Welcome to The Pipeline.

Sales eXchange – 49 – Are We Really Communicating?27

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
 George Bernard Shaw 

While George may have been speaking of things other than sales, he certainly has captured one of the potential fallacies of sales in general and specifically aspects of Sales 2.0 and social media site/tools commonly used by sellers.  Let me state from the start, this is not about or anti Sales 2.0, utilized in the right way they contribute to sales success much the same way as Sales 1.0 or Sales -2.0, or any other tools.  As is usually the case in matters like this, it is more user error than the failing of any specific tool.  You can blame the placement of the keys, but it is still the user who dialled the wrong number.

The illusion of communication is rampant in a world where people measure “followers” and “connections” rather than in actual interaction.  I was talking to a friend who is active on the common social networks sellers; he is active on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and a bunch of others; he uses creepy crawlies on his web site that spew out heaps of data that he now stores on countless storage devices.  Yet when you examine the impact of all his efforts and “cutting edge” activities, it is little more than (some can argue less than), the impact realized by those using conventional means to communicate with real buyers. 

When I asked him how many real conversations he had with his followers, how many real leads, prospects or sales have resulted from his “followers” or “contacts”, it is not a big number.  When forced to examine his activity over the last 12 months, most of his sales have come through conventional means.  When I asked him could he have used the excessive time he spends managing his “online brand” to generate more real prospects, he just shrugged and tapped his iPhone.

The question in sales usually boils down to quality vs. quantity, coupled with time.  I would not argue about the value of social media to sales professionals, but it is important to keep the balance real.  If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that I actively use these tools all the time, but limit the time to a logical portion of the time I allocate to lead gen and prospecting time.

Something that exacerbates the problem is the fact that much of the activity that occurs online is referred to as “conversations”, where the majority of the time they are anything but conversations, more like “fly-by messaging”.  At best many of these “conversations” hold no more quality than glances exchanged with fellow passengers on a bus.  Some faces you may see regularly, some will occasionally acknowledge you, others may even ask how you are occasionally, but how many would constitute real conversation on going conversation, communication?  There is a danger to confusing observation with conversation; you cannot assume that someone who is actively observing on social media is ready to engage in a real communication.

Don’t get me wrong, I have had a number of business “conversations” start in social space; I have had business result from these conversations, but that was as a result of good old fashion, blue collar sales work; converting lead generation to communication.  The challenge is an age old one, and that is contact – real one-on-one contact.  Regardless of the number of followers you may have nothing really happens till you as a seller engage and communicate with a buyer.  Anything short of that is just an “illusion that it has taken place.”

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Saturday Sales Tip – 22 – What A Laugh36

It is true that people buy from people, which make genuine human contact a key for success in selling.  Sales people will try all sorts of different things to come across as being personable and genuine; some of these things are effective, some completely betray the attempts and takes them back a step. One thing that many sales people are reluctant to try is humour. 

Being humorous does not mean having to be Chris Rock or Lenny Bruce, entertaining the buyer in the hope of getting a deal as a reward.  What it does mean is using humour to help communication, to bring things down to common element where people can relate to each other and the subject at hand, adding to the discussion by rounding it out.  Whether you are discussion the challenge the buyer is facing, or the impact of the solution, a bit humour, or contextual joke, brings down barriers and enhances understanding for both parties.

But many will tell you that selling is serious, a lot at stake.  It’s too bad, because humour is one of the best sales tools you can have.  It can work for you in so many ways.  It can put a nervous buyer at ease; it allows you to ask very direct and difficult questions without the “heavy weight”, and it can get people talking, which really allows you to gain an understanding.

It is amazing how people appreciate, knowingly or unknowingly, when you put a smile on their face; when you are able to capture one of their frustrations by expressing it in a humorous way rather than in a way that may be embarrassing or (dare I say it) painful.  I find that many times a well-placed joke or pun, will change the nature tone and quality of a discussion.  No matter how “big the solution” is, it works. 

