no-rules

There Are No Rules In Sales3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

It’s hard not to laugh sometimes when I hear sales people say something like “Well, it’s supposed to go like this…”, or “I was told to do it that way, cause when we do that the prospects do…” But instead I am empathetic to their plight and innocence. Empathetic, because some manager or pundit told them that if they took a specific step or action, the prospect would react in some specific way. But we all know there are no rules in sales, especially rules that prospect will behave in any way just because of what we may do.

Now pundits have books to sell, and managers have their own agenda, a common one they share is their need for you as a sales rep to act on what they say, hard to do if they mentioned that there are no guarantees, usually because there are no rules.

Studies continue to show that less 20% of Sales Qualified Leads actually close, call that handshake to close, less than 20% – so even if pretended there are rules, they clearly don’t work if the measure is success. I suspect that that as long as sales continues to dependent on interaction between two or more people, rules are hard to articulate or impose.

no-rulesI keep hearing, buyers have changed, and one reason for that is their greater access to information, information about you, your competitors, and if you’re active on Facebook, where you had and what you had for dinner Friday night. You know what else they have access to, sales and sales related info. You think only sellers buy and read sales books; you think that sellers are the only ones who can subscribe to sales blogs and update. I bet more buyers read sales blogs than sellers who read blogs about purchasing, or role specific sites that speak to the different functions covered by the 5.4 people likely to be involved in your sale. There are no secrets.

With buyers who have gone through a few buying cycles, are likely more familiar with “Seller Personas” than many sellers are with buyer personas. In fact, I know buyers who place bets on which category of sales the next person to visit will wear. Based on what they see, they too adapt a persona, just to mess with and see where the seller goes with it. The only time they are genuine when dealing with a genuine individual.

To be genuine, you need to understand what you are doing well, here defined as things that people respond to, and what is not getting you traction with real buyers. By real, we mean, not exclusively price driven, and does indeed buy in a realistic timeframe from when you initially engaged. Since people differ, leading to differences in experience, your best shot is to commit to a formal process of reviewing all the opportunities that qualify to be active in your pipeline. As you gather and grow data, you will be able to bell curve the data and begin to see what works more often, and what doesn’t. As you approach similar situations, you will be able to use those things that have worked in similar situations in the past. Think of it as trial and error with the unfair advantage of data and experience. It will take a bit of work in the form of analysis, but given the apps and tools available today, gathering the inputs is easy. I guess the only rule may be that there are no silver bullets or codes to crack, just act-review-apply learning. A simple but effective rule.

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Yes Small

The Complete Salesperson?2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I witnessed an interesting exchange the other day, two Sales VP’s were exchanging views on hiring, on=boarding and development of sales people. One offered up that he only wants to hire A players, “people who do not want to prospect all their career”. For context, this VP had a team of SDR’s and account managers. Before I could jump in, the other VP asked “what do you mean, prospecting is a key skill for A players.” Or at least his definition of an A Player.

We’re All The Same At The Start

There is no doubt that the pattern for a long time has been to start off a sales career prospecting, because unless you adopt a territory, there is no other way to build a base, (even if you’re good at referrals, you need someone to refer you). As we build the base we become victims of our success, demand on our time and attention turns to maintaining and organically growing the base. And eventually stop prospecting, or do a token amount.

The Turn

The other thing that happens is a change in attitude. Sales people hate it when a buyer chooses an alternate product, perhaps not as robust as ours, and tells us that despite everything, the alternative is good enough. While that hurts, many can deal with it, why? Because they have also adopted the same “good enough” attitude. The reach a level of income that is “good enough”, the effort it takes to prospect just becomes a bit more than they are willing to commit. Sure they could go from $250,000 to $300,000 or more with a bit of prospecting, “But hey, you know $250,000 is good enough, I’d much rather work on my putt and short game.” Usually this followed by one of the saddest statements a professional sales person can make: “I have earned the right not to have to prospect anymore.” I would argue that your product, customer service, finance and others in the company earned most of that. The key value any sales person bring is customers who represent new revenue streams. Other than direct referrals, prospecting is the optimal path to that.

