dad teaching

Be The Play0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Being a holiday Monday here in Ontario, thought we’d look at something that can get you to think enough not to distract from the sun and water, yet enough to count. So for that our topic for today is that there two views (often more, but at least two) into every issue. As a seller, be that an individual rep, a specific VP or an entire company, must be full cognizant, understand the other view if they are to succeed. Let’s be clear, I am not suggestion you have to agree, but to sell better and more, you have to be aware, and include in your calculations and actions. Failing to do that will cost you sales and time, neither most sellers can afford to lose much of.

Some time ago I post a piece looking at how people sell like they buy, and buy like they sell, this becomes a problem when the leader of the sales team buys everything on price. This was played again recently when I approached a graphics design company. Spoke with the owner and president, we identified some areas to explore, but he wanted to do it through his VP of sales. While this makes perfect sense, it is already an indicator that there are differing views internally, we’ll see.

dad teachingAs you would expect, the VP did not feel that the team needed any attention at all, and was clearly speaking because the conversation started “upstairs”. After performing the customary “Seasoned Team” ritual, we got down to business. My first question was about markets they were currently in, and those they were targeting; his first question was about price. Five minutes in, two of which were introductions, we are down to price. Not what kind of outcomes I have been able to deliver against, not what are the dials he is trying to turn in his sales approach and team, what we do, how we do it; with a hint to any of that, boom, price. Now I know he was trying to take me down the budget path, not so much to blow me off, but to be able to offer a sacrifice other than training: “look at all the other better ways we could spend that money, the team is good.” If only the numbers supported that fantasy.

More importantly, how do you think his team sells? I would bet on price. How much help is he to his people when they come to him with prospect question other than price? Especially since price is such a here and now issue, and leaders need to be forward looking.

This goes beyond the price question, if a leader cannot clearly project the future state of his/her organization, it is difficult to get your reps to do the same with prospects. Which is why many default to asking “what’s your pain point” or some other equally lame question, like “Don’t you agree it would be great if you deliver 11% more widgets?” “Of course it would, except nothing in this meeting thus far indicates you can do that, so let me ask, how much?” Whereas a question about their desired future state, expressed not in the form of a question, but as an outcome, one other customers have achieved and leveraged.

If you are a sales leader, be that VP, or front-line manager, next time you in the midst of making a purchase, ask yourself how you’re reacting, and what would you sales team see in your behavior, and how they would deal with it. If all they hear from mom/dad is price, what do you think they talk about when they are out there on their own?

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

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

An Endless Supply Of Tomorrows0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Proactive Prospecting Summer – Part 2

A common question I am asked is “What are the characteristics or attributes of great sellers?” While there are a number, one key one for me is their view and utilization of time. Generally speaking you can put folks into two groups, the larger 80%, those who view time as a unending commodity, and as such can be frittered away with little thought or concern. The minority 20%, the more consistently successful, see time as a precious resource that is to be maximized and fully exploited, understanding that once an hour passes, it can never be regained or reclaimed.

When it comes to prospecting, time is the silent killer. This why it is a core component of the Proactive Prospecting Program on Sales Gravy University. Many don’t want to do it, afraid to do it, and will willfully and by design waste their time on “other important things”, and thus run out of time to “prospect today, but I’ll do two hours tomorrow”. Bullshit, they couldn’t do an hour today, what makes the manager think that they do two tomorrow. The only truth in that is that they do in fact do twice as much: 2 X 0 = 0!

The thing that strikes me (and maybe it’s just me), is what can be more important than prospecting? Sure, we got to keep current clients happy, work on sales that are mid-stream, getting training on that new app you’re not going to really use, and of course, completing the football pool. But are any of those truly more important than prospecting, starting the next cycle, the next source of excuses for wasting prospecting time.

The best prospectors, allocate specific time to all of the activities highlighted above and others that are critical to winning and keeping happy customers. With the exception of the football pool, each of the above have to have time allocated and dedicated to completing. Based on what you sell, the nature of the buy/sale cycle, and other factors, the amount of time you allocate to each will vary, but there is no escaping that they all have to be completed throughout the cycle, and will require a specific time to complete.

