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lincoln five

The Levers Of Sales Success0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Proactive Prospecting Summer – Part 3

Last week in Proactive Prospecting Summer, we looked at time, and how the way high performers look at and utilize time, gives them an advantage in winning, just as the also-rans are limited by their view of the very same thing. But time is just one of five levers a seller can focus and to continuously deliver more wins, but more importantly as a means of continuous improvement. The challenge for the masses, more than anything else is the need to continuously improve, they see it as a chore, high performers see it as a never ending and highly rewarding journey.

The trick is not focusing on all five at one time, but instead focusing on one at a time, achieve improvement in that area, go back and look at the impact it has had on the other levers, assess, and focus on the next one, which will vary from rep to rep.

The fact that it does vary rep to rep, is a challenge for many managers, because they feel they have to come up with multiple coaching plans for each of their reps. It’s much easier to approach things from a one size fits all lens. The way we help our clients balance the playing field is two-fold. First, we start with accountability, mutual, what the manager brings to the mix, and the specifics the rep is accountable for. Second, is the introduction of our Activity Calculator tool, and the people who say sales is not a numbers game will hate this (and probably fail to hit quota), because it requires you to know your numbers as good or better than you know your favourite athlete’s numbers. But it is the tool that allows us to take a standardized approach to a very individual coach and execution experience.

The five Levers:

  • lincoln fiveQuota – While you may not be in control of this number, it is a key factor in how you plan your execution, use of time and other resources, and how you pull it all together.
  • Deal Size – This is variable you can directly impact and move. Unless you are specifically assigned to certain size accounts, you can choose to pursue accounts that will yield more per cycle. Mentally, it is like taking the cheaper options of the shelf; by not pursuing account under a certain threshold. Even if you are locked into a size of account, there are ways to have an initially larger sale, and to continue to upsell the opportunity.
  • Proposal to close – While this one sounds simple, it is not, usually because there are different ways of improving this ratio, and usually people are overwhelmed by choices, and just resort back to what they always do, and end up with the conversion rate they always do. One counterintuitive way to improve this is to reduce the number of proposal you put out there that you know won’t close, you know spaghetti proposals.
  • Discovery to Proposal – Probably the place you can have most impact in a number of ways, each leading to more improvement across the cycle.
  • Initial meeting to Discovery – this is all about that first meeting, where the ground work for the cycle is laid, a good initial meeting can facilitate all the other variable, a bad one, just leads to more unnecessary work.

As you enter or change any of the above, the tool will not only show you the change in the other levers, but allow you to adjust your execution to play to your strengths. This will all make sense when you download the tool. Some will have less choice than others, but again the tool will help you adjust for that.

Success with the tool is over time, pick a lever, pick a specific element that impacts that lever, set a goal: destination and time to achieve, make an action plan, break it down to bite size pieces, and then execute. Work with your manager (or call me), to keep you honest and on track.

Here’s the deal, whether you want to do this or not, at the start of your next fiscal year your quota will go up, and as that lever is pulled, you need to have a plan for the effect on the other four.

For those asking what all this has to do with prospecting, simple, the better you are at getting that initial meeting, the more choice you retain in how you approach the five levers above. If you struggle in prospecting, never setting aside enough time to master it and just do it, the more difficult all of your levers will be.

Don’t forget, to make full use of the Activity Calculator, and take your overall prospecting to the next level, check out the Proactive Prospecting Program on Sales Gravy University.

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Call Camp – 1:00 PM ET0

Today is the day, I’ll revealing the #1 sales faux-pas that kills deals in Call Camp. Trust me, every rep needs to know this.

During this live coaching session, I’ll be breaking down real sales calls, and providing best practices like:

  • How to ask effective discovery questions
  • Ways to change your narrative on the fly
  • 3 steps you need to offer the right solution

Want to be coached? Submit a call/demo recording here for personalized tips and proven strategies.

You’ll regret missing this webinar – save your seat today.

See you there,

Tibor

Register for Call Camp

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Lawyer

Stop Leading The Witness0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

One of my favourite genres is court or trial based stories, could be a movie, play, TV program, but especially novels, where the author has room to fully explore elements and take one to unexpected places. These are usually larger than life, and even when the plot is viable, the settings, are exaggerated, full of symbolism than reality, all with the goal of drawing in the audience. You gotta love it, all the fantasy, all the pomp, and of course, all the dram, just like sales.

In these dramas, you inevitably run through the usual clichés, (just like sales), one of them being the usual set of actions by one attorney leading to an objection by the other, at least one for every five minutes of courtroom sequence. The one that reminds me most of sales is when one party objects to the other’s line of questions by suggesting that they are “leading the witness”.