With the exception of a few products, when you stop prospecting, you diminish your value as a sales person. It’s not about greed or just making more money, it is about continuing to be the best they can be. Can you imagine the blow back if an athlete said that they have earned the right not to pass, or slide, or anything required to win? A players have a different outlook.

Wisdom Of Success

I remember training a financial services professional, top three in his branch, been there 15 years, had a “book” of business he could milk for years. As I would work with new recruits, on his own, he would always come in and tell the participants why he loves to prospect, especially outside his network. He gave two compelling reasons:

1. If he could secure one or two new clients a year, he would have all that many more referrals to add to the ones his current clients were providing.
2. If one of his clients fell away, perhaps taking some of their referral with them, they would be replaced.

I am not sure I can agree with the VP when he say that A players are those that don’t want to prospect, I think A players do it, and don’t complain about it, because they know the rewards of their work.

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Stop the domino effect concept for solution to a problem

Sales Excuse Litmus Test and Cure7

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I had an interesting chat with a client last week. We were reviewing their progress on specific things we agreed on. She mentioned that she had not made progress on a specific task, and was honest enough to add “I am not sure if I am making excuses or if there are other real factors preventing me from getting it done.” While it may be easy to just default that they were just making excuses, that will do little to get them to change their ways. It is better to approach it in a way that leaves them open to change, and will get them to take ownership for the outcome, which will drive the activity. In this case the outcome is more sales and earnings, so let’s look at the litmus test and how will then to execution rather than excuses.

In this case the task was to prospect in sufficient amounts to ensure a given number of new opportunities per month. The method was not an issue, they can cold call, socialize, referrals, whatever, the measure was new opportunities. Since all activities take time, and time is the currency of sales, how you spend or invest it will dictate your success. Based on that I asked this rep to sit down and carve out 30 minutes each day specifically for prospecting. To be successful, I insisted that they block out the times for the following week the week before. On Thursday, block out times for next week, this way you are doing it before getting caught up in the moment, when it is easy to rationalize not doing something when something that seems bigger (at the time).

After the first week we can explore empirical evidence as to how the half hour a day impacted all other activities. Did they still get all the other “important” things done, or did their universe fall apart, and they can’t show their face at the club any more. If it was the former, then we just keep carving out incrementally more time, till we get a balance of getting all the things we need to done. This works best when you chunk time for all the important things that you need to do, and focus on just the activity you have allocated the time for.

If the result is that you are not getting all “important” things done, then we need to look at a couple of things. First, are they all “important”, or are we doing some things to be able to legitimately avoid others. One thing that takes work but delivers results is looking at your habits, auto routines, you’ll need a partner in this one as few of us are objective enough about our habits to work this alone. They say that 40% of our daily activities are habits, we do them without thinking. Some good habits like working out, others bad, like a smoke with every coffee. If you can identify, or have someone help you identify “bad sales habits”, you can then focus on changing the habit, which will change the result. If you can swap out a bad habit or two, and replace them with good habits that will get done automatically, you will change the impacts and outcomes.

Best to do this slow, and one specific habit at a time. Small victories lead to big results. Change=pain=gain, trying to change all bad habits at once, will usually lead to being crushed under the weight of the challenge, giving up, and staying the same, and clearly the same is not good in this case.

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Fear of

Which Fear Is Driving Your Results?1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

One thing you have to love about sales is that while some fundamentals are constant, the execution continues to change and evolve. This evolution and change challenges sellers every day, taking them to new highs and lows depending on how they respond. A delicate balance that dares their abilities and preys on their fears. Top performer are not so much fearless, as they are people who leverage those fears, and channel the energy in a way that drives their success. The chronic underperformers, C players, are so far removed from the reality of selling that fear is not the main ingredient of their failures. Where fear is a silent killer is in the middle pack, the B players, usually the largest percentage of any sales team.

These are the ones you want to move up to be A players, and despite everything you do, replicating the very things you do for A players, sharing the observed habits and behaviours of A plyers, only a handful move up to the premier league, they spend their entire career being solid B players. The reason for this is most often the limiting factor of fear.

