Welcome to The Pipeline.

Businessman on rock mountain with idea bulb

3 Reason to Establish and Mine The Gap – Part II0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Monday, we looked and the need to establish a “Gap”, and gave an example that you can use to start the process with in your sales. Clearly you will need to build on that, and in today’s post we will offer specific steps you can take to surface and leverage Gaps in the process of helping buyers and winning deals.

As with most things worth doing, there is the investment part, and the pay-off part; please keep in mind that the pay-off will be after things have taken hold, not the next day. Make your plan, then execute the whole plan, not give up because you need to give things time to happen.

GAP PyramidCorpus of Knowledge

Step one is building a base of knowledge that allows you to step out as a Subject Matter Expert. You need to not only understand the objectives your market player may have and, should have. What makes you an expert is not all the information you have, but your ability to translate your knowledge into actionable insight; key here is actionable. The reality of “satisfied” prospects, is that they are by definition inert, not looking to move. Even when they have stated objectives, they have pre-conceptions about how to achieve them. To win you need to have them look at their objectives differently, look at objectives they may not have considered for different reasons, until an expert like you throws it into the mix.

Most sellers take in the prospect’s objectives at face value, and jump to trying to influence how the prospect might achieve those objectives. In other words, they focus on the “means” rather than the “end”; the problem with this, is that it is a crowded place to be, and if the “ends” have not changed, the “means” will be decided on in the feature/price filter.

Expert sellers, know they have to have the prospect re-evaluate their objectives, notice I did not say change, just re-evaluate, and if you are part of that re-evaluation, you can influence them, and marginalize the other sellers. How you ask, by focusing on the impacts you can deliver to their business. If they focus on the impacts, which are the ultimate “end”, an objective or a goal is a way to realize that impact. To do this you have to have the knowledge to understand why the buyer’s stated objectives may be, and a set of “Better” alternatives to get there.

Tribal Knowledge

To do that, you need to establish a discipline to review every opportunity that enters your pipeline, wins, losses, and “no decisions”. We use the 360 Degree Deal View, as it is uniquely designed to focus on objectives and impacts, and the Gaps that exist in the buyer’s current state, and the alternate state they are planning. Doing this gives you a level of understanding that will allow you to be the expert, be a conduit to best practices your prospects can learn and earn from.

Yes, this takes time, but not that much time, not as much time as it does chasing deals you won’t win.

Two key things you’ll learn will help you in Mining The Gap. First is the most common objectives and means of hitting those objectives currently favoured by market players, sellers and buyers. This will allow you to understand where there are Gaps or misalignment. For example, a VP may have a goal of 50/50 mix in revenues from product and services, but four months into the year it is tracking at 70% product, 30% services, where services fetches higher margin. You can surface this Gap with two simple questions, once the Gap is there, you can “Mine” it.

Second, you’ll discover where you have delivered unexpected impacts to objectives the buyer was not aware of or focused on before encountering you.

In all this it is important to look at the outs of 360’s right across your organization, look at other reps’ reviews, and expand your knowledge while expanding your value. Develop your Gap questions built on empirical data not third party wives’ tales or industry myths. There is a specific set of steps that when applied not only allow you to confirm and qualify Gaps, but Mine them, work them in a way that better engages your buyer, and separates you from also-rans. But it has to done right, or you may fall in to the Gap, sell like everyone else.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

16b - Value visual (640x465)

3 Reason to Establish and Mine The Gap – Part I0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sales people are always trying to create urgency, or figure out how they can accelerate a decision. The conventional approach has been to either focus on a “pain point” the buyer may want to solve with haste. The other conventional strategy is to have the client agree to a needs analysis, and leverage the outcome based on that analysis. The beauty of the latter is that no matter what the inputs, in some miraculous way, the output always pints to your product or offering.

We can talk about the merits or efficacy of these methods, they work not because of the skills of the seller, but as a result of the state of the buyer. Specifically, they either have a pain and set out to address it on their own; or realise that their current state is not optimal, hence their willingness to participate in needs analysis. But what about those who are neither in pain, and see their current state as being “satisfied”? Those buyers who respond, “we’re good”, or “we’re all set”, or similar responses. that’s where you have to work The Gap.

To start, this is not about objection handling in the context of cold call, for that click here. This is where you specifically target potential prospects who are “satisfied” in a way that allows them to understand that there are viable alternatives to their chosen path that they are not aware of or have ignored for any number of reasons. In other words, those who are not aware of any gaps in their current state.

