The Death of Cold Calling Has Been Greatly Exaggerated #webinar0

Join me on May 8th, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM PDT, as along with the folks from Exponential Sales, we explore sales from the singular view of execution.

The best sales organizations are those who excel at executing their sales process; from demand generation, to prospecting to closing and growing accounts. The best sales processes are those that evolve and reflect the changing nature of their clients and markets. While there will always be “new ways” to sell, the best sellers look for what works, not what is new or fashionable, including yes cold calling.

The challenge is adoption of process that continues to change as often and as fast as your clients’ markets; it is like building an airplane while it is flying.

Learn how winning sales teams are uncomplicating their sales with a focus on an activity based process. The clearly defined and executable sequence of high value activities that address clients’ requirements and move the sale forward with each activity.

Learn why and how consistently successful sales organizations understand that the focus is revenue, not sales or marketing, but an integrated approach to driving client success. The combination of process, high value activities and mutual accountability between sellers and buyers and the organization to their sellers, leads to revenue success, regardless of “style or fashion”.

Learn how:

  • Execution based selling beats and other selling
  • Its more efficient to develop a hybrid of sales skills
  • Why Cold Calling and social selling are not mutually exclusive
  • The mechanics of a functional and dynamic sales process
  • Why numbers matter
  • Why Execution is the last word in sales

If you lead a sales organization, manage a team or are a front line seller, you need to attend this webinar, the first in a series looking at why much of the buzz in sales is distracting you from success.

The second webinar in the series will examine the opportunity to leverage technology to execute your process and drive revenue for your company, not just those selling you the technology.

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Don’t Be Afraid of the Empty Time – Sales eXecution 2450

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Appointment Time

Many people seem to equate action with productivity, doing things to “move forward”. And let’s be honest, in many ways some of the things I and my peers write and serve up on a regular basis, can easily be read to support that view. But the reality is that building in some flux to your sales time is an important element of success.

Planning your day week or month is not the same as filling your time. It is important to create some empty time. More importantly it is imperative that you do not feel guilty or fully productive because “you are not doing something”. We all hate it when someone else creates “busy work” for us, so why do it to yourself.

I work with a lot of sales people who tell me exactly that, “I need to be doing something, otherwise I feel like I am not contributing”. Sure sometimes this a result of just having a bad manager who believe you can only contribute if and when you are doing something. “Don’t just sit there, pick up the phone”.

While keeping a detailed calendar is key to ensuring success, and this may result in a “full calendar”, it does not mean that you have to be active and engaged in sales activities at all times. Just as you need to set time aside for the unexpected emergencies, (Grab you copy of the Sales Happen In Time white paper, to learn more), you need to include some down time, time to step back, re-energize, regroup, and re-emerge ready to conquer more.

If you run marathons, you know the 10-1 approach, run at race pace for 10 minutes and easy off for a minute, then 10 again. This gives runners the ability to run at a faster pace because the give themselves a chance to recoup. If you watch elite runners, they do it do, it is just that their off minute is not as noticeable as it is with old farts like me.

Create some empty time, allow yourself to not “do things”, idle time is not wasted time when consumed the right way.

One way, and from a timing stand point, a good one is today or tomorrow. The start of Q2, a good time to step back and not just assess how the last quarter went, what worked what didn’t, and then recalibrate. But to think about something other than selling that will in the end help you sell more. Here are three things you can try:

  1. If my line of product did not exist, how would my customers achieve the objective they achieve with the product I sell?
  2. If a law came out that required that everybody sell my product category at the same price, how would I differentiate?
  3. How can I help a prospect without involving my product?

There others, but create some empty time, don’t be afraid of it, the key is to make the most of the empty time, just as you need to make the most of the selling time.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Game the Plan – With Chris Cabrera0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Game the plan

Almost everyone in sales will tell you that incentives drive behaviour, but beyond that there is often little agreement among the pundits as to what the right incentive plan is. Some see it as a black art, while others, usually sales people, see it as something to manipulate, hence the expression ‘gaming the plan’. But ask Christopher Cabrera, founder, president and CEO of Xactly Corporation, who has a different view, and believes that front line reps and CFOs do not need to be at odds when it comes to incentives. In fact, Cabrera literally wrote the book on incentives, “Game the Plan: Every Sales Rep’s Dream; Every CFO’s Nightmare”, which suggests that when it’s done right, reps can and should game and maximize the plan, and everyone wins.

I had the opportunity to discuss incentives and the book with Cabrera, and ask him some questions many of my clients ask when it comes to their challenges around incentives and driving behaviour that leads to everyone’s success, buyer, seller, and company.

