So How Did You Do With That One Thing? – Sales eXchange 2310

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Success 1

Last year around this time in a video titled “The One Thing“, in which I challenged you to avoid the temptation of pursuing whole changes and resolutions going into the New Year, and instead focus on one thing. One thing that will measurably improve you execution, you’re selling, and when you master that one thing, build further from there.

Well it’s a year later, time for a reality check, let’s see how you, or we, did on that one thing, what worked, what didn’t, and why. If you did take on the challenge, how did you do?

If you did not accomplish what you set out to do, there are some things to keep in mind. If you gave it a real effort, made some progress, but are not where you want to be, that’s ok, as long as you keep going, don’t settle for “some progress”, go for your goal. If it is taking longer than anticipated try to understand why, and they adjust accordingly. At the times the goal is valid, but the means we choose is not the best. Step back, focus on your goal, the positive impact it will have on your success, and see if there is an alternate path. Don’t mistake with changing your course with changing goals or coming up short. In fact as a sales pro, at times the best thing we can do for prospects is show them how they can achieve their objective though an alternate way they hadn’t considered. If the goal is valid and really key to helping you sell better, stick with it, experiment, and apply the learning, even when it is a result of failed approach.

If you did succeed, congratulations, pat yourself on the back, reap the rewards, and then ask: “What next?”

With all the changes and continuous challenges facing sellers today, you can’t stop and rest on your laurels, you need to use you success as a springboard to your next conquest, right after you examine some elements of how you succeeded. How long did it take, what were some anticipated hurdles you overcame, what were some of the unanticipated that if proactively used moving forward will positively impact your journey.

When did you accomplish success, four weeks, three months, most of the year? Understand the elements, just as you would elements of a sale you want to repeat to ensure you succeed again and again.

Once you have an understanding of the concrete elements, it is time to look forward, and move forward. Meaning decide some things you would want to change in 2014. While you may want to look at more than one, you also don’t want to go crazy. While I will ask you to focus on one at a time, you are now in a position to plan out more through the year; as you accomplish one, roll in to the next, orderly, methodically, each building on the last, setting up the next. Just like a sale, just like planning your sales, like a process, for sales success.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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The Fine Line Between Cool and Rude8

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Back 2 back sm

In an increasingly hurried world of too many things to do in too few hours, buyers seem to fall in to two groups: Cool and Rude. The cool are those who can deal with and clearly communicate what is on their mind, regardless of the impact on sellers. While what they communicate may not be what sellers want to hear, the upside is that the communication is clear, and they are offered the respect a potential partner deserves. The rude (and I suspect other shortcomings) are those who fail to communicate clearly for whatever reason, that, only they know since they are unable or willing to communicate properly.

Specifically I am speaking about the common act by many, but here specifically prospects, of going radio silent on sellers.

Context

This came about as a result of a coffee with a long-time associate Harry, a very professional and proven seller in his industry, with a solid track record of delivering results for both his employer and his clients. He has been around long enough to know that his offering is not for everyone, and that at times he does not sell as well as other times, but he has for years managed to sell and deliver value in an industry that continues to be commoditized daily. Add to that we were talking about not people not responding to initial approaches from e-mail, inbound marketing, cold calls, voice mails, LinkedIn InMails, Tweets, or any form of initial approach, the examples he was discussing were from people who were engaged in the process, went well past the initial exploration, and clearly expressed more than an interest in engaging. Harry was lamenting the loss of common courtesy, not that he expects everyone who starts the process to buy, just a simple communication as to where things are, even when they are nowhere.  BTW, I have heard this from a steady number of professional sellers of late.

The Reality

His comments came not from the frustration as a seller, but the deterioration of common courtesy in business. He has been around long enough to understand that many will not see value in what you sell, and may come to that determination after going part way through the cycle. Being old school, he is doggedly focused on next steps, and when he doesn’t get one, he understands that he needs to both ask why, and he needs to find a new prospect to replace the one that just said no. What he was puzzled by is why people who committed to a next meeting, next call, next action, not only do not follow through, but fail to communicate. Yes, silence clearly communicates their intent, he was just wondering why they just couldn’t say no. Again, for Harry it was not about the lost sales, but the lack of will, or ability to communicate.

