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Playing With Numbers – Sales eXecution 2470

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

crystal ball

I was never big on Shakespeare, took me long enough to master English as my third language, good old Willie just confused things that much further, I must admit that I do have an appreciation for the phrase from Hamlet “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”. Not only as a parent, but perhaps in a similar vein working with sales people, as exemplified by a recent exchange with a rep I am working with.

Earlier this month in a post title To Call Or Not, I cited some stats about the level of effort required to engage and sell new buyers. The rep in question was very defensive about some of the numbers, asking where they came from, when I shared that with him, he kept on protesting and questioning, just like the lady in Hamlet.

Having remembered that the company had recently done a trade show about a week before our conversation. I asked how many leads he picked up, he told me about a hundred or so. I went on “how many have you contacted or followed up with?” He told me about thirty or so. Or so? What is there a margin for error, or a margin for slackness? Either way, below the stat he was protesting, and likely the reason he was protesting, the light was just a little too bright.

At this point you have no choice but to don my Kevlar reinforced wetsuit, and ask “what about the rest?”

I bet if I asked you to look away from the screen you can guess the excuses, go ahead give it a go.

First just the lack of time, apparently there was a battery that had to be driven across town to a client. I took a bullet, in as much as he had to attend training. But my favourite was “Some of these are not real, some were just tire kickers, I can tell which are worth following up with, so I went to hose first, I will continue down the list.”

I right away called my wife “Honey, I met a real celebrity, I spent my morning with Kreskin”  I can just see him holding those business cards up in the air, one by one, and divining which were buyers and which were not.

“Have you sent a follow up e-mail to the bunch?”

“I though Marketing was gonna do it”

Sales people are no different than others, if you don’t like the message, you shoot the messenger, and if the messenger is wearing Kevlar, try to undermine the numbers in question.

As discussed here before, sales people fall into one of two groups, what I’ve referred to as the X Factor of sales, execution, or excuses.  Not only was our boy not ready to execute, he was great excuses, a complete lack of accountability. Now to be fair, there was little clarity from the organizations as to what was expected after the show, i.e. “follow up with all leads within 72 hours.” But in the end, for someone so ready to question the numbers, he was doing a lot to hide form them and little to disprove them.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Webinar: Time – Prospecting And Getting the Jump on Both!0

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On Tuesday February 4, I will be presenting a webinar Along with the good folks at eGrabber – “Time – Prospecting – And Getting the Jump On Both” I’ll be talking to the importance of sourcing the right leads, information about the individual and their companies, and securing the right and accurate contact information so you can engage with the right person for the right conversation.

There are a lot of critical steps to engaging new B2B customers. Two of the most common challenges is finding the right target, and then engaging with them. Every day I meet sales people challenged by finding the right contact, their contact info and related information. Even if you use LinkedIn or other tools, you need to be able to connect directly.

This webinar we will introduce tools & techniques on how to find contact information for people you don’t yet know, and then how to engage with them:

1. Find missing Email & Phone# for any social profile.
2. Find Director, VP and C-Level, decision makers in any company.
3. Build a highly targeted B2B prospect list with business e-mail and phone#.
4. Do Pre-call Research, Get Insightful Prospect Information.

Click here to register

We’ll be looking at the combination of cutting edge tools available from eGrabber to help you make prospecting more time efficient and productive. Time is the only unrenewable resource you have, the better you use it the more success you will have. Improve your rate of connecting with the right decision makers, and you will increase prospects, sales and profits. We will be sharing best practices and everyday techniques for improved prospecting.

Click here to register

Does Your Pipeline Need a Stent?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

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The fourth quarter of the year holds a unique challenge for sales professionals. We not only have to close what we can by year end, but we have to prospect with more vigour than ever to ensure we go into the next year with enough momentum and opportunities to ensure a strong start to the year and our eventual success.

