big-box-training

A Rep’s Scream For Help0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

While not daily, on a regular basis over the last 12 years I have been called by VP’s of Sales who were extremely disappointed in the training delivered to their team by another provider. (It is entirely possible that some of my former clients have had similar discussions about me; possible, but nah). As you would suspect, there are a range of ways they share their “experiences”. Some politely take it on as their mistake for not having vetted things better; some will show me the material from the previous provider, pointing out what they thought they were going to get, then highlighting where it missed the mark. And then there is the type of people I like to work with, straight to the point no BS, no ambiguity, just the facts as they see them.

So, it was the other day, I was in a boardroom waiting for my appointment to join, before even sitting down, he threw a competitor’s manual on the table and said: “This is a piece of shit, I need you to clean up and save my team.”

After explaining how they went through a selection process landing on a “Big Box” training company; how they agreed on a plan, why the specific training discussed was important. The “Big Box” rep took copious notes, detailing what the client was expecting, why it was important, how it related to challenges and opportunities in their market, and which habits they were looking to influence and change.

big-box-trainingUnfortunately, it was not the sales person who showed up to do the training, but a “Big Box certified independent trainer”. Fully literate in the theory, the learning plan, armed with numerous examples of “when they say this, you say that”; or motivational ditties like “You have to look through the rain to see the rainbow.” The only thing they lack is a minute’s worth of real world selling experience, when asked how to apply “the learning” to a specific scenario a rep presents, they either try to retrofit something that sounds similar, or go to their proven life boat: “Tear down your mental silos, you’ll never get out of the box you’re without a paradigm shift in your sales thinking” In other words “I haven’t got a bloody clue, mate, so I’m gonna put this on you”.

Back at my office, I began to thumb through the pages of the manual the VP gave me, it was apparently left behind by one of the reps. You could relive the experience the rep had that day. Early in the day, the first few pages asking them to commit to improvements, the rep’s choices were in full, clearly written letters, reflecting the willingness of the rep to learn something new. A few pages in, where clichés began to dominate, the rep’s writing began to wither and he was made to write things like: “No, is just the prospect’s way of saying ‘Tell me more’”. By page 73, complete surrender, in listless letters that looked like the last words of a man wondering the desert, in the top margin, two words:

“Help meeeeee”

Needless to say, the owner of the manual is no longer there.  Seems this training was either an exercise in futility or a strange approach to attrition.

Don’t torture your reps, improve them.

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In half Done

Cut Your Training Budget In Half – Double Your ROI0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Training is an interesting concept, at least in sales, as much as most sales leaders or sales ops people bring their own bias and flavour to it. But the one common view and practice the majority share is a “democratic” outlook or bias. Don’t get me wrong, I love democracy, and live in the greatest democracy on earth, Canada, but the reality is that democracy is not for everyone and often does not work, just ask Egyptians.

By democracy in sales training specifically, I am referring to the practice of parading all your sales people in to the same training, the same day. While I get it, I don’t think this is necessarily leads to the best results or return on training investment.

Consciously or not, most leaders rank or tier their teams, usually Top, Mid, and Bottom tier. Clearly indicating that the leader has specific opinions about their team members. No doubt some of this is influenced by what they think of the individual in a subjective way, the key determinant is usually their success record and a measure of their ability. Rather than going with the ole 80/20, for the sake of discussion let’s say that the top tier, top 20% of your team, drives a good chunk of your revenue. The Mid-tier, you know the “good but…” reps, 50% – 55% of the team, contribute. Bringing up the rear, the Bottom tier, that 25% – 30% of the team that really should be managed out.

From a training standpoint, I always tell people that the Top tier will pay for the training, they will come with an open mind, take things on and then put things into practice and drive sales and ROI on the training. Movement in the Mid-tier, will represent the more gains and further return on the training. Leaving the Bottom tier, who mostly show up for the pizza lunch, adding to the cost of your day, but I guess you are already used to carrying them.

So right away, the question needs to be asked “Why are you spending money on the Bottom group? There is only one reason, the democratic approach taken by many organizations, “we need to have everybody go through the training”. No you don’t, if you had other underperforming assets, and you knew the repair would not work or work minimally for a short duration, you would not invest good dollars, you would probably replace the asset.

