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Plus/Minus – Sales eXchange – 8019

One of the many statistic that hockey types track (hey I am Canadian,) is a player’s Plus/Minus.  Simply speaking, when an even-strength or shorthanded goal is scored, every player on the ice for the team scoring the goal is credited with a “plus.” Every player on the ice for the team scored against gets a “minus.”   Over the course of a season or subsets of it, a player’s number is arrived at by subtracting the Minuses from the Pluses.  A player with an overall Plus, is considered to be among other things a positive contributor, and those with an overall Minus, well not that great.  Not a perfect measure, but an interesting one sales people should consider using.

As sales professionals, everything we do should positively contribute to attaining revenue, and therefore a Plus.  Things we do that do not directly or indirectly result in revenue generation, a Minus.  While the measure in sales is considerably more open to subjectivity than in hockey, it is still worth considering how our actions either contribute to, or detract from success.  Are we contributing positively, or just wasting of time without much positive impact.  It is always good to remember that time is the great equalizer, we all start out with 1440 minutes each and every single day, the question always becomes how well we utilize those precious minutes. 

Since we are at the start of the “season” (at least most with companies with calendar fiscals), it is a good time to give this measure some attention, especially since the ultimate goal is to be in the positive.  Once you conquer and manage that on a consistent basis, you have the opportunity to strive for continuous improvement, a continuingly higher Plus score.

To begin the process you need three simple things, a sheet of paper, a pencil, and some brutal honesty.  Why the brutal honesty? because you will have to determine if the action you have just taken, contributes to revenue generation, or not.  Just to help you out a bit, watching one of the SellBetter videos on You Tube, is a Plus, watching “GASSY PETS!”, a Minus. 

I am not suggesting that it should be nose to the grindstone all day long, not only would that hurt, but it is not the intent or a means of achieving a Plus score.  The beauty of +/-, is that it looks at the overall picture, not the blow-by-blow.  I remember reading somewhere that sales people are only productive 23% of their working time, which seemed low, later I found out that things like driving to the prospects office were excluded from productive time.  On the other hand, there a whole bunch of things we do that measurably cut into our prime time, and reduce our sales effectiveness.

So get your pencil and paper, and for the next week or two, track your activities and then mark each one as either a Plus, contributed to real revenue generation; or Minus, no did not contribute to revenue generation, or in fact may have impeded it.  The goal here is to achieve an overall Plus score, not to make you a dull sales robot (there are enough of those already), with every activity scoring a Plus.  Yes, it is OK to occasionally buy tickets online from the office for the “Big Show”; but you need to be cognisant of the fact that it needs to be balanced and out done by more Plus activities.

The measure is simple and certainly not foolproof, but as in hockey, it is one of a number of metrics that help you understand where you are, and steps you can take to improve.  As in hockey you also don’t have to go it alone to create the necessary change, you can include your coach or peers in helping you stay on track and be accountable for you actions and outcomes.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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A Little Bit of Combativeness19

The Pipeline Guest Post – S. Anthony Iannarino

Last week I started a new feature of weekly guest posts, with some great insights about the state of B2B sales in 2011. 

Today we have our first blogger, S. Anthony Iannarino, a fellow member of the Sales Bloggers Union, and winner of the 2010 Sales Blog in the annual Top Sales World Sales Awards.

First, I am honored that Mr. Shanto offered me the honor of being the first of his 52 guest posts in 2011. We are of the same opinion on a good many things. Because that is so, I couldn’t help but pull this idea off the editorial calendar for this post (especially since the two of us have collectively taken some heat for using terms like blood sport (mine) and predatory (his) when we talk about sales).

A Little Bit of Fight In ‘Em!

Two real gentlemen in this game, Kelley Robertson (http://www.fearless-selling.ca/blog/can-nice-guys-transform-into-hunters/) and Mike Weinberg, wrote last week on whether or not a nice guy can win in sales as a hunter (Mike’s thoughts are in the comments). I am weighing in for the sales-is-a-zero-sum-game side of this argument.

You can be a nice guy and still be a hunter. But you have to be a nice guy (or a nice lady) with a little bit of fight in you. You have to have enough combativeness in you to want to compete and to win. You cannot easily accept no for an answer when you are pursuing your dream client in a crowded marketplace where others are going to fight like Hell to win the same opportunities.

This starts with prospecting. You can be a nice person and take the first “no” your dream client gives you as their answer, picking up the phone and making another call only to repeat the cycle. You can also be a nice person with a little bit of combativeness in you, a little bit of fight, and you can compelling make your case as to why you deserve an opportunity to help them and how you will make the time you are asking meaningful for them.

