Reach for goal

Who Is Your Best Prospect?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

On Monday, I posted about understanding and knowing the very next thing that needs to happen if a specific opportunity is to move forward to becoming a client.  Because I wanted to focus on a specific question, I glossed over the question I am sure many had as I set out a scenario, specifically when we ask sellers:

“Who is your best prospect?”

Talk about a loaded question inviting interpretation and misinterpretations.  If you do this with a group, you will get all kind of answers, about the only thing most have in common is the overload of subjectivity most have.  Once they finish describing the opportunity, ask:

Reach for goal“Why did you pick or go with that prospect or opportunity?”  To which I hear:

“It is the largest opportunity in my pipeline” (Be that dollars, units, etc.)

“They are the furthest down the pipe”

“I have been chasing them so long that…”

“They were a customer once, then they left”

Here is a challenge for you, what is the most bizarre response you get to that question.

At first glance you may put this off to different companies, but I got the above from people on the same team.

For the moment, it really does not matter which I, or anyone else, thinks is right or wrong.  What’s scary right off the top, is that there are multiple definitions of what is a “best” or a good prospect.  What I found that unless you get a uniform answer to that question, you can bet that they don’t even know what a prospect is.

That lack of definition is rarely the reps’ fault.  If based on your process and onboarding, and related training, there is still a divergence around this core issue, you need to stop, step back and plug this hole.

Not knowing what a prospect is, is a common problem, and it not only leads to pipeline full of crap instead of opportunities, that crap drowns out the few viable opportunities that do exist.  Definitions are important, they are not like some like to say, limiting, they help you utilize your time in the best possible way.

I was taught early that we need to call things what they are, and if I referred to someone or an opportunity as “Prospect”, it clearly stated that the “Prospect” was fully engaged, and if they were fully engaged, my manager should be able to see a clear Next Step relating to the opportunity in CRM.  Next Steps also need to be defined, you can see mine here, but to summarize, they need to be clearly agreed on by both you and the buyer(s), needs to move the opportunity forward, and be tied to a specific time.  I continue to be amazed at how many sales people have things at various stages of their pipeline without any clear next step, or in some cases plan.  Even worse, these are the things that go into your forecast, an opportunity sitting at 60% communicates something to the manager, sales leadership, finance and the entire organization.  So when a rep has something sitting at 50%, all because they had a good phone call, and the buyer told him to call back after vacation, what’s that going to do to you quarter, especially since they have not called them back yet.  I had a pipeline review with a rep once, he had 42 opportunities coming in.  Before getting to the nitty gritty, I asked which of these there were formal next steps with, only 2.  I know this is an extreme, but you need to go through your pipeline and ask how much an extreme, how many opportunities do you have a proposal stage without a next step?

This lack of definition why sales people’s time is consumed creating a narrative for their pipeline, rather than working their pipeline, especially when a manager’s idea of a pipeline review is having a story for their review with their superior. This is why many managers, never trained in finance, become experts at factoring.  When your time is spent adjusting forecasts up or down based on past experience with a rep, forcing you to live in your spreadsheet rather than that expensive CRM, you are not leading from the front or adding value to your team, just revaluing worthless numbers and forecasts.

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tango basic steps

What Has To Happen Next?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

A simple question at first glance, but when you ask people in a given vocation or profession, it is staggering how many different answers one gets, and more stunning is the number of people who can’t give you a clear answer. Most read way too much into the question, and try to come up with elaborate responses that go well beyond and away from the question. “How you get across the road?”, is very different than Why did the chicken cross the road?” In sales, I find the responses break down to roughly three group: (1) Those who understand and answer the question asked; (2) Those interpret the question, changing it slightly in the process, and the response fits their repurposed question, both misleading the inquisitor and leaving them wanting; (3) People who don’t know, and can’t be bothered worrying about it.

If you are in sales, especially leading a team, this should be a major concern, especially if you “have a sales process” you think is driving your success. It may be more accurate that it is driving reps’ results, not how they achieve those results; in fact, if they did follow the process, the result would be more success. The good things is that in sales, you can get ahead of this and ensure greater success and results.

