Welcome to The Pipeline.

Saturday Sales Tip – 1017

It’s The Small Things

One of the consistent knocks against sales people is the fact that they do not always follow through on their commitments.  While this can be debated, the perception exists, and as you’ve often heard, perception is reality.  What is unfortunate is that when it comes to the “big” things sales people do in fact follow through, because they understand what is at stake.  Where at times they tend to be tardy is on the “smaller” things, those “they perceive” to be not so crucial to the success of a deal or a prospect.  But it is these small things that often shape the prospect perception, usually because they precede the “big” things; and because they are “small”, it is not any single event or thing, but the cumulative effect.  Further, for the prospects stand point it is not only my lack of follow through, but the all the experiences they have had with the sales profession.

So there are two things you can do.  One, the easy one, is follow up, big or small, and in between, you say something, you do it, on time, every time. 

The second is a bit craftier, at times artful.  Draw on your experience to create opportunities to demonstrate your intent to follow through.  Again, these don’t have to be “big” things, but specifically look for “small” things that are easy to do but will leave an impression.  Because you are looking for “small” things, they are plenty, easy to execute, and can be utilised throughout the sale.  Let’s be clear, we are not talking about tricking the buyer, we are talking about understanding what is important to them and delivering against it.

For example, if you commit to delivering a piece of information to a prospect by a certain time, do it; a spec, a piece of information, an extension cord, what have you.  If you are trying to prospect someone, you’ve left them a voice mail, no response.  Follow up with an e-mail, closing it with something along the line of:

“Dear Ms. Potential Buyer, sorry I missed you earlier today, …….. and I will follow up with you Thursday at 11:00 am…….”

The expectation is not that they will be at their desk at 11:00 am Thursday, if they are bonus, but the ability to call and leave a message at 11:00 am Thursday.  Again, not a big deal, but an opportunity to subtly that you follow through.  Many will call them, sometime on Thursday morning, but calling them exactly when you said, as they say “priceless”.  A few of these type of small drips, give you a chance to make a quiet statement, a chance to be different.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto
 

If Sales Were Radio27

There are a couple of ads running on the radio in Toronto, which resonate with me as a sales person. 

The first of for a regional convenience store chain, their current ad tries to emphasize the “convenience” factor, (makes sense); everything you need, in reach and fast. Which is fine till you get to the close of the ad when the announcer says something to the effect of: “We have everything you are running short on, including time.”  Wow, I can pick up some time along with my milk and lottery tickets, what a country.

As luck would have it I was across the street from one of their outlets when I heard the ad, I was having a busy day, running behind; so I thought “hey, I should go in and pick up a couple of hours to help me out”, and if the price was right – I can get a carton and really get ahead.  Well much to my disappointment they did not have any time, not in a box, not in a bottle, no they weren’t sold out, they never had any to begin with, imagine that.

But I guess it does reinforce the importance of time, and while that is not new, nor is the misuse of it by many. With that said, wouldn’t it be great if you could get some extra time?  Well in fact as a sales professional you can.  Beyond the obvious, i.e. not wasting it during the day, there is the planning element.  Those that plan and actively manage their calendar, allocating time to key activities and then managing the activities in the time allotted tend to get more out of their time.  Most sales people only put sales meetings or  internal meetings in their diary.  Those that seem to get more time out of the day, put all their activities with specific durations into their diary, and then stick to those allocations, not allowing themselves to be distracted or side tracked.  You wouldn’t blow off a client meeting, and you should approach all things in your calendar that way. You may not be able to buy time, but you can invest it wisely for greater returns.

The other ad is a real estate agent who I think does a good job capturing and highlighting a sales dichotomy.  He end his ad with the following (and I paraphrase): “if you are a buyer, I will get you a house at the lowest price; if you are a seller, I will get you the most value for your home.”  Nice!

Let’s see, for buyers it’s just a house, lets commoditize it, just bang that price down.  For the seller, it’s “a home” (I bet he has a log on the fire), but he manages to keep things vague buy eluding to value.  Of course he may have a challenge if today’s buyer remembers the ad when he sells in a few years.  Bet he can’t do any of it if they are both in the room at the same time.  Which is the challenge most sales people have, we are regularly confronted with the reality of having to balance both at the same time.  The prospect wants value, but at a price; and while we try to drive value, we are constantly reminded of price.  Not impossible to balance and over come, but many are rattled by the price side, and are challenged to define value.

