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Change Their Direction – Not Their Mind0

By Tibor Shanto

No one likes objections when prospecting, rejection in any form is never fun, but when it cost you money and opportunity, it’s even worse. If you are in sales, you need to quickly figure out how to best deal with objections in a way that leads to more opportunities.  Some choose to hide from it, using things like e-mail, where the rejection is less direct, in the form of no response, to the first or 15th attempt; personally, I prefer to deal with objections to lack of engagement or silence, mostly because they need to be dealt with, the question is how.  Most people deal with the wrong element of objects, and in the wrong way to boot.

First, and the hardest, is not taking things personally.  This is hard when you are invested in your in your success, your product, and your company.  Add to that the Kool Aide you’ve been made to consume before they wound you up and sent you out to conquer, and it can be devastating when someone your convinced is the perfect profile or “persona”, dismisses you, your message, and your new improved never before seen disruptive thingamajig, without even a second of consideration.

Read on…

Hey – We’re moving

Yes, all the same great content and more!
Our new home: www.TiborShanto.com. We’ll still keep things here for a while, but this same great post is also available at

www.TiborShanto.com

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Now future past 2

Now Is The Time To Get Ahead Of Then0

By Tibor Shanto

With the end of the year in site, only six hopping Saturdays till Xmas, we sometimes face hard choices as to where to put our efforts.  Put everything we have in closing and renewing what’s here and now; or ensure that I am well set for the next quarter, or year.  Unfortunately, and often for all the wrong reasons, including guidance from a manager, the former wins out.  For professional sales people, this is business as usual, but it is that more pronounced, and much more at stake, at the end of the year.  Knowing this, we should always be looking at our time not in a linear way, now or then, but in a compartmental or sectioned way. Each section, focused on core activities, based on the here and now. This allows the calendar to be used to drive daily activities, not as cause for crisis 12 or four times a year.

You can start by looking at, and spending your time in an additional way.

Read on…

Movers   Hey – We’re moving

   Yes, all the same great content and more!
Our new home: www.TiborShanto.com. We’ll still keep things here for a       while, but this same great post is also available at

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whale in field 2

Be Easier To Believe0

By Tibor Shanto

No one is saying you are lying, I know you are not, but not lying and being believable are two different things.  For sellers, it is less about telling the truth, and more about believability; if the buyer doesn’t buy the information and materials to support your offering, no matter how accurate or factual, they aren’t buying.

I understand the challenge for proud marketing and sales professionals, especially those who may be breaking new ground, truly innovative, and driving measurable results for the clients.  This leads to bold statement, “Big and Audacious” claims, attention grabbing, but maybe not the attention you are looking for.  But if the buyers don’t trust the statement, not only do these statements lose impact, but they could work against you.

Read on…

MoversHey – We’re moving

Yes, all the same great content and more!
Our new home: www.TiborShanto.com. We’ll still keep things here for a while, but this same great post is also available at www.TiborShanto.com

Child in calss

You Don’t Have To Answer0

By Tibor Shanto

It seems many in sales feel the best way to show how smart they are, is to have all the answers at the ready, and feel compelled to bark an answer as soon as the prospect asks, sometimes even before.  I would suggest that even when you know the answer, no element of doubt, offering it up like a candy dispenser, will not lead to the prospect thinking you are smart by virtue of knowing answer, and certainly does not guarantee the deal.

I know some will be hard to convince, but you need to look at questions and answers as props in a play, where the plot and theme are centred around the prospect, their objectives, and things they are looking to, or more often, willing to change.  So, while being right is great for grade 8 English test, it may move the dial the wrong way in a given deal.

Just as the questions you ask are designed to create a learning experience for both buyer and seller, and allow you to take the meeting in certain directions, so do answers.

Too Soon

Prospects will in their own way prepare for meetings as well, and when they are focused on addressing something, they want to get to that point, just like sellers want to get to their point.  As experienced sellers will tell you, that facts and reality are sometimes best doled out in bits and pieces, and these are tied to the buyer’s state of readiness.  This is not so important if you are selling products to “informed” and predictable buyers looking for what they bought last time, and neither you or the buyer are inclined to change, learn or improve.

But if your success is based on helping buyers achieve a future state, one different than their current state, one that represents change, or as they think of it as “risk”, then it will likely involve educating and motivating that buyer.  There is a reason they call it a journey, it allows the buyer to evolve on the way to the destination.

