The 3 Legs of Sales Success0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Stool Success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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After and Before2

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Note pad

In a business that emphasizes relationship as much as sales does, it is sometimes interesting to see the degree to which sales people, and buyers, tend to ignore, overlook and at times avoid some basic components of human interactions, and way to enhance those interactions and the impact of that on business and sales outcomes.

Michael Jordan once said:

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

This statement is as true in sales as it is in basketball. Sometime those fundamentals seem simple and inconsequential, but in the end it is often those little things that make the difference. Remember that your product is often indistinguishable from those of your competitor’s, so the way YOU sell may often be the differentiator that clinches the deal. So let’s focus on two seemingly small things, that when executed consistently and well, after and before meetings with buyers, will win you deals, no matter other factors. And while these may seem small, do them and then judge the results.

After:

After every meeting you should send a note, what most will call a thank you note, but done right it can be so much more.

Few send thank you notes anymore, I know that when I am the prospect, if I get a thank you note, it is so rare, I take notice, and mentally give the sender bonus points, points that may take them ahead of the other vendors. A hand written note, will just blow their mind. But more than a thank you note, it is an opportunity for you to recap what you took away from the meeting, action items everyone agreed to, and most important, what you propose the Next Step to be.

If you and the buyer synch on all of these points, then the note will just cement things in their mind, along with you being the vendor who helped them do that. If you took away different understandings, it is to your advantage to find that out now, and make any course adjustments you need to make. Better to correct things now than go into the next meeting with different ideas; if you can’t correct them, better to find out now than after investing more time and resources.

As well by introducing what you think the next step should be, you get them thinking about it, and again, if they don’t disagree, you are on the right path, but if not, you can deal with it now, not later.

Before:

About a business day ahead of the next meeting, send in a n agenda, nothing deep or heavy, three or five points (odd numbered lists are better), AND, what you would propose as the Next Step, if things unfold according to the agenda. As above, if things are on track, you can go in with some sense of confidence that you are on the right path. If not, better to know well in advance of the meeting than at the end when it may be too late to do anything about it. Same goes for the Next Step, if they can’t live with your suggestion they’ll speak up, and while it may not be what you had planned, better again to know early than after the fact.

While neither may appear to be all that and more, when you first read them, execute them consistently and it won’t be long before you attribute deals directly to executing these steps.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

It's time to get Bricked!

How Much Revenue Did You Lose at Quarter End?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Impact Question

There is an all too familiar ritual that unfolds at the end of every fiscal period, for some it is monthly, for most it is quarterly, and at year end. Being that Monday was quarter end, I was reminded again. A friend who is a rep with a technology company, cancelled a meeting we had set for this afternoon, and you know it, his voice mail this morning at 8:00 simply said, “Man, I need to change our meeting, last day of the quarter, you know how it is.”

On the one hand I do, on the other hand I don’t. I am sorry if your quarter comes down to the last day of the quarter, a Monday of all days, there is a whole bunch of things you are doing wrong, and a bunch of money you are leaving on the table.

To start with, a good number of the deals that are “Driven in” on the 30th of September, will happen because of some concession made by the seller to the buyer. Sometimes these are small things, baked in specifically so they can be “conceded”, often not. These can be a price concessions, either in the form of a price adjustment, or the inclusion of goods or services that normally would have had a price tag, but being the last day of the quarter, “and we need to bring in the numbers”, they are thrown in to secure the deal “today”. Although once you offer it, it’ll be there October 2, or even next week, the buyer has seen weakness and will not give it back. And – it will be the first of many to come, you’ve set the precedent, both you and the buyer have been conditioned.

Not only do you never see that money again, but there is the lost momentum and opportunities as you deviate from your routine, stop prospecting for a few days as you focus on closing. May not seem that bad, but if you don’t prospect for a few days, you’ll create weakness in your pipeline, and when the next quarter end comes around, guess what. So now you are out the revenue you gave away in concessions, and the revenue from prospects you will either never have, or will closer later than they could have.

The alternative is requires a bit more discipline, but results in less of a roller coaster ride and more money! It comes down to owning your time and being accountable for your actions, (grab this e-book for details). If you know your conversion rate at critical stages of the cycle, you can focus on executing the key tasks you have to throughout the cycle, and not sweat the days. Some things in sales are straight forward, if you have a three month cycle, and you close one of every five deals you qualify into your pipeline, it doesn’t take much to see how this quarter end dance will hurt. If you don’t prospect from the 27th to the 30th (of any quarter), then your next sale will be delayed by so many days. Sure you can make up for it in some ways, but then you’ll have other distractions, the ones you can’t help, but this one you can.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

Why Are You In Sales? – Sales eXchange 20020

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

200A

At the end of this post I will ask you a specific question that I would love you to answer, and I thank you here in advance.