Next time your team is together, (and you can do this on your own if you are a rep), ask for a volunteer, and ask them the following:

“Who is your best prospect?” Not meant to be a trick question, but it is interesting the responses you get, but that’s for another post.

After they tell you who their best prospect is, follow up with this question (phrase it any way you like):

“Given where you are in the cycle, what is the very next thing that needs to happen to move the sale forward?”

You would think for experienced sales people, especially if they have been in the role for a few years and have been close to or at quota, meaning they have successfully executed the cycle several times, the answer should not only be straight forward, but something they are thinking about.

Those in group (1), always respond by telling what action has to be taken by them, the buyer, and mutually. Why that action, and the specifics it will lead to in moving the sale ahead, including what has to happen next, once this next step is completed, and the consequences and contingencies in case things do not go as planned. They can clearly and in specific detail provide the ingredients and recipe for making next happen.

Those in group (2), take the question, add some subjectivity to the mix, and hear “what should happen next”, then proceed to give you an answer that is more strategic and theoretical than the question required. Instead of speaking to specific actions and tools, as group (1) did, they general outcomes, skipping the how to make those outcomes happen. “We need to get buy in”; “we need to identify the decision maker(s)”; and other no-brainer feel good statements, but all absent the “what has to happen” for those things to come to be.

tango basic stepsYou can avoid this by being more specific in your process, perhaps start by changing the label to sales-flow, allowing you to get more prescriptive. Don’t assume that because your process calls for understanding the buying/decision process, that everyone on the team knows the specific steps they’ll need to execute to actually do that. On the other hand, many in group (2), when given specific and granular steps, improve their game and results measurably. There is a reason why NFL playbooks have drawings and arrows, Arthur Murray has the footprints on the floor, and Broadway stages have markers. Once you have that, they will need to practice, not just to get it, but once they got it, practice to master, and to ensure that you can adjust when the buyer and markets change.

Last, inspect, inspect that they are doing it, each step, as it has to happen. Don’t just assume they are doing it based on results (yikes), do you think gets a Tom Brady pass? Sure he wants to get to the end-zone, but getting there takes one down at a time, knowing exactly what has to happen after each play.

BTW, if you are wondering why I didn’t get to group number (3), don’t worry about it, they didn’t notice.

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A concept image showing both sides of an antique coin displaying a heads and a tails side on an isolated white studio background

5 Proven Ways To Blow A Sales Meeting – Part 30

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

In the last of this series on proven ways to blow a meeting, we’ll look at two related opportunities that many sales people love to take advantage to derail a meeting. They are two extreme sides of the preparedness coin, being over and under prepared at the same time, to the point where the two not only cancel each other out, but help you blow sales meetings, over and over. However, when balanced and artfully executed, they could lead to great success.

Being Over Prepared – In the first post in the series we looked at how reps are so focused on their agenda, that when ever they hear the “magic word(s)” they jump in, interrupt, and alienate their buyer. In a similar way, reps sometimes look at their agenda or meeting plan like holly scripture not to be messed with or deviated from.

You get a discussion going, your questions have the effect you’d hoped which to get the buyer to not only think, which is an accomplishment, but to think differently than they did before and coming in to the meeting. When they do, it is often unchartered territory for them, and often takes them to explore things that may not have been on either yours or their agendas. This is a great thing, taking the buyer to a new place, they start thinking out loud, and because their exploring, it is often not as structure as the formal and planned part of the meeting. It is during these moments of free form thinking that some of the best opportunities are born, but only if you let them. Great sales people can switch between structured and abstract and can fully function in both. Other sales people can’t dance without the safety net of structure, and instead of encouraging free form, make the mistake of bring the meeting back to “solid ground”, and blowing it in the process.

