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Why sales reps are always “Just touching-base”!2

The Pipeline Guest Post – Gerald Vanderpuye

Just Touching Base!

In baseball, a player who is touching base is not in danger of being put out. In sales, we must continue to touch-base or follow-up as it’s also known to stay in the game of sales.  When your rep loses a real opportunity, it’s because of a poor follow up. You sales rep couldn’t touch base either in the right manner or failed to follow-up enough.  

Time kills deals!

Professional sales people know time kills deals and deals get stuck in the infamous black hole where nothing happens for days weeks and months. This is the moment when it is more important than ever to touch base.

The Follow-up challenge!

Although sales managers would argue some sales reps are simply lazy and refuse to follow up, the problem for the majority of salespeoplesales people is more about effectively following up rather than the will to follow up.

An effective follow-up strategy gets a sales deal out of the black hole and back on into the light (the sales process).  We use the term black hole because sales have no idea what’s going on with the buyer and the deal, all they know is the deal is slowly getting out of their control and getting harder and harder to touch base.

This lack of information about the buyer leaves salespeople following up blindly which ends with disengaged Buyers who get spammed and annoyed.  We delved deep into thousands of deals and got an insight into what was happening on the Buyer side.

Know when to Follow up!

Opportunity win rate  for our customer is between 8%-40% for all new sales. At least 60% of buyers were never going to buy and ultimately waste the reps time.  We then measured how much time buyers spent on reading the sales and marketing content shared and discovered hundreds of Buyers often show initial engagement, then drop off, however, come back at a later stage. Without these insights, sales reps were often touching base at times totally out of sync with the when the buyers are most interested.  Imagine a Buyer that is disengaged during the month of February yet receives seven follow-up emails from the sales rep.  The sale is lost in the CRM. However, there is no follow up when the buyer come’s back to the shared marketing content months down the line when the interest is real and sale is back on.

Give your Buyer a reason to act now!

There is another 25% of Buyers that are genuinely interested in the problem you are solving! They simply do not have a compelling reason to act now.  In this scenario, the touching base is mostly about being consistent with the relevant content that either generates a compelling reason for the buyer to act.  

Helping your buyer sell Internally

Finally,  prospects who are struggling to sell your product internally. There are other stakeholders they need to bring into the picture, and they need the right messaging and content to capture these stakeholders interest.  Can you help your champion get their interest with your content and follow ups?   

Professional sales enablement organisations understand that an excellent follow-up strategy is a must for success as 80% of closed deals require five follow-ups before close. Although this Data for why sales reps need to follow up is evident still 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up.   BuyerDeck provides sales reps real data about where the buyer is in the buying cycle (Not the sales process ) and suggests the perfect content/message to follow up effectively.

If you are interested in helping your sales teams better follow up with technology that is fully integrated into your CRM here is an opportunity.  We are now giving away 5000 free licences to broaden our feedback pool. Visit our giveaway site to see if you qualify.*

About Gerald Vanderpuye

As a proud co-founder at BuyerDeck, I have three passions: I love sales, technology and creating happy customers. I have been in sales, marketing and delivering remarkable customer experiences the last 10 years. My last position was at Rackspace where I was responsible for  developing sales strategy and driving business growth through existing customers and new Logo acquisitions in key markets. I was leading and managing a diverse team to deliver on new growth targets for both Enterprise and SMB’s. I am now leading the team at BuyerDeck to bootstrap the distribution of our B2B SAAS product beyond the initial traction of 12K buyers and sellers.

 

* I do not receive payment of any sort from BuyerDeck, just looking to help them give away 5000 licences. Tibor Shanto

 

Richtung Pfeil

A Sweeter Approach To Prospecting Success0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

As we head in to the second half of the year you realize you need to prospect and get some more opportunities in your pipeline. As you seek advice from your peers, one veteran tells you “You gotta buckle down and make more calls”, sage advice from someone who is under quota. Then you turn to a younger colleague and ask, not direct but by text, what she does, she tells you “OMG, get in to the 21st century, forget that calling stuff, you need to be a social seller.” But looking at the leader board, she is not making quota either. The guy at the top of the board, the one you really want advice from, is out of the office, making quota.

Forget the “us and them” of the chattering class. Stop being conflicted, stop wasting time and brain cells, do what the silent successful minority is doing, Reese’s Selling, where they combine the best of many viable selling approaches to deliver more than any can on their own. Safe, easy, tasty and quota satisfying!

As with most things in sales your only limits are your imagination and willingness to execute.

