stranger in their own deal

A Stranger In Your Own Deal?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

It’s interesting to see how different sales people and organisations deal with lost deals. In light of the fact that most sales people including me, have an initial engagement to close ratio of less than 50%, meaning we lose more than we win, you’d think there would be more of a focus on understanding the reason for the outcomes of our opportunities. A better understand of why things turned out as they did, more importantly, how to change things to change the outcome moving forward should be of interest to sales types.

Even among those who do have a formal review process, they at times are limited by their scope and process.

A proper review of a loss is not easy, and may in fact be bruising to the rep involved. Which is one reason, I believe, that the rep involved in a lost deal should not be part of the process for loss review, at least not in parts involving the prospect in question. This is not some form of punishment, it is to ensure you get the best feedback for driving change.

Almost always, when you send the rep in to find out why they lost, you get no usable feedback. First off, the prospect, having made their choice has now shifted to implementing what they just bought (from the other guy). The easiest thing is to tell the rep it was price and product related differences. The reps have egos to protect, so what better than having the convenience of having price and product to blame. “See, it’s just as I and the rest of the team have been telling you….”

You really want this guy walking around the sales floor looking good for loosing?

stranger in their own dealIf you are looking for loss reviews to have real meaning and bring change, not only should you have someone else do it, but have a plan and specific areas that you will probe. Depending on the size of your deals and company, your best option is to go with a third part specializing doing post mortems.

One such professional I spoke to, told me that most of the time they uncover things the rep was not even aware of. As you may expect, reps spent their time on the “product selection” elements, even before the prospect(s) were at that stage of their buying process. As a result, the rep was beat long before price and features were even on the table.

In essence, the rep brought nothing new to the discussion, and early in the buying process was relegated to being the “low end benchmark”. As soon as another vendor/rep took the discussion to a direction that had nothing to do with product, but instead, to place that everything to do with the buyers’ objectives, business realities, and impacts they were seeking, the PP rep (Price Product), became the designated low end comparable, which is why he/she was allowed to stick around, and also why you need someone else to do the post mortems.

While you can’t relitigate the deal, you do have to make sure that you get to the core issue(s). On the surface this may seem like it is about why the rep blew it, but it is really about understanding what needs to be different next time. And if the rep objects, you just remind them that in reality, they were a stranger in their own deal to begin with, so it may as well be so in the post mortem, especially if you really want to learn and change.

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win-lose-draw-dice

Crash and Learn2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

While we are all caught up in the cheer of the season, it is important to remember that sales is not always peace, love and joy. In fact, when you consider closing averages in B2B sales, it is most likely that we are bound to have more disappointments than joys as measured by that figure. Some have put the number of sales qualified leads to close, as low as 16.4%, across all B2B; I am sure if you take out the outliers, it is likely a more presentable number. Let’s go with 4:1 or 25%, now if you’re one of those who say sales is not a numbers game, you don’t have to worry about this or the rest of this piece. But if you are looking to improve in the coming year and beyond, it is clear that the best learning opportunities are in examining the losses, and working to change those outcomes.

I know there are some pundits who will tell you to ignore anything but wins, and work on repeating things that are working. The question is will that change the 4:1 win rate, or just help you maintain things? While no one wants to dwell on the negative, the best way to change it is to avoid repeating things, which what happens when you just look at one side of things. In fact, the best sales people and organizations, look at three side of things, The Wins, The Losses, and The No Decisions.

win-lose-draw-diceGiven the time of year, I would encourage you to look back and not only examine recent deals, but the deals from the entire year. Look for trends that impact the entire market, and then sub trends that are unique to key segments. This will not only help you understand how things have evolved over the year, why you may have won or lost, how you need to adjust your sales approach to win in the future, and the added bonus of identifying some potential calls for the start of the year to people who chose not to decide last year.

The challenge is to ensure that this is a real drill down as to what happened and what will need to be done differently next time. This usually means going beyond where you were willing to go to get the sale, the fact that we lost is evidence of that. You also need to involve the buyer who did not buy from you, which is not always easy, not only because you’ve been rejected, but they are busy implementing their choice.

