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Gaining and Maintaining Momentum0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

It has been a while since I have had the opportunity to speak with Michele Price, but I recently found this segment we did.  I am sharing it today as we head into the last week of October, and are looking to se how we can maintain momentum to finish off the year right, and carry that momentum into next year.

Take a listen, give us you feedback, and go forth and execute.

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Unhung

Are You In Your Own Way?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

If you follow my blog you know that I am firmly in the camp that see and approaches sales more as a science executed artfully, rather than free form art like many do. As with most things, success is rarely found in absolutes, it is usually about a norm derived from trial and error, and experiencing success and failure first hand.

Many managers and organizations are reluctant to let people explore, and experience a range of sales situations and outcomes, as a means of helping sell better. I get it, time is valuable, “if we already have a corpus, the experience and best practices, let’s just build it into a process, and have people walk the line”. They then proceed to build a rigid, and usually dated process, that everyone has to adhered to until the next Party Congress in a few years.

But a process needs to be dynamic, reflecting, anticipating the market, not reflecting where it was five years ago. The most important thing to remember about your sales process, is that it is the other side of the coin of the prospect’s buying process. In the spirit of “follow the money”, let’s not forget that the most crucial element of your sales process is the buyer, without them, who needs a process. So in light of the fact that the money flows from the buyer, our sales process has to reflect, and facilitate their process, if we are going to benefit from it.

UnhungGiven the fact that buyers, unlike sellers, do not set out to execute a process, but rather to achieve some business objective and impact, the buyer’s side of the coin continues to evolve and ignore our “sales process rules”. If we do not evolve our process, we can look to it to get in our way. This would suggest two things that usually don’t happen in the real world. One that process should be a bottom up exercise, not the top down approach you find in most organizations. If the senior leadership, or sales ops people are the only ones updating and shaping the process, it will always be out of step with the market, and limit front-line rep’s options.

The other is empirical objective inputs. Reps are notorious for not knowing why they win or why they lose. When they win it was their great skills, smile, and relationships. When they lose it is always product and price. But for your process to serve your needs it needs to reflect market realities, not rationalization or other things that lack facts and accountability.

A proper evolving sales process, continues to reflect market factors, and should be implemented as a channel within which reps can execute by leveraging the process and adding their skills and abilities. It should not be, as it often is in a tech driven sales environment, a means for people to validate metrics they are hoping will work, and then change the metric when it does not.

Success in sales is all about execution, so get out of your own way by implementing a process that helps execution, not one that rationalizes the results.

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Hot and cold phones

Call Camp – 1:00 PM ET0

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

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

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

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

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

See you there,

Tibor

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Hot and cold phones

StockSnap_YR89OQFMT1

You Are Where You Are By Choice0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I had a couple of interesting conversations with two reps recently during a break in a workshop. Both centred around where each of the reps were currently, both in terms of quota in the current year, and their over all sales career. What was interesting is one was exactly where they wanted to be, on track to achieve his stated goals, for this year and beyond. The other, far short of their quota, was able to share little about their destination or any road that may get them there. Not surprisingly to me, was that both were exactly where their choices and resulting actions led them to be.

It may not surprise you that the successful rep was able to articulate why and how he made the choices that led to his success, and the specific process, choices and actions which got him there. The less successful rep, we’ll call him Average, a name more common than Bob in sales, could only articulate all the outside forces that he blamed for preventing him from being better than he was, a little less than average.

While it is easy to put this off to both being products of the choices they made, one needs to examine how they make their choices, and as importantly, how they acted, or in the case of all Average sellers, did not act, on choices they made or ignored.

It may not be sexy, but success in most endeavours, is a simple iterative process, chose/decide – act – review – chose/decide again – a act – review – chose/decide again. Sometimes the simplicity of it seems deceptive, people feel there needs to be a correlation between success and complexity. The real alignment, correlation, is between choices we make, the process for those choices, and the resulting action.

While we make choices every day, there are some fundamental choices that can be made that have greater effect on your success than others. Consider that some 40% of things we do every day are done out of habit. Meaning we don’t make the choice each time we act, but once, while forming and committing to a habit.

If you can track the things you actually do during a day/week, not what you think or tell other people, but the actual activities in real time you’ll see two things. First is which things you do out of habits, and which you make conscious choices on before you act. Many of the things that we do out of habit don’t directly relate to sales, the B-line I make for the coffee drive-thru when I leave my driveway is a habit. When I chose to follow up with a prospect, the time I spend researching a prospect, the actual people I contact, are all choices I make that impact my sales. Just like choosing to wait for the buyer to almost complete their buying journey before we line up for the opportunity to take their order on their terms, is a choice.