Two things happened this past week or 10 days that led to this week’s Sales eXchange  being a bit different than the usual, and isn’t that what we always strive to be in sales.  First is the fact that this is the 200th Sales eXchange post, and while I had given it much thought, someone asked if I will be marking the fact in any way.  The person that asked me was a young person at an event I participated in recently. The event was organized to present young people with different options for their life after school.

One of the questions going into the event was “What do you want to be?”  Some had very clear ideas, knowing exactly where they want to go.  One young lady was determined to become a speech pathologist due to a friend she had in grade school.   She structured her high school curriculum to set her up for a path of success in post-secondary school, and to her dream career.  Others stated a number of different career plans, some very specific, marketing, finance, construction, software design, and more.  Others were a bit more general, the young man who asked about the 200th post simply stated business.  As an aside, it seems he had been spying my blog (and others) to glean ideas for his high school business class, at least someone is getting value at an early age. But in the end no one said they wanted to go into sales, not one.

Consider that according to the United States Department of Labor, there just under 14 million people employed in sales as of May 2012 in the USA.  The same department pegs the number of lawyers at under 1 million, and software developers (systems and applications) also under 1 million.  Yet fewer than a handful of institutions offer a degree in selling or sales.

There were a number of kids who talked about becoming lawyers, software developers, doctors, even golf pros, but not one said sales.  Which begs the question that if no one sets out to become a sales professional, where the hell did we all come from?  Are we progressing as a profession, or just a modern day version of post war refugee camps full of people making due while they find their next destination?  Are we a repository of other professions outcasts, with the occasional diamond in the rough?  After all, almost 50% of sellers do not make quota, this would not be tolerated in any other department.

So here is my ask – take a minute and think about where you are in sales as a career, how you got here, how you’re doing.  Then take a minute and in the comment box below, tell me:

Why Are You In Sales?

Tibor Shanto

 

Time To Grow Up – Sales eXchange 1980

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

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

Did You Get My Voice Mail?7

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Voice mail

Yesterday I got a call about a piece I wrote for Radius titled: Get More Call Backs: How To Increase Returned Voicemails By 50%.   Seems it has stirred up a discussion in one the LinkedIn groups, one I did not belong to, (since joined).

Whenever I do a piece on effective voice mail techniques, three things happen:

  1. It get a lot more hits than most other posts – telling me that this continues to be a challenge and hot button for sales people.
  2. In the first 24 hours a slew of feedback telling why the technique won’t work, it is gimmicky, unchristian and a range of other labels.  These comments come predominantly from people who do not like to cold call, don’t know how to cold call, never leave voice mail when given the opportunity, and are pissed that they are not getting return calls, when I, and those using my techniques do.  These are folks who have not studied the dynamics at play in effective voice mail, generally have a less than sufficient prospects in their pipeline, and BTW, have not tried the technique they are commenting on.
  3. Within about 48 hours, I get a bunch of e-mails from people who tried the technique, got a calls back, got an appointment with someone they have been trying to connect with for sometime without success, and they now have one or more new prospects in their pipeline.

The real difference between the two is the latter is committed to continues improvement, willing to invest time, effort and practice to integrating new techniques to their selling tool kit.  They understand it takes work to fill the pipeline, and if the state of their pipeline is going to change, it requires change in their approach and habits.

The first group, the doubters, fail to take into account and understand the dynamics involved in leaving effective voice mails.  Let’s look at one specific factor.

Most people these days are jammed, need to pack 16 hours into a ten hour day, they don’t have time to listen to your rambling voice mail, telling them about how great your something is when they already have that something.  Since at any given time, about 5% – 10% of your market is actively looking for your something, that’s the total potential of people who may have an interest in calling you back.  By leaving a conventional voice mail, chances are less than 5% – 10% may call you back, unless they already have a vendor in mind, in which case no call back.

Let’s face it, the reason most people want you to “leave a detailed message”, is so they can know exactly why not to call you back, and they don’t.  So no matter how polished your message is, the more content it has the less your chances of getting a call back.  So despite what one of my most recent critics suggested in the LinkedIn discussion, saying I “should spend some time doing research on the buyer so they can leave a message that’s in line with their expectations.”  There is an idea, waste time researching to not talk to anyone, hmm?  The most effective voice mails are those that are counter intuitive.

The mistake many make is trying to sell or get an appointment via voice mail, WRONG! Good luck if you have never spoken to them in the past.

