Spare Change1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I was recently invited to sit in on a presentation by a world famous (in Toronto anyways) sales speaker. After the big intro by the host, building anticipation just to the right boil, the keynote started off with a profound statement. I know it was profound, because the speaker told us he was going to share some profound observations with us, in fact he started by saying “here is what you need to understand”, I’m ready; “things have changed”; oh goodie, some new insights coming at me now; “and what we have to live with moving forward is that change is constant”.

I sat there wondering, did Heraclitus, who died in 475 BC, get it backwards when he said ‘The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change –‘or should he have stuck with his original premise ‘Nothing endures but change.’

I am always surprised by how people in and around sales react to change. Sales and change are synonymous, yet I continuously encounter people who seem bamboozled if not paralyzed by it, as though it was something new or unexpected. You can tell a lot about a seller by how they embrace or avoid change. For those who spend the majority of their time minding the base or taking order, change can seem risky and daunting, the last thing they want is for customers to change.

On the other hand, I find that outstanding sellers, those focused on growing their base, and expanding their presence in their existing accounts, embrace and evangelize change. The best sales people are harbingers of change, they not only continuously change the way they sell, but encourage change in their customers and prospects, because they understand that change is good for their customers, and as a result for themselves.

While he went on to tell the sales team that the velocity of change continues to increase, he offered little in the way of how to embrace and lead change. He reminded me of a helicopter, lots of noise, stirring up a lot of dust, but no sooner than it’s gone, things settle back to being the same as before.

The challenge is that many equate continuous change with continuous improvement. While it may be true that most improvement requires some degree of change, not all change leads directly to improvement. Change for the sake of change is not good either, some change their approach to sales as a means of hiding their inabilities, inability to improve, or their inability to commit to a plan, and then execute that plan.

Knowing that change is constant should actually be comforting to sales professionals. It provides an opportunity and a means to experiment and grow. I liken it to physical exercise, if you keep doing the same routines, you quickly plateau, and while you continue to work hard, the benefits continue to diminish. Introducing variety and new practices not only challenges your muscles, but your buyers as well, leading to improved results all around. As discussed here in the past, you can’t expect your buyers to change when you are not willing to.

Look for ways to add to your selling approach, building sales muscle, avoid the temptation to choose one approach over the other, instead look for ways you can blend and combine the best of many schools. Just when you think you have it down, start again by asking how you can view where you are as a starting point rather than a destination.

The profound thing is not that change is constant, we’ve know that for 2000 years if not more. If you are looking to be profound, be the change. Buyers are used to the same old same old, their world is changing as fast as yours, if you can lead that process rather than follow or be run over by it, you’ll bring value to both you and the customers.

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Rethinking Sales Incentives0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Rethinking Sales Incentives

As part of a series of posts dealing with areas you should consider, better yet reconsider, going in to the New Year, today we look at incentive. No doubt everyone should be thinking about commissions, after all is in effect the cost of revenue. While there are other expenses, commissions/incentives, are the most direct “payment” you pay for bringing in revenue.

While there have been variations, updates and paint over through the years, little has changed in how and what you pay for.

In this article I penned for November issue of Sales and Service Excellence Essentials, I challenge and suggest an alternate way to spend incentive cash, and actually driving right behaviours that lead to results (revenues), and actually sustain both.

Take a read, let me know what you think, pro or con, some will call me names, others will want to pick up the phone and call me to discuss. In the end it’s your money, you should always be open to investing it more productively.

Read the piece here: Rethinking Sales Incentives Then comment below.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

You Know How It Is!?!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Detective

No I don’t!

I find when I am working with sales people resistant to change, which in itself funny because they are paid to help prospects to change, yet when it comes to their reality, they try persuade me why the status quo is right for them. If you work with sales people, don’t you wish you had a dollar for every time you heard one say “well this is how we have always done it”; and while that may be true, the sad thing is that prospect you are working on knows exactly that this is how you’ve always done it, and that’s why they won’t buy this time, just like they didn’t buy last time.

Often these rep really do not have an argument or a reason for not wanting to change, other than perhaps fear, specifically fear of success, the same fear a lot of their prospects have. As a result they often resort to rationalizing their position by saying “You know how it is?” Or if they are hip “you know what I’m saying?” It’s the questioning sound at the end that tells me they don’t buy into their own statement either, they just need to say something other than “no I am too scared or set in my ways to try something different.”