To get a sense of how much time you need can be determined in a number of ways, none will be exact, but close enough to allow you to be in control of your time and your success. We use an Activity Calculator, (you can download it here). It works backwards from your goal, and uses your individual conversion rates from one stage the sales to the next, to close. Once you arrive at how many new prospects or meetings you need a week, you can then block off the time(s) in your calendar.

And that’s the hard part for most, blocking the time, as you would for a client meeting, and then actually doing it in the time allocated. Almost every sales person will tell me that they would never blow off a scheduled client meeting, yet they’re happy blowing off the activity that got them in front of a client to begin with.

It is not new, do the big important things first, there will always be room for the smaller things. What’s bigger than filling your pipeline with opportunities and future clients (who will make demands on your time)?

Sales people use their most precious resource to sabotage their most important activity – prospecting. To help you work through the time issue, download the white paper SALES HAPPEN IN TIME.

Feel free to e-mail me directly as you take advantage of the many things you’ll learn in your Proactive Prospecting Summer and the Proactive Prospecting Program on line.

PPP On Demand
quiz score 2

Holiday Sales Quiz0

Given we are in holiday mode on both sides of the border, Independence holiday no less, I thought we’d keep things light today.

Below is a classic scene from Tin Men, take the time to watch, and then answer respond to the poll below, specifically what kind of sales style or school would you say was employed to win the sale.

Based on the video above, which sales style would you say was used to close the deal?

Bottom

StockSnap_YR89OQFMT1

You Are Where You Are By Choice0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I had a couple of interesting conversations with two reps recently during a break in a workshop. Both centred around where each of the reps were currently, both in terms of quota in the current year, and their over all sales career. What was interesting is one was exactly where they wanted to be, on track to achieve his stated goals, for this year and beyond. The other, far short of their quota, was able to share little about their destination or any road that may get them there. Not surprisingly to me, was that both were exactly where their choices and resulting actions led them to be.

It may not surprise you that the successful rep was able to articulate why and how he made the choices that led to his success, and the specific process, choices and actions which got him there. The less successful rep, we’ll call him Average, a name more common than Bob in sales, could only articulate all the outside forces that he blamed for preventing him from being better than he was, a little less than average.

While it is easy to put this off to both being products of the choices they made, one needs to examine how they make their choices, and as importantly, how they acted, or in the case of all Average sellers, did not act, on choices they made or ignored.

It may not be sexy, but success in most endeavours, is a simple iterative process, chose/decide – act – review – chose/decide again – a act – review – chose/decide again. Sometimes the simplicity of it seems deceptive, people feel there needs to be a correlation between success and complexity. The real alignment, correlation, is between choices we make, the process for those choices, and the resulting action.

While we make choices every day, there are some fundamental choices that can be made that have greater effect on your success than others. Consider that some 40% of things we do every day are done out of habit. Meaning we don’t make the choice each time we act, but once, while forming and committing to a habit.

If you can track the things you actually do during a day/week, not what you think or tell other people, but the actual activities in real time you’ll see two things. First is which things you do out of habits, and which you make conscious choices on before you act. Many of the things that we do out of habit don’t directly relate to sales, the B-line I make for the coffee drive-thru when I leave my driveway is a habit. When I chose to follow up with a prospect, the time I spend researching a prospect, the actual people I contact, are all choices I make that impact my sales. Just like choosing to wait for the buyer to almost complete their buying journey before we line up for the opportunity to take their order on their terms, is a choice.

Regardless which type of sales you are involved in, which dogma you choose to consume, whose colors you wear, your day to day, deal to deal success is based on one thing, the choices you make and how you choose to act on those choices.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

Frayed

Success Breeds Prospects0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Most sales people tend to ease off on their prospecting when they have a healthy pipeline. They feel that there is plenty to work, they have a number of prospects on the go, and tell me, that their time is better used to drive the opportunities in the pipeline, and figure that they will prospect for more opportunities once the current pipeline solidifies. While the disjointed thinking of that logic is obvious to most, like “lemmings“, many sales people follow a path that ultimately leads less success.

