Make Them Look Good0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Look good

One of the underlying drivers for buying decisions is self-interest.  While at times this can end up being misguided and self-absorbing with some buyers, it is usually a positive when those interest are aligned with and support corporate objectives.  This leads to an outcome where both the individual and the company benefit and move forward.  Done right, as a seller you can hit the much sought after trifecta, where your buyer, their company, and you all come out winners.

The challenge that arises is knowing what those self-interests might be, especially with a new buyer or early in the relationship.  After all, even if you asked straight up, and you always should in an elegant way, they may not be as forthcoming as they will be once they know and trust you.  So what’s a seller to do?

Well there two specifics that you can execute to leverage self-interest.  First, is understanding what the specific interest are based on role, and then overlay that with industry specific factors, and potentially other ingredients that could be regional or company specific.  As an example, if you look at say CFO’s, regardless of the industry and region of the country they are in, they have more in common than not.  If one is a CFO in a manufacturer and another is with a services firm, they will have many role based things in common.  If you understand how to effectively meet the needs of one, much of that will be transferable to the other.  Sure company size will have impact, as will other things, the reality is that if you understand the interests of one, you have more than a starting point with the next.  You know what their mandate is likely to be, how they measure success, what they perceive as risk and how they may choose to deal with it, and so on.

Another thing you can focus in on is how they are measured and evaluated.  This leads us to the second means of dealing with self-interest, how can you make them look good.

I recently did a session with a group where they had some questionable experiences with training in the past, most recently an NLP experience that went sideways.  When I finished the head of marketing who took in the session, told me that I made the VP of Sales look good!

What better way to leverage the self-interest factor than to make them look good in the eyes of their peers and superiors?  Not to mention that it is relatively easy to do, assuming you have a quality offering.  We all know, and hopefully practice the art of under promise and over deliver; it is a question of building out on that.  During the sale if you do a thorough job of Discovery, you can get a clear picture of not only what their objectives are, but how they will directly benefit if achieved.  It will take work, but help them exceed, and not only do you help them achieve those objectives, but can make them look good in the process, helping you enhance the relationship, and build towards future business.  Done right everyone’s interests are served, and everyone can look good.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Can Technology Undermine Trust?14

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

broken trust

Had an interesting discussion with a rep Jim, last week around the area of trust. He works for smaller company, they use various technologies to help them with lead gen and nurturing. Two specific apps enable him to track who has opened his e-mails, and the other lets him know who has visited his company’s web site, right down to specific pages. As you can imagine, with the right content, laced with specific links, a seller can gain some great insights.

Having worked with the team, I know that they are diligent about avoiding and or removing objections. Jim was on the phone with a potential buyer who asked that Jim send him some info before committing to an appointment, Jim tried everything we put in our Objection Handling Handbook, but in the end had to send some info.  As per the teams SOP, he only sends e-mail, chock full of links, and scheduled a follow up call to review.  Over the next few days Jim saw the prospect read the e-mail, both in the office and on his mobile device.  He saw the footprints on the website, hitting critical target pages, Jim was ready for the call back.

The Objection Handling Handbook, instructs sellers to continue taking away objections on call back, encouraging sellers to start the call by saying: “Hi Mr./Ms. Prospect, this is Jim calling back, following up on the information I promised to forward, you probably haven’t had a chance to read it, have you?”  Thus taking wary the obvious and common dodge.

Feeling confident as a result of technology, Jim skipped the take away, and left himself open, and disappointment by asking the buyer if he had reviewed the e-mail, and letting the facts get in the way of process, he assumed the buyer would lead with the fact that he did read the note and visited the website.

Well guess what, yup, the buyer took a left turn and you know it, “Jim, I am up to my eyeballs in alligators, and just have not had a chance to get to it, leave it with me and I’ll get back with you as soon as I have”.  Jim, got back and program and managed to secure a face to face appointment with the buyer, and the cycle is progressing.

Jim was upset for two reasons, one he could fix, specifically the approach and methodology.  By executing the follow up call according to plan, regardless of whether he knew if the prospect had read his e-mail, or visited the desired pages on the company web site.

