Welcome to The Pipeline.

You Can't Shrink Your Way To Success10

closed for cycle

This time of year many companies are finalizing their plan and budgets for 2010, a daunting task for many coming in a year that has been accentuated by disappearing or shrinking budgets.  For sellers this translates in to no decisions or at best deferred decisions.  Companies have certainly done away with discretionary purchases, and are now consider which mission critical things they may do without for a while or perhaps do the same wit less.

What you as a seller though were sure things a couple of years ago, where one only had to discuss the renewal price, are now turning into full blow selling efforts.  Both you and the buyer may know that they need what you deliver now, but the buyers have convinced themselves that they can live without it, at least for, now, “pending further review”.

As a result more than ever it is important for seller to toss their “value propositions”, and begin a process “value definition” together with – not for your clients/prospects.  No matter how great your product is, now matter what new innovations it has, efficiencies it addresses, it is now up against an overwhelming need to save.  Knowing that companies cannot save their way into success is one thing, getting them acknowledged and act on that is another.  What makes it more challenging is know that your company is probably saying and doing the same this to your suppliers.

The best way to deal and try to overcome it is to first understand what is behind this trend, not a secret, and deal with that before you deal with your sales.  This may involve bringing in new buyers that are impacted by your produce or a lack of it.  It involves taking new tactics.  Mostly you need to start looking at what you are doing as a “buy” and deal with it that way, not as sale.

The other is you need to know when to walk away and move on to the next “real” thing.  This of course presupposes that you have other opportunities to go to, that you have maintained your pipeline and have built options for yourself.  As prospects try to save and shrink their way to success, as sellers, you need to balance that with a healthy, slightly leaner, but healthy pipeline.  This of course leads to our favourite question: What’s in Your Pipeline?

Tibor Shanto

Two Good Ways To Use Voice Mail10

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Sales people grapple a lot with voice mail, looking for a way to scale this giant barrier between them and their destination.  Sometimes they ask for techniques or ways to “deal with it”, and what they are really asking is to find a way to make it go away.  Sadly it is here to stay, so the challenge becomes how to take advantage of it the way it is.  Here are two ways, both taking advantage of voice mail’s “always there” nature, both are meant to be specifically used outside of normal business hours.

Generating Inbound Calls, in the past I have written about a voice mail technique I learned and used that generates 5 return calls for every 10 voice mail messages I leave within 48 hours, knowing that allows me to minimize my “cold calling”.  Once you master the technique, you can start a regular program of leaving message after hours, to generate inbound calls.  You can get on the phone at say 7:00 pm, quickly leave 10 to 15 voice mails with identified leads, at about 30 seconds per message, this takes less than 10 minutes.  Do it three times a week, say 40 messages, and you have just created 20 inbound calls.  Understanding that not all of these will turn into something, even a 4 to 1 conversion rate will lead to 5 new sales conversations, some immediate prospects, some leads to be nurtured.

Saving Time, being social creatures, at times we allow ourselves to be drawn into conversations that eat into productive time.  One specific is when a sales person has to deliver a simple fact to a client or a prospect, a data point, a spec, a delivery date, anything that is factual in nature and that sales person committed to communicate or deliver by a specific time.  Often what happens is that the rep will call, there will be some small talk, some business talk but not particularly crucial, but in the course of things they end up spending 5 minutes on the call.  Multiple that by 6 or 7 times and you have half an hour; if this happens twice a week, an hour.  Why not call early in the morning or after hours, deliver the fact or data:  “Harry, it’s Jill here, the measurements of the component do fit within the specs you provided, and will be delivered Thursday between 3:00 and 4:00, please call me if you have any questions or comments, I will call you Friday to…, I am at 617 239-8840.”  The rep gets bonus points for getting back promptly to the client/prospect, and does it in a way that over the course of a year frees up a lot of time.

I realize these do not make up for all the aggravating part of voice mail, but you may as well make the best of it in simple ways.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Workshops, Webinars and SELF Improvement10

Top 10 Sales Articles - Article of the Month - vote here
The Ultimate Appointment Making Workshop

Well it’s that time again, back by popular demand, we are proud to announce that we are once again presenting the Ultimate Appointment Making Workshop.  If you are in the Toronto area, or in South West Ontario, you owe it to yourself to attend this popular workshop.

This workshop focuses on the most important thing in sales: a proactive approach to getting in front of prospects who can make decisions.  Participants who have attended the Ultimate Appointment Making Workshop have been able to put what they have learned in to practice the next. 