One aspect of the incentive where the pendulum of opinion swings back and forth is between simplicity and complexity of a plan. While some try to engineer things down to the minute detail, others, look to perhaps over simplify by offering 100% commission based pay. As you would suspect, the reality is somewhere in between. Cabrera’s view is that 100% is not the most effective, but over engineering a plan has faults as well. He suggests that structure is much more important than the specifics. What “counts is the number of measures; there is a strong correlation between the number of measures and a successful plan.” Measures being the elements being paid on, Cabrera suggests that optimal number is three measures being incented. As you exceed that number, you lose focus and therefore the effectiveness of the plan.

Another factor was the number of people being paid on any given deal, an extreme example Cabrera gave was a company that had over a hundred people on any given deal. He suggest that the right number of people is five.

Cabrera is also a proponent of paying different rates on different products. While paying on net revenue is a start, companies should also incent higher margin products at a higher rate, thereby driving sales and higher profits. He also discussed that managing activity is the role of management not the incentive plan.

Another area of discussion was the use of SPIFFs (Sales Promotion Incentive Fund). Cabrera explained that while this was an effective practice, companies need to keep them fresh and not overuse them. “Keep them guessing by changing the annual cadence, if they know it is coming and when, it loses the desired effect.” He also recommends that they not be overused, three times a year, and at different times, for different element. Tying them to quarter end each time really misses the mark.

The thing that gives the book teeth and makes it a must read for sales leaders and sales people is not only Cabrera’s own extensive experience in the field of sales incentive and incentive management. But more importantly, the volume of data that is available to him as a result of the work Xactly does. The ability to leverage the empirical, anecdotal and other elements give Cabrera, the book, and by extension the reader, an unparalleled level of insight into incentives, and doing it right.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Self-Serve or Full Service? – Sales eXecution 2422

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

stake and wine

I overheard an interesting discussion recently at the airport. Two guys talking about eating out a lot, could even have been road warrior sales types. One was waxing poetic about how is sick and tired of seeing tipping jars at staff cafeterias, or fast food places. When his buddy asked why, his reply was that the people in those place do not do anything that merits a tip. They stand at the cash, ring you out, and sometimes even muster a “thank you”. Even at a place like Starbucks, the baristas are nothing more than a short version of a short order cook.

He felt waiters deserve a tip because they create and add to the dining experience, and are often the difference between a great night out experience, and a meal eaten outside the home. He felt that waiters are with you from start to finish, making recommendations, the good ones take time to understand your preference and what you are hoping to get out of the experience and more. They also sell and upsell you from wine to desert and everything between, helping their restaurant sell more profitable items, increasing the size of the bill, their tip, and your experience. In other words earning their tips. To quote “WTF does the guy behind the counter at Starbucks add to the experience?”

This got me to think about some of the current discussions in sales, and how people are confusing roles and outcomes, sometime innocently, sometimes intentionally to drive their own agenda, even at the expense of their buyers and facts. When I read that “buyers are over 60% of the way through their buying process before they reach out to sales person”, I get confused. Sales person, really? I think not, more accurately, the person they call when they are 2/3 of the way through their “buying” process is an order taker, there is no selling taking place here, there is just taking an order the buyer by definition arrived at on their own. Looking at that experience as a sale, is like confusing a sandwich off a stand outside Penn Station with a dinner at Carbone.

Sales people seek out and engage with people who have not started the buying process, had not intention on doing anything different when they went to work that morning. That is why it is a “sales process”, not a “buying process”. Sales people are not standing at the checkout counter waiting for the next buyer to walk up. They study their territory, understand who potentially will benefit from their offering. They segment and prioritize, and develop a pursuit plan based on where they are most likely to engage with potential buyers, buyers who without the seller’s initiative would remain on the sideline, and unnoticed by sales people waiting for a call from someone who has completed 2/3 of their decision. Not to mention the pundits who promote this type of lazy order taking; how can one present an entire “sales” methodology predicated on taking orders rather than making a sale? I am with my man at the airport, let’s not call the combo meal at the local sub shop a four course dinner. Now shut down the browser, and go out and sell, the incoming orders will come anyways, look at them as you bonus, not your goal.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Join me - Return On Objectives #Webinar

Return On Objectives #Webinar0

Return On Objectives - Harnessing Objectives to Drive Better Sales Conversations

Learn how to change the sales conversation and who should be having that conversation with!

Presented by  

Join me on March 19, at 3:00 pm Eastern.  