When you allow the buyer to drive, and encourage exploration of thought, possibilities no matter how different, you not only take the buyer to places other sellers don’t, but you also clearly communicate that you are focused on their objectives not just selling your product. But if you continuously try to “ground” the buyer, and refocus them on the agenda, you’re screaming “PRODUCT, I SELL PRODUCT, not outcomes.”

No Next Step – The other side of the coin, is when a rep goes into a meeting without a clearly planned next step, in fact a few next steps, think plan A, plan B, Plan C, and sometimes even D. It is important to remember that a next step is your destination, a desired outcome for the meeting. It is not the same as an agenda. There are various ways to get somewhere, in the above example, I am encouraging you to let loose and find and follow an unexpected path, one the buyer may suggest, one the circumstances may dictate, but a path that makes it easier to get to your destination, i.e. a mutual agreement of your ability to deliver value. Value here meaning helping the buyer achieve their objectives, not giving them a discount.

But without a next step, there is no destination, and as such there are no results. I am painfully surprised when I ask reps what they want to get out of the meeting they are about to enter. The answers range from “I don’t know, but I will when we get going.” One has to wonder how you start a meeting to get there. Others tell me, “Well, I want to close the deal.” Not a reality for B2B reps, unless you truly have a one call sale, not very common.

But if you combine the two above, know the outcome that makes sense for the meeting, the buyer and you, then you can take detours, follow the buyer down unbeaten paths, but still have your next step as a beacon for where you want to end up. What’s the old saying, “if you don’t know where you’re going every road will get you there.” Well if you know where you want to go, then you wont need to depend just one road to get you there. I guess I bring this from my taxi driving days, if you know the city well enough you know multiple ways of getting somewhere based on various circumstances.

Now review the five things we’ve discussed, and avoid them.

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Drop It!2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Trashed

Last week I wrote a piece about the importance, and more specifically, the must have attributes of Next Steps. Had questions around the topic, most were relating to what to do if one of the three attributes were not attained. At that point you have a choice, retrace and see how you can firm up the loose attribute, or, drop it and move on to the next prospect.

When I suggest the latter, people say “ho, I can’t do that.”

Why not?

The answer lies in the state of their pipeline, and in the case of those people who don’t want to drop it and move on, it is usually the anemic state of their pipeline. You can’t force people to give you a next step, some pundits may have some questionable techniques or tricks, but next steps have to be earned. Assuming you did everything you could to earn that next step, and they don’t want to come along, there is only one logical action, move on to the next prospect. The challenge is that some have so few real opportunities in their pipeline that they are afraid to drop one, one less opportunity, real or not, just becomes too depressing and real. So rather than dropping it, they go for another fix, another hit of hopium, and waste more time and effort try to resurrect a dead opportunity.

And there is the rub, sales people spend so much time trying to breathe life into the dead that they don’t get around to prospecting to generate sufficient number of opportunities, Yes Virginia, Sales in a Numbers Game.  if you had a bushel of apples and one was bad, would you care? But if you had two apples, hadn’t eaten in days, and one was bad, you’ll find a way to rationalize taking a bite.

The first option above, also has to be tempered. It does make sense to review with the prospect why they may be reluctant to commit. You may find you overlooked something, which can be easily resolved. You may find that while they agree in principle, yet not enough to initiate a process they don’t see making much of a difference. I would encourage you to summarize points you thought, based on your plan going in, would resonate with the buyer, especially if during the meeting they in fact did. Do this with the prospect, quick concise, closing off each point. Often this will get things back on track. But if not, drop it and move on.

Don’t forget, leads are recyclable, you can always go back. But if you hang on for dear life, you’re just going to waste time, emotion and piss off the prospect risking future opportunities. Better to move on and reenergize and get back on the winning track. Sometimes your personal next step needs to be stepping on to the next prospect.

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Tibor Shanto

3 Must Have Attributes of a Real “NEXT STEP”1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Definitions are an important factor in sales success, talk to the best sales people, best here being measured in results, not likability, and you will find that they thrive on clear definitions, it is their competitive edge.  To identify weak sales people, look for those with plenty of opinion, but little or no clarity in approach or definitions for core elements of their success.  One common example is “Value”, it is part of almost every sales conversation, yet there are numerous, at times conflicting definitions.  I ask a group of five also rans to define value, and you’ll end up with seven different definitions, because the first two will change their mind based on what the next three say.

