Welcome to The Pipeline.

Are You Up To It?10

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Last week during a discussion, I was asked if some sales people felt that aspects of sales were beneath them.  An interesting question, and as I have mentioned here before, some to avoid those parts of selling that resemble “work”, some just don’t want to accept that sales is a blue collar job.  How you handle things you feel are “beneath you” could make the difference between average and triumph.

Take a view at the video, do an inventory of your habits, and then adjust to execute better.


What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Working Backwards From Your Goal To Get Ahead – Sales eXchange – 9910

[table id=7 /] A couple of weeks ago I posted a piece on metrics, and one of the questions I got back was how do you figure out how to calculate time, and other elements that go into sales success.  The question brought to mind an article I wrote back in 2006, as that predates this blog, I think it is a good time to reintroduce it.

It is always interesting when you sit with a group of sales people and the subject turns to sports. No matter what the sport, there is the inevitable talk of the leaders and their potential accomplishments over the course of the season. When it comes to individual athletes, the talk turns to their numbers, total goals, batting average, number of at bats, plus/minus averages, number of times striking out with men at second, short handed or power play goals, home average vs. road average, and so on. The athlete’s numbers are dissected and analyzed from all angles, usually in connection with a pool or a wager.

Yet often when you ask the same sales professional what their numbers are, they usually tell you their goal, where they are vis-à-vis their goal, perhaps how many sales they have that month, how many accounts they currently have, but usually not much more.

But like athletes, sales professionals need to track much more if they want to consistently outperform. How many at bats? Or better yet how many appointments did you have this year, and how is that versus last year? Is that number of appointments adequate to get you to your goal? To properly answer that, it is necessary to break down your goals to understand the level of activity needed to achieve it. Somewhat like working on your batting average and number of hits. To accomplish this you need to track a number of things, and then work backwards from your goal.

Let’s look at three as an example:

  • The average length of your sales cycle
  • The average size a sale
  • The number of meetings (appointments if you will) during that sales cycle to close the sale.

Very few sellers can tell you what their average sales cycle is for a given product (understanding that some folks sell a variety of products, and each may have a different cycle), key here being average. When we ask about the length of the sales cycle for a product we often get a wide range of answers. Recently we had a manager tell us that the normal cycle was between 10 to 12 weeks. When we put the question to his team of 8 reps, the shortest was 6 to 9 months; the longest was a year to 15 months, quite a range.  Who was right, did anyone really know?

Now if you looked at the last 100 sales for a given product, a pattern will emerge. After you take skills and other factors into account, you will see a discernible curve. Leave out the anomalies and you’ll find that some 80% will fall in to a tight range. That is your sales cycle. A bit of work the first time, but a worthwhile exercise that helps everyone set benchmarks; and hey, leverage the investment in that CRM. This same process will give you the average size of each sale.

This done you can then focus on the average number of meetings to close a deal. This is much more an individual exercise, but there is benefit in knowing the organization’s average. Unless you know how many meetings you will need to close a deal, how will you plan, manage and execute the sale, how will you manage your diary, how will you know what you can improve? With tools available today this is an easy thing to discover and track going forward.

You have to take the time at the start of the year to work backwards from your goals, using your specific stats (at bats, batting average, times called out on second after a walk to first…). You need to repeat this at least quarterly based on success YTD, or even monthly depending on product, market and cycle. In a slow year, you need to increase activity and productivity according to results.

By understanding your objective > destination > goal, visualize where you want to be, you can work backwards to find the most efficient of getting there, every time.  Add to that sufficient prospects to work with, and you can be selective in your success, and just focus on the best opportunities.  Without these benchmarks and measures, you will just chase things.

Now athletes and coaches go through this almost daily, not only looking at game stats, but reviewing tapes, and then adjusting accordingly. Sales professionals have to as well. Without working backwards from your goal, you have little chance to get ahead.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

10 Fail-proof Tasks to Help Turn Your Prospects into Buyers22

The Pipeline Guest Post – Rochelle Togo-Figa

Prospecting is a term that’s been around for a long time. Remember in history class, learning about the miners digging for gold in the 1800s? Your business strategies are the same as the gold-miners, except instead of digging for ore, you’re digging for customers, with your mind focused on this: you want to find the right prospects—the serious buyers. When you find buyers who are interested in your product, it’s as though you “struck gold.”

