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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Night view of rail tracks in depot, Kiev

Changing Your Path To #Prospecting #Success2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

No one says telephone prospecting is easy, which is why I am always puzzled as to why many sales people make it even more difficult than it already is. Many don’t set out to sabotage themselves, some are not even aware they are doing it, and many are just sadly following the advice of pundits who talk about but don’t actually telephone prospect. What many are doing is ignoring some basics communication realities that in a sales situation cannot and should not be ignored.

Over 90% of sales conversations are started or initiated by the seller, this goes to 100% of telephone prospecting calls, especially cold calls. So how we start the call will very much dictate the flow of the call, and even the reaction of the prospect. Start things the right way and you improve your odds, start the wrong way, and you dig a hole that will be hard to get out of. How you start a cold call matters, that’s why scripts are important.

While everyone agrees that the first few seconds of a call are crucial to the success of the call, most still chose to squander those precious seconds.

Most recipients of cold calls start down a path, in most cases that path is headed to them blowing us off and getting back to work. Our job is to either set them on a different path, or change the path they started down, if not, the conclusion is clear, no prospect, (they are back doing what they were before we interrupted), no opportunity, frustration, and time we will never recover, gone. This mainly happens because we play into the expectation of the prospects, instead of challenging those expectations.

Having listened to thousands of real world calls, most calls start by telling the prospect who is calling, and in its worst form this includes the callers title, and some self-serving statement about their employer: Hi, my name is George Handoff, I am the Mid-Atlantic Account Manager with ACME Corp. a Fortune 500 company and leading manufacturer of Sprocket Valves.” Who cares, what does that tell someone you have interrupted in the middle of their day? Do you really expect them to get excited about any of that? This is usually followed by highlighting the types of problems you have “solutions” for. No, that’s not the sound of them hanging up, it is their head hitting the disengage button as they fall asleep listening to all that, the ones that stay awake, just blow you off.

Given the fact that only about 3 of 10 people you call will recognize the problem, and only one of those three are willing to act now. The other seven could care less because they don’t see themselves in the picture, and your opening statement sets them down the path of “Who cares, I need to go back to work, good bye.”

To set them on a different path, why not start the call by highlighting what things look like after your product is in place. Lead with the outcomes! How many more units did you help someone produce in the same or less time; how did you improve their cash-flow; how much did you help increase market share, or how many of their target prospects did you help them land, how many more appointments did your prospects have as a result of your work, and what was the increase in pipeline value? Those are interesting opening that set the conversation on a path they not only can relate to, but want to achieve as well.

It’s not a big change, but one where you are presenting your capabilities via specific outcomes and impacts your clients had and were able to achieve as a result of your offering. That’s a path worth exploring, one they are thinking about, but no one is calling about, especially those waiting to be found.

The only reason many will tell you that cold calling sucks is because of the results they are getting. But rather than giving up on the cold call, they should give up on their approach, and try a path that has an ending of interest to prospects, be they Looking or Status Quo.

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a-different-fish

Pain Leads To No Gain In Prospecting!0

A few weeks ago, I posted a piece titled “No Pain – No Game?”, playing off the old weight exercise motto. In case you didn’t bother rushing to read the piece, it suggests that if you can only sell to buyers who have a self-declared pain or need, you will be in trouble, as 70% of the market, the Status Quo, is immune to the pain argument.

But there is a further reason why reliance on pain for sales success could in fact be painful (in the form of missing quota, not making enough commission to buy your girlfriend or kids the winter solstice gift they really want).

Many successful business people, especially small business owners and entrepreneurs have a different outlook than the average sales person or corporate employee. Because they are not cocooned in the comfort of corporate safety, with a few given responsibilities. They know it will not be easy, it will not be 9 to 5, it will not be a straight line to success, they don’t get a weekly paycheck or a Friday Beer Lunch while they are “waiting to make things work”, like many sales people who fail to deliver quota. They know to succeed they will need to face some challenges and adversities. They are the business living version of “No Pain – No Gain”.

a-different-fishSuccessful business people are more stoked by the possibilities long term success brings to let a few temporary, often expected setbacks occur. They have heard all the negatives, potential risks, financial ruins, and still decided to push ahead, commit money, time resources, and sweat to realizing their dream and vision. They have planned for roadblocks and detours, you pointing them out is just boring to them. Unless, you can show them how you will help them realize their vision for their business, for them as individuals, you will be chewed up and spit out, all in a very social way. Given their drive, do you really think a little pain is going to stop them? Or do you think they want someone who can help them work past the pain. The business athlete knows how to work through pain to get the results the average person does not. Even senior people within corporate settings have demonstrated characteristics that have allowed them to distinguish themselves from the also-rans.

