Small Business Week – BNN Interview (#video)0

By Tibor Shanto -

TV Head

This week is Small Business Week in Canada, as part of that BNN, Canada’s business news television network is running features highlighting the Canadian small business space, and looking at trend and advice for the small business community.


On Monday I had the pleasure of discussing how small business owners approach hiring sales talent, what works, and what they should avoid.


Take a look, and as always, share your thoughts, leave a comment.


What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto



Sales Apprenticeship – Sales eXchange 2122

By Tibor Shanto –


Sales like any other craft takes practice, evaluation, more practice, repeated coaching, and just when we think we have it down, we need to practice some more; and then things change, which means we get to practice some more.

I recently saw Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, and Mastery, discussing what it takes to become a master at something. One thing he pointed to was the effectiveness of the “apprenticeship” programs developed as far back as the middle ages. Specifically, that the years of apprenticing, the constant practice of the craft, led to the critical number of 10,000 hours of active practice and execution that led to mastering the craft. A concept later popularized by Malcolm Gladwell.  Of course those who truly mastered their craft kept practicing and improving throughout their career, building on the 10,000 hour base, not resting on it.

Consider that in North America, there is an average 1,760 hours of active sales time. Add to that many studies peg the amount of active selling time for B2B reps from a low of 15% to somewhere just under 50%. Going with the 50% range, it means that a committed sales person will take almost 12 years full time selling to hit that 10,000 hour mark.

Given that most sales people are only evaluated by the results, rather than the quality of the effort, it often clouds how effective their apprenticeship is. Often they make quota for reasons other than sales ability, market conditions, weak or easy quotas, and more. Many sales people are unleashed on the buying public well before they are ready to succeed for their clients, companies, and most importantly for themselves.

Add to that many are offered little training or leadership in their formidable years (which again could be their first 12 years on the job). Based on stats, only about half of B2B companies offer formal sales raining, and some that think they are delivering sales training, are in fact focused on product training, or order processing training. You can find other interesting stats by reading Why a Lack of Sales Training is Hurting Your Company–and What to Do About It.

Many sales leaders who don’t hesitate to cuss out the manager of their favourite sports team for being slack on training or practice, will regularly tell me that their people do not require training, “my people have five, ten, 12 years of experience”. When I ask if that is ten years of continuous growth and improvement, or the same year ten times over, I either get a silent look or the door. None of which changes the fact that only about 60% of reps made their quota based on the latest studies. Many of those are repeat achievers, and still employed by the same company. On an individual level, very few sales people will pick up and read a sales book a year, and then put into practice the things they read, next time you are interviewing the next superstar, ask them what the last book they read was.

The great thing about apprenticeship is it was a proactive approach to ensuring one was qualified based on practice and experience and supervised coaching, all leading to the perpetuation of the craft and a flow of qualified craftsman. Something available and mandatory for other mission critical roles in most enterprises in the form of Continuing Education, often tied to licences and keeping their job. A standard that would not be bad for sales either.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto




Protecting New Recruits From The Mediocre Masses – Sales eXchange 2110

By Tibor


Many in sales buy into, or more accurately, settle for the 80/20 rule, one example would be 20% of a company’s reps generating 80% of sales.  This post is less about disputing or validating the accuracy of the rule, if you want that, download The Shanto Principle; but more about how to ensure that your new recruits develop to be the 20%.  AT the same time, you can you use the same tactics to move from the 80% group delivering just 20% of the revenues, to the 20% club, the group that makes a difference.

Let’s look at a new rep joining a company, being social critters they want to fit in, be part of the team (part of the crowd, easy to hide in a crowd), they look around the office and take in the atmosphere.  Part of the ritual, is talking to their colleagues, getting the lay of the land, “how are things done around here?”

So who is likely to be in the office, who is likely to have time to just “talk”, rather than being out at client/prospect meetings; who lacks the discipline to not stop what they had scheduled, and shoot the breeze with the new guy?  You guessed it, the members of the 80% club.  The 20% club is too busy being out and driving revenues.

This is not to say that the 20% club members are not willing to help a new person out, on the contrary, they do, but they are not in the office, hanging around, they are making things happen.  So for the new team member, they need to make the effort to find and engage with the 20% club members.  In fact this can be an early indicator as to what you hired, how well do they seek out, engage with and model the 20%.

This is why the onboarding process is crucial, managers and organizations must proactively guide and steer new recruits, even experienced sellers, sheltering them from the 80%.

