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Get Out Of Your Own Way!0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

iStock_000002705035XSmall

Everyone in sales has heard the expression “You are your own worst enemy, or biggest obstacle.” Usually in the context is our ability to break through barriers, or reach new highs. But it is also true that we are our own biggest asset when it comes to the same opportunity. It really is just a question of how we choose to view and respond to things. Given this, I am always surprised to see how many sales professionals continue to get in their own way, rather than be a force of progress in their own success.

I would be easy to just look at attitude or self-limiting thinking, and if that is your challenge there plenty of good sources of information and ideas to address that. More often than not though, sales people know what they have to do, they just don’t do it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like they say “I know that I have to do that, but I just won’t.”, there are other factors. But the net effect of their inaction leads to the same result, and they end up getting in their own way.

There are some basic things, and yes I know basic is out of fashion in these days of ‘complex sales’, but making things complex when they don’t have to be is one way we get in our own way. There are clear steps we can take to get outta the way and move towards sales success.

First is how we choose to deal with our resources, especially non-renewable resources, the most precious of which is time. Time is the one thing we all have in equal portions, and in especially sales, how you use your time is usually the difference between success or not. While full speed ahead is a nice mantra, and “trying to stuff as much in to a day as we can” may sound politically correct, there are better ways to leverage this resource for sales success. Start by inventorying how much time you need to allocate to each of these high value activities over the course of the cycle, allocate that time, and focus on managing your activity within that time, not on managing time. (More on time click here)

Another is to develop a clear road map for the sale, beyond high value activities, what has to happen in what sequence. Which of these are “Musts” and which are non-fatal. Stage by stage, activity by activity, it should be mapped. Some will say that they have the experience, they don’t need this, but I disagree. You favourite athlete has a play book, and while they do execute in their own way, they still have their play book. Without it you can’t make adjustments, improvements, or see the small things that will help you run the play better, sell better, in less time.

These are but two elements, and there others. The key is to step back, really examine what you are doing that is getting in your way, and then address it directly and methodically.

Hey, if you liked what you saw here, invite me to speak at your next meeting!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

It’s A Fact! – Sales eXecution 2540

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Haa2

I was always a big fan of The Kids In The Hall, not only because they were Canadian, but also the way they captured the bizarre reality of daily life. One of my favourite recurring segment called It’s A Fact . First and foremost because it was funny, but also because of the absurdity of some of the claims, as though they were fact, highlighting some of the silly things people are willing to believe if they hear it enough times, and especially if it had the backing of an “expert”. And in sales there is no shortage of experts, pundits, or those that try to pass for either.

I was reminded of the segment when a friend sent me a link to a piece by an expert pontificating on the state of sales now, and where it will be in three years’ time. On the one hand I admired the so called expert, having the kahunas to make a prediction so easily validated or disproven in only three years; I have put the date in my calendar, and I look forward to seeing how close they were. Of course we don’t have to wait, we can just go back and see what they predicted three years ago and see how much of that we are seeing now. I have always questioned whether it was the role of sales experts to predict the future, or to help their clients sell better. Certainly we need to look 18 – 24 months out from a strategy standpoint, but not so much to play the Nostradamus of sales. At least he had sense enough to make predictions that he did not have to be around to answer for, and with enough vagueness that allowed the reader to infuse their own bias and allow everyone a level of deniability when it came to accuracy.

The other thing that reminded me of the Kids In The Hall, is that the piece actually started with the very words “It’s a fact”, well what choice did I have but to bring out my solar powered BS meter and have a go. I mean you gotta love pieces that have the headline or begin with things like:

  • The Secrets to… (Is this being revealed due to some freedom of information act request, a court order?)
  • The Five Secrets of Closing Every time
  • Uncracking the Blah Blah Code (do they have to pay Dan Brown royalties when they use that?)
  • Or my favourite, as my coauthor insisted on soiling the cover of our book with this one “The Silver Bullet in Sales” What are we hunting here revenue or werewolves?

What they were predicting, long way from a fact, was an idea that has been recycled a number of times, usually as a means of selling product, “this is coming, and I have the cure”. And with the benefit of hindsight, we have seen that the prediction has never really come true, and therefore, does not at all qualify as a fact, but more as promotional opinion.