While some will argue that having the Top and Mid groups together creates cross-pollination, as if skills are transferable by osmosis. But I see it more like putting an average driver in the fast-lane on the Autobahn, sure the average driver may learn something from the aces passing them, but mostly they slow down those who can make the most of the fast lane.

There is enough of a range in the Mid-tier that the top end sellers will have a positive influence on the others, while at same time learning disciplines that will help them move into the top tier. Even when you want to introduce the same skills and concepts to both Top and Mid, it makes sense to deliver them separately.

Starting with the points above, you’ll reduce costs, reduce drag in delivery, and accelerate the behavior change you are looking for. At the same time, you will respect your best people and show in real terms that you not only appreciate them, but recognize and support the difference.

Now for real cost savings, manage the Bottom Tier out, and reinvest in Mid-tier players you can evolve to Top tier. Save on the acquisition cost, and mold them to be where you and them maximize opportunity. BTW, just do it, don’t take it to a vote.

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Training vs. Improving – Sales eXecution 2981

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

iStock_000002705035XSmall

People often confuse training for a bunch of things that may or may not need to be present to achieve what they really want to achieve which is usually, change, and more specifically a change for the better, improvement. But improving, especially in sales, take a whole lot more than just training, and certainly more time than most people consider when it comes to training.

Training is an easy check mark on the KPI card, but improvement requires, planning, effort, and patience. All too many leaders “just train”, and often simply train their sales people to do the same thing, some times better, sometimes not, but “we trained them”. Sort of like an annual tune up on your car.

Training is part of the process, but it starts with planning. What are trying to change, and more importantly to what end. There are some who will do assessments, but then fail to set specific targets or outcomes for the training. “As a result of the assessment and interviews with Trainer X, the goal for this program is to increase pipeline value by X%; or to improve the conversion rates from stage X to stage Y of the process; or to reduce the sales cycle from an average X weeks to, X minus weeks” Or any other objective. To achieve improvement, you not only need to set goals, but benchmarks so you can measure progress, and metrics so you can manage progress.

Speaking of manage, why bother training the front line if you don’t train the managers. Or let’s be more accurate, train those leading your front line to really lead. But training is not enough, as Steve Rosen always reminds me, coaching and leadership is an ongoing process, as is development and lasting improvement for the front line.

As with any other improvement process your company takes on, it need to be planned, “sold” to participants, delivered, and then driven, not just left to “happen”. Sounds simple, I’ll bet a bunch of you reading this are saying, “Of course, why is this guy stating the obvious?” Sure, it’s obvious, but think back to your last training, sales or otherwise.

Unless it is an iterative process with specific goals, it is just a feel good KPI exercise. And don’t be fooled by assessments that capture your unfounded subjective observation that will seem to improve if for no other reason than the fact that you paid attention to it, ticked off on your list, and feel good about the fact that you rep is “now also responding”. The only thing that changes is the reps ability to give the right answer the second time around. Objective measures that lead to improvement, feeling better is not improvement.

There is an old joke in the training business, ask a leader “if you had a 14 year old daughter, would you rather she had sexual education at school, or sexual training.” And everyone feels good about choosing education over training. Go for improvement, the means is secondary.

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

STRATEGIC SELLING – DECEMBER 4TH & 5TH IN TORONTO0

Logo Skillsharp

I have recently partnered with a great organization to deliver some of the core Renbor programs to individuals in a public setting. SkillSharp was developed for the purpose of delivering a wealth of knowledge to Canadians, committed to providing their clients with the best available skills to help them succeed and reach their full potential. They’ve enabled thousands of professionals to find their path and achieve significant milestones throughout all stages of their career.

As part of their ongoing effort, they have invited me to deliver a two-day Strategic Selling program built on The Objective Seller framework. The two days covers the entire client life cycle from lead to close to retention and growth. We cover it all in a student friendly environment designed to assist people in learning as much as they.