In most instances interviewing buyers you lost should be done by someone other than the rep involved, it’s easy to blow them off, just point to price and features, and the rep spends more time repeating that to their company, than changing how they presented the features and price. Use someone from marketing or Customer Success. Whoever ends up conducting the review, make sure they are armed with solid questions that help you understand the buyer’s process and choice, this is not about defending your company or changing the buyer’s mind.

Having a formal approach helps the clients feel more at ease about the process, and gets you actionable insights. Done right, this review of a loss or no decision, could be one of the factors that allows you to be part of the picture next time they go to market. Ignoring why you lost will continue to limit your opportunities, and long term personal and sales growth.

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Dear Sales Diary3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Diary

Those of you have kept or keep diaries, know that one of the reasons it has such great value is not just because you open up about intimate secrets, but that you share everything, not just the good, not just the bad, but all that and everything in between. You were able to go back and relive the experience, and more often than not glean lesson and things you would do differently if you had to do them all again. You didn’t just look at what you did well, or things that turned out to be good, living up to and beyond your expectations. You looked at the bad things that happened and tried to understand how you might avoid similar things in the future. The more honest you were the more rewarding the experience. If you skewed or slanted things one way, you may feel better for a while, but reality comes creeping back in, forcing us to deal with the bad, and the gray.

Sales people and sales organization need to keep a diary of their experiences, all of them, the good, the bad, and the in between. Most already do deal reviews in some format, but many do not, either choosing to them selectively, or just enough to satisfy a KPI or ScoreCard requirement. Few do the real deep dive required in order to get the most out of it, in the process allowing both a learning and revenue improvement get away. To be clear, and as you will see further on, “deep dive” does not have to be a laborious time consuming exercise with minimal payoffs, it can and should be an ongoing process that helps you with deals you are currently involved in, while also allowing you to capture and repurpose things on the fly. Done right, it should resemble the old EDS add about building an airplane while it is flying, the opportunity for sales people and organizations, is to build a continuously better sales, even as they are executing current sales, and prospecting for their next one.

Specifically this involves reviewing all deals you were involved in, those you won, those you lost, and those which go to “no decision”. Note, if you are involved in ten to a dozen deal a month, I recommend you review all of them; if on the other hand you are involved in dozens of deals, you may want to review a representative sample. If you have 7 wins, 15 losses, and 6 no decisions, review 25%, or seven, and you will get good, executable output. But as you’ll see, even if you don’t formally review each one, you will produce usable output.

Now some of you reading this may be aware that I am the coauthor of an award winning book about Trigger Events. In that book the recommendation was that you focus your reviews to only those deals you win. This will allow you to continuously repeat those things that are consistently help you win deals. Sound thinking, to a point. Let me explain, coauthoring a book is a lesson in compromise, you give you, you learn, you take, and in the end you produce a book that reflects the learning of both. But as you move on, the hope is that both authors evolve, not limited by the required compromises, and we each continue down our path, shaped by or experiences.

Since the release of that book, my thinking has evolved to where I see focusing strictly on one segment of your activities and only one of many outcomes, brings an unnecessary level of risk to one’s sales success, regardless of which one of the three possible outcomes you focus on. Given that on average, wins make up less than half of potential deals, if for no other reason than to broaden you perspectives, you should review outcomes other than just wins.

This is why the 360 Deal View was developed. It allows you to capture relevant information about the sale, the outcome and specific contributors to that. As with most tools, it is less about the tool itself, and much more about the approach and behaviours it promotes, which in turn lead to the desired results in more repeatable, predictable and consistent ways. It allows you to evolve you selling along with the way your market and buyers evolve.