The second was a bit more problematic for Jim, while not being naïve, he was looking to establish trust with the buyer and felt that the buyer had undermined that opportunity.  While he will continue to engage with the prospect, and will continue to be honest, straight forward and ethical with the buyer, he says he will always have a hint of doubt as to the integrity of what this buyer will tell him, and by extension other buyers.

In the end technology does not replace human interaction, and with any interaction there is some give and take.  I pointed out to Jim that the buyer may have had some reasons for not being straight with Jim, including bad experiences with other sellers, perhaps looking to see what kind of rep Jim is, or any number of reasons.  Trust is not instantaneous, it takes time and familiarity, which why I am surprised when some pundits talk about being able to establish trust right out of the gate, or even on a voice mail.

More importantly, technology is there to support the effort, not replace it, had Jim stuck to the program, he would have been able to respond to the situation more effectively, but he had painted himself into a corner, not the technology.

Having said that, it does raise the issue of how fragile trust is, and how easily it is undermined by technology.  While the buyer may argue that they were being spied on, they should also be aware that there are no secrets on the internet, and any time you click a link, you have company.

What do you think of Jim’s dilemma, and whether technology can in fact undermine trust?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

The Three Rs of Sales – Sales eXchange 18243

change

While I have always supported the concept and the focus behind the three R’s of academics; although I never understood why the academic community would go for the label, given that only on of the three words in question start with an R.

We in sales hold to a higher standard, and therefore the three words that make up the three R’s of Sales, all do indeed start with the letter R!

  • Reciprocate – It should not be news that the most successful sales people look at sales from a giving standpoint, rather than a what can I get standpoint.  Unfortunately, the latter makes up the majority of the sales population, often this is a result of the “message” and “motivation” they get from their management.  While I do not shy away from the sales rep as a “hunter”, the prey is not the buyer.

While most of think of reciprocating as giving back, you can also think of is as just giving; specifically giving to you buyers and prospects.  The notion of giving is not new, but often sellers give in return for something they “have gotten”, like a next step, an introduction to a decision maker, or an order.

But if you can think of it in that if you give value to buyers in any number of ways right through the process, the buyer will reciprocate.  At time this may be in the form of a referral, next step, or the order.  Reciprocate forward as it were.

  • Reinvent – This may seem straight forward, but is probably the most difficult for many sellers.  It involves two disciplines, one is reviewing sales to see what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to be done to change that.  The second is change itself, sellers find it hard to change, even though they spend their time and effort trying to get buyers to change in a number of ways.

The need to review every or a significant sample of your transactions is crucial.  I have spoken about it extensively on this blog, the need to review all sales initiated, win – lose – draw.  You can still download the 360 Deal Review tool, and start what is an easy but valuable exercise.   The key is what you identify as working, what is not, and more importantly, what you are prepared to do about it.

There a many teams I see who review, note, but do not implement change.  Without the last step, it’s just a validation exercise with little or no value.

Change is an interesting thing, it does not have to be wholesale or instantaneous, and it is exponential, sometimes it is the smallest things that have the biggest impact.  Meaning you can start small, limited risk, and tangible benefits.  The hardest is always the first step; so pick something easy, develop an action plan, a period of review, and do it a bit at a time.

  • Reputation –  There is one thing you have to hold on to throughout your career, that is your reputation.  Skills, clients, successes come and go, they can all be rebuilt or reinvented, reputations are a bit more delicate.   They can be rebuilt, but there is always a cost.  Reputation not only precedes you, which is crucial to success, but it also lags, people have a way to remember more of the bad than the good.  Of the three R’s this is fundamental, and without which the other two R’s are difficult to execute.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

3 Reasons To Call Senior Executives First – Sales eXchange 15046

Few sales people are true hunters, and even among hunters, few call outside of their comfort zone, specifically senior executives. We can pretend it’s not true, but based on my discussions with sales VP’s and business owners it is.  They tell me their people don’t do it enough, and they hardly hear from sales people selling things that impact critical parts of their business.  But let’s not dwell on why some don’t do it, and let’s focus on why they should and how it will help them win.

