Welcome to The Pipeline.

What Other Metric Counts? – Sales eXecution 3100

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Metrics 2

A recurring and ongoing discussion is sales revolves around the role of numbers in sales. You have the soft, relationship, Quality crown chanting their sacred mantra: “Sales Is Not Numbers Game!” “Quality over Quantity” or is it “Quality über alles”. So it came as some surprise when I was talking to a Ms. Not Numbers Game, and she started talking about the role and importance of metrics is sales success. OK, what are metrics? Further, she started talking about an HBR piece called “The Twelve Sales Metrics that Matter Most”.

Read the piece but the 12 boil down to:
1. Percent of Organization Achieving Quota
2. Quota Attainment Average
3. Average Annual Quota for Field Salesperson
4. Average Annual Quota for Inside Salesperson
5. Average Annual On Target Earnings
6. Average New Deal Size
7. Sales Cycle Length
8. Vertical Sales Adoption
9. SMB Specialization
10. Field Sales Revenue Trends
11. Inside Sales Roles
12. Sales Preparedness

Looks like most revolve around numbers.

The other thing that most of the above have in common are the fact that they are mid-cycle or lagging indicators. This does not make them inferior or useless, it is just that they are no things that will help change the outcome of the current cycle, if changes are not made they may not change the matric after the next sale.

I guess I struck a nerve when I said that I think the most important metric are those based on activity. Before I can explain, Ms. Not Numbers Game, came undone. “That’s just so old school, do a hundred calls, talk to 10, and get one sales, it doesn’t work like that today Tibor”. That wasn’t my point, but if you look at most of the metrics on the list above, ONE of the KEY elements to improving them, is changing both the quality and quantity of activity.

While I am not a fan of 100-10-1 number, I do believe that one should know the numbers it takes to get to quota (which BTW is a number). If you have $100,000 monthly quota, and the average deal is $25,000, you’re going to need 4 sales a month. Now you could put a plan into effect that will allow you to increase the average deal size to $30K – $35K, and that would involve a change in activity and execution. How many proposals will you need to present to get those 4 deals? How many prospects will have to go through the discovery process to generate sufficient proposals? How many prospect will you need to engage in order to have enough go through to discovery? How many people will you need to prospect in order to engage with enough? All these are leading indicators, all based on activities, all open to improved quality to positively change the quantity required.

From an organization perspective, the HBR list is fine, but from a front line perspective, the metrics that count are all activity related, as all activity is related to working with buyers. Without that none of the other dials will move much, but focus on activity related metrics, and you can move the dial to reduce quantity and improve quality.

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

Where Have All The Sellers Gone? – Sales eXecution 3013

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Over the last few years there have been numerous articles and commentaries suggesting that the sales population will dramatically dwindle over the next few years. I don’t think there will be less real sellers than now, but the roles will be more clearly and accurately defined.

The reality is that many of those calling themselves sales people, or were hired to fill a role with a job description of sales person are not sales people at all. Many who pretended to be hunters to get the job were not; and many who were hired to manage and grow accounts, were in fact willing or capable of doing either. So if you redefined those to what they really were, rather than what you were hoping or pretending they were, you’d have a thinning of the ranks. In reality there are not as many sales people now as many would pretend.

Further to this point, last week I participated in an event hosted by SMB Acuity, a premier supplier of actionable business insights, where they presented the results of a survey of Small and Medium business in the USA and Canada specifically companies with 100 or less employees, those driving the economy. One interesting result they shared was that a large majority of upsells and cross sells were in fact initiated by the businesses themselves, not the sellers (by title anyway). The numbers were 57.8% of respondents in Canada, and 68.3 in the States. Confirming that many who say they are in sales, are in fact order takers.

What’s worse, is that these numbers clearly indicate that both types of sales people dropped the ball. Account managers should have been involved enough with the accounts to be in tune with potential demand, completely missed the opportunity. Leading to the question of how involved were they really, were they managing them in the real world, in their CRM, on a list, or as I suspect not at all. The other question is where was management? Why did they not have a process and the metrics in place to ensure coverage and get ahead of the opportunity?

One thing is sure, when the buyer initiated the conversation that lead to the upsell with you, they likely did so with your competitors as well. Given the scenario, I bet you don’t even know if and when they decided to buy more or another product, you don’t even know if they bought it from you or your competitor.

And where were the hunters, how did they miss this waiting opportunities?

It is almost an insult to real sellers to call these transactions “upsells” or “cross sells”, when it was buyer initiated. This is why they call people in department stores clerks, not sales people.

So yes, over the years as we fine tune the role, you will find less people classified as sellers, not because there will be less sellers than now, but because there will be a separation of sellers and clerks.