While there is no denying that you want to know exactly what you are doing that is helping you win, you want to know what unfolded on the buyer’s side that prompted them to engage, and what outside and inside factors accelerate your sales cycle or cause it to slow and stall. What were the buyer’s objectives that allowed you to gain traction, and how you were able to connect with those? All important things you want to leverage. But it would be dangerous if not naïve to not go through a similar exercise with the other outcomes, losses and “no decisions”. Two simple advantageous to knowing why you lose, first, it may just take a small adjustment to change some of the inputs that will move a loss to the won column. Second, you may discover that a segment that made sense on initial exploration made sense to pursue, based on practice does not. Looking at “no decisions” will often allow you to understand when would be the best time to reengage, and take the cycle to fruition. It will also help you detect tire kickers a lot earlier.

These will be fallouts if you only review wins, but there is no denying that focusing on just one area, will lead to tunnel vision, causing you to miss changing trends that are more evident in the other categories, and more importantly, leave you very open to be blindsided. If you rely on one set of data, you will continue to find others who fit the mold, but it does not speak to the size of a market, things can continue to look good in a shrinking market, and by the time you react, many opportunities will have been missed, and competitors will have made unnecessary gains at your expense.

Most CRM’s and related apps will allow you to do a complete all three, and even allow you to get more granular if need be. You can download our tool here, but the key to success is not the tool, but the philosophy, and more specifically the discipline of doing it in up, down, or sideways markets. Just as with a diary, the best ones were usually written in simple notebooks, not fancy specially diaries, what made them great was the depth and completeness of what was captured, and the consistency of execution.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Price – A Hard Habit To Kick – Sales eXchange 171100

A couple of weeks ago I lost an opportunity I feel I should have won, and as you have read here in the past, you need to invest the time to understand why deals turn out the way they do. To do that I asked a couple of people I know, also involved in sales training to sit down to conduct the review, in essence to play the role of the manager, and keep me honest.  The goal is to learn if the deal was winnable, if so what could I have done differently.  If not winnable, are there any trends we can glean that we need to incorporate into future sales; or what can we learn that will help us recognize deals that are not going to happen earlier, so we can move on faster.

I was taken aback when the first question one of my peers asked was: “do you think you would have won had you priced it lower?”

Wow, what an uninspiring start.  I guess if I gave it away free I would be busy five days a week, but my kids would starve.  I looked at her hoping she would continue, and asked her why she started there, especially when I had shared with her and the other fellow involved the form/tool I use of our reviews, exploring many factors beyond price.  What worried me even more is that this person was involved in working with sales teams, and this was top of mind here, what is top of mind when they are out in field.

The importance of reviewing both deals you win and lose, is understanding the trends behind the decisions.  Every time a buyer does not buy from you is not a failure on your part, and the reviews will help you delineate between the two.  There are buyers who will not pay for the value of your offering regardless of how well you communicated.  It is important to understand which end of the communication failed.  If it was you, then you need to work to change how you do things, and reviews will help.  But if it was the buyer’s failure to understand/appreciate the value when you did everything you had to, it is better to know that and why, and how to recognize it moving forward.  Communication is two directional, and it could well be that the buyer does not see the value or does not want to pay for it, yes they are cheap.  And none of want cheap customers.  The quicker you can spot one vs. the other, the quicker you can decide who is worth your time and resources, or which opportunities you can abandon early.*

Fine Print – the above is predicated on having a healthy pipeline of real opportunities, it is a lot easier to walk away from a bad thing knowing there are other opportunities to work on, than to walk away from the only thing left in your pipe.

Price is easy, in fact it is addictive; sellers need to be value competitive, not  price competitive.  Much better to get your clients addicted to your value/quality, then you becoming addicted to discounting.  As with anything addictive, you run the risk of not just selling at a lower price, but for the wrong reasons.  At first you figure you hey what’s a 3% discount.  Once that is comfortable, you need a bigger fix.  When you come up to the next resistance, you hesitantly try one more point, then another, and you are at 5%.  You figure on $100,000 deal, say 8% commission, going to $95,000 will only impact you by $400, but could be the margin for your company.  Remember that next time you wonder about investment in product development, marketing, resources, and all the things the $5,000 you gave away could buy.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

I Support Profiling!41

Hang on, before you get your pipeline in a knot, read on and discover.  We’re talking about client profiling, not racial profiling.  The reality is that all the things (some) people do not like about the type of profiling that takes place at airports, or in upscale shops at suburban malls, do indeed help sellers identify not just buyers, but the right buyers, and as a results buyers who buy faster.   After all, if you could recognize the attributes of a buyer, and recognize them sooner, that would be good.  The only thing better, is recognizing the attributes of a non-buyer so you can save time and resources.

