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Time questions concept as a group of floating clocks and timepieces shaped as a question mark as a metaphor for deadline or business schedule confusion or corporate appointment information as a 3D illustration.

Getting Time On Your Side0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

If you manage hang on for another week, I assure you that there is life after the election, and what is waiting on the other side is not the end of the world, but the end of your sales year. Which if you plan it right is not as big a deal as many would make you believe, unless of course you’re one of those sales people who exists from crisis to crisis. (If you are, then you can skip the rest of this post).

We’ve all heard that knowledge is power, and in this case, it truly is. If you know the specifics of your sales cycle, average length of cycle, critical points, number of interactions (phone, live, web, e-mails, etc.), then you have the data on which you can build knowledge and success. You can map out your sale, manage it and lead the sales process not just go along for the ride.

A critical one is the average length of a cycle. This will vary based on type of sale, if you have multiple offerings, and other factors, but there is no escaping the fact that if you looked at you last 15 – 20 sales of the same nature, you will be able to determine a relative average length. You can do that using your CRM, and host of apps you bought to do something sales professionals have done for ages using pen and paper. The fact that many sales people answer the question about the length of

Assuming your average cycle for a given product or service three months, this is hand shake to close, it doesn’t matter if it took you a year of effort to engage; a sales cycle is handshake (yes it can be virtual), to close. There may be seasonal changes, causing that to contract or expand slightly, but if they are indeed seasonal than they are known to you and you can incorporate that into your thinking and execution.

So, if you initiate an opportunity today, October 31, 2016, then on average, that opportunity will/should close on or around (a couple of days) January 31, 2017. Assuming you need four sales a month to exceed quota, you will need one of those a week. But let’s be real here, you will need to have a multiple of opportunities, based on your close ratio, that is the number of opportunities you require to get one close, say 4:1. You will need to be prospecting (including referrals, up and cross seals and more) at a level and quality that will lead to four prospects/opportunities a week to end up with one close. So if one prospects and drives four new opportunities a week, they will have their one “right” opportunity each and every week. An opportunity that will on average close three months later.

Do this every week and it doesn’t matter if it is the beginning, middle or end of they year, just start four real opportunities a week, and you will close one three months out. That’s why I tell managers to stop asking about what their sales people are closing, and make sure that they what they are opening.

The data is there, the knowledge that affords you is there for you for the taking, what’s missing is the application, which is why as you read all the sage advice on how to end the year, start the year, and all that other noise, just remember, it is all about the execution – everything else is just talk.

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The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need – Book Review0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

There is no shortage of sales books available to consume by anyone willing to commit to their own success. Which leaves one wondering why are so many professional sales people continue to underperform and consistently missing quota? One of the challenges is that too many books are one trick ponies, covering a narrow element of professional selling, in many cases presenting their tricks of the trade, at best some well worn techniques. But they lack is a comprehensive approach to selling tied to a framework that can be replicated across many sectors and different types of B2B sales. Which is why the arrival of The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, by Anthony Iannarino, is not just refreshing, but a must read for sellers and their managers.

Anthony brings a complete approach to the topic, rather than focusing on some elements of sales without context. Anthony start at the real success begins, our own mind-set. The book is presented in two parts:

Part 1 Mind-Set: The Beliefs and Behaviours of Sales Success
Part 2 Skill Sets: The Abilities of Sales Success

Don’t get me wrong skills are important, but skills without the right mind set will only take you so far. We have all known sales people who had the right mind-set, lacked skills, yet still did better than those with just skills. This book presents these two key components in context, which what that small percentage of consistently successful sellers have leveraged for years.

the-only-sales-guide-3d-cover-jpegStarting on a high note in chapter 1 – Self-Discipline: The Art of “Me Management”, I love that view Me Management, before you set out to manage a sales process, or sales relationship, it only makes sense to manage ones’ self. He then builds on that in the next chapter, again aptly titled Optimism: The Power of a Positive Mental Attitude. Successful sales people know how to deal with the highs and lows of sales, the need to maintain an optimistic, positive attitude is key to having buyers follow you to new ground. Optimism is contagious, and you can be too. My goal is not to summarize every chapter, but good things come in threes, and chapter three makes for a trifecta way to start this work. The chapter is titled Caring: The Ability to Empathize with and Help Others, need one say more. If you are not in it to help your prospects and clients, sales will always be a struggle. Anthony lays out in clear terms why there is no conflict between caring and selling effectively.