There are a number of ways to deal with the price vs. Value challenge, but at times sellers become memorized by the price challenge, and fixate on that rather than balancing it with specific value attributes.  This is why you have to give our friendly real estate agent points, he confronts the issue head on and creates a balance.  He also demonstrates the need to speak the language of the audience: price for buyers, value for sellers.  So rather than focusing on price, which is what your buyer wants to do, translate that to value in a way that they can understand.

Leveraging Trigger Events Selling™

Don’t forget, a great webinar this afternoon, still one or two spaces available so register now.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Keep the Bath Water, throw Out the Baby!15

 

Free Webinar today, Wednesday, March 3, 2010 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EST

Despite all the resources available to sales organizations and people, they continue to struggle to meet objectives.  A recently released summary of the CSO Insights Sales Performance Optimization titled CSO Insights Study Shows Major Drops in Sales Performance in 2009 said, “The percentage of reps making quota in 2009 dropped to 51.8% from 58.8% a year earlier. As a result, overall revenue plan attainment dropped to 77.9% from 85.9% during the same time period.”

Yet whenever real changes to this reality are considered, the battle cry has always been:  “Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Why not?

It’s time for Bold and Dramatic change!

Join Daniel Waldschmidt and I for a fun and different look that may make you feel, may make you think, but should leave you smiling.

Register now

Sales eXchange – 3618

Sales Territory as a Business

I remember an interview I had for a sales job with Director of Sales who ultimately did hire me, that ended in a very empowering way. This individual, we’ll call him Brad, for whom I had a lot of respect for at the time, (yes feel free to read between the lines), ended the offer meeting in a great way. Taking into account that I was in a remote territory, in a different country to his, where they had never had direct representation, he said something along the lines of:

“Tibor, think of Canada as your own franchise, as long as we gate no complaints and you hit your numbers, you run it in any way that makes sense to you.”

We can argue the general merits of that as a strategy some other time, but I guess he was lucky that I had a plan, not to mention the ability to execute.  On the other hand the concept behind his statement is sound; every sales person should look at their territory as a franchise or a business.

That means strategy, planning, securing resources, execution, review, time allocation, execution and yes, execution.  Some sales professionals do some of these things; some do all with various degrees of ability and efficiency, but few do all at a high level consistently over time.

It’s not hard to imagine your sales territory as a business; imagine you were trying to secure financing for the business. And let’s face it as a territory rep, in effect you are asking your company to “loan you the territory”, in return for tangible returns, revenue for them, commissions for you.  As a company you could never conceive of securing financing without a full and sound business plan, with all the elements that will help the investor/lender decide if you are worth the financial risk.

This involves outlining how you will source new revenues and from where/whom.  How you plan to maintain existing revenues and customers and defend against competitors.  Your banker will look for solid facts, numbers and realistic assumptions. Few if any can get financing strictly on reputation and faith.  As manager, how many times have you heard rep say “leave it to me, you know I can do it”, just before they don’t.  But we have seen people who take the time to plan work their plan, adjust when needed, and deliver consistently.

So as you head into the final stretch of Q1, take a look at your plan; review it, see if it reflects the market and your goals.  If you don’ have a (business) plan, sit down and draft one and see how liberating it can be to see where you want to go and how to get there.

Keep the Bath Water, throw out the Baby!

For a different view on sales planning, join me and the Great Waldo, Daniel Waldschmidt, for a Top Sales Experts Massterclass Webinar, this Wednesday at 1:00 pm.  We look at why despite all the resources available to sales organizations and people; they continue to struggle to meet objectives.  A recently released summary of the CSO Insights Sales Performance Optimization titled CSO Insights Study Shows Major Drops in Sales Performance in 2009 said, “The percentage of reps making quota in 2009 dropped to 51.8% from 58.8% a year earlier. As a result, overall revenue plan attainment dropped to 77.9% from 85.9% during the same time period.”

Yet whenever real changes to this reality are considered, the battle cry has always been:  “Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Why not?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Saturday Sales Tip – 923

Wake Up and Grow Up

Despite all the discourse about global warming (sometimes you have to wonder if all the hot air from the discussion is not a major contributor, I digress already), it should come as no surprise that we could have snow in Toronto in February.  Not to mention the never ending warnings over the last few days about the impending storm; Doppler radar readings, weather on the 10s, not o mention an entire TV network dedicated to nothing but the weather.  So with all those resources, how can a sales professional rationalize being late to sales meeting?

