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Priorities vs. Objectives0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

If you read this blog regularly (and why wouldn’t you), you know that I put a lot of emphasis on understanding and selling to a prospect’s Objectives, a much better area of focus than pains or needs.  One of the positive elements of Objectives is that they are generally long term, and they continuously evolve.  This provides with a number of opportunities to succeed, but it needs to executed right and in the right sequence.

Many sales people I speak to are always in a hurry, looking to short cut things.  You can’t blame them, every time they go “Home”, they are asked, what did you close?  As old as time, the tribe sends out their hunters, and they expect that hunter to come home with a kill, not “progress”, a “next step”, or any intangible gains.  This drives a certain behavior that limits focus on the buyers’ long term, in favour of the seller’s immediate focus of quota.

I recently had a rep tell me that they would rather focus on the prospect’s priorities than their objectives, his reason being that priorities “paid off quicker than anything long term like objectives.”  Well maybe.

Sure you are more likely to have short term gains with helping people with priorities, what they see as their immediate burning issue.  But what I have seen is that priorities, or series of priorities are part of an overall plan, an overarching Objective, eventually success will be measured in not how well you accomplished any given priority on route to the Objective, but how well the Objective was achieved, and did that in turn drive the impacts and results the business was looking for.

Many sales people will opt to service the priorities because working on the whole Objective may take work and time.  After all, the company may not realize their Objectives for some time, but may buy the first piece now.  The challenge with that is that servicing their immediate purchases without aligning it with Objectives will often leave vendors exposed to the next flash or discounter who comes along.  But if you can focus and sell to Objectives, it does not preclude you from servicing some of the steps along the way.

In addition, there is the question of influencing and shaping their Objectives and means of achieving.  It is the familiar posture in sales, one where you would prefer to be a “trusted advisor” rather than a “supplier” or “vendor”.  Keep your focus on what they are trying to achieve and why, not what they need to buy.  There may well be alternative means of achieving their Objectives, ones you can introduce by virtue of being a Subject Matter Expert, picking off smaller projects along the way will not give you that.  As well, if you are not aligned to their Objectives, any vendor who delivers a priority can come along and displace you.  It is also OK to not win every small project along the way, as long as you are the one they look to for validation of the work, and further direction.  The best sales people will win both priorities and Objectives by focusing more on the latter than the former.

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What Is Your Customer Buying?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Most sales people are good at telling you what they sell, not necessarily communicating how the customer will be ahead as a result, but they are good at telling. Regularly scheduled role play in team meeting will usually help you get ahead of that. While this will help with the delivery and to ensure that they are delivering the message, it does not ensure the message is right.

This is not always the fault of the front line rep; they will usually run with some version of what they are given. The version they run with will be determined by which camp of the ever popular ‘80/20’ they are in. The 20% is not the worry, they will take what they are given, understand how it will help drive objectives, and then enhance it based on their experience and past successes. The challenge is the 80%, whose version will be altered and diluted, delivering less results, leading the 80 Percenters to say “This doesn’t work, I just gonna do what got me so far.” This is where having role play as part of your routine once a month at the minimum, will allow the sharing of best practices, and practice. This coupled with the observations made while you are riding along to real prospect calls, should allow you to lead things in the right direction.

Once you have a couple rounds of role play and practice, spice things up a bit, and have your sales people articulate what their prospect is buying and why – rather than what they are selling and why.

Don’t be surprised if what you hear is the mirror opposite of what they said “they were selling”. In fact, many managers may themselves miss that, because they grew up the same system, and have become tone deaf to the message and have fallen victim to same message related brain washing as their reps. If you have the type customer base that will indulge, I would ask one to sit in and provide feedback, and I would also have you marketing participate so they can be hands on.

Going further, I suggest coupling the role play of why someone did not buy, with an actual opportunity review of the opportunity lost. In most instances sales people will point to price or product fit as reasons for loosing. At the same time, third party companies who are paid to carry out post mortems on lost opportunities consistently find that the real reason had more to do with reps’ inability to understand what the prospect was trying to do.

The best way to help reps change is to have them articulate what their prospect is buying, if they cannot do that, you can bet they will not be able to sell them. Once you can get them to do that, you can introduce a line of discovery that encourages prospects. A continuous rotation of role play: “What we sell/What they buy” will ensure you are offering real value to buyers, and success for your reps.

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Lean Communication for Sales – Book Review0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Communication is central to sales success; we have all seen brilliant people with vast knowledge who are challenged in sharing their knowledge due to an inability to communicate.  Closer to home, we have all seen how the quality of communication can make or break a deal.  All the more reason why Jack Malcolm’s new book Lean Communication for Sales, is a must read for sales people and their managers.

Straight off the top, Jack posses the following question: Would your prospects and customers pay to talk to you?  Regardless of how you answer this question today, you will be in a better position to answer and act after you read this book.