The “facts?” we were presented with were validated and deemed to be a fact because leading sales experts agree. OK. Well I am not big on the whole religion thing, but this sounds a lot like the following. “There is no god, and the proof is that ten out of ten atheists agree”; or “god exists, ten out of ten Rabbis agree”.

At best unsubstantiated predictions may spur some thinking around how you sell, review your approach, and make adjustments. But if you want to be able to cope with life as a seller in three, five, seven years from now, focus on execution, not whether you should dress to the left, or dress to the right, or whether Jupiter is aligned with Mars. Sales is about execution, everything else is just talk. It’s a fact!

Hey, if you liked what you saw here, invite me to speak at your next meeting!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Starting On-line – Closing it Off-line (#video)0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

On May 8, 2014, I had the opportunity to do a Google Hangout with Stewart Rogers, of Salesformics (affiliate link). We touched on a range of topics relating to sales, sales tools, automation, social selling and more. The clip below is a highlight, we talk about the upside of marketing automation for sales people, and an example of a sales that started online, in a social discussion, moved off line and into the win column.

You can watch the entire 30 minute Hangout by clicking here.

Hey, if you liked what you saw here, invite me to speak at your next meeting!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

It’s Your Job To Lead – Sales eXecution 2530

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Leading

No, I am not speaking to sales managers, directors or VP’s, but directly and specifically to front line sales professionals. It is your job to lead the customer to the right decision for their business based on their objectives. So why are you not stepping up, why are abdicating the only thing that justifies the job, why aren’t you doing your job?

Your job is to deliver the best solution or product to address the buyer’s requirements, which are driven by their objectives, often both business and personal objectives. While the buyer most often best knows their objectives, I say most often, because there are times where your input or influence can help fine tune or redefine those objectives based on elements you introduce into the dialog. The whole thing pivots on your ability and credibility as a subject matter expert.

I have argued on this blog the best sales people are those who are real subject matter experts, not product experts as many strive to be. As a subject matter expert you bring a number of value points that the buyer will make use of, and benefit from, that “product experts” will lack. This is why I encourage sales leaders to abandon their habit of hiring only sellers with product knowledge over candidates that may not have direct product experience but are truly qualified sellers, one qualification being the willingness to look beyond product, and embrace being an expert. One of the things the expert seller doe swell, and product sellers don’t, is become conduits of best practices.

What these sellers understand is that buyers want a perspective of what is happening in the market. What is working, what is not, what is new, and what is fading, what are others doing? I am not suggesting sharing details of what their direct competitor is doing, what is setting the winners apart from the also-rans. They also understand that often buyers are set in their ways and will need to be lead to new ways of looking at things, which sometimes means taking a stance that contradicts buyers’ premises and ways of thinking; to out and out change buyers’ views and ways of achieving their objectives. To do this you have to lead, you have to be someone they are a willing to have contradict them, someone they are willing to follow to places they have not been willing to go in the past.

When I present to sales people, many respond with a sad and often sickening response, “Oh, I don’t want to be pushy”. Pushy? There is a world of a difference between pushy and conviction. The conviction of an expert willing to share and make sure that the buyer truly achieves what they set out to do, even they do it in a different way than they set out or had ever considered.

Getting to the point where this conviction is justified is not that difficult, as with other elements of sales success, it is about the willingness to go there, and execution. Start by focusing on the buyers’ objectives, understand all the ways that can be achieved, not just those your product can do. Then leave your product in the car, and go and have a peer to peer discussion among experts, the buyer an expert in his/her business, you the expert in best practices around that.

Hey, if you liked what you, have invite me to speak at your next meeting!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

5 Star Selling: From Beginning to Excellence – Lee Davis0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

lee davis

Lee Davis, author of 5 Star Selling: From Beginning to Excellence, is different than many of the people who write about sales.  Unlike many people who write about sales, he actually sold right through his career, and built the book around his experience, he offers lessons learned, rather than populist advice.  When I asked him what compelled him to write the book, he told me about how his son turned to him for advice when he set out for a career in sales.  They set out to find a book that would help those who have never sold, a book that did not assume that you have sale experience.  Lee told me “Unfortunately, it seemed most of the books were targeted at more complex sales issues, and were primarily oriented toward the more experienced salesperson.  The timeless, critical, basic skills necessary to sell successfully were not available in a concise, logical, one-stop source put together like I wanted.  So, I decided I could offer those ideas and principles from my experience that would be valuable for other salespeople.”

