Why Get Ahead Of The Buyer?0

 By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Rear view

I recently saw an ad for a sales program, and that big bold letters enticing me to buy read: “How To Get Ahead Of Your Buyer”. While I get where they were coming from, or more accurately who they were trying to appeal to, but there was just something wrong with the way it was phrased.

I think one of the biggest challenges sales people have is not to get ahead of the buyer, it seems to me that getting ahead of the buyer is the same as “leaving the buyer behind”, a dangerous notion and more dangerous practice.

One of the key things we help sales teams accomplish with the EDGE framework is alignment with the buyer. Executing the sale in a way that keeps you engaged and in step with the buyer, leads to a number of pluses, not to mention more sales.

Alignment is key, it helps you focus and cover objectives, which then allows you to offer practical means of helping the client achieve those objectives. The idea of getting ahead of the buyer has an old school ring of pain and needs based selling.

When you rush ahead of the buyer, because you are familiar with the scenario, you’ve seen and heard it before, you tend to want to “close” too early, usually relying on old school “closing techniques”. In some ways I thought we were past this, but this ad and a recent discussion in a LinkedIn group suggest that we are not. That discussion was based on the question “What’s the best, most effective question you’ve ever asked a client?” Apparently some sales people still ask what keeps the prospect awake at night. With thinking like that, and leaving the buyer behind, sellers move to close too early in the process, you may feel you are done your discovery, but the buyer is still defining and refining their requirements. Moving to close at this stage will at worst make the buyer feel pressured, scare them to compare to others, and at best, slow down the deal, requiring a longer sales cycle, the use of more resources, and less time to spend on other opportunities.

When this happens, and other companies enter the fray, price will not only become an issue, but a central issue. What was your deal to win, now becomes your deal to buy, and there is never money in that.

The flip-side of getting ahead, is falling behind, the relationship approach, “whatever makes you happy, I’ll be here when you’re ready.” The net effect of this again is that the buyer learns whet they require, after all you are there with all the facts and didees, and when they are ready to buy, they do so from the guy asking for the order, not the one waiting.

Work with the buyer, lead the buyer, based on their objectives, your expertise as a subject matter expert, but don’t get ahead, or fall behind, manage the alignment.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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3 Ways to Minimize or Marginalize Objections – Sales eXecution 2402

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

bad phone day

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I have pointed out that salespeople and sales organizations spend too much time and energy trying to avoid objections, when they should be spending time on learning to deal with them, redirect and leverage them to move the sale forward. Here are three things you can do at the outset of the call that will make objections more manageable.

1.  Framing The Conversation – How you frame a question will have a direct impact on the type of response you get. At times it is simple semantics, other time it is where you can get the recipient of a call to focus. When you ask me about a specific, I will answer that specific. This is where many get in trouble, often led astray by pundits who’ve told them to focus on pain, needs or solutions. If you ask me about a need I do not have or perceive at the time, you are inviting me say no, even when I could use your product had you asked me differently.

Ask me about specific objectives someone in my role and type of company have, and it would lead to conversation. Your product could in fact move me towards achieving the objective, even when my perception of needs are different. There are things all business people want to achieve in areas where they are not feeling pain.

While I may still object, it will be in context of something I am interested in discussing, not in context of a pain or need I do not have, or at best not acknowledge.

2.  Take It Away In The Introduction – I was working with a group of salespeople with a well know international band, they were targeting small local companies. A big sticking point was when the prospects said “oh we’re too small”. Conversations always went sideways, having to defend misconception around cost, complexity, and more. So I had them include the following in their introduction “I am the small company specialist”. This did not eliminate the usual objections, but it marginalized a big hurdle, and allowed the conversation to move past it easily, and allow it to unfold in more familiar ground.

3.  Lead With Positive Measurable – In point number one above, I asked you to align your talk track with their objectives, not perceived pains. If for whatever reason you are not sure what those may be, there is a plan B. Highlight, clearly and strongly, a specific and measurable outcome, making that the focus of your talk track, not a product or “solution”. “I have helped (provide example) increase margins by 6%, – or – increase turnover by 8%”, etc. No guarantee that you will get engagement, but it will focus the conversation on positives, and limit the objections you will face.

Again, objections while prospecting are inevitable, no matter what some pundits will peddle, but you have the power to set things up in a way that allow you to manage and move past them to a real sales conversation.

What to be better at handling objection, download our Objection Handling Handbook.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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

Beedon Headshot

The Pipeline Guest Post – Dick Beedon

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

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

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

The Benefits of New Channels are Compelling (examples)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Richard Beedon

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

5 Things You Need To Stop in 2014 – Or Any Year – Sales eXchange 2320

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Five

As we headlong in to the New Year, and wipe the slate clean, symbolically in or in actual ways, you are going to face two certain things. First an endless barrage of meaningless awards shows meant to squeeze the last bit of sales out of last year’s products. And an even greater number of post and articles telling you all the things you should do in 2014, most of which are retreads of things they advised you to do in 2013.

