Welcome to The Pipeline.

3 B’s Of Pipeline Success0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

3Bs

How you manage and stage your pipeline can be the difference between an OK year or career, or a consistently great one. To use a sport analogy, your pipeline is your core, no matter what sport you are in hockey, tennis, or running, a strong core, a well exercised and maintained core adds to athletic performance and lifts one competitor to victory over a comparably talented athlete with a less conditioned core.

Below are three things every seller should consider and do, no matter which methodology they use to sell, to lift their execution and results.

Bold – This speaks to who or which opportunities you choose to peruse, there is the element of pursuing ALL REAL potential prospects that others either ignore, or completely miss due to personal or corporate blinders. There are many potential buyers that are overlooked by a large number of sales people. Some don’t see the dots and as a result can’t connect them; others see the dot’s but fail to or are afraid to connect them. There is a lack of imagination and boldness in their approach.

Some will overlook things that fall beyond conventional qualification measures, an over reliance on BANT if you will. The key here is that they be REAL, meaning given the right circumstances they would buy your offering, and qualifying comes down to how you view your market, and choose to align your offering. Are you limiting your sights and pursuits to those people that have the pains or other mundane signals, those your product has traditionally addressed? If so, you’ll likely miss many REAL prospects or opportunities.

But if instead you look to see how you may help someone achieve their business objectives, your universe of REAL potential expands considerably. This is huge from a pipeline perspective, the more REAL potential prospect you’ll be able to identify, the more REAL opportunities you can fill your pipeline with. Since sales is to a degree a numbers game from a conversion ratio perspectives, more opportunities translate to more and or better sales, and at the minimum more options for you as a seller.

Binary – Leveraging the above, being binary becomes easier and more productive. Let’s explain what I mean by binary. Your pipeline should contain only active opportunities, those prospects you are engaged with now, and in turn they are engaged with you and the sales process; it should not contain anything else. All those potential “prospects” you are not currently engaged with, as great as they may be, are leads, and should be managed in your leads funnel, not your active opportunities funnel or pipeline. But many sales people, and by extension their sales organizations, hold all kinds of inactive opportunities in their active pipeline, distracting time and resources. There are some common examples of this: former prospects who you met once or twice, who smiled, told you they were “really” interested but have not met with you or returned your call in weeks. Sure, they send you e-mails, saying they are still interested, they are just tied up, or on another project, or are waiting for some event, or maybe just waiting for Godot.

These are not engaged prospects and need to be moved out of your pipeline. This is not to say that they are not worth pursuing at some point in the future, but in popular vernacular, they are in the nurturing phase, not active selling phase of a pipeline. Alongside these are those “prospects” who are talking to you, but are doing less than nothing to move the process forward, move them out, they are just filler, and you can’t have that. The only opportunities that should be in your pipeline are those where the buyer is taking reciprocal action, executing their buying process as you are executing your selling process, and together you move to a mutual agreement. Binary – active – not active; taking action – avoiding action; on or off; keep the on’s and get rid of the off’s. Don’t clog up your pipeline with crap, not a place for a heart attack.

Many fool themselves by looking at their pipeline and thinking, “wow, look at all the stuff I have in there”. Exactly, stuff not opportunities. This false sense of doing, just messes you up, and most importantly sucks up your time for a number of reasons, and most deadly, prevents you from prospecting. When we are stuffed we don’t eat, when the pipeline feels stuffed, you don’t prospect.

If you want to see this clearly, just look at any pipeline using the 90 – 60 – 30 method and watch how it piles up, what happens in the last 30 days; for validation just look at how many times opportunities are recast in the 30 day segment.

Blended & Balanced – I remember learning this lesson the hard way, I fancied myself an elephant hunter, and ignore many smaller and shorter cycle opportunities. Till one year the elephants went to a different field, and I was left short on my target. My friend on the other hand, she focused on the small and easy, didn’t over extend. Interestingly enough we both came in behind someone who had a nice blend in their pipeline, big, small, short, long, and everything in between. Seems obvious, but not always easy to execute. There are a lot of distractions, things to entice you, being a home run hitter has its appeal. But with planning and discipline, you can map out a prospecting regimen that helps you balance the pipeline just so. I now use a Plan P approach, P being for pursuit, this allows me to continuously balance things, think of it like balancing and rebalancing a portfolio actively to maintain the optimal mix for you requirements. This allows you to be Bold in you pursuits, forces you to remove the inactive opportunities clogging up your revenue artery, and maintain a productive and profitable pipeline.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

Please, New Is So Old Now – Sales eXchange 2361

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Future

I got a note from one of the pundits in my inbox telling me things I should do for sales success in the New Year. You may expect these type of things mid-way through December till maybe January 10th, but after that it is just an indicator that they don’t really understand B2B sales at all, and the customers they get as a result, they deserve.

