Football substitue 2

Change The Candidate – Not The Rules!0

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.

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Clouds in shape of question marks

Answers Are Only As Good As The Question0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Communication, which at the core selling/buying is, will always be a mutual exercise, which why monologues work well in theater, but not in delivering revenue or quota. As such, a bit of forethought and focusing on how you’ll choreograph the sales are important. Which is why it is that much more noticeable to all, including buyers, when the effort is just not there in how sellers choose to engage and carry on a sales interview or conversation.

“I may make you feel but I can’t make you think”

Sellers need to put more effort into planning their interactions with prospects than many do. This needs to be on two levels, first the areas or topics they choose focus on, second the kind of questions they ask. Sellers forget that their prospect is talking to a range of people about the purchase they are about to make. If the questions I ask, the areas I choose to explore and drill down on, are no different than the three or four or eight other vendors they are speaking with, then the selection and decision will go back to the same old, usually the lowest common denominator, moderated by price (the lowest price).

Areas of Focus – Too often too many sellers start from the erroneous assumption that their buyer has their act together, know exactly what they want, and all that is left is to pick a product. That is a false premise, and as such leads to longer sales cycles and missed sales. While anecdotally we always knew that buyers are not as together as they sometimes appear, or sellers believe, the data is now in. Some will see this as good news, allowing them as sellers to bring more value to the conversation by helping buyers in ways much more meaningful than features and price. Sellers have the benefit of having worked with many buyers with similar experiences, allowing the perceptive ones to see themselves not as product reps, but conduits to others’ experiences, good and bad. The value they can bring is in helping buyers better understand what they are dealing with, and their best option, not options, in addressing those specifics.

Even if a prospect has advanced past the stage of deciding what they want to do and how, sellers benefit from starting “back” there, before moving to asking questions about how they plan to address things, i.e. product. Retracing a little, will show them as being different, and will also help the seller understand the buyer’s thought process, which may allow for more unique input, and to demonstrate they are different and truly “buyer centric”, by not jumping to product right away.

What we Ask – The kind of question go a long are key. You have to assume that you are the fifth sales person they spoke to that day; how will you make a different impression than the four who went before you?

If you ask the same as them, what will they base their selection on? If you reinforce perceptions rather than challenge them, are you not telling the buyer to base it on price and emotion?  Your questions are not just about the response, they need to get them to think, think beyond where they are now, and where the other sellers have taken them.

If they can answer your question without thinking, you’re in trouble! But many sellers I meet are afraid of asking questions that put the prospect on the spot. Remember the goal here is not to embarrass the prospect, but to help  them really think through the issue before they commit, whether they commit to you or another. I worked with one sales pundit who felt asking the prospect “Why” questions were not cricket as it may stump the buyer. Well if you can “stump” the buyer, it is evidence that they have not thought things through, and you are doing them a favour.

Getting an answer is easy, getting an answer that moves the process forward in a way that helps buyers is not. Which why the answers can only be as good or productive as the questions.

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Time allocation

Enough With The Time Management BS – Please!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Time is the most valuable resource sales people, or any people have, it is the only none renewable resource, once it is spent, it is gone forever, except for the memories, and for many in sales the memories are not that happy, and not worth reliving. How we choose to utilise it will determine our success.

This is why I think time management is such a dangerous concept in sales success. Let’s be real, time already comes managed. You got 60 minutes to an hour, 24 hours to a day, 7 days to a week, and so on. Looks very well managed to me, in fact so well managed, that even Netanyahu and Abbas can fully agree. So managing time is not the issue. What can or should do with time to maximize results? You can allocate it, and then focus on managing the activity you allocated the time to, in the time you allocated for it – plain, not simple.

Allocation

Step one – figure out all the things you have to do during the course of typical sales cycle in order to win the sale. Not all the things you can do, currently are doing, see others doing, no – just those activities without which there would be no sale – nothing else, no matter how appealing, fun or cool. Then look at what percentage of your time you typically need to spend on each during the course of a SUCCESSFUL sales cycle. Not every day, but throughout the cycle, as some activities may be more intense in the middle, others at the start.

