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Cut Your Training Budget In Half – Double Your ROI0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Training is an interesting concept, at least in sales, as much as most sales leaders or sales ops people bring their own bias and flavour to it. But the one common view and practice the majority share is a “democratic” outlook or bias. Don’t get me wrong, I love democracy, and live in the greatest democracy on earth, Canada, but the reality is that democracy is not for everyone and often does not work, just ask Egyptians.

By democracy in sales training specifically, I am referring to the practice of parading all your sales people in to the same training, the same day. While I get it, I don’t think this is necessarily leads to the best results or return on training investment.

Consciously or not, most leaders rank or tier their teams, usually Top, Mid, and Bottom tier. Clearly indicating that the leader has specific opinions about their team members. No doubt some of this is influenced by what they think of the individual in a subjective way, the key determinant is usually their success record and a measure of their ability. Rather than going with the ole 80/20, for the sake of discussion let’s say that the top tier, top 20% of your team, drives a good chunk of your revenue. The Mid-tier, you know the “good but…” reps, 50% – 55% of the team, contribute. Bringing up the rear, the Bottom tier, that 25% – 30% of the team that really should be managed out.

From a training standpoint, I always tell people that the Top tier will pay for the training, they will come with an open mind, take things on and then put things into practice and drive sales and ROI on the training. Movement in the Mid-tier, will represent the more gains and further return on the training. Leaving the Bottom tier, who mostly show up for the pizza lunch, adding to the cost of your day, but I guess you are already used to carrying them.

So right away, the question needs to be asked “Why are you spending money on the Bottom group? There is only one reason, the democratic approach taken by many organizations, “we need to have everybody go through the training”. No you don’t, if you had other underperforming assets, and you knew the repair would not work or work minimally for a short duration, you would not invest good dollars, you would probably replace the asset.

While some will argue that having the Top and Mid groups together creates cross-pollination, as if skills are transferable by osmosis. But I see it more like putting an average driver in the fast-lane on the Autobahn, sure the average driver may learn something from the aces passing them, but mostly they slow down those who can make the most of the fast lane.

There is enough of a range in the Mid-tier that the top end sellers will have a positive influence on the others, while at same time learning disciplines that will help them move into the top tier. Even when you want to introduce the same skills and concepts to both Top and Mid, it makes sense to deliver them separately.

Starting with the points above, you’ll reduce costs, reduce drag in delivery, and accelerate the behavior change you are looking for. At the same time, you will respect your best people and show in real terms that you not only appreciate them, but recognize and support the difference.

Now for real cost savings, manage the Bottom Tier out, and reinvest in Mid-tier players you can evolve to Top tier. Save on the acquisition cost, and mold them to be where you and them maximize opportunity. BTW, just do it, don’t take it to a vote.

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THINKING PROCESS

Show Them You Can Think – Sales eXecution 3272

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I recently sat through a demo for a product that potentially could have been of interest. The rep had just the right amount of enthusiasm, mix of personality based small talk, right down to the obligatory question asked by Americans of Canadians in January “How cold is it up there?”. The igloo is holding up I said.

He also had a great deal of knowledge about the product, its value to me, all based on their assumptions and perspective, and how I would be able to benefit from it. This was right after he asked me what I and my company do. He demonstrated his abilities to deliver his company’s talking points, demonstrate their product. And despite all he had going for him, he very much demonstrated that he could not think.

Like many sellers he did not go off script. He could talk about specific features, but could not connect them, especially in a way that would align with my view, not that of his marketing department.

First thing he did was assume that I was in pain, he did not ask what I had in place now that may deliver what his product did, he just assumed that I had the same pain the product was created for, and some their current customers had. Without having an understanding as to what I use or don’t use, and why; or where I was going and or why. He did the now famous “the world has changed” plot line, and highlighted that he was a social seller because he connected with me on LinkedIn before cold calling me.

What he lacked was contextual or situational thinking. As with any solid thinking, it starts with curiosity, he was not in the least curious about the company or what we are trying to do. He drudged out some “scary stats”, and then the requisite story about someone who fought those stats using his product, and landed a $750,000 deal, “wouldn’t that be great if you could do that?” I think he was a bit taken back when I said no, he almost went off script, but he recovered and continued his pitch.