Our role as sellers is to ensure the buyers gain an understanding of the specifics at hand.  Individual buyers we deal with, are part of a group of buyers, often with varying opinions and wish lists.  This means they need to both understand and explain the change you are proposing to others in the process, meaning that a “just in time” approach to answers will likely serve you better than spewing facts.

Child in calssNot Every Question Deserves An Answer

That’s right, there is no law that says that all questions have to be answered immediately, or at all.  Sometimes buyers ask questions not purely out of a need for an answer, but for example, as a way of thinking out loud.  Based experience, you know that certain question show a state of unreadiness on the part of the buyer.  Answering the question, now or too soon, may confirm some wrong assumptions, or limit your ability to explore areas later; another good reason to review all opportunities, won, lost or “no decision”.

There is also the opportunity to demonstrate your organization’s “deep bench”.  You can introduce experts and specialist to respond.  Setting that meeting will allow you to surface and involve others in the process, by setting up a meeting to introduce your expert(s) to their team.  It also allows you to ensure that they form relationships with those in a better position to ensure success after the signature.  Something that if it came to you, would cause you to not “sell”, and delays in resolving the clients issues.

Knowing the answer is one things, what makes you an expert seller, not a product or fact expert, is how you use and dispense the answers in a way that drives the buyer’s and you objectives.

Hey – We’re moving

Yes, all the same great content and more!
Our new home: www.TiborShanto.com
We’ll still keep things here for a while, but this same great post is also available at
www.TiborShanto.com/blog

Come and visit, see what’s new!

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When In Doubt – Err on The Side Of More!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

I find too many sales people, despite the image they may project, are way too conservative in their approach to selling.  While this may not be a pronounced issue for those tasked with managing or servicing current accounts, with the only expectation being “organic” growth.

What is organic growth any way, is that like growth we would have gotten even without any help from the account manager, or is the level of growth achieved even with the meddling of account managers?  Sounds like we are paying someone for something that would have happened, well, organically.  Sorry, back to the issue at hand.

When we focus in on those tasked with finding new clients, new revenue streams, etc., it is striking how few are willing to go the distance to succeed.  With few exceptions, in this case exceptions that validate the reality, most sales people tend to not go hard enough, far enough, and broad enough to win all the opportunities they can.

Part of these goes back to the “relationship” mindset many sellers still adhere to.  Don’t get me wrong, relationships are important.  In fact, so important, that it is naïve to believe that we can have meaningful relationships in the same short timeframes that sales cycles take to unfold.

There has been a lot written about the importance of “getting in early”, whether that is the time to follow up to a download, to reacting to a trigger like say personnel change.  Just as there is evidence to suggest that “last man/woman/child standing”, is more likely to succeed.  Clearly those who enter the fray early, has a better opportunity to set the agenda, and direction for discovery.  Just as it is easy to understand why the rep who manages to extend the engagement long after others give up, is more like to win the deal, and move the dial on the “relationship” front.  But there is a lot of opportunity between those two, often overlooked, or more accurately avoided by many.

The refrain is a familiar one, they don’t want to pester the prospect.  The assumption there is that prospect know exactly what they want, need, or imagine, and interfering could have negative impacts, “I’ll just be on ‘available’, and ready if the prospect needs anything.”  The big flaw in this is that prospects are more confused and overwhelmed than ever, leading to buying cycles that are often twice as long as anticipated, a factor often left out of ROI calculations, if you implement six months later than planned, there are real current and future costs that need to be taken into account.

Couple this with buyers’ reluctance to engage with another smiling beige vanilla seller, more focused on making a friend than a difference to their business, and you have a situation where being confident, assertive and laser focused on delivering impacts, not product, gives you the opportunity to rise above.

kristopher-drowning adI have had more than one executive tell me that they routinely ignore the first three or four approaches by sellers, knowing that most will A) give up too soon; B) wait too long between touch points to be noticed.

We have all had one, but probably both of the following experiences:

  1. You hold off, you don’t want to “pester them”, and when your manager put enough pressure on you to call, you find they made their decision a few weeks back
  2. You push beyond your social comfort zone, believing you can truly help a prospect, and you make that extra call, a call many other lesser sellers would call a Hail Mary, only to be warmly received by the buyer, soon to be client.