Let’s say you close all the deals in your pipeline, let’s say; what will you work on the next day? We have all been on the pipeline roller-coaster. All kinds of opportunities to close at the peak, desperately prospecting (praying and hoping), at the bottom. Sure, it’s absurd, but sales pros choose to repeat it over and over, even though changing their habits is less stressful in the long run. So, what’s the alternative?

We have all heard the expression, and many of us have experienced first hand that Success does indeed breed success. In sales, the reality is that pipeline success leads to more success. Prospecting when your pipeline is “overflowing”, is one of the most fun things you can do. Sales professionals who take a balanced approach to their pipeline, meaning prospecting, finding new opportunities, is as important as closing any opportunity in your pipeline.

FrayedMost people don’t like prospecting because of the stress of having to add an opportunity sooner rather than later. That pressure is amplified when you have depleted all the opportunities, the emptier your pipeline, the more that silence reverberates the further your quota is out of reach. This pressure is very apparent to your prospects, even when you are hiding behind a phone, e-mail, or LinkedIn. They can smell a desperate seller a mile away in a storm. Mistakes come easier, frustration surfaces faster, and most seller’s results are much worse than they have to be; accelerating the downward spiral.

On the other hand, when your pipeline is full, you can truly forecast a successful month or quarter, there is hardly pressure at all. Every day you are focused on things that are driving deals, allowing you to leverage not just the energy in your prospecting, but the things your buyers responding to positively are the very things you can use in your prospecting. Just as they can smell fear, they can sense and respond to success. The way we carry ourselves when things are good, is positive and attractive. Buyers want to deal with successful professionals, something we can’t claim to be when our pipeline is low, when our energy is drained before we even pick up the phone or send an e-mail.

I suspect one reason people leave dead opportunities is so they can fool themselves out of prospecting. “I don’t need to prospect, look at all the things in the pipeline I can work on”. Right.

The solution is simple, make prospecting a habit. Base on your metrics, how many “meetings” do you need to generate to have enough coverage to get you to goal. Once you calculate that, you can have a good sense of how much time you will need to allocate to the activity each week, all through the cycle. It is usually less than you would think, it is only because we let it build up in our mind that it seems ominous. (Well, that and the rejection). I know how long it takes me to get an appointment, and I know how many appointments I need to succeed. But there is no denying that I am much better when the pipe is full, frankly because the state of my pipeline gives me the confidence to relaxed, focus and successful, which in turn gets me more prospects.

Join me Thursday for:

OBS Sales Experts

Win lose draw dice

Let’s Make A Decision!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

We’ve all been there, a real-life version of the popular game show. You’ve done your work, and have arrived at that final fateful stage of the sales.

Three possibilities, three doors:

  1. A positive Decision
  2. A negative Decision
  3. No Decision

While it is clear which door the individual sales person want, the question is how to get that. Much of that will depend on the state of the buyer and their organization at the time of decision. Broadly speaking three sates: 1) Actively looking, those people out there consuming all the content you dangle in front of them as they willingly march down their buying journey. You know all about these folks, 57% of the way… blah blah blah. They know what they want, why, and they are geared to get it. 2) Passively looking, they know they have to make a purchase, but they are not driven by the same urgency as their Active cousins. The things these two groups have in common include that they know they have to make a purchase, one now, the other sometime in the next 12 to 18 months. The other, is that they are both at the point of choosing the product, and will most likely end up with doors number 1 or 2. The other thing to consider is that these two groups make up less than 30% of the over target market.

But if you are only selling to this small group of buyers, an informed and opinionated set of buyers, you are most likely facing a decision based on price, features, or both. The good thing is that while you may not like the decision, at least you’ll get one.

What about the remaining 70%, the Status Quo, the complacent, set in their way, completely oblivious and removed from the market? Unlike Active or passive buyers, these people are not even thinking of playing, never mind deciding. Which is one of the key factors behind the high and rising number of deals that end up behind door number 3, no decision! According to sources some 30% of opportunities going into the top of your funnel will end in no decision. Take out the Active and Passive folks, who will make a decision, even when not in our favour, this means about half of deals initiated with Status Quo buyers go nowhere. Not the best use of time or resources.