He ignored some clear inputs that would have allowed him to alter his direction and actually get me involved. I had used a product like his in the past and had some specific questions about how they deal with very specific scenarios. The scenarios I described and questions I asked should have prompted him to abandon the high level “why this” talking points, and go for the more fertile “how for you” conversation. His idea of expertise was to talk to me as though I just landed on the planet.

It would be easy to blame the rep, but someone put him up to it. They built “pain seeking” robots, “anyone not in pain is a waste of time.” Which is sad, because their product is actually suited to companies looking to accelerate their success, but that takes positioning, aligning to business goals and objectives, and situational thinking. Too much effort there, let’s probe for pain. The most painful moment, and one where there was a complete void of thinking, it was the silence when I asked for an example of how they use the service.

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2 Serious Mistakes To Avoid In Prospecting2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Most see selling and prospecting as two different things, as evidenced by the fact that while apply themselves to the former, but save their real creativity to avoiding the latter. But the fact remains that you can’t sell without prospecting, but sadder still, you can prospect a lot without selling. Mastering the skill-and-art of proactively prospect, especially buyers who don’t know them, is the ticket to continuous sales success. But people avoid prospecting because of the rejection factor; that nagging reminder that sellers are mere mortals after all.

Successful professional prospectors also know that sales and prospecting are different, and it is how they view that, and what they do that helps them deal and succeed.

Being that sales and prospecting are two of revenue process, each has its own set of objectives, and related activities, and desired outcomes. For prospecting, the singular and only objective is engagement with a buyer, plainly speaking, as many of you would express, “getting in”. To do that they avoid doing two common things, this in turn contributes to their prospecting and by extension sales success.

Thing 1 – “Gatekeeper”

People focused on leveraging clients’ objective for prospecting success, detest this term. It puts you and someone important to your success in adversarial posture. Conjures up the image of the bridge keeper from The Bridge of Death, keepers of the gate to sales Nirvana. To be clear, this is not about a receptionist in the lobby, (sometimes lock away from her colleagues), but an executive assistant or personal admin who work with the executives you want to sell to. They are not the enemy, nor do you want them to be, as they have a lot knowledge you’d love to tap into, and influence with the very individual whose influence you seek.

By now you are probably hip to the new number in town, 5.4, wonderfully unpacked by our friends at the CEB in the #ChallengerCustomer. No one knows those players better than what many mistakenly call the ‘Gatekeeper’. If you start treating them in the same way you would any of the 5.4. Furthermore, they are a unique source of insight as to who your Mobilizer may be. Rather than following the advice to isolate and exclude, you should think and do inclusion, tell them what you would tell the person he/she assists. Engage around who the executive may delegate the kind of projects or products your offering has improved or moved towards their objectives. Yes, Virginia, we are talking on the first call, I want to get in, not play coy.

Thing 2 – Decision Maker

It’s not about the maker, it’s about the decision. Hard for many Judeo-Christian sellers to just let go of the Maker.

Whenever I ask a group of sellers, who they want to reach out to when prospecting an organization. The answer is overwhelmingly “the decision maker”. Now I have used a range of directories and lists, and many had some on-depth information, but rarely did they have the title Decision Maker. And given that the studies show that there usually more people involved in the decision, looking for one maker may not be the best approach.

The thought process for prospecting should be about the decision, not the maker; about mapping the decision to objectives you can contribute to, who you impact internally and in their customer base, and most of all what your specific impact is. Looking at getting a decision and what is involved in that, and then building your track around that for all involved, will help you uncover anticipated advantages in creating and extending conversation, especially to where you can converge them around you. Looking for a Decision Maker, will narrow your focus and cause you to miss things you could leverage even if you found Salomon.

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What is Not Why – Sales eXecution 3261

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Start of the year is when you see a lot of policy changes, changes in fees, service levels etc. Done right this could actually help sales people and drive revenues, yes even price increases. Done wrong, it just leaves a bad flavour in people’s mouth and minds. Having had to face new fees and policies, I have come to observe that there is a missing element in how sales people, and I would argue all who interface with clients in any way, deal with change. More specifically, how their companies fail to prepare these front line assets, and as a result lose customers and revenues in the process.

