Welcome to The Pipeline.

Top Sales Trainer Reveals the Secret of Developing New Business—Even During a Recession3

In order to help business owners and sales professionals who are struggling to find new opportunities, my colleague and friend, Wendy Weiss, The Queen of Cold Calling, has written a Special Report, Getting in the Door: How to Write an Effective Cold Calling Script. In this free report Wendy shares the powerful prospecting process that will allow you to connect with many, many decision-makers and gain their commitment. You can download this Special Report free by clicking here.

Sell Well,

Tibor Shanto – The Pipeline

Sales Compensation Interview4

SLS Interview

Over at the Sales Leaders Series, they have posted the first of their series of interviews with leading experts in various issues around sales on The Sales Leaders Interview Archives. The interview with Greg Blysniuk A Principal Consultant with TopLine Sales Compensation Solutions was originally captured on January 9, 2009.

Greg provides many insights on effective compensation plans for sales organizations, and some do’s and don’ts around the area of compensation.

Whether you are a start up or a mature company you’ll find this interview offers some specific answers to key questions that can impact you success in creating a plan that drives your objectives and creates the habits and behaviours conducive to success. As Greg points out, you sales comp plan can be one of your greatest competitive advantages. Enjoy the interview, and send them your comments on it, and the type of experts you may want to hear from moving forward. BTW, their next interview will take place on February 20th, with Colin Wilson of Firstborder Limited, discussion Effective Pipeline Management; click here for information and registration.

Sell well,
Tibor Shanto – The Pipeline

David and Goliath2

(Sales and Innovation version)

David and Goliath

In the monthly newsletter edition of The Pipeline, published earlier this week, we lead with a piece called “Dialling for Prospects”. In it we made the case for cold call as a key part of success in B2B sales.

One of the pro cold calling arguments was based on a discussion with a client with operations in the UK, who told me that many businesses in the UK had opted out of inclusion on UK’s version of the “Do Not Call List”. This seemed to fly in the face of popular wisdom that business people will do almost anything to avoid cold calls. His view was that they did not want to miss out ideas and developments they could learn from the calls they got. (There is more in the article than just this.)

As a result of the piece, I got a note from a fellow member of the Sales Bloggers Union in thr UK, Ian Brodie, who added an interesting bit of insight.

Ian pointed out that In the UK just shy of 25% of businesses that have signed up to UK’s Telephone Preference Scheme (TPS). It’s a slightly higher % of bigger businesses and a lower % of small businesses.

So what’s really interesting is that this would seem to confirm the notion that the real engine of the economy and economic innovation is (are) small business. Big businesses still the champion of the status quo.

Let’s look at today’s paper, large business making headlines for lay-offs and cut backs; small business keeping all options open in pursuit of progress and success.

Not to over generalize, but this is also evidenced in many of these companies approach in other areas as well. Beyond the ability of small companies to be more agile and respond quicker and more decisively, it speaks to their outlook and view of the market.

Here is to smaller companies and those that would cold call them, both deserve praise and sccess.

Sell well,
Tibor Shanto – The Pipeline

Are you Resolved?4

So now that the first full week of the New Year is behind us, and we’ve had a chance to reacquaint ourselves with e-mail, voice mail and all the things we filtered out during the holidays, we come to a critical fork in the road. Do we really make a conscious effort to change (really improve) our approach to selling this year, road to the right; or do we slip back to the same old same old?

Having made resolutions to change, it is usually some time in the next two weeks that the truth will surface, did we stay with the change we set to adopt, or will it be easier to rationalize the status quo. I mean after all, with the economy being the state that it is in, (the great thing about expressing it this way is that you can use it every January no matter what is going on. If you include the word recession, or economic down turn, then you can’t use it in good times), a new administration coming in, and global warming, there is already enough change out there with me having to step in, no?

They say that these resolutions tend to succeed when you share your goal with others so they can keep you motivated and honest. So here is mine, this year I will put a greater focus on creating and harvesting referrals. I’ll keep you posted on how things evolve.

So now it’s your turn, leave a comment, tell us what your resolution is, and we will do our best to help. Don’t forget, between, Renbor, Sales Leaders Series, Top Sales Experts, and the Sales Bloggers Union, there is a lot of power out there to help you succeed.

By the way, today’s Sales Leaders Series Interview is with Greg Blysniuk, of TopLine Sales Compensation Solutions.

To register just go to: Sales Leaders Series Events Registration page to register.