Another common element of successful selling that is all too often undefined (and usually unenforced), is the discipline of next steps.  Sure, everyone pays lip service to “next steps” (or advances, or other synonyms), but what they say is not what they mean, and not at all defined, agreed on, or universally supported.

I was brought up in the sales school that held that without a “next step” you are likely working with someone who is fully not engaged, if at all, and therefore not a prospect, but a lead.  This makes a “next step” a crucial delineator between real opportunities, or those pretend opportunities, taking up space in your pipeline or CRM, but lack any empirical evidence to suggest that you are working with a real prospect or an opportunity that will convert in a predictable time frame.

There is not an opportunity review that goes by where a reps is asked:

“Do you have a ‘next step’ with this prospect?”

Rep: “Sure do!”

“What is it?”

“I’m calling him Monday to set a meeting”, or “I told him I would call Monday to see what he thought of the proposal”

“What time is the call scheduled for?”

“I don’t have it formally scheduled, I told him I’d call Monday, and he said fine, I’ll do it after I am back from the Northern demo.”

Sorry, but that’s not a next step.  It’s a plan, may even be a good plan, but at this point it is little more than hope in the form of a thought, and you know what they say about hope, and people addicted to hopium.

For a “next step” to be real and productive it needs to have three attributes, that when combined and successfully executed form a platform for sales success that can use to plan, strategize and execute their sale, usually in a shorter time frame than they had anticipated.

1.   Must Be Agreed On By Both The Buyer And The Seller – by agreed I mean that it is booked and confirmed, not just a “ya OK”, whispered as you are walking out. These days you can have an invite fired from your phone while you are still there.  The physical act of pulling out your phone to put in the time and date will lead them to go to their calendar, if they don’t you may have a problem that you need to address right then and there.  It is not unusual for my prospects to have accepted the next meeting before I leave or by the time I am checking e-mail in the parking lot.

Many will settle for this as a “next step”, but I don’t want you to be one of those.  There are people, even with the demands on time, who will meet with a sales person without a specific reason.  This is why the next attribute is so important, in fact of the three the most important.

2.  Moves The Journey Forward – going back without a clear purpose is a waste of time, you can sit at your desk twiddle your thumbs without adding to you carbon footprint. You want to go back to continue to move the process forward in a way that helps the buyer make the decision that you can help them achieve their objectives.  This can be asking them to do something that will validate their engagement, involvement and commitment to the buy/sale moving forward.

I suggest that you think in advance what that may be, leveraging your personal and organizational experience, map out the journey, understand the critical milestones, and how you have successfully arrived there in the past.  If you know that achieving something opens the door to the next phase of the process, then think of what has to transpire in the meeting to get the buyer to see that as a logical path forward.   This could be any number of things based on what you sell.  One example is to ask for the opportunity to interview other people impacted by the decision, and set a time to comeback, debrief and plan the “next step”.  You’ll often hear me say:

“So we’ve agreed that it would help if I had a chance to get the front line view, if you can give the names of three sales people to interview, I can set that up for next week, and be in a position to come back to review with you by next Wednesday, does 2:00 work for you?”

Now if they do not agree to the action requested, i.e. the team interviews, but do agree to meet next week to hear my recommendations, you have some choices to make.  Does it make sense to have that meeting without the input, can you viably make progress without that.  If not, then you need to understand where you and the buyer parted ways during the meeting, what you may have missed, whether it is an indication that they are not a real buyer, or do you need to retrace and build the value up again.