The Ultimate Appointment Making Workshop is a fast paced interactive day focused on execution, no theory here, we want you to make money.

Find out more and register at the Ultimate Appointment Making Workshop site, to fully experience a day that will change the way you prospect and sell, join us on November 5th, at the Monte Carlo Inn Vaughan Suites.

Recession Buster Webinar

On your way to the Ultimate Appointment Making Workshop, you can also take in a series of great webinars presented by fellow Top Sales Expert Paul McCord

These seminars will resonate with new sales professionals and veterans alike, this is not the same old same old passive webinar, it is a series that will help you drive your business to new heights.

As Paul proudly points out: “You’re not going to hear some worthless drival like “ask for referrals,” or “tell everyone you meet what you do,” or “set a goal to make 50 dials a day and you’ll succeed.”

No crap here, no recycled discredited ideas, just actionable, workable and proven strategies.

So do yourself and your pipeline a favour and jump on the Recession Buster webinar.

The Sales Executive Leadership Forum (SELF)

SELF-logo (4)

Another Top Sales Leader and fellow Torontonian Steve Rosen has introduced an unique program for sale leaders looking to maximize and take their leadership to the next level?

The Sales Executive Leadership Forum (SELF) brings together sales leaders from diverse industries, each with individual philosophies, to create a high-calibre learning forum. You may feel your business issues are unique to your industry, but sales leadership crosses all boundaries.

By joining the SELF leadership think tank you can connect with like-minded sales leaders who totally understand your challenges and frustrations! Learn from the best and become the best.
 
SELF offers a confidential environment of trust and openness. The skills and insights you gain will translate into new approaches to driving sales performance.
 
Join a group of sales executives like you who are inspired and motivated to solve ongoing challenges and develop best practices!
 
Invest in your SELF and “harness the power of the collective wisdom of your peers”

BTW, you have no risk. If you register before Sept. 26th , 2009 you receive the first two month FREE.

There you are, three great opportunities to ensure a strong finish to the year while building momentum for a great 2010.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

A Random Walk Up Sales Street – 1310

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What a Waste

I recently read an article discussing productivity that stated that the average white collar non-management employee is engaged in productive activity only about 32% of the time, specifically 32% of work hours.  I have also heard statistics stating that sales people are only engaged in productive activity about 27% of the time.  While I am not sure how one measures “productive” activity, it seems alarming that any way you look at it, the implication is that sales people are only productive or working less than a third of the time available to them for working.

Non-productive activities were considered to be things like surfing the web for personal use, personal calls, office socializing, etc. Not to be overly defensive for sales people, but while being stuck in traffic on the way to an appointment may seem like one is not working, it is unavoidable, and while you can make calls from the car, so it would seem that there is some productivity to be measured there.

Rather than trying to dispute the claims, I think it is much better to step back and see how you can change things even moderately and set up a plan to be consistently more productive.  The good news is that if you are in sales and on a commission plan, any increase in productivity will lead to more money for you, which is a good thing!

Here are three things that will help you do just that:

Remove Yourself

If you do work in an office and have to be present at different points during the week, take steps not to be distracted.  While you need to be social, there is over doing it.  Sharing war stories, discussing the weekend, Michael Jackson’s death, or the next idiotic thing to come out of Jimmy Carter’s mouth; they all maybe good fun, but 10 minutes a day can make a difference.  So discipline yourself to minimize these rituals.  Get yourself out of the office as soon as you have fulfilled your obligations.  If you do have to be there, politely discourage interruptions and of course do not be interrupting.  Find an unused office or boardroom away from your normal workspace and get things done.  That’s 10 minutes a day, almost an hour a week.

Prioritize

Establish your “must do’s”, rank them in order of importance, then DO IT.  A while back in our monthly newsletter I wrote a piece called “Allocate Time – Manage Activities”,  in which we encouraged people not worry about managing time, but rather figure out how much time they need to allocate time to the right activities, then manage they way they do them.  So once you understand and validate you required activities, based on metrics and objectives, rank them in importance, assign the time and do one thing, (multi-tasking is overrated and does not work in sales), don’t do other things.  If those other things really need to be done, then you will have allocated the time, if you did not, then they can wait.  Remove yourself and do it.  While you may not save time, you will make more of your time, and add the 10 minutes above and add it to your top priority, and wow!

