Welcome to The Pipeline.

Key Sales Management Actions To Prepare for 2015 (#video)0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

2015 rocket

About a month ago I had the privilege to be part of a great panel exploring key issues sales leaders need to not just think about, but act on in preparing for a successfully 2015.

The panel included:

Lori Richardson – Score More Sales
Lee Salz – Sales Architects
Steven Rosen – STAR Results
Dan Enthoven – Enkata
Miles Austin – Fill the Funnel
And myself.

As the next instalment in this week’s posts dealing with kicking the New Year off right, meaning in a way that will help sales organisations and teams exceed quota in 2015. Below is an expert from that discussion, but I encourage you to take in the full discussion by clicking here. It is a lively and insightful discussion that will provide a number of ideas for helping your team crush their number.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

The Global 2015 STAR Sales Manager Survey0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

2015 survey

As we rush headlong in to the New Year, my next three posts will feature things sales leaders should be thinking about to drive success for their teams and their companies.

I want to start by inviting you to participate in a survey being conducted by my friends over at Star Solutions That Achieve Results Inc. (STAR Results), The Global 2015 STAR Sales Manager Survey.

The Sales Manager Survey seeks opinions and perceptions from sales executives and leaders around the world on key skills and development priorities for sales managers.

The goal of the study is to help organizations better meet the developmental gaps of their frontline sales managers.

“For companies to achieve better sales results they need to invest their resources into the proper training, support and coaching of their sales managers,” said Steven Rosen, founder of STAR Results. “Frontline sales managers are the key to unlocking the performance of the sales organization.”

The targeted audience for completing this survey is:

  • VP of Sales
  • Business Unit Managers/Directors
  • National Sales Managers/Directors
  • Regional Sales Directors
  • Front Line Sales Managers
  • Trainers

To participate in the study click on Take the Survey. Participants will receive a free copy of the final findings report – valued at $250.
Rosen observed that sales organizations invest millions of dollars on sales training, yet very little investment on their sales managers who develop top sales people. It isn’t surprising to see that so many sales managers are failing to delver the results their companies expect.

“Most sales managers are selected for management because they are excellent sales people but few are adequately prepared to help their sales team truly realize their potential,” said Rosen. “It’s assumed that because they can do it themselves, they can easily make the switch to getting the best out of others. But that’s just not true.”

As part of the process, Rosen will be presenting results and insights from the survey at the first Annual High Performance Sales Conference, in Toronto, Q1 2015. In addition to Rosen, the conference will feature Tim Hurson, myself and other industry leaders, keep you eyes here for more details to come.

About Steven Rosen/STAR Results

Steven Rosen, MBA is a top sales management consultant whose clients have included Fortune 100′s (including Novartis Pharmaceutical and Alcon), medium size businesses (including Red Rock Breweries) and select smaller businesses and charities for whom he helped grow the bottom line.

STAR Results, based in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada, is a sales management coaching, training and consulting organization dedicated to sales leadership development. Its mission is to inspire sales executive and managers to realize their vision, hire top-performing sales reps, transform managers into sales coaches and achieve greater personal and professional success

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

A Thanksgiving Audio Treat0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

Given that today is Thanksgiving in the States, it is not the time for heavy reading (maybe heavy eating), so today’s post is an audio delight that you can take with you and enjoy. It is a recent interview I did on Biz Radio Canada, talking about what else, Pipeline and Sales.

You can use it to distract you from the other in line or at the mall, or stop you from getting trampled as you reach for that last discounted super-duper flat screen. Hey, you never know, you may discover a nugget or two that will allow you to Sell Better next year and allow you to hire a personal shopper to troll the mall for specials, or just not worry about paying full price because of the increased sales you’ll make, and stay home and watch the game on your flat screen.

Enjoy:

Happy Thanksgiving

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Personal Deficiency Bonus0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

2nd prize

With special thanks to S.G. and my friend B.P.

Everyone, including me, writes a piece this time of year about closing the year strong. For the most part these are aimed at front line sales people, and the better ones offer choices that make sense year-round even if initially implemented in Q4. Few are aimed at helping managers in helping their sales team adopt new habits, or create breakthroughs for their reps that can again be extended as a regular practice, and that is the thought here, helping managers, or actually sales coaches, which good sales managers are.