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16e083ee-9dc0-4e1c-91fa-2f33b6a4bd07

Are Your Sales Relationships Painful?1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

People ask me why I focus so much on prospects’ objectives, after all if you can find a pain and play to it, you are bound to get a sale.  Well maybe.  I always find it amusing that when I ask people what do they want to know about a potential buyer, too many say “I want to know what their pain point is, their needs, the problem”.   When I ask what they want to achieve in a first/second meeting with a prospect, they start gushing on about wanting to establish a relationship.  One guy at an IT consulting/systems integrator, said this to me literally when I asked what his goal is for a first meeting: “I want to find the soft underbelly of the beast; stab it; then serve up the cure”.  While you may be shaking your head, and rightfully so, I hear this same type of thing said differently by so many in sales, including pundits, I worry.

You Don’t Have To Hurt The Ones You Love

So maybe I am missing the point, but how does one go from poking (or probing) for pain, latent or other, and in the space of one hour or so go to forming a relationship?  Maybe it is a Bizarro sales version of the Stockholm Syndrome.  How else can you explain the expectation that one can search for or deliver pain with a blunt instrument, and establish rapport or a relationship, even if you hand out Aspirins.What I see as being more effective, even with buyers who are screaming with pain, is to focus the buyer on a point down the road, a point in time 18 – 24 months in the future. You want the buyer to “see” themselves, their aspirations and their opportunities in your narrative and experience. Your ability to create an authoritative dialogue aligned with their objectives, based on specific instances where you have enabled and enhanced clients’ ability to reach their long term objectives, but to speak convincingly about specific impacts and outcomes.

While there is no doubt that in the near term pain relief is paramount, it does beg the question what then?  Pain is short term, usually negative, and limiting. While objectives are long term, tied to other initiatives, uplifting and positive, and as a result have an energy “pain” and “needs” don’t.

By marginalising the “pain”, and focusing on the big picture beyond the current pain, you can create a level of involvement and emotional commitment that is not available when it’s only about solving an immediate problem. Long term relationships should be tied to the long term, be that goals, objectives, etc. Clearly you want to address and resolve immediate “problems”, but you need to position that is but a small line item in a much bigger plan. To do that, you need to open up the conversation to align it with the big picture.  As mentioned, pain discussions are narrow and limiting, so in conversation with a client, assume you will solve the problem, and steer towards the long term.

A Primer

I have written about this in the past, but I find a two-part question to be an effective way of practicing and fine tuning this. You will need to make it more specific to your buyers over time, but use this as a primer.

Once you get past the usual social element at start of the meeting, ask:

I am curious Jane, if we were sitting here 18 months from now, and you were telling me your team had hit a grand slam, what would that look like?

The goal is to get them to look past their current positions pain or perhaps problem, and refocus the on their success plan, hence the grand slam reference. You’ll find that there is a moment of reflection, a couple of basic things, and then it gets interesting when they start detailing what their equivalent of a grand slam is.  Once you have let them share their vision, you really do need to shut up here and intensely listen, you can the ask the second question:

Help me understand why we are not there now?

You will often find that they reflect again, and start telling you about what’s keeping them from hitting grand slam.  What you’ll also find is that they will talk about many of the same things you have helped other achieve, and build a relationship around.

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Yes Small

The Complete Salesperson?2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I witnessed an interesting exchange the other day, two Sales VP’s were exchanging views on hiring, on=boarding and development of sales people. One offered up that he only wants to hire A players, “people who do not want to prospect all their career”. For context, this VP had a team of SDR’s and account managers. Before I could jump in, the other VP asked “what do you mean, prospecting is a key skill for A players.” Or at least his definition of an A Player.

We’re All The Same At The Start

There is no doubt that the pattern for a long time has been to start off a sales career prospecting, because unless you adopt a territory, there is no other way to build a base, (even if you’re good at referrals, you need someone to refer you). As we build the base we become victims of our success, demand on our time and attention turns to maintaining and organically growing the base. And eventually stop prospecting, or do a token amount.

The Turn

The other thing that happens is a change in attitude. Sales people hate it when a buyer chooses an alternate product, perhaps not as robust as ours, and tells us that despite everything, the alternative is good enough. While that hurts, many can deal with it, why? Because they have also adopted the same “good enough” attitude. The reach a level of income that is “good enough”, the effort it takes to prospect just becomes a bit more than they are willing to commit. Sure they could go from $250,000 to $300,000 or more with a bit of prospecting, “But hey, you know $250,000 is good enough, I’d much rather work on my putt and short game.” Usually this followed by one of the saddest statements a professional sales person can make: “I have earned the right not to have to prospect anymore.” I would argue that your product, customer service, finance and others in the company earned most of that. The key value any sales person bring is customers who represent new revenue streams. Other than direct referrals, prospecting is the optimal path to that.