One Man’s Research Is Another Man’s Time Wasted

This is specifically aimed at those who “really want to prospect, but never find the time”, you know the ones, who had their list ready, were going to make the calls, you know the ones from the trade show last week, but just as they were about to go at it, the Justice League called and they had to save the planet.  Then there are the sellers who continue to lament their missed opportunity to become a Las Vegas card tick lounge act.  You’ve seen them, they keep shuffling the cards they have collected, when they finally pick one five minutes later, they hold it out, looking for the psychic connection that will reveal all they need to know to make the sale.  A further five minutes is spent looking at the card waiting for it to grow arms and fingers that will pick up the phone and dial it for them.

But the winner of the this category are the “scholar come sellers”, the people who have to study everything there is to know about a company, the executive and the janitor, before they can pick up the phone to set an appointment or better yet, to leave a voice mail.  I have people tell me that they make 10 prospecting calls a day for the purpose of getting an initial appointment, they also tell me that they would spend as much as 20 -30 minutes researching each of those calls.  That’s 200 to 300 minutes, 3-5 hours a day.  Please, they are either lying, sales people don’t do that; not making the calls, or both.

It is important to be prepared, but don’t over do it, do what you need to get the appointment, then when you have the appointment, but don’t do the deep dive before it is needed.  Unless of course your goal is to look productive, instead of being productive.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

I Was A Closet Order Taker!16

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And now a word from our sponsor, Order Takers Anonymous:

“Hi, my name is Jane, and I am an order taker.”

Here at Order Takers Anonymous we work every day with troubled order takers trying to live the life of sales person.

We understand the challenges and stress associated with having taken a sales job knowing that you are unprepared, unequipped and unwilling to do anything more than just take orders.

We work with troubled professionals every day looking to free themselves of the lies and limitations of just taking orders. Our goal is to help them shed the guilt and become productive contributing members of their organizations.

As a result of the work we do at Order Takers Anonymous, hundreds of fine and well meaning people are able to stop the charade of pretending to be in sales, to actually selling instead of just taking orders. Those who are unable to make the transition are rehabilitated and repurposed for a productive career in marketing or hospitality.

Through the years we have learned that many of the order takers who come to our clinic are themselves victims of poor management, mixed messages, and a lack of training. We know that these poor souls did not sign up for a career of mediocrity and non-contribution. They were lead there by weak leadership, a lack of direction and process that would help them sell rather than just wait for prospect or buyer to call and place an order just because of their “relationship”.

Our trained staff of professionals know that only those who confront their realities and take action can be successfully reintroduced and integrated into a real sales environment, ready to work, execute and contribute to their organization’s revenue and profit success.

So if you have order takers posing as sales reps in your organization, or if you are a poser yourself, and want to leave behind a life of order taking to become a fully productive member of the sales team, call our toll free number now (800) 661-8760, or visit our web site: www.ordertakersanonymous.com and register for a group meeting near you. It won’t be easy, you will work hard everyday like most sales people, but remember: you are what you sell, not an order you take.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Overcoming Price In B2B Sales12

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Price, the eternal boogieman for sales people is and always will be an issue in sales.  It is up to the sales professional to manage and deal with it, their ability to do that will not only determine their own personal success, but by extension that of their company.

Let’s state up front that we are not trying to make light of the issue, price is a critical factor in any purchase, even more the case in uncertain economic times accentuated by shrinking budgets, delayed decisions, and competitors resorting to discounting to win deals.

As we all know discounting is a cancer, especially when everyone “one downs” the other and while the customers win at first blush, everyone loses at the end. Now you may ask why and how customers lose with a lower price point?  Well contrary to a popular view pushed by some sales pundits, companies do not fail due to lack of revenues, but more accurately due to a lack of profits. Discounted deals result in revenues, but often show little or no profits or worse at times a loss on specific deals. That impacts sellers in the immediate sense, and as profits are reduced across a sector due to discounting, things such as R&D, service, quality, reinvestment decline with it to maintain profits. This eventually trickles down to the customer and impacts them over time.  It may be easy to blame the customers for this type situation, but that simple view may help sellers rationalize their actions, but it is the seller’s job to manage the sale, which includes price.

Consider two facts; first, while price is a big factor, it can be over come. A few years ago I attended a workshop on negotiating; they showed that decisions generally break down as follows:

  • Price – 40%
  • Product quality and fit – 20%
  • Relationship/Rapport between buyer and seller - 20%
  • Internal Factors (politics, priorities, etc.) - 20%

While price is the largest component, it can be trumped. Even if your product is at the high end of the price range, you can still over come the discounters. If you score 10 points on the Internal Factors; 15 points for Relationship; 18 points for Product Quality: and 20 points for Price, still puts you ahead of those who come up short on everything but price.

