Welcome to The Pipeline.

I’m Not Perfect, But39

I had some good feedback on the post Monday about Commitment, and I had one reader who took offence at the statement I made about sales people being perfectionists, and using that as an excuse not to take action.  Specifically I said: “reps who refuse to do anything till they have a complete “picture”, yet it is never complete because there is always “just one more thing”.”

The reader’s view is that perfection is something to strive for, and should be strived for by every sale person.  I agree with the notion, or desire to improve and perfect, but not if it prevents you from getting started.  I am sure others have said it, but I remember it from Robert M. Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance“, “life is a journey, not a destination”.  This is true in sales, while the results count, it is the steps you take as a sales professional that count in making the result what it is, no steps, no results.  It’s one thing to strive for perfection, it is another to wait for it.

It is also true that we learn from our mistakes, and while I am not advocating making mistakes for the sake of learning, you need to get started and do things if you are going to make mistakes to learn from.  Sure being perfect is one way to avoid these lessons, sales only seem perfect once you take action, again, not by waiting for it.

This is neither new or unique in business, think back to the dot com heyday,  how many imperfect products were introduced, and improved once in the market.  At the same time think of how many great ideas died on the white board, died waiting for the last tiniest element to come together, sadly never did, and they never saw the light of day (or an IPO).  While we have all been willing participants in beta launches, we have all been unwilling victims of products that were “formally launched” and then perfected (or at least patched).

The key is that yes it is our role as professionals to do our best, doing the best by the buyer, but best does not equal perfect.  Best is better, because it recognizes that you can execute, learn and improve; perfect is just perfect, you can get better, but you can’t get more perfect.  The key is that you execute, do and improve.  How many great sales plans are gathering dust on a shelf because someone is waiting for that last ingredient that will make the perfect.

So I stand by the statement that some sales people use the “quest for perfection” as a rationale for not executing, instead of using execution as a means towards the elusive goal of perfection.  I am not perfect, but I sell well, and will continue to improve through execution.  Don’t worry about mistakes, worry about not taking the opportunity to make them.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Commitment – Sales eXchange – 11443

There are many reasons for the lack of execution by sales reps, one common reason is paralysis by analysis, reps who refuse to do anything till they have a complete “picture”, yet it is never complete because there is always “just one more thing”.   Pricing and product related issues are always convenient rationale.  But likely the biggest obstacle, and easiest to address is commitment, or a lack thereof.

One individual who is committed, will accomplish infinitely more than 100 people with great intent.   It is this same factor that distinguishes a few sales people from most.  Let’s face it, most sales people know exactly what they have to do to succeed in sales, but they don’t;  the problem is that many just won’t do what they have to.  Some factors are in the hands of the sales rep, some in the hands of the employer.

The employer is responsible for things such as product, tools, and structure; but the key thing the employer is responsible for is providing the skills training necessary for their reps to be able to execute and succeed.  The rep too is responsible for a number of things, but none more important than the willingness to do what has to be done to deliver sales.

Just to be clear I am not suggesting “do anything at all cost to get the sale”, but those things their process dictates, right across the cycle, not just the parts they like.  This is why we continue to focus on execution, the last word in sales, and why everything else is just talk.  Whether that talk is about price, the quality or competitiveness of your product, market conditions, or the cycle of the moon.  The reality is that even with all those things stacked against you, you could navigate through a sales when you initiate execution.

After all, action follows action, and inaction leads to, well actually, nothing.  It may be that the end result is that you disqualify the prospect, but at least you acted, and created the result, rather than the opportunity passing you by because you didn’t act.

Of course commitment is difficult without a plan, process, and a review mechanism, all of which require work, and a lack of ego.  Ego that gets in the way of our ability to face things we are not always ready to face.  A lack of a specific skill, the need to develop how we interview prospects, inability to deal with objectives; this involves preparing, putting into practice, reviewing, implementing change, and executing again.   All of which adds up to work, which again, involves commitment.  So you can do what many do, go through the motions and rationalize, or you can commit to putting in the time and effort it takes to act and deliver.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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“But we’re not IBM”47

The Pipeline Guest Post – Trevor Stevens

If you are in sales and your mandate is to sell to companies within your geographical territory, you have probably faced a scenario similar to the one that follows.  Your company’s products and related services are utilized by companies of all types and sizes, Fortune 50 to mom and pop basement operations.  Copiers as an example, you may refer to document management at one end, and sell copiers to the other end.

In the process of prospecting a small business, you bring up a recognizable Fortune 50 company as a point of reference.  Could be something as simple as “our clients include IBM, Exxon, and Pepsi”.  At which point the prospect interjects and says, “ya, but we’re not IBM, don’t have their budget, don’t have their needs”.  We’ve all been there, and the astute among us quickly learn to develop a different approach based on the company we are selling, “note to self – don’t use big clients when selling small companies; don’t use small company reference when selling to multinational enterprise”.  Doesn’t make sense, doesn’t serve a purpose, and could cause fatal disconnect.

