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Best time to Prospect – Sales eXecution 2391

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

time management

One question I am asked regularly is what is the best time to prospect, be that of day, time of week, etc. While trying to avoid the word depends, there are some variables that will impact the answer.  But what many are really looking for for is that secret answer, “call them at 4:33 on a the third Tuesday of the month, except I. A leap year, then it’s 4:36″.

While with some potential prospects there may be times that will yield more results, I believe it is not a good idea to look for one time over another, especially when that time is selected anecdotally, based on superstition, or as a means of avoiding the activity altogether.  I say this not to be cynical, but because I have seen people target a specific time, and then refuse to make calls at any other time.

Some sellers tell me emphatically that “you can’t prospect on Monday mornings, no way no how”.  Their rationale is that people are just getting back to work after the weekend and “have their minds on other important things”.  But when is that not the case given all the things the average business person has to juggle?  As with many things, there two side to every coin, I find my target audience uses the weekend to decompress, and on Monday are open to the right suggestion(s) as to how to move sales and salespeople forward, for me Monday mornings have proven to be productive.  I have also had just as many people swear that Friday afternoons are the best, as those who tell me its the worst.  

Some struggle to strike a balance between their own habits and those of their targets.  Many sales pundits will insist that you should prospect first thing in the day, giving a bounce to your day, allowing you to spend the rest of  it selling. The theory is sound, in practice it is not alway so.  I worked with an industrial supply company, they had a great work ethic, their manager instilled a prospecting discipline, on the phone from 7:45 am to 9:00 am, every day.  Their conversion rate from conversation to appointment was great, but they were finding it difficult to connect to have the conversations. When I got involved we stepped back and focused on the work habits of their target group, senior people in plant management and operations. What surfaced was that many of these people were either out on the “shop floor”, or in operations meetings first thing in the morning, around the same time my client’s team was diligently calling. Further, we learned that many of the targets were back in their office around 10:00 am, filling out reports, etc.

As a result of this I had them switch their “calling time” to 10:00 am; their conversion of conversation to appointment continued to be great, but their call to conversation rate tripled.  This increased the number of appointments to record levels, but had the added benefit of reducing the amount of time they actually had to spend on the activity. Think of it as a “double double” of prospecting.  As with all things sales, it is so much better to view the world through the buyer’s eyes.

Given that there are more ways to communicate with buyers than ever, there less reason than ever to think of “best times” to prospect. Given that you can send an e-mail or LiknkedIn inmail any time, or that you can schedule e-mail to go out at a pre-scheduled time, you are no longer tied to time,  A well placed voicemail in off hours can yield great returns, without it impacting your “selling time”.  Rather than spending energy to pinpoint the ultimate time to call, use that energy to create quality talking points for when you connect.

Unless you are doing something specific and measurable to realize revenue, (a retweet does not count), the best time to prospect is now.

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

For Sales Success – Aim Beyond0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

target

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I run, (sometime towards something, other times from something), different distances, but I do three or four half marathons, 21.1K, per year (it’s that last .1 that always gets me). This means a year round routine of training, spiking in the periods leading up to the halves.

It struck me a while back that the approach that works best for succeeding with my longer runs, is very similar to the approach I take with my pipeline and sales success. In many fortunate ways for me, I have slightly better returns on my pipeline efforts than I do with my runs at times, oh well, I’ll just put that off to age.

So here is my approach and thinking.

Running 21.1K is demanding, certainly not as demanding as a full marathon, but I need to deal with both the physical demand, and the mental outlook required to do my best at each run, and hopefully better than the last run. And while everybody seems to be able to relate to the ongoing training for the runs, some are surprised that the same “training” discipline applies to selling. People tell me “you know what you are doing by now don’t you?” Yes I do, which is why I apply what works for one to the other.

When it comes to the running a 21.1K race, you actually need to train for longer distances if I was to train to do exactly 21.1K, I could do well, but it would leave little room for error along the way, especially unpredictable things which may come up; it would require perfect execution every time. So to ensure that there is room for the unexpected, I instead train for 30K runs. In conditioning myself for longer distances at the same pace as I plan to run the half, I build in room for any number of things that may come up on race day, from simple things like the weather, to more difficult things, like the voices in my head asking “why am I here?”

The same goes for my pipeline, I gear my activities to go beyond what I need to make goal. A lot of sales people work their pipeline to deliver exactly what their quota is, leaving little room for error. On the other hand if I had a 4:1 closing ratio, it is a good idea to work the pipeline as though the closing ratio was 5:1. Taking it further, and applying that thinking to conversion rates between stages of the sale will help you build in enough buffer to withstand negative surprises.