The book is an invaluable resource for anyone wanting a thorough grounding in the sales process, from beginning to end.  Before you turn away because you’ve been in sales for 15 years, there are things here for you too, things that made you money when you did them, and it’s time to do them again. The book concentrates on the timeless basics that every salesperson needs in order to begin and grow sales.

It focuses on how to face the toughest challenges, including one of my favourites, why most people hate rejection in various aspects of their daily life, but generally don’t encounter it on a regular basis. Salespeople face it every day and have to learn how to handle rejection with a calm but determined approach to move forward. 5 Star Selling offers many ideas on how to overcome that fear of rejection and use the results to your advantage.

5 Star Selling tells you how to put together the “hooks” that will get you appointments with the key people you want to meet. From getting organized for greater efficiency, to prioritizing your accounts to develop better territory call plans. Lee presents what information you’ll need to best sell your company and its offerings. 5 Star Selling stays with you as you prepare for your calls, and handle the actual calls themselves. It reviews follow-up in great detail, as Lee will tell you, following up properly is often the difference between great salespeople and those at the back of the pack.

Other key areas covered include what to do with the information you learn in the selling process, and how to transmit it effectively. Lee speaks to more than just the buyer side, considerable time is spent on how to get your whole inside team on your side by selling internally (an often overlooked topic in many sales books). One of the real strengths of the book is the attention to building strong customer relationships. These are the cornerstones of the great salespeople who realize, all things being equal, “People buy from people”. Lee presents how to call in depth, when and how to use management effectively, and how to avoid some of the pitfalls that may occur in the process. Much detail is spent on how to handle problems and really make them opportunities, and the difficult art of negotiation.

Nothing is left out for the new salesperson. And when the reader is finished with a “checkup “ on their basic selling skills, they will find additional information on how to ride the crest of the wave of success and keep it going and growing.

The principles, concepts, and ideas presented in 5 Star Selling include real-life illustrations from the Lee’s extensive experience. The stories are humorous, helping the reader visualize they can apply these important principles in their everyday selling. This is a book belongs in every sales library, not only to expand on many of the things already there, but to use as a reference when faced with new challenges and unfamiliar situations.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Who Exactly Are You Selling To?1

May 14

The Pipeline Guest Post –  Megan Totka

We talk quite often about sales tactics and marketing ideas in a general sense. But who exactly is your company trying to sell to?

People can be classified in so many different ways. But one of the most common classifications is by generation. Most recently, the generation we’ve talked about the most has been the baby boomers. Born in the post-World War II era, from the years 1946-1964, baby boomers have made up a huge consumer base for many, many years. Many people consider baby boomers to be the first real consumer generation, raised after the Great Depression and in a time of pretty impressive technological advances.

In the no-so-distant past, the baby boomers have arguably been the most important group to market to, as they did (and still do) make up such a huge portion of the population.

But there’s a new group on the scene – the Millennials. This generation, made up of people born from 1980-2000, is estimated to encompass 80 million people. That’s more than the baby boomers.

The biggest thing that sets the millennial generation apart is their familiarity with the Internet. The Internet and related technology are not new and exciting to this generation; it’s been around since they were small children. While it might still be possible to impress other generations with technology, Millennial have come to expect it.

So how do we cater to this new generation of buyers? One thing is for sure – give them what they expect. This Forbes article likens hotels that don’t have free Wi-Fi to the same hotel charging to use a toilet. At this point, we’ve all come to expect free Internet, just about everywhere we go, millennials in particular. Millennials also respond to an “omnichannel” concept. This means that people should be able to contact you or your company in whatever way they want to, without having to do it the same way that they did the last time. For example, if a customer contacts your company once via Facebook, they should be able to expect the same information and level of service from any other avenue, such as phone, Twitter, email, etc.

Does your company have any lessons to share concerning marketing and sales that is geared towards a particular generation?

(Photo Source)

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. 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.

Jill Konrath’s Agile Selling – Sales eXecution 2520

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Agile Selling

When it comes to sales and selling, I would agree with those who say: “The wheel has been invented, success comes down to how you spin it.” Now Jill Konrath, of SNAP SELLING fame, has delivered a book, “Agile Selling: Get Up to Speed Quickly in Today’s Ever-Changing Sales World”, which sets out challenge the view of both the wheels we spin, and how sales people spin them. It presents an AGILE view of sales and selling and how you may spin the wheel better. At its core, that is what this book is about, how you can spin things in a way that will help you succeed in changing and challenging time for sellers and buyers.