If you aren’t going to argue the case for you, you cannot expect your dream client or anyone else to believe that you are passionate about what you do and how much you will fight to help them. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t nice. It doesn’t mean you aren’t professional or polite. It does mean you are a little scrappy.

All through the sales cycle you encounter obstacles that must be overcome in order to advance the opportunity. You have to have the courage to ask for what you need to win—even when your dream client may not want to give you what you need. Can you be nice and continue to ask? You sure can.

You can also be nice and not ask for what you need to win, instead accepting the loss. 

Conflicted by Conflict

Can you be effective while being completely averse to conflict? The answer, I am afraid, is no, you can’t (at least as it pertains to complex B2B sales or managment). The change initiatives that your client needs and that you sell require that you have the courage to have the difficult conversations. You have to be willing to deal with some conflict. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t nice; it means you aren’t afraid of getting a little dirty dealing with the big issues that your client expects you to deal with on their behalf.

Conflict and confrontation are very different ideas. Aggressive and assertive are very different ideas. Arguing your case and being argumentative are very different concepts with remarkably different outcomes. Combative is a bit hyperbolic, but I use that word because I don’t have a better word for someone with a little fight in them, someone willing to make a strong case on their own behalf.

When it’s all said and done, sales is still a zero sum game. Somebody wins the opportunity, and someone loses the opportunity. Usually the salesperson that is willing to fight for the opportunity until the bitter end wins. That salesperson is also almost always a nice guy . . . with a little bit of fight in ‘em.

About S. Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino, President and Chief Sales Officer for SOLUTIONS Staffing, a best-in-class staffing firm; and the Director of B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy.  You can follow him on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook.  He can also be reached at (614) 212-4729.

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Masterclass ReDo: 1:00 PM Eastern Saturday January 159

Execution – The Last Word In Sales

Back in December the gremlins of technology conspired against us and we had to postpone this Masterclass.  Well we are not about to be scared off or give up, so we are presenting it again this coming Saturday, January 15 at 1:00 pm Eastern. 

Think about it, Saturday, you can kick back, relax, nestle that iPad on your lap and tune into something entertaining that will also make you money in the process.  No boss, no cliennt calls, just you, me and the kids.

Join me Saturdayat 1:00 pm Eastern for this unique look at sales.

There are many great sales methodologies out there, SPIN, Miller Heiman, EDGE framework and others. No matter which dogma you choose to bite on, they all have one common weakness, as good as they look on the page, and they all need to be executed to matter.
The fact is that they usually fail for one simple reason, lack of execution. The sad truth is that sales people know what they have to do, they just don’t do it. You can train them, but can’t make them do it.  It’s the age old difference between the “doer and the thinker”, in sales, doers executes and win. 
This Masterclass will look at four key components of Execution.  Regardless of what approach you currently use, these four elements will help you move from Should to Do.
Are you looking for that silver bullet in sales? There are many great plans gathering dust on shelves, but the winning plans are the ones actually executed, everything else is just talk.  That is why Execution is – The Last Word In Sales.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Price – What’s in a Number?8

Price will always be a key component of any sale, but it does not have to be the only factor in a decision, unless you as a sales person let it. Based on the studies you read, price can be as much as 40% of the final decision; and with certain individuals, it could go higher. However, when you step back and examine things, what is price?

At its most basic, it is the numerical value, nothing more. As with any number, there is no good or bad number, there is only the relative aspect it represents. It brings to mind the old joke explaining the concept of how numbers are relative by pointing out that three hairs on your head are relatively few, but those same three hairs in your soup, well. Just like +1 is not better than -1, they both represent a relative distance from zero; just as when it is zero degrees outside, it does not mean that there is no temperature, it is just a point between -1 and +1, slightly colder if you measure things in Fahrenheit.

Read On…

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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“Did You Just Say…?” #130


I spend a lot of time talking to sales types, for the most part a great bunch of folks.  But every once in a while, they say something that causes you to do a double take and wonder (sometimes out loud) “Did you just say…?”  Sometimes these are stupid sayings, sometimes funny or even profound, but they are worth sharing. 

Rather than just letting these slip, or forgetting them, I will start sharing them under the above title.  No long stories, set ups, or morals, just something someone said to me while talking about sales or selling that deserve a shake of the head.  Rather than providing a visual and asking for the caption, I’ll give you the sound bite, you make of it what you like.

Don’t let me have all the fun, if you hear anything worth sharing, send it along, and I’ll post it.  (Remember just the saying, no long stories).

