Excuse My Typos – Just Busy Establishing Plausible Deniability0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


Mantras such as Just Do It, or Execution – Everything Else Is Just Talk, are a great way to put a focus on DOING things rather than just being a bystander or just talking about doing things or worse, talking about why you did not do it. But they are just a starting point, the objective is to do things progressively better. While I remind all of us in sales that sales success is about doing things, I also regularly have to add that it is about doing it right, doing it consistently, doing it well, doing it to the best of our abilities, and challenging ourselves to continuously improving those abilities; not just mail it in so you can say it is done, as all too many are apt to do.

I see this in all aspects of sales, those who just make ten calls to ten sequential names on a list, and call it prospecting; versus those who initiate contact and engagement with ten 10 prequalified, researched, planned and targeted viable potential buyers, using all the tools available to them, from traditional to social and everything between. Both groups can tell me they prospected, both start out with the same objective, one group merely completes a task, in the narrowest sense; the other fully executed a strategy, and the results clearly reflect both efforts.

If you’re going to start the endeavour, why not do it right, fully and completely? Some may just write it off to a lack of commitment, but I believe it goes further than that, it goes to a lack of accountability and responsibly. Finding it safe and safer to blend in to grey rather than expend or invest in the effort to commit to either black or white.

You see this characteristic present itself in other ways. Two or three times a week I get an e-mail from sales types where at the bottom it has a disclaimer along the lines:

I am sending this from a (insert brand or type here) mobile device, sorry for any typos.

Now I am the first to admit that I regularly have typos in my blog posts, despite the effort to read and reread them before posting, but when I mess up, I thank the folks who point it out and take steps to not repeat it in the future. But rather than doing it right, it strikes me that the people in question go for establishing plausible deniability from the outset, even before the outcome is known. Or maybe they know what results their efforts will yield, and find it easier to establish plausible deniability than the work it would take to ensure the right outcome.

We all know that many of today’s mobile devices have some form of auto word correction/completion utility which sometimes insert the freakiest words instead of the word we were looking to type, but it is up to me to ensure that I communicating what I intend, not the devices’ algorithm. Where is the accountability and responsibility for the quality of the result? Sure it is just an e-mail, but it is an e-mail that reflects on the writer, and by extension their work, further their commitment to doing things right. If one can’t be bothered for such a simple thing, how much more effort will there be for more demanding things leading to and from the sale.

Another example of this half-assed approach is sales forecasts. While again automation has helped, it is still a question of garbage in garbage out. Talk to most sales people, they will tell you that their task is to submit a forecast. While their company is looking for an accurate forecast, one that will help them better run their business, understand potential order flow and resource requirement, protect margins, which in turn help make the product and your selling more competitive. I have had more than one rep tell me that they in fact have two forecasts, one they share, and the other is their own secret stash of opportunities. They care less about contributing, than covering their ass. Sure some of this is a result of a poor pipeline and opportunities to forecast, but the root cause is the same. When asked why, they unabashedly will tell you that it is a CYA exercise, completely discarding accountability.

What’s worse is their managers perpetuate the problem, discounting many of the forecasts and scaling things back subjectively to cover their own. They could and should work with the reps to A) understand what is expected; B) more importantly to actually be able to deliver a forecastable set of opportunities, that when proper weighted based on the companies defined sales process will actually deliver the results forecasted. But it is easier to scale back, build in “a plausibly deniable” buffer, and move on to the next task.

Managers can also do a better job of setting expectations. We have all seen instances where they set the task of their reps doing 10 calls, and they get exactly that, 10 calls. How much more effort would it take to articulate what those 10 calls are really meant to do in terms of engaging with real prospects, and pipeline opportunities. I know of one company where they have dictated that reps make 100 calls a week (either phone or door to door), probably twice what the team was (and is) used to. Well they got their 100 or so calls, without much lift in prospects or pipeline.

