Welcome to The Pipeline.

Who’s Expectations? – Sales eXchange – 11917

We often do an exercise with teams centered on expectations of roles, the frontline reps and their managers.  More often than not, there gaps and differences between the managers’ expectations of the frontline reps’ role, and the expectations those same frontline reps present about their own role.    While most of these are not fatal, some of the gaps in expectations can be costly in a number of ways.  While not fatal, even the smallest discrepancies take time, resources and money to resolve.  Even more so when you consider that the average manager waits much too long to take corrective action.

One of the reasons for this is the difference in role expectation between HR and the frontline sales manager.  The more HR is involved in the hiring process, the more pronounced the challenge is.

Ask any manager in a company with more than one layer between frontline sales rep and the VP of Sales, about their hiring process, most of the time the initial step is handled by HR. This explains not only the lame descriptions in the want ads, but also why so often the wrong reps get hired or it takes so long to get them productive.

Take skills and attributes.  Sure a member HR group to sit down with sales leaders and captures the skill sets and “attributes” they are seeking needed in a candidate.  It’s one thing to create a list, it is another to understand how it all comes together in a functional way in the field.  By extension it impacts the choices one makes.

Because of their points of reference, their view of specific attribute are different, after all there is a reason why these two individuals followed different paths.  What a sales manager see as desired assertiveness, an HR manager could easily see as aggressive.  Since everyone agreed that they are not seeking aggressive sales people, the HR manager passes on someone the sales manager would have seen as a good add to the team.

Conversely, HR may see amiability or sociability as an important attribute, while a sales manager may see that attribute a distant fourth behind trustworthiness, inquisitiveness or other attributes that will help a sales person in formulating a solution.  Again, leading to a situation where if HR conducts the initial screening interview, they may turn away good candidates, leaving the manager to select from the best of the rest.

While it is true that it would not the sales managers best use of time to screen hundreds of resumes, it is also true that the cost of having the wrong sales person on board, the resulting vacancy in the territory, and the cost of hiring a replacement is not small either.  The solution is to either have the two work together, that is rather than having one do the screening interview, then manager interview, have them both participate in the first interview.  If the candidate satisfies requirements, they then continue in the interview process.  The key challenge continues to be sifting through the initial volume of resumes, which puts the focus back on HR, who like good sales people, need to look past their biases and focus on the need of their customer, the sales manager.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Sales Alchemy15

The Pipeline Guest Post – Gary Hart

Our mission as salespeople is simple, drive revenue. Our singular task is to pump money out of a sales pipeline. We are expected to convert leads into money, like alchemists who turn lead into gold. With the right tools, measuring the right variables, we can become sales alchemists.

Pipeline reporting tools are falling short of meeting the wide array of sales executives’, sales managers’, and frontline sales professionals’ needs. Sales activities are converted into metrics that generate one and two dimensional charts and graphs. These frozen moments in time are static snapshots of a dynamic sales life that are individual frames extracted from a movie.
Reliance on these views can make us both near and farsighted.

The nearsighted perspective presents quantitative information including the number of sales opportunities, the stages they are in, and the expected revenue from each sale. Tools that measure relationships, sale velocity, and other soft variables are lacking.
The farsighted view is guestimated monthly, quarterly and annual revenue projections based on equations developed from limited, subjective data.

Expected Income Per Sale X Probability = Total Revenue

Part of the problem is CSOs and Sales VPs want revenue projections. Since they are the primary buyers, sales tools are built for their priorities. Nevertheless, the inaccurate results projections are an axiom that frustrates everyone from the top down to the frontline salespeople.

This equation in its various forms never sat well with me, so I added qualitative factors that many sales professionals call instinctive, yet are measurable.

The sales pipeline is a living organism that needs dynamic representation to give us a complete picture. Qualitative measurement is the missing dimension from what should be an organic equation. As a sales executive, sales manager, or frontline sales rep, you can breathe life into your 2 dimensional pipeline reports that will satisfy the myriad of needs including the ultimate goal of more revenue.

Measuring soft intangibles will deliver better opportunity management by salespeople. The same information will help sales managers pinpoint coaching and training needs, leading to better performance management.

