Welcome to The Pipeline.

3 Tracking Tools for Serious Sales2

CC March 14

The Pipeline Guest Post - Carrie Powers

Effective tracking tools pave the way for great sales, so when considering what tools to use for your business, you shouldn’t accept anything less than exceptional. Let’s look at three of the best tracking tools available.

Evernote

With over 800,000 downloads on Google Play™ alone, Evernote® is one of the most popular and highly rated productivity apps on the market. It’s compatible with nearly every device and computer, and can perform an incredible amount of organizational tasks. It allows you to quickly and accurately catalogue everything from web pages to business trip itineraries to notes from meetings, and also includes multiple sharing functions so you can share your thoughts and ideas with colleagues.

So what does this mean for your salespeople? They’ll spend far less time slogging through a mess of information and more time actually using that information to turn your business into a well-oiled super-sales machine. Once you’ve used Evernote to establish a smooth and steady flow of useful material, you’ll be better equipped to form comprehensive sales strategies, reach out to your customers with new and fresh content, and keep everything neatly organized all the while.

Automatic Address Book

In the world of large and small businesses alike, it’s a widely known fact that using a customer relationship management (CRM) system can help you boost sales. CRMs allow you to give your clients the personalized attention they want and deserve. Only a handful of CRMs offer excellent tools that go beyond basic functionality to achieve remarkably intuitive performance. The Automatic Address Book from Insightly is one of those tools.

There are a plethora of both free and paid address book programs available, but what sets Automatic Address Book apart is its ability to automatically identify all kinds of connections within your large network of contacts and customers. For instance, let’s say that 5% of your customers know each other through a recent business conference. While a standard address book application wouldn’t be able to detect this sort of subtle information, Insightly’s Automatic Address Book analyzes the from, to, and cc fields in emails to identify a connection, and then searches the web for files that include the names of those customers together (such as online comments and conversations pertaining to the aforementioned conference).

Just like that, you’ll have valuable information on how your customers know each other, so your salespeople can best appeal to their interests and experiences, taking that budding sales relationship to the next level.

Business Card Apps

Even though the vast majority of the modern business world is now digitized, physical business cards still remain the most popular way to quickly exchange contact information. After all, we don’t always have the time to pull out our smartphones, create a new contact, then enter a name, work number, mobile number, and email address.

The problem is, however, that even when given plenty of time, most salespeople won’t sit down after every networking event to go through their stack of business cards and manually enter each contact into their device one by one. The solution? Quick and efficient mobile apps to scan or photograph business cards, then instantly turn them into an easily accessible contacts on your smartphone, tablet, computer, or any number of social networks.

ABBYY® and CamCard, two of the most trusted card reading apps on the market, are available for iOS® and Android™. CamCard is also available for BlackBerry® and Windows Phone. With so many options (and so many other card reading apps out there) you’re bound to find something to suit your needs.

Although all of these tools may seem a bit intimidating at first glance, their useful and noteworthy capabilities can make them invaluable to your sales team. If you’re looking to boost productivity, cut down on wasted time, and see an increase in sales, these tools could be just what you’re looking for.

About Carrie Powers

Carrie Powers is a college student, writer, and lipstick enthusiast. She is currently earning her bachelor’s degree in English while simultaneously pursuing a career in writing and marketing, and has previously worked as a content writer for BlueGlass Interactive. She is now a contributor to ChamberofCommerce.com.

Carrie has enjoyed writing for a wide variety of clients, from clothing brands to car insurance companies, and prides herself on her ability to make any topic fun, engaging, and fresh. Her areas of expertise include beauty, fashion, and style, and she looks forward to a long and exciting career in writing.

Mistakes Are Better Than Regrets – Sales eXecution 2430

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Crossed Fingers

If I had a dollar for every time I heard a sales person say “I should have …”, I could start working a three day week. And for all the coulda shmoudas, the risk for not acting was not that much greater than not acting, but the rewards always measurably bigger. I have never understood how some can live better with the regret of not having gotten a sale because they did not act, versus worrying about not getting an account because of a mistake they made attempting.

