I Made a Sales Mistakes, Have You? And then What…?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Mistake

Seems it is a week of posts about sales mistakes, Monday I discussed a mistake made by a company trying to sell to me. Today, it is one of my mistakes that takes centre stage.

We all make mistakes, it is a trait of being human. The real opportunity is in how you deal with mistakes you make. The fellow I discussed Monday choose not to do anything about his, below is an example of a recent one I made, and how I dealt with it. What was a sales mistake you made in the course of selling and what did you do about it?

Last week I made a fatal, or near fatal error. I had sent a prospecting note to senior executive, and I let the auto-correct get the better of me, as a result I got the individual’s name wrong, interestingly enough their name is a common vocation, and I allowed the phone to replace it with another common vocation starting with the same letter. Not excusable, I should have caught it, I messed up with a capital F. With a name like Tibor, you can imagine I get my name rearranged on a regular basis.

The individual in question wrote back chastising me for the error, pointing out getting the name right was Sales 101. I don’t blame them for doing so, but it occurred to me that my mistake was not related to Sales 101 at all.

Sales 101 in my experience relates to actually acting, as in the act of proactive prospecting, acting on an idea, or acting in a way that gets the results you set out to get.

On a daily basis I hear sales people say they can’t do this, or can’t do that; I sometimes get the sense that what they are really saying is wont. I also hear that they find it difficult to get in front of their prospect, they can’t write to senior executive, “e-mail don’t get a response, they are never opened.”

Well clearly the one I sent was opened, otherwise my mistake would not have gone unseen, the technique works, one point for me, let’s keep using it. The goal of having a call was not eliminated, and whatever the ultimate outcome, their response allowed me to address my mistake. I apologised directly for my error, no excuses, humanize the process, and continue on. A case of taking lemons and making lemonade, I’ll let you know whether my intended prospect adds some sweetener, I suspect not, but I did my part.

My Question To You:

What was a sales mistake you made that you had a chance to deal with in a positive way, and snatch success where others may not have? Leave a comment below, or send a tweet to @TiborShanto.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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Customers, Employees and Influencers as High Performing Sales and Marketing Channels1

Beedon Headshot

The Pipeline Guest Post – Dick Beedon

Although brand advocacy has always been important, it is critical today. The path to purchase has changed forever. Because there is so much data available, and because communication is so easy, today’s buyer almost always seeks advice from a trusted friend or consumer source before making a purchase. Brands are now starting to realize that what others say and write about them defines who they are.

Smart brands know they must build strategies and systems to generate, track and manage brand advocacy. They know they must encourage and enable the people that know and trust them – their customers, employees and 3rd party influencers – to advocate on behalf of the brand.

And it works. By encouraging and empowering these customers, employees and influencers, they will drive peer-to-peer referrals, forward content, share information about new products and promotions, and write testimonials. And they can do it at scale and more efficiently than traditional channels.

The Benefits of New Channels are Compelling (examples)

  1. They Build Brand Awareness – when a customer shares something about the brand with a friend, there is no better way of building the brand.
  2. They Generate Leads – those friends that respond and go to the brand for more information become the best leads a brand can get. There are few people on earth who will argue that leads generated from referrals are the best leads. 
  3. They Drive New Customer Acquisition – Leads from referrals close faster, they buy more and they stay longer. 

Other reasons customers, employees and influencers make good sales and marketing channels;

1.  Identify Brand Advocates and Build a Rich “Social” Data Set

Brand Advocates are identified when they register for or engage with your programs. By using technology systems, brands know who “opts-in” and advocates, how often they do it, what their sharing preferences are and how big their network is. We learn who they know and how influential they are. Brands are able to now get a deeper 360 view of their customer’s network value.

2. You’ll Know when Potential Customers are “In-Market”
Social channels provide insights and information not previously available. At the most basic level, social channels extend a brand’s sales force (with zero overhead) and they solve one of the biggest challenges brand’s face: knowing when a potential buyer is in-market. Only your current customers know when the people they know are ready to buy.
3. The cost of acquisition is lower.
This channel is always on and continually active – making referrals, amplifying products and promotions, and posting positive information about your brand. Brand advocates do this for a brand because they trust the brand and they want do it. Therefore, the time and cost invested into this channel is significantly less than other channels.
4. New customers that are referred by someone in your Social Channel are Valuable.
Research has consistently shown that consumers who convert as a result of a referral from a friend, are more loyal to a brand, spend more and stay longer.