Now unlike the other profiling, you probably can’t afford the type of heavy technology, algorithms and other applications used by some, but then again you don’t need to.  What you do need is the discipline to invest the time to develop a simple profiling process, and the discipline to actually put it into practice.

This goes beyond the simple concept of analyzing your wins so you can hone your perception, and hope only engage with winners.  Too much of a good thing can come back to bite, and without a balance discipline, selective perception can devolve into restricted perception, leaving good opportunities unpursued.   Given the fact that most B2B sellers have less than a 50% close ratio, more like a 25% closing average, it is foolish to ignore your losses.  By understanding why you both win and lose, you can sharpen your success filters, change things that are causing you to lose, and disqualify non-buyers sooner; some would call that a win – win – win.

Profiling can be done in a number of ways, all looking to gain insight based on different factors.  There are those who try to do it based on personality traits, DISC would be an example.  Although if you buy in to the notion that people buy from people they like, does this lead to people selling to people they like, and if so, how do I know if I’m going to like them before I pick up the phone?  Ah, now I get why so many people have call reluctance, they don’t know if they’re going to like the prospect they are about to call.  I digress.

I prefer doing it on a deal basis, this helps me categorize based on buyers objectives, most professionals and people running a business will tend to have objectives, and approached the right way, are interested in things that help them achieve objectives, or avoid things that may hamper their progress, and will act to remove those barriers.  A lack of clear objectives is a sure clue to a less than committed buyer, a longer sales cycle if it happens at all, or usually not a good use of time.

As with most things in sales, it is less about the tools and more about the mindset and the discipline to do it, and do it consistently.  So go ahead, profile, your buyers don’t care as long as it helps them in the end.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Don’t forget to Join us in Houston, October 18 for the Proactive Prospecting Workshop!

Why Me? – Sales eXchange 15773

Last week I was working with a team getting ready for a frontal attack on the second half of the year.  One of the reps, Henry, a capable fellow, been plying his craft for a number of years, a type of rep I call the “Eighty Percenters”.  Some years he exceeded quota, some years he missed, when he missed it was not by much but still a miss, then he would refocus, and put together a few successful quarters.  Interestingly enough he had exceeded plan during 2010 and 2011, when others didn’t; but had run into a rough patch thus far this year.    

As we began our review he said something typical for reps in a slump or behind target, he asked out loud “Why me?”. As the sales equivalent of Zeus or some sales oracle and their council, high on Mount Revenue, had  decided that this was not the quarter Henry was going to make his number; they plotted and placed obstacles no mortal sales person could overcome thus assuring his failure. 

While I understand the frustration, and empathise with Henry, the reality is that the only answer to Henry’s question was Henry.

Rather than asking why me, it is a much better use of time to understand what Henry did, did not do, did well, and frankly what he messed up on.  Assuming there was a level playing field in each of the sales Henry was involved in, it is clear that someone else did a better job, or more accurately, took the right steps to understand and satisfy the needs of the buyers involved.

These could be factors directly related to how Henry executes his company’s sales process.  For instance, after looking at how a couple of deals he lost unfolded, it was clear that Henry had skipped a couple of critical steps here, and got ahead of the buyer at times, making assumptions where validation and next steps would have served him better.