I was talking to a sales rep last week, when he said:

“My closing ratio is well over 100%”

See what I mean, what can you add to that?  You can’t make this up!

Tibor Shanto

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Discounting Discounts – Sales eXchange – 7921

Even as the economy improves, sales people face many challenges and pressure in executing their sales.  One that is present no matter what the economy is doing is pricing pressure, usually in the form of discounting.

Many sales people give in to the pressure just to get the sale, and it is easy to see why, give up a few points and get the deal, or the dark alternative.  The problem is that often those few discounted points could be the difference in the deal being break even, profitable or not.  Depending on the nature of your offering, length of commitment, there are scenarios where if planned, you can recover the amount discounted in subsequent years, but it has to be planned.  Most of the time, it is not planned, reps are put to the wall, rather than going in armed. 

Some reps will raise their initial price, building a buffer to be able to give a “discount”, and still meet their price.  Done right, for example using the WOW method, it can be done. The key to making it work, is knowing how you will change the deal on your side, changing the offering, or taking out components, to accommodate the demands they are making.

For example, there is a definite value to case studies in my business, assuming other aspects of the deal are in place, and someone is looking for a price concession, I may trade for one, if the discount demanded is too large, then not.

Anything shot of the above indicates one of three things:

1. The client can’t afford you – First lesson they teach you in real estate is don’t show a buyer something he can’t afford. The same is true in most sales, not every appointment is worth taking, and not every prospect is worth pursuing.  In most instances, you know it early in the process, but you give into your emotions and keep going.  Look if you need the practice fine, but remember, you’ll never get that time or money left on the table back.
2. Poorly executed sale – Assuming the buyer could afford it, and the value is there, then the only conclusion is that the value was not well communicated, impact and upside not demonstrated.  The why’s and how’s will vary, but the reality is we failed to execute the sale in a way that the buyer was able to grasp the value.
3. A lack of respect on the part of the buyer – This is the one that should upset sales people most, yet they put up with it.  If you conducted the sale properly, not only communicated the value, tying it to client requirements, including budget, then you have to conclude that the buyer has a lack of respect for you. Ask yourself, would they do that to someone they respect?  Would you?  If not then why would you put up with it?

Of course, if you read this blog regularly, you know that one way to avoid being put in the position is to have a robust and viable pipeline of prospects.  If you know you have alternatives you won’t put up with the kind of disrespect mentioned above.  The choice is simple, put a little effort into prospecting, or put up with the disrespect.

There you go, never thought the cure to discounting is prospecting, but it is one.

One final note of interest, I find from firsthand experience that people I cold call, people who are clearly in the Status Quo Zone, are the ones that have been least likely to play the discount game. Why you may ask?  Short answer they got the value, which is why they moved out of the Status Quo with you; long answer, that’s a post to come.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Sales Bloggers Union Say Good-Bye To…6

Over at the Sales Bloggers Union, we are off to another great year.  Not only do we have some great topics planned, but we have a host of new bloggers taking on these topics, as well as some of your favourite members of the Union.  The general theme this year is Probing The Provocative.  If you have read the Sales Bloggers Union, you know that you will have twelve or more insightful takes on any given topic, it is a great way to learn, explore alternative views, or just wave your hand in disgust while mumbling “what the hell is he talking about!” 

This month we each of us is saying Good-bye To something is sales that really needs to go, no really it is time be rid of?  well, find out by going to the Sales Bloggers Union.  Alright, I’ll give you a clue, I say Good-bye to the “Hyphenated-Sale”.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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What’s Ahead in B2B Selling for 2011?28

Today I start an exciting feature here at The Pipeline, a weekly guest post by leading figure in sales, social media, marketing and other areas of revenue enhancement.  These bloggers will be bringing their unique views on all aspects of sales.  I look forward to learning from them and participating in the discussion.  I ask you to jump in, comment, visit their blogs and explore further their views.

We have a very special start to this feature, with Dave Stein, CEO and Founder, ES Research Group, Inc.  Dave looks at sales from a very unique perch, and has great insights on sales, sales trends and sales training.  His piece is a great platform for not only launching this feature, with all the views to follow, but your sales year.  As always, I invite you to contribute to the discussion.


The Pipeline Guest Post – Dave Stein
CEO and Founder, ES Research Group, Inc.

It’s 2011, and most of the business people I’m regularly in touch with seem to feel the same way: we’re in an economic recovery, but there is no forward progress on the jobs front.  This is across most, but not all industries in which we work. With this anecdotal, but I believe reasonably predictive, data point, I’m relatively bullish on the coming year, at least as far as B2B selling prospects are concerned.