Change is hard, and at times frightening, but there is one universal truth insales, your quota will go up next year, and it will go up more than the rate of inflation. Another fact but not an absolute, is that customers who make up your current base will be looking for efficiencies, meaning to hold prices where they are (or even lower them). Which clearly suggests that you need to change, because doing what you did last year will lead to the same results you had last year, plus the rate of inflation, not much these days. What’s the old Einstein saying – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different result is the definition of – well – someone who will miss quota, if not something else.

Another popular saying sellers can adopt is FDR’s “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”; and the best way to overcome fear is proactively. Change is a process, so approach it as such, not emotionally, but objectively. Set specific and progressive goals, not just one but a series. The series should help you change a specific over a given time, this means deadlines are important. Setting out to change something without a deadline allows for procrastination and excuses, so set a time line and be hosnest with yourself.

Make each step progressively more challenging. Start with something easy, something that will act as a gateway to success. When you achieve that first thing, celebrate, give yourself a reward. Then build on it, until you achieve your change.

So the question is, what are you more afraid of, the pain of change or the pain failing, specifically failing to deliver quota. My experience is that trying and failing still delivers benefits. But not trying and failing by default just builds a culture of losing. Once you are living in that spiral, well, you know how it is!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Sorry But Your New Is Not That New4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

New Or Improved

There is an old saying that goes:

There is no such things as an old joke, just old people. Meaning no matter how old you are the first time you hear a joke it is new to you, no matter how long it has been out there.

Which explains why I am going to sound a bit old in this piece, which is alright, because I will be talking about all the “NEW” out there that sellers are being told (sold) they should be consuming if they want to succeed. I don’t have an issue with things that are really new, but when it comes to selling, “NEW” is more often than not, the “same old”, with at best new wrapping.

In some hands NEW becomes the lubricant used by sales pundits and marketers to ram more of the “same old” down unsuspecting throats. (Just think foie gras)

Of course the beauty of selling NEW is the opportunity to upsell plenty of CHANGE, “you need to change, and use this new, or do things in this new way, if you are not changing, you are bound to fail.” Well not exactly, in fact experience shows otherwise, sales is not like a baby, it doesn’t need to be changed all the time. Success in sales comes down to execution, in a continuously better way, it is hard to improve what you are doing if you are always CHANGING what you are doing.

One benefit of being 57 with your memory intact, is you’ve seen, a truckload of NEW, (or old jokes) where the only change is not in the content but in the packaging the pundits wrap it in.

A recent sermon from a pundit preached on about how times are changing and “you need to change or you’ll be left behind”, or worse. Duh, no kidding, but when was that not the case? I mean Dylan cashed in on that out 50 years ago, and Darwin laid it out in simple terms back when? But again, if you keep changing, when can you improve, surly there needs to be an opportunity to master things, not just change them!

I find it funny how pundits try to convince us that this time it is different, this change is “real change”, and this new change is it. If you don’t keep up with this change, if you don’t jump on this bandwagon, you’re beat; right.

Change is a fact, an old fact. “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change”, given to us by Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 BC – 475 BC) not such a NEW guy, best known for his doctrine of change being central to the universe.

What makes sellers great is not jumping from one bandwagon to another, but a focus on fundamentals, and a laser focus on improving those fundamentals, rather than chasing the latest shiny object, regardless of trends or packaging.

And this is the hard part for both pundits and sellers trying to evolve. The pundits need NEW, even when the only thing new is the sleeve of the new book. As Michael Jordan said: “You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly because the only thing that changes will be your attention to them.”

I recently read a piece that was supposed to boggle my mind, it talked about a stat that came from an executive at a social selling platform, at a social selling event, that suggested that sales professionals who use social selling are 51% more likely to exceed their quota. But is that really NEW, or a CHANGE from what has gone before? No.

Great sales people have always been early adopters of new tools, technologies and opportunities, embracing them to further, not necessarily change their selling. Not new, just think of Martin Luther and the print press; he went viral 500 years ago http://www.economist.com/node/21541719. More recently the telephone, the car, the answering service, or fax, or… This is what was always amusing about the notion of Sales 2.0, what was Telex Sales -3.0?