My experiences recently did not relate to price, but how and why the changes were implemented.

Example one, I recently went to renew a service I had been using for over 20 years. This was different, this time I was a fee, that in both relative and absolute terms was more than excessive. Needing the service, I hummed and hawed, but paid the ransom, and given that I was paying for the party, I asked “why is this fee in place now, and why this amount?” The representative responded “When you renew you have to pay $180.” I repeated, “OK, I get it, $180, why, why do I have to pay this when I never had to pay it in the past, I don’t seem to be receiving anything over and above or different than in the past, so why the additional $180 now, I understand the what I have to pay, but I would like to understand WHY?” I am still waiting for the answer.

I don’t really blame the “Representative Drone 100 Model”, they were programed to collect, but they should have given the Drone the ability to explain why, even a couple of plausible explanation. Even if I disagreed with the “why” it would have seemed lass a money grab and more a function of their business.

This type of disconnect and apparent ignorance, plagues many sales people and organizations. They are great at talking to clients about what their product does, how it does it, often in great and irrelevant detail. But when it comes to why, as in why do I need this, why will this make a difference for me, and a whole range of important why’s, there are few answers. The buyer is left to figure it out on their own; the rep feels that they have done their job by laying out the dots, and assume that the buyer will connect it on their own. I guess you can look at your close ratio and margins to see how well that is working.

Sure some buyers will connect the dots because they have to, they have an immediate need or medium term need that they know they have to deal with, and as a result will make the effort to meet the seller more than half way. But this is a small portion of your market, for most 20% – 30%, leaving some 70% without a clear need and therefore a complete lack of inclination to make the effort.

For this large segment it is all about the ‘Why’. As a seller we need to not only make sure that the dots align to their objectives, not as visible as pain or need, and heavy on the ‘Why’ of how this will impact their business. Their ‘need’ is to achieve objectives, if you can’t explain why they will not be able to achieve it without your offering, or why your offering will enhance their objectives and their journey, they really have no reason to speak to us. Which is may be why their pipeline is in the state it is in.

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success

Give It Up!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

One piece of advice many pundits, especially motivational types, offer up to sales people, noticeably more this time of year than towards the end, when they change their tune, is “Don’t give up”, or the right wing version, “Never give up.” Often giving example of people who persevered against all odds and finally delivered an invention that now stands the test of time. I recently watched one of bubbly bundles of energy preach at a sales kick off, wax poetic about winners never give up, and find a way to “get it done”. The unsaid implication I guess being that if you do move on before “it is done”, you are not a winner, but a loser.

To accentuate his point, he trudged out old Thomas Edison and his lightbulb. “Edison experimented with over 100 different creations before finally inventing what we know as the light bulb, we’d may still be in the dark if not for Edison not giving up.” Well not quite, Edison did not invent the lightbulb, that event preceded his by some 50 years. Further, Edison did not have quota tied to the end of the year. When was the last time you had an open ended sales quota? “Just go out there and sell, and if it takes you three years to hit that number, don’t worry, just keep going, don’t give up.” Exactly!

What makes some sales people better than others is their ability to disqualify and focus their time and other resources on not just delivering results, but delivering in a given time frame, and on a consistent level. While we all know about Edison’s accomplishments, consistency may not have been one of them.

Start by understanding your quota, and what it will take to get there. Continuously study why you are winning deals, why some are lost, and why some don’t go to decision, (in the current cycle, they may when things change). Our clients leverage our 360 Degree Deal View. This will help you quantify your efforts, and focus on those opportunities that will help you get to quota. Qualifying is great, but at times it ignores those things that can slow down or kill a deal, because we look only for things that make it a fit. The reality is that if your close ratio is 4:1, the quicker you disqualify the three that will not close, the more time you have to focus on the one that will, and time to prospect for the next set of four. Yes, you will need to replace all four if you are going to get your next deal.

The reality is many of today’s losses or abandoned deals turn out to be your best deals next year, especially the no decision ones. There are many factors that delay or prevent a deal from closing now, just read The Challenger Customer, none of which will be easily overcome by “not giving up”.

