Come Spend Time At Call Camp!2

Red Phone booth

What You Don’t Know about Discovery that Kills Deals

Why should the kids be the only ones who benefit from camp? Here is your invitation to attend a camp you can enjoy that also leads to better sales and selling.

THIS AIN’T NO WEBINAR!

This live coaching based on real discover calls. We will be listen to real calls, offering contextual coaching you can use to improve your discovery calls and results. As the name says, this is call camp that will help you and your reps to conduct more effective discovery calls, leading more conversions to proposals, and accelerating your cycle. Real world calls dissected by three sales leaders:

Mark Kosoglow – VP of Sales, Outreach
Steve Richard – Chief Revenue Officer, ExecVision.io
Tibor Shanto – Principal, Renbor Sales Solutions Inc.

July 19th – 1 PM EST – 1 Full Action-Packed Hour!

Register

Discovery isn’t just about collecting information, it’s about discovering how you buyer can benefit from your offering, and you discovering how to help your customer buy from you.

It’s all about understanding your prospect’s Objectives, gaps, and yes, at times pains, offering a solution, and even walking away if when you’re not the right fit for them – or if they aren’t the right fit for you.

This Call Camp is all about effective discovery that will land you the deal.

Register to learn:

Check mark How to ask questions to understand (not collect data)
Check mark 3 steps to offer the correct diagnosis
Check mark Why shoehorning a customer into the solution does not work
Check mark Advanced discovery techniques
Check mark Changing the narrative your salespeople use

Register

If you want to make it more real, submit your best discovery call – If we play it at camp, you’ll get a $100 Visa gift card.

golden leader in business way

Confusing Choice with Decision0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

We all know the expression “Often a bridesmaid but never a bride”, we see it playing out in sales daily. Sellers who want to believe that if they educate the buyer and help them make the right choice, the buyer will choose to go with them and their product. But we all know that making a choice on a product or solution level, does not always lead to the decision we want or need, namely, the decision to buy from us.

While educating the buyer is a good thing, getting the sale is better; but the two are not mutually exclusive, especially when you focus on and manage both, rather than naively expect that one will lead to the other. Helping them make a better choice (for them) does not lead to them executing that choice with you. To do that you have to sell while you educate.

One way to do that is to take your product out of the mix entirely, and make the whole experience about what the buyer wants to achieve. Contrary to what some will say, prospects, especially Status Quo prospects, do not set out to buy things, they set out to achieve something, usually something specific that is defined by business objectives and impacts, not by specs and price. The fact that it often ends up there is usually the fault of the seller, not the buyer.

golden leader in business way

Leave your product in the car, leave the window slightly ajar so it can breathe, but go in equipped with your knowledge (not info), experience and curiosity. Think of it as you bringing your colour pallet and brushes, the prospect brings the blanc canvas, and together you create a unique outcome, that they can and are willing to buy from you. Not because of price, but because they see how it drives their objectives.

But more than anything, don’t forget that you are there to sell, and the insight you share with buyers needs to help them decide to buy from you, not just to buy. One thing people talk about but execute poorly, is getting the proper Next Step, an actual step. To do that you need to have a plan for each interaction, that helps the buyer understand their choices, but also gets them to commit to taking steps forward with you. I still don’t understand sellers who do not know what they want the outcome each meeting to be, and those outcomes will be achieved. At the risk of overstating things, the outcome you want is a sale for you and your company, not just an educated buyer with choice.

Another way to increase the odds of a getting the decision you want (need), is to limit choice.  Once you and the prospect created that mutual image described above, don’t confuse things by introducing choices, especially ones that add little to the direction chosen. Too many choices impede decision, increases the shadow of potential buyer’s remorse, making people reluctant to make a ‘bad’ decision. So they choose not to make one at all, or they make the safest, cheapest, and most politically correct one. Often leaving the rep who did least walk away with the prize, while the one who helped the buyer make their choice wins the “Informative Congenial” rep prize for helping the chose, but not decide.

Don’t be that seller that helps them choose but is left out of the decision.

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pier

Are your prospecting calls a long run off a short pier?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sellers are a wonderfully optimistic lot, having drank the Kool Aid about their “solution”, believing that they are indeed the cavalry coming over the hill to heal all that pains their potential prospects. This unbridled optimism and energy works great when you have a willing audience, say a play, where the audience comes with interest and openness to the message. That however is not the reality of a prospecting call, or dare I say, cold call; enthusiasm is not enough, in fact can be your undoing.

