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Stacking Your Productivity0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Earlier this week I posted about the how your sales stack stacks up, (couldn’t resist) How Productive Is Your Sales Stack? Exploring how many companies and sales leaders are actually contributing to their team’s’ lack of success by overloading them with “sales tools”, the “Stack”. While many are sold, and think they are buying “productivity tools”, they are in fact hindering productivity, revenue success and growth. While I have had some interesting feedback, the question comes up as to why this is, and why these folks would continue to invest in things clearly working against them.

To be clear, that is not an opinion, but supported by the data. Which interesting since many of these buyer, and certainly all the people who sell these tools point to data, but as with many things, leveraging data for success is a subjective exercise, allowing people to ignore those data points that don’t support their current opinion. Sorry to confuse the issue with facts.

While on the one hand there is no argument that sales have changed, especially when it comes to tools available for both sellers and buyers, but the motivation for buying those tools is fairly established. Sales leaders are looking productivity, more output from the same inputs, or same outputs with less resources. In the past when VP’s of sales needed more output, their rallying cry was “I need more headcount”, they would employ some Voodoo Economics, and voilà, come up with rationale for additional headcount. These days, they throw technology at it instead. Vendors are happy to supply the case studies, ROI calculators, white papers, and all the rationale one needs to at that next app to their stack.

pp2As they add things, they add complexity, complexity as presented Monday, impacts productivity negatively. What I have seen is that all too often, there is little adjustment to the sales process to integrate the efficiencies captured, it is not reflected in the work-flow or the execution path. It is a cycle that repeats itself again and again. This leads to the decision to add something else to the stack, that final missing magical piece that will change everything.

Going a bit deeper and further, the question remains, why do they need these additional tools, well, the most frequently reason, stated or not, is that their people won’t do things that need to be done if you are going to succeed in sales. No saying they can’t, many can, they won’t and don’t do specific things that are crucial to consistent execution and success. So the easiest thing to do is automate, get some technology that will do it instead. Good plan, clearly not working though.

Some things, like say dialers (sorry accelerators), make sense, but one I saw recently prompted sellers to offer the buyer other SKU’s that other similar buyers have bought with similar orders. Implementing this app, requires integration, new approvals, approval process, etc. Seems to me if McDonald’s can train their counter clerks to if you want fries with that shake, how hard should it be for your team to do that without an app?

In a day where everyone is talking relationships, the importance of people buy from people, and everything that goes with that, the obvious solution to get more sales and reduce complexity, and improve productivity is to invest in the human side of the equation.

Please don’t take this as being against automation, I love it, use it, and live off it. But automation for automation sake, or strictly as a fashion statement clearly does not add to productivity. The sales productivity Holy Grail will continue to elude those who focus on one side of the equation while ignoring the other. Just as in the old days adding body count without proper development, process adjustment, and the right tools did not lead to productivity gains. Nor will adding more and more technology while ignoring its impact on the balance of things, and the ability to of your team to execute. Next time instead of adding more technology, add more development for your sellers, have them sell not just babysit your stack. This will allow those comparing stacks now, to compare results in the future.

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cloud-stack

How Productive Is Your Sales Stack?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

It’s Monday, a great day for great sellers, the week is ripe with possibilities and opportunities, and how it turns out Friday, is almost entirely up to you and the decisions you make, and the actions you’re willing to execute, or choose to avoid; it’s what makes sales great. But this Monday is that much more so, in fact if you’re inclined (you don’t have to be), you can look at this Monday as sales version of what stock market players call ‘Triple Witching‘.

This Monday is not only the start of the next chapter of your success story, for most the start of Q4, the last chance to bring it all home, and this week also marks the start of the sales version of the Hajj. The annual event that brings tens of thousands of sales types descending on San Francisco, in a quest to learn something new, reinforce their current path, and generally mingle with other faithful seeking sales enlightenment.