As you can guess I was on time for an appointment this morning with a couple of sales people (doing ride alongs) , and they were not.  Why not?

Well, when you get past the excuses, stories, BS and self pity, it comes down to personal accountability!  Or in the case of my late guests, a lack there of; they really need to grow up.

One rep, rather than saying they were sorry for being late, tardy and completely unprofessional, instead said “man can you believe this snow?”  Not hard to imagine in Toronto this time of year.  The second blamed the roads.  Now all this would have been just a bother if it was just me they were meeting, I get paid by the hour, sitting around or working, the clock is ticking; but the prospect is a different story.  While she didn’t say it out loud, it was clear she was agitated, and while it is hard to tell if it will kill the deal, it had an impact today.

There is no excuse.  As sales professionals we need to be accountable and be prepared for this type of thing.  What does it take to leave early, what’s the biggest risk that you leave a bit too early and get there early?  Great you all have BlackBerrys, you can bang out a few e-mails, make a few calls, get to the meeting on time.  Never mind the fact that I made it, the prospect did, she felt it was important, I guess these sales people didn’t. 

In case you are thinking that I need to cut them some slack, it’s not the norm, let me take you back to yesterday.  Conference call scheduled for 11:30, I am there at 11:27, prospect 11:29, sales rep, 11:52.  The rep offers up “I am sorry I was on another conference call.”  Prospect interprets “I guess you had something more important than my business.”  Proof, after a few minutes from when the rep joined the call:

Prospect: “well, Tibor can bring you up to speed on what we discussed.” 
Rep “not a problem, let’s set up a call move things forward, how is Monday at 11:00?”
Prospect: “Call me next week and we’ll pick a time.” 

Right.  The prospect is thinking of alternatives; the rep will forecast it and tell his manager he has a next step.

All of this completely unnecessary, totally preventable and avoidable.  As has been the theme in posts earlier this week, it is down to attitude and level of professionalism.  It’s not about the alarm clock, the snow removal or the other drivers.  It’s about you and your willingness to do the work it takes to win.  You can make excuses or you can grow up.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

How did THAT happen?21

Leveraging Trigger Event Selling™

Join Us for a Free Webinar
Thursday March 4, 2:00 pm, Eastern

Every now and again things just fall into place and a big sale closes almost by itself.

Would you like to find and close more deals like that?

Was it luck or can you replicate it – and make it your way to sell?

The answer is Yes! You can execute it consistently and make it your way to sell!

Learn how you can make that happen again, and again, and again at 2PM Eastern on Thursday, March 4th. Click here to register!

Join me, Tibor Shanto – Co-Author of the upcoming book “SHiFT! – Harness The Trigger Events That Turn Prospects into Customers ” – on this no-charge webinar where he will share how to:

1) Identify which prospects are five times more likely to buy

2) Get to the front of the line when a decision maker’s buying cycle starts

3) Learn the single biggest activity that will help you to find more winnable deals

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now!

I look forward to having you join us for this exciting webinar.
 
What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

"Thank You For Following Up"26

I was talking to a lead this morning, he was someone I initially called based on a referral last year, after meeting it was clear that he was a good lead, likely to be a client at one point in the future, gut instinct early 2011, but you can’t forecast gut, nor does it pay the mortgage. So putting into practice what I preach in an upcoming book SHIFT – Harness The Trigger Events That Turn Prospects Into Customers, I initiated my contact strategy to help me build credibility and move me towards becoming his “emotional favourite”.
 
Part of the process is becoming predictable and reliable, (predictable not in the boring sense, but the “I can count on Shanto” sense.), so when he thinks of sales improvement initiative he thinks of me. This involves a pre-planned campaign of communication involving e-mail, calls and other things like invitations to webinars. As a matter of fact, I will be discussing aspects of this in a webinar next week called “Leveraging Trigger Event Selling™” presented by SalesNexus next Thursday March 4, 2:00 pm eastern.
 
Now executing an effective and impactful campaign is relatively easy in these days of Sales 2.0, but it has never been about the tool, but more about the thought process. Which is why I was amused when my lead ended the call, a good exchange with real take aways, by saying in a very sincere way “thank you for following up”, as though this was a new experience for him, sadly it probably was.  He is not the first, I have a lot of people comment on the follow through (or lack thereof) they receive, and the impact that has on me getting their business.
 