Unfortunately, many sales people apply the opposite, view and work their pipeline close to the line, even the smallest blip will cause them to fall behind quota. Worse, many have questionable prospects in the their pipeline, many with no next steps, or timelines that extend well beyond the average sales cycle, or even the fiscal period in question.

The push back is usually around time, and the market, or any familiar battle cry. But as one marathoner I once replied when asked what the hardest part of training was, she replied “getting out the door”. Once you decide to build in a buffer by aiming beyond the bare minimum, you’ll be out the door.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

How Much Revenue Did You Lose at Quarter End?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Impact Question

There is an all too familiar ritual that unfolds at the end of every fiscal period, for some it is monthly, for most it is quarterly, and at year end. Being that Monday was quarter end, I was reminded again. A friend who is a rep with a technology company, cancelled a meeting we had set for this afternoon, and you know it, his voice mail this morning at 8:00 simply said, “Man, I need to change our meeting, last day of the quarter, you know how it is.”

On the one hand I do, on the other hand I don’t. I am sorry if your quarter comes down to the last day of the quarter, a Monday of all days, there is a whole bunch of things you are doing wrong, and a bunch of money you are leaving on the table.

To start with, a good number of the deals that are “Driven in” on the 30th of September, will happen because of some concession made by the seller to the buyer. Sometimes these are small things, baked in specifically so they can be “conceded”, often not. These can be a price concessions, either in the form of a price adjustment, or the inclusion of goods or services that normally would have had a price tag, but being the last day of the quarter, “and we need to bring in the numbers”, they are thrown in to secure the deal “today”. Although once you offer it, it’ll be there October 2, or even next week, the buyer has seen weakness and will not give it back. And – it will be the first of many to come, you’ve set the precedent, both you and the buyer have been conditioned.

Not only do you never see that money again, but there is the lost momentum and opportunities as you deviate from your routine, stop prospecting for a few days as you focus on closing. May not seem that bad, but if you don’t prospect for a few days, you’ll create weakness in your pipeline, and when the next quarter end comes around, guess what. So now you are out the revenue you gave away in concessions, and the revenue from prospects you will either never have, or will closer later than they could have.

The alternative is requires a bit more discipline, but results in less of a roller coaster ride and more money! It comes down to owning your time and being accountable for your actions, (grab this e-book for details). If you know your conversion rate at critical stages of the cycle, you can focus on executing the key tasks you have to throughout the cycle, and not sweat the days. Some things in sales are straight forward, if you have a three month cycle, and you close one of every five deals you qualify into your pipeline, it doesn’t take much to see how this quarter end dance will hurt. If you don’t prospect from the 27th to the 30th (of any quarter), then your next sale will be delayed by so many days. Sure you can make up for it in some ways, but then you’ll have other distractions, the ones you can’t help, but this one you can.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

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

How Many Sales People Can Dance On The Head Of A Pin?0

by Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Sales Pin

Ever wonder why some companies can generate as much revenues with less sales people than others with more?  I think it has to do with the hoarder mentality that permeates sales thinking.  “The more territory, the more accounts I get, the better I will do”.  Yet often the opposite is true, more often than not, less is more in sales accounts and territories.

I remember when I was given responsibility for a new region, eight sales people looking after 13 states.  First thing I asked them to review the status of their top ten accounts, recent activity, and their specific plans for the next 12 months (pre CRM days).  Each of the eight territories, had some 300 – 500 accounts; on average, the top ten accounted for 72% of revenues in the territories, ranging from a low of 64% to a high of 82%.  Coincidentally, around the percentage mark of where they were to quota.  Their coverage plan was routine rather than inspiring, and growth was going to be more from momentum and rhythm, rather than execution of a structured plan.

I then asked them when they last saw or spoke to account number 25, account number 51, and number 100.  As you may expect, #25, sometime in the last six months, one remembered speaking to number 100 at Christmas, mostly because they called in to update their password, a call they transferred to their inside account support person.

When I asked them what can be done to hit their goals, all but one suggested that we add accounts to their territories that were homeless due to a recent departure.  When I suggested that I was actually planning to go the other way, reduce the number of accounts down to about 50 per rep, the hording gene really kicked in.  “That crazy Canadian, I always knew they were socialists, he is looking to nationalize my accounts, reduce my empire”.