As a sales person your really do need to live in the future, and fulfill in the present. You need to live in the future for two simple (probably more) reasons. First, if you are going to deliver real and lasting value to your customers you need to leave “ahead of them. If you are going to deliver to and drive their objectives, you have to be where those objectives will unfold, and that is almost always in the future. Especially with business leaders, be they leading small or large global companies. If you speak to these folks and you should, (as well as speaking to everyone else in the organization, it is not one über the others), you will notice that their horizon is in the future, based on who they are it could be six, twelve, eighteen months or more in the future. The have delegated the present to others in their organization, in the case of small business, they have relegated it to a different part of their thinking.

So if you are going to align and sell to them today, you need to be thinking and talking to things they thinking about, which means they have been in 2014 for some time, cranking up you preparation now, like the pundit suggest, nay, scream to the buyer, “This guy is no for you”, as my fellow Tull freaks will say he is “Living In The Past”. If you are going to step in to the roll of thought leader for these buyers, you need to recognize that you need to lead from the front.

The other reason you need to live in the future, is driven by the realities of calendars, fiscal years, invoicing and the payable cycles of your buyer. Let’s say you have a three month sales cycle (handshake to close), and you get paid when the first invoice is paid, 30 days is acceptable period for an invoice to be paid, you are going to need four months of run way for a deal to count towards your number this year. Which means anything you start after September 2, will be next year’s number. If it counts and you get paid, when the contract is signed, then that date moves to October 2nd. So if you were going to look at doing things a new way for 2014, you will have need to start that process last September or October, not January 26.

This is not to say that you should not always be adding new elements to your selling, just look at that as an ongoing part of your personal development, not an event tied to the New Year. Yes, I know the pundit needs to sell too, but you don’t have to buy if it will not help you now, or in the “now future”.

I am going to keep this mail as I am certain it is the exact same one she sent last January, with dates changed. I am not sure if I remember because it irritated me last year, or the fact that they used a stock photo used by a million other sites.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Dear Sales Diary3

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Diary

Those of you have kept or keep diaries, know that one of the reasons it has such great value is not just because you open up about intimate secrets, but that you share everything, not just the good, not just the bad, but all that and everything in between. You were able to go back and relive the experience, and more often than not glean lesson and things you would do differently if you had to do them all again. You didn’t just look at what you did well, or things that turned out to be good, living up to and beyond your expectations. You looked at the bad things that happened and tried to understand how you might avoid similar things in the future. The more honest you were the more rewarding the experience. If you skewed or slanted things one way, you may feel better for a while, but reality comes creeping back in, forcing us to deal with the bad, and the gray.

Sales people and sales organization need to keep a diary of their experiences, all of them, the good, the bad, and the in between. Most already do deal reviews in some format, but many do not, either choosing to them selectively, or just enough to satisfy a KPI or ScoreCard requirement. Few do the real deep dive required in order to get the most out of it, in the process allowing both a learning and revenue improvement get away. To be clear, and as you will see further on, “deep dive” does not have to be a laborious time consuming exercise with minimal payoffs, it can and should be an ongoing process that helps you with deals you are currently involved in, while also allowing you to capture and repurpose things on the fly. Done right, it should resemble the old EDS add about building an airplane while it is flying, the opportunity for sales people and organizations, is to build a continuously better sales, even as they are executing current sales, and prospecting for their next one.

Specifically this involves reviewing all deals you were involved in, those you won, those you lost, and those which go to “no decision”. Note, if you are involved in ten to a dozen deal a month, I recommend you review all of them; if on the other hand you are involved in dozens of deals, you may want to review a representative sample. If you have 7 wins, 15 losses, and 6 no decisions, review 25%, or seven, and you will get good, executable output. But as you’ll see, even if you don’t formally review each one, you will produce usable output.

