Welcome to The Pipeline.

PRIDE – Part IV – Decisive Action!27

As we continue looking at what every successful sales rep needs to bring to their game daily, we come to one where the title alone should be enough, especially given the elements that proceeded it.  Just to remind you quickly PRIDE consists of:

At first glance, this should be a relative no brainer, but as we all know it is not. I would say there are two elements at play here; the first is just the act of doing something, anything; second, is doing it in a decisive straightforward and confident fashion.

I am not sure why there is often a softness and reluctance to act, or more accurately “do”. Most know that specific actions have to take place, but do not do them. Beyond the actions discussed in the previous post pertaining to initiating interaction with potential buyer, this goes more to the obvious actions sales people must do in the course of a sale. 

In some ways, it is not a surprise given that we live on a continent where obesity is dealt with not by addressing the underlying issue, over eating and lack of activity; instead, it is dealt with by changing the definition of obesity, lowering standards and setting the threshold to a higher weight.  Is it a surprise that we can’t get people to take action in other important aspects of their life, like career in the case of sales.

As with obesity or fitness, the solution for sales people is clear but not easy, mostly because it involves change, specifically behavioural change, very personal stuff.  In the end, it seems we love the Status Quo as much as our prospects do.

Much like in fitness, there are miracle cures, they offer up the latest and greatest Abs Machine, and the sales enablement industry offers up magic ways to find more prospects and close sales without effort.  However, we all know that momentary improvement realized when adopting one of these things is more the result of actually doing something vs. doing nothing before, rather than any magic to the tool.  Get off the couch after five years and you shed some pounds; take a proactive approach to executing your sales plan and the prospects will react and engage.  I know it sound straight forward, but I also know I see sales people squander opportunity after opportunity because they will not act.

One example is when sales people fail to follow through with prospects, they say things like “they know I am here, if they want it they will call”.  No they won’t, chances are they didn’t call you in the first place, they have others things “to do”, more importantly you have competitors who are calling them, making it easy to act.  If you are not “there”, it is hard to transact.   This is no small thing and not as rare as you are telling yourself it is right now, I know some of you are moving away from the mirror right now. 

I have seen reps work hard to get in front of a prospect, do a good job on Discovery, make a compelling case for their product, earn the right to submit a proposal, and then just sit back, and do nothing but wait.  When you ask where things are, I hear things like “I don’t want to be pushy”, or “I don’t want to bother them.”  While I am not advocating “pushy”, I do advocate following through, if you are in B2B sales, you are not in a “self serve” environment, you need to pursue thing to the end, not the bitter end, but the end of the sales process. 

If you have submitted a proposal, I am assuming you submitted it because you successfully completed a thorough Discovery process; demonstrated the impact vis-à-vis the buyer’s objectives, and the prospect was looking forward to receiving the proposal as much as you were ready to submit it.  Anything short of that you should hold off and finish your work before taking the time to prepare and submit a proposal. 

It should not be a case of “let’s see how many proposals I can get out and how many will stick?”  A proposal should be the culmination of a series of decisive steps taken by both you and the prospect leading to an agreement moving forward.  This will not happen if you are tentative in your approach or actions.  The goal is to stand out by “being present”, not by “being absent”.

You see this type of tentative vs. decisive behaviour and action earlier in the cycle too.  I never understand why sales people say to a potential prospect “I was hoping to get together”, or “I was wondering if we could…”.  I am sure when they picked up the phone they wanted, and were not hoping, and that is what you have to project.  Softness is not your friend, decisive confident action is; would you want to put your trust and faith in someone soft and tentative or someone decisive.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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PRIDE – Part III – Initiative22

When it comes to the “I” in PRIDE, I was torn; I could have just as easily gone with Innovation as Initiative.  In the end, I had to go with Initiative, as it is the more action oriented, and emphasises the need to execute rather than being better or more important than Innovation. Since the first two elements focused more on attitude and mind set, I think it is important to initiate action. As the “I” sits right in the middle of PRIDE, really cannot afford to linger and not act.

To review PRIDE represents:

It serves to remind that once you have a Regiment in place, and take a Proactive stance, you do have to initiate action.  

The great thing about being proactive and using a regiment to keep focused, is the very fact that you can, and as I’ll argue need to be very innovative in the way you initiate and execute your sale.  The reality is that while you are targeting a specific buyer, so is everyone else targeting that same buyer.  When I say everyone, I don’t just limit it to other providers in your segment, but everybody: the phone guy, the coffee guy, copier, software, data, window cleaners, sales trainer, banker, document creation, document destruction, right down to the guy bringing clean mats every other Wednesday.  So unless you show some REAL Initiative, and get REAL Innovative, you’ll be just a face in the crowd, even if you are tall and good looking.  