But people will tell you, “this is serious bin-nezz, don’t joke around, we have to build confidence and credibility.”  I would argue they are missing the point as humour does just that when done in the right and genuine way, and in context.  The interesting thing is that many of the same people who are “prim, proper, and professional” are the first to jabber on about golf the second they see a picture of the buyer in a foursome taken years ago.  There is one in my office, my wife won’t let it in the house, I don’t like golf, but I do like the people I played with back 1997.  Sales people will come in tell me about their love for the game and put me to sleep, some will even share a few Tiger diddies, then “straighten up and get serious” as we move into the meeting.

It is amazing what a collective laugh can do it gets people talking, and brings a level of real human interaction.  I remember being at a meeting with one of my reps when I was still in the corporate role.  Big meeting, big company you would know them, big opportunity, big investment.  This particular meeting had a cross section of people from the company, users, business decision makers, procurement, IT for implementation.  My rep, one of the best I have worked with, did everything he could to make the meeting interactive, meaningful and relevant, and while he was scoring on the latter two, it was difficult to get a real dialogue going. 

There were questions, there were answers, but there was no dialogue; a few slides, a few questions, fewer comments, almost no discussion.  So the rep, we’ll call him Mark because that is his name, about 15 minutes into the meeting, realising that he needed to get everyone more engaged, asked “any questions?”  No response; after a bit of silence, and knowing the audience he was facing, he asked “So, nobody wants to play stump the salesperson?”  After they stopped laughing, the floodgates opened; first, there were questions, literally trying to stump him, these were engineers.  This allowed him to segue to the user experience, which prompted discussion among the various participants, who began to throw out their own brand of humour, all providing valuable insight to help seal the deal.  All because of well place humour.

So seriously, What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

What’s In Your Pipeline?17

 It’s almost the end of May, nearly June, the half way mark for the year, how is the year so far?  What’s in your pipeline, do you have visibility through the summer?  If these questions make you cringe, and you are in the Toronto area June tenth, you can be proactive and do something about it.

In today’s economy, businesses cannot afford to wait for customers to beat a path to their door. Companies must “go on the offensive” and take a proactive approach to finding new sources of revenue. Companies that achieve exceptional revenue growth understand that one of the most critical steps in building a pipeline of new prospects is to get that first appointment. The Ultimate Appointment Making Workshop helps your sales representatives get their “foot-in- the-door” with new prospects so they can begin selling.

The Ultimate Appointment Making Workshop enables sales representatives to use proven methods for generating leads, overcome the fear of call reluctance, capitalize upon referrals, and secure more appointments with decision-makers.
“A fabulous, pragmatic approach that is very focused on getting an appointment using cold calling.”

The Ultimate Appointment Making Workshop Benefits:
As a result of this Workshop participants will:
  • Take a proactive role in filling their sales pipeline
  • Understand the value of building their base of prospects
  • Develop techniques for making successful calls
  • Use Impact Questions
  • Learn about LinkedIn, Twitter and other sources for leads
  • Turn leads into viable prospects by getting that first appointment
  • Take a proactive role in filling their sales pipeline
  • How to best allocate your time
  • Create and leverage referrals
  • Calling the right people at all levels
  • Leave voicemail messages that get returned
  • Overcome the fear of cold call reluctance
  • Effectively deal with gatekeepers
  • Use references to penetrate new accounts
  • Manage and effecively deal with common objections during initial call
  • Generate more sales as they secure more new appointments
Participants will see immediate payback for this one-day workshop as participants begin using these new skills the very next day.

Selling The Company23

Seems the trend for buying decisions being made by groups or committee is growing, and this is not just at large companies.  Whether it is the economy, prudence, or required due diligence, and even when thing don’t go to some form of tender, the trend seems to be with us.  Yet many sales people continue to sell as though it was still an environment when one person drive the whole thing, this is not only costing them sales, but stretching out the ones they are winning.

What they should be doing is unfolding their selling approach to cover and blanket the entire buying decision mechanism, selling Zone-to-Zone.  Talking to everyone involved in their winning early and often.  Many still prefer relying on a ‘coach’ or ‘champion’, with one of the objectives is for the ‘coach’ to introduce them to the rest of the mechanism, bringing the seller into the ‘tent’ as it were.  While having individuals help you navigate the process is a good and smart thing to do, there should not be an over dependency on one, even if that one is a senior executive.

