Welcome to The Pipeline.

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

Proactive Prospecting – Capitalizing on Sales Triggers (#webinar)0

Phone guy

Proactive Prospecting – Capitalizing on Sales Triggers

Join us for this live Webinar full of actionable insights!
Thursday May 7, 1:00 pm Eastern

The best sales teams are proactive – looking for deals, but also creating opportunities. Using sales triggers is one great way to be in front of prospects when they need you most.

Once a trigger event has happened, you need to be ready – action stations! To capitalize on a sales trigger, you have to be on your game and engage the prospect.  Know just what to say, how and when to say it, and how to deal with the response (good or bad).

Attend this webinar to learn how to apply a proactive approach to converting triggers to engagements (especially if you pulled the trigger in the first place!)

Learn to:

  • Convert triggers to action
  • Engage potential buyers
  • Manage and leverage the most common objections
  • Deal with voice mail, referrals and more
  • How to sustain the momentum you gain from this webinar
Details and reg

Looking for More and Better Prospects?0

Who isn’t right!

Webinar Laptop

Well the good news is that over the next couple of weeks I will be participating in two webinars aimed at helping you do just that.

On Thursday April 16, at 1:00 pm Eastern:

I will be part of a webinar with eGrabber, titled: Mastering two key elements of Sales and Prospecting success. Along with Clinton Rozario, we will be looking at the most efficient and effective ways to source leads and then connect with them so you can start selling.

To learn more and register, click here!

Later in the month on

On Thursday April 23, at 1:00 pm Eastern:

I will be joining my friends at DiscoverOrg, and will look at Sales Triggers: Don’t Wait – Create. We all know about trigger events, how they create opportunities, we will look at how to better leverage events, and how to trigger similar reactions without having to wait like everyone else.

If you need new prospects to fill your pipeline with the right opportunities, you should attend these webinars. You learn specific steps you can take, tools that will make you more effective and learn about new developments in helping you succeed in prospecting.

To learn more and register, click here!

Look forward to having you along,

Dear Sales Diary3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


Those of you have kept or keep diaries, know that one of the reasons it has such great value is not just because you open up about intimate secrets, but that you share everything, not just the good, not just the bad, but all that and everything in between. You were able to go back and relive the experience, and more often than not glean lesson and things you would do differently if you had to do them all again. You didn’t just look at what you did well, or things that turned out to be good, living up to and beyond your expectations. You looked at the bad things that happened and tried to understand how you might avoid similar things in the future. The more honest you were the more rewarding the experience. If you skewed or slanted things one way, you may feel better for a while, but reality comes creeping back in, forcing us to deal with the bad, and the gray.

Sales people and sales organization need to keep a diary of their experiences, all of them, the good, the bad, and the in between. Most already do deal reviews in some format, but many do not, either choosing to them selectively, or just enough to satisfy a KPI or ScoreCard requirement. Few do the real deep dive required in order to get the most out of it, in the process allowing both a learning and revenue improvement get away. To be clear, and as you will see further on, “deep dive” does not have to be a laborious time consuming exercise with minimal payoffs, it can and should be an ongoing process that helps you with deals you are currently involved in, while also allowing you to capture and repurpose things on the fly. Done right, it should resemble the old EDS add about building an airplane while it is flying, the opportunity for sales people and organizations, is to build a continuously better sales, even as they are executing current sales, and prospecting for their next one.

Specifically this involves reviewing all deals you were involved in, those you won, those you lost, and those which go to “no decision”. Note, if you are involved in ten to a dozen deal a month, I recommend you review all of them; if on the other hand you are involved in dozens of deals, you may want to review a representative sample. If you have 7 wins, 15 losses, and 6 no decisions, review 25%, or seven, and you will get good, executable output. But as you’ll see, even if you don’t formally review each one, you will produce usable output.

Now some of you reading this may be aware that I am the coauthor of an award winning book about Trigger Events. In that book the recommendation was that you focus your reviews to only those deals you win. This will allow you to continuously repeat those things that are consistently help you win deals. Sound thinking, to a point. Let me explain, coauthoring a book is a lesson in compromise, you give you, you learn, you take, and in the end you produce a book that reflects the learning of both. But as you move on, the hope is that both authors evolve, not limited by the required compromises, and we each continue down our path, shaped by or experiences.

Since the release of that book, my thinking has evolved to where I see focusing strictly on one segment of your activities and only one of many outcomes, brings an unnecessary level of risk to one’s sales success, regardless of which one of the three possible outcomes you focus on. Given that on average, wins make up less than half of potential deals, if for no other reason than to broaden you perspectives, you should review outcomes other than just wins.

