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It’s A New Year – Let’s Go Backwards2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Assuming your fiscal year started on January 1, you probably have your new targets or quotas by now. Although I did sell for a company once that did not give us our quotas till mid-March. Among the many things you should do is start by going backwards, not in how you sell, but how you plan and set yourself up for success.

Specifically breaking down your success into manageable components. Manageable meaning things that need to be done – and are also in your control. Things beyond your control, well, are beyond your control, instead of worrying about it, plan ahead, and when the time comes, react if you have to, or harder for many, ignore them since by definition, you cannot manage them.

What you can control are activities that lead to specific and planned results, like exceeding quota for example. As discussed in Monday’s post, detailing the high-value activities in each stage of your cycle is crucial. But to know which activities and in what proportion, you will need to start at your goal, and work backwards from there. Understanding what that quota looks like in the real world beyond a dashboard will help you not only to exceed that quota, but create a detailed plan for the journey.

For simplicity, let’s say you closed 2015 with $1.05 million in revenue, and your 2016 quota is $1.2 million, a 12.5% growth. Making your monthly goal a $100,000.

What you need to know:

  • What is your average deal size?
  • Average length of your cycle(s)
  • Some core conversion rates:
    – Number of proposals that close
    – Number of real prospects required to generate a REAL proposal
    – Number of people/companies you’ll need to engage to land one REAL prospect

There are other important conversion rates, like number of connections to appointments (live or virtual) or engagements, and others, plug in those that drive your results. What I find interesting is the number of sales people that do not know any or all of the above, when you ask, they respond: “depends”; on what?

The one thing that does not change year to year, is the amount of time you have to sell to prospects. (Well you do have one extra day this year, and every Leap year). If you don’t know the above numbers, how will you chart the course to 12.5% increase?

Those that do know them, and they are not hard to track these days, given all the data available, can begin to make choices.

Will you increase your average deal size; some have that option some don’t. Will you focus on improving your proposal to close rate, or one of the others? This could involve being more diligent in Discovery and rushing to proposal, allowing you to work with less prospects but with greater results, how will that impact your time allocation mix?

While there are a number of moving parts, it has to be done, our clients use our Activity Calculator Tool, to ensure efficient execution and continuous improvement. This not only helps reps take control of their activities and success, but also serves as a great coaching tool if you lead a team.

The key is to execute a well-planned strategy, rooted in the real numbers to drive real results. With that in hand, you can get creative and unleash your god given sales skills; without it, you are going to work harder than you really have to, and looking to god about 12.5% more than you did last year.

Tibor Shanto

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Process over Calendar – Sales eXecution 3230

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

gear 2

As we work through the haze of celebrating the new year, sales people we can count on two things; first our new goals or quotas; second a barrage of posts and articles telling us how 2016 will be different, or trends that will impact us this year. I was always confused by this notion, are there smart people who come up with something good or new in September, then say, “Hang on, I am not gonna share this till after January 1.” Or do some people just blessed with a burst of creativity between Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King, Jr.? Of course not, it is more the fact that New Year is the start of cycle, a universally accepted cycle, but most importantly a calendar cycle. But a calendar cycle is very different than a sales or buying cycle, and if you are in sales you need to manage your buy/sale cycle, not a general calendars cycle.

There is no denying the importance of the calendar in sales success, but the importance is in the form of setting and achieving certain milestones. Month end, quarter end, campaign start and end, and more. New Year not only brings new quotas and targets, but also budgets are replenished, and the system is fueled for action. Having said that, let’s remember that not everyone’s fiscal cycle aligns to the calendar cycle.

But success in sales is about activity, consistent execution of high-value activities executed at the right points across the buy/sales cycle, not according not secular milestones or calendar. This is why successful sellers focus on their process, not the calendar as their roadmap for success.