Mine the gapThe GAP

The best way to have a prospect understand the “gap” in their current state is not to have them look in the past as many sellers do, or at their current state; people will naturally defend what they have done and what they are doing when their state is “satisfied”. Your only option is to take them into the future, then walk them back to the present to have them experience where a Gap you see exists, but they to date have not. Here is a simple and reusable example, it is somewhat general, if you would like to have it tailored to your vertical or target group, get in touch.

Seller: I am curious VP Jane, if we were sitting here 18 months from now, and you were telling me the team had hit a grand slam, what would that look like?

At this point you have to sit back and let the person talk, this may sound obvious, but I live in the real world. You have to be patient, it takes some people a couple of sentences to really get to it. You may have to help them by asking them to elaborate, expand, etc. But once they get going, once they buy into the fact that they can articulate their view for the future, i.e. their objectives, you will be amazed at the future state they paint.

What I find 95% of the time, is that “18 months from now” doesn’t look anything like “now”. Which allows you to ask the next question:

Seller: That’s a great view VP Jane, so help me understand why we are not there now?

The answer to that is the Gaps they see between where they are and where they say they actually want to be. Among the things they will lay out in their response (with help from you), will be the Gaps you can Mine to develop the opportunity.

To do this right you will need to do some work, understanding what are some common objectives similar people have had, which of those gaps they were willing to invest in, and which were only aspirational. But most importantly, you will need to be able to leverage how you have helped others “fill the Gap”, achieve their objectives, and the impacts you delivered to their business as a result. To be honest, this is not easy at first, you have to fly without product or brochure, and rely strictly on skill, knowledge, and the ability to transform that knowledge to actionable insights for your buyers. Once you can do that, you’ll be able to Mine those Gaps, and deliver sales success.

Beyond the example above, come back Thursday, and we’ll look at some ways to effectively Mine The Gap.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

Football substitue 2

Change The Candidate – Not The Rules!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I am not big on politics, but it’s hard to avoid, seems to be everywhere one looks and steps, believe it or not, I have even witnessed it in corporate boardrooms where apparently, business was supposedly being conducted. But I was recently struck by an interesting parallel between some current political theater, and things unfolding in some sales organizations.

In the circus surrounding the recent confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, Chuck Schumer was making the rounds with a well rehearsed set of talking point regarding the potential for filibuster in an effort to delay Gorsuch’s confirmation. While I could care less about the confirmation, Schumer made an interesting argument in the face of the “Nuclear Option”, I paraphrase: “If you can’t get the requisite 60 votes, don’t change the rules, change the candidate.”

Many sales leaders could learn a bit from this motto. If we expand the concept of rules, to include the broad sales environment, there is a lot of wisdom in the notion of taking another look at what they need to change to achieve their desired outcomes.

Football substitue 2I see too many organizations making too many accommodations to suite the talents, or shortcomings of their sales teams. Don’t get me wrong, it does make sense to do things in a way that allows more people to succeed, but it should be done in context of the overall organizational goals.

Assuming that the goals and objectives of the organization and by extension the sales team are realistic, then we need to strive to bring together those assets and skills required to hit or exceed those goals. This may not always be a safe assumption, we have all seen companies that set such audacious goals, that they went way beyond being big and hairy, to being crushing, discouraging and counterproductive in every way.

But if the goals are doable (not easy), then sales leaders need to look at how they assemble the right assets to achieve those goals, which includes their team. But many organizations seem to make different accommodations for their human assets than other key resources. We have seen organizations change the rules, incentives, quotas or other things, mid stream, just to accommodate an underperforming rep, or asset.

Imagine if new rules were introduced in the middle of the second quarter to balance out the inability of one quarterback to hit a receiver or complete one hand off, never happen. The player would be pulled, and eventually traded. All with the support of the fans and pundits.

Organizations that choose to change elements once the game has started as a means of leveling the playing field for underperformers, in most cases are just delaying the inevitable, the rep either leaving due to frustration, or being fired for underperformance. While I fully believe that everything reasonable should be done to help reps develop the skills and habits to win. Some will take longer to ramp up, some will hit slumps, but there are some, obvious to most, who will never cut it without some form of “corporate subsidies”, i.e. changing quota, territory, or just allowing compromise on required activity or metrics.

