Businessman on rock mountain with idea bulb

3 Reason to Establish and Mine The Gap – Part II2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Monday, we looked and the need to establish a “Gap”, and gave an example that you can use to start the process with in your sales. Clearly you will need to build on that, and in today’s post we will offer specific steps you can take to surface and leverage Gaps in the process of helping buyers and winning deals.

As with most things worth doing, there is the investment part, and the pay-off part; please keep in mind that the pay-off will be after things have taken hold, not the next day. Make your plan, then execute the whole plan, not give up because you need to give things time to happen.

GAP PyramidCorpus of Knowledge

Step one is building a base of knowledge that allows you to step out as a Subject Matter Expert. You need to not only understand the objectives your market player may have and, should have. What makes you an expert is not all the information you have, but your ability to translate your knowledge into actionable insight; key here is actionable. The reality of “satisfied” prospects, is that they are by definition inert, not looking to move. Even when they have stated objectives, they have pre-conceptions about how to achieve them. To win you need to have them look at their objectives differently, look at objectives they may not have considered for different reasons, until an expert like you throws it into the mix.

Most sellers take in the prospect’s objectives at face value, and jump to trying to influence how the prospect might achieve those objectives. In other words, they focus on the “means” rather than the “end”; the problem with this, is that it is a crowded place to be, and if the “ends” have not changed, the “means” will be decided on in the feature/price filter.

Expert sellers, know they have to have the prospect re-evaluate their objectives, notice I did not say change, just re-evaluate, and if you are part of that re-evaluation, you can influence them, and marginalize the other sellers. How you ask, by focusing on the impacts you can deliver to their business. If they focus on the impacts, which are the ultimate “end”, an objective or a goal is a way to realize that impact. To do this you have to have the knowledge to understand why the buyer’s stated objectives may be, and a set of “Better” alternatives to get there.

Tribal Knowledge

To do that, you need to establish a discipline to review every opportunity that enters your pipeline, wins, losses, and “no decisions”. We use the 360 Degree Deal View, as it is uniquely designed to focus on objectives and impacts, and the Gaps that exist in the buyer’s current state, and the alternate state they are planning. Doing this gives you a level of understanding that will allow you to be the expert, be a conduit to best practices your prospects can learn and earn from.

Yes, this takes time, but not that much time, not as much time as it does chasing deals you won’t win.

Two key things you’ll learn will help you in Mining The Gap. First is the most common objectives and means of hitting those objectives currently favoured by market players, sellers and buyers. This will allow you to understand where there are Gaps or misalignment. For example, a VP may have a goal of 50/50 mix in revenues from product and services, but four months into the year it is tracking at 70% product, 30% services, where services fetches higher margin. You can surface this Gap with two simple questions, once the Gap is there, you can “Mine” it.

Second, you’ll discover where you have delivered unexpected impacts to objectives the buyer was not aware of or focused on before encountering you.

In all this it is important to look at the outs of 360’s right across your organization, look at other reps’ reviews, and expand your knowledge while expanding your value. Develop your Gap questions built on empirical data not third party wives’ tales or industry myths. There is a specific set of steps that when applied not only allow you to confirm and qualify Gaps, but Mine them, work them in a way that better engages your buyer, and separates you from also-rans. But it has to done right, or you may fall in to the Gap, sell like everyone else.

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3 Reason to Establish and Mine The Gap – Part I0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sales people are always trying to create urgency, or figure out how they can accelerate a decision. The conventional approach has been to either focus on a “pain point” the buyer may want to solve with haste. The other conventional strategy is to have the client agree to a needs analysis, and leverage the outcome based on that analysis. The beauty of the latter is that no matter what the inputs, in some miraculous way, the output always pints to your product or offering.

We can talk about the merits or efficacy of these methods, they work not because of the skills of the seller, but as a result of the state of the buyer. Specifically, they either have a pain and set out to address it on their own; or realise that their current state is not optimal, hence their willingness to participate in needs analysis. But what about those who are neither in pain, and see their current state as being “satisfied”? Those buyers who respond, “we’re good”, or “we’re all set”, or similar responses. that’s where you have to work The Gap.

To start, this is not about objection handling in the context of cold call, for that click here. This is where you specifically target potential prospects who are “satisfied” in a way that allows them to understand that there are viable alternatives to their chosen path that they are not aware of or have ignored for any number of reasons. In other words, those who are not aware of any gaps in their current state.

