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Clouds in shape of question marks

Answers Are Only As Good As The Question0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Communication, which at the core selling/buying is, will always be a mutual exercise, which why monologues work well in theater, but not in delivering revenue or quota. As such, a bit of forethought and focusing on how you’ll choreograph the sales are important. Which is why it is that much more noticeable to all, including buyers, when the effort is just not there in how sellers choose to engage and carry on a sales interview or conversation.

“I may make you feel but I can’t make you think”

Sellers need to put more effort into planning their interactions with prospects than many do. This needs to be on two levels, first the areas or topics they choose focus on, second the kind of questions they ask. Sellers forget that their prospect is talking to a range of people about the purchase they are about to make. If the questions I ask, the areas I choose to explore and drill down on, are no different than the three or four or eight other vendors they are speaking with, then the selection and decision will go back to the same old, usually the lowest common denominator, moderated by price (the lowest price).

Areas of Focus – Too often too many sellers start from the erroneous assumption that their buyer has their act together, know exactly what they want, and all that is left is to pick a product. That is a false premise, and as such leads to longer sales cycles and missed sales. While anecdotally we always knew that buyers are not as together as they sometimes appear, or sellers believe, the data is now in. Some will see this as good news, allowing them as sellers to bring more value to the conversation by helping buyers in ways much more meaningful than features and price. Sellers have the benefit of having worked with many buyers with similar experiences, allowing the perceptive ones to see themselves not as product reps, but conduits to others’ experiences, good and bad. The value they can bring is in helping buyers better understand what they are dealing with, and their best option, not options, in addressing those specifics.

Even if a prospect has advanced past the stage of deciding what they want to do and how, sellers benefit from starting “back” there, before moving to asking questions about how they plan to address things, i.e. product. Retracing a little, will show them as being different, and will also help the seller understand the buyer’s thought process, which may allow for more unique input, and to demonstrate they are different and truly “buyer centric”, by not jumping to product right away.

What we Ask – The kind of question go a long are key. You have to assume that you are the fifth sales person they spoke to that day; how will you make a different impression than the four who went before you?

If you ask the same as them, what will they base their selection on? If you reinforce perceptions rather than challenge them, are you not telling the buyer to base it on price and emotion?  Your questions are not just about the response, they need to get them to think, think beyond where they are now, and where the other sellers have taken them.

If they can answer your question without thinking, you’re in trouble! But many sellers I meet are afraid of asking questions that put the prospect on the spot. Remember the goal here is not to embarrass the prospect, but to help  them really think through the issue before they commit, whether they commit to you or another. I worked with one sales pundit who felt asking the prospect “Why” questions were not cricket as it may stump the buyer. Well if you can “stump” the buyer, it is evidence that they have not thought things through, and you are doing them a favour.

Getting an answer is easy, getting an answer that moves the process forward in a way that helps buyers is not. Which why the answers can only be as good or productive as the questions.

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Time allocation

Enough With The Time Management BS – Please!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Time is the most valuable resource sales people, or any people have, it is the only none renewable resource, once it is spent, it is gone forever, except for the memories, and for many in sales the memories are not that happy, and not worth reliving. How we choose to utilise it will determine our success.

This is why I think time management is such a dangerous concept in sales success. Let’s be real, time already comes managed. You got 60 minutes to an hour, 24 hours to a day, 7 days to a week, and so on. Looks very well managed to me, in fact so well managed, that even Netanyahu and Abbas can fully agree. So managing time is not the issue. What can or should do with time to maximize results? You can allocate it, and then focus on managing the activity you allocated the time to, in the time you allocated for it – plain, not simple.

Allocation

Step one – figure out all the things you have to do during the course of typical sales cycle in order to win the sale. Not all the things you can do, currently are doing, see others doing, no – just those activities without which there would be no sale – nothing else, no matter how appealing, fun or cool. Then look at what percentage of your time you typically need to spend on each during the course of a SUCCESSFUL sales cycle. Not every day, but throughout the cycle, as some activities may be more intense in the middle, others at the start.

