Welcome to The Pipeline.

Take Control!19

Wednesday I posted a piece about the importance of working your sales cycle, not the calendar.  I had a call from Bob, a director of sales with software company.  While he liked some of the ideas, he felt it would be difficult to follow some of the discipline proposed, because they “we’re a different type of company, and being public, puts additional demands on us, especially at month end and quarter end.”  I have heard this type of argument before, I just don’t buy it.

I had a friend who was a VP of sales, who cancelled a lunch during the last week of their quarter, telling me “you know how it is, last day of the quarter, we’re closing”.  When we did meet I had to ask what they do, the rest of the quarter if they spend the last week closing, he told me they are busy selling.  Apparently not, as closing is part of selling; as is OPENING, without that, you have nothing to close.

I know people don’t like the math side of sales, it takes all the emotion and excuses out of things, leaving you with just the facts.  As highlighted in the piece Wednesday, if you need to deliver four deals a month, and your closing ratio, from initial engagement to close, is 4:1, you are going to have to engage with four people a week, or 16 people in the month.  The reason you have the end of quarter derby, is that most sales people don’t prospect or close enough along the way, and as the finish line nears they go into closing mode.

But what if you know you cycle was 10 weeks, and you diligently added four new viable opportunities to your pipeline every week, and continued to close one a week, would it really matter if it was the first day of the year, last day of the month, last day of the quarter, or February 29.  No, not at all, put sufficient amounts of raw materials in predictable amounts, apply your process, and you have a predictable amount of output at the other end.

It comes down to two things, first knowing the length of you cycle, and your specific key conversion rates at critical junctions of your cycle.  This easy to achieve with or without the latest tools or apps, all you need to know is a crayon and some paper, as long as you poses the second element, accountability.  If you are willing to take accountability for your actions you can achieve a much more predictable sale, disciplined, and I would argue more fun.

More fun, because you actually have a sense of what has to happen, in what proportions, and how you will do it.  This frees up a lot of bandwidth in the old cranium, allowing you to focus much more on the client, their objectives, and how you can help them, and your company achieve their objectives.  If you choose to play the end of quarter derby, you will not only be knackered at the end of each quarter, but set yourself up to repeat it again and again.  If you spend the last week or 10 day of a quarter “closing”, limiting or skipping all other aspects of the cycle, what will you close 10 weeks after the quarter:

  1. ___ Discounted deals
  2. ___ No deals
  3. ___ Haven’t a clue

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Work Your Cycle not the Calendar5

Here we are at the start of a new year, fresh faces, prospects and places to engage, and with what most would lead you to believe, a blank slate, ready to conquer sales all over again.  However, is it a blank slate, has the clock rolled back to the start, allowing you to start things a new, or did we just cross a marker in a continuing trek forward?  I tend to go with the latter, while we may need to mark time for a number of purposes, for sales professionals, and for actual sales, the sales cycle is somewhat indifferent to the artificial rhythms that accompany our travels through the years.

While corporate fiscal years are 12-months, and in many cases align to the 12 calendar Jan. 1 to Dec 31, decision cycles don’t, and as such sales people need to align and manage their cycles not their calendars.  Add to that the fact that budget cycles, including planning, like decision cycles don’t align to the calendar.

Read On…

What’s in Your Pipeline
Tibor Shanto

What’s Your Story – Sales eXchange – 13126

People love a good story; in fact, a good story can make up for other shortcomings one may face.  How many times have you left a movie thinking the acting was great, but the plot – the story lacked, and as result took away from the experience?  Sales people face similar challenges, we have all left meetings knowing that our presentation style, timing, and other elements were really good, but we failed to capture the imagination of the buyer because our story was off or missed the mark.

A good story is integral in a number of ways to sales success, and can often be the difference in a buyer choosing you over a viable competitor.  A good story works on a number of levels, helping buyers get engaged, motivating him/her to take action critical to moving the sale forward.

Buyers ultimately buy into your story before they may buy your product, and best of all will tell “your story”, the one he/she likes, to other people in the company who can impact the sale, as a result, a good story can keep on giving beyond the first time you tell it.  Now I want to be clear, when I say story, I don’t mean BSing your buyer, but rather presenting things in a way that is easier for them to consume, understand and trust.

