Welcome to The Pipeline.

Time To Swap Rituals11

There is a ritual that can be observed in sales, it unfolds at the end of each month, and that much more so at the end of each quarter; much like “triple witching” on Wall St., when multiple contracts expire on the same Friday.

In sales it is the end of month or quarter corral, the “driving of the deals” to close the quarter strong. You hear managers across the land encouraging their teams to close what they can before the end of the quarter. Now I know there is sandbagging taking place, but with roughly only 50% reps making their quota last year, do they really need to be told to close it now? Maybe, and maybe that is why managers seem to tolerate discounts during these times, in fact some organizations create programs specifically to discount, especially during the year-end “witching hour”.

Read On…

Tibor Shanto

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Do It Again, Do It Again – Sales eXchange – 9114

Depending what you did in Q1, you are either lucky enough, or doomed to having to repeat the quarter again in Q2.  Notice I said what you did, not how you did. That’s because how you did in the quarter had more to do with what you did the quarter, or some period before January.  Therefore, if you did the same thing in Q1 as you did in the period before, it is likely that the outcome in this coming quarter will be similar.  If you did the right things, in the right measures, you will continue to do well.  On the other hand, if you don’t like how you did in Q1, you need to step back and change what you do now, or you will continue to suffer the same fate in Q3.

While this may seem like a big demand, it need not be, and certainly not a big demand on time and resources on an ongoing basis.  You just need to make review-and-analysis part of your day-to-day process, really nothing more than “watching the game tape” every week.

Before you start grumbling under your breath, I am not talking about a major encroachment on your time, or a major overhaul of your approach or execution; more fine tuning things based on empirical input.  Hence the “game tape” analogy, how to adjust your game based on your performance and on field conditions.

This means looking at a couple of specifics and the relationship between them; are you doing the right things and in the right proportion. Again, what I want you to consider is what you are in fact doing, not what you said you would do, but have not done yet, but again, doing.  My favourite example of this is prospecting, better yet prospecting for brand new customers; some sales people try to fool me by telling me they are prospecting when they call their existing clients, a good activity, but not prospecting. They plan to do it, say they’ll do it, but don’t.

The reason most often given for this lack of prospecting?  “Didn’t have enough time with all the things I have to do”.  Which brings us to the second specific in question, time, or more accurately, time allocation.  Did you allocate time to the right activities based on your product, territory and other responsibilities?  I have spoken several times about time allocation on this blog, and the need to allocate the right amount of time to the right activities.  As with most things in sales, these allocations are not static and need to be reviewed and adjusted based on market (on field) conditions and your conversion rates along the cycle.  By reviewing these inputs, you will have to make adjustments.  If in fact you are unable to prospect, you need to review what you are allocating time to, and see if it is all necessary, and carve out enough time to complete everything you need to in the course of a sale or successful quarter.

While over the course of the year you want to review a number of key factors, which is why every win, loss, or no decision should be reviewed, on a broad basis you should regularly review to make sure you have the right activity mix, and in the right amounts to achieve goal.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Winning with Voicemail18

The Pipeline Guest Post – Mike Weinberg

I’ve been working with several sales teams making a whole lot of phone calls, and am getting an earful about reaching a prospect’s voicemail. It appears the running average today is that somewhere between 75 & 90 percent of calls end up going to voicemail.

It has been interesting to hear all the varying theories on how to handle voicemail. There are as many opinions as there are people making calls. Seemed like a good time to revisit my own material to freshen up my coaching. I’ve been reflecting on my own experience, reading all I can, observing and tinkering with my clients’ approaches, and comparing notes with my favorite sales gurus.

Here’s what I am coming up with as Keys to Winning with Voicemail:

Mindset Matters – Positive Perspective:  Most people who make a living in sales complain about voicemail. They dread it. And it kills their energy, enthusiasm and effectiveness. Stop the whining and start seeing the opportunity it provides to “touch” the prospect. We all know it takes x number of touches to breakthrough. Be thankful for the chance to make this a positive touch.

Expect It – Prepare for It: We’ve all babbled like an idiot on someone’s voicemail. We’ve puked out nonsense. We’ve gone on too long. We’ve talked in circles. We’ve panicked and starting hitting the pound key or the star key hoping to kill the evidence of our pathetic effort! If we are going to get voicemail three-quarters of time, shouldn’t we expect it and be prepared to leave a well-crafted, articulate message?