This is where “next steps” drive success long before the meeting, and how you bring the past to help you now.  Perhaps the most important aspect of “next step”, specifically how they help you plan, strategize and execute.  Since we can only speculate based on experience, it makes sense to visualize the meeting unfolding in a number of ways.  Again, we are not shooting for perfection, but to cover the most likely set of outcomes.  Therefore you need to have multiple “next steps” going into any meeting.  In essence, Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and more base on your reality.  Based on the above if Plan B is the follow up meeting without prior interviews, fine.  But if your experience shows that second meetings without an interview end in no sales, or lower margin or quality sales that take 50% longer than the average sale; you can comfortably walk away know you did not go into a trap.  Remember you can always revisit the opportunity down the road, rather than wasting time and energy traveling that unproductive road.

3.  Agreed On Timelines – This ties the first two elements together. And while it may seem too obvious, too many sales people have a plan going into a meeting, find areas of agreement and action, but leave the timing open ended.  Don’t believe, lock your office door, and have a true look at the opportunities in your pipeline, and see if you have any with no time lines.

Seems to me that if you are going to propose specific actions you and the prospect will take as a result of today’s meeting, and prospect agrees that it is something worth doing and they take on doing it, why not agree on a deadline or timeline.  Some sales people tell me they don’t want to seem pushy, when I hear that it sounds like “I am afraid of seeming professional”.

By suggesting a specific time you are helping the buyer (and yourself but let’s keep focused on the buyer), people have a lot coming at them, a lot of demand on the time.  Those things with times attached, deadlines, in their calendar, in their face, with purpose, leading to a desired and agreed on outcome, will be the ones that get done.  Those with any elements of looseness, like no specific time, who know, could be today, tomorrow, “hell, I lived with it this long, could be next quarter”.  Solidify you sales success using time.

Above I asked you to look at your pipeline and see how many opportunities are without a time line.  While you are in there, take a look at the 3 attributes highlighted above, and see where some opportunities in your pipeline come up short.  And then go and fix them, set a meeting, execute your plan, and secure the “next step”, as defined.

So if you are not using “next steps” as success driver, not just in the meeting, but long before, then you are probably working harder than you have to.  Further, if you are not clear on what “next steps” really are, and are working with a different definition than above, you are likely not as productive as you could be.

Your next step now, put the above into practice, it is a discipline.  Need help, your next step is call me: +1416 822-7781.

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Tibor Shanto

 

 

Ready Set Go – Part II0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

competition

Last Monday, in Ready Set Go – Part II  I wrote about how to plan and execute the rest of the calendar year (for many their fiscal year). We looked at two scenarios, one for sellers who set themselves up for success. The second, and the focus for today’s post, is for those in the other group, the “Holy s#*t, there are only how many working days left in the year?” Don’t panic, that would just be a waste of your time, and time is something you don’t have in abundance; instead, get prospecting. Prospecting in two ways, first reworking all your current assets, the second is going beyond to prospects and buyers that you will need to identify, engage and move through the process. In essence what you should have been doing before the summer.

What I mean by reworking all your current assets are two specific activities. One look at all your “no decision” opportunities over the las 12 months. Opportunities that went into your pipeline, or sales process, progressed but died before coming out the other end as customers. These are not opportunities that bought from someone else, but that tested the market, then went back to the sideline having changed or done anything. In some instances this group could exceed 30% of things that go into the top of the pipe. They know you, you know them, things have changes, they may be more ready now, it certainly is worth a call. Even if they don’t re-engage now, they are likely starting the planning cycle for 2016; early bird is a good thing to be.

The other method is to crank up your referral efforts, both in your client base and, your indirect network, and your Referral 2.0 network. While I still believe in cold calling, referrals are nice too.

But you will also need to go beyond the comfort zone, and that’s where cold calling will come in. Specifically in two directions, first looking for opportunities that have a reasonable chance of closing this year. This does not have to be the proverbial lower hanging fruit, but could smaller deals for example. This may mean having more of these to sell, but that could not only mean shorter cycles, but also provide an initial entry point to accounts. The idea is to both salvage the year, and set yourself up for future growth.