This is why the grounding and confidence you get from the Regimentation, allows you to focus more on being innovative, taking and seizing Initiative.  Much like in music, you can’t really improvise or be innovative with your playing until you have mastered the basics.  Most people need to become craftsmen before they can become artists.  In today’s competitive environment you need to be an artist when it comes to selling B2B.

Initiative can manifest itself in a number of ways, and for the most part transcend skills.  Here are  a couple of examples.  One is doing what you know has to be done to get the sale, not short cuts, no excuses.  Most sales people know what has to be done, yet they don’t do it.  Some are right that they lack the training, but I see people continue to procrastinate, avoid and rationalize not doing specific things.   Not a lot of things bother me during workshops, but one thing that always catches my ear is “well it is different in our industry, you can’t do that!”  There may be shades of difference, but the fundamentals remain similar for most B2B sales pros.  You need prospects, you need to Engage, you need to complete the Discovery to understand the clients objectives and put yourself in a position to help them, Gain commitment, and then Execute; the EDGE Framework

Another place to show some initiative is to truly focus on the client and their objectives the buyer.  Many people talk to this, but when you hear their approach to Engaging or Discovering where the buyer is really at, you see them fall back into the comfort of pitching as opposed to taking information.  Some confuse being subservient with being service oriented.  But if you consider that the serious buyers, knowledgeable buyers are looking for a knowledgeable resource, a source of advice.  If you rely entirely on product knowledge, you risk the buyer not seeing value in you as an advisor and by extension your product.  So take the initiative to learn not only about the buyer’s broader industry and company situation, but also about the impact of what is going on with downstream customers, and their suppliers.  Sounds straightforward, but not always common.  Even if you are selling simple tools, you project and provide greater credibility if you can talk to other areas of focus for the buyer, no matter how far removed from your brochure.

Initiative can be shown in how you approach a customer, in the ways you are willing to distinguish yourself.  Simple thing, everyone talks about it, few do it, a thank you note after a meeting, I can’t even get some people to send a thank you e-mail.  How about a thank you card for business or referrals.  An agenda, takes a minute to draft, leaves a lifetime impression.  There are plenty more.  Show some initiative in who you choose to engage with; because how and with whom you initiate a sale has a direct impact on the velocity of the sale and the eventual outcome. So take some initiative, go talk to someone up the ladder, beside and below the usual suspects, leave those to the crowd.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

To my Jewish friends and readers, I wish you all a Shana Tova, a healthy and prosperous 5771.

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Win more business with today’s crazy-busy prospects8

Listen up – I know what you are thinking, “Man, day after Labour Day, time to close this year right.”  Forget the Red Bull, reach for something more useful to someone looking to connect with real Decision Makers.

One of the toughest challenges you face right now is dealing with crazy-busy prospects. They rarely answer the phone or respond to your emails. They’d rather stay with the status quo than change. And they’re always getting distracted.

Here’s the deal. When people have too much to do and impossible deadlines, it changes how they make decisions. And, it changes their expectations of you too.

There’s help. My good friend, Jill Konrath, author of the classic “Selling to Big Companies,” just released her new book, “SNAP Selling: Speed Up Sales and Win More Business with Today’s Frazzled Customers.

I highly recommend it. Jill knows how to capture and keep the attention of hard-to-reach prospects. And, she shows you how to help people make decisions a whole lot faster too.

To learn more about SNAP Selling & to download two chapters, just click here (or copy and paste http://www.SnapSelling.com in you browser.)

If you want to be able to answer the question at the end of all my posts, check out Jill’s book, and put it to work for you.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

*  Disclosure – I make no money for recommending or on the purchases of this book, just your unending gratitude for bringing it to your attention.

P.S. You’ll also be able to download some cool new sales tools from Jill – no strings attached.  Again, click on http://www.SnapSelling.com right away.

Remembering the Labour In Sales – Sales eXchange – 6120

I always have mixed feelings about Labour Day, on the one hand I still get that gloomy back to school feeling I used to get as a kid, (is it me, or was it always cloudy and a bit colder on Labour Day?).  Now as an adult, and a sales person, I look forward to it, as a time when people get back to work, and the harvest season begins.

