Welcome to The Pipeline.

Go Ahead, Blow It Up39

I was riding along on a sales call earlier this year, watching as things unfolded in what seemed like torturous slow motion.  Usually I don’t get involved in these calls unless there is a terrible disaster about to happen, and this qualified.  The meeting was going nowhere, the air in the room was being depleted at a tremendous pace, had I not jumped in, we all would have been unconscious in a matter of seconds.  

I finally had to ask the buyer “why are we here?”  He looked puzzled, and said “what do you mean?”  I explained that young Steve had tried to uncover things, did quite well I thought, yet the buyer was almost fighting to stop the meeting from going anywhere, “so why are we here?”  After a pause, he explained that he was hoping to find a new process to help him reduce waste of material, that at the same time would not increase his maintenance cost or down time.  All things that Steve had probed for, and was promptly shunted every time. 

Rather than asking why he rebuffed young Steve, I asked, “what would you be doing about this had we not come in today?”  After even a longer silence, the buyer confessed that he was at a loss for ideas, and since none of the other providers had been able to help him, he met with Steve, but was sure that Steve would also be of no help.  Not entirely accurate, Steve actually had a solution, and after the deal was done, I called the now customer and asked him about the buying experience. 

When I asked what the turning point was, he brought up the fact that I asked why we were there, and what he would have done had we not called.  He said that he realised that by asking those questions, he felt that he had to put up or shut up, and since he did have a real issue, he put up, but said had the direct question not been put to him he would still be in the same mess he was in before our meeting.

While some may find these questions and others asked by some sales people a little direct, it is a lot better for everyone involved than wasting time and getting nowhere.

Many sales professional will tell you that their role is to be a catalyst, to ignite a reaction, to make things happen.  Well that is not always straightforward or easy.  Sometimes (more often than it actually happens), sales people have to say something unusual or radical in order to change the flow and direction of things.  After all, it is the sales person’s job to set and maintain the flow.  At times you can do this with knowledge and experience, you can do it with wit, but other times you have to be more than direct to create a new flow that serves everyone involved; if you have to radically change direction, you may have to be radical in how you do it.

I remember sitting with a great sales person, we’ll call him Harry, we were with a big but difficult client, renewal, budget cuts, you’ve been there.  The buyer was new to the role, looking to make her mark, but doing it in a most unprofessional way.  Rather than dialogue, we encountered attitude, a lack of respect, and stonewalling on every issue, almost every attempt to have a discussion was met with “much of that depends on who we go with, what are you prepared to offer?”  Every time, she rebuffed Harry’s attempt to have an interactive discussion, he politely acknowledged but would hold off a touch longer in asking his next question.  Despite knowing that it was renewal time, the buyer flippantly asked, “so why exactly are you here today?”  Harry calmly looked up, and said, “I am here to see if I can afford you as a customer.”  Needless to say, that changed the flow.  Of course, it helped that before the meeting we had inspected the possible outcomes to the meeting, one of which was no renewal due to the clients inability to meet the required number, so as a result Harry was in fact speaking the truth.  In the end they renewed, new terms, new pricing, still profitable. 

Changing the flow, and at time in a dramatic or direct way is often the best and only way to get a meeting back on track or bring it to a logical quick ending.  This is not to say that one should be confrontational or dramatic for no reason, but it also shows that one does not have to be soft, safe, and solely worried about appearances or relationships.  One does not have to be rude to be dramatic, and the only time you will be called rude, is when there is really nothing there anyways, and walking away, early, is the best for all involved, even if it may seem different at the time.

You can also achieve this through humour.  I remember being the suit at a large meeting, about 13 people from various parts of the buying company, the lonely rep and I from our company, it was a bit of a technical sale.  The crowd was tough, unengaged, some looked like they were having root canal.  Just before all the oxygen was sucked out of the room, the rep looked around, “any questions?”, no response, some re-crossed their arms, the rep looked around again and asked “so no one wants to play stump the sales person?”  After the wave of laughter died down, the meeting took on a new life, and rep had a new client.

