woman-in-office-looks-out-window 800

What If I Hadn’t Called?0

By Tibor Shanto

As most of you know I am a regular proponent of making cold calling part of your prospecting mix.  Beyond the logic of expanding your tool kit to include all things that lead to engagement, how you engage with your prospects will very much inform and shape the conversation you have with prospects.   The dynamics of an inbound call are very different than those on a call that interrupts and disrupts their day, and their current direction.

When I cold call someone, and get the appointment, I have an advantage over others.  Namely, the prospect has clearly indicated that they have an interest in the areas I raised in the initial cold call, but unlike those “57% of the journey buyers”, they haven’t started down a path.  This allows me, as the subject matter expert, to explore in a much more proactive fashion than with a buyer who comes to me with preconceptions and a “product” they are looking for already in mind.  Cold callers end up selling to a much more curious, and open-minded buyer.

Read on…

Hey – We’re moving

Yes, all the same great content and more!
Our new home: www.TiborShanto.com. We’ll still keep things here for a while, but this same great post is also available at

www.TiborShanto.com

woman-in-office-looks-out-window 800
Disapproval thumbs down by a male executive.

3 Reasons Your Prospecting Messaging Fail0

By Tibor Shanto

Last week another social warrior decided to take to the soap box, and tell us why cold calling is dead, and for him and his followers, it may be, but it can still play a role in your sales and prospecting success.  As is my nature, I took issue with their thinking, but as I read my post, I realized that I had glossed over a key point.  Specifically, that many in sales blame the medium, in this case the phone, rather than the message.  Based on the hundreds of companies I have worked with, I can tell you that when your message sucks, the medium will not make up for it.

Here three things that will cause your approach to fail, no matter the medium.

Important Qualifier:  The areas discussed below pertain to prospecting those people who are generally considered Status Quo, happy where they’re at, not looking for, thinking of, or can even spell the word change.  These are not buyers who are out there looking, consuming content almost at the rate we crack it out, they’ve been to your webinars, and lined up to be “scanned” at a trade show.  We’re looking at Status – don’t bother me – Quo.

Read on…

Hey – We’re moving

Yes, all the same great content and more!
Our new home: www.TiborShanto.com. We’ll still keep things here for a while, but this same great post is also available at

www.TiborShanto.com

Hope dispare 800

Change Their Direction – Not Their Mind0

By Tibor Shanto

No one likes objections when prospecting, rejection in any form is never fun, but when it cost you money and opportunity, it’s even worse. If you are in sales, you need to quickly figure out how to best deal with objections in a way that leads to more opportunities.  Some choose to hide from it, using things like e-mail, where the rejection is less direct, in the form of no response, to the first or 15th attempt; personally, I prefer to deal with objections to lack of engagement or silence, mostly because they need to be dealt with, the question is how.  Most people deal with the wrong element of objects, and in the wrong way to boot.

First, and the hardest, is not taking things personally.  This is hard when you are invested in your in your success, your product, and your company.  Add to that the Kool Aide you’ve been made to consume before they wound you up and sent you out to conquer, and it can be devastating when someone your convinced is the perfect profile or “persona”, dismisses you, your message, and your new improved never before seen disruptive thingamajig, without even a second of consideration.

Read on…

Hey – We’re moving

Yes, all the same great content and more!
Our new home: www.TiborShanto.com. We’ll still keep things here for a while, but this same great post is also available at

www.TiborShanto.com

Hope dispare 800
Child in calss

You Don’t Have To Answer0

By Tibor Shanto

It seems many in sales feel the best way to show how smart they are, is to have all the answers at the ready, and feel compelled to bark an answer as soon as the prospect asks, sometimes even before.  I would suggest that even when you know the answer, no element of doubt, offering it up like a candy dispenser, will not lead to the prospect thinking you are smart by virtue of knowing answer, and certainly does not guarantee the deal.

I know some will be hard to convince, but you need to look at questions and answers as props in a play, where the plot and theme are centred around the prospect, their objectives, and things they are looking to, or more often, willing to change.  So, while being right is great for grade 8 English test, it may move the dial the wrong way in a given deal.

