Welcome to The Pipeline.

Don’t Wait – Initiate! – Sales eXchange – 9411

Last week I was involved in two on line events that looked at selling today and reconfirmed a basic fact of sales that does separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to professional B2B selling.  At its core, the discussion comes down to being Proactive vs. Reactive and passive, the latter describing the efforts of the majority of sales people today.

On Wednesday, I had the privilege of participating in a Top Sales World Roundtable, answering whether Selling is Getting Soft.  The answer was that indeed sales was, but it was interesting to see how the real question and discussion turned to whether sellers were being to passive, reactive and readily abdicating part of their mandate, letting the buyer dictate the outcome good or bad, because relationships are more important than sales.  Becoming the client’s “favourite”, these days being more important than being a value based resource, proactively delivering that value through a proper sale and execution, thus putting the seller in waiting mode based on the buyers’ travels and whims.

On Thursday I presented the second in a series of webinars for Social Selling University; in March we did part 1, Triggers 101 – Events, and this week, Advanced Triggers – A Proactive Approach to Client Acquisition.  The second presentation built out on the core lessons learned in leveraging events, now extending them in a way that does not limit you to waiting for an event to dictate your fate and success, or having to spend time making oneself “a favourite” while waiting for something to happen that is out of your control.

In both events, the key take away for sales professionals is that “you are in charge of your success”.  You can take steps and make the effort to not only benefit from arbitrary events, but that the same actions that help you leverage events when they eventually take place, can and should be used in a proactive way to help buyers take action based on the impact rather than the cause.  Get buyers to be motivated by the opportunity to be better, the impact of their actions; achieve the same responses that an event may cause, but we in advance of the event.  Motivate buyers using the solution not an event.  Done right, this will leave you to act and execute well in advance of all the other sellers who are all waiting for the same event.

Once empowered with the understanding that it is the reaction not the event that counts, you can focus on creating the reaction rather than suffering the softness caused by inaction and waiting.

As Anthony Iannarino pointed out during the Roundtable, “There is no sales metric for waiting!”

Initiate – Don’t Wait!
Tibor Shanto


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Just Say No11

The Pipeline Guest Post – Mike Grace


It is amazing how sales people cannot say no.

No is such a great word, two letters, hard to misinterpret, and so effective in getting what you want, which is usually a yes.

I sell an intangible, and while I may not face the commoditization issues some other sales warriors face, but I have to deal with other silliness in the course of making a living.  What I have learned over years is that I can reduce stress and increase sales by learning to say no.

I start early in the sale by pointing out all the things we are not, this help cut down the crap around qualifying.  If the prospect finds that he wants what I have eliminated,  we can move to his needs deal with facts.

As we go through the information gathering, I will actively present all the reasons I don’t think we are a fit for the prospect.  If I am right, I get to move on sooner, not waste my time, and use to find and deal with prospects I can close.  If I am wrong and we are a fit, the prospect plays an active role in convincing me why we are a good fit.  In the end, I am a nice guy, I let them convince me and I sell to them, usually at full price.  The other area it helps saying “no I don’t think we are a good fit” is where our solution is close but not a perfect fit.   The more I say no, the more I take the deal away, the more the prospects tend to examine their priorities, out loud, and take steps to realigning them to fit what I can deliver.  Again, the beauty is little bickering around price, lots of talk of making it work.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to close deals as much as the next guy, but I like doing it with people who want to make it happen as much as I do.  The key to the approach is to have enough prospects to be able to get rid of the ones that want to waste my time and play BS machismo games around price, especially when they need what I got.  I am sorry, but I just have to say no to that!

About Mike Grace

Mike is a major account executive working in the Toronto area.  He has successfully delivered against quota year in and year out.  Beyond the technique above he is a rare and complete sales professional.  I have watched him use the above technique for years and finally convinced him to share it with others.

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Social Selling University – Webinar5

Advanced Triggers:

A Proactive Approach to Client Acquisition

When: 1:00 pm Eastern today, April 21.

Having learned the basics of Triggers through an understanding the fundamental and passive approach of  Trigger Events, we now look at the more advanced form of Triggers, allowing sellers to not just wait for and leverage events if and when they happen, but to proactively Trigger buyer’s reactions; reactions  that will facilitate engagement before an event triggers a similar reaction.  By getting ahead of the curve and the pack, and using buyer zones to adjust planning and execution, sellers can Trigger actions before they become visible to everyone in the form of an event.

By proactively creating and using Triggers, capable and disciplined sellers can engage potential buyers and initiate discussion well in advance of an event, internal or external.  This requires not only looking at the market differently, altering their approach based on where the buyer is, rather than waiting for events to move the buyer to a specific point.  Simply stated, there is no reason why a capable seller cannot be the one to cause the first domino to fall, and then take advantage of how the other dominos follow.