I’ll leave it to you to explore the Part 2 of the book dealing with Skills. Suffice it to say that it is no less important or impressive than part 1. Covering the entire cycle including “The Ability to Open Relationships and Create Opportunities”, to “Closing: The Ability to Ask for and Obtain Commitments”, and everything in between including “Storytelling: The Ability to Create and Share a Vision”, a skill many lack and fail to develop. Sad when you consider how important stories are to sales and forming relationships.

As you would imagine I enjoyed Chapter 12 – Prospecting: The Ability to Open Relationships and Create Opportunities.  Not only because he lays out why prospecting is an ongoing process, not a series of disconnected events.  This where you can or must apply the elements Anthony introduces in Chapter 7 -Persistence: The Power of Tenacity, the two P’s of sales success.

One of my favourite features is the way Anthony ensures that you can translate this content to real world success. Each chapter contains a “First Move – Do This Now”, and if you do you will succeed. As any marathon runner, will tell you the hardest thing is that first step, Anthony ensures that you can do exactly that with this feature.

More impressive is the Recommended Reading suggestions found at the end of each chapter, not only because of the wealth of knowledge you are exposed, and if you buy into the Mind-Set section, it will help you accelerate your adoption and resulting success. But it also highlights the passion Anthony brings to sales and in this book to you and your ability to expand your skills and success. As the title suggests, this is truly a guide, one that you should rely on day in day out. While there are, and will be many great sales books that are must reads for successful sellers, this guide is a must and will elevate your ability to better execute all sales approaches you will assimilate.

Buy the book, read it, then thank Anthony for writing it.

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Failure of a businessman due to economic crisis

No Pain – No Game?5

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Despite all the tools available, both for sales people to execute their craft, and for companies to “enable” them, the narrative for many in sales has remained woefully unchanged over the last thirty years. Sure the delivery methods have changed, the means of engagement have evolved beyond where we could have imagined 10 years ago, yet what most sales people say once they engaged has one can argue, devolved. One can buy into the argument that sales technology, with all its capabilities, has made great sales people better, an A seller an A+; but it has also made the average seller, less than average, robotic and predictable; B sellers to B-, and C sellers to U, for useless. While it is easy to point at sales people, the pundits have to take credit, or blame.

The narrative we seem to be stuck in in sales is all about pain, all around need. Ask any group of sellers what they want to know about a new prospect, and the vast majority will say they want to know the prospect’s “pain”, or “pain point”; they want to know the buyer’s need(s); what their problem(s) are or about to have. Makes sense, who doesn’t want to reap the benefits presented by lower hanging fruit, easy to pluck, one can say that it can be plucked by almost anyone, with little talent or skill. I even hear managers dispatching their people back to a prospect with the clear command of “find their pain point and sell them, or at least make it forecastable.”

This all works well if your quota can be covered entirely by prospects with pain; and not just this year, but next and the one after, etc. What you are betting on is that pains, needs and problems will grow at a faster pace than your quota. When I ask sales people if they can exceed quota with just the pained and injured, and most say no. You would think given that fact only a small percentage of a given market recognizes or admits to pain, you are faced with a choice. You can update your skills, and I don’t mean your technology or app skills, but sales skills; a path chosen by some companies and sales professionals.

The other choice is easier, doesn’t always fill the gap, but chosen by many. It is exemplified by a conversation I have shared in the past, that I had with a former leader from an IT consulting and services firm. Unsolicited he decided to share his view on selling:

“My job is to find the soft underbelly of the beast (read prospect), stab it, and then offer up the cure.”