Well I wasn’t going to nationalize, but give it to the support team, who were dealing with accounts number 50 and on as it was.  This would make for less clutter for the territory reps, and provide the clarity they needed to work with their clients, prospect for new opportunities, and drive success.  They thought I was nuts, when I suggested they can have as many accounts as they want to prospect and bring on, 20, 50, 100, whatever they liked.  But with nearly 72% of their revenue coming from ten accounts, it would be easier to grow the ten, add a few juicy new accounts to make goal, rather than spending their time counting accounts from a distance.

The hoarding gene is strong in sales; after all, some of these reps become managers, then directors, and eventually VP’s.  You can tell when you meet them, the solution to everything is adding more resources, more territory, more reps, more accounts; behind on the numbers, “give me another rep”.  At the same time you meet others, who after analysing the data, look to optimize territories to maximize client experience and revenues, shrinking territories to create focus, rather than growing them and creating dilution.

One of the only good things to be said for the recession is it showed many organizations that they could in fact deliver more numbers with less headcount.  Reducing creates focus which drives creativity, when you reduce, the competent reps step up and deliver, while others demonstrate why you may be better off with less.  Sellers always tell you that in sales it is “quality over quantity”, why not apply that to territories and reps as well?

So to answer the question as to how many reps can dance on the head of a pin?  A lot less than you think you need to have on that head.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

It Is Personal0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

The Happiness of Pursuit

One questionable piece of advice sellers are given is not to take “things personally”. While I understand the sentiment behind it, encouraging sellers to not go down a dark hole, there is something wrong with telling professional sales people, in fact professionals of any type, not to take it personally. The reality is that part of successful selling is conviction, not just in your ability to add value to the buyer, but and in how you sell. It is hard to have that and not be passionate about selling, and as soon as passion is involved, it also becomes personal.

Certainly there are parts of the sales cycle that you can remove yourself somewhat from the emotions of the sale, usually during the prospecting stage, especially if you are a proactive rather than a passive prospector. When you first reach out to a potential buyer they don’t know you from Adam, and the goal is to get them engaged. Initial rejections are more situational than directed; meaning that they are not rejecting you as an individual, but what you represent, an interruption. But as you get engaged and are working through the sale, you get more emotionally involved, things do become a lot more personal.

It is that emotional involvement that often allows you to go deep with a buyer. Passion and enthusiasm are contagious, and it’s something you want your buyers to catch. After all, we are constantly reminded that people buy on emotion, then rationalize their decision, so it only helps if you are going to connect with the buyer on that level as well.

A more workable and realistic goal is to understand that you do need to get involved on a number of levels, that it does get personal, and that you need to be able to deal with and manage the outcomes whether they go your way or not. The ability to step back, assess the circumstance, and move on to the next sale. No different than the expectation and practice in professional sport.

By assessing the outcome you achieve a number of positives that help with the personal aspect. First you can evaluate how well you did execute you plan and process and understand why perhaps you lost the deal. I say perhaps, because there isn’t always a clear answer all nicely wrapped, if the result of the assessment is ambiguous, you will still have to deal with the outcome and move on.

But if the analysis of the deal and outcome are not ambiguous, then you are in a great position to learn, both what you want to repeat and to accentuate moving forward, and what to avoid and improve. While this may not take away the sting of a lost deal, it does help you benefit in some way, cope, and have a reason to give it another go with your new insight.

It is very much the emotion we bring at sellers that helps us win deals where most all other things are equal. It is precisely then that you need to go deep, and leave yourself open to disappointment, and yes it does become personal precisely because of that; and given the opportunity I would advise you to get emotionally involved and deal with the outcome win or lose. After all, they only give you the advice about it not being personal when you lose, it seems they are OK with it being personal when you win.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Can You Switch Hit For Sales Success?4

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Switch hitter

I remember when I first started working for a company back in the early 1990’s (before we had web mail), the company had two main product lines, and had the usual territories across the continent, primarily driven by geography.   Each territory had two hunters, one for each product, two account development/management (AD) people, again one for each product, and an administrative person, all supported by a central customer care group, as to not overwork the front line folks.  The flow was simple, the hunter was in charge of finding and landing accounts, they would then hand off the account to the AD, who would work on maintaining and growing the account.  No one ever had to move out of their comfort zone, mine was hunting.

As the competition heated up, and costs had to be cut to maintain operating margins, the two teams were collapsed into one that handled both product lines, there was still a clear line between hunting and development of accounts.  While we had to learn a bit about the new product, we were still left in our functional comfort zones.

