Welcome to The Pipeline.

LinkedIn Serves Up Catholic Like Feature2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

endorsed 2

People always seem to be looking for a means to repent and ease their guilt. Whatever the cause or underlying motivation, people feel better when doing something, even if it is not the right thing for the wrong reasons, acting gives the illusion of accomplishment. So when it comes to sales, social media offers an outlet more immediate and less demanding than going to a confessional, when they know they have wronged and are feeling guilty.  All with the added bonus of being socially impersonal.

I look at this phenomenon as the sales equivalent of “slacktivism“.

I came to learn about this from a rep I am working with. He highlighted that a prospect had missed a scheduled call, one agreed to during the last meeting, invite accepted, and specific to the deal at the time. When he called as scheduled, he did not get a response. But the very next day the prospect in question “endorsed” said sales rep for two sales related skills on LinkedIn. Brad thought this just to be a coincidence, but saw it happen in other instances. He mentioned that he met someone at an industry event, the usual “ya, this is what we are looking for, definitely give me a call.” Follow up – no response; a few days later, follow up – no response, voice mails left on both calls, with return number. Lo and behold, a couple of days later, a LinkedIn endorsement.

I have always been flattered when I get LinkedIn endorsements, making a mental note, occasionally reaching out, but never looked for the correlation Brad mentioned. But, since it was brought to my attention, I have seen that I too have been a victim of this “social confessional”, a cleansing of guilt brought in when folks don’t follow through on commitments.

I say “social confessional” for two reasons. First, as people use social outlets to communicate things in a way different than the past, it only makes sense that it would creep into their communication of their guilt for not following through on their commitments, and in to their communication with whatever deity they hide behind when they mess up. So why make the trek down to the local church, just give them three endorsements, a “social” form of three Hail Mary’s and a candle. “It’s not like I ignored you, dude, in fact I endorsed you, three times man, let it go.”

The second reason, well, these days you stick “social” in front of any old thing, and it’ll just seem hipper.

So Catholic, or not, even atheists, can now endorse and move on with their day, without the bother of being accountable for their commitments. The Church can learn something here.

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Decision Makers Want To Deal With Decisive People2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Decisions direction sign with sky background

A question I regularly ask when working with a group of reps on prospecting, is “who do you call on?” or “who do you want to call on?” The answer I get is “the decision maker”. Now I have used a lot of different directories and databases, and they all give a title, not role in decision. But let’s say they did, the real question is what happens when you speak to that decision maker. Unfortunately often this opportunity does not go as well as hoped, for the sales person, and the decision maker.

It has been shown in a number of studies that many decision makers are disappointed with many of their meetings with sales people, often seeing it as a waste of their time. Reps come in unprepared in so many ways. Despite all the information out there, all the research sales people supposedly do in advance of their meetings, they seem to bring little knowledge or real valuable or actionable insight to these meetings.

While there are more, I will look at two that if addressed and improved will dramatically improve your success. First is the focus of all the research and information reps do going into the meeting. When I ask, I still get the same old same old. It is all very product and sales centric. Mercifully you hear less and less of “what keeps you awake at night?” But while the words have changed, the posture and the way it rubs the executive has not. The reality is that much of what many sales people “probe for”, are things many senior executives and decision makers have delegated to others in the organization.

Instead they are focused on their objectives 12 – 18 months forward, they are consumed by those outcomes, and their impact on their company, be that profits, market share, Wall Street reaction, and more. It is not about “the” enterprise software, but the impact as they view it. Talk about that and they will engage, and exchange information with you, but with all due deference, the SPIN stuff makes their head spin. Show them that you can help them achieve their objectives, and you’re on.

