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Good Things Happen To Those Who Call – Sales eXecution 3290

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 
Over and over different sales people tell a success story that starts with them saying “I got lucky the other day, I called this guy, and he is ready to move forward.” Or “I’ve been calling this guy every few months for the last couple of years, and I finally got a meeting with him.” While luck may have played a small role in it, especially the first scenario, the fact remains that even luck has to be met half way.

Timing is the second most critical element in the first case above, the most critical, was making the call. The simple reality is that if you don’t make the call, you can never take advantage of timing, whether by luck or by design, such as a trigger, not just a random event, but any trigger. Which leads us to one of the key flaws in the cold calling is dead argument. Cold calling here is defined as any call to anyone who does not have you in their calendar. This does mean there is no reason to speak with, it just means the call was unplanned, not unmerited.

For every stat that suggests that prospects will not take your call, there as many stats that show that decision makers and recommenders are open to input and are actively seeking expert advice in ensuring that they make the right choice for their company. Buyers are very much like sellers, some are lazy and go with the popular flow, others take their mandate seriously and consider all viable resources. The question for sellers is “how do I become viable or relevant to a prospect?” Calling with the usual script that sounds a lot like: “This is Us, We do this, you ready to buy?” will seal your fate the second you open your mouth.

As with any campaign, and that is what prospecting is, a campaign to engage with qualified potential buyers, the goal is to create buyers. Yes, prospects are created not found, and once you have a prospect, you need to convert them to a buyer. This is why those who wait for buyers to realize they want or need to buy, or who are 57% through a buy decision, end up dealing with order takers, not sellers.

The second scenario above is a great example of a prospect being created. A consistent flow of touch points, direct and specific communication, and regular interactions, lead to a prospect being created, without having to wait for a random event. Those calls spaced between other forms of communication add a dimension missed by those who don’t pick up the phone and call. We learn different elements and evolution in the prospect’s world. Each bit of information and intelligence gained is ploughed back into the campaign, each time making you more viable, more relevant and more on target. So when the moment comes that the prospect decides to engage, it is not just timing, not just persistence, that could be achieved through various forms of automation and drip approaches. It is the personal contact and added knowledge gained and the refinement of each call that makes one stand out from the also-rans.

Again, it is not this vs. that, you can work with marketing, leverage and be social, but if you don’t cold call, you’ll be missing a crucial element in creating a prospect. Sure, you can wait to be found, or you can put calls into the mix and make good things happen.

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Business man point: Turn Prospects Into Sales Appointments

You Have To Sell Is The Appointment First1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

In the past I have posted about the attitude sales people have towards prospecting, some see it as a necessary evil and unpleasant part of their job, something they have to “tolerate” early in their career, until they build up a sufficient base to live off. How many times have you heard a rep with tenure say they “have earned the right not prospect”, or the less honest version “put me in front of the right guy and I’ll close them.” While that may be true, the big bucks in sales go to the ones who can get in front of the right guys on their own.

One thing that differentiates the complete sales person, the sales people who can execute all elements of the job, not just the easy ones or the ones they like, is their understanding that prospecting is a sale. Perhaps the hardest sale of all, selling the appointment. The same instincts, skills and disciplines it takes to sell the product or service, are involved in selling an appointment, it’s just that the prospect is not yet a willing participant. Which is why you need to take the attitude that the appointment has to be sold.

Beyond role play, one of the things that we do with clients is listen to recordings of actual calls by the reps we train. Not one or three calls when they know they are being listened, but recording of dozens and dozens of calls throughout their week, getting a real sense of what they are doing when it counts, not just to impress on one or two calls. What you hear across dozens of calls in consistent; sure you can explain one call, or two, but when you hear the same mistakes over the course of days and weeks as we do, there is no denying facts.

Right from the time the prospect answers you can tell which reps came to sell, and which came to take orders, hoping the prospect throws them a bone. The way they initiate the call, how they engage the prospect. Not just style and mannerism, but what they speak to, and the narrative they paint for the buyer. This is not just about enthusiasm, while that is key and infectious, when wrapped around the wrong message it becomes toxic, and no one wants to be infected with that. Or the diminutive subservient posture they take, if you close your eyes you see Goofy when they try to handle the “all set” objection: “Well maybe I can be your number two if you ever tire of number one, ah, gosh darn it.”

Those reps who sell the appointment are much more often the ones who sell the deal, while the others are more likely to be used for info and price concessions, or worse, as a means of getting concessions from the incumbent, and once that is achieved, they are tossed to the curb.