Sell Well,
Tibor Shanto – The Pipeline

A Question of Survival5

Our guest author today is Adrian Davis, President and CEO Whetstone Inc

Adrian Davis

Every year in Canada, between 100,000 and 150,000 new businesses are started—and every year in Canada, between 100,000 and 150,000 businesses fail. Similar statistics are observed around the developed world. Even large, well-established companies are failing in today’s turbulent economy. But don’t let the math discourage you from starting or continuing to run your own business because it is possible to thrive regardless of the economy.

So why are the keys to business success seemingly elusive? Are there principles one can learn that govern the probability of success—or is starting and running a business simply a game of chance (Russian Roulette anyone)?

In my work with companies at different stages of growth, I have developed a scale to help predict a company’s probability for ongoing success in today’s uncertain economy. It comprises five stages, which examine the internal operations of a company.

What stage are you in?

Stage 1: The Entrepreneurial Enterprise.
A company at this level reflects the entrepreneurial spirit in its purest form. All the company truly has going for it is an idea. The founder sees a gap in the market and believes he or she can fill this gap better than anybody else. Internally, the company is driven by trial and error as the founder tries to figure out what the market will value and pay for. In this state, the company is intimately aware of customer needs and will do almost anything to fill them.

How to move on to the next stage: With rising expenditures and uncertain revenue, the Entrepreneurial Enterprise must quickly figure out its winning formula in order to successfully 
remain viable and move on stage two.

Stage 2: The Performing Enterprise.
A company enters this stage when it has figured out the compelling value it can deliver, and does so with positive cash flow. The market has now validated the founder’s vision and the company is able to attract talented individuals to share its vision and passion. However, this company’s Achilles heel can also be the same talented people it attracts because its success depends entirely upon the ‘Herculean’ efforts of these individuals. Unfortunately, this is not a scalable model. The founder and the key employees become a bottleneck but are unable to give up control. The growth, which was so exciting when emerging from the entrepreneurial phase, becomes a source of unyielding pressure and foreboding risk. Where the company was once at risk due to ‘starvation’, it is now at risk from ‘indigestion’—with its talented people burned out. And no one has the time or energy to recruit and train the workforce required to keep the company going.

How to move on to the next stage: Companies in this phase must prevent upsetting customers if their resources are being stretched too thin. If their service levels are compromised and they just cannot keep up with the dramatic growth, this company must take the steps necessary in order to adapt to the growing demands—which could include hiring a more professional management team and giving up some control.

Stage 3: The Systematic Enterprise.
At this stage, in order to survive, the founder hires professional managers—all bringing proven experience in systems and processes to address the disorder of the Performing Enterprise. These proven systems enable the company to scale. Consistent results are achieved through a systematic approach. Typically, at this stage of growth, the company’s culture becomes inhospitable to the founder and original employees. Where creativity and confidence were once prized, consistency, caution and repeatability are now prioritized. Often, at this stage, the original employees leave and seek employment with smaller firms where their entrepreneurial spirit is valued. The remaining employees and the new hires focus on building an enterprise based around a winning formula.

How to move on to the next stage: With new management, new systems and a winning formula in place, sometimes it’s easy for management to become wedded to those new systems (strategy fixation) and inadvertently neglect the ongoing needs of customers. Learning to successfully adapt those systems in order to accommodate ever-changing customer needs is crucial.

Stage 4: The Adaptive Enterprise.
Realizing the company was in danger of becoming wedded to its systems, the Adaptive Enterprise stage kicks in. The company realizes it now must take input from its strategic customers on an ongoing basis. It also realizes that its value is not in the products or services that it creates, but in its relationships with its strategic customers. The strength of the Adaptive Enterprise is that its processes and systems take input from the market on an ongoing basis and it has change and adaptation formally built into these systems to enable its ongoing evolution.

How to move on to the next stage: The weakness of the Adaptive Enterprise is that it is reactive rather than proactive—it risks failing to evolve quickly enough. That means further evolving the company to the point where it can anticipate risk, and know how to immediately work through those potential challenges.

“ Through close collaboration with its most strategic customers, it is able to anticipate any new challenges they will be facing and position itself as a strategic ally…”

Stage 5: The Preemptive Enterprise.
The Preemptive Enterprise takes nothing for granted. It knows that its deepest and strongest customer relationships are constantly at risk. It also knows that both existing and emerging competitors are able to create new value, and that its customers will always be attracted to that new value. So rather than wait for these emerging demands and threats to come to fruition, the Preemptive Enterprise is predictive. Through close collaboration with its most strategic customers, it is able to anticipate any new challenges customers will be facing and position itself as a strategic ally in overcoming these challenges. Through the use of competitive intelligence and scenario analysis, it is able to understand the goals, strategies and capabilities of its competitors and consistently dilute and diffuse any new value that its competitors plan to bring to the market. In so doing, it sustains the momentum of a continually unique and compelling value proposition.