Currency of Sales

Now I want you to look at your time as money, specifically $1,760, which is the number hour of face time available to sellers annually (220 days x 8 Hours per day). How you spend and invest that money will determine your success. Much like a wealth manager will allocate portions of your money to stocks, some to cash, derivatives, all aligned to your retirement or other goals; in this case, it’s sales goals. That is how you allocate based on the activities highlighted above. What percentage to account management, how much to selling new opportunities, to admin, to training, and oh ya, prospecting.

Time allocationWhich is what got this whole thing started.

I am truly tired of lame sales people using the lame excuse of time management. Whenever I speak to under-performing reps, who only have dust in their pipelines, the number one excuse they give me is time, “oh, I guess I have to do a better job of time management Tibor” Flip off man, that’s just bullshit!

The same reps who give me that line, like I was born yesterday, seem to always find the time to complete their Brackets or football pools, because there is so much riding on those things right? Lame. I bet you don’t feel sorry or compelled to help those who squander their money on foolish things, (I saw you walk by that panhandler), so why should I feel sorry for you when you squander your time.

And don’t give me this “Well I had to get back to a client” or some other lame iteration of “I’m slack”.

Do you let others dictate how you spend your money and on what? Your money, your time, you should determine how it is spent or invested, does your friend or client do the work it takes for you to make your money, do you let others spend your money, why do you let them spend and waste your time?

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Business cartoon showing two business managers, one is saying, 'the "no excuses sales seminar" is this weekend... but I'm going to try to get out of it'.

Best Way To Motivate Your Reps: Take Away EXcuses2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Managers always ask, “How can I motivate my reps?” Of course, what they are asking is “How can I get them to do their jobs?” And who can blame them, there is some much out there about how to motivate people, and specifically sales people, it seems easy to believe that there a single simple formula that fits all. Well there isn’t if there were, what would motivate all these people to write about a subject that was already solved, especially when there is so much more money to be made wading in to the unsolvable. That’s not to say that you can’t get some of the desired results many of these souls are searching for, it is just that they at times need to come at it from the other end.

As discussed before, all human being have the X chromosome. In sales people, it determines which skills a sales person will master. As the numbers suggest and support, in just under a half it predisposes them to master EXecution. While in the larger half, it accounts for their skills in making EXcuses.

No doubt managers who are gifted, can elevate those with the positive X chromosome, EXecuters, to greater accomplishments and success. They can often influence and guide some on the fringe of the EXcuse group to rehabilitate and kick the EXcuse habit for a life of successful EXecution.

You have to start by taking away their ability to use Excuses, which means a focus on continuously evolving process and continuous development, each with its own challenges. A continuously evolving process evolves because it has to continuously align with the buyer. This can be like building an airplane while it is in flight. One has to have a way to capture what they are learning in each sale, and apply it real time. There are many examples of sellers and organizations who are doing this, their only secret is that they spend more time understanding the buying process, and contributing to it, and by extension shaping that as well. With that in place it will make it easy to EXecute the sale. It may not always be great, not even pretty, but it will get done. But if it is being done, it can be improved, which is where continuous development comes in.

The best ‘motivation’ you can do for your reps is to invest in their success. They don’t need to go win one for the Gipper, if they can get it for themselves. Development doesn’t just help them improve their skills and EXecution, but demonstrates your commitment to their success, and what can be more motivation than knowing there is someone committed to your success, and not let you wallow in your EXcuses.

By “Motivating” them with the old hokey Rah-Rah, you are only enabling them to make more EXcuses, you train them that all it takes for them not to do what they are being paid for, things others on your team are do without threat to life or limb, is just come up with another better EXcuse. In some ways you are right when you think you are motivating them, unfortunately you’re not motivating them to improve their sales skills, but rather their EXcuse making skills instead. What’s worse, is the message you’re sending to those busting their balls EXcuting and making you look like you’re necessary in the process.