As with many things, it is a question of perspective, “giving up” or disqualifying just sounds negative, fair enough. How about we look at it as staying focused and being distracted from delivering quota this year and every year, not whenever.

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Back view of businessman standing in light representing success concept

A Sales Viewpoint – Sales eXecution 3250

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

With the election cycle in full swing in the USA, many (some) are reflecting on what their point of view is on key aspects of life to be impacted by the outcome of the election. This includes things like economic viewpoint, free market or centrally controlled economy; global viewpoint vs. protectionist, and more. The key here is not function or discipline in question, it is more that most people will have a viewpoint, and that view point drives their actions, and the result and impact of their action.

This fact is true for sales and sellers as well. A seller’s view point on sales, their market, their customers, and their sales methodology, will drive how they execute their sales, their success, and most importantly their impact on the success of their customers’ ability to achieve their objectives.

Unfortunately, as with political viewpoints, many in sales don’t ever develop and hone their own viewpoint. It is much easier to abdicate the work required to have a valid viewpoint, and they end up plugging into an outlet for their viewpoint and resulting action. Once they find one that is comfortable, fits well, they just go with it until it lets them down, be that the wrong guy getting into office or a loss of a big sales or significant existing client.

But when you take a close look you discover is an aspect of the old Pareto principle, where a large percentage of sales people, maybe even 80%, don’t really have a viewpoint. There is a large segment of this group that don’t see sales as their final destination, so why develop a viewpoint, “I’ll do that when I am in the role I really want.”

On the other hand, you do find the smaller group, let’s go with 20%, that have a specific viewpoint, and you see at the centre of everything they do in sales. This view point allows them to take the buyer and discussions with buyers to areas and depths that a viewless seller would not dare go, even if they were aware of them.

The important thing is that usually the person most aware of the difference is the buyer. They know when they are working with someone with a clear and centred sales viewpoint. Sellers with a viewpoint, one based on their standing as a subject matter expert, are in a much better position to not only help their clients achieve their objectives, but more importantly to influence the buyers’ objectives. Without a clear and strong viewpoint, you are left feature, benefit and groveling, oops, I mean relationship selling.

As a hiring manager you can begin to look for this in the interview process; are they telling you what you want to hear, or are they articulating a clear viewpoint on sales and how they execute on that viewpoint?

Given an equal set of skills and opportunities, the seller with a clear and thought out sales viewpoint will always outperform the one with out.

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not taught

Keenan brings you what’s Not Taught!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

not taught

Book Review

I have often said that the best books for sales people to read if they want to succeed and grow their game are not sales books. Understanding how sales impacts and is impacted by all elements of the real world is key to continuous success. As the “real world” changes, going beyond sales books in order to succeed in sales is a not just a no-brainer, but a survival requirement.

This is why “Not Taught: What It Takes to be Successful in the 21st Century that Nobody’s Teaching You”, by Jim Keenan, is a must read. A must read not just for sellers, but entrepreneurs or anyone looking to succeed in today’s business environment.

What we’ve done in the past is will not be enough moving forward, and certainly not enough if you want to do more than just move forward, but win forward. The information age is changing how people find, evaluate, engage and hire people. By reading Jim Keenan’s new book, Not Taught: What It Takes to be Successful in the 21st Century that Nobody’s Teaching, you’ll learn how the success game has flipped upside down and what it takes for you to win in today’s game. Jim unpacks unique and powerful ways to connect with larger audiences, wield greater influence and win in the 21st century.

While some will want to suggest that this book is for people of a given age or older, it is not. It is for all people looking to improve the way they approach business, sales, and more. You will benefit from this book if you are over 40 or under 30, whether you are a digital native or digital immigrant. The focus is improving how you get things done, not where or when you started your journey. Demonstrating your expertise and right to be called a thought leader cross all these labels.

The book is full of examples, so unlike other books that raise concepts and then let you down by not following through, Keenan does just that. Giving the reader examples and way to apply the topic so you can get more than just a good read, you can succeed in ways you may not have tried before, then encouraging you to continue and go further.

