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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT: Leadership, “Interview with Tibor Shanto - Career Lessons and Tips for Salespeople”
May 19, 2017 | Canadian Professional Sales Association, Leadership Series lock
Tim:
Having the right attributes and characteristics are very important for a sales role. Having the experience is also very important. Experience will come in time, but what about the skills and tools? As a young sales professional, how can you make sure you are getting the best training possible to maximize your potential success in a sales career?

We are very fortunate to have with us Tibor Shanto as our guest. Tibor is the Chief Sales Officer at Renbor Sales Solutions, a sales trainer, well-known speaker, and B2B prospecting and sales execution specialist. Tibor specializes in B2B companies that deliver professional development for sales professionals. He aims to help professionals better execute their sales process with a focus on new client and revenue acquisition. Tibor has worked with hundreds of companies and thousands of reps, helping them understand that success in sales is all about execution and everything else is just talk. Tibor, welcome to the CPSA Leadership Podcast Series.

Tibor Shanto:
Thank you very much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Tim:
Tibor, could you share with our listeners your career story, your career path, and why you wanted to pursue a career in sales?

Tibor Shanto:
I’m happy to share my career path, but I think it might be erroneous to say that I pursued a career in sales. It might be more accurate to say that sales pursued me and finally, I succumbed, but I didn’t start off in sales. Back in the ‘80s, I was … I wouldn’t quite call it an entrepreneur, but I had my hands in a couple of things, a winter business and a summer business.

At the time, somebody gave me a tip on a stock which I did quite well in, and then when they gave me the next tip on a stock, I of course followed through, but as you know with tips, it went entirely the other way, and I not only gave back what I won in the first trade, but a little bit more. It occurred to me that there’s more to this than meets the eye and taking tips from a buddy, so I looked into what it takes to get involved in the securities market here in Canada.

At the time, in order to get your licensing, you had to be sponsored by a firm that was registered with one of the regulatory bodies. Of course, the only entry-level positions with some of these firms was around sales, so that was my first contact with sales, and then eventually, I ended up actually with a bank where sales wasn’t really that big until, if you’ll recall, the regulations changed in Canada in ’87, and all of a sudden, the banks were allowed to get into securities and selling the securities became a challenge.

Since they saw my resume that I had something to do with sales in the past, I was tapped for that. That’s how slowly I began to realize that there was some fun to be had selling. There’s a certain creative element to it. Even though I didn’t actively for a couple of years pursue things around sales, most of the jobs that I got involved in had an element of sales. Eventually, in the early part of the ‘90s, I threw up my hands and said, “Okay. Let me go sell.”

Even then early on, I remember my wife keeps reminding me that there was one assessment of me done that suggests that I wouldn’t do good in sales, so I guess it was like the pollsters earlier this week in the election, but anyways. That’s how I got into sales, and then eventually, I ended up working for Dow Jones and through various positions, and changes, and so on.

At one time, I ended up with a position where training came under my portfolio. By that time, I was living in the States. When I decided to move back to Toronto, somebody suggested that perhaps, I could continue what I had done internally, extend it, and start a business which I did in 2004, and that’s what I’ve been doing since is professional development for professional salespeople, almost exclusively B2B salespeople.

Tim:
Thank you for sharing that with us. Because this series is targeted towards the younger sales professionals or those that are considering pursuing a career in sales, can you tell us, in your experience, what are some of the challenges that someone might face when starting or early stages of their sales career?

Tibor Shanto:
I think the challenge is sales is a discipline game. There’s a lot of debates out there. Sales is not a numbers game. Sales is not this, and there’s a lot of … Especially with the rise of social media, people are trying to take sales again out of its roots which is a discipline practice. As such, you need to have discipline which means understanding how you allocate and invest your time, understand what’s important and what’s not, and then most importantly, understand that it’s a discipline game that very much involves other people. In which case, there’s a whole bunch of subjectivity that you have to cut through.

I think that the more methodical, more disciplined you are early in your career, the more likely you are to develop the habits that will help you throughout your career. You could see examples of this with people who when they first come into sales or they get a sales job with a new company, they spend a lot of time prospecting and doing the basics because they got to go from zero to some level of productivity, and then they begin to go off that discipline.