Objective Based Selling looks at how to align the conversation with the buyer’s objectives, and leveraging those objectives to create a better conversation that drives mutual opportunities and success. With changes in the buying and selling dynamic, B2B buyers who are ready to buy are much better informed and more empowered than ever, and unless sellers are that much better prepared they risk being reduced to glorified order takers. Buyers who are not in the market, the so called Status Quo, are more time deprived than ever and are much less susceptible to traditional sales approaches and conversations. Impervious to pains, needs or solutions, a large segment of your market is better able to cocoon themselves from traditional sellers and sales conversations.

The presentation will cover how to take advantage of current realities and present specific ways sellers can successfully approach and engage prospects, but create selling opportunities where others may not see any, and in the process build credibility, expert status, and loyalty with existing and new buyers. Objective based selling is a process based, value driven four plank platform for success in selling to Status Quo buyers, the most overlooked segment of the market:

  • Breaking down “Value” to core components and why people buy
  • Leveraging past experiences – Won, Lost and No Decision deals – 360 Degree Deal View
  • Building a better question
  • Proactive exploration

D & R

Best time to Prospect – Sales eXecution 2391

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

time management

One question I am asked regularly is what is the best time to prospect, be that of day, time of week, etc. While trying to avoid the word depends, there are some variables that will impact the answer.  But what many are really looking for for is that secret answer, “call them at 4:33 on a the third Tuesday of the month, except I. A leap year, then it’s 4:36″.

While with some potential prospects there may be times that will yield more results, I believe it is not a good idea to look for one time over another, especially when that time is selected anecdotally, based on superstition, or as a means of avoiding the activity altogether.  I say this not to be cynical, but because I have seen people target a specific time, and then refuse to make calls at any other time.

Some sellers tell me emphatically that “you can’t prospect on Monday mornings, no way no how”.  Their rationale is that people are just getting back to work after the weekend and “have their minds on other important things”.  But when is that not the case given all the things the average business person has to juggle?  As with many things, there two side to every coin, I find my target audience uses the weekend to decompress, and on Monday are open to the right suggestion(s) as to how to move sales and salespeople forward, for me Monday mornings have proven to be productive.  I have also had just as many people swear that Friday afternoons are the best, as those who tell me its the worst.  

Some struggle to strike a balance between their own habits and those of their targets.  Many sales pundits will insist that you should prospect first thing in the day, giving a bounce to your day, allowing you to spend the rest of  it selling. The theory is sound, in practice it is not alway so.  I worked with an industrial supply company, they had a great work ethic, their manager instilled a prospecting discipline, on the phone from 7:45 am to 9:00 am, every day.  Their conversion rate from conversation to appointment was great, but they were finding it difficult to connect to have the conversations. When I got involved we stepped back and focused on the work habits of their target group, senior people in plant management and operations. What surfaced was that many of these people were either out on the “shop floor”, or in operations meetings first thing in the morning, around the same time my client’s team was diligently calling. Further, we learned that many of the targets were back in their office around 10:00 am, filling out reports, etc.

As a result of this I had them switch their “calling time” to 10:00 am; their conversion of conversation to appointment continued to be great, but their call to conversation rate tripled.  This increased the number of appointments to record levels, but had the added benefit of reducing the amount of time they actually had to spend on the activity. Think of it as a “double double” of prospecting.  As with all things sales, it is so much better to view the world through the buyer’s eyes.

Given that there are more ways to communicate with buyers than ever, there less reason than ever to think of “best times” to prospect. Given that you can send an e-mail or LiknkedIn inmail any time, or that you can schedule e-mail to go out at a pre-scheduled time, you are no longer tied to time,  A well placed voicemail in off hours can yield great returns, without it impacting your “selling time”.  Rather than spending energy to pinpoint the ultimate time to call, use that energy to create quality talking points for when you connect.

Unless you are doing something specific and measurable to realize revenue, (a retweet does not count), the best time to prospect is now.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Unavoidable – Sales eXecution 2380

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

change

One of the most frequent questions I am asked all start with “How do I avoid…?” Many are surprised when I respond “Why do you want to avoid it?” The answer is obvious, they either don’t know how to deal with something, so they look for ways to avoid it. Or the know how to avoid it, but don’t want to do what it takes for number of reasons.

The former is easily fixed, they can be taught, they put things into practice, and over time they don’t even remember that they were trying to avoid it, and now speak like experts. The latter is a bit of a challenge, all too common challenge.

Some things you can avoid, in Renbor’s Objection Handling Handbook, I talk about specific way to present things to prospects, especially while prospecting that allows us to steer the discussion in a certain direction, or better yet, initiate the conversation in a way that eliminates a specific objection. For example, (and there are others in the book), when you follow up on information you sent a prospect, and they say “Haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, give me a call next week”, you can take that away and avoid the objection by starting your call like this:

“Bob, it’s Susie, I am following up on the information I sent you as you requested last week, you probably haven’t had a chance to read it yet, have you?” Just the nervous laughter is worth the call alone, but you have avoided the response by taking it away.