Most professional sales people understand that they will hear more no’s than yes’s, in fact the better they are, the truer that is. Harry was just asking to hear something, even as he moved on to the next opportunity.

Yes, we know that buyers are crazy busy; busy, busy, busy; but busy is not permission to be rude. In fact most successful executives go out of their way to close conversations and discussions, I suspect because they know they may need to interact with that person at one point in the future; now that’s cool! As Harry said “I didn’t put a gun to their head to meet to begin with, some reached out to me, the least they can do is to tell me to FOD.”

In a selling world enamoured with the concept of relationship and etiquette, one where the mantra of people buy from people, rules supreme, it is a curiosity why so many seem to prefer to be rude and ignorant, rather than cool and communicative.

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What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

If You Have To Wonder – - Forget It!4

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Crossed Fingers

We’ve all heard that communication is 60% body language, 30% intonation, and 10% the words we use (give or take). While this is an important statistics for sellers to keep in mind, it means nothing to those who sell or set appointments by phone, where there is no body language, and it’s down to intonation and words; and as we have said before, words may not break your bones, they could hurt your sales.

People can’t separate themselves from who they are just because they are selling, which means many of speech patterns they have developed over the years are present when they are selling. As a result they tend to use words that are just not all that effective when selling by phone, without the benefit of body language and limited by straight up intonation.

This is especially an issue while prospecting by telephone, or (dare I say it) cold calling. Now if you are a post-modern seller who does not cold call you’ll find the rest of this piece less than compelling. But if you are prospecting by phone, even if only those leads you sourced via inbound marketing, there are some steps you can take to have more success in a world void of body language.

Beyond the words you use, you also need to change your assertiveness or intensity, here are a couple of examples. I often hear people on the phone say “I was wondering if we could set a time to meet”, or “I was hoping to schedule an appointment”; really, I would have thought you knew you want to set a meeting. The above is a result of our social conditioning. In an effort to be polite, a good thing, we fail to compensate for the lack of body language. When you picked up the phone you weren’t wondering, or hoping, you wanted to meet. If you were standing in front of them, you can settle for wondering, but on the phone you need to compensate for the lack of body language, and not only clearly state your intent but go further by accentuating and asserting your desire to meet.

Note I am not saying be aggressive or rude, but you need to cut through the din created by other sales people Not a big change, but an effective one, “Mr. Brown, I am calling you today to specifically set a time to meet… or … schedule a time … arrange a meeting”. The words are down to you, it is more about the confidence and attitude you project. Who would you rather spend time with a wishy washy person hoping for something, or a confident professional clear in intent, abilities and direction? They say hope is not a plan, well it’s not very attractive in sales either.

Along the same lines, don’t say things like “I’m just calling”, “just following up”, or just anything. And please don’t combine two weak words: “just wondering”, “just hoping”.

There is in fact one thing you can do to leverage aspects of body language even when you are on the phone. Stand up, speak in a natural state, get a mirror and have a conversation with “a person” in the mirror. I know of one sales person who has a full length mirror in their office, and their prospecting calls consist of them conversing with the prospect, and the person in the mirror. You can step in to key words you want emphasise, you can catch yourself about to interrupt, and more. Sounds awkward, most things do at first, but the payoff is real and lasting.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales Come Flooding If You Let Them – Sales eXchange 2240

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Truth

No one argues the need to listen in sales, as I have written about here before what you listen for is key. Sometimes it comes down to the question you ask; other time to how well you listen, eliminating distractions and not just listening to the client, but hearing what they are saying.

