Welcome to The Pipeline.

What Are You Opening – Sales eXecution 2952

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Looking in

Sit in on any weekly sales meeting or pipeline review and you will hear the same question over and over: “What are you closing?” Nothing wrong with that question, especially if everyone is closing the right deals at sufficient levels. But given the fact that less than 60% of B2B reps hit quota, the above is not a safe assumption.

The real focus should be on the open, not the close. While I am not suggesting that the “What are you gonna close?” question should be dropped, I do think that it always needs to have a companion questions: “What are you gonna open?” Add to that if your close ratio is 4 to 1, you should ask the “gonna open” four times for every time you ask “gonna close” question.

While many will attribute their missing to a number of factors, it really comes down to two simple things. They either can’t sell, meaning they have more than enough engaged prospects, they just can’t close them; or they can sell just fine, but do not have enough prospects to take through the process. The former is easy to deal with, fire them, do fast, then hire slow, make sure the next sales person you hire can both sell and prospect.

If the issue is the latter which is more often the case, then the solution is creating a culture of prospecting. I regularly get reps telling “get me in front of the right prospect, and I can close them”, and it is usually the case, meaning they can’t prospect. Fortunately this is something you can fix, and continuously improve.


While many in sales like looking at the close, as we have discussed before, the close itself is a Lagging Indicator. Winning in sales is about managing and improving Leading Indicators, meaning activities that are executed early in the sales that determine the outcome, rather than dealing with the outcome after the fact.

The first step is knowing your conversion rates from one stage of the sale to the next. With that you will not only be in a position to plan and control your selling, but understand how many prospects you need to succeed, with that number in hand you are in control. Let’s look at a simple example, if you have a 4 to 1 handshake to close ratio, and you need 4 sales a month, it is clear that you need 16 prospects a month to interact with. It doesn’t matter how you get them, let’s not get side tracked. You can use referrals, cold calling, social selling, or smoke signals, the fact remains you need to shake 16 hands to meet your quota. If you get 16 or more, you are in control, you have options.

Any less than that, you are in trouble, you either need to instantly improve the way you sell to make your close better than 4 to 1, or begin praying to a better sales god. If you only engage with 12 prospects, you will be reluctant to get rid of prospects who do not qualify, or resort to concessions, or any number of desperate measure to try and scratch out your quota; continuously increasing the pressure on yourself in the process.

While selling and sales tools continue to evolve, the math does not, the choice is yours, while improving selling is a good option, improving how you sell and close as well as how you open will give you more options and more success.

Tibor Shanto     LI Bottom banner

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Sales Performance Summit Goes Global0

Live Cast

Now you can be there live, or anywhere you are with a web enabled device!

Join  Tim HursonTibor ShantoBill Baldasti and Steven Rosen to learn:

  • The importance of performance management throughout the organization
  • The role of metrics and data in driving performance
  • Proven approaches to extend the performance culture in every sales call
  • Attacking, recruiting, and retaining top performing salespeople
  • The benefits of developing sales coaches instead of line managers 
  • Executing with Excellence

A couple of weeks ago we announced the first ever Sales Performance Summit.  The summit is uniquely designed for sales leaders looking to positively impact and sustain a culture of performance in their organizations as a means of improving results and attracting the right sales professionals and customers.

The response has been great, with the only negative feedback being that those who are not in Toronto will not be able to participate in this event.  We listened and acted, the entire event will not be webcast live and simultaneously, giving you a chance to both take in the content, but also to participate in Q&A, and the round table.

Our friends at Audability Inc., will be webcasting the event live.  So while it would be great to have you at the Rotman School of Management, you can be anywhere and still benefit from the great presentation.

What is the Sales Performance Summit?

Sales Performance Summit, is an executive-level program for sales leaders invested in success—leaders who understand that their sales culture, as reflected by their sales teams at all levels, is the key to out-thinking and out-selling their competitors.

Performance is no longer an individual measure. It is a mission critical strategy. According to the STAR Results 2015 Sales Manager Survey™, in the new sales reality, characterized by increasingly knowledgeable and discriminating buyers, performance and performance management are the burning issues for sales leaders around the world.

The event features four world class presenters known for their practical and actionable insights that help sales organization win based on how they sell, not what they sell.Join us Live or From your Desktop!
Invite your leadership team and start implementing a performance management process coming out of the Summit on April 6.

Purple DnR

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 


Sales Immersion (#video)0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Biz TV

We often hear the expression: “Follow the Money”.  Well in sales that pursuit always leads to the buyer and their reality not ours.  To get the most out of sales, you need to immerse yourself in the buyers world, not work on making the opposite happen.