Having made the journey before, I know it is easy to get distracted from the “why” or Zen of the journey, how do we improve sales, and help our people sell better? In the frenzy presentations and displays, being flattered as you’re being scanned and primed, it is easy to forget that sales is as much about your people as it is about technology. And while people may say the size of Stack matters, as with other things, I believe it is more of what you do with it, not the size.

cloud-stackI have seen sales leaders compare stacks the same way we compared hockey cards in the school yard. And while I would not argue the positive impact of technology on many elements of selling, more is not always better, and in fact without an overarching strategy to execution and development path for your human assets, it is more likely holding you back, just review the many studies around quota attainment.

But quota attainment is just a symptom, not the cause. The nature of your Stack brings with it a number of unintended negative ripples, not the least of which is added complexity, complexity that has a direct impact on your team’s ability to sell and succeed. This can surface in a number of ways, from challenges around integration, roll out, alignment with message, adoption and execution; all leading to complexity that directly impacts outcomes.

Some complexities are necessary based on what you are selling, who you are selling it to, and other factors. The goal is to find and develop a Stack that at the minimum balances things your way, or better yet, reduces complexity, and improves sales, selling and results. There is a difference between the sale being complex, and making the job of selling complex. The Former is the nature of the game, a factor the nature of the product, the number of people involved, (on both sides), the existing systems being touched or impacted, and a number of other moving parts. The latter is self-inflicted and can be avoided.

One of the hidden challenges of the Stack is the ripple effect it brings. Things impacted include process and impact on work-flows; time requirements to learn adopt and assimilate by the front line. Each new resource brings with it additional stakeholders, each with their own view on “things”; then come the approvals at various points, not to mention support. This leads to what CEB has termed the ‘Seller Burden’. As shared at the recent CEB’s Sales & Marketing Thought Leader Roundtable, this Seller Burden is having a direct impact on sales success, and can be attributed to the new, and many argue unnecessary, complexity presented by the above.

supporting-seller-burden

Despite all the right reasons, measures taken by some sales organizations to help and support the sales effort, and sales people, have led to unplanned consequences. If you want to get a real sense for the type impact this has on your reps, their time, ability to sell, and basically your sales results, visit CEB’s Sales Complexity Calculator, input your specifics, and see the impact in your world. If you do not know the inputs for your organization, we should definitely talk.

As you can see below, even as almost all sales leaders are taking steps to help reps by increasing resources, a vast majority of reps believe that these resources are adding to their work complexity.

unintended-ii
The only one winning here is the sales rep from the resource company, but in reality, there is no doubt that they are caught in the same trap.

So what, it is part of their job to deal with and assimilate these resources, with the expectation that once they “work it out”, it will help deliver quota. Short term pain for long term gain. But the evidence suggests otherwise. There are real and ongoing costs to ‘Seller Burden’.

cost-of-burden

To be clear, internal factors are not the only issues contributing to ‘Seller Burden’, as you can see below.

burden-model

But it is also true that that internal factors, or complexities as it is termed below, are the biggest contributor, by a huge degree.

the-enemy-within

So as you ready yourself for the pilgrimage, and you circle in and around the Moscone Center, I would challenge you to look for things that will simplify selling for your team, and simplify buying for your prospects. Just because it looks good does not mean it will be good. An incremental gain in a small element of your sales success, should not lead to hidden and ongoing costs in productivity. Instead, make it your mission to look for resources that eliminate and minimize complexity, and make it easier for your team to execute and win deals. In fact, look for resources and by extension the related support, that you can eliminate and simplify selling for your sellers, and buying for your customers.

simplify

Simplifying and uncluttering is the goal. Start by focusing on the three items to the left of the dotted line above. Clearly you can’t hit all three at once, start by prioritizing, then focus on one at a time. My bias would be towards starting with simplifying and streamlining workflows, but the choice is yours.

The important thing is to challenge yourself to make it a mission to come back from the pilgrimage with more than just memories and cool S.W.A.G. Wanna be really cool, adopt the mantra of winners: LESS. Less, and the ability to produce more.

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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.

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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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Q&A at Plug and Play #video – Sales eXecution 3130

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

In September I had the opportunity to meet with some up and coming companies at Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale.  After the meeting, I was asked to share some specifics about selling and our approach to driving value from prospecting call to growing your clients.  Take a look below, and feel free to reach out if anything strikes a chord or close to home.

