Playing With Numbers – Sales eXecution 2470

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

crystal ball

I was never big on Shakespeare, took me long enough to master English as my third language, good old Willie just confused things that much further, I must admit that I do have an appreciation for the phrase from Hamlet “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”. Not only as a parent, but perhaps in a similar vein working with sales people, as exemplified by a recent exchange with a rep I am working with.

Earlier this month in a post title To Call Or Not, I cited some stats about the level of effort required to engage and sell new buyers. The rep in question was very defensive about some of the numbers, asking where they came from, when I shared that with him, he kept on protesting and questioning, just like the lady in Hamlet.

Having remembered that the company had recently done a trade show about a week before our conversation. I asked how many leads he picked up, he told me about a hundred or so. I went on “how many have you contacted or followed up with?” He told me about thirty or so. Or so? What is there a margin for error, or a margin for slackness? Either way, below the stat he was protesting, and likely the reason he was protesting, the light was just a little too bright.

At this point you have no choice but to don my Kevlar reinforced wetsuit, and ask “what about the rest?”

I bet if I asked you to look away from the screen you can guess the excuses, go ahead give it a go.

First just the lack of time, apparently there was a battery that had to be driven across town to a client. I took a bullet, in as much as he had to attend training. But my favourite was “Some of these are not real, some were just tire kickers, I can tell which are worth following up with, so I went to hose first, I will continue down the list.”

I right away called my wife “Honey, I met a real celebrity, I spent my morning with Kreskin”  I can just see him holding those business cards up in the air, one by one, and divining which were buyers and which were not.

“Have you sent a follow up e-mail to the bunch?”

“I though Marketing was gonna do it”

Sales people are no different than others, if you don’t like the message, you shoot the messenger, and if the messenger is wearing Kevlar, try to undermine the numbers in question.

As discussed here before, sales people fall into one of two groups, what I’ve referred to as the X Factor of sales, execution, or excuses.  Not only was our boy not ready to execute, he was great excuses, a complete lack of accountability. Now to be fair, there was little clarity from the organizations as to what was expected after the show, i.e. “follow up with all leads within 72 hours.” But in the end, for someone so ready to question the numbers, he was doing a lot to hide form them and little to disprove them.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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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 

What’s Your Favourite Hyphenated Selling – Sales eXecution 2460

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

un hy selling

Several pundits have presented the argument that we are all sellers and we are always selling, no surprise, selling is part of life and the human experience, right from the guy selling fragments of the big bang, or the serpent selling Eve the apple. As a result, just like people, sales comes in different ways, shapes, approaches, techniques, etc.

This brings with it a host of labels and subsets of sales selling. What I call the hyphenated sale. You’ve seen this and will continue to see it throughout sales. Different labels/qualifiers placed on sales, some times to better frame the technique, sometimes because it pertains to a very specific part of the sale, other times the name of the person who “created” (ya right) that type of selling, other times just to be catchy.

There are times when it is nothing more than a marketing label. Let’s face it, we are a target for someone’s product, someone trying to sell a product to us, a course, an app, an assessment, so slap a label on it and start sell it. Other times there are movements that want to adopt a particular sticky tag as a means of finding a readymade audience, or as a means of siphoning off their competitors. If there are a group of people who are terrified and terrible at old calling, what better way to attract them than to adopt the label of no more cold calling, whether it works or not is secondary, what great branding. Sometimes the branding evolves, Sales 2.0 was the rage a while back, till all the various flavours realised there was more to be sold by going Social Selling.

So what I am asking for today, is your list of hyphenated sales, you don’t have to follow the methods, or be a proponent, or you could in fact be it’s biggest groupie, not the point here, all I am asking for is a list of hyphenated or branded sales you are aware of. Here I’ll get you started:

Solution Selling
Impact selling
Sugar-free Selling
Kosher Selling
Consultative Selling
Trigger Event Selling
Interactive Selling
Social Selling

Go for it, have some fun with it, let’s see what we come up with.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

EDGY Conversations: How Ordinary People Can Achieve Outrageous Results0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

EDGY Conversations

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while are more than familiar with Dan Waldschmidt, we have done webinars and other events, and his guest post a couple of years back Retarded Sales Behavior and The Reasons We Under-Perform, had one of the biggest responses I have had to a guest post. He never fails to deliver to his moniker of EDDY CONVERSATIONS.

Well fortunately for all of us, who enjoy edgy, or want to get the EDGE, Dan has written a book, EDGY Conversations: How Ordinary People Can Achieve Outrageous Success, an exceptional “how to manual” for ordinary people who are out to achieve truly extraordinary things. What makes it a great read and must have, is not just the content, but Dan’s innate and unique way of articulating things, to borrow from the usual book parlance “It’s a page turner!”

