cloud-stack

How Productive Is Your Sales Stack?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

It’s Monday, a great day for great sellers, the week is ripe with possibilities and opportunities, and how it turns out Friday, is almost entirely up to you and the decisions you make, and the actions you’re willing to execute, or choose to avoid; it’s what makes sales great. But this Monday is that much more so, in fact if you’re inclined (you don’t have to be), you can look at this Monday as sales version of what stock market players call ‘Triple Witching‘.

This Monday is not only the start of the next chapter of your success story, for most the start of Q4, the last chance to bring it all home, and this week also marks the start of the sales version of the Hajj. The annual event that brings tens of thousands of sales types descending on San Francisco, in a quest to learn something new, reinforce their current path, and generally mingle with other faithful seeking sales enlightenment.

Having made the journey before, I know it is easy to get distracted from the “why” or Zen of the journey, how do we improve sales, and help our people sell better? In the frenzy presentations and displays, being flattered as you’re being scanned and primed, it is easy to forget that sales is as much about your people as it is about technology. And while people may say the size of Stack matters, as with other things, I believe it is more of what you do with it, not the size.

cloud-stackI have seen sales leaders compare stacks the same way we compared hockey cards in the school yard. And while I would not argue the positive impact of technology on many elements of selling, more is not always better, and in fact without an overarching strategy to execution and development path for your human assets, it is more likely holding you back, just review the many studies around quota attainment.

But quota attainment is just a symptom, not the cause. The nature of your Stack brings with it a number of unintended negative ripples, not the least of which is added complexity, complexity that has a direct impact on your team’s ability to sell and succeed. This can surface in a number of ways, from challenges around integration, roll out, alignment with message, adoption and execution; all leading to complexity that directly impacts outcomes.

Some complexities are necessary based on what you are selling, who you are selling it to, and other factors. The goal is to find and develop a Stack that at the minimum balances things your way, or better yet, reduces complexity, and improves sales, selling and results. There is a difference between the sale being complex, and making the job of selling complex. The Former is the nature of the game, a factor the nature of the product, the number of people involved, (on both sides), the existing systems being touched or impacted, and a number of other moving parts. The latter is self-inflicted and can be avoided.

One of the hidden challenges of the Stack is the ripple effect it brings. Things impacted include process and impact on work-flows; time requirements to learn adopt and assimilate by the front line. Each new resource brings with it additional stakeholders, each with their own view on “things”; then come the approvals at various points, not to mention support. This leads to what CEB has termed the ‘Seller Burden’. As shared at the recent CEB’s Sales & Marketing Thought Leader Roundtable, this Seller Burden is having a direct impact on sales success, and can be attributed to the new, and many argue unnecessary, complexity presented by the above.

supporting-seller-burden

Despite all the right reasons, measures taken by some sales organizations to help and support the sales effort, and sales people, have led to unplanned consequences. If you want to get a real sense for the type impact this has on your reps, their time, ability to sell, and basically your sales results, visit CEB’s Sales Complexity Calculator, input your specifics, and see the impact in your world. If you do not know the inputs for your organization, we should definitely talk.

As you can see below, even as almost all sales leaders are taking steps to help reps by increasing resources, a vast majority of reps believe that these resources are adding to their work complexity.

unintended-ii
The only one winning here is the sales rep from the resource company, but in reality, there is no doubt that they are caught in the same trap.

So what, it is part of their job to deal with and assimilate these resources, with the expectation that once they “work it out”, it will help deliver quota. Short term pain for long term gain. But the evidence suggests otherwise. There are real and ongoing costs to ‘Seller Burden’.

cost-of-burden

To be clear, internal factors are not the only issues contributing to ‘Seller Burden’, as you can see below.

burden-model

But it is also true that that internal factors, or complexities as it is termed below, are the biggest contributor, by a huge degree.

