Businessman on rock mountain with idea bulb

3 Reason to Establish and Mine The Gap – Part II0

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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3 Reason to Establish and Mine The Gap – Part I0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sales people are always trying to create urgency, or figure out how they can accelerate a decision. The conventional approach has been to either focus on a “pain point” the buyer may want to solve with haste. The other conventional strategy is to have the client agree to a needs analysis, and leverage the outcome based on that analysis. The beauty of the latter is that no matter what the inputs, in some miraculous way, the output always pints to your product or offering.

We can talk about the merits or efficacy of these methods, they work not because of the skills of the seller, but as a result of the state of the buyer. Specifically, they either have a pain and set out to address it on their own; or realise that their current state is not optimal, hence their willingness to participate in needs analysis. But what about those who are neither in pain, and see their current state as being “satisfied”? Those buyers who respond, “we’re good”, or “we’re all set”, or similar responses. that’s where you have to work The Gap.

To start, this is not about objection handling in the context of cold call, for that click here. This is where you specifically target potential prospects who are “satisfied” in a way that allows them to understand that there are viable alternatives to their chosen path that they are not aware of or have ignored for any number of reasons. In other words, those who are not aware of any gaps in their current state.

Mine the gapThe GAP

The best way to have a prospect understand the “gap” in their current state is not to have them look in the past as many sellers do, or at their current state; people will naturally defend what they have done and what they are doing when their state is “satisfied”. Your only option is to take them into the future, then walk them back to the present to have them experience where a Gap you see exists, but they to date have not. Here is a simple and reusable example, it is somewhat general, if you would like to have it tailored to your vertical or target group, get in touch.

Seller: I am curious VP Jane, if we were sitting here 18 months from now, and you were telling me the team had hit a grand slam, what would that look like?

At this point you have to sit back and let the person talk, this may sound obvious, but I live in the real world. You have to be patient, it takes some people a couple of sentences to really get to it. You may have to help them by asking them to elaborate, expand, etc. But once they get going, once they buy into the fact that they can articulate their view for the future, i.e. their objectives, you will be amazed at the future state they paint.

What I find 95% of the time, is that “18 months from now” doesn’t look anything like “now”. Which allows you to ask the next question:

Seller: That’s a great view VP Jane, so help me understand why we are not there now?

The answer to that is the Gaps they see between where they are and where they say they actually want to be. Among the things they will lay out in their response (with help from you), will be the Gaps you can Mine to develop the opportunity.

To do this right you will need to do some work, understanding what are some common objectives similar people have had, which of those gaps they were willing to invest in, and which were only aspirational. But most importantly, you will need to be able to leverage how you have helped others “fill the Gap”, achieve their objectives, and the impacts you delivered to their business as a result. To be honest, this is not easy at first, you have to fly without product or brochure, and rely strictly on skill, knowledge, and the ability to transform that knowledge to actionable insights for your buyers. Once you can do that, you’ll be able to Mine those Gaps, and deliver sales success.

Beyond the example above, come back Thursday, and we’ll look at some ways to effectively Mine The Gap.

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Clouds in shape of question marks

Answers Are Only As Good As The Question0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Communication, which at the core selling/buying is, will always be a mutual exercise, which why monologues work well in theater, but not in delivering revenue or quota. As such, a bit of forethought and focusing on how you’ll choreograph the sales are important. Which is why it is that much more noticeable to all, including buyers, when the effort is just not there in how sellers choose to engage and carry on a sales interview or conversation.

“I may make you feel but I can’t make you think”

Sellers need to put more effort into planning their interactions with prospects than many do. This needs to be on two levels, first the areas or topics they choose focus on, second the kind of questions they ask. Sellers forget that their prospect is talking to a range of people about the purchase they are about to make. If the questions I ask, the areas I choose to explore and drill down on, are no different than the three or four or eight other vendors they are speaking with, then the selection and decision will go back to the same old, usually the lowest common denominator, moderated by price (the lowest price).

Areas of Focus – Too often too many sellers start from the erroneous assumption that their buyer has their act together, know exactly what they want, and all that is left is to pick a product. That is a false premise, and as such leads to longer sales cycles and missed sales. While anecdotally we always knew that buyers are not as together as they sometimes appear, or sellers believe, the data is now in. Some will see this as good news, allowing them as sellers to bring more value to the conversation by helping buyers in ways much more meaningful than features and price. Sellers have the benefit of having worked with many buyers with similar experiences, allowing the perceptive ones to see themselves not as product reps, but conduits to others’ experiences, good and bad. The value they can bring is in helping buyers better understand what they are dealing with, and their best option, not options, in addressing those specifics.