Look at your own world, and ask how many times you went back to something when prompted by an outside source.  I know that when i bought insurance a few years back, I went with the one reps who stayed with me, not on me, but with me, and was present when the time to buy came, all because he erred on the side of more, rather than the side of giving up to soon.

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Young Woman Traveler Journey Concept

Confusing Journey With Destination0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

I spent the weekend with some friends who were planning an overseas vacation next spring.  This is something they have wanted to do for some time, they have been saving up money, vacation days, and sacrificed in other ways, in order to make the trip everything they wanted.  You can sense the energy of anticipation that is going into every element of the planning, and ensuring that the trip lives up to everything they imagined and more.

When speaking to them about the trip, they talk about the unique destinations they plan to visit, food they plan to try, experiences they hope will live up to or exceed expectations.  What was striking is that over the course of the hour or so we talked about their trip, the subject how they were getting to where they were going did not come up.  There was actually one point where they talked about have to traverse a winding mountain side road, but again the focus was not the means of travel, but the experience and life changing experiences and memories.

There is a subtle lesson for sellers in the above example.  Namely that people are much more focused on the outcomes and experiences than how they got to those experiences; simply stated, most people are much more focused on the end than the means.  It is accurate to say that for most business people, as long as the means are ethical and legal, what counts is the outcome.

While it has been a positive that many sellers now spend time and effort on understanding the “buyer’s journey”, there is a risk in relating to the journey strictly through our own filters and needs as sellers, and over emphasising how “our product” is right for the journey.  Sellers need to do a better job of focusing on the outcomes, and the possibilities they deliver for the buyer, rather than the features of our “solution”, how it addresses one or two elements of the journey, while ignoring and confusing what the buyer set out to accomplish on their journey, with the “how” of traveling the journey.

You can look at this in the following way.  We do an exercise with reps of all skills, experience, and offerings.  We ask them a simple question: “what do you sell?”  With all the talk about being customer centric, and being driven by the buyer’s journey, the most typical answers we get, actually contradict their stated intent.  80% of the responses to that question talk to deliverables.  “We sell software”, “we sell hardware, solutions, integration, systems, trucking services, etc.”  All good, all accurate, and for the most part miss speaking to the buyer’s journey.

Buyers set out to buy results, outcomes, specific changes in their business.  This is as true for commodities as it is for so called “complex solutions”.  Look around within your company or even department.  When was the last time you heard your VP of Sales, “I wanna buy me a piece of software that will process leads based on an algorithm designed to….”  No, it is more likely they will talk about the impact that app would have on their pipeline, conversion rates, leading to increased revenues, margins, cash-flows, impact on funding, etc.

Just like my friends, they are more focused on the destination and the experience of that, not the journey.  While in some aspect of life it is more about the journey than the destination, in sales success is measured by the destination.

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pumpkin

Get Your Pumpkin Spiced Leads0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Yes, boys and girls, tomorrow being Halloween, it is the last day to get your Pumpkin Spiced Leads, come November 1, Starbuck rolls out their Christmas and Chanukah cups, and it’s all downhill from there.

Now I know you’re thinking that Shanto has gone mad, but I plead innocent.  In fact, I am just trying to fit in, using the Queens English in the most bizarre way to make a point, a point heavy on drama and embellishment, while short on meaning or accuracy. The wild nature of some of these statements, not only make them difficult to believe, but brings into question the credibility of those making them.    

I recently witnessed an “influencer” from a leading social platform, stand on stage, in front of thousands of sales professionals and leaders, and with a straight face, in fact with great conviction, exclaimed how “a change of job status, is an ‘insight’!”  Insight, seriously? Well you know, English is my third language, so let’s consult the experts.

The capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.
“this paper is alive with sympathetic insight into Shakespeare”
‘his mind soared to previously unattainable heights of insight’

Consider that most people do not update their LinkedIn profile as soon as they accept the letter of offer, indeed, depending where you choose to look, people will wait 90 days or more before updating their LinkedIn profile, some suggest even longer.  Seems to me, that would qualify more as history, than insight, and well short of actionable insight.  But that’s the reality of “insight” becoming fashionable, rather than practical.  Any self-respecting B2B seller, targeting that individual would have known much sooner than 3 months, in fact probably would have capitalized on it, rather than waiting.