Serve an Appetizer – Use a Snippet of Your Story: Go ahead make it a productive message. Leave a tiny piece of your story – making sure it is about a pain/problem/issue or two that you solve for customers. Just don’t ramble. We want to leave them hungry the main course.

Take the Long View – See it as a Campaign: Accept that it is going to take multiple messages to get a call back. Try to see your voicemail as one in a series. That will help keep it succinct and stop you from leaving 90-second messages. Use a slightly different snippet of your sales story with each message. Reality is that almost nobody calls back after receiving one message. So plan to make it a campaign.

Ask for a Call Back – State That You Will Call Again: Yes, leave your number at a pace someone could actually write it down and ask the prospect to call you back. But make sure to let them know that you will call again. We want to send the message that we are serious and that this isn’t a “one and done” half-baked effort to reach them.

Be Human – Use Humor or Guilt, Not Anger: I believe that a key to prospecting success is to convert the buyer from seeing you an anonymous salesperson making robo-calls to viewing you as a real-life human being. To make that happen through voicemail, we need to sound and act like real people. Normal people with feelings. Prospects don’t respond to robots going through the motions. They are much more likely, however, to respond to a fellow member of humanity who has a great story and is making a supreme effort to pique their interest. If I haven’t received a call-back after a few messages it is time to ramp-up the human-side. I like to do that with humor and possibly a little guilt thrown in. It’s amazing how often the return call finally comes after a  third message that includes something funny or plays on the fact that “I hope by now I’ve earned a call back based on perseverance alone.” Also, never get angry or show frustration in a message. You have no right to be angry. If they’re not calling back, it’s on you, not on them.

A client recently asked me if you can have a relationship with someone who isn’t returning your calls. I believe you can. You demonstrate commitment. You work the soil, plant the seed, fertilize then water… Very often something beautiful springs up out of the ground. But it takes work, skill and persistence on your part.

About Mike Weinberg

Mike’s specialty is new business development. He’s been the #1 producer in three companies and after 5 years leading sales organizations, returned to his passion, full-time sales coaching at the end of 2010. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Mike coaches sales leaders and sales teams, leads sales-force turn-arounds and shares insights on hunters and business development on his blog http://newsalescoach.com.

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Social Selling University – Webinar15

Triggers Fundamentals (101) – Events

Today – Thursday, March 31, 2011
1:00 pm Eastern Time /10:00 am Pacific

Register here

We are all familiar with the “domino effect”, one domino falls, causing the others to fall in a predictable way, the thing that causes the domino to fall in the first place is the “Trigger”. In sales there are many types of triggers, some simple and visible, others more intricate and not always in plain view.

Events are the simplest and most obvious form of triggers in sales, something happens, and this event sets things in motion, the dominos falling. How well prepared you are in advance will help determine how well you can leverage events when they come to your advantage. Events can include change in personnel in an account, a competing vendor; change in regulation; mergers and acquisitions; regulatory; economic and more. How well you plan, recognize and react to a given event will have direct impact on your success in winning more customers, penetrating and retaining existing clients; all with greater predictability and in shorter time frames.

This session will present the basics of buying modes, strategies and tactics on how to prepare for and act on key events that will advance your sales. You will learn specific steps to execute that will help you identify key events, and execute your plan to take full advantage of and to ensure that dominos fall your way.

About Social Selling University

Social Selling University: the industry’s first collaborative program designed to educate sales professionals on how to leverage social media technologies and methodologies to increase sales productivity and drive revenue throughout the entire sales cycle.

Social Selling University features on-demand and live content, which has been developed by thought leaders, authors and analysts.

About the classes:

  • Classes are designed for all levels of sales professionals (reps-execs)
  • Classes include entry-level social media instruction on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, best practices for managing personal online brands
  • Classes teach how to accelerate the sales cycle by leveraging recent business events, social conversations and social relationships (aka “social intelligence”)

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Prospecting – When Is The Best Time?22

Last week I talked about prospecting, why some like it when most don’t, rejection, and managing them.  This week I respond to the question of when is a good time to prospect, or when is the best time.  How long do I need to prospect, and a few ways to break it down to better manage and cope with prospecting.

