Welcome to The Pipeline.

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You Are Where You Are By Choice0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I had a couple of interesting conversations with two reps recently during a break in a workshop. Both centred around where each of the reps were currently, both in terms of quota in the current year, and their over all sales career. What was interesting is one was exactly where they wanted to be, on track to achieve his stated goals, for this year and beyond. The other, far short of their quota, was able to share little about their destination or any road that may get them there. Not surprisingly to me, was that both were exactly where their choices and resulting actions led them to be.

It may not surprise you that the successful rep was able to articulate why and how he made the choices that led to his success, and the specific process, choices and actions which got him there. The less successful rep, we’ll call him Average, a name more common than Bob in sales, could only articulate all the outside forces that he blamed for preventing him from being better than he was, a little less than average.

While it is easy to put this off to both being products of the choices they made, one needs to examine how they make their choices, and as importantly, how they acted, or in the case of all Average sellers, did not act, on choices they made or ignored.

It may not be sexy, but success in most endeavours, is a simple iterative process, chose/decide – act – review – chose/decide again – a act – review – chose/decide again. Sometimes the simplicity of it seems deceptive, people feel there needs to be a correlation between success and complexity. The real alignment, correlation, is between choices we make, the process for those choices, and the resulting action.

While we make choices every day, there are some fundamental choices that can be made that have greater effect on your success than others. Consider that some 40% of things we do every day are done out of habit. Meaning we don’t make the choice each time we act, but once, while forming and committing to a habit.

If you can track the things you actually do during a day/week, not what you think or tell other people, but the actual activities in real time you’ll see two things. First is which things you do out of habits, and which you make conscious choices on before you act. Many of the things that we do out of habit don’t directly relate to sales, the B-line I make for the coffee drive-thru when I leave my driveway is a habit. When I chose to follow up with a prospect, the time I spend researching a prospect, the actual people I contact, are all choices I make that impact my sales. Just like choosing to wait for the buyer to almost complete their buying journey before we line up for the opportunity to take their order on their terms, is a choice.

Regardless which type of sales you are involved in, which dogma you choose to consume, whose colors you wear, your day to day, deal to deal success is based on one thing, the choices you make and how you choose to act on those choices.

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Come Spend Time At Call Camp!2

Red Phone booth

What You Don’t Know about Discovery that Kills Deals

Why should the kids be the only ones who benefit from camp? Here is your invitation to attend a camp you can enjoy that also leads to better sales and selling.

THIS AIN’T NO WEBINAR!

This live coaching based on real discover calls. We will be listen to real calls, offering contextual coaching you can use to improve your discovery calls and results. As the name says, this is call camp that will help you and your reps to conduct more effective discovery calls, leading more conversions to proposals, and accelerating your cycle. Real world calls dissected by three sales leaders:

Mark Kosoglow – VP of Sales, Outreach
Steve Richard – Chief Revenue Officer, ExecVision.io
Tibor Shanto – Principal, Renbor Sales Solutions Inc.

July 19th – 1 PM EST – 1 Full Action-Packed Hour!

Register

Discovery isn’t just about collecting information, it’s about discovering how you buyer can benefit from your offering, and you discovering how to help your customer buy from you.

It’s all about understanding your prospect’s Objectives, gaps, and yes, at times pains, offering a solution, and even walking away if when you’re not the right fit for them – or if they aren’t the right fit for you.

This Call Camp is all about effective discovery that will land you the deal.

Register to learn:

Check mark How to ask questions to understand (not collect data)
Check mark 3 steps to offer the correct diagnosis
Check mark Why shoehorning a customer into the solution does not work
Check mark Advanced discovery techniques
Check mark Changing the narrative your salespeople use

Register

If you want to make it more real, submit your best discovery call – If we play it at camp, you’ll get a $100 Visa gift card.

Slow and low

Slow & Low – The Right Recipe For Great Prospecting0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Next week both Canada and the US celebrate their respective independence days, which means barbecues galore, and as you may have guessed, an opportune lesson for cold callers everywhere. Most cold callers, carnivores and vegetarians, make the same common errors in executing their telephone prospecting calls, many of these mistakes contribute to their lack of success, making the whole thing a further mess.