While there a host of reason for this, but I think the key is what we are selling these folks. Because most sellers are practiced at selling to Folks who have made the decision to act, and are now down to selecting a product. Status Quo people are much further back down the road, they need to be convinced that a change is necessary. When we are successful at doing that, then they enter the product, or if you like, the solution, selection phase. The reason half don’t make a product decision is we were not successful at showing them why they need to leave the safety and warmth of their current means of doing things. Without that, they don’t need to decide on a product, feature, price or any of the common features of a buyer initiated and driven sale. Active and Passive buyers do most of the lifting, they just need someone to place an order with once they made up their mind.

Win lose draw diceSuccess with getting Status Quo buyers rests in being able to engage them on how they do things now, how that aligns with or detracts from their objectives. If we fail to get them to understand that there is another way to achieve those objectives, there is no need for a product decision.

Forget what makes you successful in winning what’s behind doors number 1 & 2, to win what’s behind door number 3, you need to create a reason for them to have to decide, this is about everything but the product. Active and Passive buyers have made the decision to decide on their own, leaving the sellers who service them no opportunity to exercise by sales people who are only selling to these buyers. Frankly a challenge for many inbound types, and others.

Adding to the challenge is that as soon as we go “product” with these buyers, they turn off, for them that is putting the cart way, way ahead of the horse. Your options need to look to their internal processes, and how those are enabling or preventing them from achieving current objectives, or objectives you can get them to adopt. The half of Status Quo buyers who choose not to make a decision, are not rejecting your product, but your inability to persuade based on anything other than product.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

pier

Are your prospecting calls a long run off a short pier?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sellers are a wonderfully optimistic lot, having drank the Kool Aid about their “solution”, believing that they are indeed the cavalry coming over the hill to heal all that pains their potential prospects. This unbridled optimism and energy works great when you have a willing audience, say a play, where the audience comes with interest and openness to the message. That however is not the reality of a prospecting call, or dare I say, cold call; enthusiasm is not enough, in fact can be your undoing.

In no way do I want to douse your enthusiasm, but I do want to infuse a bit of reality into how prospecting unfolds these days. While I use calls to demonstrate the points, the basics hold true for e-mails, or other forms of “disruptive selling”. You can dress it up any way you like, but if your call or e-mail or other method of approach is not scheduled, and is news to the recipient, then we are disrupting that buyer. Nothing wrong with that, you are practicing Disruptive Marketing; if they taught Sales 2.0 or 3.0 were cool, Disruptive Marketing is just plain Arctic. Take pride in what you do, change the title on your card to read “Professional Interrupter”.

If you are going to interrupt someone, make it count, make every second of the call count, especially the first few. Even in an e-mail, if your subject line sucks, and your opening line is subpar, you’re beat from the start, as the prospect will never take in the real reason you called or they should speak with you. Those first few seconds are crucial, which is why I don’t understand why some many seller, so many professional interrupters, squander those important seconds.

Time after time I hear sales people talk about the most irrelevant things when the prospect unsuspectingly answers the phone. Rather than dealing with and delivering to the most important thing the prospect wants to know, i.e. “What’s In It For Me?” They ramble on about stuff not even their wives care about.

Caller: “Hi my name is Harvey Brown, I am the mid-Atlantic Account Executive for Blah Blah Inc., a Fortune 500 company and award winning manufacture of Machines Learning Widgets”. Frankly who really cares, Mom?

From the prospects’ perspective, you are almost at the end of the pier, and you haven’t even turned the corner of saying anything of interest to the prospect. With this approach, by the time you get to anything they may be able to evaluate and base a meeting on, the prospect has certainly checked out mentally if not hung up. In the case of e-mail, you can bet your last dollar that they have deleted your e-mail by now and have moved on.