This explains the many “Motivation” pundits who line up to help you “crack the code” of changing the results of your B players. They offer to share their secret for motivating these players to new highs. But it’s no secret and plain to everyone once these “motivating helicopters” leave town, and the dust, noise and hype settle, these reps continue to bounce of the floor and ceiling of the B Zone.

These B Players are gripped by one of two fears. The first, common and relatable to many is the fear of failure. Given the peer pressure of not just society, but sales culture, failure frowned upon and limiting in so many ways. While everyone will talk about learning from your mistakes, the reality is that it’s not often tolerated. There is no doubt that there are many enlightened dealers who can take failure as a springboard to learning and development, the fact is that not many front line sales managers fall into that category, meaning a lot of lost opportunities for development, both for individual reps and their entire organization as a result. I have a unique vantage point on this, in workshops when people are asked to practice in “safe environment”, the fear is strong, many otherwise smart people, would rather look stupid in front of their peers, than face their fears and improve their skills and results. In the end it is easier not to, than fail.

The other fear is a mystery to me, the polar opposite of the above, and that is the fear of success. Yes, success. When the norm among your peers, the people you socialize with, participate in football pools with, is to be a solid B, you risk being cast out if you transform to one of those A’s. Not only is there one less B to commiserate with, but now you are one of those guys. Don’t believe me, watch the dynamics when someone is promoted to manager, see how their former mates respond. Fear of success thrives on tearing others, usually successful sellers, easier than elevating one’s own abilities. And again, it is easier not to, than carry the wieght of success.

The only thing I have been able to figure out is that success takes and brings accountability. Failure does not. Those who fail to take accountability for their activities and everything that requires, find it easy to not be accountable for the results. On the other hand, to be accountable for your success requires that you be accountable for all that takes. Something that is not for the faint of heart.

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A Sales Viewpoint – Sales eXecution 3250

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

With the election cycle in full swing in the USA, many (some) are reflecting on what their point of view is on key aspects of life to be impacted by the outcome of the election. This includes things like economic viewpoint, free market or centrally controlled economy; global viewpoint vs. protectionist, and more. The key here is not function or discipline in question, it is more that most people will have a viewpoint, and that view point drives their actions, and the result and impact of their action.

This fact is true for sales and sellers as well. A seller’s view point on sales, their market, their customers, and their sales methodology, will drive how they execute their sales, their success, and most importantly their impact on the success of their customers’ ability to achieve their objectives.

Unfortunately, as with political viewpoints, many in sales don’t ever develop and hone their own viewpoint. It is much easier to abdicate the work required to have a valid viewpoint, and they end up plugging into an outlet for their viewpoint and resulting action. Once they find one that is comfortable, fits well, they just go with it until it lets them down, be that the wrong guy getting into office or a loss of a big sales or significant existing client.

But when you take a close look you discover is an aspect of the old Pareto principle, where a large percentage of sales people, maybe even 80%, don’t really have a viewpoint. There is a large segment of this group that don’t see sales as their final destination, so why develop a viewpoint, “I’ll do that when I am in the role I really want.”

On the other hand, you do find the smaller group, let’s go with 20%, that have a specific viewpoint, and you see at the centre of everything they do in sales. This view point allows them to take the buyer and discussions with buyers to areas and depths that a viewless seller would not dare go, even if they were aware of them.

The important thing is that usually the person most aware of the difference is the buyer. They know when they are working with someone with a clear and centred sales viewpoint. Sellers with a viewpoint, one based on their standing as a subject matter expert, are in a much better position to not only help their clients achieve their objectives, but more importantly to influence the buyers’ objectives. Without a clear and strong viewpoint, you are left feature, benefit and groveling, oops, I mean relationship selling.

As a hiring manager you can begin to look for this in the interview process; are they telling you what you want to hear, or are they articulating a clear viewpoint on sales and how they execute on that viewpoint?

Given an equal set of skills and opportunities, the seller with a clear and thought out sales viewpoint will always outperform the one with out.

