The Ultimate Beneficiary – Sales eXecution 2770

By Tibor Shanto – 


There certain things that people tend to “speak” in sales circles, which tend to be “tribal” in nature and are often mouthed to suit the circumstance or attain peer acceptance. But when you dig a bit you find that some of the things they speak to or of, don’t always reflect the way they actually execute. And since talk is cheap and the payoff is in the action, it is important to look at some and see if we can get some change, no, not for the bus, but for better sales.

One area where is who they target and pursue to gain engagement and traction, if not the sale. When you ask some (not all) sales people who is important to them in getting a sale or a deal done, they often respond that they need to get to the decision maker. Since that is not usually a title and the function varies from deal to deal, I find that response wanting.

When I ask some sales people who they sell to, especially without giving them a reason for the question, I often hear people who are users, and lower level decision makers, like managers, office manager as an example. Nothing wrong with these people, but they are often implementers or contributors to decisions, but not what we are looking for. When I push the issue, they’ll say “oh ya, well we also call on the executive or C suite”. Better but still, not the answer we were hoping for.

Given the way purchasing has gone over the last few years it is better to redefine the answer away from title, and more into roles. While I would not discourage anyone from going high in an organization, it is always good to be in tune with those setting the strategic decisions, they are not always the ones who decide, or decide the way some sales people would think.

Many senior executives place less importance on the actual product or services decided on, and put more emphasis on the how their teams see the offering, is there consensus around one product versus another. When there is, it means smoother (read less costly) implementation, greater adoption, and other more desirable outcomes, that in turn help drive objectives.

In light of the fact that there is often so little real differences between the offerings on the short list, senior leaders will often go for a product that may score 1% or 2% less on the comparative chart, but has the support of all, where the top one may have less than unanimous support.

In light of the fact that most leaders buy things to drive and attain objectives, and they rely and delegate aspects of that to others on the team, the goal of a seller is to identify and engage with the ultimate beneficiary. Sure it would be simple to say that’s the person at the top, but in day to day terms, it is the person who most relays or is impacted by the work and output generated by what’s being purchased.

Since buying and selling are economic activities, let’s stick to basic economies, supply and demand. Who generates the demand for the purchase in question? The person or people who are the ultimate beneficiaries. Based on the specifics it could be the VP of Marketing, or it could be brand manager for a specific segment. Identify the people who most benefit, and you will be in a position to not just create demand, but if it already exists, shape and influence it. Do that in a way that aligns with their objectives and those of the company, and you’ll be pleased with how those beneficiaries will influence the purchase process and decision.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Why Are You Trying To Kill Me?7

By Tibor Shanto – 


Said the Cold Call To The Socialite.

Recent headlines about AC/DC’s drummer brush with the law, got me thinking why would someone want to kill someone? Such a passionate act must be a result of some big or egregious cause, or at the very least a means of avoiding harm. Then I remembered that in sales we see this all the time, over and over, people are trying to kill cold calling.

The most recent would be assassins are Socialites, social selling advocates, who seem to spend as much time sniping at and proclaiming the death of cold calling as they do speaking about what they sell, social selling products, seminars, remedies and dreams. I wish them all the luck, capitalism rules, everyone is allowed to make a buck, I just don’t understand why cold calling needs to be dead for their stuff to work. Cold calling does not present danger to them, in fact it complements and adds to social selling, just as social selling adds to cold calling success, so what’s the deal here Socialites?

You know I have never read an article or a post that was written by an advocate of cold calling, suggesting that social selling is bad, ridiculing people who use the practice to engage with prospects, suggest that it is inadequate, or about to die. Even though you can find stats that would suggested that on its own, it is not all the Socialites will have you believe.

I suspect the main reason is that cold callers do not see social as a threat, is because we do see it as a great addition to an existing set of tools and techniques we use to drive business. We cold callers seem to take a more inclusionary approach to engaging with clients and driving revenue. I would argue cold callers have taken a much more “social approach” than many Socialites who seem to either proclaim or wish that cold calling was dead. Now we all know it is not, you wouldn’t need to keep saying it if it was, it would be self-evident, when was the last time you read a piece about Plato being dead?

Let’s Spin Some Stats!