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green targets with client marking, green arrows hitting the center and grey targets with prospect marking

New Quarter – Same Approach?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

On Friday, I dropped a tongue in cheek, some might say sarcastic (or cynical) thought/comment on LinkedIn, observing how the last day of the quarter, month, and the week, made for B2B sales version of “Triple Witching Hour”.  The icing on the cake (or thought) came around 4:00 PM ET, when I was prospecting a VP of sales on the east coast, she asked I call her back Monday (scheduled time, none of this call me back stuff), because she wanted to keep her line open in case she needs to approve some deals.

But it is easy sniping from the sidelines, that was last quarter, the question is what you do with the quarter starting today?

Time To Reduce

The question of quality vs. quantity plays itself out in many elements of sales, and while it is always a god idea to have a deep pool of opportunities to look to, narrowing your efforts can lead to more of the desired results, and in a shorter timeframe. By narrowing I mean the number of opportunities you focus on, not the level of effort in your execution. Too many sales people try to juggle too many opportunities at the same time, leading to a diluted effort across all their opportunities, and by extension watered down results.

First steps should be rather simple:

How long is your average sales cycle; subtract that number from nine (the number of selling months assuming a Dec. 31 yearend), and you will get a sense of how many new (real) opportunities you will need at the top of the funnel. From there you can drill down to understand that for all the stages of your cycle.

If you have multiple offerings with varying cycles, you will need to ensure that you strive for a blended pipeline, both in terms of deal size and time to close. You need to get the longer deals started sooner than shorter, etc.

Calculate how much quota is left to retire in the remaining nine months of the year, and adjust that to reflect your new quarterly and monthly quotas.

Since it is rare that these numbers will unfold in a linear fashion, we are going to need to factor in seasonality and other fluctuating trends that will require you to make correlating adjustments to your activity as a counterbalance.

With the above in hand you will have a real idea of how many opportunities you will need to generate and take through the cycle. This in turn allows you to be much more in control and not be distracted by things that don’t contribute to your success.

One of the biggest and avoidable distractions comes from having too many opportunities in your active pipeline, and looking at all prospects as being equal or worthwhile. Being selective and reducing the number of opportunities you pursue in the first instance, and decide to continue to sell to, will improve your results. Fewer opportunities, especially a reduction in “Spaghetti Opportunities”, frees up your time while allowing you to use less resources in a more effective way.

If you are routinely and methodically reviewing the outcome of all opportunities that go into your pipeline, you will begin to gain an understanding of specific reasons and actions that lead to Wins, Losses, and No Decisions. You can then use these factors and trends to triage and prioritize opportunities and activities required to win.

Taking Control

One simple way to tier your efforts is to look at two basic criteria. One is:

A. The total potential value of an opportunity
B. The probability of closing them either in a given quarter, or fiscal year.

You will need data and info for this, this is not finger in the air stuff, this why the deal review is key.

Then plot the specific opportunities by name, on a chart where the A from above is one axis, and B the other. Then draw the usual quadrant lines, and you will see your opportunities fall into three groups worth pursuing.

Click on image to download a copy.

Top right quadrant, your best opportunities, high value, and high probability of closing. In terms of prospecting, 50% of your time and effort.

The next best quadrant is something you will need to decide. If you have a product line that allows you to “land and expand”, you may want to look at the bottom right, where the initial value may be smaller than others, but your probability of close is strong, and once you have landed, you can expand, but you’re now “in”.

For others, for a number of reasons, (low turnover, few potential prospects, etc.) you may see the top left as being your second-best group to target.

In either case, whichever your number 2 is, spend 30% of your prospecting efforts there, and the remaining 20% on the third group.

There are a number of other filters you can use, we do with our clients, but the goal is to achieve a selling environment featuring reduced clutter in your pipeline. That will allow you better leverage your most important resources, time. Slowly gaining back control of the things that will allow you to drive and deliver quota, not chase in the hopes of.

