Time questions concept as a group of floating clocks and timepieces shaped as a question mark as a metaphor for deadline or business schedule confusion or corporate appointment information as a 3D illustration.

The Best Sellers Are Cheaters0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

You can slice it six ways from Sunday, the best sales people are the ones who maximize and do most with their time. Success in sales is all about Execution – everything else being just talk, and given that all of us are allocated 24 hours at the stroke of midnight, what and how one choses to execute becomes a critical difference. Execution takes time, a non-renewable resource, finding ways to stretch and bend that time in your favour is critical; and doing that will usually involve cheating. Not cheating like when a company cheats a rep out commissions, or by deceit, but cheat as in:

“to elude or thwart by or as if by outwitting – “cheat death” (Merriam-Webster)
I would suggest the sales equivalent being time – “cheat time”

To begin with, top sellers spend much less time talking, and a great deal more time executing. That does not mean that they get everything right, but since they spend more time doing than, thinking, planning or talking, they are bound to get more things right. More importantly, they will have more mistakes to review and learn from. A big unspoken consequence to waiting for perfection before taking action is you are not making enough mistakes to learn from, and as the end of the month quarter or year draws near, we revert back to doing things they way we always have, the same way that leads to almost half of B2B reps missing quota.

In order to ensure that our clients get maximum bang for their training dollars, we put a great deal of focus and effort on adoption, changing people’s habits. No matter how great a sales methodology you introduce, if you don’t change the habits of the team you are working with, you will not change the way they sell. The book of the last trainer is clearly on display on the shelf of each rep, just absent from the way they execute, because their habits remain the same, they are just applied using a different story.

In this process, we work closely with teams over time, and have come to see specific things recur time and time again across different teams. One being how they value and deal with time, not just their own, but that of the buyer.

Time Question Concept

Using our Activity Calculator, each rep calculates approximately what percentage of their time they have to allocate to high value activities across a period of time, ideally a sales cycle, or if we have to a week or month. (I really prefer sales cycle, but many sales people don’t know how long their sales cycle is, their default answer is “Depends”) Once a rep makes a commitment to how much time they will allocate to critical sales activities, the challenge is to stick to it.

The best sellers cheat time by ensuring that they complete the most important high value activities. Their view is that the most important thing is attaining quota, so they cheat by ensuring those things that drive quota get done before and above all other things. The less successful sellers, cheat themselves by doing everything but what drives their quota. They find it more important to do things their customer support or product people can and are paid to do, eating up valuable time, eating away at their ability to win.

I understand the need to be customer focused, which is exactly why your company hired support teams better equipped to do that than you; they hired you to sell. So stop cheating yourself and your customer, yes, by stepping between them and the right resource you not only risk resolution, but risk losing customers as a result.

So if you’re gonna cheat, do it in a way that helps your customers, company, and you; go out and sell, don’t waste time on things that don’t lead to revenue.

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Close-up Of Businessperson Holding Stopwatch With Stack Of Coins At Desk

Time – To Let Go0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Let’s be clear, no white flags here, just a reminder that the most crucial thing to control in a winning sales career is time. As I have stated here in the past, “leads are recyclable, time is not”, if what you are doing now is not moving the opportunity or sale forward, you need to ask if it is time to move on to something that will. In my experience, this is most pronounced during the early stages of the cycle, prospecting.

Given that most sales people do not like to prospect, they should be thinking about how to optimize the dreaded task, so they can engage better with more prospects, and move on to what they really seem to like, building relationships. To optimize prospecting time there a number of things they can do, we’ll look at two here.

First is their prep for the time they have set aside for prospecting, in this case telephone prospecting (one of a number of methods they should use). Your call lists should be grouped or clustered around specific themes. This can be vertical, geographical, target size/type, or even role based. This allows you to develop a single talk track that can be leveraged across a number of calls. Allow you to highlight outcomes that are common to that day’s list, 3rd party referrals for voice mail, and more. Rather than having gaps between calls, taking away from momentum, and drastically limiting the number of calls you can make in say an hour, you can make one call after the other, building momentum, increasing your confidence, and achieving more in a given period of time. It has been shown that when you are going back and forth between two tasks, making the call, and readying for the call, you end up executing both less effectively. At the same time if you can focus on a specific task, uninterrupted, for about 52 minutes, you build efficiency. Separate the tasks, do your background work in low energy times, and do your prospecting during peak Prime Time hours.