Currency of Sales

Now I want you to look at your time as money, specifically $1,760, which is the number hour of face time available to sellers annually (220 days x 8 Hours per day). How you spend and invest that money will determine your success. Much like a wealth manager will allocate portions of your money to stocks, some to cash, derivatives, all aligned to your retirement or other goals; in this case, it’s sales goals. That is how you allocate based on the activities highlighted above. What percentage to account management, how much to selling new opportunities, to admin, to training, and oh ya, prospecting.

Time allocationWhich is what got this whole thing started.

I am truly tired of lame sales people using the lame excuse of time management. Whenever I speak to under-performing reps, who only have dust in their pipelines, the number one excuse they give me is time, “oh, I guess I have to do a better job of time management Tibor” Flip off man, that’s just bullshit!

The same reps who give me that line, like I was born yesterday, seem to always find the time to complete their Brackets or football pools, because there is so much riding on those things right? Lame. I bet you don’t feel sorry or compelled to help those who squander their money on foolish things, (I saw you walk by that panhandler), so why should I feel sorry for you when you squander your time.

And don’t give me this “Well I had to get back to a client” or some other lame iteration of “I’m slack”.

Do you let others dictate how you spend your money and on what? Your money, your time, you should determine how it is spent or invested, does your friend or client do the work it takes for you to make your money, do you let others spend your money, why do you let them spend and waste your time?

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Business cartoon showing two business managers, one is saying, 'the "no excuses sales seminar" is this weekend... but I'm going to try to get out of it'.

Best Way To Motivate Your Reps: Take Away EXcuses2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Managers always ask, “How can I motivate my reps?” Of course, what they are asking is “How can I get them to do their jobs?” And who can blame them, there is some much out there about how to motivate people, and specifically sales people, it seems easy to believe that there a single simple formula that fits all. Well there isn’t if there were, what would motivate all these people to write about a subject that was already solved, especially when there is so much more money to be made wading in to the unsolvable. That’s not to say that you can’t get some of the desired results many of these souls are searching for, it is just that they at times need to come at it from the other end.

As discussed before, all human being have the X chromosome. In sales people, it determines which skills a sales person will master. As the numbers suggest and support, in just under a half it predisposes them to master EXecution. While in the larger half, it accounts for their skills in making EXcuses.

No doubt managers who are gifted, can elevate those with the positive X chromosome, EXecuters, to greater accomplishments and success. They can often influence and guide some on the fringe of the EXcuse group to rehabilitate and kick the EXcuse habit for a life of successful EXecution.

You have to start by taking away their ability to use Excuses, which means a focus on continuously evolving process and continuous development, each with its own challenges. A continuously evolving process evolves because it has to continuously align with the buyer. This can be like building an airplane while it is in flight. One has to have a way to capture what they are learning in each sale, and apply it real time. There are many examples of sellers and organizations who are doing this, their only secret is that they spend more time understanding the buying process, and contributing to it, and by extension shaping that as well. With that in place it will make it easy to EXecute the sale. It may not always be great, not even pretty, but it will get done. But if it is being done, it can be improved, which is where continuous development comes in.

The best ‘motivation’ you can do for your reps is to invest in their success. They don’t need to go win one for the Gipper, if they can get it for themselves. Development doesn’t just help them improve their skills and EXecution, but demonstrates your commitment to their success, and what can be more motivation than knowing there is someone committed to your success, and not let you wallow in your EXcuses.

By “Motivating” them with the old hokey Rah-Rah, you are only enabling them to make more EXcuses, you train them that all it takes for them not to do what they are being paid for, things others on your team are do without threat to life or limb, is just come up with another better EXcuse. In some ways you are right when you think you are motivating them, unfortunately you’re not motivating them to improve their sales skills, but rather their EXcuse making skills instead. What’s worse, is the message you’re sending to those busting their balls EXcuting and making you look like you’re necessary in the process.

