Welcome to The Pipeline.

Business Team Working Office Worker Concept

Buyers: Take Your Rep To Work Day0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I am sure this not unique to Ontario, every November, grade nine students get the day out of school, and are encouraged to join a parent or relative at their place of work. It is an opportunity for the students to get out of their cocoon of academia, and experience a dose of reality. Among the many benefits of the program, and there many, given the career realities kids will face, is the ability to spend ‘a day in the life’ of a working person; highs, lows, warts and all, not just what’s on the recruitment posters.

I was reminded of this while I was reading a piece in the Harvard Business Review, titled: “The New Sales Imperative” by Nicholas Toman, Brent Adamson and Cristina Gomez, the CEB team behind the Challenger Sales and Challenger Customer. It reinforced the need for sales people, and their respective organizations to have a much better understanding of how others “work”, in this case buyers.

Just like grade niners, many sales people have a distorted or unrefined view of what happens at buyers’ place of work, what they face on a daily basis, what they do, how they do it, and often why they do it to begin with. Without that understanding it is often difficult for kids to appreciate what their parents go through, and in the case of sales, makes it hard for sales people to help their clients, and by extension their own companies.

Right from the start – as soon as we enter the buyers’ world, we are confronted by a reality that very much counters one of the most widely help myths in B2B selling today:

Most B2B sellers think their customers are in the driver’s seat—empowered, armed to the teeth with information, and so clear about their needs that they don’t bother to engage with suppliers until late in the process, when their purchase decision is all but complete.

Customers don’t see it that way. They may be better informed than ever, but CEB research shows that they’re deeply uncertain and stressed… Customers are increasingly overwhelmed and often more paralyzed than empowered.

Most B2B sales people, and their extended teams, have for years have presumed the opposite, (encouraged by the pundits), building much of their sales approach on that erroneous assumption. This has inadvertently added complexity to the buying cycle and process. Not that buyers needed help in that, given the numerous internal interests involved in any given purchase, CEB research showing there are up to 6.8 stakeholders involved from the buyer organization these days. Labouring under this misconception has led to B2B sellers/organizations to miss a great opportunity to bring real value to buyers.

The real value sellers can add for buyers by reduce complexity of their buying process and experience. To do that they need to first understand that the many of the struggles buyers face, are often more internal than market related, and certainly not product/vendor related, which is where most sellers focus. While there are a number of ways to do this, sellers should focus on two on their Day at Work With Buyers:

  • Simplifying by eliminating unnecessary choice
  • Illuminating the buyer’s journey

More is not better – it’s just more

One assumption many sellers have is that choices are good, certainly in the selection process and in the actual buy. As the authors describe, choice is one of the factors adding to the stress and difficulty. During the buy cycle, alternative choices will lead to some in the buying group, feeling that the alternative may have greater appeal. This has the effect of not only slowing down the buying process, thereby extending the buy cycle (that means a longer sales cycle grade niners), with 2/3 of customers saying the cycle took much longer than expected or planned. Multiple interests, multiplied by multiple choices, often leads to “lowest common denominator purchasing”.

This lingers in to the post purchase phase, CEB cites research showing that “second-guessing occurs in more than 40% of completed B2B purchases”. Yet despite this, sellers continue to believe that it is there roll to provide (drown) their buyers with more information about their choice or options.

Illuminating the Journey

Many sellers do not recognize how far down the journey the question of product or vendor are really a factor. Long before that, buyers, all 6.8 of them, need to agree that there is something or what, is worth addressing; if so, then are there particular ways to address. Only after that do thoughts turn to selecting a solution and vendor. Yet too many sellers/organizations think it is all about them and their product, leading them to ignore key parts of the buyers’ journey; sellers think of the entire journey is what the CEB calls “customer purchase-from-us journey”; a view that does nothing to address the first two, and from the buyer’s perspective, most important steps.

Prescription

On a high level the answer is to simplify the buying process for buyers, in ways they could learn as a result of their “day at work with a buyer”. Specifically, “a proactive, prescriptive approach”, based around how buyers who buy, buy successfully, actually do buy. Yes, again counterintuitive to many of the mainstream approaches of being “responsive”, where rather than simplifying the process for the buyer, sellers contribute to the complexity of the decision by being “responsive”.

The piece highlights some key ways to achieve this, rather than rehashing, here are some highlights. Starting with some revealing data points:

  • 86% of sales professionals agree that “helping the customer consider all possible options and alternatives is important.”
  • 79% agree with the statement “I remain very flexible to customer needs and opinions throughout a sale, even when I don’t necessarily agree with their direction.”

