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When In Doubt – Err on The Side Of More!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

I find too many sales people, despite the image they may project, are way too conservative in their approach to selling.  While this may not be a pronounced issue for those tasked with managing or servicing current accounts, with the only expectation being “organic” growth.

What is organic growth any way, is that like growth we would have gotten even without any help from the account manager, or is the level of growth achieved even with the meddling of account managers?  Sounds like we are paying someone for something that would have happened, well, organically.  Sorry, back to the issue at hand.

When we focus in on those tasked with finding new clients, new revenue streams, etc., it is striking how few are willing to go the distance to succeed.  With few exceptions, in this case exceptions that validate the reality, most sales people tend to not go hard enough, far enough, and broad enough to win all the opportunities they can.

Part of these goes back to the “relationship” mindset many sellers still adhere to.  Don’t get me wrong, relationships are important.  In fact, so important, that it is naïve to believe that we can have meaningful relationships in the same short timeframes that sales cycles take to unfold.

There has been a lot written about the importance of “getting in early”, whether that is the time to follow up to a download, to reacting to a trigger like say personnel change.  Just as there is evidence to suggest that “last man/woman/child standing”, is more likely to succeed.  Clearly those who enter the fray early, has a better opportunity to set the agenda, and direction for discovery.  Just as it is easy to understand why the rep who manages to extend the engagement long after others give up, is more like to win the deal, and move the dial on the “relationship” front.  But there is a lot of opportunity between those two, often overlooked, or more accurately avoided by many.

The refrain is a familiar one, they don’t want to pester the prospect.  The assumption there is that prospect know exactly what they want, need, or imagine, and interfering could have negative impacts, “I’ll just be on ‘available’, and ready if the prospect needs anything.”  The big flaw in this is that prospects are more confused and overwhelmed than ever, leading to buying cycles that are often twice as long as anticipated, a factor often left out of ROI calculations, if you implement six months later than planned, there are real current and future costs that need to be taken into account.

Couple this with buyers’ reluctance to engage with another smiling beige vanilla seller, more focused on making a friend than a difference to their business, and you have a situation where being confident, assertive and laser focused on delivering impacts, not product, gives you the opportunity to rise above.

kristopher-drowning adI have had more than one executive tell me that they routinely ignore the first three or four approaches by sellers, knowing that most will A) give up too soon; B) wait too long between touch points to be noticed.

We have all had one, but probably both of the following experiences:

  1. You hold off, you don’t want to “pester them”, and when your manager put enough pressure on you to call, you find they made their decision a few weeks back
  2. You push beyond your social comfort zone, believing you can truly help a prospect, and you make that extra call, a call many other lesser sellers would call a Hail Mary, only to be warmly received by the buyer, soon to be client.

Look at your own world, and ask how many times you went back to something when prompted by an outside source.  I know that when i bought insurance a few years back, I went with the one reps who stayed with me, not on me, but with me, and was present when the time to buy came, all because he erred on the side of more, rather than the side of giving up to soon.

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To Call or Not9

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Touch

I am often asked a question I really hate, and while I have learned not to let it get on my nerves, and usually manage to deal with it calmly, it still pains me that my fellow professional sellers would ask it. The question relates to how vigorously one should pursue a potential prospect? I find the question bizarre on a number of levels, not the least of which is that today’s potential; prospect is tomorrow’s prospect, next week’s customer, and a stream of revenue (if not commissions) for some time after that. Ya, you should pursue it vigorously.

I am have a hard time not screaming when a sales person asks me “Should I call that prospect or not, I called him a couple of weeks ago, he didn’t call back, I guess he is not interested.” No, from where I sit, it is the sales person making that statement who is not interested. If they were, they’d be reaching out to the potential prospect, not asking the question. Not only do they lack the interest, but a good and executable pursuit plan needed to engage the potential prospect and start a mutually satisfactory relationship.

Consider the following:

48% Of Sales People Never Follow Up with a Prospect
25% Of Sales People Make a Second Contact and Stop
12% Of Sales People Make a Third Contact and Stop
Only 10% Of Sales People Make More Than Three Contacts
2% Of Sales Are Made On the First Contact
3% Of Sales Are Made On the Second Contact
5% Of Sales Are Made On the Third Contact
10% Of Sales Are Made On the Fourth Contact
80% Of Sales Are Made On the Fifth to Twelfth Contact

It is clear that the answer is not whether you should make the call (e-mail, tweet, smoke signal…) or not, but how many times, and what will you communicate. It is one things know how to spell nurture, another to execute it well

A good pursuit plan maps out how many touch points you will execute, in what sequence and frequency. Frequency is an important often overlooked or mismanaged factor. These touch-points should be made in a much narrower timeframe than many recognize or feel comfortable with. If you set out a pursuit plan that includes say eight touch-points, which is a median number, some go higher, some go lower, if you’re going to err, err on the higher end, so eight is about right. The time horizon should be between three to four weeks at the max. Long gaps, a week or two will just diminish the compounding effect of the touch-points.

