Are you a Persuader or Mediator? – Sales eXchange 2220

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Mediate

I don’t see why anyone in sales should take offence to being called a persuader, it is after all our job, to persuade people that yes it is time to buy, and buy from us. I wear the label of persuader much more proudly than one of being a mediator, a label many in sales would rather wear.

Based on a discussion I had recently with two experienced sales people who were trying to persuade me (sell me), on the fact that what they do is much more “mediate” between the buyer and their company. Mediate, really? Not sure that is what sales people are supposed to do, and as I asked I got the usual, intellectually trap-laden, politically correct snippet about relationships, and how it is the role of the sales person to look after the needs of the “client in the mix”. Hmm!?!

I know it may just be semantics, but words count for a lot in sales, especially in setting mind set and attitudes, as those two things go straight to how you behave, and it is the resulting action that counts in sales. And because of that you will get very different results if you set out to persuade or if you set out to mediate.

When we look at the Merriam-Webster definition of mediate we find it defined as:

: to work with opposing sides in an argument or dispute in order to get an agreement (US)
: to get (something, such as a settlement or agreement) by working with opposing sides in a dispute
: to have an effect or influence in causing (something) to happen

And mediator as:

: one that mediates; especially : one that mediates between parties at variance

Right off the top there is a disconnect, on the one hand we hear about “relationships” and “trust”, yet we see our role as that of the UN in the negotiations between North and South Korea.

Further I am not sure why there is a negative perception of “persuading”, it does not have to imply that you are pulling something over the buyer, it just means:

: to cause (someone) to do something by asking, arguing, or giving reasons
: to cause (someone) to believe something

You can do that, and still maintain or strengthen a relationship, especially if the buyer gains by taking action you persuaded them to take. If the strength of you belief in your product is so strong and compelling, that the buyer is moved to act, how is that worse than mediating, where there is an assumption of adversaries, one being your employer.

The same people who seem to lean towards any word other than persuasion for what they do a s sales people, are the same who are happy to interchange the word negotiate with appease, and in the process of appeasing, mediate away the last bit of margin left in the deal, and subsequent purchases that buyer makes.

The sad reality is that if these same sales people only put as much effort into persuading their buyers, as they do me in labeling their role, they would mediate less, and sell more. Besides, if you are dealing with buyer who require mediation, and see your company as the “opposing” side, you should fire those prospects, and prospect for new ones that see you as much as a partner as you see them.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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3 Upcoming #Sales #Webinars you Need to Attend!0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Learn

Over the next couple of weeks I will be presenting three different webinars on 3 related topics that you should register for and attend.

October 23 - Time – Prospecting – And Getting the Jump On Both

On Wednesday October 23rd, at 2:00 pm Eastern time, along with the good folks at eGrabber, I will present on: “Time – Prospecting – And Getting the Jump On Both”, looking at the combination of cutting edge tools for sourcing the right contacts and related info, and best practices, to improve your rate of connecting with the right decision makers and start selling.
Click here for more detail and registration

 

October 24 – Cold Calling: How to Handle the Objection

On the following day Thursday October 24, at 2:00 pm Eastern time, working again with the DiscoverOrg team, I will be presenting the follow up to the highly successful webinar last month on the fundamentals of effective Cold Calling, this time “Cold Calling: How to Handle the Objection”, looking at how to effectively handle the most common objections faced by intrepid cold callers, and move to selling.
Click here for more detail and registration

 

October 29 – GAP Selling, Successful Selling in Changing Times

Finally on Tuesday October 29, you guessed it, at 2:00 pm Eastern time, I will be delivering the “GAP Selling, Successful Selling in Changing Times”. Working with LeadLifter, I’ll be presenting on a framework that allows you and your sales process to evolve with your buyers and markets, allowing you to execute your sale in a way that is not limited or impacted by market conditions.
Click here for more detail and registration

Set the time aside now, and learn how the three combine will help you sell better now, and into 2014!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

Prospects On The Revenue Express0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Detective

One reason I enjoy selling, and I mean selling not order taking, is it really is like a good mystery or thriller novel coming together. All the twists and turns, the intrigue in the form of competition, the unknown outcome, hidden decision makers and more. Not only do you get to participate, but when you participate well, you not only solve the situation, but make money for doing it, it makes selling great.

So I was a bit baffled last week when I met with a group of sales people who typified the 80% in the Pareto principle, they weren’t so much lazy or lethargic, more like completely uninspired and totally lacked the ability to have fun. They were with a top tier player in their field, and while they may not win every deal they were involved in they were in a position to win more than their share. Their product was more than competitive and they had managements backing to walk away from deals that were strictly price driven.