Mine the gapThe GAP

The best way to have a prospect understand the “gap” in their current state is not to have them look in the past as many sellers do, or at their current state; people will naturally defend what they have done and what they are doing when their state is “satisfied”. Your only option is to take them into the future, then walk them back to the present to have them experience where a Gap you see exists, but they to date have not. Here is a simple and reusable example, it is somewhat general, if you would like to have it tailored to your vertical or target group, get in touch.

Seller: I am curious VP Jane, if we were sitting here 18 months from now, and you were telling me the team had hit a grand slam, what would that look like?

At this point you have to sit back and let the person talk, this may sound obvious, but I live in the real world. You have to be patient, it takes some people a couple of sentences to really get to it. You may have to help them by asking them to elaborate, expand, etc. But once they get going, once they buy into the fact that they can articulate their view for the future, i.e. their objectives, you will be amazed at the future state they paint.

What I find 95% of the time, is that “18 months from now” doesn’t look anything like “now”. Which allows you to ask the next question:

Seller: That’s a great view VP Jane, so help me understand why we are not there now?

The answer to that is the Gaps they see between where they are and where they say they actually want to be. Among the things they will lay out in their response (with help from you), will be the Gaps you can Mine to develop the opportunity.

To do this right you will need to do some work, understanding what are some common objectives similar people have had, which of those gaps they were willing to invest in, and which were only aspirational. But most importantly, you will need to be able to leverage how you have helped others “fill the Gap”, achieve their objectives, and the impacts you delivered to their business as a result. To be honest, this is not easy at first, you have to fly without product or brochure, and rely strictly on skill, knowledge, and the ability to transform that knowledge to actionable insights for your buyers. Once you can do that, you’ll be able to Mine those Gaps, and deliver sales success.

Beyond the example above, come back Thursday, and we’ll look at some ways to effectively Mine The Gap.

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Qualifying Budget Too Early – Sales eXecution 3081

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

SketchNotesPRICING(LS)(E)-01

I was watching a pundit wax poetic about how to qualify prospects on an initial prospecting call. I give him credit for acknowledging that the phone and cold calling is still a viable means of reaching real buyers, but I had issues with some other points he was trying to make, namely, qualifying for budget.

To be fair, let me state the assumption I am working with. This is not a one call sales, it is a bit more involved; the site the piece appeared on was a technology related site, and not one that promoted USB cables, but broader systems integration.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think budget should be established before you go too far in the sale. Investing valuable time and potentially resources without knowing if and how you are going to be paid is not what professional sales people do. On the other hand, on an initial prospecting call, one where at best you may establish engagement, or secure an appointment, is budget really the issue at hand? Given that this call will likely lead to the first of a number of meeting, with multiple people with varying agendas; going down the budget hole could be more fatal than practical. With budget usually being the link in the chain between price and value, it would make a bit of sense to imitate some sense of value first, not part of a prospecting call, and if it is, it will be a short call.

Bringing budget up in that first meeting that results from the prospecting call makes sense, but not on the prospecting call. As mentioned, there is a link between budget and value, so there needs to be some semblance of value first. Now of course the problem with “value” is that it is rarely defined, it is talked to, it is talked about, it is probably part of every sales conversation, but there as many different definitions as there are people asked, often more.

One actionable definition to work with is as follows:

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

So until you hone in on the buyer’s objectives, and understand how you can move them towards achieving those objectives, it is hard to talk about budget, in a serious way, and I would suspect that unlike our pundit friend, you are serious about succeeding in selling.

Based on the post, I have to conclude that the pundit in question only works with “inbound” order takers, and here is why. Say we wen his way, and qualified based on budget, we would miss out on a whole bunch of sales. We have all had instances where when we first approached a prospect, they did not have “budget for this kind of thing”. But after engaging and together working towards how what you are selling moves them towards their objective, they are able to produce budget. Could be as simple as helping them see how the purchase may be an operating item vs. a capital spend. Or it can be more complex exercise of bringing other beneficiaries into the process. But in that first call, they would disqualify themselves, and you’d miss out on the sale.

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The Objective Seller #webinar0

Clone not

How to Shift the Conversation from Product to Objectives

Join us on Thurs., Oct. 9th, 2014 at 2:00PM ET / 11:00AM PT for this free webinar

Most salespeople are taught to look for pain and needs. However, 75% of customers who switch from one vendor to another say they were satisfied at the time that they switched. There was no pain, and no needs, so what was the catalyst?