Unlike the Gorsuch discussion, where Schumer could do little more than just talk, sales leaders have the ability to change the player rather than the rule. Rather than a temporary fix between now and the inevitable, that will lead to current and ongoing success.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

Clouds in shape of question marks

Answers Are Only As Good As The Question0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Communication, which at the core selling/buying is, will always be a mutual exercise, which why monologues work well in theater, but not in delivering revenue or quota. As such, a bit of forethought and focusing on how you’ll choreograph the sales are important. Which is why it is that much more noticeable to all, including buyers, when the effort is just not there in how sellers choose to engage and carry on a sales interview or conversation.

“I may make you feel but I can’t make you think”

Sellers need to put more effort into planning their interactions with prospects than many do. This needs to be on two levels, first the areas or topics they choose focus on, second the kind of questions they ask. Sellers forget that their prospect is talking to a range of people about the purchase they are about to make. If the questions I ask, the areas I choose to explore and drill down on, are no different than the three or four or eight other vendors they are speaking with, then the selection and decision will go back to the same old, usually the lowest common denominator, moderated by price (the lowest price).

Areas of Focus – Too often too many sellers start from the erroneous assumption that their buyer has their act together, know exactly what they want, and all that is left is to pick a product. That is a false premise, and as such leads to longer sales cycles and missed sales. While anecdotally we always knew that buyers are not as together as they sometimes appear, or sellers believe, the data is now in. Some will see this as good news, allowing them as sellers to bring more value to the conversation by helping buyers in ways much more meaningful than features and price. Sellers have the benefit of having worked with many buyers with similar experiences, allowing the perceptive ones to see themselves not as product reps, but conduits to others’ experiences, good and bad. The value they can bring is in helping buyers better understand what they are dealing with, and their best option, not options, in addressing those specifics.

Even if a prospect has advanced past the stage of deciding what they want to do and how, sellers benefit from starting “back” there, before moving to asking questions about how they plan to address things, i.e. product. Retracing a little, will show them as being different, and will also help the seller understand the buyer’s thought process, which may allow for more unique input, and to demonstrate they are different and truly “buyer centric”, by not jumping to product right away.

What we Ask – The kind of question go a long are key. You have to assume that you are the fifth sales person they spoke to that day; how will you make a different impression than the four who went before you?

If you ask the same as them, what will they base their selection on? If you reinforce perceptions rather than challenge them, are you not telling the buyer to base it on price and emotion?  Your questions are not just about the response, they need to get them to think, think beyond where they are now, and where the other sellers have taken them.

If they can answer your question without thinking, you’re in trouble! But many sellers I meet are afraid of asking questions that put the prospect on the spot. Remember the goal here is not to embarrass the prospect, but to help  them really think through the issue before they commit, whether they commit to you or another. I worked with one sales pundit who felt asking the prospect “Why” questions were not cricket as it may stump the buyer. Well if you can “stump” the buyer, it is evidence that they have not thought things through, and you are doing them a favour.

Getting an answer is easy, getting an answer that moves the process forward in a way that helps buyers is not. Which why the answers can only be as good or productive as the questions.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

Time allocation

Enough With The Time Management BS – Please!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Time is the most valuable resource sales people, or any people have, it is the only none renewable resource, once it is spent, it is gone forever, except for the memories, and for many in sales the memories are not that happy, and not worth reliving. How we choose to utilise it will determine our success.

This is why I think time management is such a dangerous concept in sales success. Let’s be real, time already comes managed. You got 60 minutes to an hour, 24 hours to a day, 7 days to a week, and so on. Looks very well managed to me, in fact so well managed, that even Netanyahu and Abbas can fully agree. So managing time is not the issue. What can or should do with time to maximize results? You can allocate it, and then focus on managing the activity you allocated the time to, in the time you allocated for it – plain, not simple.

Allocation

Step one – figure out all the things you have to do during the course of typical sales cycle in order to win the sale. Not all the things you can do, currently are doing, see others doing, no – just those activities without which there would be no sale – nothing else, no matter how appealing, fun or cool. Then look at what percentage of your time you typically need to spend on each during the course of a SUCCESSFUL sales cycle. Not every day, but throughout the cycle, as some activities may be more intense in the middle, others at the start.

Currency of Sales

Now I want you to look at your time as money, specifically $1,760, which is the number hour of face time available to sellers annually (220 days x 8 Hours per day). How you spend and invest that money will determine your success. Much like a wealth manager will allocate portions of your money to stocks, some to cash, derivatives, all aligned to your retirement or other goals; in this case, it’s sales goals. That is how you allocate based on the activities highlighted above. What percentage to account management, how much to selling new opportunities, to admin, to training, and oh ya, prospecting.

