Yield Per Call – Best Measure (#video)0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

We are all familiar with the concept of yield per call, based on revenue targets, how much do we need to generate per hour of selling, this assumes you are productively selling every available hour.

The real test however is the perceived value your prospect got from the call, was it time well spent, will it yield a return for them, without a resounding yes, you risk not realising your yield per call.

The question you need to answer is would the buyer pay for the hour with you, or how much would they pay for that hour with you, based on that, it needs to meet their yield per call, which is likely measured and based on an entirely different value scale. Take a look:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Which ‘R’ Word Will Help You Sell?2

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

2 shadow guys

Sales people are always told to pursue relationships as a means of securing buyers, clients, and building trust. While I may not always agree with the order or sequence of these, they are the right ingredients, how you mix them, then cook them up and serve them will directly impact the perception of your buyer, and their willingness to consume or buy what you are dishing..

I have always believed that there is a lot of selling that can be done before you actually have a relationship (at least one worth anything to speak of), so why wait. In fact if you were to break down the elements of “relationship” or trust sellers strive for, you’ll find that a common element in both, namely respect. You can gain the respect a lot sooner than achieving a full and mutually beneficial and balanced relationship, which you can then use as a platform for building and accelerating, and solidifying said relationship.

Gaining and giving respect is easier to deal with early in the association, and can deliver sales as you work your way up the chain. Let’s be clear, I think that there is a lot of selling and revenue that can be achieved long before you have a relationship, and those who tell otherwise are wrong, and costing you sales, and let’s not forget, we are paid to drive sales, not relationships; after a point, selling to someone you have a relationship with becomes easier for all involved.

But many confuse respect with taking a subservient a diminutive stance, nothing can be further from the truth. If you are going to lead someone to a decision, you need to lead, not follow. You goal should be to have at minimum a peer-to-peer connection with your buyer. This involves accepting the role of being a subject matter expert, much less a product expert.

Many sales people don’t do as well as they can when they take on the role of product expert. Buyers by products for the impact those products deliver, not for how the product works. Sure a technology leader may be impressed by your gizmo’s capabilities, how it was developed, and how it is put together; but if it does not address their ability to move them close to their objectives, they will not buy. Being a subject matter expert allows you, no forces you, to go beyond product, to impact, and with that confidence, you can have that peer-to-peer discussion, allowing you to test the buyer’s view and preconceptions, and point to solutions that actually move them towards their stated objective, or a times to rethink and restate objective.

With virtually no difference in many category leaders, the key differentiator is the way you sell. Product sellers get caught in the daily discussions with how they need this or that if they are going to compete. You’ve all heard it at sales meetings, “if only we had this”, “if only it could do that”, “if it only came in red.” You may think you are not bringing that into meetings, but you are, and your buyer senses it. But if you went in as a subject matter expert, ready to help them move forward, you would not get bogged down in product based discussions, even if it does not come in red.

So, respect your buyer, yourself, and your task, to generate revenue for your company buy helping your buyer achieve their objectives. Your buyer will respect that long before they have a “relationship” with you.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

A Painless Decision2

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Waiting room

Most sales people stay well to the centre of the road, and well within their comfort zone, leading to selling styles that are narrow and shallow, thereby often limiting their success. Some of this is due to “sales folklore” and mythology, some of which are broadly accepted as fact, often reinforced by the pundits, which just perpetuates questionable practices.

One that has puzzled me for a long time is the role of ‘Pain’ in selling, and its appeal to sellers, and always hanging around with their companion ‘Need’. Ask any group of sellers why people buy, and the vast majority will reply “to satisfy a need”. Not sure that is the best place for a B2B sales person to start, after-all, if they identified their ‘need’ on their own, doesn’t that just make the sales person the “demo person” and an order taker in the equation. When you further test the notion by asking “OK, what’s driving the need”, and they tell me “It’s to address or avoid a pain”.

Ouch!