Often when speaking to managers they point to “that one thing”, that if the rep in question would change or address, it would have a dramatically beneficial impact on their execution and results. A personal deficiency. Could be anything, tardiness in updating the CRM, slow to move on renewals or price increases, insufficient preparation for prospecting, you name it. These elements are important to achieving results, and are often included as elements of a balanced scorecard. But the fact remains that most bonuses are paid out based on achieved results or specific objectives in the case of MBO.

Traditionally bonuses are meant to reward positives, and negatives either limit or eliminate rewards. But what if you turned things around. What if you put a positive focus on personal deficiencies, hence the Personal Deficiency Bonus.

Here is how it goes. Say you want a rep to develop a habit, any of the above, we’ll pick prospecting prep. Say a rep is consistently hovering just below quota, Based on their personal metrics, it is clear that two or three more first meeting with prospects would give him/her enough prospects to get them to quota, they just need to develop the habit of being prepared in order to land those meetings. You know, they know, you talk about it in the usual terms, but nothing changes. I would argue because the reward is paid out on something other than what needs to change. So let’s put a focus on what needs to change. And it’s not more sales, not more prospects, but more, better and consistent prep, bonus that.

In Q4, pay some portion of their bonus on changing that one habit, more prep for prospecting giving them more prospect meetings, leading to more pipeline opportunities, helping them exceed quota. It offers a coaching opportunity, with a more willing participant as they get paid not for an abstract related outcome, but for the specific deficiency, prep.

What you’ll find is that once they develop the habit, they will stick with it, next January and beyond. More importantly a rep who can now be coached and taken further, sometimes by focusing and rewarding the positive, but also by focusing on their Personal Deficiency Bonus.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Seriously – You’re Not That Different – Sales eXecution 2640

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Different 3

Being different seems to be really important to some people in sales. From their buyers, to product, to the way the sell, people want to cling to being different. It is like “Difference” is some sort of badge of honour, a reason to pay a premium, or worse, a rationale for results.

You often hear people talk about how the complexity of their sale makes it different. But all sales are complex in their own way, just because one may have more moving parts than another, does not make it more complex or different. Sure the moving parts in selling desalination plants may differ from those found in selling business process outsourcing, but the core components and core execution, not that different. Wanting it to be different does not change the fact that it has to be executed along a defined path (or process, you know, that’s a bit more complex), and one step at a time.

The “sophistication of the solution”, does not equate to “different” or “complex”. Just ask someone selling a fairly simple and standard product, in a highly competitive, price sensitive environment; these sales people have a much more complex selling challenge, especially if they can maintain price integrity. But in the end there is less difference than many sales professionals would want to pretend.

I remember meeting with a VP of Sales with a “Solutions Provider “, and indeed they had a product that was “cool”, and in demand, addressing a common requirement in their target market. From the time we met at a conference he was into the “I am interested in what you do Tibor, but you gotta understand we’re different.” I don’t know, he like everyone at their booth, had two arms, two legs, a big mouth, didn’t seem that different, maybe I’ll figure it out when we meet at their office.

Later at the office, he was right back at it, preaching the (invisible) difference. As one who likes to break the sale down to logical sequential steps, I thought I would explore.

TS:     So let me get this straight, your people do not have to prospect, you went to the conference because you had marketing budget to blow. You normally have prospects lined up out the door, but you knew I was coming this morning, so cleared a path for me?

VP:     No, no, our folks have to prospect, they need to make calls every day, I have them working the show leads now, those shows are expensive, I am always reviewing their activity, and we should be converting more of these leads, especially with our product.

TS:     OK, but once you get in front of the prospect, it is smooth sailing, they get it, and want to switch or buy right away, no?

VP:     I wish, we have to needs assessments, work through a bunch of data, and for sure three demos, sometimes more.

TS:     But at that point, they just ask for the proposal, and away we go.

VP:     Rarely, we have to help them maneuver internally, that’s why we end up doing multi demos, and data crunching, all the players involved.

TS:     All laid out in your process, right?

VP:     Not really, what we laid out should follow a different path.