Second, much like the successful group above, start hunting for things that will close next year, and close early. A challenge many sales people have is the start of year lull, often because they spend a disproportionate time “closing” late in the year. They return in the New Year only to find a neglected pipeline that takes time to build up and get back in shape. This can easily be avoided by starting early, starting now. Think of it as a variation to the above scenario, except in this instance we seed now, harvest in January. To avoid this, but you have to start now. I always find it interesting that prospects are able to hold

Look at it this way, at least if you miss quota this year, you will have given your employer a reason to keep you around for next year.

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

3 Words to Ditch To Improve Your Sales – Sales eXecution 3042

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Garbage

Words are a big part of selling, seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how little attention some in sales pay to the words they choose. Words impact not only what your prospects hear and their reactions to them, but almost as important is the effect they have on you as the seller. Words impact and reflect you view of things and situations, and while many will argue that it’s just semantics, they fail to realize or acknowledge the degree to which words you choose reflect and signal your intent; something that your buyers pick up and are influenced by as much as anything.

Now let’s be clear, most don’t set out to use words that may hinder their success, and often they use certain words or phrases because they were brought up right. Like asking “is this a good time” when they interrupt a busy person in the middle of their day. Most people do it to be polite, a good thing, but the result is counter to the objective of the call. In most instances the prospect says “not really”, the sellers asks “when is a good time?” Prospect offers up a random time, and the rest is just painful.

As with most things it needs to be brought to their attention, and then the hard part, putting it into practice instead of going back to the same old, same old.

So here we go:

Gatekeeper – Talk about starting off on the wrong foot. Right out of the gate, us vs. them. Sadly, many of the people that sellers refer to as gatekeepers, can actually be helpful in moving your agenda forward. Today’s executive assistants are part of the “inner circle” and are very aware of their boss’ and organizations’ priorities and objectives, the better you align with those the more likely that the person in question can move from being a “gatekeeper” to a “gateway” to your success. Rather than looking past them as some would suggest, work with them, engage them the way you would any decision maker, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Just – Nothing cuts you and or your message down a notch more than the word just. Look at the definition: only or merely – “He was just a clerk until he became ambitious.” Not a way you want you, your product or message to be framed. Most use it to minimize the intrusion or effort required, but all it does is minimize everything. If you can truly add value to their world, help them achieve objectives, then go bold, not minimize by putting a just in front of it.

Hope – Such an uplifting work that can do so much damage to your pipeline. You hear this drug sprinkled into sales conversations all over. “I was hoping to set up a time to meet”, no you wanted to meet, but had to settle for hoping because your talk track was not good. In pipeline reviews, “I am hoping to hear from them this week.” Rather than hoping, would it not have been a better idea to set the next step before one left. I can be humorous and say I was hoping reps do that, but when those words come out, all hope is dashed. Decision makers want to deal with decisive people, hoping is not an attitude that conveys that.

So there you have three words in sales that hurt, cut them out, if you replace them replace them with something strong and forward looking, but you don’t really need to replace them at all, just sell.

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

New Year’s Execution – Sales eXecution 2800

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Execution WRL

Tis the season of resolutions and unkept commitments, and sadly the only thing we truly improve is our ability to rationalize failures as we abandon our best laid plans. Let’s be clear the intentions are good and sincere, but what is lacking is execution, and this can be traced back to two key factors.  First is the goals are often unattainable to begin with; second even when they are, there is often a lack of tactical plan, a plan that allows for execution that delivers results, both in terms of the end goal, and steps along the way.

While I am not here to knock Big Hairy Audacious Goals, a staple of start of year planning and sales kick offs, they are mostly strategic and anthemic in nature.  They rarely make for good tactical plans, they rally the troops, make for lingering sound bites local managers can echo as the year unfolds, but on their own they have little practical value.  At one point you have to translate Strategy to action, tactical steps that transform audacious to real, hairy or not. (Ever notice how the hair on your goals changes over time).