Understanding where your company is in its maturity and knowing what steps to take to get to the next level is critical to your success. This is not just a question of increasing sales or market share; it is a question of survival.

Adrian Davis has been described as a Sales Scientist. He will inspire your executive team and light a fire under your sales force. His keynotes have been described as electrifying, inspiring, provocative and life-changing. Prepare your team for the changes you desire by capturing their imagination and stretching their thinking.

Whetstone exists to transform business by enabling good companies to become great. Whetstone helps business leaders tap unrealized profit potential, forge deeper connections with their customers and unlock the power of their purpose and passion.

Key links: Adiran’s blog

Whetstone

The Season of the List1

Letterman

While many prefer to think of this as the holiday season, we all know that it really is the season of lists. We all know that no sooner do people start trampling over each other at the malls the day after Thanksgiving, the pundits rush to create their best of and worst of lists. This was a bonus year as they got to add list like Top 10 things Obama did right to win; or 10 worst things Hillary wore at rallies etc.

So hey, why fight it, here is our lists of positive and negative developments in sales for 2008.

I’ll preface the list by saying that in my view there were two 2008’s, one before September, when global warming met the economy, causing lava to flow down Wall Street. The other after Washington raised a $700,000,000,000 levee to stop the flow.

3 Sales Positives of 2008:

  • This one appears on both lists, that is the advancement and acceptance of tools available on the web that allow sales people to better manage their activities and interactions with clients. Tools like social media and networks and other tools to research and address clients’ requirements. Using tools like Digg, Reddit and Twitter to promote their cause. As you get to the negative trends, I rail against the way some in the various tiers of media choose to promote or market this trend as being different from previous progress sales professionals have made.
  • The return of cold calling! With the economy causing budget cut backs and retrenching in most markets, sales people are having to go back to the most effective (when done right) way to reach decision makers. While there is no denying that referrals are the preferred route, cold calling is proving to be a sought after skill. While this is not new, many sales people are realising that overcoming their fear of cold calling is a must for survival. This not new, last year a study highlighted in an article at Businessweek.com addressed the question “Is cold-calling really dead?” Of course not, why just last week even the Financial Times proclaimed “A comeback for cold calling as chill sets in
  • The opportunity to work with some world class sales people and organizations who are continuously striving to improve themselves while helping their companies and clients achieve their objectives. During the pre-melt down, they were facing conventional competitive factors. After the melt down, they refocused on core skills and leveraged all available resources to meet the challenge and continue to grow sales, rather than using the economy as an excuse.

3 Sales Negatives of 2008:

  • The onslaught of articles and webinars which suddenly appeared after September, espousing how to “Sell in a Recession”. I should think that fundamental selling does not change based on the economy. Degree of effort and difficulty certainly intensifies, but do you really need to be overwhelmed with the volume of articles that appeared. In some cases, they contradicted many of the things they promoted in the past.
  • Sales 2.0, a great marketing concept, but I am not sure how it relates to real sales; that is for people on the street who have to deal with the day in day out realities of real prospects, real sales, real value. Over and over I am told that Sales 2.0 is sales professionals fully leveraging the potential delivered by new tools like social media and other aspects of Web 2.0, and I think that is great, (see above), but I think it is way overstated. But sales people have always leveraged the latest technology. If we work it back, is the implication that Sales 1.0 was when they just used previous generation web tools like on demand CM, or sales portals, or lets even take it right back to the adaption of the web/internet e-mail, etc. So when sales people adopted cell phones, was that Sales 0.5; the land phone Sales 0.0; and when they abandoned the horse for cars, was that Sales -0.5, no that was big, must have been Sales -1.0.
  • Obama as a sales god, this started in the summer right after he beat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, but really took off after the November election. While no one would argue that there was a text book marketing case study, his victory is far from the way I would want my people to sell. For a full discussion see The Making of Obama as President of Sales?, but suffice it to say that while this notion makes for good headlines, it hardly stands up to scrutiny.

In fact if you look at the three negative trends they have one thing in common, the blogosphere’s version of yellow journalism. So let’s coin a phrase right here and now, yellow blogging, the art of catchy headlines and tag lines in lieu of substantive sales content.

Sell Well,
Tibor Shanto – The Pipeline

Outlook 200912

Or as someone told me yesterday: “Look Out its 2009!”

2009

While it is easy to get caught up in the gloom and doom, it is easier to get involved in the type of activity that will help balance the realities of the market.