The program will be held at the BMO Institute for Learning, on December 4th and 5th. If you are from outside Toronto, there are plenty of quality accommodations nearby.

I invite you explore the curriculum, and join me and your fellow sales professionals for a two day hands-on, interactive and intensive program. Whether you are an individual reps, or a team, this is your opportunity to become The Objective Seller, and put Strategic Selling to work for your pipeline and success.

Feel free to reach out to me should you have questions or visit the course info on the SkillSharp site.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Development vs. Budget Cycles0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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I, like many in my profession have a unique perch when it comes to looking at sales. We are actively selling, and as a result face many of the challenges and opportunities our customers do. But we have two added bonuses that many don’t. First is that we get to see how a host of sales organizations deal with specific aspects of sales, while any one of my customers may know more about how they sell, and why they are good, and what they want to develop, I have the benefit of seeing a range of best practices. I can see what works, what doesn’t, and what almost does and would with a bit of focus and development. Second, I can take the above and continuously synthesise into better methods, better execution and better development.

With that I, and I am sure many of my peers, have come to learn that is that budget cycles and development cycles are rarely in synch. How organizations deal with this is often the difference between great sales companies, and a bunch of also-rans.

Certain habits and changes take more than 12 moths to evolve, sales culture, processes and habits are one, but most companies spend silly time tying one to the other. This time of year, budget and planning time, really highlights that. One company I have been engaged with for some time is an example of how not to do it. They have decided that based on current numbers, they will need to cut budget for 2015, and her words, not mine, “training is on top of the cutting list”. I’m game, I asked, and “what forced you to cut?” You know what they said, lack of sales, “and the pipeline is weak going into Q4.” But she did ask me to call at the end of Q1, “maybe the numbers will improve”. Now I know what you are thinking, but I have been through this before, with them, they tie development to budget, not making the link to the possibilities of going the opposite way, budgeting the development.

By contrast, I have clients who do not want to hear about anything less than a 24 to 36 month plan. Their growth plan is to go form the current revenue $350 million to $1.8 billion, three years. Not unusual to have a three year plan, but they also tie the development plan to three years, along with targets, incentive and what I and my peers bring to the table. Their cost is not greater, it is just amortized, differently. Their development is not governed by budgets, but their budgets are driven by development.

It is funny how the same people look at other assets and are able to spread the cost and return expectations over the life of the asset, but when it comes to training they get hung up. Not training due to budget issues, is like not fueling up the truck due to the same budgetary reasons.

I know some are thinking “it’s different” (isn’t always when it comes to rationalizing) “other assets can’t get up and leave, what happens if I train them and the leave”, and many of you have heard y answer to that before: WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T TRAIN THEM AND THEY STAY?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Join me for The Objective Seller Webinar at 2:00 pm Eastern

Can You Use A Sales Caddy?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Caddy

While Labour Day may be behind us, it is still too early to put the golf clubs away, or to take in a tournament or two on the television. I am not much of a golfer, they have banned me from a number of courses on suspicion that I was there to set the world’s record for size of divot. What is interesting when you watch the pros is their reliance on their direct and extended team, while they may strike the ball alone, their caddy is right there on the battle field, intimately involved in key aspects of the game, and the outcome, be it a win or a loss.

While many sales professionals play golf, they don’t allow that kind of thinking to enter their day to day selling. While they are open to help, input and support on the links, they often turn away from or refuse help on the sales field. They are open to suggestions from their managers, or respected peers, but when the time to “play” comes, they tend to want to go it alone. No what you would expect, given that they carry the revenue responsibility for their companies. The best reason I can think of for this is ego, a necessary but not singular sales skill or trait.

I say this because I remember sitting with a VP of Sales some time ago, he understood he need outside help, felt that we could collaborate, but was reluctant to commit. When I asked why, he said:

VP: “If I bring you in, what does that say about me?”

He is not alone in thinking like this. On a regular basis I hear VP’s say, “Well that’s what they pay me for”, or something to that effect. The same lone wolf superman outlook many of his reps had, they didn’t need anyone telling them how to things, that would be a sign of weakness, not good for the ego; they can continue to bring in 95% of quota on their own, they don’t need help doing that, thank you.

