Welcome to The Pipeline.

Why You Need Full-Circle Sales at Every Stage in the Buy Cycle0

Oct 14

The Pipeline Guest Post - Megan Totka

You’ve just earned your company a big contract and you’re about to look amazing in front of the boss. You worked hard for that sale, but what if it didn’t have to be so difficult? What if you could earn more sales from customers that already know, like, and trust your brand?

You can, by using every stage in the buy cycle to your advantage.

What is the Buy Cycle?

There are five stages a customer goes through when deciding whether or not to work with your company. The way you engage with the customer from introduction to deal-closing handshake has a dramatic impact on your sales success.

Creating a touch plan before, during, and after the sale is crucial. It’s easier and cheaper to retain loyal customers than to start from scratch for every sale. By developing long-term relationships, you optimize your marketing efforts and get the most from your customer base.

Here’s how you can incorporate full-circle sales at each stage in the buy cycle.

Awareness, Consideration, and Preference

Before a customer buys from you, she has to know you exist. This is the awareness stage. Once she finds you, your customer immediately begins considering whether your business meets her needs. She researches to decide whether she prefers you over your competitor.

Effective sales teams are intimately familiar with how to work with the customer at each of these stages. Your marketing team plays an equally critical role.

During this process, sales and marketing teams must work in harmony. With consistent, integrated communication, both teams can put together informative materials to address the customer’s problems, concerns, and questions. Scatter helpful content on your website and online to reach your buyer at the time when she needs it the most.

Purchase

Once you’ve convinced your buyer to open her wallet, you’ve made the sale. However, the sales process does not and should not stop there.

During the sale, your team has the opportunity to increase revenues by adding on valuable services. By upselling an existing customer into a better package, extra services, or more features, your company leverages an already eager buyer. This makes you more money and establishes greater loyalty to your brand. By not offering more during this stage in the buy cycle, you lose a tremendous opportunity.

Repurchase

Sooner or later, your customer will want to buy more. By anticipating this need, your company wins another sale.

Far too many companies neglect this part of the buy cycle. Many teams think that once a purchase is made, the customer will automatically return for future needs. Not so.

To sell better and sell more, your company needs to nurture existing customers. Send regular emails, keep in touch on social media, and reward your customer’s loyalty with exclusive offers. Continue to sell to your buyer even after she purchased. This will increase her loyalty to your brand and her likelihood to buy from you again in the future.

Using a dynamic online CRM like Insightly helps you track communications with your customers across all departments. You can identify gaps in the sales process, opportunities throughout the buy cycle, and new ways to drive bigger revenues from existing customers. Your company saves money over the cost of finding and developing new prospects by leveraging your current customers.

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

Managers – Give Up Your Phone Addiction – Sales eXchange 2230

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Multi tasking Manager

With all the challenges sales professionals have to face in the field, the amount of tests they endure to their patience, it is sometimes disheartening when they are disrespected by their own colleagues, especially their front line managers.

One common example is managers who answer their phone, text, e-mail during a meeting with one of their direct reports, especially during scheduled coaching or review meetings. But this happens much more regularly than many think, and I suspect, more than many of the managers guilty of the act actually realise.

While many fancy themselves as being great multi-takers, few are, we are not built that way. While we may be able to talk on the phone and press the elevator button, we are not able to do really important tasks with any degree of real quality. And what can be more important than coaching and leading your team, those people who either make you look good or real bad based on how they perform. There is no doubt on occasion, let me repeat, once in a while, something really important will come up to disturb a meeting with a team member, but I am talking about the other time.

How many times have you sat there in you managers office, and they are checking their e-mail as you speak, first on their desktop monitor and then on their smartphone just for good measure. They answer the phone, flashing the obligatory smile and the one minute gesture, which only adds to their insincerity and effectiveness as a leader.

It is bad enough that sales people to endure this type of thing in the field, they should not face it in their managers’ office. Sales people put up with people answering their phones only to tell them that they are in a meeting. Given all the tools available to people today, the overwhelming pervasiveness of caller ID and voice mail, it is hard to understand why people would answer a phone from an unknown number while they are in a meeting, unless of course they are sales managers meeting with a member of their team.

Sales people also have to put up with this in meeting with prospects, fidgeting about with their electronic pacifiers, or modern day worry-beads. While one can argue that if the prospect is so disengaged a rep should move on, it is also true that many are behind quota and see any meeting as a meeting, I guess they need to look at the outcome to come to their own conclusion. But in the end it should not be a scene they have to deal with internally with their manager, especially when the time was scheduled for them to be coached.