So keep the big and hairy for the banner, but support it with an action plan.  The best way to do that is to walk backwards from those goals, and lay out a road map that will get you there.  Those of us who predate the internet, remember going to AAA and getting TripTiks, allowing us to the trip in great detail; distance between stops, potential lodging, food and fuel, they informed you of major construction project and other potential obstacles and j\helped you plan contingencies.

It is best to do the same for your journey from kick-off to your Big Hairy Audacious Goals, and then do the same for each sale/account you are going to encounter and win along the way.  Much like the TripTik, it should include metrics, logical milestones along the way, resources you will need to fuel the sale, average length of cycle and potential number of meeting it may take to complete each journey or sale.

The last two are key, and often over looked.  Most sales people are not aware of the average length of their sales cycle, when asked most will say depends.  Even the ones that have an answer, are usually going with the corporate myth “our sales cycle is 90 days”, it supports the vision and the Hairy Goals.  But when we look at the data provided by their CRM, the number is usually off.

They also don’t know how many meeting a typical sale should take, and as a result of that they cannot plan for a desired outcome from each encounter.  No Next Step, no Secondary Next Step, no plan C.  It’s a lot like a quarterback trying to march down-field without set plays or knowing how they will run those plays.  Everyone knows we want to get the ball in the end zone, a clear Hairy Goal, but there are reasons why some can do it consistently and predictably, while others flounder most of the time.

So forget resolutions, big or small, and focus on execution, it never gets old, and in sales success is about execution – everything else is just talk!

Tibor Shanto

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You Know How It Is!?!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Detective

No I don’t!

I find when I am working with sales people resistant to change, which in itself funny because they are paid to help prospects to change, yet when it comes to their reality, they try persuade me why the status quo is right for them. If you work with sales people, don’t you wish you had a dollar for every time you heard one say “well this is how we have always done it”; and while that may be true, the sad thing is that prospect you are working on knows exactly that this is how you’ve always done it, and that’s why they won’t buy this time, just like they didn’t buy last time.

Often these rep really do not have an argument or a reason for not wanting to change, other than perhaps fear, specifically fear of success, the same fear a lot of their prospects have. As a result they often resort to rationalizing their position by saying “You know how it is?” Or if they are hip “you know what I’m saying?” It’s the questioning sound at the end that tells me they don’t buy into their own statement either, they just need to say something other than “no I am too scared or set in my ways to try something different.”

Change is hard, and at times frightening, but there is one universal truth insales, your quota will go up next year, and it will go up more than the rate of inflation. Another fact but not an absolute, is that customers who make up your current base will be looking for efficiencies, meaning to hold prices where they are (or even lower them). Which clearly suggests that you need to change, because doing what you did last year will lead to the same results you had last year, plus the rate of inflation, not much these days. What’s the old Einstein saying – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different result is the definition of – well – someone who will miss quota, if not something else.

Another popular saying sellers can adopt is FDR’s “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”; and the best way to overcome fear is proactively. Change is a process, so approach it as such, not emotionally, but objectively. Set specific and progressive goals, not just one but a series. The series should help you change a specific over a given time, this means deadlines are important. Setting out to change something without a deadline allows for procrastination and excuses, so set a time line and be hosnest with yourself.

Make each step progressively more challenging. Start with something easy, something that will act as a gateway to success. When you achieve that first thing, celebrate, give yourself a reward. Then build on it, until you achieve your change.

So the question is, what are you more afraid of, the pain of change or the pain failing, specifically failing to deliver quota. My experience is that trying and failing still delivers benefits. But not trying and failing by default just builds a culture of losing. Once you are living in that spiral, well, you know how it is!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

3 B’s Of Pipeline Success0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

3Bs

How you manage and stage your pipeline can be the difference between an OK year or career, or a consistently great one. To use a sport analogy, your pipeline is your core, no matter what sport you are in hockey, tennis, or running, a strong core, a well exercised and maintained core adds to athletic performance and lifts one competitor to victory over a comparably talented athlete with a less conditioned core.

Below are three things every seller should consider and do, no matter which methodology they use to sell, to lift their execution and results.