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The Microphone

Process and Execution Rule in B2B Selling – #Podcast0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

For those not familiar with Andy Paul, here is your opportunity to discover a great resource. Not only is Andy knowledgeable about all elements of B2B selling, author of two great books: Zero Time Selling and AMP Up Your Sale; and most relevant today, he hosts one of the better blogs looking at all areas of successful B2B selling and everything around. His guests address very specific strategic and tactical aspects of sales you’ll be able to implement and benefit from right away.

In the episode below, it was my turn. Andy and I look at process and execution. Have a listen, and feel free to reach out if I can expand on anything or help you implement.

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green targets with client marking, green arrows hitting the center and grey targets with prospect marking

New Quarter – Same Approach?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

On Friday, I dropped a tongue in cheek, some might say sarcastic (or cynical) thought/comment on LinkedIn, observing how the last day of the quarter, month, and the week, made for B2B sales version of “Triple Witching Hour”.  The icing on the cake (or thought) came around 4:00 PM ET, when I was prospecting a VP of sales on the east coast, she asked I call her back Monday (scheduled time, none of this call me back stuff), because she wanted to keep her line open in case she needs to approve some deals.

But it is easy sniping from the sidelines, that was last quarter, the question is what you do with the quarter starting today?

Time To Reduce

The question of quality vs. quantity plays itself out in many elements of sales, and while it is always a god idea to have a deep pool of opportunities to look to, narrowing your efforts can lead to more of the desired results, and in a shorter timeframe. By narrowing I mean the number of opportunities you focus on, not the level of effort in your execution. Too many sales people try to juggle too many opportunities at the same time, leading to a diluted effort across all their opportunities, and by extension watered down results.

First steps should be rather simple:

How long is your average sales cycle; subtract that number from nine (the number of selling months assuming a Dec. 31 yearend), and you will get a sense of how many new (real) opportunities you will need at the top of the funnel. From there you can drill down to understand that for all the stages of your cycle.

If you have multiple offerings with varying cycles, you will need to ensure that you strive for a blended pipeline, both in terms of deal size and time to close. You need to get the longer deals started sooner than shorter, etc.

Calculate how much quota is left to retire in the remaining nine months of the year, and adjust that to reflect your new quarterly and monthly quotas.

Since it is rare that these numbers will unfold in a linear fashion, we are going to need to factor in seasonality and other fluctuating trends that will require you to make correlating adjustments to your activity as a counterbalance.

With the above in hand you will have a real idea of how many opportunities you will need to generate and take through the cycle. This in turn allows you to be much more in control and not be distracted by things that don’t contribute to your success.

One of the biggest and avoidable distractions comes from having too many opportunities in your active pipeline, and looking at all prospects as being equal or worthwhile. Being selective and reducing the number of opportunities you pursue in the first instance, and decide to continue to sell to, will improve your results. Fewer opportunities, especially a reduction in “Spaghetti Opportunities”, frees up your time while allowing you to use less resources in a more effective way.

If you are routinely and methodically reviewing the outcome of all opportunities that go into your pipeline, you will begin to gain an understanding of specific reasons and actions that lead to Wins, Losses, and No Decisions. You can then use these factors and trends to triage and prioritize opportunities and activities required to win.

Taking Control

One simple way to tier your efforts is to look at two basic criteria. One is:

A. The total potential value of an opportunity
B. The probability of closing them either in a given quarter, or fiscal year.

You will need data and info for this, this is not finger in the air stuff, this why the deal review is key.

Then plot the specific opportunities by name, on a chart where the A from above is one axis, and B the other. Then draw the usual quadrant lines, and you will see your opportunities fall into three groups worth pursuing.

Click on image to download a copy.

Top right quadrant, your best opportunities, high value, and high probability of closing. In terms of prospecting, 50% of your time and effort.

The next best quadrant is something you will need to decide. If you have a product line that allows you to “land and expand”, you may want to look at the bottom right, where the initial value may be smaller than others, but your probability of close is strong, and once you have landed, you can expand, but you’re now “in”.

For others, for a number of reasons, (low turnover, few potential prospects, etc.) you may see the top left as being your second-best group to target.