There are steps to follow that can make prospecting easy and effective. Let’s take a look at 10 fail-proof tasks to help turn prospects into buyers:

Before the Call

  1. Identify Your Market – Find a market that interests and excites you; a market you’re comfortable with and knowledgeable about. Go where you know you have something to offer.
  2. Make a List – These could be past clients you’ve worked with, people you know can benefit from your services, people who expressed interest but didn’t buy from you in the past, or companies you’ve been wanting to break into to inform them of your product or service.
  3. Do Your Research -Organize yourself before you pick up the phone. Find out who the contact person is, who the buyer is, their phone number and email address. In short, learn everything you can about a prospect before you call. They’ll be very impressed that you’ve gone the extra mile to learn about them.
  4. Craft a Compelling Message – You have about 30 seconds before the person you call decides whether or not she even wants to stay on the phone with you, so you don’t have a lot of time. Make sure to make those first few seconds of your call matter most by delivering a statement that grabs their attention. Your phone call should be anywhere from 1-3 minutes and include the following:
    • Identify yourself and your company.
    • Say what you do.
    • Position you and your company as the expert.
    • Mention something you saw about them on their website.
    • State the reason for your call.
    • Close for the meeting.

    After the Call

    1. Follow Up – I’m amazed to hear entrepreneurs say they only follow up one or two times and sometimes never at all. People may not be ready today to buy from you but if they expressed interest, they’ll probably be ready to buy in the next several months. Remember, it can take 7-10 or more touches to move the client to making a buying decision. You want to come up with creative ways to stay in touch, so when they’re ready to buy they’ll remember you.
    2. Reactivate dormant accounts – Reaching out to past clients can make customers for life. Let them know you’re there for them and be generous by offering some ideas to help them in their business. One phone call can make a huge difference. Think about it. When you go the extra mile and show them you’re there to help them, they’ll appreciate you and remember that when they’re ready to do business.
    3. Make special offers – Offer a product or service at a special low fee for a limited time. Give catchy names to these special offers. Some examples are: Close-out Sale, Scratch and Dent Sale, Half Price Sale, Birthday Sale, My Dog Maxx’s Birthday Sale, Free 30-Day Trial. You’ll need to put a time limit on the offer to encourage people to buy now and not later. Also, it helps to explain why you’re having the sale, so they know you don’t just drop prices whenever you feel like it.
    4. Up sell – When a client purchases your product, you can offer other services at a nominal fee that will compliment the product they’ve just purchased. This is done in many places. For example, at many hotels they now charge you a ‘resort fee’ of $20 a day. And for that fee, they list a series of amenities you receive. Although this is a small fee, with the volume of customers, this fee adds up.
    5. Add value to existing services – During times when your customers may be concerned about pricing, another way to win them over is offering the best value for their dollar. You can do this by enhancing your service with “extras.” An extra might be faster delivery than your competitors, a larger selection, easier payment options, or a better guarantee.
    6. Be positive – I’m a big believer in staying positive. If you are confident in your abilities and product, others will be as well. Don’t let a “No” or two get you down. Most of all believe in yourself and stay in action! Remember, the only difference between you and the big businesses is, they’ve had more “No’s” than you have.

    Of course, I’d love for all of you to be getting referrals and leads from people you know and by word of mouth, but prospecting is a legitimate way to generate leads and new business opportunities. Like all selling strategies, it takes time and consistency.

    Remember, your purpose for calling is to get a meeting—nothing more than that. Provide enough information to stimulate their curiosity enough to hear them say, “Yes, I will meet with you.” Then, follow up and try new combinations of strategies to find what works best for you.