An enjoyable read, Jill sets out challenges the reader from the outset to be what the book is about, agile. Presenting agility as a competitive advantage, she then dares the reader by presenting success as a choice, one they need to make. The premise from there is that once they have made the choice, they can use the book as their guide.

Our customers are reinventing themselves, and if we don’t keep up, reinvent ourselves, our selling, and help in that development, we will be left behind.

We learn to take the buyer’s perspective, wheels our buyers deal with, and how we need to spin things their way, not ours; with new orientation, new opportunities are presented. Markets and opportunities will continue to evolve, and our job is to do exactly that. While many pundits sell you on routine and the risk of deviating from them, Jill presents a case for abandoning routine as the path to success.

The focus is on preparedness, why and how it allows you to be agile, anticipate and respond, unencumbered by methodology. A focus on tactics allows you to maximize approaches rather than be limited by their dogma. Death of the ugliest statement in sales “We always did it that way”.

In light of the fact that we are all given the same finite time to sell, success will come to those who make the most of that, and agility is a key factor in that. The refreshing thing about the book is that it accepts that great selling is a cerebral discipline, supported by exemplary execution, I have found few others who share this view, willing to make sales a thinking man’s game, good to have another author, and now her readers in the ranks.

I find sales books fall into two general camps, those that encourage you to work harder, “it’s a numbers game”; those that encourage you to work smarter while others resort to working harder. Agile Selling falls into the latter.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

3 B’s Of Pipeline Success0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

3Bs

How you manage and stage your pipeline can be the difference between an OK year or career, or a consistently great one. To use a sport analogy, your pipeline is your core, no matter what sport you are in hockey, tennis, or running, a strong core, a well exercised and maintained core adds to athletic performance and lifts one competitor to victory over a comparably talented athlete with a less conditioned core.

Below are three things every seller should consider and do, no matter which methodology they use to sell, to lift their execution and results.

Bold – This speaks to who or which opportunities you choose to peruse, there is the element of pursuing ALL REAL potential prospects that others either ignore, or completely miss due to personal or corporate blinders. There are many potential buyers that are overlooked by a large number of sales people. Some don’t see the dots and as a result can’t connect them; others see the dot’s but fail to or are afraid to connect them. There is a lack of imagination and boldness in their approach.

Some will overlook things that fall beyond conventional qualification measures, an over reliance on BANT if you will. The key here is that they be REAL, meaning given the right circumstances they would buy your offering, and qualifying comes down to how you view your market, and choose to align your offering. Are you limiting your sights and pursuits to those people that have the pains or other mundane signals, those your product has traditionally addressed? If so, you’ll likely miss many REAL prospects or opportunities.

But if instead you look to see how you may help someone achieve their business objectives, your universe of REAL potential expands considerably. This is huge from a pipeline perspective, the more REAL potential prospect you’ll be able to identify, the more REAL opportunities you can fill your pipeline with. Since sales is to a degree a numbers game from a conversion ratio perspectives, more opportunities translate to more and or better sales, and at the minimum more options for you as a seller.

Binary – Leveraging the above, being binary becomes easier and more productive. Let’s explain what I mean by binary. Your pipeline should contain only active opportunities, those prospects you are engaged with now, and in turn they are engaged with you and the sales process; it should not contain anything else. All those potential “prospects” you are not currently engaged with, as great as they may be, are leads, and should be managed in your leads funnel, not your active opportunities funnel or pipeline. But many sales people, and by extension their sales organizations, hold all kinds of inactive opportunities in their active pipeline, distracting time and resources. There are some common examples of this: former prospects who you met once or twice, who smiled, told you they were “really” interested but have not met with you or returned your call in weeks. Sure, they send you e-mails, saying they are still interested, they are just tied up, or on another project, or are waiting for some event, or maybe just waiting for Godot.

These are not engaged prospects and need to be moved out of your pipeline. This is not to say that they are not worth pursuing at some point in the future, but in popular vernacular, they are in the nurturing phase, not active selling phase of a pipeline. Alongside these are those “prospects” who are talking to you, but are doing less than nothing to move the process forward, move them out, they are just filler, and you can’t have that. The only opportunities that should be in your pipeline are those where the buyer is taking reciprocal action, executing their buying process as you are executing your selling process, and together you move to a mutual agreement. Binary – active – not active; taking action – avoiding action; on or off; keep the on’s and get rid of the off’s. Don’t clog up your pipeline with crap, not a place for a heart attack.