We worry about making mistakes when it comes to accounts, or meetings, usually unnecessarily so, and usually due to a lack of a proper pursuit plan, or process. Process here refers to a set of necessary and common-sense activities required to move the sale to close, executed in a logical and sequential stages, not something overly complex just for the sake of being complex, or more expensive. But the ‘process’ is not the end all and be all, as many mistakenly believe, it is the jumping point, the platform that allows you to act and measure progress and recalibrate when needed, but none of that matters till you act. It is when you act and make mistakes that you can correct, vary, and act again. Mistakes can be corrected, regrets you just carry around like so much luggage.

This unfolds with meetings as well, I often hear sales people say after the fact “I should have asked…” So why don’t they? One simple reason, they didn’t write their questions down in advance, and simply forgot, they didn’t want to look amateurish, but many buyers tell me they just see that as being prepared. More often sellers tell me they didn’t want to sound foolish asking such a simple question. What’s the old question: “do you want to be rich or look cool?”

Many sales people tell me that they don’t want to act “until they have it right”. They practice and rehearse – a good thing – till they feel they have it “perfect” – not a good thing, because no one is ever perfect. Selling is not like figure skating at the Olympics where you get a score for “artistic merit”, more like speed skating, successive qualifying rounds, semi-finals, and finally the big race. Perfect is not as pretty as success, and success is not always pretty.

While the intent of doing your best is a good one, and I have always said that intents go a long way, buyers are very much in tune with your intent, and are very forgiving when they know your intent was good, despite questionable execution. But without action on your part, there is no way for the buyer to see or gauge your intent. It’s a lot like not leaving a voice mail because “no one ever calls back”, how could they if you don’t leave a message or number?

If you’re going to err, err on the side of acting and dealing with the outcome, not on the side of staying on the sidelines and rationalizing the might-have-beens. In sales, it is about execution – everything else is just talk!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Join me - Return On Objectives #Webinar

Why Set Out For 2nd Prize?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

2nd prize

Every day I work with sales people who start their day by setting their sights on winning second prize, and then celebrate when they achieve it. No really, watch any group of sales people on the phone trying to set appointments, and it is only a question of minutes before you see a few telling you how they convinced the potential prospect to let them have second place, or take their place among the also-rans.

Now I am not sure it is always accurate, but there is something to be said for the saying that in sales “second place, is as good as seventh place.” Meaning only the rep who wins the deal has any bragging rights, and the money, the rest are quickly forgotten.

But seriously, how else can you explain sales people doing the following.

They get on the phone, get their indented target on the phone, who tells them “we’re all set, we already have a provider (insert your stuff here), thanks for calling though”. To which the sales rep responds “Well, maybe I can send you some info, and if you ever need a backup…” Sometimes it is a variation on that theme, their whole approach is to get permission to send information to the potential prospect, and then ask for permission to call back to follow up. I mean I could find it interesting if they asked for an appointment to review the material they send, but to ask for permission to call back, don’t we all know what will happen when they call back:

A.   They end up in voice mail, they don’t leave a message, or leave the wrong message; no call back, couple more tries and then they give up
B.   Mysteriously, despite improvements in technology, the prospect did not receive what they sent
C.   The prospect hasn’t had a chance to read, but will, and asks you to call in a week
D.   All of the above

Notice what one of the options wasn’t, that’s right, an appointment, which what the objective is, first prize!

Knowing how to handle objections is one thing, and if you download our Objection Handling Handbook, you’ll know how to handle the two above, (all set, and send me stuff), as well as the most common you are likely to face on the phone. But where most fail is in their attitude, which is really just a symptom of their preparedness and commitment.