So go ahead, mix it it up, challenge them, not for the sport but for the result, you know when you need to do it.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically.  Go ahead, do it, click here now!

Sales eXchange – 6726

I saw my first Christmas commercial on TV the other day, right in the flood of quarterly earnings reports, squarely confirming that we well in to Q4 and approaching the end of the year. Another confirmation came in the form of an invitation to complete a survey track current trends in sales and selling, capturing a snapshot of the current state of events as a predictor for 2011. You’ll see the results early in the year.

While the numbers are important, the big picture will I think continue to paint a familiar picture.  A picture that suggests that despite all the new tools and resources available to the average sales team, the overall results and outputs by sales teams has not changed or improved much.  Please note I said average, which means we have ignore those few on the bleeding edge, and the few that are stuck in the Stone Age forever. 

Now contrast the actual results with the ROI’s quote and highlighted by the various product and service provider in the business of helping sales people succeed.  You have to ask why the gap?  The answer will depend not only on your point of view and where you are in the hierarchy.  You can talk about a disconnect between various parts of the revenue organization, but in the end I think it comes down to the front line sales managers.

This is not pointing fingers or blame, it is more  a case of what in addition to the tools organizations are making available to their managers.  In many instances, the one piece that is missing is helping them coach using the tools.  After all the tool is only as good as the operator, and many reps see some tools as toys or nice to haves, these would be information and alerting tools; or as “big brother” “micro management” implements rather than productivity enhancers.

Not being a conspiracy theorist, I am working under the assumption that the gap is not as a result of some nefarious plot by any of the players involved, it is more a case of no one having helped the managers improve their coaching around the tools and their impact on a sales rep’s output and success.

The challenge is who is responsible for helping the managers integrate into their coaching, and how.  Vendors assume that the tools will make up part of the overall coaching scheme in place.  So if there is no coaching program in place that connection is never fully realised.  Where there is a coaching approach in place, companies assume that either the vendor will include this as part of the rollout and related training; or they believe that managers already have a road map based on the coaching program in place.

The solution, as is often the case, is simple, but not always easy to implement.  With our programs we insist that managers are fully involved in the Follow Up Action Plan, in order to not only ensure adoption, but also to help the managers integrate our programs into their coaching routine, or if there is no coaching routine, this helps begin that process.  So whether you are buying training services, or sales productivity tools, make sure coaching is a purchase criteria, and that there is a clear plan for how that will be part of the delivery and ROI measure.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically.  Go ahead, do it, click here now!


Not long ago I heard a really absurd statement, an individual who presented himself as a sales professional, corrected me when I suggested a why question be asked of the buyer.  He stopped me and said “you can’t as why questions”.  I had to work really hard not to laugh, but this seemed really strange to me, maybe you feel differently, and please let me know if you do, but I don’t get it.

I asked this person, we’ll call him Jack, what he had against “why”.  The question specifically was directed to a recently acquired new client, a well fought and won competitive win.  If you had read my book on Trigger Events, you’ll know that analysing and examining the specifics of why you win or lose individual sales is a key element to learning and improving.   The question was “why made you choose us?”

“Oh no, no, no, you can’t ask that” said Jack.  I was about to say “why not?’, but I didn’t know how Jack would take it, but alas, I could not think of any other way to phrase it, so I went for it.  He said it is too aggressive and may turn the buyer off.   Ok, how should we phrase he question, Jack suggested “what made you choose us?”

Yes I can se the difference, not!

Now I know that words do make a difference in sales, but in all the years I have asked the question of knew clients, I have never met resistance, in fact I have learned a lot in the process.  In fact, when I asked a variation of that question from buyers who chose an alternate provider, I ended up learning a lot.  For me, “WHY” is one of the two most important words in sales, the other being how.  “How did you make the decision to use XYZ?”

What will get you the facts, why and how will tell you about the decision process.  Why would you not ask, but let me be inclusionary, what would prevent you from asking why?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically.  Go ahead, do it, click here now!