With that in mind, here is what you’ll see:

  • Negotiation Capabilities Will Increase. You’ll see significant new interest and investment in sell-side negotiation capabilities. Industry-leading companies have been doing this for some time. Some companies will opt for the generic Chester Karrass-type of program, which will get them a few steps in the right direction, but the companies that know they are on the wrong side of the negotiation power and capability curve are opting for a more strategic approach. That means building negotiation strategies and tactics right in to their overall selling process.
  • There Will Be Wider Adoption of Technology. Smart companies are making the right investments in technology-enabled learning and selling tools. They know that out-of-the-box CRM doesn’t help salespeople win business.  In fact, sales leaders who believe it does wind up accomplishing little more than automating the chaos that exists within their organizations.  What are available today, but not widely enough deployed, are specialized, front-end applications that sit on top of Salesforce.com and other CRM systems.  These tools, such as those from White Springs and The TAS Group, provide the foundation for embedded learning, coaching, and sales process automation. If implemented the right way this stuff works.  And more companies are finding that out.
  • Social Media Will Take Some Steps Toward Mainstream.  We’re in the midst of a social media hype cycle. Some social media proponents would have you think that every B2B salesperson must be selling through the new media some or all of the time.  It just isn’t so. However, during 2011 many salespeople will, a team at a time, begin to be trained on what is relevant and effective use of social media within their markets and with their customers.  You’ll see increased usage of:  Twitter, Chatter (Salesforce.com) and other micro-blogs; YouTube, Vimeo, SlideShare, blogs, and other thought-leadership publishing tools; and proven Sales 2.0 (non-social media) products from companies like Cloud 9, InsideView, and ZoomInfo.
  • A Surge in Coaching Will Support More Effective Selling.   In the past, coaching was one of the first items stripped from sales training budgets, if it was even included in the first place.  Many sales leaders, who appreciated the value of coaching with respect to the sports teams they root for, didn’t really understand what effective coaching is, and the impact it will have on their team’s performance. Coaching is a skill. It can be learned and measured. Effective coaching supports sales people in the adoption of and compliance with the behavioral change required to follow a (new) sales process. Coming into 2011, sales trainers have a new focus on coaching. More good news is that many sales training buyers are no longer willing to automatically cut coaching from their overall approach to sales effectiveness. So you’ll see a lot more attention to coaching in the form of articles, new service offerings from providers, and, on the buy-side, the willingness to spend money on process, training, and measurement around coaching.
  • You Will Need Very Compelling Answers to “How Are You Different?” Some of our clients are in a constant battle with their customers, struggling not to be commoditized. They fight for decisions to be made on something other than price. As 2011 begins, more than half of many customer buying cycles are complete before a salesperson’s first conversation with that customer, which means there is less time than ever before for the salesperson to make their case. Customers want to know how you’re different and what that means to them in financial and other terms. Clear, concise and compelling answers are what they are seeking.  Anything less will have you reading emails asking for nothing more than your best and final price.

After the last two years, I believe 2011 will be refreshing in that there will be more business.  The proverbial pie, which had shrunk significantly, is growing again. Now we have to focus on earning a bigger piece of that pie. You’ll see sales teams adopting the growth drivers I listed above outperforming their competition.

Dave Stein is CEO and Founder of ES Research Group, Inc. ESR maximizes the value of the relationship between the sales training buyer and the sales training provider through their knowledge base, experience, and guidance in making the right decision.  ESR’s approach to evaluating sales training providers enables corporations to select training partners who will most positively impact their sales performance.

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How Is Your Sales Process?19

While on some levels you can argue that the new year is an arbitrary marker of time, one of the benefits is the fact that it does encourage people to review, adjust and recommit to the way they you will succeed over the next 12 months.  One important aspect of sales to review and utilize consistently is your specific sales process.  Without the process, executing becomes more challenging.  Using the process as your blueprint for success will then allow you to use the right tools, question and steps required to engage with the right prospects, and take them through to becoming clients.


Once you have watched the video, review your process to ensure it still supports your goals; if not, then update it.  If you don’t have a sales process you should develop one, test it and refine it till it serves your needs.  This does not mean that making it easy, but making sure it allows you to be proactive and productive in winning business.  We are here to help if you want.