In either case, whichever your number 2 is, spend 30% of your prospecting efforts there, and the remaining 20% on the third group.

There are a number of other filters you can use, we do with our clients, but the goal is to achieve a selling environment featuring reduced clutter in your pipeline. That will allow you better leverage your most important resources, time. Slowly gaining back control of the things that will allow you to drive and deliver quota, not chase in the hopes of.

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Young businessman in formal wear and hat with pan in hands

Cooking With Sales2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I am not sure if it truly qualifies as serendipity, but I had a couple of experiences one day recently that confirmed some sales basics that we choose to ignore at times.  After leaving a meeting, I heard an interesting report and discussion on CBC Radio.  They were looking at the cooking and eating habits of Canadians.  A key point was that Canadians spend more time watching cooking shows on TV, be it specialized networks or mainstream, than they do cooking.  Wow.  They went on to explain that more Canadians are eating out at restaurants, and the impact of that on our health (not so good), the economic impacts, good for restaurants, not good for Canadians.  While they were not knocking restaurants, it was more about balance and understanding around how and what we eat.

This was on the heels of a revealing meeting I just left with a VP of Sales and her Director of Business Development.  As the topic turned to sales methodology, the VP was very curious and focused on social selling.  She was up to date on all the current “insights” from all the usual socialites.  When we got around to conversion rates, she could not immediately talk about what the current metrics were, and rightfully deferred to the BD Director, who leading the BDR team.  He did know the numbers, and was honest enough to admit that they were not where they needed to be to drive the company’s objectives.

He then offered an unsolicited observation that brought a bit of tension to the conversation.  “I think they spend too much time on social searching and knowing all there is to know, not enough time reaching out.  They need to make more and better calls.”  Not surprising, and a great opportunity to present some real insights on successful prospecting, especially where BDR’s primary function is to work the phone to drive engagement from leads gathered via social, inbound, and lists procured in so many ways.  By the time I left there was middle ground, and agreement about the balance they need to create to drive results, and everyone focused on the need leverage all available avenues to a conversation, not waste valuable time and energy positioning one vs. the other.  (A uniquely social quality).

Much like the state of Canadian’s culinary habits, things in sales have gotten a bit off centre, and sales leaders, be they pundits or VP’s need to step back and see what best meets their objectives.  I understand that it may be easier to place all your bets on one horse, and then do your best to drive it.  But in sales, as with diet, a balanced approach based on what you, or more importantly your buyer is trying to achieve will usually lead to greater results, even if not always the easiest; but we get paid to make it happen, not to make it easy.  Successful leaders implement processes that encompass all elements required to deliver the best long term outcomes for all parties, be they nutritional, or financial.

The approach one takes needs to be driven by the outcomes they are trying to achieve not personal bias, fears, or by following only those pundits that reinforce those fears.  Whatever method or style of selling you adopt should be based on what works for the buyers, not what sounds good to you only.  The experts you follow should be able to demonstrate how it works, and why it meets your specific objectives, not just because it is in their book.

As one former White House chef said of his book, it is easier and more profitable to talk and write about cooking than cooking.  Don’t get caught doing more socializing than selling.

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Pensive businessman sitting at the table with ball in office. Looking away

March Sadness0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I recall reading Skip Miller’s “ProActive Sales Management”, where he states: “If you, as a sales manager, do not know if you are going to make the year after the first quarter, the battle is over. Now you better be lucky.” I should think we can include front line sales people. Given the “advancements” in sales technology since the above statement was made, there is no reason why sales people should not be in a position to know how their year will turn out and what they have to do to make sure it turns out above quota. But based on numerous sources, many do not have a clue where they are at the end of Q1, and are destine to continue to travel the rest of the year in the same clueless bliss.

Well, whether you’re a manager or a rep, Q1 ends this Friday, where are you going to be come Monday?

Reps need to have much greater control of things in their pipelines than they do over events in their brackets, where they have no direct control. There are two key things reps need to do to avoid March Sadness, have a clear positive view of the path forward, and exceed quota.

