The Sales Version of Chicken or Egg – Sales eXchange 2050

By Tibor

Chicken or egg

For many the age old question continues to be which came first the chicken or the egg, and while some have claimed to have the answer, there is a similar one playing out in B2B sales.

Most agree that you need to develop and maintain relationships with buyers (then clients) to succeed in B2B selling, but there is lot of debate about which comes first the relationship, or the sale?

First thing you have to do is define “relationship”, it is one of those words in sales that people use without often quantifying or defining its meaning.  Maybe the assumption is that “everyone knows” the meaning, but that is a false and risky assumption.  Some use it to hide their lack of knowledge or understanding of sales, and relationship is one of those sunshine words, if you keep using it, you sound as though you are in the know and good at sales.  I see this a lot when I ask sellers I work with to define sales, they’ll talk around the question, and throw in “relationship” at a few critical junctures where their response looks weak.

When you get into more formal definitions, you find two main camps. One basically states that the primary objective is the building of long-term relationships with customers from which repeat business will flow.  The other, believes that relationships evolve from good results delivered on sales that were initially made before there was a relationship, based on a positive experience, the interaction continues, relationships build and evolve.

Both agree that relationships are important and make for better and more sustained business, but like the chicken and the egg, they seem to disagree on which comes first, the initial sale or the relationship.  For the sake of disclosure, I tend to line up with the “sales comes first, relationships evolve” camp, rather than the camp that feels that sellers need to focus on the relationship first, and then business will flow, a definition borrowed from a popular sales glossary.

Relationship do not ensure sales.  I remember having a rep in Ottawa who finally landed a big government department, when asked by her peers how she did it, she told them she established a solid relationship.  She failed to mention the 10% discount she negotiated with me to close the deal.  A year later, she lost the department, the only one of the many we had as clients, as we were reviewing the deal, I couldn’t help but ask what happened to the relationship?

We have all seen or experienced where buyers, not just new buyers, but established customers, ones  sellers thought they had a relationship with, who end up buying from someone else. It usually comes down to either price, the other seller, the one without the relationship, being cheaper. Or even more biting, the other seller was able to convince the buyer that they can move them closer to their objectives than you.  In outselling the relationship, they show that attaining objectives will trump relationship for a buyer every time.

We work in a world where companies and reps need sales to thrive, sales in the current month and quarter.  This is why companies all pay commissions for sales, not for relationships.  This is why it makes more sense to develop a sale, delver to or above expectations and use that as the platform for building a relationship, rather than building relationships with customers from which repeat business will flow.  To be clear, I am not saying no relationship, or relationships have no vale, but that there is a sequence that delivers more for both parties, and that sequence is, start building the relationship and the sales as soon as you engage, but get the sale first, it will take time to build a real and worthwhile relationship.

So there, we have solved that one, and if you are interested, and have a sense of humour, the question of which came first the chicken or the egg, has also been answered.  Again, if you have a sense of humour, you can learn about it here.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


Time To Grow Up – Sales eXchange 1980

By Tibor

grow up

When my kids were young and they would wish for something not real, or as a way to avoid a task, like “I wish I didn’t have to clean my room”, “I wish I could grow up to be a princess”, their grandmother always responded by saying “If wishes were horses then beggars would ride”.  It’s interesting how that expression has great significance and application to many sales people and sales advisors, all now grown-ups.

I am speaking specially of advice doled out by some sales pundits that serves more to placate and patronize readers than help them improve their selling skills and success, delivering clichés and politically correct feel good myth, instead of proven and practical road tested advice based on experience.  While we all want to make our audience feel good, I think it is more important to provide pragmatic advice that yields measurable results, even when it requires effort on the part of the reader and will often force them from their comfort zones.  I for one do not see a problem in challenging readers and sellers, and do not apologize for creating some discomfort in helping them succeed.  Much better than some of the sugar coated buzzword riddled schmaltz others seem to be peddling in an effort to make sellers feel good and allow them to rationalize their lack of effort, inventiveness and results.  But as we all know sugar highs don’t last.