An unchecked dependency on your ‘champion’ often helps you get in, but often become a limiting factor as you try and extend your sale beyond that person’s sphere.  What I often see are sales people who had success with a ‘champion’ in their initial sale, and then are reluctant to “go around” that individual; they feel it may jeopardize the “existing relationship” or existing revenue.  But if trying to extend your sale beyond one pocket, one ‘coach’, represents risk, how much of a relationship do you really have?

The easiest way to deal with this is at the beginning.  Right from the outset understand that ultimately the job of a B2B rep is to sell the company.  That means contacting and talking to as many relevant people early in the process as possible.  This includes the traditional ‘coach’, but also extends beyond to other members of the buying mechanism; this includes functional people, implementers or users.  The business group, and remember that your users have internal customers who could impact the decision to go or no go.  Reaching out to this group can not only build support down the road, but can help you define your offering based on internal requirements.  Also don’t forget the process group,  finance, purchasing, etc.

By mapping out the sale, and reaching out to everyone at once, you will likely get to the buying group/committee, but you will define your own identity and the value your offering brings, which is always better than the most well intentioned ‘coach’ can ever do.  You will include the executive, who is always good if you need a tie breaker, or have someone adjust the rules (slightly in your favour).  Most important better understand and be able to respond to the real needs of the company.

One other upside is the ability to avoid a common reality of changing people in corporate life.  By having things too strongly “tied” to one person, you do benefit if their influence and role grows, but you also suffer if their fortunes decline, or they leave and your lot leaves with them.  Having multi-relationships is key to ongoing success in sales and on an account level, and don’t let anyone suggest otherwise.   This does not only apply at the rep level, but also at a company-to-company level, using a 5D strategy of coverage.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales eXchange – 48 – You Be The Judge37

A few weeks ago I was asked by someone why I call the Monday post the “Sales eXchange“.  I replied that it was an opportunity to exchange views and opinions about sales and sales related topics, observations and opinions.  I am hoping today we can do that in a specific way, in a way that allows you the readers to weigh in about a subject where I have taken a view, and an informed professional has taken an alternate view. 

I am interested in having you look at this issue, comment on the two views and hopefully expand the discussion in a way that allows us to truly have an exchange that will lead to more sales for all involved.

This past Saturday, in the Saturday Sales Tip post, I wrote about the use of “Pain” in sales in a post titled “No Pain Zone“.  In case you haven’t read it, it makes a case that there is more to motivating buyers that pain, and as a sales person you should go in with an open mind looking for all opportunities no matter what the root is , pain, market share, personal advancement, etc.  If you go in predetermined to look for pain, you will find it, but miss al all other sales opportunities that may be present.   You really should read it, it’s good.

One reader saw it differently, which started the “exchange” below on LinkedIn.  Take a look, see what you think, and add your two cents with a comment.  (Intentionally I did not edit the exchange in any way)

1.    Selling should not be painful, either for the buyer or the seller, yet many in sales still like to find “the pain” when working with prospect. This is a dangerous approach especially in rising economies when people will spend on opportunities that are not rooted in pain.
By Tibor Shanto Principal and Founder at Renbor Sales Solutions Inc.

2.    With all due respect I disagree. People buy emotionally, they justify it intellectually. All marketing and advertisers know this and prove it in thier studies of how people buy. If you doubt that,when is the last time someone bought the two most major purchases in their life100% intellectually,a car and a home? It was an emotional purchase. 50% of the bells and whistles a car has now days we don’t need, but we get involved in the emotional excitement of those bells and whistles,and justify intellectually why we buy them.

So, that said, people buy for two major motivating forces. (1) away from pain( present or potential future pain, or (2) towrds pleasure( called gain). Both are emotional and pain is the most motivating of these two foactors. Either to solve the present pain or prevent it . Think of why we buy all knds of insurance. This is called pain avoidance in the future if somethng happens and we don’t have that insurance present PAIN occurrs.

If you’re maybe makng the point of causing pain on a sales call, that’s not what I refer to. If a salesperson knows the right questioning style to have the prospect “discover” his problem is PAINFUL the prospect will pay the price of the solution. I teach this everyday in my training and it has had incredible impacts on my sales and my clients sales results learning how to do this.

