Welcome to The Pipeline.

A Case Study of a Dumb Cold Call11

The Pipeline Guest Post – Art Sobczak

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Hard to believe a salesperson could make so many mistakes in a short period of time, using so few words.

But it happened. I’ll explain in detail.

I overheard Steve, my marketing guy, who also answers the phone in my office, talking to the caller:

“Well, that would be Art. I’ll transfer you.”

He put the call on hold and said to me, “Some guy wants to talk to someone about Internet marketing. He’s being pretty evasive though. Might want to turn your recorder on for this one.”

Sounded like it might be good material for this newsletter.

“Hi, this is Art.”

“Doug? Did you say Doug?”

What a great first impression this guy was making. (I almost laughed out loud, being reminded of the movie “Multiplicity,” where Michael Keaton WAS Doug, but the mutant clone kept calling him “Steve.”)

“No, this is Art.”

Oh, uh, yeah, hi Art. I’m _____ with (I didn’t write down or remember the company name.) I just wanted to touch base to see how your Internet marketing was going.”

“It is going just fantastic.”

“Oh, good. Tell me what you’re doing there.”

“Look, I’m busy (isn’t everyone?) and not interested.”

End of call.

Wow. Let’s examine how this guy never had a chance.

Mistake 1: Not Getting a Name
He didn’t even get my name, therefore the comical “Doug” scenario, which blew him out of the water three seconds into the call.

He could have simply started out by initially identifying himself and his company to Steve, and then asking, “I hope you can help me… what is the name of the person there who is responsible for your Internet marketing.”

Mistake 2: Being Evasive.
Do some salespeople not realize that the person who answers the phone for decision makers actually TALKS to the decision maker before transferring the call?

Based only on what Steve told me before I picked up the phone, I for the most part knew that this caller had zero chance of success–except for the basis for an article like this one.

Callers must be prepared to work with the personnel who are closest to our buyers, gain their trust, and discuss value where appropriate.

What do assistants, screeners, office managers and others say about you?

Mistake 3: Not Getting Smart Call Intelligence or Doing Homework
Again, because of Mistakes 2 and 3, he didn’t ask any questions of Steve. Hmm, let’s see, call me crazy, but it seems that if you’re selling some type of Internet marketing, it would make sense that if you visited someone’s website, and found out what type of Internet marketing they do now, then you would be much better prepared to put together a nice opening, and ask intelligent questions.

So, after asking for the decision maker’s name, it’s quite simple to say, “Great, so I can be sure that what I’m calling about has value for the boss, I’d like to ask a couple of questions. Please tell me …”

Mistake 4: Horrible Opening Statement
To review,

“Oh, uh, yeah, hi Art. I’m _____ with ______. I just wanted to touch base to see how your Internet marketing was going.”

Come on now, read this again, and think about how absurd that question is. What in the world does he expect people to say?

“Oh, my Internet marketing isn’t going well at all. I’m glad you called. I bet you can help me.”


There are two purposes for the opening:
– put them in a positive, receptive, frame of mind, by mentioning an item of interest … a possible result or benefit you might be able to deliver, and,

– move to the questioning phase of the call. BUT, the first objective must be established.

Mistake 5: Asking Questions When They Don’t See A Reason to Answer
Again, as part of Mistake 4, if we don’t put them in a positive frame of mind, but then jump into questions, they don’t have a good reason to answer, therefore the call goes down in flames.

So short of a call, but yet so many opportunities to screw up. And this guy hit most of them. Sadly, I see this all of the time.

Worse, he probably believes that prospecting for him is “just a numbers game.” Make so many calls, and you’re that much closer to getting a yes. Actually, he’s that much closer to getting another no, and he’s getting really good at making bad calls.

If you place prospecting calls, analyze each of these mistakes to be sure they’re not part of your calls, and practice the right methods, the Smart Calling way instead.

About Art Sobczak

For over 28 years, Art Sobczak has helped sales pros say the right things by phone to get more sales and prospecting success. His latest book,“Smart Calling-Elminate the Fear, Failure, and Rejection from Cold Calling,” won Top Sales Book of 2011 from Top Sales Awards. Get his free report, “The Top Ten Dumb Mistakes Made On Cold Calls” at http://www.SmartCalling.com


Be Part Of Their Plan!10

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In a recent discussion about prospecting, we came around to the topic of how many sales people are looking for instant gratification, and as result overlook look some obvious engagement opportunities. Here I talk to how some sales people don’t seize the opportunity to insert themselves into the process when a prospect says “oh we’re just starting to plan now, we’ll be ready later in the year”. For me that is an opportunity to add real value and avoid a beauty contest of vendors, and decisions made downstream influenced by price rather than returns on the over all plan.