While many sales people may not see Labour Day as anything more than the last day of summer and less people on vacation, we should remember that there is indeed a lot of labour to be done in good selling.  When you speak to sales people, they don’t see Labour Day as pertaining to them, after all they went in to sales (or ended up in sales) so you won’t have to “labour” for their money.  Successful sales people know that sales involves “some heavy lifting”, as we have discussed before, sale is a blue-collar job.   

When watching successful sales professionals, the one who consistently deliver against all aspects of their plan/goal, this includes the financial goals, the activity plans, and all the visible and intangible elements that help them deliver regardless of the time of year or state of the economy. You realize that they work at being successful; having a great product really, helps, having great marketing and brand helps, a really solid USP goes a long way, but in the end it comes down to the effort the sales person makes in just executing thing.

These are the same sales people who understand that it is certainly true that you get further by working smart than just working hard.  There is still hard work in sales no matter how easy some professionals make it look, and those who spend their energy doing the labour that has to be done go further than those who spend the same effort trying to avoid it or being selective about it.

One commonality among the consistently successful sales people is their attitude towards their goals and plans.  They see them for what they are, the goal is something that must be attained no matter what, and they will labour to do what it takes to attain it.  Part of that is the plan they will need to execute to attain that goal, and that involves doing things in given proportions; it means doing those things they don’t like as mush the activities they do like, again that is the labour involved in sales for them.  The also-rans, those who consistently deliver 70%-85% of goal, merely see their goal as a suggestion; they look at the plan as convenient option as opposed to a must have.

Let’s take prospecting as an example, there are others, but prospecting is really the blue collar part of sales, it is where you need to think and get your hands dirty in the process; which is why a lot of sales people still don’t like it.  Every day you need to look at your inventory of prospects at various states of readiness depending on your sale.  Also driven by your sale is the knowledge of how many prospects and leads you need at each stage in order to have enough to deliver goal, that’s a bit of labour.  It is when you notice you are short at one stage that the blue-collar work begins; you then have to get your “gear and game on”, go into the mine with you pick and find new diamonds in the rough to polish up through your sale process and convert to value for you and the prospect.

While this is where some sales people labour most, and many others avoid, the reality is that all sales people have to labour at some part of the cycle, the question is whether they are willing to work their plan to hit goal; or avoid the labour and come up short.  We all know what we have to do to succeed, the question often is, are you willing to do it?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

PRIDE – Part II – Regiment27

On Monday I introduced this series dealing with the five attributes of successful sales professional share and excel at, they are all:

  • Proactive
  • Regimented
  • Initiative
  • Decisive and Action oriented
  • Evolve

Or what we coined Pride.  Leading sales professionals PRIDE in what they do, and they bring PRIDE to their work every day.

I had some good feedback on the Proactive segment, one of particular interest came from Bonita Read, who rightfully pointed out that PASSION, is also a critical attribute, and I agree 100%, a rep without passion is one that will not perform, and since Passion also starts with a P, it is very easily added to the mix.

Today we’ll look at Regiment or Regimented – defined as: to form into an organized group, usually for the purpose of rigid or complete control.  Or: To put into systematic order; systematize.

Most sales people do not like Regiment, many are uncomfortable with concepts like rigid, control or systematic.  Many still buy into the notion of the sales person as the “the last cowboy” blazing into the “last frontier” of capitalism.  In the past I contrasted the difference in attitude between athletes and sales people, and the level of commitment athletes bring to the whole process, rather than just the parts the like.

In a sales context, I would define Regiment as a combination of discipline and accountability.  The big demand of regiment is the discipline required to execute things in a through and consistent fashion.  Spending as much time doing the things we don’t like, because they are important, as we do the thing we do like, which are also important.  Time and time again, I see sales people looking for short cuts, taking credit when they find one and have success, or sometimes it finds them because inadvertently they are in the right place at a convenient time, an accident in reverse. 

One example is planning.  I see reps go though the motion of “creating a plan”, and as importantly, their managers allowing them to pretend they have a plan.  One consistent complaints I get from VP is the general lack of quality of their teams account plans, even among mature teams covering Key Accounts. The problem is compounded when they and their managers buy in to the false belief that some on their teams have god given skills and don’t need a plan, which just tells the rest of the team that planning is optional or a make work exercise to cover the rear end of someone in management.

These same reps will spend days discussing the game plan for their favorite sports teams.  Just witness the focus and energy about to be expended in the weekly ritual of NFL pools, I’ll bet that some sales people put more thought and in to those picks than some accounts they work on.  Trying to get them to apply this to specific meetings, is often met with remarks reminding us that they know what they have been doing, having done it for the last 12 years.  Planning is just one example, when you suggest that they actually work through or practice a meeting in advance, the pushback just intensifies.