It was with this lesson in mind that I had to laugh at a blog post I read earlier this week lamenting the extremely low number of sales organizations having a formal approach for engagement through social media. (Bridging the Massive Social Media Gap Between Sales and Marketing)  Apparently, only 11% of companies in the report they were discussing had a formal approach, while at the same time 82% of the companies had a formalized approach for their marketing teams.  For some reason the blogger was surprised at this, mentioning how IBM is leveraging social selling.

I sell to mostly small to medium business, my customers are successful, resilient, and they sell real products to real people, and in their own way are innovative in their approach.  When I talk to them about social media, they understand it, many use things like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other leading social site for their personal use.  But, when I ask them how it fits in to their business, they reflect the stats above, they see little value in it, mostly because their customers are not there.  Sure they connect with customers on LinkedIn, but few of those are on LinkedIn or they are there with a sparse, incomplete and out of date profile.  Their revenue is generated in traditional ways, they are able to create 1:1 relationships directly with their customers, they do not see the need for a social intermediary.

Maybe this is what the large and faceless companies are trying to compensate for, using social sites to have a pretend 1:1 relationship; sadly, it becomes a 1: many approach, how 1:1 can it be when Dell’s Facebook page has over 700,000 fans, which one is the blogger?

I am not saying there is no value, what I am saying is that vast majority of B2B buyers and sellers are not as connected or plugged in as the bleeding edge folks.  Specifically SMB, which makes up the vast majority of businesses in the USA.  For a great view on SMB, Social Media and internet marketing, just check out “SMB’s, social media and reality intersect” a post earlier this year on the SMEBS-B2B Blog.  No doubt SMB needs to and will get to where IBM may be is vis-à-vis social media, but for the moment, they are serious when they say “hey, we’re not IBM!”

As business people they are pragmatic and follow the money, and most of the business owners and their sales reps tell me that for the most part it is not yet leading them to the social sites, specifically their customers are not there, remember there is a difference between a business buyer making B2B purchases and a B2C consumer; that difference adds up to different expectations, realities and results.

The reality is that when you get beyond the largest companies, or the companies that have to play in the social space due to their nature, most B2B sales people do not use or need to use social media, mostly because their customers are not there, yet, they’re busy working.

Again, this is not to say that there is no value there, it is just not at the mass level some want it to be.  Think back to the first go around of the internet, yes some jumped on early, but most small to medium businesses lagged.  And let’s not forget that small to medium business make up the majority of the market for small to medium companies that sell to them.  They will get there, but it is usually when the money leads them there.  Until then, you need to remember that “we’re not IBM”.

About Trevor Stevens

Trevor is a sales professional in numerous universes, but spends the majority of his time selling in this one.  While not a blogger he does contribute when he has something to say.

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What Causes Cash Flow Drama?27

A while back, I had the opportunity to both interview Marlene Chism, the author of Stop Workplace Drama, and review her book.  At the same time, Marlene asked if I would speak to her blog readers about sales and drama.  We had a great discussion on sales, What Causes Cash Flow Drama? and other related topics around how an effective proactive approach to sales can reduce dram in a number of ways.

Below is the audio of that interview.

For more great insight on reducing workplace drama visit Marlene Chism’s Stop Workplace Drama, while you are there you can also learn more about Marlene’s book.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Labouring Sales – Sales eXchange – 11337

While most think of Labour Day as the last gasp if summer, back to school, and getting back to work, for many labourers it is a time of celebration and recognition. Most sales people don’t see themselves as part of this event, after-all sales is a white collar job, and Labour Day is for blue collar or unionized workers (although there still many sales people who are in unions).

And it is perhaps this view that holds some attaining their full potential, the feeling that sales does not involve labour.  I still see hiring managers trying to paint a picture to new recruits that is far from accurate.  The notion that sales is easy and does not involve heavy work is just false.  This true if you are social seller, a 2.0 type of person or just an old school sales rep.

Yet if you look at the top sales people in most organization, they understand that it does take hard work to consistently succeed in sales.  No matter how high tech, leading edge, or cool your offering, it take a steady and concerted effort to deliver.  It may not be heavy lifting in the same way a warehouse person may experience, but there is heavy lifting to be done.  Especially at the front end of the process where you need to reach out and engage; just look at all the offerings out there that purport to take the sting and effort out of it.