This is why the 360 Deal View was developed. It allows you to capture relevant information about the sale, the outcome and specific contributors to that. As with most tools, it is less about the tool itself, and much more about the approach and behaviours it promotes, which in turn lead to the desired results in more repeatable, predictable and consistent ways. It allows you to evolve you selling along with the way your market and buyers evolve.

While there is no denying that you want to know exactly what you are doing that is helping you win, you want to know what unfolded on the buyer’s side that prompted them to engage, and what outside and inside factors accelerate your sales cycle or cause it to slow and stall. What were the buyer’s objectives that allowed you to gain traction, and how you were able to connect with those? All important things you want to leverage. But it would be dangerous if not naïve to not go through a similar exercise with the other outcomes, losses and “no decisions”. Two simple advantageous to knowing why you lose, first, it may just take a small adjustment to change some of the inputs that will move a loss to the won column. Second, you may discover that a segment that made sense on initial exploration made sense to pursue, based on practice does not. Looking at “no decisions” will often allow you to understand when would be the best time to reengage, and take the cycle to fruition. It will also help you detect tire kickers a lot earlier.

These will be fallouts if you only review wins, but there is no denying that focusing on just one area, will lead to tunnel vision, causing you to miss changing trends that are more evident in the other categories, and more importantly, leave you very open to be blindsided. If you rely on one set of data, you will continue to find others who fit the mold, but it does not speak to the size of a market, things can continue to look good in a shrinking market, and by the time you react, many opportunities will have been missed, and competitors will have made unnecessary gains at your expense.

Most CRM’s and related apps will allow you to do a complete all three, and even allow you to get more granular if need be. You can download our tool here, but the key to success is not the tool, but the philosophy, and more specifically the discipline of doing it in up, down, or sideways markets. Just as with a diary, the best ones were usually written in simple notebooks, not fancy specially diaries, what made them great was the depth and completeness of what was captured, and the consistency of execution.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

A Painless Decision2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Waiting room

Most sales people stay well to the centre of the road, and well within their comfort zone, leading to selling styles that are narrow and shallow, thereby often limiting their success. Some of this is due to “sales folklore” and mythology, some of which are broadly accepted as fact, often reinforced by the pundits, which just perpetuates questionable practices.

One that has puzzled me for a long time is the role of ‘Pain’ in selling, and its appeal to sellers, and always hanging around with their companion ‘Need’. Ask any group of sellers why people buy, and the vast majority will reply “to satisfy a need”. Not sure that is the best place for a B2B sales person to start, after-all, if they identified their ‘need’ on their own, doesn’t that just make the sales person the “demo person” and an order taker in the equation. When you further test the notion by asking “OK, what’s driving the need”, and they tell me “It’s to address or avoid a pain”.


Beyond the fact I don’t like pain, don’t like to give pain, it is such a limiting view point when it comes to professional selling. One that many cling to for no apparent reason, especially when you look at their results. Yet sellers continue to speak of “finding the pain”, I even had one “consultative sales person” describe his role as “finding the soft underbelly of the beast, stabbing it, then offering up the cure”. Seems like a messy affair, especially when better results can be achieved in easier and cleaner ways.

Pain is a hard habit to break, especially when so many pundits reinforce the concept. I recall debating this issue a few years back, and when I asked where was the pain for buyers looking to expand their business, improve a winning process further, or any purchase decision made for positive reasons, they told me “that they were avoiding the pain of not achieving their objective”. Would’ve been easier for them to say that those buyer were seeking the pleasure (the other motivator) of success, but the pain culture is so deep, they went to the dark side instead.

As result, sellers go out every day looking for pain, and you know how it is, if you go out looking for something, that is what you’ll find, even as you miss other opportunities around you. As the month goes on, if they can’t find pain, i.e. not enough opportunities in the pipeline, they turn to creating pain, and it all becomes an uneasy exercise.

There is no denying that many purchase decisions are rooted in people’s lack of satisfaction of their current state, and that needs to be explored and leveraged by sales people, but there is also the impact of being focused solely on pain, before and above other states the seller may be in. It is a negative place to start, and if you start off looking for the negative, it clouds your sight and ability to create action and value from positive developments in the buyer’s world.

Not to appear overly Pollyannaish, but why not start off by focusing on the buyer’s objectives, not only a much more pleasant start to things, but one with so much more potential. If in the end, their pain is involved in shaping their objectives, then yes, deal with it for what it is. But the reality is that there are as many objectives are rooted in the positive, they make for a more pleasant and better sale, people will spend as much for the positive as the negative; yes they’ll pay to avoid pain, but they will also pay to extend pleasure. I have sold to, and worked with clients not because sale were bad, or they were not making their numbers. Instead they were market leaders and wanted to expand the distance between themselves and the pack, their only “Pain” was that there wasn’t more distance between them and number 2.

