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A Four Letter Word Every Seller Should Learn – Sales eXecution 3182

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 


One attribute many successful sales people possess is clarity of purpose, this helps them plan and execute more effectively, as well as help them review their actions and results more objectively. Because they are more focused on ‘purpose’ rather than self, any negatives that may surface during those reviews are weighed against results and how they may have moved them towards their purpose.

In case you are wondering, the purpose is usually a balance of helping the customers and their employers achieve their objectives, while ensuring their own success.

As a result they are much more naked to the world than their less successful counterparts. The also-rans, spend time and energy building up calluses to protect their egos from constructive input, and change. While consistently success sales people contiguously seek feedback and critical input, understanding its importance to success.

Part of this is their willingness and ability to ask for HELP.

“Know-it-alls”, by definition don’t feel they need help, because hey, they know it all. I work with my share of these folks, most of the time nice people in every other respect, but just refuse to take steps to ensure they are improving. (Sounds like some prospects we know, n’est-ce pas?) They can do it all on their own, and would rather piss their pants than ask where the washroom is. If they can’t, it won’t get done. Which is not the worst thing in some cases, not getting it done in sales lets down two of the three parties mentioned above, remember the Buyer will always have other, better, options.

Many sales people have difficulty asking for help internally or from assets provided by their organizations, such as me or other providers like me. One thing I offer my clients is availability, if you need to better understand something I have introduced, you are about to go into a call and want to bounce ideas, anything pertaining to sales and the areas I have been hired to help with, call, no need to wait or schedule, help is at hand. You know how many people take me up on this offer? Exactly, only the proverbial 20%. The ones who were likely succeeding before I came, and get the most out of what they are taught, the ones who will drive the ROI on their company’s investment. The rest, well, the “know-it-all”, and need little or no help in not making quota.

But you know where asking for help has the most profound effect and return? Asking your buyers for help.

Now I am not suggesting that you undermine your position as a Subject Matter Expert, but there are other ways. Buyers are people, and people invariably like to help, it is the way we are built. It is amazing the power of asking someone for help, you would not believe what you can find out by using a simple phrase like “Help me understand”. No this does not mean you are wake, stupid, incapable, or uninformed; it just means you are open to learning. That just as you are willing to ask for help, you are willing to offer it.

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Tibor Shanto

3 Must Have Attributes of a Real “NEXT STEP”1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Definitions are an important factor in sales success, talk to the best sales people, best here being measured in results, not likability, and you will find that they thrive on clear definitions, it is their competitive edge.  To identify weak sales people, look for those with plenty of opinion, but little or no clarity in approach or definitions for core elements of their success.  One common example is “Value”, it is part of almost every sales conversation, yet there are numerous, at times conflicting definitions.  I ask a group of five also rans to define value, and you’ll end up with seven different definitions, because the first two will change their mind based on what the next three say.

Another common element of successful selling that is all too often undefined (and usually unenforced), is the discipline of next steps.  Sure, everyone pays lip service to “next steps” (or advances, or other synonyms), but what they say is not what they mean, and not at all defined, agreed on, or universally supported.

I was brought up in the sales school that held that without a “next step” you are likely working with someone who is fully not engaged, if at all, and therefore not a prospect, but a lead.  This makes a “next step” a crucial delineator between real opportunities, or those pretend opportunities, taking up space in your pipeline or CRM, but lack any empirical evidence to suggest that you are working with a real prospect or an opportunity that will convert in a predictable time frame.

There is not an opportunity review that goes by where a reps is asked:

“Do you have a ‘next step’ with this prospect?”

Rep: “Sure do!”

“What is it?”

“I’m calling him Monday to set a meeting”, or “I told him I would call Monday to see what he thought of the proposal”

“What time is the call scheduled for?”

“I don’t have it formally scheduled, I told him I’d call Monday, and he said fine, I’ll do it after I am back from the Northern demo.”

Sorry, but that’s not a next step.  It’s a plan, may even be a good plan, but at this point it is little more than hope in the form of a thought, and you know what they say about hope, and people addicted to hopium.

