executive woman talking on the phone in her office

Good Things Happen To Those Who Call – Sales eXecution 3290

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 
Over and over different sales people tell a success story that starts with them saying “I got lucky the other day, I called this guy, and he is ready to move forward.” Or “I’ve been calling this guy every few months for the last couple of years, and I finally got a meeting with him.” While luck may have played a small role in it, especially the first scenario, the fact remains that even luck has to be met half way.

Timing is the second most critical element in the first case above, the most critical, was making the call. The simple reality is that if you don’t make the call, you can never take advantage of timing, whether by luck or by design, such as a trigger, not just a random event, but any trigger. Which leads us to one of the key flaws in the cold calling is dead argument. Cold calling here is defined as any call to anyone who does not have you in their calendar. This does mean there is no reason to speak with, it just means the call was unplanned, not unmerited.

For every stat that suggests that prospects will not take your call, there as many stats that show that decision makers and recommenders are open to input and are actively seeking expert advice in ensuring that they make the right choice for their company. Buyers are very much like sellers, some are lazy and go with the popular flow, others take their mandate seriously and consider all viable resources. The question for sellers is “how do I become viable or relevant to a prospect?” Calling with the usual script that sounds a lot like: “This is Us, We do this, you ready to buy?” will seal your fate the second you open your mouth.

As with any campaign, and that is what prospecting is, a campaign to engage with qualified potential buyers, the goal is to create buyers. Yes, prospects are created not found, and once you have a prospect, you need to convert them to a buyer. This is why those who wait for buyers to realize they want or need to buy, or who are 57% through a buy decision, end up dealing with order takers, not sellers.

The second scenario above is a great example of a prospect being created. A consistent flow of touch points, direct and specific communication, and regular interactions, lead to a prospect being created, without having to wait for a random event. Those calls spaced between other forms of communication add a dimension missed by those who don’t pick up the phone and call. We learn different elements and evolution in the prospect’s world. Each bit of information and intelligence gained is ploughed back into the campaign, each time making you more viable, more relevant and more on target. So when the moment comes that the prospect decides to engage, it is not just timing, not just persistence, that could be achieved through various forms of automation and drip approaches. It is the personal contact and added knowledge gained and the refinement of each call that makes one stand out from the also-rans.

Again, it is not this vs. that, you can work with marketing, leverage and be social, but if you don’t cold call, you’ll be missing a crucial element in creating a prospect. Sure, you can wait to be found, or you can put calls into the mix and make good things happen.

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Red chili peppers and one green chili pepper

5 Proven Ways To Blow A Sales Meeting – Part 20

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

In part one, we looked at how to encourage the prospect to share more meaningful information that leads to a mutually beneficial outcome. In this post we’ll look at two common, usually unintended mistakes sales people make. Today we’ll look at two other things to avoid.

Stop asking the obvious – While most sales people have bought into the idea that you catch more sales with questions than pitches, there is more to it than just “asking questions”. Buyers, influencers and executives are looking for different ideas and answers than the same old, we’ve all heard that they have more access than ever to information, what they are seeking is knowledge. The questions you ask, very much set the expectation of your worth and that of your potential offering. It is true that less sellers than ever are asking people what keeps them up at night, but many questions they hear over and over again, signal to them that they are speaking to someone no different than the last 10 sellers, even if the swag is better.

Many of the questions used by sellers, and encouraged by pundits, are very transparent in their nature and intent. All seem to be geared to get the prospect to yell “uncle”, and allow the rep to roll out their “solution”. Abetter course, is to formulate a set of questions aimed at identifying, understanding and addressing the buyer’s objectives. This however takes work, and is more difficult for many sellers and pundits, to leave your product or solution out of the entire discussion; to leave your product in the car, especially early when the buyer is evaluating you more than your solution.

The difference buyers look for is not in the product, but in how it is sold. If you are truly different, you can show it in your sales approach, but when you ask the same questions every other seller asks, what’s the difference?