If you are wondering why I am on about this, it’s because once again I have someone taking a shot at my often debated, never disproven voice mail technique, not because it doesn’t work, it does, but because it does not appeal to their “sensibilities”, a sensibility that leads to no returned calls.  As usual the technique is misrepresented, making it easier to cast in a questionable light, they then schmear a load of subjectivity mixed with value judgment, and raising but not speaking to the specifics of words like “trust” or “ethics”.

The reality is that there are no absolutes in sales, nothing works all the time, every time, most things don’t work most the time, so when you have a technique that proves to be 30% – 50% effective, you have something worth adopting.  What’s more, while the technique may seem counter intuitive at first, those who try it, report back a consistent success rate.  Recently there was a debate in a LinkedIn group, there were many who questioned the technique, who once they tried it, liked it, mostly because it got them call backs and appointments.

Most recently, the technique was again misrepresented, and labeled asinine.  I bet I can find some internal memos at most record companies dating back to 10 years ago that called iTunes an asinine way to sell and consume music.  I bet there were some Blockbuster folks who called Netflix asinine.  Interestingly few are willing to challenge it head on.  One challenger was invited to debate the technique on “This Week In Sales” webcast, but declined, I wonder why; not the worst thing, I had the whole show to myself.

As an industry, “sales enablers”, we keep highlighting the fact that only 50% of B2B reps make quota, well what is our role in that?  If we do not push them to better themselves by trying, new, alternative, and yes at times outlandish but effective methods.  We should challenge our audience, not just dust off the edges of tired techniques that play to the emotion of the reader even while ignoring the fact that what is being peddled are just retreads with new labels.

In the end it is down to the reader, our consumer, they choose how they want to make or not make quota.  In the end the readers are like we the pundits, some know what is Shinola, and what’s not.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

The “Right” Measure45

No this isn’t about metrics, this is not about steps you can take as a manager, no, it’s much more cynical and entertaining than that.

It is about a game that sales people and managers can play while presenting or watching a peer present is a selling situation.  It is about measuring how many times a sales person will say “right?” looking for agreement from the potential buyer.  As in: “Our integrated approach delivers efficiencies through process improvement and alignment, right?”

I don’t know!?

“Our e-commerce solution increases business by 12.6%, right?”

I guess, who knows, if you say so!?

The game is to measure the number of time the seller say “right?” without a meaningful response from the buyer.  As the game advances, you can score bonus points when the buyer asks the seller a question, and the seller responds with a statement again, ending in “right?”

The concept or the game came to me the other day when I was watching a rep present his solution to a group of decision makers.  The rep was dead out of the gate as he started off with a soliloquy about the company’s problems, and where they are “losing money, right?”  After some silence, he continued, “cutting edge solution, right?”

The biggest among the communication faux pas our boy made was clearly telegraphing to the group of decision makers is that he was squarely focused on his agenda, and all but oblivious to theirs.  “I am unprepared, I have no clue how to engage you, but I need to make this sale, I hope you go for this, right?”

In terms of the game, it is a lot like golf, the winner is the seller who needs to fall back on the fewest “rights?” while leaving the meeting with a real Next Step.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

3 Reasons To Call Senior Executives First – Sales eXchange 15046

Few sales people are true hunters, and even among hunters, few call outside of their comfort zone, specifically senior executives. We can pretend it’s not true, but based on my discussions with sales VP’s and business owners it is.  They tell me their people don’t do it enough, and they hardly hear from sales people selling things that impact critical parts of their business.  But let’s not dwell on why some don’t do it, and let’s focus on why they should and how it will help them win.

1.  Top Man/Woman on Totem Pole – no matter how big or small the company, the President along the VP’s set the strategic direction for their companies, and the more you are aligned with that the better you will do. The challenge is that these are rarely expressed in terms of product, but objectives, thing the want to and need to achieve. So if you sell using the the language of product, you need to stop, and start speaking the subject “here is how I, my offering and company will help you exceed your objectives”. Once you do that you will have a number of doors open to you, both figuratively and literally. The literal part segues us to the second reason.

