Time To Change The Sales Rhetoric0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

You know it’s getting bad when the pundits are spending more time picking at each other, than dispensing advice to the masses who clearly yearn for knowledge and means to achieve quota.

Pundits are no different than other vendors or providers, they want to sell their services, I know I do, to that they need to find an audience, that’s what I am doing right here. Knowing that the old saying that one can catch more flies with honey than vinegar, they tend to spread the honey liberally in the hope of catch an audience. (You know I much preferred the other way of expressing the above, namely, “where there is horse shit, there will be sparrows”).

My concern stems from the number of pieces delivered by pundits that are not about how their followers can change elements of their approach or execution to improve their sales and outcomes, but instead waste time and space knocking some other method of selling or point of view. Given that there are few if any black and white or definitive things in sales, I don’t see how anyone can truly believe that they have the secret, the only way to achieve a specific task or an entire means of consistently and continuously succeeding in every sale they are involved in. Sure, it makes for a good cover, but don’t be sucked in to believing that any single sales approach will prove to be the only one you’ll ever need.

But you suspect that the cupboard is bare when more is thrown at other schools of thought than at the challenge at hand, elevating the state of sales. At one point, it becomes more amusing than bothersome, and if you do have a balanced view on how to continuously expand your toolkit and improve your sales, it can be somewhat amusing.

leader

For example, if you are missing Samuel Beckett or Sartre, just sit back, read and absorb the absurdity of someone passionately litigating the uselessness of social selling, yet doing it all on social media. Or the alternative of a pundit who continues to tell me why cold calling is dead, and I need to adopt a more social approach, all in an unsolicited e-mail, addressed to a generic address they scraped from my website. Although both were more entertaining than the blog post (although it felt like a dissertation when reading), about “personas”, which if I had to give the Reader’s Digest Version, simply amounted to titles being substituted for Persona.

I know people get passionate about things they feel strongly about, but that does not make that view right, unique or absolute. I also understand that despite all the moving parts, good selling comes down to some core concepts, these core concepts don’t multiple or dramatically change over time, how you execute will, but the reasoning has been fairly steady since Eve, the Apple and poor Adam. So, I understand that after a while we may run out of new ideas, but that’s alright there is no need to panic.

I see part of my role as helping reinforce the core elements of execution, the fundamentals. No shame in that, in fact it should be more prevalent in pundit world. So rather than panicking that you may have run out of ideas, and turning to the dark side: “Hey I think I need to poo poo on other’s ideas, and proclaim to have the only game in town”, feel comfortable with your view, the advice that got you this far, and help those interested, in improving their game. Shitting on others may get you points with the malcontents of sales, but these same sellers may not be around to read your next piece, and boy will you be even more pissed then.

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no-rules

There Are No Rules In Sales3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

It’s hard not to laugh sometimes when I hear sales people say something like “Well, it’s supposed to go like this…”, or “I was told to do it that way, cause when we do that the prospects do…” But instead I am empathetic to their plight and innocence. Empathetic, because some manager or pundit told them that if they took a specific step or action, the prospect would react in some specific way. But we all know there are no rules in sales, especially rules that prospect will behave in any way just because of what we may do.

Now pundits have books to sell, and managers have their own agenda, a common one they share is their need for you as a sales rep to act on what they say, hard to do if they mentioned that there are no guarantees, usually because there are no rules.

Studies continue to show that less 20% of Sales Qualified Leads actually close, call that handshake to close, less than 20% – so even if pretended there are rules, they clearly don’t work if the measure is success. I suspect that that as long as sales continues to dependent on interaction between two or more people, rules are hard to articulate or impose.

no-rulesI keep hearing, buyers have changed, and one reason for that is their greater access to information, information about you, your competitors, and if you’re active on Facebook, where you had and what you had for dinner Friday night. You know what else they have access to, sales and sales related info. You think only sellers buy and read sales books; you think that sellers are the only ones who can subscribe to sales blogs and update. I bet more buyers read sales blogs than sellers who read blogs about purchasing, or role specific sites that speak to the different functions covered by the 5.4 people likely to be involved in your sale. There are no secrets.

With buyers who have gone through a few buying cycles, are likely more familiar with “Seller Personas” than many sellers are with buyer personas. In fact, I know buyers who place bets on which category of sales the next person to visit will wear. Based on what they see, they too adapt a persona, just to mess with and see where the seller goes with it. The only time they are genuine when dealing with a genuine individual.