Quality scoring of every objective, every meeting, every stage, every relationship, sales opportunity value, resource investment, and the other “squishy” variables are the missing frames from this moving picture. Regardless of time constraints or tool limitations, brutally honest diagnosis of every sales opportunity is critical. Reporting of the quality changes that occur during the sales progression are equally essential.

The result of adding qualitative measurement is better performance management, more accurate forecasting, and increased revenue that consistently meets sales goals.

About Gary Hart

Gary Hart’s career as an advertising, marketing, and sales executive began in 1971. As VP of Sales & Marketing; Gary led an 800% sales increase for a high-tech equipment company to $20 million per year over a 5-year span. Hart’s accounts included Toyota, Avis, and Cartier as well as small and medium businesses.

Gary has a passion for building high performance sales teams by simplifying and streamlining the sales process. Hart is currently the president of Sales Du Jour.  He is also involved in non-profit organizations with children oriented missions. www.salesdujour.com

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Cost vs. Value in Lead Acquisition23

In this last of the conversations with Michael Bird, Chief Revenue Officer at NetProspex, we look at the ROI and upside of buying leads from a known and reputable source, versus having sales do it all.  With all the talk of alignment between marketing and sales, this may be the best and most valuable place to start.


What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Start With the End! – Sales eXchange – 1186

By now I think most sales professionals understand the importance of gaining a next step at every stage of a sale, or advance if you are a SPIN type of sales rep.  Although I still run into some that feel it may be push to ask for a next step, not sure why but they too will learn or perish.

As a result many reps have developed the habit of having a next step strategy (or two) going into any sales meeting.  They go through the meeting, executing their plan, and moving towards their next step or advance.  No bad, even better when the buyer accepts the next step and the process moves forward towards agreement.  Of course there are times when the buyer doesn’t agree;  you can test, back track, reposition things, or do any number of things that can help you reposition, retest your next step, or even your Plan B.

But what if you didn’t wait till the end of the meeting to present your next step?  What if instead you presented it up front, in the context of the agenda, especially in meetings after the initial meeting.   You should always use agendas for all meetings after the first one, and send it in advance so you can get a reaction.  In the agenda will be you preferred next step if the meeting unfolds as planned.  If the buyer has objections or concerns about where you want to go, and how you plan to get there, they can voice those before the meeting, giving you the opportunity to adjust in advance rather than at the fatal end.  As the meeting starts, review the agenda, and again put your next step in front of them, giving yourself a chance to adjust early, rather than finding out that the plan won’t fly at the end, when your options for alternatives and greatly reduced.

This may not be comfortable at first, but still more comfortable than not getting your next step, and having a sales stall, or worse.

Get in the habit of putting your conclusion first, if no one objects, and they agree that if the meeting goes as planned they buy into that next step, then you can use the rest of the meeting to move to that point, through discussion, questions, and knowledge sharing, working together towards an agreed  on objective.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

"Out There"18

The Pipeline Guest Post – Troy Babcock

I am somewhat new to sales, only been doing it for three years, in some ways a good time to start because things can only get better.  I was one of three new recruits to start at the same time, they threw a lot of things at us, but I remember one thing my Director said in passing that has made a big difference to the three of us, but in different ways, I guess based on how we interpreted what he meant.

At the end of a lunch and learn, he said the following:

The market and the customers you want are out there,” he pointed out the window, “which means anyone you see sitting here,” he pointed to the bullpen outside the boardroom glass, “doesn’t know what is really going on out there!

I got half the message, but later asked him, who I should tap for knowledge, he smiled and said the ones you don’t see in the office.

The following Monday, I took inventory of all the people at the Monday opportunity review meeting, since this was a must attend all the sales people were there.  The rest was easy, I just watched who was hanging around the rest of the week, and who was “out there”.  Sure enough, the reps who were at the top of the leader board were usually out during the day, and when they were in, they were doing things, looking like they were in a hurry to get back “out there” again.