I am not suggesting that is what sales people set out to do, but when I hear that they are looking for the they “pain point” so they can push on it, I can only imagine the fat smiling face of the fellow above.

It is time to elevate your skills so you can sell to the whole market, not just the weakest of the herd, yet not weak enough to pinch a few more dollars off your price, sometimes to the point where it leaves you and your company’s margin in pain. You can socialize pain, you can spin needs, but to really sell, to anyone in your market, not just the lame and suffering, you need to develop some sales skills, and elevate your game.

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High Profit Prospecting – Book Review0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

cropped-prospecting-3d-transparentIt seems prospecting is back in style, we’re talking proactive, resource and process based methodical approach to professionally engaging with potential buyers, by leveraging all the tools and techniques available to them. While in the early part of the decade you’d be hard pressed to find pundits singing and parsing the virtues of a blended approach that includes the telephone. We were exposed to social selling, inbound marketing and a host of other alternatives that had two things in common, one they all insisted that these were the only thing you needed and anything that was present before the Lehman melt is no longer valid, and should be abandoned. And most specifically, that cold calling is (was) dead. Well it seems 2016 the pendulum is coming back to centre, where all techniques can be leveraged and combined for sales success. Earlier in the year we got Fanatical Prospecting from Jeb Blount; and now we have the opportunity to read Mark Hunter’s High-Profit Prospecting: Powerful Strategies to Find the Best Leads and Drive Breakthrough Sales Results 

If you are familiar with Mark’s work, you know that he not only tells it like it is, but deals directly with the entire process, starting with planning, through to specifics and details of implementation. He avoids the trappings of the many “feel good” books on the subject, and focuses on the things most sellers struggle with. That’s what makes the book a must read for anyone looking to succeed in prospecting.

And let’s face it, if you can’t prospect, you can’t sell. To build something new, you must first raze existing structures, and that’s where Mark starts, breaking down current myths about prospecting, giving you the space and uncluttered mind that will help [ you implement the many techniques in the book. I especially love Part I: Basic Truths About Prospecting, Mark clears the deck, and builds from there.

One thing that many don’t well in prospecting is plan, I have always said one of the things hindering effective prospecting is the lack of a process, which includes planning. When recently asked what is the biggest mistake sales people commit when prospecting? Mark responded:

“Wow, that’s a loaded question, as unfortunately there are numerous things most people get wrong. What stands out the most is failing to have a plan and following through with it. Too many people make a bunch of calls one day and think that’s all they have to do.

Prospecting requires a plan that equips the lead or prospect to see that your goal is to help them achieve something they didn’t think was possible. Succeeding at this requires numerous touches with multiple messages over a specific period of time. This requires a strategy few people are willing to develop and execute.”

To be fair, often the lack of willingness on sellers’ part to prospect is a result of a lack of ability and knowledge as to what and how to do things right. Well, that is should no longer be a challenge for those reading this book. The rest of the book lays out in detail the steps and actions a seller with the goal of succeeding at sales can follow. This includes the tough stuff, whether you are selling to small companies, or to enterprises.

As someone who has spent years beating the drum for prospecting, I am glad to see a book that does the practice justice. Read it, you’ll thank me for telling you to, and Mark for writing it.

Better yet, if you visit the page Mark set up to celebrate the release of High-Profit Prospecting, you can take advantage and benefit from a number of available bonuses. Click here for more.

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Time To Get Over Your Funnel Vision1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Many sales people I work have Funnel Vision, they focus more on the state of their pipeline or funnel than the specific opportunities in their pipeline. It is yet another example of quantity being more important to sales people than quality of the opportunities in their pipeline, and as result they underperform in a number of ways. Some are forced to take this view by their companies, especially those that tell their reps they to have 5-times quota for the 30 days; 10 times for 60 days, etc. That’s what they ask for, and that’s what they get. Theory being that the level of coverage will ensure success. Problem is that with many of these same groups, quota attainment is not that great. What’s the point of having X times coverage of a quota most don’t make? Click To Tweet

Having a lot of opportunities is a good theory, but it also leads to the very problem they are trying to solve, i.e. more sales/revenue. Mostly because the illusion of plenty distorts facts, and more importantly, activity. The reality is that what sales people emotionally believe their prospect base to be, triggers their urgency to prospect. Having a load of a “load” of names in your pipeline, just for the sake of meeting the coverage KPI, chokes off activity that actually lead to sales. This requires that you have rules as to what constitutes a real prospect, defined in a way that makes it easier to disqualify them, not in a way that anything that looks good qualifies.