Don’t focus only on the Grand Poohbah – Sales people are always told to focus on the decision maker, unfortunately that title does not appear on many business cards, directories or LinkedIn. As a result, many default to equate the executive ‘C Suite’ to decision maker. This of course drive behaviour. Sellers go hunting for executives, and when in a group or committee selling setting they focus a disproportionate amount of focus strictly on the executive, the senior person in the room, the Grand Poohbah, mistake.

There is no doubt you need to get their buy in and support, but there is a difference in approving a decision and making one, and with few exceptions, the Grand Poohbah is more likely to approve than make. They look to their teams to make the recommendation, in essence the decision, and often those people have teams doing the leg work and who have the understanding of what the product does and how. Senior people, being focused on objectives, are more likely focused on the outcomes, generally from an implementation that encompasses many products, most of which they are unaware of.

When presenting to a group, or working multiple conversations in a company, do over bet the executive, while they may like you and what you offer, they will look to their people to make a decision, and will rarely over rule them just because they like you or the colour of your widget vs. the next. Helping them understand that you can deliver outcomes that drive their objectives is great, but if the implementation team shows them they can deliver the same using something they prefer for whatever reason, you could be beat.

Think team coverage, think of selling to the organization’s objectives, and while you do what to acknowledge the Grand Poohbah and their importance, don’t forget the people who make the magic happen.

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why button presses hand pop art retro style. Knowledge and issues, education and science

What is Not Why – Sales eXecution 3261

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Start of the year is when you see a lot of policy changes, changes in fees, service levels etc. Done right this could actually help sales people and drive revenues, yes even price increases. Done wrong, it just leaves a bad flavour in people’s mouth and minds. Having had to face new fees and policies, I have come to observe that there is a missing element in how sales people, and I would argue all who interface with clients in any way, deal with change. More specifically, how their companies fail to prepare these front line assets, and as a result lose customers and revenues in the process.

My experiences recently did not relate to price, but how and why the changes were implemented.

Example one, I recently went to renew a service I had been using for over 20 years. This was different, this time I was a fee, that in both relative and absolute terms was more than excessive. Needing the service, I hummed and hawed, but paid the ransom, and given that I was paying for the party, I asked “why is this fee in place now, and why this amount?” The representative responded “When you renew you have to pay $180.” I repeated, “OK, I get it, $180, why, why do I have to pay this when I never had to pay it in the past, I don’t seem to be receiving anything over and above or different than in the past, so why the additional $180 now, I understand the what I have to pay, but I would like to understand WHY?” I am still waiting for the answer.

I don’t really blame the “Representative Drone 100 Model”, they were programed to collect, but they should have given the Drone the ability to explain why, even a couple of plausible explanation. Even if I disagreed with the “why” it would have seemed lass a money grab and more a function of their business.

This type of disconnect and apparent ignorance, plagues many sales people and organizations. They are great at talking to clients about what their product does, how it does it, often in great and irrelevant detail. But when it comes to why, as in why do I need this, why will this make a difference for me, and a whole range of important why’s, there are few answers. The buyer is left to figure it out on their own; the rep feels that they have done their job by laying out the dots, and assume that the buyer will connect it on their own. I guess you can look at your close ratio and margins to see how well that is working.

Sure some buyers will connect the dots because they have to, they have an immediate need or medium term need that they know they have to deal with, and as a result will make the effort to meet the seller more than half way. But this is a small portion of your market, for most 20% – 30%, leaving some 70% without a clear need and therefore a complete lack of inclination to make the effort.

For this large segment it is all about the ‘Why’. As a seller we need to not only make sure that the dots align to their objectives, not as visible as pain or need, and heavy on the ‘Why’ of how this will impact their business. Their ‘need’ is to achieve objectives, if you can’t explain why they will not be able to achieve it without your offering, or why your offering will enhance their objectives and their journey, they really have no reason to speak to us. Which is may be why their pipeline is in the state it is in.