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Lipstick. Great Variety of Women's Lips. Set of Mouths

Difference Is In the Eyes Of The Prospect8

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

There is a lot of talk about differentiation in sales, whether that is at the product level, sales technique level or other factors. Some difference is good, some goes a bit far, unfortunately most of seems to fall short. The main reason is that most vendors and sellers spend time and effort to differentiate themselves from other products, companies, or sales people. As with other miscues in sales, the problem is that most of the effort excludes the only element that counts, the buyer.

Buying and selling are very subjective experiences. While there are reams of tools and means for capturing requirements, allowing buyers to better understand what will help them achieve their objectives, presenting a clear and objective process, there is a range of undercurrents that allows a lot of subjectivity to creep in to the decision. Who among us has not lost a deal where the we were a perfect fit based on requirements. Or conversely won a deal, where on the face of things we were deficient and less cost effective than an alternative. The reason is simple and human, people are very subjective, (and buyers are people), and as such will make decisions using more than just logic, leading to the reality that difference, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder.

While many may not like it, but one advantage to having multiple decision makers or stakeholders in the deal, is that it can naturalize subjectivity, allowing us to better present and leverage real differences we may have. I say we may have, because most leading products have very few real differences, especially in the eyes of buyers. What some vendors think is really different, may not be that important to the market, which is likely why the others have avoided it. With “sameness” rampant in products, the other difference is how you sell, and by extension your sales process. The challenge here is that most people sell in a very similar way, leading to only superficial differences that even the least experienced buyer can see through.

Once you accept that difference is in the eye of the prospect, and not something you can ram down their throat or post on a billboard, you can then switch your approach to understanding how they see themselves and their reality as being different than others they are looking at. Let’s be clear, it may not always be true that what the buyers are looking for is all that different than their neighbor’s, but, we are dealing with buyer perception, not necessarily reality as we see it.

The only option is to have the prospect articulate what they see as being different. And while most sellers will tell you that they are doing that, when observed in action, they are still very much anchored to their product, and features they feel are “solutions” for the buyer’s “pain”. Presentations are geared to highlighting the “vendor’s difference”, rather than the difference the buyer is trying to achieve in their business. Presentations limit our ability to get the prospect to help us differentiate ourselves, mostly because they are centered around the product, and things we believe we are “solving”, that in turn make us different.

Especially early in a cycle, leave you your product, presentations, preconceptions in the car; go in armed only with questions that will help you uncover the buyer’s objectives, and impacts they are looking to deliver to their business. This sounds easy, and is often met by “we’re already doing that”, until we examine the questions many sellers ask, and the reality of some first and early meetings. Remember that the “difference” starts long before you engage, so how you engage, and what happens at your first encounter is key. You may think your PowerPoint is different, but it is still PowerPoint.

If you stay focused on the impacts and outcomes, you will start to establish a difference. When you get the prospect to share their objective, avoid the instinct to map those back to your product. First, drill down on those objectives, why those, how will that change their business, what are related risks, and more. This will allow you to demonstrate your Subject Matter Expertise, and help the prospect validate their direction and means of getting there. If that direction and means are less than optimal, help the buyer reorient their thinking, reorient their direction and path. Now that’s different, especially in a world where sellers are not experts, and seek the safety of “the customer is always right” over pushing back, getting the buyer to see things differently, help them down an alternate path to alternate results. (Easy Kellyanne, it’s just sales). When prospects start their journey, they are more focused on the end than the means, which is why your product, solution, or whatever, is not that important in the early stage.

With difference being in the eye of the prospect, the more we take ourselves and our product out of the early phases of the sales, the more different a prospect will see us; the more we can make them think instead of listen, the greater the difference in experience, leading to different experience and results for both the buyer and the seller.

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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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Hunting for dollars

Walk’a Proud!2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Those of you who have participated in my events or webinars, know that early on I encourage people who prospect for a living, to take pride in what they do rather than apologize for it. I encourage them to answer with pride next time some asks what they do for a living, by saying “I am a Professional Interrupter! I interrupt people and engage them in conversations that result in their reality being better as a result of our interaction, which by the way, started as an interruption, something I am a pro at!”

