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You Can Play Nice or You Can Play To Win0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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There are times when you hit a wall in a given sale or opportunity, where you have some though choices to make: do you walk away, do you take a different approach with the buyer, or do you abandon the person you have been working with and go around or over them.

As interesting as the choices that people make in these situations, what’s even more interesting and noteworthy from a learning standpoint, is why and how the make those choices.

Not a negative, but a reality is that many sales people positive nature and disposition, a ray of sunshine buyers will be drawn to, a “can do” attitude spiced with plenty of optimism. This drives them to look for positive outcomes, which is often different than the right or profitable outcome.

As an interesting side note, according to recent Harvard Business Review article by Steve W. Martin, What Separates the Strongest Salespeople from the Weakest, the best sales people as measured by performance, are in fact inwardly pessimistic. Questioning the buyer, motives, aspects of the sale, etc. This allows them to qualify/disqualify and be more effective sales winners (as opposed to the large group of relationship starved professional visitors who are in sales). While “possibilities” are endless, reality comes down to fewer choices, some harder than the others.

Of the choices above, abandon, change the facts or change horses, most sales people will be most reluctant to changing horses, going around or above the person they have been dealing with. Odd, because it is generally the most effective, both in terms of outcomes and best use of time.

It all hinges on how you view one fact, what are the potential consequences. The most optimistic relation types see negative consequences (now who is pessimistic), they say “If I go around or over them, it may upset the person I am dealing with, and the deal won’t happen”. The best, high performing sales people say “If I stay on the current path, the deal ain’t happening, I need to engage someone who can make it happen”.

One major difference is that the high performers look at it from the perspective of what’s right and best for the buyer and their company; they look at deal, not the people. Most importantly, they look at the situation as being “who else can I engage”, not necessarily going around or over someone. If that’s what you are looking for, that is what you’ll find.

At it’s core the question is a common one in sales, are you reactive or proactive, do you put more faith in hope or action?

It is not a question of the cup being half full or half empty. What differentiates these two types of sales people is that they both see the half glass, they both aspire to have the glass full. One is hoping that being genteel, nice and smiling will hopefully fill the glass. The other group knows they need to take proactive steps to fill the glass.

Tibor Shanto

Live Cast

FREE is A Four Letter Word – Sales eXecution 2900

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Solution

As you may be aware I have the honour of being one of the presenters at this year’s Sales Performance Summit, the event is both live, and being webcast live simultaneously to anyone with a web connection, even the folks on the International Space Station. What I found interesting is the number of people who are questioning the wisdom of charging for the simulcast, many of those questioning us are themselves sales pundits. They point to great content being made available on the web for free; or that the webcast will cut into our live attendance as people can participate from their office and save.

But here is the deal, I believe buyers are smarter than that, tire kickers maybe not. People know value, and they are willing to pay fair value for value received. Much of what is available for free on the web has a hidden cost, usually some form of product promotion or some other offer made during the presentation. Organizers of the Summit have committed to no selling, no hidden cost, just actionable insights for improving Performance Management.

There is nothing wrong with free webinars or web events, I have done them, and will do them in the future. Everyone knows what they are signing up for, and in my case, can’t speak for others, I always make sure that there are some specific take aways, both in terms of steps or things attendees can do to improve their sales, and or tools they can use over and above whatever product the sponsor may offer.

I remember working with a global brand, one specifically known for their selling prowess and power. As we got down to the short strokes, the buyer, a director of Sales Productivity, asked me to offer the initial session free, this would allow them to assess how to roll it out to other geographies, a show of good faith on my part. I pointed out that my mortgage holder offered no such sign of good faith for having my mortgage.

To make his point, he told me that another provider delivering a different program is doing a “pilot” for free. I pointed out that I do not set pricing for them, but I do for Renbor, and the price quoted was fair value. He asked why I would suppose that the other party would be willing to do that: “Maybe they want my business more and are willing to show this gesture?” I offered, “Maybe they know what their stuff was worth”. We went back and forth, and I finally said “OK, if I do it free, and when we get around to price and negotiations, and your team asks me how to handle it, I will tell them do what I do, give it away free. Or we can come to a mutually fair price point and I can share with them how to not get bullied on price” I am not sure what he like less, being called a bully or having to pay for the program.