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Fear of

Which Fear Is Driving Your Results?1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

One thing you have to love about sales is that while some fundamentals are constant, the execution continues to change and evolve. This evolution and change challenges sellers every day, taking them to new highs and lows depending on how they respond. A delicate balance that dares their abilities and preys on their fears. Top performer are not so much fearless, as they are people who leverage those fears, and channel the energy in a way that drives their success. The chronic underperformers, C players, are so far removed from the reality of selling that fear is not the main ingredient of their failures. Where fear is a silent killer is in the middle pack, the B players, usually the largest percentage of any sales team.

These are the ones you want to move up to be A players, and despite everything you do, replicating the very things you do for A players, sharing the observed habits and behaviours of A plyers, only a handful move up to the premier league, they spend their entire career being solid B players. The reason for this is most often the limiting factor of fear.

This explains the many “Motivation” pundits who line up to help you “crack the code” of changing the results of your B players. They offer to share their secret for motivating these players to new highs. But it’s no secret and plain to everyone once these “motivating helicopters” leave town, and the dust, noise and hype settle, these reps continue to bounce of the floor and ceiling of the B Zone.

These B Players are gripped by one of two fears. The first, common and relatable to many is the fear of failure. Given the peer pressure of not just society, but sales culture, failure frowned upon and limiting in so many ways. While everyone will talk about learning from your mistakes, the reality is that it’s not often tolerated. There is no doubt that there are many enlightened dealers who can take failure as a springboard to learning and development, the fact is that not many front line sales managers fall into that category, meaning a lot of lost opportunities for development, both for individual reps and their entire organization as a result. I have a unique vantage point on this, in workshops when people are asked to practice in “safe environment”, the fear is strong, many otherwise smart people, would rather look stupid in front of their peers, than face their fears and improve their skills and results. In the end it is easier not to, than fail.

The other fear is a mystery to me, the polar opposite of the above, and that is the fear of success. Yes, success. When the norm among your peers, the people you socialize with, participate in football pools with, is to be a solid B, you risk being cast out if you transform to one of those A’s. Not only is there one less B to commiserate with, but now you are one of those guys. Don’t believe me, watch the dynamics when someone is promoted to manager, see how their former mates respond. Fear of success thrives on tearing others, usually successful sellers, easier than elevating one’s own abilities. And again, it is easier not to, than carry the wieght of success.

The only thing I have been able to figure out is that success takes and brings accountability. Failure does not. Those who fail to take accountability for their activities and everything that requires, find it easy to not be accountable for the results. On the other hand, to be accountable for your success requires that you be accountable for all that takes. Something that is not for the faint of heart.

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good questions

Questions Should Educate Not Recriminate0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Question have for the most part have become the instrument of choice for most B2B sellers. While that’s good news, it is a mixed story. Many have switched from pitching to using questions, but they have not made the attitudinal shift to fully benefit from questions. Rather than using questions to facilitate a full and – mutual – discovery process, they serve to narrow and limit the discussion to the seller’s agenda. A pitch by any other name is still a pitch, and no matter that wrapping, the intent still come through, and buyers still step back or away.

I recently was prospected buy a provider, going in I told them I was aware of the type of service they sold, but it was not a priority, nor was it on my wish list. At this point sellers choose one of three paths:

1. Tuck and run, saying something like “well maybe I can send you some material for when you decide to consider a service like ours”.
2. Almost as popular, recriminate the buyer by pointing out how things have changed, and they are missing the point, “and let me tell you why…”, dragging out a horde of self-serving stats.
3. The lesser chosen path, educate the buyer by making them aware of things impacting their business that they may not be aware of, and showing them how their offering can help the buyer move towards their objectives.

This is a common scenario for many sellers. It is a fork in the road that separates the good from the also-rans. She chose door number 2, and being the business I am in, I went along to see where we would end up, and told her as much. Needless to say, first thing she asked is “what do you guys do?” When I told her, she still didn’t clue in, and continued by saying “that’s why you need ACME widget”.

The good will use the opportunity to help educate the buyer; the also-rans use it as an opportunity to pitch. Let’s be clear, I am all about the sale, but at this crucial stage, the vendor and product are secondary, and the focus needs to be on engagement, which means using questions as a means of educating. This education needs to be mutual, as stated above, the seller needs to be as open to learning, as they expect the buyer to be. While this may take more effort than the alternatives, it is an evolving cycle, what I learn in my current sale, I will be able to use in the next, the more I learn, the more I sell.