Now some of you reading this may be aware that I am the coauthor of an award winning book about Trigger Events. In that book the recommendation was that you focus your reviews to only those deals you win. This will allow you to continuously repeat those things that are consistently help you win deals. Sound thinking, to a point. Let me explain, coauthoring a book is a lesson in compromise, you give you, you learn, you take, and in the end you produce a book that reflects the learning of both. But as you move on, the hope is that both authors evolve, not limited by the required compromises, and we each continue down our path, shaped by or experiences.

Since the release of that book, my thinking has evolved to where I see focusing strictly on one segment of your activities and only one of many outcomes, brings an unnecessary level of risk to one’s sales success, regardless of which one of the three possible outcomes you focus on. Given that on average, wins make up less than half of potential deals, if for no other reason than to broaden you perspectives, you should review outcomes other than just wins.

This is why the 360 Deal View was developed. It allows you to capture relevant information about the sale, the outcome and specific contributors to that. As with most tools, it is less about the tool itself, and much more about the approach and behaviours it promotes, which in turn lead to the desired results in more repeatable, predictable and consistent ways. It allows you to evolve you selling along with the way your market and buyers evolve.

While there is no denying that you want to know exactly what you are doing that is helping you win, you want to know what unfolded on the buyer’s side that prompted them to engage, and what outside and inside factors accelerate your sales cycle or cause it to slow and stall. What were the buyer’s objectives that allowed you to gain traction, and how you were able to connect with those? All important things you want to leverage. But it would be dangerous if not naïve to not go through a similar exercise with the other outcomes, losses and “no decisions”. Two simple advantageous to knowing why you lose, first, it may just take a small adjustment to change some of the inputs that will move a loss to the won column. Second, you may discover that a segment that made sense on initial exploration made sense to pursue, based on practice does not. Looking at “no decisions” will often allow you to understand when would be the best time to reengage, and take the cycle to fruition. It will also help you detect tire kickers a lot earlier.

These will be fallouts if you only review wins, but there is no denying that focusing on just one area, will lead to tunnel vision, causing you to miss changing trends that are more evident in the other categories, and more importantly, leave you very open to be blindsided. If you rely on one set of data, you will continue to find others who fit the mold, but it does not speak to the size of a market, things can continue to look good in a shrinking market, and by the time you react, many opportunities will have been missed, and competitors will have made unnecessary gains at your expense.

Most CRM’s and related apps will allow you to do a complete all three, and even allow you to get more granular if need be. You can download our tool here, but the key to success is not the tool, but the philosophy, and more specifically the discipline of doing it in up, down, or sideways markets. Just as with a diary, the best ones were usually written in simple notebooks, not fancy specially diaries, what made them great was the depth and completeness of what was captured, and the consistency of execution.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Go For That Hail Mary Now – Sales eXchange 2331

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Hail Mary

When we hear the phrase Hail Mary, we think of the end of half or end of game, a last chance play or pass, a buzzer beater, usually accompanied by some level of desperation (perceived or real). This a ritual not limited to sports, it is practiced in B2B sales, but under different names, fueled by the same need, and with all the same negative connotations; the end is nigh, and you know the drill. We’ve all seen it or lived through it, the end of quarter (or other sales period) deal coral and round up time. All rules and reason go out the window, it is all about the close; your manager’s vocabulary is reduced to four words, “Have you closed _________?”, no vacations, and god forbid if your wife goes into labour before the 31st.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with long shots, this is more about which, why and when. I love long shots, some of my best opportunities resulted from me taking a shot on things others ignored, or by taking an approach everyone would have bet will lead to disaster. But you have to pick them, because as we have said here repeatedly, time is a non-renewable resource. But they are long shots for a reason, and you need to select them for the right reason, and more importantly make sure you select them, rather than them selecting you, in the form of an all or none situation.

Long shots should be over and above the real opportunities in your pipeline rather than the only things in the pipe. This allows you to stretch, experiment and discover new ways to sell without bringing unnecessary risk to your quarter year, or overall success. With a blended pipeline with ample coverage, long shots are fun, and can be rewarding. When approached as a bonus, they allow you to explore new sectors, prospect new people, and expand your repertoire, expand markets, and open new referral channels.

Plan your long shots with the understanding that will need a lot of run way. Why most sales Hail Mary’s fail is that they are not given enough time to unfold properly. Instead of waiting for the last Wednesday of the quarter, start your pursuit on the first day, start two, as chances are that at best one may work. But make sure you start with enough time to have a “shot”.