Prospects don’t care about your feature and benefits, they care whether you can solve thier PAIN. I didn’t care how my plumber fixed my backed up sewer. I didn’t care about his features and benefits. I ONLY cared can he fix my PAIN and fix it NOW, and I was willing to pay whatever it took to solve that PAIN on a Sunday.
By Gary Harvey Pres./Founder at Achievement Dynamics.LLC and Owner, Achievement Dynamics,LLC

3.    Gary,

No disrespect taken and I hope you feel the same about my response, but I think you missed the point, and in your comment, you actually validate mine.

First off no one argues that people by on emotion, but pain is a physical reality not an emotional one. We have all seen people put up with a lot of pain, hence the power of the status quo in sales.

Further, I did not say that people do not buy because of pain, I said that it wasn’t the only reason they buy, which you seem to validate when you say: “or (2) towards pleasure (called gain).”

What I did say is that having rational methodology, a questioning/interviewing technique that focus on the entire spectrum, will allow you to capture all motivating factors not just pain. So if you look for pain two things happen, you only find those opportunities rooted in pain, leaving the rest for the folks I train. Second, buyers are much more hip now than when David was putting his stuff together in the last century. They know when they are being probed for pain, and have gotten real good at hiding it, and at the same time testing the seller for intent, and if all they can dig for is pain, many sellers will not play.

So again, I think you interview, or go through a discovery process, understand where the client is, if its pain, fine, but if it is not pain then also fine.

As for the PAIN in your sewer, imagine if someone could have helped you prevent it from backing up to begin with? One last thought, PAIN is an ugly business because it cuts both ways.

By Tibor Shanto Principal and Founder at Renbor Sales Solutions Inc.

4.    Tiber, hate to say it, but you’re incorrect on many points. You’re kdding when you say pain is just physical, right?? Are you kidding? Have you never witnessed the emotional pain people go through in many facets of their life. ever seen bnyone go through a divorve? That’s 100% emotional pain for 99% of these people.

The anxiety, angst, sleepless nights, etc. of various events in people’s lives is 100% motionale. I was not in any physical pain about my sewer. I was emotionally involved in the disgust and anxiety of a sewer backing up in my house. It had no ” phyical” impact on me. Just 100% emotional.

When my son was in the ER room last month with a sever laceration, “I” was not in any physical pain, but I assure you it caused an internal emotional impact/pain on me watching my son in pain.Hopefully you could change your view about this by asking any pschologist or Pschyatrist the emotional pain they see in their patients about events of thier painful life. it astons me you thik pain is only physcial??

Lastly you are 100% incorrect about that today prospects know what you say they know. Peole do not realize things when they are emotionally invloved,and thatls waht REAL PAIN is all about. Odds are not the style of questining that you teach or refer to. Unless you have witnessed the 1000′s and 1000′s of sales call me and my clients have made finding pain, you have no basis to make that statementt. I asure you prospects haven’t a clue and I and my clents witness this everyday. If your prospects do, I assure you you are not usng the pain style questions David Sandler taught us to use.

PS Your question about sewer and someonne to prevent if beforehand is what we call “pain in the future” and I referred to that before in my “why we buy insurance” example.
By Gary Harvey Pres./Founder at Achievement Dynamics.LLC and Owner, Achievement Dynamics,LLC

5.    Gary,

OK, well thanks for straightening me out; all this time I focused on respecting my buyer’s intelligence. I will certainly go into my next sale with the comfort you have given me knowing that the clients know nothing and are just emotional retards waiting for sales professional to rescue and them.

So one quick question, should I give back money to those clients who hired me to expand their competitive leads, or capitalize on an opportunity they saw to grab market share. Should my advice to be to them to knock it off and wait.

Just rhetorical, but if you listen carefully and quietly, you may hear something else backing up, but you got time.
By Tibor Shanto Principal and Founder at Renbor Sales Solutions Inc.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Saturday Sales Tip – 21 – No Pain Zone18


Despite of the advances made in sales, there are some things and some sales professional who are still stuck in the Stone Age.  I t amazes me that even in these days of Sales 2.0, or are we now in Sales 2.0.23, which ever, why people still seek to deal in pain.  Time and time again, when I ask groups of sales people what their objective is during the Discovery process, a majority of them will respond by say “I want to find their pain!”  Really, how sad, but not surprising. 