Let’s look at two realities in sales; the first is that sales people are always looking ways to differentiate themselves. Second, a consistent knock against sales people is their lack of follow through in general and some specific commitments. So here is a way to tackle both, mark it in your calendar (or create a task), and when it pops up on your screen make the call. Don’t do it after the coffee, or when you get back in the afternoon, or tomorrow when you’re “gonna make your calls anyways”; do it right then when it comes up. Execute your plan, and live up to what you committed to.
 
You don’t need a CRM, Outlook or your BlackBerry works just as well. If you are really stuck, an old fashioned desk calendar and a crayon do just as well.
 
Remember, they get a lot of calls, they get a lot of folks who tell them they’ll call back, some will even specify the time. But what stays with them, what impresses them is the one that actually does what he commits to when he commits to.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales eXchange – 3520

The Message Cannot Be The Medium
(Sorry Marshall)

There is no doubt that for sales people the means of communicating with clients, colleagues, and prospects has been revolutionized over the last few years, and that was on the heels of the last of the quantum changes ushered in by the web before that.  With Web 2.0 and Sales 2.0 becoming more prevalent it is important to remember that when all is said and done, these are just instruments and enablers to an end, not an end on to themselves.  That end is communication, meaningful communication.

There is the risk and temptation at times to get caught up in the tool and lose sight of the key objective, which is to have a meaningful communication between seller and buyer, a conversation that leads to mutual value for both parties.  The age old truth applies to Sales 2.0, social media and all the other new toys, “garbage in garbage out”.  If the message lacks substance, social media is not going to change that or help.  Having thousands of Twitter followers only amplifies the lack of import or quality.

This is not an anti Sales 2.0 post, but one that gives credit to those people and organizations that still emphasize content, the quality of the message, and let’s not forget the quality of their offering.  While it may be tempting to invest time on the delivery channel, especially at a time when everyone is stretched for resources, but that should not come at the expense of the message.  Nor should it come at the expense of internal communication (see Socializing Sales).

For further perspective on this I would suggest you read a couple of interesting posts dealing with aspects of communication in sales.  One is by John Cousineau, “When Conversations Are the Key to Success, Why Bother With a Keyboard?”  Balancing John’s points are Jim Keenan’s take on the opportunities presented by Salesforce.com’s micro-blogging tool in a piece called “Salesforce Chatter; Coming Soon”.

Both examine the power of communication in winning and dealing with customers, but at the end both seem to confirm that content is king, and that in sales (successful sales), the medium is not the message.

Speaking of a good message, join me March 4th at 2:00 pm eastern for a free webinar with a great message, “Leveraging Trigger Event Selling™”, leveraging aspects of an upcoming book coauthored with Craig Elias, titled “SHiFT! – Harness The Trigger Events That Turn Prospects into Customers“.  Click here for details and registration,  I’ll have more details here in the days to come.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Saturday Sales Tip – 821

Respect Your Client More By Fully Valuing Yourself

I use used to work for a guy who would always remind the team that there was a big difference between servicing your client and being your clients servant. Sadly, many sales people all too often blur the line or ignore the line and fail to deal with the distinction properly.

While I fully appreciate the need to respect the buyer, but that does not mean being subservient to them or their will; the customer is not always right, especially when you bring true expertise to the deal. While there is a whole other post which can be written about the previous sentence, I want to focus on the view of the buyer when faced with a seller willing to do “things” to maintain a “relationship“.

If you sell something transactional this attitude will just lead to a squeeze: price, conditions, concessions, what have you. This is not because the buyers are nasty, but because that is the message this kind of seller is sending.  “I want your business, tell me what I have to do to get it.”  When the answer comes, sales people allow it to go too far at times, and fail to keep things in balance.  Add to this mix a couple of competitors who are also wooing the same transaction, also willing to do “anything” to get it, and it becomes a toxic soup of “customer centric” margin erosion.

At the other end of the scale, the “Solution Sale”, the same predicament plays out differently but to same end.  While many sellers will “probe”, (sounds so clinical, I feel like getting my white frock) but only again to see what they need to “get the business”.  They opt not too challenge the buyer by asking the hard questions, or questions that challenge the buyer’s view point, especially when that viewpoint is wrong, and will not deliver long term value to the company. 