The reality is decidedly a different picture:

CEB HBR 1

Sellers can achieve this by applying what they learned from their interactions with previous “successful” buyers, and sharing that experience with potential buyers. The good news is that sellers interact with buyers on an ongoing basis. This allows them to have a front-line view of the buying process. Many sales people and organizations will conduct “deal reviews”, but most will bring the usual bias to the review, and end up looking at why they did or did not make the sale, but overlook the opportunity to learn how the buyer(s) made the buying decision, including steps that precede the product/vendor stage. If they did focus more of the review on specifics buyers faced in their entire journey, they can then share that with future buyers, thereby simplifying the process. But a continued focus on why the sales was won, lost, or came to a draw, will not do anything to help buyers avoid or anticipate specific things they will face in the buying process, long before there is even discussion of a product/vendor.

Helping buyers understand and eliminate hurdles and potential roadblocks they have seen others face in the past is an opportunity for proactive sellers. This will include helping buyers map their journey in a way different than the “buy from me journey” mentioned above. Stepping away from your product, and focusing on the helping buyers deal with realities they will face in selecting any supplier, not necessarily just you. Keeping in mind that the buying organization is likely to have 6.8, not always – and at times conflicting ideas of what they are looking to solve, what the solutions may be, both having to be resolved before any talk of specific vendors. Not making it about us is hard for many, limiting choice and avoiding being purely responsive is even harder.

Understanding and articulating the things that have caused complexities for prospects is key, helping clients avoid these across the three stages described is best achieved by focus and specifics sellers have experienced, leads to much greater success in less time than being responsive and facilitating endless choices, in the hope the buyer will find a solution they like. Buyers don’t often find it on their own, leading to the high number of “no decision” results, or a smaller safe decision that does not address the issues at hand, but take twice as long to arrive at.

The pay off:

CEB HBR 2

Understanding why and how buyers bought, critical steps taken, and challenges faced and how those buyers dealt with them; then sharing that with prospects, are key to a seller’s ability to help customers map the complete journey, not just the parts where they are selecting products/vendors. More people (think they) know what to buy, their struggle is “how to buy”. A savvy seller, supported by their entire organization, can help their buyers craft a better buying journey. Helping buyers understand and prepare for specific obstacles they will face, and how to get past them. The alternative is to ignore the buyers’ reality, add to the complexity, and drive more “no-decision” outcomes to cycles.

As the article concludes, those selling organizations that can produce tools, guidelines and other things that simplify the buyer’s journey, will not only sell more, but have more loyal clients, leading to more cross and up sells. All things they could learn by spending a day (or few) with their buyers at work.

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

Join Now!

EQ

Win Probability is the First Rule of Ultra-High Sales Performance – Guest Post0

The Pipeline Guest Post – By Jeb Blount
Author of Sales EQ: How Ultra High Performers Leverage Sales-Specific Emotional Intelligence to Close the Complex Deal

Imagine that you are standing in the doorway to a large room. At the far end are two identical dollar slot machines. As you walk in, the room attendant hands you a single dollar coin. You are offered the choice to play either machine. You’ll get to keep the original coin plus any winnings.

As you walk toward the machines, you notice something curious. Above each one there is a sign with a number on it. One sign reads 93 and the other 33. You turn back to the room attendant and ask, while pointing up at the signs, “What do those numbers mean?”

“Smart of you to ask,” the attendant replies, smiling. “Most people never do.”
He continues, “Those signs indicate the win probability of each machine. On the first machine, you have a 93 percent probability that you will win your dollar back plus more. With the second machine, you have only a 33 percent chance of winning.”

Which machine will you choose? Of course, it’s a no-brainer. The smart bet is on the machine that gives you the highest probability of winning.

Managing probability is how ultra-high performers play sales.

Average salespeople look in awe at the performance of ultra-high performers, believing that UHPs have somehow defied the odds. The truth, though, is UHPs bend the odds in their favor.

Poetry and Probability

There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for every sales situation. Complex sales are different from one-call closes. Calling on a business is different from selling a car. Selling software requires a different skill set than selling office automation equipment.

In sales, context matters. Every prospect, sales conversation, territory, company, and product is different and requires salespeople to adapt and adjust to those unique situations.

