SPECIAL EPISODE 011: Proactive Sales Prospecting Expert Tibor Shanto Shares Numerous Strategies You Can Take to Make 2019 Your Most Successful Selling Year Ever
TIBOR’S FINAL TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Let’s focus on time. I think that people squander their time, people tend to think about time as being somewhat fluid and they tend to think of it as having an endless supply, but your quota ends every year so there isn’t an endless supply. There are only so many hours in a year that you could sell, What you do with time will determine your success.”
Tibor Shanto is with Renbor Sales Solutions.
He’s an author of two books you can find on Amazon and is well-known as an expert on sales prospecting.
Many of our listeners have probably read some of his articles and follow him on social media as well.
He was a featured speaker at the Institute for Excellence in Sales in September 2018 and today we’re going to be talking about proactive prospecting.
Find Tibor on LinkedIn!
Fred Diamond: We’re going to talk about proactive prospecting, let’s get started. When’s the best time to call?
Tibor Shanto: Anytime.
Fred Diamond: OK, next question. [Laughs] no, anytime…
Tibor Shanto: I think there’s a myth, people are always trying to find the optimal time and there probably is an optimal time and there probably is an optimal time, but that doesn’t mean that other times are not effective when it comes to filling your pipeline which is what the exercise is about with viable opportunities. I think that anytime is a good time to call, there are some logical barriers and things that you should think about. Often I find that I’m at Starbucks 10 minutes before a meeting or what have you, it’s a good time to make calls.
I think people can also be smart about it because you are getting ready for a meeting, you might be rushed so you may want to call those people who may be somebody that you spoke to 6 months ago and it’s time to see if you can re-engage so it’s not as harsh of a cold call as maybe somebody that you’ve never spoken to, has no awareness or what have you. In that sense I would block different times with different types of calls but anytime is a good time to make a call.
Fred Diamond: How about Saturday morning?
Tibor Shanto: I’ve shared with you before that I used to work with a lady who was a copier rep – they like to say “printing solutions rep” – and she found that a segment of her market, small business people who were generally busy during the week who were not available in conventional hours because they were out of the shops between 8 and 6 and so on, she found she had success with some of them because one told her, “Call me back Saturday morning.” She thought it was a blow-off but to her credit, she followed through and she had a pretty good conversation. She tried that and she looked for others so she made it a habit. During a couple of hours on a Saturday morning she would call a certain type of prospect and she had success.
Fred Diamond: One thing you and I have talked about in the past is the whole notion of the fact that you’re a sales prospector for a company – and again, most people listening to the Sales Game Changers podcast are in B to B or enterprise sales. You’re one person trying to reach a decision maker, talk about what’s going on with that person. We have our objective which is to get an appointment or something to the next stage, but what’s going on in that guy’s or that lady’s world that we need to be conscious of?
Tibor Shanto: If I knew, I would make a million but I have some pretty good ideas. To your point, we set out with our objectives which is fairly valid, we have a quota whether it’s at the contributor level, the manager level, the VP level. We have to deliver to our company, that’s what we’re employed to do so it’s perfectly fair and valid to expect that the person we’re calling also has a set of marching orders whether it’s self-generated or generated for them by their organization. That’s what they’re focused on, they’re not sitting there waiting for Tibor to call and offer them the greatest prospecting program ever. They’re focused on gaining market share, they’re focused on expanding into different geographies, they’re focused on what are they going to do vis-a-vis the new tariffs in their marketplace and things along those lines?
It’s up to me to try to get into that lane with them than to expect them to abandon everything that was important to them before the phone rang and transfer onto me. The analogy I like to use is I used to run – I had an accident then, I don’t anymore. In the winter I used to run in the treadmill downstairs in the basement, so it was easy if the kids wanted to come and talk to be, I’d be in the basement on the treadmill, they had a captive audience for half an hour. When the snow disappeared in the spring, it was a different proposition because if they wanted to talk to me they had to run along with me. It’s the same way with prospectors, if you want to keep up with the person, you have to enter their lane and their direction and get their attention in a way that they see us continuing to support their journey, not mine.
Fred Diamond: Let’s get a little bit deeper there. Let’s say I’m a new sales professional, I’m someone who’s out of school, maybe it’s my first job, maybe it’s my second job. My job is to make 50 phone calls a day to get 5 appointments scheduled for maybe my direct sales team or my account managers, if you will. Let’s talk a little more about really what’s going on when you’re calling. For example, there’s a word you like to use that we are professional interrupters. Talk a little more so that the listeners listening to the Sales Game Changers podcast understand more what that means. How does that show up to the person you’re trying to get on the call?
