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When In Doubt – Err on The Side Of More!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

I find too many sales people, despite the image they may project, are way too conservative in their approach to selling.  While this may not be a pronounced issue for those tasked with managing or servicing current accounts, with the only expectation being “organic” growth.

What is organic growth any way, is that like growth we would have gotten even without any help from the account manager, or is the level of growth achieved even with the meddling of account managers?  Sounds like we are paying someone for something that would have happened, well, organically.  Sorry, back to the issue at hand.

When we focus in on those tasked with finding new clients, new revenue streams, etc., it is striking how few are willing to go the distance to succeed.  With few exceptions, in this case exceptions that validate the reality, most sales people tend to not go hard enough, far enough, and broad enough to win all the opportunities they can.

Part of these goes back to the “relationship” mindset many sellers still adhere to.  Don’t get me wrong, relationships are important.  In fact, so important, that it is naïve to believe that we can have meaningful relationships in the same short timeframes that sales cycles take to unfold.

There has been a lot written about the importance of “getting in early”, whether that is the time to follow up to a download, to reacting to a trigger like say personnel change.  Just as there is evidence to suggest that “last man/woman/child standing”, is more likely to succeed.  Clearly those who enter the fray early, has a better opportunity to set the agenda, and direction for discovery.  Just as it is easy to understand why the rep who manages to extend the engagement long after others give up, is more like to win the deal, and move the dial on the “relationship” front.  But there is a lot of opportunity between those two, often overlooked, or more accurately avoided by many.

The refrain is a familiar one, they don’t want to pester the prospect.  The assumption there is that prospect know exactly what they want, need, or imagine, and interfering could have negative impacts, “I’ll just be on ‘available’, and ready if the prospect needs anything.”  The big flaw in this is that prospects are more confused and overwhelmed than ever, leading to buying cycles that are often twice as long as anticipated, a factor often left out of ROI calculations, if you implement six months later than planned, there are real current and future costs that need to be taken into account.

Couple this with buyers’ reluctance to engage with another smiling beige vanilla seller, more focused on making a friend than a difference to their business, and you have a situation where being confident, assertive and laser focused on delivering impacts, not product, gives you the opportunity to rise above.

kristopher-drowning adI have had more than one executive tell me that they routinely ignore the first three or four approaches by sellers, knowing that most will A) give up too soon; B) wait too long between touch points to be noticed.

We have all had one, but probably both of the following experiences:

  1. You hold off, you don’t want to “pester them”, and when your manager put enough pressure on you to call, you find they made their decision a few weeks back
  2. You push beyond your social comfort zone, believing you can truly help a prospect, and you make that extra call, a call many other lesser sellers would call a Hail Mary, only to be warmly received by the buyer, soon to be client.

Look at your own world, and ask how many times you went back to something when prompted by an outside source.  I know that when i bought insurance a few years back, I went with the one reps who stayed with me, not on me, but with me, and was present when the time to buy came, all because he erred on the side of more, rather than the side of giving up to soon.

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Young Woman Traveler Journey Concept

Confusing Journey With Destination0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

I spent the weekend with some friends who were planning an overseas vacation next spring.  This is something they have wanted to do for some time, they have been saving up money, vacation days, and sacrificed in other ways, in order to make the trip everything they wanted.  You can sense the energy of anticipation that is going into every element of the planning, and ensuring that the trip lives up to everything they imagined and more.

When speaking to them about the trip, they talk about the unique destinations they plan to visit, food they plan to try, experiences they hope will live up to or exceed expectations.  What was striking is that over the course of the hour or so we talked about their trip, the subject how they were getting to where they were going did not come up.  There was actually one point where they talked about have to traverse a winding mountain side road, but again the focus was not the means of travel, but the experience and life changing experiences and memories.