Just as the questions you ask are designed to create a learning experience for both buyer and seller, and allow you to take the meeting in certain directions, so do answers.

Too Soon

Prospects will in their own way prepare for meetings as well, and when they are focused on addressing something, they want to get to that point, just like sellers want to get to their point.  As experienced sellers will tell you, that facts and reality are sometimes best doled out in bits and pieces, and these are tied to the buyer’s state of readiness.  This is not so important if you are selling products to “informed” and predictable buyers looking for what they bought last time, and neither you or the buyer are inclined to change, learn or improve.

But if your success is based on helping buyers achieve a future state, one different than their current state, one that represents change, or as they think of it as “risk”, then it will likely involve educating and motivating that buyer.  There is a reason they call it a journey, it allows the buyer to evolve on the way to the destination.

Our role as sellers is to ensure the buyers gain an understanding of the specifics at hand.  Individual buyers we deal with, are part of a group of buyers, often with varying opinions and wish lists.  This means they need to both understand and explain the change you are proposing to others in the process, meaning that a “just in time” approach to answers will likely serve you better than spewing facts.

Child in calssNot Every Question Deserves An Answer

That’s right, there is no law that says that all questions have to be answered immediately, or at all.  Sometimes buyers ask questions not purely out of a need for an answer, but for example, as a way of thinking out loud.  Based experience, you know that certain question show a state of unreadiness on the part of the buyer.  Answering the question, now or too soon, may confirm some wrong assumptions, or limit your ability to explore areas later; another good reason to review all opportunities, won, lost or “no decision”.

There is also the opportunity to demonstrate your organization’s “deep bench”.  You can introduce experts and specialist to respond.  Setting that meeting will allow you to surface and involve others in the process, by setting up a meeting to introduce your expert(s) to their team.  It also allows you to ensure that they form relationships with those in a better position to ensure success after the signature.  Something that if it came to you, would cause you to not “sell”, and delays in resolving the clients issues.

Knowing the answer is one things, what makes you an expert seller, not a product or fact expert, is how you use and dispense the answers in a way that drives the buyer’s and you objectives.

Hey – We’re moving

Yes, all the same great content and more!
Our new home: www.TiborShanto.com
We’ll still keep things here for a while, but this same great post is also available at
www.TiborShanto.com/blog

Come and visit, see what’s new!

kristopher-drowning ad

When In Doubt – Err on The Side Of More!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

I find too many sales people, despite the image they may project, are way too conservative in their approach to selling.  While this may not be a pronounced issue for those tasked with managing or servicing current accounts, with the only expectation being “organic” growth.

What is organic growth any way, is that like growth we would have gotten even without any help from the account manager, or is the level of growth achieved even with the meddling of account managers?  Sounds like we are paying someone for something that would have happened, well, organically.  Sorry, back to the issue at hand.

When we focus in on those tasked with finding new clients, new revenue streams, etc., it is striking how few are willing to go the distance to succeed.  With few exceptions, in this case exceptions that validate the reality, most sales people tend to not go hard enough, far enough, and broad enough to win all the opportunities they can.

Part of these goes back to the “relationship” mindset many sellers still adhere to.  Don’t get me wrong, relationships are important.  In fact, so important, that it is naïve to believe that we can have meaningful relationships in the same short timeframes that sales cycles take to unfold.

There has been a lot written about the importance of “getting in early”, whether that is the time to follow up to a download, to reacting to a trigger like say personnel change.  Just as there is evidence to suggest that “last man/woman/child standing”, is more likely to succeed.  Clearly those who enter the fray early, has a better opportunity to set the agenda, and direction for discovery.  Just as it is easy to understand why the rep who manages to extend the engagement long after others give up, is more like to win the deal, and move the dial on the “relationship” front.  But there is a lot of opportunity between those two, often overlooked, or more accurately avoided by many.