Tibor Shanto: I think one thing that salespeople need to do is to get out of sales. I’m often asked what book a salesperson or sales organizations should read and I always say tongue-in-cheek after they’ve read mine the next one they should read – but they could start with the other one as well because I think it’s a better primer – but I believe that they should read The 10-Day MBA. It’s difficult for you to talk to a business person who is in a different process and a different head space and as I said before, to bring them into your head space where they see no value initially.
I think by reading The 10-Day MBA you begin to understand what are business people thinking about. If I’m calling a CFO within a mid-sized manufacturer of something, what are they likely to think about? What are the likely hot buttons that they’re likely to respond to, what are the likely clichés that they’re going to hang up on you on or delete your email or whatever the case might be? I think you start with that, what’s the person, what’s their role, what’s their contribution to their company and then how can I impact that in a positive way? That will depend on A, who you’re calling and to a lesser degree what it is that you’re selling.
One thing I get often asked by salespeople, how do I know that? I think the internet exposes all secrets, so if you go to a few association sites and if you look at a role in a particular manufacturing sector and so on, the topics that that association is putting on their website, the keynotes that they’re bringing in to their current conference are likely the topics that their audience is thinking about, because otherwise they wouldn’t spend $1,200 dollars to go and listen to things that are not interesting to them.
Fred Diamond: That’s an interesting point. We’ve done about 150 Sales Game Changer interviews and I’m thrilled to be talking to you today. Again, we’re talking to Tibor Shanto, he’s an expert on sales prospecting. One of the key themes that keeps coming up time and time again is that you need more than ever to truly provide value for the people that you’re talking to. Sales has always been about creating value and demonstrating value, but you need to take it to the next level now because customers can also go to the internet to get information about you and not just your product, but the technologies or solutions that they may need. We talk to people about that all the time, we say, “You need to know not just your customer’s operations and their processes, but the business challenges that they’re faced with.”
Tibor Shanto: This is something that I rail on about and I’m sorry if I do too much, but I think there’s not enough definition in sales. We seem to use these words as though they have no consequences, and you know sticks and stones may break your bones but words will kill your sales. First thing to do is to define what value is. People are going to think it’s funny, but I’ve had this over and over again when I do workshops. I’ll ask 5 salespeople to define value and you end up with 7 different definitions because the first 2 will change their mind based on what the next 3 say. How can you consistently be successful and focused and process-driven when the goal posts are always moving?
What we work with with our clients is to have a clear and actionable definition of value that doesn’t change with the time of day and the weather. You can find it on my website but I’m happy to share it here and I’ll do it nice and slowly, that customers will see value in anything that you bring that helps them overcome hurdles or barriers towards their objectives or solid gaps between where they are and where their objectives are. “We’re looking to penetrate the southwest and we need to do it in this way, but there’s an obstacle.” If I can remove that obstacle, small or big, they’re going to see value.
Visually picture Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, the buyer is on one side of the gorge, the objective is on the other side of the gorge. Can I help them move towards it? Again, I don’t want salespeople to think that they have to leap that buyer to the other side of the cliff but if you can move them incrementally and show some way for them to remove a small obstacle towards their objective, you get more credibility, you get more trust and they’re willing to share more information with you based on that you built the next element of the bridge and you keep building that. Eventually, you get them towards their objectives and if you do it well enough you actually help them formulate their next set of objectives so now you’ve built in the opportunity for you in an ongoing way.
That’s what I work with people and we can break it down further into components, but that’s the broad definition if I can help you get to your objectives. The killer for most salespeople is few people wake up with the objective of buying a product, they wake up with the objective of moving the dial on their business forward and if I don’t talk about that, I’m beat from the start.
Fred Diamond: Tibor, let’s get specific here. Voicemail: should I be using voicemail and how do I optimize voicemail?
Tibor Shanto: I think anybody who doesn’t leave a voicemail should hand in their cards and find another profession because they clearly do not want to succeed and anybody that would like to challenge that. You’ll have my address from the notes, I’m happy to take it on publicly or otherwise. Voicemail is a must, I used to be in the school that didn’t leave voicemail. I used to get calluses on my fingers and I’m old enough to remember the rotary phone, not the push button and calling somebody a hundred times. Even if you diminish your expectations that you’re going to get zero called back, I’m going to argue that there’s still value to voicemail in a couple of different ways. One is it’s a touch point, we all know it’s getting more and more effort to get to a prospect.