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Are Sales People Masochists?4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

No Pain

Sales people are always looking for “the pain” or “pain point”. One reason I am told they are looking for the pain is that they can then offer up the cure along with an invoice, and have a happy client. Given that a relatively small part of the market will admit to pain, I am not sure this is the most prudent approach to starting a lasting relationship, but it is what it is.

Many tell me, backed by a string of pundits, that people will do more to avoid pain, than the steps or actions they will take to achieve pleasure. Theory being I am told, is if one can touch a raw nerve, a painful nerve, the buyer is more likely to act, and therefore potentially buy the “fix” for that pain from the seller. Given the choice, they believe that focusing on pain yields better results than focusing on pleasure.

I had one consultant, a successful one according to him, tell me that his role as a sales person is “to find the soft underbelly of the beast, stab it, and offer up the cure.” Nice, feel free to take a minute and wash.

This piece is not meant to debate that, but rather explore how this concept plays out when applied to sales people themselves, and their success.

I work with a lot of sales people, and have seen how willing or unwilling they are to take on new or alternate sales views, skills and practices. I know that when I carried a quota, the biggest pain I was trying to avoid, was the pain of not making quota. Not only because of the stigma associated with failing at your chosen craft, but because I had three kids to feed. Exceeding quota always struck me as a better alternative, especially not having to tell the kids they can’t eat this quarter. But let’s make like a pundit and pander to the masses and go to the pain side for a minute.

The Puzzle

Given that over the past few years the number of B2B reps to hit quota has hovered at around 60%, you have to wonder why those suffering the reality of not making quota don’t do much if anything to avoid that pain. If they saw their prospects “suffering” in this way, they would be advising them to change, and change now, relieve themselves of this unnecessary pain. Just the incongruity of that must be a challenge, imagine suppressing your pain as you look your prospect in the eye telling them to take action (buy your product) and address that pain.

I am not even going to get into the financial reality, but there is the tribal reality of being a burden rather than a contributor. Many of the sources that show that only about 60% make quota also show that a higher percentage of sales organizations are hitting their collective number. This means that these people are carrying those who fall short, more than carrying, making up for.

The Answer

The answer is not jumping on every selling band wagon that comes through town, but to refocus on the fundamentals. As Michael Jordan said: “You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly, because the only thing that changes will be your attention to them”. There is no arguing that Jordan can razzle dazzle with the best of them, deliver consistently, all by building on the fundamentals, not by avoiding them. There is no doubt that the coach had a lot to do with it, as did the process or system executed. But it was the discipline and focus on execution on the part of Jordan, and the others on the team that made the difference. There did not seem to be anyone carrying a team mate.

While some might argue, it starts with process. A clear road map of the buy/sale journey, including objectives for each stage, tools, measurements, contingency plans, and more. Think of it as your sales TripTik®.  But in the end, there is no escaping the fact that it does come down to execution. The willingness to put the system into practice. The ability to try, fail, try again and improve.

As we go into a new sales year, the question to answer is the following: Which pain are you willing to suffer, the short term pain of effort practice and refinement, leading to ongoing success. Or the pain of missing quota “one more again”, letting the side down and burdening your team mates?

Tibor Shanto

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Are You Selling or Visiting – Sales eXecution 3212

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Last week I wrote about the importance of words in the context of a sale, while in that case I highlighted the importance of words we select in communicating the right thing to the buyer. But the words we use also impact our attitudes, and our attitudes have a direct impact on our actions, their impact on the customer and sale, and ultimately our company’s and our own success. Yes, what you call something will drive how you prepare, how you prioritize, the actions you take, and the overall intent it communicates to the buyer and therefore their reaction and the progress, or often lack of progress, we make in the sale.

Here is a typical, often overlooked, but clear example. One of the common topics I speak about here is the importance and role of next steps. Part of whether you get that next step or not is how you view the appointment, your role in the appointment and how you approach that appointment. And while it may not seem big it starts with what you call that appointment, which in turn reflects how you are thinking and preparing.