Mutual accountability up and down the line, with clear expectations set not just for results, but how to best achieve those results can go a long way to improving those results. Allowing cracks to be filled with plausible deniability not only kills results, but creates and fosters a culture without accountability, and no focus for change and improvement. If as a manager and an organization, you stop allowing people to establish plausible deniability, you will take a major step towards establishing a foundation of accountability, responsibility and success, a culture that will consume less resources while yielding more and consistent results.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


The Two EX’s of Success0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


Most people, and contrary to rumors, sales people are people, when faced with completing a task, especially a difficult task or one they don’t like, will do one of two things. I call this the Two EX’s of Success. They will either EXecute, or make EXcuses as to why they did not execute.

Now I know there are some reading this saying that’s not entirely so, there could be reasons, extenuating circumstances, etc., sure there could be, but that doesn’t change the fact that they didn’t make the effort to execute.

Some tell me they weren’t quite ready, they needed to make some adjustments, get ready, needed to have things just so or in place, the cosmos aligned, or whatever.  None of that matters, they didn’t execute.  Maybe I can help you relate differently, you know when your flight is delayed, and you face getting to an important meeting late, doesn’t matter what the airline says, it doesn’t change the fact that it was late.

No matter how badly one executes, it is better than the best excuse.  We can fix things done badly, but you can’t help those that don’t do it, we can’t even begin to evaluate what may need to be addressed.

I can understand the various reason for performance anxiety, poor performance is not a source of pride.  Or is it.  After all don’t we have respect for those who try and fail, then try again, until they make progress, and then start it all again to take things to the next level.  The bonus in sales is you make money as a result and get to keep your job.  The downside is that even make you make excuses you all too often get to keep your job.  This often leads to a culture of excuses.

Let me be clear, I don’t blame the reps, it is usually the managers’ or management’s fault.  If you have kids you know that you need to set the expectations and rules.  When I meet with front line managers and their seniors, and ask what their expectations are of reps, you get clear big picture stuff like results, but little clarity around the activities that lead to those results.  A lack of consistency on reviewing, training and reviewing the activity and the quality of execution.

Further, when those same managers are challenged about the results, their failure to execute their mandate, what do they do, offer up excuses, excuses excepted by senior managers.  I can tell my kids not to feed the dog off the table, but if I do it, what’s the take away?  Discipline is a hard thing to balance, and I am not advocating an intolerant culture, but excuses, no matter how creative, or how hard market conditions may be, will not lead to improvement or success, execution will.

One way to change excuses to execution is to utilize a clear process, a roadmap if you will with activities, objectives, and desired outcomes.  This allows you to take the subjectivity out of discussions, allowing reps to lower defences, and accept that they can do things badly, as long as they do things, rather than being frozen by fear of failing.  Central to success is a proper review regime, again the accountability for this is the manager’s not the reps, and rather than feeling pestered, it will show them you care and willing to help.  Add a solid long term coaching plan, and you have a platform for ongoing success and improvement.

May sound odd, but let’s encourage them to do things badly, rather than accepting brilliant excuses, that probably required more creativity and effort than the completing the task in question.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


Protecting New Recruits From The Mediocre Masses – Sales eXchange 2110

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


Many in sales buy into, or more accurately, settle for the 80/20 rule, one example would be 20% of a company’s reps generating 80% of sales.  This post is less about disputing or validating the accuracy of the rule, if you want that, download The Shanto Principle; but more about how to ensure that your new recruits develop to be the 20%.  AT the same time, you can you use the same tactics to move from the 80% group delivering just 20% of the revenues, to the 20% club, the group that makes a difference.

Let’s look at a new rep joining a company, being social critters they want to fit in, be part of the team (part of the crowd, easy to hide in a crowd), they look around the office and take in the atmosphere.  Part of the ritual, is talking to their colleagues, getting the lay of the land, “how are things done around here?”

So who is likely to be in the office, who is likely to have time to just “talk”, rather than being out at client/prospect meetings; who lacks the discipline to not stop what they had scheduled, and shoot the breeze with the new guy?  You guessed it, the members of the 80% club.  The 20% club is too busy being out and driving revenues.

This is not to say that the 20% club members are not willing to help a new person out, on the contrary, they do, but they are not in the office, hanging around, they are making things happen.  So for the new team member, they need to make the effort to find and engage with the 20% club members.  In fact this can be an early indicator as to what you hired, how well do they seek out, engage with and model the 20%.

