Welcome to The Pipeline.

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Get Over It3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

As an outsider, I find watching the reaction to the elections in the States on Tuesday interesting from a sales point of view. To be clear, this isn’t one of those hollow “What can sales people learn from the USA elections?” It is almost like every event has some lesson or insight for sales people, considering that more things that businesses consume are sold rather than bought, there is bound to be a parallel between almost everything and sales. Sometimes obvious facts and realities are lost on the “80%”, because they spend most of their time “taking orders” from self-motivated buyers. So when they are actually involved in a real competitive “sale”, and have to do things to win the order (other than discounting and negotiating with their own company rather than the prospect), and it doesn’t go their way, how they react becomes the measure of those reps.

This post is about the reaction to the outcome, specifically the reaction of those who did not get the order. I had no horse in the race, it’s not my country, so far be it for me to lecture our neighbors to the south, just I don’t want any none Canadians pontificating on Canadian politics and policies.

But the reaction is worth exploring. It is a reaction I and many are familiar with having watched reps’ reactions after having lost a deal, or during a pipeline review, where it is clear that most of the opportunities in the pipeline have about as much chance of closing as Lincoln Chafee had of winning his party’s nomination. A reaction which I am sure would have been the same had the other side won.

It seems that in both sales and politics, it is easier to look for blame outside of your control, than to spend time understanding what you could have done differently to change the outcome. Sure it is easy to blame the product, the familiar chorus of “What-ifs, Maybes and Might-Have-Beens”, but if the product could sell itself, then what role would we in sales have? (Oh ya, take the order). As a friend of mine once told me, “if it was easy, they would not need us”.

Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn sign with sky backgroundGreat sales people look to understand what they could have done differently, so they can do it differently and better next time. They don’t waste time and energy looking for excuses and outside factors that they feel – but can’t prove cost them the sale. Real sellers understand that there are things they cannot control or change, and things they can, the best focus on those things they CAN change and influence, and work to understand how things they can’t control can impact them and their desired result. The also-ran “80%”, resist change, which leaves them questioning the outcome, rather than question what they could and should have done differently Click To Tweet.

The parallels also extend to the pundits, those wagon jumping sages, who can always tell you what will happen, and why when it does not, why they couldn’t see it coming. Same in sales, despite the data available, many are to inwardly focused and lining up with the latest fashions and labels, rather than sharing practical, proven and experience based executable insights. Instead on Monday they’re Sales 2.0, Wednesday Social Selling, Friday ABM, what next?

You want different results, do things differently, there is usually a lot less risk in trying change than the results of sticking with it, then complaining when you failed. You can’t change the past, but you can the future; you can learn from the past and do things differently the next time. Time to start executing rather than excusing.

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Prospects Object Less To What They Want0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

In the past I, have highlighted how many sellers are limiting if not sabotaging their opportunities while telephone prospecting. The main reason for that is that they are approaching things from a deficit, they are casting a small and porous net, one that only captures a small set of buyers, those with a defined need. This would work great if a large segment of the market had needs they were willing to act on, but the reality is that most potential prospects do not. And that is where a lot of sellers get confused, and struggle to effectively connect with those potential prospects who don’t have or recognise a need.

When it comes to prospecting, especially phone prospecting, looking for need will kill your success. Many who do have the need are looking to get past it and are looking for someone with a vision beyond. While those without a recognized need, will just object to the call, leave those looking for need or selling solutions rejected and dejected. The vicious circle of events that gives cold calling a bad name.

But what would happen if you cold called and led with outcomes built around the prospect’s wants rather than needs?

So, if you’re going to be interrupted, what would you be more receptive to:

  1. Hearing about how this unknown entity can satisfy a need you do not have or recognize?
  2. Or how they may help you get to somewhere you want to get to?

For most (honest) people it is the latter. Yet most sales people, encouraged by their managers and a hoard of pundits, default to the former. Yet it is this same group of sellers and pundits who will tell you that cold calling doesn’t work, just witness the rejection level.