Sales people get caught in this trap regularly, but often the prospect does not object out loud as they do in the movies, they just don’t buy, and usually we really don’t know why, because we think we asked the right questions, feel (rather than know) we got the right answer, only to be left asking in the end “what happened?”

LawyerThis happens when we ask questions that we are hoping to get an affirmative response to, and when we do we feel we are progressing, and we keep piling on these questions, realizing too late that prospect was giving us the answers we wanted, rather than what they would say if the question were put differently.

We have all been on the receiving end of this experience, it usually sounds like “wouldn’t you agree that it would be ‘good’ if you could ‘do ___________’?” Sure, prospects will agree, it would be almost illogical to disagree, as the questions are usually routed in some logical premise and phrased in a way that you are forced to say yes, but how sincere is that yes? How many times have you said yes to move things along, feigning to agree, but with zero or less conviction?

Prospects know when they are being led, and don’t often like, and reward it even less frequently. They know that the questions are delivered in a way to limit the discussion to those things that highlight your product. Problem is that often the difference is sales success is not the product, but the sales experience, as I have stated in the past, how you sell is the last differentiator. So if the prospect does not see a different sales experience, they will see little difference, and every other seller trying to lead them down a self-serving path. While the questions may make sense, they also clearly demonstrate that you want to sell things based on your view of the world, not their specific priorities.

You can take the same thought process, but deploy a different set of questions to engage the prospect and encourage them to open up and share things with you that they would not when they are being led. Rather than you painting the end state you think they need based on your quota and you needs, ask them to pain the end state they see. If you feel based on your experience that they may have overlooked something, or are making an erroneous assumption, you can still share alternative. The best alternatives are not questions that put them back on “your track”, but alternatives based on what you have seen clients do differently to achieve that outcome or objective.

Asking questions that lead to discussion, an opportunity for you to demonstrate you expertise and value, and help the prospect consider alternatives based on client experience is a good thing, because again, it provides the prospect with a different experience. But asking questions that lead to the prospect being boxed in, may lead to answers you want to hear, but not sales.

 

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

An Endless Supply Of Tomorrows0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Proactive Prospecting Summer – Part 2

A common question I am asked is “What are the characteristics or attributes of great sellers?” While there are a number, one key one for me is their view and utilization of time. Generally speaking you can put folks into two groups, the larger 80%, those who view time as a unending commodity, and as such can be frittered away with little thought or concern. The minority 20%, the more consistently successful, see time as a precious resource that is to be maximized and fully exploited, understanding that once an hour passes, it can never be regained or reclaimed.

When it comes to prospecting, time is the silent killer. This why it is a core component of the Proactive Prospecting Program on Sales Gravy University. Many don’t want to do it, afraid to do it, and will willfully and by design waste their time on “other important things”, and thus run out of time to “prospect today, but I’ll do two hours tomorrow”. Bullshit, they couldn’t do an hour today, what makes the manager think that they do two tomorrow. The only truth in that is that they do in fact do twice as much: 2 X 0 = 0!

The thing that strikes me (and maybe it’s just me), is what can be more important than prospecting? Sure, we got to keep current clients happy, work on sales that are mid-stream, getting training on that new app you’re not going to really use, and of course, completing the football pool. But are any of those truly more important than prospecting, starting the next cycle, the next source of excuses for wasting prospecting time.

The best prospectors, allocate specific time to all of the activities highlighted above and others that are critical to winning and keeping happy customers. With the exception of the football pool, each of the above have to have time allocated and dedicated to completing. Based on what you sell, the nature of the buy/sale cycle, and other factors, the amount of time you allocate to each will vary, but there is no escaping that they all have to be completed throughout the cycle, and will require a specific time to complete.

To get a sense of how much time you need can be determined in a number of ways, none will be exact, but close enough to allow you to be in control of your time and your success. We use an Activity Calculator, (you can download it here). It works backwards from your goal, and uses your individual conversion rates from one stage the sales to the next, to close. Once you arrive at how many new prospects or meetings you need a week, you can then block off the time(s) in your calendar.

And that’s the hard part for most, blocking the time, as you would for a client meeting, and then actually doing it in the time allocated. Almost every sales person will tell me that they would never blow off a scheduled client meeting, yet they’re happy blowing off the activity that got them in front of a client to begin with.

It is not new, do the big important things first, there will always be room for the smaller things. What’s bigger than filling your pipeline with opportunities and future clients (who will make demands on your time)?

Sales people use their most precious resource to sabotage their most important activity – prospecting. To help you work through the time issue, download the white paper SALES HAPPEN IN TIME.

Feel free to e-mail me directly as you take advantage of the many things you’ll learn in your Proactive Prospecting Summer and the Proactive Prospecting Program on line.

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artofclosing

The Lost Art of Closing0

Back in October of last year, I reviewed Anthony Iannarino’s The Last Sales Guide you’ll Ever Need.