In the past I have spoken about one basic threshold, that is a Next Step. Let’s be straight, if the prospect is not willing to give you a next step, especially as outlined in the post linked to above, what do you have? You have potential, a potential opportunity, not a real opportunity. It could indeed have great potential, but if you do not have a path to actualizing it, then what’s it worth? Yet many pipeline I review are loaded with opportunities that not only is there not a next step, the buyer in question is not even aware they were forecasted to buy.

edge-pipeOne friendly fellow, nice guy, but could not sell a banana to a monkey, had 42 opportunities in his pipeline, many at mid to late stage of the pipe, 39 of which had no plans that included the prospect. When I asked about some, he had hoped to do this, or was looking to do that, and all without the prospect’s idea. As someone once said hope is not a plan, nor should it be a stage in a pipeline.

Pipelines need to be activity based, the best funnel management process I have worked with is where we removed all stages from the sales process and pipeline, no weighting, no probabilities, no misleading labels. Nothing that would allow subjectivity to be the driving factor, and put the focus on activities; which need to be done, and which have been completed. This forced sales people to focus on how to best execute the activities that have consistently led to success. Activities that when not completed, with the prospect, were a clear indication that this opportunity was not real, and needs to be replaced with one that is. No need to deal with sales people’s optimism, pessimism, or their stories, no subjectivity, no sunshine, no other matter filling or clogging the pipeline.

If you want to avoid the downside of Funnel Vision, focus on activities instead, do, measure, review, adjust, and go and execute again, only better. This forces sales people to practice their activities, not stories.

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Portrait angry young woman screaming on mobile phone

Phone Prospecting – Cool and Not Cool3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

People talk about prospecting as though it is open to interpretation, it should not be.  Prospecting is the act of engaging with someone with the purpose of initiating a sales cycle.  It is not about trying to sell, qualify, or any of the things that will never happen if you do not engage.  There is a singular purpose to prospecting, that is to engage.

It is not about striking a relationship that you hope will lead to something, that’s called dating; anyway, who says they can’t buy from you before you form a real relationship; who says there needs to be a whole lotta clicking, liking, and retweeting before you can engage?  The only ones who say things like that are people who do not prospect.  People who confuse prospecting with a social encounter, those who still believe the world will beat a path to their door if they built a better ____________ (insert product).

This post is more for those who have to prospect beyond the known, with people they have never met, not connected with on LinkedIn, or any previous contact.  Connecting and engaging with these prospects is a different effort and experience, and calls for some more effort than clicking around, steps like cold calling.

 

This requires a different approach with a different mindset and outlook.   I was describing one of these actions to rep recently, and he said “that’s not cool”.  You know what’s really not cool, is not having enough opportunities in your pipeline and not knowing what to do about it.  So here some cool and not so cool things when it comes to successful prospecting.

Cool: Leaving a voice mail.  Not only is it cool cause people call back, and you don’t get calluses on fingers dialing them over and over again, but even when they don’t call back it is a touch point, and you’re going to need 8 to 12 touch points before a potential prospect will respond.   You can get some insights about how I get 40 – 50 percent of messages I leave, returned within 72 or so hours, by click here.

Not cool: Wasting valuable time at the top of a prospecting call with your title, region, and other useless info that either puts the prospect to sleep or causes them to hang up.  Tell them what’s in it for them, not about you.  Worse and funnier, is when I call a number and the outbound voice mail message is:

“Hi you’ve reach Alfred Newman, regional mid-west sales manager, with ACME Corp, a Fortune 500 company.”  (Sometimes they even add their company’s tag line).  WHO CARES!  Sure, Mom and your significant other, but no one else.