Our prospects are busier, they have a lot of different things that they’re dealing with so it’s going to take – and depending on who you listen to – but I would say at least 18 touch points over the course of 3 weeks. These touch points could be a combination of things, from email to voicemail to snail mail to LinkedIn touches and any other means of reaching the individual. Again, associations have fairly good mechanisms for communicating with members and so on. To me, use all mediums available to you including text and snail mail because what you’re trying to do is work your way up on the priority list for that individual. Think about all the things that that individual is having to deal with, and if you can be consistent in your message as to how you can help them achieve their objectives the way that we defined that earlier, then that’s going to continue to resonate with them.
If you leave them a voicemail and you follow that up with an intelligent email and the same day you happen to look at their LinkedIn profile, you don’t necessarily have to ask them to connect but you know LinkedIn will tell you who has looked at your profile, all of the sudden you’re putting three dots out there. What you’re doing is raising your profile in a minor way in the person’s mind and if you continue that in an intelligent and continuous way over the next 3 weeks, you have a much better chance of reaching them. I know people who go longer, I know people who go shorter. You need to find your own equilibrium but I would suggest if you’re doing less than 15 you’re not doing enough.
Fred Diamond: Let’s talk about the call. People ask me all the time what I’ve learned from running the Institute for Excellence in Sales. There’s two main things that I’ve learned, one is again we talked about value, you have to keep giving more and more value, more than ever. Again, that’s the basic core of sales is bringing value to your customer. The other thing people ask me all the time is what’s the most important tool device in the sales process? It’s easily the phone, I believe. Let’s talk about the call itself. Do you say, “Hi, how are you doing? How’s your weekend? Did you catch the game last night?” If I’m a young prospector in my 20’s and I do get through to a director of IT or procurement or finance, someone who’s maybe 20, 30 years older with a lot more experience, is he or she interested in my question about the weekend?
Tibor Shanto: I don’t think they are. The success in the call starts long time before the call, people thinks that’s when it happens but it happens a long time before and I’m assuming that part of your prep for the call is you’re going to check the individual out. I’m not saying do a deep dive on their history and do a thesis on them that will be marked at Harvard, but you do want to look at their LinkedIn profile. You want to do a quick Google search and see what they come up with and so on. If you find that the person is let’s say a Wolverine’s fan, the Michigan Wolverines and something significant happened with the Wolverines. I think if you weave that into the conversation it’s probably a good thing. I wouldn’t start with it, but it’s probably a good thing. I hate the emails I get from people on LinkedIn, they think they know something about me and they go, “Hey, I’m a Jethro Tull fan, too.” Who cares? It has nothing to do with what you’re trying to sell me and you’re probably not scoring points because it doesn’t enter that part of my reality. I don’t think that’s a good thing, I think if you started with a statement that gave you credibility, that spoke to their objectives then I think your age and their age begins to go away because all of the sudden you’re saying something relevant. “This person is talking about something that I was thinking about.”
If you remember Michael Bosworth of Solution Selling, I met him a couple years ago and he’s really into storytelling. You know I don’t need to sell it, I’m hoping you have a podcast somewhere where he talks about how young people can use storytelling as a means of bridging the gap so I’ll let him expand on that because he’s much better. I think in terms of a phone call it starts a lot earlier so how I start the call may be shaped by some information that I find about the person. Again, I wouldn’t call up and say I’m a Wolverine’s fan but if there was some big thing I would make mention of it in the conversation as I’m humanizing things from the cold start to what do you call it.
At the very beginning I want to make it all about them, I think salespeople and sales organizations are too wound up about themselves and they tend to talk about themselves. I spoke to you about how I always find it humorous when somebody calls me and they say, “Hi, it’s Joy here, I’m on the mid-west manager for such and such” and by the time she finishes telling me who she is I’ve hung up because I’ll wait for the movie. Start with what’s in it for them. To go back to what you and I spoke about a few minutes ago, what are the objectives that you based on your experience, based on the work that you did in advance that you think will resonate with this person? It’s not science, you’re going to miss, you’re going to hit and that’s why I say go for like 3.
Over time, if you review why you’re winning deals, why you’re losing deals you begin to realize there are certain objectives either cyclically or otherwise that are going to be current for that person. If you lead with those objectives and how you might have been able to impact them and at the same time provide examples of that that the person can relate to, then you build a level of credibility where the person might say, “I’ll give you 10 more seconds.” Notice I’m not saying, “Where do I sign and where do I buy?” but it’ll be what I’m going for, it’s let’s change this from this choppy, uncomfortable water that we see at the beginning of the call to something that resembles more of a conversation.
Fred Diamond: When I was a marketing consultant before I took over the Institute, whenever I would introduce myself I would always say, “Fred Diamond, DIAMOND Strategic Marketing. I’ve done work for companies like Microsoft and Apple.” How important is that to get credibility, by mentioning some of the big brand, big name companies that you’re working with? I believe customers listen a certain way to that, what are your thoughts?