In no way do I want to douse your enthusiasm, but I do want to infuse a bit of reality into how prospecting unfolds these days. While I use calls to demonstrate the points, the basics hold true for e-mails, or other forms of “disruptive selling”. You can dress it up any way you like, but if your call or e-mail or other method of approach is not scheduled, and is news to the recipient, then we are disrupting that buyer. Nothing wrong with that, you are practicing Disruptive Marketing; if they taught Sales 2.0 or 3.0 were cool, Disruptive Marketing is just plain Arctic. Take pride in what you do, change the title on your card to read “Professional Interrupter”.

If you are going to interrupt someone, make it count, make every second of the call count, especially the first few. Even in an e-mail, if your subject line sucks, and your opening line is subpar, you’re beat from the start, as the prospect will never take in the real reason you called or they should speak with you. Those first few seconds are crucial, which is why I don’t understand why some many seller, so many professional interrupters, squander those important seconds.

Time after time I hear sales people talk about the most irrelevant things when the prospect unsuspectingly answers the phone. Rather than dealing with and delivering to the most important thing the prospect wants to know, i.e. “What’s In It For Me?” They ramble on about stuff not even their wives care about.

Caller: “Hi my name is Harvey Brown, I am the mid-Atlantic Account Executive for Blah Blah Inc., a Fortune 500 company and award winning manufacture of Machines Learning Widgets”. Frankly who really cares, Mom?

From the prospects’ perspective, you are almost at the end of the pier, and you haven’t even turned the corner of saying anything of interest to the prospect. With this approach, by the time you get to anything they may be able to evaluate and base a meeting on, the prospect has certainly checked out mentally if not hung up. In the case of e-mail, you can bet your last dollar that they have deleted your e-mail by now and have moved on.

What’s in it for them is not who you are, what you do, who you sell for, or what you sell. What’s in it for them are the outcomes and impacts on their business. So, start your call with that.

pier

Start with the very end, and then use your sales meeting to work back to why your product. Lead with the impacts on their business, what it will look like after they buy from you, don’t focus on what they are buying from you. If they don’t see the “how things will be different (better), then they could care less about what you sell. To do this you need to inject it into the call early, and not waste time giving long rambling demographical data that will make you run out of pier long before you can deliver the impact.

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Business Team Working Office Worker Concept

Buyers: Take Your Rep To Work Day0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I am sure this not unique to Ontario, every November, grade nine students get the day out of school, and are encouraged to join a parent or relative at their place of work. It is an opportunity for the students to get out of their cocoon of academia, and experience a dose of reality. Among the many benefits of the program, and there many, given the career realities kids will face, is the ability to spend ‘a day in the life’ of a working person; highs, lows, warts and all, not just what’s on the recruitment posters.

I was reminded of this while I was reading a piece in the Harvard Business Review, titled: “The New Sales Imperative” by Nicholas Toman, Brent Adamson and Cristina Gomez, the CEB team behind the Challenger Sales and Challenger Customer. It reinforced the need for sales people, and their respective organizations to have a much better understanding of how others “work”, in this case buyers.

Just like grade niners, many sales people have a distorted or unrefined view of what happens at buyers’ place of work, what they face on a daily basis, what they do, how they do it, and often why they do it to begin with. Without that understanding it is often difficult for kids to appreciate what their parents go through, and in the case of sales, makes it hard for sales people to help their clients, and by extension their own companies.

Right from the start – as soon as we enter the buyers’ world, we are confronted by a reality that very much counters one of the most widely help myths in B2B selling today:

Most B2B sellers think their customers are in the driver’s seat—empowered, armed to the teeth with information, and so clear about their needs that they don’t bother to engage with suppliers until late in the process, when their purchase decision is all but complete.

Customers don’t see it that way. They may be better informed than ever, but CEB research shows that they’re deeply uncertain and stressed… Customers are increasingly overwhelmed and often more paralyzed than empowered.

Most B2B sales people, and their extended teams, have for years have presumed the opposite, (encouraged by the pundits), building much of their sales approach on that erroneous assumption. This has inadvertently added complexity to the buying cycle and process. Not that buyers needed help in that, given the numerous internal interests involved in any given purchase, CEB research showing there are up to 6.8 stakeholders involved from the buyer organization these days. Labouring under this misconception has led to B2B sellers/organizations to miss a great opportunity to bring real value to buyers.