I would strongly argue that those same sales people would have exceeded quota no matter what tools they adopted or were in vogue at the time. It was the sales people who leveraged the tool, they made the medium look good, not the other way around. Proof, where are the stats relating to those exceeding quota without using the tool, where are the numbers around those who use social selling and fail to make quota. Oh yes, sales is not about numbers, it is about NEW.

Change also consumes a lot of time and energy, both of which may be better invested in improving your execution of the fundamentals. The goal is balance, balance between improving and acquiring skills. Change is addictive, and often becomes an end to itself, you may end up with something new but not better. Ask yourself will this help you execute better as measured by results, or is it something new to replace the last change? In the end, success in sales comes down to Execution – Everything Else Is Just Talk!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Add Salesformics – Stir and Sell0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Confident

One of the opportunities offered by the web 2.0 world, or as many around sales like to call it social selling, is to leverage a number of tools to improve and accelerate the quality of interactions, especially at the early part of the sales cycle. The challenge is how to leverage the various tools, integrate them into your daily sales-flow and work-flow, without adding, or being forced to alter your work-flow in order to get benefit.

In the process of lead-gen, lead gathering, evolving and lead conversion, some sales people and organizations are often faced with a choice, find an all in one tool that has key features and elements offered by other tools and apps built in, in effect a Jack-of-all-trade approach. Alternatively, use the best of breed tools, but be left on your own to integrate them on a work-flow level. Add to this the challenges around functionality, and something that should be fun and productive ends up being work.

One tool I have discovered allows me to keep using my favourite tools and apps, integrate them into a work-flow that matches my approach, and reflects my style of lead-gen and prospecting, is Salesformics. Here a couple of examples that will illustrate what I mean. Twitter is great gleaning and mining all kinds of executable information and insight about prospects, issues, and more. While there are some great tools for slicing and dicing twitter feeds, there is often the issue of shuffling that with other information, and creating action. With Salesformics, I am alerted to specific key words or phrases by potential leads, current prospects or clients. I can then initiate a sales-flow, either constructed or in response to the way things are unfolding.

As someone who delivers events, I am a user of Eventbrite, great tool. Eventbrite helps me grow your network and email lists by promoting my live or web events, and even allows me to do a great initial follow up. Salesformics takes that a step further by integrating with Eventbrite, one can enhance the follow-up, and ensure that I don’t miss a chance to follow up with a contact well after the event.

I also use Constant Contact, and have had to deal with some of the manual realities of using both Eventbrite and Constant Contact, given the overlap. With Salesformics, I can get the best of both, and keep my hair, more importantly, automate, use the work-flow, and gain back my most valuable resources, time, and all while gaining effectiveness as well as efficiencies.

A lot of people struggle with segmenting their social media followers and then adding them to email marketing services like Constant Contact, but Salesformics has a marketing automation platform that allows you to build workflow that bridge across third-party solutions, including the likes of Twitter, LinkedIn, Buffer, Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor, Dropbox and more.

In the end, we only have two hands and 24 hours with which to win sales, any tool that helps with that is a bonus, a tool that helps me get more out of and across all my tools and apps, like Salesformics, is a triple bonus.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Once They Bought Product – Make your Client Change1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

change

Change is hard for all of us, that much more so for sales people. On one side they are trying to get buyers to change, clearly articulating the upside of change. Some of the most creative modern prose have flowed from sales people enticing their buyer to change, “Your business dreams, are but one change away”. Yet as sellers, we rarely hold that mirror up in front of us, we don’t like change, believe me I spend a lot of time helping sellers to change, and it requires a lot. Much like their potential buyers, they are resistant to new things, and are much more willing to live with the pain of what they know, than experience the pain they associate with change.

This could be the very reason why many sales people prefer to be “gatherers” – account managers than hunters. After all, spending 80%, 90% or more of their time with their base, allows them to regularly avoid having to talk about change. When they do, they are not only in-congruent, but on a number of levels dishonest with their potential buyers. After all, singing the praises of change all the while thing it yourself, just sends the wrong message, regardless of how much they rehearse, intentions and genuineness always rings through.

Not only that, but as soon as they “change” a buyer from their previous provider to being their client, they cast off their mask, and become steadfast defenders of the status quo, doing everything they can to make their client forget change.