Picture the new recruit in the office with the all-knowing non-producing masses, as he or she stands up to peak out over their cubical walls, and the see the 80% members at their desk, getting ready to prospect, getting ready to learn about the new product, getting ready to go and ask the manager for a further discount so they can win the deal – putting more effort into selling the need to discount than they did selling the prospect on the value, getting ready finish their picks for the pool; for the most part, getting ready.

What is the take away for the new recruit – “hey this is the way they do things around here, if I’m gonna fit it, I best do the same”.

Stepping out to do the things the 20% do requires guidance, or expectation from their manager, and the ability to against the crowd.

Inviting the 20% club members to mentor new recruits not only instills good habits in new team members, but develops future leader in the process.  This in turn can help you increase the quality of the team, and tilt the numbers in your favour, over time, you can move the dial from 80/20, to dare we say it, 70/30.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Hiring Efficient Salespeople for Your Small Business2

cc July

The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka

I think that a lot of us in the business world take sales for granted far more than our predecessors did. These days, it’s easy to assume that a product will sell itself, or that it will be easily marketed via free or cheap avenues like social media. Unfortunately, not all businesses and products will be able to take off this way. Many will still require the expertise of a hungry, willing, and excited salesperson.

It can be argued that people who actually enjoy working in sales for a living are a unique breed. Many of us tend to avoid sales because we don’t like putting pressure on others. But one of a book full of secrets to being a great salesperson is to apply just the right amount of pressure, without the other party realizing what you are doing. So when you run a small business, should you hire someone to do sales for you? Often, the answer is yes.

So how do you go about choosing the right sales person for your business? Hiring people for a sales job can be a bit different than hiring for other types of jobs. Here are a few things to consider:

Resumepeople in the sales business may have a very traditional resume, but in my opinion sales for small business has some room for creativity. In addition to evaluating education and work experience, pay attention to the little details, like how much time they put into creating a resume.

Interview – sales interviews can also be a bit non-traditional. You can ask your potential employee to “sell” you something in your office. I think it’s always a good idea to talk to interviewees about what their hobbies and interests outside of work are, as well. This way, you can see how their chosen career path comes across with their personal life. Their hobbies may be reflective of a driven or adventurous personality, as well.

Past Experience – of course, a sales background is the perfect precursor to a sales job. But does your candidate always need to have an extensive sales background? In small business, maybe not. Knowledge of your industry or product can sometimes substitute for a bit of experience. While you probably don’t want to hire someone who is completely green when it comes to sales, consider other factors, like if the candidate knows the art of the sales, before dismissing a candidate without as much experience as you would prefer.

All in all, hiring is tricky no matter what business you are in. Screen your candidates carefully and consider a trial period before hiring them full-time.

(Photo Source)

About Megan Totka

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

“Parasales” Reps – Sales eXchange 2090

By Tibor

Art00005, defines a paraprofessional as “a person trained to assist a doctor, lawyer, teacher, or other professional, but not licensed to practice in the profession.”  One example would be a paramedic “a person who is trained to assist a physician or to give first aid or other health care in the absence of a physician, often as part of a police, rescue, or firefighting squad.”  The Paralegal Society of Ontario adds “Usually paralegals have taken a prescribed series of courses in law and legal processes, which is much less demanding than those required for a licensed attorney.”

In certain instances one can turn to a paralegal to get the job done without the price tag of hiring a lawyer, simple filings, traffic court are a couple of examples.  But I don’t think that I am that different when I say that when it comes to “serious stuff”, we tend to shell out for the lawyer, or whatever the “profession” called for.

Seems some sales organizations are taking a page from other paraprofessional playbook, some effectively, others, maybe not.  Those in the effective camp are using capable people to execute specific tasks that help in the revenue process, allowing their “full blown” reps to focus on tasks that require their training, background and experience.  In organizations with a large and blended team, inside, outside, pre-sale, post-sales, responsibilities, these parasales people have an opportunity to learn and evolve, gain needed experience and expertise while still contributing to the outcome.

Having a career path for people not only allows one to service client better with the right assets, but also allow the sales team to develop and succeed in adopting and executing the company’s sales process.   I have worked with a number of sales organizations that have brought people in as say sales admins, then they move to inside sales, either in a support, or some form of outbound calling, then to field sales, all the way up to enterprise or national account status.  This has worked well in developing and maintaining the right talent, and the ability to identify skills in individuals who take a related path, such as field management, and complementary functions such as marketing.