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Where Have All The Sellers Gone? – Sales eXecution 3013

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Over the last few years there have been numerous articles and commentaries suggesting that the sales population will dramatically dwindle over the next few years. I don’t think there will be less real sellers than now, but the roles will be more clearly and accurately defined.

The reality is that many of those calling themselves sales people, or were hired to fill a role with a job description of sales person are not sales people at all. Many who pretended to be hunters to get the job were not; and many who were hired to manage and grow accounts, were in fact willing or capable of doing either. So if you redefined those to what they really were, rather than what you were hoping or pretending they were, you’d have a thinning of the ranks. In reality there are not as many sales people now as many would pretend.

Further to this point, last week I participated in an event hosted by SMB Acuity, a premier supplier of actionable business insights, where they presented the results of a survey of Small and Medium business in the USA and Canada specifically companies with 100 or less employees, those driving the economy. One interesting result they shared was that a large majority of upsells and cross sells were in fact initiated by the businesses themselves, not the sellers (by title anyway). The numbers were 57.8% of respondents in Canada, and 68.3 in the States. Confirming that many who say they are in sales, are in fact order takers.

What’s worse, is that these numbers clearly indicate that both types of sales people dropped the ball. Account managers should have been involved enough with the accounts to be in tune with potential demand, completely missed the opportunity. Leading to the question of how involved were they really, were they managing them in the real world, in their CRM, on a list, or as I suspect not at all. The other question is where was management? Why did they not have a process and the metrics in place to ensure coverage and get ahead of the opportunity?

One thing is sure, when the buyer initiated the conversation that lead to the upsell with you, they likely did so with your competitors as well. Given the scenario, I bet you don’t even know if and when they decided to buy more or another product, you don’t even know if they bought it from you or your competitor.

And where were the hunters, how did they miss this waiting opportunities?

It is almost an insult to real sellers to call these transactions “upsells” or “cross sells”, when it was buyer initiated. This is why they call people in department stores clerks, not sales people.

So yes, over the years as we fine tune the role, you will find less people classified as sellers, not because there will be less sellers than now, but because there will be a separation of sellers and clerks.

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Summer time and the Selling’s Easy #podcast0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

There are a lot of misconceptions about selling in the summer, but don’t be fooled, there is selling in the summer.  That is the focus of this month’s segment with Michele Price and BREAKTHROUGH radio.  Take a listen and let me know how you’heat you summer sales.

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You’re Only Fooling Yourself – Sales eXecution 2930

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Taking a look at oneself

Everyday people commit to doing things, only not to do them. There are many reasons for this, and I am sure a host of contributing factors, but none of that changes the results, or more accurately the lack of results. From my perch, being an observer and practitioner of sales and selling, the most common cause is laziness. People commit to doing things differently, to taking on new practices, decide to approach things differently, only to stay exactly where they started, and by virtue of that, and given the nature if sales these days, that is really a step back.

What many do not want to recognize or face is that selling is hard work, good selling, is really hard work, selling well in an evolving market is as hard as anything out there, requiring constant practice and upgrading of skills, then practicing them over and over endlessly. Take any endeavour where success is part core skill, part flare, few are born with their skills fully formed, be they athletes, musicians, actors, or authors. It is certainly no different for sales people. The difference is conviction and the effort that goes with it.

Go to any local music conservatory or ballet company, and watch the kids trying to get in to the program. Visit any of your local little leagues team, and observe. What you will see is endless practice, every day a regime of hours of practice, in some cases three to five hours of core training and practice. Sometimes the same, other times adding evolving elements. This is over and above the “on stage” or “on field” time, we are talking practice time.

I know some will point to “natural born” talent, geniuses in their field. But if you look at the most famous examples of these people, what you will find is less divine presence and more hard work. Look at someone like Charlie Parker, known as a jazz virtuoso, unparalleled improvisation. No doubt, but what many didn’t see was the hours of practice that allowed him to do what he did in the clubs at night. At times up to 15 hours a day; how much did you practice for your last sales meeting?

This is a level of commitment many in sales are not willing to make. I work with many sales people who come to me knowing and asking to make the changes they need to drive their success, and never follow up, as though having an invoice and certificate will make a difference.