There are three things you need to have in place to avoid the price or free trap:

  • Understand real value you bring to the buyer’s objectives
  • Be able to articulate, demonstrate and validate that you have helped other buyers achieve those objectives, and that they were able to attain a measurable ROI at your full price. This takes work and a deep understanding of the buyers objectives, their process of achieving those objectives, and barriers that have prevented them for getting there that you have successfully broken down
  • This is the hardest, have enough of a prospect base where you have the ability to turn away from bad deals. Without that, you’ll be able to rationalize any price, even the absence of one. Want to win the price game, learn to prospect.

Remember free is a four latter word, one that begins with the letter F to boot!

Tibor Shanto

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You Can’t “Just Call It In” To Win In Cold Calling3

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Calling it in

Having trained hundreds of sales people in effective telephone prospecting, I have witnessed a number of recurring patterns which impact success, both negatively and positively. One key to success is being present and in the call, not “just calling it in”.

Coming out of the training most will apply what they learned quit literally, almost religiously. They are attentive to details, complying with what the process dictates, to the point where they are rigid, almost unnatural. But as a result of putting a structured and proven approach into practice, they usually have a measure of success, meaning more appointments, more returned voice mails, more confidence in facing objections, and usually a big boost to their confidence. It is this increased confidence that puts them at a fork in the road, one path leading to ongoing and growing success, the other back to where they started, if not worse.

Some begin to evolve the process and the technique, introducing their own style without changing the core approach. This allows them to be more conversational, more relaxed casual, more themselves, making the whole experience much more engaging for both the buyer and themselves. This in turn delivers even better results, and encourages reps with the right attitude and work ethic to continuously improve, evolve, and advance both the quality and quantity of their pipelines and sales.

The majority however, travel the other path. They take their initial success and interpret it differently. They see success, revel in it, and take their foot off the gas and their eyes off the ball. They see improvement as an event, not as a process. You can hear it in the way they execute the call, you can see it in their posture and body language. They become complacent and mechanical, believing the momentum will maintain itself, even believing that it will continue it the same trajectory without further effort.

Even as they pick up the phone and dial, it is clear they are not really present, the call is one of a number of things they are doing, whether it’s reading the newspaper, updating their status (even though I would bet they are not present enough to know what their status is), they begin to live a routine, instead of driving the process. They are literally “calling it in”.
Cold calling is like any other skill, it needs to be practiced and executed in the moment, atrophy will quickly set in, and before you know it, you are just going through the motions. Any progress made will quickly be reclaimed by mediocrity.

Doing it, is not the same as executing, and evolving. This is one of the reasons people fail at cold calling, because like most things worth doing, it takes effort and commitment to master and evolve. I think people do not like cold calling because it does require effort, it demands that you to commit and be present every day, every time you pick up the phone. Making a professional cold call is very different from just “call it in”.

Tibor Shanto

Live sold out

Getting More Out Of Your Selling Time – Sales eXecution 2892

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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24 hours is all any one of us get each day, how we choose to spend that time will determine our success.

In the past I have written and spoken about the importance focusing on time allocation and utilisation, and not worrying about time management. One key element on my approach is to allocate time to all high-value activities. While most understand the concept when it comes to basic, yet high-value activities like prospecting, admin, etc. Things that are there, have specific actions, desired outcomes, and some degree of measurability. Many have difficulty when it comes to more abstract things that do very much require that we spend time on them, but lack the shape a definition of say, prospecting, spherically like unplanned emergencies and planning.

One of the things you can bank on in sales is that there will be demands on your time that you will not be in control of, but you will need to concede to if you are going to win or maintain customers. There will always be client emergencies that will require you to drop whatever you are doing in order to deal with it, we all have to fight fires. Some sales people are good at see fires where there is no smoke as a way of avoiding things they don’t like to do, like cold calling.

But when a real fire come you have to deal with it. The challenge is you can’t predict when it will come, but you can, no ifs, and or buts, predict how much of your time in a given month will be required to deal with real fires. Just look at the last six months and you have a clear indicator moving forward. I have always counseled reps to set aside that much time in their calendars, so when it comes, it will not force them to not do some other important thing.

