deadline

Deadlines Drive Deals0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

People generally have one of two relationships with deadlines, they either love them, and use them to be more productive. Or they hate them, ignore them, avoid them, or are terrified by them. The former is usually the more productive group. While productivity is normally defined as more units of output with the same or less units of input, the only thing we’ll mess with or alter in this post, is we will look at the units of input as being time.

I have spoken about time in the past, time being the only non-renewable resource we have in sales, squeezing more out of each second, leads to more sales success. The other things I have spoken a lot about here is the importance of next steps, real next steps, not wishful planning. Think of these two critical elements as the two lines you want to paint your sales between.

While there are the obvious deadlines that sellers deal with, month, quarter or year ends. I think it is important that sellers set more immediate and shorter deadlines. Many will worry about the whole sale, which often prevents them doing all the things or key things that need to today, now (as soon as you’ve read this). Break down your sales to specific points that have to be accomplished along the way, things without which there will be no sale, not big things, but things that have to be in place.

This is where next steps are key. They allow you to break down big steps, into much more bite sized, read doable steps, without the distraction of what’s looming beyond the next step, because let’s be real, if you don’t achieve this immediate next step, there ain’t no sale beyond. While there should always be an overarching strategy and plan for the opportunity/account, there should also be one for each step along the way. Most sales people find it easier to articulate their big plan, but find it difficult to articulate what HAS to be done next, and how the will actually do to make that happen.

deadlineDeadlines force you to focus. Setting deadlines for small incremental steps, lead to not only an action plan, but an execution plan; and we all know that success in sales is all about execution, everything else is just talk, and in the absence of action, there is always a lot of talk. The ticking of a clock does amazing job of either turning talk in to action, or missing the deadline when time rolls over you.

Once you master self-imposed deadlines, you will see that they not only are effective for the driving success in individual sales meetings, but you’ll begin to actually set deadlines within meetings. If you know you need to have three things in place with a prospect for them to agree on your next step, and you have a 60-minute meeting scheduled, set deadlines for that within the meeting. You’ll find that this will help you focus on only those things that drive that point, and usually makes your prospect much more engaged because you are focused forward looking, and forward moving.

Deadlines drown out distractions. It is amazing the clarity of thought many experience when they set specific timeline and deadlines. While deadlines imposed by others are not always pleasant, self-imposed deadlines, will make you more productive in the way outlined at the top of this post.

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The Present Has Been Delegated1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

iStock_000001262117Small

Earlier in the week I wrote about the need for sales people to be “multilingual” in order to better understand and communicate with the types of buyers they may not have prospected or sold to in the past. A common example of this is when sales people accustomed to selling to users or front line managers, are instructed by their leadership to go ‘upstream’, and sell to senior decision makers, executives or the ‘C’ suite.

It is important to remember that language and meaning are not the only thing that differentiates these two groups. While I am sure that many understood that “language” was a metaphor for a number of differences that need to be balanced and managed by sales people throughout the cycle. But there is one that is worth expanding on, specifically, time and the perception of time by some buyers.

Based on their role, different buyers will have, or more accurately, live in, different time frames. Front line folks, sales people, factory workers, database analysts, etc. tend to be in the here and now. Their targets and measures tend to be near term, which in turn drives their planning and execution. Their decision to execution to result cycle, is generally short in nature, using sales as an example, a sales person is more likely to focus on their current cycle, and partially into the next. So when we sell to these folks, we need to align our time frame and “language” accordingly.

Executives, those tasked with the strategic success of the enterprise, are operating way in the future, minimum 12 – 18 month into the future. This is why they built the layers below them, the front line discussed above. The front line is tasked with executing the strategic plan the executive developed last year. The reality is that the executives have delegated the present to the front line, because they are too busy dealing with the future, making sense of the uncharted. So if you hope to engage with these, you need to get past the how, and deal with the why; you have to speak their language, and you have to be in synch and aligned with their time line, the future.

If you go in there and talk about the here and now you’re more than dead, you’re history, because today, is part of their history, again, they have delegated it.

It is for this reason that one my favourite questions is “If we were sitting here 18 months from, and you were telling me you had hit a grand slam, what would that look like?” Now you’re where they are, someone they can talk to. Let them tell you, make sure you take it all in, and then ask “so why aren’t we there now?”, That’s when they tell you what they need to make that future happen, and what you can sell them.

So if you want too sell higher up, you need to stop living in the past!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

Selling In The Right Time Frame – Sales eXchange 1962

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Time Frame

One common theme here and at other quality sales sources, is the need to cover the entire buying organization, top down, bottom up, and all sides.  This not only eliminates the need to go around or over someone, but delivers a number of benefits and opportunities to sell and establish contacts and relationships.    Over the years there has been a lot written about the need for sellers to be “multi-lingual” in order to properly communicate with all levels of the buying organization.  Executives/decision makers/VPs in your target organization speak a differently than say the implementers or users of the product even when they are talking about the same thing.   If one or both do not understand what you are saying it is a problem.  When you call a on a VP, and deliver your message in implementer speak, you risk being banished down in the organization, because that is what you sound like, where you may be stuck for a while, extending you sales cycle, or forever, and never getting the sale.

