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You’re Only Fooling Yourself – Sales eXecution 2930

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Taking a look at oneself

Everyday people commit to doing things, only not to do them. There are many reasons for this, and I am sure a host of contributing factors, but none of that changes the results, or more accurately the lack of results. From my perch, being an observer and practitioner of sales and selling, the most common cause is laziness. People commit to doing things differently, to taking on new practices, decide to approach things differently, only to stay exactly where they started, and by virtue of that, and given the nature if sales these days, that is really a step back.

What many do not want to recognize or face is that selling is hard work, good selling, is really hard work, selling well in an evolving market is as hard as anything out there, requiring constant practice and upgrading of skills, then practicing them over and over endlessly. Take any endeavour where success is part core skill, part flare, few are born with their skills fully formed, be they athletes, musicians, actors, or authors. It is certainly no different for sales people. The difference is conviction and the effort that goes with it.

Go to any local music conservatory or ballet company, and watch the kids trying to get in to the program. Visit any of your local little leagues team, and observe. What you will see is endless practice, every day a regime of hours of practice, in some cases three to five hours of core training and practice. Sometimes the same, other times adding evolving elements. This is over and above the “on stage” or “on field” time, we are talking practice time.

I know some will point to “natural born” talent, geniuses in their field. But if you look at the most famous examples of these people, what you will find is less divine presence and more hard work. Look at someone like Charlie Parker, known as a jazz virtuoso, unparalleled improvisation. No doubt, but what many didn’t see was the hours of practice that allowed him to do what he did in the clubs at night. At times up to 15 hours a day; how much did you practice for your last sales meeting?

This is a level of commitment many in sales are not willing to make. I work with many sales people who come to me knowing and asking to make the changes they need to drive their success, and never follow up, as though having an invoice and certificate will make a difference.

Oh, but you’ve been in the business for 22 years you say. So what, does that give one the right to not improve? The market is changing, are you? Updating your LinkedIn profile is not the same as practicing and updating your skills, staying ahead of the competition, and ahead of the market.

But it is not just the sales people, many managers and organizations fail to create an environment that supports the level of commitment. Studies have shown that daily coaching with individual reps, as little as 10 minutes a day, can lead to a 17% increase in revenue. Not only do most companies not see this as viable, many pundits shy away from recommending this “daily practice”, for fear of losing gigs.

The question is straight forward, do you expect less of yourself than you would your favourite point guard?

Tibor Shanto

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Remember Your First Sale?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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There is no doubt that experience is a plus in any vocation, including sales, just look at any job posting for sales, and with the exception of entry level positions, they will demand experience both in terms of tenure and industry related. As with other things in life, there are no absolutes, it is usually a case of upside and downside. The upsides are clear and straight forward, so let’s look at the downside and risk of experience, both as it impacts individual sales people, and sales organizations.

In most disciplines the biggest victim of experience is creativity, in the form of the curiosity that comes with being new; a sense of exploration, a naïve ignorance that removes limits from many individuals, allowing them to go where others “with knowledge and experience” may not go. Given that these factors are usually the core components of creativity in sales, and that in sales creativity is one of the last differentiators, how do you reach the right balance?

Think back to your first sales position, everything was new, everything required learning. If you were with some bigger companies you got training as part of your on-boarding. But if you were with a smaller, not small, just smaller company, you likely got more product training and orientation than sales related training; and we are talking formal training not war stories from the “older guy. The older guy that you should not have been learning from, because if he did know better, he would have been out on calls, not in the office with time to hold court.

Left to your own devices, you improvised, tried different things, some worked, some were bruising, but collectively they added to you initial success and experience. As things got better and you committed to your sales career, and you likely did two things, you developed routines, and took some training, building experience. As you career evolved, and you “usually” made quota, or only missing by a “bit”, your experience grew, your training reinforced your routines and habits. As you had “more of it down” the less adventurous you got, and the narrower your curiosity and appreciation for alternatives, you were now set in your ways, or as someone I work with says “stuck in your ways”.

Over 40% of things we do every day, we do habitually or out of habit. Meaning we don’t need to think about it, we just do it. This applies to both good and bad habits. Runners run as a habit, they build their daily runs into their daily routine, it’s not a run by run question. Smokers light up habitually, they don’t think about it, they just do it.