Objectives!

In this webinar, sales expert, Tibor Shanto, covers how to shift the conversation from your product to your prospects’ objectives.
Areas addressed include:

  • 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

And much, much more!

After that, meet RingLead CEO, Donato Diorio, for a quick preview of Capture!, which quickly and easily helps salespeople gather contact data from anywhere on the internet into your CRM.

Join me and Donato Diorio in this exciting and eye-opening journey to sales success.

Register

 

The Present Has Been Delegated1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

iStock_000001262117Small

Earlier in the week I wrote about the need for sales people to be “multilingual” in order to better understand and communicate with the types of buyers they may not have prospected or sold to in the past. A common example of this is when sales people accustomed to selling to users or front line managers, are instructed by their leadership to go ‘upstream’, and sell to senior decision makers, executives or the ‘C’ suite.

It is important to remember that language and meaning are not the only thing that differentiates these two groups. While I am sure that many understood that “language” was a metaphor for a number of differences that need to be balanced and managed by sales people throughout the cycle. But there is one that is worth expanding on, specifically, time and the perception of time by some buyers.

Based on their role, different buyers will have, or more accurately, live in, different time frames. Front line folks, sales people, factory workers, database analysts, etc. tend to be in the here and now. Their targets and measures tend to be near term, which in turn drives their planning and execution. Their decision to execution to result cycle, is generally short in nature, using sales as an example, a sales person is more likely to focus on their current cycle, and partially into the next. So when we sell to these folks, we need to align our time frame and “language” accordingly.

Executives, those tasked with the strategic success of the enterprise, are operating way in the future, minimum 12 – 18 month into the future. This is why they built the layers below them, the front line discussed above. The front line is tasked with executing the strategic plan the executive developed last year. The reality is that the executives have delegated the present to the front line, because they are too busy dealing with the future, making sense of the uncharted. So if you hope to engage with these, you need to get past the how, and deal with the why; you have to speak their language, and you have to be in synch and aligned with their time line, the future.

If you go in there and talk about the here and now you’re more than dead, you’re history, because today, is part of their history, again, they have delegated it.

It is for this reason that one my favourite questions is “If we were sitting here 18 months from, and you were telling me you had hit a grand slam, what would that look like?” Now you’re where they are, someone they can talk to. Let them tell you, make sure you take it all in, and then ask “so why aren’t we there now?”, That’s when they tell you what they need to make that future happen, and what you can sell them.

So if you want too sell higher up, you need to stop living in the past!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

Are you a Persuader or Mediator? – Sales eXchange 2220

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Mediate

I don’t see why anyone in sales should take offence to being called a persuader, it is after all our job, to persuade people that yes it is time to buy, and buy from us. I wear the label of persuader much more proudly than one of being a mediator, a label many in sales would rather wear.

Based on a discussion I had recently with two experienced sales people who were trying to persuade me (sell me), on the fact that what they do is much more “mediate” between the buyer and their company. Mediate, really? Not sure that is what sales people are supposed to do, and as I asked I got the usual, intellectually trap-laden, politically correct snippet about relationships, and how it is the role of the sales person to look after the needs of the “client in the mix”. Hmm!?!

I know it may just be semantics, but words count for a lot in sales, especially in setting mind set and attitudes, as those two things go straight to how you behave, and it is the resulting action that counts in sales. And because of that you will get very different results if you set out to persuade or if you set out to mediate.

When we look at the Merriam-Webster definition of mediate we find it defined as:

: to work with opposing sides in an argument or dispute in order to get an agreement (US)
: to get (something, such as a settlement or agreement) by working with opposing sides in a dispute
: to have an effect or influence in causing (something) to happen

And mediator as:

: one that mediates; especially : one that mediates between parties at variance

Right off the top there is a disconnect, on the one hand we hear about “relationships” and “trust”, yet we see our role as that of the UN in the negotiations between North and South Korea.

Further I am not sure why there is a negative perception of “persuading”, it does not have to imply that you are pulling something over the buyer, it just means:

: to cause (someone) to do something by asking, arguing, or giving reasons
: to cause (someone) to believe something

You can do that, and still maintain or strengthen a relationship, especially if the buyer gains by taking action you persuaded them to take. If the strength of you belief in your product is so strong and compelling, that the buyer is moved to act, how is that worse than mediating, where there is an assumption of adversaries, one being your employer.

