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

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Ready – Set – Go Part I0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

iStock_start biz race resized

Tuesday we enter the “final half” of the sales year, the unofficial intermission that is summer comes to a figurative end, and harvest season is upon us. Now if you did a good job of ploughing, seeding and nurturing (even fertilizing), in the spring, you are truly in a position to harvest. On the other hand, if you did not tend to your pipeline before the summer, you’re left hoping for rapid growth season before winter descends on your income; too bad they don’t make Miracle-Gro® for pipelines.

Based on which of the above groups you are in, you will need to attack September – December in different ways. If you are in the first group, and invested the time and effort early in the year, and set yourself up for a bumper crop, you have two areas of focus, first to fully harvest and maximize your opportunities; second to set yourself up for success in 2016.

To fully maximize opportunities, start early, segment your pipeline in to two general groups, those that are truly just in need of harvesting, and those that still need some work to complete. In this latter group I would take a close look at those opportunities that based on past experience have the attributes of a deal likely to close this year, and those that, on sober consideration, are not likely to close this year, but will/may likely slip into next year. To be clear this is not to say that you toss or forget or sandbag, in fact the opposite, work them, because they will contribute to next year’s quota, but be practical and think about how you spend your time proportionally. Time is not recyclable, leads (and opportunities) are, invest your time in a way that yields maximum results, now and in the future; divide your time to skew towards those opportunities that are ripe and ready to happen now.

With the opportunities that will close, it is all about coverage, and focus. Start with a recommitment to having a plan and executing that plan. The challenge as always, is having a plan aligned to the buyer’s objective and demonstrating your ability to impact and drive those objectives. Part of that plan is understanding what needs to happen at each stage in order to continue to move the opportunity forward based on previous deals. Map it out so you can identify critical points along the buy/sell trip, and critical actions required to successfully complete those critical points. The map is your planning tool for your meetings and encounters with buyers, helping both you and them agree on next steps and move towards desired and identified outcomes. This will help you accelerate deals, and free up bandwidth to prospect and set yourself up for next year.

Now if you are in the other group, in a panic to make something of the year, tune in next Monday for Part II of Ready – Set – Go.

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

You Can Play Nice or You Can Play To Win0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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There are times when you hit a wall in a given sale or opportunity, where you have some though choices to make: do you walk away, do you take a different approach with the buyer, or do you abandon the person you have been working with and go around or over them.

As interesting as the choices that people make in these situations, what’s even more interesting and noteworthy from a learning standpoint, is why and how the make those choices.

Not a negative, but a reality is that many sales people positive nature and disposition, a ray of sunshine buyers will be drawn to, a “can do” attitude spiced with plenty of optimism. This drives them to look for positive outcomes, which is often different than the right or profitable outcome.

As an interesting side note, according to recent Harvard Business Review article by Steve W. Martin, What Separates the Strongest Salespeople from the Weakest, the best sales people as measured by performance, are in fact inwardly pessimistic. Questioning the buyer, motives, aspects of the sale, etc. This allows them to qualify/disqualify and be more effective sales winners (as opposed to the large group of relationship starved professional visitors who are in sales). While “possibilities” are endless, reality comes down to fewer choices, some harder than the others.

Of the choices above, abandon, change the facts or change horses, most sales people will be most reluctant to changing horses, going around or above the person they have been dealing with. Odd, because it is generally the most effective, both in terms of outcomes and best use of time.

It all hinges on how you view one fact, what are the potential consequences. The most optimistic relation types see negative consequences (now who is pessimistic), they say “If I go around or over them, it may upset the person I am dealing with, and the deal won’t happen”. The best, high performing sales people say “If I stay on the current path, the deal ain’t happening, I need to engage someone who can make it happen”.

One major difference is that the high performers look at it from the perspective of what’s right and best for the buyer and their company; they look at deal, not the people. Most importantly, they look at the situation as being “who else can I engage”, not necessarily going around or over someone. If that’s what you are looking for, that is what you’ll find.

At it’s core the question is a common one in sales, are you reactive or proactive, do you put more faith in hope or action?

It is not a question of the cup being half full or half empty. What differentiates these two types of sales people is that they both see the half glass, they both aspire to have the glass full. One is hoping that being genteel, nice and smiling will hopefully fill the glass. The other group knows they need to take proactive steps to fill the glass.

Tibor Shanto

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Getting More Out Of Your Selling Time – Sales eXecution 2894

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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24 hours is all any one of us get each day, how we choose to spend that time will determine our success.

In the past I have written and spoken about the importance focusing on time allocation and utilisation, and not worrying about time management. One key element on my approach is to allocate time to all high-value activities. While most understand the concept when it comes to basic, yet high-value activities like prospecting, admin, etc. Things that are there, have specific actions, desired outcomes, and some degree of measurability. Many have difficulty when it comes to more abstract things that do very much require that we spend time on them, but lack the shape a definition of say, prospecting, spherically like unplanned emergencies and planning.

