The Death of Cold Calling Has Been Greatly Exaggerated #webinar0

Join me on May 8th, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM PDT, as along with the folks from Exponential Sales, we explore sales from the singular view of execution.

The best sales organizations are those who excel at executing their sales process; from demand generation, to prospecting to closing and growing accounts. The best sales processes are those that evolve and reflect the changing nature of their clients and markets. While there will always be “new ways” to sell, the best sellers look for what works, not what is new or fashionable, including yes cold calling.

The challenge is adoption of process that continues to change as often and as fast as your clients’ markets; it is like building an airplane while it is flying.

Learn how winning sales teams are uncomplicating their sales with a focus on an activity based process. The clearly defined and executable sequence of high value activities that address clients’ requirements and move the sale forward with each activity.

Learn why and how consistently successful sales organizations understand that the focus is revenue, not sales or marketing, but an integrated approach to driving client success. The combination of process, high value activities and mutual accountability between sellers and buyers and the organization to their sellers, leads to revenue success, regardless of “style or fashion”.

Learn how:

  • Execution based selling beats and other selling
  • Its more efficient to develop a hybrid of sales skills
  • Why Cold Calling and social selling are not mutually exclusive
  • The mechanics of a functional and dynamic sales process
  • Why numbers matter
  • Why Execution is the last word in sales

If you lead a sales organization, manage a team or are a front line seller, you need to attend this webinar, the first in a series looking at why much of the buzz in sales is distracting you from success.

The second webinar in the series will examine the opportunity to leverage technology to execute your process and drive revenue for your company, not just those selling you the technology.

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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 

To Call or Not9

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Touch

I am often asked a question I really hate, and while I have learned not to let it get on my nerves, and usually manage to deal with it calmly, it still pains me that my fellow professional sellers would ask it. The question relates to how vigorously one should pursue a potential prospect? I find the question bizarre on a number of levels, not the least of which is that today’s potential; prospect is tomorrow’s prospect, next week’s customer, and a stream of revenue (if not commissions) for some time after that. Ya, you should pursue it vigorously.

I am have a hard time not screaming when a sales person asks me “Should I call that prospect or not, I called him a couple of weeks ago, he didn’t call back, I guess he is not interested.” No, from where I sit, it is the sales person making that statement who is not interested. If they were, they’d be reaching out to the potential prospect, not asking the question. Not only do they lack the interest, but a good and executable pursuit plan needed to engage the potential prospect and start a mutually satisfactory relationship.

Consider the following:

48% Of Sales People Never Follow Up with a Prospect
25% Of Sales People Make a Second Contact and Stop
12% Of Sales People Make a Third Contact and Stop
Only 10% Of Sales People Make More Than Three Contacts
2% Of Sales Are Made On the First Contact
3% Of Sales Are Made On the Second Contact
5% Of Sales Are Made On the Third Contact
10% Of Sales Are Made On the Fourth Contact
80% Of Sales Are Made On the Fifth to Twelfth Contact

It is clear that the answer is not whether you should make the call (e-mail, tweet, smoke signal…) or not, but how many times, and what will you communicate. It is one things know how to spell nurture, another to execute it well

A good pursuit plan maps out how many touch points you will execute, in what sequence and frequency. Frequency is an important often overlooked or mismanaged factor. These touch-points should be made in a much narrower timeframe than many recognize or feel comfortable with. If you set out a pursuit plan that includes say eight touch-points, which is a median number, some go higher, some go lower, if you’re going to err, err on the higher end, so eight is about right. The time horizon should be between three to four weeks at the max. Long gaps, a week or two will just diminish the compounding effect of the touch-points.

When looking to connect with someone you have had no direct contact with, two or three touches a week are necessary, but most people don’t want to do more than one a week, you may as well not bother. One of the reasons they don’t call you back is you are allowing them to forget about you, and more importantly what you are trying to engage them around. That combined with the fact that you lose focus, and allow your attention to wonder during the long gaps.

The other key component is the combination of content, and medium. While I still think that Marshall McLuhan, would have been a lousy sales person, because it is the message that drives revenue, the medium does count. A combination of phone, e-mail, text, LinkedIn, tweets, introductions, smoke signals, you name it. No single touch should overwhelm the recipient, remember the goal is to engage directly not to sell. The content should entice the recipient to engage, while each may build on the other, the goal is to have the opportunity to complete the picture directly, even if it takes a few tries.

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

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 

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 

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 

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