But there will be things in sales, unpleasant things, which not only you can’t avoid, but should not want to avoid. People want to find a way to avoid the most common objections while telephone prospecting. I can understand why, but I would argue that there is more upside in learning how to deal with it, and benefit from that, and benefit in a much more profitable way than if you were able to avoid the objections.

For the sake of full disclosure, there is one proven sure proof way to avoid objections faced in telephone prospect, works every time, but it does have big risk associated with it, really big risk. The method is not to make the call. Works every time, and oddly the chosen method of many. One just needs to look at some of the “be found” stuff being offered as practical ways to generate engagement and prospects.

The side effects, are fewer opportunities, and missed quotas, in my view, infinitely worse than any punishment faced while prospecting. Just today I got a note in my inbox from CSO Insight, that only 58.2% of reps attained quota. Give me a stern “not interested”, or “I am good, all set”. That I can deal with, take away the objection and drive engagement.

The other dark side of trying to avoid things, is that you fail to set in to motion other practical elements of a sale. Sure you avoid the discomfort of one thing, but that prevents you from getting to what is behind it. Does the old expression, “you need to crack a few eggs”, remind you of anything? You need to hit that first domino

The biggest down and dark side, is that failure at times is the cost of growth. None of us learned to ride a bike, play hockey, or ask someone on a date without falling a few times. You may succeed in avoiding some unpleasantries, but mostly you’ll avoid success.

Note – someone pointed out that I have been deliver the Sales eXchange for the last 200 plus weeks, and while there is information exchanged, the topics and the themes are more around sales execution. And with their input I have introduced a slight change to the series, and moving forward it will be called Sales eXecution! Because after all in sales, it is about Execution – everything else is just talk!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

Once They Bought Product – Make your Client Change1

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

change

Change is hard for all of us, that much more so for sales people. On one side they are trying to get buyers to change, clearly articulating the upside of change. Some of the most creative modern prose have flowed from sales people enticing their buyer to change, “Your business dreams, are but one change away”. Yet as sellers, we rarely hold that mirror up in front of us, we don’t like change, believe me I spend a lot of time helping sellers to change, and it requires a lot. Much like their potential buyers, they are resistant to new things, and are much more willing to live with the pain of what they know, than experience the pain they associate with change.

This could be the very reason why many sales people prefer to be “gatherers” – account managers than hunters. After all, spending 80%, 90% or more of their time with their base, allows them to regularly avoid having to talk about change. When they do, they are not only in-congruent, but on a number of levels dishonest with their potential buyers. After all, singing the praises of change all the while thing it yourself, just sends the wrong message, regardless of how much they rehearse, intentions and genuineness always rings through.

Not only that, but as soon as they “change” a buyer from their previous provider to being their client, they cast off their mask, and become steadfast defenders of the status quo, doing everything they can to make their client forget change.

But just like with fire, the best way to fight change, specifically the type of change your competitors are trying to sell your customer, is with change. Start by forgetting the product, yes, I know, it’s hard, such a warm blanket. While many are fixated with upgrade and new releases, there are other and “better” changes a good sales person can present.

As in the sale, the differentiation, and often the value, comes not from the product but from the sale. The way the seller engages, and conveys value to the buyer has to transcend the product, especially in a world where on a good day the overlap between you and number 2, is at least 80%. And once you are the incumbent, your competitor, number 2, will embellish that 20% until only a small discount is needed to entice your client away.

But if you the focus off the product, and placed it on how the client uses the product; how it specifically impacts their reality, their profits, competitive edge, or other non-product dependent things, then change is not about the product, but you, and what you do for them. Sure they can use the other product, but they will lose the benefit of you, your expertise, and the value you bring. It is easy to change the box, it will be hard to replace how you help them benefit from the box.

How to get from Interruption to Conversation when Cold Calling Webinar

There are still a few slots left for today’s cold calling webinar – start your own change, sign up now.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

Please, New Is So Old Now – Sales eXchange 2361

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Future

I got a note from one of the pundits in my inbox telling me things I should do for sales success in the New Year. You may expect these type of things mid-way through December till maybe January 10th, but after that it is just an indicator that they don’t really understand B2B sales at all, and the customers they get as a result, they deserve.