This is why I find it amusing (and at time sad), when sales professionals call an appointment a “visit”; as is “I have a visit scheduled with Harry at XYZ Inc.” (And let’s accept that this is a rep in Toronto, not someone selling sweet tea in Chatom Alabama). A visit? Really, think about that. You are going to go and “visit” a prospect.

vis·it
ˈvizit/
verb
1. go to see and spend time with (someone) socially.
“I came to visit my grandmother” synonyms: call on, pay a visit to, go to see, look in on;
2. inflict (something harmful or unpleasant) on someone.
“the mockery visited upon him by his schoolmates”

So which of the above do sales people mean when they speak about a visit?

I know some will say it is only semantics, and I say they are right, but semantics count, as stated above, in a number of ways. Some say they are visiting because they don’t want to appear “salesy”, why not, is that not what you are there to do? Before you leap to answer that think about it, are your sales people always going in with a clear intent, focused on a specific set of possible outcomes?

Intent counts as much as words. Buyers can read your intent, and if you’re intent signals something other than what you are saying AND, how you are saying it, you’re beat. Buyers can tune in and pick up on that incongruity every time. So you may think you are selling, but if your intent, body language and words are saying “Visit”, that is what you’ll have a visit, not a sales call. As the authors of The Hard Truth About Soft-selling: Restoring Pride & Purpose to the Sales Profession, we have created a class of professional visitors, hoping that the order comes up as they “visitin’”.

Reps are not alone in letting this phenomenon to happen. Managers or organizations fixated on a specific number of calls regardless of the facts on the ground, very much drive sales people to have visits. After all, if I need 10 calls a week, and that number is not directly tied to my goals and conversion rates, but are high on my manager’s personal KPI’s, then I am going to hit that 10 with sales calls and visits.

So go and visit if you must, but for continuous sales success, you will also need to go on first appointment and sales calls.

Tibor Shanto

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The Reason You are calling, is… – Sales eXecution 3200

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Child Phone

As a reader of this blog you have heard me say that whoever coined the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was not in sales. We all know that the wrong word at the wrong time can dramatically change the course of a sale or sales meeting, either for the better or….

This even more true on the telephone where you do not have the benefit of body language to balance out the picture. As more and more sales organizations turn to an inside sales approach, this becomes a greater factor. Without body language you and the prospects are left with only intonation and the words you choose, what and how you say will paint the picture and drive the prospect’s response. What you say, how you say it, and who you say it to, matters.

While I am not suggesting that there are “magic words” or “silver bullet” words or incantations that can turn a sceptic or close the deal, picking your words matters. And it has to be your words, it has to fit with your manner of speaking and it has to help the buyer not only better understand where you are coming from, but also how it helps them achieve their own objectives.

Whether you are in inside sales or a field rep, here is an example that you may relate to. Early on, during the appointment setting call, you will have to give the person at the other end of the line a reason to want to see you. What is that, is it your product, your company, your radio voice, no; it is, as it has always been and will be, what is in it for the prospect themselves.

Many sales people will say that they are looking to “learn” more about the buyer, their company, and buyi9ng process. Well with the demand on decision makers time, they really don’t have time to teach you. You want to learn, well that’s why Al Gore invented the internet, so you can learn about your buyers.

Second favourite reason spoken by reps trying to get appointments: “I want to discuss with you…” Again, do you think they have the time or inclination to discuss, likely not.

So what can you suggest as a reason for meeting? How about sharing some specific steps and impacts you helped others take to achieve their objectives, and how your offering specifically played a role in that, and the specific impact it had on their business. Now this isn’t a creative recital of your features and value props, but specific elements that are tide to OUTCOMES.

The reason I am calling you is to schedule an appointment where I can share with you how we haled XYZ Competitor reduce their logistics cost, allowing them to increase market share by 3% over 18 months.”

No product, no features, no discussion or learning. Instead you are going to show, teach, share, how you have been instrumental in helping others like them achieve specific objectives and results.