As for the VP, I think that they are paid to drive performance, behaviour and success, I am not sure the intent is for them to do it all, strategy to tactical roll out and execution, hiring the right resources, internal and external, are like closer to the mark.

There is often a sense that if they hadn’t been able to drive a set of behaviours or to get the team to adhere to the sales process, it is a case of the people not getting it; rather than maybe the VP’s skills are vision, strategy, the ability to align that strategy with other internal departments, and buyers, gather a team who understands the strategy and has the means to execute the tactical steps needed to succeed, and make the VP look good, and stroke that ego.

Which is the realization the VP above had when I responded to him:

VP: “If I bring you in, what does that say about me?”

ME: “Well even Tiger Woods has a caddy”

He got it, his ego was able to deal with it, and more importantly the outcome, success, greed, recognition trumped, and in fact feed his ego.

Time you got a caddy!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales Apprenticeship – Sales eXchange 2122

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

apprentice

Sales like any other craft takes practice, evaluation, more practice, repeated coaching, and just when we think we have it down, we need to practice some more; and then things change, which means we get to practice some more.

I recently saw Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, and Mastery, discussing what it takes to become a master at something. One thing he pointed to was the effectiveness of the “apprenticeship” programs developed as far back as the middle ages. Specifically, that the years of apprenticing, the constant practice of the craft, led to the critical number of 10,000 hours of active practice and execution that led to mastering the craft. A concept later popularized by Malcolm Gladwell.  Of course those who truly mastered their craft kept practicing and improving throughout their career, building on the 10,000 hour base, not resting on it.

Consider that in North America, there is an average 1,760 hours of active sales time. Add to that many studies peg the amount of active selling time for B2B reps from a low of 15% to somewhere just under 50%. Going with the 50% range, it means that a committed sales person will take almost 12 years full time selling to hit that 10,000 hour mark.

Given that most sales people are only evaluated by the results, rather than the quality of the effort, it often clouds how effective their apprenticeship is. Often they make quota for reasons other than sales ability, market conditions, weak or easy quotas, and more. Many sales people are unleashed on the buying public well before they are ready to succeed for their clients, companies, and most importantly for themselves.

Add to that many are offered little training or leadership in their formidable years (which again could be their first 12 years on the job). Based on stats, only about half of B2B companies offer formal sales raining, and some that think they are delivering sales training, are in fact focused on product training, or order processing training. You can find other interesting stats by reading Why a Lack of Sales Training is Hurting Your Company–and What to Do About It.

Many sales leaders who don’t hesitate to cuss out the manager of their favourite sports team for being slack on training or practice, will regularly tell me that their people do not require training, “my people have five, ten, 12 years of experience”. When I ask if that is ten years of continuous growth and improvement, or the same year ten times over, I either get a silent look or the door. None of which changes the fact that only about 60% of reps made their quota based on the latest studies. Many of those are repeat achievers, and still employed by the same company. On an individual level, very few sales people will pick up and read a sales book a year, and then put into practice the things they read, next time you are interviewing the next superstar, ask them what the last book they read was.

The great thing about apprenticeship is it was a proactive approach to ensuring one was qualified based on practice and experience and supervised coaching, all leading to the perpetuation of the craft and a flow of qualified craftsman. Something available and mandatory for other mission critical roles in most enterprises in the form of Continuing Education, often tied to licences and keeping their job. A standard that would not be bad for sales either.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

 

 

Interview – Nick Stein, Senior Director of Marketing and Communication at Salesforce.com (#video)2

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Last week I had the opportunity to interview Nick Stein, Senior Director of Marketing and Communication at Salesforce Work.com.  Nick shared a number of insights and best practices around driving success through peak sales performance, and creating a proactive sales culture, all in the same environment that reps and front line sales managers use to drive revenues and day to day sales activities.

We discussed alignment, the importance of consistent and constant sales performance management.  One interesting point Nick discuss was the power and financial pay-off of one on one coaching; with only 10 minutes of 1:1 coaching, reps increase results by 17%, usually the difference between making or missing goal.