The same people who seem to lean towards any word other than persuasion for what they do a s sales people, are the same who are happy to interchange the word negotiate with appease, and in the process of appeasing, mediate away the last bit of margin left in the deal, and subsequent purchases that buyer makes.

The sad reality is that if these same sales people only put as much effort into persuading their buyers, as they do me in labeling their role, they would mediate less, and sell more. Besides, if you are dealing with buyer who require mediation, and see your company as the “opposing” side, you should fire those prospects, and prospect for new ones that see you as much as a partner as you see them.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

3 Upcoming #Sales #Webinars you Need to Attend!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Learn

Over the next couple of weeks I will be presenting three different webinars on 3 related topics that you should register for and attend.

October 23 – Time – Prospecting – And Getting the Jump On Both

On Wednesday October 23rd, at 2:00 pm Eastern time, along with the good folks at eGrabber, I will present on: “Time – Prospecting – And Getting the Jump On Both”, looking at the combination of cutting edge tools for sourcing the right contacts and related info, and best practices, to improve your rate of connecting with the right decision makers and start selling.
Click here for more detail and registration

 

October 24 – Cold Calling: How to Handle the Objection

On the following day Thursday October 24, at 2:00 pm Eastern time, working again with the DiscoverOrg team, I will be presenting the follow up to the highly successful webinar last month on the fundamentals of effective Cold Calling, this time “Cold Calling: How to Handle the Objection”, looking at how to effectively handle the most common objections faced by intrepid cold callers, and move to selling.
Click here for more detail and registration

 

October 29 – GAP Selling, Successful Selling in Changing Times

Finally on Tuesday October 29, you guessed it, at 2:00 pm Eastern time, I will be delivering the “GAP Selling, Successful Selling in Changing Times”. Working with LeadLifter, I’ll be presenting on a framework that allows you and your sales process to evolve with your buyers and markets, allowing you to execute your sale in a way that is not limited or impacted by market conditions.
Click here for more detail and registration

Set the time aside now, and learn how the three combine will help you sell better now, and into 2014!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

Prospects On The Revenue Express0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Detective

One reason I enjoy selling, and I mean selling not order taking, is it really is like a good mystery or thriller novel coming together. All the twists and turns, the intrigue in the form of competition, the unknown outcome, hidden decision makers and more. Not only do you get to participate, but when you participate well, you not only solve the situation, but make money for doing it, it makes selling great.

So I was a bit baffled last week when I met with a group of sales people who typified the 80% in the Pareto principle, they weren’t so much lazy or lethargic, more like completely uninspired and totally lacked the ability to have fun. They were with a top tier player in their field, and while they may not win every deal they were involved in they were in a position to win more than their share. Their product was more than competitive and they had managements backing to walk away from deals that were strictly price driven.

But it seems everything they had to do, which was no different than that expected from other B2B sales people, was a chore, and seemed to require a lot more effort from them than really necessary. It may be due to the fact that they had a good ride before the economy turned, but it was clear that they had forgotten some basics, specifically two critical musts in B2B sales, prospecting, and having fun.

To be clear they did prospect, but in such an uninspired way that it was painful to watch them, never mind listen to them. It was the typical “get me in front of the right guy, and I can close them”, well so could most trained monkeys. The money goes to those who can get in front of the right guy.

Thinking it may serve well to change their perspective, I suggested we approach prospecting as we would a mystery, not quite Agatha Christie, but then again. We had some clues, the company name, locations they can be found, even a couple of people on the inside willing to play. As usual we were lacking their direct numbers, e-mails; which is the first bit of fun, finding and navigating our way to finding those, to then contacting and engaging with our target.

The reality is that this may not always be easy, but rather than letting it frustrate you, get your Sherlock Holmes and discover. After all, when you solve this part of the mystery, we get the opportunity to get in front of that right guy. Further the work and effort invested in sleuthing at this stage of the sale will more than help us uncover important elements that help us close the sale later.

I know that none of this makes the work any easier, but at least approaching it like a grand mystery, a paperback classic, we can make it more fun, and more importantly doable, and more lucrative..

So pick your favourite sleuth, and let’s solve this sale.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

Make Them Look Good0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Look good

One of the underlying drivers for buying decisions is self-interest.  While at times this can end up being misguided and self-absorbing with some buyers, it is usually a positive when those interest are aligned with and support corporate objectives.  This leads to an outcome where both the individual and the company benefit and move forward.  Done right, as a seller you can hit the much sought after trifecta, where your buyer, their company, and you all come out winners.