The real value sellers can add for buyers by reduce complexity of their buying process and experience. To do that they need to first understand that the many of the struggles buyers face, are often more internal than market related, and certainly not product/vendor related, which is where most sellers focus. While there are a number of ways to do this, sellers should focus on two on their Day at Work With Buyers:

  • Simplifying by eliminating unnecessary choice
  • Illuminating the buyer’s journey

More is not better – it’s just more

One assumption many sellers have is that choices are good, certainly in the selection process and in the actual buy. As the authors describe, choice is one of the factors adding to the stress and difficulty. During the buy cycle, alternative choices will lead to some in the buying group, feeling that the alternative may have greater appeal. This has the effect of not only slowing down the buying process, thereby extending the buy cycle (that means a longer sales cycle grade niners), with 2/3 of customers saying the cycle took much longer than expected or planned. Multiple interests, multiplied by multiple choices, often leads to “lowest common denominator purchasing”.

This lingers in to the post purchase phase, CEB cites research showing that “second-guessing occurs in more than 40% of completed B2B purchases”. Yet despite this, sellers continue to believe that it is there roll to provide (drown) their buyers with more information about their choice or options.

Illuminating the Journey

Many sellers do not recognize how far down the journey the question of product or vendor are really a factor. Long before that, buyers, all 6.8 of them, need to agree that there is something or what, is worth addressing; if so, then are there particular ways to address. Only after that do thoughts turn to selecting a solution and vendor. Yet too many sellers/organizations think it is all about them and their product, leading them to ignore key parts of the buyers’ journey; sellers think of the entire journey is what the CEB calls “customer purchase-from-us journey”; a view that does nothing to address the first two, and from the buyer’s perspective, most important steps.

Prescription

On a high level the answer is to simplify the buying process for buyers, in ways they could learn as a result of their “day at work with a buyer”. Specifically, “a proactive, prescriptive approach”, based around how buyers who buy, buy successfully, actually do buy. Yes, again counterintuitive to many of the mainstream approaches of being “responsive”, where rather than simplifying the process for the buyer, sellers contribute to the complexity of the decision by being “responsive”.

The piece highlights some key ways to achieve this, rather than rehashing, here are some highlights. Starting with some revealing data points:

  • 86% of sales professionals agree that “helping the customer consider all possible options and alternatives is important.”
  • 79% agree with the statement “I remain very flexible to customer needs and opinions throughout a sale, even when I don’t necessarily agree with their direction.”

The reality is decidedly a different picture:

CEB HBR 1

Sellers can achieve this by applying what they learned from their interactions with previous “successful” buyers, and sharing that experience with potential buyers. The good news is that sellers interact with buyers on an ongoing basis. This allows them to have a front-line view of the buying process. Many sales people and organizations will conduct “deal reviews”, but most will bring the usual bias to the review, and end up looking at why they did or did not make the sale, but overlook the opportunity to learn how the buyer(s) made the buying decision, including steps that precede the product/vendor stage. If they did focus more of the review on specifics buyers faced in their entire journey, they can then share that with future buyers, thereby simplifying the process. But a continued focus on why the sales was won, lost, or came to a draw, will not do anything to help buyers avoid or anticipate specific things they will face in the buying process, long before there is even discussion of a product/vendor.

Helping buyers understand and eliminate hurdles and potential roadblocks they have seen others face in the past is an opportunity for proactive sellers. This will include helping buyers map their journey in a way different than the “buy from me journey” mentioned above. Stepping away from your product, and focusing on the helping buyers deal with realities they will face in selecting any supplier, not necessarily just you. Keeping in mind that the buying organization is likely to have 6.8, not always – and at times conflicting ideas of what they are looking to solve, what the solutions may be, both having to be resolved before any talk of specific vendors. Not making it about us is hard for many, limiting choice and avoiding being purely responsive is even harder.

Understanding and articulating the things that have caused complexities for prospects is key, helping clients avoid these across the three stages described is best achieved by focus and specifics sellers have experienced, leads to much greater success in less time than being responsive and facilitating endless choices, in the hope the buyer will find a solution they like. Buyers don’t often find it on their own, leading to the high number of “no decision” results, or a smaller safe decision that does not address the issues at hand, but take twice as long to arrive at.