The ones at the lower part of the leader board, were usually in the office, usually with stories, usually explaining why everything is stacked up against them, which was why they weren’t “out there”, and why despite their sincere wishes, they couldn’t sell anything.  They were master storytellers, everything from the big one they landed, to the one that got away, and why things are not like they used to be “out there”.

In the weeks that followed, I made a point of tracking down the guys who disappeared after the meetings, and asked to spend time with them, be that lunch coffee, or going on client calls.  Now their stories were worth hearing, on the way to, and after sales calls.  They had a real life sense of what was going on “out there” and how to grab their share.

So now I spend most of my time “out there”.  I have also noticed that one of my fellow recruits is in the office every time I happen to stop by, he has stories, he has friends, and good company on the bottom of the board.  I tend to spend more time at the top and “out there”.

About Troy Babcock

Troy Babcock is a relatively new sales person, with a territory in the mid-west, and ambition that stretches far beyond.

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Punk Rock People Management20

I have just received an advance copy of an unusual book on managing people by the business author and speaker called Peter Cook.  He is the author of ‘Best Practice Creativity’ and ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll’, acclaimed by Professor Charles Handy and Tom Peters.  Peter mixes up business academia with music in a heady cocktail that reaches the parts that other business gurus do not dare to touch.

His latest ‘album’ is curiously titled “Punk Rock People Management”, it offers some short and straightforward advice on hiring, inspiring and firing staff.  In the spirit of punk, Peter has made each chapter just two pages long – ideal for busy people and those who now browse books online.  On hearing of the idea that you could read a chapter in less time than it would take to pogo to a Sex Pistols or Linkin Park song – international author and speaker Tom Peters tweeted just four characters to Peter – “DO IT” – That’s punk rock economy!

Peter offers keynote seminars and more traditional business consultancy without guitars, based on his ideas – you can find out more at THE ACADEMY OF ROCK and HUMAN DYNAMICS.  Connect with him at LINKEDIN or read his ROCK’N’ROLL BUSINESS BLOG for regular updates.

If you like Punk Rock People Management, please fast forward, share and network it with colleagues and connections.  It’s absolutely OK to do this as the book is copyright free.   A full colour print copy and an AMAZON KINDLE version are available.  Just click on the highlighted links in this e-mail.

Take it from an old prog rocker, this Peter’s stuff is great!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Is Cold Calling Dead?17

I keep hearing cold calling is dead, yet I see people winning a lot of clients through cold calling, and without a lot of other sales people getting in the way.

So what’s the deal?


I suspect that cold calling, like other sales techniques continues to evolve, right along with other methods.  In and of itself, cold calling, like referrals or other prospecting methods is not the end all and be all.  But in combination with other methods, cold calling continues to deliver results.  In fact studies have shown that next to referrals, it is the most effective, time and cost efficient way to engage with potential buyers, especially those who have not declared themselves as being in the market.

As with most things in sales, it comes down to the execution.  If you are not having success, you have two choices, seek help and improve; or give up and proclaim that it doesn’t work.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Customer Hot Potato – Sales eXchange – 11720

With so many opportunities to ensure customer satisfaction, it is a wonder how some companies keep blowing it.  Take this experience with my internet provider (well part time provider, the system keeps going down).

I recently called them to complain about consistent outages and slow service, something others in my area have also complained about.  The first encounter was with a CSR, who quickly tried to convince me that it had nothing to do with their (lack of) service, and was likely my router.   A variation on the familiar “oh no, it is not the hardware, it’s a software issue” ya right.

Throughout the call their rep kept apologising, I don’t know why, being sorry won’t resolve the issue, and I doubt that she personally came to my house and disconnected or throttled the service.  After a half dozen apologies, and no progress, I asked her what she specifically was apologizing, for;

“I am just sorry that you are unhappy with the service”

Me too, so why not deal with fixing it.

“I apologize”, man some consultant made a quick buck telling them that if they apologize and empathize, it will have an effect on the customer.   And it did, it pissed me off.  I congratulated her on taking me from a concerned customer to being irate, and now, finally, she had a reason to apologize, all the while making no progress on the real issue, reliable internet access.