TS:     But once you present the proposal, it’s done, no back and forth, no negotiations, no price haggling.

VP:     Are you kidding, even after all that, we still have to deal with that, all the ROI we show them, and we still go through that.

TS:     So tell me again how you are different?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

KPI’s – What Are They To You?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Impact Question

Talk to any ‘executoide’, and KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) are bound to be part of the conversation. Nice and practical concept, good resume fodder, often misused or abused by many, especially from a sales point of view. I often get the sense that many see KPI standing for Key Political Initiatives or Key (to my) Personal Incentive.

As a concept, KPI’s are great, helping sales organizations in defining and measuring progress against stated objectives or goals. Determined in advance, measurable and quantifiable, they are instrumental in helping to assess progress, and plan course correction if needed. Examples in sales may be lead to opportunity conversions, or proposals to close. Based on these measures you can make adjustments and respond to conditions on the ground to ensure those goals are attained. You often hear sales managers and director speak of how they are doing against their KPI’s. Looking at it that way can be a part of potential problems.

In the wrong hands, with wrong intents, the best concepts can come back to bite you; in sales it is usually the disconnect between what’s being measured and the desired results. There are many KPI’s being met without delivering the intended result or economic benefit, leading to a culture of measurement rather than success. When reps feel measured instead of being led to success, they turn to rationalizing their performance with the very same KPI’s. I hear reps say “well I delivered against the KPI, I got eight meetings every week this quarter.” Or “what do you want me to do, get sales or complete the KPI’s you gave me?”

It doesn’t help when sales leaders are incented on meeting KPI’s rather than result. While I am a big proponent of paying for success based on leading indicators, it should be on how those leading indicators are leading to consistent and improving results. Without that, when you pay for a checkmark, you get checkmarks, you pay for results you get results.

I was recently contacted by a sales director about training the team. As we discussed the program and roll-out, he insisted on doing things the first week of every quarter, when I asked why, he told me team quarterly development was one of his KPI’s, and the team meets the first week of each quarter. We assessed the team, had input from a number of people in the company, and customers, and designed training that required two days of delivery at the start, followed by Renbor’s Follow-Through Action Plan regimen. He loved the program, but asked that I cut it down to a half day. “What do you want me to cut?” “No no, I love the program as is, we just need to do it in half a day, I have to include some product training in October as well (another KPI no doubt).

No matter how much I tried to impress on him that he was making a mistake, he insisted. Knowing the type, that when things hit the fan, I will be blamed for the failure, even as he collects his KPI based bonus, I confronted him. I revamped the program to make it a one day affair, but he was still reluctant; half glancing at his phone as he explained his situation, including meeting KPI’s. I finally offered to send him some workbooks, pre-filled certificates he can distribute, come in and read a few pages to the team, and he could hit his KPI, and not bother with the challenge of training, but still be able to put the tick in the box next to training. “That’s your goal right?”. I swear he thought about it for a minute before realizing he was being mocked.

We finally agreed to the abridged one day program, with a clear understanding that we would include the remaining material into the January training. Now I have four months to work with and on the executives to change things, either the director or his KPI’s.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Goodwill And Selling Now – – Sales eXecution 2570

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Road to success

Goodwill: “a kindly feeling of approval and support: benevolent interest or concern”

I sales there is always talk of trust, easy to see why. But trust is not an instantaneous thing, nor can it be acquired by the pound, it has to be earned, demonstrated through actions, it needs to be reciprocal, and to the chagrin of some marketing folks, it is much more than an italicized bullet point in a brochure. Further, in sales, talk of trust brings with it an ever expanding range of opinions and advice from a number of “knowledgeable experts”.

As you would expect, the wider the range of opinions, the less likely it is that any one single source has the right, or even the “righter” answer. With trust, it is better to master a given element, learn, and build a base of success from which you can move to the next set of elements. This then becomes the iterative road should define your sales career. Unless you can definitively prove that you have figured trust, and you don’t need to evolve it further. (Hint number one, if someone claims to have the definitive answer, be suspect).

What I disagree with is the view held by some that people will not buy until a seller has established trust, or more important for sellers, that they cannot sell until they have developed trust. But since it takes time and action to establish trust, and buyers often have objectives with shorter timeframes, what do you do, especially in a quota driven reality?