Dan spent four years looking at what high performers were doing in business, math, science, sports and politics. He put together 1,000 stories of ordinary people who achieved success against the odds. As a result of its breadth, this book delivers right from the start. Open a page and you’ll find everything you’ve never seen before in a traditional business book. In presentation alone the book is differentiates and engages, beautiful illustrations and vibrant colors jumping off the page just punctuate and brings the messages to life. After reading a host of books of this nature, it was pleasantly surprising to feel the lift after reading EDGY Conversations. I felt powerful and motivated and encouraged to do the hard things that lead to extraordinary success.

I had a chance to speak with Dan about the book, and what he took away from the experience. I asked him what common connections he found when he looked at high performers in business, math, sports, science and politics? He pointed to “four characteristics that we call EDGY: extreme behavior, disciplined activity, a giving mindset and a human strategy, were all prevalent in high performers, even across completely different verticals, like science and sports. The same radical beliefs that enable an Olympic competitor to push themselves beyond human capacity is the exact same belief system that enables a researcher to uncover a human biological breakthrough.

Some folks see edgy or extreme as being out there, but Dan presents a different more compelling view. When suggested that extreme, by definition, “too much” of a good thing, Dan offered up that “no, being extreme is not too much of a good thing. Extreme behaviour starts with a mindset change. It is really the core belief that you can achieve success regardless of the obstacles in your way simply through a relentless pursuit of answers. It’s a belief that by working hard enough and long enough, there isn’t anything that you can’t do. When you have that belief system, you look at problems as just another opportunity to be creative rather than bad luck or “everyone picking on you”. That mindset is important because it’s inevitable that each of us will face problems in our struggle to be successful. You can’t ever believe in yourself too much.”

Whether you are edgy in your approach to life, success or just being, or thinking about becoming successfully with an edge, this is a must read, so rather than keep you waiting, all you have to do is click here, grab your copy, and hold on.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Social Selling is Just Good Selling – Sales eXecution 2440

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Last week I had the honour of placing in the top 10 of the 30 The Top 30 Social Salespeople In The World.  But more than ever before it highlighted the need to unhyphenate sales, and focus on those things that make sales people good at what they do.  I can’t speak for the others on the list, but I do not see myself as a social seller, but as a sales person who takes the profession seriously, and as a result of that commitment use every available tool to communicate with my market, and deliver avenues and means for them to achieve their objectives vis-à-vis their business.

top30socsale

This is why I had some gentle fun with Social Selling’s predecessor, Sales 2.0. These are not just marketing terms, but limiting terms, especially in the hands of the wrong people, especially the pundits. If Sales 2.0 was the label for those who were leveraging Web 2.0 tools and opportunities in their sales, then what number do we assign to those sales people who were early adopters of the first wave of web capabilities, Sales 1.0? What about those of us who jumped on things like portals, the original BlackBerry pagers, Sales 0.0. And what of the sales people who invested in Palm Pilots and green screen e-mails, Sales -1.0. Take to the logical conclusion voice mail in the 1908’s Sales -3.0, answering services introduced in the 1930’s Sales -6.0, etc.

Silly marketing terms that pre-occupy sales people and sell products for those selling to sellers. So let’s unhyphonate sales, especially silly, potentially revenue destructive labels like “No Cold Calling”, “Referral Selling”, “Trigger Event Selling”, and others. These address one small aspect of sales in a very incomplete and ineffective way and serve only to sell a product. This may explain why some were left off the list who are in one light much more “social” than many of us on the list.

I can only speak for myself, but I suspect I was on the list because I love selling, and writing about selling and will use every available tool and means of selling better, these days that includes social. I think if you want to hyphenate sales, there should only be one Good-Selling, everything else is just packaging.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

 

Mistakes Are Better Than Regrets – Sales eXecution 2430

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Crossed Fingers

If I had a dollar for every time I heard a sales person say “I should have …”, I could start working a three day week. And for all the coulda shmoudas, the risk for not acting was not that much greater than not acting, but the rewards always measurably bigger. I have never understood how some can live better with the regret of not having gotten a sale because they did not act, versus worrying about not getting an account because of a mistake they made attempting.

We worry about making mistakes when it comes to accounts, or meetings, usually unnecessarily so, and usually due to a lack of a proper pursuit plan, or process. Process here refers to a set of necessary and common-sense activities required to move the sale to close, executed in a logical and sequential stages, not something overly complex just for the sake of being complex, or more expensive. But the ‘process’ is not the end all and be all, as many mistakenly believe, it is the jumping point, the platform that allows you to act and measure progress and recalibrate when needed, but none of that matters till you act. It is when you act and make mistakes that you can correct, vary, and act again. Mistakes can be corrected, regrets you just carry around like so much luggage.