 

Your Quota Is Not A Plan

Part of the challenge is that many do not take the time to plan, either in a big picture way at the start of the year, quarter, and each month. Sure everyone has a strategy, but your architects aren’t gonna build your building, you need construction guys to do that, with their tactical plan and skill to translate the architect’s output to a viable structure.

Too many sales people see their quota as a plan, it is not, it is a destination, and should be leverage as such. It is still up to you to plan your step by step success and execution that leads to it. Despite the talk of ABM, many reps do not extend that work into a territory execution plan or account plan. Activity based on KPI’s is not execution of a plan, sure things get done, sometimes even according to “plan”. Given that the prospect/client is yours, the quota is yours, should not the execution plan and actions taken also be yours? If you answered yes, then why are so many sellers achieving less? Sure a paint by numbers painting is a picture, but it is hardly art. Hitting KPI’s set by someone else, is not selling.

Who is the Villanova in your Pipeline/Base?

I had a number of conversations with reps last week looking at the end of Q! and forward. One common factor is the lack of a viable pipeline. I know people don’t like to bring numbers in to sales, seems to confuse the issue with facts, but it is not hard to look at people’s pipelines to see that much of their sorrows can be addressed with a bit of prospecting. But there is no shortage of excuses as to why they can’t or won’t prospect at sufficient levels to drive quota. If you have a close ratio of 4:1, it is not hard to know what you should have in your pipeline, and if you’re short, you gotta prospect.

Instead many tell me that they can make up the gap from existing clients, or they have a big opportunity they are working on, “a sure thing”.

You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, just substitute brackets with pipelines, and then take a look at yours:

brackets tweets

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Business Team Working Office Worker Concept

Buyers: Take Your Rep To Work Day0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I am sure this not unique to Ontario, every November, grade nine students get the day out of school, and are encouraged to join a parent or relative at their place of work. It is an opportunity for the students to get out of their cocoon of academia, and experience a dose of reality. Among the many benefits of the program, and there many, given the career realities kids will face, is the ability to spend ‘a day in the life’ of a working person; highs, lows, warts and all, not just what’s on the recruitment posters.

I was reminded of this while I was reading a piece in the Harvard Business Review, titled: “The New Sales Imperative” by Nicholas Toman, Brent Adamson and Cristina Gomez, the CEB team behind the Challenger Sales and Challenger Customer. It reinforced the need for sales people, and their respective organizations to have a much better understanding of how others “work”, in this case buyers.

Just like grade niners, many sales people have a distorted or unrefined view of what happens at buyers’ place of work, what they face on a daily basis, what they do, how they do it, and often why they do it to begin with. Without that understanding it is often difficult for kids to appreciate what their parents go through, and in the case of sales, makes it hard for sales people to help their clients, and by extension their own companies.

Right from the start – as soon as we enter the buyers’ world, we are confronted by a reality that very much counters one of the most widely help myths in B2B selling today:

Most B2B sellers think their customers are in the driver’s seat—empowered, armed to the teeth with information, and so clear about their needs that they don’t bother to engage with suppliers until late in the process, when their purchase decision is all but complete.

Customers don’t see it that way. They may be better informed than ever, but CEB research shows that they’re deeply uncertain and stressed… Customers are increasingly overwhelmed and often more paralyzed than empowered.

Most B2B sales people, and their extended teams, have for years have presumed the opposite, (encouraged by the pundits), building much of their sales approach on that erroneous assumption. This has inadvertently added complexity to the buying cycle and process. Not that buyers needed help in that, given the numerous internal interests involved in any given purchase, CEB research showing there are up to 6.8 stakeholders involved from the buyer organization these days. Labouring under this misconception has led to B2B sellers/organizations to miss a great opportunity to bring real value to buyers.