Toronto Action Summit – October 16 -1714

If you are in Toronto this weekend, October 16 – 17, you should plan to attend the Toronto Action Summit.  This is an opportunity for entrepreneurs, individual business owners, or anyone looking to take things to the next level to not only hear from 9 leading experts, but to network with like minded successful local peers who can be there and help with you success.  From Marketing to Personal Healt, you will hear from people who are involved in making it happen daily.

I of course will be speaking on sales, specifically “Execution – The Last Word In Sales!“.

Register today, take advantage of special pricing offered to readers of The Pipeline.  When you enter the Code: FRIEND25, you will be able to purchase tickets for just $25 versus the regular $97, a $72 saving.

Your Price: $25
List Price: $97
Enter Code: FRIEND25
Please note if you are buying multiple tickets you will need to buy each individually and enter the code separately for each.

Click here for Details and to Register!

What is your "Average Sale Cycle"?11

For the most part, I find sales people to be a fairly knowledgeable lot, but there is one question that seems to stump most sales people:

How Long Is Your “Average Sale Cycle”?

You get everything from “depends” to “not sure” to “a couple of years”, and everything in between.  But before we jump all over the reps for not knowing the approximate length of their average sales cycle, let us first acknowledge the fact that it hasn’t been made easy, because usually there is little agreement as to what constitutes a sales cycle.  Is it from the time you first meet with someone and the time you transact the sale?  With that definition, it is perfectly possible that it could take two years.  On the other hand, if those two years included a series of starts and stops, do you count the entire two years, or just the one continuous flow of interactions that culminated with the sale?  This latter one is the one that I go with.  Looked at from the company view, it could be from the time marketing initiated contact through a campaign, until there is realized revenues.  In some cases, this could lead to months if not a year of nurturing the lead until it is baked enough to be passed to sales.

Read on…

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically.  Go ahead, do it, click here now!

Sales Confusion – Sales eXchange – 6632

One of the things I like about the P90X program is the concept of Muscle Confusion,  the idea being that once you muscles get familiar with a routine, that routine becomes less effective in helping you achieve your goal.  Some traditionalists may argue that increasing weight and intensity would achieve the same result, but one would have to concede that constantly challenging your muscles and yourself to in a variety of ways that lead to improvement has greater ongoing impact than more of the same.

Sales people and leaders (including myself) can and should take on some of this thinking. While it may be true that there is no all that much new in sales, a friend keeps reminding me “the wheel has been invented; it is a question of how you spin it.”  Still there is a lot to be said and achieved in how you spin it as it were. 

There are a lot of sales people, and for that matter sales trainers, who continue to utilize the same techniques, exercising the same muscle as it were, no matter what the situation is or what market they are in, or time of man it is.  In some ways I can see the why some trainers or thought leaders insist on sticking with the same old same old, mostly a question of brand and brand investment.  They have built a name on a particular approach, and they need to stick with it.  A lot like The Rolling Stones, you can bet that when they come to town they will play Satisfaction, or Start Me Up, it’s part of the brand, a cornerstone of why people come to see them.  So when you are a trainer who has been successful with the same show for the last 20 years, why change, on the other hand why not?  Regardless of where you land on that, the reality is that some will continue to make a good income doing the same show; and as we have seen with many, that despite updating their books with new covers, their impact is diminished daily. 

It is very different for sales people carrying a number in a changing market, they need to evolve with the market and its needs.  At the minimum keep up with the market, ideally get ahead of it, and in some cases, some vendors get to where they are setting the path for the market. 

One way to look at the concept of Muscle Confusion is to see it as a way to explore and expose your weak spots in order to build them up to the level of your strongest muscles.  This will allow you to begin a path of continuous improvement, by addressing and building strength in your weaker areas you strengthen the impact of the value you deliver to each individual customer, etc.; you will evolve and upgrade all your skills over time and over and over again. 