There is no black and white. There is no easy button that will make sales work perfectly every time. In some situations, you’ll do something completely inappropriate and still manage to close the deal. In others, you’ll run the sales process like a textbook and fall flat on your face.

It’s what I find so beautiful about sales. There are no guarantees, no magic pills, no holy grail. There is only poetry and probability.

Poetry

There is poetry in emotion. It is the glue that connects all the disparate elements of the sales equation. Emotion is sales process agnostic. It influences sales outcomes across industry verticals, deal complexity, inside sales or field sales, any product or service, and in both business-to-business and consumer environments.

It’s the ability to manage and leverage emotion to create the highest statistical chance of winning that separates ultra-high performers (UHPs) from everyone else.

UHPs never forget that they are dealing with emotional, fallible, irrational human beings. They work hard to gain a deep understanding of the motivations, desires, needs, wants, fears, aspirations, and problems of each stakeholder.
In sales, perceiving, interpreting, and reacting to your own emotions and the emotions of stakeholders are critical capabilities. Sellers must learn to manage their own disruptive emotions and respond appropriately to the emotions of stakeholders, resident within the logical, linear, systematic sales and buying processes. This is the true genesis of competitive differentiation.

Mastery of sales-specific emotional intelligence (Sales EQ) explains why one person becomes an ultra-high sales performer while another is just average, even though the intellectual ability and knowledge of the two people are equal.

Ultra-high performers are virtuosos with people. They shift win probabilities in their favor through perceiving, controlling, managing, and influencing nonconforming, irrational, human emotions. They possess a toolbox full of influence frameworks along with the agility to apply them in any situation to improve the probability of getting the outcome they desire.

Probability

Your ability to shape and influence win probabilities is the only reason you have a sales job.
Consider a potential buyer opening your company’s website to look for a product; if, when they open the product page, the probability that they click a buy button, enter a credit card, and make a purchase is north of 80 percent, you would be unemployed. Your company would need only to focus its resources on getting more potential buyers to that page.

Purely transactional purchases don’t require salespeople to shape the win probability. However, the more complex the sale, the longer the sales cycle, the higher the dollar amount, the greater the risk to the stakeholders, and the more emotions are involved in the decision to purchase, the more companies need salespeople who are intelligent, creative, insightful, influential, and persuasive to shift win probabilities in the organization’s favor.

Admittedly, sales would be much easier if there were signs over prospects indicating win probability. But alas, prospects are not slot machines and, unlike slot machines, in sales win probability is fluid, complex, influenced by many variables, and impossible to know with certainty until, of course, the deal is lost or won.

For this reason, ultra-high performers take nothing for granted. They’re constantly checking, testing, and analyzing where they stand with the opportunities in their pipeline. UHPs are perfectionists, managing every element within their control to shape, influence, and bend the win probability curve in their favor.

Jeb Blount is the author of eight books including Sales EQ, Fanatical Prospecting, and People Follow You. He is a Sales Acceleration specialist who helps sales organizations reach peak performance fast by optimizing talent, leveraging training to cultivate a high-performance sales culture, developing leadership and coaching skills, and applying a more effective organizational design. Contact: 1-888-360-2249 or https://www.SalesGravy.com

F hero

Which Of These F’s Should You Give an F About?2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sales like many other crafts, vocations, or professions, continues to evolve, or should. Some developments come along and become the rave for a while, only to fade after a time when they are proven ineffective, this is the first F, as in Fashionable. While some completely fade away, others leave a lasting impact on how people sell, and become broadly accepted, evolve to become a mainstay of professional selling; these develop over time to become Fundamentals, our second F.

Now the third F, the one you give to one of the F’s above, is not what you may think, after all we run a family friend sales professional development outfit, it in fact stands for Focus.

F heroFocus is critical to execution, and as you all by now know, success in sales is all about execution, everything else is just talk. (And there is no shortage of talk in sales).

The challenge for many is that the fundamentals are usually not exciting or easy, especially for those looking for a short cut to success. As Fashionable as Malcolm Gladwell may be, the prospect of having to invest 10,000 hours to become a master, is not an appealing recruitment statements, even if companies were willing to lend a hand. But there is no escaping that as in other professions or vocations, practitioners require continuous and repetitive practice in order to master the craft, and elevate themselves to the point where they can execute at a professional level.