As a sales person your really do need to live in the future, and fulfill in the present. You need to live in the future for two simple (probably more) reasons. First, if you are going to deliver real and lasting value to your customers you need to leave “ahead of them. If you are going to deliver to and drive their objectives, you have to be where those objectives will unfold, and that is almost always in the future. Especially with business leaders, be they leading small or large global companies. If you speak to these folks and you should, (as well as speaking to everyone else in the organization, it is not one über the others), you will notice that their horizon is in the future, based on who they are it could be six, twelve, eighteen months or more in the future. The have delegated the present to others in their organization, in the case of small business, they have relegated it to a different part of their thinking.

So if you are going to align and sell to them today, you need to be thinking and talking to things they thinking about, which means they have been in 2014 for some time, cranking up you preparation now, like the pundit suggest, nay, scream to the buyer, “This guy is no for you”, as my fellow Tull freaks will say he is “Living In The Past”. If you are going to step in to the roll of thought leader for these buyers, you need to recognize that you need to lead from the front.

The other reason you need to live in the future, is driven by the realities of calendars, fiscal years, invoicing and the payable cycles of your buyer. Let’s say you have a three month sales cycle (handshake to close), and you get paid when the first invoice is paid, 30 days is acceptable period for an invoice to be paid, you are going to need four months of run way for a deal to count towards your number this year. Which means anything you start after September 2, will be next year’s number. If it counts and you get paid, when the contract is signed, then that date moves to October 2nd. So if you were going to look at doing things a new way for 2014, you will have need to start that process last September or October, not January 26.

This is not to say that you should not always be adding new elements to your selling, just look at that as an ongoing part of your personal development, not an event tied to the New Year. Yes, I know the pundit needs to sell too, but you don’t have to buy if it will not help you now, or in the “now future”.

I am going to keep this mail as I am certain it is the exact same one she sent last January, with dates changed. I am not sure if I remember because it irritated me last year, or the fact that they used a stock photo used by a million other sites.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Slow Down For Faster Results – Sales eXchange 2350

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Slow motion

I’m a firm believer that our habits and how we execute specific tasks do not vary widely from task to task. Sure we may be a bit more diligent when we are doing something important for the boss, bit more casual in social endeavours, but in most cases it is about degrees, not wholesale differences. Now if you are doing everything perfectly this isn’t a bad thing, but most of us are not perfect, we’re not living that idyllic reality, and therefore have to deal with our bad habits, and their consequences.

One thing that seems to get consistently worse is the tendency to rush things, and the problems that can lead to. This is accentuated by the many and growing number of things we have to get done in the same or less time than before.

It seems that more people today skim or scan documents, e-mails and other reading, rather than giving it full attention, as a result they miss things that are important to the outcome; they then have to backtrack wasting more precious time, more than they saved by skimming.

Same can be said for the way people read their e-mails, in fact it may be more accurate to say how many are not reading their e-mails. I have spoken to others about this, and I know I am not the only one who finds themselves posing a specific question in an e-mail, only to get back an answer that barely if at all answers the question posed. You can tell they rushed, skimmed the original, and responded to what they skimmed, not the question asked.

This leads to a couple of additional notes back and forth, this wastes time and energy on both sides, but while sellers are free to waste their own time, this end up also very much wastes the buyer’s time, which can lead to consequences, especially if they pose the same to another vendor who takes the time to respond completely and fully. At worse you come off as being evasive, at best tardy.

One of the goals of any good sales person is to make it easy for the buyer to deal with you, in essence to buy from you. While this may not always be in your control, slowing down so you can be more effective is. I know there is pressure coming from all side these days, but it is important to manage it, especially early in the relationship. If the buyer feels that you are rushing and taking short cuts through the selling phase, they can’t help but ask if that is the level of attention and care they will face once they commit?

One easy way to solve this is to actually set aside time through the day for e-mail and voice mail. One reason for the skimming is that we are doing e-mail while we are doing other things, and as I have said before, we are not built for multi-tasking regardless of what the pundits will tell you. As highlighted in the Sales Happen In Time Booklet, carving out time to do things properly, including e-mail, will make you more productive, less stressed, and come across as the pro you are.

Here is another real world example, I am currently running a contest to win tickets to the Art Of Sales, an opportunity to take in Dan Pink, Matt Dixon, and other sales thought leaders. To enter, all one need do is fill in three points of data, name, e-mail, phone, and to tweet the fact that they entered the contest. To make it even easier, the tweet is all set, they just have to hit the bird. In bold letters they are told the no tweet equals no entry, yet half the entrants skip that step. My guess they skimmed, went on auto pilot filling out the form, and rushed to the next thing. Oh well, better odds for those who read and completed the task they needed to in order to win.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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