Think of your own experience with stories, when you were a child, you loved listening to stories, at home, day care, even early school years.  They let you visualize scenes that were good, they delivered subtle life lessons, and formed your outlook on certain subjects.  Add to that the element of trust inherent in a story, think back when you sat with one of your parents, grandparents, or your teacher at story time, people you trusted; a good story invokes a feeling of trust in addition to communicating a message.  Those same ancient elements are still at play no matter how sophisticated one may pretend to be, or where they buy their suits.  The same factors that cause us to flinch when we hear a loud noise or experience thunder and lightning, cause us to have a positive reaction, a warm feel and trust when we hear a good story.  You may own a super-smart-phone, but our instincts are still in caveman.Ø.

In sales, as in earlier days, a story has to have a beginning, a middle, end, and moral.  You need to Engage the buyer, draw them in during Discovery, Gain their trust and commitment, and you have to deliver the goods at the end.  The moral is of course is the beneficial impact on the client’s objective that only your offering can deliver, anything short of that would just expose the buyer to the risks outlined in the plot of your story.

So take time to develop your narrative, don’t overlook the benefit of setting out a story board; while I am not big on PowerPoint presentations, if you are going to use them, make sure you incorporate a good story.  One based on elements that have proven successful in previous sales, while avoiding those that have scared people off.  If like me, you rely on questions and dialogue, you can still plan ahead and make sure that the story of your offering, the direct impact on the buyer is at the core of the exchange, and that the plot moves towards a simple and logical conclusion for the buyer.  What better opportunity for sales and marketing to work together to deliver something impactful beyond glossy collateral.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales & Consequences22

If you are a regular reader of this blog, thank you, you know one of the hallmarks has been a focus on execution.  As you have heard me say, sales is all about execution, everything else is just talk, and frankly with all the demands on sales professionals these days, there is little time for talk.  The challenge is ensuring that the actions you take have the desired outcome for you and your buyer.  While taking action is key, taking the right action is crucial, as actions do have consequences.

To kick off the New Year, a challenging sales year according to the pundits, Renbor has put together a new book looking at actions you can take, and ways to improve actions you are already taking.

Sales & Consequences, looks at sales from different viewpoints and situations, all with a view to helping you execute your sales more efficiently and more importantly in a fun way.  It looks at strategic and tactical aspects, examines the state of sales, decision making, and decision avoidance, either way, making a decision is a long way from taking action.

So click here, or click the picture at the top right of the page, and grab your free copy, hey get one for the cousin you forgot at Christmas.  Take a read, and feel free t comment, but most importantly, take action, cause the only thing with worse consequences than acting, is taking n action at all.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

In Business Interview22

Just before the holidays I was invited to sit down with David Wojcik of “In Business” to talk about sales, specifically about the content of the book I co-authored on trigger events.  I found it interesting in a number of ways, especially since David is not in sales.  He focused on different areas than some sales people do when discussing the book.

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I was also able to relate to a musician friend who always finds it difficult talking about his last CD.  While the CD discussed in interviews may be the most current available in the market, he is usually focused on his current project, which is the next release.  Being more than half way in my current book, it was interesting going back to concepts that were current two years ago; also interesting to see how ones thinking on sales progresses.  It was rewarding for me, you be the judge when the book is released.

What’s in our Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

3 January Must Do’s – Sales eXchange – 13027

Start of the year, not a time for a lot of talk, time to do, no secret there, so rather than wasting time pontificating, here are three things to do this week to kick start your sales year.

1.   Fire everyone in your pipeline that you thought definitely close by year end 2011. Forget the stories, forget the hope and the hype, and forget the “oh it’s this one is different”, it’s not. Hold your nose with one hand, and toss it out of your pipeline with the other.  There is no reason why some can’t be revisited, but that should been done based on merit rather than emotion; if it stands up to scrutiny, it may close next time you execute the sale.

2.   Reach out to the top three people in your competitors’ three biggest accounts. This seems to be the time for reviews, and that includes you competitors’ clients’, why not give them an alternative to think about or compare to. Even if you don’t get immediate positive responses, you are at least starting a relationship early. As well, given that you will end up talking. To at least nine people, they could be a great source for referrals in and beyond their current companies. Speaking of which, some of these people will leave where they are today, and may need your offering where they end up.

3.   Replicate your Marquee Client.  Sit down with any group of reps, and the war stories come out about how they won their marquee account.  But does that “one” have to be all that different?  If you review what made that sale great, from who they were, how you sourced them, engaged with them and won them over, is there a reason why that can’t be repeated again?  You can do this more than once a year, and over time elevate your game, and success.

Yes, short, but sweet, because it is more important to “do”, as I have said in the past, in sales it is about Execution, everything else is just talk.

What’s in Your Pipeline?