Understanding how to communicate with the different groups, what their specific drivers, issues and hot buttons are, is a must, especially when they have viable alternatives to your offering, and they always do.  As you master this you will learn that not only do these groups speak different languages, they function in different time planes, which means you will also need to learn how to exist in multiple time frames.

VP’s will tend to have a longer time horizon than implementers.  In a very general way, there are those focused on strategy and the strategic direction of the company.  Once those strategies are decided and set, and things begin to move to the tactical execution of the strategy, as a result the time horizons of the implementers is shorter.  If you fail to manage this, it could be much more fatal than the language issue.  In fact mastering the different time frames will directly help with language, if you know where they are focused, you can speak to it, but if you are positioning for a different time than they are looking at, you are bound to miscommunicate.

If you look at the continuum of a purchase, it is likely that someone had an idea for a product or an initiative at the executive level.  They will then gauge support among their peers, while helping to shape the big picture.  They may then have some of the team leaders scope things out, costs/benefits, challenges, etc.; this may include consulting with outside parties, a great opportunity to introduce your company long before vendor selection process starts.  Once the project gets the go ahead, the implementers take centre stage.

Goes without saying that if you can insert yourself in the process at the scoping stage or before, you would have a great advantage, one reason to call high in the organization.  But if you speak the wrong language, and talk about feature/benefit, you in the wrong time frame, and in the wrong “country”.

Another advantage to getting in early, will be your ability to influence and impact their strategy, and with that done, you will be in a much better position when it comes to vendor selection, after all, you’re “a safe choice” vis-à-vis the executive, and while price will always be an issue, you will have set the standard much earlier in the process, or if you will time frame.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

BANTER 221

On Monday – I introduced a framework allowing sales people to fully engage when working with buyers, an easy to follow (which does not always mean easy to execute) process called BANTER:

Budget
Accountability
Need
Timelines
Execution
Review

We looked at the first two, Budget and Accountability, today we will look at Need and Timelines or Time.

Before we get into today’s elements, there are two very important things to remember as you read this series. As I introduce each of these elements, I am giving a couple of common examples based on the work I do with different B2B sales teams. These are not exhaustive by any means, and will vary greatly depending on your product or offering, so look at this as a starting point, but you will have work to do in fitting them in to your routine.

Second and more important is that there is no magic or silver bullet in sales, there is just EXECUTION. You can learn the BANTER elements, you can learn other methodologies, there are plenty out there, but if you do not execute and continuously work on improving your execution, it’s all just words.

Need – This is the one I struggle with a bit, as it fits the flow and the acronym, but may be misleading.  When it comes to discovery, many sales people think their job is to ask the prospect what their needs are, but those prospects who can answer that specifically are past the defining stage and well into the shopping phase, which is usually a disadvantage.   In fact, this is the flaw with some reactive approaches that prepare you for a “ready buyer”; these buyers exist, they have done their research, “know” what they “want”, are preyed upon by many sales people, and will tend to lean to price. 

The goal in the Need phase is to work with and help the prospect define the requirement and the relating opportunity.  By focusing on the buyer’s specific and organizational objectives, you can better link your solutions to those and build a sale where others may not see one.  The goal is to ignite rather than wait for a trigger obvious to all. 

This involves work, knowledge and the discipline to execute the discovery process in a consistent and methodical fashion, without shortcuts or assumptions.  Not always exciting, not sexy, but rewarding when properly executed. 

Timelines or Time – This works on so many levels, and you need to manage them all.  The obvious one is what is the buyer’s timeline?  Can it be accelerated?  Most importantly, can it be leveraged to accelerate the decision cycle?  There is a balancing act in managing your perception of time, and the buyer’s perception.  While it is unwise to push the buyer because you have a sale to make, you also can’t let the sale and cycle linger.  Again, Discovery is key.  By tying time to the clients objectives, and critical times or compelling event you can motivate a client to act.  Quite simply, if you can understand when the critical points in time are for the client, no matter how far in the future, you can usually work a timeline that will show them they need to engage and act well before that, like maybe now.  Internal planning, ordering equipment, training, budgets, implementation times, process alignment and adjustments, and other key steps can be highlighted as the impetus for acting now rather than later.  Again all based on the buyer’s realities.

There is also your timelines, what is the average length of your cycle.  How is that aligned with the buyer’s buy cycle.  Often a small misalignment here will cause great delay or a “no decision” situation.  To keep the sale on track you need to understand the proper timeline between stages; plan and manage what has to be in place at each stage to ensure forward movement.  To do this you need to plan each stage and meeting to fit within the proper timeline.  The challenge is more the number of moving parts, parallel processes, than the complexity of each part.  This why there is the temptation to take short cuts by ignoring some hoping that the others will get you through.  Not a good idea, it is much better to plan things out, I often map it out on paper, and even share it with the prospect.  This not only gets them involved and achieve buy in, but builds credibility and differentiation well before the field gets crowded by those who are sniffing around for “Needs”.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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