One of the things you can bank on in sales is that there will be demands on your time that you will not be in control of, but you will need to concede to if you are going to win or maintain customers. There will always be client emergencies that will require you to drop whatever you are doing in order to deal with it, we all have to fight fires. Some sales people are good at see fires where there is no smoke as a way of avoiding things they don’t like to do, like cold calling.

But when a real fire come you have to deal with it. The challenge is you can’t predict when it will come, but you can, no ifs, and or buts, predict how much of your time in a given month will be required to deal with real fires. Just look at the last six months and you have a clear indicator moving forward. I have always counseled reps to set aside that much time in their calendars, so when it comes, it will not force them to not do some other important thing.

This is where the challenge comes in, say a rep saw that 4 hours a week were consumed by fires over the last year, and they set aside four hours a week moving forward, what do they do with that time if in fact the fire does not come? We all know how to use it when it materializes, but as one rep asked, “do I just sit around and wait when it does not come, especially when I have scheduled it?”

The answer is simple, what is your highest value activity. What is the one activity that always pays off, and the more of it you do, the better you are set to succeed. Is it prospecting, working referrals, upselling current clients, you know better than I what it is for you. If you find that in a given week not all the time you set aside for fires is utilised, simply reinvest that time in your highest value activity. Don’t be like those shmucks who figure they have free time to grab a coffee, or sit by your phone waiting for it to ring. Reinvest in your highest value activity. For me it is prospecting. No fire, I dial. Allowing me to get more out of my selling time.

Tibor Shanto

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2 Reason To Always Leave Voice Mail – and Get Called Back – Sales eXecution 2852

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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Given that we are sitting in sub-zero temps in the north east, -25 C in Toronto, any call you’re going to make today is going to be a cold call. But if you’re a complete B2B sales professional, you’re probably making cold calls even if it is nice warm and sunny, cause that’s what pros do, not like those cheap plastic replicas that are afraid of picking up the phone and talking to a buyer. And if you are picking up the phone, you’re hitting voice mail, no two ways about it; and if you hit voice mail, you need to leave a message, again no debate about that either. Here are three reasons why.

1.   Pursuit Cadence – It takes a lot more effort to get the attention of buyers these days. Seems one of the side effects of the efficiencies achieved through reduced sales forces, is those who are left have a lot more to do, imagine that. Our buyer are struggling to pack 16 or more hours in to a 10 hour day, and taking bad calls from bad sales people is not on the list. As a result it takes that many more touch point, of different sorts to get not only the attention of buyers, but to get them to act or respond. As a result voice mail becomes one of many opportunities to touch the buyer, and cultivate a response, a response you can capitalize on to secure an appointment (live or virtual).

There is a bookend element at work here, which is first man in – and – last man standing. There are studies out there that show that the first man (or woman) in is that much more likely to get the deal. All the more reason to cold call and get ahead of the curve, and not be one of the saps who waits for the buyer to find their seller. So if you leave a voice mail while others don’t, you mail well end up being that first man in just by virtue of leaving a message.

At the other end is the fact that if you pursue the right opportunities further than others are willing, and let’s face it there are many who give up the chase too soon, you will increase you odds of winning the deal. I have had more than one executive tell me that this is a fact. Add to that many ignore the first few calls just to separate the strong. How hard you work at getting the sale is a clear indicator as to how hard you will work to satisfy them as clients.

2.   Getting Call Backs – Done right, you do get calls back, notice I said done right. The technique I use, and was taught years ago gets me up to 50% of call returned in 72 hours, this not only reduces stress, but builds pipeline. You can learn the technique by watching these two videos.  Make sure to watch part I first, eh?

The reality is that once you are getting calls back, you don’t need any other reasons to leave voice mail.

Tibor Shanto

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Perfection Is Overrated – Sales eXecution 2762

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Perfect

While I am sure that this is not limited to sales people, they are the group I get to observe most, thousands to date in fact. One thing I see over and over again is the amount of opportunities by sellers because e of their propensity to wait for the perfect moment, a moment that all too often never comes. Be that the perfect moment to speak to someone, or until they perfect a technique or a script, or they understand the product perfectly. You know one thing that is not on that list is the perfect understand of the prospect, their environment or their objectives.

The interesting things is that some of the most successful businesses and business innovators rarely waited for perfection. They had enough of the right elements in place, and went for it, in sales parlance, they executed, and applied the lessons from the outcome. There are countless companies that waited to perfect only to miss the window or blow up when they came to market. Yet others, had a workable plan, vision, the basics, and went for it. Then they perfected things as they gathered data and experience.

The best sales people I know understand that the game is played on the field not in the locker room. Practice is important, a playbook is important, but nothing comes close to doing it – executing. The best sales people learn a lot off the field but their best lessons come from doing it, getting bruised and doing it again. The best sales are like building a plane while it is in flight, as the sale unfolds.

I find that what causes people to wait for perfection is less a quest for quality, and more driven by fear. The best sales people have one fear, fear of failure, of not making quota, of not delivering value to their buyers and their companies. I don’t know about you, but I find buyers aren’t looking for perfection, they looking to achieve specific objectives. They understand that waiting for perfection will only leave them lagging in the market. Add to that given that people buy from people, perfection is rarely a criteria for buyers or for execution, since people are not perfect, being perfect may in fact scare buyers since it may appear to make one not human or genuine.