For a “next step” to be real and productive it needs to have three attributes, that when combined and successfully executed form a platform for sales success that can use to plan, strategize and execute their sale, usually in a shorter time frame than they had anticipated.

1.   Must Be Agreed On By Both The Buyer And The Seller – by agreed I mean that it is booked and confirmed, not just a “ya OK”, whispered as you are walking out. These days you can have an invite fired from your phone while you are still there.  The physical act of pulling out your phone to put in the time and date will lead them to go to their calendar, if they don’t you may have a problem that you need to address right then and there.  It is not unusual for my prospects to have accepted the next meeting before I leave or by the time I am checking e-mail in the parking lot.

Many will settle for this as a “next step”, but I don’t want you to be one of those.  There are people, even with the demands on time, who will meet with a sales person without a specific reason.  This is why the next attribute is so important, in fact of the three the most important.

2.  Moves The Journey Forward – going back without a clear purpose is a waste of time, you can sit at your desk twiddle your thumbs without adding to you carbon footprint. You want to go back to continue to move the process forward in a way that helps the buyer make the decision that you can help them achieve their objectives.  This can be asking them to do something that will validate their engagement, involvement and commitment to the buy/sale moving forward.

I suggest that you think in advance what that may be, leveraging your personal and organizational experience, map out the journey, understand the critical milestones, and how you have successfully arrived there in the past.  If you know that achieving something opens the door to the next phase of the process, then think of what has to transpire in the meeting to get the buyer to see that as a logical path forward.   This could be any number of things based on what you sell.  One example is to ask for the opportunity to interview other people impacted by the decision, and set a time to comeback, debrief and plan the “next step”.  You’ll often hear me say:

“So we’ve agreed that it would help if I had a chance to get the front line view, if you can give the names of three sales people to interview, I can set that up for next week, and be in a position to come back to review with you by next Wednesday, does 2:00 work for you?”

Now if they do not agree to the action requested, i.e. the team interviews, but do agree to meet next week to hear my recommendations, you have some choices to make.  Does it make sense to have that meeting without the input, can you viably make progress without that.  If not, then you need to understand where you and the buyer parted ways during the meeting, what you may have missed, whether it is an indication that they are not a real buyer, or do you need to retrace and build the value up again.

This is where “next steps” drive success long before the meeting, and how you bring the past to help you now.  Perhaps the most important aspect of “next step”, specifically how they help you plan, strategize and execute.  Since we can only speculate based on experience, it makes sense to visualize the meeting unfolding in a number of ways.  Again, we are not shooting for perfection, but to cover the most likely set of outcomes.  Therefore you need to have multiple “next steps” going into any meeting.  In essence, Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and more base on your reality.  Based on the above if Plan B is the follow up meeting without prior interviews, fine.  But if your experience shows that second meetings without an interview end in no sales, or lower margin or quality sales that take 50% longer than the average sale; you can comfortably walk away know you did not go into a trap.  Remember you can always revisit the opportunity down the road, rather than wasting time and energy traveling that unproductive road.

3.  Agreed On Timelines – This ties the first two elements together. And while it may seem too obvious, too many sales people have a plan going into a meeting, find areas of agreement and action, but leave the timing open ended.  Don’t believe, lock your office door, and have a true look at the opportunities in your pipeline, and see if you have any with no time lines.

Seems to me that if you are going to propose specific actions you and the prospect will take as a result of today’s meeting, and prospect agrees that it is something worth doing and they take on doing it, why not agree on a deadline or timeline.  Some sales people tell me they don’t want to seem pushy, when I hear that it sounds like “I am afraid of seeming professional”.

By suggesting a specific time you are helping the buyer (and yourself but let’s keep focused on the buyer), people have a lot coming at them, a lot of demand on the time.  Those things with times attached, deadlines, in their calendar, in their face, with purpose, leading to a desired and agreed on outcome, will be the ones that get done.  Those with any elements of looseness, like no specific time, who know, could be today, tomorrow, “hell, I lived with it this long, could be next quarter”.  Solidify you sales success using time.

