3 Reasons Why Objections are Not a Bad Thing3

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

No sales keys

Most sales people think about objections as being a bad thing, a lot of sales people and worse leaders, get really uptight when it comes to objections. Often before we have even began to define parameters with stakeholders, they’ll say “Oh, and we need an Objection Handling session”, they want to take a tennis approach to managing objections, prospect “throws” out an objection, and they want to hit it back to them. But objections are really not a bad thing, not always convenient or easy to manage, but they are not a bad thing.

Here are three specific reasons why objections are not always a bad thing (no specific order):

  • Indicate engagement
  • Allow you to introduce more value/information/facts without pitching
  • Allow you to qualify – disqualify buyers

The goal here is not to specifically give you techniques, but more to get you to relax a bit and see how objections are good for you, your sales, humanity, and global warming.

Keep in mind that for the most part objections come up in two ways, when you are trying to engage or prospect them, (we did a six part series on this, you can find Part I here). The second is when you are trying to gain agreement, either during the sales on specific points that will move things forward, including simple Next Steps, or at the end when you are trying to complete the sale. In either case, what follows will help you put things in a different perspective and let you use the objective to improve your selling, as a whole, and in specific deals.

Indicates Engagement – Even though some objections during the prospecting phase are knee jerk on the part of the buyer, the fact that they “are responding” allows you if prepared, to deal with that objection and segue to a conversation, key is being prepared. As you get into the sale, the objections will be more specific, a direct reflection of what the buyer is thinking, and how they are interpreting what you are saying, and if they are not clear, an opportunity to correct course. Even towards the end, with the lowest form of objection, the price objection, it is an indication that they are involved, capitalize on it.

Allow you to introduce more information/facts/value without pitching – Every time they object, they are in effect asking a question of for clarification, what a bonus. You can get a sense where their thinking is at, introduce additional elements. You can usually go deeper, and more importantly ask for more clarification on the part of the prospect. “Help me understand what you mean by…” Many objections are really questions, or the buyer evaluating things and they vocalize them, it is my chance to recalibrate, add useful value elements, align with the buyer, and move forward.

Allow you to qualify – disqualify buyers – Sellers are always looking to qualify buyers, well their objections are a good qualifier, and as I have argued in the past, if your qualified prospect to closed ration is less than 50%, your time is probably better spent disqualifying those that you know will not close based on experience, which will leave you with more “qualified” buyers. Objections are a great way to disqualify, if you cannot manage and move beyond, you need to accept that it is time to move on, rather than play objection tennis, where you always lose. The big thing is that every time you disqualify a prospect, you have to replace them with a new one. Which is why some sales people would rather pretended they doing productive things by dealing with insurmountable objections, than doing some prospecting.

How you deal with objections is a different post, and there others out there with some great ways. But first you need to deal with how you view objections to begin with.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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Why “Value Propositions” Are Useless10

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Lipstick Pig

It’s 2014, by now I assume you are no longer relying on Palm Pilot, going to Blockbuster for your in-home movie entertainment, so why are you still relying “value propositions” in the hope of engaging with potential buyers and winning clients?

People love the term value proposition, so user friendly, none threatening, cute, warm, and safe. Some pundits going to great lengths to elevate it above other questionable and formerly popular predecessors such as “the elevator pitch”, a concept dating back to liftmen trying to improve their lot with an unsuspecting captive (trapped) audience. I guess at one point someone alerted sellers to the fact that the word ‘Pitch’ was not conducive to consultative selling. So things evolved to USP – Or “Unique Selling Proposition”, exalting the uniqueness of one’s offering. But uniqueness on a product level is rare, continuous uniqueness even more infrequent. In the end it is still about what is being sold, and as such, just an elevated pitch.

And so it evolved, buyers are obviously looking for ‘Value’, (no matter how it is defined, or more often, undefined), while allowing sellers to cling to a familiar concept, ‘Proposition’, thus giving us the ever popular: ‘Value Proposition”.

Proposition –
1. the act of offering or suggesting something to be considered, accepted, adopted, or done.
2. a plan or scheme proposed.
3. an offer of terms for a transaction, as in business.