While I do appreciate the need for “drama” in selling, and the facts that certain words will embellish the message and make it more effective, there is a cost to overdoing it.  Not only in as much as it makes the message hard to swallow, but that when words are over used, people tend to start ignoring the rest of the sentence, and by extension the message.

I had a call last week from an enthusiastic rep, eager to introduce me to his company’s new and “disruptive” technology that will “change the way I present to prospects and buyers”  Hmm, disruptive, here is the definition I go with:

“Disruptive innovation is a term in the field of business administration which refers to an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products, and alliances.”

Customized snail mail is not “disruptive”, and by the way, nor is it “awesome”.

pumpkinAs usual, it is easy to blame the front-line seller, but someone put this poor soul up to this.  Those who did put him up to it, include people like me, the experts, and their managers.  We need to be careful about the words we use, and encourage sellers we work with choose.  I recently saw comments pile up on a well-known sales talking head’s video.  In it, in an effort to add some drama to the message, they expressed themselves in a way that to many undermined the message.  A fellow sales advisor commented:

“I believe that his message is relevant and needs to be repeated.
However, his delivery might put off some people.
The two phrases that triggered my BS meter were “I hear this all the time” and his claim about “99.9%” (and I stopped listening after that)
What does “all the time” mean?
Where did you get your stat of “99.9%”? Unfortunately, too many speakers (and sales people) quote unproven stats and throw out vague claims.”

To which another reader offered the following:

Here is the formula for calculating 99.9% of the time
For each observation (x) the deviation (d) from the mean () is x – .
Therefore d2 = (x – )2
Expanding this equation, we get: d2 = x2 – 2x. + ( )2
To obtain the sum of squares of the deviations, we sum both sides of this equation (the capital letter sigma, S = sum of):
Sd2 = Sx2 – 2Sx +S 2
From this equation we can derive the following important equation for the sum of squares, Sd2.
Then we find the sample variance and sample standard deviation:
And there it is …. mumbo jumbo presto chango 99.9% of the time.
Does that make sense?

As you think bout your message, ask yourself which word will cause your prospect to stop listening, and reach for their Pumpkin Spiced Latte?

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Financial analyst and stock broker business concept as a human face wearing reflective glasses with arrows going up and down as a metaphor for having the vision for forecasting and analizing economic direction.

What’s My Future In Sales?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

There is a lot of discussion around the role of technology in sales, advances in AI (you decide what the A stands for), and its impact on the role of and future of sales people.  There is no doubt that technology will continue to change the process of revenue generation, maintenance and growth, but that’s nothing new.  In any given decade as technology is introduced, the sales tribe is the first to adopt.  We are the ones who figure out how to leverage new tech to make more money, sales ops figure out how to take cost out of the cycle, driving even greater margins.

But any conversation about “sales” and technology, should really be framed not as discussion of sales, but revenue.  Revenue, across the entire “client life cycle”, in that context, sales, or specifically, the act of selling, is but one small part of the cycle.  Selling here is defined as the initial point of persuading someone who is not doing business with you, to do business with you.  A small part of the larger revenue cycle, a crucial one, one that enables the flow of revenue, but it is a small part in the context of the “client life cycle”.  That front piece is different than the rest of the rest of the cycle.

Financial analyst and stock broker business concept as a human face wearing reflective glasses with arrows going up and down as a metaphor for having the vision for forecasting and analizing economic direction.

This why once the client has been persuaded, in most instances, the client managed by a different set of people with different skills.  This is even more pronounced in today’s “disintermediated” sales environment, or as some would like to call it, “sales specialization”.  No matter the label, the reality is that the person with making the initial sale, is not the one tasked with ensuring “customer experience”, fulfilment and support, “account management”, or growth, or renewal.  Taken as a whole, it’s all sales, but we all know it is a hockey team, yes, it’s all the Habs, but no one looks for the goalie to score, or a centre to stand between the pipes.

Which brings us to tech’s impact on sales, more specifically the discussion of “salespeople” being displaced by tech.  I would argue that if we took the “client life cycle”, the continuing revenue cycle, some parts are much more vulnerable to being out done by tech and replaced by tech.  In fact, the further you are in the process, the more at risk you are to being “Amazoned”.