There is a subtle lesson for sellers in the above example.  Namely that people are much more focused on the outcomes and experiences than how they got to those experiences; simply stated, most people are much more focused on the end than the means.  It is accurate to say that for most business people, as long as the means are ethical and legal, what counts is the outcome.

While it has been a positive that many sellers now spend time and effort on understanding the “buyer’s journey”, there is a risk in relating to the journey strictly through our own filters and needs as sellers, and over emphasising how “our product” is right for the journey.  Sellers need to do a better job of focusing on the outcomes, and the possibilities they deliver for the buyer, rather than the features of our “solution”, how it addresses one or two elements of the journey, while ignoring and confusing what the buyer set out to accomplish on their journey, with the “how” of traveling the journey.

You can look at this in the following way.  We do an exercise with reps of all skills, experience, and offerings.  We ask them a simple question: “what do you sell?”  With all the talk about being customer centric, and being driven by the buyer’s journey, the most typical answers we get, actually contradict their stated intent.  80% of the responses to that question talk to deliverables.  “We sell software”, “we sell hardware, solutions, integration, systems, trucking services, etc.”  All good, all accurate, and for the most part miss speaking to the buyer’s journey.

Buyers set out to buy results, outcomes, specific changes in their business.  This is as true for commodities as it is for so called “complex solutions”.  Look around within your company or even department.  When was the last time you heard your VP of Sales, “I wanna buy me a piece of software that will process leads based on an algorithm designed to….”  No, it is more likely they will talk about the impact that app would have on their pipeline, conversion rates, leading to increased revenues, margins, cash-flows, impact on funding, etc.

Just like my friends, they are more focused on the destination and the experience of that, not the journey.  While in some aspect of life it is more about the journey than the destination, in sales success is measured by the destination.

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pumpkin

Get Your Pumpkin Spiced Leads0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Yes, boys and girls, tomorrow being Halloween, it is the last day to get your Pumpkin Spiced Leads, come November 1, Starbuck rolls out their Christmas and Chanukah cups, and it’s all downhill from there.

Now I know you’re thinking that Shanto has gone mad, but I plead innocent.  In fact, I am just trying to fit in, using the Queens English in the most bizarre way to make a point, a point heavy on drama and embellishment, while short on meaning or accuracy. The wild nature of some of these statements, not only make them difficult to believe, but brings into question the credibility of those making them.    

I recently witnessed an “influencer” from a leading social platform, stand on stage, in front of thousands of sales professionals and leaders, and with a straight face, in fact with great conviction, exclaimed how “a change of job status, is an ‘insight’!”  Insight, seriously? Well you know, English is my third language, so let’s consult the experts.

The capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.
“this paper is alive with sympathetic insight into Shakespeare”
‘his mind soared to previously unattainable heights of insight’

Consider that most people do not update their LinkedIn profile as soon as they accept the letter of offer, indeed, depending where you choose to look, people will wait 90 days or more before updating their LinkedIn profile, some suggest even longer.  Seems to me, that would qualify more as history, than insight, and well short of actionable insight.  But that’s the reality of “insight” becoming fashionable, rather than practical.  Any self-respecting B2B seller, targeting that individual would have known much sooner than 3 months, in fact probably would have capitalized on it, rather than waiting.

While I do appreciate the need for “drama” in selling, and the facts that certain words will embellish the message and make it more effective, there is a cost to overdoing it.  Not only in as much as it makes the message hard to swallow, but that when words are over used, people tend to start ignoring the rest of the sentence, and by extension the message.

I had a call last week from an enthusiastic rep, eager to introduce me to his company’s new and “disruptive” technology that will “change the way I present to prospects and buyers”  Hmm, disruptive, here is the definition I go with:

“Disruptive innovation is a term in the field of business administration which refers to an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products, and alliances.”