While this may have played well in focus groups, the reality is that you can put lipstick on it, but it’s still a ‘Pitch’. As with many things in sales, the problem is less with the concept than the execution.

The challenge is that sellers are still going into to selling situations with pre-molded ideas of value for a generic group of people, and proposing that it will fir to a specific scenario. Even well-crafted value propositions, with good contribution from Marketing, are rooted in “here is why this is good for you”, and are then proposed – pitched to potential buyers. While many of the assumptions that go into the value prop are indeed accurate, they are often “proposed” in a very one directional fashion, much like a pitch.

The better alternative would be to use the key elements of the value proposition as a basis for discussion. Rather that a proposing value, it is much more effective to mutually define and develop value for the potential buyer. You can still leverage the same facts and factors, but it is more about the way you use them to initiate and craft a discussion that will not only allow you to gain a better understanding of the buyer, their requirements and objectives, but will engage the buyer in a much deeper and impactful way. This will allow you to arrive at a mutually agreed on points of value that the buyer can take on without feeling that it was thrust on them in a pre-fab fashion.

The only practical use for “value propositions” is to disqualify buyers who don’t fit your preconceived cookie-cutter notion of who your right buyer is. Change proposition to definition, and you will eliminate those buyer that won’t benefit from your offering, while allowing you to engage and capture a much broader range of buyers that those who fit the mold.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

The 3 Legs of Sales Success0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Stool Success

As you finalise your 2014 sales plans, it is good idea to review and commit to some of the basics. Some of these may not be fashionable, on the other hand nothing is more fashionable in sales than exceeding quota.

As with many endeavours, we sometime focus too much effort on style and take our eyes of the fundamentals. As Michael Jordan once said:

“…You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly because the only thing that changes will be your attention to them”

While the framework for the fundamentals are process and quality of execution, the key fundamentals that we need to continuous focus on regardless of methodology or approach are:

  • Size of Sale (or order)
  • Volume of Sales
  • Price integrity

Size of Sale – Refers to the specific size of the order, specifically in two forms. One is the result of the type of prospects you pursue; if you are selling stuff measured in units, the larger the target company, the more units they will require. Since in most instances, the effort required to sell a $50 million dollar/40 employee company, is often not that different than selling a $100 million/100 employee company, why not focus on the larger end of the scale. A variation on this is a recent example from a company I worked with. They found that of the three batteries they sold, the mid-range one was the best product/value for the price, for both the customers and them, but people tended to opt for the entry level battery. They discontinued offering the bottom end, their unit sales did not decline, and their revenue and margins increased.

It is no different if you are selling services, if you target companies that can ‘consume’ more of what you sell, you will sell more by avoiding those who consume less. Since the time you have to make the sales does not change, why not target those opportunities that can give you size or scale. You can always go down stream once you have sold the ideal size first.

Volume of Sales – this is different than the first point, it goes more to how many sales you get irrespective of size. If right now you are doing four deals a month, and were to increase that to say 4 ½ deals per month, you would move to 54 sales a year, a 12% increase. Even if you have a long cycle, big ticket, say only six sales a year, increase it to 7, may not sound like much, but.

This involves better use of time, primarily through the discipline of disqualifying those opportunities that will not close now, they may close a year from now or even in the summer, just not now. This is where your process gives you the confidence to say no, rather than spending time to try and get a yes where one does not exist. Like the old gold rush 49ers, the quicker they got rid of the sand and stones, the quicker they got to the gold, increasing their daily take. Get rid of the crap in your pipeline, and you’ll work with more gold.

Price Integrity – as straight forward as it gets, the less we concede the more we succeed. Resist the temptation to “give a good price to get in”, because you will never recover.

As you evaluate your opportunities, it is important to consider how any or all of the above can be leveraged to deliver better and consistent results, and how misalignment can be detrimental to success.

With all of the above methodology and improved execution will help you sell more to more of the right people, but merely adopting a methodology without target one of the three elements above is not enough. You may want to start by targeting one, or better yet explore opportunities that allow you to move the dial on all. We use a simple matrix allowing clients to plot opportunities based on these elements with the added element of time. This allows them to visualize and focus on the right number of highest value opportunities sold at full price.