The pay off:

CEB HBR 2

Understanding why and how buyers bought, critical steps taken, and challenges faced and how those buyers dealt with them; then sharing that with prospects, are key to a seller’s ability to help customers map the complete journey, not just the parts where they are selecting products/vendors. More people (think they) know what to buy, their struggle is “how to buy”. A savvy seller, supported by their entire organization, can help their buyers craft a better buying journey. Helping buyers understand and prepare for specific obstacles they will face, and how to get past them. The alternative is to ignore the buyers’ reality, add to the complexity, and drive more “no-decision” outcomes to cycles.

As the article concludes, those selling organizations that can produce tools, guidelines and other things that simplify the buyer’s journey, will not only sell more, but have more loyal clients, leading to more cross and up sells. All things they could learn by spending a day (or few) with their buyers at work.

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Close-up Of Businessperson Holding Stopwatch With Stack Of Coins At Desk

Time – To Let Go0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Let’s be clear, no white flags here, just a reminder that the most crucial thing to control in a winning sales career is time. As I have stated here in the past, “leads are recyclable, time is not”, if what you are doing now is not moving the opportunity or sale forward, you need to ask if it is time to move on to something that will. In my experience, this is most pronounced during the early stages of the cycle, prospecting.

Given that most sales people do not like to prospect, they should be thinking about how to optimize the dreaded task, so they can engage better with more prospects, and move on to what they really seem to like, building relationships. To optimize prospecting time there a number of things they can do, we’ll look at two here.

First is their prep for the time they have set aside for prospecting, in this case telephone prospecting (one of a number of methods they should use). Your call lists should be grouped or clustered around specific themes. This can be vertical, geographical, target size/type, or even role based. This allows you to develop a single talk track that can be leveraged across a number of calls. Allow you to highlight outcomes that are common to that day’s list, 3rd party referrals for voice mail, and more. Rather than having gaps between calls, taking away from momentum, and drastically limiting the number of calls you can make in say an hour, you can make one call after the other, building momentum, increasing your confidence, and achieving more in a given period of time. It has been shown that when you are going back and forth between two tasks, making the call, and readying for the call, you end up executing both less effectively. At the same time if you can focus on a specific task, uninterrupted, for about 52 minutes, you build efficiency. Separate the tasks, do your background work in low energy times, and do your prospecting during peak Prime Time hours.

The other area is the length of the call. A good prospecting call, where the goal is to get the prospect to agree to a formal meeting, be that phone, web, or face to face, really should not take any more than two minutes, three out the outside. In most instances, anything longer than that moves into the “diminishing return” zone.

Assuming your intro and Engage Statement (think of it as an effective value statement), capped off with an Impact Question, takes us to about 45 seconds; their answer which tees up the request for the appointment takes us to the minute mark, and now comes the fun part the objections. Each objection given – and then taken away by you, is about 20 or so seconds, remember the goal here is engagement, not an intellectual exchange. If you have read the Objection Handling Handbook, you know the first objection is a conditioned response, and by the time you get to the third one, the fate of the call is usually sealed, at times it takes four. So, we are looking at another minute to a minute and a half.

Anything after that is working against you. If they don’t want to play, all they’ll take away is how unprofessional you were, not only wasting and disrespecting their time, but your own, and no one wants to deal with that kind of rep, even when the time is right. Or worse, you are trying to sell them when your goal at the outset was to schedule a time for the actual discovery and sale.

I see so many sales people stay on the phone with someone for 10, 15 minutes, and have nothing when the call ends; well frustration, but you can’t cash that. Others achieve their goal, a prospect who agrees to engage, and then they stay on and talk themselves out of that appointment in the same call. If you do have someone agree, you should expect they may have questions, and you want to answer that question in a way that best moves the opportunity forward, and if that is a formal meeting, that’s what you should move towards. Next time you have someone agree to an appointment, and they start asking those “good” questions, simply say “That’s a great question Jim/Jill (I’m so PC), why don’t we make that first item on the agenda and give it full justice; look forward to our call Thursday, let me grab your e-mail and I’ll send an invite.” This sets you up for a great start to the discovery call, and allows you to move on to set the next appointment.

Remember, leads are recyclable – time is not – guard your time!

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Hunting for dollars

Walk’a Proud!2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Those of you who have participated in my events or webinars, know that early on I encourage people who prospect for a living, to take pride in what they do rather than apologize for it. I encourage them to answer with pride next time some asks what they do for a living, by saying “I am a Professional Interrupter! I interrupt people and engage them in conversations that result in their reality being better as a result of our interaction, which by the way, started as an interruption, something I am a pro at!”