Who are your Potential Channels and how Well can they Perform?

Customers, partners and employees are the fastest growing sales and marketing channel today. By utilizing the latest in social marketing software and technology, business leaders can mobilize these social relationships to generate new customers, and they can track and manage social behavior that is critical to the success of their company.

Customers recommend your products because they have first-hand, positive experience with them.

Today’s truly successful companies understand the importance of leveraging their customers into sales and marketing channels that drive corporate productivity. Creating and cultivating a large group of advocates can: pay huge dividends in the growth of your brand, increase subscribers, and boost profits. The financial investment to create this channel is minimal when you compare it to the long-term payoff for the brand.

About Richard Beedon

Richard Beedon is a founder and CEO of Amplifinity.  Beedon has led the acquisition of both Entyre Doc Prep (by Wolters Kluwer) and University Netcasting, who merged with Student Advantage (now collegesports.com) and was acquired by CBS. Dick’s thought leadership and early adaption of SaaS based technologies that allow brands to manage advocacy marketing has been instrumental in the success and growth of Amplifinity.

The Pipeline Interview with Jeff Shore – Sales eXchange 2300

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

The Microphone

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Jeff Shore, a leading sales coach, speaker, and author. We sat down to discuss his upcoming book: “BE BOLD AND WIN THE SALE”.

It is no secret that to change the outcome in sales, you need to change the behaviour of sellers, this in turn changes their execution. The question is how do you change behaviour.  This is the focus of “BE BOLD AND WIN THE SALE”, and the focus of the interview.

Jeff highlights specific things sellers and organizations can do to to begin the transformation and win sales. Take a look, and pick up the book when it comes out January 3, 2014, and go out and win sales.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Managers – Give Up Your Phone Addiction – Sales eXchange 2230

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Multi tasking Manager

With all the challenges sales professionals have to face in the field, the amount of tests they endure to their patience, it is sometimes disheartening when they are disrespected by their own colleagues, especially their front line managers.

One common example is managers who answer their phone, text, e-mail during a meeting with one of their direct reports, especially during scheduled coaching or review meetings. But this happens much more regularly than many think, and I suspect, more than many of the managers guilty of the act actually realise.

While many fancy themselves as being great multi-takers, few are, we are not built that way. While we may be able to talk on the phone and press the elevator button, we are not able to do really important tasks with any degree of real quality. And what can be more important than coaching and leading your team, those people who either make you look good or real bad based on how they perform. There is no doubt on occasion, let me repeat, once in a while, something really important will come up to disturb a meeting with a team member, but I am talking about the other time.

How many times have you sat there in you managers office, and they are checking their e-mail as you speak, first on their desktop monitor and then on their smartphone just for good measure. They answer the phone, flashing the obligatory smile and the one minute gesture, which only adds to their insincerity and effectiveness as a leader.

It is bad enough that sales people to endure this type of thing in the field, they should not face it in their managers’ office. Sales people put up with people answering their phones only to tell them that they are in a meeting. Given all the tools available to people today, the overwhelming pervasiveness of caller ID and voice mail, it is hard to understand why people would answer a phone from an unknown number while they are in a meeting, unless of course they are sales managers meeting with a member of their team.

Sales people also have to put up with this in meeting with prospects, fidgeting about with their electronic pacifiers, or modern day worry-beads. While one can argue that if the prospect is so disengaged a rep should move on, it is also true that many are behind quota and see any meeting as a meeting, I guess they need to look at the outcome to come to their own conclusion. But in the end it should not be a scene they have to deal with internally with their manager, especially when the time was scheduled for them to be coached.

As an aside, I often wondered when I called someone and they tell me that they are in a meeting, whether I work my magic and get them to engage, or it is a short call, I wonder what the other person in their office feels like at the time, how fast are their priorities fading?

I remember I had a boss who felt he needed to be involved in everything, right then and there, the phone would not ring a second time before he answered it. I remember he would take a call while meeting with me, then answer his mobile when that rang, what a circus. The next time I was meeting with him and he answered his phone, I got up and walked out, I think the first time he did not even notice he got so involved in the call. The next time he looked up and asked “Where are you going?” “You must be busy, I got things to get done, and I don’t want to hold you up.” After that he never answered the phone while meeting with me.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

Voice Mail Week – Part I – Context – Sales eXchange 206 (#video)0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

Here we are the last week of the first half of 2013, the first full week of summer, what better time to focus on every seller’s second favourite topic, voice mail.  The Discovery channel has their annual tradition of Shark Week, and now we introduce Voice Mail Week.