Everything we do in sales should have a positive impact on one or all of those three elements. It is when we take our eyes off these fundamentals, that the level of effort, training, coach or other initiatives, will always be greater than the results. The start of the year, (quarter, month, day) is a good time to refocus.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

It Is About The Realization Not The Need – Sales eXchange 2290

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

change

I had some interesting feedback to a recent post on my blog The Pipeline, titled Is BANT Helping You Lose Sales?   The gist of the piece was that many put an over emphasis on “need”, and thereby limit their success. (There is so much more to it, you really should read it).  Two in particular stood out, one gave the argument I was making further context, and the other added a layer that provides clearer focus to those willing to apply the line of thought.

First was the feedback relating to a point I touched on, specifically the role of BANT in the sale, I mentioned that it is a means of qualifying a buyer or opportunity. But the reader took it further in an important way. They pointed out that many forget that BANT is for qualifying, and instead use it as means of selling. By doing that they fall into the trap outlined in the piece, specifically, since BANT is focused on needs, it limits one’s ability to sell to those who don’t immediately have or perceive a need. For qualifying it works because it highlights areas that must be present if you are to achieve a sales. While a buyer may have budget, authority, and has a record of acting in a timely way, but may not have a real or perceived need. They will always have objectives, but not always have a realized need associated with those objectives. Without that need, BANT fails as a means of selling, even while helping you qualify (or disqualify).

That’s where the second comment picks up, it highlighted the fact that by taking the focus off the need, and putting it squarely on the buyers’ objectives, the conversation will inevitably lead back to need. For successful sales people it is about the realization, not the need. By focusing on the buyer’s objectives, you open a line of discussion that surfaces what those objectives are, and people love talking about themselves, their plans and aspirations. Remember to explore both the ‘personal’ and ‘organizational’ objectives.

A simple and proven way to start this is to simply ask: “If we were sitting here 18 months from now and you were telling me that you and the team had hit a grand slam, what would that look like?” In framing the question that way, you not only introduced a timeframe, but allowed them to look beyond their current state, and describe their ‘ideal’ state. Once they have completed telling you, ask, “So I am curious, why aren’t we there now?” And that is when the realization comes, as they tell you what stands between them and their stated objectives, the obstacles and gaps, in essence telling you and them what they “need” to get there. That’s the realization takes someone from status quo, the majority of the market, to engaged prospect. Not the need, but the realization, the acceptance, and the energy in realizing that they can in fact achieve their objectives, and achieve them with your help. Without realization, there is no need.

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What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

The Past is an Indicator of Future Action1

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Confident

Sellers are taught to ask probing questions, trying to discover what the opportunities can be uncovered, where the “pain” may be that will allow us to present “the solution”, win hearts and minds of buyer, win the sale, and win  the day.  But often despite a good execution of the “probing”, the prospect pouring their guts out, the sale does not follow.  While many turn to continuing to fine tune their probing, they should instead expand their area of probing.  They need to move off pain, product, solution track, and probe around the propensity of the buyer and their organizations to change and or act.

We have all seen scenarios where despite all the right elements being in place, there is no sale.  While that is not the worst thing, what is, is when sellers then spend a disproportionate time of energy, emotion and time, trying to get the sale based on the logic of the fit.  While they can recover from the wasted effort, they cannot ever get back is the time, a real non-renewable resource.  The answer is to add a line of questioning to the lines you already use.

It starts with a simple line of questioning around their current process or means of doing something, this will you a base to work with.  From there you can explore how they have traditionally dealt with specific things, and how they have progressed over the years.  If they have remained relatively constant, upgrading only when circumstances have forced them to, you are likely dealing with someone with little or no propensity to change until it is, or close to being late.  This is not a judgement, it may work for them, but is a clear indicator of someone slow to change, and you need to diagnose and act accordingly.

On the other hand, there are those who respond to your question by presenting a series of actions they have taken in anticipation of market conditions, or maybe even to force conditions.  If the reasons for taking proactive action, is tied to a proactive view of the market, they are likely a better prospect than someone with equal “requirements” and benefit profile, but with a history of inaction.