the-enemy-within

So as you ready yourself for the pilgrimage, and you circle in and around the Moscone Center, I would challenge you to look for things that will simplify selling for your team, and simplify buying for your prospects. Just because it looks good does not mean it will be good. An incremental gain in a small element of your sales success, should not lead to hidden and ongoing costs in productivity. Instead, make it your mission to look for resources that eliminate and minimize complexity, and make it easier for your team to execute and win deals. In fact, look for resources and by extension the related support, that you can eliminate and simplify selling for your sellers, and buying for your customers.

simplify

Simplifying and uncluttering is the goal. Start by focusing on the three items to the left of the dotted line above. Clearly you can’t hit all three at once, start by prioritizing, then focus on one at a time. My bias would be towards starting with simplifying and streamlining workflows, but the choice is yours.

The important thing is to challenge yourself to make it a mission to come back from the pilgrimage with more than just memories and cool S.W.A.G. Wanna be really cool, adopt the mantra of winners: LESS. Less, and the ability to produce more.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.   

Join Now!

executive woman talking on the phone in her office

Good Things Happen To Those Who Call – Sales eXecution 3290

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 
Over and over different sales people tell a success story that starts with them saying “I got lucky the other day, I called this guy, and he is ready to move forward.” Or “I’ve been calling this guy every few months for the last couple of years, and I finally got a meeting with him.” While luck may have played a small role in it, especially the first scenario, the fact remains that even luck has to be met half way.

Timing is the second most critical element in the first case above, the most critical, was making the call. The simple reality is that if you don’t make the call, you can never take advantage of timing, whether by luck or by design, such as a trigger, not just a random event, but any trigger. Which leads us to one of the key flaws in the cold calling is dead argument. Cold calling here is defined as any call to anyone who does not have you in their calendar. This does mean there is no reason to speak with, it just means the call was unplanned, not unmerited.

For every stat that suggests that prospects will not take your call, there as many stats that show that decision makers and recommenders are open to input and are actively seeking expert advice in ensuring that they make the right choice for their company. Buyers are very much like sellers, some are lazy and go with the popular flow, others take their mandate seriously and consider all viable resources. The question for sellers is “how do I become viable or relevant to a prospect?” Calling with the usual script that sounds a lot like: “This is Us, We do this, you ready to buy?” will seal your fate the second you open your mouth.

As with any campaign, and that is what prospecting is, a campaign to engage with qualified potential buyers, the goal is to create buyers. Yes, prospects are created not found, and once you have a prospect, you need to convert them to a buyer. This is why those who wait for buyers to realize they want or need to buy, or who are 57% through a buy decision, end up dealing with order takers, not sellers.

The second scenario above is a great example of a prospect being created. A consistent flow of touch points, direct and specific communication, and regular interactions, lead to a prospect being created, without having to wait for a random event. Those calls spaced between other forms of communication add a dimension missed by those who don’t pick up the phone and call. We learn different elements and evolution in the prospect’s world. Each bit of information and intelligence gained is ploughed back into the campaign, each time making you more viable, more relevant and more on target. So when the moment comes that the prospect decides to engage, it is not just timing, not just persistence, that could be achieved through various forms of automation and drip approaches. It is the personal contact and added knowledge gained and the refinement of each call that makes one stand out from the also-rans.

Again, it is not this vs. that, you can work with marketing, leverage and be social, but if you don’t cold call, you’ll be missing a crucial element in creating a prospect. Sure, you can wait to be found, or you can put calls into the mix and make good things happen.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.   

Join Now!

Leader versus manager

2 Traits Separating A Leader From A Title – Sales eXecution 3281

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

There is no doubt that people should celebrate recognition in the form of promotion. When you become a sales manager, or a VP of Sales it says a lot about you, your accomplishments, and your organisation. What one does with their new role and opportunity is what separates leaders from promoted minions.

In my experience as a participant in the corporate world, and as an observer with a unique seat in the stands, is that there are a number of things that make for good leaders, there two that are must if you are going to lead and have people willingly follow.