The flip side of this movement is not so good, where organizations either by intent or ignorance, choose to trust their entire revenue generation to people who can at best be described as parasales reps.  With all due deference to paraprofessionals on all fields, in this particular case I specifically mean sales people who are not qualified to or ready to carry the responsibility for the company’s revenue and ultimate success.  I have seen organizations who will hire a couple of “not ready for prime time” sales reps, because they can get two for the price of one fully qualified and proven sales rep.  All too often the two end up producing less than the qualified rep could.

Other times it is the parasales reps themselves who pass themselves off as fully qualified reps.  A regular lament I get from managers is that the best presentation a rep had was the one they did for the job.  This highlights the need for a more planned and patient hiring approach.  Many sales managers freak out if the territory is vacant for a day, and will “settle” for a “parabody”, not taking into account the impact on customer satisfaction, revenues, both in terms of lost deals and lost or unrecognised opportunities; there is something to be said for hire slow fire fast, it would certainly help reduce the number of parasales reps.  A good corporate hiring plan would also eliminate the “para-sales-manager”, you know the ones who were better politicians than sellers, or who were good reps and got promoted to failure.

As in the other professions, para is good, in the right place, the right time, for the right reasons.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


Sales Leaders – Manage Your 50% Minority5

by Tibor Shanto –


In the past I have written about the propensity of sales leaders to accept and live with the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule.  For example, 20% of your reps deliver 80% of your revenues, I know one team with 9 reps, where 2 sellers are responsible for 71% of the revenue.  At one time, in the Shanto Principle I asked the question what if organizations could move the dial to 70/30, what would the impact be?

Companies continue to struggle with this reality, in many instances the 80/20 looks more like this:

  1. 20% – Top of the pack, consistently successful, adaptive and responsive to market movements, often spearheading the change in sales that are required to keep and win more business.
  2. 55% – Steady players, not always winning, or delivering 100% of plan, but put in a steady (just enough) effort to be in the 70% – 90% of plan zone.  Room to improve, but bad enough to fire (although you have to wonder).
  3. 25% – Perennial underachievers.  Steadily underperforming, while you don’t invest time in them, they are still part of the team.  While you know you should fire them, you give in to the voice that says they are better than nothing, while I look for a replacement.

You may think that the above is a variation on the traditional A, B, and C player model, many do, which is a mistake.

I strongly suggest that you look at it more like:

A Players – The top 20%, Group 1

B Players – The top half of the 55%, Group 2

C Players – The bottom half of the 55%, Group 2 X Players – The bottom 25%, Group 3

I have always argued that leaders should focus their time and attention to the A players, show the most love to those you want to lose least.  Show no time or attention to the C Players; the lack of attention clearly communicates that they either need to adopt and contribute, make their way up to B status, in order to get attention, or move on to organizations.  The B’s need to be put on a path to achieve A status.  NOTE: this is once the sales rep has been on-boarded, trained on your systems, and integrated into the process.  This could be as little as three months, or as long as a year, but there does come a point where they need to deliver on their own.    I still stand by this, but have ratcheted things up a bit, by encouraging you to not waste time, resources or emotion or keep that bottom 25%, the X Players.  Rather than pretending that they are C players, suggesting some hope, when in fact they are a toxic waste in your sales organization, meaning you have to dump them ASAP.

Accepting the Status Quo, (yes, we do it too), is riskier than many sales leaders want to pretend, and here is why.  Any way you slice it, the majority of the sales team is missing quota.  It is true that more sales teams collectively are making quota, even while most individual contributors are not.  What is the take away for those on the team who continuously are missing targets?   Sales teams are like any other collective of people, there is a perception of majority rule, and if the majority is not making quota, then that soon becomes the norm.  Not something sales leaders should encourage or tolerate, but by not acting quickly and strongly to end that, it soon becomes the norm, and worse.

If more than 50% of the team is not making quota, rationalizing becomes easy; “it’s not me, it’s the product”, “it’s the price”, “it’s the whatever”.  “After all, look at all the people who are also in the same boat, it can’t be me”.  Those few that are making quota, well they become the anomaly, the pack will stick together to comfort their own, and ostracise the others.

One of the top priorities of a sales leader, and their managers, has to be to ensure that at the minimum, more than half of the team exceeds their quota.  This needs to be done across the whole organization, and by each front line manager locally with their teams; having a patch quilt of teams that do and don’t is not acceptable.  While ultimately we want everyone to make their goal, this is a start; 50% plus of each team, and 50% plus of the whole organization.