The answer is Goodwill. As there is no ”Express to Trust”, think of Goodwill as the stations along the way; and great thing for you and your buyer, is that you can get sales as a result of building goodwill, avoiding the “what comes first the trust or the sale?” puzzle. We have all heard the sales expression “they don’t care how much you know until they see how much you care”; goodwill allows you to do just that.

There are myriad of ways of building goodwill with a buyer, much of it will be dictated by what you sell and your buyers objectives, another reason to implement a disciplined opportunity post-mortem routine.

As with other aspects of sales you can build goodwill if you stop doing certain things. For example, there is a leading expert, whose stuff I used to like. I say used to because every time they send out useful information, it is merely a teaser, the meaningful part is always “locked” behind a form, with a lot more detail than most forms request. While I utilize forms, there is a bunch downloads I provide to prospects that don’t require one. There are times I send prospects info and direct them right to the download, bypassing the required form. If the information is of use, I get an opportunity to engage, some goodwill, and a brick in building trust. Every time this this person writes me, I remember what a pain they are, and I score one against them.

Giving prospect access to something you normally save for clients; introducing prospects to some of your clients who could be their buyers; one company I knew had their product development folks available for a monthly Q&A for prospects the sales people selected, no selling just discussion. The choice is yours, both in terms of what and why, and the best why is it builds revenue now, and trust along the way.

Hey, if you liked what you saw here, invite me to speak at your next meeting!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Micromanage Me, Please0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

microscope

The best way to turn a positive in to a negative is to give it a nasty name. A great example in sales is the use of the word “Micromanagement”, a favourite among those looking to shirk some responsibility and/or accountability that comes with “Active Management”. VP’s, Directors, Managers, and Front-line reps all love to throw up the Word to avoid dealing with issues and/or challenges they face but don’t like, i.e. “Active Management”.

I do want to acknowledge that real micromanagement, the wet blanket type, in the classic sense is not good (most of the time), but what a lot of people in sales label as micromanagement, is nothing more than active management. This includes real expectations, measured or tied to benchmarks and metrics. And it is usually those who fall short on the measured areas who cry “Micromanagement”.

Regardless of the title, the role of the front line manager is to lead their teams in executing the process, by leveraging and balancing activities and the coaching of their team to consistently better execute the high value activities that drive the process. Straight forward enough but not necessarily simple.

Let’s use the example of a core metric important in driving sales, one of the simplest, proposal to closing ratio. You would expect that most sales people would know their own, and that their manager would too, otherwise how could they possibly coach them. There are a host of indicators that can be used to manage activity and coach for improvement, of course as a leader you want to focus on the leading indicators.

I was interviewing a team last week, including their manager (he’s been around a while, so his title was VP, but he was a line manager), and when I asked him about some key conversion rates, he responded that he did not want to “get involved to that level, I don’t want to micromanage”. This would seem OK if they were blowing their numbers away, but that’s not why I was there. I asked what expectations are set either in terms of activities, pipeline coverage, or territory contact/coverage/penetration. And in all instances, the reply was basically that the guys are professionals, “do things their way, and don’t like to be micromanaged.” Apparently, they don’t like to exceed quota either.

When I asked about how the team was coached, the typical, “we talk every day, they call me when they have issues with a deal, and we meet once a month as a team to talk about the market.” Any coaching plans for the reps? “We do a performance management meeting every six months.”

When I spoke to the reps, I got their version of the “I don’t want to be micromanaged” routine.

Now we all know if I went back and asked them what their favourite ball player’s batting average, or RBI numbers were; or +/- in hockey, they would know it. I am willing to bet that if a ball player didn’t follow the coach’s system, they would expect the coach to get involved, and why not, just look at the success Phil Jackson was able to drive with his process, was he micromanaging? Or if someone was not producing as many goals as in previous years, they would lead the “trade them” charge. If the team was underperforming they would be calling for the coach to be fired, but not when it comes to their performance, the very same expectation would be met with the “micromanagement” cry.

Active management is a must for any professional team to continue to outperform their competitors, sales is no less a profession. You want to succeed, embrace active management.