The reality is that with few exceptions, most people we reach out to without prior consent, are being interrupted. Most are trying to pack 16 hours in to a 10-hour day, meaning no matter how great our offering is, it will AT FIRST be seen as an interruption. How well we transition that interruption to a conversation determines our success.

Hunting for dollarsThis is the very reason HUNTERS are at a premium in the sales world. Because there is a shortage of people who have the ABILITY and WILLINGNESS to do what it takes to bring a Status Quo business person from being disinterested on the sidelines, to being engaged, and then a happy customer.

Sure, it is easy to engage with self-declared buyers, those who have entered the market on their own, with a specific thing in mind. After having done their research and travelled 57% of the “Buying Journey” (Notice the complete absence of the word SELL or SELLING), in stealth mode, they now decloak in time to witness the beauty contest of order takers, willing to take it all off to win the sales and discounted deals for years to come. But when it comes to prospects who can benefit from your product but are hiding in the Status Quo landscape, you need more than a smile and a pretty social profile.

Many shy away from the term hunting, saying it not a pretty picture, and says something negative to and about the prospect. Please!

First no one is saying that we are hunting prospects; it’s not like we find a prospect and impale them, (that would be self-defeating. We are hunting revenue, and the best way to deliver that revenue is to help our customers and prospects.

Once you wrap your head around the concept that you are hunting revenue, you can look at your actions in a different light, and take steps many won’t, which is probably why many fail at the sales, or more specifically new sales. Once you embrace hunting you will help those missed by average sales people. Those same average sales people, and the pundits they follow do, have the advantage of numbers, and as is the case with many crowds united in their weakness, they will turn on those different than them for no other reason than that difference. If they used a more meaningful measure, like say success, like say making quota, things look different. We all know the anecdote about the three sales people pursuing the same opportunity, one win, the other two go back to their tribe empty handed, leading to hungry babies.

Be a hunter, make a difference, don’t just blend in or exist. Take pride in your abilities and results, not your associations or social circles. As in the punch line to the old baseball joke about Joe Dimagio: Walk’a Proud! 

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Question Direction

Questioning The Path You Are On0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

The fate of an unscheduled call to a prospect, a cold call, is determined in the first few seconds of a call, one can argue even before that. By before that, I mean the hundreds if not thousands of practice calls the prospect has had to hone their craft and perfect their means of blowing us off. One can argue that the callers, the sales people have also had the opportunity to practice; true, but there is practice with a goal and purpose in mind. For example, the prospect, has the singular purpose of blowing the interruption, and every call they get is an opportunity to practice, unless the caller does something different.

Unfortunately, sales people make it easy by conforming to basic elements of calls that accelerate the outcome, allowing the prospect to get back to what they were doing, and the seller to be frustrated, and use it as an excuse to reaffirm their belief that cold calling does not work. The solution, is changing the way one makes the call. Unless we change the path or direction of the call, we risk falling into a familiar pattern that the prospect has practiced hundreds/thousands of time. Given that sales people do not like to practice, review the “game tapes” and make adjustments, the prospect will always have an upper hand.

Everything counts, right from the first breath, which means it has to be counter to expectations, especially those of the prospect at the other end. Starting with a rambling introduction about your company, and who you are, is just setting yourself up for failure. I mean really, does it make a difference to the prospect that you are the Mid-Atlantic Key Account Executive? I am sure your wife or mother or both are really proud. You know what the prospect thinks, “Add another title and notch to my belt.” As I have said before start with the outcomes first, outcomes tied to their objectives, and impacts you have delivered for others with similar objectives. Start with the ending, the outcome, the impact they will see in reaching their objectives, and those impacts on their business. It’s even worse when it comes to handling objections.

Most think that handling objections is somewhat like a tennis match, the prospect lobs their objection over the net, and we have to lob it back. No! If you want to change the path and direction of the call, the objection, then you need to not fall into the pattern set by the prospect to accelerate the end of the call.