In reality, I think that Regiment is not limiting, but demanding, and as such requires more work than many are willing to do.  I truly believe that those sales professionals who do bring discipline and accountability to their sales, who demonstrate the PRIDE in all their sales actions have understood that to make the “big money” to be a professional, have accepted that discipline helps them manage and accomplish more and better.  By being accountable to themselves first, client second, they achieve much greater freedom and autonomy than others pretend to by avoiding it.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Contest – It’s The Message Not The Medium!27

Back on August 16th, I posted a piece on SalesBlogcast Mindshare, a great blog I contribute to regularly; the post was titled Texting as a Form of Cold Calling!, which based on a comment I heard by a CMO. He had stated clearly that one way to approach him, given his busy schedule and mobility, was by SMS/text.

When you read the piece you’ll see that rather than passing an opinion or judgement on the practice, instead I made what I believe were sound arguments as to why sales people should explore and consider all method.

As you can imagine the reaction was largely negative, while no one got personal, the concept was called all things between immoral and illegal.   The reaction was most pronounced by people who read and reacted to the post in the various LinkedIn groups it appeared in. (See below)

Based on the reaction, I decided to deal with the subject by running a contest. Go to It’s The Message Not the Medium Contest!, read the premise, the background and RULES. Then enter to win.  Again, you can find all the details and related posts at It’s The Message Not the Medium Contest!  Enter now, enter often, have fun, and good luck.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

A sampling of reaction to Texting as a Form of Cold Calling!

Ben IceNo f*in way!!! That’s just flat wrong. I have no interest in receiving sales calls on my phone in any form unless I start the process.

Raquel HirschAre you kidding me (us), Tibor?!

Ben IceRaquel, having sat in on a couple of your webinars (really like what you guys are doing) I’d be curious of your opinion. It seems very slimy to me…sorry to use such a strong word but the first ones that came to mind were cruder and much more vulgar….and unneeded in this discussion.

Tibor ShantoBut the reality is, people are doing it, in feedback in another group, a person from the UK stated that it was common practice there. Generally speaking wireless trends are years ahead in Europe. If it does become a trend here, there will be ample technology to help the potential targets block unwanted messages, but you will find a number of people who will see it as appropriate.

I understand the initial reaction, but simply ladling it “slimy” does not take away from the potential of the concept. You know no one objects to commercials on TV or even satellite radio, so who is to say that this can’t evolve as a means of subsidizing wireless for some users. Who knows?

Raquel HirschBen, thank you for the kind words (I am blushing :>)

Tibor, just because it is common practice anywhere else it means nothing.

Outside North America, texting itself has been a common practice for many years, long before texting was even making any impact with teens here (and long before Tiger Woods reinvented the medium). This was mostly due to their technology allowing for sending and receiving texts across networks (this only changed relatively recently in North America).

Outside NA, people accept commercial messages on their mobile devices either because they have signed up for discounted rates and receiving text ads is part of the deal, or because they have opted in.

(In NA, the only reason is opting in; the closed network prevents text spam. I signed up to get text messages from a restaurant I like but opted out after a few weeks because, well, there are only so many times I want to receive an offer that says “Come in before 6 pm and get a free appetizer.”)

Regardless, you are referring to “cold texts” – so no opt-in option.

It would seem to me that the reaction brands would get from cold texts would be similar to what companies got when they started sending “cold faxes” (remember fax?). Didn’t last long, did it? My personal reaction is revulsion.

Having said that, let’s see if we can find a case study where someone has done cold-texts and seen measurable success. I am open to that (small) possibility if there is data to support it.

Tibor ShantoSo to your point, that is one of the things that we will be looking for, is this viable or not? We will be doing a search, and keep you posted.

Raquel HirschYes, it is all about data and not hype. Please keep us posted!

Ben IceTibor it depends on your definition of viable. It’s not viable in any form to me. I don’t want cold calls on my cell and shut them down immediately when they do…I certainly don’t want commercial message spam either and I am not alone. That doesn’t mean that others will have the same aversion, but I’d imagine more would relate to my “slimy” term than you think. Raquel used the term “revulsion.” I’d say hers was more eloquent, but fits well with mine. Either way, you may consider yourself a pioneer…my word would be much less flattering.

Raquel HirschBen, Tibor – results speak for themselves (but only as long as you are measuring)

Personally, I would not recommend cold-texts to any client, ever. (Just a new term for spam)

Tibor ShantoBen,

With all due respect, you need to read what I am writing.

