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Challenge The Premise – Not The Individual2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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Sales is all about the execution, and execution, or at least good execution, is a result of proper planning, ignore or short cut any part of that, and you will have to work harder, or miss winnable opportunities. While there are many factors contributing to the outcome of any sale, there are two that are always present, and have to be dealt with.

First, the state of the buyer, are they actively looking, passively looking, (know they will need to make a purchase decision, but feel they have the “luxury” of deferring that decision for some time, usually past your current quota); and the largest group who are in the state of being completely removed from the market, and oblivious to the usual “sales pitch”.

The second, and more important factor, is the degree that you can get them to think and take on your point view.

There are many paths to bringing and unpacking these elements into every sale, and anyone of these will work at some point based on the convergence of different factors that align at that given moment, or sales cycle. The question is how to do it consistently and repeatedly in differing and varying circumstances, and different buyers we face during the fiscal year. The reason why many sellers have up and down performance, is that rather than their evolving their execution to meet changing times and objectives of buyers, their approach “occasionally” intersects rather than aligns with the buyer. When the two overlap, great, when not, slump. The goal then is to take proactive steps to ensure that both of the above factors are balanced and aligned.

The balance is knowing how we impact and alter the buyer’s preconceptions, in a way that does not put them on the defensive. While this may not be as big a challenge with buyers who are actively in the market, it is a real show stopper that large block of potential buyers who are removed in from the market, and have no intention of changing that when you first approach them.

The first thing that needs to happen, before you even think of or target a buyer, has to do with you and how you view your role in the buyer’s reality and success. First and foremost you need to be a Subject Matter Expert (SME). That does not mean being smarter than the buyer and constantly demonstrating that, it means having a deep understanding of how what you sell has impacted and delivered value to multiple buyers. Any given buyer may know more about their company and how they use offerings like yours in their specific environment. But successful sales professionals deal with hundreds, some thousands of buyers using their offering in a multitude of ways. Not only that, but they have witnessed and delivered a range of outcomes, some good, others we don’t need to talk about. But as a result, a good sales person, is, a conduit to not only best practices, but practices, which while popular, consistently lead to disastrous results. Part of our job is to point that out to buyers when they are thinking of embarking on the wrong path, in a way that serves the buyer. Meaning challenging their premise, not the individual buyers. The difference is in the execution.

Being an SME, is more than just knowledge, product or market. You need to become an expert on translating that to your buyer’s objectives. Again, challenging their premise in a way that allows them to leave the comfort of their “box”, their selected path. Some buyers will have a clear vision, but are open to have input on how to achieve those objectives and realize the benefits that outcome brings. This requires you employ an interview routine that goes to the root of the issue and build out from there, instead of starting with the solution, and building to it.

First is understanding their objectives, then understanding what stands what stands between them, and their ability to achieve them. That’s the start, next is getting them emotionally engaged. How hard can that be you ask, after all, these are their objectives? Remember, often they have tried several things in the past, and may be reluctant to try again, without that emotional involvement, you may not be able to get them to question their own premise and commit to an alternate path. This takes not only knowing and understanding common objectives, based on role, industry, geography and a range of other inputs. Things which become apparent when you review all opportunities and outcomes that go into your funnel, not just wins. Then understanding how to conduct an interview in a way that challenges the buyer to open up not to clam up.

Knowing many of my clients are looking to have more and better, or better and more, (we need to appease the quality over quantity aristocrats who don’t see room for both). But trying to sell them a prospecting program without context can often fail, or take a long time. So how do we get them to open up and ask for program?

Rep: I am curious Henry, how much of your current revenue comes from Existing clients vs. New clients?
Prospect: About 88% Existing, 12% New.
Rep: So Henry, if I looked at your 2015 plan, what did you have there as your goal?
Prospect: Oh, I had planned 80% existing, 20% new

With two, simple but planned questions, based on subject expertise, the prospect self-identified a gap between their stated objective, and where they are now, The Gap. But this, as stated above is the start, now we need to get them emotionally engaged.

