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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After and Before2

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Note pad

In a business that emphasizes relationship as much as sales does, it is sometimes interesting to see the degree to which sales people, and buyers, tend to ignore, overlook and at times avoid some basic components of human interactions, and way to enhance those interactions and the impact of that on business and sales outcomes.

Michael Jordan once said:

“…You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly, because the only thing that changes will be your attention to them”

This statement is as true in sales as it is in basketball. Sometime those fundamentals seem simple and inconsequential, but in the end it is often those little things that make the difference. Remember that your product is often indistinguishable from those of your competitor’s, so the way YOU sell may often be the differentiator that clinches the deal. So let’s focus on two seemingly small things, that when executed consistently and well, after and before meetings with buyers, will win you deals, no matter other factors. And while these may seem small, do them and then judge the results.

After:

After every meeting you should send a note, what most will call a thank you note, but done right it can be so much more.

Few send thank you notes anymore, I know that when I am the prospect, if I get a thank you note, it is so rare, I take notice, and mentally give the sender bonus points, points that may take them ahead of the other vendors. A hand written note, will just blow their mind. But more than a thank you note, it is an opportunity for you to recap what you took away from the meeting, action items everyone agreed to, and most important, what you propose the Next Step to be.

If you and the buyer synch on all of these points, then the note will just cement things in their mind, along with you being the vendor who helped them do that. If you took away different understandings, it is to your advantage to find that out now, and make any course adjustments you need to make. Better to correct things now than go into the next meeting with different ideas; if you can’t correct them, better to find out now than after investing more time and resources.

As well by introducing what you think the next step should be, you get them thinking about it, and again, if they don’t disagree, you are on the right path, but if not, you can deal with it now, not later.

Before:

About a business day ahead of the next meeting, send in a n agenda, nothing deep or heavy, three or five points (odd numbered lists are better), AND, what you would propose as the Next Step, if things unfold according to the agenda. As above, if things are on track, you can go in with some sense of confidence that you are on the right path. If not, better to know well in advance of the meeting than at the end when it may be too late to do anything about it. Same goes for the Next Step, if they can’t live with your suggestion they’ll speak up, and while it may not be what you had planned, better again to know early than after the fact.

While neither may appear to be all that and more, when you first read them, execute them consistently and it won’t be long before you attribute deals directly to executing these steps.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

It's time to get Bricked!

For Sales Success – Aim Beyond0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

target

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I run, (sometime towards something, other times from something), different distances, but I do three or four half marathons, 21.1K, per year (it’s that last .1 that always gets me). This means a year round routine of training, spiking in the periods leading up to the halves.

It struck me a while back that the approach that works best for succeeding with my longer runs, is very similar to the approach I take with my pipeline and sales success. In many fortunate ways for me, I have slightly better returns on my pipeline efforts than I do with my runs at times, oh well, I’ll just put that off to age.

So here is my approach and thinking.

Running 21.1K is demanding, certainly not as demanding as a full marathon, but I need to deal with both the physical demand, and the mental outlook required to do my best at each run, and hopefully better than the last run. And while everybody seems to be able to relate to the ongoing training for the runs, some are surprised that the same “training” discipline applies to selling. People tell me “you know what you are doing by now don’t you?” Yes I do, which is why I apply what works for one to the other.

When it comes to the running a 21.1K race, you actually need to train for longer distances if I was to train to do exactly 21.1K, I could do well, but it would leave little room for error along the way, especially unpredictable things which may come up; it would require perfect execution every time. So to ensure that there is room for the unexpected, I instead train for 30K runs. In conditioning myself for longer distances at the same pace as I plan to run the half, I build in room for any number of things that may come up on race day, from simple things like the weather, to more difficult things, like the voices in my head asking “why am I here?”

The same goes for my pipeline, I gear my activities to go beyond what I need to make goal. A lot of sales people work their pipeline to deliver exactly what their quota is, leaving little room for error. On the other hand if I had a 4:1 closing ratio, it is a good idea to work the pipeline as though the closing ratio was 5:1. Taking it further, and applying that thinking to conversion rates between stages of the sale will help you build in enough buffer to withstand negative surprises.

Unfortunately, many sales people apply the opposite, view and work their pipeline close to the line, even the smallest blip will cause them to fall behind quota. Worse, many have questionable prospects in the their pipeline, many with no next steps, or timelines that extend well beyond the average sales cycle, or even the fiscal period in question.

The push back is usually around time, and the market, or any familiar battle cry. But as one marathoner I once replied when asked what the hardest part of training was, she replied “getting out the door”. Once you decide to build in a buffer by aiming beyond the bare minimum, you’ll be out the door.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

Exceeding Your Sales Expectations0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Solar Scape

Many adhere to the saying that goes “perception is reality”, no arguing that, but for sales professionals the mantra needs to be “Expectations are reality”. Regular sales people let their perceptions dictate their reality, and are often limited by their own perceptions, those of their buyers’, and of course the perceptions they glean from the pundits’. As a result they often settle for things they perceive, rather than achieving the things they can do given the right expectations.