One reason many default to pain is that they spend too much time with the wrong segment of the market. As we have discussed in the past, one can loosely split the market in to three:

  1. Actively looking (15%)
  2. Passively looking (15%)
  3. Status quo (30%)

Most will spend their time and effort on the first two, some 30% of the market. Clearly this group is approachable and susceptible to “Pain”, after all they entered or are considering entering the market of their own volition. Something took them to the point of considering an alternative to their current state. Sure, some of these buyers may be responding to and acting on a positive, but chances are the majority are no longer happy with the way things are, and are seeking alternatives. They took the first step, began the exploration on their own, and will look to vendors playing the “be found” game, to play the role of “demo guy”, then play you off your competitor, order taker.

The 70% Status quo, by definition is not looking, but that does not mean they are not looking. Every intelligent business leader is looking for improvement. And while the popular myth is that these status quo buyers are satisfied and therefore not looking, this is so wrong it is dangerous and costing you money. Consider what Bell & Patterson present in their book ‘Customer Loyalty Guaranteed’:

75% of customers who leave or switch vendors for a competitor, when asked, say they were ‘satisfied or completely satisfied’ with the vendor they left, at the time they switched.

Good news – presented with the right alternative, satisfied and completely satisfied buyers will switch.

Bad news – it will not be because of pain.

It takes work to uncover their objectives, work to initiate a discussion that is focused on achieving something good, rather than avoiding something bad. How you do this has been the subject of previous piece, and you can find more on my You Tube channel.

On the other hand, how many times have you “found the pain”, “worked it”, only to not get the deal?

Let’s leave pain to doctors, and focus on helping our buyers achieve or exceed their objectives.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

What if you could defeat the Status Quo0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

All this week I have posted clips from a recent interview with Ago Cluytens, for his Coaching Masters Series.  We dealt with a number of issues around selling to buyers who are traditionally referred to as being Status Quo.  Being the weekend, I thought it a good time to post the whole interview for your weekend lounging pleasure.

Always interested in what you think, and whether you are more prepared to go forth and sell where many sellers and pundits fear to go.  Take a look, and let me know.

If you enjoy this there are more on Ago’s site.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


Emotion + Risk in Getting Buyers to React and Act! (#video)0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

roller coaster

Today I feature the third excerpt from my discussion with Ago Cluytens, for one his Coaching Masters Series interviews.  Today we look at the roles played risk and emotion in getting buyers to not only react, but act.

In Monday’s clip, I talked about the fact that you don’t need to waste time in waiting for an event to engage with a potential buyer, what you are looking for is the reaction, not the event.  Two things that get reactions every time are risk and emotion.

But while it is true that buyers buy on emotion and the rationalize that decision, it is also true that there are other factors such as risk, stories, sounds, and other factors a seller can leverage to get a buyer to react and more importantly to act.  It is easy to get a ready buyer to react and act, but you need to use many things to get a complacent buyer to engage, react and act.

Take a look:

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

Is It Ever A Good Time? – Sales eXchange – 14957

One common objection sales people face when making prospecting calls, is when the potentially prospect says “now is not the right time”.  While timing is important, and understanding how specific triggers can help improve your timing, the fact remains that perfecting your timing will only help you in a very (very very) small way, in a very narrow part of you potential prospect segment.  Here is why.

Timing is only important with two buyer groups, Passive, those who have realized the Status Quo no longer meets their requirements, and have decided to learn or check out “what’s out there”.  Not actively looking, but getting feelers out, looking at some web sites, information, getting acclimatized, hence Passive. The other group are those Active buyers who have decided to buy, even what to buy, is now just down to where and from whom; this is where the order takers thrive.  But together these two groups are a small part of the market, maybe 30%, but the remaining 70%, the Status Quo, timing, will by definition always be off.  As a result, you have two choices, the popular choice for many whose business cards say Sales Representative, is to avoid prospecting and fully engaging with these potential buyers; taking the advice of some questionable experts who will encourage them to “nurture”.  “After some nurturing, when they are ready, they will call you, since you stuck with them.” OK

So if you want to really change the outcome, read make more sales and generate more revenue, you need to work on the Status Quo, the 70% where you will always be too early, the 70% where other fear to tread.

The reality of timing is it will ALWAYS be either too Late or too Soon.  If they are Passive or Active buyers, it will always be too late, and if they are in Status Quo, it will always be too early, because they do not perceive a “need”, until something changes and it needs to be NOW.