(Step back you don’t wanna get any on your shoes)

To start with not every buyer has a Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn account. Not only that but depending on who you are prospecting, it is important to note that some groups’ social media activity is in decline. According VentureBeat’s summary of the 2014 Social CEO Report “an annual survey that investigates the social media habits of business leaders, has been released. The results show a depressingly small increase in social activity from Fortune 500 business leaders over last year’s analysis.” Further, “Amazingly, the report shows that 68 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social presence on any of the major networks. Taking a deeper dive into the data reveals that while there has been significant growth in the number of Fortune 500 CEO accounts created versus last year’s results, the number of “active” accounts grew marginally. This suggests that nearly as many business leaders with existing accounts abandoned their use of social media.”

I’ll be the first to admit that you can probably find stats to the contrary, which just goes to show that sales and sales people are just as susceptible to hype as the next group. But hype is something decision makers have a radar for, serious decision makers want facts not hype, they want tangible things that help them achieve their objectives. This leads to the fact that the most effective means of communication with senior leaders is direct. And while 68% may shun a social presence, 100% have telephones and e-mails. The key is to have a meaningful message that leads to engagement.

Here are some famous stats that keep getting dragged out (and abused):

Corporate Executive Board reported that B2B buyers are 57% of the way to a buying decision before they are willing to talk to a sales rep.
• “A survey by DemandGen Report, reported that 77% of B2B buyers said they did not talk with a salesperson until after they had performed independent research, and 36% of buyers said they didn’t engage with a sales rep until after a short list of preferred vendors was established.”

I am not here to argue the stats, but I do want to point out that both stats refer to BUYERS. These are people who of their own volition initiated a buying cycle. Which means that by the time they are 57% – 77% of the way there, they are not looking for a sales person, but more an order taker. Sad but true. Sales People are paid to persuade and influence, not accept orders from someone who has for the most part made up their mind and is now looking to see which models are available and for someone to negotiate price and terms with. Definition of selling:

To Sell –
–   to persuade or induce (someone) to buy something:
–   to persuade or influence to a course of action or to the acceptance of something

The real problem with waiting for buyers, is that according to Chet Holmes and other sources, “About 3 percent of potential buyers at any given time are buying now” (The Ultimate Sales Machine – by Chet Holmes). Only 3% of your target market are active buyers, even if you social sold your share and then some, are you near quota? These 3% are the people calling you when they are more than half way through their journey, most are past persuasion or influence. If you want to talk SALES or SELLING, you need to be talking about the other 97%. If you want to sell to that 97%, you are likely going to have to pick up the phone and say something other than #wannabuy?

Since we are on stats, allow me to digress for a second. This is one quoted by a Socialite as proof of the “paradigm shift in the sales industry”

“10.8% of social sellers have closed 5 or more deals attributed to social media.” Or looked at from the other end, maybe it can be phrased “89.2% can’t attribute deals to social media”; and “54% of social salespeople have tracked their social selling back to at least 1 closed deal.” I bet the I can find unhyphenated sellers who can track a lot more deals to cold calling, and even more to just selling using all the tools available to them instead of just some.

Let’s look at the “short list claim”, and decision makers. DiscoverOrg surveyed 1,000 IT decision makers at Fortune ranked, small and medium-sized companies. It shows how outbound – today’s euphemism for cold – sales calls and e-mails affect and “more importantly disrupt vendor selection.” Further, some “Seventy-five per cent of IT executives have set an appointment or attended an event as a direct result of outbound email and call techniques.” Finally, “nearly 600 said an outbound call or e-mail led to an IT vendor being evaluated.”

So if you did cold call along with your socializing, you’d be in much better shape than narrowing your chances to one vs. the other, Socialite style.

“But I don’t sell to Fortune 500” I hear you say, “I target Small Business”, the other end of the spectrum. Well small business is only selectively accessible via social.  At a conference last summer, where attendees were owners or senior managers of business that were for the most part under $25M, way less than half said they were using LinkedIn. I am a firm believer in the value and power of social and selling, but if they are not there, there is not much point. And it will not surprise you that all of them had telephones and e-mail.

Oh yes, referrals. There is no denying that a warm referral is like first prize, and an indirect referral, second prize. But cold calling usually shows up as third in terms of return on time and effort. Me, I like to bet safe and spread my risk across all three rather than betting on just one. Besides, not everyone is in a position to get or generate referrals. If you are in a more transactional sale, a new rep to the company, in a new territory, referrals will have limited utility early on. Sure you can generate some from existing “happy” clients, but you may find your probation and bank account run out first. You will need to incorporate all tools available, including the dreaded cold call.