Above I asked you to look at your pipeline and see how many opportunities are without a time line.  While you are in there, take a look at the 3 attributes highlighted above, and see where some opportunities in your pipeline come up short.  And then go and fix them, set a meeting, execute your plan, and secure the “next step”, as defined.

So if you are not using “next steps” as success driver, not just in the meeting, but long before, then you are probably working harder than you have to.  Further, if you are not clear on what “next steps” really are, and are working with a different definition than above, you are likely not as productive as you could be.

Your next step now, put the above into practice, it is a discipline.  Need help, your next step is call me: +1416 822-7781.

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Tibor Shanto



Salesman #Podcast – Sales eXecution 3170

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

A few weeks back I wrote a post Just Wondering… about a question I was asked during a podcast about who I felt were the best sales people I ever worked with.

Below, in its entirety, for your listening and dining pleasure, is the whole podcast.  We explored other topics including how some of the concepts in the award winning book I coauthored may be out of date, how my thinking has evolved, and a host of other sales subject.  Take a listen, share with friends, hold some town halls, hell, ask Trump to comment on it, he can tell us how it might play in China, cause Trump knows China.  Whatever you do with it, enjoy, and leave us your thoughts.

Now it’s your turn, have you say below.

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Tibor Shanto

Are your Open Ended Questions Leading to Closed Ended Results? – Sales eXecution 3160

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Question ball and chain

Often the best sales books are not about sales or by sales experts. Case in point Dorothy Leeds’, the The 7 Powers of Questions: Secrets to Successful Communication in Life and at Work. If you haven’t read this and you’re in sales, you are at a disadvantage to any rep that has. While the importance of questions has been explored by many, I keep coming back to this because she does not limit questions to being a sales tactic, but as a means of facilitating real communication and opportunities.

A key point in the book is that questions make one think. So true, yet so underutilized in sales. Rather than using where the buyer is as a starting point, and using question to go beyond, sellers use questions to bring the buyer to a space where the seller needs them, where their value proposition resides. Salespeople use question to box people into a space where they feel they can demonstrate their product and their perspective of value. You can hear it when they “wouldn’t you agree that if….., then you would be able to ….. better (faster, cheaper, etc.)…. Odd how the biggest proponents of Open Ended questioning, end up using questions to create a Closed Ended buying environment. The result is that these questions lead the prospect to in the opposite direction, leaving sellers to wonder why their great questions fail to inspire the buyer.

Want to inspire buyers, get them to think, to engage in a way that they don’t with sales people who use question to coral them? Get them to think. Not about their situation, their hip to that, they live it. Get them to think of their objectives, about the path forward, and the possibilities those objectives Open Up. To do that you need to demonstrate being a subject matter expert, and brave enough to explore the unknown, using question to find possibilities not limit them.

Being a subject matter expert does not mean being a “know it all”. But having enough knowledge, confidence and curiosity to help your buyer navigate uncharted territories to get to their objectives.

All those probing questions fall on deaf ears, they have heard it all before, the have been disappointed before. What they are looking for is a trusted advisor, again, that is not an oracle all knowing all saying, but someone with the skills and expertise to help them figure out how to bridge the gap between where they are now, and where they want their business to be.

Now when I say trusted advisor, I don’t mean their friend, or a relationship type, but someone who demonstrates enough expertise in the areas the buyer is trying to understand that they are willing to trust them enough to first take input then advice. You do not need to have a relationship to do that, you need to have and demonstrate expertise. You can do that and establish yourself as the go to source, as the one who can cut through the noise out there trying to bring them into a closed ended discussion, and you can become the supplier of choice long before the relationship that will evolve after.

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4 Ways to Make Sure You Never Miss a Sale’s Call0

girl by phone

The Pipeline Guest Post – Jason Rueger

For small businesses, every contract and sale counts. That’s why you want to make sure you never miss a sales call. If you do, you may lose the customer, develop a reputation for being unavailable, or both. Here are some tips for your business that will ensure you never again miss an important sales call.