Rejection in prospecting is a result of two factors. One you can’t do much about, and that is the fact that you are interrupting an already busy day, and they want to eliminate the interruption and get back to work. Second, the interruption is all about a need they do not have or recognize. Often they don’t recognize it because it is all about needs described in marketing speak by a nervous fast talking squeaky voice.

Interrupting is not as bad as some would tell you, the same people who go on about interrupting with a call, embrace the concept of “disruption” just to be cool. Let’s call a spade a spade and get past that excuse for not properly prospecting. So now we are down to message.

Speak to something they want to do, and all of a sudden this interruption can be seen as insight. It demonstrates an understanding of where the prospect is, and where they want to go, and what they want at the end of that journey. Speak to their wants, they may still may not like the fact that they were interrupted, but the message around wants and impacts, is a bit compelling. Handle the objections head on with how you have helped others like them achieve their wants, and the objection is like an invitation for more details, possibilities, and engagement.

How do you know what their wants are, what they want to achieve, the impacts they seek? Just look at your past pipeline opportunities. Not just the wins, but the losses and those that are stuck in the limbo of no decision. All this is in your CRM, assuming you are using it the way it should be used. Forget ABM, focus on the individual and what they want, they will not object to any of that.

Believe me, you need to change your prospecting approach if you want to succeed in selling to the whole market.

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Taking a look at oneself

The Easiest Person To Lie To Is Yourself0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I hear a lot of talk in sales about lying, not so much about how they may lie to win business, but in broader terms. We have all heard the use of “buyers are liars”, or its popular cousin “sellers are liars”. While there are probably liars in both camps, undoubtedly in the same proportion and distribution as in the general population, and likely less among successful sales people.

Taking a look at oneselfWhile not limited to sales people, the worst lie sales people tell, are the ones they tell themselves. This is not to say that these people are dishonest, but rather, that they don’t want (or are unable) to deal with the reality facing them. One example was highlighted in a recent piece about pipelines, where sales people lie to themselves about the quality of individual opportunities, and by extension, they lie to themselves, their managers and companies about the state of the entire pipeline, and the ultimate revenue delivered. That lie then forces them to lie about the necessity to prospect, after all they tell themselves and their manager, “Just look all the things I have going on in my pipeline.”

One way to not mislead ones’ self is to have a realistic plan for your sales, both long term and short term. Beyond specific activities, this needs to include an overall annual territory plan; key account plans; prospecting plans; and most importantly at a minimum monthly activity plans, although it would not kill you to have one that continuously covers the next two weeks.

It is always a good idea, and learning opportunity to have your plan validated, if you don’t have a manager, share and review it with the owner or senior stakeholder. Once there is agreement that you have a workable plan, a plan that starts with your quota, and then working backwards from there, you can map out critical points, and based on your conversion rates, how many opportunities you should be working on at any given time. We use an Activity Calculator tool, that helps sellers and managers to optimize this process, but only if they A) know the inputs; B) don’t lie to themselves about the numbers they don’t track or know, (e-mail me if you’d like to try it and use it). This exercise will be hard for those who are already lying to themselves by proclaiming “sales is not a numbers game”. Given that quotas and conversions are numbers, and you’ll need those inputs to plan your success.

There are many other lies, one of my favourites is the wireless rep who had to drive a battery across town right at the time he was scheduled to prospect. You can just hear it now, “Ya, I know my pipeline is low, but hey I saved that account by delivering the battery real quick.” I’ll bet no quicker than a $25 taxi could have, while he found new clients to save. But avoiding an Activity he didn’t like called for a good lie.

Once you lie to yourself, it takes no extra effort to lie to others, and once you do that, it’s all downhill. I know it’s easy, but stop lying to yourself about your activities, pipeline or success. Save that for January, when you abandon your New Year’s resolution.