Part of the negative cycle revolves around the fact that they are way too nervous, anticipating the worst, as a result many rush the call, leading to the outcome they feared. There are a couple of specific things telephone prospectors do that if approached differently would help overcome the challenge, alter the results and their view of cold calling; once mastered, they will find the whole thing much more productive and profitable. This is where the barbeque lesson comes in, making a good prospecting call is like making a good southern brisket, slow and low.

First thing that happens to nervous callers is they speed up their speaking, going faster than they normally would, and way faster than what makes for an effective prospecting call. This triggers a similar response from the buyer, they get nervous at the barrage of words coming at them, and they look for the exit even quicker. Ever deliver you into (at a nervous pace) only to have the prospects ask, “I’m sorry, who is this, what’s this about?” And before you can answer, you’re on your heels, and the call ends without engagement.

Slow and lowSlow down Man, it’s not a race. I know most want the call to be over more than they want the appointment, but is not about completing the activity (fast), it’s about engaging with potential prospect. Slowing down takes practice, repeated and out loud. Slow down your breathing before you pick up the phone and maintain the pace through the call. If you’re not too macho, get a metronome, and stick to the rhythm. I know sounds silly, till you start connecting with prospects and getting appointments.

The low part has to do with voice and pitch. When callers get nervous their voice gets higher, I’ve heard grown men sound more like their sisters than themselves. This makes it harder for the buyer to comprehend what the caller is saying, and obscures their message. Think about some of the great radio voices or TV voice overs, think about James Earl Jones famous “this is CNN”. As with slowing down, this comes down to practicing, and again out loud.

In a tension filled call, any element of distraction can be a negative and work against you, when you sound squeaky and speak fast, the two just compound in a way that makes it hard to achieve your objective.

One overlooked way to help with these two factors is to have a well prepared script, this will reduce the nervousness, and with practice limit the speed and pitch. Get over the self-imposed fear of scripts, and you’re a long way towards overcoming this and other prospecting roadblocks. Next time you pick up the phone, think brisket, slow and low.

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Frayed

Success Breeds Prospects0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Most sales people tend to ease off on their prospecting when they have a healthy pipeline. They feel that there is plenty to work, they have a number of prospects on the go, and tell me, that their time is better used to drive the opportunities in the pipeline, and figure that they will prospect for more opportunities once the current pipeline solidifies. While the disjointed thinking of that logic is obvious to most, like “lemmings“, many sales people follow a path that ultimately leads less success.

Let’s say you close all the deals in your pipeline, let’s say; what will you work on the next day? We have all been on the pipeline roller-coaster. All kinds of opportunities to close at the peak, desperately prospecting (praying and hoping), at the bottom. Sure, it’s absurd, but sales pros choose to repeat it over and over, even though changing their habits is less stressful in the long run. So, what’s the alternative?

We have all heard the expression, and many of us have experienced first hand that Success does indeed breed success. In sales, the reality is that pipeline success leads to more success. Prospecting when your pipeline is “overflowing”, is one of the most fun things you can do. Sales professionals who take a balanced approach to their pipeline, meaning prospecting, finding new opportunities, is as important as closing any opportunity in your pipeline.

FrayedMost people don’t like prospecting because of the stress of having to add an opportunity sooner rather than later. That pressure is amplified when you have depleted all the opportunities, the emptier your pipeline, the more that silence reverberates the further your quota is out of reach. This pressure is very apparent to your prospects, even when you are hiding behind a phone, e-mail, or LinkedIn. They can smell a desperate seller a mile away in a storm. Mistakes come easier, frustration surfaces faster, and most seller’s results are much worse than they have to be; accelerating the downward spiral.