As an aside, I often wondered when I called someone and they tell me that they are in a meeting, whether I work my magic and get them to engage, or it is a short call, I wonder what the other person in their office feels like at the time, how fast are their priorities fading?

I remember I had a boss who felt he needed to be involved in everything, right then and there, the phone would not ring a second time before he answered it. I remember he would take a call while meeting with me, then answer his mobile when that rang, what a circus. The next time I was meeting with him and he answered his phone, I got up and walked out, I think the first time he did not even notice he got so involved in the call. The next time he looked up and asked “Where are you going?” “You must be busy, I got things to get done, and I don’t want to hold you up.” After that he never answered the phone while meeting with me.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

Small Business Week – BNN Interview (#video)0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

This week is Small Business Week in Canada, as part of that BNN, Canada’s business news television network is running features highlighting the Canadian small business space, and looking at trend and advice for the small business community.

 

On Monday I had the pleasure of discussing how small business owners approach hiring sales talent, what works, and what they should avoid.

 

Take a look, and as always, share your thoughts, leave a comment.

 

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

Sales Apprenticeship – Sales eXchange 2122

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

apprentice

Sales like any other craft takes practice, evaluation, more practice, repeated coaching, and just when we think we have it down, we need to practice some more; and then things change, which means we get to practice some more.

I recently saw Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, and Mastery, discussing what it takes to become a master at something. One thing he pointed to was the effectiveness of the “apprenticeship” programs developed as far back as the middle ages. Specifically, that the years of apprenticing, the constant practice of the craft, led to the critical number of 10,000 hours of active practice and execution that led to mastering the craft. A concept later popularized by Malcolm Gladwell.  Of course those who truly mastered their craft kept practicing and improving throughout their career, building on the 10,000 hour base, not resting on it.

Consider that in North America, there is an average 1,760 hours of active sales time. Add to that many studies peg the amount of active selling time for B2B reps from a low of 15% to somewhere just under 50%. Going with the 50% range, it means that a committed sales person will take almost 12 years full time selling to hit that 10,000 hour mark.

Given that most sales people are only evaluated by the results, rather than the quality of the effort, it often clouds how effective their apprenticeship is. Often they make quota for reasons other than sales ability, market conditions, weak or easy quotas, and more. Many sales people are unleashed on the buying public well before they are ready to succeed for their clients, companies, and most importantly for themselves.

Add to that many are offered little training or leadership in their formidable years (which again could be their first 12 years on the job). Based on stats, only about half of B2B companies offer formal sales raining, and some that think they are delivering sales training, are in fact focused on product training, or order processing training. You can find other interesting stats by reading Why a Lack of Sales Training is Hurting Your Company–and What to Do About It.

Many sales leaders who don’t hesitate to cuss out the manager of their favourite sports team for being slack on training or practice, will regularly tell me that their people do not require training, “my people have five, ten, 12 years of experience”. When I ask if that is ten years of continuous growth and improvement, or the same year ten times over, I either get a silent look or the door. None of which changes the fact that only about 60% of reps made their quota based on the latest studies. Many of those are repeat achievers, and still employed by the same company. On an individual level, very few sales people will pick up and read a sales book a year, and then put into practice the things they read, next time you are interviewing the next superstar, ask them what the last book they read was.

The great thing about apprenticeship is it was a proactive approach to ensuring one was qualified based on practice and experience and supervised coaching, all leading to the perpetuation of the craft and a flow of qualified craftsman. Something available and mandatory for other mission critical roles in most enterprises in the form of Continuing Education, often tied to licences and keeping their job. A standard that would not be bad for sales either.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

 

 

Inventory Clearance B2B Style0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca
Clearnce

This time of year is an interesting time for the retail trade.  As memories of the holiday season begin to fade and the last of the Boxing Day (week, month) sales come to a close, retailers begin another annual ritual, the “Inventory Clearance Sale”.  Makes sense, retailers want to clear old and non-selling inventory, freeing up cash, so they can reinvest it in more profitable inventory. In the process the can also open up shelf and storage space, again to make way for newer more salable goods; not so much out with the old in with the new, more like out with lower potential goods and in with better margin and turnover potential.

There are some lessons here for B2B sales people as well.  Consider your pipeline as your inventory of prospects and opportunities, add to that the notion of time representing your shelf space, both finite, both needing active management.  As such, applying the concept of inventory clearance could be very beneficial for B2B sellers.

When you look at your inventory of prospects, the reality is that no matter how much potential they had when you first decided to carry them, over time and as a result of a number of factors, the likelihood of that inventory turning over changes, usually diminishes, often to a point where they have a negative impact on your pipeline and success.  Prospects are similar, in as much that some will close, many more don’t.  Either way they need to be removed from the pipeline, or else you can’t bring in new inventory.