Process: Sequence of interdependent and linked procedures which, at every stage, consume one or more resources (employee time, energy, machines, money) to convert inputs (data, material, parts, etc.) into outputs (Read sales). These outputs then serve as inputs for the next stage until a known goal or end result is reached. businessdictionary.com
You are much more likely to succeed if you focus on what activities you need to do today in order to succeed at a given point in the future, and that point is not tied to a calendar, it is much more tied to your process and cycle. If you do what you need to do every day, based on the stages of your process and activities required to close off the stage with each prospect, you will deliver sales on a consistent and fairly predictable fashion. Conversely, if you don’t do what you have to do across the cycle, you won’t. There is no ifs ands or buts, just excuses as to why not. As a mentor of mine once impressed on me, “Today is the last day you can influence your sales cycle.” Let’s say I have a 120-day cycle, If I don’t put an opportunity in my pipeline today, I the only thing I can be certain of is that 120 days from today, I will not be closing that deal. It doesn’t matter if it’s Tuesday, Columbus Day, Lag B’Omer or any other day on any calendar.

What you can do now:

Nail down the average length of a sales, it is often different than many think, check your CRM, and nail the number. If you sell multiple products to different buyers, you may need to do this for each.

Inventory those high value activities you have to do throughout the cycle. Prospecting, selling, managing existing accounts, research, planning, etc., then allocate the percentage of time you need to allocate to each activity across the cycle. This will allow you to manage your activities, easy to do, rather than trying to manage time, not doable, therefore stupid. Use this to block time to execute these high-value activities.
Make sure your team is adhering to your process, not interpreting it to suit their results, or cherry picking things the like. This where metrics come in real handy.

If you currently don’t have a process or it is not documented, create one, or hire a professional to do it for you. Map your process, including specific stages, objectives within those stages, (good to focus on the buyer’s objectives, as you need to help them complete the journey), activities and tools required, and desired outcomes. Make sure there is a clear exit for each stage, and clear next steps. Take advantage of your CRM to action this in a way that takes the subjectivity out of execution.

Tibor Shanto

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Get It Together! Marketing and Sales Collaboration That WORKS0

Dec 15

The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka

Once upon a time, the business world operated in silos. The accounting department worked in its own silo, while the human resources department worked in a separate silo. Sales and marketing teams also had unique silos. Everyone worked independently and everyone seemed happy – until conflict arose.

Today, more businesses recognize the distinct problem with this setup: each department is working toward a common goal, yet no one is communicating.

The problem with organizing your business in silos goes deeper than lack of communication (although that’s a pretty big deal in any organization). When conflicts arise, the other departments are quick to point fingers. This is especially true of sales and marketing departments. Too often, teams hear the rallying cry of, “but the others don’t get it!” Sales teams fail to see the value in marketing, while marketers see salesmen as lazy.

Instead of listening to what the other department has to say and then collaborating toward a solution to benefit both people, the two teams bicker.

Sales and Marketing Don’t Have to Go Head to Head

All this bickering is stealing from your company’s bottom line. Instead of finding a positive solution to honor the common goal of growing the company, the two teams debate who is right. It’s unproductive…but it doesn’t have to work this way.
Smart companies today realize the problems of communication breakdown between sales and marketing teams. It’s costing them money. If your company is tired of hearing the two teams whine about the other’s performance, it’s time to bring these groups together. Here’s how:

Clarify Qualified Leads

Many sales teams believe the leads coming through aren’t qualified so they’re a waste of time. This is an easy fix. To help the marketing department bring in higher qualified leads, ask each department to define what a qualified lead looks like.
Then, pair the results side by side and consolidate the information. Where is there overlap? Where are the gaps? Whittle away until you reach a consensus between both departments about what a qualified lead looks like.

Collaborate on Content

Sales teams pound the pavement talking to potential customers. They hear more objections than anyone else in the company and they know what the market is looking for.
This is valuable information for marketing teams.
When sales teams can express these objections and define current market trends, the content created for marketing materials becomes far more compelling. The sales team’s job becomes easier and your business starts attracting more people because you “get it.”