Instead of boring them to tears with that drivel, why not leave the toll free number for your support team, the people they probably want to talk to anyway.

Not cool: One outbound voice mail crime, when I call someone on Friday October 7, and their message says “Hi, this Emma, I am currently out of the office on vacation returning on Monday June 27.”  What’s a prospect going to think when they return your message and it is October?

Cool: Leading the call with outcomes you have delivered against objectives similar to theirs, so they know what’s in it for them, rather than knowing your title (or corporate rank).

Not Cool:  When a prospect says they are not interested, asking “What are you not interested in?”  When a prospect says they are all set, responding “Well maybe I can send you some information so you know about us in case something comes up”.  I can’t believe people get paid to say that, I think they are paid to move past that and get the appointment.

Cool:  Calling everyone who is part of the decision, one after the other, and bringing them together rather than one by one.  Not only does that take more time and work, but will force you to cover the same ground over and over, whereas, if you reached out and got everyone involved at the same time, you can create the opposite effect.

Not Cool:  Asking “Can I speak to the person in charge of…”  Nothing says it’s time to put on a rain coat because we are about to experience some spray and pray.

Cool: Focusing on objectives not pain.  They all have objectives, very few will admit to pain, whether it is there or not.

Certainly not an exhaustive list, just things I experienced this week.  So these were some the things I observed, tell us what you think is cool or uncool in prospecting, drop your thoughts in the comment box below.

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3 Ways to Stay on Top of Your Sales Calls0

The Pipeline Guest Post – Elizabeth Dupont

How many calls do you handle on a daily basis?  If you’re in sales, you probably make at least 50 calls a day, and that’s not even counting how many you calls you receive. You spend most of your day making connections and engaging customers, but it would be impossible to remember the minutiae of every conversation. So how do you keep track of who you’ve spoken with and when?

The answer is call tracking.

The Basics and Benefits of Call Tracking

When you were in college, no doubt you spent a lot of time taking notes. It was tedious work, but it always paid off when you were able to remember information for your exams. The same concept holds true with phone calls.

Call tracking is essentially “taking notes” on each call you make and receive. You record details on the person with whom you spoke, what type of call it was (i.e., outbound or inbound), and the time and date of any follow-up calls or meetings you may have scheduled. When you save information about the call, you set yourself up for better communication with the customer as well as practical statistics of each call. This way, not only are you gaining critical information on how much phone traffic you receive, but you also make it easier to keep track of your customers and where they are in your sales process.

An added (and very important) benefit that sales tracking provides is that it allows you to create a better overall experience for your customer. Your customers are individuals, and they want to be appreciated and treated with respect. Remembering important snippets and details from previous conversations shows that you understand your client’s needs and want to provide them with solutions, not just make a sale. By logging such details about each sales call you make, you can make each call personal and relatable for your clients.

On the more technical end of the spectrum, call tracking also has the benefit of revealing certain metrics about your business. For instance, you can see at a glance how many outbound and inbound calls you’re making and receiving on a daily basis. You can also view statistics on how many calls you’re missing versus how many are answered, so you know exactly what area of your business needs the most attention.

Top Sales Tracking Methods

Now that you’ve seen the importance of call tracking, the next bridge to cross is implementation. There are several ways to keep track of your calls, but here we’ll go over the three most-used methods that make logging easy and effective.