Rep: What do you attribute that to?
Prospect: Too much time with their base
Call reluctance
Dependency on marketing
Don’t deal/manage objections well
Rep: If you were at plan, what would be different?
Prospect: Bigger market share
Reduced cost per sale
Increase in higher margin services related revenues
Over all margins improved
Rep: What’s the downside if you continue to miss?
What’s the cost of not acting?
At your objective, what would be the potential return?

And so forth. Done right, prospects often follow this line of interviewing by asking “is that something you can help with?” Which is when the sale really begins.

This can be applied to any line of business, because it is all about the buyer, their objectives, and results. Getting them there is the effort. An effort that is focused on challenging the buyer’s premise and current beliefs, not them directly.

Tibor Shanto     

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Kill The Cold Call™ – Ep. 4 – Sales Psychology, Tactics, & Technology (#video) – Sales eXecution 2960

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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No, I haven’t lost my mind or support for cold calling, just doing my bit for the cause: better engagement with buyers.

At first I was a bit surprised when Andrew Schiestel invited me to be part of his webcast series, is this an ambush, an attempt to slay the noble art of telephone prospecting? It was anything but, Andrew led a fine discussion on all aspects of sales and prospect engagement. You can catch a clip below.

You can take in the whole episode at: https://youtu.be/FZeDmON_Bdc

Tibor Shanto     

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The Art Of Marketing – May 25, 20150

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The Art of Marketing – Metro Toronto Convention Centre
May 25, 2015

What to EXPECT why ATTEND

This one day conference features five internationally renowned bestselling authors and thought leaders, who will share an exciting blend of cutting edge thinking and real world experience on today’s most critical marketing issues. Don’t miss out on your chance to gain a competitive advantage and network with over 1,500 of Canada’s most influential marketers.

Featuring:

Gene Simmons
Charlene Li
Dr. Robert Cialdini
Nir Eyal
Brian Wong

Develop answers to the questions currently facing your organization, The Art of Marketing will provide a clearer understanding of how marketing has changed, what role it now plays in the buying decision, its impact on your business and ultimately how the consumer views and interacts with your brand in a crowded marketplace.

As a reader of The Pipeline, you can save $50 per single ticket and $100 per ticket for groups of 3 or more, by using Promo Code:RB22, or click here.

 

Trade In Your Sales Blinders2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

paraocchi

Sales people, including me, are plagued by a chronic challenge, one that has caused us to lose as many sales as it may have helped us win. The plague – sales blinders or self-serving selective perception. This disease affects, front line reps, managers, executives, and pundits like me and others you read, anyone who tells you they are free of plague is either lying, self-absorbed or likely both.

I see it when I am out on ride alongs, sales meetings, but most amusingly in responses to posts like this. People read what they want to read, and won’t let the words on the page get in the way.

I recently posted a piece on sales, and it was easy to who read it and took it in, and who skimmed it, picked out a few words, and built a soap box made of those five or six words, (the piece was over 500 words). Their comments had nothing to do with the piece’s core subject, but now that they built their soap box, they had to get on it and spew stuff unrelated to the piece.

What bothers me is not so much that they disagreed with me, like Howard Stern pointed, people who did not like his show spent more time listening, so please; but the fact that some of these people are pundits who want to teach sales people how to sell.

So what are they gonna teach them? “Don’t listen to what the prospect is say, pick out selective words that allow you to drive your agenda, whether it meets the buyers’ objective or requirements, or not.” Or “pitch baby pitch, ignore reality eventually they will come around.” Please!

If you can’t concentrate well enough through a 500 piece blog post, and deal with two or three core concepts or action items, how will you cope in a sales that has many more moving parts and demands? The answer is they don’t, they turn to dogma. As with any dogma, there is little room for alternate views, little room for mutual collaboration to move the process forward, and certainly no room for mutual gain.

Having an informed opinion and leveraging it to help buyers make the right decision is good, showing your product or offering will actually do that is also good. But as soon as you choose to ignore the buyer’s input or the facts facing you, you end up being less of a sales person and more of a sales bully. Focus is good, selective perception or sales blinders is not. The fact is that buyers have choices, and when they face dogma, they move on.