The critical point, is the ability to persuade someone to change what they are doing now, and buy your offering or service from you, the thing hunters do.  While tools and tech can help score leads, nurture them, even get them to the point of engagement.  This may be easy for that small part of the market that is actively looking, ready to buy, and are just looking for the right vendor.  But when it comes to that 70% plus part of the market that is in Status Quo, not interacting with the market.  It takes real skill to engage with someone who has not given any thought to engaging, changing or buying.  This is the very reason that closed opportunities are handed off to people with other skills, and out of the hands of hunters, and given to people with different skills; skills I would argue easily replace by automation, which will likely do it more efficiently.

So, if you are a hunter, with the unique EQ, IQ, and skills to lead and persuade, you need not worry about displaced.  If you are downstream from the signature, Alexa has your number.

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Calendar 2016

Time To Get Around To It0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Michael Jordan was quoted that the only thing that changes is our focus on the fundamentals, a great lesson for those who tend to be distracted by shinny objects promising “easier” way of achieving or exceeding quota, or, to avoid doing things we don’t like. One of the core fundamentals for successful selling is how we view and utilize time, right down to the minute. It is always important to remember that time is the only non-renewable resource we have. Leads are recyclable, lost deals can be revisited and won. But once the next 60 seconds go by, we don’t get to replenish or redo.

This leads us to the importance of allocating time, not managing it; once time is allocated to specific activity, then focus on executing and managing the activity you actually designated the time to. But many sales people cherry pick time, and use it to avoid things that have to be done, like prospecting for example.

Regularly when I ask buyers why they didn’t prospect, or when they plan to prospect, I hear “I’ll get around to it when I have time”.  As though some rich uncle is going to pull up with some extra time in the trunk, and give it to us.  Time is something you have to commit to in advance.  If you don’t commit time in advance in your calendar for important activities, like prospecting, you will not do it.

“I’ll get around to it when I have the time.” Is the very opposite of what it should be.

I understand that there a lot of demands on a sales person’s time, the importance of focusing on current customers; I understand the importance of finishing that proposal, doing a demo, and all the things we signed up for as sales professionals.  As professionals, one of the key skills we are paid the big bucks for is prioritizing, be that targets, opportunities, accounts, but most importantly, our activities.  While maintaining current customers is important, it’s as important to remember where the current customer base came from, and having that influence how and what we prioritize.

No Distraction

It is interesting to work with new sales people, when they have no distractions, no base, no proposals, nothing to do but identify and pursue pipeline opportunities.  These newbies have nothing else to focus on but that.  Then their success begins to chip away at not only the available time for prospecting, but their willingness to prospect.

It’s the latter that surprises me. There is no taking away from the fact that prospects have to be sold, and clients have to be serviced, but at what point does a quota carrying rep decide that they “have earned the right not to prospect”. An actual quote from a 12-year veteran has made quota in about half those years, but only twice in sequential years.  When something is important, you make time for it. This is as true for business as it is personal wants.  Which may lead one to conclude that they do not want to prospect.

Calendar timeBut for those who do want, and are genuinely struggling to pack everything they need to do into a work week, the only option is to get ahead of it, and commit to it in advance by blocking it out in your calendar.  Studies have shown that we are less likely to blow-off an activity that is in our calendar, than those that not, despite best intentions.  Most reps only have client meetings and team meetings in their calendar, important, but no more important than prospecting.  Real pros I work with, set appointments in their calendars to do research, to segment their opportunities, and time to prospect.  They also build time into their calendar for legitimate distractions, this way when they do need to be sidetracked while prospecting, they have time “banked” away to make sure they can complete their task, prospecting.  If the distraction or “client emergency” does not happen, then you have time in the bank for other high-value activities, like maybe prospecting.

Those who plan their prospecting times in advance, avoid the peaks and valleys that drain so many sellers.  The emotional rollercoaster, the misspent energy, all avoided by setting an appointment with themselves to secure appointments with their next big client.

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radio1

Gaining and Maintaining Momentum0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

It has been a while since I have had the opportunity to speak with Michele Price, but I recently found this segment we did.  I am sharing it today as we head into the last week of October, and are looking to se how we can maintain momentum to finish off the year right, and carry that momentum into next year.

Take a listen, give us you feedback, and go forth and execute.

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