And while many talk about Active listening, they practice Selective listening; looking for cues to pitch and push their agenda over the buyer’s. Don’t get me wrong, the seller’s primary function is to sell, drive revenue for their company, while delivering value for both the buyer and their company. Key here being mutual value, not ours over the buyer’s, but that’s exactly where many sellers seem to end up.

There is just bad skills and manners, which can be corrected. Where it is really fatal is when the problem is rooted in the intent.

I have been working with a rep who needs help in being a better listener, I have been on a few meetings with the rep over the last couple of weeks, and I swear the rep would make more money if they got $10 for every time they didn’t let the buyer finish a sentence, then the actual commission that may result from the sale (which may not happen because they didn’t shut up long enough to let it happen).

The funny thing is that if you ask the right question, which this rep often did, a lot of truth and selling opportunities will present themselves, but you have to let. Back to intent, if you want to hear how you may maximize your opportunity with buyers, you have to let them tell you, and they will. But if your intent is to sell them something, a very specific something, there is no room for the truth or the buyer’s reality, it may interfere with what you want to sell. So many reps, like the one in question prevent thing from flowing.

The other way this rep and others prevent the truth from flooding, and creating sales, is by failing to get to the root of issues buyers put on the table. Many are good at asking initial questions, but then take the buyer’s initial response at face value and move on. The reality is that people, all of us, “say things”, especially if we have been asked similar questions by a number of sellers in a short span of time. Many responses are a lot like sound bites, and reps settle for that, others take the time to examine the issue from different angles, looking for ways to a) understand what the buyer is really saying; b) to see how they may educate the buyer to better address the buyer’s objectives. Of course the risk is that they may not have the depth for that discussion; their intent is to sell product, not to help clients achieve objectives. And it takes a bit more work than they are willing to do, again, intent; it is easier to cut the prospect off and limit the discussion to those selective facts that you feel you need to make the sale.

Asking the type of questions that get the facts to come flooding, and using that to create clients not only differentiates us from other sellers, but leads to more sales and longer client life cycles than any form of selective listening.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Are You Selling Like A Child?10

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Child with PC asking

Maybe You Should!

When you get to be my age you end up spending a lot of time with adults, full of expectations, bound by ritual, shackled by their habits, blinded by their opinions, limited by their knowledge. So it was refreshing to spend some time with some so five to seven year olds last week. Beyond their energy level, I came to see why kids are the best sales people on the planet.

Once I adjusted for the noise level and energy I began to notice their sales skills come to the fore. First I noticed is that they have little or no inhibitions. They will try anything without stopping to figure out “why not”, they are just happy to have the experience. How many times have you coached a “professional sales rep”, asked them to do something they knew needed to be done to move the sale forward or close it, only to have recite a laundry list of why they can’t do that? Keep in mind that what they are being asked to do is not illegal, immoral, or unethical. In many cases these are the very things their colleagues are executing day in and day out to win deals, and exceed goal. Yet the reps in question will tell you why they can’t or won’t, and sadly, often the reasons are the same no matter the activity, a closed mind that limits only their success. While these kids are willing to try anything, especially when their friends are doing it and having fun in the act. In fact you are more likely to tell them not to do things, and they respond by asking “Why?” every sales person secret weapon word.

I was answering a prospect’s e-mail on my handset, and right a barrage of question, “who you writing, what are you writing, why, why them, what for, what are you gonna get out of it, why now, what are they gonna get out of it, what if you didn’t write them, do you have to answer everything they asked, will you buy me an ice cream with the money you make?”

And a million other questions. Brilliant, so energizing, because it made me have to think, just like questions make your prospect think, it challenges them to look beyond the race that is their day, to thinking about specific things. The questions they asked made me think about what and how I answered the e-mail. Credit for getting the next step I wanted should got to the kids.

One other thing about their questions is that they didn’t give a rat’ what about being politically correct, they just wanted the facts, they were not rude, nasty, or anything negative, just not hung up on all the adult things sales people tend to get hung up on.

They are also great closers, the best man. They know what they want, laser focus, and totally consumed by figuring out what they want and how to get it. Can you say persistent? I remember my oldest son approaching me when he was around seven, trying to get cookies for his brother and he.

