A different fish 800

New Dogs – Old Tricks0

By Tibor Shanto

While politics may be dominating populism these days, it does not hold a monopoly on populism, it is part of, if not the driving force for any like-minded group.  While most tend to limit their exploration of populism to political and social movements, populism, with all it’s positive possibilities and ugly realities, permeates and exists in other tribal groups and movements, like sales.  While others may want to define in loftier ways, in the end, populism at its core, should be “support for the concerns of ordinary people”; unfortunately for those who want to exploit it, it is more a means of “profiting from the concerns (and hopes) of ordinary people, while ensuring that their status will not change in a way that diminishes their opportunity to profit from the concerns of the ordinary”.

A great example of this in sales is the never-ending cry from certain corners, proclaiming, announcing or predicting the death of Cold Calling.  The meanest of these are those who predict, and put that prediction just beyond people’s willingness to remember.

Speaking of which, isn’t it about time we dust off all the predictions from last December and see who wins – loses – draws and who cares.

Read on…

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A different fish 800
glasses on cliff 800

What Kind Of Sales Year will 2018 Be?0

By Tibor Shanto

As we head into 2018, we are heading into a year that could make the current economic cycle the longest since the great depression.  Currently the longest is the 120 months, from March 1991 to March 2001.  This could well mean that there is more than a real possibility that the next 12 – 18 months will see an economic slowdown, at the same time many market pundits also point to age of the current bull market, and real possibility of a pull back.

There is little or no doubt that this will impact all of us in sales.  How it impacts organizations and individual reps will vary based on a number of factors.

Read on…

Hey – We’re moving

Yes, all the same great content and more!
Our new home: www.TiborShanto.com. We’ll still keep things here for a while, but this same great post is also available at

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No Red 800

Tell Them It’s OK To Say NO!0

By Tibor Shanto

No one like to be the bearer of bad news, this includes buyers.  I know some sellers may find that hard to believe, but even when another product aligns better with their objectives, human nature kicks in, and delivering the news that you lost, is not pleasant for most buyers.  So what do they do, they either pass the buck to someone else, like procurement, or avoid your call for weeks, hoping you’ll eventually get the hint; or any number of ways to avoid an unpleasant task.

Goes without saying, they don’t have the same issues saying yes, and mostly because they have been conditioned to understand that sellers look for YES, and try to avoid NO.  But once you get beyond the cultural hang ups, NO is probably the best response one can get, as long as they are ready for it, and prepared to deal with it.

Read on…

Hey – We’re moving

Yes, all the same great content and more!
Our new home: www.TiborShanto.com. We’ll still keep things here for a while, but this same great post is also available at

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Turkey

3 Sales Thanksgiving Turkeys0

By Tibor Shanto

While the president may be set to pardon a turkey today, I am not sure we should be so generous when it comes to some offences committed by some in sales.  While we may not be willing to pardon or forgive, it seems worthwhile to look at some turkey moves sellers, at times including myself, make in the course of their day.

Awesome

While there are many words used in sales that should be banned (not just from sales, but the planet), there are some that are just irritating and either confuse buyers, or put them off completely.  I have written about “empty calorie” words in sales, words like ‘productivity’, ‘solution’, or ‘efficiency’, and others.  I think we have done a good job of eradicating the use of ‘synergy’, we now need to apply the same discipline and focus on eliminating the word ‘Awesome’.

Read on…

Hey – We’re moving

Yes, all the same great content and more!
Our new home: www.TiborShanto.com. We’ll still keep things here for a while, but this same great post is also available at

www.TiborShanto.com

Turkey

CEB Women IG

Diversity In Sales – Your Obvious Advantage0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

While we can talk about the style of leadership, I think most agree that one of the primary mandates of a sales leader, is to ensure that they equip their team with the best resources; be that IT resources or human resources. We have seen sales tools grow exponentially over the years, as an example, a recent piece I read suggested that there are over 3,000 apps available on AppExchange. Many at best, offer an incremental gain. With limited budgets, and the fact that much of “what’s in their stack” has proven to be disruptive and negative impact it has the front line and their results. Knowing which resources to bet on can demand Solomon like wisdom.

So it is more than odd, and surprising, that sales as an industry, and a majority of sales leaders continue to miss, overlook or perhaps avoid, acquiring and fully exploiting a resource that is widely available, with a proven track record of not just delivering better results than the go-to alternative, but is usually in a more cost effective fashion.