How do you know they are wrong?  Because you are the expert, if you truly are an expert in the field your “solution” addresses, and you are really successful, then you should be a walking encyclopaedia of “best practices” and common failing to avoid.  In my field, I have worked with and interviewed hundreds of sales leaders, vice presidents, presidents and more.  (Notice I said interviewed, not sold to, because at some of those interviews it made more sense not to sell to them, at least not then, you can always come back)  As a result I have seen a wide spectrum of things that work and don’t work, things that add to my expertise daily.  Things that constitute the true value my clients derive benefit and results from when they buy from me.

The same applies to you and your solution.  The value you bring is as much as being in you being a peer and driving the value, rather than a friendly participant hoping for a hand out.  This last statement may seem harsh,  but in effect it is often what happens.  If I had $100 for every time I hear a rep say, “I just want get in there hope they ‘throw me a bone’ then I can run with that and up sell them”.

I know you are saying “that’s not me, I’m cool”.  Ask yourself this, and this is the real litmus test: have you ever said to a potential buyer: “I just need a quick 15 minutes of your time.”  If you have you are guilty!  I know you figure that if you can get in there and do a good ten minutes, then you can stretch the meeting out.  Sort of like American Sales Idol, “you’re through to the next 15 minutes”.  But let me ask you how much value can you truly convey in 15 minutes? How effective an interview can you conduct?  If you are thinking that “I’ll get the ball started and set up another meeting”, you are not only wrong, but wasting your most valuable resource time. 

If you want the buyer to respect and fully value you and your offering, to differentiate yourself, then start by fully valuing yourself.

By the way, I have always wondered, what is the tangible difference between “a quick 15 minutes”, and just you regular 15 minutes?

Oh, in case you are interested, I will be delivering a free webinar on March 4, presented by SalesNexus.com, “Leveraging Trigger Event Selling” which addresses means of dealing with some of the issues raised in this post.  Click here to learn more and to register.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Stoke Your Sales Fires23

I had a fitness assessment on the weekend (don’t ask), and as usual we got around to discussing nutrition. We talked about something that I knew, understood, but have chosen to ignore for the last little while; the fact that having a steady number of small balanced meals a day, say five or six, actually result in the body burning fuel more efficiently than when one consumes three “big square” meals a day (and a bunch of snacks on the side). What was interesting was the way he drove the point home.
 
He compared it a camp fire, I told him that my idea of roughing it is black and white TV. He went on to describe the impact of throwing a big fat log on the fire, versus steadily adding smaller amounts of small pieces of fire wood. The big log smothers and burns slowly giving off low heat, the energy consumed in igniting the log.  The smaller steady approach provides good hot flames burning progressively and efficiently, and as a result the preferred method. “I’ll take your word, I’m a city guy”, but it made sense, and I knew the point he was trying to make was true.
 
And so it is for your pipeline and prospecting.

You need to have a consistent steady approach to reap maximum results.  But many sales people approach prospecting as though they were a Huge Log looking for a fire.  You see this manifests itself in a number of ways.  One common practice is the “weekly call blitz”, what a log.  Do nothing all week, and then bam, turn it on, warm up your pipeline, score a touchdown all at once. But what happens if a client calls, or you have an off day, or you have to put out a fire?  What’s the reality of ramping it up and maintaining the level of energy needed for three hours on a Friday morning or afternoon, after having ignored the activity for a week?  Further, by spreading out your prospecting through the week, you have a better shot connecting with those who may not be in their office on your “blitz” day.

Another example is when a rep gets sight of a “big log”, and they spend time, energy, resources, hard work, and practice their craft in landing that big one.  I have seen rep after rep work hard and do the right things in selling that “big one”, but forget to do one thing in the process, prospect for the next one.  They make the sale, and then what?  You spend valuable time rekindling the fire; worse once again they ignore the smaller easy to burn fire wood along the way, eventually they do find the “big one”, and start the cycle over again.  We see it time and again, high peaks – low valleys, feast and famine, the preventable “ups and downs” of sales.  But it doesn’t have to be.  If they would spend just a bit of time prospecting, steadily adding fire wood to the camp fire, keeping the flame strong and hot, strong enough to withstand the impact of the “big log” when it lands, while allowing them to deliver optimal efficiency.

Just like with proper nutrition, as I said above, we choose not to understand or have chosen to ignore the fact that a steady blended approach makes for better results.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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