The people heading up organizations, entrepreneurs and serial small business owners are not your usual breed, they have different filters, they work hard play hard, win hard, they’re not in business to socialize, they do that after they achieve their objectives. So, if you fail to take that difference into account, and fail to adjust for that, because you have been selling to middle management or users, and that will not work when you are dealing with someone who not only has the vision, but more importantly the balls to act, and do things that most others clearly have difficulty doing or lack the will and/or knowhow to do. The pain and headwind that may scare some, is an expectation for many of your buyers, focusing on pain, rather than objectives, and how you specifically can help them achieve them, will lead to more pain for you than these buyers are willing to deal with, because they know what is beyond that, and that’s what they want to talk about.

Serial entrepreneurs are serial sales winners, and winners know that there is an element of fact to “No Pain No Gain”, a smart seller focuses on the gain, not the pain. Click To Tweet

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Two IT spceialists working with a computer

Do Buyers Care?4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Last week I posted a piece on LinkedIn, based on discussions at CEB’s Sales & Marketing Thought Leader Roundtable this past August, titled “Why Do We Need Sales?”, Exploring the relationship between marketing and sales, and how it needs to evolve and change with relation to the markets they serve. The response on LinkedIn was positive, with the exception of one person who missed the concept of “metaphor” (you always need one to prove the rule). One response, from Leanne Hoagland-Smith, got me thinking about the issue from a different perspective.

Lee, pointed out that “97.7% of all US businesses having under 20 employees, marketing is truly part of the overall sales process.” That perspective is leads to a different question:

Does all this naval gazing and philosophising about sales and marketing role, contributions, hand-offs, and all the sleepless nights spent pondering the nuanced difference between account based marketing/selling vs. key account selling/marketing.

Picking up from Lee’s comment, it is probably true that a vast majority if not all those 97.7% don’t have the luxury of having two people for the roles, and more likely that the person in charge of sales and marketing is usually wearing a host of other functional hats. I am betting that they don’t set time aside to consider the fine points of the discussion. It is safe to say that that these companies, especially for the 23 million businesses that are “nonemployer businesses”, that they need sales, because without them they’d go bankrupt.

Perhaps the next question should be what do we need sales to do? Why? Because it seems that of the things that prevent sales in small companies, are similar to those things that get in the way in big companies. Sure, there are factors that are unique to big companies, unnecessary complexity created by their own companies vs. the market. You would think then if that barrier was removed, as it is in small companies (unless the owner’s nephew attended a social selling webinar), you would see an improvement in how they sell, but there isn’t. Bringing us back to execution.

The biggest barrier to sales success is not sales people’s inability or willingness to sing Kumbaya with their marketing cousins, it is their inability to execute those things that have to be done to win the deal. Which is an interesting parallel.

You often read about small business owners or entrepreneurs and the actions they are willing to take, often going over and above, to build their businesses and to compete with the big boys, even global players. As you explore it a bit further, what you can conclude is that one of the reasons small businesses succeed, is they don’t waste time worrying about things that don’t contribute, and spend their time doing everything they can to win. The lack of roles, and inability to pass the buck and duck accountability, leaves them with one choice, getting it done.

It would be interesting to get the buyer’s view on this, I suspect they would base their experience on the title on a business card, and more on the quality of the engagement, independent of whether it was sales, marketing, or the garage guard.

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Handsome businessman opening gift box over gray background

Prospects Object Less To What They Want0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

In the past I, have highlighted how many sellers are limiting if not sabotaging their opportunities while telephone prospecting. The main reason for that is that they are approaching things from a deficit, they are casting a small and porous net, one that only captures a small set of buyers, those with a defined need. This would work great if a large segment of the market had needs they were willing to act on, but the reality is that most potential prospects do not. And that is where a lot of sellers get confused, and struggle to effectively connect with those potential prospects who don’t have or recognise a need.