The only purpose to leaving a voice mail is to get a call back – again to get a call back.  When that call comes, you can then proceed to getting the appointment or engagement if you are in inside sales.  GET THE CALL BACK! THAT’S IT!

I would argue that the only way to do that is to create a bit of curiosity, one that would create an environment where with little effort, the person you are calling can make a call to resolve their curiosity, THE CALL BACK, once you have them on the line, then you bring your sales or appointment setting skills to play.

The technique in question results in me getting 50% of voice mails returned.  That may piss off some people not willing to try, but really what’s the issue, the method is there, you don’t want to use it, don’t knock those who do, just because they have a healthy pipeline, and fat babies.

Read the article
Watch the video

Try it, and then talk!  

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

What’s Improving – Your Sales OR Orders?2

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Bubbling up

As the economy continues to show hints of progress, and business picks up, it is important to understand the nature of the improvements in sales you and your company experience. Taking into account the old adage “all boats rise with the tide”, you need to be able to discern where your growth is coming from.  Is it from increased sales, or just an increase in orders due to an improving economic environment; and yes Sunshine, there is a difference, much like the difference between sales professionals and order takers.

More than ever, having a defined sales process, with supporting metrics is a must. Without that, you may easily mistake increased revenues with improved sales or selling, when in reality the improvement may be organic.  Increased demand, leading to an uptick in orders or improved selling, the two are very different, but often mistaken.

In fact, this is one of the risks of relying strictly on a single lagging indicator – Revenues, rather than a mix of leading and lagging indicators.  In many ways you can look at it the way investors look at interest rates paid on fixed income instruments, where they back out the rate of inflation from the total rate they receive from an instrument to arrive at the real rate.  Think of the organic increase in orders as inflation, and the real rate as YOUR ability to sell more or better in a given market.  All sellers benefit from a rise in demand, only those who focus on selling will grow sales beyond the herd, and get more than their share of growth.  Increased market share is always a good thing.

To avoid being caught, you need understand your intra-sale conversion rates, understanding if in fact you are doing a better job of converting leads to prospects, prospects to proposals and proposals to wins.  By measuring these and other critical points you will know if you are just benefiting from an increase in demand – more leads, or ability to convert those leads.  If you have a 4:1 lead to prospect rate, then it goes without saying that you’ll have more sales from six leads than 4, 1.5 sales vs. 1.  But if your sales and selling skills improve, and you can move to a 3:1 ratio, you’ll sell proportionally more.  This is important in down markets too, but people get fooled in up markets when the wind is in their sails.

Once you understand these measures, you can set goals for theses (or other) conversions from stage to stage, and benefit from the compounding effect, and increase both real and organic sales.  With goals and metrics in place, it is much easier to develop and Execute a tactical plan, you will be in a position to adjust or change your model to ensure continuous growth and skills improvements.

Not knowing can create more than false comfort, it could lead you to make wrong decisions, and by the time you realize, you may be left too far behind the competition.

What’s In Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Just Do It NOW! – Sales eXchange 1850

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

target

I often think that Nike got their famous tag line only half right, they should have added the word Now to Just Do It!

If you are a follower of this blog, you know I am big on process, a structured approach and a tight approach to time and what activities we spend time on.  Many mistake this for rigidity, and often push back on how it limits their creativity and spontaneity.  I beg to differ and here is a specific reason why.

I have been working with a group of experienced (or at least tenured) sales people.  Many too experienced to learn new tricks or skills, they know what they are doing and resist new things, man that sounds a lot like some prospects we all know, don’t it.  Working with one fellow, I noticed he had a running list of names on a note pad, when I asked he explained that these were people who popped into his head during that day, people he should call.  Either because he “had an angel on something” or he had not thought about them, and thought “I should give them a call”.  When I asked him when he calls them, he said “as soon as I get around to it”; when was the last time he did, “just before Christmas”, why the wait, hadn’t gotten around to it yet, nor did he get around to getting quota, coming in at about 83% last year.  What was he busy with that he could call them, was the initial thought still valid, no answer.

Personally, I call these people right away, hand held laws be damned, if I think of a good reason to call a prospect, or an up-sell potential client, I do it right away.  Before the thought and ENGERGY fade.  Call Now is my mantra.  If I am in a meeting, I make a note in my note book and it is the first thing that gets done when I am out of the meeting.

Waiting has a lot of risk.  First and foremost, is the call not getting done.  Even if it gets done later, it lacks the urgency and energy of a call made right there and then.  This kind of energy is just electric over the phone, the prospects feel your excitement and get caught up in the moment along with you.  There is few things as effective as telling a prospect “Hey Jon, I was just thinking about you!”  People love to be thought about, and if you tell them why and what you see happening next, it just gets through and makes a clear and powerful point.  The spontaneity, the excitement in your voice is contagious and effective.