The real value sellers can add for buyers by reduce complexity of their buying process and experience. To do that they need to first understand that the many of the struggles buyers face, are often more internal than market related, and certainly not product/vendor related, which is where most sellers focus. While there are a number of ways to do this, sellers should focus on two on their Day at Work With Buyers:

  • Simplifying by eliminating unnecessary choice
  • Illuminating the buyer’s journey

More is not better – it’s just more

One assumption many sellers have is that choices are good, certainly in the selection process and in the actual buy. As the authors describe, choice is one of the factors adding to the stress and difficulty. During the buy cycle, alternative choices will lead to some in the buying group, feeling that the alternative may have greater appeal. This has the effect of not only slowing down the buying process, thereby extending the buy cycle (that means a longer sales cycle grade niners), with 2/3 of customers saying the cycle took much longer than expected or planned. Multiple interests, multiplied by multiple choices, often leads to “lowest common denominator purchasing”.

This lingers in to the post purchase phase, CEB cites research showing that “second-guessing occurs in more than 40% of completed B2B purchases”. Yet despite this, sellers continue to believe that it is there roll to provide (drown) their buyers with more information about their choice or options.

Illuminating the Journey

Many sellers do not recognize how far down the journey the question of product or vendor are really a factor. Long before that, buyers, all 6.8 of them, need to agree that there is something or what, is worth addressing; if so, then are there particular ways to address. Only after that do thoughts turn to selecting a solution and vendor. Yet too many sellers/organizations think it is all about them and their product, leading them to ignore key parts of the buyers’ journey; sellers think of the entire journey is what the CEB calls “customer purchase-from-us journey”; a view that does nothing to address the first two, and from the buyer’s perspective, most important steps.

Prescription

On a high level the answer is to simplify the buying process for buyers, in ways they could learn as a result of their “day at work with a buyer”. Specifically, “a proactive, prescriptive approach”, based around how buyers who buy, buy successfully, actually do buy. Yes, again counterintuitive to many of the mainstream approaches of being “responsive”, where rather than simplifying the process for the buyer, sellers contribute to the complexity of the decision by being “responsive”.

The piece highlights some key ways to achieve this, rather than rehashing, here are some highlights. Starting with some revealing data points:

  • 86% of sales professionals agree that “helping the customer consider all possible options and alternatives is important.”
  • 79% agree with the statement “I remain very flexible to customer needs and opinions throughout a sale, even when I don’t necessarily agree with their direction.”

The reality is decidedly a different picture:

CEB HBR 1

Sellers can achieve this by applying what they learned from their interactions with previous “successful” buyers, and sharing that experience with potential buyers. The good news is that sellers interact with buyers on an ongoing basis. This allows them to have a front-line view of the buying process. Many sales people and organizations will conduct “deal reviews”, but most will bring the usual bias to the review, and end up looking at why they did or did not make the sale, but overlook the opportunity to learn how the buyer(s) made the buying decision, including steps that precede the product/vendor stage. If they did focus more of the review on specifics buyers faced in their entire journey, they can then share that with future buyers, thereby simplifying the process. But a continued focus on why the sales was won, lost, or came to a draw, will not do anything to help buyers avoid or anticipate specific things they will face in the buying process, long before there is even discussion of a product/vendor.

Helping buyers understand and eliminate hurdles and potential roadblocks they have seen others face in the past is an opportunity for proactive sellers. This will include helping buyers map their journey in a way different than the “buy from me journey” mentioned above. Stepping away from your product, and focusing on the helping buyers deal with realities they will face in selecting any supplier, not necessarily just you. Keeping in mind that the buying organization is likely to have 6.8, not always – and at times conflicting ideas of what they are looking to solve, what the solutions may be, both having to be resolved before any talk of specific vendors. Not making it about us is hard for many, limiting choice and avoiding being purely responsive is even harder.

Understanding and articulating the things that have caused complexities for prospects is key, helping clients avoid these across the three stages described is best achieved by focus and specifics sellers have experienced, leads to much greater success in less time than being responsive and facilitating endless choices, in the hope the buyer will find a solution they like. Buyers don’t often find it on their own, leading to the high number of “no decision” results, or a smaller safe decision that does not address the issues at hand, but take twice as long to arrive at.