This is why sales people need to develop rules for purging their pipeline of bad prospects.  Sales people hang on to bad inventory, many look at their pipelines emotionally, the fuller they perceive their pipeline to be, the lesser the propensity to prospect for new opportunities, fresh inventory, confusing a lot of inventory with quality salable inventory.

Bringing shelf space into this in the form of time, you can begin to remove bad inventory before it hit “best by date”.  Prospects and opportunities time out, if 80% of your sales close in 75 days, what’s the point in keeping it in the pipeline on day 121; if 80% of the time you can complete the Discovery stage in 3 weeks, should you really continue the Discovery into its 10th week?

It is important to remember that these concepts also apply to your account base, not just prospects.  How many low margin accounts are using up resources that if applied to other accounts or new ones would make for better revenues, margins and all around customers.  Putting those accounts on the clearance list would allow you to achieve more, be happier, and probably have a better attitude towards new opportunities.

Clearing out bad inventory, be they clients or prospects, should be an ongoing process throughout the year, but even for where it is not year-round, doing it at least once a year, at the start of the year, can bring immediate and yearlong benefits.  So good ahead, develop your policies, and hold that “Inventory Clearance”

The Art of Sales Contest Winners!

Congratulations to:
Kristin Geenty and Alan Hart, they are the winners of the tickets to the Art Of Sales, in Toronto next Tuesday January 29.

Enjoy and profit!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

 

Hanging Out with @GlobeSmallBiz: How to develop a Winning Sales strategy45

Hanging Out with @GlobeSmallBiz: How to develop a Winning Sales strategy

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business’ Small Business interview series on Google+ Hangout. As the title suggests, we discussed a number of topics relating to sales, and sales challenges important for small business owners.

This was not only a great use of the technology, but we covered a number of key issues potential pitfalls, and opportunities for small business owners.

Take a look, comment, enjoy, and profit.

httpvh://youtu.be/A3FEyN2B4dE

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Don’t Turn That Prospect In To A Client – Sales eXchange – 14357

Labels matter, they drive attitudes, and attitudes drive action, and sales is all about action and execution.  How you label an opportunity will dictate your actions, results, and success.  This presents a bit of challenge for sales people, they regularly label opportunities, usually to reflect where they are in the cycle, and to help them determine which actions need to be executed to move the sale forward to a very awkwardly labelled the sale, the “close”.

While it is easy to understand why “close” may make sense, having completed the “on-boarding” of a new customer, that phase is closed, and we move on to the next.  Unfortunately many “defined sales processes” have no rules or definitions beyond that initial commitment.  Some organizations have policies in place for client coverage and minimal contact, they are rarely part and parcel of “sales process”, which is peculiar, as most the value clients derive from the relationship happens after the “close”, most of the opportunities to differentiate yourself from the competition, to fully address the clients’ needs are delivered after the close.

Consciously or unconsciously, as soon as an opportunity is “closed”, sellers’ attitudes change, this even more so the case if you are a “hunter” rather than a “farmer”.  While they are proud of the accomplishment, “hunters” turn to the next kill.  They don’t necessarily abandon the recently closed customers, but more like placing them on a shelf or a trophy case with all the deserved pride of accomplishment.  But once on the shelf, they do not get the same attention as those opportunities in the early stages of the sales cycle.

As soon as a prospect is closed, we seem to show them a different level of love, or energy than we did when that same prospect was a fresh new lead.  We “unwrap” the lead with all the anticipation and wonder of a new toy at Christmas, the one we wanted all year, only find that toy occupy it’s place on the heap of “last year’s wonders”, as we turn our attention and effort to the next “new thing”.

This is further driven by companies’ need to find and secure new sources of revenue, and managers driving the focus on new opportunities.  Nothing wrong with that, as long as you ensure that existing clients, new clients, get the level of attention needed to satisfy them, help them realize value and in turn secure value/revenue for your company.

Attitude is clearly part of it, how you view that client based on the label you place on them.  Extending the notion of “sales process” to include the buying process, and the client satisfaction/retention process; after all, everyone agrees that is cheaper to maintain a revenue stream than to find a new one.  One easy way to deal with this is to change one label that changes attitudes and outcomes:  think of “client life cycles”, rather than limiting yourself to “sales cycles” or “sales process”.  This will allow you to bring and deliver the same level of energy and love to a client as you did when you were just courting them as a prospect.

Next Step

  • Develop specific “steps of your process” for post “close” activity
  • Allocate time to the extended cycle
  • Enjoy the increased revenue

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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