Fashion on the other hand is much more exciting, appealing, and unfortunately, fleeting. We see it time after time, hot one year, dead the next, and while those developed the Fashion prosper and move on, those who followed and were then abandoned, are left with the results, or lack thereof. Just look at all the would be replacements for cold calling; Fashions have come and gone, but those Focused on Fundamentals continue to succeed, even adding some of the Fashionable remnants along the way. Witness what happened with sales 2.0, if you missed it, look at the freshly minted, ever Fashionable Sales 3.0. In fact, I am so confident that this recycling of Fashion will continue, I have already secured the domain for: www.SalesTheOcho.com.

Focus and Fundamentals requires discipline, which is not always Fashionable in sales. The problem with Fashion is two-fold, the first an most damaging is the distraction factor. Because success does take time, effort and Focus, anything that takes these elements away from nailing Fundamentals will slow your progress towards success and professionalism. Second, Fashion is rarely created for the long term, it is meant to short term and fleeting, no sooner than you load up on this year’s model, and they bring out the next. True, many fashions do come around after a time, but you only figure that out with the benefit of experience, this is why I never throw away ties, because they will come back into Fashion again. They are designed to appeal to the masses (in sales that would be the 80% in the 80/20 rule), easy to wear, and disposable. I bet we could look at some Stacks, and find some recycled Fashions or apps.

So if you give an F about your sales success, you should Focus on the Fundamentals, and avoid the time and money sucking sound of Fashion.

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

Join Now!

Make you own path

Objections Are Only Negative IF You Allow Them To Be4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Not everything prospects say that does not align or agree with your view is an objection, and more importantly, you shouldn’t react to everything as if it was. On the other hand, you also know that there will be some specific objections that are going to come up, and how one deals with that often separates the high performers from the also-rans.

One advantage of reviewing deals, as we do with our 360 Degree Deal View, is that you become much more aware hot how things turned out, why they turned out that way, and what you need to change in your approach to change the results in your favour.

As you continue to make the review central to sales approach you will also better understand which “objections” tend to come up at specific points in the cycle, and you see the impact those objections and how you handle them, have on the turn out.

As you begin to accumulate data, you will be in a much better position to know which are real objections, potentially derailing the deal, and which are not objections, as much as say questions the buyer has that are not well articulated, the prospect thinking out loud, almost reassuring themselves in the process. Other times, especially when the individual you are dealing with is part of a buying group or committee, they think through the reaction they anticipate from others on the team, and as they work through them, they may come across as an objection.

Some objections/questions, especially when you know when and where they will appear, are actually good. Yes, good, because as you get better at anticipating them, you can begin to leverage your response to move the sale forward further than if the objection had not come up. If you know that most new buyers don’t fully understand how something works, handling their objection and giving them knowledge goes much further to lower resistance than if they had not come up. Knowing this, you can steer the conversation in a way that almost forces the objection to come up. When it does, look at it like a fastball down the middle, you just need to hit it out of the park.

Make you own pathKnowing which objections/questions are going to come and when, allow you to elevate your status as a subject matter expert. Again, with the most common objections, some are best when left to the prospect to throw out, but some you should put out before the prospect does. Doing this will right off the top confirm that you are a pro and have does this before, validating your status, and allowing you to set expectations. While most of the also-rans try to avoid or hide from specific hard objections, thanking god when they don’t come up.

But you know the bridge will have to be crossed if you are going to make the sale. It has come up in every deal, when managed well, you have won, and when mismanaged you’ve lost. With that reality, it best to get it out, and over with. Timing is crucial, but again, with reviews you can quickly know when to put the objection out there before they do. It does not have to hard or dramatic. It can be as simple as “in my experience, most prospects are thinking about (insert topic), which makes sense in light of the facts, so here is what you need to know/consider/explore/change….”

Objections are only negative when you allow them to be.

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

Join Now!

Lipstick. Great Variety of Women's Lips. Set of Mouths

Difference Is In the Eyes Of The Prospect6

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

There is a lot of talk about differentiation in sales, whether that is at the product level, sales technique level or other factors. Some difference is good, some goes a bit far, unfortunately most of seems to fall short. The main reason is that most vendors and sellers spend time and effort to differentiate themselves from other products, companies, or sales people. As with other miscues in sales, the problem is that most of the effort excludes the only element that counts, the buyer.