The second common obstacle is the general demeanour of many reps. There is a difference between respecting someone and their position, and putting them on a pedestal. This needs to be a conversation of peers; not equals, but peers. Why would I open up to someone whose words, gestures and posture suggest that they have not faced the type of scenarios and objectives I deal with every day? Many sales people, especially the relationship types or the social types, are reluctant to ask the direct and difficult questions that not only demonstrates that you understand the day to day world of the person you are with, much less help them resolve the gaps that stand between them and their objectives. You can talk probing, but doing it right, is another story. Executives I have spoken to tell straight out that they don’t have time to educate reps on the types of things they are trying to achieve or resolve. “I can tell from the questions they ask, and the way they ask them if they really get, are faking it, or just scared shitless because they know they are in over their heads when it comes to my world and day to day”.

The reason some reps never get the appointment is not because the executive or decision maker is not open to input, but they want that from a peer, who understands what they are dealing with, and can demonstrate that they have fought the battle and won. Not with a glossy case study but how they conduct themselves. In short, Decision makers want to deal with decisive people, people who can lead them to success, not just follow hoping for relationship.

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3 Words to Ditch To Improve Your Sales – Sales eXecution 3042

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Garbage

Words are a big part of selling, seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how little attention some in sales pay to the words they choose. Words impact not only what your prospects hear and their reactions to them, but almost as important is the effect they have on you as the seller. Words impact and reflect you view of things and situations, and while many will argue that it’s just semantics, they fail to realize or acknowledge the degree to which words you choose reflect and signal your intent; something that your buyers pick up and are influenced by as much as anything.

Now let’s be clear, most don’t set out to use words that may hinder their success, and often they use certain words or phrases because they were brought up right. Like asking “is this a good time” when they interrupt a busy person in the middle of their day. Most people do it to be polite, a good thing, but the result is counter to the objective of the call. In most instances the prospect says “not really”, the sellers asks “when is a good time?” Prospect offers up a random time, and the rest is just painful.

As with most things it needs to be brought to their attention, and then the hard part, putting it into practice instead of going back to the same old, same old.

So here we go:

Gatekeeper – Talk about starting off on the wrong foot. Right out of the gate, us vs. them. Sadly, many of the people that sellers refer to as gatekeepers, can actually be helpful in moving your agenda forward. Today’s executive assistants are part of the “inner circle” and are very aware of their boss’ and organizations’ priorities and objectives, the better you align with those the more likely that the person in question can move from being a “gatekeeper” to a “gateway” to your success. Rather than looking past them as some would suggest, work with them, engage them the way you would any decision maker, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Just – Nothing cuts you and or your message down a notch more than the word just. Look at the definition: only or merely – “He was just a clerk until he became ambitious.” Not a way you want you, your product or message to be framed. Most use it to minimize the intrusion or effort required, but all it does is minimize everything. If you can truly add value to their world, help them achieve objectives, then go bold, not minimize by putting a just in front of it.

Hope – Such an uplifting work that can do so much damage to your pipeline. You hear this drug sprinkled into sales conversations all over. “I was hoping to set up a time to meet”, no you wanted to meet, but had to settle for hoping because your talk track was not good. In pipeline reviews, “I am hoping to hear from them this week.” Rather than hoping, would it not have been a better idea to set the next step before one left. I can be humorous and say I was hoping reps do that, but when those words come out, all hope is dashed. Decision makers want to deal with decisive people, hoping is not an attitude that conveys that.

So there you have three words in sales that hurt, cut them out, if you replace them replace them with something strong and forward looking, but you don’t really need to replace them at all, just sell.

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Delivery Over Messaging In Prospecting Calls0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Bulls eye

When it comes to effective prospecting there is usually a complete imbalance between two critical components of an effective message. Effective here means leading to initial engagement. The two components are “the content” of the message, and the “delivery”. The being the ability to ensure that the content is packaged and delivered in a way that the recipient can full receive and digest it and get out of it what the seller intended. Most people tend to focus way too much on the message, and the content, then fail to pay sufficient focus and energy on the delivery, often resulting in great content and message being wasted.

