Can You Sell Your Competitor’s Product?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Compete

Given today’s buying climate, chances are your buyer is talking to a range of potential providers, usually after having carried out some “independent” research. I say “independent” because one is susceptible to the echo chamber group think risk presented in an information overload, knowledge under-load world. For many companies, this is only made worse by the “be found” silliness being peddled by many pundits their sales people are being enticed by. In the past I have written about the power of “Land Mine Questions”, but if you are looking to win more sales this year, you need to go further.

One way to ensure that you are covering all angels to help your buyer make the right choice – you, is to be able to not only view the world through the buyer’s eyes, but also through the eyes of your competitors. While many sales people are familiar with their competitor’s product, strengths and Achilles Heel, great sales people go further to the point where they could sell the competitor’s product, better than the competitor rep can.

I was talking to an IT rep last week who is big on visualizing. He, like many I know, use a practice I use and recommend, which to visualize a sales meeting the day before, go through how you will open, If you know the people, visualize them sitting in the board room. Go through all the questions they may have, and think about how you may answer; picture yourself asking what you want to know, and go through the various answers they may give. Do the same for objections, what will they be, hear how you would answer them; all this allows you to not hear most things the first time during the actual meeting.

I suggested to him that he can take things one step further, by running through a meeting as though he was selling his competitor’s product, how would it be different, where would he feel exposed vs. the other vendor, what are strengths he can exploit. He asked if we could practice that, which we did the next day, his task overnight was to get into the head of is competitor. He jumped on the phone, and called their call centre, he asked them all the questions he hated, to see how they would respond. He then went on to ask questions around where he felt his product was a clear leader, to see how they managed things, and did so around a number of areas.

When we meet the next day, he not only felt that he was in a better position to accentuate his offering’s strength, but felt that he was equipped well enough to sell the other product, which helped him set a flow that would continue to differentiate and elevate his product over the other. As we rehearsed, we also made sure that he aligned the talk track to the buyer’s objectives, giving him the further ability to ensure that the buyer would see his product in a better light given their own objectives, more so than just on the basis of the products.

We’ll know next week how well he did. He felt his meeting went well, and if he does close the deal, it will put him a head of goal for the quarter, now, and ahead of the competition for some time to come.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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Please, New Is So Old Now – Sales eXchange 2361

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Future

I got a note from one of the pundits in my inbox telling me things I should do for sales success in the New Year. You may expect these type of things mid-way through December till maybe January 10th, but after that it is just an indicator that they don’t really understand B2B sales at all, and the customers they get as a result, they deserve.

As a sales person your really do need to live in the future, and fulfill in the present. You need to live in the future for two simple (probably more) reasons. First, if you are going to deliver real and lasting value to your customers you need to leave “ahead of them. If you are going to deliver to and drive their objectives, you have to be where those objectives will unfold, and that is almost always in the future. Especially with business leaders, be they leading small or large global companies. If you speak to these folks and you should, (as well as speaking to everyone else in the organization, it is not one über the others), you will notice that their horizon is in the future, based on who they are it could be six, twelve, eighteen months or more in the future. The have delegated the present to others in their organization, in the case of small business, they have relegated it to a different part of their thinking.

So if you are going to align and sell to them today, you need to be thinking and talking to things they thinking about, which means they have been in 2014 for some time, cranking up you preparation now, like the pundit suggest, nay, scream to the buyer, “This guy is no for you”, as my fellow Tull freaks will say he is “Living In The Past”. If you are going to step in to the roll of thought leader for these buyers, you need to recognize that you need to lead from the front.

The other reason you need to live in the future, is driven by the realities of calendars, fiscal years, invoicing and the payable cycles of your buyer. Let’s say you have a three month sales cycle (handshake to close), and you get paid when the first invoice is paid, 30 days is acceptable period for an invoice to be paid, you are going to need four months of run way for a deal to count towards your number this year. Which means anything you start after September 2, will be next year’s number. If it counts and you get paid, when the contract is signed, then that date moves to October 2nd. So if you were going to look at doing things a new way for 2014, you will have need to start that process last September or October, not January 26.

This is not to say that you should not always be adding new elements to your selling, just look at that as an ongoing part of your personal development, not an event tied to the New Year. Yes, I know the pundit needs to sell too, but you don’t have to buy if it will not help you now, or in the “now future”.

I am going to keep this mail as I am certain it is the exact same one she sent last January, with dates changed. I am not sure if I remember because it irritated me last year, or the fact that they used a stock photo used by a million other sites.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales Tactic: Using Your Own Brand0

CC Dec 2013

The Pipeline Guest Post - Megan Totka

Does everyone in your company, whether in the sales arena or not, use the products and services that your company offers? If they aren’t, they should be. If you want your customers to use a product, you’ve got to be a strong brand representative and utilize your products in your everyday life as well.