Customized snail mail is not “disruptive”, and by the way, nor is it “awesome”.

pumpkinAs usual, it is easy to blame the front-line seller, but someone put this poor soul up to this.  Those who did put him up to it, include people like me, the experts, and their managers.  We need to be careful about the words we use, and encourage sellers we work with choose.  I recently saw comments pile up on a well-known sales talking head’s video.  In it, in an effort to add some drama to the message, they expressed themselves in a way that to many undermined the message.  A fellow sales advisor commented:

“I believe that his message is relevant and needs to be repeated.
However, his delivery might put off some people.
The two phrases that triggered my BS meter were “I hear this all the time” and his claim about “99.9%” (and I stopped listening after that)
What does “all the time” mean?
Where did you get your stat of “99.9%”? Unfortunately, too many speakers (and sales people) quote unproven stats and throw out vague claims.”

To which another reader offered the following:

Here is the formula for calculating 99.9% of the time
For each observation (x) the deviation (d) from the mean () is x – .
Therefore d2 = (x – )2
Expanding this equation, we get: d2 = x2 – 2x. + ( )2
To obtain the sum of squares of the deviations, we sum both sides of this equation (the capital letter sigma, S = sum of):
Sd2 = Sx2 – 2Sx +S 2
From this equation we can derive the following important equation for the sum of squares, Sd2.
Then we find the sample variance and sample standard deviation:
And there it is …. mumbo jumbo presto chango 99.9% of the time.
Does that make sense?

As you think bout your message, ask yourself which word will cause your prospect to stop listening, and reach for their Pumpkin Spiced Latte?

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Financial analyst and stock broker business concept as a human face wearing reflective glasses with arrows going up and down as a metaphor for having the vision for forecasting and analizing economic direction.

What’s My Future In Sales?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

There is a lot of discussion around the role of technology in sales, advances in AI (you decide what the A stands for), and its impact on the role of and future of sales people.  There is no doubt that technology will continue to change the process of revenue generation, maintenance and growth, but that’s nothing new.  In any given decade as technology is introduced, the sales tribe is the first to adopt.  We are the ones who figure out how to leverage new tech to make more money, sales ops figure out how to take cost out of the cycle, driving even greater margins.

But any conversation about “sales” and technology, should really be framed not as discussion of sales, but revenue.  Revenue, across the entire “client life cycle”, in that context, sales, or specifically, the act of selling, is but one small part of the cycle.  Selling here is defined as the initial point of persuading someone who is not doing business with you, to do business with you.  A small part of the larger revenue cycle, a crucial one, one that enables the flow of revenue, but it is a small part in the context of the “client life cycle”.  That front piece is different than the rest of the rest of the cycle.

Financial analyst and stock broker business concept as a human face wearing reflective glasses with arrows going up and down as a metaphor for having the vision for forecasting and analizing economic direction.

This why once the client has been persuaded, in most instances, the client managed by a different set of people with different skills.  This is even more pronounced in today’s “disintermediated” sales environment, or as some would like to call it, “sales specialization”.  No matter the label, the reality is that the person with making the initial sale, is not the one tasked with ensuring “customer experience”, fulfilment and support, “account management”, or growth, or renewal.  Taken as a whole, it’s all sales, but we all know it is a hockey team, yes, it’s all the Habs, but no one looks for the goalie to score, or a centre to stand between the pipes.

Which brings us to tech’s impact on sales, more specifically the discussion of “salespeople” being displaced by tech.  I would argue that if we took the “client life cycle”, the continuing revenue cycle, some parts are much more vulnerable to being out done by tech and replaced by tech.  In fact, the further you are in the process, the more at risk you are to being “Amazoned”.

The critical point, is the ability to persuade someone to change what they are doing now, and buy your offering or service from you, the thing hunters do.  While tools and tech can help score leads, nurture them, even get them to the point of engagement.  This may be easy for that small part of the market that is actively looking, ready to buy, and are just looking for the right vendor.  But when it comes to that 70% plus part of the market that is in Status Quo, not interacting with the market.  It takes real skill to engage with someone who has not given any thought to engaging, changing or buying.  This is the very reason that closed opportunities are handed off to people with other skills, and out of the hands of hunters, and given to people with different skills; skills I would argue easily replace by automation, which will likely do it more efficiently.