Dreaded being the operative word. Most people who kill cold calling suck at it, makes them hate, makes them bitter. Like overweight people looking for that magic pill, instead of understanding that the magic pill combined with regular exercise and activity will always deliver a slimmer tummy, and healthier state. Sure the Atkins Diet worked for some, but it worked better for those who combined it with exercise.

I don’t like cold calling any more than the next person, but I do it, and I do social, and I do it well, or so I am told. But I don’t need to insult or undermine anyone in the process of executing my total approach to prospecting. Why do Socialites?

Kumbaya Time

The point is to use all tools available, not just one or some.  The only reason for camps, social killing cold calls is to sell social products.  And that’s one thing that has not changed, “Buyer Beware”.  Few sales people I have met can live off referrals only, or off their base. Not everybody is selling social media strategies, inbound programs, or content. Way more sales people have to sell in the trenches, selling traditional products and services, where social has a presence, referrals may play a role, but new business success includes cold calling.

Cold calling is not dead, it just smells funny when done wrong, but done right, it has the sweet smell of sales success. So let’s break down the walls, let’s get rid of the camps, stop thinking about killing or dead things, and make some calls.

That’s my two cents, what about you?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

3 Signs Of Bad Phone Breath – Sales eXecution 2724

By Tibor Shanto – 

Phone breath

No one likes cold calling, well most don’t, so you can stop writing that e-mail telling me that you’re the exception that proves the rule. I don’t like it, I know it is god’s punishment to sales people, but it works, and I have made the connection between successful cold calls, a robust pipeline and the kids eating. I don’t know about you, but my kids get cranky when they don’t eat. But just because I don’t like it, I don’t tell myself it does not work, like many, I also figured out that if I don’t do it, for sure it will not work. So instead, I try to figure out how to do it better, so I have to do less of it, in the process have come to learn some things that stink a call out, literally like bad morning breath for the phone, and given that the people I am calling are not my lovers, they will not tolerate morning breath. So here three ways to avoid Bad Phone Breath.

Speak To them not At them

This one gets me every time, if you are going to interrupt someone during their busy day, make it worth their time, which means leading with and focusing on one of the oldest truths in sales, What’s In It For Them. Sure everyone knows this until the prospect answers the phone, and then they forget and bam, garlic breath. They start by talking about their company, “we’re a leading…”, or other things that mean nothing to the listener. What they want to know is how you can improve their lot, and specifically the outcomes you have delivered which they can relate to and would have an interest in. Start with that, grab their interest, save the rest for the meeting.

Soft In the Middle

I hate it when reps call me and say “I was wondering if we can meet?” I usually respond, “give me a call when you figured it out”; or “I was hoping we can meet” to which I say, “please call me when you get past hoping, and want to.” I know you are trying to be courteous, don’t want to come across pushy, but you need to make up for the fact that you are on the phone, and need to compensate for the lack of body language. People will follow a person with confidence who has a clear message that shows them what’s in it for them. Be clear, direct, and assertive, “I am calling to set a time to meet to share with you….”

Stop Telling Them There is No Reason to Talk to You

No getting away from the fact that if you are cold calling, you are talking to more voice mails than humans. So stop leaving code in your message that there is no need to call you, and they should go ahead and delete the message now. So here is the code buyers look for to hit 76 and flush your message: “Please call me back at your earliest convenience”, delivered in the Soft way described above. Sure, here is an empty message from a dude selling something I already have, because they didn’t tell me what’s in it for me, just what they do. So let me clear my calendar and set aside things I need to get done, so I can call you. Hmm, whose convenience is that for again?

There are other things you can do to improve the odor of a call, but this is start, get these down, call me and we share more.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Don’t Wait To Ask For Referrals – Sales eXecution 2700

By Tibor Shanto – 

Fast & happening

I continue to be amazed that despite all that is written about the importance and success of referrals, how few sales people actually leverage this proven and effective method of sourcing new sales opportunities. Whenever I ask a group of sales reps “How many people here ask for referrals?” I still find that way less than half raise their hand. When I follow up with the question “How many have sold to referrals, the same set of people raise their hand again; I am not sure what the others are waiting for.