They believe that they could live off their base, and the first manifestation is that they begin to put up with less of an income or maybe a flattening income. Eventually, as they get into their 40’s and early 50’s as they live off their base, they just get less, and less, and less because they haven’t gone back to the basic roots.

I think that if early on, they’re lucky enough to have a manager who is truly committed to developing them as opposed to just getting them up to ramp so they could produce, then they could implement those disciplines and continue them the rest of their career. If they don’t have that manager, there’s plenty of good books out there that they could use to model and build that … For lack of a better word, a foundation that they’ll always be in a position to build from as opposed to just exist of.

Tim:
I watched an interview with you recently just earlier in the week, and you were talking about the importance of the attributes and characteristics of a great sales leader or great salesperson. Can you share with us what you feel makes a successful leader in sales?

Tibor Shanto:
I think a successful leader in sales has to recognize that their job is leading, and you know the expression I like to us is, “Lead from the front as opposed to behind the desk.” Leadership, whether it’s in sales, or whether it’s in the military, or politics, or sports, or any endeavor, is different than being a practitioner. It helps if you have a good understanding, but if you look at some of the leaders, some of the great coaches and leaders in hockey, often, they weren’t the best players when they were playing the game and vice versa.

If we look at Wayne Gretzky who’s … Nobody would argue about his abilities and career as a hockey player. He struggled as a coach. I think part of it is that a lot of people who get into a leadership role, A, they get into it for entirely the wrong reasons. Usually, they’re promoted as an element of attaboy, and the assumption is that they were successful as a salesperson, they’ll certainly be successful in the next rung in the ladder, and that’s not always the case. There needs to be … I don’t know. From my own point of view, I needed some grounding and education to help make the transition from being a contributor to being a leader.

Being a leader is … Again, partly, it’s instilling the discipline, so we work with our clients around their managers and so on. We focus a lot on helping them set expectations, but then, the biggest chunk of their job is helping their people achieve those expectations and coaching them to be able to execute the skills that will lead them to continue a success.

If, Tim, you were selling on the same team as I was, we probably have different capabilities, so the coaching that you would get might be a little bit different than the coaching that I get, but the model, and the flow, and the consistency of it would be similar. I think the other attribute that I would give that I think a leader needs to have if they’re going to be successful is they really need to put the interest of their teams and individuals on their teams ahead of their own because I think the only way their own self interests are going to be served is if everybody beneath them wins in their own game.

Tim:
You know as well as anyone, maybe better than the most, that training and professional development are important in anyone’s career and their development.

Tibor Shanto:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tim:
Tell us a little bit about what type of training and development would you suggest for the young professional starting in sales or considering a career in sales.

Tibor Shanto:
Two paths. I think the mistake that some companies make is they train new people who come on board. Let’s say, young people who come on board. There’s disproportionate amount of information on the product as opposed to how clients might use the product or what ultimate impact those products or services would have on the client’s business, and that winds up the young salesperson to go out.

They’re going to be a walking brochure because they can’t relate and talk to the business person that they’re talking to in none of the other terms than they were taught, and they were trained on the product because product training is important or so I’m told because every product is so complex, but I don’t think that it is, and I think that the complexity could easily be shielded if they actually focused on what’s that product going to do for the client. How is that going to change the client’s reality in a given example or in an ongoing basis?

I think the other part of it because we are dealing with people, it’s really again that basic … How do you communicate with people on a basic level so you can actually get your thoughts across and as importantly, you can actually understand what your prospect is telling both very obviously and between the lines?

I think that what I would do is almost map out their career over a period of a year if that’s what … Let’s say, as an average of your company to ramp up, and really lay out a 12-month plan and almost use the just-in-time approach. The other mistake I see inflicted on a lot of young salespeople is everything is thrown at them in their first week or two weeks, so they get brought into Toronto or some other major center, and for a week, they’re indoctrinated. I mean that literally into the company’s inner stuff, whereas most of the money comes from the outer stuff, so they’re throwing everything.

I think that if you look at what a career path or what a development path would look like for a salesperson and figure out, “Okay. What do they need to succeed in the first month? What do they need to succeed in the second month?” and just lay that out for them, and map your development and training along those lines. If somebody is developing quicker, you can always accelerate it, but at least you don’t run the risk of overloading them, and confusing them, and forcing them to be walking brochures.