While the reality is that most people you speak to will not meet with you first try; it is also true that often that first call is a chance to introduce yourself and initiate a process that may involve a number of calls before you have built enough rapport to have them take a meeting. But it is also true that that should be what you settle for, not your intent going into the call.

Assuming, (not always safe I know), as a seller who values their time and is intent on exceeding quota, you have at least minimally qualified the person and the opportunity before you picked up the phone. The company meets your criteria, you done some background work on the company and the individual you are calling, checked out their social activity, and have prepared for the call. If so, then you objective for the call is to get the meeting to initiate the sale, anything short of that is not a win. And that needs to be the attitude when you are on the phone – you and I need to meet, we’ll both get value!

Not only will that attitude come across on the phone, but it will inform what and how you present things to the buyer. Everything you say driving the need to meet and talk further, that you can add immediate value to their ability to meet their objective. Not in an overt way, but very specifically challenging the prospect to meet, and remember challenge like provoke can be done in a very positive way, it need not be a negative. But most sellers are so scared of the phone, so scared of rejection, so unprepared, they see any permission to end the call as a good one. The difference between the winners and the rest, is that the winners see the meeting as the only good outcome, while the rest want to get off so fast that they see the right to send, second prize, as the best way to achieve their objective, which “How fast can I get off this call without hearing no? Send you some stuff, sure that works, thank you.”

“Hey Boss, I looks like they’re interested, I am putting it at 25%!”

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Join me - Return On Objectives #Webinar

 

Self-Serve or Full Service? – Sales eXecution 2422

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

stake and wine

I overheard an interesting discussion recently at the airport. Two guys talking about eating out a lot, could even have been road warrior sales types. One was waxing poetic about how is sick and tired of seeing tipping jars at staff cafeterias, or fast food places. When his buddy asked why, his reply was that the people in those place do not do anything that merits a tip. They stand at the cash, ring you out, and sometimes even muster a “thank you”. Even at a place like Starbucks, the baristas are nothing more than a short version of a short order cook.

He felt waiters deserve a tip because they create and add to the dining experience, and are often the difference between a great night out experience, and a meal eaten outside the home. He felt that waiters are with you from start to finish, making recommendations, the good ones take time to understand your preference and what you are hoping to get out of the experience and more. They also sell and upsell you from wine to desert and everything between, helping their restaurant sell more profitable items, increasing the size of the bill, their tip, and your experience. In other words earning their tips. To quote “WTF does the guy behind the counter at Starbucks add to the experience?”

This got me to think about some of the current discussions in sales, and how people are confusing roles and outcomes, sometime innocently, sometimes intentionally to drive their own agenda, even at the expense of their buyers and facts. When I read that “buyers are over 60% of the way through their buying process before they reach out to sales person”, I get confused. Sales person, really? I think not, more accurately, the person they call when they are 2/3 of the way through their “buying” process is an order taker, there is no selling taking place here, there is just taking an order the buyer by definition arrived at on their own. Looking at that experience as a sale, is like confusing a sandwich off a stand outside Penn Station with a dinner at Carbone.

Sales people seek out and engage with people who have not started the buying process, had not intention on doing anything different when they went to work that morning. That is why it is a “sales process”, not a “buying process”. Sales people are not standing at the checkout counter waiting for the next buyer to walk up. They study their territory, understand who potentially will benefit from their offering. They segment and prioritize, and develop a pursuit plan based on where they are most likely to engage with potential buyers, buyers who without the seller’s initiative would remain on the sideline, and unnoticed by sales people waiting for a call from someone who has completed 2/3 of their decision. Not to mention the pundits who promote this type of lazy order taking; how can one present an entire “sales” methodology predicated on taking orders rather than making a sale? I am with my man at the airport, let’s not call the combo meal at the local sub shop a four course dinner. Now shut down the browser, and go out and sell, the incoming orders will come anyways, look at them as you bonus, not your goal.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Join me - Return On Objectives #Webinar

Return On Objectives #Webinar0

Return On Objectives - Harnessing Objectives to Drive Better Sales Conversations

Learn how to change the sales conversation and who should be having that conversation with!