So, if you are a hunter, with the unique EQ, IQ, and skills to lead and persuade, you need not worry about displaced.  If you are downstream from the signature, Alexa has your number.

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Calendar 2016

Time To Get Around To It0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Michael Jordan was quoted that the only thing that changes is our focus on the fundamentals, a great lesson for those who tend to be distracted by shinny objects promising “easier” way of achieving or exceeding quota, or, to avoid doing things we don’t like. One of the core fundamentals for successful selling is how we view and utilize time, right down to the minute. It is always important to remember that time is the only non-renewable resource we have. Leads are recyclable, lost deals can be revisited and won. But once the next 60 seconds go by, we don’t get to replenish or redo.

This leads us to the importance of allocating time, not managing it; once time is allocated to specific activity, then focus on executing and managing the activity you actually designated the time to. But many sales people cherry pick time, and use it to avoid things that have to be done, like prospecting for example.

Regularly when I ask buyers why they didn’t prospect, or when they plan to prospect, I hear “I’ll get around to it when I have time”.  As though some rich uncle is going to pull up with some extra time in the trunk, and give it to us.  Time is something you have to commit to in advance.  If you don’t commit time in advance in your calendar for important activities, like prospecting, you will not do it.

“I’ll get around to it when I have the time.” Is the very opposite of what it should be.

I understand that there a lot of demands on a sales person’s time, the importance of focusing on current customers; I understand the importance of finishing that proposal, doing a demo, and all the things we signed up for as sales professionals.  As professionals, one of the key skills we are paid the big bucks for is prioritizing, be that targets, opportunities, accounts, but most importantly, our activities.  While maintaining current customers is important, it’s as important to remember where the current customer base came from, and having that influence how and what we prioritize.

No Distraction

It is interesting to work with new sales people, when they have no distractions, no base, no proposals, nothing to do but identify and pursue pipeline opportunities.  These newbies have nothing else to focus on but that.  Then their success begins to chip away at not only the available time for prospecting, but their willingness to prospect.

It’s the latter that surprises me. There is no taking away from the fact that prospects have to be sold, and clients have to be serviced, but at what point does a quota carrying rep decide that they “have earned the right not to prospect”. An actual quote from a 12-year veteran has made quota in about half those years, but only twice in sequential years.  When something is important, you make time for it. This is as true for business as it is personal wants.  Which may lead one to conclude that they do not want to prospect.

Calendar timeBut for those who do want, and are genuinely struggling to pack everything they need to do into a work week, the only option is to get ahead of it, and commit to it in advance by blocking it out in your calendar.  Studies have shown that we are less likely to blow-off an activity that is in our calendar, than those that not, despite best intentions.  Most reps only have client meetings and team meetings in their calendar, important, but no more important than prospecting.  Real pros I work with, set appointments in their calendars to do research, to segment their opportunities, and time to prospect.  They also build time into their calendar for legitimate distractions, this way when they do need to be sidetracked while prospecting, they have time “banked” away to make sure they can complete their task, prospecting.  If the distraction or “client emergency” does not happen, then you have time in the bank for other high-value activities, like maybe prospecting.

Those who plan their prospecting times in advance, avoid the peaks and valleys that drain so many sellers.  The emotional rollercoaster, the misspent energy, all avoided by setting an appointment with themselves to secure appointments with their next big client.

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radio1

Gaining and Maintaining Momentum0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

It has been a while since I have had the opportunity to speak with Michele Price, but I recently found this segment we did.  I am sharing it today as we head into the last week of October, and are looking to se how we can maintain momentum to finish off the year right, and carry that momentum into next year.

Take a listen, give us you feedback, and go forth and execute.