I think I have the advantage of age. I know some might say that it’s just being old, but I’ll say I have the advantage of age. I remember in “the old days,” the ‘70s and ‘80s where if you started for a company of any note, you would spend a long time in a development program. I had a friend who worked for IBM, and he said he wasn’t allowed to go see a client alone for the first 18 months. He was always in some sort of program, mentoring, shadowing, and all that, so by the time he was let loose, he was ready in every aspect of the word.

Whereas now, especially where younger people are likely to get sales jobs, it’s a churn and burn. That’s why they never develop the basic habits. I think that I would really step back much like you would understand what a prospect’s buying habits are, what this decision process is in things along those lines, and then map out a sales flow based on that. I would do the same type of thing and use those, that same flow to figure out, “What does Johnny need to be successful this month? What will Johnny need to be successful next month? Just so I don’t accuse of being a chauvinist, what does Jill need to be successful in the third month?”

Tim:
You touched on a couple very interesting things there, and one of them being close to my profession as an HR professional is that it’s not necessarily the … what training are you getting, but you made it very clear. It’s how much and when, and that’s …

Tibor Shanto:
Consistency.

Tim:
Yeah, and that’s I think very important too especially if you’re new to an organization is that on-boarding process and that … Of course, a lot of that emphasis lays with the … important themselves. How are they developing their on-boarding process? The new incumbent in a role needs to also speak about that as well is what they’re looking for. I know too from my experience that none job-specific training can also be very valuable, things that augment or supplement and support your role. What training or development courses did you find throughout your career that were not specifically sales-oriented that you found valuable?

Tibor Shanto:
Things to do with business. At the end of the day, salespeople are, for the most part, and especially one ideal with like B2B, right? We’re selling to business people. Some of them are business owners. Some of them are senior executives. 

Tim:
Right.

Tibor Shanto:
None of those people … If I’m going to talk to a VP of sales or if somebody in the software business is going to go and talk to somebody in finance about some new financial applications, none of those people are saying, “Oh, I got to go into buyer mode right now because I’m meeting with a salesperson.” They continue to think about their business based on their objectives, based on their proprieties, their resources, and all the things that go into making business decisions.

I think one thing that all companies, including training companies like mine, but also hiring companies could do is really focus on the business acumen of individuals. People often are surprised when they ask me which sales book they should buy their team. Rather than blurting out the name of my book, I say, “Go buy them ‘The 10-Day MBA,’” because the person they’re going to speaking to the other side of the table is thinking in those terms, not in buyer process or sales process terms. We tend to be a very insular group, and we forget that very few people think like us.

Tim:
That’s some great insight there, and a lot of it has to do as you mentioned around communications. How are you communicating? Who you’re communicating to? Who’s sitting across the table from you? Like you said, they’re not in that buyer mode. They’re the VP or they’re in the C level, so you have to know who you’re talking to and how you’re talking to them.

Tibor Shanto:
Yeah. They’re there because somehow, you’ve persuaded them that they should invest an hour with you because you might be able to impact their business, and that’s what that hour needs to be about is how you can impact their business. I think as you elevate your game, and you evolve, and you get comfortable in taking on the mantle of being a subject matter expert, you can then challenge some of those things, and you can present alternative insights because you’ve earned the right through your conversation with them and through your experience to show them that as a subject matter expert, there are alternatives to what they’re doing, but usually, what we end up providing insights into is how they get to their means.

Usually, if you can add insight to their internal thinking and what they’re trying to achieve, I think you become … Most salespeople, if you talk to them, they want to be that trusted advisor. Why would I take advice from a walking brochure? I would rather take advice from somebody who seems to understand my business and has helped other similar businesses achieve the type of things that I’m setting out to achieve.

Tim:
Tibor, thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and your insights with us. I am very confident that our audience will find great value from this, so thank you very much for spending the time with me today.

Tibor Shanto:
My pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

Tim:
Thank you to our listeners. This has been another episode of the Leadership Podcast brought to you by the CPSA. We’ll talk to you next time.
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