Why Set Out For 2nd Prize?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

2nd prize

Every day I work with sales people who start their day by setting their sights on winning second prize, and then celebrate when they achieve it. No really, watch any group of sales people on the phone trying to set appointments, and it is only a question of minutes before you see a few telling you how they convinced the potential prospect to let them have second place, or take their place among the also-rans.

Now I am not sure it is always accurate, but there is something to be said for the saying that in sales “second place, is as good as seventh place.” Meaning only the rep who wins the deal has any bragging rights, and the money, the rest are quickly forgotten.

But seriously, how else can you explain sales people doing the following.

They get on the phone, get their indented target on the phone, who tells them “we’re all set, we already have a provider (insert your stuff here), thanks for calling though”. To which the sales rep responds “Well, maybe I can send you some info, and if you ever need a backup…” Sometimes it is a variation on that theme, their whole approach is to get permission to send information to the potential prospect, and then ask for permission to call back to follow up. I mean I could find it interesting if they asked for an appointment to review the material they send, but to ask for permission to call back, don’t we all know what will happen when they call back:

A.   They end up in voice mail, they don’t leave a message, or leave the wrong message; no call back, couple more tries and then they give up
B.   Mysteriously, despite improvements in technology, the prospect did not receive what they sent
C.   The prospect hasn’t had a chance to read, but will, and asks you to call in a week
D.   All of the above

Notice what one of the options wasn’t, that’s right, an appointment, which what the objective is, first prize!

Knowing how to handle objections is one thing, and if you download our Objection Handling Handbook, you’ll know how to handle the two above, (all set, and send me stuff), as well as the most common you are likely to face on the phone. But where most fail is in their attitude, which is really just a symptom of their preparedness and commitment.

While the reality is that most people you speak to will not meet with you first try; it is also true that often that first call is a chance to introduce yourself and initiate a process that may involve a number of calls before you have built enough rapport to have them take a meeting. But it is also true that that should be what you settle for, not your intent going into the call.

Assuming, (not always safe I know), as a seller who values their time and is intent on exceeding quota, you have at least minimally qualified the person and the opportunity before you picked up the phone. The company meets your criteria, you done some background work on the company and the individual you are calling, checked out their social activity, and have prepared for the call. If so, then you objective for the call is to get the meeting to initiate the sale, anything short of that is not a win. And that needs to be the attitude when you are on the phone – you and I need to meet, we’ll both get value!

Not only will that attitude come across on the phone, but it will inform what and how you present things to the buyer. Everything you say driving the need to meet and talk further, that you can add immediate value to their ability to meet their objective. Not in an overt way, but very specifically challenging the prospect to meet, and remember challenge like provoke can be done in a very positive way, it need not be a negative. But most sellers are so scared of the phone, so scared of rejection, so unprepared, they see any permission to end the call as a good one. The difference between the winners and the rest, is that the winners see the meeting as the only good outcome, while the rest want to get off so fast that they see the right to send, second prize, as the best way to achieve their objective, which “How fast can I get off this call without hearing no? Send you some stuff, sure that works, thank you.”

“Hey Boss, I looks like they’re interested, I am putting it at 25%!”

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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I Made a Sales Mistakes, Have You? And then What…?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Mistake

Seems it is a week of posts about sales mistakes, Monday I discussed a mistake made by a company trying to sell to me. Today, it is one of my mistakes that takes centre stage.

We all make mistakes, it is a trait of being human. The real opportunity is in how you deal with mistakes you make. The fellow I discussed Monday choose not to do anything about his, below is an example of a recent one I made, and how I dealt with it. What was a sales mistake you made in the course of selling and what did you do about it?

Last week I made a fatal, or near fatal error. I had sent a prospecting note to senior executive, and I let the auto-correct get the better of me, as a result I got the individual’s name wrong, interestingly enough their name is a common vocation, and I allowed the phone to replace it with another common vocation starting with the same letter. Not excusable, I should have caught it, I messed up with a capital F. With a name like Tibor, you can imagine I get my name rearranged on a regular basis.

The individual in question wrote back chastising me for the error, pointing out getting the name right was Sales 101. I don’t blame them for doing so, but it occurred to me that my mistake was not related to Sales 101 at all.

