Welcome to The Pipeline.

Ten Point Phone Marketing Checkup for Lead Generation and Qualification16

The Pipeline Guest Post – Michael A. Brown

Rate what you do and how you do it. Then add up the points.

1.    The calling lists we rent or buy are based on

Demographics; e.g., SIC code, number of employees. Zero points
Business actions; e.g., moves, mergers, new processes. One point.
Affinities; e.g., related purchases, memberships. One point.

2.    We get our reps ready to call and then improve their skills by

Training and practice. One point.
Teaming with another rep. Zero points.
Throwing them on the phone. Subtract one point.
I don’t know. Subtract one point.

3.    When on the phone our callers follow

Scripts. Zero points.
Call/question guides. One point.
The data fields on their computer screen. Subtract one point.
Their instincts. Subtract one point.

4.    Our supervisors and managers monitor calls and coach our reps

Every day. One point.
When they can. Zero points.
Seldom. Zero points.
Never. Subtract one point.
I don’t know. Zero points.

5.    In how many seconds can your callers describe what your company does?

5-10. One point.
10-15. Zero points.
15-up. Subtract one point.
We’re so well known, they don’t have to. One point.

6.    What portion of lead generation calls results in substantive conversations?

Less than 5%. Subtract two points.
5% – 15%. Subtract one point.
15% – 25%. Zero points.
25% – 50%. One point.
50% up. Two points.
I don’t know. Zero points.

7.    What portion of lead generation and qualification conversations results in the prospect taking the next step in your marketing or sales process?

Less than 5%. Subtract two points.
5% – 15%. Subtract one point.
15% – 25%. Zero points.
25% – 50%. One point.
50% up. Two points.
I don’t know. Zero points.

8.    After the calls, we classify our leads as

Qualified or not qualified. Zero points.
Hot, medium, cool or A, B, C. Zero points.
Rated on a point-scale according to agreed criteria. Two points.
Whatever our gut and experience say. Subtract one point.
We don’t classify, we just send them along. Subtract two points.

9.    Your level of confidence that your own CEO would accept the kind of calls your reps are making

Slim to none. Subtract two points.
Quite low. Subtract one point.
So-so. Zero points.
Pretty high. One point.
Certain. Two points.
I don’t know. Subtract one point.

10.    Your level of confidence that your sales channel(s) will act on the leads you produce

Slim to none. Subtract two points.
Quite low. Subtract one point.
So-so. Zero points.
Pretty high. One point.
Certain. Two points.
I don’t know. Subtract one point.

Ten points or higher? You’re looking good. Congratulations!

Nine or eight? Make the tactical adjustments before your competitors force the issue for you.

Seven or six? Your lead efforts probably are mismatched to your sales requirements and almost certainly under-performing as well. Better make some big improvements.

Under six? Stop reading this and get professional guidance right now.

© 2011, Michael A. Brown

About Michael Brown

Michael A. Brown helps business marketers approach, influence, advance, and sell … via consulting and training. Clients include a “who’s who” of successful companies, from startups to the Fortune 100. Contact Michael in Austin, Texas, 800 373-3966. www.BtoBEngage.com

Vendors, Sellers & Resellers30

Earlier this year i had the opportunity to be the MC a number of events aimed at helping vendors and resellers better leverage the opportunities available to both through a consistent execution of their mutual strategy. The interview below looks at the resources available to both vendors and resellers to help them sell better, take advantage of the opportunities presented by the cloud and managed services. But as with any resource, you need to utilize it to benefit from it, your clients are turning to these new resources, the question is are they also turning to you?

Watch, enjoy, comment, put thing to use and profit, and if you like what you hear, give me a call and let’s discover how we can make it work for you, your team or company.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2011

It's About the Buyer, Stupid! – Sales eXchange – 12527

I was recently read a couple of things that got me to think about some aspects of sales, while not specific to day to day execution, I think worth sharing as we consider how we can attack and win given whatever 2012 brings.