    About Rochelle Togo-Figa

    Rochelle Togo-Figa, The Sales Breakthrough Expert, is the creator of the Sales Breakthrough System™, a proven step-by-step sales process that will help you close more sales, sign on more clients and make more money with ease and velocity. To sign up for her free sales articles and teleclasses on closing more sales, visit http://www.salesbreakthroughs.com/ or connect with her on Facebook.

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    Contact – Now What?11

    Over the last few weeks the video posts have dealt with some of the challenges around prospecting by phone and reaching potential prospects.  We looked at the role of voice mail, e-mail, and alternative means of communication we can use to proactively reach people we want to engage.  The goal is to avoid waiting for external events to trigger engagement, to connect with buyers ahead of other sellers and before a specific event puts them in the market.  Taking a proactive approach in triggering engagement.

    Today we look at what you need to do when you do in fact connect with the target of your call.  How to initiate the conversation, what to avoid, and how to deal with the inevitable objections.


    As always, I encourage you to be proactive, not wait for events, and manage your own success.

    What’s in Your Pipeline?
    Tibor Shanto

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    LinkedIn: Social-ism Meets Capital-ism – Sales eXchange – 9810

    What happens when social-ism meets capital-ism?  Or more to the point, can a publicly traded LinkedIn serve two masters at one time?

    Specifically, now that LinkedIn has gone public, the first thing they need to buy with their new funding is a bigger bed to accommodate some new bedfellows, very demanding bedfellows; specifically the fellows from Wall St.

    This piece is not about the IPO, it’s merits, or value; no it is about the fact that the expectations of the social propeller heads are very different, and probably entirely at odds with the expectations of Wall St.,  those valiant guardians of shareholders “rights” and “value”. Remember everything goes as long as there are profits at the end of the exercise, and the opposite is true, regardless of the social merits.  There is nothing wrong with that, capitalism like socialism is not dead, even though it may smell funny over the last few years.  After all, we in sales play a big role in driving revenues and profits, and ultimately cash flow.

    There has been a gentle coexistence between the Social types (media or network), and the capitalists.  The social purists get their playground, the illusion of a new frontier, they get to shade their avatars green while real people get crushed on the streets of Teheran, and a vicarious front line view to the birth of democracy in Egypt.  Oops, scratch that, the “Tyrant” has been deposed, but no democracy yet, oh well, it may be different in Syria.  All for minimal cost of 8 out of 10 tweets being about how to make more money using “proven” methods on Twitter and social media,  or how to get thousands of followers overnight; FOLLOWERS who couldn’t pick you out of a line up, much less relate or benefit from your tweets.

    Going public changes things, it makes one central mantra superior to all others, that mantra being profit; in fact it now has to be profits that exceed Street expectations, because merely meeting expectations is not enough.  Community is nice, social is nice, networking is nice, but even combined they are nothing more than the red headed step child compared to profits, which now is the central and only goal. If you doubt that, just sit in on an analyst call and see which facts and which guidance gets top, no, only billing.  Can you picture providing guidance that speaks to functionality that serves the demands of the community, but do not add to or diminish profits in a given quarter.

    So what do you do?  If the “Socialites” want or expect one thing, but the income statement expects another. I realize the problem may not be a big one yet, as long as recruiters and job seekers continue to see benefit and continue to use the LinkedIn, other voices will be quelled, save one voice, the voice of Profit.

    For sales, this has been a much more fruitful coexistence, at least on the surface.  First, it gave us Sales 2.0, that kept capital rolling, triggering the repurposing existing products for a 2.0 world, just add social links, and presto.  Let’s face it that Sales 1.5 was just so last year.  Then you get the Social Selling types, for them putting a number after the word Sales doesn’t quite do it, it has to embrace the whole Social experience.