  1. VoIP Call Tracking: If you’re logging calls mainly for the metrics, then this is the route for you. VoIP systems digitally and automatically track your inbound, outbound, and missed calls, providing you with detailed reports on each area. This allows you to see which hours and departments received the most phone traffic, so you can tell whether you’re staffed accordingly or whether you need to be making more sales calls.
  2. CRM Software: When your CRM software is linked to your VoIP system, the two can work in tandem to give you the best possible tracking available. Place a phone call using your VoIP system, and your CRM will automatically pull up specifics on the customer and your previous calls. When you’ve finished the call, your CRM will prompt you to log the call, and you can add more notes on the call and save it for future. This not only gives you the bare-bones metrics (i.e., whether the call was inbound or outbound, the duration of the call, etc.), but also allows you to add in your own details so you can give a better customer experience.
  3. Call Report Templates: This is the manual, DIY method of tracking calls if you don’t have VoIP or CRM. Call report templates are basically worksheets with areas for you to fill in the particulars of the call yourself. You can make your own template using a program such as Excel, creating a spreadsheet with individual columns for date, time, inbound/outbound, customer name, notes, and any other information that you wish to provide on each call.

Call tracking may seem superfluous, but in an age where businesses are dealing with larger call volumes, it’s critical to have some way of monitoring your call info. Call tracking is the key to keeping tabs on your leads in a systematic, organized manner, so you and your customer will both benefit.

About Elizabeth:

Elizabeth Dupont specializes in various fields including business, marketing, and technology, and regularly writes for Fit Small Business and other publications. When she isn’t writing, she’s wrangling her four kids, working on art projects, or reading fiction. Connect with her via LinkedIn or via email at [liz.dupont09@gmail.com].

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pp2

Stacking Your Productivity0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Earlier this week I posted about the how your sales stack stacks up, (couldn’t resist) How Productive Is Your Sales Stack? Exploring how many companies and sales leaders are actually contributing to their team’s’ lack of success by overloading them with “sales tools”, the “Stack”. While many are sold, and think they are buying “productivity tools”, they are in fact hindering productivity, revenue success and growth. While I have had some interesting feedback, the question comes up as to why this is, and why these folks would continue to invest in things clearly working against them.

To be clear, that is not an opinion, but supported by the data. Which interesting since many of these buyer, and certainly all the people who sell these tools point to data, but as with many things, leveraging data for success is a subjective exercise, allowing people to ignore those data points that don’t support their current opinion. Sorry to confuse the issue with facts.

While on the one hand there is no argument that sales have changed, especially when it comes to tools available for both sellers and buyers, but the motivation for buying those tools is fairly established. Sales leaders are looking productivity, more output from the same inputs, or same outputs with less resources. In the past when VP’s of sales needed more output, their rallying cry was “I need more headcount”, they would employ some Voodoo Economics, and voilà, come up with rationale for additional headcount. These days, they throw technology at it instead. Vendors are happy to supply the case studies, ROI calculators, white papers, and all the rationale one needs to at that next app to their stack.

pp2As they add things, they add complexity, complexity as presented Monday, impacts productivity negatively. What I have seen is that all too often, there is little adjustment to the sales process to integrate the efficiencies captured, it is not reflected in the work-flow or the execution path. It is a cycle that repeats itself again and again. This leads to the decision to add something else to the stack, that final missing magical piece that will change everything.

Going a bit deeper and further, the question remains, why do they need these additional tools, well, the most frequently reason, stated or not, is that their people won’t do things that need to be done if you are going to succeed in sales. No saying they can’t, many can, they won’t and don’t do specific things that are crucial to consistent execution and success. So the easiest thing to do is automate, get some technology that will do it instead. Good plan, clearly not working though.

Some things, like say dialers (sorry accelerators), make sense, but one I saw recently prompted sellers to offer the buyer other SKU’s that other similar buyers have bought with similar orders. Implementing this app, requires integration, new approvals, approval process, etc. Seems to me if McDonald’s can train their counter clerks to if you want fries with that shake, how hard should it be for your team to do that without an app?

In a day where everyone is talking relationships, the importance of people buy from people, and everything that goes with that, the obvious solution to get more sales and reduce complexity, and improve productivity is to invest in the human side of the equation.