Sales 101 in my experience relates to actually acting, as in the act of proactive prospecting, acting on an idea, or acting in a way that gets the results you set out to get.

On a daily basis I hear sales people say they can’t do this, or can’t do that; I sometimes get the sense that what they are really saying is wont. I also hear that they find it difficult to get in front of their prospect, they can’t write to senior executive, “e-mail don’t get a response, they are never opened.”

Well clearly the one I sent was opened, otherwise my mistake would not have gone unseen, the technique works, one point for me, let’s keep using it. The goal of having a call was not eliminated, and whatever the ultimate outcome, their response allowed me to address my mistake. I apologised directly for my error, no excuses, humanize the process, and continue on. A case of taking lemons and making lemonade, I’ll let you know whether my intended prospect adds some sweetener, I suspect not, but I did my part.

My Question To You:

What was a sales mistake you made that you had a chance to deal with in a positive way, and snatch success where others may not have? Leave a comment below, or send a tweet to @TiborShanto.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Inbound, Outbound and now Nowhere Bound – Sales eXecution 2410

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

OOOPs

I have recently become a victim of some bad, no absolutely terrible, attempts at prospecting by people who bring little to their chosen profession, sales. But while it may be easy to blame the reps alone, their companies need to share in the blame and shame. Last week I was so pissed, I had to pick up the phone and call the rep and the company directly. Not surprisingly they did not understand what I saw them doing wrong.

To begin with, I or anyone in my company, has no absolute need for their “solution”. Yet another example of “solution selling” gone bad, unleashing a rep who runs around the country side looking for a problem. So why they would have wasted time and energy pursuing me is beyond me, but they did, and here is how it unfolded.

Last month I got an e-mail, presented in “very familiar” way, and it started this way:

Tibor,
Happy New Year!
I wanted to follow up to determine an appropriate time to….

I speak to a lot of people, did not recognize the name of the rep or the company, maybe this was due to the excesses of the holidays. So I did a quick search through my e-mails, sales software, LinkedIn, but nothing. I looked at the company page, not anyone I had prospected, nor were they at the top of my hit parade. Not wanting to be rude, or miss an opportunity, I sent them a note, asking what it was he was looking to “follow up to?” as I had no recollection of prior contact. No response, not a peep, and I promptly forgot about him, his note and his company.

Four weeks less a day later, another note:

Hi Tibor,

As a follow up to our last touch point, I wanted to see if now is perhaps a better time to briefly discuss….

He’s got balls, I’ll give him that, not much integrity or ethics, and I say this as someone who has proclaimed to know where the line is, happy to step close to it, but never cross it. He clearly had no issues in crossing it.

I called him up, introduced myself, not saying what I do for a living, just enquiring what we were following up to, as per my earlier note. He told me that they do it all the time, and he further defended it by saying that this is done all the time. I suppose that’s true, and everyday people get swindled in a number of ways, does that mean you have to do that too.

I am sure this kind of net cast every day, and I am sure the catch is healthy, otherwise they would make the effort to sell ethically. But I have to believe that if they did put the effort in, and assuming that their product has some merit, they would do much better than misleading potential prospects, and relying on those with bad memories. And while the debate over the pros/cons and merits of inbound vs. outbound will continue, and will the results of both, I hope we can all agree that this type of prospecting is truly nowhere bound.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

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 

Best time to Prospect – Sales eXecution 2391

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

time management

One question I am asked regularly is what is the best time to prospect, be that of day, time of week, etc. While trying to avoid the word depends, there are some variables that will impact the answer.  But what many are really looking for for is that secret answer, “call them at 4:33 on a the third Tuesday of the month, except I. A leap year, then it’s 4:36″.

While with some potential prospects there may be times that will yield more results, I believe it is not a good idea to look for one time over another, especially when that time is selected anecdotally, based on superstition, or as a means of avoiding the activity altogether.  I say this not to be cynical, but because I have seen people target a specific time, and then refuse to make calls at any other time.