On the other hand, when your pipeline is full, you can truly forecast a successful month or quarter, there is hardly pressure at all. Every day you are focused on things that are driving deals, allowing you to leverage not just the energy in your prospecting, but the things your buyers responding to positively are the very things you can use in your prospecting. Just as they can smell fear, they can sense and respond to success. The way we carry ourselves when things are good, is positive and attractive. Buyers want to deal with successful professionals, something we can’t claim to be when our pipeline is low, when our energy is drained before we even pick up the phone or send an e-mail.

I suspect one reason people leave dead opportunities is so they can fool themselves out of prospecting. “I don’t need to prospect, look at all the things in the pipeline I can work on”. Right.

The solution is simple, make prospecting a habit. Base on your metrics, how many “meetings” do you need to generate to have enough coverage to get you to goal. Once you calculate that, you can have a good sense of how much time you will need to allocate to the activity each week, all through the cycle. It is usually less than you would think, it is only because we let it build up in our mind that it seems ominous. (Well, that and the rejection). I know how long it takes me to get an appointment, and I know how many appointments I need to succeed. But there is no denying that I am much better when the pipe is full, frankly because the state of my pipeline gives me the confidence to relaxed, focus and successful, which in turn gets me more prospects.

Join me Thursday for:

OBS Sales Experts

businessman on the beach

The “Dog Days” Of Sales0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

There is no denying that summer brings a different rhythm, energy and cadence to sales. Vacations, kids out of school, longer sunnier days are but a few contributing factors. Unfortunately, this just feeds in to tribal notions about selling the summer; no doubt helped by prospects and customers using “summer” to hold sellers at bay and fend off making decisions.

No, It Can’t Wait

While on the surface some of the reasoning presented by prospects (and often accepted at face value by some reps), may sound reasonable, they are not. When looked at in the cold light of time and quota, one can never take their eye off the prize, or assume that time somehow ticks away differently on the summer. A simple litmus test next time a prospect brings up summer, is to explore how tolerant their company is of seasonal short falls or slackness in effort.

Seasonal Adjustments

businessman on the beachOne benefit that the relaxed pace of summer brings, is people’s propensity to do mid-year reviews and status checks, and then adjust course accordingly. If you have dealt with a specific vertical, or set of buyers, you could be in a position to add to this process. Being that you have had greater exposure to best practices, you are in a position to offer value without talking product or sales. Having seen how different people and organisations approach similar opportunities, you should always be in a position to introduce new lines of thinking or tools that will help them complete their task, or enhance the effort. More on another way this can be handy in a minute.

Given that the cast of players in decisions is increasing, used to be 5.4, now it’s 6.7. Given that some of the players will be on vacation, others may be reluctant to make decisions. But that should not prevent you from going full speed into education and influence mode, using their relax stated to introduce elements into the discussion that will rekindle their enthusiasm, revive their energy to levels when they started their journey.

With the pressure gauge down, you will find it easier step back and refocus on things that precipitated the journey. We have had experiences, where mid-way through the year the focus and energy dips to where the project is abandoned, which explains the almost a third of deals that go to no decision. This is your opportunity to not worry about the ultimate decision, and have them emotionally recommit and reinvest in the project, which is an opportunity to review and learn what has changed, what would they do differently if they were to start over again, or at least based on their journey to date.

You must remember that some of these will in fact get back on track this year, others, while they may see merit again, will slip into next year, better than no sale at all.

Taking advantage of the mood of summer also allows you to explore the dynamics internally, and those that will have to be in place to ensure a decision coming out of Labour Day. How and who makes the decision, who can and has killed projects in the past, and other important facts that are much better exchanged in the Dog Days Of Summer.

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golden leader in business way

Confusing Choice with Decision0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

We all know the expression “Often a bridesmaid but never a bride”, we see it playing out in sales daily. Sellers who want to believe that if they educate the buyer and help them make the right choice, the buyer will choose to go with them and their product. But we all know that making a choice on a product or solution level, does not always lead to the decision we want or need, namely, the decision to buy from us.

While educating the buyer is a good thing, getting the sale is better; but the two are not mutually exclusive, especially when you focus on and manage both, rather than naively expect that one will lead to the other. Helping them make a better choice (for them) does not lead to them executing that choice with you. To do that you have to sell while you educate.