Time allocationWhich is what got this whole thing started.

I am truly tired of lame sales people using the lame excuse of time management. Whenever I speak to under-performing reps, who only have dust in their pipelines, the number one excuse they give me is time, “oh, I guess I have to do a better job of time management Tibor” Flip off man, that’s just bullshit!

The same reps who give me that line, like I was born yesterday, seem to always find the time to complete their Brackets or football pools, because there is so much riding on those things right? Lame. I bet you don’t feel sorry or compelled to help those who squander their money on foolish things, (I saw you walk by that panhandler), so why should I feel sorry for you when you squander your time.

And don’t give me this “Well I had to get back to a client” or some other lame iteration of “I’m slack”.

Do you let others dictate how you spend your money and on what? Your money, your time, you should determine how it is spent or invested, does your friend or client do the work it takes for you to make your money, do you let others spend your money, why do you let them spend and waste your time?

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

Business cartoon showing two business managers, one is saying, 'the "no excuses sales seminar" is this weekend... but I'm going to try to get out of it'.

Best Way To Motivate Your Reps: Take Away EXcuses2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Managers always ask, “How can I motivate my reps?” Of course, what they are asking is “How can I get them to do their jobs?” And who can blame them, there is some much out there about how to motivate people, and specifically sales people, it seems easy to believe that there a single simple formula that fits all. Well there isn’t if there were, what would motivate all these people to write about a subject that was already solved, especially when there is so much more money to be made wading in to the unsolvable. That’s not to say that you can’t get some of the desired results many of these souls are searching for, it is just that they at times need to come at it from the other end.

As discussed before, all human being have the X chromosome. In sales people, it determines which skills a sales person will master. As the numbers suggest and support, in just under a half it predisposes them to master EXecution. While in the larger half, it accounts for their skills in making EXcuses.

No doubt managers who are gifted, can elevate those with the positive X chromosome, EXecuters, to greater accomplishments and success. They can often influence and guide some on the fringe of the EXcuse group to rehabilitate and kick the EXcuse habit for a life of successful EXecution.

You have to start by taking away their ability to use Excuses, which means a focus on continuously evolving process and continuous development, each with its own challenges. A continuously evolving process evolves because it has to continuously align with the buyer. This can be like building an airplane while it is in flight. One has to have a way to capture what they are learning in each sale, and apply it real time. There are many examples of sellers and organizations who are doing this, their only secret is that they spend more time understanding the buying process, and contributing to it, and by extension shaping that as well. With that in place it will make it easy to EXecute the sale. It may not always be great, not even pretty, but it will get done. But if it is being done, it can be improved, which is where continuous development comes in.

The best ‘motivation’ you can do for your reps is to invest in their success. They don’t need to go win one for the Gipper, if they can get it for themselves. Development doesn’t just help them improve their skills and EXecution, but demonstrates your commitment to their success, and what can be more motivation than knowing there is someone committed to your success, and not let you wallow in your EXcuses.

By “Motivating” them with the old hokey Rah-Rah, you are only enabling them to make more EXcuses, you train them that all it takes for them not to do what they are being paid for, things others on your team are do without threat to life or limb, is just come up with another better EXcuse. In some ways you are right when you think you are motivating them, unfortunately you’re not motivating them to improve their sales skills, but rather their EXcuse making skills instead. What’s worse, is the message you’re sending to those busting their balls EXcuting and making you look like you’re necessary in the process.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

The Microphone

Process and Execution Rule in B2B Selling – #Podcast0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

For those not familiar with Andy Paul, here is your opportunity to discover a great resource. Not only is Andy knowledgeable about all elements of B2B selling, author of two great books: Zero Time Selling and AMP Up Your Sale; and most relevant today, he hosts one of the better blogs looking at all areas of successful B2B selling and everything around. His guests address very specific strategic and tactical aspects of sales you’ll be able to implement and benefit from right away.

In the episode below, it was my turn. Andy and I look at process and execution. Have a listen, and feel free to reach out if I can expand on anything or help you implement.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

green targets with client marking, green arrows hitting the center and grey targets with prospect marking

New Quarter – Same Approach?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

On Friday, I dropped a tongue in cheek, some might say sarcastic (or cynical) thought/comment on LinkedIn, observing how the last day of the quarter, month, and the week, made for B2B sales version of “Triple Witching Hour”.  The icing on the cake (or thought) came around 4:00 PM ET, when I was prospecting a VP of sales on the east coast, she asked I call her back Monday (scheduled time, none of this call me back stuff), because she wanted to keep her line open in case she needs to approve some deals.