I know back in the early 1990′s Bosworth talked about the pain, latent pain in selling, the who image of the hair challenged buyer.  I remember one fellow who was a “solutions consultant” describing his craft as being “to find the soft underbelly of the buyer, stab, and then offer up the cure.”  Nasty, I have to wash my hands.  I am back, I thought we have made advances since, being a bit more customer centric and all.  Yet many still want to deal in pain, rather than leaving that to the professional in Washington and Wall St.

I would much rather deal in opportunity,  rather than devising question to kick my prospects in his declining assets,  I would much rather spend time finding out where his opportunities are, his objective are and fit into a picture that helps them achieve exactly that.  Now let’s understand each other right from the front here, I am not saying to stay away from pain, if it is there, if the opportunity is driven by a pain they are trying to avoid deal with it.  If their objective is to change something that is not working, help them.  Just don’t go in there looking for pain, go in looking at what the objectives are and base you interaction on that. 

By focusing on their current circumstances, where they are, and where they want to be, you will find opportunity.  If that is rooted in positive things, that is just as good as something that stems from a negative circumstance.  I have a client a leader in their industry, one that most people despise because they seem to make money not matter what the market conditions are.  When you talk to them, they have no pain, they are intoxicated with success, their focus is how to maintain and extend their competitive advantage and lead.  They invest in sales training because they know it is a key element of their success.  I train their people to execute on the company’s vision, which is not based on pain, nor is it painful.  The last thing they want their sales teams focusing or even thinking about is pain, they want their sales teams to go out and spread success to their customers so they can make more money.  Do anyone of us think that if their teams went out seeking to find pain they would be perceived as being genuine or a contributing partner.

The goal is to develop a set of questions that help you understand where the buyer is, what their objectives are, and what the opportunities based on the above.  One last factor to consider, I find that a buyer who is n pain, tends to grip his wallet a lot tighter than those who pursuing a positive objective, because they already know the pay-off before you ever have to sell them.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Taking It All In31

Attitude and mental outlook have a lot to do with success in sales. I meet a number of sales professionals who insist it is their positive outlook that helps them win business. They say things like “I don’t let things get me down”, makes sense; “I ignore the bad and focus on the good”, that doesn’t make so much sense.

Ignoring the bad leaves you exposed, and you could end up suffering as a result.  It would be different if their position was “avoid the bad”, but when I test it and ask a follow up question, many stick with their original statement. “I ignore the bad, I focus on the positive things, people like to deal with people who have a positive outlook, and that’s how win deals.”  However, I would argue that by ignoring the bad, the potential negatives that can impact a sales, these sales people open themselves up to avoidable downside which wastes time, resources, sales and emotion.  I am not suggesting the go gloom and doom, but I also know that planning and preparedness are also fundamental to sales success, and thorough planning involves preparing for things that could negatively impact a sale.

You can do a lot by exploring potential scenarios, some call it visualization, the means and the end are similar.  As you are preparing for a call, or planning a campaign, (assault) you draw out or list the various potential outcomes based on the questions and possible response.  Some like list, others use mind maps, the key is to understand how things can unfold, from the preferred outcome to the least preferred.  Understand what are the approaches and questions that are likely to deliver the preferred, and how to accelerate by mapping them to the buyers objectives and decision process.  This itself may include some testing through secondary scenarios, but it will help you avoid getting out of synch with the buyer, recognize early which paths to avoid, and which line of questions to extend.

The goal is to be prepared for potential risk, and figure out in advance how you will manage, marginalize or eliminate the risk.  Some of this will depend of you level of risk tolerance; some by the buyer and their impression of how you are managing events, some by how willing you are to deal with all aspects of the situation.  It is a lot like planning a road trip; you get the TripTik from the auto league, plan the whole thing out, which areas to avoid, where detours may be, and plan accordingly.  Even then, once you do hit the road you pay attention to the road signs, adjusting things accordingly.  You don’t turn a blind eye to danger, or ignore the signs under the premise that you have a positive outlook and things will work out, you take action to avoid possible downside, you take action to not put things in jeopardy.