There was one piece in Fast Company, looking at the battle between Apple and Android for mobile and other device dominance. They compared the battle to that of a political campaign, with platforms, the gamble, upside and risks for organizations and manufacturers take on in selecting one over the other. Reminded me of the debate between Sales 2.0 and Sales Un-dot, especially when you are exposed to the passion and noise from all these camps. At one point the article mentioned the factor of proprietary systems vs. open source; this resonated with me as you can see a similar debate in sales; that is those who promote a specific one size fits all approach to selling, versus those who offer a fluid methodology that helps sales people improve their craft in an open ended way.

In many ways, like in technology, the proprietary methods provide great ways to deal with aspects of complex sales, or specific stages or phases of a sale. The downside is that you have to do it entirely their way, it is all about the box, you either love being in it, or risk failure. Never been much of a black & white guy, and I suspect most long term successful sales professionals have also felt restrained by the box, no doubt leading to the term thinking outside the box. I further suspect that most would see themselves in the “open source” sales camp, evolving and improving with the market and customer demands; demands that are forced to evolve with the market and other developments.

The challenge with the “boxed” or proprietary approaches is that they tend to start with a specific challenge in a specific vertical or type of sale. Sometimes these translate well to other types of sales, most often they don’t, hence their limitation. When combined with other “sales systems”, you do get the advantage of a varied approach; this no doubt is how the “open source” sellers leverage the “boxed” without being trapped. The challenge for the proprietary box sellers is that they either need to evolve, rare, or try to retrofit every situation to their “method”, less rare, and less effective in almost every way.

Just as I was getting my head around this question, especially being the co-author of a “boxed type” book, but a practitioner of “open source” selling, which is what the current book will serve up, I read another interesting piece by my friends over at Sales Benchmark Index, always great reading. They were suggesting that you “Don’t read any sales best practices written pre-internet. They no longer apply.” Hmm, bad news for SPIN, Miller Heiman, PSS and host of others.

But I wouldn’t lose much sleep over it since I don’t think human nature (and yes buyers are human), has changed all that much since the advent of the web. Seems like Marshall McLuhan creeping into sales, but in reality for buyers it is not the medium, it is the message, which is why things written before the internet still work when executed properly. Don’t believe me, just watch some old sales training films from the 1930’s and 40’s, and you’ll hear a lot of familiar concepts promoted by the post internet sellers. So to borrow from Marshall and Bill Clinton, “it is the buyer, stupid, not the medium”.

At about this point many of you should be asking what’s the point? Exactly, and for those that didn’t ask, thank you and good selling.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2011

Top Sales & Marketing Awards 201122

It seems like only the other day that we were celebrating the winners of the 2010 Top Sales Awards, and here we are set to vote for the winners of this year’s awards.   To Jonathan Farrington’s credit, rather than resting on the success of the inaugural event, he has expanded things again, this year he has improved and expanded it to the 2011 Top Sales & Marketing Awards.

This year again, I have the honour and privilege to be nominated in five categories alongside some great sales thinkers, and friends.  While each category will have a winner, the real winners are the readers who have the chance to take insight from these sales experts.

In the Top Sales Article category, my article Implementation vs. Execution, the category also features colleagues Paul McCord, Wendy Weiss, Kelley Robertson and others.

The work on my blog The Pipeline, garnered two nominations.  One for Top Sales & Marketing Blog, where I share the company of last year’s winner S. Anthony Iannarino, Paul McCord, Ardath Albee, Mark Hunter, Dave Kurlan, Dave Brock, Ian Brodie, Dave Stein, Dan Waldschmidt.  Almost all of these great bloggers have contributed as guest bloggers to The Pipeline, and I would encourage you to visit and subscribe to theirs.

In the Top Sales & Marketing Blog Post, Mastering Voice Mail, was nominated alongside posts from Christian Maurer, Ken Thoreson,  S. Anthony Iannarino, Paul McCord, Mark Hunter, Dave Kurlan, Dan Waldschmidt.  Almost looks like we should form a band, but no surprise, top bloggers lead to top posts.

Changing mediums, my webinar Leveraging Trigger Events for Sales Success, a jolly romp of triggers triggered and dodging bullets;  is up for Top Sales & Marketing Webinar.  The other nominees include Kendra Lee.

Finally, and frankly my favourite is the White Paper nominated for Top Sales & Marketing EBook, it is a piece I wrote focused on time called Sales Happen In Time.

