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You Are Where You Are By Choice0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I had a couple of interesting conversations with two reps recently during a break in a workshop. Both centred around where each of the reps were currently, both in terms of quota in the current year, and their over all sales career. What was interesting is one was exactly where they wanted to be, on track to achieve his stated goals, for this year and beyond. The other, far short of their quota, was able to share little about their destination or any road that may get them there. Not surprisingly to me, was that both were exactly where their choices and resulting actions led them to be.

It may not surprise you that the successful rep was able to articulate why and how he made the choices that led to his success, and the specific process, choices and actions which got him there. The less successful rep, we’ll call him Average, a name more common than Bob in sales, could only articulate all the outside forces that he blamed for preventing him from being better than he was, a little less than average.

While it is easy to put this off to both being products of the choices they made, one needs to examine how they make their choices, and as importantly, how they acted, or in the case of all Average sellers, did not act, on choices they made or ignored.

It may not be sexy, but success in most endeavours, is a simple iterative process, chose/decide – act – review – chose/decide again – a act – review – chose/decide again. Sometimes the simplicity of it seems deceptive, people feel there needs to be a correlation between success and complexity. The real alignment, correlation, is between choices we make, the process for those choices, and the resulting action.

While we make choices every day, there are some fundamental choices that can be made that have greater effect on your success than others. Consider that some 40% of things we do every day are done out of habit. Meaning we don’t make the choice each time we act, but once, while forming and committing to a habit.

If you can track the things you actually do during a day/week, not what you think or tell other people, but the actual activities in real time you’ll see two things. First is which things you do out of habits, and which you make conscious choices on before you act. Many of the things that we do out of habit don’t directly relate to sales, the B-line I make for the coffee drive-thru when I leave my driveway is a habit. When I chose to follow up with a prospect, the time I spend researching a prospect, the actual people I contact, are all choices I make that impact my sales. Just like choosing to wait for the buyer to almost complete their buying journey before we line up for the opportunity to take their order on their terms, is a choice.

Regardless which type of sales you are involved in, which dogma you choose to consume, whose colors you wear, your day to day, deal to deal success is based on one thing, the choices you make and how you choose to act on those choices.

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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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It’s A New Year – Let’s Go Backwards4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Assuming your fiscal year started on January 1, you probably have your new targets or quotas by now. Although I did sell for a company once that did not give us our quotas till mid-March. Among the many things you should do is start by going backwards, not in how you sell, but how you plan and set yourself up for success.

Specifically breaking down your success into manageable components. Manageable meaning things that need to be done – and are also in your control. Things beyond your control, well, are beyond your control, instead of worrying about it, plan ahead, and when the time comes, react if you have to, or harder for many, ignore them since by definition, you cannot manage them.

What you can control are activities that lead to specific and planned results, like exceeding quota for example. As discussed in Monday’s post, detailing the high-value activities in each stage of your cycle is crucial. But to know which activities and in what proportion, you will need to start at your goal, and work backwards from there. Understanding what that quota looks like in the real world beyond a dashboard will help you not only to exceed that quota, but create a detailed plan for the journey.

For simplicity, let’s say you closed 2015 with $1.05 million in revenue, and your 2016 quota is $1.2 million, a 12.5% growth. Making your monthly goal a $100,000.

What you need to know:

  • What is your average deal size?
  • Average length of your cycle(s)
  • Some core conversion rates:
    – Number of proposals that close
    – Number of real prospects required to generate a REAL proposal
    – Number of people/companies you’ll need to engage to land one REAL prospect

There are other important conversion rates, like number of connections to appointments (live or virtual) or engagements, and others, plug in those that drive your results. What I find interesting is the number of sales people that do not know any or all of the above, when you ask, they respond: “depends”; on what?

The one thing that does not change year to year, is the amount of time you have to sell to prospects. (Well you do have one extra day this year, and every Leap year). If you don’t know the above numbers, how will you chart the course to 12.5% increase?

Those that do know them, and they are not hard to track these days, given all the data available, can begin to make choices.