Many people with good intention are unfortunately fanning the flames of disperse by producing survival guides for the “recession” “slump”, etc. But rather than whole sales change, which hard at the best of time, one needs to focus on improving on what they already do well. In our monthly newsletter, also called The Pipeline, last month we wrote a lengthy piece on Selling in the NOW Economy. This month we document three companies and they are going about dealing with the current climate, in a piece called Outlook 2009. What you’ll find is that by putting a focus on the positives and their strength, many will not only survive but grow and refine the way they sell to achieve more and sell better in 2009, so their outlook is good. I hope yours is as well.

Sell Well,
Tibor Shanto – The Pipeline

The Making of Obama as President of Sales?3

With apologies to Theodore H. White

THW

Immediately after the American Presidential elections there were a spate of articles about what sales professionals can learn from Obama’s victory; how it could serve as a blue print for running a successful sales campaign. Now let me state off the top that as a Canadian I have no stake in the election, but had I lived in the States I would have definitely voted for Obama.

However as a sales person I am not sure I totally buy into this notion that sales people should model their sales approach after Obama’s campaign. While I did not put pen to paper, I do understand the euphoria and hope of the moment. I wasn’t driven to respond till I read a piece this week, again pushing the misguided view that there is a lesson here. Oddly it was a piece by a Canadian, which may explain the motivation to finally get on the soap box.

Most of the pieces tend to highlight things that are usually more related to marketing than sales, and while they two need to work hand in hand, there is a difference.

If we look at it from a sale centric perspective, coupled with some facts, I am not sure I would want my team to sell like Obama (or in many ways McCain).

First off, let’s look at the length of the sales cycle, this one was way longer than the average cycle; seems like this one went on forever, I mean who wasn’t tired of this campaign. Like many I was hoping they would hold the vote already and be rid of it. Perhaps I am spoiled with the parliamentary system, three weeks and done, but how many times can one listen to the same pitch?

On that last point, we all tell sales people to ask questions, not to dump or spray and pray. But really is there a better example of a walking brochure that the two presidential candidates. The same speech – not even day after day – but hour after hour. At our house we had a game in October: “let’s turn the sound down and do the speech for them”, lip syncing for the politicians, as opposed to Britney Spears. See if you recognize some of these ditties: “From the rocky shores of New Hampshire to sunny coast of California”, “When we started this campaign on the steps of the capital in Springfield” , or “My friends, they are measuring the drapes, we’ve got them right where we want them” (I’ll spare you the plumber).

Please!

Town hall meetings where the audience is there by special invite and the questions are scrubbed if not pre-written, are hardly the type of discovery process we want our reps to be involved in, worse than not listening, how would you like a rep that didn’t even ask.

I am sure I am not alone in telling reps that there is no upside in knocking the competition, I guess that was lost on these two. And while one can argue that McCain ran ads that were much more negative in nature than Obama, Obama ran by volume more negative ads than McCain. Of course he did because he had way more money than McCain.

I am fully aware that the shear volume of contributions Obama was able to raise from individuals was impressive, it does not change the fact that the election can be said to have been bought as much as it was won. Give any sales organization the amounts of money Obama had and they would out sell their competition as well. While I am not sure that no one ever got fired for buying IBM, I am sure that DEC had better products and smaller budgets.

There are a couple of other things to consider that impacted this election that I am not sure can be captured and easily made part of a sales process. One, which most of the writers acknowledged is the impact of the immense dislike people had for George Bush and his administration. In fact it was a surprise that the lead Obama had over McCain was so narrow vs. Bush’s approval rating and Obama’s ability to paint McCain as being a willing supporter of everything Bush. (A bonus ditty, “I supported the President 90% of the time, in fact more than…. fade music). One further has to wonder what the outcome would have been had the economy fallen off the cliff around November 8th rather than September 8th when AIG and Lehman Brothers imploded. If you go back and look, McCain was leading at the time and Obama was playing catch up despite all the elements and factors discussed in the Obama for Chief Sales Officer articles.

Then there is the one real problem all sales leaders should have, and it is one that plagued both Johnny and Barrie: they both out and out knowingly twisted the truth to suit their needs and placate their audience, or let’s use the pundits term, their base. My blog is not long enough to list the bended facts, misrepresentations and other euphemisms for lies. Throughout the campaign various media outlets did a range of fact checking and neither candidate came out clean, at all. Regardless of the fact that one camp may have bent the fact further than the other, the fact is they both did. Is that something we want our sales teams to do?

Again, I realise it makes for good blogging to have some of this type of hypothesising immediately after the election, a little catharsis after a dragged out experience. But to seriously suggest that Obama’s road to the White House is one professional sales people and teams should follow is a stretch.