The other area is the length of the call. A good prospecting call, where the goal is to get the prospect to agree to a formal meeting, be that phone, web, or face to face, really should not take any more than two minutes, three out the outside. In most instances, anything longer than that moves into the “diminishing return” zone.

Assuming your intro and Engage Statement (think of it as an effective value statement), capped off with an Impact Question, takes us to about 45 seconds; their answer which tees up the request for the appointment takes us to the minute mark, and now comes the fun part the objections. Each objection given – and then taken away by you, is about 20 or so seconds, remember the goal here is engagement, not an intellectual exchange. If you have read the Objection Handling Handbook, you know the first objection is a conditioned response, and by the time you get to the third one, the fate of the call is usually sealed, at times it takes four. So, we are looking at another minute to a minute and a half.

Anything after that is working against you. If they don’t want to play, all they’ll take away is how unprofessional you were, not only wasting and disrespecting their time, but your own, and no one wants to deal with that kind of rep, even when the time is right. Or worse, you are trying to sell them when your goal at the outset was to schedule a time for the actual discovery and sale.

I see so many sales people stay on the phone with someone for 10, 15 minutes, and have nothing when the call ends; well frustration, but you can’t cash that. Others achieve their goal, a prospect who agrees to engage, and then they stay on and talk themselves out of that appointment in the same call. If you do have someone agree, you should expect they may have questions, and you want to answer that question in a way that best moves the opportunity forward, and if that is a formal meeting, that’s what you should move towards. Next time you have someone agree to an appointment, and they start asking those “good” questions, simply say “That’s a great question Jim/Jill (I’m so PC), why don’t we make that first item on the agenda and give it full justice; look forward to our call Thursday, let me grab your e-mail and I’ll send an invite.” This sets you up for a great start to the discovery call, and allows you to move on to set the next appointment.

Remember, leads are recyclable – time is not – guard your time!

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Time questions concept as a group of floating clocks and timepieces shaped as a question mark as a metaphor for deadline or business schedule confusion or corporate appointment information as a 3D illustration.

Getting Time On Your Side0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

If you manage hang on for another week, I assure you that there is life after the election, and what is waiting on the other side is not the end of the world, but the end of your sales year. Which if you plan it right is not as big a deal as many would make you believe, unless of course you’re one of those sales people who exists from crisis to crisis. (If you are, then you can skip the rest of this post).

We’ve all heard that knowledge is power, and in this case, it truly is. If you know the specifics of your sales cycle, average length of cycle, critical points, number of interactions (phone, live, web, e-mails, etc.), then you have the data on which you can build knowledge and success. You can map out your sale, manage it and lead the sales process not just go along for the ride.

A critical one is the average length of a cycle. This will vary based on type of sale, if you have multiple offerings, and other factors, but there is no escaping the fact that if you looked at you last 15 – 20 sales of the same nature, you will be able to determine a relative average length. You can do that using your CRM, and host of apps you bought to do something sales professionals have done for ages using pen and paper. The fact that many sales people answer the question about the length of

Assuming your average cycle for a given product or service three months, this is hand shake to close, it doesn’t matter if it took you a year of effort to engage; a sales cycle is handshake (yes it can be virtual), to close. There may be seasonal changes, causing that to contract or expand slightly, but if they are indeed seasonal than they are known to you and you can incorporate that into your thinking and execution.

So, if you initiate an opportunity today, October 31, 2016, then on average, that opportunity will/should close on or around (a couple of days) January 31, 2017. Assuming you need four sales a month to exceed quota, you will need one of those a week. But let’s be real here, you will need to have a multiple of opportunities, based on your close ratio, that is the number of opportunities you require to get one close, say 4:1. You will need to be prospecting (including referrals, up and cross seals and more) at a level and quality that will lead to four prospects/opportunities a week to end up with one close. So if one prospects and drives four new opportunities a week, they will have their one “right” opportunity each and every week. An opportunity that will on average close three months later.

Do this every week and it doesn’t matter if it is the beginning, middle or end of they year, just start four real opportunities a week, and you will close one three months out. That’s why I tell managers to stop asking about what their sales people are closing, and make sure that they what they are opening.