Our friend took the predictable path, recriminate me for not knowing what she does, and not having her world view. After a few perfunctory questions, mostly for the purpose of seeing where I fit on the product grid provided by her marketing team. like “what do you do?” Questions like “did you know..?” Followed by a scary outcome plaguing those who don’t use their product to address the “did you know”. While it may be true that I didn’t know what she wanted me to know, I knew more than she did. In the end, I learned a bit about how she sells, and I will be able to leverage it moving forward. She learned nothing, did not get a sale, and will never be able to recover the 30 minutes she spent on the call.

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Today Is The Day – The Sales Acceleration Summit0

Good Morning – Tibor Shanto here, Principal at Renbor Sales Solutions Inc.

A reminder that today is the day, it is time for the Sales Acceleration Summit.

I want to personally invite you and your entire sales and marketing teams to come be inspired by the top minds in the industry today Wednesday, March 9th, at the

I will be presenting on the Dynamics of a Successful SDR call.  How to convert more conversation to more opportunities.  While technology has improved our ability to connect with more leads and have more conversations, it take a lot more than technology to convert a higher percentage of conversations to opportunities.

This online summit is free and features over 50 sales authors, industry experts and business leaders like:

  • Jill Konrath, Author, “Agile Selling”
  • Brent Adamson, Co-Author, “The Challenger Sale”
  • Trish Bertuzzi, Author “The Sales Development Playbook”
  • Tim Wackel
  • And many others

Click Here to Register

See you there,
 

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Prospecting Call Mistakes You Can Avoid #Video0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Making outbound prospecting calls can be challenging and stressful, for both the prospect and the rep making the call. To be more effective you need to change some things that may work in day to day life, even in a scheduled sales call, because this is not a scheduled call, so the dynamics will be different, and as a pro you have to make up for that difference. Take a look at the video below to learn to common mistakes to avoid.

Tell me what you think; and if you have doubts about what you heard, read what the University of San Francisco has to say about building credibility in prospecting calls.

Hey if you liked the segment and the ideas, join me this Wednesday, when I and dozens of other sales thought leaders share best practices during the Sales Acceleration Summit, the world’s largest on line sales event. Click here to see the agenda and to register. My session is on the Dynamics of Successful SDR and prospecting calls.

Price trap

Leveraging the Inverse Relationship Between Price and Risk0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I was reading a piece recently where the author was making the case for a specific buyer behaviour. He suggested that people prefer not to take a risk over getting better barging. Which gets one to think about price and risk, and the ultimate risk in using price as a sales tool, as many do.

Most people, according to experts, about 70%, are risk averse, and will take proactive steps to avoid risk. If you want to see this in action just stand by any car rental counter and watch them buy unnecessary amounts of insurance, all with the goal of being covered for all risk. This includes risk that many already have covered by virtue of their existing auto policy or other sources like their credit card. (Disclaimer: I am not an insurance expert, please check with one before renting). Couple that with the propensity to associate risk with the unknown, in sales that would be any provider who is not the incumbent, and you begin to appreciate the challenge many sales people have.

Despite all that has been written by many about the futility of selling on price, how it erodes margins, which in turn has a number of detrimental effects, I continue to see sales people (apparently professional sales people) spend more time selling their managers on the need to make price concession in order to win deals. But if we take the premise presented as accurate, reducing your price may in fact be losing you deals, rather than helping you win them.

Think of it like this, every time you drop your price, you raise your risk profile, making it harder to get the buyer to select you. The more of a bargain you try to be, the more you cause the buyer to pause and think. “Is this too much of a bargain, is it cheap because it is no good, is he willing to drop the price because it was inflated to begin with, is everything else he tells me inflated, ooh, I can’t afford to take that risk.” One strategy to explore is how by selling at full value and full price you could actually reduce the risk profile and sell more. Yes I know, this may not be as easy as it sounds, but there are ways to do it.

Start by changing your focus from the price side to the risk side of the equation. By this I don’t mean working on minimizing your risk profile, but increasing the risk profile of where the buyer is now. Given the propensity to flee risk, and the premium people are willing to pay for safety, seems like a better idea than discounting.

This may not be easy, if there were a glaring risk factor, the buyer would have seen it and acted on it already. Your task is to identify little elements that if either left unattended, or combined can lead to insurmountable risk. This requires that you as a sales person abandon your focus on need or pain, being a “solution”, and focus on the buyer’s objectives. Unlike other sales people who beat the drum about a current risk, engage them based on the risk of not achieving an objective that may be 18 – 24 months out. Likely this will not be one or even two things, but a series of smaller risks, not scary on their own, but in combination, they will lead to the big risk the buyer does not see, yet. Think of it as dominoes, it may not be the first, or the third, but if the fifth domino gets knocked down, it exposes the buyer to the big risk inherent in domino six. Helping them avoid the first two or four dominoes from falling, will reduce the unseen risk, and help you drive full price, if not a premium.