The pay off:

CEB HBR 2

Understanding why and how buyers bought, critical steps taken, and challenges faced and how those buyers dealt with them; then sharing that with prospects, are key to a seller’s ability to help customers map the complete journey, not just the parts where they are selecting products/vendors. More people (think they) know what to buy, their struggle is “how to buy”. A savvy seller, supported by their entire organization, can help their buyers craft a better buying journey. Helping buyers understand and prepare for specific obstacles they will face, and how to get past them. The alternative is to ignore the buyers’ reality, add to the complexity, and drive more “no-decision” outcomes to cycles.

As the article concludes, those selling organizations that can produce tools, guidelines and other things that simplify the buyer’s journey, will not only sell more, but have more loyal clients, leading to more cross and up sells. All things they could learn by spending a day (or few) with their buyers at work.

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EQ

Win Probability is the First Rule of Ultra-High Sales Performance – Guest Post0

The Pipeline Guest Post – By Jeb Blount
Author of Sales EQ: How Ultra High Performers Leverage Sales-Specific Emotional Intelligence to Close the Complex Deal

Imagine that you are standing in the doorway to a large room. At the far end are two identical dollar slot machines. As you walk in, the room attendant hands you a single dollar coin. You are offered the choice to play either machine. You’ll get to keep the original coin plus any winnings.

As you walk toward the machines, you notice something curious. Above each one there is a sign with a number on it. One sign reads 93 and the other 33. You turn back to the room attendant and ask, while pointing up at the signs, “What do those numbers mean?”

“Smart of you to ask,” the attendant replies, smiling. “Most people never do.”
He continues, “Those signs indicate the win probability of each machine. On the first machine, you have a 93 percent probability that you will win your dollar back plus more. With the second machine, you have only a 33 percent chance of winning.”

Which machine will you choose? Of course, it’s a no-brainer. The smart bet is on the machine that gives you the highest probability of winning.

Managing probability is how ultra-high performers play sales.

Average salespeople look in awe at the performance of ultra-high performers, believing that UHPs have somehow defied the odds. The truth, though, is UHPs bend the odds in their favor.

Poetry and Probability

There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for every sales situation. Complex sales are different from one-call closes. Calling on a business is different from selling a car. Selling software requires a different skill set than selling office automation equipment.

In sales, context matters. Every prospect, sales conversation, territory, company, and product is different and requires salespeople to adapt and adjust to those unique situations.

There is no black and white. There is no easy button that will make sales work perfectly every time. In some situations, you’ll do something completely inappropriate and still manage to close the deal. In others, you’ll run the sales process like a textbook and fall flat on your face.

It’s what I find so beautiful about sales. There are no guarantees, no magic pills, no holy grail. There is only poetry and probability.

Poetry

There is poetry in emotion. It is the glue that connects all the disparate elements of the sales equation. Emotion is sales process agnostic. It influences sales outcomes across industry verticals, deal complexity, inside sales or field sales, any product or service, and in both business-to-business and consumer environments.

It’s the ability to manage and leverage emotion to create the highest statistical chance of winning that separates ultra-high performers (UHPs) from everyone else.

UHPs never forget that they are dealing with emotional, fallible, irrational human beings. They work hard to gain a deep understanding of the motivations, desires, needs, wants, fears, aspirations, and problems of each stakeholder.
In sales, perceiving, interpreting, and reacting to your own emotions and the emotions of stakeholders are critical capabilities. Sellers must learn to manage their own disruptive emotions and respond appropriately to the emotions of stakeholders, resident within the logical, linear, systematic sales and buying processes. This is the true genesis of competitive differentiation.

Mastery of sales-specific emotional intelligence (Sales EQ) explains why one person becomes an ultra-high sales performer while another is just average, even though the intellectual ability and knowledge of the two people are equal.

Ultra-high performers are virtuosos with people. They shift win probabilities in their favor through perceiving, controlling, managing, and influencing nonconforming, irrational, human emotions. They possess a toolbox full of influence frameworks along with the agility to apply them in any situation to improve the probability of getting the outcome they desire.