Jack how and why to make the answer affirmative every time.  The only way prospects and clients will pay to talk to you, is if they know you will bring them useful ideas to improve their business outcomes without wasting their time.

One of the recurring themes in the B2B sales world is the idea that salespeople are an endangered species, because buyers have so many alternative sources that they can tap into, to get the information they need to make the right purchase decision. But with the entire world clamoring for their attention, it’s no wonder that buyers put off talking to salespeople for as long as they can.

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In fact, it is precisely because there is so much information available and so many voices clamoring for the attention of your target prospect, they will welcome a trusted voice who will give them just what they need when they need it without wasting their precious time.

Jack Malcolm’s Lean Communication for Sales, will help you to develop and become that trusted voice, by showing how to communicate more value in fewer words—and become a valuable asset to your prospects. As a B2B sales professional, your role is to deliver the information and insights buyers need to make the best possible decision.

Lean Communication for Sales will help you communicate higher value with less waste by applying the principles of lean thinking to your sales communication process. You will be able to apply 9 powerful ideas as simply as ABCD:

  1. Add value: Leave your customers better off by Answering the Question that is on every buyer’s mind, and using Outside-in Thinking to communicate what they value the most.
  2. Brevity: Save time and boost credibility by putting your Bottom Line Up Front, and use the So What filter to eliminate clutter.
  3. Clarity: Ensure that your message is heard, understood, and remembered through Transparent Structure, Candor, and User-friendly Language.
  4. Dialogue: Co-create value with your buyer through effective dialogue, using Just-in-time Communication and Lean Listening.

The idea is simple, talk less, sell more: executing is a bit different.  Now you can improve the quality of your customer conversations with Lean Communication for Sales!

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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.

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Leveraging The “Nice To Haves”1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sales people are good at looking for prospects or buyers with “pain” or “needs”, those ready for the seller’s “solution”.  I get it, these are more immediate sales, more cooperative buyers even when the motivation is rooted in “pain”, but is that enough.  Most groups I work with, when asked, will tell me that to make quota they will have to close business with more than just the “lower hanging fruit” of self-declared buyers with “pains” or “needs”, they will need to reach beyond this group, and bring other players “into the market”.

A few days ago I was in the back of a room when a pundit was telling a sales audience that they should notional segment their prospects’/buyers’ statements into three types of statements:

  • Needs
  • Wants
  • Nice to haves

They went on to say that successful sales people focus most of their effort on the prospect’s “needs”, a lesser amount of time and effort on the “wants”, and by addressing these two you will win the business.  Don’t waste time on the “Nice to haves”, “because they are likely not funded and usually reflect the individual, not the group, and therefore will not achieve consensus”.  That may be logical on the surface, but I have always found that exploring the “Nice to haves”, usually helps me get the sale, or at times allow me to walk away, without adding much if any time to the sales cycle.

“Nice to haves”, are usually more personal or individual and certainly more subjective that other aspects of the decision around the purchase.  As a result, we know that it is not likely to be the things everyone coalesces around, but it is often a key stop or the critical element in getting to that consensus.  According to the CEB in the Challenger Customer, a buying group is more likely to have discord and failure in deciding the “type” of solution to deploy than in selecting a specific vendor once they have agreed on “solution”.

Against this back drop, it is clear that the clutch that brings people together, is the degree to which their “nice to haves” are part of the consideration and the path forward.  It is the sales person’s ability to help each stakeholder see how the core decision and ultimate deliverable, actually moves them closer to their “nice to haves”.

Don’t look at exploring their “nice to haves” as a waste of time, they are personal and telling.  On the hand you may find that individuals who may not see eye to eye on elements of the decision, may have similarities in their nice to haves.  Creating connections and allegiances on that level could make the difference between one path and another, or one supplier vs. another.  Having two allies you brought together on a personal level can’t hurt.

Knowing their “nice to haves”, will also put you in a good position for future upsells and renewals with the company, based on the rapport you established when you took their individual “nice to haves” into account.  Remember, often the difference between a “want” and a “nice to have”, is the sales person’s ability to make the “nice to have” possible.

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How Much Emphasis Should be Placed on the Results of a Sales Assessment Test?0

The Pipeline Guest Post – David Pearce

Trying to distill the answer to the question of how much emphasis to place on the test down to some numerical answer really misses the point and attempts to simplify and quantify a process that can only be quantified to a degree. An applicant may “numerically” be a good fit because he has the right “scores” on the various components (including our test) of your hiring system but he may be someone you still should not hire. Conversely an individual may be weak in one or some areas (including the sales assessment) but you should probably still hire the person.

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of the first five people to click here, can try one assessment free!