Not one to rest on laurels, Anthony is about to release his next epic, The Lost Art Of Closing. Based on the feedback from the initial book, this is sure to stir discussion and a buzz, and more importantly, help you close more deals.

Today, you have an opportunity to pre-order the book, and get the jump on the also-rans.

I will be reviewing the book in the near future, but I just wanted to make sure you have a chance to jump the line, and get in early.

Enjoy, and send me your thoughts on the book, I’ll try to highlight the best responses.

artofclosing
Victorius businessman

What’s Your Buyer’s Closing Ratio0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

While it is important to understand your personal metrics, mostly as a means of improving your use of time, and to develop an ongoing improvement process. While many know some of their metrics and conversion rates, few take time to explore and understand their prospects’ closing average or ratio. It’s easy to see why, you find yourself in front of what appears to a willing prospect, sharing what they want to do, why they are thinking of doing it, all while asking you questions that your manager taught you are “buying signals”.

Victorius businessmanInstinctively you feed the fire, figuring that the more information you provide and gather, the more your share with them, the more likely they are to finish their journey with you. All is good till the last scene, curtains close without a deal. Would have been helpful had you had an inclination earlier in the sale, when you may have been able to change the outcome. The change in outcome does not always mean a closed deal, but saved time, energy and refocus on better opportunities in your pipeline.

No matter how good things look, professionals in all fields know that the fundamentals need to be present no matter what the immediate circumstances look like. A key fundamental in sales is not just to understand the buyer’s buying process, but their buying habits or patterns.

No matter how bright and rosy things appear at any time during the cycle, it is important to confirm and validate. Failing to do that leads to a familiar situation for us all, i.e. no deal at the end.

How & Why

This is where asking two specific type of questions, from a couple of different directions will give you window the buyer’s buying habits, or let’s be real, a prospect’s “kicking tires” habits.

The Why

The why – as you’re are going through the Discovery process, ask why they choose the current thing (product, service, etc.) you are exploring with them. What they respond is important, but more interesting is how they respond. Someone involved with the decision will have not just more details, and as a result lay out more dots, but will also be able to tell you why those dots connect, and how they prefer them connecting. Someone who was tangential to the decision will deliver the same headlines, but no detail. Someone involved in the decision would describe things in first person terms, while those who were not, say implementers, will use third party description. You will also see who was able to drive a decision, and who could not; in the case of the latter, listen for who internally they blame for the decision, (or lack of one), those are the people you should pursue to connect and bring into the current cycle.

You will also get a window into how progressive and early to adopt they are, or are they the type that wait second or third iteration of a technology.

The How

Now that you have a sense around how they deal with their “whys”, why change, why that, or more like why not, it is time to turn to how they select based on the why.

“So now I understand why you chose to go with that kind of database, help me understand how you selected ACME Corp as the vendor?”

Much like above, you will be clearly able to tell if they were in the thick of it, or someone that was not invited to the offsite where the decision was really made. People may want to embellish, but you will be able to have a good view wit the right questions.

The reality is that everyone will paint a positive picture in the start, even the “Brochure Scouts” sent to gather information. Exploring their role in past similar decisions will help you gauge their closing average, which has a direct impact on yours.

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Biz On The Beach 3

Proactive Prospecting Summer – Part 10

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Many in sales look at summer as a time where they can slow down a bit, reflecting what they believe to be the pace of things around them. That’s just wrong on so many levels, that we’ll leave it to others to analyze, our focus is Execution, improved Execution. So rather than following the 80% of your peers who go into summer mode, I instead invite you to use the summer to improve your prospecting skills so can remain in that 20% that drives the economy, the 80% is piggybacking on.

Every Thursday in July and August, the posts in the Pipeline will focus on a specific element in Proactive Prospecting. While this in itself will put you on the path to better prospecting, meaning a fuller pipeline of better opportunities, you can take it a step further by enrolling in the Proactive Prospecting Program on Sales Gravy University. Consisting of instruction by me, exercises, and tools, the same program clients have used to increase conversions and pipeline by over 25%. Enroll in the program today, and use the Thursday Proactive Prospecting Summer series to keep you on track, and filling your pipeline. By the end of the summer you will have both more opportunities in your pipeline than the 80% who “took the summer off”, but the skills that will keep you ahead.

Today we will look at two important sometime related often confused fundamentals, Objectives and Execution.

Objectives

As you know I am not a big fan of pain in selling, not because I am squeamish, but because buyers in pain are a small part of the overall opportunity, they are pursued by everyone and as such feel entitled to “a better deal” instead of the right deal. The largest pool of opportunity professional sales people have are those buyers not impeded by pain, but are focused on achieving their business Objectives. If you change your narrative from pain to Objectives, you will be communicating to, and heard by a greater segment of the market, a segment ignored by the 80% who are “jonesing” for pain; let’s look at that for a sec.