The great thing about that is things that need to get done – get done, usually in a familiar, predictable and consistent fashion, without a lot of thought or consuming much of the energy required for the 60% that are not habit. The problem with that is we don’t think about it, we just do it, it’s easier for day to day things, the way we do it rarely change, rarely improve or rarely reinvent themselves. Not a good thing in a continuously changing and evolving market, where buyers are challenged by change, and have access to not only more information, but more choices.

So what’s a sales professional to do, deconstructing habits takes time and effort; forming new habits takes time and effort, and executing every aspect of every sale in a way that avoids routine or habits, also carries the same cost.

Start simple, as you review opportunities that did not close, ask yourself, what were some recurring things you do, or fail to do, that contributed to the loss. If you didn’t do specific things would things have turned out better, same for things you may have done. As you review opportunities that you win, ask yourself which things you did may have slowed the sale down or introduced risks. What are some things that you do that if you stopped doing would not slow or risk the sale. In hindsight, what are some things that if you did during the sale would have accelerated the sale or improved the outcome?

Give yourself a break, and at first just try to identify those things that you do by habit that you can stop doing without negative impact. This may be a challenge, especially when by definition we do not think about things we do by habit, this is why it is best to examine what you do in the context of a deal review, we are already (or should be) in critical mode.

A more challenging but valuable step is one often better done as a team, and led by the manager. Pick a current opportunity or a recent deal, and ask: “If I didn’t know better, if I were new to sales, what would I do?” It’ll take a bit of an effort to break out of your “experience”, but once you get rolling, and get past the familiar, you’ll find some great ideas. Resist the urge to “know better”, and examine it in context of the situation not your experience. Look for things that may solicit the response “that’s a rookie thing to do”, because those are the elements you can build on. You’ll also find that some suggestions will make you remember things you used to do but stopped. The great things is you can always start again.

While you do want to review every deal, you may not want to review your “habits” for every deal. If you started on a monthly basis, then move to quarterly, throw in a regular “What would I do if I didn’t know better” exercise, you’ll strike a balance, and develop a great new habit.

Tibor Shanto

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Sales Triggers: Don’t Wait – Create

Join me and DiscoverOrg for a Free Webinar today at 1:00 pm Eastern 10:00 am Pacific:

Register Now!

 

Talking Sales Strategy – Sales eXecution 2921

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

TV Head

Earlier in the month, I was invited to sit in with Executive coach and Sales Coaching Expert Steven Rosen, and Emma Foster of expertise.tv. The questions came from the audience, and as such will hopefully be similar to those areas of sales you are interested in. You can view and excerpt below, and watch the entire program on my You Tube channel.

Have a look, and tell us what you think.

Tibor Shanto

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Looking for More and Better Prospects?0

Who isn’t right!

Webinar Laptop

Well the good news is that over the next couple of weeks I will be participating in two webinars aimed at helping you do just that.

On Thursday April 16, at 1:00 pm Eastern:

I will be part of a webinar with eGrabber, titled: Mastering two key elements of Sales and Prospecting success. Along with Clinton Rozario, we will be looking at the most efficient and effective ways to source leads and then connect with them so you can start selling.

To learn more and register, click here!

Later in the month on

On Thursday April 23, at 1:00 pm Eastern:

I will be joining my friends at DiscoverOrg, and will look at Sales Triggers: Don’t Wait – Create. We all know about trigger events, how they create opportunities, we will look at how to better leverage events, and how to trigger similar reactions without having to wait like everyone else.

If you need new prospects to fill your pipeline with the right opportunities, you should attend these webinars. You learn specific steps you can take, tools that will make you more effective and learn about new developments in helping you succeed in prospecting.

To learn more and register, click here!

Look forward to having you along,
Tibor

Facts Vs. Reality2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Haa2

The other day at the Sales Performance Summit, fellow presenter, Tim Hurson referenced an old Russian proverb; and I am paraphrasing:

” Nine pregnant women for one month do not make a baby.”

It reminded me a lot of many people in the revenue process. I say revenue process, because people in both sales and marketing say silly things, often causing the loss of revenue instead of enhancing the experience and leading to results.

Having watched many presentations and webinars, you see people falling into the trap of citing a string of unrelated facts that they believe will make for the truth, when in reality, they make for a string of unrelated facts and a loss of credibility with anyone listening.