Buying and selling are very subjective experiences. While there are reams of tools and means for capturing requirements, allowing buyers to better understand what will help them achieve their objectives, presenting a clear and objective process, there is a range of undercurrents that allows a lot of subjectivity to creep in to the decision. Who among us has not lost a deal where the we were a perfect fit based on requirements. Or conversely won a deal, where on the face of things we were deficient and less cost effective than an alternative. The reason is simple and human, people are very subjective, (and buyers are people), and as such will make decisions using more than just logic, leading to the reality that difference, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder.

While many may not like it, but one advantage to having multiple decision makers or stakeholders in the deal, is that it can naturalize subjectivity, allowing us to better present and leverage real differences we may have. I say we may have, because most leading products have very few real differences, especially in the eyes of buyers. What some vendors think is really different, may not be that important to the market, which is likely why the others have avoided it. With “sameness” rampant in products, the other difference is how you sell, and by extension your sales process. The challenge here is that most people sell in a very similar way, leading to only superficial differences that even the least experienced buyer can see through.

Once you accept that difference is in the eye of the prospect, and not something you can ram down their throat or post on a billboard, you can then switch your approach to understanding how they see themselves and their reality as being different than others they are looking at. Let’s be clear, it may not always be true that what the buyers are looking for is all that different than their neighbor’s, but, we are dealing with buyer perception, not necessarily reality as we see it.

The only option is to have the prospect articulate what they see as being different. And while most sellers will tell you that they are doing that, when observed in action, they are still very much anchored to their product, and features they feel are “solutions” for the buyer’s “pain”. Presentations are geared to highlighting the “vendor’s difference”, rather than the difference the buyer is trying to achieve in their business. Presentations limit our ability to get the prospect to help us differentiate ourselves, mostly because they are centered around the product, and things we believe we are “solving”, that in turn make us different.

Especially early in a cycle, leave you your product, presentations, preconceptions in the car; go in armed only with questions that will help you uncover the buyer’s objectives, and impacts they are looking to deliver to their business. This sounds easy, and is often met by “we’re already doing that”, until we examine the questions many sellers ask, and the reality of some first and early meetings. Remember that the “difference” starts long before you engage, so how you engage, and what happens at your first encounter is key. You may think your PowerPoint is different, but it is still PowerPoint.

If you stay focused on the impacts and outcomes, you will start to establish a difference. When you get the prospect to share their objective, avoid the instinct to map those back to your product. First, drill down on those objectives, why those, how will that change their business, what are related risks, and more. This will allow you to demonstrate your Subject Matter Expertise, and help the prospect validate their direction and means of getting there. If that direction and means are less than optimal, help the buyer reorient their thinking, reorient their direction and path. Now that’s different, especially in a world where sellers are not experts, and seek the safety of “the customer is always right” over pushing back, getting the buyer to see things differently, help them down an alternate path to alternate results. (Easy Kellyanne, it’s just sales). When prospects start their journey, they are more focused on the end than the means, which is why your product, solution, or whatever, is not that important in the early stage.

With difference being in the eye of the prospect, the more we take ourselves and our product out of the early phases of the sales, the more different a prospect will see us; the more we can make them think instead of listen, the greater the difference in experience, leading to different experience and results for both the buyer and the seller.

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

Join Now!

Close-up Of Businessperson Holding Stopwatch With Stack Of Coins At Desk

Time – To Let Go0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Let’s be clear, no white flags here, just a reminder that the most crucial thing to control in a winning sales career is time. As I have stated here in the past, “leads are recyclable, time is not”, if what you are doing now is not moving the opportunity or sale forward, you need to ask if it is time to move on to something that will. In my experience, this is most pronounced during the early stages of the cycle, prospecting.

Given that most sales people do not like to prospect, they should be thinking about how to optimize the dreaded task, so they can engage better with more prospects, and move on to what they really seem to like, building relationships. To optimize prospecting time there a number of things they can do, we’ll look at two here.

First is their prep for the time they have set aside for prospecting, in this case telephone prospecting (one of a number of methods they should use). Your call lists should be grouped or clustered around specific themes. This can be vertical, geographical, target size/type, or even role based. This allows you to develop a single talk track that can be leveraged across a number of calls. Allow you to highlight outcomes that are common to that day’s list, 3rd party referrals for voice mail, and more. Rather than having gaps between calls, taking away from momentum, and drastically limiting the number of calls you can make in say an hour, you can make one call after the other, building momentum, increasing your confidence, and achieving more in a given period of time. It has been shown that when you are going back and forth between two tasks, making the call, and readying for the call, you end up executing both less effectively. At the same time if you can focus on a specific task, uninterrupted, for about 52 minutes, you build efficiency. Separate the tasks, do your background work in low energy times, and do your prospecting during peak Prime Time hours.