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the-perfect-close

The Perfect Close – Book Review0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Years ago, I read a stat that suggested most sales people do not read even one sales book a year, and that was before access to sales blogs and curators of blogs, and a host of other sources (of dubious quality). While some may put this off to laziness, it may also be that the “consumer”, here sales people, are more discerning than given credit, and realize that many of the books they ignore are indeed worth ignoring. Like many of their buyers, the discerning seller has grown weary of advice, observations and untested theory, from talking heads who not sold anything in years but their books. Sellers are looking for real world, practical executable insights, by real world practitioner. Which brings us to in The Perfect Close: The Secret to Closing Sales, by James Muir.

the-perfect-closeDon’t let the title fool you, this is not a book full of closing tricks like the Ben Franklin Close or The Columbo Close. It is a straight forward means and process that sellers of all products can implement, without having to resort to pressure or tricks. It focuses on moving the sale from stage to stage in a practical manner, and involves two questions. It can be put into practice by both seasoned veterans of the trade or new comers. The central reason for that is the author, and the fact that he spends his days in the real sales world.

James Muir is a professional sales trainer, author, speaker and coach, who has excelled both as a front line sales rep, and manager, shattering records in the process. One thing all successful people have said, is to model yourself after the most successful in the field. That is you opportunity with James and The Perfect Close. His guidance comes from experience and the school of hard knocks. James has an extensive background in healthcare where he has sold-to and spoken for the largest names in technology and healthcare including HCA, Tenet, Catholic Healthcare, Banner, Dell, IBM and others. Three decades of not just experience, but success, has given James a fresh and practical perspective on what works in real-life and what doesn’t. And now you can benefit directly from that in this book.

The Perfect Close represents the tested and proven best practices for winning in today’s competitive sales world. It picks up where many others leave off. It is easy to say that “traditional” closing techniques do not work and can harm your efforts, James outlines an alternative that works, one that makes your buyer feel educated when buying from you, see you as a true facilitator and consultant, and allow you remain on emotionally higher ground. The bonus is that the approach is a proven and repeatable process for advancing sales that can be used in any kind of sale at any given stage. All this will allow you to close more business, usually in a shorter timeframe.

Beyond the very practical advice and a practical path to execution, the book has something many of the pre-fab pundit produced books lack, passion. James’ passion for sales and helping others sell better comes through in every chapter. This makes it easy for the reader to absorb the solid methods presented. Don’t let the title fool you, this is not a gimmicky close book, it is about the steps sales professionals must take, right from the start, and along the way to win more customers. James outlines the steps it takes to win no matter what you sell, or how long you have been selling. He introduces the “why”, the “what”, and the “how” for each step along the journey. This book is fun to read. You’ll find yourself revisiting elements, each time improving your execution. Buy this book for yourself, your team, and if you have a friend who sells that you would like to see do better. Don’t take my word for it, buy it, read it, enjoy it, implement it, and profit from it!

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Time questions concept as a group of floating clocks and timepieces shaped as a question mark as a metaphor for deadline or business schedule confusion or corporate appointment information as a 3D illustration.

Getting Time On Your Side0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

If you manage hang on for another week, I assure you that there is life after the election, and what is waiting on the other side is not the end of the world, but the end of your sales year. Which if you plan it right is not as big a deal as many would make you believe, unless of course you’re one of those sales people who exists from crisis to crisis. (If you are, then you can skip the rest of this post).

We’ve all heard that knowledge is power, and in this case, it truly is. If you know the specifics of your sales cycle, average length of cycle, critical points, number of interactions (phone, live, web, e-mails, etc.), then you have the data on which you can build knowledge and success. You can map out your sale, manage it and lead the sales process not just go along for the ride.

A critical one is the average length of a cycle. This will vary based on type of sale, if you have multiple offerings, and other factors, but there is no escaping the fact that if you looked at you last 15 – 20 sales of the same nature, you will be able to determine a relative average length. You can do that using your CRM, and host of apps you bought to do something sales professionals have done for ages using pen and paper. The fact that many sales people answer the question about the length of

Assuming your average cycle for a given product or service three months, this is hand shake to close, it doesn’t matter if it took you a year of effort to engage; a sales cycle is handshake (yes it can be virtual), to close. There may be seasonal changes, causing that to contract or expand slightly, but if they are indeed seasonal than they are known to you and you can incorporate that into your thinking and execution.