How to Get Buy In From Both Departments

The trick to break away from the silo mentality and encourage healthy collaboration between these two departments is showing the benefits of working together.

For sales teams, working together means:
● Higher qualified leads
● Better resources to attract new customers
● More opportunities to reach potential leads
For marketing teams, working together means:
● Having an ear to the ground to know what people are saying instead of having to guess
● Ideas for content creation that drive success by overcoming objections before the customer voices them
● More successful marketing campaigns based on improved communication

Bridging the Gap

It’s time to say “so long” to outdated business concepts. To succeed in business today, your company must bridge the gap between sales and marketing. When you use your CRM to manage collaborative teams, you make it easier and faster to share information. Break away from the silo approach in your business. Start seeing bigger results with stronger teamwork across departments.

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Megan has several years of experience on the topics of small business marketing, copywriting, SEO, online conversions and social media. Megan spends much of her time establishing new relationships for ChamberofCommerce.com, publishing weekly newsletters educating small business on the importance of web presence, and contributing to a number of publications on the web. Megan can be reached at megan@chamberofcommerce.com.

Image credit

Website: www.chamberofcommerce.com

How You Describe A Task Says A Lot About Your Results – Sales eXecution 3220

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Megaphone

It’s funny what you can learn from not just listening to someone, but actually hearing what they say. According to experts, you can tell a lot about a person by the words they choose. At a recent conference, two separate speakers, explained how the way people express themselves can tell you a lot about how to best communicate with them for maximum impact. For instance, if they say “here is the way I see it”, vs. “It sounds to me like”, it is better speak to the first in visual terms. This means your message will be better understood if you use visual references and use visual examples. Whereas with the latter are more auditory, as a result your communication geared to the spoken word, yours and theirs, leveraging sounds and noises to emphasize or accentuate things.

So what happens when we explore the concept a bit further and with respect to sales people, hiring and managing them, as well as to sales leaders. Not so much visual or auditory, but what telltale sign can their words or expression give? What can you observe from how they talk about their craft and work? What could we learn about their skills, how they execute, and as a result whether you should keep them (or hire them), and if so how to coach them to improve.

Again, this applies to sales leaders as well. Having spoken to my share, I find it interesting when they tell me “we’re doing OK.” Now this is not a cold call, there I expect that, and know how to deal with it too, but in conversation. Is that really the goal of a sales leader, to get his troops to OK? How do you present OK at a board meeting or leadership team gathering? When you ask what OK means, some redeem themselves with data and specifics, and can articulate what has to be done to move past OK. But when the response is ambiguous, almost surrendering in nature, surrendering to the reality of another missed month or quarter, OK, is not good enough or a plan.

Further, if you as a leader are good with OK, what will that say to your team?

The front line is often no different. Listen to a great sales person describe the role, vs. a veteran of 15 years, what I call one of the 80 Percenters. Not based on the 80/20 Pareto principle, one of those reps who may have met goal once or twice, but usually delivers 80% or so of quota. The former will tell you a key element of their role is to exceed quota, the latter will tell you “do what you can to try and hit goal”. Leading one to ask, is that 15 years in the business, 15 years of growth and improvement, or the same year 15 times over?

The former group can tell you exactly what they need to achieve their goal, right down to the number of prospects, and the effort it takes to secure those prospects. Ask the latter, and you get “depends”; on what? “You know”. I guess someone has to, but it is usually best if it is the person who has been tasked.

Words are a great window to the thinking behind the word, that thinking drives attitude, which in turn drives execution. Change how you describe your sales, and change the outcome.