1.  Top Man/Woman on Totem Pole – no matter how big or small the company, the President along the VP’s set the strategic direction for their companies, and the more you are aligned with that the better you will do. The challenge is that these are rarely expressed in terms of product, but objectives, thing the want to and need to achieve. So if you sell using the the language of product, you need to stop, and start speaking the subject “here is how I, my offering and company will help you exceed your objectives”. Once you do that you will have a number of doors open to you, both figuratively and literally. The literal part segues us to the second reason.

2.  Use My Name, Please -  No one knows better who the real decision makers, influencers, movers and shakers are within their organizations. That knowledge and understanding alone is worth gold, but an introduction, a recommendation, a direct mandate, well, thats like a cocktail mix of gold, oil, and more. Want to be the gold standard, nothing beats being sanctioned by the leader of the organization.

3.  Friends in High Places – we have all faced scenarios where the decision was down to you and an alternate provider, that is when you want to have the right people in your corner, and who can be more “right” than the president or VP.  When there is a tie, you want to have a tie breaker, and of you master point number 1 above, that tie breaker will break for you.

These are three reasons why you ALWAYS WANT TO CALL HIGH, in the organization that is. Master this and you will win more deals, not only due to the points above, but the process of mastering them will set you up for continuous improvement and success in engaging with the entire organization, and help you play to win.

Next Step

  • Call everyone involved in the success you can deliver
  • Sell in a multilingual way
  • Don’t hesitate to lean on your friends
Tibor Shanto

Socially Kosher?22

It may be that you may not get this the first time around, not to worry.  But if you do perhaps you can shed a little light.

I am a user of Foursquare, fun to see where people are, learn about new places, and support my favourite merchants. In the process I have become “mayor” of a couple of places, and have been displaced in a few places as people achieve more check ins than I, all part of the fun.

This morning, Saturday January 28, I was displaced as mayor at my favourite kosher bakery, imagine that!

Then I got to thinking, is this reflective of the level of accuracy and reliability the modern buyer can rely on when he/she turns to social media as part of their buying quest?

Next Step

  • Convert

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

How Marketing Can Help Sales After the Handoff13

The Pipeline Guest Post – Jeff Erramouspe

As companies work to establish processes that embrace and support the buying journey from contact to close, an interesting result occurs. Marketing and Sales become unified around one process, instead of each focusing only on their respective ends of the revenue pipeline. Marketing automation integrated with CRM helps to bridge that chasm that used to serve as a dividing line between unknown entities and qualified leads acceptable for sales pursuit.

The key is that buyers don’t care which side is communicating with them, they care about what’s in it for them as they work toward solving business problems.

Recent research by Demand Gen Report found that, “…58 percent of B2B marketers believe the role of a marketer ‘never ends’ even when the lead has been transitioned to sales…” Marketing automation helps marketers add value to buyer relationships even after those prospects have begun to interact with salespeople.

Take a look at 3 ways marketing automation can be used to help salespeople after the handoff:

  1. Post Handoff Scoring: Once a lead’s score reaches the qualification threshold for transition to sales doesn’t mean that their activity with your website and content ceases. In fact, it could even accelerate as they get involved in the complex details necessary to validate that your solution will actually serve their specific situation. With visibility into just which content your qualified leads are accessing, marketers can provide salespeople with additional content and collateral that matches buyer activity to help keep the momentum toward purchase moving along.
  2. Continuous Nurturing: By creating a post-handoff nurturing program jointly with your sales team, marketers can continue to provide late-stage “touches” that help to prove the value sales reps bring to the conversation. Because marketers know which content leads have viewed to date, they can continue to build the relationship on behalf of salespeople. The integration with CRM will help salespeople choose when to interact as well as provide them with fodder for relevant follow-up conversations.
  3. Growth in Interest: Anonymous Web Visitor ID can help marketers identify website visits from additional contacts at the qualified lead’s company. With B2B buyers involving more influencers and stakeholders, sharing this insight with sales reps can help them gauge the true level of buying interest and spot opportunities to extend conversations and offer additional information that may help the buying committee take next steps.

The above are only three suggestions for how marketing automation can help companies establish a seamless end-to-end buying process, facilitated by sharing the insights to prospect behavior that sales reps can act upon to expedite the purchase decision. Marketing automation software generates the data marketers need to provide new levels of support to sales. The challenge is in developing the processes for sharing the data in ways that help salespeople have better conversations and more relevant interactions that serve buyers’ needs.