When it comes to prospecting, especially phone prospecting, looking for need will kill your success. Many who do have the need are looking to get past it and are looking for someone with a vision beyond. While those without a recognized need, will just object to the call, leave those looking for need or selling solutions rejected and dejected. The vicious circle of events that gives cold calling a bad name.

But what would happen if you cold called and led with outcomes built around the prospect’s wants rather than needs?

So, if you’re going to be interrupted, what would you be more receptive to:

  1. Hearing about how this unknown entity can satisfy a need you do not have or recognize?
  2. Or how they may help you get to somewhere you want to get to?

For most (honest) people it is the latter. Yet most sales people, encouraged by their managers and a hoard of pundits, default to the former. Yet it is this same group of sellers and pundits who will tell you that cold calling doesn’t work, just witness the rejection level.

Rejection in prospecting is a result of two factors. One you can’t do much about, and that is the fact that you are interrupting an already busy day, and they want to eliminate the interruption and get back to work. Second, the interruption is all about a need they do not have or recognize. Often they don’t recognize it because it is all about needs described in marketing speak by a nervous fast talking squeaky voice.

Interrupting is not as bad as some would tell you, the same people who go on about interrupting with a call, embrace the concept of “disruption” just to be cool. Let’s call a spade a spade and get past that excuse for not properly prospecting. So now we are down to message.

Speak to something they want to do, and all of a sudden this interruption can be seen as insight. It demonstrates an understanding of where the prospect is, and where they want to go, and what they want at the end of that journey. Speak to their wants, they may still may not like the fact that they were interrupted, but the message around wants and impacts, is a bit compelling. Handle the objections head on with how you have helped others like them achieve their wants, and the objection is like an invitation for more details, possibilities, and engagement.

How do you know what their wants are, what they want to achieve, the impacts they seek? Just look at your past pipeline opportunities. Not just the wins, but the losses and those that are stuck in the limbo of no decision. All this is in your CRM, assuming you are using it the way it should be used. Forget ABM, focus on the individual and what they want, they will not object to any of that.

Believe me, you need to change your prospecting approach if you want to succeed in selling to the whole market.

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Failure of a businessman due to economic crisis

No Pain – No Game?5

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Despite all the tools available, both for sales people to execute their craft, and for companies to “enable” them, the narrative for many in sales has remained woefully unchanged over the last thirty years. Sure the delivery methods have changed, the means of engagement have evolved beyond where we could have imagined 10 years ago, yet what most sales people say once they engaged has one can argue, devolved. One can buy into the argument that sales technology, with all its capabilities, has made great sales people better, an A seller an A+; but it has also made the average seller, less than average, robotic and predictable; B sellers to B-, and C sellers to U, for useless. While it is easy to point at sales people, the pundits have to take credit, or blame.

The narrative we seem to be stuck in in sales is all about pain, all around need. Ask any group of sellers what they want to know about a new prospect, and the vast majority will say they want to know the prospect’s “pain”, or “pain point”; they want to know the buyer’s need(s); what their problem(s) are or about to have. Makes sense, who doesn’t want to reap the benefits presented by lower hanging fruit, easy to pluck, one can say that it can be plucked by almost anyone, with little talent or skill. I even hear managers dispatching their people back to a prospect with the clear command of “find their pain point and sell them, or at least make it forecastable.”

This all works well if your quota can be covered entirely by prospects with pain; and not just this year, but next and the one after, etc. What you are betting on is that pains, needs and problems will grow at a faster pace than your quota. When I ask sales people if they can exceed quota with just the pained and injured, and most say no. You would think given that fact only a small percentage of a given market recognizes or admits to pain, you are faced with a choice. You can update your skills, and I don’t mean your technology or app skills, but sales skills; a path chosen by some companies and sales professionals.

The other choice is easier, doesn’t always fill the gap, but chosen by many. It is exemplified by a conversation I have shared in the past, that I had with a former leader from an IT consulting and services firm. Unsolicited he decided to share his view on selling:

“My job is to find the soft underbelly of the beast (read prospect), stab it, and then offer up the cure.”