The reality is that with few exceptions, most people we reach out to without prior consent, are being interrupted. Most are trying to pack 16 hours in to a 10-hour day, meaning no matter how great our offering is, it will AT FIRST be seen as an interruption. How well we transition that interruption to a conversation determines our success.

Hunting for dollarsThis is the very reason HUNTERS are at a premium in the sales world. Because there is a shortage of people who have the ABILITY and WILLINGNESS to do what it takes to bring a Status Quo business person from being disinterested on the sidelines, to being engaged, and then a happy customer.

Sure, it is easy to engage with self-declared buyers, those who have entered the market on their own, with a specific thing in mind. After having done their research and travelled 57% of the “Buying Journey” (Notice the complete absence of the word SELL or SELLING), in stealth mode, they now decloak in time to witness the beauty contest of order takers, willing to take it all off to win the sales and discounted deals for years to come. But when it comes to prospects who can benefit from your product but are hiding in the Status Quo landscape, you need more than a smile and a pretty social profile.

Many shy away from the term hunting, saying it not a pretty picture, and says something negative to and about the prospect. Please!

First no one is saying that we are hunting prospects; it’s not like we find a prospect and impale them, (that would be self-defeating. We are hunting revenue, and the best way to deliver that revenue is to help our customers and prospects.

Once you wrap your head around the concept that you are hunting revenue, you can look at your actions in a different light, and take steps many won’t, which is probably why many fail at the sales, or more specifically new sales. Once you embrace hunting you will help those missed by average sales people. Those same average sales people, and the pundits they follow do, have the advantage of numbers, and as is the case with many crowds united in their weakness, they will turn on those different than them for no other reason than that difference. If they used a more meaningful measure, like say success, like say making quota, things look different. We all know the anecdote about the three sales people pursuing the same opportunity, one win, the other two go back to their tribe empty handed, leading to hungry babies.

Be a hunter, make a difference, don’t just blend in or exist. Take pride in your abilities and results, not your associations or social circles. As in the punch line to the old baseball joke about Joe Dimagio: Walk’a Proud! 

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Young female scientist injecting GMO into   potato in  laboratory

What If Prospecting Were Cancer?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Not to be overly dramatic, but most people who find out they have caner or any terminal disease, will immediately seek a cure, take steps to change their lifestyle or habits to alter their fate. Rarely or ever would they ignore it or make changes to unrelated things as a means of healing the illness. Well, most except some VP’s of Sales or sales leaders.

You would not believe the number of these folks I meet with, who unprompted, without “probing” or cajoling, share with me their concerns about the state of their team’s pipelines, and the lack of new opportunities. When I ask what they attribute that to, they tell me:

  • Their people are ineffective at prospecting
  • Preferring to spend time with existing customers
  • They spend all their time researching on the web and social media – very little time leveraging the research by actually putting it to good use
  • Or just not wanting to do it at all

This of course leaves them in precarious position, while there may be good organic growth that they can coast on for a while, the new revenue coming in is only slightly ahead of their natural client attrition rate; leaving them only one breath away from a client leaving, and the whole year going pear shape.

You would think that once they examine and understand the symptoms, the risks and severity of the situation, they would address the cause as directly and effectively as possible. But no, the VP”s/Leaders in question, seem to feel that it is better to focus and deal with something else, some other element of sales as a means of addressing the issue. It sometimes reminds me of an old joke, where a farmer is suffering greatly with a tooth ache, as a cure, his friend and fellow farmer suggests that he drop a cement block on his toes, “Ya, you’ll forget that tooth ache in no time at all.” Now I have nothing against alternatives to main stream medical care, but even I know there are only so many toes you can break before you have to see a real doctor.

Seriously, they will deal with and change anything than what counts, i.e. their people’s ability to properly prospect. A popular favourite, probably due to visibility, is to focus on the “leads”; yup, “better leads”, or “more leads”. That’s the ticket, they are ignoring the leads they have now, or making at best a token effort, so let’s give them more to squander. A variation on the theme, “lets hire a lead gen firm.” So one company locally did that, and their reps came back:

“The leads suck”
Why?
‘The guy said he is not ready for at least six months”
How long is your sales cycle?
“About 4 months” (Data pulled from their CRM by sales ops showed just over 6 months)

But even if it was four months, seems like the right length of runway to unfold the sales properly at a relaxed pace. But it seemed the preferred method was to wait, till everyone is all over the buyer like white on rice, and then engage, just around the buyer has made their choice and is looking for pricing.