As in most similar scenarios, the hunter was always in a better position to earn more.  I am not saying that hunters were or are more important than the AD role, the fact was, that there were less qualified hunters than AD types, and this is still so now.

The next round of cuts was a bit more drastic for almost all involved.  Administrative resources were reduced, and more significantly, they collapsed the two roles into one, no more hunters and AD’s, just one person who had to execute both functions.  In some territories the hunter had to learn how to actually manage and develop the accounts they brought on; and the AD’s had to learn to hunt and bring on the accounts they were going to work on growing and retaining.   Since the company had a union to deal with, (yes I know, sales and unions, what a concept, nonetheless), the choice of who stayed and who left was not always made based on abilities and potential.  Many of those who remained were AD types who had to learn how to hunt, in most instances, a much bigger ask than the other way around.  At the same time it turned out that some of the hunter role were in fact “closet account developers”, and gravitated to the AD side of the job, increasing the value of real hunters even more.

To be clear, I am not saying that hunters are naturally better rounded, and are able to easily become good or even adequate AD’s, I was living proof that this was not the case, but hunting was a better cover for AD skill deficiencies; where as you can be a great AD, but if an account leaves for factors beyond your control, and you can’t hunt, you will be in a difficult hole.

As you would expect there were a number of reactions, outcomes and repercussions to the new reality, about 20% – 25% floundered and struggled, and eventually were replaced.  At the other end of the spectrum, about 20% or so, turned out to be natural switch hitters, not losing a stride in the transition, relishing the new found opportunities in the job and the rewards.  They stepped back, reformulated their action plan and then marched forward as if nothing had changed.

A large majority 55% – 60% worked diligently at developing the “other” skill, and over time found the required balance, but as you would expect things were usually skewed towards their original skill set and comfort zone, but they were able to generate both organic growth and new account growth.  No surprise the hunters had just as hard a time, if not harder, in developing their AD skills, than AD’s had in developing enough hunting skills to make sales happen.  What was interesting is that in the end both groups leaned more on improved hunting than improved maintenance skills.

Again this is not to say that being an AD does not require skills, is easy or any other “better/worse” comparison, but does speak to the fact that getting to the right person to have the right conversation with, is still the biggest challenge in sales.  Most sales people I speak to, be they traditional sellers, social sellers, or other, tell me something along the lines of “get me in front of the right prospect, and I will close them”; and they probably will.  But the ability to find and engage with the right person, and then talk about the right things, those things that will lead to real engagement, is a rarer skill, but one that can be learned and with practice, and mastered.  Those that do, are your switch hitters, they can deliver revenue in by succeeding in both cases, prospecting and selling.  The difference between baseball and the revenue game, is you need to do both to succeed, you need to be a switch hitter.

Since then sales teams have continued to contract, sales goals have continued to grow, as has the number of sales people who almost, but don’t always make goal.  These are the group of sellers I call the “80-90 Percenters”; year after year they deliver 80% to 90% of plan, and when you strip back the layers, most often you’ll find that they are great at growing their base, but not as good at finding, engaging with and brining on new clients.  Their new business growth is usually from referrals, or people who are like people who have already bought from them.  Again, nothing wrong with the thinking or reality, just the lack of consistently delivering against plan.

In today’s market there are a number of parallels; a specific one can be found in those industries that are making the transition from selling products, to managed services.  You see this trend in any number of industries, from copiers to managed print service; break fix to managed it services; in transport from loads or lanes to managed freight services; really, in any industry where before you sold “stuff”, “stuff” that is becoming commoditised, to selling a complete service that allows clients to reduce costs while allowing you to grow, both products sold and the services around them, while locking in revenue streams and locking out competitors.

Product sellers need to learn to switch hit and hunt not only in new jungles, but for prey they have not encountered before, a prey that is smarter, more demanding and usually less accessible.  The prey speaks a different language and have entirely different set of objectives and expectations than the people they used to sell “stuff” to, or account they maintained.  Further, the new prey does very much have to be hunted, they are not out there declaring their readiness or willingness to buy, they are the Status Quo, doing their thing deep in the jungle where only hunters go and maintainers and posers avoid.  Selling to the willing will leave them short unless they step up and learn to hunt a bit more, learn to switch hit.