Now, if you are in sales for a wine company, am I saying that you should drink that wine exclusively? No. But if you are selling this type of wine, you need to be able to talk about its features honestly, and it’s best if personal experience is where you’re getting your information from.

I came across an interesting article that talked about salespeople who were pitching CRM software to companies. At the end of each sales pitch, the company that was hiring the CRM firm would ask the potential hire to input the sales report from their mobile device into their CRM system. Only 5 out of the 7 could actually input the information – it seems that the other two, while probably a good face for the company, couldn’t actually use the software.

So how do you avoid being one of the companies to fail the test of using your own product or service? Here are some ways to make your sales pitch stand out by using your product and services yourself:

  • Make sure that all of your salespeople are well-versed in your product’s everyday uses. This is the most important thing to consider – what do you sell. While it may be tempting to let someone who is really good at sales just do the pitch, they really do need to know how to use the product and service themselves as well. Plus, if they know the product, they’ll be better suited to answer questions on your products uses – making the sale more personal and less salesy/rehearsed.
  • Consider putting together a list of the features that your product has that other don’t. Then when you give this list to prospective clients, remind them to compare other companies that they interview to make sure that they have all of the same abilities. Or to make it really easy on prospective clients, compare what your product has with your competitors and show what they’re missing that you have.
  • Encourage your sales force to be honest if they don’t know something. Instead of trying to come up with an answer on the fly, have them tell potential customers that they would like to get them a more thorough answer. While it’s best to have everyone know everything about how your product or service works, memorizing every last detail can be tough.

If you want to easily sell customers your product, it’s best to start using it yourself. How has using your product or services helped your sales?

(Photo Source)

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

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

Two Webinars This Week You Don’t Want To Miss0

Webinar

Coming up tomorrow and Thursday I will be presenting two webinars dealing with two critical aspects of prospecting.

Tomorrow, Wednesday October 23Time – Prospecting – And Getting the Jump On BothI’ll be talking to the importance of sourcing the right leads, information about the individual and their companies, and securing the right and accurate contact information so you can engage with the right person for the right conversation.  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 available from eGrabber to help you make prospecting more time efficient and productive.  Time is the only unrenewable resource you have, the better you use it the more success you will have.  Improve your rate of connecting with the right decision makers, and you will increase prospects, sales and profits.  We will be sharing best practices and everyday techniques for improved prospecting.

Click here for more detail and registration

 

Then on Thursday, October 24 at 2:00 pm Eastern time - Cold Calling: How to Handle the Objectionworking 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 we will go deeper on how to handle and manage the most common objections faced while prospecting.  The goal is to provide attendees with common sense and proven practices for handling objections and initiating more conversations with buyers, and help them become customers.  Most sellers tell me: “Get me infront of the right buyer, and I will close them”.  Problem is overcoming those early awkward objection to you call, and move to selling.

Click here for more detail and registration

See You On-Line!

Always Thank The Gatekeeper1

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Dragon

When I ask sales people what their biggest challenge is in getting to speak directly with decision makers they are targeting, and voice mail or gatekeepers are at the top of the list, (while call reluctance should be right there with the other two, they don’t usually volunteer that fact). We have dealt with voice mail in the past, so today we’ll look at “gatekeepers”.

There are typically two people labeled as gatekeepers, for many sales people it is the receptionist who greets them while they are door knocking; for others like me for example, it is the executive assistant or admin working for the executive I am targeting. This will primarily look at the latter.

As with many things in sales success comes down to attitude and the luggage you carry. So let’s start with the label, gatekeeper: very negative; almost creates an ‘us and them’ atmosphere right from the start. Why not call them what they are, the admin or assistant, which opens the situation rather than limiting them. The good news is that as someone who works directly with the decision maker, they are privy to a lot of information, most importantly the priorities, objectives and current focus of the executive in question.

If you can align your message with those, there is a greater likelihood that the assistant will engage with you, as they recognize the issue as one on the executive “must do” list. Notice I said engage, too much time effort, money and energy has been spent of schemes to “go around”, “evade” or “neutralize”, the “gatekeeper”, as though they were an infectious disease or member of a lower cast. I have seen advice that is not only demeaning to the role, but risky to the success of those who choose to ignore, or blow past the assistant.

This advice takes into account only half the role of the assistant, they are there to help the decision maker do their job easier and better. Yes that includes keeping unimportant callers away from the DM, but it equally includes introducing things they come across that help the DM move forward on an issue. They do both well, it is up to you to engage the right side. Let’s face it they do a good job of keeping interruptions away, better than my son, when I told him to tell a telemarketer that I wasn’t at home, he told the caller “dad says to tell you he is not home”.