The choice is yours, whether you are in sales or a pundit, you can choose to narrow your focus to those few kernels that loosely support a narrow view, or you can shed your blenders, enhance your buyers’ experience, and make more sales.

Tibor Shanto     

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What Are You Opening – Sales eXecution 2952

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Looking in

Sit in on any weekly sales meeting or pipeline review and you will hear the same question over and over: “What are you closing?” Nothing wrong with that question, especially if everyone is closing the right deals at sufficient levels. But given the fact that less than 60% of B2B reps hit quota, the above is not a safe assumption.

The real focus should be on the open, not the close. While I am not suggesting that the “What are you gonna close?” question should be dropped, I do think that it always needs to have a companion questions: “What are you gonna open?” Add to that if your close ratio is 4 to 1, you should ask the “gonna open” four times for every time you ask “gonna close” question.

While many will attribute their missing to a number of factors, it really comes down to two simple things. They either can’t sell, meaning they have more than enough engaged prospects, they just can’t close them; or they can sell just fine, but do not have enough prospects to take through the process. The former is easy to deal with, fire them, do fast, then hire slow, make sure the next sales person you hire can both sell and prospect.

If the issue is the latter which is more often the case, then the solution is creating a culture of prospecting. I regularly get reps telling “get me in front of the right prospect, and I can close them”, and it is usually the case, meaning they can’t prospect. Fortunately this is something you can fix, and continuously improve.

TEST DRIVE THE BEST ON-LINE PROSPECTING TRAINING PROGRAM AND APP AVAILABLE TO B2B SALES PROFESSIONALS

While many in sales like looking at the close, as we have discussed before, the close itself is a Lagging Indicator. Winning in sales is about managing and improving Leading Indicators, meaning activities that are executed early in the sales that determine the outcome, rather than dealing with the outcome after the fact.

The first step is knowing your conversion rates from one stage of the sale to the next. With that you will not only be in a position to plan and control your selling, but understand how many prospects you need to succeed, with that number in hand you are in control. Let’s look at a simple example, if you have a 4 to 1 handshake to close ratio, and you need 4 sales a month, it is clear that you need 16 prospects a month to interact with. It doesn’t matter how you get them, let’s not get side tracked. You can use referrals, cold calling, social selling, or smoke signals, the fact remains you need to shake 16 hands to meet your quota. If you get 16 or more, you are in control, you have options.

Any less than that, you are in trouble, you either need to instantly improve the way you sell to make your close better than 4 to 1, or begin praying to a better sales god. If you only engage with 12 prospects, you will be reluctant to get rid of prospects who do not qualify, or resort to concessions, or any number of desperate measure to try and scratch out your quota; continuously increasing the pressure on yourself in the process.

While selling and sales tools continue to evolve, the math does not, the choice is yours, while improving selling is a good option, improving how you sell and close as well as how you open will give you more options and more success.

Tibor Shanto     LI Bottom banner

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Two Shades of Sales #podcast0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

One good thing about the end of winter and the coming of spring, is that time seems to go by faster when it is a little warmer and brighter.  I say that because it seems like only yesterday that I was sharing my monthly segment with Michele Price and BREAKTHROUGH radio.  Last week Michele and I tried to unclutter some of the discussion around the various forms of  selling, and bring it down to two clear categories, good selling and bad selling.

Have a listen and then have your say, do you agree or did we miss the point?

Check Out Marketing Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Breakthroughbusiness on BlogTalkRadio
May 15 Dorg

Proactive Prospecting – Capitalizing on Sales Triggers (#webinar)0

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Proactive Prospecting – Capitalizing on Sales Triggers

Join us for this live Webinar full of actionable insights!
Thursday May 7, 1:00 pm Eastern

The best sales teams are proactive – looking for deals, but also creating opportunities. Using sales triggers is one great way to be in front of prospects when they need you most.

Once a trigger event has happened, you need to be ready – action stations! To capitalize on a sales trigger, you have to be on your game and engage the prospect.  Know just what to say, how and when to say it, and how to deal with the response (good or bad).

Attend this webinar to learn how to apply a proactive approach to converting triggers to engagements (especially if you pulled the trigger in the first place!)