Bold – This speaks to who or which opportunities you choose to peruse, there is the element of pursuing ALL REAL potential prospects that others either ignore, or completely miss due to personal or corporate blinders. There are many potential buyers that are overlooked by a large number of sales people. Some don’t see the dots and as a result can’t connect them; others see the dot’s but fail to or are afraid to connect them. There is a lack of imagination and boldness in their approach.

Some will overlook things that fall beyond conventional qualification measures, an over reliance on BANT if you will. The key here is that they be REAL, meaning given the right circumstances they would buy your offering, and qualifying comes down to how you view your market, and choose to align your offering. Are you limiting your sights and pursuits to those people that have the pains or other mundane signals, those your product has traditionally addressed? If so, you’ll likely miss many REAL prospects or opportunities.

But if instead you look to see how you may help someone achieve their business objectives, your universe of REAL potential expands considerably. This is huge from a pipeline perspective, the more REAL potential prospect you’ll be able to identify, the more REAL opportunities you can fill your pipeline with. Since sales is to a degree a numbers game from a conversion ratio perspectives, more opportunities translate to more and or better sales, and at the minimum more options for you as a seller.

Binary – Leveraging the above, being binary becomes easier and more productive. Let’s explain what I mean by binary. Your pipeline should contain only active opportunities, those prospects you are engaged with now, and in turn they are engaged with you and the sales process; it should not contain anything else. All those potential “prospects” you are not currently engaged with, as great as they may be, are leads, and should be managed in your leads funnel, not your active opportunities funnel or pipeline. But many sales people, and by extension their sales organizations, hold all kinds of inactive opportunities in their active pipeline, distracting time and resources. There are some common examples of this: former prospects who you met once or twice, who smiled, told you they were “really” interested but have not met with you or returned your call in weeks. Sure, they send you e-mails, saying they are still interested, they are just tied up, or on another project, or are waiting for some event, or maybe just waiting for Godot.

These are not engaged prospects and need to be moved out of your pipeline. This is not to say that they are not worth pursuing at some point in the future, but in popular vernacular, they are in the nurturing phase, not active selling phase of a pipeline. Alongside these are those “prospects” who are talking to you, but are doing less than nothing to move the process forward, move them out, they are just filler, and you can’t have that. The only opportunities that should be in your pipeline are those where the buyer is taking reciprocal action, executing their buying process as you are executing your selling process, and together you move to a mutual agreement. Binary – active – not active; taking action – avoiding action; on or off; keep the on’s and get rid of the off’s. Don’t clog up your pipeline with crap, not a place for a heart attack.

Many fool themselves by looking at their pipeline and thinking, “wow, look at all the stuff I have in there”. Exactly, stuff not opportunities. This false sense of doing, just messes you up, and most importantly sucks up your time for a number of reasons, and most deadly, prevents you from prospecting. When we are stuffed we don’t eat, when the pipeline feels stuffed, you don’t prospect.

If you want to see this clearly, just look at any pipeline using the 90 – 60 – 30 method and watch how it piles up, what happens in the last 30 days; for validation just look at how many times opportunities are recast in the 30 day segment.

Blended & Balanced – I remember learning this lesson the hard way, I fancied myself an elephant hunter, and ignore many smaller and shorter cycle opportunities. Till one year the elephants went to a different field, and I was left short on my target. My friend on the other hand, she focused on the small and easy, didn’t over extend. Interestingly enough we both came in behind someone who had a nice blend in their pipeline, big, small, short, long, and everything in between. Seems obvious, but not always easy to execute. There are a lot of distractions, things to entice you, being a home run hitter has its appeal. But with planning and discipline, you can map out a prospecting regimen that helps you balance the pipeline just so. I now use a Plan P approach, P being for pursuit, this allows me to continuously balance things, think of it like balancing and rebalancing a portfolio actively to maintain the optimal mix for you requirements. This allows you to be Bold in you pursuits, forces you to remove the inactive opportunities clogging up your revenue artery, and maintain a productive and profitable pipeline.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

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