The same can and should be done with sales.  Part of the TripTik concept is to draw on the collective “wisdom” of other who have traveled that same road.  The same can be done in sales, drawing on the collective experiences of fellow sales people, industry experts, and most importantly your buyer, and that includes those who did not buy.  By understanding why you will learn; what you learn may not always be pleasant, pretty or positive, but it will always be valuable, especially if you don’t ignore and put it to proper good use.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales eXchange – 47 – What’s Behind Your Execution?23

One thing you learn early in your sales career is that when it comes to having an opinion other than your buyer, practicing the art of persuasion is much more effective than over powering them with facts and logic. It is one of those circumstances where even when you win you lose.

In my experience, there are only two reasons a seller finds himself in a position where they put themselves in a losing situation by winning an unnecessary argument with a prospect/client:

1. Inexperience
2. Ego

The first inexperience can be forgiven, especially the first time, and if the individual uses it as a learning experience and builds on it moving forward.

In the case with ego, it is a bit less forgivable. Everyone in sales has an ego; I think it is a fundamental attribute for successful sales people. But it is an attribute that has to be in check, kept balanced and used in the right measures. (See Ya, It’s Personal). Allowing a big ego or too much of an ego to drive your sales is a dangerous way to hope to excel at the profession.  

As stated above, persuasion is a much better approach. Using question to uncover the facts, issues, impacts and associated concerns involved are an effective way to encourage dialogue. Questions get people to think and reflect, and open up to alternate possibilities.

By at the same time opening yourself up to alternatives, advanced through a Q&A process, answering as well as asking, encourages the other party, the buyer, to open up and take input from you and in the process allow for persuasion to occur in a positive way.

I am hoping this is not news to most sales professionals, I know that most set out to execute this approach or their own version of it rather than brow beating a buyer to seeing the ‘facts’. But hope is only a concept, not a reality, there are still reps out there still insist on not only “telling” their buyer the ‘facts as they are’, but arguing and calling out the buyer in the process until the buyer surrenders.  Fortunately, these types of sellers often find the need to change their career path.

What is disturbing is to see a self-proclaimed “sales expert” or “sales thought leaders”, let his ego overtake reality, allowing their ego to get them into a to and fro with potential buyers, in an argument that even if he wins, he loses.

I was recently invited to a presentation, where the cre4ator of a sales methodology was introducing it to a set of potential buyers. While it is easy to understand that any “sales leader” would be proud of their creation, and that it would impact their ego and view of things relating to it. But as he was presenting things took on an increasingly condescending tone. Not only were his questions patronizing, “are you as smart as I am, let’s see”, and as people gave the “wrong” response, the presenter all but chastised them for it, grade school style, (think 1967), to the point where no one was responding at all, and the event became a monologue.  

At one point he asked an open-ended question, where the actual answer was merely launch point to validated another technique, the answer here being less important than the segue it created.  But no, the facilitator insisted that the attendee give the answer he specifically had in mind before he would move on to the relevant point. He got the answer he wanted losing the prospect in the process who took away an entirely different message and lesson than that which was intended.

The key here is that ‘results driven execution’ is key to sales success. Knowing the desired results, but not putting a plan and related set of actions into play, is no more effective than performing activities unrelated to the desired results, in the case of sales, a happy and paying customer. Without this balance to keep the two things in check – results and execution – you run the risk of allowing unimportant things drive your actions, and those actions leading to undesired results. In some cases it is driven by fear, in others, likes our friend who was too enamoured by his own system and his view of the world, it is ego.

Many sellers see being right as more important than helping the customer arrive at a mutually beneficial solution.  While it may help one sooth their ego after the fact by knowing and make the other person know that they were right, the score in sales is measured by results, and the result of an ego driven approach is always lower than one based on execution driven on desired outcome or results, both for the buyer and seller.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Saturday Sales Tip – 20 – Why Do People Buy From You?23

There are some specific questions that sales people should just be able to respond to in a clear direct way and without hesitation. One is “why do people buy from you?”  It this case ‘you’ stands for both you as an individual and your company.  It is revealing how many sales people I work with that either cannot answer that question in a clear concise and meaningful way, or have to resort to spewing the first few lines of the company’s latest brochure.