Will you increase your average deal size; some have that option some don’t. Will you focus on improving your proposal to close rate, or one of the others? This could involve being more diligent in Discovery and rushing to proposal, allowing you to work with less prospects but with greater results, how will that impact your time allocation mix?

While there are a number of moving parts, it has to be done, our clients use our Activity Calculator Tool, to ensure efficient execution and continuous improvement. This not only helps reps take control of their activities and success, but also serves as a great coaching tool if you lead a team.

The key is to execute a well-planned strategy, rooted in the real numbers to drive real results. With that in hand, you can get creative and unleash your god given sales skills; without it, you are going to work harder than you really have to, and looking to god about 12.5% more than you did last year.

Tibor Shanto

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Is It 2016 Already? #BBSradio #podcast0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

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

Check Out Marketing Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Breakthroughbusiness on BlogTalkRadio

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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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Turn Your Proactive Prospecting Calls Upside-down – Sales eXecution 3072

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

upside down key

The primary, and one can argue the only purpose of a prospecting call is to gain engagement. It is not, as some pundits will tell you, to build rapport or start the relationship, or set yourself up for the future. These latter outcomes are things we sometimes have to settle for, but there is no doubt these are a distant second place to the primary goal; the singular objective and measure of success is to schedule a meeting, (live, phone, web, what have you), anything short of that is second place, which as you know is first place for those who missed the primary objective.

Adopting that attitude is key, as attitudes influence your actions, and how you act on that initial call will determine whether you engage with your potential buyer, or join the ranks of the Also-rans. The attitude is that we need to meet because there will be a mutual advantage to both as a result of the engagement. In the long run, the buyer will be closer to their objectives, and you will have a buyer. In the short term, they will learn from you, as they would from any encounter with a subject matter expert, and that is what you are; and you will learn something from them and their business. But none of that happens if you fail to engage.

Attitude also influences the message, what you say right out of the gate, most sales people, with help from the marketing team, tend to blow this important opportunity, and as a result the call. Listen to B2B sales people make prospecting calls, as I have done with hundreds of reps, thousands of calls, and you will discover that most end up delivering the wrong massage in the wrong way.

While everyone will tell you that the call has to be about the buyer and their “What’s in it for Me”, it rarely is. Most calls start off with an introduction to the company, what “we” do, and how “we” do it, how great “we” are, and then, well into the call they finally introduce the “what” may be in it for the buyer. Something like:

Hi Buyer, I my Name is Alfred E. Newman, do you have a few minutes, I am the North East Account Manager at YetAnother Corp. We are a leading manufacturer of something you already have, our clients recognize as being reliable and customer centric. We help them reduce the total cost of production by 8% while reducing their manufacturing process by 6%.

Now that last part is good, assuming the person you called is still awake, considering the precious seconds you wasted with boring non-relevant data. I know it is hard, but on that first call, in those early seconds, no one cares about us, our awards, place in the market, how we do things, seriously, they don’t, no matter what your marketing folks tell you.

What they DO care about is “what is in it for them”, more specifically “how will this help me get to my desired outcomes or objectives?” Which is the last part of the above intro. Which is why I say “turn it upside-down”; start with the outcome, what’s the tangible for the, meaning the “the reduction of their “total cost of production by 8% while reducing their manufacturing process by 6%.” The stuff before that is just filler for you, not for the buyer who may not be awake by the time you get to it.

Lead with that last part, it is more likely that they were thinking about that before you called; but many sales people can’t bring themselves to leave out the filler, the puff-pastry that brings nothing to the call but the risk of rejection, discouragement, and a lack of prospecting success.

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Sales Data Or Insight Driven?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

The other day I go a resume that had a familiar phrase in it, “John Smith – A Data Driven Sales Professional. While I understand what they were going for, I am not sure it landed right. (Or maybe it was just me). No doubt the age of “big data” or perhaps a better label being used by some, “fast data”, is upon us. Sales is impacted by this as much as any part of business, but there some unique opportunities for sales and sales departments, both good and not so good opportunities.