It was also clear that he did not take the time to learn from each sale.  Henry was happy to celebrate deals he won, but did not take the time to see if the underlying factors were still valid, had changed, or why he was winning the deal.  I can relate, what’s the old saying about when it’s not broken why fix it.  But sales is about leading the process, not just responding/reacting to things, especially since wins were not as abundant as the plan called for.

While Henry did do the obligatory review of lost deals, much of what surfaced was not changing the way he approached his next deal.  Sure he could point to a few small steps here and there, but some bigger changes were still “gonna be next week”, before they became part of his routine. 

To be fair, his manager should have been more proactive, and accountable for some of the things Henry was or was not doing, but in the end it is Henry’s territory, income and professional success.  He needs to get involved in his success, not ask, “oh why me?”  The only answers is that is “who else should suffer the outcome of your execution, or lack thereof?”

So next time you are tempted to ask “why me?”, first ask, based on your actions, who else?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Is It Ever A Good Time? – Sales eXchange – 14957

One common objection sales people face when making prospecting calls, is when the potentially prospect says “now is not the right time”.  While timing is important, and understanding how specific triggers can help improve your timing, the fact remains that perfecting your timing will only help you in a very (very very) small way, in a very narrow part of you potential prospect segment.  Here is why.

Timing is only important with two buyer groups, Passive, those who have realized the Status Quo no longer meets their requirements, and have decided to learn or check out “what’s out there”.  Not actively looking, but getting feelers out, looking at some web sites, information, getting acclimatized, hence Passive. The other group are those Active buyers who have decided to buy, even what to buy, is now just down to where and from whom; this is where the order takers thrive.  But together these two groups are a small part of the market, maybe 30%, but the remaining 70%, the Status Quo, timing, will by definition always be off.  As a result, you have two choices, the popular choice for many whose business cards say Sales Representative, is to avoid prospecting and fully engaging with these potential buyers; taking the advice of some questionable experts who will encourage them to “nurture”.  “After some nurturing, when they are ready, they will call you, since you stuck with them.” OK

So if you want to really change the outcome, read make more sales and generate more revenue, you need to work on the Status Quo, the 70% where you will always be too early, the 70% where other fear to tread.

The reality of timing is it will ALWAYS be either too Late or too Soon.  If they are Passive or Active buyers, it will always be too late, and if they are in Status Quo, it will always be too early, because they do not perceive a “need”, until something changes and it needs to be NOW.

That being said, it is not as difficult to overcome the challenge as some will make you believe.  First resolve to engage the entire market, including those currently removed from the market.  Because you not only know that their circumstance will change, and what may seem too early becomes, “I need it now”, but given your experience you know what is likely to be the catalyst for that change, the challenges they will face and the solution they will need to resolve it.

How?  By studying and understanding what led to that moment in the past with existing clients, prospects, and deals that did not go your way.  Once you know this, by tracking deals you’ve won, lost and those that ended in no decision.  You will understand what events led up to and caused the change, with that you can prepare, position and act.  It takes work, sometimes boring work, but with the right tools, and right approach, you can take timing and turn it your way.

By studying past outcomes and inputs, you can take proactive steps to ensure that you don’t enter the fray too late, and always capitalize on opportunities other sales people and prospects will say is too soon.

It is never the right time if you relinquish control, and always the right time if you are willing to put in the work, and ask, “is it ever the right time?”

Next Step

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Preparing for Sales Success – Part 244

Last week in my conversation with Michael Bird, Chief Revenue Officer at NetProspex, and I began a discussion about what sales as a group, and individual sales people can do to better prepare to win.  Understanding and leveraging specific value your clients derive, not just looking at and reviewing why you lost deals, but engaging with the buyer to learn how you can improve factor it into product and future sales.   Using the “None sales call – Sales call” not only to engage, but to build relationships that pay future dividends.  Demonstrating and leveraging the “Deep bench” as a key differentiator.  The value of 3D and 4D, and other golden nuggets that will help you win sales within minutes of watching the video below.

httpvh://youtu.be/Vf7ApHOCqvg

As always, we value your feedback, it’s free, it’s good, keeps you regular.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto



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