Some sellers tell me emphatically that “you can’t prospect on Monday mornings, no way no how”.  Their rationale is that people are just getting back to work after the weekend and “have their minds on other important things”.  But when is that not the case given all the things the average business person has to juggle?  As with many things, there two side to every coin, I find my target audience uses the weekend to decompress, and on Monday are open to the right suggestion(s) as to how to move sales and salespeople forward, for me Monday mornings have proven to be productive.  I have also had just as many people swear that Friday afternoons are the best, as those who tell me its the worst.  

Some struggle to strike a balance between their own habits and those of their targets.  Many sales pundits will insist that you should prospect first thing in the day, giving a bounce to your day, allowing you to spend the rest of  it selling. The theory is sound, in practice it is not alway so.  I worked with an industrial supply company, they had a great work ethic, their manager instilled a prospecting discipline, on the phone from 7:45 am to 9:00 am, every day.  Their conversion rate from conversation to appointment was great, but they were finding it difficult to connect to have the conversations. When I got involved we stepped back and focused on the work habits of their target group, senior people in plant management and operations. What surfaced was that many of these people were either out on the “shop floor”, or in operations meetings first thing in the morning, around the same time my client’s team was diligently calling. Further, we learned that many of the targets were back in their office around 10:00 am, filling out reports, etc.

As a result of this I had them switch their “calling time” to 10:00 am; their conversion of conversation to appointment continued to be great, but their call to conversation rate tripled.  This increased the number of appointments to record levels, but had the added benefit of reducing the amount of time they actually had to spend on the activity. Think of it as a “double double” of prospecting.  As with all things sales, it is so much better to view the world through the buyer’s eyes.

Given that there are more ways to communicate with buyers than ever, there less reason than ever to think of “best times” to prospect. Given that you can send an e-mail or LiknkedIn inmail any time, or that you can schedule e-mail to go out at a pre-scheduled time, you are no longer tied to time,  A well placed voicemail in off hours can yield great returns, without it impacting your “selling time”.  Rather than spending energy to pinpoint the ultimate time to call, use that energy to create quality talking points for when you connect.

Unless you are doing something specific and measurable to realize revenue, (a retweet does not count), the best time to prospect is now.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Unavoidable – Sales eXecution 2380

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

change

One of the most frequent questions I am asked all start with “How do I avoid…?” Many are surprised when I respond “Why do you want to avoid it?” The answer is obvious, they either don’t know how to deal with something, so they look for ways to avoid it. Or the know how to avoid it, but don’t want to do what it takes for number of reasons.

The former is easily fixed, they can be taught, they put things into practice, and over time they don’t even remember that they were trying to avoid it, and now speak like experts. The latter is a bit of a challenge, all too common challenge.

Some things you can avoid, in Renbor’s Objection Handling Handbook, I talk about specific way to present things to prospects, especially while prospecting that allows us to steer the discussion in a certain direction, or better yet, initiate the conversation in a way that eliminates a specific objection. For example, (and there are others in the book), when you follow up on information you sent a prospect, and they say “Haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, give me a call next week”, you can take that away and avoid the objection by starting your call like this:

“Bob, it’s Susie, I am following up on the information I sent you as you requested last week, you probably haven’t had a chance to read it yet, have you?” Just the nervous laughter is worth the call alone, but you have avoided the response by taking it away.

But there will be things in sales, unpleasant things, which not only you can’t avoid, but should not want to avoid. People want to find a way to avoid the most common objections while telephone prospecting. I can understand why, but I would argue that there is more upside in learning how to deal with it, and benefit from that, and benefit in a much more profitable way than if you were able to avoid the objections.

For the sake of full disclosure, there is one proven sure proof way to avoid objections faced in telephone prospect, works every time, but it does have big risk associated with it, really big risk. The method is not to make the call. Works every time, and oddly the chosen method of many. One just needs to look at some of the “be found” stuff being offered as practical ways to generate engagement and prospects.

The side effects, are fewer opportunities, and missed quotas, in my view, infinitely worse than any punishment faced while prospecting. Just today I got a note in my inbox from CSO Insight, that only 58.2% of reps attained quota. Give me a stern “not interested”, or “I am good, all set”. That I can deal with, take away the objection and drive engagement.