  1. Set Up a Schedule So That Someone is Always Ready to Receive Sales’ Calls

If you are a small business owner, it can be exhausting to always be the point-person for sales’ calls. If you have several other key employees you trust in your business, you should create a sales’ call schedule. Basically, you develop and print out a schedule that clearly divides up sales call responsibilities between you and your 2-3 key employees. When someone is on-duty, then calls are routed to their phone/extension and they pay special attention to the phone, to ensure no calls are missed. If someone is on-duty for a morning, then it is their job to check-in on any voicemails from the previous evening and respond immediately. With a schedule in-place and responsible employees, the odds of you dropping the ball on a sales call again are pretty slim. Also, this system gives employees a sense of investment in the business and gives you a break  to recharge without having to constantly be worried about phone interruptions.

  1. Set Up Call Rules

With the advances in business phone system technology, there are all kinds of ways you can route calls by setting up call rules. For example, during 2-4 pm you could have calls routed to one phone but set it up so that if the first number does not pick up the call is automatically transferred to another employee. Or, you can have calls ring multiple phones or extensions at the same time, making it much more likely someone will answer. If you have a really high-profile client, you can program their number in and have it automatically transfer to your personal cell whenever they call in. By setting up in-depth call rules, you can ensure that your sales’ calls do not inadvertently fall through the cracks.

  1. Get a Phone System that Has an Automatic Call Routing Attendant

Many business phone systems now have the option of setting up what is often referred to as an “automated attendant” or “automated assistant.” Basically, this is where a client or potential client is given multiple options when they dial your number depending on their need (press 1 for sales, 2 for customer service, etc). This not only saves your business time and effort by having less call transfers, but it also adds a level of professionalism to your business. Instead of getting a busy signal or leaving a voicemail on your general number, a client can always get some kind of answer. If they do have to leave a voicemail, it is with the actual department or sales’ agent they are looking to contact, making it much less likely that the lead will get lost in the everyday business shuffle.

  1. Use a Phone System with a Good Mobile App

With today’s VoIP business technology (phone that uses internet to place calls) there are lots of things you can do with your business phone system that you could not do before. One of the coolest is via your mobile phone. Not all companies have mobile apps. But, those that do, have features like in-call transfer to another number, voicemail to text, the ability to send and receive faxes, and more. If you get a sales call routed to your cell and you need to transfer to a sales representative or another agent, you can do it with the simple click of a button without ever hanging up. It is much easier then getting out your contacts and forcing the customer or potential customer to hang up and dial another number. One less phone call a potential client has to make means one less chance they choose not to follow through and become a lost lead. Check out Fitsmallbusiness.com’s VoIP Buyer’s Guide to learn more about VoIP Business phone providers and what they have to offer.


With today’s business phone and VoIP technology, there is really not any reason to miss a sales call. Set up a schedule, route your calls, get an auto-attendant setup, and configure your mobile app. If you get these features up-and-running, you will be well on your way to answering all of your sales calls and converting more customers.

About Jason Rueger

Jason Rueger is an analyst and staff writer for Fit Small Business, specializing in online and offline storefronts and product reviews. When not helping other small business owners, Jason runs his own small business, Rueger Pottery, where he makes handmade, functional ware that he hopes will lead those who use it to find some meaning and beauty in the everyday moments of life. You can see Jason’s pottery at rueger-pottery.com and reach him at jrueger@fitsmallbusiness.com.


A Lead Is A Terrible Thing To Waste – Sales eXecution 3140

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 


Every day around the globe thousands if not hundreds of thousands of leads are created. Some are created by nice marketing folks, others by sales, some at trade shows, probably a few on your site, some are inbound, many are outbound, and frankly some are nowhere bound, but there is nothing but hope and blue skies at the point they are created.

But many of these leads never have the opportunity to grow into viable leads, delivering their full potential, evolving into prospects and finally full blown sales. No, many leads are wasted, ignored, sadly forgotten, and like so many before them, end up being another “might have been”, the latest addition to a pile of unrealized business cards.