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Help 1

I Need Some Help1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Despite the state of discourse in general these days, in a one on one settings, like a sales meeting for instance, most people are helpful by nature. As a sales professional, we need to walk the line of leveraging that to help us make a sale, while not taking advantage of it.

I know some days it is hard to convince you that people are helpful, especially when someone just hung up on you, or you’ve run out of ideas how to get a response from someone who said thy were ready and would have the order ready a month ago. But, when you can put those moments aside, there are things you can do to help both the prospect and you succeed.

As with many elements of sales that are more subjective in nature, how effective we are will be influenced by personalities, and how you approach things.  People who naturally social, who draw attention the minute they walk in the room, find soliciting help much easier than another rep who may take a more cerebral style; the difference is in how they solicit help, not their ability to leverage people’s helpful nature.

A simple example is one used by many in prospecting into companies they have not dealt with before, ya, cold calling.  One lady I worked with does this extremely well, she pours her maternal self into every call, and with the warmest and “lost voice” she will call her intended target, and start with the following:

Seller: Is this Mr. Chapman?
Prospect: yes,
Seller: I am hoping you can help me.

Help 1

She then goes on to introduce what she sells, not a product riff, but as a true graduate, she speaks to objectives and outcomes she and her company have delivered to other similar buyers.  She ends her intro by asking:

“Who should I be talking to about that?”

When the person identifies themselves as the right party, she continues:

“Wow, that was fortunate, ….”  She then continues to close on the appointment.

It is important to remember that this does not guarantee an opportunity, people will still evaluate the premise of the offering, timing, and more.  But she does have more conversations, and is able to explore further than in scenarios where the call does not start with a call for help.

The main reason for this, is that by asking for help, we help the mind focus and understand that they are looking for an answer to the caller’s “dilemma”.  When they get a plain cold call, it is perceived as an interruption, and the mind listens and weighs their perception of the call vs. being interrupted. As soon as it is labeled an interruption, the mind shifts to “we gotta get rid of this disruption, and get back to my work.”  When we start by asking for help, the mind shifts to “I gotta listen and see if and how I can help.”  Again, I am not suggesting that asking for help will lead to an instant prospect, but it will lead to a more attentive one, and by extension, and better shot.

Hope that helped!

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Old TV

I Don’t See What You Mean0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Some may remember the first video/song ever played on MTV, was The Buggles

Old TVVideo Killed the Radio Star.  The message was clear, we are visual creature, and prefer a visual presentation over other means. This is why some singers who were great at singing and expressing themselves via vinyl or CD struggled to make the transition to video, while others, who were so so when it came to singing, but had a great presence and could “please” the screen.  Where once lyrics and delivery determined the success of the performer, now it was down to visuals, at the cost of all else.

Close Yet Far

It seems that telephone prospecting and selling are experiencing a similar thing but in reverse, and with added risk.

As more and more of the sale goes virtual, the less we have the opportunity to leverage one of our greatest strength as people and communicators, namely the visual. While opinions may vary slightly, most experts agree that somewhere between 75% – 90% of communication is non-verbal; and the vast majority of that is body language, intonation and vocal quality and characteristics.  All good things when it comes to face to face selling, not so good for those who now need to sell without ever seeing their counterparts.

I know that many who use systems like Zoom or join.me, will say that they have and encourage the use of videos to enhance the experience, most still seem to just see these technologies as extensions of PowerPoint, and even when the video is turned on, it is less than the face to face experience.

This is why focusing on the message and the medium, as many do, still leaves gaps in their approach.  It Is important to also ensure that we compensate for the lack of immediacy and direct visual contact; and I don’t mean just talking louder.

Stepping Back

Starting with the basics of slowing down the pace and deepening your voice, and then going beyond.  You need to also focus on your intonation, what you put an emphasis on, where you place your gaps, silence between thoughts, words, and concepts, pronunciations and more.  Words count too, but not in the way many are looking for, the perfect or secret set of words that unlock the kingdom. More in using words that fit with the buyers’ expectations, words that they would use to describe the scenario, not words your company came up with to “differentiate”. Remember if they don’t understand you, they won’t understand what you sell, or why they should buy.