So, if you initiate an opportunity today, October 31, 2016, then on average, that opportunity will/should close on or around (a couple of days) January 31, 2017. Assuming you need four sales a month to exceed quota, you will need one of those a week. But let’s be real here, you will need to have a multiple of opportunities, based on your close ratio, that is the number of opportunities you require to get one close, say 4:1. You will need to be prospecting (including referrals, up and cross seals and more) at a level and quality that will lead to four prospects/opportunities a week to end up with one close. So if one prospects and drives four new opportunities a week, they will have their one “right” opportunity each and every week. An opportunity that will on average close three months later.

Do this every week and it doesn’t matter if it is the beginning, middle or end of they year, just start four real opportunities a week, and you will close one three months out. That’s why I tell managers to stop asking about what their sales people are closing, and make sure that they what they are opening.

The data is there, the knowledge that affords you is there for you for the taking, what’s missing is the application, which is why as you read all the sage advice on how to end the year, start the year, and all that other noise, just remember, it is all about the execution – everything else is just talk.

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The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need – Book Review0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

There is no shortage of sales books available to consume by anyone willing to commit to their own success. Which leaves one wondering why are so many professional sales people continue to underperform and consistently missing quota? One of the challenges is that too many books are one trick ponies, covering a narrow element of professional selling, in many cases presenting their tricks of the trade, at best some well worn techniques. But they lack is a comprehensive approach to selling tied to a framework that can be replicated across many sectors and different types of B2B sales. Which is why the arrival of The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, by Anthony Iannarino, is not just refreshing, but a must read for sellers and their managers.

Anthony brings a complete approach to the topic, rather than focusing on some elements of sales without context. Anthony start at the real success begins, our own mind-set. The book is presented in two parts:

Part 1 Mind-Set: The Beliefs and Behaviours of Sales Success
Part 2 Skill Sets: The Abilities of Sales Success

Don’t get me wrong skills are important, but skills without the right mind set will only take you so far. We have all known sales people who had the right mind-set, lacked skills, yet still did better than those with just skills. This book presents these two key components in context, which what that small percentage of consistently successful sellers have leveraged for years.

the-only-sales-guide-3d-cover-jpegStarting on a high note in chapter 1 – Self-Discipline: The Art of “Me Management”, I love that view Me Management, before you set out to manage a sales process, or sales relationship, it only makes sense to manage ones’ self. He then builds on that in the next chapter, again aptly titled Optimism: The Power of a Positive Mental Attitude. Successful sales people know how to deal with the highs and lows of sales, the need to maintain an optimistic, positive attitude is key to having buyers follow you to new ground. Optimism is contagious, and you can be too. My goal is not to summarize every chapter, but good things come in threes, and chapter three makes for a trifecta way to start this work. The chapter is titled Caring: The Ability to Empathize with and Help Others, need one say more. If you are not in it to help your prospects and clients, sales will always be a struggle. Anthony lays out in clear terms why there is no conflict between caring and selling effectively.

I’ll leave it to you to explore the Part 2 of the book dealing with Skills. Suffice it to say that it is no less important or impressive than part 1. Covering the entire cycle including “The Ability to Open Relationships and Create Opportunities”, to “Closing: The Ability to Ask for and Obtain Commitments”, and everything in between including “Storytelling: The Ability to Create and Share a Vision”, a skill many lack and fail to develop. Sad when you consider how important stories are to sales and forming relationships.

As you would imagine I enjoyed Chapter 12 – Prospecting: The Ability to Open Relationships and Create Opportunities.  Not only because he lays out why prospecting is an ongoing process, not a series of disconnected events.  This where you can or must apply the elements Anthony introduces in Chapter 7 -Persistence: The Power of Tenacity, the two P’s of sales success.

One of my favourite features is the way Anthony ensures that you can translate this content to real world success. Each chapter contains a “First Move – Do This Now”, and if you do you will succeed. As any marathon runner, will tell you the hardest thing is that first step, Anthony ensures that you can do exactly that with this feature.