If you’ve done your research, engage the admin the same way you would if you had the DM on the line. Speak with authority, speak with respect, and speak about specific impacts you have delivered vis-à-vis objectives they have, similar to those your research indicated this DM has. There is no point in playing cat and mouse, because the odds are you’ll end up playing the role of the mouse. Speak to the admin the way you would to anyone in the DM’s inner circle.

At the same time keep the focus on speaking with the DM, if the admin feels you “may” add value they will help you, rather than block you. A couple of things to help, always ask for their name, not in an “I’m going to tell your dad on you” tone, but in a way that humanizes the conversation, begins rapport. The reality is that if you have to call back, they will be the one you will speak to; it will make subsequent calls that much easier, you’ll be able to start warm: “Hi Jean, this is Tibor…..”  (I guess if you called, you wouldn’t say Tibor).

But because your goal is to speak to the DM, keep focused on that, when answering the admin’s questions always end with your objective, end whatever response by saying “is he/she available”. Even if they ask what’s the call about, answer in a direct way, again the way you would the DM, but end by adding “is he/she in?” As well, if there is no progress, go for voice mail, but again not in a negative “you’re useless way”, but in creating efficiency way.

By speaking to them in an inclusive way you open a number of possibilities. Depending on your style and the person at the other end of the call, you may do this on the first call or a second call if your message does not get a call back. On the second call you can try one of these two approaches. The more effective of the two is to reintroduce yourself using their name reminding them of you call a few days back. Then ask, “Based on what we talked about, who do you think Mr. Smith would involve or delegate this to?” Remember the admin is in the know, and if what you said is on their priority list, this is not a hard question to answer. If the admin responds “he would have Barbara, the VP of Marketing deal with it.” At that point don’t just get Barbara’s extension, ask to be transferred in, the caller id will show the DM, and they will answer if they are in, and it will the DM’s mail box number if you end up in voice mail. When you connect with Barbara, you know where to take things.

The other way you can take that second call is a bit more adventurous, works less often, but still works. Assuming you have maintained rapport with the admin, just say “Jean, it is Tibor again, we spoke Tuesday, how are you? … I am great thank you; you know the only reason I am calling Mr. Brown is to schedule an appointment, do you have access to his calendar?” (Now you know they do) “Great, how is Wednesday at 8:30 am for him?” About 20% of the time I get a tentative appointment, they usually stick, and when they don’t, the admin works with me to find an alternative. Add to that the fact that the admin has the trust of the DM, so if the admin set the appointment, there must be a good reason. These days you have to leverage every available asset and ally, don’t waste an obvious one.

One final consideration, if everything goes the way you plan and you get a sale, how valuable is having that admin on your side helping navigate the landmines and unknowns in the company. That’s why you always want to thank the admin.

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

Is it Ever The Right Time? – Sales eXchange 2083

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Clocks head

If you prospect regularly, a common push back you get from potential buyers is “it’s not a good time”, or “the timing is wrong”, or any variations on that theme.  In some instances it makes sense, calling an accounting firm in the March April timeframe, or a school supply company in August; these are times those companies are busy executing, having made purchase decisions much earlier in the cycle.

With only 15% or so of your market being in play, that is actively out there “buying”, and 70% being in what is commonly called Status Quo, ostensibly not looking, it is a safe bet that 70% of the “time” the timing is not right.  I say ostensibly, because there is a lot of opportunity and buyers to be found in that large group called Status Quo, the fact that they are satisfied with their current state, does not mean they won’t buy, no matter what some pundits tell you.  Satisfied is a long way away from ecstatic; there is a lot of room for improvement and your offering between those two points, don’t settle for satisfied.  The problem is that too many sales people allow the statement about timing to throw them off or give up on an opportunity, not just for themselves, but for the buyer, and by extension the buyer’s company and objectives.

“75% of customers who leave or switch vendors for a competitor, when asked, say they were ‘satisfied or completely satisfied’ with the vendor they left, at the time they switched.”  ‘Customer Loyalty Guaranteed’ Bell & Patterson

What the Status Quo prospect is saying is that they don’t have time to waste on another value proposition, or you history of accomplishments.  They want to know how to move past satisfied, which you could do if you could surface their objectives, and what they feel is in the way.

For those 70% of the time where by definition your timing is “not good”, you need to counter it in a way that acknowledges your understanding of their statement, but allows you to put the onus on them not to prevent that from them taking action.  Left to their own devices, it will never be the right time until it is too late, they go to market, and you are part of a crowd willing to drop their pants and sell at a discount.  Not for you, the time is now.