Regardless which type of sales you are involved in, which dogma you choose to consume, whose colors you wear, your day to day, deal to deal success is based on one thing, the choices you make and how you choose to act on those choices.

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Slow and low

Slow & Low – The Right Recipe For Great Prospecting0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Next week both Canada and the US celebrate their respective independence days, which means barbecues galore, and as you may have guessed, an opportune lesson for cold callers everywhere. Most cold callers, carnivores and vegetarians, make the same common errors in executing their telephone prospecting calls, many of these mistakes contribute to their lack of success, making the whole thing a further mess.

Part of the negative cycle revolves around the fact that they are way too nervous, anticipating the worst, as a result many rush the call, leading to the outcome they feared. There are a couple of specific things telephone prospectors do that if approached differently would help overcome the challenge, alter the results and their view of cold calling; once mastered, they will find the whole thing much more productive and profitable. This is where the barbeque lesson comes in, making a good prospecting call is like making a good southern brisket, slow and low.

First thing that happens to nervous callers is they speed up their speaking, going faster than they normally would, and way faster than what makes for an effective prospecting call. This triggers a similar response from the buyer, they get nervous at the barrage of words coming at them, and they look for the exit even quicker. Ever deliver you into (at a nervous pace) only to have the prospects ask, “I’m sorry, who is this, what’s this about?” And before you can answer, you’re on your heels, and the call ends without engagement.

Slow and lowSlow down Man, it’s not a race. I know most want the call to be over more than they want the appointment, but is not about completing the activity (fast), it’s about engaging with potential prospect. Slowing down takes practice, repeated and out loud. Slow down your breathing before you pick up the phone and maintain the pace through the call. If you’re not too macho, get a metronome, and stick to the rhythm. I know sounds silly, till you start connecting with prospects and getting appointments.

The low part has to do with voice and pitch. When callers get nervous their voice gets higher, I’ve heard grown men sound more like their sisters than themselves. This makes it harder for the buyer to comprehend what the caller is saying, and obscures their message. Think about some of the great radio voices or TV voice overs, think about James Earl Jones famous “this is CNN”. As with slowing down, this comes down to practicing, and again out loud.

In a tension filled call, any element of distraction can be a negative and work against you, when you sound squeaky and speak fast, the two just compound in a way that makes it hard to achieve your objective.

One overlooked way to help with these two factors is to have a well prepared script, this will reduce the nervousness, and with practice limit the speed and pitch. Get over the self-imposed fear of scripts, and you’re a long way towards overcoming this and other prospecting roadblocks. Next time you pick up the phone, think brisket, slow and low.

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EDGE Process

When All Else Fails1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I recently had the pleasure of recording a podcast with Jeb Blount, as part of the addition of Proactive Prospecting Program to Sales Gravy University. One area we explored was what we can do when we are having a day, or a streak, where everything we touch turns to shite, and it makes us afraid to touch the phone or the next opportunity. Now I know we pundits are supposed to be an optimistic lot, almost intentionally ignoring the dark side of sales, rah rah, and all that stuff. Fortunately, Jeb is a more real than that, and wanted to explore a reality all in sales face, and regularly.

As with most things in sales, the outcome is not based on one single thing or action, but a series of connected and incremental factors, executed simultaneously that lead to results.

This is why, those who do see sales as a science artfully executed will have an advantage, not just when things are going well, but more importantly, when they are not. At the heart of this is having a clearly defined, better yet, clearly “followable” process.

When in doubt, work your process. If you are a successful sales person, one that usually makes quota, and you have done that by sticking to your game plan, based on a clear road map, highlighting desired outcomes, paths to that outcome, contingency plans, and more; then you know that what got you there. Your process! Your consistent execution, your success, especially when almost half your peers are not making quota, is all driven by your process. At a time of struggle, don’t abandon it, double down, recommit and execute.

This isn’t about blind faith. Part of any successful sales process is that it is dynamic in nature. Meaning it evolves with your markets, not locking you into a singular means of execution, but instead reflecting changes in the market. For this to take place, a dynamic process, is an ongoing “feedback loop”. That feedback is captured from two key sources.