Even if a prospect has advanced past the stage of deciding what they want to do and how, sellers benefit from starting “back” there, before moving to asking questions about how they plan to address things, i.e. product. Retracing a little, will show them as being different, and will also help the seller understand the buyer’s thought process, which may allow for more unique input, and to demonstrate they are different and truly “buyer centric”, by not jumping to product right away.

What we Ask – The kind of question go a long are key. You have to assume that you are the fifth sales person they spoke to that day; how will you make a different impression than the four who went before you?

If you ask the same as them, what will they base their selection on? If you reinforce perceptions rather than challenge them, are you not telling the buyer to base it on price and emotion?  Your questions are not just about the response, they need to get them to think, think beyond where they are now, and where the other sellers have taken them.

If they can answer your question without thinking, you’re in trouble! But many sellers I meet are afraid of asking questions that put the prospect on the spot. Remember the goal here is not to embarrass the prospect, but to help  them really think through the issue before they commit, whether they commit to you or another. I worked with one sales pundit who felt asking the prospect “Why” questions were not cricket as it may stump the buyer. Well if you can “stump” the buyer, it is evidence that they have not thought things through, and you are doing them a favour.

Getting an answer is easy, getting an answer that moves the process forward in a way that helps buyers is not. Which why the answers can only be as good or productive as the questions.

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Lipstick. Great Variety of Women's Lips. Set of Mouths

Difference Is In the Eyes Of The Prospect8

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

There is a lot of talk about differentiation in sales, whether that is at the product level, sales technique level or other factors. Some difference is good, some goes a bit far, unfortunately most of seems to fall short. The main reason is that most vendors and sellers spend time and effort to differentiate themselves from other products, companies, or sales people. As with other miscues in sales, the problem is that most of the effort excludes the only element that counts, the buyer.

Buying and selling are very subjective experiences. While there are reams of tools and means for capturing requirements, allowing buyers to better understand what will help them achieve their objectives, presenting a clear and objective process, there is a range of undercurrents that allows a lot of subjectivity to creep in to the decision. Who among us has not lost a deal where the we were a perfect fit based on requirements. Or conversely won a deal, where on the face of things we were deficient and less cost effective than an alternative. The reason is simple and human, people are very subjective, (and buyers are people), and as such will make decisions using more than just logic, leading to the reality that difference, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder.

While many may not like it, but one advantage to having multiple decision makers or stakeholders in the deal, is that it can naturalize subjectivity, allowing us to better present and leverage real differences we may have. I say we may have, because most leading products have very few real differences, especially in the eyes of buyers. What some vendors think is really different, may not be that important to the market, which is likely why the others have avoided it. With “sameness” rampant in products, the other difference is how you sell, and by extension your sales process. The challenge here is that most people sell in a very similar way, leading to only superficial differences that even the least experienced buyer can see through.

Once you accept that difference is in the eye of the prospect, and not something you can ram down their throat or post on a billboard, you can then switch your approach to understanding how they see themselves and their reality as being different than others they are looking at. Let’s be clear, it may not always be true that what the buyers are looking for is all that different than their neighbor’s, but, we are dealing with buyer perception, not necessarily reality as we see it.

The only option is to have the prospect articulate what they see as being different. And while most sellers will tell you that they are doing that, when observed in action, they are still very much anchored to their product, and features they feel are “solutions” for the buyer’s “pain”. Presentations are geared to highlighting the “vendor’s difference”, rather than the difference the buyer is trying to achieve in their business. Presentations limit our ability to get the prospect to help us differentiate ourselves, mostly because they are centered around the product, and things we believe we are “solving”, that in turn make us different.

Especially early in a cycle, leave you your product, presentations, preconceptions in the car; go in armed only with questions that will help you uncover the buyer’s objectives, and impacts they are looking to deliver to their business. This sounds easy, and is often met by “we’re already doing that”, until we examine the questions many sellers ask, and the reality of some first and early meetings. Remember that the “difference” starts long before you engage, so how you engage, and what happens at your first encounter is key. You may think your PowerPoint is different, but it is still PowerPoint.