But it seems everything they had to do, which was no different than that expected from other B2B sales people, was a chore, and seemed to require a lot more effort from them than really necessary. It may be due to the fact that they had a good ride before the economy turned, but it was clear that they had forgotten some basics, specifically two critical musts in B2B sales, prospecting, and having fun.

To be clear they did prospect, but in such an uninspired way that it was painful to watch them, never mind listen to them. It was the typical “get me in front of the right guy, and I can close them”, well so could most trained monkeys. The money goes to those who can get in front of the right guy.

Thinking it may serve well to change their perspective, I suggested we approach prospecting as we would a mystery, not quite Agatha Christie, but then again. We had some clues, the company name, locations they can be found, even a couple of people on the inside willing to play. As usual we were lacking their direct numbers, e-mails; which is the first bit of fun, finding and navigating our way to finding those, to then contacting and engaging with our target.

The reality is that this may not always be easy, but rather than letting it frustrate you, get your Sherlock Holmes and discover. After all, when you solve this part of the mystery, we get the opportunity to get in front of that right guy. Further the work and effort invested in sleuthing at this stage of the sale will more than help us uncover important elements that help us close the sale later.

I know that none of this makes the work any easier, but at least approaching it like a grand mystery, a paperback classic, we can make it more fun, and more importantly doable, and more lucrative..

So pick your favourite sleuth, and let’s solve this sale.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

Make Them Look Good0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Look good

One of the underlying drivers for buying decisions is self-interest.  While at times this can end up being misguided and self-absorbing with some buyers, it is usually a positive when those interest are aligned with and support corporate objectives.  This leads to an outcome where both the individual and the company benefit and move forward.  Done right, as a seller you can hit the much sought after trifecta, where your buyer, their company, and you all come out winners.

The challenge that arises is knowing what those self-interests might be, especially with a new buyer or early in the relationship.  After all, even if you asked straight up, and you always should in an elegant way, they may not be as forthcoming as they will be once they know and trust you.  So what’s a seller to do?

Well there two specifics that you can execute to leverage self-interest.  First, is understanding what the specific interest are based on role, and then overlay that with industry specific factors, and potentially other ingredients that could be regional or company specific.  As an example, if you look at say CFO’s, regardless of the industry and region of the country they are in, they have more in common than not.  If one is a CFO in a manufacturer and another is with a services firm, they will have many role based things in common.  If you understand how to effectively meet the needs of one, much of that will be transferable to the other.  Sure company size will have impact, as will other things, the reality is that if you understand the interests of one, you have more than a starting point with the next.  You know what their mandate is likely to be, how they measure success, what they perceive as risk and how they may choose to deal with it, and so on.

Another thing you can focus in on is how they are measured and evaluated.  This leads us to the second means of dealing with self-interest, how can you make them look good.

I recently did a session with a group where they had some questionable experiences with training in the past, most recently an NLP experience that went sideways.  When I finished the head of marketing who took in the session, told me that I made the VP of Sales look good!

What better way to leverage the self-interest factor than to make them look good in the eyes of their peers and superiors?  Not to mention that it is relatively easy to do, assuming you have a quality offering.  We all know, and hopefully practice the art of under promise and over deliver; it is a question of building out on that.  During the sale if you do a thorough job of Discovery, you can get a clear picture of not only what their objectives are, but how they will directly benefit if achieved.  It will take work, but help them exceed, and not only do you help them achieve those objectives, but can make them look good in the process, helping you enhance the relationship, and build towards future business.  Done right everyone’s interests are served, and everyone can look good.

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

Sales Pollution (#video)2

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Biz TV

Words set expectations for buyers, and they impact the way sellers act and execute their sale.  Words are a big part of sales, and it is important that sales people think about which words they use, when and how.  As in other parts of life certain words have meaning in some context while not in others, words become fashionable, and then become over used.  Make sure you use words that complement your actions and have meaning and engage the buyer, rather than turning them off or worse.

Here is what I mean:

Sales Polution

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!

Top Sales Academy – GAP Selling0

Join me today as I deliver my segment of the Internal Sales Curriculum for Top Sales World’s Top Sales Academy.

I will be focusing on how to best sell in changing times and markets by leveraging GAP Selling.  While the curriculum is billed for internal sales, this GAP Selling presentation is applicable to all B2B sellers, inside or field sales.  The presentation will present a sales framework that will allow you to succeed in changing markets.