Tibor Shanto

Turn Trigger Events Into Exceptional Buyer Experiences34

The Pipeline Guest Post – Tony Zambito

When trigger events occur, they represent a unique moment in time for you and the buyer to establish a trusted relationship.  This unique moment in time may be one that may never occur again.  The question is: are you ready when this moment in time actually happens?

There is a high degree of importance in being ready for trigger events.  These events, as articulated by Craig Elias and Tibor Shanto, not only offer sales opportunities but offer the opportunity to create buyer experiences that can result in long-term loyalty.  Ultimately, while the end goal in responding to a trigger event is a sale, the ability to establish a long-term relationship will hinge largely on the experiences a buyer has during the response.   There are several ways you can be ready to turn trigger events into buyer experiences that keep buyers calling you when trigger events occur:

Buyer Intelligence

How much do you really know about your potential buyer’s organization when a trigger event occurs?  Buyers today have high expectations and one of those is the expectation that you are already grounded in knowing something about them.  If they are on your target list, are you keeping up with alerts on the events that are occurring with this buyer’s organization?  More importantly, are you aware of the events leading up to a trigger event?  Demonstrating intelligence about their organization translates into exceptional buyer experiences.  Why? Because trigger events are fraught with emotions and one thing a buyer is seeking is confidence that the situation is going to end in a resolution.  Knowledge breeds confidence.

Buyer Persona

How well do you know your buyer persona?  A buyer persona is an archetypal representation of your buyers that is derived from qualitative research.  Buyer personas are a means for encapsulating a deep understanding of buyer goals that directly influence purchase decisions.  As a sale executive, have you supported your teams with a fundamental understanding of who your buyers are and what goals drive their responses and decisions?  The ability to address buyer goals responsively during a trigger event is paramount to the buyer having an exceptional buyer experience.

Buyer Learning

There is a good bet that a buyer and his team may be facing a trigger event situation for the first time or it has been a good length of time since a previous event had occurred.  Sharing knowledge and providing a learning opportunity for buyers gets you a seat at the table of trusted advisors.  How prepared are you to share how similar customers have resolved similar situations?  What type of content and documents do you have prepared to share that are specific to trigger events?  A trigger event is time to go “off messaging” and to demonstrate your role as a trusted advisor with substance.  Enable an exceptional buyer experience by providing your buyers with learning opportunities that they will want to share with their peers.

Buyer Stakeholders

In most circumstances, a buyer is the focal point that represents various stakeholder groups within an organization.  You can be sure that the buyer has these groups on his or her mind during a trigger event.  How much are they on your mind?  All eyes are on the buyer by these various stakeholder groups during a trigger event.  And all eyes are on you as well.  They are looking for a solution to what may be a very challenging situation or perhaps are in crisis mode.  Are you prepared to address how your role and your solution address various stakeholder groups?  Are you gaining access to such groups to understanding the impact of the trigger event in their area?  Understanding and addressing stakeholder concerns provides opportunities for exceptional buyer experiences to be shared enterprise-wide.

To succeed with trigger events requires a high degree of readiness.  It is the degree of readiness that plays a pivotal role in turning trigger events into exceptional buyer experiences.  As mentioned at the start of this article, trigger events represents a unique moment in time that perhaps may never occur again.  You may have only one opportunity to demonstrate your ability to be seen as a trusted advisor and to provide an exceptional buyer experience.  Are you ready?

About Tony Zambito

Tony Zambito is Founder and Principal of Goal Centric, a buyer strategy consulting firm. Goal Centric is also the originator of the buyer persona methodology. Tony is launching BUYEROLOGY™ as a new means of understanding buyer behavior. Tony also served in the role of Vice President in Sales and Marketing capacities for TRW, Knight-Ridder, and Compaq (HP). He holds a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management. Read Tony’s blog Buyerology Now for insightful commentary on changing buyer behavior.

Change One Thing23

The New Year always brings optimism and promise.  It is also a time of reflection and planning for the new year.  One mistake some make is choosing to change or improve a whole bunch of things in the coming year; why, because it is often too ambitious, and leads to few if any being accomplished.  As soon as one isn’t achieved, people become disappointed, and fall back to what they did before.  Their day to day responsibilities catch up, and they stop trying to change the other things on their list, and next thing you know….