The amount and quality of data allows sales organizations to be much more efficient at targeting and accelerating sales, by bringing the right resources at each step of the cycle, and leveraged well, to the nature of the sales organization itself. As Miles Austin recently commented on a panel we were, progressive sales organizations with open headcount should look at hiring a sales data analyst instead of another rep. He is right, the proper use of the valuable data in a typical CRM, processed by a sales savvy analyst with the right mandate from leadership can produce more margin, quicker and for a longer term, than hiring another rep.

One example is territory optimization, and not just in the traditional sense, but by matching types of buyers with types of sellers. Think about taking buyer persona to a different level. Much like a sporting coach will mix up his line up based on what they are facing, last minute line changes, all to ensure maximum impact, sales organization can move from geo or vertical views of the world, to what kind of buyer is Johnny best suited to?

Sales organizations who have had SWAT teams to penetrate accounts given specific attributes, have long realized that the minor uptick in selling cost is more than made up in margins and volumes. With the right analysis, you can take this to a level of alignment that could more than likely allow you to run leaner, making up for additional costs that have led to traditional territory make ups.

Analysis can help organizations better plan in a number of ways, allowing them to avoid certain activities, while maximizing others. Patterns in the data that would be lost on most sales ops people, would be gold in the right analyst’s hands. It is not a question of sales ops being deficient, it is more of training and function, and analyst will go deeper and further into the data, extracting more actionable insights. Not coming from sales is in fact their strength, they will approach and read the data differently.

Actionable insight being the key, and what caught my eye in the resume. This candidate would have made a much better impact had they put the emphasis on insights than data. Data is a commodity, information is a commodity. Insights, and the knowledge derived from it, leading to differences measured in revenue and margin are of interest, and yes, you can do both. Being data driven sounds good, but data is data, being driven by insights gleaned from data is the winning proposition.

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Five Ways to Heat Up Your Summer Sales2

june 15

The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka

The warm temperatures and fun outdoor activities make the summer months one of the best times of the year for our personal lives, but not always for business. Kids are on break from school, and families are taking trips, and this means the world of commerce becomes unpredictable. If you are looking for some marketing tips and tools to grow your business, take a look at these five hot ideas to warm up your sales.

Be wherever your customers are.
Summertime is the season of Little League games, festivals, community events and so much more. Set up a booth, sponsor the event, have a banner, pass out pamphlets – do anything and everything you can to have a presence and humanize your business. By getting representatives of your business to places where your customers are, you can do less marketing and make more money. Check the newspaper in advance to see where and when events will be held in your area and make sure it is cleared for you to come and spread the word about your business.

Capitalize on special days.
Think of ideas that you can use to excite people and encourage them to purchase your services or products around holidays or other special summer days. Incorporate the 4th of July and other holidays into your sales techniques and offer free shipping or a gift with purchase to your valued and new customers.

Host a local event.
Even if you don’t have a brick and mortar location, a local event hosted by you can bring new people and position your business as a leader in the community. Since it’s summer, don’t think about an event with speakers, but focus on hosting a fun and relaxing event that gets you in front of prospective customers. Host an event people actually want to attend and give them downtown in a way that makes your business stand apart from others. If you can give back to the community – that’s even better. This is a way to be put on a pedestal in a memorable way and can lead to new business and referrals – use your business differentiators to increase your sales.

Do a giveaway.
Yes, this is making the list again. Giveaways are the bread and butter of marketing techniques. When done in the right way, they can give a significant boost to your sales. If you sell a product that goes with a summery themed giveaway, then one of your products is the perfect item. If your product isn’t appropriate to give away during the warmer months, get creative and capitalize on the benefits of giveaways. Take advantage of the fact that your potential customers are vacationing and give away leisure items to anyone who enters your brick and mortar store on a predetermined day. Consider items such as coolers, water bottles, or fans that your customers will use on hot summer days – and make sure they have your name website and contact information on them.