Learn to:

  • Convert triggers to action
  • Engage potential buyers
  • Manage and leverage the most common objections
  • Deal with voice mail, referrals and more
  • How to sustain the momentum you gain from this webinar
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Musical Chairs Sales Style – Sales eXecution 2944

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

babies in chairs

A few posts back I wrote about experience, and how it can either be a ceiling or a springboard to further success, all determined by the individual’s outlook and the route each rep chooses. On a corporate or organizational level, experience and how it is viewed and leveraged can be significant factor. The corporate version of the experience factor, unfolds more like a game we played as kid, and one it seems many sales leaders are still playing – musical chairs.

There are a number of verticals where leaders are fixated more on “industry experience” than “sales experience”; maybe more accurately “product experience” vs. “sales success”. Let’s face it while in the aforementioned piece we assumed experience equalled success, in reality it does not. I have said this before, there is a difference between 15 years of growth, development and improvement, and the same year 15 times over.

While in theory seeking and choosing “experience” may sound right, it often does not turn out as planned. Real “rock stars” rarely have a reason to move, at times there extenuating circumstances, there may be some financial incentives, but those are outside the bell curve. Meaning those available are usually the B players, not the worst, but they come with luggage.

From my vantage point, here is how it looks. At the start of an engagement, I’ll ask the teams I am working with to give me a bit of background. Time and again, a number of the “more experienced” reps will tell me that they have been in the industry for 16 years, starting off with company A, then moving to B for a spell, and now they are with Company C. It is also not unusual to have some say that this is their second go around with Company C, and we are not talking scenarios where this may be a result of industry consolidation.

I get why the individual has moved around, what I don’t get is why the companies are hiring them. Some say that it was for the “book” of business, never works out clients are smarter than that, they know who delivers the service day to day.

I had one leader in the wireless space tell me that the product and pricing is so complex, that the learning curve is too big. Right! What do most of you think will be easier:

A.   Teach a product guy how to sell effectively in a competitive and evolving market
B.   Teach or support a great seller product specs and/or pricing plans

I’ll take B, all day long.

One of the underlying causes for this is the propensity among sales leaders to want be at full headcount, rather than the right headcount. The solution to almost everything is “we need to add more reps”. Couple that with the tendency to higher fast and fire slow, rather than the other way around, and you have the classic trap.

While not exactly the same as it was in kindergarten, this version of musical chairs, looks for anyone to fill the empty chair, rather than having the right person in the right chair for the right reasons.

Tibor Shanto

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Tips to Use Your Business Differentiators to Increase Your Sales2

April 15

The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka

One great way to make your business rise to the top is to focus on what makes it different from the competition. What you do with that realization can make your business. Get more out of your selling time and learn why your business is different from the competition — and why your differentiators matter to your customers.

There isn’t a single business out there that can thrive by selling products at a reasonable price exclusively. Here are five tips for integrating your differentiators into your everyday sales.

1. Understand your business differentiators and how they benefit customers.
Even if you’re selling a service or product in a competitive space, there is always something that makes your business stand apart from others.

Think about the anti-aging market. How does a company make its skincare line stand apart from the other ones out there? While price is important, hone in on what else there is to offer customers. How can you help them? What can your products do that other skincare products can’t?

As a business owner, you need to focus on your value-added difference and that will help distinguish your business from all of the others like it. It’s also vital to know and communicate to your customers what makes your business one of a kind. Make sure you can explain to your customers what impact your differentiators have on them. Focus and advocate for those differentiators – this is one of many ways to attract more new business.

2. Understand your competition and how to sell against them.
To help refine your own differentiators, it is helpful to grasp what your competitor’s differentiators are too. Get to know their strengths and their weakness. It’s important to understand the ladder – it can help you can step up your game in those areas. If you do lose a sale to the competition, go ahead and be brave: ask why that prospect chose to do business with them instead of you.