Decided to take a different tack and took my story to twitter, put out a tweet asking if Rogers had a customer service group or a customer obstruction group.  Sure enough, a shot time later, I got a tweet back from one of their social minions, asking how she can help, at least she didn’t apologize!

I tweeted back that others have tried without results, I am looking at alternative providers.   Her response, NOTHING, no response after their first query.  Not very social.

A couple days later, I gave it another go – slightly more aggressively to the point:

Tweeted: Why is it I pay for a month’s worth of internet but your services are not up all month?

Within minutes @Rogers_Chris responded: Hi, have you contacted tech support about your internet problems?  I guess he does not have access to their CRM, he just “listens to social comments”.   This exchange led to no joy.

On September 25, I put out another tweet heralding them as the new slow.  Enter the next Rogers_, this time @Rogers_Kate, who offered the following hope in the form of a tweet:

“@Renbor Hi Tibor, is this happening when uploading? I’d be happy to take a further look into it for you, follow me so we can chat :)”

Instantly, I followed her.   But I am still waiting, here we are a week later, and still waiting, just like when I try to load a page in my browser.

You know there is a difference between social listening, responding on line, and actually doing something to deal with the issue.  There is more to customer satisfaction than optics, although I am sure there is someone internally touting the speed with which they responded to the situation.  Their situation, not mine.

Next week, our adventures with our cable provider, guess  who?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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23 Marketing Tips For Avoiding Small Business Failure37

The Pipeline Guest Post – Eric Gilboord

Lists like this one are usually made up of financial reasons for the failure of a small business. Unfortunately there are also many sales and marketing reasons. Fortunately, there is a positive step that can be taken for each one that will greatly increase your chances for success.

1. Face Your Weaknesses. Failure to face up to your weaknesses and a lack of effort to take advantage of your strengths can keep your business in a no-growth mode.

Take two pieces of paper and list your company’s strengths on one page and its weaknesses on the other. Note the ways you can make your staff, customers, prospects, and other business associates aware of each of your strengths. On the page of weaknesses, identify steps to correct each problem. Discuss the
points with your staff and develop a schedule to address them. No it’s not really as bad as you think.

2. Take Action. Talking about the great marketing program you have been developing and following through with it are two very different actions. Implementing the program is the key to marketing success. Plan all you want, but be prepared to act on all the steps you have identified. Don’t be surprised to discover that there are some steps you hadn’t initially considered.

3. Accountability And Responsibility. Understand the difference between accountability and responsibility. Make sure your staff and suppliers recognize that by accepting responsibility, they are accountable to you and to the rest of the company. It is now their job to get the assignment completed.

4. Don’t Play At Business. Don’t play at being in business. It is not a hobby or a pastime. Think about the message you are sending to your staff, suppliers, and customers. A genuine commitment to the customer and to the success of the business will get you through difficult times. It will also pave the way for much
success in the future.

5. Avoid Ad Hoc Marketing. Struggling from one idea to another without thinking your complete marketing story through will typically end in one failure after another. Prepare a program for the year or at least for a complete season. Build on previous efforts to ensure continuity.

6. Seek Employee Buy In. When your staff does not support your marketing program, you are usually destined for failure. Get them involved early in the planning process and incorporate their ideas.

“These actionable tips are the responsibility of everyone who works with you. Make sure they know and understand them.” A2E

7. Appreciate Every Customer. A complete disregard for customers is a sure sign that a business is failing. There is nothing more irritating than walking into a business or past a booth at a trade or consumer show and discovering that the
person behind the counter is having a personal telephone conversation or reading the paper. Immediately, you are made to feel like you are interrupting. Customers should be welcomed into your business and greeted with your full attention.

8. Spot Trends. Recognize trends, changes, marketing mistakes, etc. A new trend that is different from your product or service is a terrific opportunity to present something new to your customers. New ideas also refresh your staff.

9. No Egos. If you suffer from the ‘‘not invented here’’ syndrome, fix it right away. Great ideas can come from anywhere and from anyone. Limiting yourself to ideas created only at your company is like viewing life through a very narrow lens. Seeking outside assistance and not listening to it is equally dangerous.

