Welcome to The Pipeline.

3 Ways To Reduce Friction In A Cold Call – Sales eXchange – 10418

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Let’s begin by stating clearly that cold calling is alive, doing well as part of an overarching client acquisition process that includes other elements such as referrals and inbound marketing; in fact the only time it does not work is when you don’t do it, which is why it doesn’t work for many who choose not to do it.  But if you are one of the ones who do, and are looking to improve, here are three things, in no specific order,  you can do, or improve if you are already using these techniques.

1.    Know whom you are calling! – Sounds simple, but you’d be surprised.  I still see many people call, as well as receive calls from sales people who start the conversation by asking: “can you tell me who is in charge of your receivables?”  (Or insert any function).  It takes so little to find out who you should be talking to, but it pays so many dividends.

First, just by asking for the right person by name, shows that you have invested a minimal amount time and effort in advance of the call.  Second, people respond to their names, if you want their attention, you need to shift their focus from what they were involved in when the phone rang, to the call; using their name to grab their attention before jumping into the rest of the call can be part of the difference.

2.    Be specific, speak their language – Building on the above, know what they do, not just in terms of the company, but what they, their role, and department contribute to the success of their company.  Speak specifically to that, nothing else; if they see you as fitting in to their current flow, you have the opportunity to engage, if it is outside of that flow, you’re toast, white bread and burnt!

We have heard it before, but this is not the time to speak about yourself or your company, the people who care about that are not on the call.  Really, you want to succeed, forget about you and your company, no one cares that you are the “Senior Account Manager”, no one cares that you are a Fortune 500 company, not on this call.  What they care about is the age old “What’s in it for me (my company)”.  So stick to that, what have others in their role or position, accomplished using your offering?  Deliver the meat they crave, and deliver it flavoured in a way they like and are willing to pay for.  This means using their jargon, their reference points, their metrics, in the scenery that they live in.  You can find this by looking at what specific value your current and past customers have realised with your offering.  The upside is not only will you have great talking points, but also find that you have some great testimonials that you’ll be able to leverage in a number of ways.

3.    Project confidence, it is infectious – One of the reasons sales people get rejected on cold calls is because they ask for it.  They don’t come out and say it –”please reject me”, but just about everything else they do suggests that.  As the recipient of the call is evaluating whether the interruption merits their time and attention, one of the factors is the confidence you project, not only in the call, and in the way your offering can help based on point 2., above.   In addition, your overall confidence is key, no one wants to deal with a submissive, milli-mouthed, cap in hand talking advert for their company.  This is most important in dealing with objections, contrary to popular belief, objections are not rejection, in most cases, when the call is handled right to that point, objections are an opportunity to create genuine dialogue.  If like most sales people you treat it as a rejection, and begin to “defend” and push back, you come across as weak and lacking confidence, and the ability to articulate the value you potentially offer.  Your lack of confidence distracts from the conversation, you may think you are being polite and respectful, but you’re not.  You are coming across as weak and lacking confidence, and no one wants to deal with someone like that, especially when you are an unknown alternative to something they already have.

The above are a start, and need to be practiced, and constantly improved, but as you master them, you will see opportunities to tackle other barriers to prospecting success.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


Objection Handling13

Focus Roundtable:

Objection Handling — What the Experts Recommend

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Earlier this month, on June 6, I had the opportunity to participate in a Focus Roundtable: Objection Handling – What the Experts Recommend.  The other people on the panel were Ellen Bristol, and Dave Brock, the Roundtable was hosted by Mr. Funnelholic himself, Craig Rosenberg.

The topic speaks for itself, and there was a good discussion around the cause for objections, how to manage, and the reality that there is life and sales, after objections!

You can listen to the discussion by clicking here, and on the same page, you can download the transcript.

Enjoy, and be on the lookout for part 2 soon, if there are no objections.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


Walk Away Before You Start – Sales eXchange – 10320

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Last week I met with a rep, Mike, I had been working with for a bit, usually very relaxed and upbeat, he seemed out of sort and unfocused.  When we got around to why, it turned out he had an appointment with a prospect, first meeting, at 10:00 am that morning, he was there a few minutes to, the receptionist announced him, and said the prospect would be a couple of minutes.

After some 10 minutes of thumbing through magazines and annual reports, he looked at the receptionist who understood his gaze, picked up the phone and rang the target again, and told Mike that it would only be a few more minutes.  At 10:20 Mike was beginning to worry as he had a 12:00 not far away, but he didn’t want to rush or be late.

At 10:30, he walked up to the receptionist, enquiring about the prospect, she sent him an e-mail, he responded as he had to the previous two.  He finally did present himself at 10:50, offering little more than “I’m sorry for the delay”.  Needless to say the meeting did not go well, Mike did not get a next step, and was off his game going into the 12:00 meeting.

I don’t think Mike liked it when I told him the fault was his.  He neither respected nor valued his own time.  Mike is not alone in this; many reps do the same, when they confuse service with subservience.  There is a point at which you need to walk away from a situation.  Many reps have learned this when it comes to negotiations, but not in other parts of the sales.

When it comes to negotiations, you set a walk away price or set of terms, and when that is crossed you walk away.  It should be the same for other things in sales, one of which is disrespect.  I asked Mike if his prospect had a real emergency to attend to, he said no, he had asked both the receptionist and the prospect.  The prospect said he was catching up with a colleague who had been traveling and did not realize how much time went by.

My own personal line is 15 minutes, at that which time I make a specific enquiry as to the reason for the delay (in a polite and professional way, not in a seething manor), if there isn’t, I simply say “please Mr./Mrs./Ms. Late contact  me to reschedule.”  I don’t know if 15 minutes is the right number for everyone, it is the number that has worked for me.

I do not believe Mike would be any further behind had he left.  In fact, I think he would be ahead, having his self-respect and his wits going into the next meeting.  Further, Mike has a lot of good opportunities in his pipeline, so missing out on this prospect would have less impact than the aggravation he felt by waiting and getting nothing.  As always, this works best when you have other opportunities, if not, then you may have to wait and grovel.  So set your limits fill your pipeline with real opportunities, and you won’t have to be aggravated or subservient.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


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

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