This is where the challenge comes in, say a rep saw that 4 hours a week were consumed by fires over the last year, and they set aside four hours a week moving forward, what do they do with that time if in fact the fire does not come? We all know how to use it when it materializes, but as one rep asked, “do I just sit around and wait when it does not come, especially when I have scheduled it?”

The answer is simple, what is your highest value activity. What is the one activity that always pays off, and the more of it you do, the better you are set to succeed. Is it prospecting, working referrals, upselling current clients, you know better than I what it is for you. If you find that in a given week not all the time you set aside for fires is utilised, simply reinvest that time in your highest value activity. Don’t be like those shmucks who figure they have free time to grab a coffee, or sit by your phone waiting for it to ring. Reinvest in your highest value activity. For me it is prospecting. No fire, I dial. Allowing me to get more out of my selling time.

Tibor Shanto

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Leading From The Front – The Role Leadership and Accountability0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I know nothing about leading or they don't follow

There is much discussion about leadership, or more accurately, a lot of talk, some of it actionable, some of it not. The less actionable it is, the less interesting, and as a result ending up more talk than action. Many of those who like to talk about leadership, often include a blurb on accountability. At times a practical add on, but more often than not, it is more like a required a condiment, like ketchup on fries, rather than a substantial value add to the topic at hand, i.e. leadership.

One of the challenges of these two related subjects is that it is demonstrating versus talking about them. This is why some of the better piece don’t pretend to want to explain this complicated but important aspect of tribal life, be that a sales tribe, regional tribe, or any other collection of beings needing to coexist and interact for a common purpose.

Read On…

 

 

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The Power Of Impact Questions – Sales eXecution 2881

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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I know that we have been taught not to answer a question with a question, but at times you have no other means of redirecting the conversation. One of my favourite type of questions, are Impact Questions. Questions that go to the heart of the issue, challenge the assumptions of the other party, and allow you to redirect the conversation in a way that it revolves around elements that allow the buyer to explore issues in a way they hadn’t considered.

For Impact Questions to have maximum effect they need to have two attributes. Individually each of these are a bit uncomfortable for many sellers, together, they can cause a bit of anxiety, at times fear, I have even seen smoke rising out of some people’s ears, no worries, usually pundits, not card carrying sales people.

The first element of discomfort, is that Impact Questions are by design Closed Ended, ooh, freaky, I know. Everyone thought closed ended questions went eradicated years ago, (same guys who though cold calling was dead), but no, alive and well, and doing fine in the right circumstance. Let me clear, I understand the power and purpose for Open Ended Questions, but as with most things in good selling, it is not one vs. the other, but which makes more sense for the specific situation.

There are some critical moments during the sale when only a closed ended question make sense. Where a limited set of answers creates clarity for both the buyer and seller, and allows them both to focus in critical issues rather than the universe! These points are usually during the initial prospecting call, when the buyer needs to see the opportunity for a new paradigm, and during negotiations, when it helps to re-establish the value agreed to earlier.

The other difficulty with Impact Questions, is that they have to be built around actual impacts you and your company have been able to deliver to clients in similar scenarios as the current buyer, where you have been able to help them achieve critical business objectives. While this may sound straight forward, it takes work.

Ask a team of sales people to tell you what specific impact they have had on their client’s objectives, and most have difficulty answering. They are usually accustomed to exploring things from the filter of what they do, and how their clients use their offering. Few focus on outcome, usually because few sell to those who benefit from the outcome, most will sell to the users or implementers. But regardless of who you are selling to, directing the discussion to outcomes will always be an advantage for all involved. But many buyers have been conditioned either by their role or by their experiences with sales people to look at and talk about “how” we get there, not the “what happens after we get there”, the impact; hence Impact Question.

Combining these two elements in a specific and practiced way, will allow you to avoid certain traps in the buying process, and direct the conversation to where you can actually deliver a win-win, helping both you and the client achieve key objectives.

Tibor Shanto

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Time Is The Currency Of Sales #BBSradio0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

This month’s piece on Michele Price’s BREAKTHROUGH radio program deals with time, as time runs out on Q1.