The refrain is a familiar one, they don’t want to pester the prospect.  The assumption there is that prospect know exactly what they want, need, or imagine, and interfering could have negative impacts, “I’ll just be on ‘available’, and ready if the prospect needs anything.”  The big flaw in this is that prospects are more confused and overwhelmed than ever, leading to buying cycles that are often twice as long as anticipated, a factor often left out of ROI calculations, if you implement six months later than planned, there are real current and future costs that need to be taken into account.

Couple this with buyers’ reluctance to engage with another smiling beige vanilla seller, more focused on making a friend than a difference to their business, and you have a situation where being confident, assertive and laser focused on delivering impacts, not product, gives you the opportunity to rise above.

kristopher-drowning adI have had more than one executive tell me that they routinely ignore the first three or four approaches by sellers, knowing that most will A) give up too soon; B) wait too long between touch points to be noticed.

We have all had one, but probably both of the following experiences:

  1. You hold off, you don’t want to “pester them”, and when your manager put enough pressure on you to call, you find they made their decision a few weeks back
  2. You push beyond your social comfort zone, believing you can truly help a prospect, and you make that extra call, a call many other lesser sellers would call a Hail Mary, only to be warmly received by the buyer, soon to be client.

Look at your own world, and ask how many times you went back to something when prompted by an outside source.  I know that when i bought insurance a few years back, I went with the one reps who stayed with me, not on me, but with me, and was present when the time to buy came, all because he erred on the side of more, rather than the side of giving up to soon.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

Young Woman Traveler Journey Concept

Confusing Journey With Destination0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

I spent the weekend with some friends who were planning an overseas vacation next spring.  This is something they have wanted to do for some time, they have been saving up money, vacation days, and sacrificed in other ways, in order to make the trip everything they wanted.  You can sense the energy of anticipation that is going into every element of the planning, and ensuring that the trip lives up to everything they imagined and more.

When speaking to them about the trip, they talk about the unique destinations they plan to visit, food they plan to try, experiences they hope will live up to or exceed expectations.  What was striking is that over the course of the hour or so we talked about their trip, the subject how they were getting to where they were going did not come up.  There was actually one point where they talked about have to traverse a winding mountain side road, but again the focus was not the means of travel, but the experience and life changing experiences and memories.

There is a subtle lesson for sellers in the above example.  Namely that people are much more focused on the outcomes and experiences than how they got to those experiences; simply stated, most people are much more focused on the end than the means.  It is accurate to say that for most business people, as long as the means are ethical and legal, what counts is the outcome.

While it has been a positive that many sellers now spend time and effort on understanding the “buyer’s journey”, there is a risk in relating to the journey strictly through our own filters and needs as sellers, and over emphasising how “our product” is right for the journey.  Sellers need to do a better job of focusing on the outcomes, and the possibilities they deliver for the buyer, rather than the features of our “solution”, how it addresses one or two elements of the journey, while ignoring and confusing what the buyer set out to accomplish on their journey, with the “how” of traveling the journey.

You can look at this in the following way.  We do an exercise with reps of all skills, experience, and offerings.  We ask them a simple question: “what do you sell?”  With all the talk about being customer centric, and being driven by the buyer’s journey, the most typical answers we get, actually contradict their stated intent.  80% of the responses to that question talk to deliverables.  “We sell software”, “we sell hardware, solutions, integration, systems, trucking services, etc.”  All good, all accurate, and for the most part miss speaking to the buyer’s journey.

Buyers set out to buy results, outcomes, specific changes in their business.  This is as true for commodities as it is for so called “complex solutions”.  Look around within your company or even department.  When was the last time you heard your VP of Sales, “I wanna buy me a piece of software that will process leads based on an algorithm designed to….”  No, it is more likely they will talk about the impact that app would have on their pipeline, conversion rates, leading to increased revenues, margins, cash-flows, impact on funding, etc.

Just like my friends, they are more focused on the destination and the experience of that, not the journey.  While in some aspect of life it is more about the journey than the destination, in sales success is measured by the destination.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

pumpkin

Get Your Pumpkin Spiced Leads0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Yes, boys and girls, tomorrow being Halloween, it is the last day to get your Pumpkin Spiced Leads, come November 1, Starbuck rolls out their Christmas and Chanukah cups, and it’s all downhill from there.