EDGE ProcessThe first is the customer; as their expectations, reactions, objections, change and evolve, so should your process. Many companies make the mistake of designing a process; then altering it not to reflect the market, but the inadequacies of their CRM. The second is the rep, if they fail to contribute their experiences in the field, and fail to contribute to process reviews (these are not opportunity reviews), then the process will stay as is. This allows your sales enablement team (when they are not fiddling with the latest app), to combine these two inputs, along with market sources to ensure that your process not only reflects the market, but that allows your sellers to leverage that view, and allow them to win not only more deals, but more predictably. This is how the process evolves, stays dynamic, and provides you with a proven and fair advantage.

If you have that process in place, and you hit a slump, as every pro does along the way, then the resolution is simple, stick to what got you there. If you don’t have that kind of process in place you have two choices. One, find a company that does, and you’ll make money. Second, Hope the pinball ride ends and you bounce back before your run out of time.

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sillhouette of cheering fan in stadium

Participants vs. Observers0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Ask sales people why they lose deals and most will offer either price or some aspect of the product that led to their demise. I bet the over 40% B2B reps who fail to attain quota in a given year will also lean on the same crutch. While I understand the defence mechanism, you have to wonder when they will face the truth, and actually consider that it is the way they sell that leads to the results they get, nothing else.

Before I go on, it is important to mention that the sales person is not in this alone, the things I will speak to below are not just the fault of the individual seller. Their organizations and immediate manager are complicit in this, and not only enable, but often encourage, with the help of pundits, the behaviour that continues to plague sales, and leads to the results sellers see.

The problem is that most sellers (and their managers, and in many cases leaders in their respective organizations) are nothing more than observers, spectators if you will, rather than full time participants in the arena they are selling in. Being a spectator gives one a great vantage point, but not the same vantage point, or experience, as the actual on field players have. The best sellers, learn to observe and speak to things from the perspective of the player on the field, a real participant, not just the perspective of a super fan, which is how many sellers come across to buyers as. “Enthusiastic, informed, empathetic, but clearly hasn’t walked a mile in my shoes, and does not get the detail required to understand my view” is how one buyer put it.

Here’s a live example, I was working with a group of telco, IT wannabe sellers. At one point the question of why should or do people buy from you or your company?

sillhouette of cheering fan in stadium

Rep: We help them be more productive
Me: How?
Rep: We increase their people’s productivity.
Me: OK, give me an example, how do you make them more proactive?
Rep: We increase efficiencies
Me: How?
Rep: By increasing productivity
Me: OK, I’m with you, give me an example

You can hear the gears grinding, smoke ever so slowly seeping out of the ears, he wants to go to price but realizes the VP in the back of the room had him in the cross hairs.

In a last-ditch attempt to salvage the moment, he went for it:

Rep: We help them eliminate their pain points by offering the right solution.

Yup, that should cover it all, I didn’t have it in me to ask what pain, and what he was gonna solve with his solution.

Sure this may seem humours, till my role is played by an actual buyer, in the real world, who is actually a day to day participant in the “game”, not a “spots center” hack who may know the game, the players, and the rules, just hasn’t spend any time on the real field.

You can fake a lot of things in sales, but your buyer will know in a second if you are a real participant who can make a difference to them, or second rate color commentator who can’t contribute to the game.

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Businessman on rock mountain with idea bulb

3 Reason to Establish and Mine The Gap – Part II2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Monday, we looked and the need to establish a “Gap”, and gave an example that you can use to start the process with in your sales. Clearly you will need to build on that, and in today’s post we will offer specific steps you can take to surface and leverage Gaps in the process of helping buyers and winning deals.

As with most things worth doing, there is the investment part, and the pay-off part; please keep in mind that the pay-off will be after things have taken hold, not the next day. Make your plan, then execute the whole plan, not give up because you need to give things time to happen.

GAP PyramidCorpus of Knowledge

Step one is building a base of knowledge that allows you to step out as a Subject Matter Expert. You need to not only understand the objectives your market player may have and, should have. What makes you an expert is not all the information you have, but your ability to translate your knowledge into actionable insight; key here is actionable. The reality of “satisfied” prospects, is that they are by definition inert, not looking to move. Even when they have stated objectives, they have pre-conceptions about how to achieve them. To win you need to have them look at their objectives differently, look at objectives they may not have considered for different reasons, until an expert like you throws it into the mix.

Most sellers take in the prospect’s objectives at face value, and jump to trying to influence how the prospect might achieve those objectives. In other words, they focus on the “means” rather than the “end”; the problem with this, is that it is a crowded place to be, and if the “ends” have not changed, the “means” will be decided on in the feature/price filter.