I do not see myself as a pioneer, for the third time, I am not saying it is an idea whose time has come. I am reporting on the fact that a REAL EXECUTIVE in a public forum said that it is a way “sellers can get to him”. So while you and I can pontificate, and you can jump up and down playing word games about how it make you feel, the reality is that while you and Raquel are ‘repulsed”, I am skeptical, there is a sales person out there who will get a sale texting the executive in question.

So while the three of us may not be turned out by this, there is someone who is, who has money, and who buys products. So if your company sells, would you not want to have your reps explore ALL possibilities. If yes, then my piece speaks to you, if not, then this is one sale you and your team will not get, your choice.

The only thing novel, or pioneering about my piece is that I am open to learning and sharing, which is another attributer some in sales need to adopt.

Ben IceTibor, if I am pontificating move over and give me a podium. I read your piece. The CMO admitted to being at the point of the spear as you put it. I’d say he would be in a very small percentage…and the rest of those you attempted to reach in that manner would burn you (or said salesperson) at the stake.

In today’s marketplace it is too easy to get burned with questionable tactics. That same CMO would just as likely “opt-in” to text messaging, but it goes back to exactly what I said the first time…it needs to be initiated by (me)(the person being texted) or it will be as Raquel put it just another form of spam. And you know how good Congress is at fixing things like that.

One last thing. As a former sales person and now marketer I abhor the practice at all costs as a cold calling technique. This is not wordsmithing. This is not word games. This is real life. People have too many intrusions in their lives as it is. Hence the immense rise in the use of DVRs, spam killing software programs etc. As a marketer it can be frustrating, but it is necessary to respect people’s need for some modicum of privacy.

I’ll be interested in any measurement you or someone else can provide. From a cost standpoint it might be cheap, similar to email. But then again there are a lot of amateurs mucking it up in the email industry as well. I just can’t imagine having every wannabe marketer and sales person thinking he/she is being clever and pouring “cold texts” down our collective throat. It would quickly be just as bad as email.

Gary HoneggerSince Europe was mentioned I thought I should add a comment to this rather small group. But first of all I like to tell you that it is Asia that is way ahead when it comes to communication. The youngsters in Korea (where I lived for four years) where all using very small mobiles when it was still a luxury good in Europe. On cold text messages so was there a time in Europe, maybe five years ago, when some providers started to send a text message when you crossed the border and your phone changed to their network. It lasted only half a year and they had to stop this because everybody complained. After this no one ever dared to send an unsolicited text message. Even when you change your payment plan with a telephone provider and this is confirmed with a text message they will tell you before that you will get a message. I think opt-in is the key to use this marketing channel. Everything else will not work yet.

To be fair there were positive responses as well:


Enjoyed your views on “it’s the message, not the medium.” I especially resonate with what you said about effective, enticing and engaging – these principles are the essence of developing social capital and when it comes to sales, effective leaders in this space are fully aware of the value of growing and adapting to leverage whatever media is available to them.

To the thinkers go the spoils. If prospecting is being done within the bounds of those three principles: effective, enticing and engaging, it’s highly unlikely that anyone is going to object. If not, then that is not a problem with the medium, it’s a problem with the message. Yeah?

Don F Perkins

And some at least gave me some credit.

Cristina E Lockhart Honestly, even though I don’t agree with the texting as a way of cold calling I do have to give you a virtual “high five” to commend you on your out of the box way of thinking Mr. Shanto. That’s what it’s all about.

To make a trail, someone has to walk through the brush at some point…..

True trailblazer attitude. You’ll go far if you keep it up.

Go ahead enter the contest!!

PRIDE – Part I – Proactive – Sales eXchange – 6029

I speak to many people whose cards say they are in sales, but when you speak to them, you begin to wonder.  To be honest I am not surprised, because I find that a lot of people “end up” in sales rather than selecting sales as a profession. Just look around and see how many sales people you know who made the choice versus a series of events that led them into a “job”, making a decent living, often at a level others make after extensive post secondary education, and without a comparable investment of time or study.

I believe sales is a noble profession, or a noble craft depending on who is and how it is executed.  I find it refreshing to meet and speak with the variety of people who did choose sales as their profession.  I see that all these people have fun selling, do it well, and make a whack of money doing it, and they all share one thing in common: They all take PRIDE in what they do, and they bring PRIDE to their work every day.

Having worked with many of these people, here is what PRIDE is map up of:

  • Proactive
  • Regiment
  • Initiative
  • Decisive Action – Do it
  • Evolve

Over the next week or two I will be looking at each of these components (not necessarily sequentially but certainly in order).  