I attribute my ability to make these calls, and succeed in making them to my process, the time I build into my day to experiment with selling and do off hand things like this when they present themselves.

So here is the challenge, next time you think about calling someone, call them, don’t make a note, don’t rationalize, call them, you never know what will happen, but I can predict what will be the outcome if you don’t.  So just do it NOW!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

The Coma Call – Sales eXchange 1841

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca
Coma Call

As the euphoria of the new year beings to fade and the harsh reality of winter and the pipeline begin to set in, it is a great time to go to your Coma List.

What is a Coma List?  It is a list containing two types of prospects:

  • Those people who were involved in a sales cycle with you some time in the last 18 months, but did not go to decision, with you or any other vendor (You can say these are the folks in a self-induced coma, maybe there needs to be a third group, those that our sales effort put into a coma)
  • Those people you were going to call, but didn’t get around to, had better prospects, no time, etc.

Let’s look at the latter. I am not saying it is right or good, but the reality is that there are times when prospects do fall between the cracks, or maybe you had bigger fish to fry at the time, and you ran out of time.  You get involved in other cycles and activities, the next thing you know several weeks of months have passed, and you did not follow up, some feel awkward reaching out given the time that has passed.

The start of the January is a great time to reach out to these people to see if there is an opportunity to reengage.  Time has passed for them, as it has for you, their requirements may or may not have been satisfied, but statistics indicate that the status quo prevails, and they likely took no action.  Either way it is a call worth making, if they “hate” you and don’t want to see you till the end of time, fine, it is a 30 second call.

But just as often the outcome of a “Coma Call” is surprisingly positive.  If in fact the prospect falls into the majority and has not taken action, your call may be welcomed.  It is the start of the year for them as well, they are reviewing objective for the coming year, and the issue that brought you together the first time may still be on that list, and you can be a familiar potential way to address it.

Don’t let pride or fear hold you back.  Look at the percentages, the worst case is they say something negative and hang up, you’ll  live!  On the other hand they may welcome the call and reengage, and better, buy.  I can tell you from firsthand experience that I regularly get business from Coma Calls, right through the year.  Unless you were rude or abusive the first time round, chances are that they will reengage, and then it is up to you to go to work, rebuild your relationship, meet their requirements and deliver.

Yes, it was a mistake to let the sale slip into a coma, but that does not mean you should not take steps to revive the sale.

 

Enter to Win Tickets to The Art Of Sales

 

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

New Year’s Evolution0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca
Success premium

Last week I posted about the how trends don’t use calendars and the flaw in trying to tie trends and the start of a new year; people on the other hand are different and do make effective use of calendars and planning to make improvements or changes in the way they do things.  This includes sales people and the way they sell, and I would encourage people to set more time based objectives, and develop and execute a plan for achieving the desired results by or within a targeted time frame.

The new year is a natural time for people to set these objectives, hence the ritual  of New Year’s Resolutions, interesting concept, not often effective.  According to Knowledge Wharton Today, “Nearly half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions each year. Of those, only 8% are likely to succeed.”  Not great odds, not even a good closing ratio if you are in sales.

I have seen sales people resolve to make more calls in the coming year, to go after accounts they were reluctant to approach, and other things that they see as a major change in the way they sell.  I am all for “stretch goals” in the various senses of how the term is used in sales, but to be effective the “stretch” needs to be reasonable, not extreme.  Sure if the extremes were achieved that would be great, but in most instances they are not, and turn out to be negative and discouraging.  As the article points out, they become counter-productive.

The goal is to set reasonable attainable goals, building on what is already working, adding new elements of execution or strategy.  The key is to set both goals and execution plans.   There are times where people set a reasonable goal, but fail to develop an execution plan, and the outcome is negative, and the goal is abandoned.  But if you set a series of doable goals, each building on the other, you can truly evolve your sales game.  As you succeed  at the first goal, you can celebrate your success, reap the benefits of their progress, and have the confidence to move to the next goal/challenge.

This allows one to evolve through the year, through their career without the shadow of a big resolution, and the disappointment of not achieving it.  The approach can be applied to a number of aspects of sales, not just sales techniques or skills.  You can look at market trends and evolve your product or message to leverage the trend, buyer habits or practices and more.  The key is to make sure that you set yourself up to win, not just to play and be disappointed.

BTW, there is nothing wrong with resolving to do big things, just make sure that you have also set to evolve in small ways.  If you achieve both, great; but if you miss on the big resolution, you still benefit from your new year evolution.

What’ in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto
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