The other dark side of trying to avoid things, is that you fail to set in to motion other practical elements of a sale. Sure you avoid the discomfort of one thing, but that prevents you from getting to what is behind it. Does the old expression, “you need to crack a few eggs”, remind you of anything? You need to hit that first domino

The biggest down and dark side, is that failure at times is the cost of growth. None of us learned to ride a bike, play hockey, or ask someone on a date without falling a few times. You may succeed in avoiding some unpleasantries, but mostly you’ll avoid success.

Note – someone pointed out that I have been deliver the Sales eXchange for the last 200 plus weeks, and while there is information exchanged, the topics and the themes are more around sales execution. And with their input I have introduced a slight change to the series, and moving forward it will be called Sales eXecution! Because after all in sales, it is about Execution – everything else is just talk!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

Webinar: Time – Prospecting And Getting the Jump on Both!0

d-orsay-clock_3

On Tuesday February 4, I will be presenting a webinar Along with the good folks at eGrabber – “Time – Prospecting – And Getting the Jump On Both” I’ll be talking to the importance of sourcing the right leads, information about the individual and their companies, and securing the right and accurate contact information so you can engage with the right person for the right conversation.

There are a lot of critical steps to engaging new B2B customers. Two of the most common challenges is finding the right target, and then engaging with them. Every day I meet sales people challenged by finding the right contact, their contact info and related information. Even if you use LinkedIn or other tools, you need to be able to connect directly.

This webinar we will introduce tools & techniques on how to find contact information for people you don’t yet know, and then how to engage with them:

1. Find missing Email & Phone# for any social profile.
2. Find Director, VP and C-Level, decision makers in any company.
3. Build a highly targeted B2B prospect list with business e-mail and phone#.
4. Do Pre-call Research, Get Insightful Prospect Information.

Click here to register

We’ll be looking at the combination of cutting edge tools available from eGrabber to help you make prospecting more time efficient and productive. Time is the only unrenewable resource you have, the better you use it the more success you will have. Improve your rate of connecting with the right decision makers, and you will increase prospects, sales and profits. We will be sharing best practices and everyday techniques for improved prospecting.

Click here to register

Cold Calling is “IN” Again! – Sales eXchange 2346

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

frozen calls

Sadly I am at an age where I find myself saying “I remember the first time that was cool”, I have seen thin ties come and go enough times enough time to know not to throw out any ties, because it is only a question of time before someone says, “wow, that’s a cool tie, is it new?” The only thing I can’t remember if it was 1987, 1993 or 2007 when I actually first bought it.

Well it seems that cold calling is coming back into fashion. Not only do you find people dropping euphemisms when referring to the activity, companies popping up all over the place to perform a service many are needing but forgot how to execute. Many closet callers are coming out and proudly proclaiming not only that they regularly part take in cold calling, but that it producing results that exceed the expectations many, and helping many exceed quota.

Amazing what an Arctic Vortex will do.  Here we are less than two weeks into the New Year, and the signs are all over that cold calling is cool again. Just last week I had a notice for a webinar from one of the original Sales 2.0 gang, inviting me to a webinar on cold calling.  BTW, if you want to attend a webinar from someone who never wavered from cold calling, click here.

Other pundits who not so long ago wrapped themselves in the Sales 2.0 cloak, before dawning top layer of social selling, are now shedding their load, and freely speaking about the virtues of cold calling.

What is truly refreshing in some of their proclamations, is not so much their embracement of this staple and age old tool of sales success, but more importantly their abandonment of the “Us vs. Them” dribble that often dominates the debate.  The former stance that cold calling is dead, and it is all about the new thing, is now more reasoned and tempered, and sounds more like those of us who were out in the cold for a while.  Namely that it is about a blend of approaches and means of engaging with potential buyers, not one means vs. another.

Maybe it has more to do with the fact that the economy is showing some life, revenue expectations by Wall Street and companies themselves, are causing people to realise that they will need to be more than found if they are going to make quota, they’re actually going to have to go out and find some potential buyers who are not currently in the market or expressed that they may care to be.

In a recent LinkedIn group discussion asking if cold calling is dead or not, the comments were absent of the usual posturing about how cold calling was bad or dead.  The tone was more logical, again, putting cold calling alongside social selling and other techniques and tools that make up a successful tool kit.