The first is leading from the front, rather than behind a desk. This involves two things, one you can fake, the other you can try, but people see it. Many get to the position by survival, which is after all a skill in a competitive environment like sales, but not necessarily a success factor for revenue growth. We have all met that VP of Sales who has risen with the tide, or their cheaper version, the one that just managed to hang on to the dick as the tide was washing over him. These are the people with 20 years tenure, unfortunately, the same year 20 times over, rather than 20 years of evolution, personal growth, and the resulting wisdom. You can’t learn a lot while keeping you head down, while sales is war, you gotta come out of the fox hole to win and grow. But you can always impress the 80%, with war stories from back in the day.

The part you can’t fake is synthesizing and extrapolating from years of real experience. More importantly, the ability to share that with a member of your team, and educate them without “bossing” or telling them how you did it. Context is key, leaders understand that and use the situational context of their reps’ currently reality to educate and help that individual grow, and win the right deals.

A dividend of the latter, is it hones the next generation of great leaders. The risk of the former is the same, except the result is the next generation of inept manager/executives.

The second trait is accountability. Managers focus on keeping their people accountable. Which is a real challenge when they see a manager not a leader. Leaders understand that they are accountable for the success of their people, they strive for mutual accountability, leading with themselves.

I recently encountered a VP of Sales (by title only, habits: manager), faced with a negative situation he blamed everyone in sight. First it was his admin who messed up, then it was the manager, finally the rep. Never in the discussion did he consider his role in the blunder. He literally used his team as a human shield from facing the situation he created and was responsible for. He expected his people to be accountable for his failure. Would you follow this guy in to battle? Not that you could as he was firmly strapped to his desk.

The leaders I respect are not the ones who ask what are you going to do to improve, but the ones who ask: What do I need to do for you to help you succeed?

blog bottom
THINKING PROCESS

Show Them You Can Think – Sales eXecution 3274

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I recently sat through a demo for a product that potentially could have been of interest. The rep had just the right amount of enthusiasm, mix of personality based small talk, right down to the obligatory question asked by Americans of Canadians in January “How cold is it up there?”. The igloo is holding up I said.

He also had a great deal of knowledge about the product, its value to me, all based on their assumptions and perspective, and how I would be able to benefit from it. This was right after he asked me what I and my company do. He demonstrated his abilities to deliver his company’s talking points, demonstrate their product. And despite all he had going for him, he very much demonstrated that he could not think.

Like many sellers he did not go off script. He could talk about specific features, but could not connect them, especially in a way that would align with my view, not that of his marketing department.

First thing he did was assume that I was in pain, he did not ask what I had in place now that may deliver what his product did, he just assumed that I had the same pain the product was created for, and some their current customers had. Without having an understanding as to what I use or don’t use, and why; or where I was going and or why. He did the now famous “the world has changed” plot line, and highlighted that he was a social seller because he connected with me on LinkedIn before cold calling me.

What he lacked was contextual or situational thinking. As with any solid thinking, it starts with curiosity, he was not in the least curious about the company or what we are trying to do. He drudged out some “scary stats”, and then the requisite story about someone who fought those stats using his product, and landed a $750,000 deal, “wouldn’t that be great if you could do that?” I think he was a bit taken back when I said no, he almost went off script, but he recovered and continued his pitch.

He ignored some clear inputs that would have allowed him to alter his direction and actually get me involved. I had used a product like his in the past and had some specific questions about how they deal with very specific scenarios. The scenarios I described and questions I asked should have prompted him to abandon the high level “why this” talking points, and go for the more fertile “how for you” conversation. His idea of expertise was to talk to me as though I just landed on the planet.

It would be easy to blame the rep, but someone put him up to it. They built “pain seeking” robots, “anyone not in pain is a waste of time.” Which is sad, because their product is actually suited to companies looking to accelerate their success, but that takes positioning, aligning to business goals and objectives, and situational thinking. Too much effort there, let’s probe for pain. The most painful moment, and one where there was a complete void of thinking, it was the silence when I asked for an example of how they use the service.

Join thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.   