But even those who make referrals a habit, many are not fully maximizing the opportunity. The main problem, waiting; generally sellers are waiting too long to ask, and are leaving the request till much too late in the process, or missing them altogether.

Ask any group of sales people when they in fact ask for the referral, an overwhelming majority, like 90%, will say ask for referrals after the sales is completed and the product/service is delivered. Most of these will say they will wait three to six months after, “so the value can set in and be proven, and the customer is happy.”


You should be thinking referral from the time you park your car in the visitors’ spot, until the end of your relationship. Let’s look at it from two perspectives. First is the question of value delivered. Your value comes in many shapes and forms, not just in the delivered product, so even when your referral process is tied to value, it will present itself much before the close or delivered goods.

How many times have you sat with a prospect and had a discussion not about you product, but about something within your field of expertise. Remember I have always stated in this blog that good sales people are subject matter experts. I often sit with prospects and will share a perspective, a view point, or just a way of doing something, and the prospect will respond positively in what I shared, they learned and can use. For example, when discussing forecasts, I may point out a way of calculating something in a better way than they are doing now, or just how they use a formula in their spreadsheet. Prospects often say “Wow, never looked at it that way, thanks for pointing that out”; or “Man, I wish I knew that years ago”; or other similar things.

In my view they just saw something of value in what I said, so why wait, I follow up with “Great, I am glad I can help, do you know anyone else who may see value in this type of conversation?” I don’t expect them to whip out their Rolodex, but I plant the seed, and build from there. You’d be surprised how many time they respond by saying they think so and so should know about this as well.

The other reason you need to think referral from the start, is because you may never close them, which means there is no “after”.

Some time ago I had an initial appointment with a manufacturer, this was a company that had their act together, frankly other than presenting at their annual meeting, and there were no other opportunities. But we had a good dialog, which included talking about their distributors. We agreed to meet again in November to talk about their kick-off, but before I left, I asked if he thought any of his distributors would benefit from some of the areas of expertise we presented. Not only did he list three, give me contact names, but encouraged me to use his name, in the end he even sent an e-mail to two. If I would have waited the opportunity may have been wasted.

Make things happen instead of waiting, all you have to do is plan and ask.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Better Never Than Late (#video)1

By Tibor

Biz TV

Packaging counts for a lot.  Many companies know that while the content of their offer may be similar to others, they can gain traction with potential buyers through presentation and packaging.  While no one may get fired for buying IBM, often what they were buying was less about the quality of the product and more about other factors, just ask some former DEC employees and customers.  But IBM was able to convey “better”, through means other than product specs.

B2B sellers can do the same.  They may not be able to alter their product, but they can alter perceptions.  One way is through steps and actions that are very much in their control.  But many seem to ignore these levers in their control, and as a result attain less success and less sales.

Here are a few examples:

Better Never Than Late

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales Leaders – Manage Your 50% Minority5

by Tibor Shanto –


In the past I have written about the propensity of sales leaders to accept and live with the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule.  For example, 20% of your reps deliver 80% of your revenues, I know one team with 9 reps, where 2 sellers are responsible for 71% of the revenue.  At one time, in the Shanto Principle I asked the question what if organizations could move the dial to 70/30, what would the impact be?

Companies continue to struggle with this reality, in many instances the 80/20 looks more like this:

  1. 20% – Top of the pack, consistently successful, adaptive and responsive to market movements, often spearheading the change in sales that are required to keep and win more business.
  2. 55% – Steady players, not always winning, or delivering 100% of plan, but put in a steady (just enough) effort to be in the 70% – 90% of plan zone.  Room to improve, but bad enough to fire (although you have to wonder).
  3. 25% – Perennial underachievers.  Steadily underperforming, while you don’t invest time in them, they are still part of the team.  While you know you should fire them, you give in to the voice that says they are better than nothing, while I look for a replacement.

You may think that the above is a variation on the traditional A, B, and C player model, many do, which is a mistake.