I had a chance to take in a presentation from an expert making the case for how much things have changed, and that everything is being disrupted, and if you are not disrupting, blah, blah, blah. I mean really, when has that not been the case, just ask the horseshoe maker, and the guy who used to deliver ice blocks for the ice box in your granny’s kitchen. Another example of this intellectual masturbation, is when they cite facts that have been around for ages, as proof of change.

One example this person used was the fact that that over 80% of the companies that made up the Fortune 500 are no longer there. Not entirely true, as many are there in merged or reformed entities. Their argument is that this the fact that it is no longer business as usual, we are in the age of business unusual. Well I am sorry, when has there been a state of business as usual. Walk down any main street and see if the same store dominate as 25 years ago. Seems to me that a whole bunch of banks and investment houses disappeared in 2008, little to do with technology, millennials, or any new trends, same old corruption and rip offs.

The velocity of change has changed, but that change has been balanced on both sides, sellers are keeping up with market evolution and buyers evolving habits, and in many cases shaping and leading them. Same thing causing and allowing buyers to evolve are there also helping the seller evolve, just look at Amazon, Apple, Uber, and others that have led the buyers to do things, rather than the other way around.

As a seller you should take two things from this. Buyers will follow if you make sense. Just because it sounds good, it does not make sense. And if the buyer smell the BS, you’re fried, no matter how interactive or mobile friendly you are.

But they kept going, so let me share. Making the point that 2/3 of searches are now done on mobile devices, they couldn’t resist say that despite the number one search was still for pubs and bars, confirming that while people may change their method of searching to the most convenient and easiest mechanism, the underlining motivation has changed little.

Because it sounds good in a boardroom or focus group, it does not really going to help you sell. Another innovation that was supposed to enlighten us was the movement to benchmarking your company not against you peers, but other industries. Example given, two organization who apparently benchmark their timing/speed, against an F1 pit stop’s time for changing tires, seems they do that now in less than 3 seconds, vs. 67 in 1950, not sure what the point of that was other than ya, it’s faster. Oh what they failed to mention, in 1950 you can only have 4 crew members work on the care, whereas the 2013 example they were comparing it to had 18 crew members hands on car. But the belly laugh came when they told us about how now West Jet is benchmarking their turnaround time on the ground at airports against this. Further that operating rooms are also benchmarking themselves against the F1 pit stop. I don’t know about you, but given that the jet liner is already built on components provided by a lowest cost provider, I somehow wouldn’t mind if the pilot and crew took an extra minute on the ground, and take that walk a little slower to ensure that we don’t crash faster than we did in the 1950’s. Or that the surgeon take a couple of extra minutes before sowing me up. I know time is money, but there is cost to instruments being left in your body, and the cost of retrieving them.

The only purchase that resulted in this was me increasing my coverage to cover the downside of speed surgery.

Tibor Shanto

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There Is More To Leadership Than Leading – #SPS15 Special0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

woman with sketched strong and muscled arms

There is a lot written about leadership in general, and more specifically sales leadership, I have contributed my share to the din. This is a clear indication that no one has really figured it out, if they had the book will have been written, millions of copies sold, and people move past the debate, and focus on the next thing.

One common theme in pieces about leadership is how the leader needs to be involved and leading the process. And while that is true, the nature of that involvement differs based on who you read. I have always been an advocate of “leading from the front, not behind a desk”, and the assumption many take is that this literally means out in front of the troops Napoleon style. But I truly think that the best form of leadership, and means of driving change, the right change, not just change for change sake, anyone can rearrange the furniture and replace the curtains, is to not be part of the action. The best leadership, and I see things through the sales filter, is change that comes about in what appears to be in an organic way, initiated and completed by the sales rep/team, with only partial prints from the leader.

Managing/Coaching sales people, is really an exercise in selling. In a conventional sale we are trying to get the buyer to purchase our “stuff”, as a means of helping them achieve their objectives. Well as a coach, you are trying to get the sales person to integrate and take on your view alongside or instead of their current view or means of executing. That being the case, it really is best approached as a sale itself. As such, you not only have the opportunity to get the rep to buy into the change, but the means by which you do that could itself be a model or at a minimum, reinforce the process.