Coming out of the summer, we also have a lot of opportunities that have been parked, on hold if you will, due to the distractions of summer. All with the hope, and I mean hope, that now with everyone refocusing on business, they will revive themselves or be rekindled and result in sales. But experience has shown that despite the hope, intention and solid promises few if any come back on line with the promise they had when they were parked in June or so.

This leave pipelines full of names that some mistake for real opportunities, and end up consuming time and energy before we realize that all hope had left these “opportunities” soon after they were parked, or often even before.

All these opportunities in the pipeline end up looking and acting like plaque in ones arteries, creating blockages and bringing with it the risk of deal flow being restricted if not entirely cut off, by these blockers that we confuse with opportunities. Many confuse a full pipeline with a healthy pipeline, and nothing is further from the truth. Having a pipeline full of names, unverified “opportunities”, bring the same risk to your sales, as clogged arteries do to your health. It is important to clear the path, and allow real deals to flow unencumbered by wishful thinking and names in the pipe.

One impact relates to what a former colleague once said about having a pipeline full of names rather than opportunities: “What people emotionally believe their prospect base to be, triggers their urgency to prospect!” The illusion of all those names in the pipeline, the tendency or the need to follow through with each one, just distracts one from prospecting for new opportunities. “Look at all the stuff I have to work on”, leads to a lack of prospecting, and by the time you realise you need to adjust, that year end is close, and the ability to build momentum in to the coming year is gone or badly diminished.

The goal is to establish good rules for requalifying the pipeline, and not being afraid of letting go of all the crap that is just not real, and clogging things up. Rather than trying to make it real, as many will, learn to let them go, for now, you can always revisit, say it after me: “Leads Are Recyclable”. Eliminate the “maybes”, and move on the real ones, the ones willing to take proactive steps to make things happen now. Start by inserting a “Next Step Stent”, if they are unwilling or unable to act in a way a buyer would, then get them out of the pipe, they are a distraction, and again – you can call them back.

Work on those behaving like a buyer, not a tire kicker, if the story hasn’t changed since May, their status in your pipeline should.

Get that stent in there, clear out the cloggers, and close the real opportunities.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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

Surfer

The Pipeline Guest Post - Susan Payton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aligning Time Horizons (#video)0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

Time is pivotal to sales success, on the plus side, it can help you better engage with potential buyers, and on the down side it can create distance and barriers between you and the buyer.  One specific is the degree in which you are aligned with the buyer’s horizon.  All too often we get ahead of the buyer, or fall way behind, either can slow down or cost you a sale.

Take a look at what I mean, then download our E-Booklet – Sales Happen In Time:

Alignining Time horizons

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

How Hosting Contests on Your Twitter Feed can Improve Sales2

Increased sales GP

The Pipeline Guest Post – Kim Willington

Of course you know that social media is a great way to get exposure for your business. What you may not realize, however, is that social media is also a great way to increase direct sales — sometimes right from your feed. The immediate, conversational nature of Twitter makes it ideally suited for promoting your business and increasing sales.

In particular, hosting contests on your Twitter feed can increase your sales, not only in the short-term but also by promoting relationships with customers and generating leads. Here are a few tips for how you can increase your sales by hosting contests on your Twitter feed:

Promote New Products

When you have a new product, hosting a contest is a great way to generate buzz and to sell more of those products. By offering the contest, you instantly get more exposure for the product, amounting to free advertising that gets people instinctively excited about the product. Those who don’t win the contest will feel like they have missed out on something special and will be more likely to go back and buy the product instead.

Follow Up with Exclusive Offers

After a contest is over, you should build on the momentum that the buzz has created for you. You can do so by offering exclusive discounts or other promotions to your Twitter followers and to those who entered the contest. Perhaps you can offer a discount on the product, or you can offer a special free bonus for those who buy the product.
The exclusivity will not only increase your sales, but it will also help you to increase your Twitter following (which can help you build relationships and grow sales later).