Here is what I mean:

Sales immersion


What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Be Provocative in Demonstrating Results (#video)0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

Monday I shared a clip from a discussion with Ago Cluytens, for one his Coaching Masters Series.  Today’s second clip looks at the need to be provocative in gaining traction with entrenched potential buyers.

The challenge many of in sales face is the entrenched buyer who is reluctant to look at new or alternative means of achieving his/her goals.  This is usually due to the fact that they are entrenched in how they are doing things now, feels there are too many resources needed to make a change, and a host of other reasons.  In order to get engagement, we need to demonstrate the results we can deliver and the positive and measurable impact we will directly deliver to their business and attaining their goals.  In a WIIFM world it is about the What, not how of how they get there.

Here is more:

If you would like to see the entire discussion you can either visit my You Tube channel, or go the Ago’ site by clicking here.  Always open to comments and views.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


Why Waste Time Waiting for Events – Trigger The Reaction – Sales eXchange 197 (#video)0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Don't Wait

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to sit down with Ago Cluytens, for one his Coaching Masters Series interviews.  All this week, the posts will feature snippets of the interview, below we will also tell you where you can find the whole interview, but now let’s go to the first extract.

Trigger Events are fine, but there is no escaping that you have to wait for the “event”.  But here’s the deal, what you are leveraging is not the event, but the buyer’s reaction to the event.  So why not take the training wheels off, forget the “event”, and learn to trigger the reaction without having to wait, with the others looking for the same sign.

Take a look at what I mean.

If you would like to see the entire discussion you can either visit my You Tube channel, or go the Ago’ site by clicking here.  Always open to comments and views.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Managers: It’s Easier Than You Think1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Puzzle man

When working with sales teams there are some specific things I look for to understand the makeup of the team and its members.  These are things that indicate how open they are to learning, to change and to commit to the effort it takes to change THEIR reality.  There generally different indicators based on their industry, tangible vs. none tangible, and the nature of the sale.  Interestingly tenure as a rep or with the company is a much smaller factor than one would expect, and of course the big delineator is whether they are and have regularly made their number or not.  Let’s look at the latter group, not that those making their number can’t learn or improve, those are not are the drag on the system.

The one tell tale indicator is what they focus their attention on to change.  The sub-quota reps will always focus on those things they cannot change.  A direct contrast to the consistently deliver, who will habitually focus on those things they can change.

Let’s face it, it is much easier to want to deal with things you cannot change, you can look involved, you can point to this and that, you can blame the elements, and you can completely avoid accountability while pretending and going through the motions of being accountable.

Instead they need to be taking the time, energy and resources and deal with things that they can actually change and impact.  To be clear, this is not about the usual reluctance to change, this is about taking accountability for do what needs to be done, and doing it.  Not change what they are doing, just do something, anything.  In larger companies these are the folks always ready to participate in work groups, make endless points during broader meetings, again looking engaged while doing nothing.

Rather than getting frustrated, which is what they want, because it will validate that things are not working which why they can’t get things done, take the game to them.  Agree on the objective, a measurable objective, a revenue number, a pipeline coverage number, a number of meetings per week, or the like.  Put it up on a while board, then ask them to list to list all the barriers they face.  Eliminate the ones that were already addressed and fixed last year, but are still etched in their psyche; eliminate all the ones beyond their control, you know things day light savings time, the price of gas, the Leafs never winning the cup.  What you will be left with are the real thing that impact their performance that they have control over, and then it is time to step up, if they do, great, if they don’t then it is your time to act.

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

Selling Like Greece!30

Every morning the financial pundits stick their finger in the air, and tell us how things are looking in Europe, and the Greek crisis, then they parade a series of talking heads to support the daily view. Things look good, markets rally; things look bad, markets tank. Many sales people start their day watching these pundits on say CNBC, or on their favourite app, but fail to take away the clear and real lesson that could help them sell better and more. As a result, they end up selling like Greece.

When you boil it down, the “crisis” (real, manufactured, or imagined), boils down to a simple thing, exemplified best, (or worst) by Greece, a country that simply does not have enough money to deliver against their obligations. Yes I know this may terribly over simplify things but after all I am a pundit of sorts, and as such at the very least I have an agenda to promote; Greece just does not produce enough revenue to meet their obligation; add the contagion factor, and you have a snap shot of Europe and their crisis.

Read On…

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Forget The Revenue115

By the time you know if you had made your quarter or year, it is too late. If you made it great, if you didn’t, too bad, it’s too late to do anything about it. So to succeed in sales, forget the revenue, it is a lagging indicator, focus on what really matters, the activities and elements that lead to a sale, the leading indicators.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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