You will learn to structure your approach to help buyers see beyond the limits of your or their current horizons.  How to leverage information to help you put things into to motion that will lead the buyer to consider elements and react in a manner that others wait for events to cause.  Learn how to accelerate your active cycles, while fortifying prospects.

Join us today at 1:00 pm Easter for this free fast-paced interactive webinar.

Rejoice, you are now free to move forward without waiting!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Is Selling Going Soft?13

On  Monday, in the post The Incredible Lightness in Selling I mentioned that I will be part of an interesting Top Sales World roundtable taking place today.

The focus of the discussion: Is sales getting to soft?

No one will deny the importance of relationships selling, especially in the real world vs. the social-sphere; but more important to sales organizations is revenue. With customers being plugged-in, turned on, and better informed than ever, the role of the sales person is changing – the question is it changing in the right direction.

Are sales people becoming too soft, abdicating their work in hope of an easier way?

This question was put to me in a Hard Talk interview you can listen to in advance of a broder discussion with a group of leading experts.

Relationships are important, but commissions are earned for delivered revenues.

Too many sales people are working on relationships instead of revenue.
Have sales people become too soft and are hoping relationships will sell themselves?

Should they be more proactively selling and less actively relating?

Should organizations put more emphasis on where relationships lead, rather than just relationships?

The customer may be in charge – in charge of their objectives, budgets and choices.

Sales people must in charge of helping the customer to see the advantage in their offering beyond any relationships.

Join me, Tibor Shanto is a recognized speaker, author, and sought after trainer. Tibor is the coauthor of Shift!: Harness The Trigger Events That Turn Prospects Into Customers. Tibor is a Director of and a contributor to Sales Bloggers Union, and his work has appeared in numerous of publications and leading sales websites.

Jeb Brooks – is Executive Vice President of The Brooks Group, one of the world’s top Sales Training Firms as ranked by Selling Power Magazine, Training Industry, Inc., and The American Business Awards. Over its 35 year history, The Brooks Group has helped more than 2,000 sales-driven companies in nearly 500 industries select, hire, train, and retain top performing salespeople.

Anthony Iannarino is the President and Chief Sales officer for SOLUTIONS Staffing, a best-in-class regional staffing service based in Columbus, Ohio. We provide light industrial, clerical, accounting, and scientific staffing solutions for our clients who need a higher-caliber employee, and the highest levels of service.

Dan Waldschmidt – is one of the founders of IntroMojo, a popular inspirational speaker, expert author, and a sought-after strategist on creating edgy conversations in the marketplace. He blogs regularly on his popular motivational selling blog Edge of Explosion

Jonathan Farrington – is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author, and consultant. He is Chairman of The JF Corporation and CEO of Top Sales Associates, the creator and CEO of Top Sales World and the man behind the Annual Top Sales Awards

Join us for what is sure to be a lively discussion

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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The Incredible Lightness in Selling – Sales eXchange – 9319

Recently there was some chatter dealing with the notion that the 18 million sales people in the USA today will shrink down to about 3 million by the year 2020.  Let’s assume that you buy into this, and let’s not bicker how many of these are B2B vs. B2C sales people.  Think for a minute what that transformation would mean, in fact think if it is truly viable?

First, think of the impact on the economy; imagine how it would shrink along with the numbers in sales.  If it doesn’t shrink in proportion to the dwindling sales professionals, it will mean that the remaining 3 million will be filthy rich, as those left will be the most proactive, talented and skilled.  I believe the concept was that much of the reduction in the number of sales people would be due to technology and automation, and the continued empowerment of the buyer.

I for one do not foresee B2B sales becoming almost entirely self-serve, which is the implication in the above suggests.  While technology and automation will continue to grow in importance and function, and may push the weakest of the heard to a career in hospitality, that will represent a small part of the 18 million, it may slow the growth but not reduce it by the scale suggested.

The reality is that much of the automation has had its greatest impact among those already “in the market” or those considering a move to the market in the coming months.  At best, this represents maybe 30% – 35% of the potential market.  This still leaves some 65% to 70% of potential buyers uninvolved.  Yet it is in this large pool that most proactive sales professionals have their greatest success.  If this portion of the market was left to its own, most companies would not survive.

Yes it is true that automation will help companies maximize the 30% of “declared” or “semi-declared” buyers, but it takes more than that to engage those most would describe as being in the “status quo”, the remaining 70%.  The conventional thinking to date has been to perceive this group as happy with their current state, hence the label status quo.  But if you have spent time prospecting and selling to this group successfully over time you will understand that they are not necessarily happy with their current state, but in fact it is more accurate to say that they do not perceive a solution to their requirements, and until they do they will not take action.   This is why abandoning them to automation will not bring the success level experienced with the “declared/semi-declared” group where automation does bring value and results.