The other area is the length of the call. A good prospecting call, where the goal is to get the prospect to agree to a formal meeting, be that phone, web, or face to face, really should not take any more than two minutes, three out the outside. In most instances, anything longer than that moves into the “diminishing return” zone.

Assuming your intro and Engage Statement (think of it as an effective value statement), capped off with an Impact Question, takes us to about 45 seconds; their answer which tees up the request for the appointment takes us to the minute mark, and now comes the fun part the objections. Each objection given – and then taken away by you, is about 20 or so seconds, remember the goal here is engagement, not an intellectual exchange. If you have read the Objection Handling Handbook, you know the first objection is a conditioned response, and by the time you get to the third one, the fate of the call is usually sealed, at times it takes four. So, we are looking at another minute to a minute and a half.

Anything after that is working against you. If they don’t want to play, all they’ll take away is how unprofessional you were, not only wasting and disrespecting their time, but your own, and no one wants to deal with that kind of rep, even when the time is right. Or worse, you are trying to sell them when your goal at the outset was to schedule a time for the actual discovery and sale.

I see so many sales people stay on the phone with someone for 10, 15 minutes, and have nothing when the call ends; well frustration, but you can’t cash that. Others achieve their goal, a prospect who agrees to engage, and then they stay on and talk themselves out of that appointment in the same call. If you do have someone agree, you should expect they may have questions, and you want to answer that question in a way that best moves the opportunity forward, and if that is a formal meeting, that’s what you should move towards. Next time you have someone agree to an appointment, and they start asking those “good” questions, simply say “That’s a great question Jim/Jill (I’m so PC), why don’t we make that first item on the agenda and give it full justice; look forward to our call Thursday, let me grab your e-mail and I’ll send an invite.” This sets you up for a great start to the discovery call, and allows you to move on to set the next appointment.

Remember, leads are recyclable – time is not – guard your time!

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

Join Now!

Hunting for dollars

Walk’a Proud!2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Those of you who have participated in my events or webinars, know that early on I encourage people who prospect for a living, to take pride in what they do rather than apologize for it. I encourage them to answer with pride next time some asks what they do for a living, by saying “I am a Professional Interrupter! I interrupt people and engage them in conversations that result in their reality being better as a result of our interaction, which by the way, started as an interruption, something I am a pro at!”

The reality is that with few exceptions, most people we reach out to without prior consent, are being interrupted. Most are trying to pack 16 hours in to a 10-hour day, meaning no matter how great our offering is, it will AT FIRST be seen as an interruption. How well we transition that interruption to a conversation determines our success.

Hunting for dollarsThis is the very reason HUNTERS are at a premium in the sales world. Because there is a shortage of people who have the ABILITY and WILLINGNESS to do what it takes to bring a Status Quo business person from being disinterested on the sidelines, to being engaged, and then a happy customer.

Sure, it is easy to engage with self-declared buyers, those who have entered the market on their own, with a specific thing in mind. After having done their research and travelled 57% of the “Buying Journey” (Notice the complete absence of the word SELL or SELLING), in stealth mode, they now decloak in time to witness the beauty contest of order takers, willing to take it all off to win the sales and discounted deals for years to come. But when it comes to prospects who can benefit from your product but are hiding in the Status Quo landscape, you need more than a smile and a pretty social profile.

Many shy away from the term hunting, saying it not a pretty picture, and says something negative to and about the prospect. Please!

First no one is saying that we are hunting prospects; it’s not like we find a prospect and impale them, (that would be self-defeating. We are hunting revenue, and the best way to deliver that revenue is to help our customers and prospects.

Once you wrap your head around the concept that you are hunting revenue, you can look at your actions in a different light, and take steps many won’t, which is probably why many fail at the sales, or more specifically new sales. Once you embrace hunting you will help those missed by average sales people. Those same average sales people, and the pundits they follow do, have the advantage of numbers, and as is the case with many crowds united in their weakness, they will turn on those different than them for no other reason than that difference. If they used a more meaningful measure, like say success, like say making quota, things look different. We all know the anecdote about the three sales people pursuing the same opportunity, one win, the other two go back to their tribe empty handed, leading to hungry babies.

Be a hunter, make a difference, don’t just blend in or exist. Take pride in your abilities and results, not your associations or social circles. As in the punch line to the old baseball joke about Joe Dimagio: Walk’a Proud! 