Many organization understand the need for sale performance, but now they have a means of delivering in a way integrated with daily sales realities, rather than as a separate process.  The fact remains that knowing and planning don’t always translate to being done, with Salesforce Work.com companies can execute their sales performance management improvement plan, because as with other aspects of sales, it is all about execution – everything else is just talk!

Enjoy, and let us know your reactions and thought:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

Why Are You In Sales? – Sales eXchange 20020

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

200A

At the end of this post I will ask you a specific question that I would love you to answer, and I thank you here in advance.

Two things happened this past week or 10 days that led to this week’s Sales eXchange  being a bit different than the usual, and isn’t that what we always strive to be in sales.  First is the fact that this is the 200th Sales eXchange post, and while I had given it much thought, someone asked if I will be marking the fact in any way.  The person that asked me was a young person at an event I participated in recently. The event was organized to present young people with different options for their life after school.

One of the questions going into the event was “What do you want to be?”  Some had very clear ideas, knowing exactly where they want to go.  One young lady was determined to become a speech pathologist due to a friend she had in grade school.   She structured her high school curriculum to set her up for a path of success in post-secondary school, and to her dream career.  Others stated a number of different career plans, some very specific, marketing, finance, construction, software design, and more.  Others were a bit more general, the young man who asked about the 200th post simply stated business.  As an aside, it seems he had been spying my blog (and others) to glean ideas for his high school business class, at least someone is getting value at an early age. But in the end no one said they wanted to go into sales, not one.

Consider that according to the United States Department of Labor, there just under 14 million people employed in sales as of May 2012 in the USA.  The same department pegs the number of lawyers at under 1 million, and software developers (systems and applications) also under 1 million.  Yet fewer than a handful of institutions offer a degree in selling or sales.

There were a number of kids who talked about becoming lawyers, software developers, doctors, even golf pros, but not one said sales.  Which begs the question that if no one sets out to become a sales professional, where the hell did we all come from?  Are we progressing as a profession, or just a modern day version of post war refugee camps full of people making due while they find their next destination?  Are we a repository of other professions outcasts, with the occasional diamond in the rough?  After all, almost 50% of sellers do not make quota, this would not be tolerated in any other department.

So here is my ask – take a minute and think about where you are in sales as a career, how you got here, how you’re doing.  Then take a minute and in the comment box below, tell me:

Why Are You In Sales?

Tibor Shanto

 

Houston, We Have The Solution!74

On Thursday October 18, The Proactive Prospecting Workshop is coming to Houston, specifically to Four Points by Sheraton Houston Southwest, at 2828 Southwest Freeway, Houston.

If you are in B2B sales, and need to engage with more new prospects, mark this date on your calendar, then sign up for this full day interactive prospecting program.

Whether you are with a small company or large,  veteran or just launching your career, this workshop will give you the fundamentals needed to connect and engage with more qualified buyers.

We leave dogma at the door, this is not about old school vs. new school, this is about executing a proven methodology for prospecting more effectively and filling your pipeline with the quality prospects in the right  quantities.  This is the same program that has helps thousands of sale professionals improve their skills and increase prospects and sales.  Sales professional in dozens of companies are using the methods and process delivered in the Proactive Prospecting Workshop to deliver consistent results.

What you’ll learn…

  • Overcome the fear of cold calling
  • Develop techniques for making successful cold calls
  • Take a proactive role in filling your sales pipeline
  • Write effective e-mails – Leave voice mail messages that get returned
  • Handle Objections – win more  appointments

To learn more about the results sellers have realised just click here to read success studies, or watch what they said after attending the Proactive Prospecting Workshop.

Every New Customer begins as a Prospect!

Start filling your pipeline with Real Prospects!

Learn more at www.proactiveprospecting.com
Sign up today, seating is limited to 100 people!

Early Bird Specials Available – Multi-Attendee offers
ADDED BONUS – 500 FREE leads from LeadFerret.com
The Proactive Prospector’s Guide to Objection Handling Booklet

www.proactiveprospecting.com
Call – (855) 25-SALES

Sign Up Today! And always be confident when asked:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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