The important part of the delivery is “dynamics”, what is happening on the prospects side of things that will enable them or prevent them from taking on the message. Your value prop is a flop if it lands on deaf ears, on the other hand if you can get the prospect to take in the message, even a semi polished message will go further than the perfect line that misses the target.

Most prospecting calls, OK, cold calls, usually fall short because the caller is thinking too much about their end of the call, not the prospects end. First and foremost they are trying, and frankly encouraged by many pundits, to come up with a message that will avoid or side step an objection. Well forget it, that is not happening, when you are interrupting someone trying to pack 16 hours into a ten hour day, you will get an objection, because you are an interruption, no matter how golden your message or revolutionary your product. The only way to avoid objections is to not make the call, and I know some resort to that method. Add to that the fact that no matter how cool or “disruptive” your product, they think they already have it or something like it, remember you called them.

So you have to make it about them. Now I know you’re all sitting there saying I already do that, but having listened to thousands of call delivered by hundreds of reps, you’re not. What I hear is people telling the prospect about their company, what they do, and their product, and only after that do they get to the good stuff, what’s in it for the buyer, but even then, it is often to general. What reps tell me is that they need to introduce themselves, no you don’t. You need to introduce what’s in it for them. By the time you get through your intro they are either asleep or looking for a window, not to jump, but to throw the phone through. Lead with the outcome, the happy ending, the punch line, whatever you wanna call it, give them the end, then work back from there. This will help you get their attention, ensure the message gets through, and will set you up to manage their objectives more effectively. Now, if you want to better manage their objectives download the Objective Handling Handbook, normally $12.97, free today.

This but one example of how the delivery can make a difference. There is also the words, the tone, the cadence, and more, the key is to not focus entirely on the message, and put more attention to the delivery and dynamics involved.

BTW – you can start by joining me today at 1:00 pm Eastern, for a webinar I am present with data.com, I will be showing you how to Mastering voice mail, e-mail, and other tools of Prospect Pursuit Success! 

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Mastering voice mail, e-mail, and other tools of Prospect Pursuit Success! #webinar0

data dot com logo

Thursday July 16, 1:00 pm Eastern – 10:00 am Pacific

content (2)Having great leads, being social, and ready are all important, but it takes a lot more to connect and engage these days.  Sometimes the biggest challenge is not the message but the ability to deliver it.  This webinar will look at the tools of trade, how you use and leverage will be the difference between connecting and selling or being left behind.

We will explore:

  • The Pursuit and Pursuit Cadence
  • Voice mail messages that get returned
  • E-mail and role in the pursuit
  • Referrals 2.0
  • Everything New is old again
Register

Are You A Pompous LinkedIn Stink Bomber?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

LI Stink

Wherever one may land on the whole social selling vs. all other forms of selling, there is no denying that one of the best attributes of social is the ability to share your views, learn from others, especially those with opposing or different views. When you look at a platform like LinkedIn, it offers various means of seeking out many views of an issue, and engage others with differing. Long before it was fashionable I joined as many groups as possible and sought discussion, rebuttals and other reactions to my posts, now we can add LinkedIn Publisher as yet another channel to debate and discovery.

The pay offs for putting my opinions out there have been great and rewarding, not only in terms of learning, expanding or hardening my views, most importantly financially, and often in the most unexpected ways. Sure I have been able to connect “with just the right person” to make a deal happen; I have had people who read something I posted that resonated with them so much that they reached and hired me on because they felt so aligned with what I wrote. But most rewarding is when someone initially comp[lately disagreed with what I said, strongly challenged me, sometime harshly at first, but then as we went back and forth, first on LinkedIn, then in the real world, where we found common ground, leading to them hiring me.

But then there are those that I call “Stink Bombers”, I am sure some of you know who you are right now without me going any further, but I will. Stink Bombers come in two form, the everyday no lead incidental types. These people innocently get in the middle of something that they don’t get, and quickly retreat when faced with alternative views. Then there are the fully leaded, no ethanol, super premium, self-indulgent “Pompous Stinkers”. These are the people who will throw their opinion into a discussion, drawing different reactions, but don’t engage any further.

