Welcome to The Pipeline.

Do You Smell Desperate?26

The Pipeline Guest Post – Trevor Stevens

November 1st was a beautiful day up here this year, sunny, high 70’s, in fact so nice I had to treat myself to an afternoon latte.  But when I got to my favorite coffee spot, I was greeted Christmas decorations and Christmas Muzak.  Hang on a minute, I had not even rifled through my kids’ Halloween loot, fought with my wife about Thanksgiving dinner, and it’s Tall Christmas already? How desperate I thought.

But you  get the same desperation in B2B selling every day, and the reality is that your customers can smell the desperation on a sales person, and they know how to take advantage of it every time.  This either results in a sales where you are forced to make unnecessary concessions that are not limited to price, and have long term implications on profit.  Worse they often cause a sale not to happen, as many customers will not deal with someone they perceive to be weak or desperate.

Sometimes there are big signs of desperation, outrageous promos that telegraph your inability to sell; after all your firm is saying “forget all those good reasons to buy, we are giving it away, why would you take it at the price?”  But there are also things that we sales people do and say that erode the buyers confidence and perception of us.  Every time you say things like:

I was just
I was hoping
I just need a few brief minutes
I promise you will see value if you give me a few minutes
What do I have to do to get your business now

I knew one company that had a desperate sales process.  Their whole plan was to reach out to the client at the start of the month, present the latest issue’s table of content, they sold trade journals, and offered to mail it out to them.  They followed up in a week, and again a week later if they needed to.  And they always needed to, because clients had figured out that if they wait to the last week of the month, the company would cave in a sell at a discount.  Many saw the desperation of the company and their reps the last week of the month, and just waited for it.

It does not take much to avoid having to be desperate, but it also doesn’t take much desperation for the clients to smell it on you and take advantage of you.  You can avoid this by spending time preparing and knowing how you can deliver value to the client, and focus on that.  If you make the sale about them, you win, if you come across as focused on the sale and your quota, you smell desperate.  Worse, as you develop a reputation for being desperate. It becomes hard to shake, both as a trait, and as your reputation.

In the end I bought the coffee, wished her a Happy Hanukkah, she asked if that was grande or venti, I told her it was two months too soon.

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Successful Strategies for Prospecting – Roundtable10

Focus Roundtable Free Online Event
Thursday November 10, 2011 3:30 pm Eastern

The message from blogs, webinars, tradeshows is clear: The buyer has changed and so must your prospecting strategies. The question is: What should one’s sales prospecting strategy be? To help answer this question we have brought together top Focus sales and marketing experts to talk about the specific tactics that work for sales people today.
In this Roundtable, we will answer the following questions:

  • How does a salesperson turn a name into a prospect?
  • How should you handle voicemails and emails?
  • What are the biggest mistakes sales reps make and what could they have done differently?

Find out by joining the Focus.com Roundtable this afternoon.  Join me and Matt Heinz, Michael A Brown, and Craig Rosenberg.

More info and registration

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Strategic or Tactical Sales Training?31

A lot of sales improvement programs start at the strategic level and go light on the execution, the tactical side –  the “how do I do this?”  While this may seem to be intuitively the right and noble way to go, in reality it yields less results than approaching things the other way around; that is leading with the tactical, the tactics of “how to…”  Unless you run your sales force as a military unit – with all the command lines, discipline, and rules – you will always face the challenge around the balance between strategy and execution or tactical aspects of sales success. This challenge is even more pronounced with sales training or education, do you build your training around your strategy; or do you deliver training focused on the tactical aspects of driving that strategy forward?