Make sure you not only have a plan B and C, and beyond. Just due to the nature of these opportunities, you are likely going to need a plan G, M and maybe even a plan T (plan T;s are my favourite).

One of the things I enjoy most about Hail Mary’s is the opportunity to talk to people in roles I don’t normally deal with, and in types of accounts outside my normal ones. This is not only challenging in a way that allows me to sharpen skills, but is fun, and you do have to have fun. When I win, there is more than money, and if I lose, well it is not my core pipeline.

So yes, take the long shot, go for the Hail Mary, but do it now, not March 25.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

First Post 2014 – Let’s Cut The S*#T – 14

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

No Shite

Buying Vs. Selling

As the first post of the years, I thought I would set the tone for the blog and hopefully sales in 2014. Let’s start by setting straight some unadulterated shit that has made its way into main stream sales over the last few years. It came out of the impact of the 2008 economic realities and the rise of social media in its sales form, commonly known as social selling. A cute marketing term that elevated the noise created by Sales 2.0, which just further drowned out reason in sales, and allowed people with social selling products to sell more, and pretend sales people keep their jobs.

History has taught us that when faced with a challenge you really only have three choices:

A. Get creative, apply your skills, and find a way to overcome the challenge
B. Redefine things in a way that allows you to avoid the challenge – not resolve or deal with it – but by changing the premise you mask the reality
C. Hide from it

Sadly, too often we opt for options B and/or C. Option B happily fueled and supported by pundits selling products or advice to sellers.

Let’s look at one of the biggest slices of crap peddled in sales these days:

slideshare attribute“60% of the sales cycle is over before a buyer talks to a sales person”, as quoted by James Wood, on Earnest About B2B Blog, Slide number 5, attributes the quote to Kieran Flanagan, Hubspot.  But when you follow the links to a slideshare presentation: Inbound marketing your secrets to success,  Kieran, on slide 9,  attributes it to the Corporate Executive Board.  The link in that attribution leads to a page on Latvian TV, featuring an interview with a musician on a bus, I don’t speak Latvian, and therefore not sure if he in fact stated the above (I’m betting not).  I am pretty sure he is not the one that set the absurd notion contained in the quote.

So we don’t know where it came from, but a whole bunch of people in the selling business are reciting it as though it was gospel. Problem.

What is described/discussed/contained in the quote, does not talk to a sales process, but a buying process! Big difference. The person a self-declared buyer talks to is not a sales person, but rather a quote/price dispensing order taker. It’s true, it doesn’t matter what it says on the business card, what it says on the web site or org chart, these are not sales people, they are process facilitators, and the process they are facilitation is the buying process, not a sales process. How can I tell, because order takers deal with buyers, buyers who on their own decided to explore a purchase, started defining their requirements on their own, unprompted by a (a real) seller. As they were at about 60% of their buying process, they needed some comparisons, some additional data that was not available on the company’s web site or the common social outlets, and some quotes so they could make their choice, So they reach out to the facilitator, happy to spew stats and facts, and quotes, that they are willing to negotiate.

This is not selling, it is order taking, and if it sounds like selling to you, well, I feel for you and I am here to help you.

Selling involves professionals who engage the best potential buyers based on criteria they, the seller, researched to identify the best opportunities for mutual success, their own and their buyers. This often leads to the reality that the best potential buyers, those will benefit and deliver revenue as a result, are not in the market. They are doing what they do until they are approached by the seller, which by definition means that the seller is likely about 20% – 25% through their sales cycle when they talk to a potential buyer who they are looking to convert to a prospect; and that potential prospect is at 0%, because their journey start when the seller calls.

Facilitators have no control over their success and destiny, as they are dependent on the buyer, who according to the pundits is in control. Scraps anyone?

Sellers not only control their success, income and destiny, but have more loyal clients, willing to pay full value, and rely on the seller based on their contribution to the customers’ success. You decide, not so much which you are or want to be, but how much work you are willing to invest to be the seller you ought to be.

Happy New Year!
Tibor Shanto

The 3 Legs of Sales Success0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Stool Success

As you finalise your 2014 sales plans, it is good idea to review and commit to some of the basics. Some of these may not be fashionable, on the other hand nothing is more fashionable in sales than exceeding quota.