Now I know you’re thinking that Shanto has gone mad, but I plead innocent.  In fact, I am just trying to fit in, using the Queens English in the most bizarre way to make a point, a point heavy on drama and embellishment, while short on meaning or accuracy. The wild nature of some of these statements, not only make them difficult to believe, but brings into question the credibility of those making them.    

I recently witnessed an “influencer” from a leading social platform, stand on stage, in front of thousands of sales professionals and leaders, and with a straight face, in fact with great conviction, exclaimed how “a change of job status, is an ‘insight’!”  Insight, seriously? Well you know, English is my third language, so let’s consult the experts.

The capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.
“this paper is alive with sympathetic insight into Shakespeare”
‘his mind soared to previously unattainable heights of insight’

Consider that most people do not update their LinkedIn profile as soon as they accept the letter of offer, indeed, depending where you choose to look, people will wait 90 days or more before updating their LinkedIn profile, some suggest even longer.  Seems to me, that would qualify more as history, than insight, and well short of actionable insight.  But that’s the reality of “insight” becoming fashionable, rather than practical.  Any self-respecting B2B seller, targeting that individual would have known much sooner than 3 months, in fact probably would have capitalized on it, rather than waiting.

While I do appreciate the need for “drama” in selling, and the facts that certain words will embellish the message and make it more effective, there is a cost to overdoing it.  Not only in as much as it makes the message hard to swallow, but that when words are over used, people tend to start ignoring the rest of the sentence, and by extension the message.

I had a call last week from an enthusiastic rep, eager to introduce me to his company’s new and “disruptive” technology that will “change the way I present to prospects and buyers”  Hmm, disruptive, here is the definition I go with:

“Disruptive innovation is a term in the field of business administration which refers to an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products, and alliances.”

Customized snail mail is not “disruptive”, and by the way, nor is it “awesome”.

pumpkinAs usual, it is easy to blame the front-line seller, but someone put this poor soul up to this.  Those who did put him up to it, include people like me, the experts, and their managers.  We need to be careful about the words we use, and encourage sellers we work with choose.  I recently saw comments pile up on a well-known sales talking head’s video.  In it, in an effort to add some drama to the message, they expressed themselves in a way that to many undermined the message.  A fellow sales advisor commented:

“I believe that his message is relevant and needs to be repeated.
However, his delivery might put off some people.
The two phrases that triggered my BS meter were “I hear this all the time” and his claim about “99.9%” (and I stopped listening after that)
What does “all the time” mean?
Where did you get your stat of “99.9%”? Unfortunately, too many speakers (and sales people) quote unproven stats and throw out vague claims.”

To which another reader offered the following:

Here is the formula for calculating 99.9% of the time
For each observation (x) the deviation (d) from the mean () is x – .
Therefore d2 = (x – )2
Expanding this equation, we get: d2 = x2 – 2x. + ( )2
To obtain the sum of squares of the deviations, we sum both sides of this equation (the capital letter sigma, S = sum of):
Sd2 = Sx2 – 2Sx +S 2
From this equation we can derive the following important equation for the sum of squares, Sd2.
Then we find the sample variance and sample standard deviation:
And there it is …. mumbo jumbo presto chango 99.9% of the time.
Does that make sense?

As you think bout your message, ask yourself which word will cause your prospect to stop listening, and reach for their Pumpkin Spiced Latte?

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

Old TV

I Don’t See What You Mean0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Some may remember the first video/song ever played on MTV, was The Buggles

Old TVVideo Killed the Radio Star.  The message was clear, we are visual creature, and prefer a visual presentation over other means. This is why some singers who were great at singing and expressing themselves via vinyl or CD struggled to make the transition to video, while others, who were so so when it came to singing, but had a great presence and could “please” the screen.  Where once lyrics and delivery determined the success of the performer, now it was down to visuals, at the cost of all else.

Close Yet Far

It seems that telephone prospecting and selling are experiencing a similar thing but in reverse, and with added risk.