If you stay focused on the impacts and outcomes, you will start to establish a difference. When you get the prospect to share their objective, avoid the instinct to map those back to your product. First, drill down on those objectives, why those, how will that change their business, what are related risks, and more. This will allow you to demonstrate your Subject Matter Expertise, and help the prospect validate their direction and means of getting there. If that direction and means are less than optimal, help the buyer reorient their thinking, reorient their direction and path. Now that’s different, especially in a world where sellers are not experts, and seek the safety of “the customer is always right” over pushing back, getting the buyer to see things differently, help them down an alternate path to alternate results. (Easy Kellyanne, it’s just sales). When prospects start their journey, they are more focused on the end than the means, which is why your product, solution, or whatever, is not that important in the early stage.

With difference being in the eye of the prospect, the more we take ourselves and our product out of the early phases of the sales, the more different a prospect will see us; the more we can make them think instead of listen, the greater the difference in experience, leading to different experience and results for both the buyer and the seller.

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

Time – To Let Go0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hunting for dollars

Walk’a Proud!2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Question Direction

Questioning The Path You Are On0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

The fate of an unscheduled call to a prospect, a cold call, is determined in the first few seconds of a call, one can argue even before that. By before that, I mean the hundreds if not thousands of practice calls the prospect has had to hone their craft and perfect their means of blowing us off. One can argue that the callers, the sales people have also had the opportunity to practice; true, but there is practice with a goal and purpose in mind. For example, the prospect, has the singular purpose of blowing the interruption, and every call they get is an opportunity to practice, unless the caller does something different.

Unfortunately, sales people make it easy by conforming to basic elements of calls that accelerate the outcome, allowing the prospect to get back to what they were doing, and the seller to be frustrated, and use it as an excuse to reaffirm their belief that cold calling does not work. The solution, is changing the way one makes the call. Unless we change the path or direction of the call, we risk falling into a familiar pattern that the prospect has practiced hundreds/thousands of time. Given that sales people do not like to practice, review the “game tapes” and make adjustments, the prospect will always have an upper hand.

Everything counts, right from the first breath, which means it has to be counter to expectations, especially those of the prospect at the other end. Starting with a rambling introduction about your company, and who you are, is just setting yourself up for failure. I mean really, does it make a difference to the prospect that you are the Mid-Atlantic Key Account Executive? I am sure your wife or mother or both are really proud. You know what the prospect thinks, “Add another title and notch to my belt.” As I have said before start with the outcomes first, outcomes tied to their objectives, and impacts you have delivered for others with similar objectives. Start with the ending, the outcome, the impact they will see in reaching their objectives, and those impacts on their business. It’s even worse when it comes to handling objections.

Most think that handling objections is somewhat like a tennis match, the prospect lobs their objection over the net, and we have to lob it back. No! If you want to change the path and direction of the call, the objection, then you need to not fall into the pattern set by the prospect to accelerate the end of the call.

Question DirectionInstead of just lobbing back a response to their objection, keep it, and throw back a question instead. In the above tennis example the prospect is in control of the flow, and therefore the outcome. One way to wrestle control away, and more importantly change the path or direction of the call is to ask a question. Questions demand answers, there is no law that they have to answer, but condition, especially social conditioning tends to kick in, and they will answer. Questions get people to think, when their mind is racing to get past the call, a good question related to something they were thinking about before the call, like their objectives, will get them to slow down, focus, and usually provide an answer.

We call these Impact Questions, for two reasons. One is that most are closed-ended, so we needed to do some rebranding. More importantly is that because they relate to specific impacts on their business, they have a direct impact on the prospecting call.

It is important to remember that what we are working with here are dynamics, including flow and momentum. You need to fine tune your listening skills, not for words, but all the other things going on in the call, think of it as nuance. When you ask a good question, not every prospect will answer the same way, giving you an opening to ask for engagement. But they will all pause, a momentary break as they digest the question, and process that indeed it does relate to them, and not just another walking brouchure on the phone.

Impact Questions, strategically place in a prospecting call, as part of the intro, as part of the reason to meet, and certainly as part of the taking away objections, will help you change the direction of a call, a sales meeting. If you find yourself on a path leading to a brick wall, use Impact Questions to change the direction, the outcome, and the health of your pipeline.

We’ll be looking at some specific use of Impact Questions, and objections in the monthly edition the Pipeline, sign up here.

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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