, sage advice from someone who is under quota. Then you turn to a younger colleague and ask, not direct but by text, what she does, she tells you “OMG, get in to the 21st century, forget that calling stuff, you need to be a social seller.” But looking at the leader board, she is not making quota either. The guy at the top of the board, the one you really want advice from, is out of the office, making quota.

Forget the “us and them” of the chattering class. Stop being conflicted, stop wasting time and brain cells, do what the silent successful minority is doing, Reese’s Selling, where they combine the best of many viable selling approaches to deliver more than any can on their own. Safe, easy, tasty and quota satisfying!

As with most things in sales your only limits are your imagination and willingness to execute.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

Yes Small

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.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

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.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

wordpress stat