The goal is not to convince you that you should love it, but that you should do it; do it in a methodical and productive way.  You’ll get some of that this week, and more next week.

One of the points raised in the clip, is the need to quantify things by using your goal and conversion rates as a means of pinpointing the amount of prospecting one needs to do.  To get more insight on that, you can read a related article “Working Backwards From Your Goal To Get Ahead“.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgPaqjPvMhk

Look forward to your comments, and invite you to visit our YouTube Channel to view other SellBetter sales videos.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Radio Interview & 2011 Trends Report: B2B Sales22

This past Saturday I had the great opportunity to be interviewed by Jay Handler and Trey Pennington of Open For Business Radio Show.  Jay and Trey are out to give business-owners REAL WORLD advice…tips and strategies they can use Monday morning to make their businesses more effective and more efficient IMMEDIATELY!  “Open For Business” radio show is focused on the growth, development and acceleration of local businesses.

You can hear them interview me here:

You can listen Saturdays from 9-10a at www.BlogTalkRadio.com/OpenForBusiness with Trey Pennington & Jay Handler!

While you are at it, you also want to download Focus Research‘s 2011 Trends Report: B2B Sales.

It features input from Bob Apollo, Daniel Zamudio, Dave Brock, Dave Stein, Expert Content, Lori Richardson, S. Anthony Iannarino, and of course me.

The brief is full of information about the latest trends in sales, and more importantly, how you can benefit from them.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Senior Personitis – Sales eXchange – 9016

With all the advances in science, medicine, science 2.0, medicine 2.0, there is still a condition that plagues sales, causing grief and lost revenues to companies across the planet. The illness is “Senior Personitis”.

Depending on your organization, this could inflict you staff as early as a year into the job, or it could take five years or more, but for most sales organization, it is just a question of time before members of your team come down with this sick, and your revenue show the symptoms.

We see it every day, reps who feel they have “earned the right” not to do certain must do things in sales. Most common of these is prospecting, but there are other things including keeping the information in their CRM up-to-date.

You have to give them credit, they don’t bother getting creative in making excuses, they just flat out tell you that they have “arrived” at the point in their career where they don’t have to do that. What’s even more amusing for me, tragic for their employer, is that most of the time these reps are chronic under performers. Not deadly, but usually between 70% – 80% of goal, yet refuse to take logical steps to up their game or their out put. Nothing a little process, discipline, coaching won’t fix.

Which brings us to their enabled and accomplice, their Manager.  Recently I was speaking with a sales manager recently, when I floored by what he said about one of his under performing reps; when we got around to his prospecting (more accurately the lack of it), he said “he’s earned the right not to prospect”.  Please!

What, he has earned the right not to contribute to the success of the company, he has earned the right to be paid for work he is not doing, he has earned the right occupy space that could be occupied by someone productive?  I don’t see it.

Many mangers are in fear of offending someone that is doing little more than playing concierge to their accounts. Fearing that if they “lost” the rep they would somehow be behind, the vacant territory syndrome. Ask me, they would be better off with a vacant territory than having these under performers who are likely not aware of opportunities in their existing accounts, and have declared their right not to bring on new prospects.

There is a remedy, the logical one is fire them, but I know that’s not fashionable these days.  If you don’t have it in you to do the right thing, you can re-establish expectations around the activity in question, develop a mutually agreed on plan, including targets, timelines, metrics and review process.  This needs to yield results in a predictable time or you run the risk of communicating the wrong message to the rest of your team, which is “with seniority comes the freedom not to deliver”.  Not one of the points on the “Mission Statement” poster in the lobby, is it?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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7 Must-Have Lead Nurturing Recipes for B2B Marketers15

Last Friday I had the opportunity to be part of a high power panel as part of a Focus RoundTable, looking at best practices in nurturing leads.  The RoundTable was a complement to a great e-book recently released by Manticore Technology titled: The Lead Nurturing Cookbook, to which everyone on the panel contributed; the panel featured Ardath Albee, Brian Hansford, Craig Rosenberg, Emily Mayfield, Jeff Erramouspe, Michael Damphousse, and I.

As you would expect the topics covered many aspects of lead nurturing, lead conversion, and interaction between sales and marketing not only in nurturing leads, but nurturing prospect/opportunities.  From content creation, to repurposing content, to fully understanding the difference between just executing a drip campaign, to complete nurturing.