There are also words that work better in direct conversation that lack impact on the phone, and the other way around.  Given the ease with which calls and web meetings can be captured these days, it is worth exploring how different ways of presenting things change the sales based on the words used, when and in combination with e=what other things.

Often what counts is what you don’t say. One way to ensure engagement in a remote scenario is to create opportunities for the prospect to ask questions. As a subject matter expert, you should be in a position to know which elements to lead with, and which to leave to the end, and which to leave to the prospect to ask. This is one way to encourage the flow missing in remote selling situations, that is quite natural when two people are sitting face to face.

By using your 360 Degree Deal View, you will be able to understand what some of the key moments in a good sales call, understand what is enhanced by the virtual setting, and what is diminished, and create a flow for each type of sales meeting.  Once you have that, then comes the hardest part for many sellers, practice.

Taking it back to radio, those actors who were successful in radio drama, think Orson Wells, knew they had to make up for the lack of visuals in order to deliver a drama that worked on radio without a single visual aid.  While video may have killed the radio star, don’t let the web meeting kill your sale.

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Time allocation

It’s Not A Race0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

It is easy to see why people in sales, at all levels, are infatuated by speed, or as the hipsters say, velocity. You have a specific target, with a defined time line, or more accurately, an end point, which drives many to approach sales like they were the winners of a local grocery store contest. You know where they crown a winner, who runs through the store, filling their cart with as much as they can in 60 seconds, and when they time is up, they keep what they gathered. The faster you are, the better you’ll do. Not so in sales. Sales people and their leaders have fallen into the habit of over relying on velocity as a means to sales success.

Sure, if you are selling a commodity, or a single purpose or use product, you can gain benefit from speeding up the sale, or shortening the cycle, but as discussed in the past, even there, you do hit a point of diminishing returns; the only benefit of speed in that scenario, is you fail faster and get to move on. Once you find the optimal length of a cycle, you need to leverage other things to increase sales.

The obvious may be to look at technology, or skills training to help, but there is one low tech approach that works for many, regardless of sales church they claim allegiance to, namely, slow down!

Many of the people who are on a constant quest to shorten their cycle, when asked about other aspects of sales, would tell you that they are firmly in the Quality Over Quantity camp.  But by putting an emphasis on duration, in essence they are putting quantity above quality, in this case, the quality of deals they win, and more importantly the quality of deals they lose.

Building a base of knowledge and understanding with a given prospect, their objectives, hurdles, etc., takes time, with some more than others.  Unfortunately, if you are on a quest for “fast”, the easiest place to gain time and speed is during discovery, and in many pipelines, this is painfully obvious.

I recently sat in on an opportunity review, for what I would describe as a bit of a complex sale, but not rocket propulsion stuff.  The rep in question was a solid B player, knows the product, market, and there were years he actually made quota.  There were also critical questions he could not answer about multiple opportunities.

Mostly because he felt the pressure to move the deal through, and felt he could do it based on minimal information, rather than complete information; and complete will always take longer than minimal. As a result, he like many of his teammates, end up cycling more opportunities through the cycle, with the goal of landing more deals.  In essence, quantity over quality.  Many of the “rushed over” deals, could in fact have been better, not just in immediate revenue and quota retirement, but upsells, referrals, and most importantly, margins and price integrity.

While it would be easy to blame reps, they are being led by their managers to do this.  Driving their teams to drive more lower quality deals for the sake of time.  This may work in the short run, but leads to challenges down the road, most specifically at the time of renewal.  Deals that are rushed through, propelled by price concessions, are much less likely to renew without further concession, leading to a higher than necessary quota next year, when the cycle begins again.

