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A Sales Viewpoint – Sales eXecution 3250

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

With the election cycle in full swing in the USA, many (some) are reflecting on what their point of view is on key aspects of life to be impacted by the outcome of the election. This includes things like economic viewpoint, free market or centrally controlled economy; global viewpoint vs. protectionist, and more. The key here is not function or discipline in question, it is more that most people will have a viewpoint, and that view point drives their actions, and the result and impact of their action.

This fact is true for sales and sellers as well. A seller’s view point on sales, their market, their customers, and their sales methodology, will drive how they execute their sales, their success, and most importantly their impact on the success of their customers’ ability to achieve their objectives.

Unfortunately, as with political viewpoints, many in sales don’t ever develop and hone their own viewpoint. It is much easier to abdicate the work required to have a valid viewpoint, and they end up plugging into an outlet for their viewpoint and resulting action. Once they find one that is comfortable, fits well, they just go with it until it lets them down, be that the wrong guy getting into office or a loss of a big sales or significant existing client.

But when you take a close look you discover is an aspect of the old Pareto principle, where a large percentage of sales people, maybe even 80%, don’t really have a viewpoint. There is a large segment of this group that don’t see sales as their final destination, so why develop a viewpoint, “I’ll do that when I am in the role I really want.”

On the other hand, you do find the smaller group, let’s go with 20%, that have a specific viewpoint, and you see at the centre of everything they do in sales. This view point allows them to take the buyer and discussions with buyers to areas and depths that a viewless seller would not dare go, even if they were aware of them.

The important thing is that usually the person most aware of the difference is the buyer. They know when they are working with someone with a clear and centred sales viewpoint. Sellers with a viewpoint, one based on their standing as a subject matter expert, are in a much better position to not only help their clients achieve their objectives, but more importantly to influence the buyers’ objectives. Without a clear and strong viewpoint, you are left feature, benefit and groveling, oops, I mean relationship selling.

As a hiring manager you can begin to look for this in the interview process; are they telling you what you want to hear, or are they articulating a clear viewpoint on sales and how they execute on that viewpoint?

Given an equal set of skills and opportunities, the seller with a clear and thought out sales viewpoint will always outperform the one with out.

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How Do You Start Your Day? #FireStarters0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

FireStarter

Some of you are familiar with Miles Austin, if you are looking to learn about the latest tools and technology for sales and selling Miles is the source.  As a result, Miles is always trying out and introducing those of us in sales to new tools and apps to make selling more fun and profitable.

This month Miles is leveraging a new tool, Blab, and he is using it to help share ideas and best practices from people from all corners of sales.  What makes the whole process cool is that he is focused on a single theme, by asking all of us who participate the same question: How Do You Start Your Day? 

You can watch my segment below, including a technical glitch I had right at the start, and thanks to Billy Bob Brigmon, who was nice enough to jump in for the first 30 seconds while I got my act together.

Take a look, watch all the #FireStarter segments for some great insights on how to start your day.

Tell us what you think.

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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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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Un-Complicating Their Buy at #CEBSummit0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Richtung Pfeil

While there are a range of relevant topics relating to sales, selling and marketing presented at the CEB Sales and Marketing Summit, the one recurring theme is the power of simplification.

When you step back and see how selling have unfolded over the last for years, what a neutral observer would see is an exercise in layering. People would see an opportunity or a challenge and they would bolt something on to fix or “enhance” their current state as a means of improvement. This could be to their sales process, or their sales enablement technology or platform; the term “There’s an App for that”, was embraced by sales long before all sellers bought iPhones. This wasn’t lost on marketing, they joined the party and loaded on more. This often led one to wonder whether the sale was complex to begin with, or it was complicated by the participants.

Which brings us to the buyers, they further added to the complications, leading to challenges so well presented in CEB’s current book “The Challenger Customer”. As the authors spell out in detail, the dysfunctional buyers and buying process triggers a reaction in sellers, usually in the form of adding more, and just driving the problem further.

Much of discussion at the Summit, speaks to how simplifying the buying process could lead to a number of benefits for buyers and by extension sellers, and the role sales/marketing organizations can play in helping buyer simplify things and progress as a result. “Empowered Customers are Overwhelmed”, turns out “too much information, too many options, and too many people involved in the decision are grinding things to a halt, with 81% or respondents saying their sales cycles have gotten longer over last five years.