What’s in it for them is not who you are, what you do, who you sell for, or what you sell. What’s in it for them are the outcomes and impacts on their business. So, start your call with that.

pier

Start with the very end, and then use your sales meeting to work back to why your product. Lead with the impacts on their business, what it will look like after they buy from you, don’t focus on what they are buying from you. If they don’t see the “how things will be different (better), then they could care less about what you sell. To do this you need to inject it into the call early, and not waste time giving long rambling demographical data that will make you run out of pier long before you can deliver the impact.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

stranger in their own deal

A Stranger In Your Own Deal?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

It’s interesting to see how different sales people and organisations deal with lost deals. In light of the fact that most sales people including me, have an initial engagement to close ratio of less than 50%, meaning we lose more than we win, you’d think there would be more of a focus on understanding the reason for the outcomes of our opportunities. A better understand of why things turned out as they did, more importantly, how to change things to change the outcome moving forward should be of interest to sales types.

Even among those who do have a formal review process, they at times are limited by their scope and process.

A proper review of a loss is not easy, and may in fact be bruising to the rep involved. Which is one reason, I believe, that the rep involved in a lost deal should not be part of the process for loss review, at least not in parts involving the prospect in question. This is not some form of punishment, it is to ensure you get the best feedback for driving change.

Almost always, when you send the rep in to find out why they lost, you get no usable feedback. First off, the prospect, having made their choice has now shifted to implementing what they just bought (from the other guy). The easiest thing is to tell the rep it was price and product related differences. The reps have egos to protect, so what better than having the convenience of having price and product to blame. “See, it’s just as I and the rest of the team have been telling you….”

You really want this guy walking around the sales floor looking good for loosing?

stranger in their own dealIf you are looking for loss reviews to have real meaning and bring change, not only should you have someone else do it, but have a plan and specific areas that you will probe. Depending on the size of your deals and company, your best option is to go with a third part specializing doing post mortems.

One such professional I spoke to, told me that most of the time they uncover things the rep was not even aware of. As you may expect, reps spent their time on the “product selection” elements, even before the prospect(s) were at that stage of their buying process. As a result, the rep was beat long before price and features were even on the table.

In essence, the rep brought nothing new to the discussion, and early in the buying process was relegated to being the “low end benchmark”. As soon as another vendor/rep took the discussion to a direction that had nothing to do with product, but instead, to place that everything to do with the buyers’ objectives, business realities, and impacts they were seeking, the PP rep (Price Product), became the designated low end comparable, which is why he/she was allowed to stick around, and also why you need someone else to do the post mortems.

While you can’t relitigate the deal, you do have to make sure that you get to the core issue(s). On the surface this may seem like it is about why the rep blew it, but it is really about understanding what needs to be different next time. And if the rep objects, you just remind them that in reality, they were a stranger in their own deal to begin with, so it may as well be so in the post mortem, especially if you really want to learn and change.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

Looking in

Where’s You Next $1,000,000 Deal Coming From?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

To do something right, you need to set time aside to understand things, to come up with a plan, and then finally doing it. All of these are elements of success, and they all require time to complete. This is why I want the sellers I work with to not think about time management, a really silly concept, but instead focus on time allocation.

To do that you must first know what are the key activities you have to do over the course of a sales cycle, prospecting, research, play-off pools, account management and more. This will vary from seller to seller and impacted by what they sell and to whom. Next you have to figure out and understand how much of your time needs to be allocated to each activity, but again only the activities you need to succeed, so I’m thinking maybe the play-off pool should come of the list. First thing you have to accept is that there is no right number, just your number. Some will have to allocate more to an activity than you, and for other key activities the opposite will be true. The only number that counts is yours, and the only thing that counts is how you improve it, because next year, your quota is going up, but you ain’t getting another second in the day to work with.

Once you have that together, you need to make sure that it makes its way into your calendar, and in the proportions you came to above. So if you had for example 20% of your time allocated to prospecting, (and were able to validate that with your metrics), then over the course of a four week sales cycle, assuming you work a 50 hour week, you will set aside, bank if you will, 40 hours over the four weeks for prospecting. If you don’t block that time in your calendar in advance, like you would with other important things, like say client meeting, pipeline reviews, and oh yes, play-off pools, it won’t get done.