Generate Leads

A contest is a great way to help you build long-term brand loyalty and sales by helping you to generate leads. The key is to create multiple methods of entry that work for you. This can include asking participants to join your e-mail list or to follow you on Twitter in order to enter. The more valuable the prize, the more people will enter and the more leads you will have.
Of course, the effectiveness of those leads will depend upon what you do next. Make sure you have a strategy for lead marketing that includes developing an ongoing relationship and encouraging repeat sales.

Twitter can do much more for you than help you promote your brand. If used correctly, it can help you to increase your sales of your own products or to generate additional revenue through affiliate marketing and advertising. Just be sure to strike the right balance between promotion and providing your followers the information they need, and you should see success.
Do you use Twitter to increase your sales? Share your tips for success in the comments!

About Kim Willington

Kim Willington is a freelance writer and researcher, where she has recently been researching service desk software. While away from work, she enjoys antiquing and hiking with her retriever, Spencer.

Solving The E-Mail Black Hole1

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

e-mail

I have always been a fan of Star Trek, and intrigued by some of the possibilities presented in the original and even Star Trek NG.  Interesting how some of the things that seemed farfetched, now are not.  One that always fascinated me was the black hole; little did I think we would experience it in selling, specifically when using e-mail.

We all wonder when we hit that send button “what will happen with this e-mail?”  Will it reach its desired destination will it invoke the desired reaction, what reaction will it initiate, what will its fate be, ignored, read over and over, create action?  Hard to tell in the black hole that is e-mail.

Sure, you can ask for a “read receipt”, so what, the is still an information void because all you know is if the opened it, you don’t know if someone read it more than once, where, if they read it on their phone or office or both, or if there is any interest. For salespeople, this creates “prospect paralysis” because they don’t know whether to follow up and, if so, when and how.

But recently I discovered a tool that helps me have a better grip in the black hole.  ContactMonkey, a new smart email tracking service for Outlook and Gmail that tells me in real-time if, when, how many times and where a message is opened, as well as what device or browser was used.

Armed with this knowledge, a salesperson has valuable and actionable insight to make better and more informed selling decisions and actions, so they can focus on the most promising prospects and opportunities.

The idea for ContactMonkey emerged when Scott Pielsticker, a serial entrepreneur, was frustrated with not knowing if his sales pitches were getting read or were resonating. To solve this problem, ContactMonkey’s developers created the software, which was recently launched.

Here is an example, a seller fires off an e-mail to a prospect.  After the email has been sent, the salesperson will be able tell if and when the email has been opened, which is a great starting point. The more the message is opened, the more interest someone likely has in the proposal.

But there’s even more insight that can be gleaned. Where was it read, what device was it opened on.  ContactMonkey allows you to know if a message was opened on a mobile device, within the Chrome browser or Outlook. If an email is originally opened on an iPhone, and then opened on Chrome or Outlook, it could mean the e-mail and or any attachments generated solid interest.

The same approach works for location. An email opened by recipients in Toronto, Boston and London is another indication of good interest.  Especially if you are working with prospects with decision makers in multiple locations, as it makes its way around you gain insight.

For salespeople, this information makes it easier to focus on better prospects interested in their email, while they can quickly ignore or reformulate plans for prospects that paid little or no attention to their email.

For “warm leads”, you can figure out the best time to follow up. If there’s a lot of interest in a message in a short period of time, the salesperson can strike while the iron is hot — knowing that they will likely get a good reception.

ContactMonkey allows you to add a new layer of intelligence to email so salespeople — and other people who want to know if their email attracts any interest — can work better, more productively and close more deals.

I speaking with the team, they tell me they are planning to add a dashboard to let people take a holistic view of their email activity to extract key trends and best practices.

If you are a seller and you want to get more out of your email, check out ContactMonkey and see how it can help you Sell Better.

Please note – I get no commission or compensation from ContactMonkey.