2.  Use My Name, Please -  No one knows better who the real decision makers, influencers, movers and shakers are within their organizations. That knowledge and understanding alone is worth gold, but an introduction, a recommendation, a direct mandate, well, thats like a cocktail mix of gold, oil, and more. Want to be the gold standard, nothing beats being sanctioned by the leader of the organization.

3.  Friends in High Places – we have all faced scenarios where the decision was down to you and an alternate provider, that is when you want to have the right people in your corner, and who can be more “right” than the president or VP.  When there is a tie, you want to have a tie breaker, and of you master point number 1 above, that tie breaker will break for you.

These are three reasons why you ALWAYS WANT TO CALL HIGH, in the organization that is. Master this and you will win more deals, not only due to the points above, but the process of mastering them will set you up for continuous improvement and success in engaging with the entire organization, and help you play to win.

Next Step

  • Call everyone involved in the success you can deliver
  • Sell in a multilingual way
  • Don’t hesitate to lean on your friends
Tibor Shanto

Help Cure PPCD44

PPCD is an affliction suffered by many sellers, some are aware they suffer from it, others are not. Left unaddressed PPCD kills sales and bring danger to many companies whose top and bottom line have been negatively affected by this scourge. The good news is that when detected, it can be addressed, treated, and positive gains can be had moving forward.  But as with most of these type of killers, it needs to be detected, and then the victim has to accept the diagnosis, and be willing to take steps to cure PPCD.  Supported by managers, clients, companies, and their families, many make a full transformation and go on to live productive lives; some in sales, others in hospitality.

Read On…

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Don’t Shpritz Your Prospects – Sales eXchange – 14027

On the weekend I went to the mall and visited a national department store.  They see themselves as being “upscale”, as evidenced by the frontal attack of make-up and perfume counters fortifying the front entrance.  And as you may have guessed, each of those counters had a plastic looking heavily made up young lady, armed with a bottle of smell, ready to shpritz unsuspecting victims trying to get out of the rain.

The first couple of shpritzers I encountered, were nice enough to ask, and promptly backed off once I declined.  One did ask a few questions, but once I politely explained my lack of interest and why, she understood, gave me a post card of the product for reference.

One of these creatures, she clearly was a pro, as there was no hint of skin under the triple layer of goo that covered her face, and no doubt explained her perma-smile; she was clearly a “don’t take no for an answer” typ-o-gal.  I politely declined her offer to alter my aura, she asked why, not nicely but in a demanding way, gave her the same answer as I did to the others, but with a different outcome.  She shpritzed me anyway; what a bee with an itch.  Before I was ready to share my opinion with her, she shifted her perm-smile slightly, and said that the combination of grapefruit, rose, and “just a hint of tobacco” complimented my look.  I too shared with her what I thought complemented her look and moved on, sort of; because while I may have put some distance between her and I the smell lingered, no not the cologne, the smell of a bad sale and sales person.

Then it struck me, change the product, and the weapon from a shpritzer to a phone, and this scenario is played out daily between some B2B sales people, and their unsuspecting victims, I mean prospects.   Many are like the first group described, approach, take in their response, and react accordingly.  That could be revisiting a bit further on, presenting an alternative point that may put a different light on the question for the prospect.  But whichever course, they make sure not to offend the buyer while leaving the door open to future opportunities.

But sadly, many sellers act like Perma-Shpriter, and just continue to plough where there is little hope of success, and in the process destroying any opportunities for future engagement.  While I understand that every opportunity could be valuable, but that value may materialize down the road, acting in a way that forever destroys that chance is fatal and unnecessary.  You can stay top of mind using the tools available to the modern B2B seller, better to make a positive impression with the way you handle the buyers’ response, than to leave your mark like a cheap shpritz.

Next Step

  • Know why people may or may not want to engage
  • Examine and leverage your experience to see how to work with those who don’t give you an instant positive response
  • Don’t shpritz, it’s just rude

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Never Let a Good Plan Get In The Way Of Success!36

On Monday I posted about the importance of having a quality sales process, and got the usual calls pro and con.  One concern of a few is that a sales process may limit their ability respond to unpredictable situations.