Now some will tell me that they wanted to prospect, but couldn’t get around to it cause too many things came up. Things like what?

Seriously, what’s more important than ensuring you have enough fuel in the tank to take you to your destination? I don’t see a lot of sales guys heading out for Miami with only enough gas to get half way there, and no plans or means of acquiring more fuel before they run out.

The most common things is closing a sales or looking after customer issues. But if you had allocated the time for closing and the time for managing accounts, then why take from an equally important activity. I know closing is important, sexy and rewarding, but wasn’t that once a prospect?

Looking inTalk to wealthy people, and they all say, they put a specific amount away for retirement and other things that were important to them, before they would spend money on other less important things. So what’s important than filling your pipeline with your next opportunities, think of them as baby deals.

If you wanted to prospect, you would set time to do it, just like you do for closing calls, upsell calls, or vacation. These things are all in your calendar now, are the hours you will prospect next week? No!

“I’ll prospect as much as I can, depending what else I have to do”. Wrong, you should prospect as much as you committed to, based on your conversion rates and other metrics.

No, carve out and protect time to prospect, and then fit in all the other activities around it.

I ask reps, if you had a call set, where they were going to sign a $1,000,000 deal, what would I have to do to keep you from going? Yet when it comes to finding the next $1,000,000 deal, ah, that’s not that important.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

Football substitue 2

Change The Candidate – Not The Rules!2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I am not big on politics, but it’s hard to avoid, seems to be everywhere one looks and steps, believe it or not, I have even witnessed it in corporate boardrooms where apparently, business was supposedly being conducted. But I was recently struck by an interesting parallel between some current political theater, and things unfolding in some sales organizations.

In the circus surrounding the recent confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, Chuck Schumer was making the rounds with a well rehearsed set of talking point regarding the potential for filibuster in an effort to delay Gorsuch’s confirmation. While I could care less about the confirmation, Schumer made an interesting argument in the face of the “Nuclear Option”, I paraphrase: “If you can’t get the requisite 60 votes, don’t change the rules, change the candidate.”

Many sales leaders could learn a bit from this motto. If we expand the concept of rules, to include the broad sales environment, there is a lot of wisdom in the notion of taking another look at what they need to change to achieve their desired outcomes.

Football substitue 2I see too many organizations making too many accommodations to suite the talents, or shortcomings of their sales teams. Don’t get me wrong, it does make sense to do things in a way that allows more people to succeed, but it should be done in context of the overall organizational goals.

Assuming that the goals and objectives of the organization and by extension the sales team are realistic, then we need to strive to bring together those assets and skills required to hit or exceed those goals. This may not always be a safe assumption, we have all seen companies that set such audacious goals, that they went way beyond being big and hairy, to being crushing, discouraging and counterproductive in every way.

But if the goals are doable (not easy), then sales leaders need to look at how they assemble the right assets to achieve those goals, which includes their team. But many organizations seem to make different accommodations for their human assets than other key resources. We have seen organizations change the rules, incentives, quotas or other things, mid stream, just to accommodate an underperforming rep, or asset.

Imagine if new rules were introduced in the middle of the second quarter to balance out the inability of one quarterback to hit a receiver or complete one hand off, never happen. The player would be pulled, and eventually traded. All with the support of the fans and pundits.

Organizations that choose to change elements once the game has started as a means of leveling the playing field for underperformers, in most cases are just delaying the inevitable, the rep either leaving due to frustration, or being fired for underperformance. While I fully believe that everything reasonable should be done to help reps develop the skills and habits to win. Some will take longer to ramp up, some will hit slumps, but there are some, obvious to most, who will never cut it without some form of “corporate subsidies”, i.e. changing quota, territory, or just allowing compromise on required activity or metrics.

Unlike the Gorsuch discussion, where Schumer could do little more than just talk, sales leaders have the ability to change the player rather than the rule. Rather than a temporary fix between now and the inevitable, that will lead to current and ongoing success.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

wordpress stat