    However, there remains the problem of Promise vs. Realty in the social selling space, or maybe more accurately, the promise of something new versus the reality of a thin shiny veneer on the same old.  Just in case you think I am being too cynical, consider a tweet earlier this week from a Social Selling type promoting a site as a boon for Social Sellers.  The site, well check it out! Beauty eh?  For a nominal monthly charge of $49 they will deliver 100 LinkedIn connections per month, you want 200, you get a discount price, only $89 per month.  In case that is not social enough for you, they offer 500 Facebook Fans a month for $96 per month.  According to the site “Most Popular” is 2,000 Twitter followers per month for $89.  All 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed.  That’s the kind of social circle I want to belong to.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s all good, especially if one can accept that despite the label, it is capital not social, it just has to be sold the social way.  In case you think this time it will be different, just ask Pete Townshend, or better yet, ask yourself how many of the folks sitting on Yasgur’s farm in 69, were and are sitting in the corner offices of Wall St. during the excess of the 1990’s and early part of the last decade, and now.  Depending on how you answer that will determine your perception of things, but not the reality.

    What’s in Your Pipeline?
    Tibor Shanto

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    Selling to Mr Know-it-all17

    The Pipeline Guest Post – Ian Brodie

    Have you ever tried to sell to Mr Know-it-all?

    You know the guy. You meet him for the first time and he’s done a ton of research. He thinks he knows what his problem is and what he needs to fix it. He’s looked up you and your competitors and and thinks he knows all your relative strengths and weaknesses.

    So when you meet, instead of a consultative discussion where you tease out his problems, explore the impact, and suggest ideas – he’s grilling you on technical points. Some of which don’t even seem relevant.


    I hate selling to Mr Know-it-all. Probably you do too.

    In fact, if I get the chance, I’ll qualify him out. Focus my time on someone more receptive. Someone open to a consultative discussion. Someone who respects my expertise and listens to my ideas.

    But you know what?

    I’m Mr Know-it-all.

    So’s my wife. And my kids.

    We’re all Mr Know-it-all these days.

    Whether it makes sense or not, the web and the availability of information has turned us all into Mr Know-it-all.

    What was the last thing you bought without researching it first on the web? Probably something trivial.

    For anything important you’ll have looked up what you think your problem or opportunity is and the different ways of solving it. You’ll have decided what you think the answer is. And you’ll have checked out the major product/service providers who could help.

    You may get it completely wrong (I do, rather often). But it doesn’t stop you thinking you have the answer.

    And that completely changes the dynamic of a sales meeting.

    For the unwary seller it’s like entering the lion’s den. Instead of a receptive audience you can lead via questions, you’re going to be on the wrong side of a grilling.

    Selling in this environment requires a subtly different approach.

    You’ve got to be prepared. To have thought through what Mr Know-it-all might be thinking.

    You’ve got to be able to satisfy his need to be in control – yet be able to quickly and politely take him back to check his assumptions and thinking.

    You’ve got to be able to introduce new ideas. Get lightbulbs to go off in his head. Get him to realise there’s more to this than he originally thought.

    Only then you can re-establish your expert positioning. Only then can you begin to sell.

    About Ian Brodie

    Ian Brodie is a Marketing Speaker and Coach who helps consultants, coaches and other professionals attract and win more clients.

    For a free copy of his Client Breakthrough report and training videos head over to http://www.ianbrodie.com/more-clients-in-less-time

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    Beyond E-Mail and Voice Mail12

    In our two previous video posts we looked at the use of voice mail and e-mail in the course of prospecting.  However, in today’s fast paced world, people have more options in how they communicate, as a seller you need to use them all.  Today we talk to other options sellers need to consider and use.  This involves both old and new.


    BTW, in case you have doubts, check this site: www.eztexting.com, if you won’t use it, someone else will, and get sales as a result.

    Here is the link to the piece mentioned in the video: Texting as a Form of Cold Calling!

    What’s in Your Pipeline?
    Tibor Shanto

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    The Upside of Being Measured – Sales eXchange – 9717

    People often have opinions or views that drive their approach and by extension the sales results.  It therefore follows that if the underlying assumptions or beliefs are inaccurate than so will the resulting approach and related actions, which can undermine their success.  This is one reason you want to measure and quantify things so you can base your actions on facts rather than just feel.  Yes, I will acknowledge that there are some things you can’t measure and therefore have to rely on other inputs, but at the same time there are a whole bunch of things that you can measure but some choose not, or choose not to take the action, leaving them with no measure and no success.

