Excuse My Typos – Just Busy Establishing Plausible Deniability0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


Mantras such as Just Do It, or Execution – Everything Else Is Just Talk, are a great way to put a focus on DOING things rather than just being a bystander or just talking about doing things or worse, talking about why you did not do it. But they are just a starting point, the objective is to do things progressively better. While I remind all of us in sales that sales success is about doing things, I also regularly have to add that it is about doing it right, doing it consistently, doing it well, doing it to the best of our abilities, and challenging ourselves to continuously improving those abilities; not just mail it in so you can say it is done, as all too many are apt to do.

I see this in all aspects of sales, those who just make ten calls to ten sequential names on a list, and call it prospecting; versus those who initiate contact and engagement with ten 10 prequalified, researched, planned and targeted viable potential buyers, using all the tools available to them, from traditional to social and everything between. Both groups can tell me they prospected, both start out with the same objective, one group merely completes a task, in the narrowest sense; the other fully executed a strategy, and the results clearly reflect both efforts.

If you’re going to start the endeavour, why not do it right, fully and completely? Some may just write it off to a lack of commitment, but I believe it goes further than that, it goes to a lack of accountability and responsibly. Finding it safe and safer to blend in to grey rather than expend or invest in the effort to commit to either black or white.

You see this characteristic present itself in other ways. Two or three times a week I get an e-mail from sales types where at the bottom it has a disclaimer along the lines:

I am sending this from a (insert brand or type here) mobile device, sorry for any typos.

Now I am the first to admit that I regularly have typos in my blog posts, despite the effort to read and reread them before posting, but when I mess up, I thank the folks who point it out and take steps to not repeat it in the future. But rather than doing it right, it strikes me that the people in question go for establishing plausible deniability from the outset, even before the outcome is known. Or maybe they know what results their efforts will yield, and find it easier to establish plausible deniability than the work it would take to ensure the right outcome.

We all know that many of today’s mobile devices have some form of auto word correction/completion utility which sometimes insert the freakiest words instead of the word we were looking to type, but it is up to me to ensure that I communicating what I intend, not the devices’ algorithm. Where is the accountability and responsibility for the quality of the result? Sure it is just an e-mail, but it is an e-mail that reflects on the writer, and by extension their work, further their commitment to doing things right. If one can’t be bothered for such a simple thing, how much more effort will there be for more demanding things leading to and from the sale.

Another example of this half-assed approach is sales forecasts. While again automation has helped, it is still a question of garbage in garbage out. Talk to most sales people, they will tell you that their task is to submit a forecast. While their company is looking for an accurate forecast, one that will help them better run their business, understand potential order flow and resource requirement, protect margins, which in turn help make the product and your selling more competitive. I have had more than one rep tell me that they in fact have two forecasts, one they share, and the other is their own secret stash of opportunities. They care less about contributing, than covering their ass. Sure some of this is a result of a poor pipeline and opportunities to forecast, but the root cause is the same. When asked why, they unabashedly will tell you that it is a CYA exercise, completely discarding accountability.

What’s worse is their managers perpetuate the problem, discounting many of the forecasts and scaling things back subjectively to cover their own. They could and should work with the reps to A) understand what is expected; B) more importantly to actually be able to deliver a forecastable set of opportunities, that when proper weighted based on the companies defined sales process will actually deliver the results forecasted. But it is easier to scale back, build in “a plausibly deniable” buffer, and move on to the next task.

Managers can also do a better job of setting expectations. We have all seen instances where they set the task of their reps doing 10 calls, and they get exactly that, 10 calls. How much more effort would it take to articulate what those 10 calls are really meant to do in terms of engaging with real prospects, and pipeline opportunities. I know of one company where they have dictated that reps make 100 calls a week (either phone or door to door), probably twice what the team was (and is) used to. Well they got their 100 or so calls, without much lift in prospects or pipeline.