That being said, it is not as difficult to overcome the challenge as some will make you believe.  First resolve to engage the entire market, including those currently removed from the market.  Because you not only know that their circumstance will change, and what may seem too early becomes, “I need it now”, but given your experience you know what is likely to be the catalyst for that change, the challenges they will face and the solution they will need to resolve it.

How?  By studying and understanding what led to that moment in the past with existing clients, prospects, and deals that did not go your way.  Once you know this, by tracking deals you’ve won, lost and those that ended in no decision.  You will understand what events led up to and caused the change, with that you can prepare, position and act.  It takes work, sometimes boring work, but with the right tools, and right approach, you can take timing and turn it your way.

By studying past outcomes and inputs, you can take proactive steps to ensure that you don’t enter the fray too late, and always capitalize on opportunities other sales people and prospects will say is too soon.

It is never the right time if you relinquish control, and always the right time if you are willing to put in the work, and ask, “is it ever the right time?”

Next Step

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Turn Trigger Events Into Exceptional Buyer Experiences34

The Pipeline Guest Post – Tony Zambito

When trigger events occur, they represent a unique moment in time for you and the buyer to establish a trusted relationship.  This unique moment in time may be one that may never occur again.  The question is: are you ready when this moment in time actually happens?

There is a high degree of importance in being ready for trigger events.  These events, as articulated by Craig Elias and Tibor Shanto, not only offer sales opportunities but offer the opportunity to create buyer experiences that can result in long-term loyalty.  Ultimately, while the end goal in responding to a trigger event is a sale, the ability to establish a long-term relationship will hinge largely on the experiences a buyer has during the response.   There are several ways you can be ready to turn trigger events into buyer experiences that keep buyers calling you when trigger events occur:

Buyer Intelligence

How much do you really know about your potential buyer’s organization when a trigger event occurs?  Buyers today have high expectations and one of those is the expectation that you are already grounded in knowing something about them.  If they are on your target list, are you keeping up with alerts on the events that are occurring with this buyer’s organization?  More importantly, are you aware of the events leading up to a trigger event?  Demonstrating intelligence about their organization translates into exceptional buyer experiences.  Why? Because trigger events are fraught with emotions and one thing a buyer is seeking is confidence that the situation is going to end in a resolution.  Knowledge breeds confidence.

Buyer Persona

How well do you know your buyer persona?  A buyer persona is an archetypal representation of your buyers that is derived from qualitative research.  Buyer personas are a means for encapsulating a deep understanding of buyer goals that directly influence purchase decisions.  As a sale executive, have you supported your teams with a fundamental understanding of who your buyers are and what goals drive their responses and decisions?  The ability to address buyer goals responsively during a trigger event is paramount to the buyer having an exceptional buyer experience.

Buyer Learning

There is a good bet that a buyer and his team may be facing a trigger event situation for the first time or it has been a good length of time since a previous event had occurred.  Sharing knowledge and providing a learning opportunity for buyers gets you a seat at the table of trusted advisors.  How prepared are you to share how similar customers have resolved similar situations?  What type of content and documents do you have prepared to share that are specific to trigger events?  A trigger event is time to go “off messaging” and to demonstrate your role as a trusted advisor with substance.  Enable an exceptional buyer experience by providing your buyers with learning opportunities that they will want to share with their peers.

Buyer Stakeholders

In most circumstances, a buyer is the focal point that represents various stakeholder groups within an organization.  You can be sure that the buyer has these groups on his or her mind during a trigger event.  How much are they on your mind?  All eyes are on the buyer by these various stakeholder groups during a trigger event.  And all eyes are on you as well.  They are looking for a solution to what may be a very challenging situation or perhaps are in crisis mode.  Are you prepared to address how your role and your solution address various stakeholder groups?  Are you gaining access to such groups to understanding the impact of the trigger event in their area?  Understanding and addressing stakeholder concerns provides opportunities for exceptional buyer experiences to be shared enterprise-wide.

To succeed with trigger events requires a high degree of readiness.  It is the degree of readiness that plays a pivotal role in turning trigger events into exceptional buyer experiences.  As mentioned at the start of this article, trigger events represents a unique moment in time that perhaps may never occur again.  You may have only one opportunity to demonstrate your ability to be seen as a trusted advisor and to provide an exceptional buyer experience.  Are you ready?

About Tony Zambito

Tony Zambito is Founder and Principal of Goal Centric, a buyer strategy consulting firm. Goal Centric is also the originator of the buyer persona methodology. Tony is launching BUYEROLOGY™ as a new means of understanding buyer behavior. Tony also served in the role of Vice President in Sales and Marketing capacities for TRW, Knight-Ridder, and Compaq (HP). He holds a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management. Read Tony’s blog Buyerology Now for insightful commentary on changing buyer behavior.

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