Question DirectionInstead of just lobbing back a response to their objection, keep it, and throw back a question instead. In the above tennis example the prospect is in control of the flow, and therefore the outcome. One way to wrestle control away, and more importantly change the path or direction of the call is to ask a question. Questions demand answers, there is no law that they have to answer, but condition, especially social conditioning tends to kick in, and they will answer. Questions get people to think, when their mind is racing to get past the call, a good question related to something they were thinking about before the call, like their objectives, will get them to slow down, focus, and usually provide an answer.

We call these Impact Questions, for two reasons. One is that most are closed-ended, so we needed to do some rebranding. More importantly is that because they relate to specific impacts on their business, they have a direct impact on the prospecting call.

It is important to remember that what we are working with here are dynamics, including flow and momentum. You need to fine tune your listening skills, not for words, but all the other things going on in the call, think of it as nuance. When you ask a good question, not every prospect will answer the same way, giving you an opening to ask for engagement. But they will all pause, a momentary break as they digest the question, and process that indeed it does relate to them, and not just another walking brouchure on the phone.

Impact Questions, strategically place in a prospecting call, as part of the intro, as part of the reason to meet, and certainly as part of the taking away objections, will help you change the direction of a call, a sales meeting. If you find yourself on a path leading to a brick wall, use Impact Questions to change the direction, the outcome, and the health of your pipeline.

We’ll be looking at some specific use of Impact Questions, and objections in the monthly edition the Pipeline, sign up here.

businessman with umbrella and thumb down rain

Rejection In Your Face4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

In the late 1990’s or early part of the last decade, I remember reading a piece about a study in one of the Scandinavian countries, who were early adopters of text messaging, SMS. It pointed to the fact that more and more young people were choosing to initially interact with potential dates using SMS, one of the key reasons that rejection was easier to deal with when it was not direct, in your face. The rate of rejection or acceptance did not change much, may have even gone up as it is easier to ignore a text message. But the lack intimacy, direct contact, not having to be in direct contact at the time of rejection, made it more bearable, despite the result.

There is no doubt that the reason sales people do not like to prospect, specifically direct prospecting, for instance telephone prospecting, is rejection. Who can blame them, no one wants to be rejected, and it is only compounded when that rejection directly impacts one’s ability to earn a living, eat and generally succeed in their chosen vocation. This is why so many sales people and companies spend time and money trying to avoid objections. The thinking being, “if we can avoid rejection, we will have greater success.” Understandable but hardly practical, if you are going to make unsolicited calls (cold or pre-warmed), you will face rejection. If you are going to play football, you will get tackled, you will get bruised, and if you have any intention of succeeding, you will get back up and ready yourself for the next play. Not so for many in sales.

This became even more clear during an unsocial discussion with a proponent of social selling. He was trying to convince me that there is less rejection with his approach than with telephone prospecting. While neither of us had the stats to prove or dispute, what was clear is that his focus was not the rejection itself, but more how he did, or did not, have to deal with it. Much like the adolescent lovers in Scandinavia, for this person, and I suspect for many who exclude telephones from their prospecting routine, it was more about how direct the rejection was.

“I don’t mind if they don’t respond, I just don’t want to have to deal with the reality of it.”

Which is another example of where the driving factor in executing a sales is not the desired outcome, but how it “feels”. It feels good when someone puts a like on your LinkedIn or Facebook post, allowing us to pretend that those who choose not to like it, who ignore and reject the message, just don’t exist. But from a desired outcome perspective, no different. So why not go direct?

One of my first sales jobs required that I make 160 dials per day, speak to 30 people, and get a yes from ten. My manager helped me by highlighting that if the 100 people who “rejected” me through the week were all in the subway car with me on my ride home Friday, they would have no idea it was me who they blew off on the phone. To this day, I look at the people in the Starbucks line, and wonder which one blew me off on the phone that morning.

While rejection may not be fun, it is part of sales, and will happen no matter which approach you take, it just a question of how direct, and how you deal with it, choosing not to deal with it does not change things. The real question is what is more important, achieving desired outcomes, or???

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