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The Key to Improving the Effectiveness of Sales Meetings and Team Building Retreats0

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The Pipeline guest post by Anne Thornley-Brown

Sales meetings and team building retreats can be important vehicles for developing effective sales teams. A few of the benefits include an opportunity to:

  • paint a clear picture of the strategic direction and corporate culture for the company.
  • obtain feedback from the employees who interface directly with clients before implementing rolling out key initiatives .
  • win support for key corporate, sales and marketing initiatives.
  • break down silos and improve cross-functional team work between sales and marketing.
  • brainstorm solutions to organizational issues and sales challenges.

Missing the Mark

Unfortunately, ..sales meetings and team building retreats often miss the mark and they are perceived as time wasters by members of the sales team.

Many sales meetings are uninspiring gatherings where one presenter after another flips PowerPoint slides and drones on while participants try their best to stay awake. Far too often, childish and frivolous recreational activities are used as substitutes for real team building. No wonder It is not unusual to hear members of the sales team murmuring:

“Work is piling up on my desk. I need to be on the road making sales. I don’t have time for this.”

The main reasons this happens is that:

  • the steps for designing effective sales meeting and team building retreats have been forgotten
  • many of the essential ingredients for effective sales meetings and team building retreats are missing

Essential Ingredients for Designing Effective Sales Meetings

The strategies in my blog post Essential Elements for Designing Effective Team Building apply equally to sales meetings. Here are 5 of them:

1. Short conference call or meeting with CEO.

4. Content outline reviewed and signed off by the CEO.

5. Kick things off with a CEO briefing.

7. Checkpoint meeting with CEO and corporate contact at end of first day (or half day for a full day session).

8. Allow sufficient time for debriefing and application exercise.

Consult the original blog post for the others.

Make Sure Senior Executives Aren’t MIA

Notice how the role of the CEO or his or her designate is critical. It’s not enough for senior executives to just show up on the day of the sale meetings and read from pre-prepared slides. Executive engagement is often the missing ingredient when designing sales meetings and team building for sales teams. Participants perceive their lack of buy-in. As a result, the session comes off as time waster and an irrelevant exercise that is divorced from the day-to-day realities that members of the sales team confront.

Team Building Guide for Executives outlines the specific steps that sales executives can take to design targeted and relevant sales meetings and team building retreats that hit the mark with sales teams.


Anne Thornley-Brown, MBA, is the President of Toronto based Executive Oasis International. Anne is an experienced management consultant and team building specialist. She has designed and facilitated executive retreats and team building sessions for sales teams from 16 countries around the world including Canada, USA, Malaysia, Dubai, Egypt, Barbados, Singapore.

Her company’s Apprentice inspired team building session Visexecutaries: Seizing Opportunities in Our Shifting Corporate Landscape is directly relevant to executive and sales teams.

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Disapproval thumbs down by a male executive.

Who Is That For, You or the Buyer?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Prospecting can be a nerve racking experience for many in sales, especially outbound telephone prospecting, which explains why so few are good at the practice. The rejection, the unknown, the boos looking at you output and shaking his head, and clock on the wall ticking louder and louder. This triggers series of primal responses from nesting and protection to fight-or-flight. Let’s be clear we’re not talking about fighting the customer, but fighting the urge to give up and go back to inbound prospecting, or perhaps flight to a better strategy and approach to telephone prospecting.

When the nerves kick in, we try to compensate for it and comfort ourselves in the hope that things will get better. But hope is really not a path to successful prospecting, and the best comfort comes from having a pipeline full of real opportunities. Most of the other comforts are really there to make the prospector feel better, not necessarily to improve the scenario and results. To do that you have to actually go the other way. While being counter intuitive may not be immediately comfortable, it will lead to more opportunities, which will in turn will allow you to indulge in some real comfort, no matter what that is for you.

So here are somethings you should stop doing specifically on a first call, things that may make you feel better and more comfortable, but has the opposite effect on the buyer, and thereby detrimental to your success. Your litmus test should be: “Is this for me or for the buyer?” If the answer is for the buyer, great; if the answer is you don’t know or for you, then cut it out, full stop. There is no grey, it truly is black and white, and any time you waste debating it is time you are not selling.