With the exception of a few products, when you stop prospecting, you diminish your value as a sales person. It’s not about greed or just making more money, it is about continuing to be the best they can be. Can you imagine the blow back if an athlete said that they have earned the right not to pass, or slide, or anything required to win? A players have a different outlook.

Wisdom Of Success

I remember training a financial services professional, top three in his branch, been there 15 years, had a “book” of business he could milk for years. As I would work with new recruits, on his own, he would always come in and tell the participants why he loves to prospect, especially outside his network. He gave two compelling reasons:

1. If he could secure one or two new clients a year, he would have all that many more referrals to add to the ones his current clients were providing.
2. If one of his clients fell away, perhaps taking some of their referral with them, they would be replaced.

I am not sure I can agree with the VP when he say that A players are those that don’t want to prospect, I think A players do it, and don’t complain about it, because they know the rewards of their work.

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Boy scratching his head, confused by what is happening

Is That All The Difference You Got?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Here is an example of an element discussed in Monday’s post.  It’s hard to see the difference when you all look the same. Time for Sales and Marketing to step up and say something that makes a difference for the buyer.

Ever wonder why buyers would rather go it on their own?  I did when I was watching my favourite Sunday morning political pundit parade, these commercials were one spot apart in the same break.

If this is the best Marketing and Sales can come up with in speaking to their potential customers, no wonder it is coming down to price, there is little other difference between the two.

No wait, did the one guy shave his beard for the second one?  Is it surprise buyers are confused and would rather do it on their own, and companies need apps to do their selling for them?

Back to the drawing board.

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Group portrait of a professional business teamon dark background

Feature/Benefit – Or – Feature/Price3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Every tribe has its myths, collective beliefs, and things they claim to believe, things they avoid or adhere to, for sales the concept of Feature/Benefit is a go to favourite. While some believe this mode of selling may be outdated, and have moved beyond, the essence of most sales conversations, for many, Feature/Benefit is still the staple of their approach. Usually supported by their marketing teammates, it dominates their selling style, messaging, content and approach. For those who have moved beyond the basic Feature/Benefit, it may seem odd, but I am willing to bet, based on daily encounters with sales people and sales organisations, that a good majority of people reading this are selling based on some iteration of the Feature/Benefit selling.

Benefits?

There are a number of iterations of Feature/Benefit selling that are quite effective. It all hinges on which Features you leverage, and more importantly to whose Benefit. Stating that a particular Feature allows the product to spew out 11% more of something per hour, or faster, or shinier, means nothing. More, better, faster, is all good and nice, but still very vendor centric, and speaks to their view of Benefit, usually versus another competitor, including the current state (Status Quo being you number one competitor).  Consistent high performers see that as a spring board to what really matters, the buyer’s objectives.  These objectives are rarely framed in features which can be mapped to the product or offering.  They are defined in outcomes, impacts and how achieving one set of business objectives, sets the buyer up to achieve the next one.  High performers frame the Benefit in the outcomes and the business possibilities available to the buyer when they reach their second and third set of objectives.  Buyers, especially Status Quo buyers, ones who have neither started or interested in starting a buyer journey, will engage if you can get them to believe that you can impact their objectives, which Feature is leveraged in doing that, is usually irrelevant to the buyer.

Features?

Taking it back a bit, often the problem is not just the Benefits highlighted, but the actual Features showcased. In many instances marketers and sellers are blinded by their relationship and proximity to the product they sold for a time, and even may have had a in it’s development and introduction to the market.  Features are introduced because they may have seemed cool internally, those close to the product, but added nothing to the clients’ experience. How many times have you seen upgrades, especially in web based products or services, that did nothing but allow the vendor to talk about the upgrade, while pissing you off because you have to relearn something that makes no difference from outcome point of view. A lot like the Febreze “nose-blind” commercial, what others removed from the product experience is not the same as those who spend all their time with it, and depend on it for their success.

Which Is What?

The only features that count are ones that drive buyer’s objectives, delivering impacts that benefits the buyer in their terms, not in terms of the feature.  It’s simple, if the Benefit is a stat, not a specific business outcome for the buyer, try again.  If the Feature was thought of internally by someone who thought it was cool but has never faced a customer, rather than based on buyer input, the sale will be decided based on Feature – Price, with no Benefit.  Back to the drawing board.