Read On…

Related articles:
CRM: Culture or Technology

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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"In Time" – Sales eXchange – 12229

With insights from Adam Freedman

If you read this blog regularly you know that I think time and how you use it are fundamental determinants of sales success.  You also know that I am not a proponent of “Time Management”, and would rather have you focus on allocating your time to specific activities, and then manage your activities within the time allocated. You can get an expanded view on this and other aspects of time by downloading my white paper from Top Sales World, titled “Sales Happen In Time“.
One f the concepts explored is the notion of looking at time as a form of currency; looking at the 1,760 hours of annual “face time” sales reps have as $1,760 of investment capital.  Further, if you then look at your quota as the expected returns on your investment of said $1,760, how would you allocate those funds to ensure you deliver the Return On Capital expected? How much would you allocate to bonds, dividend paying equities, derivatives, etc.  In sales the question comes down to what activities you would allocate your time to and in what proportions?
Looked at through that prism, you would think twice about squandering even a minute, never mind throwing away a half hour for coffee with a colleague in the middle of the day.  We are all OK with “a quick coffee”, but we would see it differently if the request was for few hundred dollars, rather than a few “minutes”.
Well on the weekend I saw a movie that takes this analogy to another level. The movie “In Time“, looks at a society where the currency s time; salaries, rent, cigarettes, food, all bought and sold on time.
Beyond the political overtones and undertones, they did a great job of helping people understand time not as an intangible, but as something real and crucial.  Running out of time had real implications, namely death.  While sales professionals may not face death when they run out of time, the effect is still severe for not only the sales person, but also for their companies.
It is the desperation of running out of time that allows the “multi-taskers” to find new converts to their cult, and as with most cults, the promise is much greater than the deliverable.  Trying to jam a bunch of unfinished things into a fast approaching deadline is counter to our nature; things get done, but not effectively, and certainly not at a level where they generate the level of Return On Capital required to succeed.
The other element the movie brought into focus is the need to actively manage your activities.  Allocating time is one thing, but managing your activities within the time allotted is as important.
When all is said and done, in sales as in investing, allocation, timing and execution help one deliver returns on a consistent basis.
Tibor Shanto

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FROM TRANSACTIONAL SELLING TO STRATEGIC SELLING46

The Pipeline Guest Post – John F. Monoky, Ph.D.

Continuing with a common theme in these articles, the changing role of the seller is again the focus of this article.  Every day, new articles and studies come across my desk expanding on this emerging role.  Research conducted by A.T. Kearney and Accliuus Partners is the source of much of these comments.

The role of the materials management and procurement function in  industry is in a significant state of transition.  Some of the more discernible trends include:

  • A movement from purchasing as a tactical decision to one of strategic sourcing
  • A movement from a regional focus to one of global magnitude
  • A reduction in the large supplier base to one of fewer strategic partners
  • A movement from commodity purchases to technology investments
  • A refocusing from products to solutions
  • A change from buying pieces and parts to managing processes
  • And, a change from min-price to max-cost/value procurement

Consistent with these trends is an evolution of the buying process.  If one were to define the buying process as a sequence of steps such as the model proposed by Accliuus Partners, it would include:

  • Planning
  • Recognizing
  • Searching
  • Evaluating
  • Selecting
  • Committing
  • Implementing
  • Tracking

Most organizations and their “buyers” experience the greatest amount of difficulty in the planning, recognizing, searching and evaluating steps in the process.  Therefore, the seller that brings the most to the table at these steps creates the most value for the account.  The typical distributor seller tends to focus on the evaluating, selecting and consulting steps in the model with their selling strategy of presenting—handling objections and closing.  This at best will create a transactional sale as opposed to a strategic relationship.

The next level up on the scale, would be the seller that can broaden the scope of their assistance to the searching through implementation steps.  This seller would be viewed as counselor or consultative seller.  There is a degree of commitment and loyalty to this seller on the part of the buying organization.

Value-added partnering is created when the seller and selling organization can assist the “buyer” and the buying organization through all steps in the buying process.  Both upstream (prior to commitment) and downstream (implementing and tracking) are impacted by this seller.  It’s at this level of selling the greatest degree of switching costs are created.

Given the transition in buying and the necessity to assist the buying organization in the management of the entire buying process, a new breed of seller is critical.  As the distributor moves from selling products to tailored offerings, to integrated solutions and finally to solutions customized to the unique needs of an individual account, the selling discipline will change dramatically.  At minimum, your sellers will have to:

  • Learn to think strategically in anticipating ways to create value
  • Manage and deliver usable information at all phases of the buying process
  • Advance the relationship by increasing the customers trust and commitment to the seller and the sellers company, and lastly
  • Have the capability to form an effective sales team by orchestrating resources in a cost efficient manner.