The best way to do this is to borrow the Muscle Confusing concept, challenge your sales muscle by introducing new concepts and methods from many sources.  Read books and blogs from different and contradicting sources.  I have read many things from people who I am convinced could not sell a banana to a monkey, but they have one or two tactical things that can be integrated into my daily routine, which in turn impacts my interactions with buyers, and benefits us both, and builds my sales muscle.  The other source for this type of development is your clients.  If you really have the type of relationship you think (or claim) to have, you should be able to learn from them where and how you can elevate your game to deliver maximum impact.  This will not only help you cement your existing relationships, but identify new ways to initiate and win new relationships.  Go ahead call some now.

As a result, you will be able to achieve continuous benefit from sales improvement initiatives or training rather than a temporary boost or sugar high many see after a program or reading a book before they settle back to a level only slightly higher than where they were before.  Do it now, go to another blog, go to Amazon and buy the sales book you saw yourself least likely to read ten minutes ago.  Do this regularly and you will confuse your “sales muscle” and improve your results and satisfaction with your chosen profession.  (You did choose it, right?) 

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically.  Go ahead, do it, click here now!

Sales Roundabout24

One way to describe selling is to compare it to driving.  Both are fun when done right, and frustrating when you are stalled in heavy traffic. As a driver there are many rewards and benefits to executing things correctly, and great danger if you don’t and at times very serious consequences for rushing things or doing thing the wrong way.  Driving like sales, has a lot of rules and laws, some of these are logical, there for everyone’s safety, without which no one would benefit or survive from the resulting chaos; but there are rules that are just there for the financial benefit of the municipality or power that arbitrarily imposed them. 

Some of the laws are easy to follow, stop signs, red lights, no parking, no left turn; you may not like them, but there is not much room for debate or misinterpretation.  Red means stop, green means go, clear as day, doesn’t mean people stop or go when they should but the law is clear.  Other traffic rules are not as black and white, (or green and red if you insist), offering drivers an opportunity to interpret a little, use judgement, and become accountable for their actions and outcomes.  One specifically is yield.  The slight room for interpretation offers drivers and traffic to the ability and responsibility for maintaining good flow, but that same flexibility, opens the door to big danger when someone misinterprets or tries to take advantage of what is essentially a judgment call. 

I used to live near a roundabout, what made it interesting, even entertaining at a safe distance, was seeing how drivers approached it.  What made this interesting is that it wasn’t a city block, but two highways intersecting, where both traffic flows were approaching the roundabout at 45 and 50 miles per hour, and were going back to the same speed once they got past the intersection.  It always reminded me of a sale that is moving along at a good and perhaps even a predictable pace, and all of a sudden, you have to deal with something that forces you to make a decision on the fly, while still maintaining control of the sale.

You can tell many of the drivers made considered decision as to whether they were going to enter the roundabout and how.  Some did so slowly, others waited wait, some gunned it, all impacted by the specific circumstances which changed by the second, and their interpretation of the circumstances, their ability as drivers, their sense of their own abilities.  The other thing that came into play was their willingness to act in the interest of everyone in and at the roundabout, or strictly think about their own need to get from point A to point B without regard for the others on the road.  Needless to say there were a lot of crashes at that roundabout.

Sales people face roundabouts throughout the sales.  Much like at roundabout the results are mixed.  Some follow the strict letter of the rule and sit there and watch opportunity after opportunity go by without acting, and usually end up with the so-called “lower hanging fruit”, in this case stuff that fell off the tree yesterday.  Others go for it every time, jumping in even with the smallest of space; you’ve seen it, the customer says a certain word and they are off on a rant, at the other extreme those who jam the sale or customer whenever they can.   To yield in sales at time means seeing that you may not be the best fit for the customer and holding off.  However, there are times when it makes sense to go for it, it may seem a bit assertive, but the job of a sales person is to make things happen.  Sellers need to lead the way to the right solution for the customer, which means measuring all factors and entering the roundabout safely, but getting both you and the buyer to your mutual destination safely every time.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically.  Go ahead, do it, click here now!