So there you have it, please look at all the nominees in all the categories, and vote.  Voting is easy, just go to site, register, and off you go; in fact it is so easy, I encourage you to do it daily as part of health sales diet, but hurry, polls close December the 9th, and the awards are presented at a special on-line ceremony on December the 15th.

Thank you for participating and supporting all the nominees.

What’s in Your Pipeline
Tibor Shanto

Top Sales &  Marketing Awards 2011

Accelerate your sales, revisit your sales process!15

The Pipeline Guest Post – Alan Nieslen

Most companies have one; a sales process that is.   The process can be anything from a definition of sales stages used in pipeline discussions through to a complete manual on how to sell product x or service y.    In the move to CRM’s, often the steps are named out as “stages” and assigned a % likelihood of closing a deal.

As I visit with sales organizations, it surprises me how few of them get ongoing value from their documented sales processes.  Sure they use the stage names in forecasting and within their CRM’s, but beyond using the terminology most companies aren’t getting value.

Companies that get value refer to their sales processes daily. Sales people refer to them when creating call plans, manager’s coach sales strategy using outlines from the sales process.   There are many examples.  You get the idea.

If this is not happening in your company, it is a good indicator that it’s time to revisit and revamp your sales process.

The best sale processes, or maps, are those that resonate with your sales teams, add value to daily sales activities and are used by your sales people.  The best maps help draw prospects into the pipeline, accelerate them through the value identification and value creation stages and ensure proposals reflect the value sought by the client, and the payback expected.  The best sales maps reduce your sales cycle by allowing clients to buy easier, and your team to sell faster. Period.

The best maps are not just a series of stages for forecasting, but also guide and assist the sales team in planning, prospecting, and accelerating opportunities through the pipeline.

Ineffective sales processes reside in a drawer and provide common nomenclature for “stages” in a sales cycle.  They may be hauled out periodically when someone asks if you have a process but they are not a part of daily activities within the sales team.

How can you make your sales process an asset?

  1. Ensure it represents the best practices for your company, your product, and clients preferred way of purchasing.  All too often a sales process is a generic set of milestones that are only loosely related to your products or services.    Your sales process should reflect the best practices of your best people.  Your best people should recognize that their actions have been captured and shared in your sales map.
  2. Use your map to guide the sale.  Great sales maps provide linkages between steps.   For example does your, “first appointment stage” provide suggested questions that should be covered?   Does it go further and highlight questions that gather information to be used directly in your proposal?  Going further = meaningful.
  3. Make it a part of your sales culture.    Use your sales map in your hiring process by looking for people that have similar methodologies and approaches.  Use the sales map to define your induction process, and link your induction activities to your sales map.  Use your sales map in your team meetings, in your pipeline discussions, in your strategy meetings, and of course in your forecasting meetings.
  4. Revisit the map often.   Street maps are published annually because roads are added, things change.   Your sales map should be open to change.  As you bring on new products, as technologies change, as your customers change, as the economy changes, your map should change.  If your map does not reflect the changes that your sales teams face… it is bound for the drawer.
  5. Make it customer centric.   While you many not show your sales map to your prospects and clients you should not be concerned if they see it.   Your sales map should be set up to help the client see value, select the appropriate products or features, assist clients in obtaining internal buy in…. and so on.

Where does your sales process lie on this spectrum?

About Alan Nielsen

Alan Nielsen is the Managing Director of AdAlta Group, a sales consulting organization.   Alan works with his clients to increase their sales productivity and effectiveness by ensuring that all aspects of their sales force are aligned and then applying targeted improvements to meet his client’s objectives and expectations for return.

With over 25 years of experience in sales performance improvement AdAlta Group works to enhance a client’s sales foundation with targeted improvements that are readily adopted by the sales force.   Rapid adoption increases returns and maximizes a company’s investment in improvement.

Qualify and Disqualify20

I was recently invited to contribute to a new venture, BiZ TV Canada Inc.; their mission is to provide small and medium size organizations with relative, informative and entertaining business related videos via the internet.  As part of their launch, I was asked to discuss fundamental aspects of sales the audience and put to use easily that will help them improve and maintain sales growth.