More impressive is the Recommended Reading suggestions found at the end of each chapter, not only because of the wealth of knowledge you are exposed, and if you buy into the Mind-Set section, it will help you accelerate your adoption and resulting success. But it also highlights the passion Anthony brings to sales and in this book to you and your ability to expand your skills and success. As the title suggests, this is truly a guide, one that you should rely on day in day out. While there are, and will be many great sales books that are must reads for successful sellers, this guide is a must and will elevate your ability to better execute all sales approaches you will assimilate.

Buy the book, read it, then thank Anthony for writing it.

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No Pain – No Game?5

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Despite all the tools available, both for sales people to execute their craft, and for companies to “enable” them, the narrative for many in sales has remained woefully unchanged over the last thirty years. Sure the delivery methods have changed, the means of engagement have evolved beyond where we could have imagined 10 years ago, yet what most sales people say once they engaged has one can argue, devolved. One can buy into the argument that sales technology, with all its capabilities, has made great sales people better, an A seller an A+; but it has also made the average seller, less than average, robotic and predictable; B sellers to B-, and C sellers to U, for useless. While it is easy to point at sales people, the pundits have to take credit, or blame.

The narrative we seem to be stuck in in sales is all about pain, all around need. Ask any group of sellers what they want to know about a new prospect, and the vast majority will say they want to know the prospect’s “pain”, or “pain point”; they want to know the buyer’s need(s); what their problem(s) are or about to have. Makes sense, who doesn’t want to reap the benefits presented by lower hanging fruit, easy to pluck, one can say that it can be plucked by almost anyone, with little talent or skill. I even hear managers dispatching their people back to a prospect with the clear command of “find their pain point and sell them, or at least make it forecastable.”

This all works well if your quota can be covered entirely by prospects with pain; and not just this year, but next and the one after, etc. What you are betting on is that pains, needs and problems will grow at a faster pace than your quota. When I ask sales people if they can exceed quota with just the pained and injured, and most say no. You would think given that fact only a small percentage of a given market recognizes or admits to pain, you are faced with a choice. You can update your skills, and I don’t mean your technology or app skills, but sales skills; a path chosen by some companies and sales professionals.

The other choice is easier, doesn’t always fill the gap, but chosen by many. It is exemplified by a conversation I have shared in the past, that I had with a former leader from an IT consulting and services firm. Unsolicited he decided to share his view on selling:

“My job is to find the soft underbelly of the beast (read prospect), stab it, and then offer up the cure.”

I am not suggesting that is what sales people set out to do, but when I hear that they are looking for the they “pain point” so they can push on it, I can only imagine the fat smiling face of the fellow above.

It is time to elevate your skills so you can sell to the whole market, not just the weakest of the herd, yet not weak enough to pinch a few more dollars off your price, sometimes to the point where it leaves you and your company’s margin in pain. You can socialize pain, you can spin needs, but to really sell, to anyone in your market, not just the lame and suffering, you need to develop some sales skills, and elevate your game.

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High Profit Prospecting – Book Review0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

cropped-prospecting-3d-transparentIt seems prospecting is back in style, we’re talking proactive, resource and process based methodical approach to professionally engaging with potential buyers, by leveraging all the tools and techniques available to them. While in the early part of the decade you’d be hard pressed to find pundits singing and parsing the virtues of a blended approach that includes the telephone. We were exposed to social selling, inbound marketing and a host of other alternatives that had two things in common, one they all insisted that these were the only thing you needed and anything that was present before the Lehman melt is no longer valid, and should be abandoned. And most specifically, that cold calling is (was) dead. Well it seems 2016 the pendulum is coming back to centre, where all techniques can be leveraged and combined for sales success. Earlier in the year we got Fanatical Prospecting from Jeb Blount; and now we have the opportunity to read Mark Hunter’s High-Profit Prospecting: Powerful Strategies to Find the Best Leads and Drive Breakthrough Sales Results 

If you are familiar with Mark’s work, you know that he not only tells it like it is, but deals directly with the entire process, starting with planning, through to specifics and details of implementation. He avoids the trappings of the many “feel good” books on the subject, and focuses on the things most sellers struggle with. That’s what makes the book a must read for anyone looking to succeed in prospecting.