Try it, ask the next sales person you talk to, and most will fail to deliver a meaningful response.  They will hum and ha, fidget and finally revert to a feature, or tell you “they are a leading provider of”, or something less than satisfying.  Especially when you raise the bar and ask them to make it meaningful for the prospect, in the prospect’s terms, language and perspective, not the latest version of the “value prop” or USP crafted by someone in marketing versed in demographics rather than customer expectations.

To answer the question in a captivating way, with some teeth to engage the buyer, you need to remove yourself and your product from the picture, and focus only on what has direct impact on the client’s objectives.

“How do I know what their objectives are if I just met them?” you ask.  Easy, look at your current account base and your prospect base. What resonated with these individuals vis-à-vis their objectives at the timed they engaged with you and when they bought?  While it is certainly not universal, chances are relatively good that if you understand the top three things you and your product positively impacted for you last 15 – 20 clients, you can lead with that when describing. “Why people buy from you.”

The key is to describe it in terms that capture the outcome for the client, not what your product does. Getting to this is simpler than you suppose. First you probably already ask your clients why they bought from you, right? you probably know which issues your clients were looking to change when they invested in you; and you know what they would have done had they not bought from you, of course you do! If this is not the case, and you don’t already do this now, start today. You also do regular briefings with you top customers, once or twice a year, maybe even quarterly, right?  So you have more than clear picture of how your offering is impacting the clients’ realities and successes and day to day business. So all you need to do is focus on the top impacts, and you can meaningfully answer the question.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales Manager: Coach or Trainer?40

A front line sales manager has to wear many hats in the course of a week, for me the most important is to lead the execution of the sales process, and do that leading from the front. Key to that is a balance between Managing and Coaching, for a full view read The Yin Yang of Success for Front Line Sales Managers and The EDGE Framework for Sales Coaching Success.

A question that often arises, is should the front line also be training their team members as it relates to skills. Not the day to day honing of skills, or ramping up a new employee, but the type of training program Renbor or other training organizations traditionally deliver.  Clearly I can be accused of having a bias, but I will try to keep that in check, feel free to keep me honest.

My personal opinion is that they should part of the training process, but should not, need not, and often cannot deliver training their teams need. This is not rooted in the negative, it is that many are not qualified, they have other priorities, and if it were already part of their routine, they would not be seeking, but doing.

I have had a number of sales leaders tell me that they know that their teams need training in one area or another, and in the same breath ask, “If I bring you in, how does that reflect on me?”  This is usually put into context by highlighting the fact that “even Tiger Woods has a caddy”. This usually helps them understand that no one goes it alone, and need to rely on other’s expert input in order to attain their own objectives.

Lately the issue seems to be more economically driven, “let the manager train their teams, that’s what we pay them for”. I have seen this unfold in a number of ways, from one VP telling me each month he has one manger read a sales book and then “pass it along” to the sale force. I attended one session, it was more like someone delivering a book report rather than skills or knowledge transfer.

If in fact skills and knowledge transfer is the means to achieving sustainable behavioural change, change that is demonstrated by results, to by adopting buzz words or performing certain tasks, then it has to be structured, delivered effectively and supported through the adoption phase.  This is why Renbor’s programs all include a formal “Follow Through Action Plan”.

Now we have all worked with organizations that have internal trainers, properly trained and qualified to educate adults in a range of skills and functions.  With many of those organizations a Train The Trainer approach is logical and workable.  But what a number of companies are asking for lately is a Train The Trainer, where the “Trainer” in question is the front line sales manager.  To me this is a recipe for disaster, and this is not meant to be a knock against the managers, but I believe it put undue pressure on them and changes the nature of the relationship they have with their teams.

The reality is that many sales managers have yet to be fully trained on effectively managing a sales process and their teams.  Many were good sales people who were given an “add-a-boy” and “rewarded” into management.  New business cards, new office or desk, some training in diversity and dealing with sexual harassments, and bam, “you’re a manager, forecast meeting Friday”.  See “Management by Osmosis“.

What’s the old expression “penny wise, pound foolish”, describes this approach well.  Yes you can save a few dollars now, you can look to be creative and productive, but in the end, it is not only likely that you will not get the lift you need or the desired results, and in the process discourage both the managers and the front line team.  I can understand the need to save, but in some cases it is better not to do anything over risking a step back just to be able to put a check mark next to the training KPI.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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