Mutual accountability up and down the line, with clear expectations set not just for results, but how to best achieve those results can go a long way to improving those results. Allowing cracks to be filled with plausible deniability not only kills results, but creates and fosters a culture without accountability, and no focus for change and improvement. If as a manager and an organization, you stop allowing people to establish plausible deniability, you will take a major step towards establishing a foundation of accountability, responsibility and success, a culture that will consume less resources while yielding more and consistent results.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


Protecting New Recruits From The Mediocre Masses – Sales eXchange 2110

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


Many in sales buy into, or more accurately, settle for the 80/20 rule, one example would be 20% of a company’s reps generating 80% of sales.  This post is less about disputing or validating the accuracy of the rule, if you want that, download The Shanto Principle; but more about how to ensure that your new recruits develop to be the 20%.  AT the same time, you can you use the same tactics to move from the 80% group delivering just 20% of the revenues, to the 20% club, the group that makes a difference.

Let’s look at a new rep joining a company, being social critters they want to fit in, be part of the team (part of the crowd, easy to hide in a crowd), they look around the office and take in the atmosphere.  Part of the ritual, is talking to their colleagues, getting the lay of the land, “how are things done around here?”

So who is likely to be in the office, who is likely to have time to just “talk”, rather than being out at client/prospect meetings; who lacks the discipline to not stop what they had scheduled, and shoot the breeze with the new guy?  You guessed it, the members of the 80% club.  The 20% club is too busy being out and driving revenues.

This is not to say that the 20% club members are not willing to help a new person out, on the contrary, they do, but they are not in the office, hanging around, they are making things happen.  So for the new team member, they need to make the effort to find and engage with the 20% club members.  In fact this can be an early indicator as to what you hired, how well do they seek out, engage with and model the 20%.

This is why the onboarding process is crucial, managers and organizations must proactively guide and steer new recruits, even experienced sellers, sheltering them from the 80%.

Picture the new recruit in the office with the all-knowing non-producing masses, as he or she stands up to peak out over their cubical walls, and the see the 80% members at their desk, getting ready to prospect, getting ready to learn about the new product, getting ready to go and ask the manager for a further discount so they can win the deal – putting more effort into selling the need to discount than they did selling the prospect on the value, getting ready finish their picks for the pool; for the most part, getting ready.

What is the take away for the new recruit – “hey this is the way they do things around here, if I’m gonna fit it, I best do the same”.

Stepping out to do the things the 20% do requires guidance, or expectation from their manager, and the ability to against the crowd.

Inviting the 20% club members to mentor new recruits not only instills good habits in new team members, but develops future leader in the process.  This in turn can help you increase the quality of the team, and tilt the numbers in your favour, over time, you can move the dial from 80/20, to dare we say it, 70/30.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

The Coma Call – Sales eXchange 1841

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca
Coma Call

As the euphoria of the new year beings to fade and the harsh reality of winter and the pipeline begin to set in, it is a great time to go to your Coma List.

What is a Coma List?  It is a list containing two types of prospects:

  • Those people who were involved in a sales cycle with you some time in the last 18 months, but did not go to decision, with you or any other vendor (You can say these are the folks in a self-induced coma, maybe there needs to be a third group, those that our sales effort put into a coma)
  • Those people you were going to call, but didn’t get around to, had better prospects, no time, etc.

Let’s look at the latter. I am not saying it is right or good, but the reality is that there are times when prospects do fall between the cracks, or maybe you had bigger fish to fry at the time, and you ran out of time.  You get involved in other cycles and activities, the next thing you know several weeks of months have passed, and you did not follow up, some feel awkward reaching out given the time that has passed.

The start of the January is a great time to reach out to these people to see if there is an opportunity to reengage.  Time has passed for them, as it has for you, their requirements may or may not have been satisfied, but statistics indicate that the status quo prevails, and they likely took no action.  Either way it is a call worth making, if they “hate” you and don’t want to see you till the end of time, fine, it is a 30 second call.