As a rule, I try to respond to all comments or feedback to my posts or comments I contribute to other’s discussions. Not only is that “social”, but that is how you encourage dialog and learning. After all, if someone is kind enough to take the time and share their view, on or about something I said, the least I can do is respond. But that’s not how the “Pompous Bombers” roll, they will come into a discussion, drop their “bomb”, in the form of an opinion or comment, usually self-serving, and then disappear. People respond, challenge, ask for clarification, but they get nothing back for the “Pompous Bombers”, I have seen and been part of instances where people directly address the “Pompous Bombers”, only to have no response at all. Now I know people are busy, but if you are going take the time to throw something out there, you should be prepared to truly participate. This is about discussion, not declaration.

What makes this phenomenon very amusing is that the “Pompous” variety are very often people who call themselves, “Social Sellers”, people who should more than others understand the importance and frankly the pay-off and benefit of interaction, engagement and debate. But of the dozens of examples of this, be they in the form of a published post, or comment to someone else’s post, most often, they are “socialites”.

While I can almost understand (but not forgive) when they don’t respond to comments on their posts, I really don’t get it when it comes to people responding to a comment they left on someone else’s post. In the case of the former, they have stated their views in the post, what can they add. Save the fact that they seem to uniformly respond to positive comments, but never to challenging or alternate views.

But when they jump in on someone else’s thread it is very different. You put it out there, I believe you owe those challenging the view a response. I recently had a socialite jump into to a thread where people were responding to one of my posts. Their comment was in my opinion, not only of topic, but was baseless. I made an effort to engage, and nothing.

I know a lot of people don’t know me or like me and therefore may not want to engage, but in these cases they choose to engage, throw their “stink bomb” in the “room”, then why not continue? That is the genuine question I put to the “Pompous Bombers”. A friend of mine suggested that they are just arrogant, “I have spoken”, and so be it. Maybe, but I think that in many instances, they really don’t have much to add, they saw an opportunity to parrot something they heard in the echo chamber, and never expected someone would engage. They were looking for their 15 seconds of thread fame, and expected the statement would speak for itself, after all no one in the echo chamber where they picked it up questioned it, so why would they outside that environment.

No matter what the venue or medium, if you are going to enter a “discussion”, you should be ready to discuss, dropping a bomb and hiding, is not only childish, but intellectually void, and if you are that, just sit the whole thing out, not just the important part.

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Sales Data Or Insight Driven?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

The other day I go a resume that had a familiar phrase in it, “John Smith – A Data Driven Sales Professional. While I understand what they were going for, I am not sure it landed right. (Or maybe it was just me). No doubt the age of “big data” or perhaps a better label being used by some, “fast data”, is upon us. Sales is impacted by this as much as any part of business, but there some unique opportunities for sales and sales departments, both good and not so good opportunities.

The amount and quality of data allows sales organizations to be much more efficient at targeting and accelerating sales, by bringing the right resources at each step of the cycle, and leveraged well, to the nature of the sales organization itself. As Miles Austin recently commented on a panel we were, progressive sales organizations with open headcount should look at hiring a sales data analyst instead of another rep. He is right, the proper use of the valuable data in a typical CRM, processed by a sales savvy analyst with the right mandate from leadership can produce more margin, quicker and for a longer term, than hiring another rep.

One example is territory optimization, and not just in the traditional sense, but by matching types of buyers with types of sellers. Think about taking buyer persona to a different level. Much like a sporting coach will mix up his line up based on what they are facing, last minute line changes, all to ensure maximum impact, sales organization can move from geo or vertical views of the world, to what kind of buyer is Johnny best suited to?