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

3 Reasons You’ll Fail At Cold Calling – Sales eXecution 2861

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

laser phone

I know, they told you cold calling is dead, but it’s not dead, it just smells funny, and those that tell you this, probably confuse Shinola with other matter.

You Don’t Know Your Own Metrics – Many in sales fail to own and be accountable for specific aspects of their success, in the case of cold calling, it is their specific metrics. These same people often know the stats of their favourite hockey or baseball players, but when it comes to key metrics involving their success, they are in the dark. If nothing, else sales people should know what their proposal to close ratio is; discovery to proposal; engagement (or first meeting) to discovery. Once you know how many first meeting you need to drive your quota, you can then understand how many cold calls you need to make, once you back out referrals, marketing generated leads, and sales to current customers. If you do not know this, you will fail at allocating the right time to pursue the right prospects. Without owning your own metrics, you are on a journey with no map and no hint of how much fuel you will need to get there, which why often many don’t get there.

Right Prospects – Above I mentioned the “right prospect”. Many think, and other pundits like to paint, cold calling is just a numbers game where you randomly call people in the hope that they will take mercy on you and give you an appointment. Where in reality the call is cold because you are not on the person’s calendar that day, and you are hitting them out of the blue. But this does not preclude you having done research, understand the value you can provide that person, and making sure that they are indeed the right prospect for you offering as much as you being a good fit for them. This is no different a process than the socialites would espouse, or the referrals only crowd would. Save the fact that those of us willing to pick up the phone and call them direct without waiting for an event, a “social interaction”, or a referral. While they for their own reason prefer to wait, we don’t and succeed by going direct. But it still has to be the right prospect.

Lack Of Process Or Methodology – Most sales people lack a methodology or set of best practices that help them not only succeed, but provide a means for continuous evaluation and by extension improvement. This why they end up with the symptoms above. Which ultimately leads to a lack of success, and doing anything to avoid the activity. But those of us who have a methodology, steps, actions, contingencies, and more, can not only contextualize the results, but deliver great success in prospecting. With that we build a pipeline that give us choices and the opportunity to work with the most interesting companies while delivering to our own goals and those of our employers.

Without the above three elements, you are working in the dark, operating blind, making things much more difficult and scary than it ever has to be.

Tibor Shanto

Banner 2

What’s Your Recovery Period? – Sales eXecution 2740

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 


No one likes rejection, and I would argue few professions have to put up with as much rejection as sales people do. We face rejection throughout the sale, from the time we try to prospect and engage with a potential buyer, right to the end when they finally agree to deal with us. We face rejection from prospects we lose, and from those we actually win, in fact we win by overcoming rejection.

Each rejection is like a blow, whether we overcome them or not, they consume effort, energy and they take their toll, much like a blow in any athlete in any contact sport. And yes, let there be no doubt that sales is a contact sport. What separate great athletes from also-rans, is not only their ability to deal with and overcome the blows, but how efficient their recover time is.

Of course it is best to start by trying to minimize rejection, and avoid being the guy who can survive by taking the most blows. But in the end, in sales there is no avoiding rejection of some form during the sale, could be mild, could be fatal, but much like death, taxes, and lying politicians, if you’re going to sell you will face rejection, and you need to learn to deal with it. The better you are at that the greater success you will have in sales. One way is to improve your recovery time, there is truth in the saying about getting back on the horse.

First is be prepared. It is coming, you can’t avoid it, so learn to deal with it. If you try to hide from it, you will also hide from successful sales. Often the best sales are a result of a well handled rejection, the rep that faced it head on, dealt with it, and moved to the next step with their prospect in tow, wins more often than those who avoided it. Part of engagement is push back, if you’re not getting any, you’re prospect is probably not engaged.

Specific to prospecting, telephone prospecting, the first think you need to know, actively manage and constantly improve, are your conversion rates. Attempts to right person contact; right person contact to desired result (appointment). I know there are those socialites who will tell you sales is not a numbers game, (I guess to them it is just a cotillion or day at the country club), but knowing and managing these numbers will improve your recovery time and your success. It will also help you with your time allocation, know how much of an activity you need to do will help you set the right time; that in turn will help you set the right mind frame. Just like I know what it takes me to run a five kilometer run, I can know what it takes to secure the number of appointments to deliver quota. And BTW, having a few extras will give you options, who to let go and who to double down on. Not having enough prospects build pressure, and makes every prospect sacred, and losing one devastating, making it harder to recover, increasing your recovery time. A key preparation is to ensure that you are working from a “position of plenty”.

Again, knowing that rejections are part of the territory, learning how to handle and manage the most common objections before they come so you can help your prospect get from reactionary mode to interaction mode is also key.