But just as often the outcome of a “Coma Call” is surprisingly positive.  If in fact the prospect falls into the majority and has not taken action, your call may be welcomed.  It is the start of the year for them as well, they are reviewing objective for the coming year, and the issue that brought you together the first time may still be on that list, and you can be a familiar potential way to address it.

Don’t let pride or fear hold you back.  Look at the percentages, the worst case is they say something negative and hang up, you’ll  live!  On the other hand they may welcome the call and reengage, and better, buy.  I can tell you from firsthand experience that I regularly get business from Coma Calls, right through the year.  Unless you were rude or abusive the first time round, chances are that they will reengage, and then it is up to you to go to work, rebuild your relationship, meet their requirements and deliver.

Yes, it was a mistake to let the sale slip into a coma, but that does not mean you should not take steps to revive the sale.


Enter to Win Tickets to The Art Of Sales


What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Compounding Your Sales Successes40

One of the greatest things invented by the financial service industry was “Compound Interest“.  Save for the fact that no one is paying much interest on money these days, the reality of Compound Interest still holds and delivers added gain regardless of how low of high rates are.  I was watching a teacher explain the concept to a grade 5 class, and he brought it down to “a little to start, a little from here, a little from there, and over time you end up with more than straight interest”.

As you assess your plan for sales success in 2013, you can take advantage of “Compounding” to achieve greater success. Rather than resolving to do new things in new ways in 2013, why not resolve to improve a little here and a little there with things you already do or need to do; but do it in a way that ends up being greater than the individual gains on your efforts.

Read On…

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales Calls: Success through Preparation50

Guest Post – Megan Totka

Sales people are tasked with some of the biggest challenges in the working world. Rejection comes with the territory and simply cannot be a deterrent for future attempts. Adaptation and the ability to learn quickly about a variety of topics are job requirements. A good salesperson consistently closes deals. A great sales person sells things, but also combines an air of expertise with a genuine feeling of concern for the client.

In a market that is increasingly concerned with “inbound” techniques, the traditional sales call is more powerful than ever. Whether a cold call or an arranged one, clients are more appreciative of the human connection than ever before. This does not mean that everyone will be happy to hear from you. It DOES mean that people on sales calls have an opportunity to reach clients on a personal level and close sales on the line. 

One way to prepare for success is through pre-sales call preparation. Take time to form a game plan and winning mentality before dialing the number. Follow these simple steps in preparation and then feel confident in your sales approach.

  1. Immerse yourself. If there are particular industries that you always sell to, get to know what makes them tick. Read up on industry trends, perform market research, attend trade shows and read the best blogs on the topics. You will be able to speak more naturally in your sales calls and your clients will regard you as an authority in your field.
  2. Prepare questions. There is a misconception in sales that the person making the call has to know everything upfront. In fact, most clients find it off-putting if a sales person assumes to know more about their business or industry than they do. You may already have a template of questions that you ask every client, but go ahead and add a few more specific ones. As you call back for repeat business, you may not need a “list” in front of you because the inquiries will just flow.
  3. Do not reinvent the wheel. If there are sales strategies that have worked for other businesses and company leaders in similar industries, use them again. It is not “lazy” to duplicate your tactics from one client to the next – it is smart and efficient. What you want to avoid, however, is the feeling that you are just reading from a script or “automating” your sales call. Even if you ARE reading a script – switch it up a little bit and make the words your own.

There are obviously more approaches each individual can take before a sales call, but these are some basics that every person can follow. As in any job, being successful in sales takes some trial and error. Each person will find their strengths and weaknesses through experience. Even seasoned sales veterans can learn a few new things along the way about what works, what used to work but no longer does, and what to completely avoid on all occasions. It is all part of an evolving marketplace – and one where sales calls still work if executed correctly.

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. Megan also specializes in marketing solutions for businesses.