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

Join Now!

Question Direction

Questioning The Path You Are On0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

The fate of an unscheduled call to a prospect, a cold call, is determined in the first few seconds of a call, one can argue even before that. By before that, I mean the hundreds if not thousands of practice calls the prospect has had to hone their craft and perfect their means of blowing us off. One can argue that the callers, the sales people have also had the opportunity to practice; true, but there is practice with a goal and purpose in mind. For example, the prospect, has the singular purpose of blowing the interruption, and every call they get is an opportunity to practice, unless the caller does something different.

Unfortunately, sales people make it easy by conforming to basic elements of calls that accelerate the outcome, allowing the prospect to get back to what they were doing, and the seller to be frustrated, and use it as an excuse to reaffirm their belief that cold calling does not work. The solution, is changing the way one makes the call. Unless we change the path or direction of the call, we risk falling into a familiar pattern that the prospect has practiced hundreds/thousands of time. Given that sales people do not like to practice, review the “game tapes” and make adjustments, the prospect will always have an upper hand.

Everything counts, right from the first breath, which means it has to be counter to expectations, especially those of the prospect at the other end. Starting with a rambling introduction about your company, and who you are, is just setting yourself up for failure. I mean really, does it make a difference to the prospect that you are the Mid-Atlantic Key Account Executive? I am sure your wife or mother or both are really proud. You know what the prospect thinks, “Add another title and notch to my belt.” As I have said before start with the outcomes first, outcomes tied to their objectives, and impacts you have delivered for others with similar objectives. Start with the ending, the outcome, the impact they will see in reaching their objectives, and those impacts on their business. It’s even worse when it comes to handling objections.

Most think that handling objections is somewhat like a tennis match, the prospect lobs their objection over the net, and we have to lob it back. No! If you want to change the path and direction of the call, the objection, then you need to not fall into the pattern set by the prospect to accelerate the end of the call.

Question DirectionInstead of just lobbing back a response to their objection, keep it, and throw back a question instead. In the above tennis example the prospect is in control of the flow, and therefore the outcome. One way to wrestle control away, and more importantly change the path or direction of the call is to ask a question. Questions demand answers, there is no law that they have to answer, but condition, especially social conditioning tends to kick in, and they will answer. Questions get people to think, when their mind is racing to get past the call, a good question related to something they were thinking about before the call, like their objectives, will get them to slow down, focus, and usually provide an answer.

We call these Impact Questions, for two reasons. One is that most are closed-ended, so we needed to do some rebranding. More importantly is that because they relate to specific impacts on their business, they have a direct impact on the prospecting call.

It is important to remember that what we are working with here are dynamics, including flow and momentum. You need to fine tune your listening skills, not for words, but all the other things going on in the call, think of it as nuance. When you ask a good question, not every prospect will answer the same way, giving you an opening to ask for engagement. But they will all pause, a momentary break as they digest the question, and process that indeed it does relate to them, and not just another walking brouchure on the phone.

Impact Questions, strategically place in a prospecting call, as part of the intro, as part of the reason to meet, and certainly as part of the taking away objections, will help you change the direction of a call, a sales meeting. If you find yourself on a path leading to a brick wall, use Impact Questions to change the direction, the outcome, and the health of your pipeline.

We’ll be looking at some specific use of Impact Questions, and objections in the monthly edition the Pipeline, sign up here.

Boss choosing employee

Why Make The Call2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

One reason many give me for not wanting to prospect, is the fact that fewer people are answering their phones, and as a result it is not as effective as other forms of prospecting. Part of that is dictated by what state or mode the buyer is in, Actively Looking buyers may be more prone to a call, while, Status Quo buyers, are less likely to answer or engage. But I believe the conclusion many draw from this, i.e. “telephone prospecting is ineffective”, is flat out wrong.

First having a single form of approaching potential prospects, especially “not interested” buyers like Status Quo, is just stupid. Anyone that tells you that their chosen means of reaching prospects is just stupid. There are as many effective means as there are people; not only that, but individuals’ response/reaction to approaches will vary based on specific circumstances. So having one method, be that strictly phone work, strictly referral, or strictly social, is just asking for failure. The best prospectors, who are usually the best sellers, know that their prospecting toolkit has to have as many tools as possible rather than limited to one. For example, I worked with one executive who when traveling would be more likely to respond to texts, leaving e-mail and voice mail for the hotels in the evening, while back at the office he would be much more likely to answer the phone, and hit e-mail regularly.