Oh, but you’ve been in the business for 22 years you say. So what, does that give one the right to not improve? The market is changing, are you? Updating your LinkedIn profile is not the same as practicing and updating your skills, staying ahead of the competition, and ahead of the market.

But it is not just the sales people, many managers and organizations fail to create an environment that supports the level of commitment. Studies have shown that daily coaching with individual reps, as little as 10 minutes a day, can lead to a 17% increase in revenue. Not only do most companies not see this as viable, many pundits shy away from recommending this “daily practice”, for fear of losing gigs.

The question is straight forward, do you expect less of yourself than you would your favourite point guard?

Tibor Shanto

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Time Is The Currency Of Sales #BBSradio0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

This month’s piece on Michele Price’s BREAKTHROUGH radio program deals with time, as time runs out on Q1.

To hear my segment from last week, click on the image below.

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

I appear every 4th Monday, speaking of course about sales, but there a host of other great content, I encourage you to check Michele’s program out, and learn from a range of contributors.  You can find the program and more information click here.

Tibor Shanto

Live and webcast

March Madness: 5 Small Business Lessons to Take Away0

Feb 15

The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka

There are not many events that compare with the excitement that is the NCAA College Basketball Tournament. The Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby and World Series are all great spectacles. However, something about March Madness draws in a wider audience and sparks excitement of people of all ages around the country- 181 million viewers tune in throughout the NCAA tournament each year to cheer on their favorite teams.

Are you wondering if your small business can benefit from March Madness? It can, and you don’t have to run a popular sports bar; nearly any business can learn some valuable lessons from the month of madness, some even as simple as the power of simplifying your sales. Here are five small business lessons you can take away from March Madness.

The underdog might win.
Everyone loves a happy ending, and Cinderella teams are practically a guarantee during March Madness. There are always a couple teams that no one has heard of that win one game after another in the tourney. Teams, like businesses, aren’t always operating on equal footing. Some schools have more money and more talent. But bigger is not always better and the tournament doesn’t always play out according who “should” win. Like players on a winning team, owners of successful businesses have personal characteristics such as a positive attitude, commitment towards their effort, patience and persistence – traits that can all help a team go far and a business succeed.

Embracing new technologies is smart.
The NCAA hasn’t been content to stick with what technology has worked in past years. Like plenty of organizations of every size, they have tapped into technologies to help connect with their fans and find new ones too. Remember that change is important in an organization. The adoption of new technology can seem disruptive and intimidating initially, but ultimately the change almost always results in increased productivity and improved service. It’s one of many ways to create a customer-centric culture.

Take advantage of your biggest events to earn new fans.
March Madness is unlike other sporting events because it attracts non-sports fans. The popularity of office pools, game-viewing parties and other factors engage a broader audience and increase the hype around the tourney. Use the biggest moments in your business year to connect with a wider audience. Think about events your business held throughout the year, peak seasons, new product launches and charitable events. Always remember that as you earn new fans and strive to retain current fans, good customer service is essential to help your business thrive. Keep your sales simple and focus on activities that drive constant success.

Capitalize on momentum – run with it!
Basketball, like business, can come down to momentum: accept when its time to take a timeout, know when to ride the player and occasionally take a seat on the bench. Build upon short-term successes but continue to pursue long-term goals. When things aren’t going the best, don’t look too much into it – make the most of the momentum and rely on and trust in your teammates.

Encourage friendly controversy to create some buzz.
The tournament kicks off every year with “Selection Sunday.” This is the day when the tournament participants are placed, seeded accordingly and announced on TV. There is always some complaining and banter surrounding it all, and this day gives the media and fans plenty to discuss prior to tip off of the first game. Some friendly controversy can create some healthy hype around an event, product or brand, and in turn, result in a better turnout.
March Madness gives viewers the best of sports and entertainment, upsets, and a lot of fun. Those with the most wins are the teams who trust in each other. After all, the biggest wins happen when everyone works together and focuses on the team as a whole.

What valuable lessons has March Madness taught your small business?

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.

Photo via flickr.com

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