Because after all, voice mail is the gift that keeps on giving, when done right, and that is what we will focus on this week.  I suspect that this time round will be no different than other times that we have talked about voice mail, and that is mostly because no one really has the definitive answer when it comes to leaving voice mail for new potential B2B buyers.  What we do have however are two different things, facts and opinions.  Opinions usually come from those who have not tried the technique, mine or any, but feel compelled to share their non-experience, mostly in the form of their fears vis-à-vis the issue in question, which I think generally reflects their fear of success.  Then we have facts from those that have tried it, perfected it and profit by it.

Below is the first of three installments (2 video) looking at voice mail and how to use it to your advantage and sales success.  Take a look, take it in, take it on the road, and then let us know.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

A Reactive and Bad Way to Deal with Objections (#video)1

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

There are times when an objection is not what it seems, but by treating it as an objection we could inadvertently create a scenario and situation that is risky when it didn’t have to be.  Often, prospects’ questions at critical points in the sale sound like objections, when they are just the buyer thinking out loud.

Sellers need to slow down, step back assess, then deal with the situation, statement in a way appropriate for that situation.

Take a look at what I mean.  Then download the Objection Handling Handbook.

Object -reactive

What’s in Your Pipeline
Tibor Shanto

An Empty Wagon – Sales eXchange 1943

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Wyoming Roundup

We have all heard the expression that an empty wagon makes the most noise, no doubt from an older relative trying to tell us that that we were talking a lot, saying very little of substance, worth hearing, or had as near the level of impact as the noise we were making saying it.  Well, I can tell you that there are a lot of empty wagons when it comes to sales and sellers, usually in lack of substance or delivering on the hype.

You see this when sellers embrace half of an idea, usually the easy half, but fail to follow through on the entire concept and end up making a lot of noise as a result.  Specifically in the early stages of the sale, when they resort to talking about how their product/service will improve Productivity, increase efficiencies, reduce Costs, minimize Risk, enhance their work-flow, and a few other generic variations of the same thing.

The half they bought into is the need to go beyond feature – benefit, and venture forth to where they are presenting their offering from the “what’s in it for the client” perspective.  Where they fail to follow through, is in adding specific substance to the above phrases, leaving them beige and generic.  This unnecessarily extends the length of their sale cycle, or kills the sale all together.

Picture yourself as the person getting the calls, dozens of calls every week, from the copier rep, the wireless rep, the IT integrator rep, the office supply rep, the transportation rep, the sales training rep, and the oodles of other reps.  All telling you that they CAN improve your productivity, not HOW they could do that, what the actual impact would be, but just that they can improve your productivity.  Multiple that by all the “buzz-phrases” and by the number of calls, and by Tuesday afternoon, it all sounds like an empty wagon.

It takes little extra effort to replace the generic phrases with actual example.  How do you in fact increase efficiencies, what has been the actual impact of that increased productivity, and how can you best present it in a way that the buyer can relate to in their world.  All you need to do is go past where marketing leaves you, and study some real world examples, be they your customers specifically, or any client your company has helped.  Understand what their reality was before they used your product and service, and where they after taking your offering on board.  Yes, this requires effort, but in the end a lot less effort than the effort it take to push things up the generic hill, the hill where you and every other generic rep looks frighteningly the same and unappealing.

You will quickly move from saying “we help companies like yours increase your efficiency…” to “clients implementing our software have seen an average increase of 8% in the number of units produced per hour, with a reduction of 5% in rejected product, and a 6% reduction in materials used; this has allowed them to increase revenues by 7%, and a 10% rise in profit margin as a result of cost take out”.  Sure there are a couple of extra words, but the substance, weight and specifics they communicate to a potential buyer are more direct and make a lot less noise than the emptiness of the generic descriptions used by most.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sell What You Have – Sales eXchange 1932

by Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

iStock_000002840339XSmall

At the risk of stating the obvious, the job of a sales person is to sell their company’s offering in order to deliver revenue AND Profits for their company.  This can be a challenge at times, but should not be so as a result of our doing.  Some sales people seem to want to sell things they don’t have, at times they do this on their own, other times they let their prospects lead them down a dead end path.