So enjoy this day, spend some extra time with the kids as they head back to school, and consider how you will labour and do some heavy lifting to maximize your returns from the harvest season to come.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Presenting to Donald Trump51

The Pipeline Guest Post – Robert Terson

“Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back in the same box.”
Italian Proverb

Architect Barry Thalden, hotel and casino designer and one of my dearest friends for the past 50 years, tells of presenting a proposal to Donald Trump: “I managed to arrange a meeting with Donald Trump.  We met in what later became the infamous Board Room on his TV show The Apprentice.  My presentation was on slides.  As I started to set up my projector, he immediately objected.  Undaunted, I told him it would only take a few minutes and would fully explain the opportunity I’d come to show him.  Once the presentation began he interrupted me several times, trying to rush me along; each time I told him I was just getting to the part he wanted to know about.  I’d come all the way to New York to see him; I was going to do it my way, come hell or high water.  I wasn’t going to chicken out, be intimidated because he was Donald Trump.  When the presentation was over he said, ‘I can’t believe you got me to sit through your entire presentation—my rule for meetings is 12 minutes and out.’  As you know, I got the job.”  If Thalden can stand his ground with an egomaniac like Trump, you can do the same with anyone—if, like Thalden, you’re fearless.

The question you must face first, though, is Why do people of wealth and status intimidate you, in a way “normal” prospects don’t?  (Remember, we’re being honest with ourselves, folks.)  Why is achieving equality with them more difficult for you?  Is the difference rooted in how they perceive you or how you perceive them?  The answer is within you, of course.  Your perspective filter subconsciously tells you that their wealth and status makes you subservient to them and you act accordingly.  You surrender your power to them almost instinctively, for no good reason.  A master salesperson will not make that foolish “choice”; he will demand—yes, “demand” is the perfect word—equality, and will use that equality to win over and serve that prospect to the best of his ability.  If you want to be a top-tier professional, you must do the same.  Make a point of this: surrender your power to no-one.

About Robert Terson

Robert Terson spent 40 years fearlessly selling advertising to small businesspeople; his passionate purpose as an author and speaker is to enlighten and inspire you to be a far better salesperson than you are now.  You can learn more about Robert and his book at http://www.sellingfearlessly.com.

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Preparing for Sales Success – Part 244

Last week in my conversation with Michael Bird, Chief Revenue Officer at NetProspex, and I began a discussion about what sales as a group, and individual sales people can do to better prepare to win.  Understanding and leveraging specific value your clients derive, not just looking at and reviewing why you lost deals, but engaging with the buyer to learn how you can improve factor it into product and future sales.   Using the “None sales call – Sales call” not only to engage, but to build relationships that pay future dividends.  Demonstrating and leveraging the “Deep bench” as a key differentiator.  The value of 3D and 4D, and other golden nuggets that will help you win sales within minutes of watching the video below.


As always, we value your feedback, it’s free, it’s good, keeps you regular.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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It’s Your Job to be Persistent – Sales eXchange – 11267

One attribute that many sales people lack is persistence, what’s worse, is that this flaw is encouraged and perpetuated by their managers.  It presents itself all too often when you talk to sales B2B people, sometimes subtly, “I don’t like to be salesie” (boy did you pick the wrong profession); or when they say that they don’t want to be “pushy”.

Well how do you define pushy?  Most sales people will tell you anything over three tries is pushy.  When you ask them for the timeframe involved, they don’t really know, they just tell you “three times, and I move on”.  Often when you probe a bit further you find out that they usually try once a week, so it is three tries in three weeks, and they move on.  What a waste.

In these days of smaller work forces dealing with the same workload that existed when they were fully staffed, compressed time frames and reduced resources, it can take a bit of effort to get a prospect’s attention.   Most studies show that it takes anywhere from 4 to 7 touch points for a potential prospect to get engaged around an idea; some will even go as high as 11 or 12 touch points.  So the “three shots move on approach” is useless, and waiting a week between calls is worse than useless, it is disastrous.

Others in the client acquisition process understand this, you can see examples of this with the most recognizable brands, just witness how many iPad 2 commercials you see; look at the number of times Salesforce.com pops up in ads on sales related web pages or searches .  They understand the need to be persistent, and execute accordingly; whether it is the way marketing designs campaigns or manages lead nurturing programs, always persistent in their approach.  Yet when sales is handed a vetted lead, they squander it by easing up on the persistence.

I say to sales people with confidence that the injunction order is a lot further off than they think, or want to make excuses for, they need to be more persistent.  Use voice mail, e-mail, social media, and more.  You may call someone three times, but if they are an e-mail type, it is falling on deaf ears.  When I decide to campaign someone, I touch them at least six times in two weeks.  A voice mail Monday, another Wednesday, if I have not heard back by Wednesday end of day, I’ll send them an e-mail, telling them that I am sorry we have not been able to connect, but fear not, I will call tomorrow at 11:00.  I don’t expect them to be there every time, but if I call at 11:00, can demonstrate that I follow up on my commitment, and set expectations for when we do engage.  That’s four touch points by Thursday, and I don’t think I am close to an injunction order.  Two or three calls in the following week, and presto, seven touch points, and an impressed prospect.