10. You Don’t Know It All. The assumption that all of your ideas are right just because they were ‘‘invented here’’ is also dangerous. You may know your business better than anyone else but you don’t know everything. Seek outside help.

11. Control Sales Staff. Lack of control over sales staff will result in missed opportunities and wasted hours. If your sales reps have little direction or support, they could be selling to whomever they choose. Often, they spend much of their time with existing customers and miss large new opportunities. Develop specific sales plans with your reps and review them regularly.

12. Create Tools. If you don’t create proper sales and marketing tools for your staff, you will make their jobs much more difficult. Arm them with well-thought-out selling tools and train them to use the tools effectively.

13. Keep Tools Impressive. If the sales tools you have are unimpressive, out of date, poorly conceived, or lack strategy or focus, they are damaging to sales opportunities. Work with your staff to prepare useful selling tools.

14. Prepare A Realistic Budget. Don’t force your marketing group to live with a low or non-existent budget. Be realistic about your expectations and provide appropriate funding to increase your chances for success.

15. Don’t Try To Spend Your Way To Success. On the other hand, if you spend too much money on marketing, you may not get value for your investment. Carelessly spending dollars on marketing does not always guarantee sales. You may need to rethink the media and promotional offers that currently make up your marketing program. Introduce a social media program that starts with a real strategy and has the manpower to execute it over a sustained timeframe. At least 2 years and if possible forever.

16. Promote Your Website & Social Media Pages In Traditional Media And Within Each Other. An important lesson recently learned by many participants in the internet is the need to go outside of it to traditional media. Aside from producing a well thought-out website and social media presence, the key to success on the net is to let your target group know where your site and social media pages are located. Add your web address and social media pages to all of your communication materials: business cards, letterhead, invoices, flyers, packaging, and cross promoting between all your social media etc.

17. Answer The Telephone Properly. The habit of not answering the telephone properly or having an uninformed person answering it for you can be damaging. Customers and prospects become frustrated when they can’t get answers to their questions. Train your staff well and equip them with the most up-to-date information. If they shouldn’t be answering the telephone, don’t let them.

18. Don’t Lose Orders. They are so hard to get these days how can you even think about losing them. The problems of lost orders or orders not completed on time can be easy to resolve. Create a step-by-step fulfilment process with checking systems to make sure that an order is controlled from beginning to end.

19. Promote Yourself. Some business owners believe that the product or service they offer should be as irresistible to others as it is to them and that customers should just come to them without promotion. Not promoting yourself will only serve to keep your business a secret.

20. Encourage Others To Promote You. It is just as important to encourage others to promote you. If someone else has a clear understanding of what your company does and who your target group is, they can help to promote you. Develop a brief statement that identifies who you are, what you do, who you do
it for, and why you are different from competitors. Make sure that anyone who may be representing your company to prospects understands this message.

21. Face Negative Word of Mouth Head-On. Negative word of mouth statements can have a devastating impact on your sales, far beyond one or two unhappy customers. Solve the problem quickly and win customers back. Those customers will be your best salespeople.

22. Use Resources Around You. The failure to use readily available resources can lead to wasted opportunities. Seek out government self-help offices, associations, consultants, internet sites, and libraries. Talk to customers and suppliers and study your competitors.

23. Be Better Than Competitors. Don’t just try to be as good as the competition, be better than them, offer something different, provide better service, etc.

About Eric Gilboord

Eric is a specialist in making marketing easy for business owner/operators and any staff with sales or marketing responsibility. He demystifies marketing so they can use it to generate sales today and grow their businesses faster.
Check out his new book ‘Just Tell Me More’  click here.

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Plan B17

While Dynamic Planning continues to be a rarity for many sales people, the trend in planning individual meetings seems to be improving.  Sales people continue to realize that buyers are more discerning and will not spend much time with an unprepared seller.

But there is still an opportunity to improve planning, and one way is to make sure that you have a Plan B and a Plan C based on the type of buyer or buyers you are dealing with.


But remember, the goal here is sales, so never let a good plan get in the way of success, if it is there seize it!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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