LinkedIn itself, seems to be leading the charge back.  Despite a recent article “Cold Calling is Dead, Thanks To LinkedIn”, seems to have jumped on the band wagon.  As with most leaders and pundits, the measure of their commitment lies in what they do, not always in what they say.  Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, let me point to a recent advert for a sales position at LinkedIn, promoted on LinkedIn. When it comes to Responsibilities, just look at what is number one on the list:

LinkIn CC wr

About the only thing that could make cold calling more fashionable is to call it Zombie Calling!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Cold Calling: How to get from Interruption to Conversation #Webinar0

laser phone

Having a pipeline of good prospects is important at any time, but that much more at the start of the year. What with the year-end rush to close deals, the holiday break, sellers often find their opportunities deplete, leading to a lull.

The answer is a solid, proven, road tested methodology that will help you fill any gaps you may have in your pipeline, and keep you on track moving forward.

To help you, I am will presenting a webinar on January 30, at 3:00 pm Eastern, for Fearless Selling, titled “Cold Calling: How to get from Interruption to Conversation”. Hosted by Kelley Robertson, I will be presenting and sharing the key elements and practices of a proactive prospecting approach that can be put into practice by most B2B sales professional.

Contrary to what pundits tell you, cold calling is not dead, it is thriving and delivering sales opportunities for those willing to include it in their broader prospecting tool kit.

We will cover core elements of telephone prospecting success, including:

  • Developing client/prospect objectives (this is critical yet most sales people don’t do it)
  • How to allot and best manage your time
  • Mastering the language of sales
  • Understanding the role of conversion rates and how to improve them
  • Develop an effective approach for engaging with prospects and setting appointments
  • Create company and individual opening approach (Talk Track)
  • How to effectively manage common and recurring objections
  • Master voice mails that get return calls (this topic alone could be worth your investment!)

Learn more and register now by clicking here.

One of the biggest obstacles to sales success is procrastination, beat it now by signing up for the webinar!

Go For That Hail Mary Now – Sales eXchange 2331

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Hail Mary

When we hear the phrase Hail Mary, we think of the end of half or end of game, a last chance play or pass, a buzzer beater, usually accompanied by some level of desperation (perceived or real). This a ritual not limited to sports, it is practiced in B2B sales, but under different names, fueled by the same need, and with all the same negative connotations; the end is nigh, and you know the drill. We’ve all seen it or lived through it, the end of quarter (or other sales period) deal coral and round up time. All rules and reason go out the window, it is all about the close; your manager’s vocabulary is reduced to four words, “Have you closed _________?”, no vacations, and god forbid if your wife goes into labour before the 31st.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with long shots, this is more about which, why and when. I love long shots, some of my best opportunities resulted from me taking a shot on things others ignored, or by taking an approach everyone would have bet will lead to disaster. But you have to pick them, because as we have said here repeatedly, time is a non-renewable resource. But they are long shots for a reason, and you need to select them for the right reason, and more importantly make sure you select them, rather than them selecting you, in the form of an all or none situation.

Long shots should be over and above the real opportunities in your pipeline rather than the only things in the pipe. This allows you to stretch, experiment and discover new ways to sell without bringing unnecessary risk to your quarter year, or overall success. With a blended pipeline with ample coverage, long shots are fun, and can be rewarding. When approached as a bonus, they allow you to explore new sectors, prospect new people, and expand your repertoire, expand markets, and open new referral channels.

Plan your long shots with the understanding that will need a lot of run way. Why most sales Hail Mary’s fail is that they are not given enough time to unfold properly. Instead of waiting for the last Wednesday of the quarter, start your pursuit on the first day, start two, as chances are that at best one may work. But make sure you start with enough time to have a “shot”.

Make sure you not only have a plan B and C, and beyond. Just due to the nature of these opportunities, you are likely going to need a plan G, M and maybe even a plan T (plan T;s are my favourite).

One of the things I enjoy most about Hail Mary’s is the opportunity to talk to people in roles I don’t normally deal with, and in types of accounts outside my normal ones. This is not only challenging in a way that allows me to sharpen skills, but is fun, and you do have to have fun. When I win, there is more than money, and if I lose, well it is not my core pipeline.

So yes, take the long shot, go for the Hail Mary, but do it now, not March 25.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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