Take a look, send your thoughts:


What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


Social S_ _ _ing – Sales eXchange – 10210

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The other day I got a note from someone I don’t know, from a site that ranks different blogs, informing that this very blog you are currently enjoying, has ranked on one of their “top blah blah list”.

Like most I like to see my name in lights, and have learned the need to ensure they spelt that name right, so I went over to the list to check things out.  Having learned to lower my expectations over the years, but this list tested even my lowered standards.  The list ranked sales blogs based no other criteria than the number of Twitter followers the writer has, what a joke!

I know a number of the people on the list, some have great content, others don’t, one or two would be luck to get an order right at McDonald’s, none of that is reflected in the number of Twitter followers.

I remember having a discussion with a number of sales bloogers, a couple of them on this list both above and below my rank.  The discussion centred around the pursuit and quality of followers.  One particular blogger, who has good content, stated that he will do what it takes to get followers, volume was king for him.  He was going to leverage all the various “gobots” that deliver thousands of followers on a monthly basis.  These are not hard to find, it seems half the tweets you see are touting ways to add 1000’s of followers.

I opted to be selective, looking to have followers who have a specific interest in sales, specifically B2B sales.  I do not automatically follow back anyone that follows me, and regularly purge my list of questionable followers.  Now I know this approach narrows the number of followers that I have, but the ones that do follow me and take the time to actually visit and read my blog, do so for a genuine interaction with the content, not just people who swell my followers’ numbers.  I no more miss the 15 year old Brazilian transvestite looking for an American mate, than the contribution he/she makes to the discussions initiated on my friend’s blog, or the incilination to promote this list as they requested.

But this does highlight one of the realities of “social life” and by extension social selling, beyond the hype, beyond the noise, quantity does not make up for quality; no, who am I fooling, when it comes to “Social S_ _ _ing” it does.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


No More Crank Calls12

The Pipeline Guest Post – Doreet Haynes

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The debate continues to rage on, is cold calling dead, is it alive, or is it just that pain in the reality of many sales people needing to make an honest living. Seems this debate is as old as sales, the only thing that changes is context and latest way to avoid them. Avoiding appeals to many, but when you dig down a little what I have found over and over is that most people don’t know how to make cold calls, this is why they see it, and feel it, as a bad experience.

As a result, it is not only a bad experience for the sales person, but for the recipient as well. Having gotten some of these calls myself, I can tell you that I have had crank calls that were much less irritating and better use of time than some cold calls I have gotten, or some of my sales people have made, well before we trained them.

Training is the key, that is why some people are better at crank calling than cold call, they were taught. I remember my friend Lilly’s big sister Anne, teaching us some of the classics, we were so nervous, but with practice, it got easier. The thing is though, we don’t want to make crank calls, selling should not be a game, so serious training is a must.

And that’s the difference these days, the new/current generation of managers and directors, are an outcrop of the generation that first abandoned cold calling, having cut their sales teeth in the heady Clinton days, where you could make a living without much cold calling, this was just made a whole lot worse when the internet kicked in the late 1990’s. Now that they are managers, they fail to understand the need to train, retrain and ensure that their sales people are complete from a sales skills perspective, and to be complete you need to know how to cold call.

So while many are willing to invest, they don’t invest in everything that will make their sales people competent right through the whole sales, not just part of it. These same managers find it easier to buy into a social selling program, instead of a sales skills program. This does not eliminate the need to cold call, in fact if you look at successful sales organizations they do both, excel at use of the latest technology and apps, but also cold call to reach those who are not involved in social media. These are he people that you need to cold call, these are the people who will look at a bad cold call as a crank call, even when they could have used the product.

If you want to you calls to be effective, you need to train your people to do it right, there are many programs, just pick one, train them and make them more complete and really compete.

About Doreet Haynes

Doreet is a sales manager at regional office supplier in the mid-west. She has been a successful sales rep, manager and director for over 20 years. While she does not enjoy cold calling, she does it because of the rewards it brings.