The simplest and most effective way to do that is to move the discussion off time and on to their objectives.  Understanding why people buy, why they have bought from you and/or your company is key, and one of the great benefits of reviewing all deals, wins, losses, and draws.

You can start and create a gateway by asking “is it ever a good time?  With all the things we have on the go, it is difficult to have time for everything.” Pause, and using the above, and specifics tied to your market and offering, “if you had to create time, and complete the number one item on your list, what would that be?  At the same time, what’s something that you could drop from that list without much impact on your business?”

By listening with an open mind and a blank canvas, you can begin to understand and discuss what their priorities and objectives are, and how you can impact those.  As with most prospecting calls, the goal is to secure an appointment, not to sell, this will put you in a position to assess the opportunity and secure an appointment.  You’ll have a sense as to objectives and current barriers, and how you may add value.

As with most things in sales it is not 100% full proof and is usually done hand in hand with other steps that need to be executed, but it will allow you take a common objection and turn it into a sales call.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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

Better Never Than Late (#video)1

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Biz TV

Packaging counts for a lot.  Many companies know that while the content of their offer may be similar to others, they can gain traction with potential buyers through presentation and packaging.  While no one may get fired for buying IBM, often what they were buying was less about the quality of the product and more about other factors, just ask some former DEC employees and customers.  But IBM was able to convey “better”, through means other than product specs.

B2B sellers can do the same.  They may not be able to alter their product, but they can alter perceptions.  One way is through steps and actions that are very much in their control.  But many seem to ignore these levers in their control, and as a result attain less success and less sales.

Here are a few examples:

Better Never Than Late

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

The Sales Version of Chicken or Egg – Sales eXchange 2050

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Chicken or egg

For many the age old question continues to be which came first the chicken or the egg, and while some have claimed to have the answer, there is a similar one playing out in B2B sales.

Most agree that you need to develop and maintain relationships with buyers (then clients) to succeed in B2B selling, but there is lot of debate about which comes first the relationship, or the sale?

First thing you have to do is define “relationship”, it is one of those words in sales that people use without often quantifying or defining its meaning.  Maybe the assumption is that “everyone knows” the meaning, but that is a false and risky assumption.  Some use it to hide their lack of knowledge or understanding of sales, and relationship is one of those sunshine words, if you keep using it, you sound as though you are in the know and good at sales.  I see this a lot when I ask sellers I work with to define sales, they’ll talk around the question, and throw in “relationship” at a few critical junctures where their response looks weak.

When you get into more formal definitions, you find two main camps. One basically states that the primary objective is the building of long-term relationships with customers from which repeat business will flow.  The other, believes that relationships evolve from good results delivered on sales that were initially made before there was a relationship, based on a positive experience, the interaction continues, relationships build and evolve.

Both agree that relationships are important and make for better and more sustained business, but like the chicken and the egg, they seem to disagree on which comes first, the initial sale or the relationship.  For the sake of disclosure, I tend to line up with the “sales comes first, relationships evolve” camp, rather than the camp that feels that sellers need to focus on the relationship first, and then business will flow, a definition borrowed from a popular sales glossary.

Relationship do not ensure sales.  I remember having a rep in Ottawa who finally landed a big government department, when asked by her peers how she did it, she told them she established a solid relationship.  She failed to mention the 10% discount she negotiated with me to close the deal.  A year later, she lost the department, the only one of the many we had as clients, as we were reviewing the deal, I couldn’t help but ask what happened to the relationship?

We have all seen or experienced where buyers, not just new buyers, but established customers, ones  sellers thought they had a relationship with, who end up buying from someone else. It usually comes down to either price, the other seller, the one without the relationship, being cheaper. Or even more biting, the other seller was able to convince the buyer that they can move them closer to their objectives than you.  In outselling the relationship, they show that attaining objectives will trump relationship for a buyer every time.

We work in a world where companies and reps need sales to thrive, sales in the current month and quarter.  This is why companies all pay commissions for sales, not for relationships.  This is why it makes more sense to develop a sale, delver to or above expectations and use that as the platform for building a relationship, rather than building relationships with customers from which repeat business will flow.  To be clear, I am not saying no relationship, or relationships have no vale, but that there is a sequence that delivers more for both parties, and that sequence is, start building the relationship and the sales as soon as you engage, but get the sale first, it will take time to build a real and worthwhile relationship.

So there, we have solved that one, and if you are interested, and have a sense of humour, the question of which came first the chicken or the egg, has also been answered.  Again, if you have a sense of humour, you can learn about it here.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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