And let’s face it, if you can’t prospect, you can’t sell. To build something new, you must first raze existing structures, and that’s where Mark starts, breaking down current myths about prospecting, giving you the space and uncluttered mind that will help [ you implement the many techniques in the book. I especially love Part I: Basic Truths About Prospecting, Mark clears the deck, and builds from there.

One thing that many don’t well in prospecting is plan, I have always said one of the things hindering effective prospecting is the lack of a process, which includes planning. When recently asked what is the biggest mistake sales people commit when prospecting? Mark responded:

“Wow, that’s a loaded question, as unfortunately there are numerous things most people get wrong. What stands out the most is failing to have a plan and following through with it. Too many people make a bunch of calls one day and think that’s all they have to do.

Prospecting requires a plan that equips the lead or prospect to see that your goal is to help them achieve something they didn’t think was possible. Succeeding at this requires numerous touches with multiple messages over a specific period of time. This requires a strategy few people are willing to develop and execute.”

To be fair, often the lack of willingness on sellers’ part to prospect is a result of a lack of ability and knowledge as to what and how to do things right. Well, that is should no longer be a challenge for those reading this book. The rest of the book lays out in detail the steps and actions a seller with the goal of succeeding at sales can follow. This includes the tough stuff, whether you are selling to small companies, or to enterprises.

As someone who has spent years beating the drum for prospecting, I am glad to see a book that does the practice justice. Read it, you’ll thank me for telling you to, and Mark for writing it.

Better yet, if you visit the page Mark set up to celebrate the release of High-Profit Prospecting, you can take advantage and benefit from a number of available bonuses. Click here for more.

edge-pipe

Time To Get Over Your Funnel Vision1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Many sales people I work have Funnel Vision, they focus more on the state of their pipeline or funnel than the specific opportunities in their pipeline. It is yet another example of quantity being more important to sales people than quality of the opportunities in their pipeline, and as result they underperform in a number of ways. Some are forced to take this view by their companies, especially those that tell their reps they to have 5-times quota for the 30 days; 10 times for 60 days, etc. That’s what they ask for, and that’s what they get. Theory being that the level of coverage will ensure success. Problem is that with many of these same groups, quota attainment is not that great. What’s the point of having X times coverage of a quota most don’t make? Click To Tweet

Having a lot of opportunities is a good theory, but it also leads to the very problem they are trying to solve, i.e. more sales/revenue. Mostly because the illusion of plenty distorts facts, and more importantly, activity. The reality is that what sales people emotionally believe their prospect base to be, triggers their urgency to prospect. Having a load of a “load” of names in your pipeline, just for the sake of meeting the coverage KPI, chokes off activity that actually lead to sales. This requires that you have rules as to what constitutes a real prospect, defined in a way that makes it easier to disqualify them, not in a way that anything that looks good qualifies.

In the past I have spoken about one basic threshold, that is a Next Step. Let’s be straight, if the prospect is not willing to give you a next step, especially as outlined in the post linked to above, what do you have? You have potential, a potential opportunity, not a real opportunity. It could indeed have great potential, but if you do not have a path to actualizing it, then what’s it worth? Yet many pipeline I review are loaded with opportunities that not only is there not a next step, the buyer in question is not even aware they were forecasted to buy.

edge-pipeOne friendly fellow, nice guy, but could not sell a banana to a monkey, had 42 opportunities in his pipeline, many at mid to late stage of the pipe, 39 of which had no plans that included the prospect. When I asked about some, he had hoped to do this, or was looking to do that, and all without the prospect’s idea. As someone once said hope is not a plan, nor should it be a stage in a pipeline.