As with many endeavours, we sometime focus too much effort on style and take our eyes of the fundamentals. As Michael Jordan once said:

“…You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly because the only thing that changes will be your attention to them”

While the framework for the fundamentals are process and quality of execution, the key fundamentals that we need to continuous focus on regardless of methodology or approach are:

  • Size of Sale (or order)
  • Volume of Sales
  • Price integrity

Size of Sale – Refers to the specific size of the order, specifically in two forms. One is the result of the type of prospects you pursue; if you are selling stuff measured in units, the larger the target company, the more units they will require. Since in most instances, the effort required to sell a $50 million dollar/40 employee company, is often not that different than selling a $100 million/100 employee company, why not focus on the larger end of the scale. A variation on this is a recent example from a company I worked with. They found that of the three batteries they sold, the mid-range one was the best product/value for the price, for both the customers and them, but people tended to opt for the entry level battery. They discontinued offering the bottom end, their unit sales did not decline, and their revenue and margins increased.

It is no different if you are selling services, if you target companies that can ‘consume’ more of what you sell, you will sell more by avoiding those who consume less. Since the time you have to make the sales does not change, why not target those opportunities that can give you size or scale. You can always go down stream once you have sold the ideal size first.

Volume of Sales – this is different than the first point, it goes more to how many sales you get irrespective of size. If right now you are doing four deals a month, and were to increase that to say 4 ½ deals per month, you would move to 54 sales a year, a 12% increase. Even if you have a long cycle, big ticket, say only six sales a year, increase it to 7, may not sound like much, but.

This involves better use of time, primarily through the discipline of disqualifying those opportunities that will not close now, they may close a year from now or even in the summer, just not now. This is where your process gives you the confidence to say no, rather than spending time to try and get a yes where one does not exist. Like the old gold rush 49ers, the quicker they got rid of the sand and stones, the quicker they got to the gold, increasing their daily take. Get rid of the crap in your pipeline, and you’ll work with more gold.

Price Integrity – as straight forward as it gets, the less we concede the more we succeed. Resist the temptation to “give a good price to get in”, because you will never recover.

As you evaluate your opportunities, it is important to consider how any or all of the above can be leveraged to deliver better and consistent results, and how misalignment can be detrimental to success.

With all of the above methodology and improved execution will help you sell more to more of the right people, but merely adopting a methodology without target one of the three elements above is not enough. You may want to start by targeting one, or better yet explore opportunities that allow you to move the dial on all. We use a simple matrix allowing clients to plot opportunities based on these elements with the added element of time. This allows them to visualize and focus on the right number of highest value opportunities sold at full price.

Everything we do in sales should have a positive impact on one or all of those three elements. It is when we take our eyes off these fundamentals, that the level of effort, training, coach or other initiatives, will always be greater than the results. The start of the year, (quarter, month, day) is a good time to refocus.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Is BANT Helping You Lose Sales?4

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

target

For the longest time we were encouraged to use the BANT as a means of qualifying potential buyers, and I guess by extension shorten sales cycles and get more sales.  When you think of the components of BANTBudget, Authority (to purchase), Need and Timeframe, they all look sound and valid.  No Budget – no buy; no authority – no buy; no need – no buy; no timeline – no buy.  The implication is that without these four elements, you do not have a qualified buyer. So where is the problem, well the reality is that buyers with all four attributes present, especially in the qualifying stage, are very few.

According to the same pundits who promote BANT, usually less than 30% of your potential market, reduce that by the number of people not ready or yet prepared to act, and you are looking at a small and crowded segment.  Crowded because every sales person has got their eye fixed on these people, as they are declared buyers.

The larger pool of potential buyers, who may not realise a need, and therefore will not be tied to a timeline, will be disqualified by many using BANT to identify buyers.  Now some will learn to create need, and then a timeline, which is the right thing to do, the question is how to begin that process.

The means is to shift the focus from BANT related areas to the buyer’s objectives.  Companies and buyers all have objectives, things they would like to achieve over time.  As an example, I am dealing with a company currently doing about $32 Million in revenue, and they goal is to be at $100 Million by the end of 2019.  When I was introduced to the owner, what I was selling was not on his need list, want list, wish list, any list.  After all, his folks “are experienced industry veterans, many of them trained long before they join the company.  Many of them were the ones that took the company from $7 Million five years ago, to where they are now, and think of the last five years.