But it is easy sniping from the sidelines, that was last quarter, the question is what you do with the quarter starting today?

Time To Reduce

The question of quality vs. quantity plays itself out in many elements of sales, and while it is always a god idea to have a deep pool of opportunities to look to, narrowing your efforts can lead to more of the desired results, and in a shorter timeframe. By narrowing I mean the number of opportunities you focus on, not the level of effort in your execution. Too many sales people try to juggle too many opportunities at the same time, leading to a diluted effort across all their opportunities, and by extension watered down results.

First steps should be rather simple:

How long is your average sales cycle; subtract that number from nine (the number of selling months assuming a Dec. 31 yearend), and you will get a sense of how many new (real) opportunities you will need at the top of the funnel. From there you can drill down to understand that for all the stages of your cycle.

If you have multiple offerings with varying cycles, you will need to ensure that you strive for a blended pipeline, both in terms of deal size and time to close. You need to get the longer deals started sooner than shorter, etc.

Calculate how much quota is left to retire in the remaining nine months of the year, and adjust that to reflect your new quarterly and monthly quotas.

Since it is rare that these numbers will unfold in a linear fashion, we are going to need to factor in seasonality and other fluctuating trends that will require you to make correlating adjustments to your activity as a counterbalance.

With the above in hand you will have a real idea of how many opportunities you will need to generate and take through the cycle. This in turn allows you to be much more in control and not be distracted by things that don’t contribute to your success.

One of the biggest and avoidable distractions comes from having too many opportunities in your active pipeline, and looking at all prospects as being equal or worthwhile. Being selective and reducing the number of opportunities you pursue in the first instance, and decide to continue to sell to, will improve your results. Fewer opportunities, especially a reduction in “Spaghetti Opportunities”, frees up your time while allowing you to use less resources in a more effective way.

If you are routinely and methodically reviewing the outcome of all opportunities that go into your pipeline, you will begin to gain an understanding of specific reasons and actions that lead to Wins, Losses, and No Decisions. You can then use these factors and trends to triage and prioritize opportunities and activities required to win.

Taking Control

One simple way to tier your efforts is to look at two basic criteria. One is:

A. The total potential value of an opportunity
B. The probability of closing them either in a given quarter, or fiscal year.

You will need data and info for this, this is not finger in the air stuff, this why the deal review is key.

Then plot the specific opportunities by name, on a chart where the A from above is one axis, and B the other. Then draw the usual quadrant lines, and you will see your opportunities fall into three groups worth pursuing.

Click on image to download a copy.

Top right quadrant, your best opportunities, high value, and high probability of closing. In terms of prospecting, 50% of your time and effort.

The next best quadrant is something you will need to decide. If you have a product line that allows you to “land and expand”, you may want to look at the bottom right, where the initial value may be smaller than others, but your probability of close is strong, and once you have landed, you can expand, but you’re now “in”.

For others, for a number of reasons, (low turnover, few potential prospects, etc.) you may see the top left as being your second-best group to target.

In either case, whichever your number 2 is, spend 30% of your prospecting efforts there, and the remaining 20% on the third group.

There are a number of other filters you can use, we do with our clients, but the goal is to achieve a selling environment featuring reduced clutter in your pipeline. That will allow you better leverage your most important resources, time. Slowly gaining back control of the things that will allow you to drive and deliver quota, not chase in the hopes of.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

Young businessman in formal wear and hat with pan in hands

Cooking With Sales2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I am not sure if it truly qualifies as serendipity, but I had a couple of experiences one day recently that confirmed some sales basics that we choose to ignore at times.  After leaving a meeting, I heard an interesting report and discussion on CBC Radio.  They were looking at the cooking and eating habits of Canadians.  A key point was that Canadians spend more time watching cooking shows on TV, be it specialized networks or mainstream, than they do cooking.  Wow.  They went on to explain that more Canadians are eating out at restaurants, and the impact of that on our health (not so good), the economic impacts, good for restaurants, not good for Canadians.  While they were not knocking restaurants, it was more about balance and understanding around how and what we eat.