But just like with fire, the best way to fight change, specifically the type of change your competitors are trying to sell your customer, is with change. Start by forgetting the product, yes, I know, it’s hard, such a warm blanket. While many are fixated with upgrade and new releases, there are other and “better” changes a good sales person can present.

As in the sale, the differentiation, and often the value, comes not from the product but from the sale. The way the seller engages, and conveys value to the buyer has to transcend the product, especially in a world where on a good day the overlap between you and number 2, is at least 80%. And once you are the incumbent, your competitor, number 2, will embellish that 20% until only a small discount is needed to entice your client away.

But if you the focus off the product, and placed it on how the client uses the product; how it specifically impacts their reality, their profits, competitive edge, or other non-product dependent things, then change is not about the product, but you, and what you do for them. Sure they can use the other product, but they will lose the benefit of you, your expertise, and the value you bring. It is easy to change the box, it will be hard to replace how you help them benefit from the box.

How to get from Interruption to Conversation when Cold Calling Webinar

There are still a few slots left for today’s cold calling webinar – start your own change, sign up now.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

So How Did You Do With That One Thing? – Sales eXchange 2310

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Success 1

Last year around this time in a video titled “The One Thing“, in which I challenged you to avoid the temptation of pursuing whole changes and resolutions going into the New Year, and instead focus on one thing. One thing that will measurably improve you execution, you’re selling, and when you master that one thing, build further from there.

Well it’s a year later, time for a reality check, let’s see how you, or we, did on that one thing, what worked, what didn’t, and why. If you did take on the challenge, how did you do?

If you did not accomplish what you set out to do, there are some things to keep in mind. If you gave it a real effort, made some progress, but are not where you want to be, that’s ok, as long as you keep going, don’t settle for “some progress”, go for your goal. If it is taking longer than anticipated try to understand why, and they adjust accordingly. At the times the goal is valid, but the means we choose is not the best. Step back, focus on your goal, the positive impact it will have on your success, and see if there is an alternate path. Don’t mistake with changing your course with changing goals or coming up short. In fact as a sales pro, at times the best thing we can do for prospects is show them how they can achieve their objective though an alternate way they hadn’t considered. If the goal is valid and really key to helping you sell better, stick with it, experiment, and apply the learning, even when it is a result of failed approach.

If you did succeed, congratulations, pat yourself on the back, reap the rewards, and then ask: “What next?”

With all the changes and continuous challenges facing sellers today, you can’t stop and rest on your laurels, you need to use you success as a springboard to your next conquest, right after you examine some elements of how you succeeded. How long did it take, what were some anticipated hurdles you overcame, what were some of the unanticipated that if proactively used moving forward will positively impact your journey.

When did you accomplish success, four weeks, three months, most of the year? Understand the elements, just as you would elements of a sale you want to repeat to ensure you succeed again and again.

Once you have an understanding of the concrete elements, it is time to look forward, and move forward. Meaning decide some things you would want to change in 2014. While you may want to look at more than one, you also don’t want to go crazy. While I will ask you to focus on one at a time, you are now in a position to plan out more through the year; as you accomplish one, roll in to the next, orderly, methodically, each building on the last, setting up the next. Just like a sale, just like planning your sales, like a process, for sales success.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

You Should Lead With Price – Sales eXchange 2072

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

change

If sales were presented as a play, the typical flow would seem to be: segment, identify, qualify, engage, discovery, gain commitment, negotiate and close. Somewhere towards the latter part of “gain commitment” and “negotiate”, the issue of price becomes central to the plot, in fact with some sellers “negotiate” is really just a code word for “price haggling”.  This would explain why so many sales these days are won or lost on price, especially when “discovery” is rushed or executed in a cookie-cutter way.

The plan (I guess), is build value (place your methodology here, ours is good too), and align to price. The frustration for many is that they may not know the relative role of price till late in the game, especially when there is a low cost provider in the mix.  Wouldn’t it be better if you could learn if price will be the breaking factor much earlier in the play?

That’s the catch 22 of selling I guess, if you don’t build value you can’t justify or rationalize the price; on the other hand, you could spend time and energy building value and be defeated by price. What’s a seller to do?

Well, why not lead with price?

Counter-intuitive, maybe? Risky? Could be, but most things worth archiving involve a level of risk.  The opportunity and skill is in managing the risk and finding the balance where calculated risk consistently rewards the risk taker.