One way to do that is to take your product out of the mix entirely, and make the whole experience about what the buyer wants to achieve. Contrary to what some will say, prospects, especially Status Quo prospects, do not set out to buy things, they set out to achieve something, usually something specific that is defined by business objectives and impacts, not by specs and price. The fact that it often ends up there is usually the fault of the seller, not the buyer.

golden leader in business way

Leave your product in the car, leave the window slightly ajar so it can breathe, but go in equipped with your knowledge (not info), experience and curiosity. Think of it as you bringing your colour pallet and brushes, the prospect brings the blanc canvas, and together you create a unique outcome, that they can and are willing to buy from you. Not because of price, but because they see how it drives their objectives.

But more than anything, don’t forget that you are there to sell, and the insight you share with buyers needs to help them decide to buy from you, not just to buy. One thing people talk about but execute poorly, is getting the proper Next Step, an actual step. To do that you need to have a plan for each interaction, that helps the buyer understand their choices, but also gets them to commit to taking steps forward with you. I still don’t understand sellers who do not know what they want the outcome each meeting to be, and those outcomes will be achieved. At the risk of overstating things, the outcome you want is a sale for you and your company, not just an educated buyer with choice.

Another way to increase the odds of a getting the decision you want (need), is to limit choice.  Once you and the prospect created that mutual image described above, don’t confuse things by introducing choices, especially ones that add little to the direction chosen. Too many choices impede decision, increases the shadow of potential buyer’s remorse, making people reluctant to make a ‘bad’ decision. So they choose not to make one at all, or they make the safest, cheapest, and most politically correct one. Often leaving the rep who did least walk away with the prize, while the one who helped the buyer make their choice wins the “Informative Congenial” rep prize for helping the chose, but not decide.

Don’t be that seller that helps them choose but is left out of the decision.

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Why You Want Sales To Be A Numbers Game0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

If you follow this blog you know that I do not understand or stand with those who say sales is not a numbers game.  While I agree that the focus should always be about quality over quantity, the reality is that no matter the quality of your prospects, you will need a given (minimum) quantity of quality sales in order to meet, or better yet, exceed quota.  Now, unless you are one of a privileged few, there is no getting away from the fact that your quota is a number!  You’re going to have to deal with, and use numbers to meet or exceed that all important number.

Numbers = Accountability

I find it amusing that many of the pundits who insist that sales is not a numbers game, will drone on for hours about conversion and conversion rate.  They are absolutely right, without those ‘numbers’ (conversion rates) it is not only hard to plan, but know where you are, so you can refine your plan and execute.  This may explain why so many sales people fail to achieve quota.

Knowing your key conversion numbers gives you the power to take charge of your success and be accountable for your results.

Can’t Measure Everything – But You Should Measure Some

Part of the problem is the lack of imagination displayed by many managers, sales leaders and enablement types.  They use numbers as a weapon, and each time they are at a loss to explain why things are the way they are, they add another measure to the mix, leading to their people working the numbers rather than the sale.  The fix is in focusing on key numbers that help one plan an improvement plan that will the rep execute and win sales, not just hot arbitrary and meaningless numbers.

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What to Measure

I find four numbers give you the opportunity to continuously leverage them to improve your sales approach and execution, and by extension your success.

  1. Deal size
  2. Proposal to Close
  3. Discovery to Proposal
  4. Initial meeting (live or virtual) to Discovery

To change any of the above, you will need to develop a strategy for change and improvement.  As you implement the plan, you will be able to measure and review, and make changes based on the results.  Numbers 1 & 4, will require you to change your territory and account planning, while challenging who you prospect and how.  Number 3 & 4, forces you to examine and how well you can engage and help the client articulate how you can help and deliver value, and maintain focus, if not urgency.

These are tip of the iceberg things, the devil is in the detail, and the execution.  We plug these into a proprietary tool that helps our clients develop improvement plans for their reps, based on real world inputs.  This in turn allows them to plan specific improvement plans for individual reps, while still supporting a standard sales process.  And what makes it work are the numbers.