Beyond the fact I don’t like pain, don’t like to give pain, it is such a limiting view point when it comes to professional selling. One that many cling to for no apparent reason, especially when you look at their results. Yet sellers continue to speak of “finding the pain”, I even had one “consultative sales person” describe his role as “finding the soft underbelly of the beast, stabbing it, then offering up the cure”. Seems like a messy affair, especially when better results can be achieved in easier and cleaner ways.

Pain is a hard habit to break, especially when so many pundits reinforce the concept. I recall debating this issue a few years back, and when I asked where was the pain for buyers looking to expand their business, improve a winning process further, or any purchase decision made for positive reasons, they told me “that they were avoiding the pain of not achieving their objective”. Would’ve been easier for them to say that those buyer were seeking the pleasure (the other motivator) of success, but the pain culture is so deep, they went to the dark side instead.

As result, sellers go out every day looking for pain, and you know how it is, if you go out looking for something, that is what you’ll find, even as you miss other opportunities around you. As the month goes on, if they can’t find pain, i.e. not enough opportunities in the pipeline, they turn to creating pain, and it all becomes an uneasy exercise.

There is no denying that many purchase decisions are rooted in people’s lack of satisfaction of their current state, and that needs to be explored and leveraged by sales people, but there is also the impact of being focused solely on pain, before and above other states the seller may be in. It is a negative place to start, and if you start off looking for the negative, it clouds your sight and ability to create action and value from positive developments in the buyer’s world.

Not to appear overly Pollyannaish, but why not start off by focusing on the buyer’s objectives, not only a much more pleasant start to things, but one with so much more potential. If in the end, their pain is involved in shaping their objectives, then yes, deal with it for what it is. But the reality is that there are as many objectives are rooted in the positive, they make for a more pleasant and better sale, people will spend as much for the positive as the negative; yes they’ll pay to avoid pain, but they will also pay to extend pleasure. I have sold to, and worked with clients not because sale were bad, or they were not making their numbers. Instead they were market leaders and wanted to expand the distance between themselves and the pack, their only “Pain” was that there wasn’t more distance between them and number 2.

One reason many default to pain is that they spend too much time with the wrong segment of the market. As we have discussed in the past, one can loosely split the market in to three:

  1. Actively looking (15%)
  2. Passively looking (15%)
  3. Status quo (30%)

Most will spend their time and effort on the first two, some 30% of the market. Clearly this group is approachable and susceptible to “Pain”, after all they entered or are considering entering the market of their own volition. Something took them to the point of considering an alternative to their current state. Sure, some of these buyers may be responding to and acting on a positive, but chances are the majority are no longer happy with the way things are, and are seeking alternatives. They took the first step, began the exploration on their own, and will look to vendors playing the “be found” game, to play the role of “demo guy”, then play you off your competitor, order taker.

The 70% Status quo, by definition is not looking, but that does not mean they are not looking. Every intelligent business leader is looking for improvement. And while the popular myth is that these status quo buyers are satisfied and therefore not looking, this is so wrong it is dangerous and costing you money. Consider what Bell & Patterson present in their book ‘Customer Loyalty Guaranteed’:

75% of customers who leave or switch vendors for a competitor, when asked, say they were ‘satisfied or completely satisfied’ with the vendor they left, at the time they switched.

Good news – presented with the right alternative, satisfied and completely satisfied buyers will switch.

Bad news – it will not be because of pain.

It takes work to uncover their objectives, work to initiate a discussion that is focused on achieving something good, rather than avoiding something bad. How you do this has been the subject of previous piece, and you can find more on my You Tube channel.

On the other hand, how many times have you “found the pain”, “worked it”, only to not get the deal?

Let’s leave pain to doctors, and focus on helping our buyers achieve or exceed their objectives.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sounds Like A Personal Problem – Sales eXchange 2131

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Reaching

My daughter is a member of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, a program administered by the Canadian Forces. Among the many benefits is their ability to teach and reinforce basic like skill habits everyone can benefit from. Two in specific is teamwork and accountability. Two attributes core to sales success; and while I am not suggesting that sales people be sent off to boot camp as part of their on-boarding process, if only because of the economics, although I could argue that over the long run, given productivity, reduced costs related to turnover and impact on client satisfaction, there is a strong case that can be made.