What am I talking about? Women!

While this has been a focus for some, a topic of discussion for others, progress has been slow, which is a shame given that it is 2017, and that some 40% of existing sales reps will miss quota.

women sales

A survey from CEB (now Gartner), shows that sales ranks second to last in the percentage of women making in leadership rolls. Women made up only 19%, second to Logistics and Supply Chain (17%), and a far cry from Finance with 43%. The reality may be a bit better among the rank and file, but having spent a lot of time working with front line teams, the numbers are not much better. The fact that most leaders come from within the ranks, the number of women in leadership roles is like a factor of lack of women candidates in their ranks versus male candidates.

Some tell me that they are aware, but then rationalize that it takes a lot of effort, a lot of time, and while they would like to accelerate a new reality, they are up against the elements. Some may buy that, but those of us from Canada, know that it really comes down to three little things every corporate leader has, or should have. Vision, resolve, and execution. When our prime minister took office in 2015, he made it a policy to have his cabinet reflect the country, and then took steps to make it happen, no excuses. I guess he executed. I am not a Liberal Party fan, but you have to give credit where credit is due.

Other than the political halo, the outcomes for Trudeau may have been difficult to calculate upfront, the same is not true in sales. As you can see from the infographic below, adding women to your sales team is a no-brainer. A higher percentage of women attain quota than their male counterparts; they earn a lower average total variable pay and base pay is lower, including a lower commission rate; and they have a lower attrition rate, meaning when you train them, they drive a better return. On a daily basis I have sales leaders lament to me their inability to find good sales talent, it baffles me why they don’t look at the obvious.

CEB Women IG

This situation will change slowly, and the reality is that first movers will have not only an immediate advantage, but one that they will have for some time, here is why. As a woman, with skills, which organization would you join, a male dominated one, with “clear ties to the past”, or one where women are represented at all levels of the organization, front line to executive suite. As women gravitate to the latter, they will attract other women, giving them a further advantage of the upside women bring. Not only that, but since all but one other industry have more women in leadership roles, it is likely that they will steer their business to those organizations they can best relate to; I keep hearing people buy from people, and it is usually people like them.

It seems this challenge and opportunity have no barrier other than ones outlook and will to win with a proven winning team.

You can learn more about this by checking out Gaining the Talent Advantage: The Case for Gender Diversity in Sales.

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Hot and cold phones

Call Camp – 1:00 PM ET0

Today is the day, I’ll revealing the #1 sales faux-pas that kills deals in Call Camp. Trust me, every rep needs to know this.

During this live coaching session, I’ll be breaking down real sales calls, and providing best practices like:

  • How to ask effective discovery questions
  • Ways to change your narrative on the fly
  • 3 steps you need to offer the right solution

Want to be coached? Submit a call/demo recording here for personalized tips and proven strategies.

You’ll regret missing this webinar – save your seat today.

See you there,

Tibor

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Victorius businessman

What’s Your Buyer’s Closing Ratio0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

While it is important to understand your personal metrics, mostly as a means of improving your use of time, and to develop an ongoing improvement process. While many know some of their metrics and conversion rates, few take time to explore and understand their prospects’ closing average or ratio. It’s easy to see why, you find yourself in front of what appears to a willing prospect, sharing what they want to do, why they are thinking of doing it, all while asking you questions that your manager taught you are “buying signals”.

Victorius businessmanInstinctively you feed the fire, figuring that the more information you provide and gather, the more your share with them, the more likely they are to finish their journey with you. All is good till the last scene, curtains close without a deal. Would have been helpful had you had an inclination earlier in the sale, when you may have been able to change the outcome. The change in outcome does not always mean a closed deal, but saved time, energy and refocus on better opportunities in your pipeline.

No matter how good things look, professionals in all fields know that the fundamentals need to be present no matter what the immediate circumstances look like. A key fundamental in sales is not just to understand the buyer’s buying process, but their buying habits or patterns.

No matter how bright and rosy things appear at any time during the cycle, it is important to confirm and validate. Failing to do that leads to a familiar situation for us all, i.e. no deal at the end.

How & Why

This is where asking two specific type of questions, from a couple of different directions will give you window the buyer’s buying habits, or let’s be real, a prospect’s “kicking tires” habits.