“Dad, can Ez and I have a cookie? One or Two”

I had to give him permission for two, how many did your prospect give you?

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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First Intentions2

First Intentions
By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

We are all aware of the importance of “First Impressions”, not only in sales, job hunting, life, when meeting your girl friends dad, etc.  There are plenty of experts that will teach us all manner of things to achieve the best first impression, from dress to languages both verbal and body, and any number of outward things you can do capitalize on that non-repeatable First.

But for sellers, there is something that can instantly undermine effort put into the best impression, and the fact that it is not external, limits the effect and or impact of the factors mentioned above or others.  In fact if you do not master this one thing, it will not only undermine efforts, but scare buyers away no matter how well you do other things.  If you do master it, it can more than make up for a bad hair day, encountering a herd of wildebeests  on the way to the meeting or other things that may ruin a first impression.  Further, unlike other factors, it is not a skill, and as such you can’t practice, train, or hire coaches; you need to master it on your own.

I am of course speaking about your intent or intentions.

Your intentions is where it all starts; they guide your planning, decisions, actions, attitude, execution and results.  More than any other thing you bring to the game it is the key differentiator.  Often when you are one of two equals from a product point of view, you intent will be what tips things your way.  While buyers may not be able to see your intent like a snazzy  Harvey Specter suit or hair cut, they are fully aware and in tune with your intent and will respond to it directly.

Truly having the intent of winning revenue by helping the buyer or client, helps you avoid the trap of cognitive dissonance , where you are saying one thing but feeling another.  Buyers can sense this, don’t believe, just ask yourself how  many times you did not believe what you were hearing from someone selling you something at a store or car dealership.  In fact the if you look at the way better car sales people avoid the stigma of the stereo type is through their intention.

It can often be a challenge for sellers, they are wound up to go out there and “win” the revenue.  People like me talk to them about hunting, and driving deals, play to win. The untrained assumption is that first impressions and everything we do after that is to win the deal.  But in fact it is to win long lasting customers, and the best way to do that is to help them achieve their objectives, to deliver value throughout your work together.  If you do that you will get the revenue that goes with it, if not, no revenue.

It may seem like a fine distinction, but if you set out to help your client overcome challenges between where they are and where they want or need to get to, not only do you approach the sale differently, but you are very much perceived differently by buyers and clients.  When you set out to win the deal, you at times do, and at times you don’t.  And I’ll bet that when you don’t win a deal, and you don’t understand why, it came down to what the buyer saw as your intent vs. the intent of the seller he awarded the deal to.

Intent even trumps skills.  When working with outbound telesales people, They often want the secret words, the hooks that will get the prospect to say yes. Some practice their vocal delivery, trying to sound like the perfect radio voice in an effort to gain an edge.  While intonation is important, it only goes so far, the intent you project and communicate goes further and deeper.  While I am advocate of scripts, I define script not as a set of words delivered in a specific order, like the dinner interrupting window installers, but as a series of facts you want to communicate in a call, and bases you want to touch with them, thus demonstrating your intent.  The problem with the old style scripts, is that as good as they are, they betray your intent, demonstrating to the buyer that you have a specific agenda, not the goal of helping them.

When you centre your sale around the proper intent of helping the buyer, you are able to engage with both near term and long term prospects, there by having an active and vibrant pipeline at all times.  In planning, it allows you to draft better questions, which further demonstrate your intent, making the buyer more comfortable and confident in opening up more, building more trust, paving the way to more information, more trust, more information, etc.  It creates greater alignment between buyer and seller, which in turn accelerates the velocity of the sales and shortens the cycle.

EDGE Process

During the discovery stage, it drives you to come up with better questions, because you are not just going for the close.  The right intentions allow you to fully explore buyers’ situation, needs, and requirements.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to win deal, drive revenue, but that is not my intent, it is the dividend.

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What’s in Your Pipeline?

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