Proactive – too many sales people take a passive or reactionary approach and posture to selling. This is sometimes difficult to explain to some who are “active” daily, but taking action can still be reactive, and waiting for something to react to is passive. Being proactive involves going to and beyond areas of sales where many will not, either because of fear, laziness, attitude, or a misunderstand of what selling really is. 

The clear delineator of the proactive from the reactive camp is where you choose to hunt.  Regardless of how you divide and categorise the market, most agree that at any given time the biggest category of potential buyers is complacent, status quo, or whichever label you want to place on them, since I often talk about Zone Based Selling, we’ll call it the Complacent Zone.  Big sign on the lawn – Go Away Not Ready To Interact.  The other Zones are where the buyers have clearly declared some form of readiness to interact, we will call this the Action Zone to keep it simple, from just looking/learning to ready to buy, and buy now (it really is composed of two zones).  Of the two about 70% of the market is in Complacent Zone at any given time, and the other 30% are in varying states of readiness and Action. 

To be direct, I see sellers who focus on the Action Zone and being passive and reactive.  I say this because these sellers choose to only engage or connect with potential buyers who are in this end of the market, potential buyers who have declared their intent or interest to participate in the market.  At the risk of over simplifying things, it is very much like a beauty pageant at that point.  I am not saying it is easy, straight forward or does not require creativity, but let’s face it, it is not like you brought someone to the market, they came on their own, and now you have to win them over.  There is work and effort on the part of sellers, but that will not change the fact that the buyer came to the market, and sellers who waited for that to happen are reactive by nature, no matter how proactive they get once the game starts.

The proactive sales profession is able to go into the Complacent Zone, and attract those people to come to market.  This requires much more skill, especially if they are able to do this in a way that delivers real value to the buyer.  This requires an ongoing effort and awareness on a number of fronts.  General market trends, specific customer and role requirements; the ability to engage with buyers at a level that transcends the product and focuses solely on the buyers objectives and their ability to achieve them.  Cutting through the fluff and other matter, the reality is that these people are Complacent because they believe, at that specific time and given all the factors, (interruption, effort and cost of change, personal and political risk) that indeed they are on the right path towards achieving their objective(s).  Notice I did not say these buyers were not aware of “better” alternatives, they probably are, it is just the total effort in employing the “better” alternatives is greater than dealing with the real or perceived short comings of what they have in place now. 

Left to their own devices, they will eventually conclude that they need to do something, and declare their readiness.  However, a proactive rep will possess the skills to engage with those in the Complacent Zone; they are also very able to compete and win in the Action Zone.  They know however, that it is much less crowded, much less confused, here than in the Action Zone.  Yes, greater effort is required, many more approaches rebuffed than, but those buyers who do engage, are much less likely to shop around or shop on price.  There is a greater opportunity to be the only vendor in the sale. 

Consider this, if you can engage and sell a buyer who was complacent at the time you connected, how likely are you to be able to sell to a buyer who has on his own volition, come to the market?  Alternatively is the opposite also true, I say no.

Being proactive does take work, it takes discipline and takes a regimented execution, which is what we will look at next, Regimented.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Need Some Sage Advice – BlackBerry, iPhone or Legend?20

My contract with my wireless carrier expires this week, not a big deal, I am not in love with my carrier, but I think they are no better or worse than the others, I have the same uncared for feeling as the other carriers’ customers do, I am sure.  Nevertheless, unlike in the past, the issue for me at this point is less about a new (improved, ha) plan, this time it is all about the device.  And that’s where you come in, your advice your opinion, lay it on me.

I’ll state my situation and then ask for your input. Clearly things have changed over the last three years and since you can’t take these devices for a test drive, I look to you for consumer insights and opinions.

I am currently a BlackBerry user, and have been for a long time. The biggest upside for me is the functionality when it comes to typing.  I type a lot.  Even more important than e-mail for me, is the fact that I write most of my blog posts on my BlackBerry, in fact this very post is being created on my BlackBerry.  It is great to be able reach in my pocket and start capturing my thoughts or observations, I love it.  Then of course there is the e-mail, unlike the Saudis, I love the security. And hey, RIM, they are Canadian eh! (Although I suspect the little suckers are built somewhere in China.)