Presented by  

Join me on March 19, at 3:00 pm Eastern.  

Objective Based Selling looks at how to align the conversation with the buyer’s objectives, and leveraging those objectives to create a better conversation that drives mutual opportunities and success. With changes in the buying and selling dynamic, B2B buyers who are ready to buy are much better informed and more empowered than ever, and unless sellers are that much better prepared they risk being reduced to glorified order takers. Buyers who are not in the market, the so called Status Quo, are more time deprived than ever and are much less susceptible to traditional sales approaches and conversations. Impervious to pains, needs or solutions, a large segment of your market is better able to cocoon themselves from traditional sellers and sales conversations.

The presentation will cover how to take advantage of current realities and present specific ways sellers can successfully approach and engage prospects, but create selling opportunities where others may not see any, and in the process build credibility, expert status, and loyalty with existing and new buyers. Objective based selling is a process based, value driven four plank platform for success in selling to Status Quo buyers, the most overlooked segment of the market:

  • Breaking down “Value” to core components and why people buy
  • Leveraging past experiences – Won, Lost and No Decision deals – 360 Degree Deal View
  • Building a better question
  • Proactive exploration

D & R

I Made a Sales Mistakes, Have You? And then What…?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Mistake

Seems it is a week of posts about sales mistakes, Monday I discussed a mistake made by a company trying to sell to me. Today, it is one of my mistakes that takes centre stage.

We all make mistakes, it is a trait of being human. The real opportunity is in how you deal with mistakes you make. The fellow I discussed Monday choose not to do anything about his, below is an example of a recent one I made, and how I dealt with it. What was a sales mistake you made in the course of selling and what did you do about it?

Last week I made a fatal, or near fatal error. I had sent a prospecting note to senior executive, and I let the auto-correct get the better of me, as a result I got the individual’s name wrong, interestingly enough their name is a common vocation, and I allowed the phone to replace it with another common vocation starting with the same letter. Not excusable, I should have caught it, I messed up with a capital F. With a name like Tibor, you can imagine I get my name rearranged on a regular basis.

The individual in question wrote back chastising me for the error, pointing out getting the name right was Sales 101. I don’t blame them for doing so, but it occurred to me that my mistake was not related to Sales 101 at all.

Sales 101 in my experience relates to actually acting, as in the act of proactive prospecting, acting on an idea, or acting in a way that gets the results you set out to get.

On a daily basis I hear sales people say they can’t do this, or can’t do that; I sometimes get the sense that what they are really saying is wont. I also hear that they find it difficult to get in front of their prospect, they can’t write to senior executive, “e-mail don’t get a response, they are never opened.”

Well clearly the one I sent was opened, otherwise my mistake would not have gone unseen, the technique works, one point for me, let’s keep using it. The goal of having a call was not eliminated, and whatever the ultimate outcome, their response allowed me to address my mistake. I apologised directly for my error, no excuses, humanize the process, and continue on. A case of taking lemons and making lemonade, I’ll let you know whether my intended prospect adds some sweetener, I suspect not, but I did my part.

My Question To You:

What was a sales mistake you made that you had a chance to deal with in a positive way, and snatch success where others may not have? Leave a comment below, or send a tweet to @TiborShanto.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Inbound, Outbound and now Nowhere Bound – Sales eXecution 2410

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

OOOPs

I have recently become a victim of some bad, no absolutely terrible, attempts at prospecting by people who bring little to their chosen profession, sales. But while it may be easy to blame the reps alone, their companies need to share in the blame and shame. Last week I was so pissed, I had to pick up the phone and call the rep and the company directly. Not surprisingly they did not understand what I saw them doing wrong.