How many times have you heard sales people say that they could sell their product, or more of their product “If Only…..”.  All too many times we allow ourselves to be distracted from what we can sell, and end up losing sales for all the wrong reason.  I am always surprised how many sales people act as though they were in product development rather than sales, sadly some would be better at that than sales; but until they do officially transfer, they need to focus on selling what they have, not what they or the buyer wish they had.

Don’t get me wrong, sales people play a crucial role in the feedback loop that helps your company develop and market your offering better.  But that should not be at the expense of selling what they have now, that is job one.

Part of this comes down to knowledge not only of your own product, you’d be surprised how many sales people know little more than what’s in the brochure or on their websites, but also that of the competition.  It is hard to sell what you have if you don’t know, it is harder to sell if you don’t know how what you have can help the buyer, and harder still if you can’t discuss how what you have applies to the buyer’s world.  You quickly go from an exercise in creative selling to being on your heels in a defensive posture.

The challenge is that with an 80% overlap between most leading products, it mostly comes down to how you sell that will determine the difference.  Your ability to align the attributes of your “solution” to the real requirements of the buyer, based on their objectives, and their obligations to their organizations.  For example, last week I was out with a rep I am tasked with helping, during a routine sales call, the buyer kept interjecting “can your product do this?”, “can your product do that?”  Each time the seller apologizing for the products inability to do some of the things the buyer raised.

The seller clearly had not prepared for the meeting by knowing what his competitors offered and did not offer.  Most of the things the buyer put on the table with their questions were not available from any of the products in the market.  Had he established that this was a wish list, not a requirement, the issue could have resolved.  I finally had to ask the buyer, “I am just curious which product that you currently use allows you to do that?”  A long pause, and a shrug allowed us to move forward.  By asking that simple question we were able to get back to what was required, available and affordable.

Sell what you have, if they are not the right buyer, prospect another, but sell what you have, or you may find that you have all prospects for what you don’t have, and no buyers for what you do.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Dude, You’re Gonna Need More Than 15 Minutes3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Just 15 minutes

Sales people are constantly working at communicating value to their buyers, especially in the early stages of the cycle, lead gen to prospecting and engaging the buyer to where they could complete an effective Discovery process.   After sellers have done all the work involved in getting to the point where they can engage with a buyer, I am always surprised at how easily they are willing to undermine it, and risk their opportunity by saying something completely unnecessary, and serves only to sooth their nerves.

The expression that does this most is “I just need 15 minutes of your time” or “A quick 15 minutes”.  Both are stupid and useless, the second is one I never did get, how is a “quick 15 minutes” different than 15 minutes, don’t all minutes have 60 seconds, it is just the quality of the content that seems to make some minutes last a lifetime.

I know why it is used, generally comes down to two things, both can be dealt with more intelligently and effectively.  First is the popular notion that if you can get 15 minutes, and do well, they’ll give you an encore and you can stretch it out; I guess we all think we can do a good job.  On the other hand I used to work for a VP of Sales who managed his calendar down to the minute, busy guy.  He would ask you how long you needed, and would book you in for that time, if you said 15 minutes, he would end the meeting right at 15 minutes.  He wasn’t rude, he had to get to his next scheduled meeting, if you couldn’t live up to the expectation I set, it was your issue, not his, you had to deal with it, not him.

Which brings us to the first contradiction, most decision makers have more than what to do in a day, how realistic is that they don’t have other meetings behind your, or other things that require their time and attention.  Yes, no doubt we have all had instances where we were able to extend 15 minutes in to 45 or even 60 minutes, but an occasional anomaly does not make for a sound strategy.

The other issue with this approach is that you are in fact misleading the prospect before you have even met them.  Think about it, do you really want to start things off by lying to the prospective buyer?  Any way you rationalize it, that is exactly what you are doing, not a good foundation for a trust based relationship.

The second reason sales people do this is linked to the first, and just as weak.  Specifically they are trying to minimize the apparent impact on the buyer, trying to make it “easy” on them, “Your time will not be wasted”, is the implication.  But unless you are selling a coffee service or window cleaning, how much real or tangible value can you effectively communicate.  More so, when you are selling what you would call a “solution”, where information has to be exchanged, 15 minutes is not going to get you there, you can pretend all you want, you are going to pitch, worse, you are going to ‘speed pitch’.