As more and more of the sale goes virtual, the less we have the opportunity to leverage one of our greatest strength as people and communicators, namely the visual. While opinions may vary slightly, most experts agree that somewhere between 75% – 90% of communication is non-verbal; and the vast majority of that is body language, intonation and vocal quality and characteristics.  All good things when it comes to face to face selling, not so good for those who now need to sell without ever seeing their counterparts.

I know that many who use systems like Zoom or join.me, will say that they have and encourage the use of videos to enhance the experience, most still seem to just see these technologies as extensions of PowerPoint, and even when the video is turned on, it is less than the face to face experience.

This is why focusing on the message and the medium, as many do, still leaves gaps in their approach.  It Is important to also ensure that we compensate for the lack of immediacy and direct visual contact; and I don’t mean just talking louder.

Stepping Back

Starting with the basics of slowing down the pace and deepening your voice, and then going beyond.  You need to also focus on your intonation, what you put an emphasis on, where you place your gaps, silence between thoughts, words, and concepts, pronunciations and more.  Words count too, but not in the way many are looking for, the perfect or secret set of words that unlock the kingdom. More in using words that fit with the buyers’ expectations, words that they would use to describe the scenario, not words your company came up with to “differentiate”. Remember if they don’t understand you, they won’t understand what you sell, or why they should buy.

There are also words that work better in direct conversation that lack impact on the phone, and the other way around.  Given the ease with which calls and web meetings can be captured these days, it is worth exploring how different ways of presenting things change the sales based on the words used, when and in combination with e=what other things.

Often what counts is what you don’t say. One way to ensure engagement in a remote scenario is to create opportunities for the prospect to ask questions. As a subject matter expert, you should be in a position to know which elements to lead with, and which to leave to the end, and which to leave to the prospect to ask. This is one way to encourage the flow missing in remote selling situations, that is quite natural when two people are sitting face to face.

By using your 360 Degree Deal View, you will be able to understand what some of the key moments in a good sales call, understand what is enhanced by the virtual setting, and what is diminished, and create a flow for each type of sales meeting.  Once you have that, then comes the hardest part for many sellers, practice.

Taking it back to radio, those actors who were successful in radio drama, think Orson Wells, knew they had to make up for the lack of visuals in order to deliver a drama that worked on radio without a single visual aid.  While video may have killed the radio star, don’t let the web meeting kill your sale.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

Apple in calss

Educate To Sell0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

I was in the audience for a panel looking at sales, and the future of sales (yes, another). What made this a wee bit more interesting is they actually had some buyers on the panel, bringing a level of reality often absent from such affairs. One CEO made a comment that at first seems basic, but when expanded on his experience, it was easy to see why we as sellers think we are doing something, the buyer completely misses, or misinterprets.

He spoke of how he measures a good meeting, a simple measure, but as he says often not achieved by sellers. He feels that is a meeting with a sales person makes him think, look at something in a tangibly different way as a result of the meeting with the rep, and best of all, if he learned something new. If the seller was able to challenge some of his assumptions, and preconceptions, it often led to one or more of the above measures. He was asked if he had heard of the Challenger Sale, and if those were the type of sellers he was looking to work with? He said he was aware of the book, and as he said he has had “the pleasure of participating in meetings where sales professional challenged in the way the book spells out, and others, where the sales people just play point-counterpoint, the only challenge there is making it through the meeting.”

Many in sales will agree that it is the role of a seller to educate their buyer, the question is how that is done. Think back to school, who were the best teachers, the ones that made you think, reconsider your view, and help you take on new concepts and practices? While there is a Madison Ave image of the teacher, a lecturer dispensing information and lessons. These are the ones where you sat in class and asked if it was on the test, if so you retained it, if not, why take up storage space.

However, most people remember those teachers who left a lasting mark or impression; more importantly, taught them how to think about a scenario or situation, in a way that leads to analysis and understanding. These educators, the best educators, start with engagement. Engagement is more than just being present, many executives sit through meeting, nod politely, but not be engaged. No engagement = no understanding = no purchase.