The Why

The why – as you’re are going through the Discovery process, ask why they choose the current thing (product, service, etc.) you are exploring with them. What they respond is important, but more interesting is how they respond. Someone involved with the decision will have not just more details, and as a result lay out more dots, but will also be able to tell you why those dots connect, and how they prefer them connecting. Someone who was tangential to the decision will deliver the same headlines, but no detail. Someone involved in the decision would describe things in first person terms, while those who were not, say implementers, will use third party description. You will also see who was able to drive a decision, and who could not; in the case of the latter, listen for who internally they blame for the decision, (or lack of one), those are the people you should pursue to connect and bring into the current cycle.

You will also get a window into how progressive and early to adopt they are, or are they the type that wait second or third iteration of a technology.

The How

Now that you have a sense around how they deal with their “whys”, why change, why that, or more like why not, it is time to turn to how they select based on the why.

“So now I understand why you chose to go with that kind of database, help me understand how you selected ACME Corp as the vendor?”

Much like above, you will be clearly able to tell if they were in the thick of it, or someone that was not invited to the offsite where the decision was really made. People may want to embellish, but you will be able to have a good view wit the right questions.

The reality is that everyone will paint a positive picture in the start, even the “Brochure Scouts” sent to gather information. Exploring their role in past similar decisions will help you gauge their closing average, which has a direct impact on yours.

Bottom

Sitting

Don’t Just Do Something – Sit There!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

All too many people confuse activity or action with productivity or results. Think of how many times the best thing you can say about a movie or a game is that it was “action filled”. In sales, many often confuse activity with moving the sale forward or execution, bringing to mind the saying about the deck chairs on the Titanic. And while action is at times better than no action at all, it is not always the case. The difference would be in the intent and purpose.

Execution should be the tactical manifestation of a strategy, or more accurately strategies. An overall corporate sales strategy, territory and account strategies, and then a strategy for every encounter with a laser focus on logical next steps. Execution is not, or should not be, a means of formulating your strategy by trial and error. It is often those sales leaders who rely on the trial and error method that complain that their sales cycles are too long, and are looking for a way to shorten the cycle. Well, start by not doing unthought-out things that don’t directly support your goal, and more importantly that of the buyer.

Now don’t get me wrong, more often than not, it is good to put (new) skills into practice or action. This way we can review and adjust, and bring improvement over time. The key is the action being taken is in context of specific goals, one supported by a strategy (or at minimum a plan), and the execution is driven by a clear process.

Now before your roll your eyes – Anderson Style, like many do at the mention of process, consider how a dynamic process can make selling, if not easier, more straight forward. The challenge is that most confuse process with a series of predesigned steps.

While there may be a logical path or sequence in well thought-out sales processes, it is not the end all and be all, but a start. A process should allow you to best engage your buyer around their objectives, leading to the business impacts they were looking for, or more when they deal with a good sales person.

A good sales process is one that evolves with your market, one that is dynamic and reflects the market, rather than a static process that expects the market to bend to your view, which it usually does not.

As such, a key feature of a process, is not in telling you exactly what to do in each circumstance. This leaves one exposed when circumstances change, which is daily, or when we encounter circumstances our process, and the folks who designed it, did not take into account.

SittingThe best processes are those that encourage people to think about the specific situation they are facing. The means and steps with which to evaluate, and then respond or act, rather than many of the processes that send people off to do something and then try to figure out why things went wrong, after the fact.

The best sales processes are those that encourage you to stop, step back, evaluate, come up with a course of action based on the here and now, and then act. Ones that allow you to not do something for the sake of doing something, and instead execute those actions that drive value for the buyer, and move the process forward. It’s OK not to do something, and sit back and think instead.

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Pensive businessman sitting at the table with ball in office. Looking away

March Sadness0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I recall reading Skip Miller’s “ProActive Sales Management”, where he states: “If you, as a sales manager, do not know if you are going to make the year after the first quarter, the battle is over. Now you better be lucky.” I should think we can include front line sales people. Given the “advancements” in sales technology since the above statement was made, there is no reason why sales people should not be in a position to know how their year will turn out and what they have to do to make sure it turns out above quota. But based on numerous sources, many do not have a clue where they are at the end of Q1, and are destine to continue to travel the rest of the year in the same clueless bliss.

Well, whether you’re a manager or a rep, Q1 ends this Friday, where are you going to be come Monday?