This is not to say that your meetings should start:

“Hi I am George, with ACME Solutions, the price is $42,000, plus 20% annual maintenance fee, ready to go?”

But there may be merit to putting price front and centre much earlier in the process. There is an element of this accepted, if not always executed, by many sellers in the form of exploring budget; in terms of its existence, availability, control and commitment.   But budget is different than price, how many times have you been able to check all the tick marks around budget but still lose on price?

But what if we did introduce process earlier?  The reality in many instances, the price is based on some formula, be it unit based or other elements, and sellers have a sense of what a deal is worth early in the play.  Before you protest the last statement in an effort to seem above the fray, go look at yours or any other forecast.  So why not put it on the table, and make it a way of introducing, driving and accelerating the value discussion.  After all, if they object to the price at that point you can get to the heart of the matter by asking them what they base their remarks on.  It is a great way to go to the real value discussion.  As both price and value are relative, you can find out what they see as value in their reaction to the price.

You can then use all the tools and techniques you would normally use to build value, but this time it can be much more collaborative.  The key is not think of it as defending the price, but as a mutual and collaborative value definition.  In the course of executing it, you can uncover objectives, separate needs from wants and a range of other things that make for a successful sale.  All without the suspense of the traditional ending.

As with most things in sales, we can stick to the same old, or so called fresh techniques that are the same old in new packaging.  Or you can try something that will not only differentiate you, the way you sell, and most importantly the outcome.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Aligning Time Horizons (#video)0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

Time is pivotal to sales success, on the plus side, it can help you better engage with potential buyers, and on the down side it can create distance and barriers between you and the buyer.  One specific is the degree in which you are aligned with the buyer’s horizon.  All too often we get ahead of the buyer, or fall way behind, either can slow down or cost you a sale.

Take a look at what I mean, then download our E-Booklet – Sales Happen In Time:

Alignining Time horizons

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

Sales Focus: Online Channels vs. Traditional Tactics0

CofC Mar 13

The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka

The Internet has opened up a whole new world of marketing and advertising tactics. And although this isn’t breaking news, people are coming up with new ways to utilize the web every day when it comes to sales. But are we letting more traditional sales practices fall by the wayside in lieu of solely committing to digital tactics?

In my experience, the companies with the best strategies are making the most of both types of marketing. Finding a winning combination of traditional marketing and Internet marketing can take some trial and error, but it’s worth it for your company in the long run. Consider these perks of focusing on online advertising and sales:

•    Less Expensive
While running a business website isn’t necessarily cheap, there are many ways that you can advertise online for very little cost. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram offer great outlets for marketing and a variety of tools to help you build your network and share your message.

•    Bigger Reach
It typically costs less to reach more people with online marketing. Using social media accounts and websites can generate thousands of views—even hundreds of thousands for successful companies—each month.  It’s difficult to reach that many people with traditional marketing tactics and a small business budget.

•    More Outlets
There are so many ways to advertise online. Some of the most obvious include social media networks. The biggies include Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but there are hundreds of other social media sites that you might consider using based on your type of business and your audience, among other factors. Community-style message boards, blogs, and websites may also be ideal channels to add to your digital strategy.

Although digital tactics can undoubtedly be effective, traditional advertising and sales still carries a number of benefits, too, including:

•    Tangible Nature
Some people like advertising materials that they can see in person or touch. Some examples might include business cards, postcards, or business swag (think branded water bottles, key chains, or pens).

•    Increased Permanency
Marketing campaigns such as billboards or magazine ads can be placed for a longer period of time without needing changes. Online, it’s more necessary to keep content new and changing constantly to not only serve your audience, but also search engines.

•    Appeal to a Larger Audience
Don’t confuse this with having a larger reach. While online advertising may have the ability to reach a higher number of targeted people, traditional marketing techniques reach multiple generations and income levels and typically aren’t as segmented as digital alternatives.

Your best bet as a business owner or salesperson is to find a balance between the two types of marketing. It’s important to gauge your audience to see which kind of marketing best suits your clientele. If you can find the right combination, you’ll be able to reach a huge audience and give everyone something that they want—not to mention using a variety of marketing techniques will help you increase sales and expose your company to new customers.

(Photo Source)

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

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