I am not suggesting that is what sales people set out to do, but when I hear that they are looking for the they “pain point” so they can push on it, I can only imagine the fat smiling face of the fellow above.

It is time to elevate your skills so you can sell to the whole market, not just the weakest of the herd, yet not weak enough to pinch a few more dollars off your price, sometimes to the point where it leaves you and your company’s margin in pain. You can socialize pain, you can spin needs, but to really sell, to anyone in your market, not just the lame and suffering, you need to develop some sales skills, and elevate your game.

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cloud-stack

How Productive Is Your Sales Stack?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

supporting-seller-burden

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

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

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

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

cost-of-burden

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

burden-model

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

the-enemy-within

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

simplify

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

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

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Senior businessman being shocked after receiving bad news on cell phone, sitting at office desk behind alarm clock showing five minutes to twelve.

Stop Sabotaging Your Prospecting0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

We have all heard the expression that people make decisions based on emotion, then spend time rationalizing the decision. This interplay between our primal instinct and our later developed intellect, impacts sales success in other key ways. Our beliefs on a primal level have greater influence than we often realize, and despite our intellect and education, our beliefs will either limit us, or empower us beyond what many give them credit for.

Take telephone prospecting, yes cold calling, certainly a real and often emotional thing for all involved.  There are as many opinions out there about cold calling as there are minutes in a day.  Yet whether it works, or not, has less to do with technique and the times we live in.  It instead comes down to your beliefs and the actions those beliefs lead to, or more typically, actions they prevent.  And just like actions having consequences, in sales, especially lack of action, has greater consequences.

This leads to the question of which beliefs are interfering with your sales success, and can be recalibrated to change your beliefs, thoughts and actions.

One of my core beliefs, supported by real world experience, and empirical data, is that my customers benefit in very specific ways when they follow my programs.  They regularly achieve objectives they set out to accomplish, and realize direct impact on their business.  I am conduit to best practices, and as a result, can help prospects even before they commit to my programs.  This allows me to pick up the phone, and call someone I have not met, but have the confidence that I can help.

Now if you don’t have that core belief, the belief that you can help your clients, you are going to have difficulty prospecting, which equals difficulty selling.  Even though I am a professional interrupter, realizing that I am disrupting the prospects day, I both know and believe that the ultimate positive impact I will have on their sales team, will greatly outweigh the interruption.

What’s interesting is why people lack the belief that they can help their prospects.  Some tell me they sell a commodity, and as a result it is all down to price.  I get it, it is not easy, but you and I both know that there are people out there prospecting in your hen house and winning the business without dropping their price or pants.   What they have going for them is their focus on the outcomes they deliver, not how they deliver them.  This allows you to concentrate the message, avoid talking about yourself, and quickly have the prospect focus on the issue not the product.  The prospectors we turn out never talk about products, who their company is, or any of that intellectually rooted messaging, it is all about outcomes.

Start by going back and having straight conversations with your clients, ask them why they continue to deal with you, and then listen, and not selectively.  What you’ll find is that even if it is a commodity, door nails, is that price is not in the top three reasons, usually not in the top five.  Seems to me, those three things that keep them with you, but are not price, should be the things you lead a cold call with, even before talking about your company.  Frankly dear, no one cares that you are the Mid-West account rep for a Fortune 500 company, well maybe your mother, but no prospect, go to the outcomes.

It will take a few interviews with clients, and with people where you lost, or they did not take a decision.  But over time you will not only understand what you should focus on in prospecting calls, but as you get traction, you will confirm your ability to help people and change your beliefs to a healthier and more rewarding set of beliefs.

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pearl

Prospecting For Pearls2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Regardless of what some might tell you, there are elements of sales that are quite organic, and as a result there are lessons we can take from nature. One is that not all things that lead to real value start smoothly or simply, but as the process unfolds, the end result can be both a thing of beauty and value. That’s one way I like to look at prospecting, specifically telephone prospecting, yes cold calling.

I like to think of a cold call, the very start of an engagement with a prospect, as being very much like the start of the process in the making of a pearl. There is no denying that the pearl starts out as an irritant, an intrusion from the outside; but then over time, ongoing interaction, things develop, and where the end result is a thing of beauty and value.