Execute – Review – Evolve26

Execution – The Last Word In Sales – PT 5

At first glance, it may seem a bit odd or redundant to conclude a series called Execution – The Last Word In Sales, with the final piece being execute.  The reality however is that it is often the missing link in the chain; I see it time and again, people do some of all the preceding steps but then just don’t take the last step, and all their effort is for not. It is almost as though they are thinking, “things are going so well, why ruin it”.

Going back to the start of this series, many sales people know what they have to do, they just don’t.  It is this last piece that separates the good sales person, from the “complete sales person”, the willingness to make it happen.  Notice I said willingness not ability, there are many with the ability in specific or all aspects of a sale, but many lack the will to do all things across the entire sale.  Some don’t want to prospect; some don’t like to negotiate, you hear them saying things like “I don’t want to be pushy” or “I don’t want to be salesy”.  What is what makes a great sales person, is the willingness to do “everything” that has to be done, even if they don;t do it everything equally as well, they are doing it.

How many times have you met someone in sales who was a strategist, when you talked with them you knew you were in the presence of someone brilliant, yet they fails to deliver because they did not act on their strategies. Remember the old UPS commercial on TV back in the early part of the last decade. Two consultants sitting across the table from a business owner, just as they finished presenting their plan the owner say “great do it”, when the consultants say, “oh no, we don’t do, we just propose”.  Well there a lot of sales people like that, they have great strategies, what seems to be a great attitude, but they just don’t get around to doing it.

Sadly they fail to capitalize on the momentum they build up during the preceding steps of executing, they have a good attitude, they have a plan, they allocate the time, but then don’t follow through, regardless of whether they have to do conventional things or unconventional.  Some are lazy, some have fear, I am sure it is not a religious thing, who knows; they just don’t take that last step of executing the process and actioning their plan.  Again the difference between great and also ran is the act of doing it.   Some sales people tell me “you just can’t do”, so I have taken to checking local laws and have never found a law on the books against anything I recommend.

I start every workshop pointing out that there will be some things presented that participants will find familiar, some new, and some will be a stretch, but no one has ever died or lost a limb putting into practice the things we advocate, and to my knowledge, no one has. On the other hand, those who do execute, no matter how clumsily or sloppily, achieve things and set things in place for improvement.

That is where Review and Evolve come in, the discipline to be objective about what you are doing right, and what can improve.  Not always because of skill, but markets, products and buyers change, and sellers need to as well.  The ability to evaluate, review, and reinvent those parts of your game that can use improvement is crucial to execution and to consistent success.  We are not talking about major works, but a review of every deal won lost or where no decisions were made.  What did you do right, what could have been done differently?  In major cases, it is good to involve another set of objective eyes just to make sure nothing is missed, not to second guess, but in most cases, having a consistent process that you use will go a long way.  One thing to remember, that the evaluation process needs to evolve or it make give you false output, and it’s benefits will be diminished.

In the end, it does come down to willingness, if you are willing, you can adopt the Attitude; adopt a Process to implement your Plan; Allocate the proper Time to key activities that have to be performed to win; finally actually do it.  It is not always easy, but it is certainly easier than the alternative, not getting it done.  So when everything is said and done, no matter what you sell or how, there is no silver bullet in sales, just execution, everything else is just talk, that’s why Execution is The last Word In Sales.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically.  Go ahead, do it, click here now!

Introducing IntroMojo – YOUR New Prospecting Tool!21

It is not news that sales people hate making cold calls, and no matter what some “sales experts” may say, the reality is that making those calls will continue to be part of any sales professional’s daily routine. Fortunately, with the web and related tools, there are specific things sales pros can do to take the frost off those calls by enabling the sales pro to learn about their intended prospect and make the call more relevant and on target by knowing more about the prospect and their current focus.

As many will tell you, sourcing leads is not the issue. In the USA alone companies spend some $20 billion annually on sourcing leads. Unfortunately, many of the resulting leads are squandered due to a lack of effectiveness when the prospect is called. A lack of relevant knowledge leads to irrelevant calls, leading to wasted time and wasted money.