The way to recover is to take your lessons from the event, and apply it, not retreat. Avoid what a lot of sales people do, they get rejected and they take time to recover, grab a coffee, call their mom, or question the quality of the lead. All adding to recovery time and reducing selling time.

Is Sales a Numbers Game? (#video)3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

TV Head

Nobody talks about the world being flat or round, so why does this topic merit discussion, there so many other more important unsolved mysteries in sales.  Take a look at what I mean:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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 

Game the Plan – With Chris Cabrera0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Game the plan

Almost everyone in sales will tell you that incentives drive behaviour, but beyond that there is often little agreement among the pundits as to what the right incentive plan is. Some see it as a black art, while others, usually sales people, see it as something to manipulate, hence the expression ‘gaming the plan’. But ask Christopher Cabrera, founder, president and CEO of Xactly Corporation, who has a different view, and believes that front line reps and CFOs do not need to be at odds when it comes to incentives. In fact, Cabrera literally wrote the book on incentives, “Game the Plan: Every Sales Rep’s Dream; Every CFO’s Nightmare”, which suggests that when it’s done right, reps can and should game and maximize the plan, and everyone wins.

I had the opportunity to discuss incentives and the book with Cabrera, and ask him some questions many of my clients ask when it comes to their challenges around incentives and driving behaviour that leads to everyone’s success, buyer, seller, and company.

One aspect of the incentive where the pendulum of opinion swings back and forth is between simplicity and complexity of a plan. While some try to engineer things down to the minute detail, others, look to perhaps over simplify by offering 100% commission based pay. As you would suspect, the reality is somewhere in between. Cabrera’s view is that 100% is not the most effective, but over engineering a plan has faults as well. He suggests that structure is much more important than the specifics. What “counts is the number of measures; there is a strong correlation between the number of measures and a successful plan.” Measures being the elements being paid on, Cabrera suggests that optimal number is three measures being incented. As you exceed that number, you lose focus and therefore the effectiveness of the plan.

Another factor was the number of people being paid on any given deal, an extreme example Cabrera gave was a company that had over a hundred people on any given deal. He suggest that the right number of people is five.

Cabrera is also a proponent of paying different rates on different products. While paying on net revenue is a start, companies should also incent higher margin products at a higher rate, thereby driving sales and higher profits. He also discussed that managing activity is the role of management not the incentive plan.

Another area of discussion was the use of SPIFFs (Sales Promotion Incentive Fund). Cabrera explained that while this was an effective practice, companies need to keep them fresh and not overuse them. “Keep them guessing by changing the annual cadence, if they know it is coming and when, it loses the desired effect.” He also recommends that they not be overused, three times a year, and at different times, for different element. Tying them to quarter end each time really misses the mark.

The thing that gives the book teeth and makes it a must read for sales leaders and sales people is not only Cabrera’s own extensive experience in the field of sales incentive and incentive management. But more importantly, the volume of data that is available to him as a result of the work Xactly does. The ability to leverage the empirical, anecdotal and other elements give Cabrera, the book, and by extension the reader, an unparalleled level of insight into incentives, and doing it right.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Prospects On The Revenue Express0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


One reason I enjoy selling, and I mean selling not order taking, is it really is like a good mystery or thriller novel coming together. All the twists and turns, the intrigue in the form of competition, the unknown outcome, hidden decision makers and more. Not only do you get to participate, but when you participate well, you not only solve the situation, but make money for doing it, it makes selling great.

So I was a bit baffled last week when I met with a group of sales people who typified the 80% in the Pareto principle, they weren’t so much lazy or lethargic, more like completely uninspired and totally lacked the ability to have fun. They were with a top tier player in their field, and while they may not win every deal they were involved in they were in a position to win more than their share. Their product was more than competitive and they had managements backing to walk away from deals that were strictly price driven.

But it seems everything they had to do, which was no different than that expected from other B2B sales people, was a chore, and seemed to require a lot more effort from them than really necessary. It may be due to the fact that they had a good ride before the economy turned, but it was clear that they had forgotten some basics, specifically two critical musts in B2B sales, prospecting, and having fun.

To be clear they did prospect, but in such an uninspired way that it was painful to watch them, never mind listen to them. It was the typical “get me in front of the right guy, and I can close them”, well so could most trained monkeys. The money goes to those who can get in front of the right guy.

Thinking it may serve well to change their perspective, I suggested we approach prospecting as we would a mystery, not quite Agatha Christie, but then again. We had some clues, the company name, locations they can be found, even a couple of people on the inside willing to play. As usual we were lacking their direct numbers, e-mails; which is the first bit of fun, finding and navigating our way to finding those, to then contacting and engaging with our target.