Target vacationers.
If your business is in an area where tourists will visit during summer months, use it to your advantage. Promotional outreach can get you far, so hopefully you allocated some dollars to market to those visiting your town. Consider incentives such as a free appetizer or free dessert with the purchase of an entrée to get vacationers in the door.

Local summer events such as festivals and fairs can generate revenue, help you build your brand and introduce your business to prospective customers. Use outdoor summer promotions to your advantage and heat up your summer sales. Get the word out about your summertime offerings to local magazines and newspapers so potential customers know how and where to find you.

How do you boost your summertime sales?

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Megan has several years of experience on the topics of small business marketing, copywriting, SEO, online conversions and social media. Megan spends much of her time establishing new relationships for ChamberofCommerce.com, publishing weekly newsletters educating small business on the importance of web presence, and contributing to a number of publications on the web. Megan can be reached at megan@chamberofcommerce.com.

Website: www.chamberofcommerce.com

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Here is to Single Tasking – Sales eXecution 3001

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

One

One of the realities of today’s economy, and always on work environments, is that we end up having to squeeze 16 hours in to a 10 hour day; and that’s on a good day, others can be worse, and weekends for many are just a chance to slow down, not disengage. People turn to different things to help them cope or keep up, is “multi-tasking”! A cute concept, with so much promise and appeal, yet rarely functional or practical, leaving most behind as a result. In fact it could get so bad, that many don’t even realise how far behind they because they are too busy rolling into the next task. Busy yes, productive, rarely. Which is why you should consider a new alternative, Single Tasking!

Let’s get past whether multi-tasking works or not, it does not. Don’t believe me, check these:

Multitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest
The True Cost Of Multi-Tasking 
12 Reasons to Stop Multitasking Now!

There is no productivity gain, there is just the opportunity to not get all the things you’re doing done right.

Learn how to avoid the multi-tasking trap in prospecting

To avoid this trap you need to step back and see why you find yourself needing to multi-task to begin with. In most cases it is because we have not planned or assigned sufficient time to high-value activities. Based on what you are selling this will vary, not only in terms of what those high-value activities are, but what percentage of your time need to be allocated to each.

One of the things that stresses people out and causes them to multi-task is that their planning is not aligned with their sales cycle. Not all high-value activities need to be done every day. But they do have to be done at different times throughout the cycle. But at some points in the cycle you may need to spend more time prospecting, others, selling, and at times managing accounts. By looking at things based on the cycle, you will give yourself the right not to do something one day, as long as you have allotted for that activity later in the cycle.

First thing is to list those activities, prospecting, training, internal meetings, account management, selling; some will need to add other things like implementing if that is part of your job, for me, I have to set time aside to deliver the training I sell.

Then figure out which of these activities have to be done entirely in “Selling Time”, that 8:30 to 5:00 when prospects and clients are most likely to see you. Other activities can be executed during “Discretionary Time”. This does not mean that the activity is discretionary, but when you do them is. A proposal can be written at 5:00, probably in a less rushed way.

Then allocate what percentage of your Selling Time needs to be allocated to each high-value activity, then do the same for Discretionary Selling time. And remember this is over the course of you average cycle, not day in day out, no need to bring unnecessary pressure.

Develop the discipline to manage your activities to be focused only on the activity you allocated time to, and you will not be behind the eight ball when the deadline looms. We multi-task because that deadline, drop dead time, is coming and we have to get a whole bunch of things done. You may get them done, but will they be done to the best of your ability or just done?

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Kill The Cold Call™ – Ep. 4 – Sales Psychology, Tactics, & Technology (#video) – Sales eXecution 2960

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

TV Head

No, I haven’t lost my mind or support for cold calling, just doing my bit for the cause: better engagement with buyers.

At first I was a bit surprised when Andrew Schiestel invited me to be part of his webcast series, is this an ambush, an attempt to slay the noble art of telephone prospecting? It was anything but, Andrew led a fine discussion on all aspects of sales and prospect engagement. You can catch a clip below.

You can take in the whole episode at: https://youtu.be/FZeDmON_Bdc

Tibor Shanto     

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