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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Done

Just Do It?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

No, I am not questioning the message behind Nike’s well known slogan or mantra, nothing to do with Nike at all.

I am talking to and about sales people who regularly fail to follow through on expectations they set for people they work with, but most importantly, prospects and customers.

We have all familiar with old sales adage: “Under Promise – Over Deliver”, well it seems many sales people feel that only applies to some things, some actions, but not all. While most get how to leverage this from a product perspective, they seem to feel they have immunity when it comes to actions they have committed to. While existing clients may be a bit more tolerant of tardiness, (although they should not have to be), prospects who have never dealt with you, have nothing else to parse a decision around than your ability or willingness to actually follow through, in the way you said you would.

Buyers long ago have realized that even products claiming to be bleeding edge and “revolutionary”, are at best evolutionary in nature, or last year’s model with a fresh coat of paint. This leaves the interaction with the rep and the selling organization as one the determinant and differentiator in a decision. While it is always an advantage to be able to deliver insight that prospects can action and achieve more than they set out to achieve, or take any action they otherwise would not have. But absent that, and believe me in a world of feature, buzzword and price selling, it is very absent, the only thing left is how we sell, and core to that is how we deliver on even the smallest commitment we make.

DoneWhile I understand that there are more demands than ever on sales people’s time, there are (or so we are told) just as many new tools allowing sales professionals to maximize their time. This really is a situation where you are in control, both in the commitments you make, and the ones you chose not to follow through on. The fact that many, pundits and buyers, recognize that you are having to pack 16 hours into a ten-hour day, does not equal having permission not to do something, especially things we committed to with prospects/buyers. Things includes the “smaller” things, but in a world “same”, it will those little things that will swing decisions.

There are some simple things we can do. Starting with prioritizing, and not just in creating a list, but in how we set expectations for prospects. If something indeed is “small” in your estimation, then the expectations you set around it should also be small. You can tell a prospect you will have an answer for them much further out than you would for delivering something impacting an impending buy decision.

Couple this with other useful practices. One is the old Urgency/Importance matrix, allowing you to prioritize activates, and make sure they are done. Add to this the practice chunking, where you set allocate specific time to the practice of setting out “chunks” of time for specific tasks. Where many limit their success is not extending these to their calendar. If it has to be done, it needs to be scheduled! If you don’t have the time, and you know it going in, don’t promise, or know who you will delegate it to. While I appreciate the power of intent, it does not replace do, or make up for something you don’t do that you led the prospect to believe you would.

While it is natural to focus on the on the visible, the things that you get done, but buyers are more likely to remember the things we don’t do.

Want to maximize your sales time, grab your copy of “Sales Happen In Time”, and make time work for you!

3 Sterne Bewertung

Can We Stop Accepting Average? Please!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Something has changed over the last few years, and it needs to be reversed. There is too much celebrating of average, everywhere, but especially sales.

Average may be a good measure to use when comparing house prices on a given street, but falls short when it comes to measuring accomplishments, setting goals, or anything that counts, especially in sales. Let me remind everyone that average = typical; common; ordinary. Not something one would use to describe themselves or loved ones, yet, we seem to celebrate it almost daily.

Average is certainly not something you see at the top of skills listed in job postings for sales positions. BTW, cold calling is, yet the average salespeople seem to find it difficult to execute this basic sales skill. Even when coached and directed, the average reps seem to search for reasons not to do execute core sales activities.

3 Sterne BewertungThe difference between average and excelling is not a great as many would have you believe, and while it may be easy to point at the reps involved, it may be worth looking at what in their support (or lack of support) system allows to get away with it, and at times encourage it, starting with their managers. For a number of reasons many managers are afraid to call out mediocrity or averageness. Sure, HR policies and a litigious environment contribute to this, managers need play an active role in helping people exceed average, or help the individual transition to something they can be more than average at.

It does not help that many managers are reluctant to address the issue head on. I have had managers tell me that they’d rather have someone in the territory than have it vacant. I get it, but I firmly believe and have seen that the long-term damage to revenue in such territories, when an average rep is sent to compete against accomplished sellers. I have heard the arguments about the costs, direct and hidden, that are associated with rep turnover, but the answer is not hanging on to average, but having the conviction and guts to hire the right reps. Coming from the “hire slow, fire fast” school, the holding on should happen at the front end of the process, during hiring, not in avoiding the firing.

In some ways, you can’t blame only those involved on ground level. Many of these average sellers are a product of ‘The “Participation Trophy” generation’. Looking at the charts presented, it is likely to get “averager” before it gets better. Unlike little league, in sales only one rep goes home with the deal, the others, as they say, have hungry babies (and maybe a ribbon).

The cost for all this is borne not only by the organizations and those reps who strive to achieve, rather than just participate, and spend more time and energy on excuses rather than execution. Which leads to the average sales force where a hand full of committed professionals will always outperform a stable of also-rans, the choice is yours, not matter what you tell yourself.

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IDeen

Resolve to be a Contender Not Column Fodder0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

If you are in B2B sales, you have, knowingly or not, been column fodder. I often ask sales people if they know what that means, and for the most part most do not. While some of you may know what I mean, others may not so let’s define. It is a situation where a buyer has decided that they will give the business to a specific, usually favoured, vendor. These same buyers, also know from experience or set expectations, that their boss (or the owner), will want to see some comparables before approving said purchase. So they set things up in a spreadsheet for presentation.

Column A – This has all their requirements
Column B – The chosen vendor, the one that will get the deal short of divine intervention (bad news for atheist sellers).

But they know the boss is going to ask to see options, so this buyer engages with two other vendors. Asking very specific questions, questions matching the requirements in Column A. This line of questioning often fools sales people making them believe that the interest is real due to the specificity of the questions, and the degree of engagement by the prospect. (I know earlier I called them a buyer, but that is only true for the vendor in Column B, if you’re in C or D, they are and will only ever be prospects.) In the end the buyer presents these in a way where Column B is all but assured that they win the deal, and you and one other rep serve as column fodder.

But it does not have to play out that way. You can take steps to either avoid playing the game, or play it to disrupt and win. Contrary to what some may think, I think the prudent course is to avoid playing the game, and spend the time and energy prospecting for potential buyers who are willing to engage based on merit, not the need to justify a purchase from someone other than you.

First thing you can do is to ensure that you are interviewing the prospect as much as they interview you. While it is the prospect who should be speaking more, it is the seller who should set that into motion with good questions that not only bring light to the issue, but challenge the prospects pre-conceptions, and direction. With Fodder calls, not only is the rep talking more than the prospect, but the prospect is driving the direction, asking the questions, and keeping the discussion in predetermined petametres that deliver the desired result, fodder, not knowledge.

IDeenIf it is a real curiosity, you could get to the root of things by asking a combination of:

Where they are now?
How they measure the situation?
Where they had planned to be?
Why the Gap?
Quantify the impact of addressing the Gap?
Quantify the impact of inaction to address the Gap?
Extrapolate Rewards over entire the course of ownership/benefit?

If you can’t change the path the conversation is on, you need to seriously think about walking away. If the conversation is nothing like the ones that lead to closed deals, you have to ask why, and then react accordingly.

I have some reps tell me that they “play” along, believing if the chosen vendor drops the ball, they will be “next in line”. Problem is even if that happens, human ego often prevents the buyer from coming back Column C or D, a new search is much simpler for them.

Last thought, that time you wasted playing Fodder, not only could have been spent with a real prospect, but you’ll never get it back.

Be a Contender in 2017!

See you next year!!

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