How do you do that, a simple upward rotation is a good start.  Not only do you heavily reward success, you simultaneously punish failure.  Start with the of 10% rule, every year fire the bottom 10% of each team, not just the entire sales organization, but on each team managed by a front line manager; and if they have two teams, fire the bottom 10% from each team.  Many are often reluctant to do this, telling me they can’t afford to have a vacant territory, if you ask me, the opposite is true, you can’t afford having territories run by these X Players.  You can’t afford having your clients be attended to by these X Players.  By the way, you don’t have to wait for the end of the year.  If they are not executing the activities required to win, it will not take a year to realize things.  One company I know fires those who are in the bottom 10% three months running.  They are transactional, and can tell early, you may need to wait the year, or not.  You just need to ensure that the period you choose allows for slumps and temporary factors that you can address and correct.

As this pruning takes place, especially as it becomes the declared policy, you’ll find that those in the middle of the pack begin to self-correct and do things that drive them ahead, realizing that as the bottom is lopped off, they either move higher or face being the next to go.  This upward rotation pays dividends across the team, the C’s and B’s begin to move up, and the A’s realize they have company, and their personality trait kicks in, and they improve their game to maintain the gap with the B’s.  Lifting your results to higher and higher levels.  You may even find after a few years of this approach that you do more with less players; alternatively, expand products and markets with a more qualified and talented team.

Once you get to where more than 50% of the organization is making goal, the dynamic switches.  Rather than people rationalizing why they are not making quota, after all those who are not are now in the minority, people look for ways to make and exceed quota, and begin to share their best practices.  Majority rule!   If you do find yourself in an enviable position where all you reps are making or exceeding goals, may still be a viable way of ensuring continuous improvement and growth.

This may seem a harsh route, but as leaders, that’s why we get the big bucks, for big decisions and big differences.  Any way you look at it, it will never be as harsh as having to explain the alternative to the executive committee.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Shared Mediocrity – Sales eXchange 178 – A Question To Sales Leaders38

Sports have trade deadlines, sales organizations have trade season, usually at the start of the year, just after bonuses are paid. What I never understand is why companies, and sales leaders  participate in this silly ritual.

You see this in almost every industry,  employees, specifically sales people, move from one market player to another.   Doesn’t matter if I am working with software companies, wireless, service providers, you name it, it is much the same.  I ask people to tell me about their sales background, and inevitably, they’ll tell they have been in the business 12 years, four with one company, five with another, and three at their current place of employment.  I once had someone who was on their third tour with the company I was training and had done stints with three other.


Unlike sports, there is no free agency where top players can go to the highest bidder.  In fact I would argue the opposite exists, the journeymen sellers are almost always B or C players.  The rock star sellers, the real proven A player are not very inclined to move, and companies who thrive on cultivating and keeping A players go out of their way to do everything they can to keep them happy and rocking.

Companies hiring the journeymen rarely understand the error of their ways, and as in sports when things go wrong they go after the coach, in the case of sales the front line manager.  The poor soul who is supposed to deliver results with other companies’ discards.  I am not saying that the managers don’t share in the blame, they do, but senior leadership should know better.  They pressure the manager to perform, fair demand, and the manager succumbs and hires an available body; not just any body, but an “experienced” body with a “book” of clients.  Right!

These sellers rarely become big hitters, some become “80 per centers”, but most continue to be lack luster performers, doing no better than they did at the last company that discarded them.  At time they manage to get out of Dodge before they are booted, but their ineffectiveness does not, it is something they carry from place to place.

Just go on LnkedIn and you can see it clear as day.  One seller I trained at two different companies in the same vertical has had five sales positions with four different companies in the same industry.  Never fired, always managing to jump before their employer’s suspicions were confirmed.  The only reason they got a second stint with their current employer was because a buddy was promoted to hiring status.

What I have also found is that rarely are these journeymen counter offered by their current employers, sure there is feigned regrets, “sad to see you go” as they hold the door open.  Whereas with the rock stars, everything is done to avoid the situation at all.

In the end I think it comes down to a lack of conviction on the part of sales leadership.  While they always talk about quality over quantity, when it comes to hiring, they seem to favour quantity over quality, preferring to have a body in a territory vs. the patience to wait for the right body.  As for the argument that at least having a performing body is better than an empty territory, I am not sure.  The journeymen will underperform, as will the territory, but a bigger cost is opportunity cost.  Who will the journeymen turn off during their stint, how much money will they leave on the table or discount in deals they do get, and how many deals will they miss just because who they are.  Their book never follows, but their bad habits that got them their do, and now instead of forging forward, you are left to deal with their mediocrity.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

52 Sales Management Tips48

The Sales Manager’s Success Guide

Even though I was a sales manager long before I had the opportunity to get involved in training, it was my work with trainers that help me appreciate not only the real challenges sales managers face, but their importance to a successful sales team executing their sales winning consistently.