To be genuine, you need to understand what you are doing well, here defined as things that people respond to, and what is not getting you traction with real buyers. By real, we mean, not exclusively price driven, and does indeed buy in a realistic timeframe from when you initially engaged. Since people differ, leading to differences in experience, your best shot is to commit to a formal process of reviewing all the opportunities that qualify to be active in your pipeline. As you gather and grow data, you will be able to bell curve the data and begin to see what works more often, and what doesn’t. As you approach similar situations, you will be able to use those things that have worked in similar situations in the past. Think of it as trial and error with the unfair advantage of data and experience. It will take a bit of work in the form of analysis, but given the apps and tools available today, gathering the inputs is easy. I guess the only rule may be that there are no silver bullets or codes to crack, just act-review-apply learning. A simple but effective rule.

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Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn sign with sky background

Get Over It3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

As an outsider, I find watching the reaction to the elections in the States on Tuesday interesting from a sales point of view. To be clear, this isn’t one of those hollow “What can sales people learn from the USA elections?” It is almost like every event has some lesson or insight for sales people, considering that more things that businesses consume are sold rather than bought, there is bound to be a parallel between almost everything and sales. Sometimes obvious facts and realities are lost on the “80%”, because they spend most of their time “taking orders” from self-motivated buyers. So when they are actually involved in a real competitive “sale”, and have to do things to win the order (other than discounting and negotiating with their own company rather than the prospect), and it doesn’t go their way, how they react becomes the measure of those reps.

This post is about the reaction to the outcome, specifically the reaction of those who did not get the order. I had no horse in the race, it’s not my country, so far be it for me to lecture our neighbors to the south, just I don’t want any none Canadians pontificating on Canadian politics and policies.

But the reaction is worth exploring. It is a reaction I and many are familiar with having watched reps’ reactions after having lost a deal, or during a pipeline review, where it is clear that most of the opportunities in the pipeline have about as much chance of closing as Lincoln Chafee had of winning his party’s nomination. A reaction which I am sure would have been the same had the other side won.

It seems that in both sales and politics, it is easier to look for blame outside of your control, than to spend time understanding what you could have done differently to change the outcome. Sure it is easy to blame the product, the familiar chorus of “What-ifs, Maybes and Might-Have-Beens”, but if the product could sell itself, then what role would we in sales have? (Oh ya, take the order). As a friend of mine once told me, “if it was easy, they would not need us”.

Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn sign with sky backgroundGreat sales people look to understand what they could have done differently, so they can do it differently and better next time. They don’t waste time and energy looking for excuses and outside factors that they feel – but can’t prove cost them the sale. Real sellers understand that there are things they cannot control or change, and things they can, the best focus on those things they CAN change and influence, and work to understand how things they can’t control can impact them and their desired result. The also-ran “80%”, resist change, which leaves them questioning the outcome, rather than question what they could and should have done differently Click To Tweet.

The parallels also extend to the pundits, those wagon jumping sages, who can always tell you what will happen, and why when it does not, why they couldn’t see it coming. Same in sales, despite the data available, many are to inwardly focused and lining up with the latest fashions and labels, rather than sharing practical, proven and experience based executable insights. Instead on Monday they’re Sales 2.0, Wednesday Social Selling, Friday ABM, what next?

You want different results, do things differently, there is usually a lot less risk in trying change than the results of sticking with it, then complaining when you failed. You can’t change the past, but you can the future; you can learn from the past and do things differently the next time. Time to start executing rather than excusing.

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Blindfolded senior businessman trying to catch dollar bills banknotes flying in the air on gray wall background. Financial corporate success or crisis challenge concept

Sales Blind2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

One of the most common comments Sales VP’s make in speaking about their team is that they fail to ask for the order, or go in for “the close”.  Now I can hear some of you saying “close, no no no, we don’t do that in sales today”.  I don’t take that comment so literally, I think it refers to a scenario we all have seen, where there is an opportunity to move the process forward, or everything is in place, and rather than moving to implementation, both the seller and the buyer allow for creep, creating an ongoing cycle, rather than to the objectives set out at the start.  A condition I call “Sales Blind”.  The sale goes on and on, things look good, but never materialize, and then you discover another vendor won the opportunity.  I find this happens with a couple of types of reps, who are two side of the same coin.