Second, buyers are sensitivity to “realistic” prices. People understand when something is too cheap to be real and will pass on buying below that level. The same is true for the high end, when something may be great, score top marks for all factors but is just priced way too high, and again no buy.

Now I know you are sitting there, and rightly so, saying “this is all well and good but my clients are still demanding price concessions, so how do I stop the pounding?” I would be. Well to start, and on a very tactical level, concessions are a step up from discounting, concession implies the client acknowledges the value and fit, the question becomes what each party can do, give or give up to get the deal done.

On a strategic level, you have a lot more options, especially if you are willing to work.  One of the most important aspects of sales is that you as the seller need to set and control the flow, this is a must, period. Now before you pop a vein or go puritan on me, I said control the FLOW not the prospect or the client.  Someone has to drive.  Someone has to lead.  This may as well be you.

With that, you can begin to frame the discussion around value and returns, rather than price or outlay. Here we are not talking about some abstract notion of value, but specific elements with teeth. 

Having said that there is not an absolute method, but there are several models and methodologies that can be applied.  At Renbor we look to the financial world, specifically to value oriented investors. When you look at some of the factors they consider, many can be repurposed for communicating and selling value. Based on the buyer’s reality you would accentuate different elements, be they break even time, inherent risks, total cost of ownership or ROI, and more. 

Presented in context ROI is a much better foundation for a sales than price. A 10% return on $10,000 product is still better than a 5% loss on a comparable product priced at $6,500. 

As is often the case in sales, it really comes down to understanding the market, the client, having a plan, the questions to execute the plan, and then doing it.

What’s in Your Pipeline?

Tibor Shanto, Principal with Renbor Sales Solutions Inc., and find out how he has helped dozens of organization to fill their pipeline with real prospects – - driving real revenue.

For more information on helping your team sell better, write to: info@sellbetter.ca, or call 416 671-3555. You can also follow Renbor on Twitter http://twitter.com/renbor.

A Random Walk Up Sales Street – 1211

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What do you want: A client or A deal?

I was sitting with a few friends enjoying a cold beer or two, and since all of us are involved in sales you can bet that it is usually one of the topics discussed.  Before you jump to conclusions, it is not the only topic, but one of, so yes we do have a life.  One of the people involved was Trevor, who was the subject of a recent contest we had, where he had a tough choice to make, and as he says “I made a decision, and have been growing the account ever since”. 

Trevor was amused by the responses and still feels that none of them would have resulted in both deals in question happening, or have a lead to two successful clients.  Adding to his amusement was the latest comment to be submitted just yesterday from a reader that called Trevor’s approach “Cynical and manipulative”, and accused him of being selfish in the process.  After Trevor stopped laughing, his comment was “so what, I got the deal he didn’t, that guy may have made a “friend” or “relationship”, but he would never get both deals, land both clients.”  At that point Trevor quoted a book both he and I have enjoyed in the past, The Hard Truth About Soft-Selling: Restoring Pride and Purpose to the Sales Profession; from which he quoted “I never made a commission for a relationship just for a sale”.

Which brings up an interesting question, what should a seller aspire to, winning a deal or winning a client, are the two compatible or mutually exclusive? Trevor felt that the two are not mutually exclusive, but if he had to choose he would take the deal.  As he tells it, much of the relationship talk in his estimate is just political correctness creeping into sales.  There are a lot of different sayings in sales, and they all serve a purpose, but they also tend to be contradictory.  For example, he referred to the common notion that incentives drive behaviour, “if my company wanted me to have relationships, they’d pay me for that, but they pay me for solid orders that can be invoiced.”

Without getting into the details around his situation, Trevor feels that there two things working against sales people from the soft school. First is that they are too worried about appearances rather than substance. Second, there is a much more real relationship when both the buyer and seller have some skin in the game together; the skin being both having a real need to make things work, and that happens when a transaction has taken place not when there is just talk. Once you and the customer have done business, then you can grow a relationship, is his view, he cites all the times people have told him how much they like him, his company, but still dealt with someone else.

There is some truth to this, as a manager I saw a lot of evolving relationships that never translated to business or accounts. A lot of time, energy, resources and emotion went into these “relationships”, reps working hard to meet demands of people who had no intention of holding up their end of the relationship.  But I pointed out to the others, that there is some truth to the old saying that people buy from people, which makes a relationship important.