Some will tell me, “I can at least get things started”, sure then comeback and continue, with a bit of recapping, you are costing you and the buyer more time.  By asking for 15 minutes you are undermining your  so called “value proposition”.  What the prospect hears is that this is so basic and unimportant, what they are asking themselves is as follows: “we’re going to make real progress in 15, can’t be that important or unique, maybe it can wait, or I can delegate it to someone who deals with unimportant things.”

Think about it, assuming things get started, small talk, while you assume they checked out your web site, you have to validate; if they did, you still need to create context, if they didn’t you have to do a bit more than that.  From here, you need to at least go through the motions of gather information or executing a Discovery of facts and objective. Ah, look at that time is up!  I remember someone trying to sell me an ad in local board of trade directory, they said they just need 15 minutes, I pointed out to him that he will need to ask me some questions, I will certainly have some for him, so let’s get real, how much time will we really need, he was honest enough to come across with a real time frame.

What’s worse, it is usually the seller who brings time in to the equation, not the prospect, again communicating a lack of confidence in their offering, or their ability to sell, or both.  Just stop this juvenile practice, and sell.

Now I know that there times when you will be asked by a prospect how much time you need; in my case I gear my first meetings to about an hour, I am the one that gets antsy after 50 minutes.  But rather than saying “one hour”, I pause, and ask, “how long can you give me?”  They usually come back and say “is an hour enough?”  Touch down!

But assuming they ask again, I just say “I usually need about 30 minutes for Discovery, I assume you’ll have some questions, so 40 minutes is safe.”  If I feel they have a sense of humor, I add “any longer than that I take as interest on your part.”

I do have people who say “I can give you 30 minutes.”  Great I can work with that; if they offer 15 minutes, I say no, I know what is going to happen, it is not a good use of my time, my most important resource.  Either we can find a mutually better time, or on to the next one.  If you have lots of prospects, this is not an issue, if you only have one or two, you may have to settle for the scraps that a quick 15 minutes represent.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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The Super Bowl: How Advertising is Changing0

Football

Guest Post – Megan Totka

It’s that time of year – the time that many people enjoy even more than the holiday season. NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl have rolled back around, and they bring with them one of the greatest advertising displays of the year. The Super Bowl has always been known for being one of the most expensive advertising opportunities. Many people who care nothing about football, tune in to the game just to watch the commercials.

But how has online advertising impacted the more traditional world of television advertising? The answer is, quite a few different ways.

  • TV commercials point viewers to social media or company websites – instead of just broadcasting an ad and hoping that consumers notice and buy their product; companies are taking it several steps further. Many ads are interactive, and they include a call to action for viewers. Most ads direct people to the company’s website, Facebook, or Twitter. Or, they include ways to tag the company, such as a specific Twitter hashtag to use to identify that the viewer is responding to the ad that they saw.
  • Video sites enable people to share their favorites, instantly – this is probably one of the biggest changes, and actually could work against some companies. Instead of having to watch TV to see a favorite advertisement again, all the viewer has to do is log on to YouTube to watch it over and over. This is a double-edged sword, because while viewers will watch an ad over and over, they may not tune into the television shows that will contain future new ads and products.
  • More interaction between viewers and companies – Doritos has asked fans to film their own Super Bowl ads. The fan-made ads are then posted on the social media pages of Doritos. The fans who made the ads then are encouraged to get their friends and family to vote for their ad. The winner will be broadcasted during the game. This is a level of interaction between company and consumer that is really unprecedented in the world of traditional TV advertising. This is great for companies because consumers want to be talked to, not at.  Also, it’s generally common knowledge that the more you can get someone involved, the more likely they are to be loyal to your brand.

I’m interested to watch the Super Bowl this year, and not because I am invested in any of the teams that could potentially be playing. I am excited to see what the companies who pay a huge premium for ad space are getting for their money, and how they are going to continue to be creative in ways to draw in new customers and interact with them. While most small businesses don’t have the capital to advertise on such a large scale, there are other affordable marketing products they can take advantage of.  And perhaps there are still some ideas to be drawn from the advertising event of the year.

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips. ChamberofCommerce.com has over 7,500 listed Chambers.

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