This is not bookshelf decoration, you know, like all those books you bought, read it once and now sit on your shelf forever. This will become your constant companion on the road to success, not only because of what you will learn and use, but because Keenan’s energy comes through, and you’ll reach for the book just to get a hit and re-energize you for your next success adventure. Buy two copies and save on shipment fees, you’ll revisit it again and again, and will soon ware out you first copy.

Tibor Shanto

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Tomorrow Is Today – Sales eXecution 3240

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

A common discussion among sales people, or more accurately, sales people willing to make cold calls, that is complete sales people, is when is the best time to cold call? I have added my two cents on this in past. What is true about any element of success, is that the things that lead to it become routine, a habit, and there is no doubt that people are creatures of habit. This can be good and bad at the same time. Reports show that habit, things we do by rote, make up about 40% of what we do on a daily basis, so if develop good habits, this will serve you well. If you develop bad habits, well then, you have some work to do.

This notion of habits extends to cold calling as well, with all the implications and ramifications. One of those habits is when they choose to cold call. For the cold calling is dead crowd, the time is never, they have made the decision to go at it with one less tool in their toolkit. The rest seem to land on one of two days, oddly both start with T. Those who have developed good prospecting habits always prospect, including cold calling, Today. The others, with questionable habits, well, it’s always Tomorrow.

The Today group, uses their calendar to ensure that they get what has to get done in time for it to matter. Like many sales people they put all the important things in their calendar; be they client meetings, training, commission days, and yes, cold calling. If it is not in your diary it is likely not to get done, there will always be some things that come up that will distract you, and cause you to say “I can do that tomorrow, because I have this to do today. The question is if you don’t prospect today, who are you going to sell to tomorrow.

The Tomorrow crowd do not put prospecting time in their calendar because it would begin to resemble a commitment. Understanding what percentage of your “selling time” one has to commit to prospecting is where you start, once you have that you can begin to slot it in, along with the prep time it will take to generate the leads, understand their objectives, and all the other things that have to be in place for a successful cold call.

The other thing the Today crowd do is understand that rejection is part of the process. They study the most common objections and spend time preparing for them, understanding them, and developing means of taking those objections and transitioning them to conversations, and live another day by adding more opportunities to their pipeline. The Tomorrow crowd live another day by kicking the can down the road a few more inches each day.

What I have also found, is that with some coaching and effort, many Tomorrow people can be rehabilitated and converted to Today people. Since many had good sales habits alongside nonexistent cold calling habits, by doing what they need to today, they will likely be that much more successful.

Tibor Shanto

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It’s A New Year – Let’s Go Backwards2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Assuming your fiscal year started on January 1, you probably have your new targets or quotas by now. Although I did sell for a company once that did not give us our quotas till mid-March. Among the many things you should do is start by going backwards, not in how you sell, but how you plan and set yourself up for success.

Specifically breaking down your success into manageable components. Manageable meaning things that need to be done – and are also in your control. Things beyond your control, well, are beyond your control, instead of worrying about it, plan ahead, and when the time comes, react if you have to, or harder for many, ignore them since by definition, you cannot manage them.

What you can control are activities that lead to specific and planned results, like exceeding quota for example. As discussed in Monday’s post, detailing the high-value activities in each stage of your cycle is crucial. But to know which activities and in what proportion, you will need to start at your goal, and work backwards from there. Understanding what that quota looks like in the real world beyond a dashboard will help you not only to exceed that quota, but create a detailed plan for the journey.

For simplicity, let’s say you closed 2015 with $1.05 million in revenue, and your 2016 quota is $1.2 million, a 12.5% growth. Making your monthly goal a $100,000.

What you need to know:

  • What is your average deal size?
  • Average length of your cycle(s)
  • Some core conversion rates:
    – Number of proposals that close
    – Number of real prospects required to generate a REAL proposal
    – Number of people/companies you’ll need to engage to land one REAL prospect

There are other important conversion rates, like number of connections to appointments (live or virtual) or engagements, and others, plug in those that drive your results. What I find interesting is the number of sales people that do not know any or all of the above, when you ask, they respond: “depends”; on what?

The one thing that does not change year to year, is the amount of time you have to sell to prospects. (Well you do have one extra day this year, and every Leap year). If you don’t know the above numbers, how will you chart the course to 12.5% increase?