3. Always have integrity.
In a recent study by The Institute of Business Ethics, it was found that companies displaying a commitment to ethical conduct outperform companies that do not display ethical conduct. No one trusts or wants to do business with a salesperson that is dishonest and stomps all over competitors in an over-the-top sales pitch. Stay true to your business core values – and to yourself. Avoid highlighting the competition’s negatives – just be better about explaining your positives. Selling isn’t an effortless business, but a salesperson with integrity – someone who does the right thing at all times – is a massive differentiator and goes a long way to creating a compelling experience for their customers. Building a reputation of integrity takes years – but it only takes a few seconds to lose.

4. Integrate your differentiators into your marketing messages.
As you develop a marketing platform, make sure your differentiators play a big role in it. Your sales and marketing operations should be ingrained and clear so your customers can plainly see why you are the business he or she should chose to support.

5. Ask — and listen to — your customers’ wants and needs.
Your customers are the ones who can really help you figure out how to succeed in the business world. What matters to them? For a moment, step outside of your business box and look at it from a customer’s point of view. This can help you change your sales pitch and marketing message to focus on what exactly will help you seal the sales deal.
There are a lot of great businesses that offer good products and services. In order to make your business stand apart from all of the others out there, always remember to operate with integrity. Take the time to understand your differentiators and keep those at the forefront of your mind. Always listen to your customers and focus on what they want and need, not what you want to sell them.

How do you convey your differentiators to your customers? Has it helped you find success?

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Megan has several years of experience on the topics of small business marketing, copywriting, SEO, online conversions and social media. Megan spends much of her time establishing new relationships for ChamberofCommerce.com, publishing weekly newsletters educating small business on the importance of web presence, and contributing to a number of publications on the web. Megan can be reached at megan@chamberofcommerce.com.

Website: www.chamberofcommerce.com

Photo via flickr.com

 

You’re Only Fooling Yourself – Sales eXecution 2930

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Taking a look at oneself

Everyday people commit to doing things, only not to do them. There are many reasons for this, and I am sure a host of contributing factors, but none of that changes the results, or more accurately the lack of results. From my perch, being an observer and practitioner of sales and selling, the most common cause is laziness. People commit to doing things differently, to taking on new practices, decide to approach things differently, only to stay exactly where they started, and by virtue of that, and given the nature if sales these days, that is really a step back.

What many do not want to recognize or face is that selling is hard work, good selling, is really hard work, selling well in an evolving market is as hard as anything out there, requiring constant practice and upgrading of skills, then practicing them over and over endlessly. Take any endeavour where success is part core skill, part flare, few are born with their skills fully formed, be they athletes, musicians, actors, or authors. It is certainly no different for sales people. The difference is conviction and the effort that goes with it.

Go to any local music conservatory or ballet company, and watch the kids trying to get in to the program. Visit any of your local little leagues team, and observe. What you will see is endless practice, every day a regime of hours of practice, in some cases three to five hours of core training and practice. Sometimes the same, other times adding evolving elements. This is over and above the “on stage” or “on field” time, we are talking practice time.

I know some will point to “natural born” talent, geniuses in their field. But if you look at the most famous examples of these people, what you will find is less divine presence and more hard work. Look at someone like Charlie Parker, known as a jazz virtuoso, unparalleled improvisation. No doubt, but what many didn’t see was the hours of practice that allowed him to do what he did in the clubs at night. At times up to 15 hours a day; how much did you practice for your last sales meeting?

This is a level of commitment many in sales are not willing to make. I work with many sales people who come to me knowing and asking to make the changes they need to drive their success, and never follow up, as though having an invoice and certificate will make a difference.

Oh, but you’ve been in the business for 22 years you say. So what, does that give one the right to not improve? The market is changing, are you? Updating your LinkedIn profile is not the same as practicing and updating your skills, staying ahead of the competition, and ahead of the market.

But it is not just the sales people, many managers and organizations fail to create an environment that supports the level of commitment. Studies have shown that daily coaching with individual reps, as little as 10 minutes a day, can lead to a 17% increase in revenue. Not only do most companies not see this as viable, many pundits shy away from recommending this “daily practice”, for fear of losing gigs.

The question is straight forward, do you expect less of yourself than you would your favourite point guard?

Tibor Shanto

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