Failing to focus on numbers in sales, always results in the number on your commission check decline or dwindle; but you don’t care cause sales is not a numbers game, and neither is your mortgage, right?

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EDGE Process

When All Else Fails1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I recently had the pleasure of recording a podcast with Jeb Blount, as part of the addition of Proactive Prospecting Program to Sales Gravy University. One area we explored was what we can do when we are having a day, or a streak, where everything we touch turns to shite, and it makes us afraid to touch the phone or the next opportunity. Now I know we pundits are supposed to be an optimistic lot, almost intentionally ignoring the dark side of sales, rah rah, and all that stuff. Fortunately, Jeb is a more real than that, and wanted to explore a reality all in sales face, and regularly.

As with most things in sales, the outcome is not based on one single thing or action, but a series of connected and incremental factors, executed simultaneously that lead to results.

This is why, those who do see sales as a science artfully executed will have an advantage, not just when things are going well, but more importantly, when they are not. At the heart of this is having a clearly defined, better yet, clearly “followable” process.

When in doubt, work your process. If you are a successful sales person, one that usually makes quota, and you have done that by sticking to your game plan, based on a clear road map, highlighting desired outcomes, paths to that outcome, contingency plans, and more; then you know that what got you there. Your process! Your consistent execution, your success, especially when almost half your peers are not making quota, is all driven by your process. At a time of struggle, don’t abandon it, double down, recommit and execute.

This isn’t about blind faith. Part of any successful sales process is that it is dynamic in nature. Meaning it evolves with your markets, not locking you into a singular means of execution, but instead reflecting changes in the market. For this to take place, a dynamic process, is an ongoing “feedback loop”. That feedback is captured from two key sources.

EDGE ProcessThe first is the customer; as their expectations, reactions, objections, change and evolve, so should your process. Many companies make the mistake of designing a process; then altering it not to reflect the market, but the inadequacies of their CRM. The second is the rep, if they fail to contribute their experiences in the field, and fail to contribute to process reviews (these are not opportunity reviews), then the process will stay as is. This allows your sales enablement team (when they are not fiddling with the latest app), to combine these two inputs, along with market sources to ensure that your process not only reflects the market, but that allows your sellers to leverage that view, and allow them to win not only more deals, but more predictably. This is how the process evolves, stays dynamic, and provides you with a proven and fair advantage.

If you have that process in place, and you hit a slump, as every pro does along the way, then the resolution is simple, stick to what got you there. If you don’t have that kind of process in place you have two choices. One, find a company that does, and you’ll make money. Second, Hope the pinball ride ends and you bounce back before your run out of time.

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girl by phone

Objections – Cause – Effect – Resolution2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Telephone prospecting is hard, in fact so hard that most people spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy trying to avoid it. What they are really trying to avoid is the rejection part of the call, “The Objection”. That’s why alternate means of engagement have such a great appeal for the masses (washed or unwashed, you decide), whatever your view of social selling, there is no direct rejection. Somehow, some sellers can differentiate and compartmentalize rejection from being ignored; they may not blow you off in a direct way, they just pretend you’re not there. The net effect is the same, no engagement, no prospect.

The problem for many would-be tele-prospectors is that they see the objection as being separate from the rest of the call. They love to brag about their company and product early in the call, (mistake), and are surprised when the voice on the other end say, “no interest”. What they fail to understand is that their intro, the start of the talk track (or script for you traditionalists), has a direct impact on the response.

Nothing to do with the school of sales one is from, and everything thing to do with human nature. The good news is that both parties in this drama are human, giving us ways to deal with this in a way that yields results for both. How we start a conversation directly dictates what kind of response we get. For example, if a parent scolds a child for being late, the child will quietly take in the words, but not the message, offering a meek, if any response at all. Alternatively, if the parent took the opportunity to present a life lesson, taking a conversant tone and carefully selected words, the child is much more likely to take in the message, leading to entirely different (better) reaction and response, making them more open and engaged.

girl by phoneSo while you will never be able to avoid objections in telephone prospecting, or being ignored in other forms of prospecting, you can do things to limit the number of potential objections, and keeping objections to predictable and manageable set. You can then practice how to take away those most common objections that result from your well and purposefully crafted introduction.