Waste is never good, especially when what’s being wasted has real potential. It is especially sad when many sales people are begging or Jonesing for leads. Normally people are careful with a resource in shortage, in this case leads, and the ultimate finished good, sales and customers, sellers should be working leads full out, not wasting them. While leads may be a renewable resource, that’s no reason to waste or be casual with them, if you don’t want to work them, someone else will. Each of these leads has the opportunity to reward you now, and pay dividends well into the future. So why do people in sales allow, and at times deliberately set out to, waste and squander leads. After all, a lead is a terrible thing to waste.

Some have told me that they are not wasting these leads, but allowing them to “fully develop”. Why just last week, during a review with an IT sales rep, he told me that the lead was “not real, they are not looking to buy for another six months.” The sales version of the glass half full routine. Where I saw a good runway to build rapport and understanding, he only saw something wasting his time. “What’s a good lead?” I asked, “Someone ready to buy now, not next year.” I followed up and asked how long his sales cycle normally was, he told me six months. I tried explaining to him, but he insisted that there was no point in engaging with them for another six months.

While you can forgive the stupidity of the above, what is not forgivable, are those know what they have to do but don’t do it. Follow up once, twice and then punting, is wasting. But it takes effort to develop and execute a good pursuit plan. On the other hand so does whinging about the quality of leads you get from marketing, I mean how many times can we hear the same story.

Better use of that energy is to develop a plan for maximizing every lead. The plan should take the emotion and guess work out of maximizing a lead. Outlining the specific steps to take in converting a lead to a prospect will take the emotion and the effort out of it. You will be there early, you will do things to build rapport as time moves forward, and you’ll be the right person at the right time. Not late because you were were waiting for the perfect time, trying to get that right is a waste of time and leads. And you know what they say, “A Lead Is A Terrible Thing To Waste”.

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Un-Complicating Their Buy at #CEBSummit0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Richtung Pfeil

While there are a range of relevant topics relating to sales, selling and marketing presented at the CEB Sales and Marketing Summit, the one recurring theme is the power of simplification.

When you step back and see how selling have unfolded over the last for years, what a neutral observer would see is an exercise in layering. People would see an opportunity or a challenge and they would bolt something on to fix or “enhance” their current state as a means of improvement. This could be to their sales process, or their sales enablement technology or platform; the term “There’s an App for that”, was embraced by sales long before all sellers bought iPhones. This wasn’t lost on marketing, they joined the party and loaded on more. This often led one to wonder whether the sale was complex to begin with, or it was complicated by the participants.

Which brings us to the buyers, they further added to the complications, leading to challenges so well presented in CEB’s current book “The Challenger Customer”. As the authors spell out in detail, the dysfunctional buyers and buying process triggers a reaction in sellers, usually in the form of adding more, and just driving the problem further.

Much of discussion at the Summit, speaks to how simplifying the buying process could lead to a number of benefits for buyers and by extension sellers, and the role sales/marketing organizations can play in helping buyer simplify things and progress as a result. “Empowered Customers are Overwhelmed”, turns out “too much information, too many options, and too many people involved in the decision are grinding things to a halt, with 81% or respondents saying their sales cycles have gotten longer over last five years.

The Ease-O-Meter – So how can you make buying easier? You start by focusing on the buying process. This does not mean the traditional approach of imposing you sales process, your time lines, your market view on the buyer, but truly helping them with their purchase as a means of helping them achieve their business goals and objectives.

This is not easy for sales and marketing types, as evidenced by one exercise that had us focus on the buy side of life. Even with all the great knowledge and experience about, this proved to be a real task. Adding to the challenge are two factors detailed in the Challenger Customer”, the combination of the “5.4” and the “good enough”. 5.4 being the number of people/groups involved in a buy decision, hence the dysfunction; “good enough”, the reality of buyers recognizing your value, but not willing to pay for it when there is a “good enough” lower cost alternative.