Long Live The Status Quo!10

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Status Quo has been a central theme and concept in B2B sales since it has evolved as a craft. Over the last 20 plus years, people have taken camps on different sides of the Status Quo. For some it is the “competition”, encouraging sellers to focus on the buyer’s circumstance and market view rather than product. For others, the Status Quo has come to represent a segment of the market that is not ready to buy, and therefore can/should be overlooked in favour of those potential buyers who have declared their intent. This has become much more the case since the introduction of the marketing term Sales 2.0. Even more than before the words Status Quo have become synonymous with a complete lack of opportunity for sales people. They suggest that sales people focus on being “found” rather than spending time and resources on the Status Quo.

Read On…

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


Pipeline Lottery – Sales eXchange – 10112

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Being that this is the 101 issue of the Sales eXchange, I thought it appropriate to focus on an important fundamental for sales success.

I find that as I get older, fewer and fewer things surprise me, certain ideas and behaviours displayed by many people, which used to get a second look, now seem “normal” (?).  However, one thing that continues to amaze me is the number of people in North America who see winning the lottery and their retirement plan.  Seriously, over the last 20 years there have been numerous surveys that showed anywhere between 10% to as high as 50% of people are planning their retirement around winning the lottery rather than a sound financial plan.  Needless to say the end of the road for them is quite disappointing, an especially sad way for them to face their twilight years, being desperate and destitute.

But with some people, specifically sales people, you see hints of this kind of thinking early on, you can see indications of this when you meet with them to review their plans, and review their pipelines.

Like many of the folks who are waiting for their numbers to come up on Wednesday night, a lot of sales people hope that “things will come together”.  Rather than proactively planning and then executing their plan, they look to existing clients, inbound leads, and other unknown-unnamed sources of sales to meet their goal.  Two things these sales people fail to consider, first, they are paid to make things happen, so if they are not contributing to growth beyond ushering the organic, what value do they really bring.

Second, the organic deals would probably come in on their own, certainly regardless of or despite of, who the rep in the territory was.  This means they are not adding value to the process, and these days, things that do not add value, tend not to survive.  (Which will make it more of a challenge to buy those lottery tickets).

A proactive sales person looks at organic growth as a bonus, and looks to their plan, and driving that plan to deliver quota and success.

The other place you see the lottery mentality is in their pipeline.  Rather than the pipeline reflecting the execution of a thought out plan, it is more like a drum where names are collected, like tickets in a raffle, throw enough in, and one is bound to come up.  When you explore why some opportunities are in there, or what they see happening with specific ones, you get optimistic statements like “oh I know they are going to buy”, or one of my favourites, “oh, they are different, trust me, I have been working with them for a while”.  (Ya, but have they been working with you?)

One reason you see pipeline full of things that are long dead, is the hope that one will pop and they will hit quota, just like their retirement.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

The Importance of Sales Management in a Recovering Economy10

The Pipeline Guest Post – Ken Thoreson

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During the past two weeks I have been in Miami, Phoenix and this weekend I have been speaking in San Antonio.  We have met with Sales Leaders from around the world, lead workshops, presented keynotes and developed new long term relationships with our client base. It’s been a great few weeks.  I have also noticed an uptick in my own prospects and business opportunities.  Have you?   Based upon my conversations almost every sales leader is optimistic and pipelines are filling. Are you ready to participate in the recovery?

During the past 13 years I have been consulting, writing and speaking on the fact that sales management is the lynch-pin that drives successful organizations; sales leadership sets the tone, the culture and drives the organization to greater levels of revenues and profitability.  And now, during the past six months the topic of participating in the economic recovery and the impact of great sales management on the organization has been a critical and hot topic. The topics of surviving or working in a challenging economic time are over.   “Economic recovery?”.. Yes, just reading the USA Today, on Monday January 24th, the quotes are all over the paper:

  • Are you more or less optimistic than you were 3 months ago about the economic outlook this year?  91% of 46 Economists answered YES.
  • Over the next 12 months, which will have the greatest positive impact on the economy?  48% said BUSINESS, 45% the consumer
  • The US economy is expected to grow at an annual rate between 3.2% to 3.4%, that is up from October forecast of 2.5% to 3.3%
  • They expect employers to add 200,000 jobs a month-more than double last year’s rate.
  • The DOW is over 11,961 at the time of this blog

What is the role or action points for sales manager’s in a recovering economy? I listed a few steps to focus on:

  1. Build your Hiring Plan; Sales Managers should know today when they expect to add new salespeople for the next 18 months. Based upon your revenue goals for the next 24 months you should have a plan set defining what months you will need hire new sales talent to achieve those new higher sales targets. If your next hire date is March, then your recruiting plan must in effect now, is it June? October? Make sure you also plan on members your current team could leave or be fired also.
  2. Get aggressive on increasing your individual salesperson strategy sessions, winning now is critical to build momentum.  Schedule special sales team sessions or hold a small group of salesperson discussions weekly to strategize each sales opportunity.
  3. Increase the culture building and building belief in your offerings and your organization. If you want an article I published on that topic send me an email.  Ken@AcumenMgmt.com  Your sales team needs to believe and feel the change in economic conditions, you want to create their desire to participate in the recovery. “Take advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime, during the life time of the opportunity”.
  4. Retool your sales compensation to ensure it is in alignment with your corporate objectives or if you have already rolled out 2011 compensation plans, create an aggressive sales contest or special incentives to win Net-New clients or upgrade existing clients or hit higher levels of revenues/margin. Drive the sense of urgency to win.
  5. Sales management must now focus, as always, but more importantly now on “Brilliant Execution”. If you and your team are 2 steps ahead of your competition during the next 4 months your summer and fall business opportunities will accelerate. Focus on increased levels of sales management planning i.e. sales training, one on one coaching and  managing the number of calls per month per salesperson and even schedule weekly telephone blitz days to find those businesses that need your solutions to participate in their own recovery.

Sales leaders are the key to success, you can make the difference and NOW is the time to take advantage of opportunity and participate in the economic recovery.

What else do you think you should focus on to grow your business during the next 18 months? Let me know your thoughts….

About Ken Thoreson

Acumen Management Group Ltd. “operationalizes” sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. During the past 12 years, our consulting, advisory, and platform services have illuminated, motivated, and rejuvenated the sales efforts for partners throughout North America. Move up and move ahead!

Ken’s books: http://www.yoursalesmanagementguru.salesgravy.com

Ken provides Keynotes, consulting services and products designed to improve business performance.

Ken@AcumenMgmt.com   www.AcumenManagement.com
Blog:  www.YourSalesManagementGuru.com

What’s in Your Pipeline? – Attitude10

What’s In Your Pipeline?  A question I have been asking of sales types of all sorts for years,  a question that most should be able to answer with relative ease and conviction.  Sadly this is not always the case, and I get almost as many different types of answers as there are people who respond to it.

Recently someone turned the table on me asked me why I ask that question and what my view is on what should be in your pipeline.  Today is the first of a few videos where I answer the above.

As usual, I invite you to have your two cents, and view all our videos at Renbor’s You Tube channel Sell Better.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Binary Approach To Sales Success – Sales eXchange – 10010

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If you read this blog regularly, you know I am a big proponent of having a sales process; I also have stated that I think sales is more science than art, although both need to be present to succeed consistently.  Having said that, while it is science, it is not, nor does it have to be rocket science.  Meaning it does not have to be complicated, complex, overly involved and time consuming or heavy, to work well.

Now as soon as you say process, you notice most sales people roll their eyes and check for the exit. Who can blame them, more often than not, sales processes introduced by consultants are very layered, cumbersome and unnecessarily complex.  It seems the thought is that for the process to work in a “complex sales environment”, it has to be complex.  (On the other hand, maybe it is a case of old habits, of selling things by the pound, the heavier the process the more it may be worth).  For me the opposite is true, that is for a process to succeed it needs to facilitate execution, not to add elements to the sale, no matter how decorative they may seem.

When you view things through the filter of execution, it simplifies things, the right activities brought to bear to move the sale forward one step at a time; properly completed within predictable time.  In other words is it done or not done, is it done right or not done.  Very binary.

The most effective sales processes are based on activity, where the litmus test is “was it completed?” If yes, great; did we achieve the necessary and desired outcome? Great, we can move on to the next step.  If not, “why not, what do you need to complete it, and when will it be completed?” Is it worth completing based on other opportunities available?  And if can’t be completed (in the right timeframe) then “why haven’t you moved on to something more productive?” The answer to the latter is usually an absence of other viable opportunities, which make resurrecting a dead one almost productive.

Once the above is determined, you can quickly have a GO/NO GO review, and either move forward with the opportunity, or move on to the next one if it is a NO GO due to lack of completion or quality.