The Forever Seller

First are those sales people who are really great at selling and love the discovery process to no end, literally.  They will reach out to anyone in the buying company to get the right answer, and the right people engaged in the process.  They ask questions that not only demonstrate their depth of knowledge of the subject, and at the same time get the prospect to think and rethink what they set out to buy and achieve.  They enjoy the process so much, completing the deal leads to their fun ending (till they start the next sale), and as a result at times it seems they make little effort to close the deal, as it will end their party.  Sounds absurd, but if you have managed many sales people, you have had one of these people on your team.  I had one, this was one of the best sales people I worked with, but would never take things to the last next step.  I was and am convinced that it was not a question of ability, but one of “the hunt being more fun than the kill”.  Being “Sales Blind” they are happy selling without regard for the outcome.

Relationship R-Us

The second is the hard core relationship seller.  I often ask groups of sales people what they want to do with new prospects they meet.  The ones who answer “create rapport” or “build a relationship”, fall in to this group.  Have you ever had someone on your team who was loved by the clients and prospects, yet continuously came up short at the end of the year?  This is them.  Relationships are great, but what they should doing for new prospects and clients is helping them achieve objectives, through that process they will also help their employer by generating revenue.

There is a Cure

The good news is that “Sales Blindness” is a curable condition.  Through active coaching and setting account/opportunity based milestones and timelines.  This will surface key barriers that the rep needs to eliminate and reestablish some deal vision.  Both these types of sellers have the requisite skills, they are just blinded a bit from seeing past a point, once you help them through that they are often your best reps and role models for other team members.

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dog with bone

3 Things You Won’t Hear Great Sellers Say0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

It has always been said that to succeed you should follow and mimic those who excel. But given the popular 80/20 myth in sales, and the fact that less than 60% of B2B reps make quota, you may be challenged to find someone to imitate. Fear not, there is hope, just flip the coin and work on avoiding what the also-rans and duds do. As a mentor once told me, “you can make money with the worst stockbroker in the world, just take the opposite position to their recommendations”.

So as homage to him, let’s look at things you hear from the also-rans, then do the opposite and you will be executing like the 20% who are not in the office, because they are out kick butt.

Never

I hear a lot of also rans, especially those who tell me they have “15 years of sales experience”. Over and over they tell me why something will Never work, why specific buyer will Never buy. Now they should know, mostly because they have Never really tried, perfect record: Never try = Never works. Better yet, when they say “I tried Once back in ’82, didn’t work, Never will.” As I tell people I work with, I can give them hundreds of reasons why something won’t work, but the job of a great sales person is to look for the ones that do. Talking about why it will never work, when that time could be spent executing, is something great sellers never do.

That’s how we’ve always done it

Almost as irritating as the first point, is when reps tell me they don’t want to try something because it is different than how they’ve always done it. You want to sell a prospect to change, either vendors or how they do things, but you are happy doing things the same way you always have. I can see this from reps who are improving performance every year, exceeding quota in the process, but when I hear it from reps who are missing quota consistently, it is hard not to laugh.

The one constant is change, the best sales people I know evolve with or ahead of the market, they go out of their way to update and upgrade their sales approach. As a result, the only always they get used to is winning.

Dream Client

A players are not dreamers. They have a clear understand of what the right prospect/client is, once defined they focus on pursuit. Dream clients are a nice concept, when writing about sales and selling, the term has a “Romantic” ring to it, but in the real world they serve more as a distraction.

The concept of a dream client also lays the ground work for future rationalization of missed quotas. I have had too many sales people talk to me about “Might Have Beens”, and how they “would have blown their target away had they got that dream client”. Better to have a clear understanding of who the right prospects, prepare a clear plan, and execute it. I have seen to many sales people’s years turn to nightmare because they were dreaming.

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Boy scratching his head, confused by what is happening

I’m Touched – Just Not Sure By What4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I got an interesting e-mail last week that had me laughing and puzzled at the same time. It was from someone I had spoken to a total of once a few years back, it was all business, no personal aspect at all. At the time they were building a social selling tool, and wanted me to test drive it and ultimately promote it. I declined for no other reason than lack of time.