This is why the onboarding process is crucial, managers and organizations must proactively guide and steer new recruits, even experienced sellers, sheltering them from the 80%.

Picture the new recruit in the office with the all-knowing non-producing masses, as he or she stands up to peak out over their cubical walls, and the see the 80% members at their desk, getting ready to prospect, getting ready to learn about the new product, getting ready to go and ask the manager for a further discount so they can win the deal – putting more effort into selling the need to discount than they did selling the prospect on the value, getting ready finish their picks for the pool; for the most part, getting ready.

What is the take away for the new recruit – “hey this is the way they do things around here, if I’m gonna fit it, I best do the same”.

Stepping out to do the things the 20% do requires guidance, or expectation from their manager, and the ability to against the crowd.

Inviting the 20% club members to mentor new recruits not only instills good habits in new team members, but develops future leader in the process.  This in turn can help you increase the quality of the team, and tilt the numbers in your favour, over time, you can move the dial from 80/20, to dare we say it, 70/30.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Author #Interview – Josiane Chriqui Feigon – Smart Sales Manager0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Smart Sales Manager

If you are not familiar with Josiane Feigon, you should be, and if her predictions come to be you will be soon enough.  As you’ll read below, she boldly predicts that by 2015 inside sales will overtake field sales, as that unfolds, she will be in greater demand.  Josiane heads up TeleSmart Communications, and is leading practice and thought leader in the area of inside sales and management.  A recognized consulting, she has designed and delivered coaching, and training solutions for world class companies such as companies, including Cisco, Autodesk, Citrix Systems, Adobe, and others.  She is also the author of two books on inside sales, Smart Selling on the Phone and Online: Inside Sales That Gets Results, and her most recent, and a complement to the first book: Smart Sales Manager: The Ultimate Playbook for Building and Running a High-Performance Inside Sales Team.

It was this book that was the focus of a recent conversation I had with Josiane, below are exerpts of that conversation.

TS:  You say that inside sales is going to overtake field sales by 2015. How can that be? And how does that affect how companies sell?

JF:  Today’s inside sales organizations are growing rapidly – for every 15 inside salespeople being hired, only one field person is being hired. The traditional sales organization structure is changing to meet the needs of today’s elusive and busy customer who is mobile, connected, independent, and wants everything NOW. Inside sales can build more – and often better – relationships virtually in much less time than it used to take face-to-face.  TS: In your book, you start out by saying customers these days are “mad as hell.” What are they mad about? What is going on with them these days that’s affecting their buying decisions?

JF:  Customers have become incredibly intelligent and assertive- they are putting their foot down and saying “they are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” They are tired of outdated sales techniques, hundreds of powerpoint slides to make a point, being stalked and chased by desperate salespeople. They are also very independent AKA “elusive” and like to self-educate.

TS:  Many of today’s inside sales managers were promoted out of the cubicle into management. How is managing in today’s digital world different than when they were selling?

JF:  Most of today’s managers were once individual contributors. Many of them manage with the old, brutal sales blueprint of success: aggressively chasing down customers and holding them in a headlock while they present and coerce them into buying. They keep doing it today, even though it no longer works, on the theory that it has to work sometime! But managing a high-performing inside sales team in the dynamics Sales 2.0 ecosystem is completely different. This new world is digital, diverse, and connected. Customers do their own research, and talent expects works to be F-U-N.

TS:  How do organizations identify great inside sales managers?  What are the primary attributes successful managers need?