Tibor Shanto

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Predictions to Results1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Magical Fortune Teller

“I may make you feel but I can’t make you think” (Gerald Bostock IA)

This post was originally prepared for a site catering to sales professionals that I occasionally contribute to. They were looking for pieces on predictions for big things in sales in 2016. I thought it would be a big thing if sales people started executing and selling, and having real forecasts rather than just predications. They decided not to run the piece, and to quote: “The premise being that predictions aren’t a super useful exercise would cast a bad light on the rest of the posts on our blog that are predictions”. Well far be it for me to cloud the issue with facts, contrast the other pundits. But having written the piece, and being convinced that there is still room for realism in predicting, I will share it here, and wait for your verdict.

Have at it, and enjoy!

This time of year brings a unique blend of traditions and rituals, mixed with a sense of urgency for ending the year right, and wide eyed anticipation for the possibilities the new year brings. Wild ass unrealistic, and never to be validated or reviewed predictions is one silly and repeated ritual; after all the pundits get busy and caught up in the season, and what’s easier when you’re behind deadline for a post or article, than to make predictions for the coming year. After all, no one ever checks to see how they turned out 12 months from now, especially if you make them “feel good” predictions with just a hint of sugar-plums scent. The challenge with predictions in sales is they lack accountability, and as a result are usually more aspirational than material.

On the other hand, predictions can be used to drive sales results by taking the aspirational, and using them to create concrete goals and action plans. Many already partially do this in the form of stretch goals. Stretch goals are used and defined in a number of ways. Here are two to help focus the discussion:

Business Dictionary: Goals “That cannot be achieved by incremental or small improvements but require extending oneself to the limit to be actualized. Expressed in the saying, “You cannot cross a chasm in two steps.””

From THE PARADOX OF STRETCH GOALS: ORGANIZATIONS IN PURSUIT OF THE SEEMINGLY IMPOSSIBLE: “An organizational goal with an objective probability of attainment that may be unknown but is seemingly impossible given current capabilities (i.e., current practices, skills, and knowledge).”

As the authors of the above suggest “stretch goals could influence organizational learning and performance”, and while they go on to explore potential paradoxes, done right, predictions can lead to positive sales results.

Predictions by nature tend to reach beyond what most would accept as normal or easily accomplished. In the sales context, they also can be used as targets, which in turn require an action plan. The fact that they may be a bit outlandish, will force reps to develop equally eccentric action plans. If what we are doing today is allowing us to get to X, then what will we need to change to achieve X plus? This will impact reps’ individual plans for their territories and accounts, as well as their execution.

Having reps reexamine their current plans against “predictions” you make as their leader, will force them to explore how they need to extend their thinking (and activities), often forcing them to develop completely new plans, or even who they may target as prospects or upsell opportunities, to maximize their selling time in order to hit the prediction.

This also serves as a great coaching opportunity. As they revise or develop new plans, it will require them to do things differently than before, to do that they will need input, guidance, and encouragement, giving you the chance to establish a culture of learning and growing through planning and execution.

So while I predict that next year will bring a slew of predictable predictions, how you action them can also bring more sales and means of selling better.

Tibor Shanto

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Are Sales People Masochists?4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

No Pain

Sales people are always looking for “the pain” or “pain point”. One reason I am told they are looking for the pain is that they can then offer up the cure along with an invoice, and have a happy client. Given that a relatively small part of the market will admit to pain, I am not sure this is the most prudent approach to starting a lasting relationship, but it is what it is.

Many tell me, backed by a string of pundits, that people will do more to avoid pain, than the steps or actions they will take to achieve pleasure. Theory being I am told, is if one can touch a raw nerve, a painful nerve, the buyer is more likely to act, and therefore potentially buy the “fix” for that pain from the seller. Given the choice, they believe that focusing on pain yields better results than focusing on pleasure.

I had one consultant, a successful one according to him, tell me that his role as a sales person is “to find the soft underbelly of the beast, stab it, and offer up the cure.” Nice, feel free to take a minute and wash.

This piece is not meant to debate that, but rather explore how this concept plays out when applied to sales people themselves, and their success.