When we first met, he had what he felt was a sound plan to get to his goal, knew what he needed, and was actively executing on those things.  One of his needs was not sales training.  The only thing to do was to abandon BANT and focus on the one thing all decision makes have, and will act on – objectives.

Once we shifted the discussion from what I do, and what his current perceived needs were, to his objectives, and potential barriers to those objectives, the possibilities opened up.  None of them were sales training related (product), but they were all clear to the buyer, once presented in a specific light, and they all begged the question – “how do we do that, how do we achieve that so we can move towards the ultimate goal?”

In the end what will be delivered will look like sales training, but what was bought was something different, something that once defined he needed to get to $100 Million, something that was not a need before the new context, something BANT would have missed.

vote

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Seasonal Sales Tactics: Fall1

CoC Sep 13

The Pipeline Guest Post - Megan Totka

The fall season brings to mind lots of different imagery – changing leaves, beautiful colors, pumpkins, Halloween, and holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas on the proverbial horizon. Fall and the subsequent holiday season are a huge time of year for sales. People are buying all kinds of things, from school supplies to gifts to housewares to new services, you name it, and people are likely to buy it.

So how do you tailor your sales tactics to the season of buying? Here’s a few ideas about ways to increase your online presence and subsequently your revenue during the fall season:

  • Run social media campaigns that are seasonally-themed. For fall, you could run giveaways that are tailored to the season. You could even do something as simple as change your cover or profile photo on Facebook or Twitter to something that is fall-themed.
  • Think ahead to the looming holiday season. Consider starting your holiday sales strategies early. Let your followers and customers know what you will be up to during the holiday season. Letting them know ahead of time can give them time to plan and incorporate holiday spending at your company into their budget.
  • Take the opportunity to work on some philanthropic efforts for the year. The fall and the holiday season are prime time for giving back to your community. Consider sending employees to do volunteer work. You can also make a monetary contribution to a charity if your company is in the position to do so.
  • Take the time to see what is trending this fall. Whether it is fashion or technology trends, you can research what exactly people are being predicted to purchase this season. This gives you the opportunity to cater to exactly what people are going to be looking for during the season. For example, if a fashion trend watch says that people are looking for things that are jewel-toned this year, consider using these types of colors in your marketing collateral or your products.
  • Track what your customers like. When you run a seasonally-themed marketing campaign, try your best to keep track of where your sales leads are coming from. You’ll be able to work to hone your campaigns from year to year to make sure that you are maximizing your marketing abilities.

Take the opportunity to use seasonal sales and marketing tactics to your advantage. Doing a little bit of research as to what is trending in sales for each season will help you to make even more sales.

(Photo Source)

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.

Your Funnel Should Be A Horn Of Plenty3

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Harvest c

Most would agree that sales is not strictly a numbers game, but as with other issues such as closed ended questions, the pendulum at times seems to swing too far in one direction. While no one will argue that there needs to be a greater focus on quality than quantity, you also can’t get away from the fact that numbers play a great role in sales success. Just the plain simple fact that we are measured on our success with numbers, leads to the integral, if sometimes inconvenient fact that sales is a numbers driven sport.

I bring this up because of reaction to my piece the past Monday on how to deal with prospects who are reluctant to commit. At one point I mentioned that anything other than a firm yes is a NO, regardless of what it sounds like, and how much hope a statement may allude to. I went as far as to suggest that if you can’t get a next step you should walk away. Some questioned the soundness of that strategy, why would you walk away?

Well two things to consider, first, when I say walk away, it doesn’t mean that you can’t ever revisit that prospect in the future, whether that be three months, six, or a year, you can come back. But the reality is that if you don’t walk away and engage with a real buyer, you will miss your quarter, and may not have your job by the time this prospect is ready to go. With all the tools available from e-mail, e-mail marketing, social media, you can be present in the prospect’s world, without having to spend valuable time while they are coming around. Walking away is not forever, it for your sales success.

The other which goes straight to numbers, has to do with the quality and quantity in you funnel. If you needed 5 prospects to close a deal, and you had eight real ones in your funnel, if one went soft, you wouldn’t lose much sleep, after you’ve got the five, plus a couple for insurance. On the other hand, if you needed five prospects to close a deal, you had three real prospects in your funnel and one went soft, you have a problem. Leading to the obvious conclusion that quantity does give you options when facing a quality issue.