JF:  I believe a good manager must first be a good coach and in my book, I outline Ten Qualities of a Compassionate Coach

  1. Be a good listener. Use the same active listening skills that make you a good salesperson. Give the rep your full attention, and listen without interrupting. Be empathetic and compassionate, and don’t get defensive.
  2. Be observant. You can learn so much about your team members just by paying attention to the way they present themselves, the objects they choose to have around them, the friends they hang out with, whether they speak up during meetings, how they listen when you talk, how they interact with others . . . the list goes on and on….
  3. Be patient. Some people are quick studies, but not everyone. Behaviors can change; everyone has his or her own unique rhythm. Give them time to develop.
  4. Be supportive. Make sure that even the least skilled know that you believe they have what it takes to improve and get ahead. Some team members may just be waiting for permission to be seen as the top dog on the team. Treat them as if they deserve to be in that spotlight.
  5. Be flexible. Change can be effected in a number of ways. If one approach fails, try something else. Be creative. Keep an open mind, and become sensitive to differences and different ways of doing things.
  6. Be interested and aware. Take time to get to know the salesperson you are coaching. What do they like? How do they live? This will give you insight into what motivates them.
  7. Be perceptive. When your intuition kicks in—and it will! —trust it.
  8. Be energetic. A good coach has energy that is contagious and persuasive. Model the kind of positive energy you want to see.
  9. Be focused. As a coach you must detach yourself from your own pressures and focus on the person you are coaching.
  10. Be trustworthy. Above all, coaching must take place in an atmosphere of safety and trust. Your team must trust that you are working in their best interests. Your team members are your potential superheroes. Treat them with respect and confidence.

TS:   Some people think cold calling is dead. But in your book, you introduce the concept of potent prospecting. Can you explain what that is?

JF:  New tools have eliminated the cold call and redefined prospecting: The days of robo-dialing and making cold calls without any information are gone – there’s no excuse for it. Potent prospecting works more holistically. It brings together the rest of the Sales 2.0 ecosystem – the customer, the talent, and the tools – and a working alignment with marketing. Prospecting efforts are strategic and sophisticated: they’re all about the best practices of engagement, collaboration, education, application, and social activity.

TS:  Why do so many inside sales managers insist on tracking dials & talk time as a primary metric of productivity? Is that lazy management, or just lack of knowing where else to look?

JF:  Metrics are definitely overdue for a metrics makeover because many metrics are outdated stereotypes of how to measure success. Managers must also redefine what productivity means so instead of saying “it’s awfully quiet out there, no one’s on the phone” they need to listen for the virtual, the digital and the social conversations and measure the new sounds of silence.

TS:  What are two takeaways from the book for finding and hiring new sales talent?

JF:  Every inside sales organization is unique. That’s because they each have different go-to-marketing strategies based on their individual provide/service, price points, sales cycle, direct/indirect purchase channels, target audience, sales locations, and talents. These are living, breathing micro businesses that are constantly in flux. But they all have one thing in common: the never-ending quest for good talent. Managers must develop an “always-be-recruiting” strategy that includes a referral network, and strong screening and interviewing techniques that help qualify and identify inside sales superheroes. Managers must also structure their inside sales organizations with the right roles and match them with people who fit those job functions. This is the first step in defining a “multicareer” ecosystem that attracts ambitious talent on a career trajectory.

That was just a bit of a great conversation. You can find more at TeleSmart Communications, and you get both books at Amazon, they make a good set.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


Interview – Nick Stein, Senior Director of Marketing and Communication at Salesforce.com (#video)2

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Last week I had the opportunity to interview Nick Stein, Senior Director of Marketing and Communication at Salesforce Work.com.  Nick shared a number of insights and best practices around driving success through peak sales performance, and creating a proactive sales culture, all in the same environment that reps and front line sales managers use to drive revenues and day to day sales activities.

We discussed alignment, the importance of consistent and constant sales performance management.  One interesting point Nick discuss was the power and financial pay-off of one on one coaching; with only 10 minutes of 1:1 coaching, reps increase results by 17%, usually the difference between making or missing goal.

Many organization understand the need for sale performance, but now they have a means of delivering in a way integrated with daily sales realities, rather than as a separate process.  The fact remains that knowing and planning don’t always translate to being done, with Salesforce Work.com companies can execute their sales performance management improvement plan, because as with other aspects of sales, it is all about execution – everything else is just talk!