I work with a lot of sales people, and have seen how willing or unwilling they are to take on new or alternate sales views, skills and practices. I know that when I carried a quota, the biggest pain I was trying to avoid, was the pain of not making quota. Not only because of the stigma associated with failing at your chosen craft, but because I had three kids to feed. Exceeding quota always struck me as a better alternative, especially not having to tell the kids they can’t eat this quarter. But let’s make like a pundit and pander to the masses and go to the pain side for a minute.

The Puzzle

Given that over the past few years the number of B2B reps to hit quota has hovered at around 60%, you have to wonder why those suffering the reality of not making quota don’t do much if anything to avoid that pain. If they saw their prospects “suffering” in this way, they would be advising them to change, and change now, relieve themselves of this unnecessary pain. Just the incongruity of that must be a challenge, imagine suppressing your pain as you look your prospect in the eye telling them to take action (buy your product) and address that pain.

I am not even going to get into the financial reality, but there is the tribal reality of being a burden rather than a contributor. Many of the sources that show that only about 60% make quota also show that a higher percentage of sales organizations are hitting their collective number. This means that these people are carrying those who fall short, more than carrying, making up for.

The Answer

The answer is not jumping on every selling band wagon that comes through town, but to refocus on the fundamentals. As Michael Jordan said: “You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly, because the only thing that changes will be your attention to them”. There is no arguing that Jordan can razzle dazzle with the best of them, deliver consistently, all by building on the fundamentals, not by avoiding them. There is no doubt that the coach had a lot to do with it, as did the process or system executed. But it was the discipline and focus on execution on the part of Jordan, and the others on the team that made the difference. There did not seem to be anyone carrying a team mate.

While some might argue, it starts with process. A clear road map of the buy/sale journey, including objectives for each stage, tools, measurements, contingency plans, and more. Think of it as your sales TripTik®.  But in the end, there is no escaping the fact that it does come down to execution. The willingness to put the system into practice. The ability to try, fail, try again and improve.

As we go into a new sales year, the question to answer is the following: Which pain are you willing to suffer, the short term pain of effort practice and refinement, leading to ongoing success. Or the pain of missing quota “one more again”, letting the side down and burdening your team mates?

Tibor Shanto

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Are You Selling or Visiting – Sales eXecution 3212

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Last week I wrote about the importance of words in the context of a sale, while in that case I highlighted the importance of words we select in communicating the right thing to the buyer. But the words we use also impact our attitudes, and our attitudes have a direct impact on our actions, their impact on the customer and sale, and ultimately our company’s and our own success. Yes, what you call something will drive how you prepare, how you prioritize, the actions you take, and the overall intent it communicates to the buyer and therefore their reaction and the progress, or often lack of progress, we make in the sale.

Here is a typical, often overlooked, but clear example. One of the common topics I speak about here is the importance and role of next steps. Part of whether you get that next step or not is how you view the appointment, your role in the appointment and how you approach that appointment. And while it may not seem big it starts with what you call that appointment, which in turn reflects how you are thinking and preparing.

This is why I find it amusing (and at time sad), when sales professionals call an appointment a “visit”; as is “I have a visit scheduled with Harry at XYZ Inc.” (And let’s accept that this is a rep in Toronto, not someone selling sweet tea in Chatom Alabama). A visit? Really, think about that. You are going to go and “visit” a prospect.

vis·it
ˈvizit/
verb
1. go to see and spend time with (someone) socially.
“I came to visit my grandmother” synonyms: call on, pay a visit to, go to see, look in on;
2. inflict (something harmful or unpleasant) on someone.
“the mockery visited upon him by his schoolmates”

So which of the above do sales people mean when they speak about a visit?

I know some will say it is only semantics, and I say they are right, but semantics count, as stated above, in a number of ways. Some say they are visiting because they don’t want to appear “salesy”, why not, is that not what you are there to do? Before you leap to answer that think about it, are your sales people always going in with a clear intent, focused on a specific set of possible outcomes?