Remember, the person you’re calling has literally heard all this before, thousands of times. As soon as they hear a voice buzzing on about “leading provider”, “cutting edge solution”, or any set of words immediately followed by “awesome”, the prospect starts desperately search for their fly swatter, and start flinging objections at the buzzing sound emanating from their phone.

The logical conclusion is that to avoid fatal and unpredictable objections, we need to change what we talk about at the top of the call. Namely, things the prospect was likely thinking about before you interrupted their day. If that interruption is in line with what they were focused on, you will still get an objection, after all, you are an interruption, but it is likely to be one of a handful, literally 5, objections. Focus on their objectives and the impacts you have delivered for others with similar objectives, and you will get the predictable response, allowing you to take away that objection in a predictable fashion that will lead to a conversation, which is the first step in engagement.

Once you know the cause, you can resolve it, and change the outcome.

Learn the specifics of handling the most common prospecting objections:

OHH N

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Time questions concept as a group of floating clocks and timepieces shaped as a question mark as a metaphor for deadline or business schedule confusion or corporate appointment information as a 3D illustration.

The Best Sellers Are Cheaters0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

You can slice it six ways from Sunday, the best sales people are the ones who maximize and do most with their time. Success in sales is all about Execution – everything else being just talk, and given that all of us are allocated 24 hours at the stroke of midnight, what and how one choses to execute becomes a critical difference. Execution takes time, a non-renewable resource, finding ways to stretch and bend that time in your favour is critical; and doing that will usually involve cheating. Not cheating like when a company cheats a rep out commissions, or by deceit, but cheat as in:

“to elude or thwart by or as if by outwitting – “cheat death” (Merriam-Webster)
I would suggest the sales equivalent being time – “cheat time”

To begin with, top sellers spend much less time talking, and a great deal more time executing. That does not mean that they get everything right, but since they spend more time doing than, thinking, planning or talking, they are bound to get more things right. More importantly, they will have more mistakes to review and learn from. A big unspoken consequence to waiting for perfection before taking action is you are not making enough mistakes to learn from, and as the end of the month quarter or year draws near, we revert back to doing things they way we always have, the same way that leads to almost half of B2B reps missing quota.

In order to ensure that our clients get maximum bang for their training dollars, we put a great deal of focus and effort on adoption, changing people’s habits. No matter how great a sales methodology you introduce, if you don’t change the habits of the team you are working with, you will not change the way they sell. The book of the last trainer is clearly on display on the shelf of each rep, just absent from the way they execute, because their habits remain the same, they are just applied using a different story.

In this process, we work closely with teams over time, and have come to see specific things recur time and time again across different teams. One being how they value and deal with time, not just their own, but that of the buyer.

Time Question Concept

Using our Activity Calculator, each rep calculates approximately what percentage of their time they have to allocate to high value activities across a period of time, ideally a sales cycle, or if we have to a week or month. (I really prefer sales cycle, but many sales people don’t know how long their sales cycle is, their default answer is “Depends”) Once a rep makes a commitment to how much time they will allocate to critical sales activities, the challenge is to stick to it.

The best sellers cheat time by ensuring that they complete the most important high value activities. Their view is that the most important thing is attaining quota, so they cheat by ensuring those things that drive quota get done before and above all other things. The less successful sellers, cheat themselves by doing everything but what drives their quota. They find it more important to do things their customer support or product people can and are paid to do, eating up valuable time, eating away at their ability to win.

I understand the need to be customer focused, which is exactly why your company hired support teams better equipped to do that than you; they hired you to sell. So stop cheating yourself and your customer, yes, by stepping between them and the right resource you not only risk resolution, but risk losing customers as a result.

So if you’re gonna cheat, do it in a way that helps your customers, company, and you; go out and sell, don’t waste time on things that don’t lead to revenue.

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