Everyone buys into the notion that “people don’t want to be sold”, and so you need to create a buying environment. The flaw with that in coaching is twofold. First While people may not want “to be sold”, they often need to be, that’s why we hire sales people. And the fact that the rep took on the job of selling, they have de facto declared that they want to buy, or buying to your process, otherwise, why are they working for you.

So how do we pull this together, simple, much like buyers like to hear things come out their mouth more than the sales reps, even when it was the sales person who choreographed the moment, sales people, especially established, good sales people who need to be taken to the next level, respond to ideas and actions that are their idea, not the managers. Meaning the best thing a manager can do lay down the bread crumbs, and let the rep discover things on their own, and when they do, you can become a resource in their journey to success.

How do you do that, I am old school, put the focus on your sales process. You have one right? Clear stages, specific activities in each stage, objectives, desired outcomes, tools, contingencies, and most importantly, clear reasons to disqualify. Each stage supported by an evolving playbook, and a clear next step go-no go, criteria. If you have this, you’re set to help the rep discover what you want them to, without directly leading them. If you don’t, you can call me and we can get you started.

As a first step, you can join me and my colleagues today for the 2015 Sales Performance Summit, webcast live from Toronto.

Tibor Shanto

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A Chat About Prospecting #BBSradio0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

That time again, when Michele Price’ and I get together to talk sales on BREAKTHROUGH radio.  This month we talk prospecting, I know your favourite.

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

Tibor Shanto

Live Cast

Are You Committing This Prospecting Sin? – Sales eXecution 2910

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Chrch candles

The biggest prospecting sin you can commit is not to prospect, but there are many others that are dangerous and can have almost as detrimental effect on your sales success, and more.

The one we’re going to look at today is a common technique used by many, encouraged by pundits is this one:

Your on the phone with a pre-qualified(?) prospect, and you say something to the effect of “I just need 15 minutes of your time…” Or it’s déclassée cousin “I just need 15 short minutes…” I mean really, what is the difference between the two, does the “short minutes” meeting have 50 second minutes, or will it just be that much less torturous?

Frankly this works well if you are selling a commodity, let’s see if the nut fits the bolt, can you deliver on time, and for two cents less. Yes, almost anyone can do that in 15 minutes. But selling something of value, selling “A Solution” that will take more than 15 minutes, no ifs ands or buts.

People use this approach because they feel that it will make it easier for the prospect to accept a 15 minute meeting. Said differently, “I’ll waste 15 minutes on this guy, but not more.” Sure you’re thinking that if you put on a good performance in that first 15 minutes, they’ll give an encore in the form of a further 15 or 30 minutes. Sure, sometimes, not often, usually you try and cram a meeting that properly unfolds in longer time frame into 15 minutes. Instead of initiating a good discovery exchange, most revert to a product pitch, after all “we are pressed for time”, and you can’t risk without presenting your value prop and at least a minimal look at your product. Next thing you know it’s time to try and get that next step, and go. And what is that next step in most cases, the meeting you really wanted in the first place.

So why not gear your call to that to begin with? If you truly have a solution worth having, one that actually solves (solution – solve) an issue they may be having, you know a pain or a need, lead with that, and get the right meeting. But when you say “Just 15 minutes”, it sounds like “please man, I am desperate, do me a solid, be a KPI.” Sure this may work once in a while, usually with the wrong prospect, but if it’s not inside the Bell Curve it’s a Hail Mary.

Like any sin, smoking, illicit activities, being a politician, what have you, there is the momentary pleasure, and lingering dark side. In this case you are starting your relationship, regardless of how far it may go, based on a lie. You know at the time you propose the meeting that you are not being truthful, as do your prospects, the 15 minutes is their insurance policy, “if this guy sucks as badly as I think he may, I can pull the lever after 15 minutes; if by chance he is good, then we’ll see.” Sure this may work once in a while, usually with the wrong prospect, but if it’s not inside the Bell Curve it’s a Hail Mary. I have always been for a separation of church and sales.

Tibor Shanto

Live Cast

You Can Play Nice or You Can Play To Win0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

iStock_000003854002Small

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tibor Shanto

Live Cast

FREE is A Four Letter Word – Sales eXecution 2900

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Solution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tibor Shanto

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