Some of these things apply to athletes, many companies have figured out that hiring former athletes, or top rated collage athletes who just missed being drafted into the pros, make great salespeople, discipline, action oriented, perseverance – the willingness to learn and do what it takes to win.

There is also no denying that many salespeople who come out of a military background have a greater ability to learn best practices and turn that learning into action. The ability to take orders, follow process and be accountable for the action and pride in the outcome.

The interesting thing about the brand of accountability she has learned, one best for sales as well, is that it is personal accountability. The type that allows you to share in the wins, those of the team, as well as your own, without limiting your progress, or limiting that of the team, based solely on your abilities, actions or inactions.

Embracing accountability allows individuals to stay on a path of personal improvement and development. Once you accept that it is within your ability to figure out and act on issues, challenges, and opportunities. It frees you from the trappings of finding, making and improving excuses as to why things are not working for you, and sets you on a path of figuring out how to make things work, or change course to where they better can.

It puts you in a state where it is not the fact that the product suck, your manager is a bitch, and the other company has better spiffs. But here’s the deal, the guys working for the other company, they think their product suck, their manager is useless, and they are not being paid enough. And here is the secret, this is only the case when you are not making your numbers, as it is for the other guy. In other words, every sales person faces systemic challenges of product, occasional service problems, pricing, the economy, that useless prospect that doesn’t get things, blah, blah, blah. Yet some continue to deliver, and some continue to be victims (of what, they are not always sure.

My daughter was telling me about an incident during an exercise with her squadron, she had a problem performing that she attempted to address with an excuse, the response from sergeant: “Sounds like a personal problem.”

When it comes to your pipeline and sales, do you have a personal problem?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Schedule It (#video)0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Biz TV

We all know the old Peter Drucker saying “What gets measured gets managed”, you can add another, this time Shanto, “if it is not scheduled, it won’t be done”.  Sellers can help themselves, their success and commissions by scheduling more key activities than they are now.

Take a look and tell me if you agree or disagreed, or schedule to do it later.

Schedule it

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Window of Productivity (#video)2

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Biz TV

Remember the days when you could actually have a “Power Hour”, the opportunity to really step back and off the treadmill, and concentrate on things that can truly move your sales or the company forward?  With all the demands on your time, it is hard at times to just stay on track.

Well it is up to you and me to carve out that time, and the good news is that you can do it, even today, without adversely effecting clients and their expectations.  Taking a few simple steps and change in outlook will help you to create your window of productivity.

See how:

Window of Opportunity

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Execution Gives Meaning To Your Words – Sales eXchange 2100

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Puzzle man

People are swamped with promises and expectations all day, in their private lives, professional lives, on the bus, on their phone, there is no getting away from an almost steady barrage of promises and unfulfilled expectations.  Often, hey lets be real here, more often than not, the deliverable is shy of the expectations set, but worse, not delivered at all.  One can fix or address things not meeting expectations, but it is hard to overcome not delivering at all.  And while we continue to build calluses to shield us from the crap, each time we have a negative experience or unfulfilled promises, our level of cynicism grows by an equal or greater degree.

In the world of buyers and sellers, these occurrences and experiences lead to more effort and complexity in getting future deals done as buyers become more hardened and sceptical of new vendors, and stick with what they know.  It leads to an unfair but understandable tainting of buyers’ view of sellers; it also increases the effort required by honest sellers to get buyers engaged and willing to open up about their situation.

One of the biggest obstacles sellers have to overcome are the expectations of buyers shaped by their experiences with other sales people and companies they have encountered before you.  In light of the 80/20 rule, this is a big hurdle to clear.  No matter how different you may be, having a sterling record for meeting and exceeding client expectations, the fact is that on the surface, at first glance, and initial encounter, we look very much the same as the sellers that have let that buyer down in the past.  Which means we have to break that link right away and get the buyer to start with a fresh slate.