This was on the heels of a revealing meeting I just left with a VP of Sales and her Director of Business Development.  As the topic turned to sales methodology, the VP was very curious and focused on social selling.  She was up to date on all the current “insights” from all the usual socialites.  When we got around to conversion rates, she could not immediately talk about what the current metrics were, and rightfully deferred to the BD Director, who leading the BDR team.  He did know the numbers, and was honest enough to admit that they were not where they needed to be to drive the company’s objectives.

He then offered an unsolicited observation that brought a bit of tension to the conversation.  “I think they spend too much time on social searching and knowing all there is to know, not enough time reaching out.  They need to make more and better calls.”  Not surprising, and a great opportunity to present some real insights on successful prospecting, especially where BDR’s primary function is to work the phone to drive engagement from leads gathered via social, inbound, and lists procured in so many ways.  By the time I left there was middle ground, and agreement about the balance they need to create to drive results, and everyone focused on the need leverage all available avenues to a conversation, not waste valuable time and energy positioning one vs. the other.  (A uniquely social quality).

Much like the state of Canadian’s culinary habits, things in sales have gotten a bit off centre, and sales leaders, be they pundits or VP’s need to step back and see what best meets their objectives.  I understand that it may be easier to place all your bets on one horse, and then do your best to drive it.  But in sales, as with diet, a balanced approach based on what you, or more importantly your buyer is trying to achieve will usually lead to greater results, even if not always the easiest; but we get paid to make it happen, not to make it easy.  Successful leaders implement processes that encompass all elements required to deliver the best long term outcomes for all parties, be they nutritional, or financial.

The approach one takes needs to be driven by the outcomes they are trying to achieve not personal bias, fears, or by following only those pundits that reinforce those fears.  Whatever method or style of selling you adopt should be based on what works for the buyers, not what sounds good to you only.  The experts you follow should be able to demonstrate how it works, and why it meets your specific objectives, not just because it is in their book.

As one former White House chef said of his book, it is easier and more profitable to talk and write about cooking than cooking.  Don’t get caught doing more socializing than selling.

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

Pensive businessman sitting at the table with ball in office. Looking away

March Sadness0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I recall reading Skip Miller’s “ProActive Sales Management”, where he states: “If you, as a sales manager, do not know if you are going to make the year after the first quarter, the battle is over. Now you better be lucky.” I should think we can include front line sales people. Given the “advancements” in sales technology since the above statement was made, there is no reason why sales people should not be in a position to know how their year will turn out and what they have to do to make sure it turns out above quota. But based on numerous sources, many do not have a clue where they are at the end of Q1, and are destine to continue to travel the rest of the year in the same clueless bliss.

Well, whether you’re a manager or a rep, Q1 ends this Friday, where are you going to be come Monday?

Reps need to have much greater control of things in their pipelines than they do over events in their brackets, where they have no direct control. There are two key things reps need to do to avoid March Sadness, have a clear positive view of the path forward, and exceed quota.

 

Your Quota Is Not A Plan

Part of the challenge is that many do not take the time to plan, either in a big picture way at the start of the year, quarter, and each month. Sure everyone has a strategy, but your architects aren’t gonna build your building, you need construction guys to do that, with their tactical plan and skill to translate the architect’s output to a viable structure.

Too many sales people see their quota as a plan, it is not, it is a destination, and should be leverage as such. It is still up to you to plan your step by step success and execution that leads to it. Despite the talk of ABM, many reps do not extend that work into a territory execution plan or account plan. Activity based on KPI’s is not execution of a plan, sure things get done, sometimes even according to “plan”. Given that the prospect/client is yours, the quota is yours, should not the execution plan and actions taken also be yours? If you answered yes, then why are so many sellers achieving less? Sure a paint by numbers painting is a picture, but it is hardly art. Hitting KPI’s set by someone else, is not selling.

Who is the Villanova in your Pipeline/Base?

I had a number of conversations with reps last week looking at the end of Q! and forward. One common factor is the lack of a viable pipeline. I know people don’t like to bring numbers in to sales, seems to confuse the issue with facts, but it is not hard to look at people’s pipelines to see that much of their sorrows can be addressed with a bit of prospecting. But there is no shortage of excuses as to why they can’t or won’t prospect at sufficient levels to drive quota. If you have a close ratio of 4:1, it is not hard to know what you should have in your pipeline, and if you’re short, you gotta prospect.

Instead many tell me that they can make up the gap from existing clients, or they have a big opportunity they are working on, “a sure thing”.

You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, just substitute brackets with pipelines, and then take a look at yours:

brackets tweets

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

Join Now!

wordpress stat