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Tomorrow Is Today – Sales eXecution 3240

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

A common discussion among sales people, or more accurately, sales people willing to make cold calls, that is complete sales people, is when is the best time to cold call? I have added my two cents on this in past. What is true about any element of success, is that the things that lead to it become routine, a habit, and there is no doubt that people are creatures of habit. This can be good and bad at the same time. Reports show that habit, things we do by rote, make up about 40% of what we do on a daily basis, so if develop good habits, this will serve you well. If you develop bad habits, well then, you have some work to do.

This notion of habits extends to cold calling as well, with all the implications and ramifications. One of those habits is when they choose to cold call. For the cold calling is dead crowd, the time is never, they have made the decision to go at it with one less tool in their toolkit. The rest seem to land on one of two days, oddly both start with T. Those who have developed good prospecting habits always prospect, including cold calling, Today. The others, with questionable habits, well, it’s always Tomorrow.

The Today group, uses their calendar to ensure that they get what has to get done in time for it to matter. Like many sales people they put all the important things in their calendar; be they client meetings, training, commission days, and yes, cold calling. If it is not in your diary it is likely not to get done, there will always be some things that come up that will distract you, and cause you to say “I can do that tomorrow, because I have this to do today. The question is if you don’t prospect today, who are you going to sell to tomorrow.

The Tomorrow crowd do not put prospecting time in their calendar because it would begin to resemble a commitment. Understanding what percentage of your “selling time” one has to commit to prospecting is where you start, once you have that you can begin to slot it in, along with the prep time it will take to generate the leads, understand their objectives, and all the other things that have to be in place for a successful cold call.

The other thing the Today crowd do is understand that rejection is part of the process. They study the most common objections and spend time preparing for them, understanding them, and developing means of taking those objections and transitioning them to conversations, and live another day by adding more opportunities to their pipeline. The Tomorrow crowd live another day by kicking the can down the road a few more inches each day.

What I have also found, is that with some coaching and effort, many Tomorrow people can be rehabilitated and converted to Today people. Since many had good sales habits alongside nonexistent cold calling habits, by doing what they need to today, they will likely be that much more successful.

Tibor Shanto

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Process over Calendar – Sales eXecution 3230

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

gear 2

As we work through the haze of celebrating the new year, sales people we can count on two things; first our new goals or quotas; second a barrage of posts and articles telling us how 2016 will be different, or trends that will impact us this year. I was always confused by this notion, are there smart people who come up with something good or new in September, then say, “Hang on, I am not gonna share this till after January 1.” Or do some people just blessed with a burst of creativity between Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King, Jr.? Of course not, it is more the fact that New Year is the start of cycle, a universally accepted cycle, but most importantly a calendar cycle. But a calendar cycle is very different than a sales or buying cycle, and if you are in sales you need to manage your buy/sale cycle, not a general calendars cycle.

There is no denying the importance of the calendar in sales success, but the importance is in the form of setting and achieving certain milestones. Month end, quarter end, campaign start and end, and more. New Year not only brings new quotas and targets, but also budgets are replenished, and the system is fueled for action. Having said that, let’s remember that not everyone’s fiscal cycle aligns to the calendar cycle.

But success in sales is about activity, consistent execution of high-value activities executed at the right points across the buy/sales cycle, not according not secular milestones or calendar. This is why successful sellers focus on their process, not the calendar as their roadmap for success.

Process: Sequence of interdependent and linked procedures which, at every stage, consume one or more resources (employee time, energy, machines, money) to convert inputs (data, material, parts, etc.) into outputs (Read sales). These outputs then serve as inputs for the next stage until a known goal or end result is reached. businessdictionary.com
You are much more likely to succeed if you focus on what activities you need to do today in order to succeed at a given point in the future, and that point is not tied to a calendar, it is much more tied to your process and cycle. If you do what you need to do every day, based on the stages of your process and activities required to close off the stage with each prospect, you will deliver sales on a consistent and fairly predictable fashion. Conversely, if you don’t do what you have to do across the cycle, you won’t. There is no ifs ands or buts, just excuses as to why not. As a mentor of mine once impressed on me, “Today is the last day you can influence your sales cycle.” Let’s say I have a 120-day cycle, If I don’t put an opportunity in my pipeline today, I the only thing I can be certain of is that 120 days from today, I will not be closing that deal. It doesn’t matter if it’s Tuesday, Columbus Day, Lag B’Omer or any other day on any calendar.