The best way to counter this demonstrate to the buyer your ability to execute, and thereby deliver against expectations.  This is straight forward with an existing client, but harder when you first try to sell to a new buyer.  This is why demonstrating results you have been able to deliver for others early is key.  By early, I mean early, right at the top of the call or e-mail, text message or whatever other means of communication you use to approach a new potential buyer.  In addition, these should be directly tied to the buyer’s objectives.  How do I know what their objectives are?  Again, leverage history, i.e. those instances where you have executed successfully (from the buyer’s view).  If the last six people you sold to in the same role, but different companies, had a specific objective in mind, it is a safe bet that the seventh will be closer to those objectives than not.

Focus on how you helped them meet those objectives and the result, and you will be in a position to not only engage, but engage around your ability to deliver, not just talk.  You will still need to work, and this is not a short cut, just an entry point.  To do this well and consistently, you need to first and foremost have delivered, but then you also need to start collecting testimonials and case studies.  One bonus to doing deal reviews is the ability to collect these positive validations of your ability and track record to deliver what you say, and differentiae yourself from the crowd.  This can be especially powerful while prospecting for new business.

Simply stated, execution gives life and meaning to your words.  Which is why I say, Execution is the last word in sales – Everything else is just talk!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Do You Really Need/Want a Shorter Sales Cycle?4

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Ruler

Shorter sales cycles are one of those things that come up in many discussions with sales and corporate leaders.  When I ask them what specific improvements they would like to see 18 to 24 months out, a shorter cycle is usually one.

While I get it, there is more to the question than many have given serious and productive thought to. First, there is little agreement in and across sales organization as to what constitutes a sales cycle. Some will measure it from their initial attempt to engage with a buyer, some from initial contact, others will measure from the time they are able to get their first next step to close; it’s all over the place. Right off the top what you measure will dictate the length of the cycle; the same sale will be “longer” for the first group than the last. The length of a cycle should not vary based on the eye of the beholder, there should at least in the same organization be agreement of where it begins and ends.   While this sounds straight forward, just go and ask three sales people in your organization.

Not saying it is definitive, but for the remainder of this piece, I measure the CONTINUOS cycle from initial hand shake to close. I say continuous because there are many instances where I contact or engage with a potential buyer, but am unable to take things through to the end. The deal either dies mid way, or after an initial meeting the time is not right for one or both of us, etc.  Often, a few months later I will reengage with the same buyer and take him through to close.  The cycle would be that second round, which was continuous.  The rest of the time and effort for me is prospecting and nurturing, not active selling.  Semantics, to a degree, and that is why it is important to settle on a definition for your company and then stick to it so you can begin to make improvements.

Once you do settle on the points to measure, you can look at shortening it, there are a number of ways, I did a piece a few years back on “How to Shorten Your Sales Cycle”, and there are other ways you can find from many pundits.  While getting to the shortest cycle possible is a worthwhile endeavour, you have to ensure that it is a productive one.  Many spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to shorten the cycle, almost making that the objective as opposed to just an element of success, which ultimately is delivering the revenue targets.

There is a point that is optimal, meaning any time and energy spent on further reducing the cycle is wasted, and distracts from the real goal.  Yes, there is merit to the thinking that if we can shorten the cycle we can sell more, but the reality is that every sale and seller will find the point where it is the RIGHT length of cycle; a point beyond which it can’t get any shorter without damaging the sales, the state of the pipeline, and your success.  Based on what you sell, your strengths and challenges, this could be 12 months, six months or two weeks, but there is that point that constitutes the shortest time in which you can deliver a sale with maximum and consistent results; a point beyond which it does not get better.

It will take a bit of effort at first as it involves two specific routines.  First you’ll need to go back and look at the last 20 – 25 deals you did and measure the cycle (as defined above), and then look at the average length.  If you sell multiple offerings with different buyers and attributes, you may have to do this for all lines.  The idea is not to get too granular, but to have a measure for the typical sale.  Second, you will need to start reviewing and analysing all your sales.  (You can access a worksheet here) The ones you win, to see where there is commonality and opportunities to shorted, or just to validate that you are still at the right length.  Don’t forget to review your losses as well, there could be lessons there as well, not just for length of cycle (maybe you rushed some sales), or there could be realistic adjustments that can turn a loss to a win.  Those who tell you to just analyse wins are just setting you up to be blindsided.