To hear my segment from last week, click on the image below.

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Breakthroughbusiness on BlogTalkRadio

I appear every 4th Monday, speaking of course about sales, but there a host of other great content, I encourage you to check Michele’s program out, and learn from a range of contributors.  You can find the program and more information click here.

Tibor Shanto

Live and webcast

3 Proactive Success Steps Every Sales Team Can Take – Sales eXecution 2870

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

white puzzle

I see a lot of sales organizations and individuals succeed despite what the experts tell them. Mostly because they know better than to follow the crowd, and are willing to try the unconventional. When told “you can’t do that!” They respond by asking “Why?” rather than “OK”, and moving on (usually to the sideline). Highlighting the negative impact Herd Mentality has on sales success, and the economy in general.

One way many (lots of) average or also-rans rationalise their performance, or non-performance, is by pointing to all the company they have with the same challenge. If misery loves company, the 80% will rarely be alone, and will always make more of an effort to convince you that something can’t be done, than the effort it takes to get it done. (How is that bandwagon looking now?)

So what does it take?

While there may be no single success formula, there is enough common elements among the consistently successful approaches to allow us to point to specific things that if you willing to undertake, will help you step out of the 80% club.

You can start with the following three:

1. A Plan - most sales people will argue that they have a plan, and they are right. They have a plan, one, that they try to apply to every circumstance no matter the differences. A plan done long ago, based a particular set of conditions, which fit a specific instance. When things evolve, and they do, they try to replicate that over and over no matter how reality changed.
The great thing about a plan, is to do it right, you have to stop and think, an activity many in our society avoid. But by thinking about each sale, and understanding the differences, nuanced, or great, you will gain a strategic and tactical advantage.

I remember working for a director who focused more on why you wanted to do things, much more than on what you wanted to do. He wanted to know that you had thought things through from all angels, looked at threats, contingencies, and other factors and possible outcomes your actions may result in. He wasn’t looking for me to be conventional, or outrageous, just that I was able to demonstrate that I had thought and planned things out. If there was a major flaws, he would point them out, if not, he’d send me off to execute, and we would review the results.

2. Active Leadership - I would describe the above as an example of Active Leadership, he was engaged, willing to help, leading from the front, hands-on in a way, but not in a restraining way. It’s not the time for a discussion on micromanagement, but too many sellers, usually those wanting to avoid accountability, try to paint active management as being too overbearing. One can be engaged without being domineering or too removed to make a difference. Actively Leading team members to consistently execute your organization’s process is an effective way to develop the right habits, maintain individuality but avoid the subjective trap many mangers fall in to, and drive results.

3. Permission To Fail – I have yet to meet a sales person with 100% closing ratio. Leaving us with the opportunity to learn from everything we do, especially when we fail at something, be that a big failure, or little things that can make a difference.

Hands down one of the best things managers can allow sellers to do is fail. You can then review, assess and learn. A learning culture is key to keeping up with or ahead of the market, and frankly just keeping up is second place.

Perfection is neither realistic nor desirable, so give them a chance to fail, as long as everyone is committed to capturing, learning and applying the lessons learned. It’s part of the plan, part of active leadership, part of success.

Again, these are not the only factors of sales success that managers and sellers need to focus on, but if only did master these three, you’ll be on your way of leaving the 80%, and joining the more elite 20%.

Tibor Shanto

Live Cast

Sales Performance Summit Goes Global0

Live Cast

Now you can be there live, or anywhere you are with a web enabled device!

Join  Tim HursonTibor ShantoBill Baldasti and Steven Rosen to learn:

  • The importance of performance management throughout the organization
  • The role of metrics and data in driving performance
  • Proven approaches to extend the performance culture in every sales call
  • Attacking, recruiting, and retaining top performing salespeople
  • The benefits of developing sales coaches instead of line managers 
  • Executing with Excellence

A couple of weeks ago we announced the first ever Sales Performance Summit.  The summit is uniquely designed for sales leaders looking to positively impact and sustain a culture of performance in their organizations as a means of improving results and attracting the right sales professionals and customers.