Those that do know them, and they are not hard to track these days, given all the data available, can begin to make choices.

Will you increase your average deal size; some have that option some don’t. Will you focus on improving your proposal to close rate, or one of the others? This could involve being more diligent in Discovery and rushing to proposal, allowing you to work with less prospects but with greater results, how will that impact your time allocation mix?

While there are a number of moving parts, it has to be done, our clients use our Activity Calculator Tool, to ensure efficient execution and continuous improvement. This not only helps reps take control of their activities and success, but also serves as a great coaching tool if you lead a team.

The key is to execute a well-planned strategy, rooted in the real numbers to drive real results. With that in hand, you can get creative and unleash your god given sales skills; without it, you are going to work harder than you really have to, and looking to god about 12.5% more than you did last year.

Tibor Shanto

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Process over Calendar – Sales eXecution 3230

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

gear 2

As we work through the haze of celebrating the new year, sales people we can count on two things; first our new goals or quotas; second a barrage of posts and articles telling us how 2016 will be different, or trends that will impact us this year. I was always confused by this notion, are there smart people who come up with something good or new in September, then say, “Hang on, I am not gonna share this till after January 1.” Or do some people just blessed with a burst of creativity between Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King, Jr.? Of course not, it is more the fact that New Year is the start of cycle, a universally accepted cycle, but most importantly a calendar cycle. But a calendar cycle is very different than a sales or buying cycle, and if you are in sales you need to manage your buy/sale cycle, not a general calendars cycle.

There is no denying the importance of the calendar in sales success, but the importance is in the form of setting and achieving certain milestones. Month end, quarter end, campaign start and end, and more. New Year not only brings new quotas and targets, but also budgets are replenished, and the system is fueled for action. Having said that, let’s remember that not everyone’s fiscal cycle aligns to the calendar cycle.

But success in sales is about activity, consistent execution of high-value activities executed at the right points across the buy/sales cycle, not according not secular milestones or calendar. This is why successful sellers focus on their process, not the calendar as their roadmap for success.

Process: Sequence of interdependent and linked procedures which, at every stage, consume one or more resources (employee time, energy, machines, money) to convert inputs (data, material, parts, etc.) into outputs (Read sales). These outputs then serve as inputs for the next stage until a known goal or end result is reached. businessdictionary.com
You are much more likely to succeed if you focus on what activities you need to do today in order to succeed at a given point in the future, and that point is not tied to a calendar, it is much more tied to your process and cycle. If you do what you need to do every day, based on the stages of your process and activities required to close off the stage with each prospect, you will deliver sales on a consistent and fairly predictable fashion. Conversely, if you don’t do what you have to do across the cycle, you won’t. There is no ifs ands or buts, just excuses as to why not. As a mentor of mine once impressed on me, “Today is the last day you can influence your sales cycle.” Let’s say I have a 120-day cycle, If I don’t put an opportunity in my pipeline today, I the only thing I can be certain of is that 120 days from today, I will not be closing that deal. It doesn’t matter if it’s Tuesday, Columbus Day, Lag B’Omer or any other day on any calendar.

What you can do now:

Nail down the average length of a sales, it is often different than many think, check your CRM, and nail the number. If you sell multiple products to different buyers, you may need to do this for each.

Inventory those high value activities you have to do throughout the cycle. Prospecting, selling, managing existing accounts, research, planning, etc., then allocate the percentage of time you need to allocate to each activity across the cycle. This will allow you to manage your activities, easy to do, rather than trying to manage time, not doable, therefore stupid. Use this to block time to execute these high-value activities.
Make sure your team is adhering to your process, not interpreting it to suit their results, or cherry picking things the like. This where metrics come in real handy.

If you currently don’t have a process or it is not documented, create one, or hire a professional to do it for you. Map your process, including specific stages, objectives within those stages, (good to focus on the buyer’s objectives, as you need to help them complete the journey), activities and tools required, and desired outcomes. Make sure there is a clear exit for each stage, and clear next steps. Take advantage of your CRM to action this in a way that takes the subjectivity out of execution.

Tibor Shanto

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