Hey, if you liked what you saw here, invite me to speak at your next meeting!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

2014 Annual magazine with “Top Universities for Professional Sales Education” listing0

2014 Annual

In 2007, fewer than 30 universities had recognized sales programs. In 2014, the number has grown to close to 100, evidence of the success of sales programs in educating the next generation of sales professionals. One key factor driving that growth has to go to the good folks at the The Sales Education Foundation and their efforts in bringing attention to this overlooked faculty. In some ways it speaks to a reality that should be of great interest to companies and future professionals.

The average rate of student employment, within three months of graduation, hovers around 50%, sales programs report an average of 92%. Students from sales programs average 2.8 job offers before graduation. Add to that the fact that approximately half of all college of business graduates begin their professional careers in a sales role.

All this adds up to why you need to get a hold of and read the 2014 Annual magazine is housed on the Sales Education Foundation website, www.salesfoundation.org. The magazine includes the listing of “Top Universities for Professional Sales Education.”

As a college recruiter, hiring manager, sales organizations: you’ll find that statistics show sales graduates ramp up 50% faster and turn over 30% less than their non-sales educated peers. Partnering with a university sales programs ensures recruiters and their organizations with a pool of future top sales professionals.

If you are a student, you can research and choose a university that offers Professional Sales programs. Sales graduates report their career satisfaction at over 77%. The average starting salary for a sales representative is over $56,000.00. For those looking to pursue an undergraduate major that virtually guarantees employment, professional selling is the program of choice.

University looking to start a program, or connect with other programs, the “Top” listing provides contact information for these programs.
I had the opportunity to be introduced to the Sales Education Foundation, as a result of working with Dawn Deeter-Schmelz, Director, National Strategic Selling Institute, Kansas State University, where I had the pleasure of presenting during their Sales Week this past February.

The Sales Education Foundation’ tag line is ELEVATING THE SALES PROFESSION, something we should all get behind. Grab the Annual, get involved in make our profession an profession everyone aspires to be and improve.

Why Get Ahead Of The Buyer?0

 By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Rear view

I recently saw an ad for a sales program, and that big bold letters enticing me to buy read: “How To Get Ahead Of Your Buyer”. While I get where they were coming from, or more accurately who they were trying to appeal to, but there was just something wrong with the way it was phrased.

I think one of the biggest challenges sales people have is not to get ahead of the buyer, it seems to me that getting ahead of the buyer is the same as “leaving the buyer behind”, a dangerous notion and more dangerous practice.

One of the key things we help sales teams accomplish with the EDGE framework is alignment with the buyer. Executing the sale in a way that keeps you engaged and in step with the buyer, leads to a number of pluses, not to mention more sales.

Alignment is key, it helps you focus and cover objectives, which then allows you to offer practical means of helping the client achieve those objectives. The idea of getting ahead of the buyer has an old school ring of pain and needs based selling.

When you rush ahead of the buyer, because you are familiar with the scenario, you’ve seen and heard it before, you tend to want to “close” too early, usually relying on old school “closing techniques”. In some ways I thought we were past this, but this ad and a recent discussion in a LinkedIn group suggest that we are not. That discussion was based on the question “What’s the best, most effective question you’ve ever asked a client?” Apparently some sales people still ask what keeps the prospect awake at night. With thinking like that, and leaving the buyer behind, sellers move to close too early in the process, you may feel you are done your discovery, but the buyer is still defining and refining their requirements. Moving to close at this stage will at worst make the buyer feel pressured, scare them to compare to others, and at best, slow down the deal, requiring a longer sales cycle, the use of more resources, and less time to spend on other opportunities.

When this happens, and other companies enter the fray, price will not only become an issue, but a central issue. What was your deal to win, now becomes your deal to buy, and there is never money in that.

The flip-side of getting ahead, is falling behind, the relationship approach, “whatever makes you happy, I’ll be here when you’re ready.” The net effect of this again is that the buyer learns whet they require, after all you are there with all the facts and didees, and when they are ready to buy, they do so from the guy asking for the order, not the one waiting.

Work with the buyer, lead the buyer, based on their objectives, your expertise as a subject matter expert, but don’t get ahead, or fall behind, manage the alignment.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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