Apple in calssTo engage, you have to get them to think, as Gerald Bostock told us, “I may make you feel, but I can’t make you think”. Getting them to think takes questions, planned, scripted questions based on experience, and expertise. The right questions interrupt a racing mind; while they may be in the room, most busy buyers are thinking about the next meeting, or the one after that. Good strategic questions, based on your 360 Deal View work, keep the buyer present, and open to ideas they would miss when drifting in though. At the same time, as Dorothy Leeds explains in her The 7 Powers of Questions: Secrets to Successful Communication in Life and at Work, questions get people to think, and that’s always good, especially these days.

Evidence of engagement is when they are not just willing to share info, but crucial information about gaps in their thinking, and how they can address the issues you are exploring with them. Meeting that advance the buyer’s knowledge, also advance their confidence, and willingness to buy something other than what they thought at the start of the meeting. We have all been to meetings where there was a lot of information exchanged, but no one left any smarter, or more willing to buy. As with most good education, it has a purpose and a destination, so should your sales meetings.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

App Vending Machine Buy Apps Shopping Download

3 Reasons ‘Choice’ is Killing Your Pipeline0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Most people think they like choice, they think, contrary to practical experience, that choice empowers them, giving them “control”, and a sense of being in charge of their own destiny.  The reality is often different, and giving prospects choices can have unanticipated consequences.  While there are some pros and cons, there are three reasons you should not give choices, especially where you don’t have to, and you’re just doing it because you ran out of ideas.  So, in no specific order or importance here are three reasons not to provide choice.

Less Revenue

Less Revenue – I have heard from many that they give a choice of product, and related cost, as a means of helping the customer feel less pressure, and the opportunity to not go with the highest priced option.  I have had professional sales people tell me they give three choices, because they know that most will go for the middle tier.

I have a client that sell components, by far his best product is the middle of the three he presents clients.  Most clients love it, and give off “buying signals” indicating they will go for option B, till pricing comes up, when and most revert to the lower priced component.  When we changed the approach to presenting the best option, one price, one decision, much easier to make than three.  Quicker sales, more revenues, no unhappy customers.

Authority

Authority – One reason the above works so well, is that his sales people now are presenting themselves as subject matter experts.  They first spend time understanding what the prospect is trying to achieve and then present the right option.  Usually it is the former middle choice, but the reps often present the lower and higher cost point alternatives, based on what they uncover during discovery.

As a subject matter authority, you build the right to make a recommendation based on your expertise, experience, and support of the company.  Imagine if you went to an expert for help, a doctor, and after they talk to you, examine you, and share their prognoses, and then offered you three options.  Would you not look to them as the expert, to make a recommendation, it should not be like going to a restaurant, given a menu, and pick you cure.  One of the upsides of conducting a good discovery, is along the way you are earning the credibility to make a recommendation; I guess when you don’t have that credibility, you reach for the menu – look out for the sales bots, they’ll do it better.

Inability To Choose

Inability To Choose – We have all been in situations where given three or four choices, we ended up leaving with none.  This is not limited to impulse buying or something not having importance.  While not all, the reality is that many of the deals that end in no-decision, do so because the buyer could not make a choice, and ‘abandoning’ was the easiest option, of course had we not started them down the ‘option’ path, they may have found it easy to say yes to one thing, recommended by an expert at a rational price.

A friend expressed it best when speaking about having his car worked on.  He hates having to choose which type of oil he should pick when he has his car service, or choosing winter tires.  He is typical of the first example.  He is convinced that the highest priced tires are overpriced, with extras he feels he does not need.  He doesn’t want to be that guy that opts for the cheapest, after all his daughter often drives the car.  So, he goes for the middle, but here is the rub.  He never feels good, always second guessing, which makes the purchase much more dramatic and stressful than need be.  As he says “if the mechanic would just tell me what I need, why, and which one best does the job, I’d buy that one, even if it was the top of the line.  But when I have to make a choice, I’m never quite sure about the choice, and I just don’t feel good about it.

Choice is yours, want to make you buyer feel good about dealing with you, don’t make it about price, make it about them, and your ability to recommend and deliver on the best “solution” for them.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

wordpress stat