The data is there, the knowledge that affords you is there for you for the taking, what’s missing is the application, which is why as you read all the sage advice on how to end the year, start the year, and all that other noise, just remember, it is all about the execution – everything else is just talk.

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Time questions concept as a group of floating clocks and timepieces shaped as a question mark as a metaphor for deadline or business schedule confusion or corporate appointment information as a 3D illustration.

Are You Too Busy to Succeed?8

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

While it may not always seem that way, sales is not that complicated, notwithstanding what pundits and also rans will tell you. That’s not to say it is easy to execute, and we all know that success in sales is all about execution, everything else is just talk, but in terms of complexity, not that much. The size of the deal, or the number of people or moving parts involved, do not make it complex, people who claim to be doing “complex sales”, make complex. Especially when you consider all the tools we have at their disposal than ever not only to reduce complexity, but to get ahead of it, simplifying things even more. What makes it complex is when you leave out things that have to be done for success, and then have to do a whole bunch of things to make up for what you didn’t (want to) do. Like prospecting.

It’s hard to keep a straight face when a rep tells me that they were “too busy to prospect.” Excuse me, too busy to do a core part of your job?

Let’s simplify it here a bit, let me quote an old timer who taught me a bit about sales: “sales come from prospect, and prospects come from appointments” (Or any engagement, live, phone or web). Sure we can dress it up, complicated with a bunch of words borrowed from IT, but I challenge you to show me the flaw in that? The complexity happens when you try to succeed in sales by leaving out one of the above, yup, prospecting. Proactive hands on prospecting, not waiting for “lead?” from someone who like your latest infographic.

Yet regularly sales people tell me they were too busy to prospect. Often these sales people were also too busy to make quota. While many will hide behind customer service, or some other thing that someone else could do much better than them, but if they did, they would have no excuse to not prospect. Like the rep who rather than prospect, drove a $12 part across town to a client, “I am very customer focused”, he told me. I told him so is UBER, and they could have gotten it there for $20, and you could have prospected for new clients needing more $12 parts.

It starts with understanding ALL the things that have to be done during the course of a sale cycle, not just the stuff we like, and then doing them, including prospecting. Say based on you experience, you need to dedicate 10% of your time to prospecting. Given a fifty-hour work week (I know you work so much more), that’s five hours, and hour a day. The best sellers I have met look after the building blocks first. They go into their calendar and block out the time for the winning activities. While actual specific client meetings will be hard to pinpoint in advance, you do know how may meetings a week you will need to succeed based on your conversion rates across the stages of the cycle. Say your number was
eight a week, and your clients are usually a drive away, it is not hard to carve out 16 hours in a week to ensure that when the meeting is secured, you have the “inventory” to fulfill.

Using the example above, if you need an hour of prospecting a day, and your best time to hit your targets is 10:00 am to noon, then go into your calendar today and block an hour a day, you have choice, you can vary it up, but go in there today, and block that time off through to the end of your fiscal year. This will ensure that you have the time needed to get your next opportunity. No matter how good your pipeline looks today, even if you close every opportunity, you will need new opportunities after you celebrate. By blocking off that hour in advance, you will always be prospecting. What I find telling, is that I have never had a rep blow off a client meeting because their pipeline was anemic, and they wanted to make sure that it was healthy again.

Stop making excuses for why you are too busy to succeed, and start making an appointment with success.

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Give Your Buyers The Gift of Time – Sales eXecution 3190

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

collo papillon  camicia

I have written several times about the importance of time in sales, how time really is the currency of sales; while everything else in sales may be variable, success will be determined by a number of unique and individual factors. Time is the only standard element we all share, what we do with it is the differentiator.

Download our “Sales Happen In Time” e-book

Time is also the only non-renewable resource that sales people deal with, everything else can be replayed, retried or redone, not time, once spent, it’s gone. And while this is a fact that sales people have to deal with every day, we often forget that our buyers have to deal with the exact same limitation every 24 hour day.

In prior posts I have presented our Actionable Definition of value:

Those services and/or products that remove barriers, obstacles, or help bridge GAPS between where the buyer is now – and – their OBJECTIVES!