Pipelines need to be activity based, the best funnel management process I have worked with is where we removed all stages from the sales process and pipeline, no weighting, no probabilities, no misleading labels. Nothing that would allow subjectivity to be the driving factor, and put the focus on activities; which need to be done, and which have been completed. This forced sales people to focus on how to best execute the activities that have consistently led to success. Activities that when not completed, with the prospect, were a clear indication that this opportunity was not real, and needs to be replaced with one that is. No need to deal with sales people’s optimism, pessimism, or their stories, no subjectivity, no sunshine, no other matter filling or clogging the pipeline.

If you want to avoid the downside of Funnel Vision, focus on activities instead, do, measure, review, adjust, and go and execute again, only better. This forces sales people to practice their activities, not stories.

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Phone Prospecting – Cool and Not Cool3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

People talk about prospecting as though it is open to interpretation, it should not be.  Prospecting is the act of engaging with someone with the purpose of initiating a sales cycle.  It is not about trying to sell, qualify, or any of the things that will never happen if you do not engage.  There is a singular purpose to prospecting, that is to engage.

It is not about striking a relationship that you hope will lead to something, that’s called dating; anyway, who says they can’t buy from you before you form a real relationship; who says there needs to be a whole lotta clicking, liking, and retweeting before you can engage?  The only ones who say things like that are people who do not prospect.  People who confuse prospecting with a social encounter, those who still believe the world will beat a path to their door if they built a better ____________ (insert product).

This post is more for those who have to prospect beyond the known, with people they have never met, not connected with on LinkedIn, or any previous contact.  Connecting and engaging with these prospects is a different effort and experience, and calls for some more effort than clicking around, steps like cold calling.

 

This requires a different approach with a different mindset and outlook.   I was describing one of these actions to rep recently, and he said “that’s not cool”.  You know what’s really not cool, is not having enough opportunities in your pipeline and not knowing what to do about it.  So here some cool and not so cool things when it comes to successful prospecting.

Cool: Leaving a voice mail.  Not only is it cool cause people call back, and you don’t get calluses on fingers dialing them over and over again, but even when they don’t call back it is a touch point, and you’re going to need 8 to 12 touch points before a potential prospect will respond.   You can get some insights about how I get 40 – 50 percent of messages I leave, returned within 72 or so hours, by click here.

Not cool: Wasting valuable time at the top of a prospecting call with your title, region, and other useless info that either puts the prospect to sleep or causes them to hang up.  Tell them what’s in it for them, not about you.  Worse and funnier, is when I call a number and the outbound voice mail message is:

“Hi you’ve reach Alfred Newman, regional mid-west sales manager, with ACME Corp, a Fortune 500 company.”  (Sometimes they even add their company’s tag line).  WHO CARES!  Sure, Mom and your significant other, but no one else.

Instead of boring them to tears with that drivel, why not leave the toll free number for your support team, the people they probably want to talk to anyway.

Not cool: One outbound voice mail crime, when I call someone on Friday October 7, and their message says “Hi, this Emma, I am currently out of the office on vacation returning on Monday June 27.”  What’s a prospect going to think when they return your message and it is October?

Cool: Leading the call with outcomes you have delivered against objectives similar to theirs, so they know what’s in it for them, rather than knowing your title (or corporate rank).

Not Cool:  When a prospect says they are not interested, asking “What are you not interested in?”  When a prospect says they are all set, responding “Well maybe I can send you some information so you know about us in case something comes up”.  I can’t believe people get paid to say that, I think they are paid to move past that and get the appointment.

Cool:  Calling everyone who is part of the decision, one after the other, and bringing them together rather than one by one.  Not only does that take more time and work, but will force you to cover the same ground over and over, whereas, if you reached out and got everyone involved at the same time, you can create the opposite effect.

Not Cool:  Asking “Can I speak to the person in charge of…”  Nothing says it’s time to put on a rain coat because we are about to experience some spray and pray.

Cool: Focusing on objectives not pain.  They all have objectives, very few will admit to pain, whether it is there or not.

Certainly not an exhaustive list, just things I experienced this week.  So these were some the things I observed, tell us what you think is cool or uncool in prospecting, drop your thoughts in the comment box below.

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