The key here is to spend more time with the right prospects, those most likely to buy (from you).  This is not about selling to your “dream client”, after all those only exists in your sleep/dream, what this offers you is an opportunity to deal more with those where the rewards truly match your efforts.  It is the best way to avoid the rabbit hole of a good solution fit, but a buyer with a history of inaction.  We are all good at moving on when the solution is not right, this enables us to walk away when the propensity is not right, not to be fooled by the fit of the solution.

You can’t change the buyer but you can very much change your approach!

One other thing to keep in mind to execute this approach to the fullest, explore this both on a personal level of the buyer, and on a corporate level.  The individual may be willing to act, but is prevented from doing so by their companies culture and policies.  Chances are a proactive individual will have moved on to an organization that appreciate and encourages their ability, but it is never a bad thing to test things on both levels.

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What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

Does Your Pipeline Need a Stent?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

iStock_000002840339XSmall

The fourth quarter of the year holds a unique challenge for sales professionals. We not only have to close what we can by year end, but we have to prospect with more vigour than ever to ensure we go into the next year with enough momentum and opportunities to ensure a strong start to the year and our eventual success.

Coming out of the summer, we also have a lot of opportunities that have been parked, on hold if you will, due to the distractions of summer. All with the hope, and I mean hope, that now with everyone refocusing on business, they will revive themselves or be rekindled and result in sales. But experience has shown that despite the hope, intention and solid promises few if any come back on line with the promise they had when they were parked in June or so.

This leave pipelines full of names that some mistake for real opportunities, and end up consuming time and energy before we realize that all hope had left these “opportunities” soon after they were parked, or often even before.

All these opportunities in the pipeline end up looking and acting like plaque in ones arteries, creating blockages and bringing with it the risk of deal flow being restricted if not entirely cut off, by these blockers that we confuse with opportunities. Many confuse a full pipeline with a healthy pipeline, and nothing is further from the truth. Having a pipeline full of names, unverified “opportunities”, bring the same risk to your sales, as clogged arteries do to your health. It is important to clear the path, and allow real deals to flow unencumbered by wishful thinking and names in the pipe.

One impact relates to what a former colleague once said about having a pipeline full of names rather than opportunities: “What people emotionally believe their prospect base to be, triggers their urgency to prospect!” The illusion of all those names in the pipeline, the tendency or the need to follow through with each one, just distracts one from prospecting for new opportunities. “Look at all the stuff I have to work on”, leads to a lack of prospecting, and by the time you realise you need to adjust, that year end is close, and the ability to build momentum in to the coming year is gone or badly diminished.

The goal is to establish good rules for requalifying the pipeline, and not being afraid of letting go of all the crap that is just not real, and clogging things up. Rather than trying to make it real, as many will, learn to let them go, for now, you can always revisit, say it after me: “Leads Are Recyclable”. Eliminate the “maybes”, and move on the real ones, the ones willing to take proactive steps to make things happen now. Start by inserting a “Next Step Stent”, if they are unwilling or unable to act in a way a buyer would, then get them out of the pipe, they are a distraction, and again – you can call them back.

Work on those behaving like a buyer, not a tire kicker, if the story hasn’t changed since May, their status in your pipeline should.

Get that stent in there, clear out the cloggers, and close the real opportunities.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Open Ended Sales Meetings?4

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

iStock_000001262117Small

Not long ago I posted a piece about the positive side of “closed ended” questions, and their place in the sale cycle.  As with many things it is rarely the case of one versus the other but more of which is more appropriate for the scenario, and in sales for achieving the objective you set out to accomplish.

Sellers can and should take the concept of open ended and closed ended, and apply it to actual sales meetings.  What you’ll find is that sales meeting properly executed should be more of a closed ended event, but all too often they end up being an open ended, in fact too open-ended, often becoming ever meandering affairs.  The kind meeting which seem like they may never end, especially when you add a torturous layer of PowerPoint; or they end without a specific conclusion or direction.  The meetings which follow frequently seem to be another try at getting it right, instead of moving things forward.

The problem usually comes down to what the objective is going into the meeting.  I have written in the past about sales people not having a handle on the length of their sales cycle, saying things like “It depends”, or offering an unrealistic “oh 3 – 6 months”; that’s a big variable given that time is your most precious resources, and non-renewable to boot.   Taken a step further and asking them how many meetings it may take to close the deal, they answer with less confidence and more ambiguity.