The challenge that arises is knowing what those self-interests might be, especially with a new buyer or early in the relationship.  After all, even if you asked straight up, and you always should in an elegant way, they may not be as forthcoming as they will be once they know and trust you.  So what’s a seller to do?

Well there two specifics that you can execute to leverage self-interest.  First, is understanding what the specific interest are based on role, and then overlay that with industry specific factors, and potentially other ingredients that could be regional or company specific.  As an example, if you look at say CFO’s, regardless of the industry and region of the country they are in, they have more in common than not.  If one is a CFO in a manufacturer and another is with a services firm, they will have many role based things in common.  If you understand how to effectively meet the needs of one, much of that will be transferable to the other.  Sure company size will have impact, as will other things, the reality is that if you understand the interests of one, you have more than a starting point with the next.  You know what their mandate is likely to be, how they measure success, what they perceive as risk and how they may choose to deal with it, and so on.

Another thing you can focus in on is how they are measured and evaluated.  This leads us to the second means of dealing with self-interest, how can you make them look good.

I recently did a session with a group where they had some questionable experiences with training in the past, most recently an NLP experience that went sideways.  When I finished the head of marketing who took in the session, told me that I made the VP of Sales look good!

What better way to leverage the self-interest factor than to make them look good in the eyes of their peers and superiors?  Not to mention that it is relatively easy to do, assuming you have a quality offering.  We all know, and hopefully practice the art of under promise and over deliver; it is a question of building out on that.  During the sale if you do a thorough job of Discovery, you can get a clear picture of not only what their objectives are, but how they will directly benefit if achieved.  It will take work, but help them exceed, and not only do you help them achieve those objectives, but can make them look good in the process, helping you enhance the relationship, and build towards future business.  Done right everyone’s interests are served, and everyone can look good.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Execution Gives Meaning To Your Words – Sales eXchange 2100

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Puzzle man

People are swamped with promises and expectations all day, in their private lives, professional lives, on the bus, on their phone, there is no getting away from an almost steady barrage of promises and unfulfilled expectations.  Often, hey lets be real here, more often than not, the deliverable is shy of the expectations set, but worse, not delivered at all.  One can fix or address things not meeting expectations, but it is hard to overcome not delivering at all.  And while we continue to build calluses to shield us from the crap, each time we have a negative experience or unfulfilled promises, our level of cynicism grows by an equal or greater degree.

In the world of buyers and sellers, these occurrences and experiences lead to more effort and complexity in getting future deals done as buyers become more hardened and sceptical of new vendors, and stick with what they know.  It leads to an unfair but understandable tainting of buyers’ view of sellers; it also increases the effort required by honest sellers to get buyers engaged and willing to open up about their situation.

One of the biggest obstacles sellers have to overcome are the expectations of buyers shaped by their experiences with other sales people and companies they have encountered before you.  In light of the 80/20 rule, this is a big hurdle to clear.  No matter how different you may be, having a sterling record for meeting and exceeding client expectations, the fact is that on the surface, at first glance, and initial encounter, we look very much the same as the sellers that have let that buyer down in the past.  Which means we have to break that link right away and get the buyer to start with a fresh slate.

The best way to counter this demonstrate to the buyer your ability to execute, and thereby deliver against expectations.  This is straight forward with an existing client, but harder when you first try to sell to a new buyer.  This is why demonstrating results you have been able to deliver for others early is key.  By early, I mean early, right at the top of the call or e-mail, text message or whatever other means of communication you use to approach a new potential buyer.  In addition, these should be directly tied to the buyer’s objectives.  How do I know what their objectives are?  Again, leverage history, i.e. those instances where you have executed successfully (from the buyer’s view).  If the last six people you sold to in the same role, but different companies, had a specific objective in mind, it is a safe bet that the seventh will be closer to those objectives than not.

Focus on how you helped them meet those objectives and the result, and you will be in a position to not only engage, but engage around your ability to deliver, not just talk.  You will still need to work, and this is not a short cut, just an entry point.  To do this well and consistently, you need to first and foremost have delivered, but then you also need to start collecting testimonials and case studies.  One bonus to doing deal reviews is the ability to collect these positive validations of your ability and track record to deliver what you say, and differentiae yourself from the crowd.  This can be especially powerful while prospecting for new business.

Simply stated, execution gives life and meaning to your words.  Which is why I say, Execution is the last word in sales – Everything else is just talk!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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