About Jeff Erramouspe

Jeff is President of Manticore Technology, an Austin-based marketing automation solutions provider.  Prior to joining Manticore in 2008, Jeff was VP of Market Development at Digby, and was the co-founder and CEO of Deepfile Corp. (now StoredIQ), a leading provider of file management solutions. Prior to founding Deepfile, he was a venture fellow at AV Labs, the seed-stage fund associated with Austin Ventures, where he provided executive leadership to several portfolio companies. Jeff has also served as an adjunct professor for entrepreneurship at the University of Texas Graduate School of Business and is considered a thought leader in the areas of sales, marketing, partner management, business finance and infrastructure.

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Happy New Year!21

So here we are, December 31, last day of 2010, a year that many will be glad to see end, others having seen it as a brighter alternative to 2009, either way a day to celebrate accomplishments and to look forward to challenges of 2011.

In celebrating 2010, I looked back and selected a post from each month over the last 12 months.  These are not necessarily my best post from each month, but ones that on reflection caught my fancy.  See if you agree, and if you don’t we’ll still be friends.

January:
Socializing Sales

February:
Stoke Your Sales Fires

March:
Reputation 2.0

April:
Change – Or – Improvement

May:
Saturday Sales Tip – 18 – Take It Away!

June:
Out Of The Box Thinking

July:
What’s My Job?

August:
Velocity – Sales Myth or Objective – Sales eXchange – 57

September:
PRIDE – Part III – Initiative

October:
The Proactive 20% – Sales eXchange – 68

November:
Is Your Pipeline Managing You?

December:
Coming Attraction Call – Sales eXchange – 74

Looking forward to 2011, I will continue to post three times a week, but there will be some new and I think interesting features that will make The Pipeline a better experience for all of you.  One thing is the introduction of a weekly post by a guest blogger.  These bloggers will include the best in sales and other practices, sharing their views and best practices.  Stick with us and by this time next year you will have had the opportunity to be introduced to 52 different opinion leaders, and the ability to continue enjoying them on their blogs.

We will also be making more regular use of media other than print, including video, audio and who knows what else.

So are you ready for 2011, I am bring it on!

Happy New Year!
Tibor Shanto

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Automate This!24

I am a big believer in technology, especially in improving efficiencies, even more so when that efficiency is aimed at improved communications with customers and prospects. However, as we have all experienced many companies confuse “messaging” with “communication” and automation with efficiency.  I for one do not consider a generic auto responses as communication or even acknowledgement that my communication has been received.

Some companies have taken this sort of “inefficiency” to an art form, which I guess is part of the lingering smell we have to endure as consumers. But it becomes really bizarre when the culprit in question is a leading social media site, a medium touted to be the pinnacle for interactive two way communications.

This is especially a challenge for rapidly growing social media sites who need to deal with the business realities of growth while trying to maintain the experience and intimacy that is “social media” or “social networking”.  It is hard to be social on a mass basis, and while they may be able to facilitate a “social” experience among members, they face the risk of losing credibility if they can’t sustain a “social” experience between the site and individual members.

Case in point is a “social networking” site which recently made changes to how one uses, or posts on the site. In my view, and those of other users I spoke to, the changes were not improvements; they made it harder to do what I was able to do with relative ease before the change, and had a direct negative impact on the outcome of my actions, experience and outcome on the site.

I finally decided to find out why the change was made, perhaps I was not fully aware of how to take advantage of the change (I am sure internally they refer to it as an improvement or upgrade, as a user I feel it is neither).   There was no warning that the changes were coming, even more frustrating, no explanation once they did come. As I recall when Facebook made changes recently they did make effort to let users know why, and how to best make use of the updates, but the site in question did not, nothing before hand, and offered no help after it implemented the change. 

In an effort to learn about the change, I decided to reach out directly, which is when it turned into some sort of virtual antisocial obstacle course, if you get past a few hurdles and moats, you may get some clarity. You start off with some FAQ’s, but being that the change was recent, there are no answers, of course since it has yet to upset enough people to make it a “frequently” asked question.  No answer, but they did want to show a warped sense of humour, stating that if I did not find their completely irrelevant answers helpful, I had the opportunity to send a preformatted e-mail with my “specific question”, so I did.