Sales organizations who have had SWAT teams to penetrate accounts given specific attributes, have long realized that the minor uptick in selling cost is more than made up in margins and volumes. With the right analysis, you can take this to a level of alignment that could more than likely allow you to run leaner, making up for additional costs that have led to traditional territory make ups.

Analysis can help organizations better plan in a number of ways, allowing them to avoid certain activities, while maximizing others. Patterns in the data that would be lost on most sales ops people, would be gold in the right analyst’s hands. It is not a question of sales ops being deficient, it is more of training and function, and analyst will go deeper and further into the data, extracting more actionable insights. Not coming from sales is in fact their strength, they will approach and read the data differently.

Actionable insight being the key, and what caught my eye in the resume. This candidate would have made a much better impact had they put the emphasis on insights than data. Data is a commodity, information is a commodity. Insights, and the knowledge derived from it, leading to differences measured in revenue and margin are of interest, and yes, you can do both. Being data driven sounds good, but data is data, being driven by insights gleaned from data is the winning proposition.

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Why That Number? – Sales eXecution 3030

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Dollar numberrs

I find it amusing that people still debate whether sales is a numbers game or not. There is just so much wrong with that not the least of which is that sales is not a game. The “sales is not a numbers game” crowd usually revert to the “quality over quantity” argument, valid, but still leads to a point that requires a sales rep to know and deal with how many, the number of, qualified, quality and quintessential opportunities they will need to prospect and close to retire or exceed quota, which by the way is a number.

Most pundits who take the “sales is not a numbers game” usually do so as a means of appeasing those sellers who refuse to take accountability for their numbers. Without accountability everything is OK, without measure there is no accountability, funny how the same pundits will get behind the mantra “if it’s not measured, it doesn’t count”.

So let’s get past the feel good BS that sells books but does not help you sell, and ask the real question about sales numbers:

Why that number? Or in the day to day world of real sales, why those numbers?

For instance, a question I’ll often ask reps, why the number of appointments in your calendar, why not three more, why not two less? Some tell me that it is what they were able to do, all time allowed for. This last one opens up the whole discussion of how they spend their time, and how that impacts their ability to hit their number, sorry, quota. There are any number of variations on this question, why the number of new prospects engaged in a given month, or why the number of opportunities at any given stage of their pipeline. The answer is the same for them all, “that is the number I need to make my quota!”

This will differ from rep to rep, even at the same company sitting side by side. One may be a great prospector, yet be weak at discovery, the other may be average at prospecting, but great at qualifying and moving to close. Each will have a different number at each phase. The key is that successful sales people not only know their numbers, but own them. Most sales people know their favourite ball player’s number, not their own. Why do we not hear about the quality/quantity argument when it come to their favourite athlete? Because in the end it is not how nice the play was, but whether they got the points at the end of the game or not.

Knowing your number at each stage of the sale allows you to plan and execute more directly and efficiently, which in turn drive quality. It is true that it is not about just “more”, but there is an element of needing “at least” at each stage of the sale.

Knowing why “that number”, and having “that number” be directly anchored in your quota drive the quality the pundits and excuse makers talk about. Not owning your number often leads to great quality in insufficient quantities, which means you need to change aspects of your sale. Increase prospect, improve your approach to discovery, uncover value in a more meaningful way, or other elements. All of which the “sales is not a numbers game” are reluctant to do.

“That number” is what you and I are accountable for. If you don’t know and own that number, there is no accountability in sales, no accountability for your actions or outcomes, a reality you need to live with, whether you are a sales rep, a manager, a VP of Sales, or a quality relationship touting pundit. And without accountability, there is no sustainable success in sales, and that is “why that number!”

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What’s Your ROI on Sales Development #BBSradio #podcast0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

A lot of time and money invested in the development of sales professionals, but often the result and the returns fall short of expectations. The easy thing is to fault the sales people, the training program, or both. But what can organizations do differently to achieve better outcomes. That is the focus of this month’s segment with Michele Price and BREAKTHROUGH radio. Take a listen and let me know how you’heat you summer sales.