I strongly suggest that you look at it more like:

A Players – The top 20%, Group 1

B Players – The top half of the 55%, Group 2

C Players – The bottom half of the 55%, Group 2 X Players – The bottom 25%, Group 3

I have always argued that leaders should focus their time and attention to the A players, show the most love to those you want to lose least.  Show no time or attention to the C Players; the lack of attention clearly communicates that they either need to adopt and contribute, make their way up to B status, in order to get attention, or move on to organizations.  The B’s need to be put on a path to achieve A status.  NOTE: this is once the sales rep has been on-boarded, trained on your systems, and integrated into the process.  This could be as little as three months, or as long as a year, but there does come a point where they need to deliver on their own.    I still stand by this, but have ratcheted things up a bit, by encouraging you to not waste time, resources or emotion or keep that bottom 25%, the X Players.  Rather than pretending that they are C players, suggesting some hope, when in fact they are a toxic waste in your sales organization, meaning you have to dump them ASAP.

Accepting the Status Quo, (yes, we do it too), is riskier than many sales leaders want to pretend, and here is why.  Any way you slice it, the majority of the sales team is missing quota.  It is true that more sales teams collectively are making quota, even while most individual contributors are not.  What is the take away for those on the team who continuously are missing targets?   Sales teams are like any other collective of people, there is a perception of majority rule, and if the majority is not making quota, then that soon becomes the norm.  Not something sales leaders should encourage or tolerate, but by not acting quickly and strongly to end that, it soon becomes the norm, and worse.

If more than 50% of the team is not making quota, rationalizing becomes easy; “it’s not me, it’s the product”, “it’s the price”, “it’s the whatever”.  “After all, look at all the people who are also in the same boat, it can’t be me”.  Those few that are making quota, well they become the anomaly, the pack will stick together to comfort their own, and ostracise the others.

One of the top priorities of a sales leader, and their managers, has to be to ensure that at the minimum, more than half of the team exceeds their quota.  This needs to be done across the whole organization, and by each front line manager locally with their teams; having a patch quilt of teams that do and don’t is not acceptable.  While ultimately we want everyone to make their goal, this is a start; 50% plus of each team, and 50% plus of the whole organization.

How do you do that, a simple upward rotation is a good start.  Not only do you heavily reward success, you simultaneously punish failure.  Start with the of 10% rule, every year fire the bottom 10% of each team, not just the entire sales organization, but on each team managed by a front line manager; and if they have two teams, fire the bottom 10% from each team.  Many are often reluctant to do this, telling me they can’t afford to have a vacant territory, if you ask me, the opposite is true, you can’t afford having territories run by these X Players.  You can’t afford having your clients be attended to by these X Players.  By the way, you don’t have to wait for the end of the year.  If they are not executing the activities required to win, it will not take a year to realize things.  One company I know fires those who are in the bottom 10% three months running.  They are transactional, and can tell early, you may need to wait the year, or not.  You just need to ensure that the period you choose allows for slumps and temporary factors that you can address and correct.

As this pruning takes place, especially as it becomes the declared policy, you’ll find that those in the middle of the pack begin to self-correct and do things that drive them ahead, realizing that as the bottom is lopped off, they either move higher or face being the next to go.  This upward rotation pays dividends across the team, the C’s and B’s begin to move up, and the A’s realize they have company, and their personality trait kicks in, and they improve their game to maintain the gap with the B’s.  Lifting your results to higher and higher levels.  You may even find after a few years of this approach that you do more with less players; alternatively, expand products and markets with a more qualified and talented team.

Once you get to where more than 50% of the organization is making goal, the dynamic switches.  Rather than people rationalizing why they are not making quota, after all those who are not are now in the minority, people look for ways to make and exceed quota, and begin to share their best practices.  Majority rule!   If you do find yourself in an enviable position where all you reps are making or exceeding goals, may still be a viable way of ensuring continuous improvement and growth.

This may seem a harsh route, but as leaders, that’s why we get the big bucks, for big decisions and big differences.  Any way you look at it, it will never be as harsh as having to explain the alternative to the executive committee.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

You Do It Now – They Can Talk Later – Sales eXchange 2010

By Tibor


Last Wednesday May 15th, I had the opportunity to be on the Charles Adler show.  We look at the potential fallacies in long term predictions, this on the heels of a piece I did for the Globe and Mail Report on Small Business, regarding the need for execution in sales, not long term predications, and the fact that in BC, the elections did produce a majority government, but not by the party everyone was “predicting” would form the government.

Have a short listen, then let us know how you’ve found action and results to be of more value than predictions.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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