Let’s be straight, I am not suggesting that you set out to irritate anyone intentionally, but at times you may not have a choice if you are going to help and win new customers. This is especially so with prospect who are removed from the market, the Status Quo, who left to their own, are not actively engaged in or thinking about buying anything, beyond “social” reach; this is usually in excess of 70% of you target market. These prospects, who are not self-declared buyers, may perceive the initial approach as a nuisance or aggravation.

I get it, cold calls are irritating, even cold calls that executed well; but I would also argue, not for the reason most think and fear. Sure bad calls are bad no matter what, but when done right, the reality is that we are making the prospect face things they have been able to ignore and burry, and avoid dealing with. They know what they have is not just far from not perfect, but not even close to ideal. It is just that they have decided that “the pain of the same is less that the pain of the change”. Initiating that change, the catalyst that leads to action, not just denying or ignoring the issue, may not be pleasant to start.

Those who a) understand that, and b) understand how they will manage the buyer experience, have the greatest success in telephone prospecting. To be successful at cold calls you need to be able to talk to outcomes and changes that will benefit the buyer and deliver the business impacts they are looking to achieve. This starts with understanding what outcomes you have been able to others in similar roles, in similar type of environments.

If you call a small fleet operator and initiate the call peaking about pains and needs they have not acknowledged, your fate is sealed before the first ring. Yet this is what most sales people and pundits go for: pains, needs, problems, (solutions), efficiencies, and all the things that prospects have turned a deaf ear to for years. Instead, you can call and speak to how you can help them get more service calls in a given day, or how you can help them extend the life of their vehicles, and improve their return on assets, or how you can help them reduce fuel costs while allowing them to wear a “green” halo. These are things not tied to pain, but to outcomes, things people are always thinking about, and more willing to hear more about.

The best sellers understand that part of their job description is “disruptive marketing”, which includes the willingness and ability to take an interruption to a conversation, an irritating grain of sand to a pearl.

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There Is No App For That0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

There is no doubt that we have more tools to choose from in sales than ever.  Making things more interesting are the number of tools and apps available to buyers, and the direct impact that has had on sellers and their craft.  One can argue that the gains available to buyers have more than negated any advantages sellers gained with their adoption of technologies, leaving sellers no further ahead.  Witness the dreadful stats around the number of people in sales making quota, and the even sadder state of affairs when it comes to saas reps and quota.

Technology has definitely stream lined some sales processes, and has automated many tasks that unnecessarily consumed sellers time and energy.  One would think as a result sales productivity would have gained., but clearly not the case.  While we can talk about how and why there has been no or little gain in productivity, the bottom line remains that while we do things “more efficiently”, do them “faster”, and have greater visibility than ever into what is happening; just one thing, there is not that much more happening than before.

Many of the apps have ended up doing things that many reps just refuse to do, even when they have to be done to succeed, or menial tasks, that expensive professional resource are too valuable to have do.  But this concept only works if the freed up time and resources are reapplied to higher value activities which they are not.

Where apps and even social selling cannot help you with is that last inch, that moment where buyer and seller engage, that human to human connection.  In case of commodity sales, be that consumables, toner, nails, IT components, and more, where developments in IoT and other areas, make it easy, in fact more efficient for buyers to leverage tech and apps to keep things humming.  The Amazon Dash Button, will quickly eliminate “sales people” (Well, order takers, social, but no longer required).   This is why it is not surprising that Forrester forecasts 1 million US B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce by 2020, accounting for 20% of the B2B sales force.  Fear not, because someone still has to sell that first button, and for that they’ll need a sales person.

Don’t get me wrong, automation is key, but in most instances, it just levels the playing field, any advantage you are going to have will still come down to how you sell, not how you automate.  For example, I have a client who was able to triple the number of outbound dials by introducing a power dialer, and as a result doubled the number of conversations, and number of conversions to opportunities.  Impressive, but nothing their competitors couldn’t replicate with a similar number of dollars.  The real pay-off was in the investment in the last inch, how his reps handled the call to actually increase the percentage of conversions.  This led to a 30% increase in conversions, leading to a combined impact of 200% increase in engaged opportunities.

Ah, the human factor, there is no app for that.

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