About Dr. John Monoky

Dr. John Monoky is the principal of Monoky Associates, a sales leadership development organization. He has helped his clients to better understand the strategic role of sales in today’s competitive market.

Dr. Monoky has served on the academic faculties of the University of Michigan and the University of Toledo. His primary focus for the past 25 years has been Executive Development.

He has a PhD from the Pennsylvania State University, an MBA from the University of Michigan and a BBA from the University of Toledo. He currently is the Director of the Center for Sales Leadership at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan.

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Did Sales 2.0 Kill Cold Calling?51

You may recall a while back I posted on whether cold calling is dead or not.  While most seem to agree that not only is cold calling not dead, but has a place alongside other strategies and tactics required to engage with potential buyers, prospects.

A couple of weeks ago another article came along, going further suggesting that it was Sales 2.0 that killed cold calling, it seems it was a case of justifiable homicide.   Interesting, here we have something that is not dead, but we have a confession of murder.

It was in the midst of that confusion, that I was asked by Jonathan Farrington of Top Sales World if I felt that Sales 2. Had killed cold calling.  Hear the answer and let us know your view.

Has Sales 2.0 killed cold calling?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Have You Read The Sales Book About? – Sales eXchange – 12136

Sometime ago I wrote a piece describing one of my favourite interview questions for potential sales recruits: “What was the last sales book you read?”  Sadly it stumped a lot of the candidates.

My concern was that if they were not willing to invest the time, effort and money to improve themselves, they would also be likely to not take advantage of any of the investment I may make in them.

Recently I have seen a trend that has warmed my heart a wee bit, companies who are actually creating sales libraries for their sales teams.  In some ways this is not new, I used to buy books for some of the reps that worked for me, and many companies will buy a specific title for their entire team.  While some did read the book, eventually many ended up on a shelf somewhere; one usually on a communal office shelf, where others, if they were so inclined.  The trend I am seeing at a number of companies goes beyond that.

Some companies are buying multiple copies of multiple books, and creating in house libraries.  But what if they went further, what if they actually executed on what they are reading, why not include the content in your account discussions?  Look at the specifics of the content and how it relates to your accounts, you sales.  These don’t have to be long meandering discussions, but more like what did they read, see, put into practice and the result.  While you may think this sounds a bit Oprha-ish, it does get people to think about their sales and get them to put things into action, and that leads to change, simple but effective.

If you don’t want to go that far, why not reward those who do read sales books you purchase for them or any books that help them sell better.  One way would be to adopt a practice that is usually embraced by certain industries, that is Continuing Education.  For instance, insurance agents (I know they are advisors now), they like real estate agents, are required to have a certain amount of CE credits to maintain their licence.  While this is often skewed to product knowledge, it does allow for sales improvement.  (They usually refer to this a “soft skills”, which is the first clue they have not sold).  Why not adopt that within sales organizations.  Why not make it a mutual responsibility; the company providing the means, the sales rep accepting the responsibility for utilizing and running with it.  Like most things in sales, you have to do it for yourself, but having a helping hand from your company can help in a number of ways.  In many instances a lack of CE credits means no renewal of their licence, you may not want to be that heavy handed, and can still recognize initiative taken.

There are a number of other ways and benefits, the key is to adopt and foster a culture of learning and improvement.  The market is changing, are you?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Fail More : Sell More47

The Pipeline Guest Post – Andrea Waltz

There are many salespeople who never become comfortable with failure and rejection, but are highly successful nonetheless. These people keep “failing forward” in spite of their feelings.  Now, if the same person could learn to do more than “tolerate” failure and rejection…  and, perhaps, one day even learn to ENJOY being rejected and hearing NO, then the journey itself could also be rewarding, not just the destination.

Probably the greatest attribute that salespeople have to make them prime candidates for this “failure philosophy” is an internal drive to succeed and competitive spirit. But this is good and bad. For some the idea of failing doesn’t seem like a good strategy because they do work so hard at being successful. When starting out in sales, most of us are conditioned to go for “yes” not “no.” Sometimes the more experience a salesperson has (time in the job) the more difficult it is to get on board with these ideas. However when the salespeople that do embrace this philosophy and start working it; watch out because they will put their full force behind this and get major results!