The Mighty Weak Link – Sales eXchange 16274

Most of the time in sale we focus on ensuring we connect with and sell to the key decision makers, influencers, those driving the strategy, in order to build a solid understanding of the buying organization’s objectives and capabilities to realize those objective.  We work hard to align our offering with their key business goals, and help ensure that they can realize maximum benefit, regardless of how they measure it (revenue, market share, productivity).

But we have all been in situations where we did all we had to, did it well, by the book, only to have no sale at the end, or the sale coming much much later than forecasted.  If you look back and examine these instances, what you will often find is that there were some key people overlooked and not engaged.  Not in the decision making process, but in the implementation process. 

The reality is that we are not just selling to get a decision made, but selling to have something delivered, implemented and paid for.  To be more successful you need to sell the organization not just specific people.  This cuts both ways, you need to ensure that your are engaged with everyone who can impact your success, this includes executive, middle management, users, AND implementers.  On your side it needs to include not just you, but other people/departments they will be dealing with once you have done your part.

For example, if you sell IT related solutions (software/hardware/applications) you have all faced a scenario where everything was in place, then someone in the IT group throws up the argument that they can build it better, or decide to put it so low on the priority list that you’ll likely retire before it moves far enough up the list.  What appears to be an unimportant link, undoes all the work you did to that point.

Awareness is the first step, with that in hand you can take steps to deal with it.  First and foremost, understand how and who will be responsible for implementing whatever it is you sell.  We often enquire who will “own” it, who the day-to-day administrators or users will be, but we take implementation for granted.  Find out who they are early, really early and then engage them.  Sell them on the upside to them the way you would anyone else.

One obvious question is to have them tell you about an implementation that went bad, really bad, take in the specifics, ask them how it specifically impacted them.  Most importantly ask how they would have done things differently, what the vendor should have done things differently, focus on different – not better – you want their view on things need to be done, not value judgments.   You will now be able to position your offering in a way that aligns with their views and wishes. 

The implementers can also be a great source for information about some of the business decision makers, users, and others involved in the deal.  Remember they have been through this type of thing before, they know who is mover and makes things happen, and who is all talk no results.  Great way to know who can help you move the deal forward, better, and faster.  Getting their support early may take away any reluctance or doubt from the business decision makers, knowing they will be able to get things done; by removing even a small unspoken doubt, you can move things along and gain velocity in the process.

Since you are already there, talking to all the “key” people, you may as well include everyone who can help you, or stop the deal dead, they may seem inconsequential early, they could be your eak link in the long run.  So don’t forget the guy with the screw driver.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

An ‘Easy Button’ for Prospectors!49

Success in sales comes down to ensuring you allocate enough time to the right activity, high-value activity, and how well you execute those activities.  So any time you can find a tool that helps you reduce the time it takes you to do a high-value activity, and lets you do it in a better way with better results, you know you have a competitive advantage.  Add to that the real bonus that it is cost effective, and you have a sales tool that is a no brainer.

The tool in question is Leadferret.

LeadFerret, the world’s largest B2B database offering a full range of information one needs for prospecting success.  You have full access to complete data, including an email address for every record.  For Social Sellers and Sales 2.0 aficionados, you will like the social media links for many records, allowing you to act instantly, find a prospects contact info and find out more about them from their linkedin, facebook, and twitter profiles/pages. 

For those like me, frugal, the best thing about LeadFerret is … it is completely FREE. 

You don’t have to upload any data, earn any points, or pay anything.  Just go to LeadFerret.com, search for the records you want and you’ll soon be viewing them on your screen without paying a dime, or jumping through any hoops.

Other than rejection, the biggest challenge sellers talk to me about is sourcing quality leads, with accurate data, in a cost effective way.  LeadFerret offers exactly that.  Quality leads give you the confidence to reach out and engage with the right prospects, start the sale off right and build velocity as you move the sale forward to a more solid and value based close.

LeadFerret has a range of great search tools, giving you the ability to search by radius from your office, search by SIC and NAICS tools, search by title, search by company size; you can easily build a list of target contacts and companies from records you find while searching, hit the ground running, freeing up time to prospect and sell, not wait for people to find you.