Intent counts as much as words. Buyers can read your intent, and if you’re intent signals something other than what you are saying AND, how you are saying it, you’re beat. Buyers can tune in and pick up on that incongruity every time. So you may think you are selling, but if your intent, body language and words are saying “Visit”, that is what you’ll have a visit, not a sales call. As the authors of The Hard Truth About Soft-selling: Restoring Pride & Purpose to the Sales Profession, we have created a class of professional visitors, hoping that the order comes up as they “visitin’”.

Reps are not alone in letting this phenomenon to happen. Managers or organizations fixated on a specific number of calls regardless of the facts on the ground, very much drive sales people to have visits. After all, if I need 10 calls a week, and that number is not directly tied to my goals and conversion rates, but are high on my manager’s personal KPI’s, then I am going to hit that 10 with sales calls and visits.

So go and visit if you must, but for continuous sales success, you will also need to go on first appointment and sales calls.

Tibor Shanto

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How Do You Start Your Day? #FireStarters0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

FireStarter

Some of you are familiar with Miles Austin, if you are looking to learn about the latest tools and technology for sales and selling Miles is the source.  As a result, Miles is always trying out and introducing those of us in sales to new tools and apps to make selling more fun and profitable.

This month Miles is leveraging a new tool, Blab, and he is using it to help share ideas and best practices from people from all corners of sales.  What makes the whole process cool is that he is focused on a single theme, by asking all of us who participate the same question: How Do You Start Your Day? 

You can watch my segment below, including a technical glitch I had right at the start, and thanks to Billy Bob Brigmon, who was nice enough to jump in for the first 30 seconds while I got my act together.

Take a look, watch all the #FireStarter segments for some great insights on how to start your day.

Tell us what you think.

Tibor Shanto

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The Reason You are calling, is… – Sales eXecution 3200

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Child Phone

As a reader of this blog you have heard me say that whoever coined the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was not in sales. We all know that the wrong word at the wrong time can dramatically change the course of a sale or sales meeting, either for the better or….

This even more true on the telephone where you do not have the benefit of body language to balance out the picture. As more and more sales organizations turn to an inside sales approach, this becomes a greater factor. Without body language you and the prospects are left with only intonation and the words you choose, what and how you say will paint the picture and drive the prospect’s response. What you say, how you say it, and who you say it to, matters.

While I am not suggesting that there are “magic words” or “silver bullet” words or incantations that can turn a sceptic or close the deal, picking your words matters. And it has to be your words, it has to fit with your manner of speaking and it has to help the buyer not only better understand where you are coming from, but also how it helps them achieve their own objectives.

Whether you are in inside sales or a field rep, here is an example that you may relate to. Early on, during the appointment setting call, you will have to give the person at the other end of the line a reason to want to see you. What is that, is it your product, your company, your radio voice, no; it is, as it has always been and will be, what is in it for the prospect themselves.

Many sales people will say that they are looking to “learn” more about the buyer, their company, and buyi9ng process. Well with the demand on decision makers time, they really don’t have time to teach you. You want to learn, well that’s why Al Gore invented the internet, so you can learn about your buyers.

Second favourite reason spoken by reps trying to get appointments: “I want to discuss with you…” Again, do you think they have the time or inclination to discuss, likely not.

So what can you suggest as a reason for meeting? How about sharing some specific steps and impacts you helped others take to achieve their objectives, and how your offering specifically played a role in that, and the specific impact it had on their business. Now this isn’t a creative recital of your features and value props, but specific elements that are tide to OUTCOMES.

The reason I am calling you is to schedule an appointment where I can share with you how we haled XYZ Competitor reduce their logistics cost, allowing them to increase market share by 3% over 18 months.”

No product, no features, no discussion or learning. Instead you are going to show, teach, share, how you have been instrumental in helping others like them achieve specific objectives and results.

“How do I know what their objectives are?” I hear some of you asking. Not as hard as you may imagine, but the topic of a future post; stay tuned.

Tibor Shanto

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