First off, stop asking the buyer how they are two seconds in to the call. Yes, I know we were brought up that way, Mom always told you to be polite. While I may agree with Mom that you should be courteous and respectful of the prospect, she probably wasn’t thinking that raising an outbound sales person. Asking that question consumes valuable seconds at the start of the call, and keeps the conversation from the focus, which is what is in in for the buyer, and how it helps them achieve their objectives. How they are, is not germane, and you know, there will be times when it they are jammed, feeling harassed, and all the question does is accentuates that. Whereas getting to the point of what’s in it for them, allows them to focus on that, which is what you want. If you want to feel how useless asking how they are, just think of the last time a duct cleaner asked you how you were.

litmus

Next pacifier that needs to go, asking them “is this a good time?” or “Do you have a couple of minutes?”. That’s like asking for the bullet to the head, might as well save the prospect the time and do it yourself. When we do outbound calling, to people who did not have us on their calendar, people who are trying to pack 16 hours into a ten-hour day, people who only see their kids awake on the weekend, time is a premium, and we are a disruption. So by definition they do not have time for the unknown, and at the time of the question in the call we are an unknown. Now if you started with what is in in for the buyer, and how it helps them achieve their objectives, they will make time. But again, you want to be polite and hope that they like you, instead of helping them like what you represent, you know a “solution”.

litmus

I know going cold turkey on these bad habits is hard, so here is something that will help you let off some social steam, make you feel better but not risk the call. Right where you would blurt out either of the above questions, and normally stop to wait for the answer, instead say “Thanks for taking my call.” Statement not a question, so you don’t have to stop, and you can get to what really counts, the real upside for the buyer.

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Feb 16

6 Little Things You Can Do to Make Your Business Shine0

The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka

If you want to make your business stand out, that doesn’t mean you have to make big changes. Sometimes the littlest things can make a significant difference. Don’t procrastinate when it comes to the tiny tweaks that can make a positive impact on your business – make the things you were waiting to do tomorrow happen today. Make the changes happen now and don’t push off doing the things that can help make your business stand out. Here are 6 tips to help you make effective changes to your marketing efforts and improve your business.

Discover the features of a strong website.
Every website should be one of a kind. However, there are certain features that many of the best websites have in common. Choose a design that is clear and tasteful and one that makes it easy to figure out what the next step is for customers. Your website is the chance for you to communicate effectively with your customers’. Use simple visual themes over busy graphics so your customer’s eye goes where you want him to go. Remember that your website is part of your marketing program — so make it strong.

Integrate your email marketing with your social media efforts.
Email and social media are both vital parts of many marketing plans- they’re just two different avenues to reach your customers. If you are having trouble with either method, the solutions may be getting them to work with each other. Shareaholic says that Facebook is the number one referral traffic source for websites. However, email has a lot of perks too. Instead of turning this into a social media marketing versus email match, work to integrate the two methods so they actually help each other (and help your business). There are many ways you can become the smartest internet marketer of 2016 and integrating email and social media tops that list.

Improve your sales funnel.
What is a sales funnel? It is the process people go through as they purchase products or services from your business. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes through the process to be able to improve your sales funnel. It’s ideal to shorten the sales cycle to quicken the sales process – so you need to understand the buyer’s perception of time. No matter how good a business’ product may be, the ability to guide customers through the sales funnel to bring in revenue can be the difference between success and failure. Time is a scarce commodity, so make it a point to figure out how to ramp up the buyer’s sense of urgency.

Conquer your fear of writing your business plan.
Fear. It is one of life’s greatest sources of regrets. It can hold business owners back from doing many things – but you should not allow that to happen. If you are thinking of starting your own business, get over your fear of writing your business plan. Know that you will make mistakes – all business owners do, but hopefully you will have more successes than failures. Keep that in mind.

Overcome barriers to creativity.
Innovation is an important part of running a business. However, barrier to creativity come up on occasion, so it’s crucial to think creatively through all stages of business growth. It’s easy to slip into bad decision habits that limit business, but work hard to keep your business thinking creative.

Take the occasional sabbatical.
From time to time, it can be beneficial for you and your business if you take a deep breath and step back from your day-to-day tasks. This can help you gain a fresh perspective and help rejuvenate you for the future. Step away and press the reset button from time to time. Whether you take a staycation, enjoy a break outdoors, go to the spa, or learn something new – step away and enjoy the power of the pause.

It’s normal for the optimism and energy to subside after the newness of a business wears off. However, a successful business needs to be nurtured and grown in the right way in order to meet your expectations. The right strategies and efforts will pay off one hundredfold if you stick to them – get ready to see your business shine.

What small changes have you made in your business to help it stand out?

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.
Website: www.chamberofcommerce.com

Photo Credit – Shutterstock

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