In sales as in business, if you can find someone who will do it better, faster than you can, you need to leverage that to gain time and execution advantage, given the wealth, depth of the data  and it’s cost, which is none, LeadFerret is an easy choice for productivity and sales gains.

And as we said before, best of all it’s free, give it a whirl.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

3 Things you Should Not Say on a Cold Call! – Part II139

Wednesday I posted the first in a series of 3 Things you Should Not Say on a Cold Call!, looking at avoiding the phrase “Just need…”.  By the way, the word just should also be avoided when following through with a prospect, rather than saying “I am just following up”.  Be proactive and leave out the JUST, get to the point, the thing that will move the sale forward. 

Today we look at avoiding either of the expressions “Wondering if” or “I was hoping that we could…”, or any variations of these expressions.  At the risk of coming on a bit strong, I think that these expressions can and do make you come across weak, tentative, unsure, unworthy of being followed, especially when you are asking the prospect to change.  Often it comes across as frankly mealy-mouthed.

When you picked up the phone, you were not hoping, you were not wondering, you picked it up because you WANTED to SET an APPOINTMENT.  So say that.  As mentioned Wednesday, I know you want to be polite, you don’t want to perceived as pushy or aggressive.  But clearly articulating your goal is not aggressive or pushy, it is what makes for good sales people.

Add to that the environment demands that you be assertive to compensate for the realities of a cold call.  Consider that the experts tell us that communication is 60% body language; 30% intonation; 10% the words we use.  Which means on a cold call you are missing the biggest component, the body language, yours and the prospect’s.  You have to make for that somehow, and I would argue that beyond the words you use, and your intonation, it has to come down to how you deliver you message. 

One way to overcome the environment is to be clear, to the point, which means the buyers’ points, not your brochure talking points.  Which means when it comes to asking for the appointment, do ease off the gas, gear down, and tell them what your objective is, which is you want to meet.  Not hoping, not wandering if, may be, could be, perhaps we could meet.  What are you, Oliver asking for more soup, or a potential business partner of critical supplier that will help your prospect meet their objectives.  I know who I would make time for, it is the same for most prospects.

Lets get past the cotillion approach to prospecting, and get to what’s in it for the buyer, why, and when you want to meet.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

3 Things to Not Say on a Cold Call! – Part I73

Prospecting is not fun for most sellers, and cold calling ranks as the least favourite form of the activity.  While some may want to debate whether cold calling is still a viable part of a broad prospecting regime, I firmly believe it is, and the numbers prove it.  There is no doubt that it is a difficult task, perhaps explaining its lack of popularity, but there are things sellers do, that make it more difficult and less productive than need be, further fueling the sense of frustration and poor showing some sellers have.

Many of the things sellers do seem innocent; most have their roots in social conditioning, that is, rules developed for social conversations not B2B calls aimed at starting and sales conversation.  Others are based in our fears or misconceptions, again centered on our view of the situation, again, not on what makes for a good prospecting call. 

There is also fact that in some case, some not all, sellers are resistant to changing, their fear of the unknown is greater than the suffering sales people go through with their current but not always effective prospecting routine.  Cold calling is hard enough to just do it as a “chore” or a “necessary evil”, so if you’re going to pick up the phone you may as well play to win!

While not exhaustive, here are three things you should avoid saying in a prospecting call at all cost:

  • Wondering if or Hoping if 
  • Just need…
  • Companies like yours…

The above are in no particular order, to prove this, we will start with the second:

Just Need… – In a world where the battle cry is “go big or go home”, the word “just” JUST doesn’t fit. Think about what the word conveys – Only – Merely – Slightly – Barely – Scarcely – Hardly; doesn’t sound like you are really going to add much to the existing situation, just maybe.