Below is the first topic, “Qualify and Disqualify Your Leads”, looking at the need to disqualify not just qualify leads and prospects.  After all, if like most sales people you have a close ratio of 25%-30%, it is more efficient to remove those opportunities that won’t close early, leaving you the ones that, with effort by you, will close.



What’s in Your Pipeline?

Tibor Shanto

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The Answer is Down the Hall – Sales eXchange – 12440

Companies buy from companies, unfortunately much of that buying happens at single touch points, between a specific individual and a specific seller, leading to the more familiar and accepted facts of sales, that is “people buy from people”.  This works great when there really is just one buyer, and no other influencers in the decision.  For many this not the case, decisions involve numerous people, and if as a seller you are not speaking with them, you put your success at risk.

The logical response is to sell to all people involved in the decision, and while no one would argue the logic, many avoid it.  Some do not even know who is involved in the decision, they are not the ones that we are talking to here; here we are looking at the many that know there others in the decision, know who those people are, yet still refuse to engage them.

Recently I had a seller tell me that they can’t approach an executive they know was part of the decision, “I can’t just call on them, they are an executive”, this is much more common than you suspect, many sellers still believe that there is some caste system protocol they have to adhere to in selling.

When you drill down, one thing becomes clear, the discomfort comes from their inability to talk to those executives, they feel out of place, not knowing the language and customs of the “Executive Caste”.  But those languages and customs can be learned, and integrated into your selling.

I then hear, “well what am I supposed to do, how can I know or learn?”  The answer is that you already know, and if not fully, you have resources that are not only friendly, willing to help and come free.  They exist in your own company.

For example, you come to learn from your deal review (wins/losses/no-decision), that the CFO has played a key role in the decision, but you are not familiar with their customs, habits, and language, and as a result don’t know how to approach and engage.

Well I am willing to bet that your company has a CFO or VO of Finance; why not talk to them, they would have all kinds of insight, things that can help you throughout the sales cycle.  From what makes them take a call from a seller, what kind of things they would be looking for to participate in a discovery process, and all other aspects of their buying habits.

While it is true that each individual is different, there is enough commonality in the role any time that you spent with your CFO, CEO, COO, CTO, and other leadership roles, will pay off in learning about their thought process, likes, dislikes and the general dynamics at that level.

You will still have to work at coming up with valid talking points, but better leveraging an experienced and friendly coach down the hall, than to go at it blind, or worse, not go at all.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Free Does Not Make a Sale47

The Pipeline Guest Post – Mark Hunter

Your company has come out with a new service. It’s a significant improvement over the last version and the entire sales team knows it’s going to be a success.

You and the rest of the team feel good, but within a very short time, obstacles begin to pop up.  Customers are hesitant to buy the new version because they just don’t see enough of an improvement.

We’ve all been in this situation and some of you are in this situation right now.  After discussing the situation with marketing, the decision is made to allow customers to try the new service for free.  Everyone is still sold on the idea that the new service is so superior that once people try it, they certainly will buy it.

Without hesitation, customers begin jumping on the offer to try the new service for 30 days. The response is so phenomenal that everyone in marketing and sales feel great. The problem is behind you, right?

As customers near the end of the 30-day trial, the sales team will reach out to the customer, hear glowing comments about the new service and boom – customers will upgrade!  The beauty is the upgrade will mean more money to the company and more money to each salesperson.

Suddenly the next problem emerges. Customers at the end of the trial period aren’t exactly jumping on board to upgrade.  They’re saying, “Thanks. Love the new service, but we’ll just stick with the existing service.”

Yikes! Suddenly it feels as if it’s Groundhog Day all over again. The sales team begins arguing with marketing, and marketing begins complaining about how sales can’t sell.

The problem is simple – free does not make a sale.

When a customer is offered something for free and there’s no obstacle to taking it, they will take it. This then means the customer is taking without investing anything themselves – which is a big problem for you and your company. The customer now associates the upgrade with the word “free;” even though you meant for them to think about it that way for only 30 days.