Well if you don’t know how many meetings it may take, (live or by phone, webinar, smoke signals), it becomes really hard to have specific outcomes or objectives for each meeting.  This is why sellers at time lose control of meetings, leaving the client to take the meeting to a conclusion, one with no real next step.

Knowing what you want out of each meeting allows you to plan objectives, primary and secondary, plan next steps, and build a structure for the meeting, including questions, that will help you and the buyer meet mutual objectives.  Absent that, it begins to look like an experience with the “Be found” camp, having  abdicate their role as sellers,  they are hoping the buyer will find something to continue for, something to buy.  I propose they are hoping the client has a need, hoping they can strike a relationship based on something other than the buyer’s objective, hoping for the order.

Having clear objectives, measures and next steps defined and planned in advance will also allow you to do one other thing with great confidence, that is disqualify buyers.  If you cannot achieve your stated objective, having executed your plan, you have to seriously consider that you are not dealing with a real buyer, real like the ones who buy when you achieve your mutually stated objectives.

I remember working with a “rock star” in Boston, he confidently told me his deals on average take four meetings, great, what was his measure of success for the first meeting, his objective? With expected bravado, he proclaimed “to close the deal man!”  He did not have an answers as to why he bothered going back three other times if he was going to close the sale during the first meeting.  Although there is a prospect I have, who will never buy from me, but he loves the same bands I do, and makes a great espresso, I love going there, but I leave my order pad in the car.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Deadlines – Your Sales Trump – Sales eXchange 16546

In previous posts I shared how time and your treatment of it have a direct impact on your selling results and success.  How allocating time is a much more productive than efforts invested in trying to manage it; shifting time to help you and your buyer do more with a finite and non-renewable resource.

Since time is constant, and always a key part of the success equation, there are other ways for sellers to leverage time for success. One is the use of deadlines and critical milestones.  A specific point in time creates focus all around.  Once firmed up it can help the buyer prioritize their actions, resources and decisions in order to deliver by the given date.  One of the most important components of an effective and successful Discovery stage and process, is understanding and confirming the buyer’s decision/process.  Core to this,  is the buyer’s timelines and most importantly, deadlines.  Remember, gaining efficiencies and advantages by shifting time, is one of the key drivers for people making purchase decisions.  To add impact, drive to establish and confirm not only when they need to make decision by, but when they expect the benefit of the purchase to materialize.

The purchase is an incidental piece of a bigger thing unfolding.  Whatever you’re selling, the important time for the buyer is when they will get material benefit from using what you are selling, not the actual purchase of your offering.  If putting your machine on the floor will:

  • Reduce errors in production by 5%
  • Which in turn means lower cost of production
  • Which leads to improved margins (don’t forget sometimes improved margins may be a direct objective for the director you are dealing with, which leads to a direct financial bonus for the buyer)
  • And the buying organization has set a margin target for end of next quarter

The end of the next quarter is a more prevailing a deadline than the slated purchase date.  You can leverage both to create focus, having both “project” deadline and expected benefit deadline.  Even when they may not have a formal buying/decision making process, having a timeline can be very powerful focal point; and most have a sense of time.  Of course if they don’t it is a powerful clue that you may not be dealing with a serious prospect, even when they may have a decision process, but seems no need to make a decision now!

It is also important when you run into reluctance to change; having the deadline will help you accentuate the risk of inaction.  This may not be that important to “be found” sellers, but for real sales people, it can help you calm a client by focusing on the upside of the projected benefit, and the risk associated with standing still; not easy, but if it was they wouldn’t need us.  Having that point in time, helps you work backwards to where they are now, and create urgency and more importantly action – execution.  Once you develop this skill, you’ll be able to work backwards in very effective way, most specifically in “if you don’t act by this date, you will miss”.

And let’s not forget the importance of deadlines you create efficiencies in the way you sell and manage your pipeline.  Deadlines help you prioritize execution.  They also help you time sales out, if your average sales cycle is 6 weeks, you can set a deadline for expected close, and measure you execution against that, and if need be disqualify opportunities that are beyond deadline.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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