I was working with a reps last week, helping him be more effective on the phone in the process of setting appointments. While he got the words and the flow of the approach and talk track down quickly, he was still not getting traction, especially when compared to others. What he was lacking was conviction and the dynamics that come with that.

Those dynamics, nuances in attitude and delivery, can make the difference between another prospecting call, and an appointment. The better the call, the more appointments; the more choice you have in your pipeline and your success. One specific is the attitude you have about the outcome, which directly influenced by what you expect to happen on and as a result of the call.

His expectations were all focused on the negative less than fun side of the call. He expected to get voice mail rather than a live person, he expected to be greeted by the admin or what sales people like to call gate keepers, (talk about setting the battle lines with labels). If those hurdles didn’t pop up, he expected the target to be irritated, not interested, and almost pissed for getting the call. If he got past that, he expected objections by the boat load, and finally he expected that there was little he could say to take away the objections and get the appointment.

I felt for him, he was piling up all these limiting obstacles, and he hadn’t even looked at the phone, no wonder it seemed like a five ton dumbbell. I suggested he had reset his expectations. “To what” he asked, “what are your expectations when you make calls?”

“I expect to get the appointment”

Those words are not magic, I still need to deliver an effective introduction, and while I get objections like the rest, I expect to deal with them and get past them. My expectations are focused on the outcome, the appointment, the opportunity in the pipeline, the sales, the commission and the meal at my favourite restaurant, I can taste that vindaloo now. If you expect to meet and be defeated by obstacles, then that is what you’ll get, and that will dictate your perception, and the reality of your effort.

Sure perception is reality, and if your perception is that you can’t do it, prospecting doesn’t work, then that will be your reality. If you expect to get the appointment, expect to get the next step, expect to win the deal, then that will inform your preparation, actions, reactions and outcomes. Those who set expectations, and settle for nothing less than what they expect can go further and overcome more hurdles more effectively than those guided by perceptions. What are your expectations today?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Your Funnel Should Be A Horn Of Plenty3

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Harvest c

Most would agree that sales is not strictly a numbers game, but as with other issues such as closed ended questions, the pendulum at times seems to swing too far in one direction. While no one will argue that there needs to be a greater focus on quality than quantity, you also can’t get away from the fact that numbers play a great role in sales success. Just the plain simple fact that we are measured on our success with numbers, leads to the integral, if sometimes inconvenient fact that sales is a numbers driven sport.

I bring this up because of reaction to my piece the past Monday on how to deal with prospects who are reluctant to commit. At one point I mentioned that anything other than a firm yes is a NO, regardless of what it sounds like, and how much hope a statement may allude to. I went as far as to suggest that if you can’t get a next step you should walk away. Some questioned the soundness of that strategy, why would you walk away?

Well two things to consider, first, when I say walk away, it doesn’t mean that you can’t ever revisit that prospect in the future, whether that be three months, six, or a year, you can come back. But the reality is that if you don’t walk away and engage with a real buyer, you will miss your quarter, and may not have your job by the time this prospect is ready to go. With all the tools available from e-mail, e-mail marketing, social media, you can be present in the prospect’s world, without having to spend valuable time while they are coming around. Walking away is not forever, it for your sales success.

The other which goes straight to numbers, has to do with the quality and quantity in you funnel. If you needed 5 prospects to close a deal, and you had eight real ones in your funnel, if one went soft, you wouldn’t lose much sleep, after you’ve got the five, plus a couple for insurance. On the other hand, if you needed five prospects to close a deal, you had three real prospects in your funnel and one went soft, you have a problem. Leading to the obvious conclusion that quantity does give you options when facing a quality issue.

Most companies struggling with their sales are struggling more from a quantity of opportunities perspective to a much greater degree than quality. The issue is that prospects they have are good, they just don’t have enough of them. In that scenario the logical approach would be to go out and get a few more good prospects, the numbers side of the equation. But most sales people believe they can breathe life into a dead deal with more ease than going out and prospecting more good opportunities. I never understood why they prefer being rejected by a prospected they have invested time, money and emotion in, than being rejected on a prospecting call.

Starting from a position of plenty, meaning more prospects as measured in numbers, gives you options, allows you to execute on the best opportunity. Having a small number of “good” prospects, will give you some quality but in insufficient amounts to assure success.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

What’s there to think about? – Sales eXchange 2171

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Thinker

Many sales people will tell you that one of the most common and frustrating objections they get from prospects, is “Let me think about it, I’ll be back to you”. It has enough optimism in it to suggest there may be some hope or opportunity, but not enough substance to make it useful. In the end “thinking is not the same as acting” and at the time you get this objection, what we need is action, anything less than that is second or third prize, not good enough for winners.

To manage this and deal with this objection, (and yes managing and dealing with objections are two different things), you have to adopt a number of different approaches, and act on parallel plains and modes.