As you would know from previous posts, I find that at a high level you can split social selling proponents into two groups. Those who see it as part of an expanding tool kit. The others, who see it as a replacement for everything that was part of the tool kit, “new good, old bad”. The social world is vast and expanding, leading to a scenario where even those who preach “quality over quantity”, (you know is not a numbers game), fall into the trap of counting connection and followers as a measure of quality (or self worth).

I fully accept that many of the people who follow me or connect with me, are more likely connecting with the elements of my content that they identify with, not specifically with Tibor Shanto. I am flattered, honoured and pleased when someone I have never met or spoken with, endorses me on LinkedIn; the pattern is clear, they read a post, something resonates, or a technique I introduced creates a breakthrough, and as tip of the hat they endorse me. I can live with the fact that 99.9% of my followers and connections could not pick me out of a line up, and I suspect the sender of the e-mail falls into that category.

So imagine my surprise when I get an e-mail with the subject line:

“You are Unique Amongst My Relationships”

Wow, Unique, pretty cool, how many times has a friend said that to you, it would be heart warming. But wait, this is not a friend saying it, according to the subject line, I am a Relationship; hey, but still Unique, not bad eh. Unfortunately, I have about as much of a Relationship with this dude as I do with the milkman, and I haven’t had a milkman since 1969 in Montreal.

I kept reading, and I did graduate to friend, he writes:

“We are friends across multiple networks including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and we’ve stayed in touch over the years. I count you as one of my closer friends and my XYZ Sales App relationship manager confirms this and more about us.”

I don’t know about you, but I think I can tell who my friends are, and why, without the aid of a CRM.  Actually picking up the phone or sending a genuine e-mail once a year, rather than once a decade would go a lot further.

I say genuine, because he went on to says:

“I sent this email using our New XYZ Sales App Group Messaging, Templates. It helps me send templated group emails using my XXX@XYZ.com email account via gmail. My group emails look and feel like one-to-one personal conversations and XYZ even gives me signals on who opens and clicks.”

Nothing says you are “Unique” more than “group emails look and feel like one-to-one personal conversations”

I am truly touched, just not sure by what.

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Not interested

They’re Not Interested – What Now?3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

No one likes objections, the number one reason for sales people hating cold calling is the cold reality of the objections. I get it, but when you think about it there are probably five common objections you will face in telephone prospecting. About 80% of the time, 80% people we are calling will go to one of these five objections. While none are pleasant, especially when you are not ready, the most frustrating seems to be the “Not interested” objection. Seems the most sensible people lose their mind for a second.

I recently had a call from someone for a product, that based on their introduction I felt I did not need, did not want, and would not help me in any way. I told the rep: “no thanks, no interest at the moment.” Sounding somewhat irritated, he asked “why is that?”.

Me: Based on your intro, I don’t see the need, so thanks, but not interested.
Rep: I get that, but why not?

At this point, I said “Well get this” as I hit the end button.

Now he is not the worst I have had, and I figure his frustration was not with my reply but the fact that he blew it and had no clue how to handle it any other way. (He should take my program)

First mistake, he assumed that telling me about his brand, and their Unique Selling Proposition (which other than his company’s name was not unique at all), would arouse a deep and hidden need and desire. I had what he was selling, so need and want were non-factors. What he should have done is align his approach with my priorities, and how they may contribute to them.

I would argue that the main reason someone says they are not interested is that they gleaned little or no value from your intro, and what little they may have, was not enough to displace a current priority. The oldest rule “What’s in it for them”, yet most calls are about “us, and what we do, and we, we, we.” If you offered something of real interest, you would get a different response. Don’t believe me, call five people and offer them $1,000,000 and see how many “Not interested” responses you get.

I am not suggesting that you have to go to that extent, but you do need have a clear idea of how you can impact the prospects business and objectives in a very specific way. And that’s where the work comes in, speaking to those points that are on the minds and the ‘to-do’ lists of byers. Given that there are multiple buyers in each decision, apparently 5.4 buyers, it means work. Generic “we, we, we, ROI of that” no longer cuts it unless you happen across someone who has that specific need at the time you call, not likely, less than a 30% shot. But 100% of businesses and business people have objectives, that’s where the value is, that’s where their interest is.

Want to handle objections better, grab our Objection Handling Handbook now, normally $12.97,
free by clicking here.