Now it is true that less people are answering their calls as they come in, I have not seen anyone, even the most social of sellers, present any data that suggests that people check their voice mails less. Meaning a good voice mail can still have an impact, and lead to a return call. I regularly get 40% – 50% of messages I leave, returned in about 72 hours. So don’t blame the technology, blame the user.

But let’s dial things back a little, and let’s for a moment accept a complete falsehood many sellers have bought into: “voice mails do not get returned”, there is still merit to leaving a voice mail, and making the call. Why – touch-points.

Based on different inputs, it can take anywhere from 8 – 12 touch-points to get a response from a prospect. (BTW – no guarantee that the response will be positive, we still have to work to get the appointment even when they respond). In that case, the voice mail, even when not returned, still serves a purpose. Combined with other means of communication, each touch-point compounds the ones that came before it and improve your chances of speaking to the prospects.

The same executive referenced above also shared that he specifically ignores the first three attempts by sellers, because he knows most will fall away after the first three touch-points, and the ones who really want to speak to him will continue to demonstrate that and their creativeness as they deliver the 4th, 6th or 9th touch-point.

Work out your pursuit plan, and keep a couple of things in mind. Mix things up, you have access to office phone, mobile phone, text, snail mail, LinkedIn, and more, the only shortage to variety is your imagination. Do it frequently and consistently, meaning don’t wait a week after your initial touch-point, a couple days is good. Go for eight yes 8, touch-points in the course of two business weeks. If you find that harsh, start by adding one more touch-point to your current weekly routine; in a few weeks add one more, and so on till you hit your minimum 8. (See example).

Cadence 1

Yes phone work has changed, and so should you, make the call, just know why.

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

Join Now!

businessman with umbrella and thumb down rain

Rejection In Your Face4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

In the late 1990’s or early part of the last decade, I remember reading a piece about a study in one of the Scandinavian countries, who were early adopters of text messaging, SMS. It pointed to the fact that more and more young people were choosing to initially interact with potential dates using SMS, one of the key reasons that rejection was easier to deal with when it was not direct, in your face. The rate of rejection or acceptance did not change much, may have even gone up as it is easier to ignore a text message. But the lack intimacy, direct contact, not having to be in direct contact at the time of rejection, made it more bearable, despite the result.

There is no doubt that the reason sales people do not like to prospect, specifically direct prospecting, for instance telephone prospecting, is rejection. Who can blame them, no one wants to be rejected, and it is only compounded when that rejection directly impacts one’s ability to earn a living, eat and generally succeed in their chosen vocation. This is why so many sales people and companies spend time and money trying to avoid objections. The thinking being, “if we can avoid rejection, we will have greater success.” Understandable but hardly practical, if you are going to make unsolicited calls (cold or pre-warmed), you will face rejection. If you are going to play football, you will get tackled, you will get bruised, and if you have any intention of succeeding, you will get back up and ready yourself for the next play. Not so for many in sales.

This became even more clear during an unsocial discussion with a proponent of social selling. He was trying to convince me that there is less rejection with his approach than with telephone prospecting. While neither of us had the stats to prove or dispute, what was clear is that his focus was not the rejection itself, but more how he did, or did not, have to deal with it. Much like the adolescent lovers in Scandinavia, for this person, and I suspect for many who exclude telephones from their prospecting routine, it was more about how direct the rejection was.

“I don’t mind if they don’t respond, I just don’t want to have to deal with the reality of it.”

Which is another example of where the driving factor in executing a sales is not the desired outcome, but how it “feels”. It feels good when someone puts a like on your LinkedIn or Facebook post, allowing us to pretend that those who choose not to like it, who ignore and reject the message, just don’t exist. But from a desired outcome perspective, no different. So why not go direct?

One of my first sales jobs required that I make 160 dials per day, speak to 30 people, and get a yes from ten. My manager helped me by highlighting that if the 100 people who “rejected” me through the week were all in the subway car with me on my ride home Friday, they would have no idea it was me who they blew off on the phone. To this day, I look at the people in the Starbucks line, and wonder which one blew me off on the phone that morning.

While rejection may not be fun, it is part of sales, and will happen no matter which approach you take, it just a question of how direct, and how you deal with it, choosing not to deal with it does not change things. The real question is what is more important, achieving desired outcomes, or???

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

Join Now!

wordpress stat