To make this approach stick, and really focus sales reps on what you want them “getting done”, notice I didn’t say doing, because it is easy to “do things” and look busy.  Getting the right things “Completed”, ensures opportunities are moving forward both in the right measures and for the right reasons.

By focusing on specific activities and measuring things in a binary way, “successfully completed” or “not successfully completed”, you can take much of the subjectivity associated with selling out of the mix.  This way sales people can still bring “art” to selling, but the only thing that counts is successful completion; with style relegated to a distant nowhere!

To make this really work, you can take one simple step and uncouple your process from your forecast.  Rather than associating weightings or percentages to each stage of the sale, just look at one simple thing, is it completed or not.  No stories, no promises, just done or not; the binary approach to sales success.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

5 Ways to Boost Your Email Prospecting Response Rate26

The Pipeline Guest Post – Kendra Lee

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Prospecting via email can be wildly rewarding, or incredibly frustrating. Get it right, and each of your campaigns can deliver you fresh sales opportunities within days, and sometimes even minutes. Get it wrong and you risk wasting your time, or even worse, irritating potential clients.

So what makes the difference?

After years of experience, and dozens upon dozens of successes, we’ve found that it’s all in the approach.

In fact, we’ve coached clients through a number of simple steps that have helped them double or triple their prospecting email response rates virtually overnight. Here are a few of the highlights.

1.    Keep it short. To respond to your email, the prospect has to read it first. The shorter and less intimidating it looks, the more likely they are to do just that. At KLA Group, we have a rule of thumb: no prospecting or lead-generation email should be more than 175 words, and they all need to be three paragraphs or less.

Go any longer, and it’s very likely your message will be deleted, or saved until a time when the prospect “has more time,” which isn’t likely to ever happen.

It should go without saying that the same applies to your email subject line. It doesn’t have to be two or three words, but don’t try to write an entire sentence. Just stick to the topic and a reason to keep reading.

2.    Be personal. Are the emails you write to your friends, colleagues, and clients filled with links, attachments, bullet points, and fancy graphics? I’ll bet that more often they’re short, personal notes that mention a specific situation or problem.

Too many sellers make it hard on themselves by trying excessively hard to put on their marketing caps, rather than simply writing to the prospect as a person.

Don’t be afraid to use short sentences, abbreviations, and less formal language. You don’t want your email to be sloppy, of course, but you don’t want it to look like a strict marketing message, either.

3.    Open up with something compelling. One of the best ways to draw prospects into your email is by mentioning a “triggering event,” which is some issue that they are facing right now and that you can help them to resolve. This could be a change in their industry, new legislation, or even just a common challenge for companies like theirs.

Show them that you understand what they’re going through, and they’ll reward you with a reply to begin a conversation.

4.    Show a result. Naturally, you don’t want to just mention a problem to your prospects. They’re busy people and don’t need to be reminded of issues. Rather, briefly explain how you helped someone else to solve a similar issue.

Without going into detail, show your prospect what possible improvements in their business you might be able to provide. If possible, mention a return on investment that the client with a similar issue realized. Numbers carry a great deal of credibility.

5.    Ask them to take action right away… and make it easy for them to do it. Limit yourself to one clear action you want your prospect to take. Make it one that only takes a few moments for them to follow up on.

Whether it’s clicking through to a link, hitting the “reply” button, or confirming a time for a phone call, make it very clear what you are hoping to accomplish.

A favorite approach of ours is to suggest one or two times for a brief phone meeting. Something like: “I would love to discuss my idea with you further on Friday the 12th at 1:30. By chance would that work for you?”

Suggesting specific times that your prospects can quickly check on their calendar makes it easy for them to respond and can do wonders for your response rate.

If you haven’t gotten the results you want from email prospecting try these tips. A few adjustments to your emails could find your inbox filled with replies from potential new clients.

About Kendra Lee

Kendra Lee is a top IT Seller, Prospect Attraction Expert and author of the award winning book “Selling Against the Goal” and president of KLA Group. Specializing in the IT industry, KLA Group works with companies to break in and exceed revenue objectives in the Small and Midmarket Business (SMB) segment. Ms. Lee is a frequent speaker at national sales meetings and association events. To find out more about the author, read her latest articles, or to subscribe to her newsletter visit www.klagroup.com or call +1 303.741.6636.

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