First, get real, anything other than a yes, is a no, and deal with it as such. Doesn’t matter how sincere the delivery, if it is not “Yes”, it is no. If you accept that as your mantra, it will guide your interactions and actions with potential buyers, and inform you meeting objectives and execution.

Do you know what you want out of the meeting before going in? Without a definitive “Next Step Strategy”, it is hard to get commitment. You need a plan A, B, and C, this allows you to formulate a structure for the meeting, ask the right questions to help uncover the buyer’s objectives, opportunities and potential barriers. Understand how you can help minimize or remove the hurdles and accelerate their opportunities. In the process you deal with the buyer’s response, and respond accordingly explain and continue to execute the meeting in a “proper” way, and they say, “I need to think about it”. You either had the wrong plan, wrong execution, or wrong buyer.

Ask yourself whether you had engagement – no engagement most often leads to no commitment, no matter how good the plan. Even when you have the right plan, and get the above right, it comes down to executing the meeting right and creating engagement. While it is be true that it may take time to build a real relationship, and real trust, it starts with engagement. You can tell when a prospect is engaged in the meeting, this why you have a plan A, B and C, so you can explore in multiple ways. If after all that, they still need to think about it, is this really an opportunity NOW, or is it something that MAY happen later, after they had a chance to think, and you miss your quarter. It may be time to look for another prospect.

Do you have other prospects? That is the one of the hidden questions. If you have a funnel full of viable prospects, would one “I need to think about it”, be such a big deal? No, you would move on to the next one, one willing to act. Now if everyone wants to think about it, no matter how many prospects you meet with, then you need to look at the above points. But if you need four deals a month, and you close one of every four prospects, it is really simple. If you have 16 or more prospects a month, and you continue to close 4, and two or three say “I need to think about it”, would you be fussed? On the other hand, if you have eight prospects and three say they need to think, well, problem. Sometimes the easiest way to overcome the challenge is to build in choice by building your prospect base. Think about that.

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

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!

Wasted Sales Opportunities – How One Bank Blew Theirs5

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Toaster

One of the big Canadian banks, we’ll call them the Green bank, has a current radio ad that I believe holds a great lesson for sales people.

In the ad, a customer of a competing bank, is complaining to a competing bank manager that all he got for switching to the bank was a toaster, “I already have a toaster; and it doesn’t even toast bagels.  I am a grown man, I have a toaster”, he proclaims.

At this point I am thinking what a great way for Green to highlight how they focus on your unique needs, how their offerings address the real requirements of Canadians, and how there is greater depth to their banking relationship than a mere utensil.  Surely they are not going to pretend that they can bribe us with a toaster or other kitchen appliance.

Well I was half right.  They were offering a 7” tablet.  I was wrong thinking that they may actually talk to things that are really important in these days of economic woe, helping one save, creative mortgages, proactive retirement options, and more.  But no, given the opportunity they offered up not quite a toaster, but a tablet, how 2013 is that?  And that is the half that I was right about, it wasn’t a kitchen appliance, but one you can use in the living room, bathroom or probably everywhere.

Some sellers fall into to the same trap, getting so focused and blinded by their needs, their agenda, and their world view, that the buyer and their reality are just incidental to the process.  Many of the questions posed, assumptions made, benefits highlighted during the sale, have more relevance to the seller, their marketing department and company, leaving the buyer underwhelmed, disappointed and looking for alternatives.  That was my thought, if this is the best Green can offer as alternative to Blue, Red or Black, what’s the point?  If their response to the old practice of enticing clients with old school utensils, is to offer up a new school utensil, than why would I switch, why would your customer?

As sellers we need fix our lens on the buyers’ objectives and priorities, and work with the buyer towards those ends.  It sounds straight forward, but continues to be a challenge.   I am part of many call plans and reviews, and time after time, sellers commit to the obvious, but then try to retrofit the buyer into their product or solution, rather than helping the buyer understand how their objectives, the buyer’s, can be achieved using our offering.  This requires a bit more effort since you first have to surface the objectives, but it is doable, especially if you have sold similar things to similar buyers.  But despite the modern veneer, sellers often fall into pitch mode, feature benefit, and some form of price concession at the end.  I bet some would just love to have a trunk full of toasters to hand out with each next step or close.

Sadly for Green, I already have a tablet, a 10”, and a mediocre Blue bank, only a few shades darker than Green.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Voice Mail Week Part III – The Technique and why It Works! (#video)0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

In Part I and Part II of this trilogy we looked at context, and how there is more to voice mail than just the message and getting a call back.  So now it is time to reintroduce the technique.  I say reintroduce, because I have shared it before, and as you may have gleaned there was some push back and even more misunderstanding of how and why to execute it.

I suspect that there will be push back again, and I invite the challenges and feedback of all quality from all sources.  The one ask that I do have is: try it before you knock it, a few times, give yourself a chance to succeed.  Try it the way it is presented, no variation, no improvisation.  If you do improvise, and it works for you, great, share what you did, we can all learn.  If you do improvise and it does not work, I refer to the small print, which basically states that we stand by our method, good luck with yours.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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