Time allocation

I understand what’s driving this, it is important to remember it is not a race, December 31 shows up the same time for everyone.  So rather than managing the clock, sellers should manage the individual opportunities.  How long those take to close should be understood, but not the driving factor.  Success for consistently A sellers is not based on closing as many deals as we can – and – fast; but on closing enough of the right deals.

If you want to put your fingers on the scale, don’t use time, use prospecting instead.  Once you know how long a deal usually take to unfold organically, not “artificially accelerated”, more often to a “no” than a “yes”, and you know what your own individual close ratio is, you can proactively know how many deals you will need in a given year, and how many opportunities you’ll need to drive those deals.  As long as you bring sufficient opportunities to the top of the pipe, you’ll make quota, even if you have an 18 month cycle.

So rather than putting all that energy towards shaving hours or days off your cycle, why not invest the time in prospecting.  Getting the right number of the right prospects, is a better use of your time, than trying to hasten a bunch of questionable opportunities through the cycle fast.

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Stand and deliver

Pipeline – Stand And Defend0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Lately I have had a chance to sit in on a number of “opportunity reviews”, and it is interesting how the format and tools have changed, the plot and the theme have not changed much beyond the costumes, props, and players.

Real or Fantasy

What was striking is that for the most part, these “events”, fall in to one of two groups, they are either objective, fact based exercise, leading to a realistic view of their opportunities, with the conviction one gets when one is fully engaged and working the opportunity.  The rest, they are much more subjective based, open to how people feel about what happened, with or without input from the buyer(s).  This has allowed the former group to act and speak about their pipeline with conviction backed by results, the subjective group, spends more time rationalizing the outcome than driving it.

It would be easy, and unfair, to blame sales people for this, but in many ways, it is the fault of their managers, and others in the organization that are paid to enable sales.  First, when it comes to opportunities, it should be less about reviewing, and more about moving them forward to a win.  Even after all the advancements in tools and other aids, many managers, especially those new to the role, look at these gathering from the wrong angle.  Above I referred to these rituals as an “event”, when they need to be ongoing process, reviewing the specific actions of the buyer, and planning and taking the next appropriate steps; do that and your pipeline and the opportunities in them, will fare better than if you’re just performing a CYA routine.

Of late, what has helped those with the subjective approach has been the rise in statistics they can present to support their cause; again, when you’re looking for cover, stats are great.  On the other hand, when you are looking to win deals, you want to evaluate things much more objectively, you want to examine the facts as presented by the interactions with the buyer(s), this ensures you are focused on things that lead you to quota, and maximize your most precious resource, time.

Statistics

A new wrinkle is now available to the subjective group, one they feel lends a bit of weight and validity to what they are doing, namely statistics.  Thanks to the sales tools and technology, there are more stats than ever available, and sales managers being the creative lot they are, are using them to shore up the state of opportunities in their pipelines.  Stats are good, but much more malleable than facts.  I’d much rather work with sales people who can present probabilities based on actions taken by the prospect, and all the people involved in the decision, than on comparing a current deal to statistics gathered in past leads.

Stand and deliverWhile it is true that there are many similarities between deal of the same product to generally similar companies, when you get close enough to read the numbers, they all unfold in their own way, even within broad parameters.  Each deal is different enough, that looking at stats derived from a collection of varied deals over time, to figure out how things may turn out in a current deal, does little to help you close that current deal.  On the other hand, if you look at opportunities based on actual things the prospect has said and done; your ability to speak to specific elements of the decision you need them to make.  How well you know the why, how, and what of their decision, based on what they say, and more importantly do, will have a greater impact on your success, than doing regression on a series of unrelated deals.

Execution – Everything else is just talk

The more you can stand and defend a deal based on actual things in the deal than subjective elements, the more likely you are to make right plan, take the right actions, and win based on the merits of each deal, than a regression model of the last 100 deals; especially since those have been won, and this one is still up for grabs.

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