Intent and effort go a lot further for sales people than perfection. You can often achieve more when you make an honest and genuine effort, explore the results, and most importantly, apply the lessons learned. One can argue that if and when you perfect your sale, it will only ever apply to that one sale, and therefore be of little value moving forward. Whereas if you go for it, imperfections exposed, you can only learn and improve. I guess as with most things, perfection in sales is about the continuing journey, not the destination.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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 Things You Can Do Now To Close The Year Strong – Sales eXecution 2670

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

strong

Last week I took part in a panel discussion sponsored by KiteDesk, along with two of my favourite pundits, Matt Heinz and Mike Weinberg. In the discussions leading up to the event we wanted to deliver something of substance, people can put into practice right away in almost every market segment, and something that would have impact now, before the end of the year. We each presented three things you can do to close the year strong. Hence the title of today’s post, featuring my contribution.

1.   Revisit “No decision” Opportunities – As I have argued in the past, it is important that we always understand why opportunities that made it into our pipeline delivered the results they did, usually one of three: Win – Loss – No Decision. Some do a good job of exploring wins or losses, some do both, but they often overlook the “No Decision”. But if you understand why they did not go further, you can understand when and why to re-engage.

There are some who may have passed because of budget, and now towards the end of the year, they may have some unused funds, or may be in the process of planning for next year. There could be a question of priorities and changing objectives; a host of factors that could make someone ready now that may have hesitated in February or March.

2.   Delegate – A lot of sales people have a Superman complex, they feel they have to do it all themselves, “no one is as capable as I am”. As a sales person, your territory is “your business”, and when you look at successful business people, one of the things executives do well is delegate. Even if you don’t have people working for you, you still delegate. Given that time is your most valuable and non-renewable resource, it is important that you maximize by focusing on the highest-value activities. Know what your time is worth, and if a task is well below that line “outsource” it. If you are part of a company use other groups, usually better suited to the task. One example is customer service, I see to many sales people dealing with “admin” type of requests from clients instead of sending it to where the task really belongs, customer support, who is usually much better prepared and equipped to deal with these things. I am sorry but the battle cry of looking after clients rings hollow, your job is to win and grow clients, let customer support do theirs. Even if you are in a small company where these resources don’t exist, think about how you can ensure that you are executing the highest value activities, stop doing low value activities others can do for you. Use third party resources, you can hire a Virtual Assistant, or for special tasks, go to something like oDesk, or others, and get things done by others, leaving you time to do the things that only you can do to move a sale forward.

3.   Leverage Automation – The hidden cost of social selling is time, and to a lesser degree content. A variation on the delegate route, is automation. There are a host of tools you can leverage to cover clients, prospects, and keep an eye on the market and opportunities. One example I use is an app I use called Charlie. It is linked to my calendar, sends me both a social round up, latest tweets, LinkedIn updates, and news from traditional sources the morning of my meetings, and an hour before. I can be up to date in their real world and social activities. This allows me to be up-to-date, relevant, and formulate questions that have specific meaning to the prospect and their objectives, allowing me to focus on them and leave the product in the car.

These are three ideas that were discussed, Mike and Matt had some great, and more importantly, practical and immediately usable ideas that will you close the year strong, and stay strong right through 2015 and beyond.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Using Referrals and Affiliate Links in Online Business1

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The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka

In the past, word of mouth was always considered the best form of advertising for business. The same is absolutely true now, but I’d say that the definition of word of mouth has shifted significantly. Word of mouth now consists of online reviews and ratings rather than actually talking to your neighbor (though that certainly does still happen). Another way that companies have been able to generate revenue from word of mouth type advertising is through referral and affiliate programs.

While affiliate programs are probably what you would think of a more typical sales pattern, referrals are person to person advertising at its finest. Many, many different companies and websites have referral programs now. Studies have shown that people who become customers through referrals go on to be more loyal and profitable than customers that are acquired through other sales channels.

There are really very few downsides to referral marketing. Typically, both an existing customer and their refer-ee are rewarded for giving your company business. Online referral links tend to be more one-sided. The person whose link is followed typically reaps all of the rewards. Some companies that have used referral links really successfully include Ebates, StitchFix, and DropBox.

Affiliate marketing is different from referral marketing, but the two types of marketing to increase sales share several similar qualities. Affiliate marketing allows a business to reward people who drive traffic to their site and purchase their products. For lack of a better term, affiliate marketing can be a little sneakier. Affiliates can bury links to products inside just about anything, from blog posts to paid advertisements. There are even entire “review” sites that are nothing but product plugs and affiliate links. Affiliate links can be great, though, if used the right way. Think of affiliate marketing as earning commission by promoting another company’s product.

Both affiliate marketing and referral programs are good ways to gain new customers – as long as you’re following sales referral etiquette. Referral programs have been popular for years and years, and have a great track record when it comes to acquiring and keeping new customers. Affiliate marketing is a somewhat newer tactic, but can also be considered successful when done right.

Image via Shutterstock

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. 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.

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