Here’s a better approach – never offer anything for free. Never. It just doesn’t make sense.  If you’re going to offer the customer something, make sure they have to invest something in it.  The investment could be any number of things, but the key is the customer has to be invested.  Until the customer makes an investment, there really is very little reason for them to see value in what they’ve received for free.

Yes, offering customers a test is a valid strategy in today’s marketplace, but if you do it, make sure you do it with a plan in place to ensure the customer has a vested interest in truly testing it.

I’d rather offer fewer customers a test and have a higher close ratio at the end than offer everyone something for nothing and have a dismal close ratio.

About Mark Hunter

Mark Hunter, “The Sales Hunter,” is a sales expert who speaks to thousands each year on how to increase their sales profitability.  For more information, to receive a free weekly email sales tip, or to read his Sales Motivation Blog, visit www.TheSalesHunter.com. You can also follow him on www.Facebook.com/TheSalesHunter, www.Twitter.com/TheSalesHunter and www.LinkedIn.com/in/MarkHunter.

Reprinting of this article is welcomed as long as the following is included:
Mark Hunter, “The Sales Hunter,” www.TheSalesHunter.com, © 2011

Intrepid Radio36

Earlier this year I had the great opportunity to be on the air with Todd Schnick, of Intrepid Radio (http://intrepid-llc.com/intrepidradio/).  We talked sales, some new nuggets, some familiar favourites, but always with an eye to execution.

Below is Part One of our discussion, use what you can.

Intrepid Part 1

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Different, How? – Sales eXchange – 12336

Differentiation, sale types talk about so much you would think achieving it is so rare and unique.  With almost every group I work with, the item at or near the top of things they want to learn and do better, is to differentiate in the eyes of the buyer.  But as you drill down, you begin to wonder if “differentiation” is something the are really seek, or is it something else?

I sometimes ask, where they want to be different; I often hear them respond, “In the buyers’ eyes”.  OK, different how?  “Different so they buy from us”.  “Different from what?”  “From the other offerings”, and on it goes.  But, consider this, that the way products are today, there is little difference to be found between the leaders of the pack, I recently read that in many instances there is 90% overlap or commonality among leading products/services, this does not leave much to differentiate on.

Worse, when I listen to many reps respond to the question – What Do You Sell?  Based on their responses, you would think they are trying to avoid differentiation.  The reason is that most sellers tend to talk about product features, generic benefits (stuff that any buyer assumes is there to begin with); descriptions such as solutions, “peace of mind”, reliability seem to pop up a lot, like buyers haven’t heard that before.  What most fail to talk about when asked what they sell is the actual impact the buyer will realize.

It is not that they don’t know, it is more that they are distracted by things don’t matter as much.  If there is a 90% overlap, than there is a 90% overlap in what the buyer is hearing, meeting after meeting.  Most also can’t tell you why being different is somehow better.  Well it is not.  Like most consumers, B2B or B2C, most like the safety in numbers concept.  Deal with one of the market leaders and you have the comfort of standards, commitment to continuous development, and other elements.  So buyers are not looking for something different, as much as they are looking have something that addresses “their” “specific” requirements.  Don’t believe me, think about how many times as a sales professional you hear “oh Harold, you see we are different”, and how often are they really different?  Exactly.

So what does that leave for those still looking to differentiate?  Simple, in how you sell.  This comes back to focusing and talking about the impact they will realize when they buy from you.   Since you have successfully sold to others, you know the impacts they talk about, so sell to that, not the product or deliverable.  You have buyers who can discuss with you in specific details what impact they were seeking, how your product help them achieve that.  What you will see is that each will present these as though they were unique, but to you they will not be very different. But sell to those impacts, develop questions that not only surface them, and demonstrate “your understanding”, “your difference”, especially when the other 90% will talk about the same old.  Develop questions to which you know the answers, the impact they seek.  If by chance you don’t hit a bull’s eye the first time out, you will have differentiated yourself in your approach, and encourage the buyer to continue, and share how they “are different”.  They will tell you they are looking to have impact on A, B, or C; and there you are, your differentiation has put the buyer’s issue on the table and now you can present your “solution”.

So if you are really looking to differentiate, differentiate on the most important element of your selling success – how you sell.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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