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hashtag

#Notafact2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I just can’t help myself, but sport analogies are so great when it comes to making some points about sales.  You know when your team is down by some outrageous score, no hope of a come back, Jesus or not, just like the Raptors in game 5.  But still you have fans yelling “Defence, Defence, Defence” as though the louder they yell, the more times they yell it will somehow make a real difference, as though they can make the rally “trend”.  At the same time, seeing players interviewed on the side line, repeating symbolic words and well worn clichés, as though saying it will change the lack of execution on the playing field.

This came to the fore when I attended a recent sales event, where the masses gathered to hear the pundits speak.  To be honest I felt like I was at a sales revival more than a sales event, where amens and hallelujahs were replaced hashtags and internet speak.  To be clear, it is important that presenters speak the language of their audience, just as sellers need to be multi-lingual, and speak the language of their buyer, language is important after all since it is the vehicle for substance.  But when there is a complete lack of substance, language is the only take away, or the only message; Marshall you came too soon.  In this case or event, the less substance the presenter had, the more #this and #that they threw out.  It left one sitting there wondering WTF they were saying and wishing that they would just stfu.

Of course the tweets and RT’s streamed behind them on the big screen, only to be reshared and retweeted by the masses.  “Oh look Henry, we’re trending”.  No you’re echoing, it reminds one of the singer at the Holiday Inn on the edge of town, telling everyone that they are ”world famous in Topeka Kansas”, and even then, just that night.

Just because you slap a hashtag on something does not make it real, better or a fact, in many cases it just makes the message more irritating.  You can tell the crowd that the only way to succeed in sales is one#way, the one in your #book, only to be out hashtaged by the next presenter, with his #book, with more hashtag friendly words on the cover that he can get everyone in the crowd to repeat.  #Boring #Sad

As with most things in sales, the arbiter is the buyer, or in professional selling the non-buyer, those who did not come to your website and download the same thing they downloaded from five of you competitors along their 57% of the journey, a journey they started without any prompting from a sales person, because they had a need.  Professional sellers are the ones that identify, reach out to and engage with those potential prospects who were not interested in starting a “buyer” journey, because they were not “buyers”, had no perceived need, no perceived need.  With there prospects, you need to lean on substance, not colloquial expressions, or trending buzzwords. #Oyvey.

Don’t forget to join me and Michelle Schifrin is the Lead Customer Success Manager at Prezi, for a webinar today at 1:00 PM ET.
REGISTER HERE

 

THINKING PROCESS

Forget Presenting and Start Engaging #Webinar0

June 9, 2016 10:00 AM PT/1:00 PM ET

Communication is central to sales success, and communication is a multi-faceted experience.  Sure the message is key, a bad message can set you back; while a great crystal clear message, delivered on target can be a crucial to your success.  But what happens with a perfectly crafted message that misses the mark, does not land the way it was intended?  Sale lost.

Among the things you can control is the how a message is delivered, and how it is taken on by a buyer.  In a world where death by PowerPoint is the norm in selling, presenting yet another sales presentation may not be the way to go.  We all want to engage buyers, encourage a dialogue based on their objectives and business driver, your visuals should align with those, not force the buyer to align with your visuals.

Join Michelle Schifrin and I, the Lead Customer Success Manager at Prezi, to explore how high performing sellers and leading sales organizations are facilitating interactions that deliver the message to a buyer in a way that drives the dialogue, drives sales, and drives mutual benefit for both the buyer and seller.

You’ll learn:

  • How to tell your story in a visual way that engages buyers, creates value, and drives action
  • Case studies from real sales teams who have successfully implemented visual storytelling with a positive ROI
  • How to tackle the challenges that come with transitioning to a more engaging approach to delivering sales presentations

Register

paraocchi

Do Facts Matter?2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I recently took in a discussion where one of the panelists addressed the question of preference and decision making. Specifically, individuals’ tendencies (or lack thereof) to change their mind once they have developed a primary preference.

The Decision Journey

The gist of it was that as people begin the decision journey, especially in instances where they know they will have to make a decision, be that a purchase decision, one person to date versus another, or an election, they begin to rank “choices” and identify a potential front runner.  The question then is can those choice or preferences be changed?  There is no doubt that they can be reinforced and strengthened, no matter who you back in the coming American elections, you are likely to take on things that support your “preference”, and likely to rationalize or ignore those that challenge them.

A pundit on the panel was firm in his belief that once that preference is in place, even when at a subconscious level, or when a person claims they are open to alternatives, it is harder to change than many believe.  So what does it take to change their minds, can their minds be changed, and most interestingly, what is the role and power of facts in the process?