Reps need to have much greater control of things in their pipelines than they do over events in their brackets, where they have no direct control. There are two key things reps need to do to avoid March Sadness, have a clear positive view of the path forward, and exceed quota.

 

Your Quota Is Not A Plan

Part of the challenge is that many do not take the time to plan, either in a big picture way at the start of the year, quarter, and each month. Sure everyone has a strategy, but your architects aren’t gonna build your building, you need construction guys to do that, with their tactical plan and skill to translate the architect’s output to a viable structure.

Too many sales people see their quota as a plan, it is not, it is a destination, and should be leverage as such. It is still up to you to plan your step by step success and execution that leads to it. Despite the talk of ABM, many reps do not extend that work into a territory execution plan or account plan. Activity based on KPI’s is not execution of a plan, sure things get done, sometimes even according to “plan”. Given that the prospect/client is yours, the quota is yours, should not the execution plan and actions taken also be yours? If you answered yes, then why are so many sellers achieving less? Sure a paint by numbers painting is a picture, but it is hardly art. Hitting KPI’s set by someone else, is not selling.

Who is the Villanova in your Pipeline/Base?

I had a number of conversations with reps last week looking at the end of Q! and forward. One common factor is the lack of a viable pipeline. I know people don’t like to bring numbers in to sales, seems to confuse the issue with facts, but it is not hard to look at people’s pipelines to see that much of their sorrows can be addressed with a bit of prospecting. But there is no shortage of excuses as to why they can’t or won’t prospect at sufficient levels to drive quota. If you have a close ratio of 4:1, it is not hard to know what you should have in your pipeline, and if you’re short, you gotta prospect.

Instead many tell me that they can make up the gap from existing clients, or they have a big opportunity they are working on, “a sure thing”.

You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, just substitute brackets with pipelines, and then take a look at yours:

brackets tweets

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Red closed door behind open doors, isolated on white background.

Closing Is Easy0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

One of the most common things I hear from sellers is “Get me in front of the right guy, and I can close them”. Big deal, so could any monkey dressed in the right suit, that’s why the big money in B2B sales is made by those who can actually get in front of the right guy long before the closing monkeys show up, those who can OPEN.

Closing opportunities that were initiated by the buyer themselves is cute, but is it enough? When asked if they can meet or exceed quota relying strictly on deals that were initiated by the buyer, most admit the answer is no. In addition to those who come to them, they have to identify, qualify, prospect and engage with potential buyers who left on their own, would not have stayed out of the market in the current timeframe.

When A Tree Falls In The Forest

When you ask sales people or organizations, whether they could make or exceed quota by closing only opportunities initiated by the buyers themselves, and most admit, no. Meaning they have to go out and prospect buyers, who left to their own, would stay on the sidelines, and remain oblivious to any social activity, messaging, or any other on line activity. It is very much like the tree falling in the forest. If the buyer is not online, but instead in their businesses, their shops, trucks, or offices, doing their thing, then they can’t see or interact with anything you may dangle out there. This, by the way, represents about 70% of any defined market, if not more.

Sure, one alternative is to double down, increase your efforts to entice and succeed with those buyers who are interacting with what you’re dangling. But we also have to remember that these buyers are rarely monogamous. They are visiting all your competitors’ sites, and playing footsie with all they’re dangling. In a “good enough” world, you all begin to look the same at about the 67% – 70% marker in the journey, leaving price as the big differentiator.

Back To The Start

Openers, know how to identify and speak with those 70% who are entrenched on the sideline. They can shape the thinking of the buyer much more so than one could at the 67% marker. While any intelligent buyer will compare you to others, Openers know how to frame the opportunity in ways that will directly influence how those buyers will filter your competitors.

The risk these days is that everyone is so fixated on closing, they overlook the need for Openers, placing all their early cycle success in means that are not delivering. While many bought into the SDR wave, stats about SaaS sales success can be scary by any standard. One reason again is that the emphasis is not opening the opportunity, creating a base for success, and without that foundation, it is hard to build.

Unfortunately, the discussion has eroded into a question of style, social vs. traditional. But impact has been deeper, as many who shun traditional prospecting, say telephone prospecting or cold calling, also abandon the skill of opening, as that step is left entirely to the buyer. Time to focus on why we do something, not just the how. For real sellers, the why is about the Open.

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