I was struck by the title of an e-book I recently saw online, I have yet to read it, so it is indeed a visceral reaction, but I would suspect the answer to the title “What if Barack Obama was your sales manager?” would be at least half his customers would be disappointed. Not a track record to emulate.

Maybe it’s me, but when it comes to sales there are infinitely better models, and when it comes to understanding how Presidents are made, we still need to find someone who can fill Theodore H. White’s shoes and his The Making of the President series.

Well that’s off my chest, let’s go sell.

Tibor Shanto – The Pipeline

Sales Bloggers Union News and Press Release2

Bolg Machines

In the past few months I have posted about the formation of the Sales Bloggers Union, more recently about the addition of Will Fultz to the group.

Now I can tell you that more of the veil is pulled back with the introduction of www.salesbloggers.com, The Sales Bloggers Union site. Here you will find opinion, insights, and postings. Stay informed of the latest ideas, resources, and success stories by leading Sales Bloggers to get an edge over your competition. All this from nine leading sales practitioners focused on answering the only question that counts: how to sell better!

To learn more read the press release, or better yet visit the site and sign up to the RSS feed, and don’t miss a thing, including the soon to be released e-book from the Union, more on that in the coming days.

Read, sell well and profit from the Union.

Tibor Shanto – The Pipeline

The Unexpected Sales Holiday1

bad holiday

A few years ago I wrote this for a newsletter, and a friend reminded me of it over the weekend, saying she always remembers it around this time of year, and this year especially due to the added challenges in her market. I hope you see something in it too.

TS

As the holiday season approaches, sales professionals run the risk of scheduling another unexpected holiday in February or March, depending on the length of their sales cycle. Sadly, this income holiday is easily preventable with a little planning.

Let me explain, even under the best of circumstances, prospecting is something sales professionals hate to do, even more so if it involves cold calling. Let’s face it, sales people view cold calling as a punishment to be avoided. As a result, we find any number of excuses to avoid this torture, some truly creative. During the holidays, there are a range of seasonal excuses to add to the ordinary. If you add the office, client and family parties, and prospecting becomes just too easy to neglect and avoid.

When February rolls around, the hang over hits where it hurts: in the commission. Say you have a ten week sale cycle; meet a prospect for the first time on November 1st, it will close January 10th next year. Assuming you get your commission monthly, you’ll get paid out February 2005. If you meet a client November 24th, it will close February 2nd, payout March 1st; and so on.

Most sales professionals give into the holiday spirit sometime around mid-November. There are a number of reasons for this. With many companies having a December 31st year end, there is a big push on “closing” business now. And in many instances, the lack of prospecting that results from this is condoned and overlooked by sales management, because after all, “everyone is out closing business”.

With prospecting slowing down through the latter part of November, and almost completely forgotten in December, sales people seem busy, managers seem happy as business is closing, but what happens after December 31st, when the parties are over. Well in most cases the first week of January still allows for a hang-over, but then there is nothing you can do to avoid the commission drought if you have a ten week sales cycle. Even if you can accelerate to eight weeks, you’re not going to see a close until March and a payout till February. What’s worse is the cycle perpetuates itself, since in March your manager is going to want some closes to make the quarter. Yes, you know it, no prospecting in March…., next thing you know its June and…..

Then there is the common belief (among common sales people) that people don’t want to see anyone this time of year: “you just can’t get people to see you in December, they’ll just push you off to next year”. The truth is that it’s exactly this type of thinking that leaves an opening for those who stick with the process regardless of the time of year, regardless of what the crowd is doing.

I have found that December is a great time to see prospects for a number of reasons. One is that there are less sales people calling on them and they are willing, almost curious to see a sales person who professionally cold calls them that time of year. With their own activities winding down or focus on a strong year end, and planning for the year to come, they are willing to take the time to listen to ideas and offerings that aid their endeavors. Often what you sell will be needed by them in the new year, and with the lead time for implementation, the decision needs to be made in November-December to have impact right from the start of the year. And if they don’t have surplus budget now, it’s close enough to the new fiscal year (and delivery) that terms could work for them and you to seal the deal now.

The reality is if you ask most sales people it’s never a good time to prospect, Mondays are bad, March break, summer vacations, and right back to Christmas. But if you talk to great sales people, they always prospect, every day, every month, every season, because they know they have to. If they don’t replenish their prospects, they’ll be nothing to close at the end of the cycle. So don’t let the holidays delay your efforts, and you wont have to deal with the delayed consequences.

Sell well,
Tibor Shanto – The Pipeline

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