Probability

Your ability to shape and influence win probabilities is the only reason you have a sales job.
Consider a potential buyer opening your company’s website to look for a product; if, when they open the product page, the probability that they click a buy button, enter a credit card, and make a purchase is north of 80 percent, you would be unemployed. Your company would need only to focus its resources on getting more potential buyers to that page.

Purely transactional purchases don’t require salespeople to shape the win probability. However, the more complex the sale, the longer the sales cycle, the higher the dollar amount, the greater the risk to the stakeholders, and the more emotions are involved in the decision to purchase, the more companies need salespeople who are intelligent, creative, insightful, influential, and persuasive to shift win probabilities in the organization’s favor.

Admittedly, sales would be much easier if there were signs over prospects indicating win probability. But alas, prospects are not slot machines and, unlike slot machines, in sales win probability is fluid, complex, influenced by many variables, and impossible to know with certainty until, of course, the deal is lost or won.

For this reason, ultra-high performers take nothing for granted. They’re constantly checking, testing, and analyzing where they stand with the opportunities in their pipeline. UHPs are perfectionists, managing every element within their control to shape, influence, and bend the win probability curve in their favor.

Jeb Blount is the author of eight books including Sales EQ, Fanatical Prospecting, and People Follow You. He is a Sales Acceleration specialist who helps sales organizations reach peak performance fast by optimizing talent, leveraging training to cultivate a high-performance sales culture, developing leadership and coaching skills, and applying a more effective organizational design. Contact: 1-888-360-2249 or https://www.SalesGravy.com

F hero

Which Of These F’s Should You Give an F About?2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sales like many other crafts, vocations, or professions, continues to evolve, or should. Some developments come along and become the rave for a while, only to fade after a time when they are proven ineffective, this is the first F, as in Fashionable. While some completely fade away, others leave a lasting impact on how people sell, and become broadly accepted, evolve to become a mainstay of professional selling; these develop over time to become Fundamentals, our second F.

Now the third F, the one you give to one of the F’s above, is not what you may think, after all we run a family friend sales professional development outfit, it in fact stands for Focus.

F heroFocus is critical to execution, and as you all by now know, success in sales is all about execution, everything else is just talk. (And there is no shortage of talk in sales).

The challenge for many is that the fundamentals are usually not exciting or easy, especially for those looking for a short cut to success. As Fashionable as Malcolm Gladwell may be, the prospect of having to invest 10,000 hours to become a master, is not an appealing recruitment statements, even if companies were willing to lend a hand. But there is no escaping that as in other professions or vocations, practitioners require continuous and repetitive practice in order to master the craft, and elevate themselves to the point where they can execute at a professional level.

Fashion on the other hand is much more exciting, appealing, and unfortunately, fleeting. We see it time after time, hot one year, dead the next, and while those developed the Fashion prosper and move on, those who followed and were then abandoned, are left with the results, or lack thereof. Just look at all the would be replacements for cold calling; Fashions have come and gone, but those Focused on Fundamentals continue to succeed, even adding some of the Fashionable remnants along the way. Witness what happened with sales 2.0, if you missed it, look at the freshly minted, ever Fashionable Sales 3.0. In fact, I am so confident that this recycling of Fashion will continue, I have already secured the domain for: www.SalesTheOcho.com.

Focus and Fundamentals requires discipline, which is not always Fashionable in sales. The problem with Fashion is two-fold, the first an most damaging is the distraction factor. Because success does take time, effort and Focus, anything that takes these elements away from nailing Fundamentals will slow your progress towards success and professionalism. Second, Fashion is rarely created for the long term, it is meant to short term and fleeting, no sooner than you load up on this year’s model, and they bring out the next. True, many fashions do come around after a time, but you only figure that out with the benefit of experience, this is why I never throw away ties, because they will come back into Fashion again. They are designed to appeal to the masses (in sales that would be the 80% in the 80/20 rule), easy to wear, and disposable. I bet we could look at some Stacks, and find some recycled Fashions or apps.

So if you give an F about your sales success, you should Focus on the Fundamentals, and avoid the time and money sucking sound of Fashion.

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