I understand what they are saying, and would not disagree that you need to go off course at times to succeed.  You need to be able to respond to different obstacles, and you need to win the deal when it presents itself.

As I say above, never let a good plan get in the way of success!


Next Steps

  • Watch the video
  • Download the worksheet
  • Go hug your kids

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

How Your Sales Team May Be More Like Santa’s Reindeer Than You Realize20

The Pipeline guest Post – Leanne Hoagland-Smith

In the 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” the vividly describes by naming the Santa’s reindeer. Then in 1939 in a booklet Rudolph arrived with his red nose.

Possibly, your sales team may share some of the same attributes of Santa’s Reindeer.

Dasher is the salesperson always dashing about.  He or she lets no sales lead die. However, all this motion does not necessarily mean progress.

Dancer is the supreme master of the sales process.  New sales leads are danced through the sales process from the first handshake to the delivery of the solution. Of course, this may mean he or she may be reluctant to find a new dance partner.

Prancer prances around everything. Energy is high when Prancer is in the office and everyone loves Prancer. Yet, securing the goal to increase sales is rarely attained.

Vixen knows how to leverage his or her talents. The customers love Vixen. Yet sometimes Vixen is thought to be condescending to ever egotistical.

Enter Comet or rather exist Comet.  This salesperson spends the least amount of time in the office.  Pounding the pavement, meeting with sales leads to customers comprises most of his or her time. The downside is paperwork might be somewhat disorganized and relationships might be rushed causing some reluctance to fully engage with Comet.

Cupid is the salesperson everyone loves from both internal and external customers. Sometimes it seems he or she just gets the order without rhyme or reason. Cupid’s behavior may create some internal resentment as follow-through may not be this salesperson’s strong suit.

When Donner speaks, everyone listen. His or her voice sometimes sounds like Thunder. What may happen is this loud voice may shut out others during important sales meetings as well as customers.

Then there is Blitzen who is the lightening to Donner’s thunder.  Blitzen will speak with lightening precision and brings value by getting to the essence of any challenge. However, Blitzen’s approach may be regarded by some as lacking emotional intelligence to also being potentially arrogant.

Finally, Rudolph is the salesperson who is noticed first.  Her or his ability to market and brand herself or himself is extraordinary.  The only challenge is getting past the marketing phase of the sales process to the selling phase.  Rudolph is probably your best team player as long as the route is carefully laid out.

So take a few minutes and see if you have a balanced sales team like Santa’s reindeer. Then determine what actions you may need to undertake to get your reindeer sales force flying high in both good and bad weather.   Merry Christmas!

About – Leanne Hoagland-Smith

Leanne Hoagland-Smith, M.S., Chief Results Officer of ADVANCED SYSTEMS and author of Be the Red Jacket has 25 plus years experience in public and private sectors in sales, organizational development and talent management. As a strategic tactician, she supports forward thinking leaders who are tired of failed executions. Her contact information is 219.759.5601 CST or

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It's About the Buyer, Stupid! – Sales eXchange – 12527

I was recently read a couple of things that got me to think about some aspects of sales, while not specific to day to day execution, I think worth sharing as we consider how we can attack and win given whatever 2012 brings.

There was one piece in Fast Company, looking at the battle between Apple and Android for mobile and other device dominance. They compared the battle to that of a political campaign, with platforms, the gamble, upside and risks for organizations and manufacturers take on in selecting one over the other. Reminded me of the debate between Sales 2.0 and Sales Un-dot, especially when you are exposed to the passion and noise from all these camps. At one point the article mentioned the factor of proprietary systems vs. open source; this resonated with me as you can see a similar debate in sales; that is those who promote a specific one size fits all approach to selling, versus those who offer a fluid methodology that helps sales people improve their craft in an open ended way.