This may not be comfortable for everyone, and that is why we have the 80/20 rule.  But as you pick the concept apart and rationalize matters, consider two specifics.  First, if you give up after three tries and your prospect kick in on the fourth try, which means your competitor will score on their first call, because for the prospect it is the fourth touch on the same topic.  Second, I have had several executives tell me that they routinely ignore the first few calls, because they know the weak will wither, and what’s left are those with the confidence and conviction to do what they have to engage with them.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

More than a Sale51

The Pipeline Guest Post – John Kearney

Go from Seller to Strategic Advisor

I’m Bill the Buyer.  And I’m mad as hell.

My sales rep recently sold me the top of the line, lowest price product that would speed up my operations and limit my liability.  It did everything he said it would do.  The results were just as he had guaranteed.  My division’s expenditures went down and profits were up.

So why, when it came time for my promotion was I passed over for Ian from IT?  His costs had not been cut, his profits had not improved as dramatically as mine and his staff had not seen the same level of production.  Last week Ian brought in all of the division managers and gave us his vision.

Ian told us about Sandra the Super Sales Rep.  Sandra had been helping Ian position IT for the future.  Her company’s sales training had focused on helping customers find emerging markets, gaps in an industry’s solutions to challenges and areas where IT should be entering in order to take advantage of the latest and most sustainable trends.  Ian felt bad for Sandra.  Sometimes she would leave a meeting without having even tried to sell him anything.  She had simply come in, given advice, listened to Ian’s ideas, and left.

About a month ago Ian asked Sandra what her sales strategy was all about and why it seemed as though she was acting as more of an advisor than a salesperson.  She told me her sales training had taught her that if she could solve corporate strategic problems the sales would follow.  Simple enough.  Her sales management taught her that there were four questions that every sales person should work with customers to answer.

1. Who is the customer?  If your customer doesn’t know his company’s mission, vision for the future and strategic goals, help that person understand.  It’s important to read the CEO’s Letter to the Shareholders or internal memos that illustrate the CEOs plans for the company.  Ian dug into the financial statements to find out how he could position his department to align with these interests.
2. Does the customer have the resources that support these goals?  If the goal is revenue growth then the resources should be effective and high quality to ensure maximum growth.  If the goal is profitability the resources should be efficient, with a balanced approach of cheaper resources that can still produce the same (or greater) level of output.  Ian had to rethink the tools he was purchasing to ensure that he could match the growth for which the CEO was looking.
3. Is the market the customer is in ideal?  There may be a need to purchase resources differently if the customer needs to enter new markets and cater to new demographics.  Ian recognized that more established companies were worried about liabilities and were used to spending more to ensure high quality.
4. How can the resources the customer purchases ensure that they will have a competitive advantage?  The customer should understand what value they add to their market that the competition does not.  Ian knew who the competition was but could not state what value he added that his competition did not.

Ian worked with Sandra to ensure that they were bringing in the right products that could support the goals of the entire organization.  This was noticed by the CEO and so here we are today.  As I begin this journey myself to ensure that my division is in line with corporate vision I’m looking for more suggestions on how I can use business acumen to position my division for success.  Any additional recommendations?

About John Kearney

John Kearney serves as a Consultant at Sales Benchmark Index (SBI), a professional services firm focused exclusively on sales force effectiveness.  He focuses on sales strategy and utilizing social media to increase corporate visibility and revenue.

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Preparing for Sales Success – Part 136

A couple of weeks ago I posted the first in a series of conversations with Michael Bird, Chief Revenue Officer with NetProspex.  The primary focus of the conversation is on various aspects of and best practices in B2B selling.  Today’s segment is the first of two dealing with what the B2B rep can do to be better prepared to achieve consistent sales success.

Beyond automation, tools, and other resources available to sales professionals today, it still is the responsibility of the rep to be sure they are ready and willing to fully engage with a potential buyer, we examine a few here, some next week, but we are also curious as to what you do to be better prepared.  Take a look at the video, and then participate in the discussion mentioned below.

Quick technical note, due to unforeseen challenges, some of the audio may be a bit (slightly) shaky here and there, but the content more than makes up for it.

So, here is the question, “How much time do you spend getting ready for a sales meeting?”  I once read somewhere that you need to prepare at least an hour for every ten minutes of presentation you are to deliver, and one would think that a sales meeting/interview may be more demanding, so the question is what do you do to specifically prepare for a successful sales call?  You can answer in the comment area below or join the discussion on Facebook.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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