Please don’t take this as being against automation, I love it, use it, and live off it. But automation for automation sake, or strictly as a fashion statement clearly does not add to productivity. The sales productivity Holy Grail will continue to elude those who focus on one side of the equation while ignoring the other. Just as in the old days adding body count without proper development, process adjustment, and the right tools did not lead to productivity gains. Nor will adding more and more technology while ignoring its impact on the balance of things, and the ability to of your team to execute. Next time instead of adding more technology, add more development for your sellers, have them sell not just babysit your stack. This will allow those comparing stacks now, to compare results in the future.

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cloud-stack

How Productive Is Your Sales Stack?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

It’s Monday, a great day for great sellers, the week is ripe with possibilities and opportunities, and how it turns out Friday, is almost entirely up to you and the decisions you make, and the actions you’re willing to execute, or choose to avoid; it’s what makes sales great. But this Monday is that much more so, in fact if you’re inclined (you don’t have to be), you can look at this Monday as sales version of what stock market players call ‘Triple Witching‘.

This Monday is not only the start of the next chapter of your success story, for most the start of Q4, the last chance to bring it all home, and this week also marks the start of the sales version of the Hajj. The annual event that brings tens of thousands of sales types descending on San Francisco, in a quest to learn something new, reinforce their current path, and generally mingle with other faithful seeking sales enlightenment.

Having made the journey before, I know it is easy to get distracted from the “why” or Zen of the journey, how do we improve sales, and help our people sell better? In the frenzy presentations and displays, being flattered as you’re being scanned and primed, it is easy to forget that sales is as much about your people as it is about technology. And while people may say the size of Stack matters, as with other things, I believe it is more of what you do with it, not the size.

cloud-stackI have seen sales leaders compare stacks the same way we compared hockey cards in the school yard. And while I would not argue the positive impact of technology on many elements of selling, more is not always better, and in fact without an overarching strategy to execution and development path for your human assets, it is more likely holding you back, just review the many studies around quota attainment.

But quota attainment is just a symptom, not the cause. The nature of your Stack brings with it a number of unintended negative ripples, not the least of which is added complexity, complexity that has a direct impact on your team’s ability to sell and succeed. This can surface in a number of ways, from challenges around integration, roll out, alignment with message, adoption and execution; all leading to complexity that directly impacts outcomes.

Some complexities are necessary based on what you are selling, who you are selling it to, and other factors. The goal is to find and develop a Stack that at the minimum balances things your way, or better yet, reduces complexity, and improves sales, selling and results. There is a difference between the sale being complex, and making the job of selling complex. The Former is the nature of the game, a factor the nature of the product, the number of people involved, (on both sides), the existing systems being touched or impacted, and a number of other moving parts. The latter is self-inflicted and can be avoided.

One of the hidden challenges of the Stack is the ripple effect it brings. Things impacted include process and impact on work-flows; time requirements to learn adopt and assimilate by the front line. Each new resource brings with it additional stakeholders, each with their own view on “things”; then come the approvals at various points, not to mention support. This leads to what CEB has termed the ‘Seller Burden’. As shared at the recent CEB’s Sales & Marketing Thought Leader Roundtable, this Seller Burden is having a direct impact on sales success, and can be attributed to the new, and many argue unnecessary, complexity presented by the above.

supporting-seller-burden

Despite all the right reasons, measures taken by some sales organizations to help and support the sales effort, and sales people, have led to unplanned consequences. If you want to get a real sense for the type impact this has on your reps, their time, ability to sell, and basically your sales results, visit CEB’s Sales Complexity Calculator, input your specifics, and see the impact in your world. If you do not know the inputs for your organization, we should definitely talk.

As you can see below, even as almost all sales leaders are taking steps to help reps by increasing resources, a vast majority of reps believe that these resources are adding to their work complexity.

unintended-ii
The only one winning here is the sales rep from the resource company, but in reality, there is no doubt that they are caught in the same trap.