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So write down that one thing, master it, scratch it off your list, and on to the next.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto



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Stop Insulting Your Buyer – Sales eXchange – 1295

The other day I got an invitation for a webinar by a company that ostensibly helps sales people sell better and more effectively.  However, I will never know, why, because their approach was so outlandish and void of credibility, that I just could not see myself, or for that fact anyone with a brain, buying anything from them, or even waste a minute of my precious time taking in what they were going to spew.  What was their crime?  The complete dishonesty of their headline:

Selling in a Volatile Economy!

The reality is that the economy is anything but volatile.  So it is clear that they have no clue what is going on around them; they are trying to manipulate reality to put their needs vs. my needs, or they think we are all stupid and can be scared into caring or taking action – or as I suspect – all of the above.  Unfortunately the above is not an isolated instance, we see both companies and sales people doing this type of low brow selling all the time.

Don’t get me wrong, a pinch of FUD, to accentuate an otherwise good recipe for success is fine, but a blatant fear mongering, especially when it is baseless and insulting to the buyer.  Even when your prospect faces real risk, it makes more sense to focus on the impact of your product in dealing with it vs. rubbing it in their face.

This type of selling relies to heavily on the notion that people always buy on emotion, and then rationalize the purchase.  Somewhat contrary to the other theme in the e-mail, which was promoting the upside of social media and wealth of information available to buyers today.  If, as I would agree, buyers have much greater access to information, and make greater use of it than in the past, you would think that those same informed buyers would be hip to the fact that the economy has not been volatile, the stock market has, and people’s reaction has, but not the economy, if anything it has been stable and dull.

You are much better off helping the buyer sort the overwhelming information available in a way for them to gain knowledge that will help them address their objectives.  It does take more work, conducting a proper discovery process.  Leveraging the information you have about the buyers objective, and formulating those questions that will encourage an exchange of information that results in mutual value.  Laziness may explain why some choose the low road, but the returns are less frequent and much lower than the alternative to fear mongering.

So unless you enjoy and pay for being insulted, please don’t do it to you buyers.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

How Your Sales Team May Be More Like Santa’s Reindeer Than You Realize20

The Pipeline guest Post – Leanne Hoagland-Smith

In the 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” the vividly describes by naming the Santa’s reindeer. Then in 1939 in a booklet Rudolph arrived with his red nose.

Possibly, your sales team may share some of the same attributes of Santa’s Reindeer.

Dasher is the salesperson always dashing about.  He or she lets no sales lead die. However, all this motion does not necessarily mean progress.

Dancer is the supreme master of the sales process.  New sales leads are danced through the sales process from the first handshake to the delivery of the solution. Of course, this may mean he or she may be reluctant to find a new dance partner.

Prancer prances around everything. Energy is high when Prancer is in the office and everyone loves Prancer. Yet, securing the goal to increase sales is rarely attained.

Vixen knows how to leverage his or her talents. The customers love Vixen. Yet sometimes Vixen is thought to be condescending to ever egotistical.

Enter Comet or rather exist Comet.  This salesperson spends the least amount of time in the office.  Pounding the pavement, meeting with sales leads to customers comprises most of his or her time. The downside is paperwork might be somewhat disorganized and relationships might be rushed causing some reluctance to fully engage with Comet.

Cupid is the salesperson everyone loves from both internal and external customers. Sometimes it seems he or she just gets the order without rhyme or reason. Cupid’s behavior may create some internal resentment as follow-through may not be this salesperson’s strong suit.

When Donner speaks, everyone listen. His or her voice sometimes sounds like Thunder. What may happen is this loud voice may shut out others during important sales meetings as well as customers.

Then there is Blitzen who is the lightening to Donner’s thunder.  Blitzen will speak with lightening precision and brings value by getting to the essence of any challenge. However, Blitzen’s approach may be regarded by some as lacking emotional intelligence to also being potentially arrogant.

Finally, Rudolph is the salesperson who is noticed first.  Her or his ability to market and brand herself or himself is extraordinary.  The only challenge is getting past the marketing phase of the sales process to the selling phase.  Rudolph is probably your best team player as long as the route is carefully laid out.

So take a few minutes and see if you have a balanced sales team like Santa’s reindeer. Then determine what actions you may need to undertake to get your reindeer sales force flying high in both good and bad weather.   Merry Christmas!

About – Leanne Hoagland-Smith

Leanne Hoagland-Smith, M.S., Chief Results Officer of ADVANCED SYSTEMS and author of Be the Red Jacket has 25 plus years experience in public and private sectors in sales, organizational development and talent management. As a strategic tactician, she supports forward thinking leaders who are tired of failed executions. Her contact information is 219.759.5601 CST or coach@processspecialist.com

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