Many leaders continue to believe that if you keep at it, you will be able to increase velocity in the sale,  this is not always true and is a view which brings a real risk because it is centred around the seller’s need to sell, not on the buyer’s reason for buying.  While this may not be important when you are selling to willing and active buyers, those who have done their research, and are shopping (price shopping), and have evaluate you and your product in that light before ever contacting you.  But if you are pursuing buyers who are not actively looking, you risk building velocity and leaving the buyer and the sale behind.  This may numerically bring down the length of your average cycle, allowing you to pick up some sales faster, but also causes you to lose some potential sales because you rushed the process, coming out behind in the long run as a result.

I don’t want to discourage you from exploring ways to be more productive and time efficient in selling.  As new technologies are introduced, as markets evolve, or other factors kick in, there may in fact be an opportunity to achieve gains.  But you need to ensure that these gains are attainable and how.  There two keys to doing this right, one is the review process discussed above, and the corresponding adjustments that will result.  The other is don’t hesitate to experiment, if what you are doing now is not getting you what you want, try something new, beyond the current norm.  Even if it does not reduce the cycle, but helps you sell better in other ways, experimenting is a great way to change and improve. Not only the way to sell, but the cycle and the outcome.  Experimenting is a better waste of time than time spent shaving one day off a three month cycle.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Win Tickets to see Tony Robbins in Toronto – July 24!

ROO vs. ROI2

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

ROO

Everyone is familiar with ROI – Return On Investment, sales people love to talk about, buyers (and their CFO’s), love to hear about it, and even more, love to achieve and validate a return on their investment.  But much like solution selling, after the shine wore off a bit, buyers became more hip to ROI discussions, sellers abused the concept, stating high often unattainable numbers that represented the highest ROI achieved by one or a few buyers rather than the average ROI received by most.  Buyers demanded real ROI calculations, not projected best case scenarios, having been jaded by too many flowery ROI projection, and almost as many misses in outcome.   Buyers now expect, no demand, ROI with teeth.

Perhaps a better measure of return, would be to measure the Return On Objectives – ROO.  While it may be true that return on investment may be a more objective measure of success, people are not entirely objective, unless they are Mr. Spock, but he is not people.  We tend to be more subjective, and as most sales people know emotional.

We’ve all seen people make and rationalize questionable decisions and actions, and when it comes to numbers they have all fudged a decimal or two.  When the numbers add up fine, but if there is a gap, if you are not the lowest cost provider, if it may take a three more months to get pay back with your offering than another, you need to bring other factor to help them make the right decision.

People take pride in achieving, in accomplishing what they set out to do, we have all seen people high five all over the place when they successfully realize what they set out to do.  By bringing in the power of ROO, you can get a buyer to stretch and buy the better more costly, and right solution.

If you can help a buyer exceed expectations in ways that go beyond the numbers, you can enhance the perception of the outcome.  Focusing on ROO gets the buyer emotionally invested throughout the cycle.  From information exchange, to closing, to execution.  When they emotionally invested they will work with you in so many more ways, than when it is strictly down to the numbers.  Especially when expectations around those numbers are missed.

The work is in surfacing the real objectives and expectations, working out the gaps and obstacles they face.  As you remove those gaps, or remove hurdles, the client can see progress towards their goal, and get that much more committed.  That is the work in sales.  Executed right, this is much more powerful than focusing on outcomes you have delivered for others, because it is “their” objectives, not someone else’s.

Let’s be clear, you can’t get away from delivering ROI, or having to demonstrate capabilities and past successes, but tying things to their specific objective, and measuring returns on those will give you the unfair advantage you seek.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales Immersion (#video)0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Biz TV

We often hear the expression: “Follow the Money”.  Well in sales that pursuit always leads to the buyer and their reality not ours.  To get the most out of sales, you need to immerse yourself in the buyers world, not work on making the opposite happen.

Here is what I mean:

Sales immersion

 

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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