To begin with, I or anyone in my company, has no absolute need for their “solution”. Yet another example of “solution selling” gone bad, unleashing a rep who runs around the country side looking for a problem. So why they would have wasted time and energy pursuing me is beyond me, but they did, and here is how it unfolded.

Last month I got an e-mail, presented in “very familiar” way, and it started this way:

Tibor,
Happy New Year!
I wanted to follow up to determine an appropriate time to….

I speak to a lot of people, did not recognize the name of the rep or the company, maybe this was due to the excesses of the holidays. So I did a quick search through my e-mails, sales software, LinkedIn, but nothing. I looked at the company page, not anyone I had prospected, nor were they at the top of my hit parade. Not wanting to be rude, or miss an opportunity, I sent them a note, asking what it was he was looking to “follow up to?” as I had no recollection of prior contact. No response, not a peep, and I promptly forgot about him, his note and his company.

Four weeks less a day later, another note:

Hi Tibor,

As a follow up to our last touch point, I wanted to see if now is perhaps a better time to briefly discuss….

He’s got balls, I’ll give him that, not much integrity or ethics, and I say this as someone who has proclaimed to know where the line is, happy to step close to it, but never cross it. He clearly had no issues in crossing it.

I called him up, introduced myself, not saying what I do for a living, just enquiring what we were following up to, as per my earlier note. He told me that they do it all the time, and he further defended it by saying that this is done all the time. I suppose that’s true, and everyday people get swindled in a number of ways, does that mean you have to do that too.

I am sure this kind of net cast every day, and I am sure the catch is healthy, otherwise they would make the effort to sell ethically. But I have to believe that if they did put the effort in, and assuming that their product has some merit, they would do much better than misleading potential prospects, and relying on those with bad memories. And while the debate over the pros/cons and merits of inbound vs. outbound will continue, and will the results of both, I hope we can all agree that this type of prospecting is truly nowhere bound.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

Using Content Marketing to Drive Sales1

cc feb 14

The Pipeline Guest Post - Megan Totka 

Using content marketing to drive sales will certainly only continue to grow exponentially in 2014. Nearly every company, small or large, will use this tactic to increase their sales.

If you look back on content marketing, you’ll come across examples that predate the Internet. Content marketing is certainly not a new strategy, but it is one that has been made easier by technology. Several hundred years ago, content marketing was possible, but it was certainly a little tougher to get your sales message out there. A few of the examples offered were John Deere, who published a magazine offering farming tips, and the Jell-O company, who distributed free cookbooks full of recipes using their product. Both companies have obviously done quite well for themselves.

So what should you do to effectively use content marketing to drive sales in 2014? Here are a few things to consider:

Visual content – infographics, which gained lots of popularity in 2013, will continue to be on the rise in 2014. People love getting their information in a visual manner – less reading, more colors. Infographics were used by 51% of B2B content marketers in 2013.

In-person events still rule – a survey of B2B marketers showed that people still think that in-person events are the most effective way to market and sell to potential customers. While most of the time, the Internet is king, in person marketing is still very much an effective strategy.

Strategy vs. no strategy – while we can argue that anyone who is involved in marketing has needed to devise a strategy, not everyone actually records a concrete marketing plan to follow. However, the same survey as mentioned above shows that companies who have a documented content strategy think that they are successful about 66 percent of the time, compared to companies that don’t have a recorded strategy thinking that they are successful only 11 percent.

Content marketing still poses some challenges – the B2B marketing group reported that there are definitely still some challenges to be overcome when it comes to content marketing. Some of the top concerns are not having enough time to produce quality content, a budget shortfall, and a lack of vision.

We all know that sales and marketing need a delicate balance in order to work well without overwhelming your customers. Content marketing is a way to build your brand while offering useful information at the same time.

(Photo Source)

About Megan Totka

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

3 Ways to Minimize or Marginalize Objections – Sales eXecution 2402

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

bad phone day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Can You Sell Your Competitor’s Product?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Compete

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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