This is when Dave jumped in, he is a manager for a product and related services that requires an annual renewal.  He told us about one of his reps who had work really hard, at winning a deal, it was an especially good win as it was a competitor’s account until then.  As they analyzed the win, his rep kept pushing the fact that he had won due to his “relationship” with the decision maker, “the rep insisted that if not for the relationship the deal would not have happened.”  Great thought Dave, they had to make small concessions to win the deal, (not price but in implementation), so a good relationship will at least help, and they would be able to make it up over the life of the “relationship”.  At the time of renewal, Dave had asked the rep to get a 2% increase, it came as a complete shock that they lost the account back to the previous vendor, not at lower cost, but the cost they had won the deal the previous year.  So Dave’s question is how good was that relationship if the rep could not leverage it to get a 2% increase?

Dave’s view is, shared by Trevor, is that relationships are great to have and worth working for, but they will always be trumped by factors such as price, quality, service, reliability and others.  I asked Dave if perhaps they took the account for granted and that allowed the other vendor to develop their relationship, perhaps the 2% vs. the actual experience did not add up for the buyer.  Dave insisted that those elements were explored, and they had serviced and out delivered expectations on all counts.

I guess if there was one definitive truth in sale it would have surfaced by now.  Despite his cynicism, Trevor does believe and work on having rapport with his clients, but always approaches it as a peer rather than a subservient.  At the end he insists, that he is paid to sell and drive revenue, which includes looking after the needs of the customer, but not to to entertain and hope, so when faced with a choice he will opt to have a deal, and then work on maintaining the client, rather than working on the relationship hoping for a sale like he sees many of his peers doing daily.

So take a minute below, and share your view.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 


“I Never Learned How Not To Do What I Can't Do”11

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I heard the above great expression the other day, I am only sorry that I was half listening to the radio and missed who originally said it, but I think it was Blackwell the fellow behind Island Records. What a fantastic outlook, one that any sales person can learn from.

As a sales coach, and in corporate life I can’t tell you how many times I have seen good sales people limit their opportunities by taking up the opposite mantra, and strictly focusing on how to succeed at not doing things they currently can’t, won’t or even consider doing. Let’s be clear we are talking about perfectly legal things done daily by successful sales professionals every day.  As a result they end up making less money than they could, but more importantly end up enjoying their jobs less than those open to possibilities.

What I have always been curious about is where they learned that they can’t do what they don’t do, especially having never done. I have written before about the “I couldn’t do that”, but this is different; in that case those people were reluctant to change or take on new things.  Here we are talking about people who cannot fathom the possibilities, rather than just reject them due to the effort or change involved.

The freedom of curiosity that come with the attitude of not learning what you don’t know is not only liberating, but make life fun even when faced with challenging and frustrating situations. 

As a sales person, I am challenged everyday, I know how failure and giving up looks and feels like, been there done that, it’s OK and repetitive.  But the wonder of the unknown, now that’s a high, knowing how it ends, but not always knowing what it will take to get there, how deep inside I’ll have to reach to get the deal, is exhilarating.  What will I have to do to get the next high; the next grade of nastiness is much more rewarding than the outcome, i.e. a deal and the commission.  But not giving it a go because one thinks they can’t do it is just average, which is not you, right?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Take The Day Off11

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Tuesday was the first day back to work after the unofficial end of summer as discussed in a post on Monday titled Harvest. This mass return to productivity to stoke the fires of Capitalism included me and the rest of the Renbor team.

Bright and early at my desk, coffeed up and ready to go, my calendar reminders ringing that familiar chime, one after the other leads presenting themselves to be converted to prospects, a lot of calls to make. Why so many today, well like most of you I spoke to a lot of people who for the last few months told me that they would be ready to meet and talk after Labour Day, each with their very own reminder in my calendar.

What is always interesting (and amusing) is the reaction I get, especially from my audience that is mostly sales leaders. Not so much that they are not all ready to meet and get going, but for a couple of other things. First, the fact that many are surprised that I actually took them at their word and created a reminder and followed through as requested. Second and more importantly and to the point, is when they say “wow, it’s Tuesday and you are back at it already.” 

Aren’t their people working today, more specifically aren’t their sales people selling?  Well if they are, then are follow throughs and prospecting not part of selling?  If they are indeed selling, is following through not part of professionals selling?

Well yes I am, I guess I missed the memo stating the policy of not prospecting or selling on the Tuesday after Labour Day, other wise I would not have picked up the phone.  On the other hand, precisely for that reason it is a great day to sell, it seems the other took the day off to recover from the brisk sales of summer.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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