The reality is that this may not always be easy, but rather than letting it frustrate you, get your Sherlock Holmes and discover. After all, when you solve this part of the mystery, we get the opportunity to get in front of that right guy. Further the work and effort invested in sleuthing at this stage of the sale will more than help us uncover important elements that help us close the sale later.

I know that none of this makes the work any easier, but at least approaching it like a grand mystery, a paperback classic, we can make it more fun, and more importantly doable, and more lucrative..

So pick your favourite sleuth, and let’s solve this sale.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

Metrics and Numbers – Sales eXchange 2201

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Increased sales

I have the pleasure and opportunity to “sales” with a lot of people, some in sales themselves, some management, and some who don’t sell but have firm unfounded opinions they like to share or yell. One area they all seem to have opinions on is whether sales is a numbers game or not. The familiar and popular line is that it is not a numbers game, this is quickly followed by something along the lines that “it is about quality, not quantity”; while I get the sentiment, I am not sure that the two are that linked.

What’s interesting is that many in leadership positions, be they executives or pundits, who in an effort to be ultra-modern adopt the “sales is not a numbers game” posture, are at the same time big proponents of “Metrics” and some form of KPI’s, both of which are good when applied the right way. But the question remains, are metrics not numbers?

While there are many similar definitions of business metrics, I like this one:

A business metric is a raw measurement of a business process. It’s important to remember that metrics are a means to an end, not an end unto themselves. Measuring a metric is not always enough – you need to use that metric to guide business decisions and to ensure your business is on the right track. (Klipfolio.com)

I like it because it does root things in numbers, how else can you measure. It ties to process, and having a sales process is a clear way to bring the numbers to life in the form of action and execution, and the use of metrics in guiding performance and decisions. By extension, this drives accountability, and bundled together these elements dictate and shape you sales culture. In the end, it allows for the use of numbers as a core component of strategy and execution, but not at the exclusion of other important elements that make for a winning and evolving sales culture.

The dark side of taking the sales is a numbers game stance to far can often be found in KPI’s and how they impact sales. Many organizations will have KPI’s for key activities their reps have to execute. For example eight meeting a week, with at least three being with new prospects. Without a qualitative layer to the KPI, it will serve little in helping the company achieve it intent. What you often get is exactly what you asked for, eight meetings, three with new people, and not one worth the time it took one to secure the meetings.

KPI’s should be rounded out in ways that ties the indicator to results, not the activity alone. This will allow for coaching opportunities that are directly tied to daily activities and results. If a rep has difficulty hitting wither side of that, it is a great opportunity to coach and focus on the qualitative aspect of the KPI. And here is where both camps can converge, quality of execution, tied to the numbers and results involved.

In the end, even the qualitative aspect of things will be measured in some empirical way, and most importantly, the result, be that sales, clients acquired or most importantly profits, are all measured in numbers or tied to metrics in a direct way.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

Seasonal Sales Tactics: Fall1

CoC Sep 13

The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka

The fall season brings to mind lots of different imagery – changing leaves, beautiful colors, pumpkins, Halloween, and holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas on the proverbial horizon. Fall and the subsequent holiday season are a huge time of year for sales. People are buying all kinds of things, from school supplies to gifts to housewares to new services, you name it, and people are likely to buy it.

So how do you tailor your sales tactics to the season of buying? Here’s a few ideas about ways to increase your online presence and subsequently your revenue during the fall season:

  • Run social media campaigns that are seasonally-themed. For fall, you could run giveaways that are tailored to the season. You could even do something as simple as change your cover or profile photo on Facebook or Twitter to something that is fall-themed.
  • Think ahead to the looming holiday season. Consider starting your holiday sales strategies early. Let your followers and customers know what you will be up to during the holiday season. Letting them know ahead of time can give them time to plan and incorporate holiday spending at your company into their budget.
  • Take the opportunity to work on some philanthropic efforts for the year. The fall and the holiday season are prime time for giving back to your community. Consider sending employees to do volunteer work. You can also make a monetary contribution to a charity if your company is in the position to do so.
  • Take the time to see what is trending this fall. Whether it is fashion or technology trends, you can research what exactly people are being predicted to purchase this season. This gives you the opportunity to cater to exactly what people are going to be looking for during the season. For example, if a fashion trend watch says that people are looking for things that are jewel-toned this year, consider using these types of colors in your marketing collateral or your products.
  • Track what your customers like. When you run a seasonally-themed marketing campaign, try your best to keep track of where your sales leads are coming from. You’ll be able to work to hone your campaigns from year to year to make sure that you are maximizing your marketing abilities.

Take the opportunity to use seasonal sales and marketing tactics to your advantage. Doing a little bit of research as to what is trending in sales for each season will help you to make even more sales.

(Photo Source)

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

wordpress stat