Changing times and markets means you have to change how you sell and who you sell to.  This session will show you what you need to think about before you start your sales, and what you have to do to succeed in new or any buying environment.  You will be introduced to GAP Selling, a five plank platform for selling success based on an actionable definition of value for the buyer.  The planks are:

  1. Time utilization
  2. Identifying and validating buyer’s objectives
  3. Why Buyers buy and don’t buy from you and your company
  4. Converting the above to Impact Questions for quality conversations
  5. A structured follow-through approach to maximize impact and progress Participants will learn how to use the above to create alignment with the buyer, their objectives and buying process

Participants are introduced to the model and key steps they need to take to implement model, they will be able to go back to their organizations and evaluate they current model, and prepare to introduce elements they may be missing.

You can hear an interview I did with Top Sales World in advance of the event:

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

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

You’re Great At What You Do – But What You’re Doing Isn’t That Great0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

first prize

One of the things that makes great sales leaders great, is their ability to delicately balance various and at time juxtaposing dynamics in sales.  One of the more subtle but potentially very impactful of these is in achieving structured change and improvement in the way their organizations and individual sales people sell in changing environments.  Specifically the need to do the right things through the sales cycle, and – executing those actions well.

The challenge is to strike the balance between doing the right things and doing those things consistently better.

Organizations should be striving to create an environment and process that evolves with the demands of the market, which by definition means a continuous evolution in the way buyers buy, and the way sellers sell.  This does not mean daily or weekly changes, nor does it imply dramatic change, but over the course of time, say over 12 – 24 months there will be clear differences and movements in your buyers’ expectations, at times even the buyers themselves, and in the way your product is sold and how your sales reps interact with the market.  This in turn means the way you need to sell, the “right things’ you need to do and execute to win sales, will also change.

While this change or evolution is desirable and good, it does impact the other side of the scale, the “doing things better” side. Just as you begin to make progress on one skill set, or element of the sales process, change happens, making improvement a challenge, although not impossible.   The reality is that improving sales skills is not an overnight process like many try to pretend, as a result it is entirely possible that just as you gain competence and confidence in a given skill, the market will require that you change, and acquire additional skills which will take time to learn and master.  Starting the cycle over again.  This is why the difficulty in achieving a balance between doing the right thing and doing it better.

Companies deal with this in a number of ways.  Some choose to adopt core practices, and then spend time ensuring that their teams are improving their execution over time.  The up side, better execution, the downside, the skill is no longer relevant or revenue generating.  For an example of this, just look at the experience of those in industries moving to managed services from a previous product or similar sale, look at IT or print as an example.  IT players spent years perfecting the break fix sales or solution sales, when everything changed, from the buyer to the way they sell to that buyer.

Others will send individual sales reps to different programs provided by different third parties.  Some have told me that this allows for different ideas, and these will be shared among their team.  Interesting concept, I have yet to see it implemented well, and usually leads to many inconsistencies as a result of disparate inputs, certainly makes it hard to have a cohesive process.

One company I know invites a motivational speaker each year, their goal is to “pump up the troops, provide a little magic, and set them loose”.  While this may be fun, a 60 minute “motivational” presentation at a kick-off meeting, is a lot like cotton candy, sweet, fun, little nutritional value, and does not last much beyond the sugar high; it gets some laughs, some one-liners you can throw around the rest of the year, but does little get people to think, and does not ensure adoption of newly required skills.  Without adoption, there is neither improvement nor change, especially for adults who already have day jobs.  A consistent focus on adoption leveraging practice and a follow-through process, including a series of hands on sessions extended over a period of months, as we do with our programs, will drive adoption, which results in a change in how people sell.  Once you get them to implement, then you can work on helping them do it better, but again, shifts in market expectations.  But the reality still remains that just as they do it better they may be required to change.

One thing we do with our clients is to shift the focus of the sale, getting them to look at and focus on the buyer’s objective over other things, such as solutions.  The challenge in focusing on solely on solutions, is it leads to sales people running around the country side, where everyone they run in to looks like a problem that is right for their solution.

Many buyers have much greater clarity about where they want to go, their objective, than how they want to get there, the solution.  By changing the focus of the sale, you not only get deeper and better engagement, but you can adopt a specific interview style and process that drives engagement around the buyer’s objectives.  This creates a sort of “pull-through” effect, as the markets and individual client’s objectives evolve and change, so does the way you sell, and meet those newly evolving requirements.

Beyond the many benefits of putting their objectives in the bulls-eye, it allows organizations to create a real balance between getting your teams to sell the right way, while allowing them to execute better before introducing new ways to sell.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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