Many fool themselves by looking at their pipeline and thinking, “wow, look at all the stuff I have in there”. Exactly, stuff not opportunities. This false sense of doing, just messes you up, and most importantly sucks up your time for a number of reasons, and most deadly, prevents you from prospecting. When we are stuffed we don’t eat, when the pipeline feels stuffed, you don’t prospect.

If you want to see this clearly, just look at any pipeline using the 90 – 60 – 30 method and watch how it piles up, what happens in the last 30 days; for validation just look at how many times opportunities are recast in the 30 day segment.

Blended & Balanced – I remember learning this lesson the hard way, I fancied myself an elephant hunter, and ignore many smaller and shorter cycle opportunities. Till one year the elephants went to a different field, and I was left short on my target. My friend on the other hand, she focused on the small and easy, didn’t over extend. Interestingly enough we both came in behind someone who had a nice blend in their pipeline, big, small, short, long, and everything in between. Seems obvious, but not always easy to execute. There are a lot of distractions, things to entice you, being a home run hitter has its appeal. But with planning and discipline, you can map out a prospecting regimen that helps you balance the pipeline just so. I now use a Plan P approach, P being for pursuit, this allows me to continuously balance things, think of it like balancing and rebalancing a portfolio actively to maintain the optimal mix for you requirements. This allows you to be Bold in you pursuits, forces you to remove the inactive opportunities clogging up your revenue artery, and maintain a productive and profitable pipeline.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

It’s Really Not This vs. That – Sales eXecution 2510

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

A few weeks back I asked in a post What’s Your Favourite Hyphenated Selling, and many missed the point, and actually told me why one “type” of selling is better than the other. Many pundits and so called experts will tell you that this “type selling does not work anymore, only that type (their type) does.” Good sellers understand that it is not vs. the other, but how do I combine and expand to make the best of all possible techniques and tools to deliver value for the buyer.

Have a look, and tell me what you think:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

 

Two Letter Word To Increase Global Productivity1

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

No

One of the things I enjoy about what I do is the variety of people I get to observe doing their work across a range of verticals and locales. While on the one hand many of these people are in sales, their buyers are in so many different categories. After years of watching and learning, I have come to the conclusion that if business people would get comfortable with and adopt one word, they, their companies, their entire ecosystems, and by extension the world, could become measurably more productive, and probably happier.

Contrary to what some may be thinking, the word, and more importantly the outcomes it delivers is not big, uncommon, academic, or any of the sort. It is a small two letter word that packs a big message. The word is NO!

I truly believe that if buyers, sellers, and almost everyone in business would just embrace the word, and say it when they know they should, millions of dollars would not be squandered, hours of productivity can be recouped or redirected towards better use.

Looking at prospects who say things like “call me back”, or “send me some info”, or any of the common euphemisms for “no I don’t want that”. By using this cop out, they all but assure that they will be interrupted again, no matter how skillfully they think they can use voice mail. What’s funny is the second call, because they finally say what they should have said on the first call, or they come up with another line. Either way they have wasted some of their time, and while not as important, some of the seller’s time. In the process creating a stalker, because they gave the seller a whiff of a possibility instead of just doing what Nancy said, “Just Say No”.

Sales people are no better, they can’t say no to prospects, clients, or their peers. Imagine how much more money they would make if they just said no when colleagues ask them to grab a coffee, do this, or help with the football pool, or any of the things that regularly take sales people away from their task, or even just break their concentration or flow. They should say no to buyers making unreasonable demands that not only limit profitability, but waste the most precious of all resources, time. The effort required to negotiate internally to deliver something they should have said no to, is at times greater the effort required to go out a find a better prospect.

Of course the biggest enabler to enabling a sales person to say no, is a healthy pipeline. If you know you had enough, or more than enough viable prospects in your pipe, you would say no to silly demands, you would not pin hopes in empty promises like “please send me some info”. No, you would see it and call it for what it is.

The biggest no sellers can learn to say, is to that voice inside that beckons you to see things that are not there, ignore the brightest red flags, and to pretend that even when the buyer does not use the word, he clearly means no!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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