    One example is prospecting, more specifically for many lead gen and lead conversion to appointments and then prospects.  If you follow this blog, you know that I believe in allocating time, and managing activities, rather than the simple notion of managing time.  When we work with sales teams we ask them early on what they need to allocate time to, and prospecting is always on the list, we then ask how much of their time by percentage they should be allocating to prospecting, on average we end up with a number around 30%.

    This raises a couple of red flags for me, first, while they say 30%, they rarely do 30%, always finding some other “important” things that have to get done.  Second, it also tells me they have no clue, because they neither do it nor track.

    With most of the same groups, we implement a process of tracking their activities, and what we find is that after a month or so, those who prospect habitually, can drive enough appointments in much less time.  First thing they have to know what “enough” is, this can be easily arrived at by working backwards from their goal to understand what that number is based on their own conversion rates along critical parts of their sale.

    Assuming a 45-hour week, for most successful B2B sales people that would be a short week, but let’s pretend, 30% would equate to 13.5 hours or 2.7 hours per day.  Seems like a big chunk of time, no wonder many in sales avoid it, especially if they can go squeeze their base for some “growth”.  But once they actually begin a regiment of prospecting, implement a methodology, in the case of Renbor’s clients, ours.  What we find is that a vast majority, over 80%, can get to their required number of appointment or new prospects, whichever makes more sense to measure based on their business, in considerably less time than the 13.5 hours they may have “guessed” before they adopt the approach.

    Knowing this encourages them to actually do it consistently, while at the same time freeing up time to complete other important parts of their sales, parts they thought they like more.

    So next time someone brings up the concept of measuring what you do execute, don’t get all defensive, they are not looking to micro manage you, or as some have told me “cramp their style”.  Metrics or measures are primarily a way to improve your game.  Adopt a methodology that makes sense for your product and market, measure key elements, and implement a program to continuously improve your game.  Now if you have no game, and fail to take steps to improve it, then measure could be your undoing.

    What’s in Your Pipeline?
    Tibor Shanto

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    Reports of the Death of the Salesperson Are Greatly Exaggerated17

    The Pipeline Guest Post – Craig Rosenberg

    At Dreamforce, Tibor and I presented at the InsideView booth. My presentation, “Customer 2.0, ” focused on how the buyer has changed and has more power than ever before. The new buyer interacts with an organization when he or she is ready (not before), does the vast majority of research online without the vendor’s help, is distracted, and so forth. Focus.com CEO Scott Albro coined the saying, “Always be helping is the new always be closing.” I still love that quote, flipping Glengarry on its head. I use it all the time and get tweeted, compliments, etc. So, why am I talking about this? Tibor called me a week later and asked if I believe the role of the salesperson is diminished. Tibor may have been right about how my presentation came across, but he was wrong about how I feel about salespeople in the modern Customer 2.0 era.

    I would argue that the salesperson is more important than ever. Let me clarify: I would argue that the highly trained, effective salesperson is more important than ever. Here are some of the keys to understanding the new buyer, why sales is important, and what you can do about it:

    1.    Buyers have no time for anything that sucks, including the salesperson. Part of the Customer 2.0 era is choice. The buyer has more choices than ever before, and that includes choosing to talk to your salesperson. I can tell you this from my own personal experience. I am so busy, I can’t see straight. When I get a bad salesperson, it’s like buying a ticket for a bad movie with a lousy date. You are stuck, and the only way to get out is to leave (which may or may not work).

    What you should do: Nothing new here — keep your crew well-trained in professionalism, product, and market. Buyers want to have an intelligent two-way conversation, and this won’t happen with some over-cologned “closer.” Fully trained intellectual equals is the name of the game here, folks. Make sure they can bring it in the right way. No, it doesn’t mean you need to be a “wuss.” I understand you still need to get the order, but the route to getting the order requires salespeople who can converse appropriately, from the top of the funnel to the bottom.