You here sellers use the “just” qualifier all over the place, but especially in prospecting, with one specific area that really bugs me.  On that first important initial call, whether there was any lead up material or not, during that call many say something to the effect: “I just need 15 minutes…”  I know, you “think” you can diminish things, its just 15 minutes after all, you say to yourself, “if I do a good job in those 15 minutes, I can stretch it another 15, if they still like me, I can get a 10 minute encore”, etc.  I guess it works often enough that people still recommend it, but beyond the fact that you are knowingly lying to the prospect, nice start – there is the hidden cost.  The opportunity cost of those appointments you don’t get because of the technique.  Ask yourself how much value can you convey, communicate and capitalize on in 15 minutes; not much I’ll bet when you take small talk and introductions into account.  The goal of “softening the blow” by making it JUST 15 minutes, in fact communicates, that you have little to add to their day, and the 15 minutes is better spent doing other things.

In most instances, it is not the buyer who brings up the time restriction, it is the seller; the seller as a result of making assumptions, and self-imposing limits on their opportunity and success.  Even when the prospect brings up the issue, you have options.  Most often they will ask: “How long do you need?” simply ask them “how long can you give me?”  Most of the time I gear my initial meetings to one hour, most of the time the prospect says “an hour”.  You assume the buyer is trying for a short meeting, when in fact they are trying to manage their calendar, something we all should be doing.  If you are pressed for time, tell them the truth, “I usually need about 30 minutes for the interview, I am thinking you will also have questions, I would say at least 40 minutes”.  Why would you want to start a business relationship by lying and saying 15 minutes, when you know you need at least 30 or more?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Is It Ever A Good Time? – Sales eXchange – 14957

One common objection sales people face when making prospecting calls, is when the potentially prospect says “now is not the right time”.  While timing is important, and understanding how specific triggers can help improve your timing, the fact remains that perfecting your timing will only help you in a very (very very) small way, in a very narrow part of you potential prospect segment.  Here is why.

Timing is only important with two buyer groups, Passive, those who have realized the Status Quo no longer meets their requirements, and have decided to learn or check out “what’s out there”.  Not actively looking, but getting feelers out, looking at some web sites, information, getting acclimatized, hence Passive. The other group are those Active buyers who have decided to buy, even what to buy, is now just down to where and from whom; this is where the order takers thrive.  But together these two groups are a small part of the market, maybe 30%, but the remaining 70%, the Status Quo, timing, will by definition always be off.  As a result, you have two choices, the popular choice for many whose business cards say Sales Representative, is to avoid prospecting and fully engaging with these potential buyers; taking the advice of some questionable experts who will encourage them to “nurture”.  “After some nurturing, when they are ready, they will call you, since you stuck with them.” OK

So if you want to really change the outcome, read make more sales and generate more revenue, you need to work on the Status Quo, the 70% where you will always be too early, the 70% where other fear to tread.

The reality of timing is it will ALWAYS be either too Late or too Soon.  If they are Passive or Active buyers, it will always be too late, and if they are in Status Quo, it will always be too early, because they do not perceive a “need”, until something changes and it needs to be NOW.

That being said, it is not as difficult to overcome the challenge as some will make you believe.  First resolve to engage the entire market, including those currently removed from the market.  Because you not only know that their circumstance will change, and what may seem too early becomes, “I need it now”, but given your experience you know what is likely to be the catalyst for that change, the challenges they will face and the solution they will need to resolve it.

How?  By studying and understanding what led to that moment in the past with existing clients, prospects, and deals that did not go your way.  Once you know this, by tracking deals you’ve won, lost and those that ended in no decision.  You will understand what events led up to and caused the change, with that you can prepare, position and act.  It takes work, sometimes boring work, but with the right tools, and right approach, you can take timing and turn it your way.

By studying past outcomes and inputs, you can take proactive steps to ensure that you don’t enter the fray too late, and always capitalize on opportunities other sales people and prospects will say is too soon.

It is never the right time if you relinquish control, and always the right time if you are willing to put in the work, and ask, “is it ever the right time?”

Next Step

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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