In breaking down the elements or underpinnings of Objectives, we learn that shifting time, extending the life of an asset, shortening the time to revenue, etc., are common objectives for buyers. Therefore one of the best value adds you can deliver is bending time in favour of your buyers.

Recent Research released by CEB, show that buying cycles are often twice as long as the buyers themselves anticipated. This insight can help sellers a couple of ways. First, just understanding that things will not happen as fast as you “forecasted”, will help you in better managing your pipeline and delivering quota. I have seen many sales people give up because the buy did not take place in a timeframe that suited the seller.

Given that sales people are usually over optimistic about how long a sale should take, they often give up on a sale way too early. This requires them to prospect more and harder, and completely throws off the pipeline and success. Seems to me that whatever the answer is when you ask a buyer about their timeline, it is good to validate and add time to those expectations.

This reinforces the need to implement a sales process that is aligned to the buyer’s buying process. But again, this is one step, given that many buyers aren’t truly sure how long their buying cycle is.

EDGE - New Web

The other opportunity is to understand why buyers are so bad at estimating their timelines around a buy. The more you understand this, the more you can help buyers go through the full buying journey, but introduce some short cuts along the way, reducing the cycle time in the process.

The hard part for many sales people, is that much of this will have little or anything to do with their product or them, and almost entirely with the buyer. This leads to another piece of advice we have given before, and that is “leave your product in the car”, and make it about the buyer. Not how the buyer uses your product, but how the buyer buys.

By thoroughly reviews your successful cycles, and looking at it from the buyer’s view. Not what it took for you to get the sales, but what the buyer had to do to make the buy. These will vary from product to product, but with a disciplined approach to reviewing all opportunities, won – lost – no decision, will allow you to see where buyers linger, or get detoured, and where they make clear strides towards a decision.

Sharing these findings, not the features of your product or ROI, will give them the gift of time, and you more and better customers.

Tibor Shanto

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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?

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

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Getting More Out Of Your Selling Time – Sales eXecution 2894

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

collo papillon  camicia

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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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

Is Sales a Numbers Game? (#video)3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

TV Head

Nobody talks about the world being flat or round, so why does this topic merit discussion, there so many other more important unsolved mysteries in sales.  Take a look at what I mean:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Get Out Of Your Own Way!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

iStock_000002705035XSmall

Everyone in sales has heard the expression “You are your own worst enemy, or biggest obstacle.” Usually in the context is our ability to break through barriers, or reach new highs. But it is also true that we are our own biggest asset when it comes to the same opportunity. It really is just a question of how we choose to view and respond to things. Given this, I am always surprised to see how many sales professionals continue to get in their own way, rather than be a force of progress in their own success.

I would be easy to just look at attitude or self-limiting thinking, and if that is your challenge there plenty of good sources of information and ideas to address that. More often than not though, sales people know what they have to do, they just don’t do it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like they say “I know that I have to do that, but I just won’t.”, there are other factors. But the net effect of their inaction leads to the same result, and they end up getting in their own way.

There are some basic things, and yes I know basic is out of fashion in these days of ‘complex sales’, but making things complex when they don’t have to be is one way we get in our own way. There are clear steps we can take to get outta the way and move towards sales success.

First is how we choose to deal with our resources, especially non-renewable resources, the most precious of which is time. Time is the one thing we all have in equal portions, and in especially sales, how you use your time is usually the difference between success or not. While full speed ahead is a nice mantra, and “trying to stuff as much in to a day as we can” may sound politically correct, there are better ways to leverage this resource for sales success. Start by inventorying how much time you need to allocate to each of these high value activities over the course of the cycle, allocate that time, and focus on managing your activity within that time, not on managing time. (More on time click here)

Another is to develop a clear road map for the sale, beyond high value activities, what has to happen in what sequence. Which of these are “Musts” and which are non-fatal. Stage by stage, activity by activity, it should be mapped. Some will say that they have the experience, they don’t need this, but I disagree. You favourite athlete has a play book, and while they do execute in their own way, they still have their play book. Without it you can’t make adjustments, improvements, or see the small things that will help you run the play better, sell better, in less time.

These are but two elements, and there others. The key is to step back, really examine what you are doing that is getting in your way, and then address it directly and methodically.

Hey, if you liked what you saw here, invite me to speak at your next meeting!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

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