When you are using a Sales Assessment Test in your hiring decisions, how much of your decision should be based on the results of the test? Most prospects and new clients wonder about the degree of emphasis they should place on the test when they are hiring. Some are looking for quite definitive answers to the question-30%, 50% etc. Like a lot of the answers to questions related to testing, the answer begins with “it depends”. It depends on how suitable the person is in the other areas that the sales assessment does not measure.

If it is true that “gut-feel” should not be the only thing that you rely on when hiring, it is just as true that scientific tools like tests should not be the sole factor. If hiring sales people is an art and a science then a balanced approach that relies on “gut-feel” as part of the decision makes sense. There are things that are highly important that no sales assessment test can measure. An example would be “likeability”. An applicant may have all the “scores” he needs to be considered a good hire but he just turns you off. If that is how you react to him, won’t a lot of your customers feel the same way? Another example might be an applicant’s affinity or “love” of the product/industry? For example, what if you sell cars and you have two applicants for a position, one of whom whose test scores are weak but who just loves cars and everything about them? I suggest that the “car lover” might be the one to hire because once he is in an environment that fits his passion he will be likely to stick with the job and work to overcome his shortcomings.

A sales assessment test measures the person’s potential. As such it measures what a person “can do” not what they “will do”. As you know there are a lot of people with high potential who do very little with that potential. Conversely there are a lot of people with seemingly little potential who get an awful lot done and are very successful because they use whatever they do have very well.

Fortunately or unfortunately people are complicated. View the sales assessment test for what it is, a tool to perform a specific function. As a tool it is of course not the only tool. Like all tools it works best when used with other tools that are performing their intended purpose. Depending on the particular hiring challenge you face, you should be prepared to adjust the relative importance of the sales assessment test to suit your needs.

About David Pearce

David Pearce is the President of SalesTestOnline.com. Established in 1986, SalesTestOnline.com is North America’s #1 provider of pre employment assessment testing of sales candidates as well as sales profiling tools used to evaluate sales employees for sales competency. SalesTestOnline.com has over 1400 satisfied customers (97% re-order rate) who use our personality sales test to measure sales aptitude when hiring. Our online sales assessment test is customized to your unique criteria, fully automated, instantaneous, extremely accurate and very economical.

 

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Sales Communication Therapy0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

There is a lot of talk about what sales is and the core skills and habits required for consistent success in all types of markets.  It has been said that “nothing happens until there is a sale”, but you do have to respect that there is no sale made without first prospecting or engaging.  Others will insist that most essential ability is the building and growing relationship; there is the group for whom it is all about product expertise; then there are those who put the ability to stay positive despite the negatives as the critical element of sale success.  For me, it is probably some shifting combination of these and other skills and attributes, but none are as important or critical to ongoing success as the ability and the art of communication.

By communication, I do not mean the gift of gab, more specifically, the ability to foster and facilitate communication, not only between buyer and seller, but internally within the buying organization or team, and internally with all the people potentially impacting the outcome of the sale.  While the gift of gab is often recognized, the other elements of communication are often overlooked by hiring managers and organizations, but if you step back, more sales are lost because communication was not fostered than by people who were not great orator.

The good news is that facets of communication are a learned skill and ability, meaning that you can take steps to better communicate in writing, when speaking to people one-on-one or as a group.  Sales people can be taught to be multi lingual, giving them the ability to speak to different people involved in the decision, all with different filters, different criteria, in effect speaking different languages to communicate important and specific information to people who view, evaluate and interpret things in their own unique way.

Mode of communication is key as well, most sales people believe the world is like them, so if they communicate predominantly by e-mail, so must everyone else, which is just false.  So in addition to being multi lingual, you need to be multi-modal as a way of ensuring that your signal can and is pick up by their uniquely individual receiver.  One reason Social Selling is not all that big a deal for many, is that they understood the importance a multi-modal approach, and view social selling as form of or communication channel.  I guess some were surprised to have a response to their communication, and felt they were on to something new.  Doesn’t matter how you get to the party, as long as you got there.

But most importantly, effective communication is when the prospect willingly shares information and insights that they would never share with lesser communicators.  What I have seen time and time again is that central to that is not how or what you say or ask, but your intent.  Yes, regardless of how you pose a question, what will determine the response will be how the buyer sees your intent, if they see it as self-serving, they will limit their response.  If they see your intent as wanting to learn and understand where they are now, where they are trying to be, and what is preventing them from getting there, then they will open up and share.  The more they share the more insight you’ll gain, giving you the ability to ask more pointed questions, the more revealing and insightful the answers.

Again, good news, this can be learned, practiced and improved over time.  Start by forgetting the product and what you and your company “do”.  As I have mentioned here in the past, leave your product in the care, and “go in” and focus on facilitating and objective setting session.  Where are they now, where do they want to be, why that, what resources, what alternative path, what will that mean for the company and them as individuals, and more.  No product safety net, no pitch, just speaking for the sake of communicating.  Master that, and you’ll always be an A player.