What you can do now:

Nail down the average length of a sales, it is often different than many think, check your CRM, and nail the number. If you sell multiple products to different buyers, you may need to do this for each.

Inventory those high value activities you have to do throughout the cycle. Prospecting, selling, managing existing accounts, research, planning, etc., then allocate the percentage of time you need to allocate to each activity across the cycle. This will allow you to manage your activities, easy to do, rather than trying to manage time, not doable, therefore stupid. Use this to block time to execute these high-value activities.
Make sure your team is adhering to your process, not interpreting it to suit their results, or cherry picking things the like. This where metrics come in real handy.

If you currently don’t have a process or it is not documented, create one, or hire a professional to do it for you. Map your process, including specific stages, objectives within those stages, (good to focus on the buyer’s objectives, as you need to help them complete the journey), activities and tools required, and desired outcomes. Make sure there is a clear exit for each stage, and clear next steps. Take advantage of your CRM to action this in a way that takes the subjectivity out of execution.

Tibor Shanto

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Get It Together! Marketing and Sales Collaboration That WORKS0

Dec 15

The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka

Once upon a time, the business world operated in silos. The accounting department worked in its own silo, while the human resources department worked in a separate silo. Sales and marketing teams also had unique silos. Everyone worked independently and everyone seemed happy – until conflict arose.

Today, more businesses recognize the distinct problem with this setup: each department is working toward a common goal, yet no one is communicating.

The problem with organizing your business in silos goes deeper than lack of communication (although that’s a pretty big deal in any organization). When conflicts arise, the other departments are quick to point fingers. This is especially true of sales and marketing departments. Too often, teams hear the rallying cry of, “but the others don’t get it!” Sales teams fail to see the value in marketing, while marketers see salesmen as lazy.

Instead of listening to what the other department has to say and then collaborating toward a solution to benefit both people, the two teams bicker.

Sales and Marketing Don’t Have to Go Head to Head

All this bickering is stealing from your company’s bottom line. Instead of finding a positive solution to honor the common goal of growing the company, the two teams debate who is right. It’s unproductive…but it doesn’t have to work this way.
Smart companies today realize the problems of communication breakdown between sales and marketing teams. It’s costing them money. If your company is tired of hearing the two teams whine about the other’s performance, it’s time to bring these groups together. Here’s how:

Clarify Qualified Leads

Many sales teams believe the leads coming through aren’t qualified so they’re a waste of time. This is an easy fix. To help the marketing department bring in higher qualified leads, ask each department to define what a qualified lead looks like.
Then, pair the results side by side and consolidate the information. Where is there overlap? Where are the gaps? Whittle away until you reach a consensus between both departments about what a qualified lead looks like.

Collaborate on Content

Sales teams pound the pavement talking to potential customers. They hear more objections than anyone else in the company and they know what the market is looking for.
This is valuable information for marketing teams.
When sales teams can express these objections and define current market trends, the content created for marketing materials becomes far more compelling. The sales team’s job becomes easier and your business starts attracting more people because you “get it.”

How to Get Buy In From Both Departments

The trick to break away from the silo mentality and encourage healthy collaboration between these two departments is showing the benefits of working together.

For sales teams, working together means:
● Higher qualified leads
● Better resources to attract new customers
● More opportunities to reach potential leads
For marketing teams, working together means:
● Having an ear to the ground to know what people are saying instead of having to guess
● Ideas for content creation that drive success by overcoming objections before the customer voices them
● More successful marketing campaigns based on improved communication

Bridging the Gap

It’s time to say “so long” to outdated business concepts. To succeed in business today, your company must bridge the gap between sales and marketing. When you use your CRM to manage collaborative teams, you make it easier and faster to share information. Break away from the silo approach in your business. Start seeing bigger results with stronger teamwork across departments.

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. 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. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Megan has several years of experience on the topics of small business marketing, copywriting, SEO, online conversions and social media. Megan spends much of her time establishing new relationships for ChamberofCommerce.com, publishing weekly newsletters educating small business on the importance of web presence, and contributing to a number of publications on the web. Megan can be reached at megan@chamberofcommerce.com.