In many ways, like in technology, the proprietary methods provide great ways to deal with aspects of complex sales, or specific stages or phases of a sale. The downside is that you have to do it entirely their way, it is all about the box, you either love being in it, or risk failure. Never been much of a black & white guy, and I suspect most long term successful sales professionals have also felt restrained by the box, no doubt leading to the term thinking outside the box. I further suspect that most would see themselves in the “open source” sales camp, evolving and improving with the market and customer demands; demands that are forced to evolve with the market and other developments.

The challenge with the “boxed” or proprietary approaches is that they tend to start with a specific challenge in a specific vertical or type of sale. Sometimes these translate well to other types of sales, most often they don’t, hence their limitation. When combined with other “sales systems”, you do get the advantage of a varied approach; this no doubt is how the “open source” sellers leverage the “boxed” without being trapped. The challenge for the proprietary box sellers is that they either need to evolve, rare, or try to retrofit every situation to their “method”, less rare, and less effective in almost every way.

Just as I was getting my head around this question, especially being the co-author of a “boxed type” book, but a practitioner of “open source” selling, which is what the current book will serve up, I read another interesting piece by my friends over at Sales Benchmark Index, always great reading. They were suggesting that you “Don’t read any sales best practices written pre-internet. They no longer apply.” Hmm, bad news for SPIN, Miller Heiman, PSS and host of others.

But I wouldn’t lose much sleep over it since I don’t think human nature (and yes buyers are human), has changed all that much since the advent of the web. Seems like Marshall McLuhan creeping into sales, but in reality for buyers it is not the medium, it is the message, which is why things written before the internet still work when executed properly. Don’t believe me, just watch some old sales training films from the 1930′s and 40′s, and you’ll hear a lot of familiar concepts promoted by the post internet sellers. So to borrow from Marshall and Bill Clinton, “it is the buyer, stupid, not the medium”.

At about this point many of you should be asking what’s the point? Exactly, and for those that didn’t ask, thank you and good selling.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2011


The Pipeline Guest Post – An interview with Peter Cook

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about Peter Cook’s new book “Punk Rock People Management”.  Based on the response, I asked Peter to sit down and tell me more.  What follows is that interview with Peter, Author of “Punk Rock People Management” and “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll”

What in your background led you to write Punk Rock People Management?

I started out life playing in punk rock and rock bands, but took a job as a chemist working in pharmaceuticals.  It was a wise decision as I enjoyed earning money and doing science just as much as driving round England in platform shoes in the back of a van. I kept music as my hobby and travelled the world fixing factories.  Working for the company that became GSK also allowed me to study for an MBA.  I left the company at the age of 36 with no idea of how to run a business but with a great deal of passion and energy.  The learning I gained on the MBA was very instructive, but I learned just as much from being on stage, engaging an audience.  I eventually distilled this rich mixture of learning down into “Best Practice Creativity”, “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n'Roll” and “Punk Rock People Management”, which have been acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professor Charles Handy and featured on national TV here in the UK.

Punk Rock People Management is a really unusual title? What inspired it and what is the book about?

In case anyone is wondering, I am NOT suggesting that business people should don mohicans, smash up the reward system and pogo at the office party.  I am using punk rock in the sense that punk was about simplicity, brevity and authenticity.  Much of the stuff emanating from the HR institutes is about the opposite of these things.  Busy managers need short, simple and decent ways of handling people management if they are to generate high performance at work.  So Punk Rock People Management is for anyone who manages or has to get things done through people.  In terms of what it is about, the subtitle describes exactly what’s on offer:  A no-nonsense guide to hiring, inspiring and firing staff.  It follows the time-honoured ‘life, sex and death HR lifecycle’: Getting a job, getting on with the job and getting out of a job.

I spent a lot of my early life playing in punk rock and rock bands, plus following bands such as The Damned, The Doctors of Madness, Siouxie and the Banshees, The Sex Pistols et al., having also played with and alongside a few original Brit Punk acts: John Otway, Altered Images, The Fall, Wilco Johnson and Norman Watt Roy, Ian Dury’s bass supremo.  I love all forms of music, even the pomp and circumstance progressive rock that preceded punk rock and which it aimed to eradicate.  Some punk music combines intelligence with brevity and this captured the nexus of what I wanted to do.  Just think of the sheer genius of Ian Dury’s words and music, Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello and one or two others in the genre.