The downside is the web experience, I wish I could say it just sucks, but that would be a lie, it sucks and hurts at the same time.  You know how I am writing this on my BlackBerry, well I could never post it using my device and hope to keep my sanity, this should not be the norm in 2010.  I have the 8830, and trying to do anything on the web, is like torture, really.  I know RIM fans will tell me the Torch is coming, but again, no test drive; it could well be Storm Jr., a scary stuff, very risky thought.

Having looked at the iPhone, I see the upside, clearly the web experience and the selection of apps. But I have concerns about typing. My daughter has an iPod Touch, and people tell me that typing is the same as the iPhone, which would be a big big negative. Tried, sucks, the BlackBerry has it hands down over the iPhone, just like iPhone just kills on the web side of things. 

A couple of other issues I have with the iPhone.  First is the way they responded to the issues relating to the iPhone 4 failing to function as a phone, a small thing some say, but hey, I just have this thing about my phone working like a phone.  My experience with Apple suggests they seem to have issues around customer support, last year I related my daughter’s issues with her iTouch, I had a number of people relate similar experiences. So that with iPhone 4 thing, hmm, factor in the decision.  Lastly, I have had a lifelong fear of joining a cult, and you gotta admit there is a cultish element to iPeople, which was confirmed by the way they responded to my post on the iPhone 4 problem. They’re so cute in some ways, scary in others, like the phone, not sure I want to be in that club.

The last contender, the Android, specifically, the HTC Legend.  Hearing good things, but guess what, no test drive. I am told it has the upside of the iPhone in terms of web, apps and speed, especially speed!  People tell me the typing is the same issue, if not worse as I mentioned relating to iPhone.  No Cult, many developers and certainly a broader choice of devices if I don’t like the Legend, there are others using the platform.

So there we are, I like all three, I am open to suggestions from people who have had experience and are cult free.

Thanks in advance!

Big Claims Are Not As Effective As Real Claims You Can Deliver To17

Many sales people and organizations are always looking for ways to differentiate themselves and impress buyers, in the process they sometimes reach further than they have to, and risk having the opposite effect to the one they intended.  One method used by many is accentuating the size of or the degree to which their product can impact the buyers world.

We have all seen examples of this, “speed up you process by 22%”, “reduce cost by 30%”, “increase sales by 18%”, etc.  While in most case there is no attempt to mislead, the numbers are real and can be validated, but they don’t always represent the average, or commonly repeatable outcome.  It is easy to understand why they would want to put the biggest number out there; whether it is sports or other things around us, everyone always talks about the biggest baddest, not the average.

The risk is that while it is accurate, it may seem a stretch for some buyers to accept, and what we see as an impressive number, the buyer might look at sceptically, and that scepticism could cause the to consider alternatives.

The way the economy is now, the challenges faced by many companies searching for efficiencies and shrinking budgets, you don’t have to “go big” to be noticed.  Imagine if your buyer is spending $2 million annually on something your products deals with.  If you can show that company a savings of 5%, which may seem modest, it is still $100,000 savings, and if your product costs $80,000, well that is a pay back of less than one year, over three years it is a great ROI by any measure.  So while you may have had a client that realized 14% – 15% savings, that number may seem to goo to be true from the buyer’s perspective, and if you can only get one testimonial, versus six or seven testifying about the 5% saving, and your service to boot, you are much further ahead.

A more practical approach is to articulate a couple of other things to the buyer.  Sticking with the 5% savings, if you spent time understanding how the client can take that saving and redeploy it elsewhere in the process to produce more savings or efficiencies, perhaps leading to other indirect saving, reducing the overall cost of ownership, and enhancing ROI.  For example, if you sell a product or line of products that can reduce the downtime of a manufacturing process by say 5%.  May be not a big number, but that is 2.5 hours in a 50 hour week; that’s 2.5 hours that they are not paying staff to stand around; that is either more product rolling off the line every week, or product rolling off faster, getting to customers sooner, leading faster or more receivables or both.  You can keep exploring this line, exploring it with the buyer who will no doubt see other opportunities.  Can they reduce the cost of raw materials if they are buying more as result of more production?

What you will find is that buyers will not only see value in the savings, 5% is 5%, but they will see you as a valuable business provider who helped them achieve objectives directly related to your product, but also beyond.  In the end you are also more likely to exceed the moderate number, where if you only match or fall short of you BIG number, it may reflect differently.

Yes it is good to boast, but it doesn’t have to be big, it has to be real and practical.

What’s in Tour Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

4D – Four Deep – Sales eXchange – 5932

Certain clichés take root and become part of the tapestry without much if any re-examination of their current reality.  Sometimes there is no harm in this, but other times simply accepting something just because it has been around a while, and is repeated by many who have not given it a second thought or spent effort validated it, can lead to issues.  What you generally find is that those who take the time and effort to go beyond clichés , “mottos” or widely accepted wives tails, tend to do better over the long term. 