Another leader who after deciding that his people needed to prospect more regularly and do it better when they do, put the team through a presentations skills program. I guess his theory was that if any of the team ran into a prospect, (by mistake), they would be adept at presenting.

If prospecting was cancer, most people would deal with it directly, regardless of the effort required. Seems to me that having a continuously anaemic pipeline, or one full with names growing fungus like the orange we forgot in the back of the fridge, points to the fact that you have a cancer in your sales organization: deal with it, before it deals with your career.

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Snake oil

“Fake Sales News” Lead To Fake Sales!4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

We here in Canada have not been spared the phenomenon of fake news, although we are still working on making it the art form it is elsewhere. Sure, you’re all thinking about the fallout from the election in the former colonies to the south, but I am speaking even closer to home, specifically the fake news making the rounds in sales circles.

Who hasn’t mistakenly (or just through sheer curiosity) clicked on a Never Cold Call Again link. The experience was usually based on the bias the person had long before they clicked. Those who have a serious fear factor when it comes to picking up the phone, felt their inaction would be validated, and those of us who have made loads of money smiling and dialing, see these sites or posts as a source of amusement in an otherwise productive sales day, selling to people we cold called.

The problem with fake news, sales or political, is it is all amusing when it stays on the web, where it can be a source of entertainment for some, or a source of excuses for others.  But when these fake posts and articles begins to ooze into the real world, it costs people sales, their jobs, drive companies to bankruptcimpacts the economy, and the next thing you know we need to cut interest rates again. As with political fake news, these posts are full of repeatedly debunked, but the peddlers of fake news, political or selling, have mastered the mantra of “let’s not cloud the issue with facts.”

For example, many “cold calling is dead” proponents regularly point to stats that suggest “social sellers” convert and close more business by a factor or XX%; while at the same time pointing to the low success rate of cold calling. Now I don’t have counter facts, mostly because I am busy working with sales people who work for people I cold called. When you live in the real world, you have the advantage of experience and the ability to evaluate facts as you see them, not vicarious stats and experiences.

Snake oilI share another recent experience as an example of fake news and fake sales. I visited a sales leader a few weeks ago, (using a combination of social selling and traditional selling, I think those of us who do not have a social selling book or webinar, just call that selling). A few minutes in to the meeting he asked what I thought about “social selling”, I told him I see it as a part of a big tool kit, and that while I do not label myself as a social seller, I was 8th on the list on forbes.com.

He then told me that he had engaged a local social selling expert, apparently, they were “world famous in Toronto”. As we explored how the two approaches may be harmonized, he told me that he wasn’t sure about social selling, but he had read so much about, the stats were impressive, and he felt he would give it a try. What he said next was the most telling. He said that he had to try because he was given ‘a real good price because” name omitted to protect the innocent, “was in the process of collecting logos, and made it real cheap.”

And so there we are, fake sales. Because there is a difference between selling it, and socializing it before you give it away. And so once again it is about the revenue, not the sale, because this fake sale, much like the fake news that are void of facts, this fake sale had no revenue.

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mANAGER - lEADERS

Are You Developing Managers Or Leaders?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

We have all witnessed situations where an outstanding sales rep is “rewarded” with a promotion to sales management, leading to two compounding problems. The previously successful contributor flounders in the new role, and you have an underperforming territory where you had a star you moved. There is no doubt that you’re a+ Primo players, should be recognized, even rewarded for their contribution, (which is what I thought the incentive plan was for), but that reward should be one that resonates with them, not with current company leadership.

Successful leaders create an environment where they understand what the rep in questions considers to be a reward or recognition. Many companies default to either monetary rewards or hierarchical promotion. The challenge with the former, is that real A+ Primo players can generally achieve the financial results they want, especially if, as mentioned, you have an effective incentive plan in place. But even then, money is an interesting aphrodisiac, it is a lot like gas, which fills the entire space or volume of its container regardless of the container size, no matter what the volume, it will fill a bigger container. Even a substantial increase will have limited lift, limited change in behavior.

mANAGER - lEADERSThe challenge with promotion is that some don’t want it as much as those higher in the hierarchy believe. Clearly those in senior roles, those who enjoy and are successful at it, find it hard to understand why others don’t get turned on by the same thing. But many don’t, we have all known career sales people, who continuously make more money than their managers or even directors, but and have no desire to take on the role. Promote one of these reps, as many do, and you not only face the issues presented above, but a bunch of collateral damage. Damage on the other members of the team who now lack a leader, this will manifest in either lower revenues or mass departures, sometimes both. Not to mention the countless dollars spent with experts to try “reprogram” the rep, mentor, coach, and all the other programs invested in, with little or no impact.