Enter the Art of Sales Contest – Win Tickets

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Call To Action – Please51

Renbor Nation, time to mobilize!  Yes it is that time of year, where your fearless scribe, me, is nominated to be included as one the 50 Most Influential Sales Lead Management for 2012.

Here is you chance to help me and practice for that lesser vote on Tuesday.  Better yet, those guys in DC give you only one day to vote, where as with this, you can vote all month long, and live with yourself the morning after.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Tibor Shanto

Pipeline Vs. Opportunity Review – Sales eXchange 169128

Some things in sales can be called by various names without much consequence, the underlying subject being very much the same, prospect – potential buyer, information gathering – discovery, and many others; it comes down to words not actions or outcomes.  In other cases the semantics are very important, and cannot be simply interchanged for convenience.  A stellar example of this is the confusion between pipeline reviews and opportunity reviews.  They are not the same, you can equate a pipeline with a funnel and funnel review, it is not the same as an opportunity review, and pretending they are will cost you time and money.

For me both type of reviews are important, in many sales organizations necessary, and if not done right, or just plain not done, could have big consequences.  One of the biggest is lack of engagements by the reps, many having spent countless tedious and unproductive hours in some of these meetings, simply stop taking them seriously, a disengagement that has big negative impact on success.

A pipeline review is a snapshot of the state of the pipeline and the directly contributing factors, usually activity.  Regardless of how you look at your pipeline or funnel, it is likely to have a minimal number of clear stages or sections.  Lead – Prospects – Pre-Proposal – Proposal – Initial (verbal) Agreement – Won Business (Closed).  A pipeline review just needs to look at the opportunities at each stage – are they real, next steps, and volume based on the individual rep’s documented conversion rates.  Are there enough leads to sustain the subsequent stages, and is the rep focused on the right activities.  Reviewing this in a brief efficient, and frequent fashion, leads to continuous movement of the right things through the pipeline or down the funnel.  You can do this review in as little as five minutes per rep, if you have 8 reps, you can be done and wiser in 40 minutes.  If you have a large volume of deals you can cut it back to a more than significant representative sample that will ensure short and snappy meetings.  These pipeline reviews should be done as a group, and in my opinion weekly, you don’t all need to be in the same room, and with today’s technology can be done from anywhere, including the parking lot of your next appointment.

An opportunity review is much more, and could involve a heavy dose of coaching, as such the first difference is that these are done individually with each rep, and therefore not as frequently, not more than once a month.  In this meeting you review each opportunity, how the rep arrived at where they are, strategies on what to do next, and develop a specific action plan.  This where the coaching is key, using the review not only to impact the outcome, but to directly impact how your reps can sell better using a real live scenario as a springboard.  Helping the reps to not only widen their view of the deal, but others like it.  It is an occasion to examine why some opportunities died, and why specifically some were one, or did not take a decision.

Trying to cram both into one meeting is useless, and typifies the KPI mentality many bring to the process, “did it, I can check it off the list”.  They conduct these meetings neither to help their reps, or to understand the state of their pipeline (all their reps’ pipelines rolled up to one), they do it as a CYA exercise.  Usually because they have to go into to a meeting with their seniors, and want to be in a position to answer questions they anticipate.  If they were to conduct both types of meeting separately, ensuring they achieve what they need to from each meeting they would be way ahead.  They would be in a position to directly influence the outcome of their reps activities, and by extension the outcome of the meeting with their reps and results presented.  They would also be in a stronger position going into the meetings with their superiors, not only answering anticipated questions, but presenting in a way and with content that would negate the questions and focus on results.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Taking The Pain Out Of Lead generation58

Lead generation and finding the right prospects are central to successful execution of revenue and client acquisition strategy.  Unfortunately many take a “black box” approach, or rush into launching a program when it is only half baked.

The good folks at OpenView, have created a New Infographic, highlighting specific and tough question you need to ask before you build your lead gen team and launch your program.

Click here to learn more and download your copy.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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