Here are two things you need to do, first capture all that advice on your favourite cloud storage area. This way you can revisit it next Christmas see who had insights that paid off, and who was stinking out the joint. Second, rather than focus on what you should do, why not try not doing some things that have prevented you from being more successful than you are. Here five things to consider, there are probably others, try these, or three of these, but before you start new things, and coming more skills and talents, start by shedding some to make room for the new. So in 2014 Stop

  1. Being Trendy – There is always a new trend, a new tool, a new way, to be successful, but new is not always better, it’s just new. Successful sales people master things that work and then stick with them till they stop helping them succeed. Sales skills, like any skills, aren’t tied to a calendar, or product releases, they are tied to effectiveness, so focus on how effective something is in helping you sell better, and sell more. There are always new offerings, but will they help you achieve new levels of success, or just help the people peddling them find a new follower?
  2. Fixing Things – Most sales people these days remind me of solutions running around the country side looking for a problem, wearing t-shirts that read “I never met a prospect whose problem I couldn’t fix”. Well a lot of prospects don’t have “problems”, and therefore don’t see the need for a solution. But they all have objectives, focus on that, and you engage with more potential buyers, and sell more. Don’t be that shmuck who described his role as a sales person as “I find the soft underbelly of the prospect, stab it, then offer up the cure”.
  3. Talking – Yes, you’ve heard this before, but did you listen. Ask good questions – tough questions – questions they haven’t heard from the shmuck above, and herds like him. Questions about their business, not your “solution”, then shut up, listen – don’t finish their sentence for them. I was out with another sales trainer recently, and if I had a dollar for every sentence the prospect was not allowed to finish, I would have had a financially rewarding day, but as it is he talked us out of the sale. Take notes, have follow up questions, but let them do the talking.
  4. Listening – To everyone other than the buyer, for one simple reason, they are the ones who will write the check from whence your commission comes! If they can’t directly contribute to your sale, they are wasting your time, and time is a precious resource.
  5. Hesitating – There are a million things that can hold you back, but the worst is you. What’s the worst that can happen, you learn something and have to try again. What’s the best, you act and get results. Yes, hesitating does have more predictable outcomes, but usually less desirable than executing your well thought-out plan decisively. Don’t second guess yourself into to the safety of mediocrity.

Happy New Year!
Tibor Shanto

The 3 Legs of Sales Success0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Stool Success

As you finalise your 2014 sales plans, it is good idea to review and commit to some of the basics. Some of these may not be fashionable, on the other hand nothing is more fashionable in sales than exceeding quota.

As with many endeavours, we sometime focus too much effort on style and take our eyes of the fundamentals. As Michael Jordan once said:

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

While the framework for the fundamentals are process and quality of execution, the key fundamentals that we need to continuous focus on regardless of methodology or approach are:

  • Size of Sale (or order)
  • Volume of Sales
  • Price integrity

Size of Sale – Refers to the specific size of the order, specifically in two forms. One is the result of the type of prospects you pursue; if you are selling stuff measured in units, the larger the target company, the more units they will require. Since in most instances, the effort required to sell a $50 million dollar/40 employee company, is often not that different than selling a $100 million/100 employee company, why not focus on the larger end of the scale. A variation on this is a recent example from a company I worked with. They found that of the three batteries they sold, the mid-range one was the best product/value for the price, for both the customers and them, but people tended to opt for the entry level battery. They discontinued offering the bottom end, their unit sales did not decline, and their revenue and margins increased.

It is no different if you are selling services, if you target companies that can ‘consume’ more of what you sell, you will sell more by avoiding those who consume less. Since the time you have to make the sales does not change, why not target those opportunities that can give you size or scale. You can always go down stream once you have sold the ideal size first.

Volume of Sales – this is different than the first point, it goes more to how many sales you get irrespective of size. If right now you are doing four deals a month, and were to increase that to say 4 ½ deals per month, you would move to 54 sales a year, a 12% increase. Even if you have a long cycle, big ticket, say only six sales a year, increase it to 7, may not sound like much, but.

This involves better use of time, primarily through the discipline of disqualifying those opportunities that will not close now, they may close a year from now or even in the summer, just not now. This is where your process gives you the confidence to say no, rather than spending time to try and get a yes where one does not exist. Like the old gold rush 49ers, the quicker they got rid of the sand and stones, the quicker they got to the gold, increasing their daily take. Get rid of the crap in your pipeline, and you’ll work with more gold.

Price Integrity – as straight forward as it gets, the less we concede the more we succeed. Resist the temptation to “give a good price to get in”, because you will never recover.

As you evaluate your opportunities, it is important to consider how any or all of the above can be leveraged to deliver better and consistent results, and how misalignment can be detrimental to success.

With all of the above methodology and improved execution will help you sell more to more of the right people, but merely adopting a methodology without target one of the three elements above is not enough. You may want to start by targeting one, or better yet explore opportunities that allow you to move the dial on all. We use a simple matrix allowing clients to plot opportunities based on these elements with the added element of time. This allows them to visualize and focus on the right number of highest value opportunities sold at full price.