Sales is no exception, there are saying and myths that are repeated and accepted despite the fact that their time and effectiveness may have passed.  They may be part of the “common culture”, but have lost meaning over time; they looked good at first, but have worn thin over time.  One such saying widely accepted but not always true is “People Buy From People”.

There is no doubt that there are elements of fact in the statement, but there is also potential risk in over relying on this statement.  This is especially so if you are selling a service or a product where retention is key to your company realising a payback over time, or if retention and upselling is key.  Basing your long-term sales success on it can cost you and your company a lot of money and clients.

Saying people buy from people is one of those feel good statement that sales professionals and pundits throw around with “religious conviction”, which allows them to brand anyone questioning it as a heretic.  Cool, I’ll wear the label, and keep the commissions that go with it.

Let acknowledge upfront that personal rapport is important in sales, but not as important as the cliché would imply.  While the individual sales person is important, a number of sources have shown that buyers do look at the overall organization when it comes to a buying decision.  One source I read showed that people want to deal with those sales people who can demonstrate that they can marshal the full resources of their companies.  While the sales person is important, it is the resources and access to them that drive decisions.  Studies have also shown that buyers want to deal with those companies that are committed to research and development, have proven they are innovators over time, and are responsive to the clients’ needs not only in sales, but also in important things such as conflict resolution, i.e. resolving bad invoices. 

One thing to consider is how few customers follow a rep when they leave a company who has proven they are responsive, innovative, demonstrate thought leadership and are customer focused.  I worked with a company that had a high level of turnover in sales people; it was the nature of the trade as opposed to a company flaw.  Knowing they had this issue, they focused a lot on their customers.  Their surveys continued to show a higher than average level of retention when compared to the rest of the sector.  One specific feedback was that despite the many reps clients had, they always had contact from the current rep, and other key people in the seller company; including product, service and the executive.  The result, they always felt attended to and they never felt they were not being serviced.

One way to achieve this is to implement a program known as 4D, or Four Deep.  This is a process of making sure that as soon as someone becomes your customer, or even before, you begin to have relationship on at least four levels with the customer organization.  The first is obviously the sales person with the natural buyer; if you are selling sales training that would be the VP of Sales, IT related services, the CTO or CIO.  Another we recommend is Finance to Finance, that is your CFO reaching out and striking a relationship with the customers CFO or VP finance.  Price and money are always a big deal, so cover it directly. 

At the service level, your service person directly with their service or user support person.  We are not just talking about assigning a name to the account, and entering it in the account profile.  We mean Harry picking up the phone and talking directly to the support person within the account, and developing a relationship with them that goes beyond service tickets or annual parties.  The fourth depends on the nature of the product, but if you are selling anything that can be sold as a “solution”, I would suggest your CEO or President strike a one-on-one with their counterpart at the customer company.

Think of it as a four-legged stool, if one leg goes, it will remain standing.  If you are relying on one or two relationships based on personalities not dependencies, what happens if one goes.  We have all lost accounts when there was a change in a position within the client company.  I know plenty of sales people who covered their “natural buyer”, only to be undermined by a new CFO or President.  Had there been four relationships, this could have been managed and avoided, but with only one direct relation, the sale rep and IT Director or Regional Director of Sales, you are exposed. 

4D goes beyond just having an “executive sponsor” or “executive angel” program that many companies have and benefit from.  Many clients appreciate it, but see it for what it is.  The 4D approach requires a very hands on effort by each of the four involved to not only cement each individual relationship, but also make sure that everyone is aware of the various relationships.  This makes it more difficult for anyone to “just act” without input from the other three.

It is true that people buy from people, but they also stop buying for a bunch of reasons, one common one being price, how many times have you won an account, only to lose it next time around because you were undercut by a few points.  Where are the people buying from people there?  I had a rep work for me in Ottawa selling to the government.  She came bouncing into my office one day telling me that she had landed a big department after a long cycle.  She credited the win to her relationship with the head of IS.  The following year, renewal time – we lost the account; one of our competitors offered another 5%.  What happened to the great relationship, the “they love me”?  Had I had deployed the 4D approach then, I am sure it would have turned different.

Yes, people buy from people, but they stay with the best provider, the best way to ensure that is to provide a great product and service, but also to have the broad relationships that will ensure everyone is aware of the quality of the service and has some interest invested in maintaining it.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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