When looking to connect with someone you have had no direct contact with, two or three touches a week are necessary, but most people don’t want to do more than one a week, you may as well not bother. One of the reasons they don’t call you back is you are allowing them to forget about you, and more importantly what you are trying to engage them around. That combined with the fact that you lose focus, and allow your attention to wonder during the long gaps.

The other key component is the combination of content, and medium. While I still think that Marshall McLuhan, would have been a lousy sales person, because it is the message that drives revenue, the medium does count. A combination of phone, e-mail, text, LinkedIn, tweets, introductions, smoke signals, you name it. No single touch should overwhelm the recipient, remember the goal is to engage directly not to sell. The content should entice the recipient to engage, while each may build on the other, the goal is to have the opportunity to complete the picture directly, even if it takes a few tries.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

“I Didn’t See It Coming”45

Ya right!

Cause you never had an unexpected call from a client in dire need of your help.  So first is it really dire? Most of the time not, and if not don’t waste your time, allocate to another part of your day or delegate it.  If it is, deal with, but not at the expense of something else as important.  Take a look:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Is At First You Don’t Succeed42

Most sales people will tell me “get me on front of the right prospect, and I’ll close them every time”, OK, but getting in front of the right prospect is part of the job.  Maybe not the most fun part, but one that has to be executed regularly and consistently.

In addition to learning the skills it takes to engage someone, overcome their initial objections, and get them focused on the issue at hand, sales people also need to become better at being persistent and creative in how they approach people.  Too many give up to soon and too easily, and many limit the channels of communication.  While social media has changed some of this, at a core level, sellers need to be more persistent and more creative in engaging potential prospects.

Here are some means and reason to focus on this end of the sale as much as the other stages.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Stop Selling For Your Competitor!59

Many sales people and their managers feel that a good sales person is one who is moving forward. This is fine, so long as you don’t move so fast that you miss or pass opportunities along the way.

Remembering that your buyers are moving at just a fast a pace, and are dealing with many of the same realities you are, namely greater demands on their time and resources, less people and resources to get things done; leaving them, like you, having to fit 16 hours of work into a 10-hour workday. Behind the eight ball, before the day even starts.  And it’s in that environment, that we as sellers are trying place and raise our offering on an already jammed agenda or ‘to do’ list.

To succeed in getting and climbing that list, you will need to employ at least two things, first, creativeness, to stand apart from other (lots of other) sales people; the second is persistence.  These two are not the only things you’ll need to succeed, but they are two core components that go hand-in-hand.  While many sellers can score well on the creative part, many also fall short on the persistence side.

Persistent is different from stalking, and that is the fear for many, they don’t want to seem as though they are stalking someone, fearing an injunction order will be issued against them.  While I don’t want to see an injunction either, I do believe that many can go further than they are now without risk, but greater success.

For example, it has been shown that most sellers will abandon a lead after three attempts; while most buyers will require 4 to 7 touch points before the engage, some will say even more.  A clear recipe for failure, just as the buyer is getting warmed up, you disappear. Then your competitor comes along, connects with the client on their second call, 5th touch point from the client’s perspective (3 from you + 2 from the competitor); you just set them up, don’t do that!  Unless you are persistent and make it a habit to plan at least six touch points with each lead before you put them back for more nurturing and future contact, you are working for the competition.

The touch points can be any combination of things, e-mail, phone, voice mail, snail mail, text, or get creative, send a video on a jump stick, greeting card on a delivered pizza, keep it clean, and the sky is the limit.  Just touch them with something more meaningful than a Facebook ‘Like’, “no Virginia, a tweet is not a touch-point.”  Oh yes, those six touch points are in the course of two weeks, 10 business days, not over six months.

I know for some that much contact in such a short time may seem a bit much, but remember, engaging with a buyer, a specially a Status Quo buyer, involves more focus and effort.

One reason I am given for not being persistent, goes something like this: “I don’t want to bug them, I wouldn’t like if that approach was used on me.”  Which is fine, except the buyer is not you, and since selling is about the buyer, let’s start looking at things from their perspective. To start with, talk to people in your company who do what your target does, and talk to them about what would make a seller stand out for them, you’ll be surprised how different roles see things differently.  Ask how many times and the type of touch points they respond to, and then adapt.

One more thing, people say they wouldn’t like the level of persistence I describe, but when asked about certain discretionary or course of business purchases, they discover that they do end up buying from the persistent seller, assuming all other things were more or less equal.

Next Step

  • Schedule one more call for everyone you called this week
  • Lay out your six touch points and time line
  • Commit to it in your calendar

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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