Join Now!

why button presses hand pop art retro style. Knowledge and issues, education and science

What is Not Why – Sales eXecution 3261

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Start of the year is when you see a lot of policy changes, changes in fees, service levels etc. Done right this could actually help sales people and drive revenues, yes even price increases. Done wrong, it just leaves a bad flavour in people’s mouth and minds. Having had to face new fees and policies, I have come to observe that there is a missing element in how sales people, and I would argue all who interface with clients in any way, deal with change. More specifically, how their companies fail to prepare these front line assets, and as a result lose customers and revenues in the process.

My experiences recently did not relate to price, but how and why the changes were implemented.

Example one, I recently went to renew a service I had been using for over 20 years. This was different, this time I was a fee, that in both relative and absolute terms was more than excessive. Needing the service, I hummed and hawed, but paid the ransom, and given that I was paying for the party, I asked “why is this fee in place now, and why this amount?” The representative responded “When you renew you have to pay $180.” I repeated, “OK, I get it, $180, why, why do I have to pay this when I never had to pay it in the past, I don’t seem to be receiving anything over and above or different than in the past, so why the additional $180 now, I understand the what I have to pay, but I would like to understand WHY?” I am still waiting for the answer.

I don’t really blame the “Representative Drone 100 Model”, they were programed to collect, but they should have given the Drone the ability to explain why, even a couple of plausible explanation. Even if I disagreed with the “why” it would have seemed lass a money grab and more a function of their business.

This type of disconnect and apparent ignorance, plagues many sales people and organizations. They are great at talking to clients about what their product does, how it does it, often in great and irrelevant detail. But when it comes to why, as in why do I need this, why will this make a difference for me, and a whole range of important why’s, there are few answers. The buyer is left to figure it out on their own; the rep feels that they have done their job by laying out the dots, and assume that the buyer will connect it on their own. I guess you can look at your close ratio and margins to see how well that is working.

Sure some buyers will connect the dots because they have to, they have an immediate need or medium term need that they know they have to deal with, and as a result will make the effort to meet the seller more than half way. But this is a small portion of your market, for most 20% – 30%, leaving some 70% without a clear need and therefore a complete lack of inclination to make the effort.

For this large segment it is all about the ‘Why’. As a seller we need to not only make sure that the dots align to their objectives, not as visible as pain or need, and heavy on the ‘Why’ of how this will impact their business. Their ‘need’ is to achieve objectives, if you can’t explain why they will not be able to achieve it without your offering, or why your offering will enhance their objectives and their journey, they really have no reason to speak to us. Which is may be why their pipeline is in the state it is in.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.   Join now

Back view of businessman standing in light representing success concept

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.

opt in block 1 BlueButtonSubscribeNow

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

Like what you read, have it delivered directly to your inbox!

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

Like what you read, have it delivered directly to your inbox!

 

How You Describe A Task Says A Lot About Your Results – Sales eXecution 3220

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Megaphone

It’s funny what you can learn from not just listening to someone, but actually hearing what they say. According to experts, you can tell a lot about a person by the words they choose. At a recent conference, two separate speakers, explained how the way people express themselves can tell you a lot about how to best communicate with them for maximum impact. For instance, if they say “here is the way I see it”, vs. “It sounds to me like”, it is better speak to the first in visual terms. This means your message will be better understood if you use visual references and use visual examples. Whereas with the latter are more auditory, as a result your communication geared to the spoken word, yours and theirs, leveraging sounds and noises to emphasize or accentuate things.

So what happens when we explore the concept a bit further and with respect to sales people, hiring and managing them, as well as to sales leaders. Not so much visual or auditory, but what telltale sign can their words or expression give? What can you observe from how they talk about their craft and work? What could we learn about their skills, how they execute, and as a result whether you should keep them (or hire them), and if so how to coach them to improve.