This unfolds with meetings as well, I often hear sales people say after the fact “I should have asked…” So why don’t they? One simple reason, they didn’t write their questions down in advance, and simply forgot, they didn’t want to look amateurish, but many buyers tell me they just see that as being prepared. More often sellers tell me they didn’t want to sound foolish asking such a simple question. What’s the old question: “do you want to be rich or look cool?”

Many sales people tell me that they don’t want to act “until they have it right”. They practice and rehearse – a good thing – till they feel they have it “perfect” – not a good thing, because no one is ever perfect. Selling is not like figure skating at the Olympics where you get a score for “artistic merit”, more like speed skating, successive qualifying rounds, semi-finals, and finally the big race. Perfect is not as pretty as success, and success is not always pretty.

While the intent of doing your best is a good one, and I have always said that intents go a long way, buyers are very much in tune with your intent, and are very forgiving when they know your intent was good, despite questionable execution. But without action on your part, there is no way for the buyer to see or gauge your intent. It’s a lot like not leaving a voice mail because “no one ever calls back”, how could they if you don’t leave a message or number?

If you’re going to err, err on the side of acting and dealing with the outcome, not on the side of staying on the sidelines and rationalizing the might-have-beens. In sales, it is about execution – everything else is just talk!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Join me - Return On Objectives #Webinar

Self-Serve or Full Service? – Sales eXecution 2422

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

stake and wine

I overheard an interesting discussion recently at the airport. Two guys talking about eating out a lot, could even have been road warrior sales types. One was waxing poetic about how is sick and tired of seeing tipping jars at staff cafeterias, or fast food places. When his buddy asked why, his reply was that the people in those place do not do anything that merits a tip. They stand at the cash, ring you out, and sometimes even muster a “thank you”. Even at a place like Starbucks, the baristas are nothing more than a short version of a short order cook.

He felt waiters deserve a tip because they create and add to the dining experience, and are often the difference between a great night out experience, and a meal eaten outside the home. He felt that waiters are with you from start to finish, making recommendations, the good ones take time to understand your preference and what you are hoping to get out of the experience and more. They also sell and upsell you from wine to desert and everything between, helping their restaurant sell more profitable items, increasing the size of the bill, their tip, and your experience. In other words earning their tips. To quote “WTF does the guy behind the counter at Starbucks add to the experience?”

This got me to think about some of the current discussions in sales, and how people are confusing roles and outcomes, sometime innocently, sometimes intentionally to drive their own agenda, even at the expense of their buyers and facts. When I read that “buyers are over 60% of the way through their buying process before they reach out to sales person”, I get confused. Sales person, really? I think not, more accurately, the person they call when they are 2/3 of the way through their “buying” process is an order taker, there is no selling taking place here, there is just taking an order the buyer by definition arrived at on their own. Looking at that experience as a sale, is like confusing a sandwich off a stand outside Penn Station with a dinner at Carbone.

Sales people seek out and engage with people who have not started the buying process, had not intention on doing anything different when they went to work that morning. That is why it is a “sales process”, not a “buying process”. Sales people are not standing at the checkout counter waiting for the next buyer to walk up. They study their territory, understand who potentially will benefit from their offering. They segment and prioritize, and develop a pursuit plan based on where they are most likely to engage with potential buyers, buyers who without the seller’s initiative would remain on the sideline, and unnoticed by sales people waiting for a call from someone who has completed 2/3 of their decision. Not to mention the pundits who promote this type of lazy order taking; how can one present an entire “sales” methodology predicated on taking orders rather than making a sale? I am with my man at the airport, let’s not call the combo meal at the local sub shop a four course dinner. Now shut down the browser, and go out and sell, the incoming orders will come anyways, look at them as you bonus, not your goal.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Join me - Return On Objectives #Webinar

Return On Objectives #Webinar0

Return On Objectives - Harnessing Objectives to Drive Better Sales Conversations

Learn how to change the sales conversation and who should be having that conversation with!

Presented by  

Join me on March 19, at 3:00 pm Eastern.  

Objective Based Selling looks at how to align the conversation with the buyer’s objectives, and leveraging those objectives to create a better conversation that drives mutual opportunities and success. With changes in the buying and selling dynamic, B2B buyers who are ready to buy are much better informed and more empowered than ever, and unless sellers are that much better prepared they risk being reduced to glorified order takers. Buyers who are not in the market, the so called Status Quo, are more time deprived than ever and are much less susceptible to traditional sales approaches and conversations. Impervious to pains, needs or solutions, a large segment of your market is better able to cocoon themselves from traditional sellers and sales conversations.