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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.

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Dog Sales Of Summer1

Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Given that we are right in the middle of summer, and that today is a holiday long weekend here in Toronto, my mind naturally drifted to a summer theme, no doubt helped by things I’ve consumed by poolside. Looking around the water’s edge, you begin to see things here that remind one of sales. I was going to start with bikinis, but I got tagged by the Politically Correctness Police (PCP) last week, so we’ll save that for below.

There is no denying that vacations and other factors lead to summer slowdowns, but that may be just what you need on deals that may have stalled in Q1 or Q2. It’s important to remember that this has internal implications for your prospects as well that you may be able to leverage to restart discussions and the stalled deal. First thing to understand is why is it stalled, at a high level what changed if anything. If their objectives have changed, then any decisions related to that objective will be put on hold. The good news is that many long term objectives do not change as often as some tactical plans. The stall is usually in the how “we get there”, not “where we’re going and why”.

It is entirely possible for objectives to remain steady while tactical plans change. At times the initial path considered may not prove to be optimal, and while they review or adjust, everything gets put on hold, but not everything gets changed or replaced. In fact, it is during these “stalls” that you can step into the void and take on the role of a Subject Matter Expert. When you do, you can circle back with more than “I’m just following up”.

Instead of looking for the deal to be back on, you need to first help them recommit to their objectives. This allows you to be a resource to help them get “unstalled”. In my own practice I had a client that acknowledged they wanted to use my services, but had a number of obstacles that had to be dealt with, and it was clear that they weren’t going to do it on their own, given the number of people and strong opinions. Changing gears, I worked with their VP of Strategy to set up a meeting at a hotel around the block, the meeting was advertised as an objective review session, seemed like the right time of year for an “off-site”.

It was clear that not only had their objectives did not change, they were all still committed to them. But there were some lesser “departmental things that loomed large when they each sat in their office, but paled when on the whiteboard with the bigger more important objectives. This made it easy to not worry about the lesser things and refocus on the bigger objective. Without this I would still be working the deal.

Once you confirm that the objective(s) has remained in place, you can pivot to helping them unclutter things, refocus them on the impacts on their business they set out to achieve, and how that is only a gateway to further success. This approach is often more likely to be considered during the summer lull rather than when the pace is hectic. What else you gotta do?

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Cross training

Five Reasons Your Sales Team Should Be Cross-Trained0

The Pipeline Guest Post – Chase Hughes

As small companies grow, they often see a specialization emerge in their salesforce which only grows to increase its segmentation from one another. The sales department grows to become independent from the customer service, marketing, and other areas of the business. As a startup company, many sales forces intermingle with other departments as they are often in the same floor, right next to one another, and may even be the same person. As companies grow, they can learn from these early stage companies by cross-training their sales team in other areas, or at least promoting engagement with other areas that impact sales. This admittedly does require an investment, but in this article, we will explore five points for why it is helpful to cross-train your sales team.

1. They have a deeper understanding of the customer

The most effective companies have a very strong understanding of their target customer including their demographics, psychographics, and on an emotional level. If a lead generation salesperson has very little interaction with the customer, it would be very difficult to understand any of these points. However, if they interacted with the marketing department, they would be able to effectively understand the quantitative variables from the marketing team and the emotional aspects from the account managers.

2. They understand how their behavior impacts the company more

When a person playing a single role within a company does not have substantial interaction, it is unlikely that they will understand how their behavior impacts others in the company. For instance, a salesperson that only focuses on closing may say things to the customer that negatively impacts the relationship. They really may not care so long as the deal is sold, but the customer may not last long.

3. They feel more engaged with the company

If salespeople understand the role that they play in the pipeline, then they may see the significance of their engagement with it. If they are highly isolated from the company, they do not have much interaction to see how their results influence others in the company, the customers, and the company in its entirety.

4. They have a better understanding of the unique selling proposition

The unique selling proposition for a company is generally not something simply listed on paper; it must be fully understood. If salespeople are interacting with everyone and cross-trained in some other areas, they may see the ‘big picture’ about how the company is actually unique, not just read a script which states why.

5. Other customer facing employees may benefit from their sales experience

Cross-training sales teams and getting them exposure to other parts of the company isn’t just for the benefit of your sales team. There may be product managers which can benefit from interaction with your account managers and ‘closers’ benefiting from training from lead generation experts. Everyone has something to learn and it may not be your sales department at all.

About Chase Hughes

Chase Hughes has six years of experience working in the consulting sector and three years in the private equity sector for large multi-nationals and emerging startups. He is the founding partner of Pro Business Plans, a service that writes business plans for debt and equity capital for startups.

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