Expert sellers, know they have to have the prospect re-evaluate their objectives, notice I did not say change, just re-evaluate, and if you are part of that re-evaluation, you can influence them, and marginalize the other sellers. How you ask, by focusing on the impacts you can deliver to their business. If they focus on the impacts, which are the ultimate “end”, an objective or a goal is a way to realize that impact. To do this you have to have the knowledge to understand why the buyer’s stated objectives may be, and a set of “Better” alternatives to get there.

Tribal Knowledge

To do that, you need to establish a discipline to review every opportunity that enters your pipeline, wins, losses, and “no decisions”. We use the 360 Degree Deal View, as it is uniquely designed to focus on objectives and impacts, and the Gaps that exist in the buyer’s current state, and the alternate state they are planning. Doing this gives you a level of understanding that will allow you to be the expert, be a conduit to best practices your prospects can learn and earn from.

Yes, this takes time, but not that much time, not as much time as it does chasing deals you won’t win.

Two key things you’ll learn will help you in Mining The Gap. First is the most common objectives and means of hitting those objectives currently favoured by market players, sellers and buyers. This will allow you to understand where there are Gaps or misalignment. For example, a VP may have a goal of 50/50 mix in revenues from product and services, but four months into the year it is tracking at 70% product, 30% services, where services fetches higher margin. You can surface this Gap with two simple questions, once the Gap is there, you can “Mine” it.

Second, you’ll discover where you have delivered unexpected impacts to objectives the buyer was not aware of or focused on before encountering you.

In all this it is important to look at the outs of 360’s right across your organization, look at other reps’ reviews, and expand your knowledge while expanding your value. Develop your Gap questions built on empirical data not third party wives’ tales or industry myths. There is a specific set of steps that when applied not only allow you to confirm and qualify Gaps, but Mine them, work them in a way that better engages your buyer, and separates you from also-rans. But it has to done right, or you may fall in to the Gap, sell like everyone else.

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Time allocation

Enough With The Time Management BS – Please!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Time is the most valuable resource sales people, or any people have, it is the only none renewable resource, once it is spent, it is gone forever, except for the memories, and for many in sales the memories are not that happy, and not worth reliving. How we choose to utilise it will determine our success.

This is why I think time management is such a dangerous concept in sales success. Let’s be real, time already comes managed. You got 60 minutes to an hour, 24 hours to a day, 7 days to a week, and so on. Looks very well managed to me, in fact so well managed, that even Netanyahu and Abbas can fully agree. So managing time is not the issue. What can or should do with time to maximize results? You can allocate it, and then focus on managing the activity you allocated the time to, in the time you allocated for it – plain, not simple.

Allocation

Step one – figure out all the things you have to do during the course of typical sales cycle in order to win the sale. Not all the things you can do, currently are doing, see others doing, no – just those activities without which there would be no sale – nothing else, no matter how appealing, fun or cool. Then look at what percentage of your time you typically need to spend on each during the course of a SUCCESSFUL sales cycle. Not every day, but throughout the cycle, as some activities may be more intense in the middle, others at the start.

Currency of Sales

Now I want you to look at your time as money, specifically $1,760, which is the number hour of face time available to sellers annually (220 days x 8 Hours per day). How you spend and invest that money will determine your success. Much like a wealth manager will allocate portions of your money to stocks, some to cash, derivatives, all aligned to your retirement or other goals; in this case, it’s sales goals. That is how you allocate based on the activities highlighted above. What percentage to account management, how much to selling new opportunities, to admin, to training, and oh ya, prospecting.

Time allocationWhich is what got this whole thing started.

I am truly tired of lame sales people using the lame excuse of time management. Whenever I speak to under-performing reps, who only have dust in their pipelines, the number one excuse they give me is time, “oh, I guess I have to do a better job of time management Tibor” Flip off man, that’s just bullshit!

The same reps who give me that line, like I was born yesterday, seem to always find the time to complete their Brackets or football pools, because there is so much riding on those things right? Lame. I bet you don’t feel sorry or compelled to help those who squander their money on foolish things, (I saw you walk by that panhandler), so why should I feel sorry for you when you squander your time.

And don’t give me this “Well I had to get back to a client” or some other lame iteration of “I’m slack”.

Do you let others dictate how you spend your money and on what? Your money, your time, you should determine how it is spent or invested, does your friend or client do the work it takes for you to make your money, do you let others spend your money, why do you let them spend and waste your time?

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

March Sadness0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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

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

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

 

Your Quota Is Not A Plan

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

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

Who is the Villanova in your Pipeline/Base?

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

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

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

brackets tweets

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