Unfortunately, the only way to understand this is to experience it.  If you fear to venture into the dark jungle of the status quo, whether it is because you lack the skills or are soft, and would rather hunt at the peripheral, waiting for the odd prospect to poke his head out in curiosity, you will be limited to what comes your way.  If however you develop your skills, understand the aspirations, requirements and habits of potential buyers, and utilize all tools available, including automation, you will always be more successful than sellers praying on those in or near the market.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a knock against automation, or the companies that provide it, after all there seems to be a host of willing buyers.  Companies who have seen their sales teams spend all their time being reactive, waiting, waiting for buyers to declare their intent or for events beyond their control initiate action.  Once in play these sellers do great, unfortunately it would appear that there are some 15 million doing the same thing at the same time with a small number of buyers.  The other 3 million spend their time where the real opportunities are, and I suspect will be in 2020 and beyond, where technology is key but not a replacement for real sales people.

For more around this subject, I will be involved in a Top Sales World Roundtable this Wednesday, entitled “Is Selling Going Soft?“, along with Jeb Brooks, Anthony Iannarino, Dan Waldschmidt, moderated by Jonathan Farrington.  I will also be posting a recent Top Sales Hard Talk segment on the topic Wednesday.  As well on Thursday, I will be part of a webinar looking at a proactive approach to Triggers in sales.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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How Marketing Can Help Sales After the Handoff13

The Pipeline Guest Post – Jeff Erramouspe

As companies work to establish processes that embrace and support the buying journey from contact to close, an interesting result occurs. Marketing and Sales become unified around one process, instead of each focusing only on their respective ends of the revenue pipeline. Marketing automation integrated with CRM helps to bridge that chasm that used to serve as a dividing line between unknown entities and qualified leads acceptable for sales pursuit.

The key is that buyers don’t care which side is communicating with them, they care about what’s in it for them as they work toward solving business problems.

Recent research by Demand Gen Report found that, “…58 percent of B2B marketers believe the role of a marketer ‘never ends’ even when the lead has been transitioned to sales…” Marketing automation helps marketers add value to buyer relationships even after those prospects have begun to interact with salespeople.

Take a look at 3 ways marketing automation can be used to help salespeople after the handoff:

  1. Post Handoff Scoring: Once a lead’s score reaches the qualification threshold for transition to sales doesn’t mean that their activity with your website and content ceases. In fact, it could even accelerate as they get involved in the complex details necessary to validate that your solution will actually serve their specific situation. With visibility into just which content your qualified leads are accessing, marketers can provide salespeople with additional content and collateral that matches buyer activity to help keep the momentum toward purchase moving along.
  2. Continuous Nurturing: By creating a post-handoff nurturing program jointly with your sales team, marketers can continue to provide late-stage “touches” that help to prove the value sales reps bring to the conversation. Because marketers know which content leads have viewed to date, they can continue to build the relationship on behalf of salespeople. The integration with CRM will help salespeople choose when to interact as well as provide them with fodder for relevant follow-up conversations.
  3. Growth in Interest: Anonymous Web Visitor ID can help marketers identify website visits from additional contacts at the qualified lead’s company. With B2B buyers involving more influencers and stakeholders, sharing this insight with sales reps can help them gauge the true level of buying interest and spot opportunities to extend conversations and offer additional information that may help the buying committee take next steps.

The above are only three suggestions for how marketing automation can help companies establish a seamless end-to-end buying process, facilitated by sharing the insights to prospect behavior that sales reps can act upon to expedite the purchase decision. Marketing automation software generates the data marketers need to provide new levels of support to sales. The challenge is in developing the processes for sharing the data in ways that help salespeople have better conversations and more relevant interactions that serve buyers’ needs.

About Jeff Erramouspe

Jeff is President of Manticore Technology, an Austin-based marketing automation solutions provider.  Prior to joining Manticore in 2008, Jeff was VP of Market Development at Digby, and was the co-founder and CEO of Deepfile Corp. (now StoredIQ), a leading provider of file management solutions. Prior to founding Deepfile, he was a venture fellow at AV Labs, the seed-stage fund associated with Austin Ventures, where he provided executive leadership to several portfolio companies. Jeff has also served as an adjunct professor for entrepreneurship at the University of Texas Graduate School of Business and is considered a thought leader in the areas of sales, marketing, partner management, business finance and infrastructure.

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Prospecting and the “Last Inch”13

Regardless of where you stand on Sales 2.0, the use of internet and other tools that leverage Web 2.0, if you are going to be proactive in your selling, which includes prospecting, there will come a point where you need to reach out and engage with your potential buyers.