Exciting News!:

Jill Konrath’s “Selling To Big Companies” is being offered totally free for the next few days.  Jill, the author of SNAP Selling, is offering her book just in time to kick start your sales year.  Click here to take advantage of this great offer.*

*   No catch, I get no commission, I bought it in the store when it was published, and made money as a result.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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I Am Not a Barcode – Part II – Sales eXchange – 7838

+ You Are Not A Sales Person

Back at the end of December, John Cousineau, President at innovative information inc., posted a great piece on his blog titled “I am NOT a Barcode + You Are Not a Gadget“, recounting an experience earlier in the month at Dreamforce.  I remember meeting John at the conference and as we were sharing impressions, we both commented on a disturbing trend on the exhibit floor.  I’ll state upfront that I don’t think what we saw was unique to that trade show exhibit floors, but it was much more pronounced this time, and elevated several degrees due to the nature of the event: Sales.  It was raised a further by the fact that many at the event, and many of the people John and I ended up discussing were proponents of the “new way”, Sales 2.0.

Right at the front of the hall was a vendor, (and I still don’t know what they offer), who dispatched their pawns to accost all passersby, stick a flimsy plastic “chachka” in their hands and without asking, immediately scan the bar code on their name tags.  You can see the counters tumbling behind their phony smiles, you immediately got the impression that these people were being rewarded by the number of scans (leads?), clearly not at all by the number of viable potential leads they would generate at the show.  The third time I was scanned by the same booth (yes they were fast), I asked my assailant “do I need this?”  “Of course you do” she smiled back; “no not the plastic doo-hickey, the product/service in your booth?”, but alas she was gone, scanner in hand, on to her next conquest.

Now I understand that it costs a lot of money to exhibit at these events, and one measure of return would be the number of leads acquired, but you would have to water down the definition of a lead to such a point that one has to question the value of this type of “drive by lead acquisition”.  You wonder how much of this leads to the ongoing bickering between marketing and sales when it comes to leads.  Sales being accused of squandering leads, and marketing having to defend the quality of the leads.  If they could only agree that these were not leads to begin with.  You wonder how much of it could have been avoided by actually engaging with attendees.

Now let’s be clear, the particular vendor was not alone in this practice, they just happened to be at the entrance, and best (read annoying) at the practice.  All up and down the aisles, there were vendors doing similar things.  I had my picture taken with odd looking creatures, I still have no idea what they do, even after visiting the site to retrieve the picture, I looked good, my daughter has an addition to her collection, the company does not have a lead.

I figured I would test some current lore, you know, “the customer is in charge”, “when they are ready they will come to you”; I tried initiating discussion with some, “what do you do?”, “we provide a tool that increase productivity” that’s different, haven’t heard that for a few booths.  What else?  “We provide a solution that makes it easier to implement your strategy”, ooh, any strategy, should he have ask about my strategy?  “We help you transform your process from being cumbersome and dreaded to strategic and motivating for reps”; “We have a solution to automate manual functions”, ya like how we interact with potential prospects at trade shows.  “Generate, nurture and qualify greater leads with less effort”, no doubt the barcode scheme being one.  They all had me in their system, they got what they think they wanted, let’s see what I get.

So far, more than half have done nothing, some sent an e-mail with a call to action, and of these, I deleted some, like the folks at the very front of the hall and this piece.  Others I clicked through to the page where they wanted me to go.  No doubt, this click then not only registered on their marketing automation application, but also increases my score as a lead, and since I did this several times over the course of a week or so, I am sure my ISP`s score probably went up a notch or three.  Of the sites I visited, no direct contact from any as yet, a couple of well crafted follow up e-mails all inviting me to call when I am ready.  To me these are at best cursory interactions, but no real contact.  None of the barcode jockeys have engaged. 

The one who have contacted me were some of the people who were properly executing a trade show strategy; a preliminary qualification, if I passed that, I was asked if I was open to a call from a rep, then asked if I can be scanned to I can receive further information.   Some of these people do have offerings that are on the radar for me in 2011, of these I will actively pursue the top two or three, the ones below that, I suspect that I like most buyers, 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, whichever, I imagine will not see action from me unless they are proactive, despite what my score says.  A proper and fully executed communication strategy leading to engagement could probably lift their results, as much if not more than any of the tools they were promoting.

Much of this is not new, not profound, and therefore maybe not as attractive in these heady days of Social Selling.  In the end though, it still comes down to execution and engagement, as John points out in his post: “Be real. Be engaging, Be curious. Spark my curiosity. Learn about me + my situation. Help me learn how you could help me improve my business.” 

So like John, I am not a barcode, and clearly, the “barcodes jockeys” we encountered are not sales people.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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