Hunting in this environment requires skills upgrades whether you are coming from an AD background, or have successfully hunted while selling products, “stuff”.  Unless you take the time and make the effort to become a true switch hitter, you are bound to the beige of the “80-90 Percenters”

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

 

Short Cuts – Do it Now or Do it Later0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Short cut

The pressure of time, or more specifically, a lack of time, for sales professionals continues to build for sales professionals.   Sales people often ask me for ways to achieve something by skipping steps or finding short cuts for critical steps of the cycle.  Especial when there are specific things that have to be executed in one stage of the cycle/process before you can move to the next; some may not seem important at the time, but are fundamental to a successful sale, and there is no escaping them.  In some ways in sales it is very much like the old Fram commercial, you can do it now, or you can do it later.

In an environment of declining resources and increased demands and expectations, utilization of time continues to grow as one of the most critical skills for successful sellers. Given the choice between someone who is a good seller or a good user of time, give me the time skilled individual any day.  Doesn’t matter how good you are, if you can’t get around to using the skill. Notice I have avoided the term “time management”, because it is never about managing time, but about how we choose to allocate and use time for critical activities; activities are what need to be managed.  In most instances, with all things being equal, it is more likely that you miss deals because you ran out of time, rather than running out of skills.

With all the pressure growing each hour and day into the depleting selling year, it is not a surprise that sellers are always seeking short cuts, or tips to reduce time.  While I understand what’s driving the desire, I would caution you to focus on the objective and desired outcome(s).  Better to look at a sale as an exercise in building.  You need to build a solid foundation before you erect the house on top.  If you rush things, opt for a short cut and start before the foundation is dry, you’re going to have to go back and do it again, do it right, which will cost time, resources and money.

One example is the propensity to present proposal way too soon, long before key facts are uncovered.  I know sellers face tremendous pressure, especially when others are willing to submit at the drop of a hat, but in the end, a bad proposal is a bad proposal no matter how fast you get it in, which why so many come down to price, no foundation.

I was taught that there are five things that have to be in place in order for a proposal to be properly underpinned and solid.  Sure I can submit with only four, but more times than not, I have to go back and resell that missed portion or the whole thing.  Slowing me and the sale down, if not risking it all together.  Again, I know there is pressure, and the other guy is in, but I am will to bet they usually win on price not based on value or the merit of the product or proposal.

The problem with short cuts in sales, is the same as the oil filter, you can do it right the first time, or you can do it later.  Problem with later is that it ends up sucking up more time, money and nerves.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

What’s Improving – Your Sales OR Orders?2

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Bubbling up

As the economy continues to show hints of progress, and business picks up, it is important to understand the nature of the improvements in sales you and your company experience. Taking into account the old adage “all boats rise with the tide”, you need to be able to discern where your growth is coming from.  Is it from increased sales, or just an increase in orders due to an improving economic environment; and yes Sunshine, there is a difference, much like the difference between sales professionals and order takers.

More than ever, having a defined sales process, with supporting metrics is a must. Without that, you may easily mistake increased revenues with improved sales or selling, when in reality the improvement may be organic.  Increased demand, leading to an uptick in orders or improved selling, the two are very different, but often mistaken.

In fact, this is one of the risks of relying strictly on a single lagging indicator – Revenues, rather than a mix of leading and lagging indicators.  In many ways you can look at it the way investors look at interest rates paid on fixed income instruments, where they back out the rate of inflation from the total rate they receive from an instrument to arrive at the real rate.  Think of the organic increase in orders as inflation, and the real rate as YOUR ability to sell more or better in a given market.  All sellers benefit from a rise in demand, only those who focus on selling will grow sales beyond the herd, and get more than their share of growth.  Increased market share is always a good thing.

To avoid being caught, you need understand your intra-sale conversion rates, understanding if in fact you are doing a better job of converting leads to prospects, prospects to proposals and proposals to wins.  By measuring these and other critical points you will know if you are just benefiting from an increase in demand – more leads, or ability to convert those leads.  If you have a 4:1 lead to prospect rate, then it goes without saying that you’ll have more sales from six leads than 4, 1.5 sales vs. 1.  But if your sales and selling skills improve, and you can move to a 3:1 ratio, you’ll sell proportionally more.  This is important in down markets too, but people get fooled in up markets when the wind is in their sails.

Once you understand these measures, you can set goals for theses (or other) conversions from stage to stage, and benefit from the compounding effect, and increase both real and organic sales.  With goals and metrics in place, it is much easier to develop and Execute a tactical plan, you will be in a position to adjust or change your model to ensure continuous growth and skills improvements.

Not knowing can create more than false comfort, it could lead you to make wrong decisions, and by the time you realize, you may be left too far behind the competition.

What’s In Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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