“How do I know what their objectives are?” I hear some of you asking. Not as hard as you may imagine, but the topic of a future post; stay tuned.

Tibor Shanto

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The Difference Between Sales Pros and Amateurs – Is The Silence4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Thinking man

Everyone knows that the prospect should be doing most of the talking during a sales call. Knowing it and doing it, well you know. That is one of the big challenges in sales, everyone knows what they have to do, but do they do it?

So ya, active listening, always in style, ever the fashion, but it means so many things to many different sellers, but there is more to the whole thing. It’s not just the listening, it’s what you do with it.

Buyers are practiced too, they can see when it is real, and when it’s shtick, even when it’s good pundit shtick. Sales person makes eye contact, does not interrupt, nods almost on cue, and takes copious notes to preserve every word the prospects utters. Then as soon as the prospects stops, bam, jump on the next thing.

That’s where pros differ from the pack. Watch effective sales people conduct a sales interview, and what you’ll see is that they not only talk less, but revel in the silence. Specifically the silence between when the prospect stops speaking, and when they start their next sentence. They take the time to not only take in what the prospect was saying, but more importantly time to digest and reflect.

If you jump right on the prospects sentence, you may convince them that you were listening, but do little to make them believe you took in what they said, considered it, and incorporated it into the rest of the interview. That’s where the silence comes in. Those precious seconds where you actually think about what they said, not just wrote it down for later, when you need fodder for the CRM.

I know that seconds seem like hours, especially in the heat of the sale, but if the buyer does not buy that you are understanding them and incorporating it into to you flow, the confidence and trust will diminish. After all, if you do not take the time to fully digest what you just heard, it is valid for them to ask if you are focused on them and their direction, or just pitching; one takes time, the other does not.

Part of the challenge is we tend to think faster than we listen or people speak, making it easy to race along, and instead of fully listening and digesting, just consuming things they say. So every time they say something that fits your script you jump in, or move to confirm a data point rather than taking in the whole point, said or implied. Remember, an agenda is not a script, you can change up the sequence and direction of things based on what the buyer is saying. And what they are saying is not always right, which give you the opportunity to explore why they see it that way, take in their explanation and use it as an opportunity to educate the buyer, and have them change direction. And the will, if they see that you are taking into consideration what they present, something you can do during the silence. One method I was taught is to base a question on what they just said that also introduces new elements you feel need to be part of the discussion. Stop, think, one steamboat, two steamboat….., and as the silence fills the room, ask away.

Tibor Shanto

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Give Your Buyers The Gift of Time – Sales eXecution 3190

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

collo papillon  camicia

I have written several times about the importance of time in sales, how time really is the currency of sales; while everything else in sales may be variable, success will be determined by a number of unique and individual factors. Time is the only standard element we all share, what we do with it is the differentiator.

Download our “Sales Happen In Time” e-book

Time is also the only non-renewable resource that sales people deal with, everything else can be replayed, retried or redone, not time, once spent, it’s gone. And while this is a fact that sales people have to deal with every day, we often forget that our buyers have to deal with the exact same limitation every 24 hour day.

In prior posts I have presented our Actionable Definition of value:

Those services and/or products that remove barriers, obstacles, or help bridge GAPS between where the buyer is now – and – their OBJECTIVES!

In breaking down the elements or underpinnings of Objectives, we learn that shifting time, extending the life of an asset, shortening the time to revenue, etc., are common objectives for buyers. Therefore one of the best value adds you can deliver is bending time in favour of your buyers.

Recent Research released by CEB, show that buying cycles are often twice as long as the buyers themselves anticipated. This insight can help sellers a couple of ways. First, just understanding that things will not happen as fast as you “forecasted”, will help you in better managing your pipeline and delivering quota. I have seen many sales people give up because the buy did not take place in a timeframe that suited the seller.

Given that sales people are usually over optimistic about how long a sale should take, they often give up on a sale way too early. This requires them to prospect more and harder, and completely throws off the pipeline and success. Seems to me that whatever the answer is when you ask a buyer about their timeline, it is good to validate and add time to those expectations.