Every business and business person has Objectives. Some will run into a problem along the way, usually about 10%, and they will seek to relieve that pain, but then get back on track to achieving their Objectives. So to engage more meaningfully with a greater segment of the market, you need to forget pain, and embrace Objectives. The best way to do that is to actually set your own Objectives, and experience the opportunities and challenges in achieving them. This will give you the ability to empathize with others who are focused on Objectives, not just pain.

Here’s what you do, right now: write down your objectives for this program, no more than three, you gotta be real. Make them specific, “I want to be better at starting the call”; “Communicate value more effectively”; “Have my voice mails returned”, you name it, but set a clear, realistic Objective based on where you are now, and where you’d like to be by Labour Day.

Execution

We all know success in sales is all about Execution, everything else is just talk; so while setting Objectives is a step in the right direction, actually doing it is another. Some of you may be familiar with the old riddle:

Five frogs sitting on a log – four decide to jump off, how many are left on the log?
While most answer one, the answer is five.
Deciding to do something and doing it are two different things!

You Have To Jump

No matter how good a set of Objectives we set, they are worthless till executed. I’ll challenge you with an Objective: Focus on correcting what you did wrong, rather than waiting for perfection to try.

Feel free to e-mail me directly as you take advantage of the many things you’ll learn in your Proactive Prospecting Summer and the Proactive Prospecting Program on line.

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quiz score 2

Holiday Sales Quiz0

Given we are in holiday mode on both sides of the border, Independence holiday no less, I thought we’d keep things light today.

Below is a classic scene from Tin Men, take the time to watch, and then answer respond to the poll below, specifically what kind of sales style or school would you say was employed to win the sale.

Based on the video above, which sales style would you say was used to close the deal?

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Hypos

Hypothetically Speaking2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

It is easy to understand why some, especially in business, don’t like hypotheticals, they want to deal with facts, and tangible things that impact their business. Many view hypotheticals as just a distraction from things they need to deal in the real world. But it is precisely because it is a distraction, something that takes them away from the challenges they are dealing with that make hypotheticals a good tool for sellers.

Often, especially early in discovery, it takes a bit of an effort to pull back the layers and get to the substantive issues that can impact a prospects business, due to previous “abuse” by lesser sellers that preceded you, prospects may be a bit guarded. They may be reluctant to share key information that could actually help you formulate the right plan for them. A bigger challenge can be to take them in a direction they had not considered, may have misconceptions about, or areas they have avoided due to perceived risk, even if we do see it as such, the prospect is driving this process.

Hypotheticals allow you to engage around these areas without the associated risk. Some sellers, firm in their conviction that they have a great “solution” for the prospect, will ignore the buyer’s reluctance, hoping the strength of their solution will prevail. It may, but only if the prospect is open to the topic, but if not, as is the case for most buyers, their solution does not see the light of day, and it’s all for not. Framing the discussion in a hypothetical, especially a hypothetical outside the company, allows they buyer to tip their tows in the water without the sense of commitment of a head on question presentation. They don’t have to own a hypothesis, the sellers does, if they don’t agree, no harm, if it starts to resonate, all the better.

Hypotheticals are also a great way to get people to think outside their current lane. This is especially powerful if you are dealing with a buyer who has traveled all alone the first “57% of their buying journey”. By the time they get to you (I know you think you got to them), they have firm impressions if not opinions or more; to change their direction, to get them to take an alternate path to the one they are down, you’re much better off using hypothetical than facts. This is not to say we ignore the facts, but if they are not willing to have the discussion, the facts as you see them may or will not see the light of day. Starting them off with a hypothetical allows them to step outside their lane without all the associated risk.

HyposHypotheticals will get the prospect to share facts (pains if you like that type of thing), you otherwise would not have discovered. One of mu favourites is to ask a prospect a forward looking hypothetical. Placing the scenario into the future allows them to escape the shackles of today, and go to a happier place in the future, a future that is sunny and bright. I start by asking:

“I am curious Julie, if we were meeting here, 18 months from now, and you were happily telling me that your team had hit a Grand Slam, what would that look like?”

It may take them a minute to get going, as they start their journey to feeling what a Grand Slam feels like, but if you don’t interrupt, they will get going, and tell you all the things they want to be real 18 months from now. You’ll be amazed what they will share, as long as you let them. When they have shared their vision of a Grand Slam, I follow with:

“That’s a great vision Julie, and I can see why that would indeed be a Grand Slam; so help me understand why we are not there now?”
And that is when they will share with you all the things they see being in their way. I find that they usually share a number of things I have a “solution” for. This is when we move from the hypothetical to the real world, to the sale.

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You Are Where You Are By Choice0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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