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Website: www.chamberofcommerce.com

Are Sales People Masochists?4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

No Pain

Sales people are always looking for “the pain” or “pain point”. One reason I am told they are looking for the pain is that they can then offer up the cure along with an invoice, and have a happy client. Given that a relatively small part of the market will admit to pain, I am not sure this is the most prudent approach to starting a lasting relationship, but it is what it is.

Many tell me, backed by a string of pundits, that people will do more to avoid pain, than the steps or actions they will take to achieve pleasure. Theory being I am told, is if one can touch a raw nerve, a painful nerve, the buyer is more likely to act, and therefore potentially buy the “fix” for that pain from the seller. Given the choice, they believe that focusing on pain yields better results than focusing on pleasure.

I had one consultant, a successful one according to him, tell me that his role as a sales person is “to find the soft underbelly of the beast, stab it, and offer up the cure.” Nice, feel free to take a minute and wash.

This piece is not meant to debate that, but rather explore how this concept plays out when applied to sales people themselves, and their success.

I work with a lot of sales people, and have seen how willing or unwilling they are to take on new or alternate sales views, skills and practices. I know that when I carried a quota, the biggest pain I was trying to avoid, was the pain of not making quota. Not only because of the stigma associated with failing at your chosen craft, but because I had three kids to feed. Exceeding quota always struck me as a better alternative, especially not having to tell the kids they can’t eat this quarter. But let’s make like a pundit and pander to the masses and go to the pain side for a minute.

The Puzzle

Given that over the past few years the number of B2B reps to hit quota has hovered at around 60%, you have to wonder why those suffering the reality of not making quota don’t do much if anything to avoid that pain. If they saw their prospects “suffering” in this way, they would be advising them to change, and change now, relieve themselves of this unnecessary pain. Just the incongruity of that must be a challenge, imagine suppressing your pain as you look your prospect in the eye telling them to take action (buy your product) and address that pain.

I am not even going to get into the financial reality, but there is the tribal reality of being a burden rather than a contributor. Many of the sources that show that only about 60% make quota also show that a higher percentage of sales organizations are hitting their collective number. This means that these people are carrying those who fall short, more than carrying, making up for.

The Answer

The answer is not jumping on every selling band wagon that comes through town, but to refocus on the fundamentals. As Michael Jordan said: “You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly, because the only thing that changes will be your attention to them”. There is no arguing that Jordan can razzle dazzle with the best of them, deliver consistently, all by building on the fundamentals, not by avoiding them. There is no doubt that the coach had a lot to do with it, as did the process or system executed. But it was the discipline and focus on execution on the part of Jordan, and the others on the team that made the difference. There did not seem to be anyone carrying a team mate.

While some might argue, it starts with process. A clear road map of the buy/sale journey, including objectives for each stage, tools, measurements, contingency plans, and more. Think of it as your sales TripTik®.  But in the end, there is no escaping the fact that it does come down to execution. The willingness to put the system into practice. The ability to try, fail, try again and improve.

As we go into a new sales year, the question to answer is the following: Which pain are you willing to suffer, the short term pain of effort practice and refinement, leading to ongoing success. Or the pain of missing quota “one more again”, letting the side down and burdening your team mates?

Tibor Shanto

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How Do You Start Your Day? #FireStarters0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

FireStarter

Some of you are familiar with Miles Austin, if you are looking to learn about the latest tools and technology for sales and selling Miles is the source.  As a result, Miles is always trying out and introducing those of us in sales to new tools and apps to make selling more fun and profitable.

This month Miles is leveraging a new tool, Blab, and he is using it to help share ideas and best practices from people from all corners of sales.  What makes the whole process cool is that he is focused on a single theme, by asking all of us who participate the same question: How Do You Start Your Day? 

You can watch my segment below, including a technical glitch I had right at the start, and thanks to Billy Bob Brigmon, who was nice enough to jump in for the first 30 seconds while I got my act together.

Take a look, watch all the #FireStarter segments for some great insights on how to start your day.

Tell us what you think.

Tibor Shanto

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