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Coulda

Are You Shoulding All Over The Place?2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

In every walk of life, you hear people saying “I should have done this” or “should have asked that”, and a whole bunch of other should haves. We all have moments of realization after the fact, you leave a meeting and just as you get on the freeway, you remember you should have asked a question of the prospect, or you should have highlighted something. Worse is when you are sitting in the room, know you should ask or state or do something, but you don’t, only to rationalize later with the familiar tune of the “shoulda coulda woulda” blues.

So beyond the obvious question as to why didn’t you, there is the more important question of when are you going to? This question applies to both moving forward, and to recent events.

I often have sellers tell me they should have… something, usually in a way that suggests that they can’t change or remedy things. It is true that you can’t turn back the clock, but there is nothing that says you can’t go back and fix or redo. There is nothing preventing us from going back and asking for or just creating a do over. The fact is that unless you were rude and asked not to come back, not you right, you can go back, and often going back could be the difference.

If you do find yourself singing the “shoulda coulda woulda” blues, try this. Callback the prospect (or prospects) and tell them the truth, “you know Henry, I was thinking about you and our meeting yesterday, and I realized that I was remiss in …not asking, not discussing, not presenting, in rushing…” It never ceases to amaze me how responsive people are when you take this approach. First you are flattering them by not only telling them, but demonstrating that you were in fact thinking about them, their objectives, and how you can positively impact them. At the same time, you have an opportunity to introduce new ideas, and extend the conversation, and show how you are not like the others.

A slightly more fatal version of this is when sales people tell me that they know they should do something but don’t do it. This could be for any number of reasons, but it is usually fear or ego. While ego is important in sales, it should not get in the ways of success, a little humility not only goes a long way, but opens doors others don’t even see. If you know you should do something, be that something with a current buyer, or make a prospecting call, or anything, do it. As long as it is legal and ethical, the worst thing that can happen is the deal does not move forward, which no worse than not winning a deal because you should’ve. So stop shoulding all over your success, and do it, you’ll either win a customer or learn a useful lesson, and learning is something you should always be doing.

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video intro 2016

Checking Not Doing Will Give You More Sales #video4

 

Time is the currency of sales, your most precious resource – how you spend it will determine your success, or…

The video below provides a great way to spend your time better, and save for things that will make you more productive and earn you more sales and success. Check it out, and let me know what you think.

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Business man point: Turn Prospects Into Sales Appointments

You Have To Sell Is The Appointment First1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

In the past I have posted about the attitude sales people have towards prospecting, some see it as a necessary evil and unpleasant part of their job, something they have to “tolerate” early in their career, until they build up a sufficient base to live off. How many times have you heard a rep with tenure say they “have earned the right not prospect”, or the less honest version “put me in front of the right guy and I’ll close them.” While that may be true, the big bucks in sales go to the ones who can get in front of the right guys on their own.

One thing that differentiates the complete sales person, the sales people who can execute all elements of the job, not just the easy ones or the ones they like, is their understanding that prospecting is a sale. Perhaps the hardest sale of all, selling the appointment. The same instincts, skills and disciplines it takes to sell the product or service, are involved in selling an appointment, it’s just that the prospect is not yet a willing participant. Which is why you need to take the attitude that the appointment has to be sold.

Beyond role play, one of the things that we do with clients is listen to recordings of actual calls by the reps we train. Not one or three calls when they know they are being listened, but recording of dozens and dozens of calls throughout their week, getting a real sense of what they are doing when it counts, not just to impress on one or two calls. What you hear across dozens of calls in consistent; sure you can explain one call, or two, but when you hear the same mistakes over the course of days and weeks as we do, there is no denying facts.

Right from the time the prospect answers you can tell which reps came to sell, and which came to take orders, hoping the prospect throws them a bone. The way they initiate the call, how they engage the prospect. Not just style and mannerism, but what they speak to, and the narrative they paint for the buyer. This is not just about enthusiasm, while that is key and infectious, when wrapped around the wrong message it becomes toxic, and no one wants to be infected with that. Or the diminutive subservient posture they take, if you close your eyes you see Goofy when they try to handle the “all set” objection: “Well maybe I can be your number two if you ever tire of number one, ah, gosh darn it.”

Those reps who sell the appointment are much more often the ones who sell the deal, while the others are more likely to be used for info and price concessions, or worse, as a means of getting concessions from the incumbent, and once that is achieved, they are tossed to the curb.

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