In the spirit of punk you have made each chapter just two pages long. How have you condensed the information to make it quick and simple?

This was really difficult.  I recall that Winston Churchill said that he needed more time to write a 3 minute speech than a 3 hour one.  He is right and I was chatting on this very subject with the great Tom Peters a few weeks ago.  To write a chapter which is just two pages long requires huge amounts of discipline and creativity if you are to avoid the trap of just removing the content.  I did this by:

  1. Reducing the ‘size’ of each topic to manageable proportions e.g. appraisal, conflict, selection etc.
  2. Setting out a simple 3 part structure for every chapter: A critique of traditional people management practice in a particular area; the punk rock alternative and;  three pithy tips on how to get started.
  3. I ruthlessly edited it to remove all unnecessary words – I read the whole thing out to my I Mac and then edited it again so that it wrote like it might be read out, as many of the chapters lend themselves to keynote speaker events.
  4. Finally I applied some devices to improve the book’s ‘stickiness’ – a bit of alliteration and rhyming to help things along.

All of this bearing in mind that the content is still more important than the delivery vehicle.  It’s really a matter of tremendous goal focus and then following through with precision.  I’m absolutely sure that the approach leaves people wanting more in some of the areas I’ve covered.  We can always do more detail but we live in a busy world and I aimed to make it possible for people to be able to read a chapter and gain value from it in less time than it would take to pogo to a Ramones or Linkin Park song.

Do you think Kindles and reading online are more popular than print nowadays?

Decca records rejected The Beatles in 1962, saying that ‘Groups with guitars are finished’– they were wrong!  My hunch is that the same is true of print books.  However, certain types of reader clearly prefer to read books on a Kindle.  Reading online is very popular, as Amazon report that more than 50% of books are read in this way.  Kindles are not so good for books where you don’t always read from start to finish or you might want to compare something on one page with another etc.  For the ‘bookish’ person, I feel that print books as a format will be with certain types of reader for a very long time just as CD’s have not completely eradicated other music formats.  For this reason, Punk Rock People Management is available as a print book, a kindle version and a free pdf download

What is next for you….?

In business, I’m off to Greece shortly to give an HR keynote on how companies can rebuild themselves after the economic meltdown.  Also some long term management development (without the punk rock) in The United Arab Emirates and a follow on keynote from Tom Peters in South Africa. In music, I am working on some corporate conference offerings with my colleagues John Howitt, session musician to Celine Dion, Anastasia and Shirley Bassey and Bernie Torme, lead guitar player to Ozzy Osbourne and Ian Gillan.  In writing, I am constantly busy with The Rock’n’Roll Business Blog – I have a backlog of books to release – one lengthy tome on innovation, a follow up micro book ‘Hard Rock Marketing’ and a possible book of ‘business poetry’.  There isn’t time at the moment, but I am also planning to release a new album of electronic guitar soundscapes in 2012, inspired by the work of Bill Nelson of Be-Bop Deluxe, who I am proud to know and who has been a continuous inspiration since my teenage years.  Here is a piece of film soundtrack music I wrote and recorded in my basement to end with, inspired by Bill Nelson, entitled Mars Warming.

About Peter Cook


Peter Cook runs Human Dynamics, a creative management consultancy, serving the top businesses in the World. With over 20 years’ business, academic and consultancy experience: Leading innovation teams; International trouble-shooting; Internal business and OD consultancy: Leadership and management development.

Peter started life as a chemist, has an MBA and a ‘university of life’ qualification in leading rock bands.  Author of ‘Best Practice Creativity’ and ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock ‘n’ Roll’, acclaimed by Tom Peters, who said of it “Sex, Leadership and Rock ‘n’ Roll is a marvellous book, which closes the door on the tidy, hierarchical, know-your-place ‘Orchestral Age’ and ushers in a new, creative era of challenge and change.

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