Most companies struggling with their sales are struggling more from a quantity of opportunities perspective to a much greater degree than quality. The issue is that prospects they have are good, they just don’t have enough of them. In that scenario the logical approach would be to go out and get a few more good prospects, the numbers side of the equation. But most sales people believe they can breathe life into a dead deal with more ease than going out and prospecting more good opportunities. I never understood why they prefer being rejected by a prospected they have invested time, money and emotion in, than being rejected on a prospecting call.

Starting from a position of plenty, meaning more prospects as measured in numbers, gives you options, allows you to execute on the best opportunity. Having a small number of “good” prospects, will give you some quality but in insufficient amounts to assure success.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Surf’s Up! Riding the Pipeline to the Shores of Success1

Surfer

The Pipeline Guest Post - Susan Payton

This might come across as mind-blowing, but here’s the secret to better sales:

It’s not about getting tons of leads into your pipeline. It’s about how you treat them once they’re there.

When it comes to your sales pipeline, if you’re focusing on quantity—and not quality—you won’t realize the conversion rate you could if you instead worked on the following three goals:

  1. Qualify leads early
  2. Direct leads into the appropriate funnel
  3. Customize messages to each funnel throughout the journey down the pipeline

Know What a Lead Looks Like
No, “everyone” doesn’t qualify as a lead. Look at past customers you’d like to replicate. What characteristics did those customers possess? What were the actions they took to arrive in your pipeline? Those actions might include:

  • Downloading a white paper on your site
  • Signing up for your emails
  • Signing up for a free account or trial
  • Visiting a specific page multiple times

Technology allows you to be very specific in the actions you track online, so there’s no reason you should treat all leads equally.

Set up lead scoring criteria to help you identify hot leads early in the process. Assign a numeric value to the transactions that landed them in your pipeline, as well as a lead’s job title—for those B2B marketers—and demographics data if you can get it.

Target, Target, Target
You probably can identify certain types of leads or customers based on your past experience. You probably have seen leads who ask a lot of questions and are slow to buy—if they buy at all. You’ve also probably encountered those who want to make a decision now, and don’t require a lot of handholding. You can probably think of other types as well.

The point here is: you want to break down your initial lead bucket into as many funnels as possible so you can maximize the impact of your marketing messages to each segment. The quick decision-maker shouldn’t get the same automated emails as the questioning customer, because his lead time will be virtually nil.

Master the Marketing Message
Make sure your messaging fits the lead profile. That slow-to-buy lead will want plenty of information about your product, not a promotional offer. The quick customer may respond better to a $10 off coupon via email. Test until you’re getting the best conversion rate possible. One way to do this is with customer relationship management (CRM) software.

That software will allow you to align your offline marketing and sales efforts with the needs of each customer profile. If you’re using CRM for marketing and tracking valuable customer data, it’s easy enough to create categories for customer types, as well as develop a key your sales team can use to know how to best approach a given type of customer.

For example, if it’s customary for a salesperson to call every lead personally, he might not want to do so with a quick decision-maker. It might be unnecessary, and if all of the lead’s other behavior has been online, he might not welcome a phone call.

Track Everything
CRM software will only come in handy if you’re tracking the right information, which is pretty much all information about a customer. Every person who interacts with a lead should make notes about their conversation, as well as provide recommendations for future communications.

You should be able to look at a lead’s profile and get a sense of what he has responded to. If you’re automating email messages, you shouldn’t need to do much, provided the communication is effective. If it’s not, look at results across that particular segment and see if the lack of response is indicative of the bigger picture. If so, tweak the message and try again.

Continue to Tweak the Process
Sales isn’t an out-of-the-box solution for most brands. It’s a continual effort to discover what works to increase conversion and sales. But over time, if you’re paying attention to your leads’ responses, you’ll see better results, making the corrections smaller and smaller.

Your pipeline should net you a better conversion rate (and generate fewer dead leads along the way) if you’re truly paying attention to what makes your customers tick.

Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in marketing communications, copywriting and blog posts. She’s also the founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners. She’s written three books: DIY Press Releases: Your Guide to Becoming Your Own PR Consultant, 101 Entrepreneur Tips and Internet Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurs, and contributes to several sites, including ChamberofCommerce.com, The Marketing Eggspert Blog, CorpNet, Small Business Trends, and BizLaunch. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.

wordpress stat