The answer is determined a lot earlier, at the time of hiring. Organizations should be hiring for the role, not hoping that some will evolve into it, especially when they were hired to do a specific thing. I don’t see a lot of football team bringing on a lot of placeholders with a goal that they will one day make great field goal kickers or quarterbacks. With all the talk about Account Based Management, perhaps we should extend the concept to how we construct a successful sales team, put some focus and energy in to Role Based Hiring and Development. I do apologize to those who sell programs to help people make the “transition” from one role to the next, but more often than not the result is the creation of a managers not leaders. Bureaucrats who excels in explaining and enforcing a process, but are useless at leading their teams in executing and continuous improvements in that execution. Manager is a great title, but it is leadership that will drive results both in the short and long term. Don’t settle just because it is easy, convenient, or always done that way.

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faceless businessmen standing on the green grass and holding placard with question mark

Are You Asking The Right Questions The Wrong Way?4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

How you ask a question will make a big difference in how it is answered, and the impact that has on your ability to move the process forward, get stuck, or even lose deals. There are some basic communication rules and practices, that when leveraged right can make a big difference.

Sales people often squander the opportunity to take the conversation in a specific direction. For example, how we initiate a conversation, the first question we ask, will directly dictate the nature of the response, and the subsequent topics that will come into the discussion. Whether it is cold call, or the start of a face to face meeting, we, sales people are likely kick things off, and as a result, be in a good position to steer the conversation. This is not done to limit the prospect’s input, but to ensure that the conversation is relevant to both.

This goes beyond just what question you ask, but how you ask the question. Remember that people have different habits, some will not only answer the question you pose, but expand, going into related issues, and provide way more information than solicited. Others will answer you with short specific answers, little more than data, and not volunteering anything other than what was asked, even when it could be extremely relevant.

Another factor is where we are in the cycle. Early in the cycle reps tend to stick close to the process, ensuring all the bases are covered, and that they are maximizing their opportunity to move things forward. As we get comfortable with the prospect(s), around mid-cycle or later, the situation seem more familiar, some may say (erroneously) more predictable, some loosen on the process, and allow for unnecessary risk.

Here is a simple example, one likely to come up in sales with multiple stakeholders, specifically when a new person (variable) is introduced into the mix. We have all had this, we show up to a meeting, expecting the usual players, assuming we have sent an agenda, we have an idea of where the meeting will go, and we are building on momentum.

But along with the usual crew, a new person is in attendance. They look like a senior stakeholder with the ability to sway the others. While most of the time they will introduced with their title, and potentially what they bring to the meeting, most sales people still want to know more, and why they are there.

Time after time the question that sales people ask at this point is the wrong one. They will turn the person in question and ask: “Has Jenny brought you up-to-date on our discussion to date?” Good question, will usually get answered, and in most cases the sales rep is not any better informed, or in a better position to understand how to best proceed. The individually could answer in full honesty, “Yes she has, I have seen the material, and she has told me what to expect today.” Sounds good, but I would argue we still don’t have a clear picture or knowledge of what Jenny may have to them. It could be what you hope, or it could be the opposite; the question asked was answered, but not necessarily informative, leaving you exposed.

The question they should ask is “Thanks for taking the time to join us today, before we get going, can you please take a minute and let me know what Jenny has told you about our journey to date?” While they may not be completely open or detailed, they will have to tell you what Jenny has shared, which puts you in a much better spot. You can follow up on some things, correct any misunderstandings, ask them to summarize how that fits in with their specific objectives, and more.

From the buyer’s perspective, it is more or less the same question, but the latter puts you in a much more informed and better position to progress the sell. Even if there are negative repercussions to the answer, it is better to work from a position of knowledge than a vacuum of information and related options.

There are other examples, your goal is to not only understand why you are asking a question, but to ask it in a way that moves you towards the outcomes you need to win the opportunity.

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