    2. Buyers want to be helped, not closed; see quote above. Remember, today’s buyer has access to information like never before. If you take the website I represent, Focus.com, for example, buyers can ask for information they want/need and get it from third-party sources or peers. Now, you can take that as a threat, or you can embrace the change and change your approach. Buy your team the T-shirt: Trusted Advisorship: now more than ever!

    What you should do: Arm the sales team with buyer-helpful content that they can both speak to and provide for the client. Create campaigns for the sales team that, rather than offering “once-in-a-lifetime” discounts or “check-in,” instead offer a report with valuable data. Don’t hold it back, give it away. That is how you build trust. Also, train the sales team on the buyer funnel, not just the sales funnel. That way they can determine where the buyer is in their process and provide the kind of content that will help the buyer get to the next step (versus sending the buyer a ZIP file with all your data sheets).

    3. Buyers buy from people they like (and respect). This is old school yet totally real. Think the salesperson is dead? Ask buyers that. No one hates salespeople, they hate annoying, over-the-top salespeople who have no idea about what they are selling.

    What you should do: Get your sales team “in the mix.” Everyone thinks of social selling as a way to understand the prospect (it is), but it is also important to think about social selling in terms of your online persona. There are simple steps you can take, such as having salespeople keep their LinkedIn profiles up-to-date (think the buyer doesn’t check it as they are talking to you or before you come if for a call? Guess again). Twitter: Get the sales team following the mavens in your industry and retweet them, interact with them, and then teach them to connect with prospects. They will see the salesperson as someone who gets it. Should they blog? That to me is slippery slope; see David Brock’s great post on this. The answer to me is: It depends. Remember, if you write it, they will read it. Put another way: If you don’t want a prospect to read it, don’t write it. Long form is different than Twitter. I do believe salespeople can and should write blog posts about their market or selling in general if they are thoughtful and articulate. If you write a post on “How to Close a Mark,” you will lose 75 percent of your deals; but if you write a post on “Understanding the Buyer,” you look smart.

    4.    Buyers want to be understood. At Focus.com, we have been polling buyers for the past six years. The overwhelming message in their advice is that sales must understand their unique needs. I know, I’m not going to take credit for inventing solution selling, but it is important to note that this is part of becoming the Trusted Advisor. This all ties together; to win in the long-term, you have to earn respect. If you can’t even figure out what keeps buyers awake at night, you have failed. This is an age-old adage, I feel bad writing it. But I do think I have to write because our polls tell us the buyer isn’t seeing it in this new buyer-centric selling environment.

    What you should do: I really shouldn’t be the one recommending that you train your reps on whom to ask questions. However, I have some other recommendations: Have you read all the marketing blogosphere stuff on buyer personas? Those are as much for sales as they are for marketing. Arm sales with an understanding of the types of buyers they will meet and what type of content and conversations are needed to propel them through the buyer funnel.

    Is the salesperson dead? No, the salesperson is as important as ever — but he or she must be better than ever.

    About Craig Rosenberg

    Craig is the leader of the Focus Expert Network, his team is in charge of recruiting, retaining, and managing the amazing Experts that fuel our site.

    Craig is also the author of the popular b2b sales and marketing blog, the Funnelholic (www.funnelholic.com).  He focuses on b2b sales marketing across the entire funnel from demand generation to overall marketing to sales process and organization.

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    Planning for the Obvious5

    Time is the great equalizer, every day we all get 24 hour, consisting of 60 minute no matter who or where you are. As we have spoken in the past, you can seek all the sage advice, old school, new school, school 2.0, or even the ultra-hip and modern social school, nothing will change the fact, you can slice and dice it, digitize it, but you can’t manage it.  Do what you will; it’s still 24 hours, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.

    What you can do, is understand how much time you need to apply to which specific tasks. With that, you can then allocate the time needed to complete those tasks successfully on a consistent basis, and then spend the allocated time actually executing and completing the task at hand.

    Read On…

    What’s in Your Pipeline?
    Tibor Shanto

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