Another way to simplify things is to minimize options and choices, as stated above, too much choice is not working, as Barry Schwartz, Ph.D author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, choice is just killing buying, which is killing sales. While this may seem counter intuitive to many in sales, there were numerous example of why and how too much choice can lead to no choice, not what sellers want when they give choices. As Schwartz pointed out “the best way to avoid regretting a decision is not to make one!”

Not to be glib, but the choice is there, you can keep on the path you’re on, or pick up the book, focus on executing the the concepts and implementing elements to make your buyers’ journey easier and simplify your sales success.

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Q&A at Plug and Play #video – Sales eXecution 3130

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

In September I had the opportunity to meet with some up and coming companies at Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale.  After the meeting, I was asked to share some specifics about selling and our approach to driving value from prospecting call to growing your clients.  Take a look below, and feel free to reach out if anything strikes a chord or close to home.

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Which side of risk are you on? #BBSradio #podcast0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

Risk is a big factor is sales success and sales failure.  Being that people most people are risk averse, the traditional approach in sales has been to try to minimize risk associated with one’s product, the risk of change, and risk of the unknown inherent in a new vendor or product.  But as with many things the internet and social media have brought some balance and greater ability for buyers to better gauge and measure risk of vendors, product and switching.

But for those reps willing to do a bit of work, you can leverage risk in a slightly different way that will lead to action, rather than the usual inaction.

Take a listen, then let me know you thoughts.

Check Out Marketing Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Breakthroughbusiness on BlogTalkRadio

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3 Reasons To Get Prospects to Look Back Drivers Future Sales2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Now Past Future

People are creatures of habit, and while we do change over time, most often these are gradual and incremental evolutions, only occasionally radical and sudden change. There are several way this can help sellers perform better, not only in terms of quota, but helping clients achieve their objectives, leading to more business as a result.

The goal in this piece is not to compare one type of buyer to another, but to help you adjust your approach to better align with the buyer, their habits, and expectations to help you be more effective with the type of buyer at hand.

While there may be other reasons, here are three in no particular order, that if you incorporate into your sale, will help you achieve better results for all involved.

  • Propensity to change
  • Why they buy
  • How they buy/make decisions

Propensity – In the past we have spoken about the market breaking down to three general groups, buyers who are Actively looking, Passively looking, Not looking (status quo). No matter which group they are in, there will be different levels of willingness to change. Even in the Actively looking group there will be those who are looking because there are external factors forcing them in to the market, without those external factors they would be status quo. Others are always looking to be leading edge and are looking on their own volition. Clearly the latter have a greater propensity to change and act, while the former will require more reassurance, more motivation, and at times more work. Again more work is not a bad thing, it’s just good to know up front. Don’t forget, that some will never change and take pride on going down with the ship, which means it is OK to disqualify and move on.

Why – Once they do make the decision to act, you need to understand why they chose the product or supplier they chose having decided to act. This will give you a lot of insight not only about the individual but the organization. Was there decision tied to a specific set of objectives, and is that consistent across a number of decision, or was it a result of “Me Too” at play. If we extrapolate out from the technology adoption lifecycle, how we sell to buyers at the left end of the curve will tangibly differ from those on the right end. It doesn’t matter which methodology you use, knowing why the buyer has made the selections they have in the past will give you clear guidance as to how to align with their current purchase decision.

How – This should be the most straight forward, once they have decided to make a change, and are comfortable with the reasons as to why, how they go about things will help you maximize the current purchase. You will understand who is involved in decisions; here you want to look for names that may have popped up in the “WHY” discussion. How those same people relate, influence or ignore the individual you are working. It will also give you a clear picture as to how (sometimes if) the organization makes decisions. If in exploring the last three or four purchase decision they made involved specific steps, inputs, and people, you can bet that these will be present and required to get the decision you are looking for.

The key in all this is to do this sort of questioning early, when it can seem informal, not central or pertinent to anything specific at the time. The close you get to the decision point, the more layers there are and some buyers will not share as freely. Everyone’s posture changes, and the information that flows, and how it flows changes. It is never too early to gather the above, but there could be a point where it may be a bit too late.

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