Check Out Marketing Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Breakthroughbusiness on BlogTalkRadio

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Is Your Pipeline Constrained or Constipated? – Sales eXecution 3022

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Pipeline plunge

Sales people have an interesting relationship with their pipelines, definitely emotional, sometime rational, and often, regardless of how they protest, predictable. The key is that how they manage their pipeline very much reflects how well they execute their sale, and how successful they may be.

First let’s look at the notion of pipeline and how it unfolds in sales. For the most part it is built around the concept of “Flow”. If you look at pharma, it looks at the flow of product from concept to being brought to market. There are several stages along the way, some products make it all the way, and some will die along the way for any number of reasons. In the oil patch, again flow, carrying the product from Alberta to points south (well it would if politics didn’t get in the way). But it’s all about flow, anything impeding or adversely affecting the flow, including speeding it up too much, creates an imbalance, a lack of efficiencies and desired results. In sales, that is clearly a lack of clients and revenue.

In sales there are two common pipeline conditions that result in insufficient sales. The first we will not deal with in this piece, specifically a lack of new things coming into the pipeline, no prospecting, leading to an empty pipeline. The second is an overly full pipeline. Some may not see this as an issue, but it is. The first problem is that sales people have their emotions driven by the state of their pipeline, when it is full, they have less propensity to prospect, “look man, I have so much sh#t in my pipeline, let me go close it.”

This leads to the second problem, the fact that there is so much in their pipeline, specifically a lot of sh#t. These people think of their pipeline as something to fill, not about flow, having it full is their goal, not moving it through from lead to client in a consistent and repeatable fashion. This usually results from either their unwillingness to take things out of the pipeline, constrained; or inability to close prospects they have in their pipe, constipation.

Constrained – we have seen these sellers, partly optimistic, partly naïve, partly lazy, and mostly squandering time and their success. Nothing ever dies, every opportunity is sacred, just like a scene from a Monty Python movie.  These sales people feel they are more successful as they have a bigger and bigger pipeline, I have some tell me that as long as they can bring more opportunities, the more are like to close. These where the downside of relationship selling shows itself. “If I can engage and have relationships with more and more buyers, deals will close themselves.” No they won’t. If they cleared out the trash from their pipeline they would not only see this, but would feel the urgency to act more decisively. Often these sellers have skills, they just don’t apply them, their optimism and naiveté constrain their ability to deal with more of the right prospects and close more deals.

Constipated – these are sales people who have difficulty closing. To their credit, they prospect, and prospect well, they continue to bring opportunities. What they lack is the skills to qualify, or more accurately, disqualify, leading them to grow their pile of prospects. They also can’t engage well enough to conduct a proper discovery with prospects, and as a result can’t close the sale. Often if you can hold your nose, and pick through, you’ll find prospects who have long bought elsewhere. They are good at the front end, but blocked at the back end, constipated.

Once in a while you can flush these out, but unless you change the pattern, it gets blocked again. The answer to both is having a clearly defined process and active management. The process with stages, actions, objectives, tools, and evaluation to determine if the opportunity has merit, ready to go to the next stage, or needs to be dispatched to the recycling bin. Notice not garbage bin, but recycling, yes, leads are recyclable, you can always come back when the timing is better. This will help create balance and help opportunities “flow” through to results.

Active management is important to help both type of clogs to be cleared. And to be fair to sellers, it is often their managers that contribute to the problem. An active manager can help both sellers be better sellers, or as we like to say around here Sell Better! Active management focus them on the right activities at each stage of the opportunity, and allow them to get rid of things that don’t belong. This may lead to a thin pipeline, then active management needs to turn to better prospecting. But in both cases management needs to have an active role beyond highlighting the problem.

So go ahead, give your pipeline a flush, and then focus on flow not volume.

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