The presentation will cover how to take advantage of current realities and present specific ways sellers can successfully approach and engage prospects, but create selling opportunities where others may not see any, and in the process build credibility, expert status, and loyalty with existing and new buyers. Objective based selling is a process based, value driven four plank platform for success in selling to Status Quo buyers, the most overlooked segment of the market:

  • Breaking down “Value” to core components and why people buy
  • Leveraging past experiences – Won, Lost and No Decision deals – 360 Degree Deal View
  • Building a better question
  • Proactive exploration

D & R

3 Ways to Minimize or Marginalize Objections – Sales eXecution 2402

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

bad phone day

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I have pointed out that salespeople and sales organizations spend too much time and energy trying to avoid objections, when they should be spending time on learning to deal with them, redirect and leverage them to move the sale forward. Here are three things you can do at the outset of the call that will make objections more manageable.

1.  Framing The Conversation – How you frame a question will have a direct impact on the type of response you get. At times it is simple semantics, other time it is where you can get the recipient of a call to focus. When you ask me about a specific, I will answer that specific. This is where many get in trouble, often led astray by pundits who’ve told them to focus on pain, needs or solutions. If you ask me about a need I do not have or perceive at the time, you are inviting me say no, even when I could use your product had you asked me differently.

Ask me about specific objectives someone in my role and type of company have, and it would lead to conversation. Your product could in fact move me towards achieving the objective, even when my perception of needs are different. There are things all business people want to achieve in areas where they are not feeling pain.

While I may still object, it will be in context of something I am interested in discussing, not in context of a pain or need I do not have, or at best not acknowledge.

2.  Take It Away In The Introduction – I was working with a group of salespeople with a well know international band, they were targeting small local companies. A big sticking point was when the prospects said “oh we’re too small”. Conversations always went sideways, having to defend misconception around cost, complexity, and more. So I had them include the following in their introduction “I am the small company specialist”. This did not eliminate the usual objections, but it marginalized a big hurdle, and allowed the conversation to move past it easily, and allow it to unfold in more familiar ground.

3.  Lead With Positive Measurable – In point number one above, I asked you to align your talk track with their objectives, not perceived pains. If for whatever reason you are not sure what those may be, there is a plan B. Highlight, clearly and strongly, a specific and measurable outcome, making that the focus of your talk track, not a product or “solution”. “I have helped (provide example) increase margins by 6%, – or – increase turnover by 8%”, etc. No guarantee that you will get engagement, but it will focus the conversation on positives, and limit the objections you will face.

Again, objections while prospecting are inevitable, no matter what some pundits will peddle, but you have the power to set things up in a way that allow you to manage and move past them to a real sales conversation.

What to be better at handling objection, download our Objection Handling Handbook.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Can You Sell Your Competitor’s Product?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Compete

Given today’s buying climate, chances are your buyer is talking to a range of potential providers, usually after having carried out some “independent” research. I say “independent” because one is susceptible to the echo chamber group think risk presented in an information overload, knowledge under-load world. For many companies, this is only made worse by the “be found” silliness being peddled by many pundits their sales people are being enticed by. In the past I have written about the power of “Land Mine Questions”, but if you are looking to win more sales this year, you need to go further.

One way to ensure that you are covering all angels to help your buyer make the right choice – you, is to be able to not only view the world through the buyer’s eyes, but also through the eyes of your competitors. While many sales people are familiar with their competitor’s product, strengths and Achilles Heel, great sales people go further to the point where they could sell the competitor’s product, better than the competitor rep can.

I was talking to an IT rep last week who is big on visualizing. He, like many I know, use a practice I use and recommend, which to visualize a sales meeting the day before, go through how you will open, If you know the people, visualize them sitting in the board room. Go through all the questions they may have, and think about how you may answer; picture yourself asking what you want to know, and go through the various answers they may give. Do the same for objections, what will they be, hear how you would answer them; all this allows you to not hear most things the first time during the actual meeting.

I suggested to him that he can take things one step further, by running through a meeting as though he was selling his competitor’s product, how would it be different, where would he feel exposed vs. the other vendor, what are strengths he can exploit. He asked if we could practice that, which we did the next day, his task overnight was to get into the head of is competitor. He jumped on the phone, and called their call centre, he asked them all the questions he hated, to see how they would respond. He then went on to ask questions around where he felt his product was a clear leader, to see how they managed things, and did so around a number of areas.

When we meet the next day, he not only felt that he was in a better position to accentuate his offering’s strength, but felt that he was equipped well enough to sell the other product, which helped him set a flow that would continue to differentiate and elevate his product over the other. As we rehearsed, we also made sure that he aligned the talk track to the buyer’s objectives, giving him the further ability to ensure that the buyer would see his product in a better light given their own objectives, more so than just on the basis of the products.

We’ll know next week how well he did. He felt his meeting went well, and if he does close the deal, it will put him a head of goal for the quarter, now, and ahead of the competition for some time to come.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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