My learning came with many scars, I rolled out a global training program for my company, only to discover that the uptake was spotty, a little here, less selective there, and in some places complete adoption.  While I put some it off to human nature, regional differences, but neither of those really satisfied the need to understanding why this was.

I went back to discover that when you removed some of the noise the answer was the front line sales manager.  Where the managers had strong skills rather than a strong personality; where they adhered to the process and coached their people to succeed in executing the process, results were better and more consistent than where tried to get their teams to “sell the way I used to.”

In drafting the training plan for the next round I called it “The Year of The Manager”.  Having come to realize that a dollar invested in sales manager has a greater and longer return than one invested only in reps.  This knowledge was half the battle, the other was resources, there were a few, but they were either highly specialized, or personality driven.  We were left to improvise, and to some degree things have not changed, just the improvisation.

Well that changes today.

Today Steven Rosen releases his book “52 Sales Management Tips – The Sales Manager’s Success Guide”.  A resource I wish I would have had back in the day, and one that every sales manager will find handy and useful.  This book serves as a resource for sales managers looking to make a positive difference for their teams and companies.

Steven is a sales executive coach, speaker and author. Bringing over 20 years of sales management experience. He actively coaches sales executives and sales managers to drive performance through people.

Whether you are new to sales management or have years of experience, this book will deliver week after week in helping you lead your teams to success.

Steven shares his 52 favorite tips for a years’ worth of great performance.   Sales executives and managers who are looking for more Sales Management tips to take their game to the next level, can take a giant step forward with 52 Sales Management Tips The Sales Managers Success Guide.  You can find it on, or go to find out more.

This is a fun and profitable read.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Hanging Out with @GlobeSmallBiz: How to develop a Winning Sales strategy45

Hanging Out with @GlobeSmallBiz: How to develop a Winning Sales strategy

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business’ Small Business interview series on Google+ Hangout. As the title suggests, we discussed a number of topics relating to sales, and sales challenges important for small business owners.

This was not only a great use of the technology, but we covered a number of key issues potential pitfalls, and opportunities for small business owners.

Take a look, comment, enjoy, and profit.


What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

It’s Not Always Easy18

Earlier this week, I posted on two related or intersecting topics sales leaders need to manage and improve. First, their view of, and approach to sales training; second the alignment of their sales assets with clearly identifiable market segments.

Based on some feedback, I want to expand on some key points and make sure that the wrong message is not being taken away.

With respect to KPI’s and training, I was not saying that KPI’s do not belong as part of training initiative.  In fact there needs to be metrics, measures and other indicators to ensure that the training is effective, implemented and is delivering the desired behavioural change.  Those same indicators should then be utilized to refine training strategy and implementation.  What I was saying, and don’t apologize for, is that sales leaders need stop making decisions on training in order to meet one of their KPI’s.  Not only does this not result in training that moves the dial forward, but more importantly communicates a clear message to their sales teams.  The message is that it is OK to just go through the motion to meet the basic requirement without regard for the end result.  After all, if the VP can get by with training that does not change sales behaviour, than why can a rep take a similar view, “you wanted five face to face visits, you got five”; KPI met, sale or not.

The question of alignment extends in to training as well.  Just as you don’t want to misalign the resources based on the type of buyer involved, you also don’t want to assume that all your sales people will benefit from the same type of training.  I have written in the past that there needs to be no democracy in sales training.  Indeed, when it comes to sales training, one size does not fit all.  Many have taken a forward step of separating new recruit training and some form of “advanced” training; others created online programs better matching requirements and content.  When actively managed this moves things in the right direction, when not, which is often the case, this type of training just invites the KPI mentality highlighted above.  This happens eve when there is testing built into modules.

In the end, as with anything strategic and core to business success, it is about having a long term view and the backbone to execute, especially when long term results and success will materialize after the next fiscal quarter or year end.  Let’s start by removing the KPI for cosmetic band aide initiatives.

Next Step

  • Develop or ensure your sales process aligns with and reflects your market’s buying process
  • Make sure you have the right people on the bus
  • Use the two above to determine he right training to create success behaviour

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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