This week I talk to the importance of the internet to sellers, but the greater importance of knowing how to plan, manage and execute that “Last Inch” that creates the personal interaction.  There is a role for the internet there, but if you are in B2B sales, not a self-serve environment, you will need to master the last inch.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlrrOUls1eg

As you can see, the subject turned to voice mail at the end, which will be the topic of the next instalment in two weeks, so mark that down, but we’ll see you before that I am sure.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Targets vs. Metrics – Sales eXchange – 9216

It’s not news that sales is very much a communications experience, with language and words being two core building blocks of communication, and by extension your sales success. The words you select matter, and while it may be true in the school yard that “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you”, in sales they can kill you, and hurt you a lot as you experience said death.

As with most things in sales for the infamous 80% of the 80/20 divide, their use of specific words is shaped by the leaders of their organization. Misuse of certain words or using the wrong words can and do lead to critical misunderstandings of the message, resulting actions and outcome.

Two words that many sales leaders use loosely and interchangeably are Targets and Metrics.  In case you haven’t concluded it yet, I think there is a difference.  Targets are what sales people need to hit to be successful, their goal.  While many may not like their targets, feel that they are unfair or arbitrary (sometimes true),  they are necessary.  As Zig Ziglar said even a champion archer can win without a target to shoot at.

Metrics measure productivity and effectiveness of key activities in a process.  Say the speed with which an athlete run 100 metres, the batting average of a ball player, the length of time from hand shake to close, or the rate of conversion of prospects to proposals, etc.  In other words, measures of actions or factors that help a sales person hit or surpass their target.

Yet time after time when I ask sales leaders if they have metrics in place, they say yes, and tell me their team’s targets.  This clearly indicates that they have not given a lot of thought to, or have a strong coaching culture.  When the only thing that is measured is the outcome, when there is only “made it” or not, it is hard for the team to get guidance on what they can do differently to achieve their targets.

It is important that sales leaders and field managers communicate both targets and metrics clearly, mixing the two up leads to not so much confusion  but a lack of execution, or execution of the wrong things in the wrong way.  It does not take long to figure out which are the basic activities and attribute needed to succeed in your organization, measuring those and building a coaching plan around them allows you to create focus on the right things, execution, and achieving targets consistently.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Battle Reparation Tactics Meet Marketplace Strategies16

The Pipeline Guest Post – John Durfee


In Operation Iraqi Freedom, the word “freedom” actually started after the initial invasion of Iraq, after we found out there weren’t any Weapons of Mass Destruction.  Our operation took a sharp turn from a search and recognisance to a damage assessment and societal reparation assignment. We went from a sweep and report fighting force, to one that had to watch the way we act, make sure we have a friendly appearance, and present a message of peace and support to the native Iraqi people. In a manner of speaking, we launched a militaristic marketing scheme that needed to succeed if we are to achieve any long term, sustainable peace and prosperity. When I returned home from my tour and got back to my job as the manager of a marketing team, I carried with me the lessons I learned in attempt to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. We took two definitive steps to get the Iraqi people to willingly let us help them get their infrastructure up and stable.

  1. Gain Trust and Rapport
  2. In a situation where my comrades and I had just finished sweeping through a country by force, it’s easy to imagine it might be difficult to gain the trust of the locals. But failure wasn’t an option. The way we began was with small offerings. We started by building or repairing wells and bridges and offering education to anyone who was interested.

    Similarly in the market world, you have to entice a clientele base by promoting heavily without really striving for a high profit margin. Promote sales, throw out freebies, offer free shipping for certain orders. This is the first step of a campaign – investment is high and the immediate returns may be low, but remember, this is an integral part in building a population of consumers who not only know about you, but absolutely love your deals. Once you’ve gotten their attention and their friends’ attention, you can move on to aim for more meaningful, more profitable interactions.

  3. Be Their Friend
  4. When you’re interacting with a a consumer, you need to show them that you’re not a salesman. It is important that they feel that you’re not trying to get them to do something that they wouldn’t otherwise want to do. They want to feel like you understand them and are working along side them to get them what they want. During my tour, we didn’t start rebuilding, repairing, and implementing infrastructure any way we saw fit. All of our actions were performed on a case by case basis from location to location based on localized information we gathered from local committees. Similarly, never assume that you know best. Perform surveys, organize a focus group, and gain any amount of REAL consumer data. It is worth it’s weight in gold when it comes to building a marketing scheme that really apeals to your target market. In Iraq, our long term interests were aimed towards long term international security and affording the Iraqi people a chance to improve their quality of life.

    In the marketing business, our goal is profits by way of customer satisfaction. Make sure your customers know you care about them with good deals and smooth transactions. Show them you’re willing to meet their needs and you’re building bridges. Long lasting business relationships are all about repeating that cycle of trust. They need to know that you are their friend, not their salesman.

    About John Durfee

    John is an Operation Freedom War veteran and a manager for Airsplat, the nation’s largest retailer of Airsoft Guns including Spring Airsoft Rifles.

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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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