To a large degree, success is a “numbers game.”  So, the value in increasing your failure rate is to literally improve your “chances at success.”  So, for any salesperson, the mere act of increasing the amount of product you show and services you offer increases both the yesses and no’s you will hear.  Show more merchandise = more times you’ll hear NO… and the more times you hear NO, the more times you’ll hear YES!  It is not only a fool-proof formula, but one of the great undeniable laws of the universe. The same goes for prospecting calls and following up with prospects who have said ‘no’ or ‘not yet’ in the past.

However… getting “no” can have you feeling depressed and bad. But how do you start feelinggood about hearing no more often?  The truth is that when you hear “no” you are taking action in your business and that is a very good thing!  Most salespeople make ‘yes’ this incredible high with the ‘no’ at a depressing low. If the straightest distance between where you are now to where you want to be is a straight line then equalize out the emotional reaction to both yes and no. When you get a yes, you should say to yourself, “great” avoiding the fanfare. And when you get a “no” you should say, “Great – the next one may be a yes. But I know that the no’s bring me the yeses, so I’ll keep going.”

It’s natural to be excited about our successes and to celebrate them, to give ourselves a reward. But, if the key to success is to increase our no’s, then it only makes sense to celebrate our setbacks as well. Yes, you read right: if someone turns you down, celebrate it! When’s the last time you rewarded yourself for failing or hearing a no? Probably never! Instead of mentally punishing yourself for not succeeding, what if you bought yourself an ice cream cone and said, “I’m one step closer to success!” The “no” will stop having the negative hold it has on your thoughts and emotions.

That’s the great thing about this strategy, because ultimately for this to work, you’ve got to get into action. You have to step outside your comfort zone and start hearing no’s! When you start hearing no’s and start thinking differently about no, realizing that you are on the right path, you’ll feel more empowered than ever before.

About Andrea Waltz

Richard Fenton & Andrea Waltz are the authors of “Go for No!”, a short powerful story written specifically for sales professionals in every industry who must learn to harness the power of no to be successful.   To learn more, visit http://www.goforno.com

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Meaning of Value?37

On Monday I posted about assumptions and the pitfalls of assuming that the buyer has the same understanding of a subject you do, or that they mean the same thing you do when they use a specific word.

One word that is used a lot in sales, probably over used, is Value.  As with many things that are relative and open to interpretation, you need to manage the situation to ensure the right outcome.

httpvh://youtu.be/6eiiu1CZThI

Let us know if you saw value in that, know what I mean!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Assuming You're Right – Sales eXchange – 12033

We have all heard the popular saying about the perils and risks when you assume, and for the most part sales people are much less likely to make assumptions about prospects, their situation and motives.  But there is a type assumption that many sales people make hat is still costing them sales, or causing them to be much longer than they should be, which in itself brings risk.

The risk is when sales people assume that the buyer understands and defines many of the words that sales people use in the same way that the sales rep actually meant.  This is even more the case and the risk, with words that are used commonly in different professions, and for the wrong reason.

Take words like solution and value.  Having sat in on many sales meetings, I have seen a large number of them fail because of assumptions the reps have made about how the buyer views specific processes and products; assumptions about how the buyer defines value; assumptions about what a buyer may or may not be willing to do and invest in to address a specific situation.

Many brilliant sales calls ended up in no next step because the sales rep failed to take the time and effort ensure that the buyer’s points of reference were the same as the sellers.  When you spend much of your time with people who are using the same points of reference as you, that is your fellow sales people, product, marketing and other people in your company.  Add to that the fact that your competitors are using the same words to describe the same things you and your gang do.  It is easy to believe that everyone defines things as you do, everyone uses the same words or phrases you do.  But they don’t.

One example revolved around “document management” a number of industries and products proudly ware the label.  In any given meeting you can find that someone sees it the way that you do, while in the next someone in a similar role will see it differently.  Unless you take the time to understand you are at risk of clicking with one, and alienating the other.

This is a shame, because with a few well placed questions, and a bit of patience, and abandoning basic assumptions, both sales could have gone well rather than just the one where the assumptions were right.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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