Tibor Shanto: I think they listen to it in a certain way but you do have to be careful and you have to match like with like. I remember when I was with my last corporate employer and one of the clients that had a lot of success with and I wore it like a badge of honor was one of the big 5 and I’d sold them an enterprise deal. Everybody that I went and spoke to after, I would always lead with this and then I realized the guy just outside of Toronto who has an office in Toronto and maybe one in the northern suburb, he doesn’t relate to one of the big 5.
When I introduce the companies, I like to go for something that’s big that everybody in Canada would recognize or if I’m prospecting in the states everybody in the states would recognize.
Secondly, I’d try and localize it a little bit either vertically or geographically and then if you have the opportunity – and after 15 years in business, I have it – I generally have worked with one of their competitors so I leave that as the third. When I introduce it, I wouldn’t go Microsoft and Apple because either one of those will get you bonus points. You’ve done work with them, you’ve got the halo. Now, I want to bring it down but I also recognize that I might be speaking to maybe a more regional player so I’ll give one of those and then I know that locally they compete with Acme Corp who I may have done business with and I put that in. Then quickly I go to what they realized is the result of dealing with me, not what I’ve provided them.
Fred Diamond: Before we get your final tip, I’ve got time for one more question. This question comes up not infrequently. We’ve had speakers that have written The Challenger Sale, Brent Adamson and Matt Dixon have both appeared on the Institute’s stage before. One of the things that they focus on in the Challenger customer is the fact that you’re not talking to one person. Originally in the book I believe they said 5.4 people on average and they recalculated afterwards and said it was closer to 6 and a half, 7.
You and I know that if you’re selling enterprise technology you have the economic buyer, the financial buyer, back to use those types of trades. For titles, you have director of IT, director of finance, procurement, there could be as many as 6 to 7 people that you’re talking to. If you’re the prospector trying to get into that account, what do you suggest? Should they go pick one and go after that person as well as they can or should they pick 3 and have a trident approach, if you will? What are your thoughts on the best practices knowing that the people listening to the Sales Game Changers podcast are selling into enterprise deals, there’s more than one customer, sometimes as many as 7 people involved in the decision?
Tibor Shanto: Putting aside a lot of the great work that is in the Challenger customer where they go beyond that and they talk about 7 personality types and mobilizers – I would read that book as you’re listening to this interview or maybe one after the other. Putting all that aside which is very important so I’m reluctant to say “putting all that aside” but we do have time constraints. I think that if you look at it, what they’re talking about primarily is creating a consensus.
There is this notion of safety in numbers and I’ve always lived with that safety in numbers. In fact, organizations and some of the best salespeople are the ones who can actually demonstrate that they have access to the bench in their organizations and it’s the same thing within companies. What you want to do is go to those people who can give you access to other people. One of the things again underlying all this is you’ve got to constantly review why you’re winning and why you’re losing.
When you’re looking at why you’re winning, what was the pattern? Who was the one that allowed you to create the biggest opening, was it procurement? Generally not. Was it the economic buyer, what have you? You might see a pattern that when I go and talk to this person first and then I talk to this person, there’s a greater harmony between them and I could use that to then reach the next person. In general if I understand the question correctly I think that you should be calling all your targeted audiences simultaneously tailoring your approach to what their reality is because it’s based on how they view the world as opposed to how you view the world. I would very much let them know that you are talking to those other people because they might feel more inclined to engage if they know that their peers are interested than lone wolf type of thing.
Fred Diamond: Not an end around approach.
Tibor Shanto: No. If you have to, you do an end around but that should be a last resort. You should be at the point where you say, “If I do nothing, I’m dead so I might as well do something because there might be life after that” but that’s at the end of the process, not at the beginning.
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you give us one final thought? One idea, most important thing that people listening to today’s Sales Game Changers podcast around the globe should be implementing, should be thinking about to become better as prospectors?
Tibor Shanto: Just one?
Fred Diamond: Just one, we’ve got time for one.
Tibor Shanto: Since you said we have time for one, let’s focus on time. I think that people squander their time, people tend to think about time as being somewhat fluid and they tend to think of it as having an endless supply and it sort of does, but your quota ends every year so there isn’t an endless supply. There are only so many hours in a year that you could sell, so 1,760 is the number. 220 days, 8 hours a day, that’s your face time. What you do with that will determine your success. Again, use these terms very deliberately, how you spend that time, how you invest that time, what expectations for return you set for that time will dictate how you use that time.