Enjoy, and let us know your reactions and thought:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


Are You An Enabling Manager? – Sales eXchange 1900

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Enabler coach

Probably the most important role in a sales organizations ability to ensure successful and consistent execution of their sales process is the front line sales manager.  They are the ones that distill the central message down to the local team.  They are the ones who ensure that the discipline and the measures that are required to succeed are implemented, adhered to and improved, both in day to day interactions with their team members, and in their design and delivery of the individual sales reps’ annual coaching plan.   They are the ones who hold the individuals on their teams accountable for their activities, SOP’s, and the delivery of revenues/clients.  No one in the organization is in a greater position to enable their team members to succeed.

The question then becomes, what are they enabling.  As with parenting, enabling involves more than just providing, you need to be actively involved, you need to be actively setting the example.  By this I don’t mean showing your people how to sell, but setting the example by adhering to the process yourself.  How do we expect sales people to do all the things they need to do to succeed, including the mundane and trivial activities, if we don’t do ours as managers, if the manager can take shortcuts or deviate from the process, well why not the rep.

Many parents enable their kids by looking the other way when they find them doing things that could be negative or harmful, as o many sales managers.  Some rationalize things by pointing to the fact that the rep is good, delivers the numbers, they don’t want to interfere.  Unless you feel that your company’s processes are bogus, you could be missing a great opportunity for that same rep to improve, deliver more, or deliver their current success with less effort or time.  By looking the other way you are letting the rep down and your team.

If you have reps who are not always delivering, the 80%-90% of goal reps, and they see that you are letting some people pick and choose, you are asking for more issues.  One is that you don’t really care what they do or how they do, basically they are on their own till the end of month/quarter tally.  In this vacuum of leadership and lack of support, two things happen; first, absent the manager’s involvement, they look around to see who is succeeding, and do what those successful sellers do; and as discussed above, they are not following the proven process, so they conclude that they don’t need to either, but since they lack the god given skill, they are doomed to stay where they are or even regress after a time.  Second, these 80%-90% players looking to improve become great recruiting targets, often for no other reason than the opportunity to be coached, supported and enabled to be 100%+ players, something you can enable them to do here and now, just by getting active and involved.

Enabling takes planning, action, work, and accountability.  Like many parents you can say that you enable your kids by letting them make their own choices, and deal with the outcome.  Or you can actively engage, set parameters, expectations and an example, and in the process enable them to succeed, rather than enabling them to no succeed; both are enabled.

What’s in Your Pipeline
Tibor Shanto

School Is In53

A reminder that there is a class this afternoon, 4:00 pm Eastern
GAP Selling – Leveraging Process and Execution

GAP Selling – Looks at how to deliver value to buyers across the entire sales cycle.
Almost every sales conversation starts or ends with the concept of value; at the same time there are as many different understandings and definitions of value as there are sellers and buyers.
This course delivers clear and actionable definition of value. Starting with that definition of value, participants will learn the five step platform to leveraging that value right through the sale, from the initial engagement to winning the client. The overarching goal of the platform is to focus on the buyer’s objectives, and delivering specific means of helping them achieve those objectives.
These include:

  1. Identifying and validating buyer’s objectives
  2. Understanding why buyers really buy 
  3. Why Buyers buy and don’t buy from you and your company 
  4. Converting the above to impact questions and quality conversation 
  5. A structured follow-through approach to maximize impact and progress Participants will learn how to use the above to create alignment with the buyer, their objectives and buying process

Join us at 4:00 pm Eastern today
Prerequisite – An open mind to learning and selling better
Test – Your weekly Pipeline Review

Metrics – Shmetrics!57

Metrics are key to sales success, we all heard and know that if it is not measured it does not count, and that if it is not measured or doesn’t seem to count, it is hard to change, usually for the better.  Some have difficulty knowing where to start, but as you can see from the video below, and this complementary article, it is best to start at the end and work back.

Take a look at the segment below, and see where you fit, or where you need to start.

Next Step

  • Workout key conversion points that can be measured
  • Decide which of the above make best sense for you
  • Work your metrics

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

It’s Not Always Easy18

Earlier this week, I posted on two related or intersecting topics sales leaders need to manage and improve. First, their view of, and approach to sales training; second the alignment of their sales assets with clearly identifiable market segments.

Based on some feedback, I want to expand on some key points and make sure that the wrong message is not being taken away.