So what, it is part of their job to deal with and assimilate these resources, with the expectation that once they “work it out”, it will help deliver quota. Short term pain for long term gain. But the evidence suggests otherwise. There are real and ongoing costs to ‘Seller Burden’.

cost-of-burden

To be clear, internal factors are not the only issues contributing to ‘Seller Burden’, as you can see below.

burden-model

But it is also true that that internal factors, or complexities as it is termed below, are the biggest contributor, by a huge degree.

the-enemy-within

So as you ready yourself for the pilgrimage, and you circle in and around the Moscone Center, I would challenge you to look for things that will simplify selling for your team, and simplify buying for your prospects. Just because it looks good does not mean it will be good. An incremental gain in a small element of your sales success, should not lead to hidden and ongoing costs in productivity. Instead, make it your mission to look for resources that eliminate and minimize complexity, and make it easier for your team to execute and win deals. In fact, look for resources and by extension the related support, that you can eliminate and simplify selling for your sellers, and buying for your customers.

simplify

Simplifying and uncluttering is the goal. Start by focusing on the three items to the left of the dotted line above. Clearly you can’t hit all three at once, start by prioritizing, then focus on one at a time. My bias would be towards starting with simplifying and streamlining workflows, but the choice is yours.

The important thing is to challenge yourself to make it a mission to come back from the pilgrimage with more than just memories and cool S.W.A.G. Wanna be really cool, adopt the mantra of winners: LESS. Less, and the ability to produce more.

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Senior businessman being shocked after receiving bad news on cell phone, sitting at office desk behind alarm clock showing five minutes to twelve.

Stop Sabotaging Your Prospecting0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

We have all heard the expression that people make decisions based on emotion, then spend time rationalizing the decision. This interplay between our primal instinct and our later developed intellect, impacts sales success in other key ways. Our beliefs on a primal level have greater influence than we often realize, and despite our intellect and education, our beliefs will either limit us, or empower us beyond what many give them credit for.

Take telephone prospecting, yes cold calling, certainly a real and often emotional thing for all involved.  There are as many opinions out there about cold calling as there are minutes in a day.  Yet whether it works, or not, has less to do with technique and the times we live in.  It instead comes down to your beliefs and the actions those beliefs lead to, or more typically, actions they prevent.  And just like actions having consequences, in sales, especially lack of action, has greater consequences.

This leads to the question of which beliefs are interfering with your sales success, and can be recalibrated to change your beliefs, thoughts and actions.

One of my core beliefs, supported by real world experience, and empirical data, is that my customers benefit in very specific ways when they follow my programs.  They regularly achieve objectives they set out to accomplish, and realize direct impact on their business.  I am conduit to best practices, and as a result, can help prospects even before they commit to my programs.  This allows me to pick up the phone, and call someone I have not met, but have the confidence that I can help.

Now if you don’t have that core belief, the belief that you can help your clients, you are going to have difficulty prospecting, which equals difficulty selling.  Even though I am a professional interrupter, realizing that I am disrupting the prospects day, I both know and believe that the ultimate positive impact I will have on their sales team, will greatly outweigh the interruption.

What’s interesting is why people lack the belief that they can help their prospects.  Some tell me they sell a commodity, and as a result it is all down to price.  I get it, it is not easy, but you and I both know that there are people out there prospecting in your hen house and winning the business without dropping their price or pants.   What they have going for them is their focus on the outcomes they deliver, not how they deliver them.  This allows you to concentrate the message, avoid talking about yourself, and quickly have the prospect focus on the issue not the product.  The prospectors we turn out never talk about products, who their company is, or any of that intellectually rooted messaging, it is all about outcomes.

Start by going back and having straight conversations with your clients, ask them why they continue to deal with you, and then listen, and not selectively.  What you’ll find is that even if it is a commodity, door nails, is that price is not in the top three reasons, usually not in the top five.  Seems to me, those three things that keep them with you, but are not price, should be the things you lead a cold call with, even before talking about your company.  Frankly dear, no one cares that you are the Mid-West account rep for a Fortune 500 company, well maybe your mother, but no prospect, go to the outcomes.

It will take a few interviews with clients, and with people where you lost, or they did not take a decision.  But over time you will not only understand what you should focus on in prospecting calls, but as you get traction, you will confirm your ability to help people and change your beliefs to a healthier and more rewarding set of beliefs.

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