Again, this applies to sales leaders as well. Having spoken to my share, I find it interesting when they tell me “we’re doing OK.” Now this is not a cold call, there I expect that, and know how to deal with it too, but in conversation. Is that really the goal of a sales leader, to get his troops to OK? How do you present OK at a board meeting or leadership team gathering? When you ask what OK means, some redeem themselves with data and specifics, and can articulate what has to be done to move past OK. But when the response is ambiguous, almost surrendering in nature, surrendering to the reality of another missed month or quarter, OK, is not good enough or a plan.

Further, if you as a leader are good with OK, what will that say to your team?

The front line is often no different. Listen to a great sales person describe the role, vs. a veteran of 15 years, what I call one of the 80 Percenters. Not based on the 80/20 Pareto principle, one of those reps who may have met goal once or twice, but usually delivers 80% or so of quota. The former will tell you a key element of their role is to exceed quota, the latter will tell you “do what you can to try and hit goal”. Leading one to ask, is that 15 years in the business, 15 years of growth and improvement, or the same year 15 times over?

The former group can tell you exactly what they need to achieve their goal, right down to the number of prospects, and the effort it takes to secure those prospects. Ask the latter, and you get “depends”; on what? “You know”. I guess someone has to, but it is usually best if it is the person who has been tasked.

Words are a great window to the thinking behind the word, that thinking drives attitude, which in turn drives execution. Change how you describe your sales, and change the outcome.

Tibor Shanto

Like what you read, have it delivered directly to your inbox!

Are You Selling or Visiting – Sales eXecution 3212

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Last week I wrote about the importance of words in the context of a sale, while in that case I highlighted the importance of words we select in communicating the right thing to the buyer. But the words we use also impact our attitudes, and our attitudes have a direct impact on our actions, their impact on the customer and sale, and ultimately our company’s and our own success. Yes, what you call something will drive how you prepare, how you prioritize, the actions you take, and the overall intent it communicates to the buyer and therefore their reaction and the progress, or often lack of progress, we make in the sale.

Here is a typical, often overlooked, but clear example. One of the common topics I speak about here is the importance and role of next steps. Part of whether you get that next step or not is how you view the appointment, your role in the appointment and how you approach that appointment. And while it may not seem big it starts with what you call that appointment, which in turn reflects how you are thinking and preparing.

This is why I find it amusing (and at time sad), when sales professionals call an appointment a “visit”; as is “I have a visit scheduled with Harry at XYZ Inc.” (And let’s accept that this is a rep in Toronto, not someone selling sweet tea in Chatom Alabama). A visit? Really, think about that. You are going to go and “visit” a prospect.

vis·it
ˈvizit/
verb
1. go to see and spend time with (someone) socially.
“I came to visit my grandmother” synonyms: call on, pay a visit to, go to see, look in on;
2. inflict (something harmful or unpleasant) on someone.
“the mockery visited upon him by his schoolmates”

So which of the above do sales people mean when they speak about a visit?

I know some will say it is only semantics, and I say they are right, but semantics count, as stated above, in a number of ways. Some say they are visiting because they don’t want to appear “salesy”, why not, is that not what you are there to do? Before you leap to answer that think about it, are your sales people always going in with a clear intent, focused on a specific set of possible outcomes?

Intent counts as much as words. Buyers can read your intent, and if you’re intent signals something other than what you are saying AND, how you are saying it, you’re beat. Buyers can tune in and pick up on that incongruity every time. So you may think you are selling, but if your intent, body language and words are saying “Visit”, that is what you’ll have a visit, not a sales call. As the authors of The Hard Truth About Soft-selling: Restoring Pride & Purpose to the Sales Profession, we have created a class of professional visitors, hoping that the order comes up as they “visitin’”.

Reps are not alone in letting this phenomenon to happen. Managers or organizations fixated on a specific number of calls regardless of the facts on the ground, very much drive sales people to have visits. After all, if I need 10 calls a week, and that number is not directly tied to my goals and conversion rates, but are high on my manager’s personal KPI’s, then I am going to hit that 10 with sales calls and visits.

So go and visit if you must, but for continuous sales success, you will also need to go on first appointment and sales calls.

Tibor Shanto

Like what you read, have it delivered directly to your inbox!

wordpress stat