The response has been great, with the only negative feedback being that those who are not in Toronto will not be able to participate in this event.  We listened and acted, the entire event will not be webcast live and simultaneously, giving you a chance to both take in the content, but also to participate in Q&A, and the round table.

Our friends at Audability Inc., will be webcasting the event live.  So while it would be great to have you at the Rotman School of Management, you can be anywhere and still benefit from the great presentation.

What is the Sales Performance Summit?

Sales Performance Summit, is an executive-level program for sales leaders invested in success—leaders who understand that their sales culture, as reflected by their sales teams at all levels, is the key to out-thinking and out-selling their competitors.

Performance is no longer an individual measure. It is a mission critical strategy. According to the STAR Results 2015 Sales Manager Survey™, in the new sales reality, characterized by increasingly knowledgeable and discriminating buyers, performance and performance management are the burning issues for sales leaders around the world.

The event features four world class presenters known for their practical and actionable insights that help sales organization win based on how they sell, not what they sell.Join us Live or From your Desktop!
Invite your leadership team and start implementing a performance management process coming out of the Summit on April 6.

Purple DnR

March Madness: 5 Small Business Lessons to Take Away0

Feb 15

The Pipeline Guest Post - Megan Totka

There are not many events that compare with the excitement that is the NCAA College Basketball Tournament. The Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby and World Series are all great spectacles. However, something about March Madness draws in a wider audience and sparks excitement of people of all ages around the country- 181 million viewers tune in throughout the NCAA tournament each year to cheer on their favorite teams.

Are you wondering if your small business can benefit from March Madness? It can, and you don’t have to run a popular sports bar; nearly any business can learn some valuable lessons from the month of madness, some even as simple as the power of simplifying your sales. Here are five small business lessons you can take away from March Madness.

The underdog might win.
Everyone loves a happy ending, and Cinderella teams are practically a guarantee during March Madness. There are always a couple teams that no one has heard of that win one game after another in the tourney. Teams, like businesses, aren’t always operating on equal footing. Some schools have more money and more talent. But bigger is not always better and the tournament doesn’t always play out according who “should” win. Like players on a winning team, owners of successful businesses have personal characteristics such as a positive attitude, commitment towards their effort, patience and persistence – traits that can all help a team go far and a business succeed.

Embracing new technologies is smart.
The NCAA hasn’t been content to stick with what technology has worked in past years. Like plenty of organizations of every size, they have tapped into technologies to help connect with their fans and find new ones too. Remember that change is important in an organization. The adoption of new technology can seem disruptive and intimidating initially, but ultimately the change almost always results in increased productivity and improved service. It’s one of many ways to create a customer-centric culture.

Take advantage of your biggest events to earn new fans.
March Madness is unlike other sporting events because it attracts non-sports fans. The popularity of office pools, game-viewing parties and other factors engage a broader audience and increase the hype around the tourney. Use the biggest moments in your business year to connect with a wider audience. Think about events your business held throughout the year, peak seasons, new product launches and charitable events. Always remember that as you earn new fans and strive to retain current fans, good customer service is essential to help your business thrive. Keep your sales simple and focus on activities that drive constant success.

Capitalize on momentum – run with it!
Basketball, like business, can come down to momentum: accept when its time to take a timeout, know when to ride the player and occasionally take a seat on the bench. Build upon short-term successes but continue to pursue long-term goals. When things aren’t going the best, don’t look too much into it – make the most of the momentum and rely on and trust in your teammates.

Encourage friendly controversy to create some buzz.
The tournament kicks off every year with “Selection Sunday.” This is the day when the tournament participants are placed, seeded accordingly and announced on TV. There is always some complaining and banter surrounding it all, and this day gives the media and fans plenty to discuss prior to tip off of the first game. Some friendly controversy can create some healthy hype around an event, product or brand, and in turn, result in a better turnout.
March Madness gives viewers the best of sports and entertainment, upsets, and a lot of fun. Those with the most wins are the teams who trust in each other. After all, the biggest wins happen when everyone works together and focuses on the team as a whole.

What valuable lessons has March Madness taught your small business?

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.

Photo via flickr.com

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