This reinforces the need to implement a sales process that is aligned to the buyer’s buying process. But again, this is one step, given that many buyers aren’t truly sure how long their buying cycle is.

EDGE - New Web

The other opportunity is to understand why buyers are so bad at estimating their timelines around a buy. The more you understand this, the more you can help buyers go through the full buying journey, but introduce some short cuts along the way, reducing the cycle time in the process.

The hard part for many sales people, is that much of this will have little or anything to do with their product or them, and almost entirely with the buyer. This leads to another piece of advice we have given before, and that is “leave your product in the car”, and make it about the buyer. Not how the buyer uses your product, but how the buyer buys.

By thoroughly reviews your successful cycles, and looking at it from the buyer’s view. Not what it took for you to get the sales, but what the buyer had to do to make the buy. These will vary from product to product, but with a disciplined approach to reviewing all opportunities, won – lost – no decision, will allow you to see where buyers linger, or get detoured, and where they make clear strides towards a decision.

Sharing these findings, not the features of your product or ROI, will give them the gift of time, and you more and better customers.

Tibor Shanto

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Is It 2016 Already? #BBSradio #podcast0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

As we head to the finish line 0f 2015, there is a tendency among many in sales to maximize their “closing” activities.  Spurred on by their managers to close business, sales people get distracted from executing on the entire cycle, and focus on the here and now, and sacrifice future opportunities.  Balance is the key, if we focus only on the end of the year, we will pay for it at the start of the next year.  Take a listen to a discussion I had with Michele, and give us your thoughts.

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Are your Open Ended Questions Leading to Closed Ended Results? – Sales eXecution 3160

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Question ball and chain

Often the best sales books are not about sales or by sales experts. Case in point Dorothy Leeds’, the The 7 Powers of Questions: Secrets to Successful Communication in Life and at Work. If you haven’t read this and you’re in sales, you are at a disadvantage to any rep that has. While the importance of questions has been explored by many, I keep coming back to this because she does not limit questions to being a sales tactic, but as a means of facilitating real communication and opportunities.

A key point in the book is that questions make one think. So true, yet so underutilized in sales. Rather than using where the buyer is as a starting point, and using question to go beyond, sellers use questions to bring the buyer to a space where the seller needs them, where their value proposition resides. Salespeople use question to box people into a space where they feel they can demonstrate their product and their perspective of value. You can hear it when they “wouldn’t you agree that if….., then you would be able to ….. better (faster, cheaper, etc.)…. Odd how the biggest proponents of Open Ended questioning, end up using questions to create a Closed Ended buying environment. The result is that these questions lead the prospect to in the opposite direction, leaving sellers to wonder why their great questions fail to inspire the buyer.

Want to inspire buyers, get them to think, to engage in a way that they don’t with sales people who use question to coral them? Get them to think. Not about their situation, their hip to that, they live it. Get them to think of their objectives, about the path forward, and the possibilities those objectives Open Up. To do that you need to demonstrate being a subject matter expert, and brave enough to explore the unknown, using question to find possibilities not limit them.

Being a subject matter expert does not mean being a “know it all”. But having enough knowledge, confidence and curiosity to help your buyer navigate uncharted territories to get to their objectives.

All those probing questions fall on deaf ears, they have heard it all before, the have been disappointed before. What they are looking for is a trusted advisor, again, that is not an oracle all knowing all saying, but someone with the skills and expertise to help them figure out how to bridge the gap between where they are now, and where they want their business to be.

Now when I say trusted advisor, I don’t mean their friend, or a relationship type, but someone who demonstrates enough expertise in the areas the buyer is trying to understand that they are willing to trust them enough to first take input then advice. You do not need to have a relationship to do that, you need to have and demonstrate expertise. You can do that and establish yourself as the go to source, as the one who can cut through the noise out there trying to bring them into a closed ended discussion, and you can become the supplier of choice long before the relationship that will evolve after.

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