For sales people, there is great insight into the contribution they can make to effective lead nurturing, something sales people don’t see as their “thing”.  In addition, the important role a well executed nurturing plan can play in their success in converting prospect to clients.  It is not just about aligning with marketing which is key, but some of the strategies and tactics that apply to superior nurturing, can be implemented and executed in the sales process itself.

While there were a number of salient points and techniques explored, there was that sales people and organizations can learn from, that is the need to spend some serious time at a white board before moving to technology.  All to many sales leaders throw technology at an issue rather than taking the time to understand the issues, set objectives, and develop a functional and detailed execution plan.
To do the information justice, I suggest you download the MP3 of the RoundTable and The Lead Nurturing Cookbook, I am sure you will enjoy the recipes.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Contact Information is Not Enough22

The Pipeline Guest Post – Koka Sexton

Sales people thrive on information. With marketing  departments providing less leads, sales professionals are having to find new people to contact on their own. For the most part this meant that sales teams were buying into databases of contact information that gave them information like name, title, phone and email. The reality is that collecting sales ‘data’ is much like throwing spaghetti on a wall and hoping that something stick long enough to turn into an opportunity.

Savvy sales people already know this and have started adopting Sales 2.0 tools that augment data and make better decisions on who to contact and when. Sales Intelligence is the next wave in growing and exceeding revenue for a sales team. Sales organizations that adopt sales intelligence tools increase their opportunity win rates by 17% over not using anything. Sales management should do the math, if have 5 reps that carry a $1M annual quota each,  using sales intelligence tools will bring in an additional $850,000 in revenue. This is simply not possible by using the shotgun method of typical sales methodologies that rely on sales data.

There is too much information available online these days that a sales person is walking blind if they are not using it in some way. Sales prospecting lists for contact data is fine but it’s not very effective on a large scale. It’s a lot like trying to drink off of a fire hose, sales people need something to sift through the large amount of data to find the gold. Gathering contact information is only the first step in an effective sales process. The real intelligence comes from contact data and the relevant information about that contact.

Given the explosion of data about customers and prospects, the biggest impediment to sales readiness is not a lack of access to information, but an intelligent method of consuming it all to uncover and close the most sales-ready opportunities.   There are literally tens of thousands of business news publications available online, as well as SEC filings, press releases and an array of other business information.   Add social media to the mix, and it becomes practically impossible to decide where to start!  To make matters worse, the problem of looking for a needle in this ever growing haystack is exasperated by the difficulty of assessing the accuracy, timeliness or completeness of all of this information.

While identifying the right people to talk to takes effort, determining a compelling reason for the prospect to respond to you can prove even more difficult, not to mention the challenges of identifying the right time and venue to conduct an initial outreach.

Leveraging “Trigger Events” the way Tibor explains catapults sales people ahead of their competition because you are now able to build sales opportunities off of real world events and not spending hours of “discovery” to find out what your prospects pain points are.

As a sales person I have always found it more fruitful to call prospects based on events within their organization rather than calling a VP out of the blue to see “if they had time to talk”. Tibor is a part of a great project called Social Selling University where his part is to educate the growing group of sales professionals learning to leverage social networks and social media tools on identifying new opportunities. Sign up for the Triggers Fundamentals 101 webinar.

About Koka Sexton

Koka Sexton started in inside sales and was an early adopter to using social media for sales. Currently Koka is the Inbound Marketing Manager for InsideView the leader in Sales Intelligence. Recently launching the industry’s first ever Social Selling University.

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Prospecting – It’s a Start14

Prospecting, sales people hate it, businesses need it to continue growing.  Like most, I must say it is not my favourite activity, but I do it because without it, my pipeline is just not going to be where it needs to be, and I’ll have a sad response to my favourite question, what’s in your pipeline.

As you would expect, I think there are definitely things you can do to execute things more effectively, in the video below and next week I will look at specific things you can do to prepare for a better prospecting experience, and steps you can take to make execution more bearable and productive.

We’ll look at attitude, head space, metrics, preparation, objection, rejection and everything we face in our effort to find new prospects.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVkm5XkvuRI

Next week, more prospecting fun.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


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