With respect to KPI’s and training, I was not saying that KPI’s do not belong as part of training initiative.  In fact there needs to be metrics, measures and other indicators to ensure that the training is effective, implemented and is delivering the desired behavioural change.  Those same indicators should then be utilized to refine training strategy and implementation.  What I was saying, and don’t apologize for, is that sales leaders need stop making decisions on training in order to meet one of their KPI’s.  Not only does this not result in training that moves the dial forward, but more importantly communicates a clear message to their sales teams.  The message is that it is OK to just go through the motion to meet the basic requirement without regard for the end result.  After all, if the VP can get by with training that does not change sales behaviour, than why can a rep take a similar view, “you wanted five face to face visits, you got five”; KPI met, sale or not.

The question of alignment extends in to training as well.  Just as you don’t want to misalign the resources based on the type of buyer involved, you also don’t want to assume that all your sales people will benefit from the same type of training.  I have written in the past that there needs to be no democracy in sales training.  Indeed, when it comes to sales training, one size does not fit all.  Many have taken a forward step of separating new recruit training and some form of “advanced” training; others created online programs better matching requirements and content.  When actively managed this moves things in the right direction, when not, which is often the case, this type of training just invites the KPI mentality highlighted above.  This happens eve when there is testing built into modules.

In the end, as with anything strategic and core to business success, it is about having a long term view and the backbone to execute, especially when long term results and success will materialize after the next fiscal quarter or year end.  Let’s start by removing the KPI for cosmetic band aide initiatives.

Next Step

  • Develop or ensure your sales process aligns with and reflects your market’s buying process
  • Make sure you have the right people on the bus
  • Use the two above to determine he right training to create success behaviour

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Shrink Your Way To Success19

They say you can’t shrink your way to success, but perhaps there are situations in sales where you can.  By shrinking your territories, strategically where it make sense.  A common concern I hear from sales leaders across all verticals is that they don’t feel that reps are fully covering their territories.  This concern applies to coverage for existing accounts, or harvesting the new business opportunities.   Without going too deep this happens because they create territories based on zip codes or borders of provinces or states, rather than the makeup of the territory, the realities of what can be properly covered by any given rep.   It is true that the economy has had a real impact on leaders ability to properly respond, but there is still room for data driven creative approaches.

But instead many, not all, do different things, shifting lower revenue accounts to an inside team, which works until the inside team has too much volume and all one has done is shift the glut from one team to the other, without an improvement in coverage or revenue.

One approach that intrepid leaders can look to is too shrink the size of territories, based on a number of factors driven by deal size, length of cycle, nature of the offering (new or mature), is the focus margin or market share, is there opportunity for organic growth, or strictly competitive account growth, and others.

By systematically reducing the size of the territory, along with adjustments based on the elements above, you can actually create focus and coverage, and as a result greater revenues, by continuing to
logically shrink territories.  If you focus is new accounts, the shrinking territory will create a focus on accounts that would be over looked in the perceived plenty in larger territories, take away the clutter and the opportunities become more clear.  If you are about covering and growing existing accounts, then again, concentrated territories make for concentrated effort, and better results.

Two caveats, an obvious one is that at one point you will have to add headcount to service new territories.  This however is easier to do when you have data to support both the reshaping of territories and the opportunities created.  This will not always be easy, and will require some concessions, but over the long run, better than inefficient territories, over looked opportunities, and the stress of losing business.

The other is to ensure you have the right people in the right territories.  Not all sales people have the same skills.  Some hunt better, while others are much better at fostering relationships and growing existing accounts.  As you shrink territories you need to move your assets around.  But if you do it right, and in concert with the sales teams, you’ll find that the assets want to move to territories that play to their strength.  This produces another up side, the reps tend to do better in their element, which just accelerates the results.

So go ahead shrink it.

Next Step

  • Analyse and segment targets, then overlay them on a map to see where the opportunities are, not state lines
  • Decide what kind of assets make sense for the territories based on you analysis above
  • Share your plan with the reps, sales people are hoarders by nature, they will fear the shrink, but will welcome the upside if you present it.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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