Everything we do in sales should have a positive impact on one or all of those three elements. It is when we take our eyes off these fundamentals, that the level of effort, training, coach or other initiatives, will always be greater than the results. The start of the year, (quarter, month, day) is a good time to refocus.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Give Up The Snooze Button of Sales – Sales eXchange 2280

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Wake up

I recently read a couple of pieces about common habits and traits of successful CEO’s, two that struck me most were that they plan in advance, and when it comes time to act they maximize that time to execute fully.  The second, not only do they all start their days early, but when the alarm goes off, they jump to it, and never hit the snooze button.  I think that sales people can learn and benefit from adopting one or both these habits.

Key to success in anything, especially in business is the ability to maximize, to get the most return from any resources you use to achieve your objectives.  Given that time is our most precious resource, the better one uses it, the greater the return.  The one thing we all have in common with even the most amazing CEO’s, is that we each start the day with 24 hours, and what we do with it is really what differentiates one person from the next.

Let’s look at planning, most are comfortable planning ‘big’, the year, the quarter, the month, even the week.  But not many sales people step back to plan the ‘little’, after all, it’s little.  But what’s the old saying that it’s the little things that kill you, or your success.  I have written her in the past about how other professions spend much more time planning and preparing, than sales people do, and even within sales, if you look at those who are consistently successful, they plan.  Especially for activities they know they don’t like or are not good at.  A simple example, when it comes to prospecting, I suggest to reps that they ready their call list the afternoon before, during low energy times.  But most will leave that task to when they actually make the calls, wasting high value time, and reducing their high value activities, and their success, one day at a time.

Hitting the snooze button is the ultimate expression of procrastination.  Being in that state of getting ready, you know you gotta do it, but you put it off if only for nine minutes, ok, one more time, 18 minutes.  And that continues through the day, hit snooze button, here, then again there, and by the end of the day, we could lose up to an hour to hitting the snooze.

I know there are things in the day that we don’t like to do, but that should not be the measure, the measure is whether it helps you get prospects, get sales, get ahead.  Successful people attack their tasks, devouring those they don’t like, and reveling in the ones they do, but key is they do, and do to the max.

The reality is that certain tasks have to be completed, like them or not, putting them off does not change that, not does it complete them.  There is no better time, “I am better in the afternoon”, then afternoon comes, and you have to take that client call, or “I’ll do it right after I grab a coffee.”

Planning will help you avoid procrastinating, execute your plan and move on, but if you don’t have a plan, and you know you don’t like the task, when the time comes to doing it, you’ll hit that snooze button and lose a little more.

vote

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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

Small Business Week – BNN Interview (#video)0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

This week is Small Business Week in Canada, as part of that BNN, Canada’s business news television network is running features highlighting the Canadian small business space, and looking at trend and advice for the small business community.

 

On Monday I had the pleasure of discussing how small business owners approach hiring sales talent, what works, and what they should avoid.

 

Take a look, and as always, share your thoughts, leave a comment.

 

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

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!

How Do You Know You’ve Had a Good Week?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Ahhhhh

The other day I was coaching a rep who was not buying into any sort of planning at all. More than fly by the seat of his pants, you could call this guy a “spiritual seller”, it seem to be his only guide and benchmark. No matter what he was presented with by his manager or I that in any way related to structure, he quickly set aside with a counter argument; an argument which usually impressing him more than me.

I finally asked a question for which he did not have an instant answer, one that seemed to make him think: “How do you know if you have had a good week?” Other than feeling good about himself, how would he know? There was little he could point to, and I guess he did want to have “good weeks”, because he became open to ideas.

As a first step we broke it down to three things:

Planning – Since “good” in the context of what we were looking at was a relative thing, without a clear plan there was no “relative” scale. Planning allows you to draw that line in the sand that goes from Point A, where you are now, and Point B, where you want to be at the end of the week. To ensure the exercise has merit, the plan needs to be directly tied to a specific objective, in this case sales goals. Specific results, and specific activities that move you towards near term and long term objectives. By making planning a constant rather than an event, you can accomplish a lot, in small steps, and continue to make improvements along the way.

Time – A plan is just a first step, it then has to be actualized, even with a simple activity based plan tied to goals, you need to commit to a time when you will actually complete key activities required to successfully achieve your plan. As they say hope is not a plan, but you have no hope if you run out of time before you complete those key activities. It’s all well and good to say that you will do this that and the other, but to avoid it just being talk, or just another thought swirling around in “the canyons of your mind”, you need to schedule it. Put specific activities in your calendar, and then ensure that you manage those activities within the allotted time.

Execution – Now that you have a plan, set time aside to do the activities required by the plan, you need to do it, sometimes the hardest but most rewarding part. As the saying goes, deciding to do something and doing it are two different things. You know that in sales it is all about Execution – Everything else is just Talk!

Taking these three simple steps, perhaps small steps at first, then building on the success will help you have one good week after another, the good quarters, and years to follow.

Have a good week!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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