A couple of hours later I got a generic auto response, thanking me for my note, stating “All of our members’ opinions are valued and your comments will be shared for review.

No “specifics” about my question or a time frame for response, just a disingenuous comment about valuing my opinion.  I wrote back asking when I may expect some “specific response” to a very “specific question” about a “specific functionality” that was there one day, gone the next.  This question got an even more ambiguous response:

Thank you for your reply.

Your feedback has been sent to our research and development team for future consideration.

Even though we are not able to respond individually to the numerous recommendations we receive, we would like to invite you to subscribe to the XXXXX Blog (http://blog.XXXXX.com) to receive the latest notifications on site improvements. It is our way of keeping you and our other members informed on all the exciting work we are doing behind the scenes.

Have a great day and thank you for being a valued member of our XXXXXX community!

While not feeling really valued, I was game, I went to the blog, and like the FAQ’s, there was no notice of change in functionality, no information relating to the change, Nothing!

Maybe I am looking at this the wrong way, or maybe at our company we have set the bar too high for responding to customers, but when some asks a specific question about specific functionality, I am not sure I was helped by being sent somewhere for “future consideration”.  It is also clear that they did not actually read my note/question, because if they had they would have known that it did not contain a recommendation but a plea for help.  They would have recognized that I did not see what they did as an improvement nor did it strike me as exciting work. 

The fact remained that they made a change but had not taken the time to prepare or help their users leverage it, and they seem to believe that generic disingenuous note with false complements and platitudes equals communication with their users.  It would have been much better to get a note back saying: “it’s our playground, take it or leave it, and frankly what you think has little impact on what we do.”

Either way, not very social!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Reputation 2.026

Your Reputation Gets Around Even When You Don’t!

When I was young(er) and just entering corporate life, I was lucky enough to meet someone who left a profound impression on me and my professional life since.  He told me, “When you first come in to business all you have is your reputation, and you spend the rest your career maintaining it.  If you lose that you have nothing at the end, not matter how much wealth you accumulate along the way”.
 
This was valid in the pre-web days, but this advice is that much more relevant today in the Web 2.0 days or for those of us in sales, Sales 2.0.  At a time when information truly moves at lightning speed, you can both enhance and ruin your reputation in an instance.
 
On the down side, your buyers are much more connected than ever, they are aware not only things you want them to know, and as much aware of things you always hoped they would never know.  Most sellers work hard at influencing their clients, creating an impression of their product, their company and themselves in the process, and while their good deeds are carried across the social waves, so are and indiscretions or simple faux pas, at time with much greater velocity.

Sellers need to be much more conscious and conscientious about their “social media footprint”.  Unlike what many want to believe, there is no separation between their personal and business related Web 2.0 or Sales 2.0 activities, it is all one stream.  We do not have the comfort of looking all very prim and proper on LinkedIn while “letting our hair down” (or other things) on Facebook.  It is no longer a novelty for companies to check out these and other sites when considering potential candidates for positions, or vendors and sellers when it comes to deciding on a purchase, it is SOP.

It goes a lot further than that, it does not take much to see what you Digg and how that jives with the image you are projecting with your buyer.  A disconnect there can only lead them to believe that you are disingenuous and may not be worthy of their business.  And they don’t even have to make much of an effort, there are companies that are happy to do it for them for a nominal fee.

Some may argue that this is not right, what you do in your personal time is your business and should not affect you as a seller, wrong Dorothy, it does.  This isn’t about the “business you” and the “private you”, especially if you are always preaching that people buy from people, yes they do, and now they have a way of seeing the “entire you”, not just the “9:00 to 5:00 you”.  This is also not about being right or wrong, as a friend of mine always asks me “do you want to be right, or do you want to be rich?”, in sales you want to go with rich.

It doesn’t take a lot to guard and be smart, you don’t have to “compromise” or “give in to the man”, you just need to be smart and prepared, which is a basic tenet in sales anyway, so just extend it to your “social media footprint”.  As we said up top, “Your Reputation Gets Around Even When You Don’t”, so make an effort to keep an eye on it.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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