The Ease-O-Meter – So how can you make buying easier? You start by focusing on the buying process. This does not mean the traditional approach of imposing you sales process, your time lines, your market view on the buyer, but truly helping them with their purchase as a means of helping them achieve their business goals and objectives.

This is not easy for sales and marketing types, as evidenced by one exercise that had us focus on the buy side of life. Even with all the great knowledge and experience about, this proved to be a real task. Adding to the challenge are two factors detailed in the Challenger Customer”, the combination of the “5.4” and the “good enough”. 5.4 being the number of people/groups involved in a buy decision, hence the dysfunction; “good enough”, the reality of buyers recognizing your value, but not willing to pay for it when there is a “good enough” lower cost alternative.

Another way to simplify things is to minimize options and choices, as stated above, too much choice is not working, as Barry Schwartz, Ph.D author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, choice is just killing buying, which is killing sales. While this may seem counter intuitive to many in sales, there were numerous example of why and how too much choice can lead to no choice, not what sellers want when they give choices. As Schwartz pointed out “the best way to avoid regretting a decision is not to make one!”

Not to be glib, but the choice is there, you can keep on the path you’re on, or pick up the book, focus on executing the the concepts and implementing elements to make your buyers’ journey easier and simplify your sales success.

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3 Reasons To Get Prospects to Look Back Drivers Future Sales2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Now Past Future

People are creatures of habit, and while we do change over time, most often these are gradual and incremental evolutions, only occasionally radical and sudden change. There are several way this can help sellers perform better, not only in terms of quota, but helping clients achieve their objectives, leading to more business as a result.

The goal in this piece is not to compare one type of buyer to another, but to help you adjust your approach to better align with the buyer, their habits, and expectations to help you be more effective with the type of buyer at hand.

While there may be other reasons, here are three in no particular order, that if you incorporate into your sale, will help you achieve better results for all involved.

  • Propensity to change
  • Why they buy
  • How they buy/make decisions

Propensity – In the past we have spoken about the market breaking down to three general groups, buyers who are Actively looking, Passively looking, Not looking (status quo). No matter which group they are in, there will be different levels of willingness to change. Even in the Actively looking group there will be those who are looking because there are external factors forcing them in to the market, without those external factors they would be status quo. Others are always looking to be leading edge and are looking on their own volition. Clearly the latter have a greater propensity to change and act, while the former will require more reassurance, more motivation, and at times more work. Again more work is not a bad thing, it’s just good to know up front. Don’t forget, that some will never change and take pride on going down with the ship, which means it is OK to disqualify and move on.

Why – Once they do make the decision to act, you need to understand why they chose the product or supplier they chose having decided to act. This will give you a lot of insight not only about the individual but the organization. Was there decision tied to a specific set of objectives, and is that consistent across a number of decision, or was it a result of “Me Too” at play. If we extrapolate out from the technology adoption lifecycle, how we sell to buyers at the left end of the curve will tangibly differ from those on the right end. It doesn’t matter which methodology you use, knowing why the buyer has made the selections they have in the past will give you clear guidance as to how to align with their current purchase decision.

How – This should be the most straight forward, once they have decided to make a change, and are comfortable with the reasons as to why, how they go about things will help you maximize the current purchase. You will understand who is involved in decisions; here you want to look for names that may have popped up in the “WHY” discussion. How those same people relate, influence or ignore the individual you are working. It will also give you a clear picture as to how (sometimes if) the organization makes decisions. If in exploring the last three or four purchase decision they made involved specific steps, inputs, and people, you can bet that these will be present and required to get the decision you are looking for.

The key in all this is to do this sort of questioning early, when it can seem informal, not central or pertinent to anything specific at the time. The close you get to the decision point, the more layers there are and some buyers will not share as freely. Everyone’s posture changes, and the information that flows, and how it flows changes. It is never too early to gather the above, but there could be a point where it may be a bit too late.

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How Much Pain Can You Take? – Sales eXecution 3110

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sales people are always looking for “the pain” or “pain point”, I get it, not sure it’s always the right thing, but it is what it is. One I am often given for the search for pain is the response they anticipate. Many tell me, supported by a string of pundits, is that people will do more to avoid pain, than the steps or actions they will take to achieve pleasure. Theory being, if one can touch a nerve, a painful nerve, the Buyer is more likely to act, and therefore potentially buy the “fix” for that pain from the seller. On the other hand, potential pleasure is not as likely to drive action, therefore lead to less engagements and sales. Given the choice, they believe that focusing on pain yields better results than focusing on pleasure.