Of course you can as a rep limit this by digging into each lead before making the call, and many do. However, what they also tell me that it takes time, time to find information, time to organize it to make it useful, and time to process it. Time is the most precious non-renewable resource in sales. Imagine if it takes 30 to 40 minutes to profile each lead, that begins to cut into your sales day.

The good news is that today there is a new tool available to sales people and organizations that delivers two direct positive impacts, allowing sales people to be more productive, and sales organizations to see a greater return on their lead generation and conversion dollars. The tool is IntroMojo.

IntroMojo provides you with all publicly available information about a sales target in a targeted and interactive format — in categories salespeople specifically need, like ‘what they talking about’, ‘stuff they like’, ‘how they can be reached’, and more.  IntroMojo helps sales professionals interactively build the perfect introduction to their sales call by collecting hard to find prospect information. Armed with this knowledge: work history, contact information, social traits, news articles, blog posts, music tastes, reading lists, plus other relevant information allows the sales professional to know who they are talking to and have the best chance possible to build quick rapport. It’s not that any salesperson can’t find this data on their own…they can.

IntroMojo does this in seconds rather than minutes, many minutes.  With an easy-to-use interactive process of finding your exact target and presenting the information in an easy-to-understand format, IntroMojo gives the sales professional the information they need to know about who they are engaging. 

IntroMojo allows sales reps to execute what they perceive to be the hardest part of their job, the initial call. By allowing them to take a proactive approach to the first call they are able to connect better and set the flow for a shorter cycle by engaging on all levels with their prospect. Once engaged they are able to build on their initial momentum by continuing to stay informed about their prospect and potential events impacting their deals, thinking and decisions.

Go ahead, try IntroMojo, and always be able to answer with confidence when someone asks:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Spontaneous Discipline – Sales eXchange – 6522

Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with the leader of a sizable company here in Toronto, when I left the meeting I found a new bounce in my feet.  This was partly because he got me to think about my game, which is always good, especially because it is always my goal going into these meetings is to make them think, so when we both do, it is great.

 He asked me if I participate in sports, I told him my vice is running 1/2 marathons and he then posed an interesting question:

Let’s say you were 600 metres from the finish line, in the lead, just when your arch nemesis was about to overtake you, how do you react, what do you do at that crucial point?

The metaphor was obvious, in his highly competitive field, his people are always in a though sell, as many times as I do 21.1K is tough, takes a lot of work in advance, just like the work required by his reps, and it takes skilful execution of a well developed game plan.  But what it takes most is the ability to respond to conditions as they present themselves, clearly the fact that I say respond suggests that events deviated from the plan, had they not, the plan would have sufficed. 

He predicted that most sales people would say they would “buckle down and redouble their effort in doing what they were doing”  Sticking to their plan, despite the fact that it no longer seems to be getting the desired results, the competition is not only gaining, but about to overtake.  The finish line – or the deal – is in view, but still out of grasp, and the competition is about to get there first.  Does doing more of the same a viable response? No!

Sure there is the old notion of working harder, although it has been shown that working smarter is more productive.  Doing more of the same is hardly proactive in responding to an unanticipated reality.  There are other clichés that can be hauled out, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” and all that dishwater, but it is hardly proactive or innovative at a time when that is exactly what is being screamed out for, bold action that stems from experience, and the will to win.

Being prepared is having a series of contingency plans, the last of which is the plan to abandon the disproven and respond by reaching into your experience and willingness to win.  The combination of skill and will and attitude, leading you to be able to respond in a way that disrupts the competitor, while creating the ability to regain the lead and win the deal, Spontaneous Discipline.  That strange combination of being disciplined in how one acts, but not limited in the action one is willing to take to win.

It comes down to the question of “can you turn around and run backwards to the finish line at sufficient pace to win, while keeping an eye on what the competition is doing and taking steps to counter and mitigate their effectiveness.

It could be anything really; the key is the ability to respond in an innovative way, rather than painfully hanging on doing more of the same. 

So what would you do, 600 metres from the finish line and your competitors is now breathing down your neck?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically.  Go ahead, do it, click here now!

wordpress stat