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You Are Where You Are By Choice0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Confusing Choice with Decision0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

We all know the expression “Often a bridesmaid but never a bride”, we see it playing out in sales daily. Sellers who want to believe that if they educate the buyer and help them make the right choice, the buyer will choose to go with them and their product. But we all know that making a choice on a product or solution level, does not always lead to the decision we want or need, namely, the decision to buy from us.

While educating the buyer is a good thing, getting the sale is better; but the two are not mutually exclusive, especially when you focus on and manage both, rather than naively expect that one will lead to the other. Helping them make a better choice (for them) does not lead to them executing that choice with you. To do that you have to sell while you educate.

One way to do that is to take your product out of the mix entirely, and make the whole experience about what the buyer wants to achieve. Contrary to what some will say, prospects, especially Status Quo prospects, do not set out to buy things, they set out to achieve something, usually something specific that is defined by business objectives and impacts, not by specs and price. The fact that it often ends up there is usually the fault of the seller, not the buyer.

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Leave your product in the car, leave the window slightly ajar so it can breathe, but go in equipped with your knowledge (not info), experience and curiosity. Think of it as you bringing your colour pallet and brushes, the prospect brings the blanc canvas, and together you create a unique outcome, that they can and are willing to buy from you. Not because of price, but because they see how it drives their objectives.

But more than anything, don’t forget that you are there to sell, and the insight you share with buyers needs to help them decide to buy from you, not just to buy. One thing people talk about but execute poorly, is getting the proper Next Step, an actual step. To do that you need to have a plan for each interaction, that helps the buyer understand their choices, but also gets them to commit to taking steps forward with you. I still don’t understand sellers who do not know what they want the outcome each meeting to be, and those outcomes will be achieved. At the risk of overstating things, the outcome you want is a sale for you and your company, not just an educated buyer with choice.

Another way to increase the odds of a getting the decision you want (need), is to limit choice.  Once you and the prospect created that mutual image described above, don’t confuse things by introducing choices, especially ones that add little to the direction chosen. Too many choices impede decision, increases the shadow of potential buyer’s remorse, making people reluctant to make a ‘bad’ decision. So they choose not to make one at all, or they make the safest, cheapest, and most politically correct one. Often leaving the rep who did least walk away with the prize, while the one who helped the buyer make their choice wins the “Informative Congenial” rep prize for helping the chose, but not decide.

Don’t be that seller that helps them choose but is left out of the decision.

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Limiting Choices Increases Results0

Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Despite the evidence to the contrary, many sales people and businesses see multiple options presented to prospects as being “good” or the “right” thing, for the prospect, and by extension themselves. Many business owners tell me that they stock or offer a wide range of products or services to ensure that they can meet the demands of all comments. Some of this is based on the assumption that the buyer actually knows what they want. This fatal sales character flaw is shared by many sales people, especially from the consultative or relationship school. These sales people see their role more client therapists than revenue generators.

You can sort of understand the small business owners, clients come in asking for something they currently don’t have. They have two choices, take the time and effort to understand the buyer’s objective, and then sell them on an equally valid alternative they do have. Or, they squeeze some things over on the second shelf, and order a dozen of what the prospect asked for, because “If this guy wants it, so will others, best to be prepared when the next buyer asks for it.” A big if.

While one can’t blame small business owners for falling into the trap of endless choices, it should be different with sales people. Choice is a bad drug, once you are addicted, it takes a lot to kick this habit that’s killing sales, and threatening capitalism as we know it. Yet sales people consume and dispense choice disregarding the impact on their success.

Part of the challenge is people see the role of a sales professional. Broadly speaking there are those “consultative” types, “the customer is always right” types who for the sake of “relationship” will subordinate their success and that of their employers.

Consistently successful sales professionals see their role a little differently, they see themselves as a Subject Matter Expert, (SME). Further, their expertise is not product related, but related to helping the prospect achieve their objectives. Focusing on objectives, business impacts and outcomes, frees one up from worrying about product/service, to outcomes. From a business standpoint it really is about the end, not the means. Focusing on the “end”, the outcomes and impacts, narrows the discussion, and creates focus.

Consultative sellers will present proposals with multiple options, SME’s offer up the right choice based on what the “end” the prospect is trying to achieve. With the former you have to explain each option, the pros and cons of each, the whole exercise begins to look like a spaghetti tossing contest. While many of these sellers take great pride in expounding on each option, demonstrating their rich product knowledge. Here is what the prospect is hearing, “I haven’t got a clue what you are looking for Mr. Buyer, but I gotta make a sale here or my ass is fried; so imagonna put three options in front of you, hope you know what you want, hope I can sell you the middle one, but I’ll settle for the lowest option too, any actually”.

Be the expert, understand what they are trying to achieve, not what they want to buy or you want to sell. No matter what you are selling commodity or rocket ships, limiting choice will help you understand and sell better. In high end products, offering one choice, even when not on the mark, will drive discussion, discovery and insight, and establish you as an expert in the process. Options will give the client the impression you have taken it as far as you can, based on their input, and now they are on their own to make the decision. Risky business.

With commodities, I’ll share a story. I was working with client in a competitive market, there were a lot of choices, vendors, product, bulk, etc. My client’s team would always showcase three offerings, most prospects loved the middle choice, right balance of price/feature. But in the end he sold considerably more of the lowest price product, even among those who loved the middle feature; (just read the “good enough” segment of CEB’s Challenger Customer). I suggested that they drop the lowest option, and just present two, making what was the middle choice now the lowest of the two. His volumes did not go down, but almost all the sales were of the new low, prior middle priced offering.

By limiting choice, he increased outcomes for both his buyers and his company.

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