This piece is not meant to debate that, but rather explore how it plays out with sales people when the theory is applied to their own reality, specifically their own success.

I work with a lot of sales people, and have seen how willing or unwilling they are to take on new skills and practice’s. I know that when I carried a quota, the biggest pain I was trying to avoid, was the pain of not making quota. I did so by focusing on the pleasures my successes and resulting commissions would allow me to experience (vacations, good food, and more). Always seemed a better alternative to not making quota and having to tell the kids they can’t eat this quarter. But let’s pander to the masses and go to the pain side for a minute.

Given that less than 60% of B2B reps make quota, you have to wonder why those suffering the reality of not making quota don’t do much if anything to avoid that pain. They are ready to prescribe that very thing to their prospects, but refuse to apply it to their own success. Just the incongruity of that must be a daily challenge, adding more pressure to the pain point of not making your number.

Forget the financial reality, there is the tribal reality of being more of a burden than contributor. The percentage of companies achieving their financial goals is greater than the number of reps doing the same, meaning, if you are part of the 40% or so already suffering the pain of not making goal, there is the added pain of being a burden on those who driving their numbers and making up for yours. How does one live with the pain?

So with all that pain, why is it that a seller would not take steps to improve the outcome, take steps to change what they are doing. What they are doing is clearly not working, but a large number continue to choose to do nothing different.

OK, so the pleasure of making more money, achieving Presidents Club and the perks it brings, the pleasure of being able to hold your head high as a contributor, are not enough to encourage change. But what about the pain of having to come up with new excuses, having to settle in so many ways, and just not being able to say you are a successful sales professional. Why does that not motivate these sales people to change? And then they wonder why their lame attempt at pain is not working on their prospects either.

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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.

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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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Decision Makers Want To Deal With Decisive People4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Decisions direction sign with sky background

A question I regularly ask when working with a group of reps on prospecting, is “who do you call on?” or “who do you want to call on?” The answer I get is “the decision maker”. Now I have used a lot of different directories and databases, and they all give a title, not role in decision. But let’s say they did, the real question is what happens when you speak to that decision maker. Unfortunately often this opportunity does not go as well as hoped, for the sales person, and the decision maker.

It has been shown in a number of studies that many decision makers are disappointed with many of their meetings with sales people, often seeing it as a waste of their time. Reps come in unprepared in so many ways. Despite all the information out there, all the research sales people supposedly do in advance of their meetings, they seem to bring little knowledge or real valuable or actionable insight to these meetings.

While there are more, I will look at two that if addressed and improved will dramatically improve your success. First is the focus of all the research and information reps do going into the meeting. When I ask, I still get the same old same old. It is all very product and sales centric. Mercifully you hear less and less of “what keeps you awake at night?” But while the words have changed, the posture and the way it rubs the executive has not. The reality is that much of what many sales people “probe for”, are things many senior executives and decision makers have delegated to others in the organization.

Instead they are focused on their objectives 12 – 18 months forward, they are consumed by those outcomes, and their impact on their company, be that profits, market share, Wall Street reaction, and more. It is not about “the” enterprise software, but the impact as they view it. Talk about that and they will engage, and exchange information with you, but with all due deference, the SPIN stuff makes their head spin. Show them that you can help them achieve their objectives, and you’re on.

The second common obstacle is the general demeanour of many reps. There is a difference between respecting someone and their position, and putting them on a pedestal. This needs to be a conversation of peers; not equals, but peers. Why would I open up to someone whose words, gestures and posture suggest that they have not faced the type of scenarios and objectives I deal with every day? Many sales people, especially the relationship types or the social types, are reluctant to ask the direct and difficult questions that not only demonstrates that you understand the day to day world of the person you are with, much less help them resolve the gaps that stand between them and their objectives. You can talk probing, but doing it right, is another story. Executives I have spoken to tell straight out that they don’t have time to educate reps on the types of things they are trying to achieve or resolve. “I can tell from the questions they ask, and the way they ask them if they really get, are faking it, or just scared shitless because they know they are in over their heads when it comes to my world and day to day”.

The reason some reps never get the appointment is not because the executive or decision maker is not open to input, but they want that from a peer, who understands what they are dealing with, and can demonstrate that they have fought the battle and won. Not with a glossy case study but how they conduct themselves. In short, Decision makers want to deal with decisive people, people who can lead them to success, not just follow hoping for relationship.

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