Well it seems that facts, no matter how solid, are not that useful in changing people’s minds and having them switch from their initial preference.  Which is a bit of a problem for sales people.

Buying On Emotion

While many sales and marketing people will tell you that people buy on emotion, and then spend time and effort rationalising that decision, they continue to lean on the rational and fact based efforts in trying to win over buyers with a preference.  Be that case studies, ROI calculations, data, etc.  Yet there is a counter effect to these facts based evidence, buyers will feel the need to defend initial choice when they feel it is being challenged, especially when the buying spotlight is on them.  Their emotions are triggered, and they double down on rationalizing rather than evaluating rationally.  Whether we put that off to ego, weakness, their need to hold power in the decision, doesn’t matter, the outcome is the same.

Getting Ahead of Their Preference

So what’s a seller to do if they are not the “preferred” one early in the process, or when the buyer arrives at 57% mark of their journey?  Shift facts by shifting the narrative.

Take the discussion back to the beginning, before the initial preference occurred.  What caused them to enter the market to begin with, why did they start that 57% journey all alone, before having a preference, then calling them, then calling you as a way to validate they made the right choice.  Telling them they didn’t, no matter how right, will just confirm they have the right vendor in column A.

But if you can take them back to square one, you can be in a position to understand their objectives, what business outcome they were trying to achieve before they looked out the window?  You need to leverage their objectives and focus on outcomes they are looking to bring to their business.  More than demonstrating your understanding of those objectives, you have to show how others have achieved those same objectives, the business impacts they were able to realize.  Only after this would you introduce your role in the process, doing it earlier will just drive them back to their initial vendor preference.  It still goes to emotion, one of risk, getting it wrong, has a greater pull than the reward of getting it right.  But the wrong here is not the product, but achieving the objective or not.  And when it comes to that, facts don’t matter.

Join me and Michelle Schifrin is the Lead Customer Success Manager at Prezi, for a webinar:
Why Sales Teams Should Forget Presenting and Start Engaging
Thursday at 1:00 PM ET.

REGISTER HERE

Pain Pills

Pick Your Pain0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

There is a lot of talk in sales about pain, sales people seem to be always looking for it in buyers, trying to avoid it in their world, yet selectively being open to some pain, while completely avers to the same or lesser pain served up differently.  Many sales people seem to live a variation of an old sayings, “Better the pain you know than the pain you don’t know”; “The lesser of two pains.”  For me it all stems from prospecting, sales people willingness to prospect thoroughly and consistently.

When I ask sales people why they don’t like to tele-prospect, the number one reason I get is the fear of rejection, the pain of rejection seems so big and painful, that people would rather forfeit success, than pick up the phone and talk to a real prospect.   No doubt there is a big rejection factor, chances are you will be rejected by about 86% of the people you speak with.

At the same time, studies have shown that on average the close ratio of Sales Qualified Leads in B2B sales is 16.4%.  Looked at the other way, this is an 83.4% rejection rate.  Yet I have never heard a rep tell me they don’t want to go to a first appointment for fear of being rejected at the end.  They happily march off to battle, giving it their all, never thinking twice about the impending rejection to come, they lean in to it and make it happen, well sometimes, really about 16.4% of the time.  So what am I missing 86.00% vs. 83.40%, where in the 2.6% difference is the tipping point?  While rejection in any form is undesirable, seems to me the quick bullet between the eyes when making a cold call is much better than the slow death.  I hate it when you go down to the wire and get a no, having invested the effort time and resources required moving the sale along.  You don’t know the guy who just hung up on you, and he would not have a clue who you are when you stand behind him waiting for his “skinny soy venti double shot Iced Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha”.  It is even worse with Marketing Qualified Leads, according to some, 98% will not lead to closed business.

The key difference is the complete lack of process and metrics around prospecting vs. the rest of the sale.  Most sales people and organizations have clear process for the sales from handshake to close.  The stages are defined, activities, tools, measurements all in place.  Contingencies for different road blocks, potential alternatives, and resources.  This allows for context and understanding, we may not like the results, but we can contextualize it based on the process, and take lessons into the next sale.

The same can be said for the lead generation process.  Clear rules around what happens when there is an inquiry, how they are nurtured, etc.

But when it comes to that first contact there is little process.  Sure some give you a script, but what about the dynamics, how to deal with environment created by an interruption, how to handle the most common objections.  Metrics are absolute, rather qualitative and individual, making them limiting not enabling.

In the end though the worst pain is that of being “Rejected from President’s Club”.   Somehow some sales people would rather live with the pain, stigma and reality of missing quota, than a brief rejection from someone they do not know, who will forget them long before the next call.

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