Welcome to The Pipeline.

Sales & Consequences22

If you are a regular reader of this blog, thank you, you know one of the hallmarks has been a focus on execution.  As you have heard me say, sales is all about execution, everything else is just talk, and frankly with all the demands on sales professionals these days, there is little time for talk.  The challenge is ensuring that the actions you take have the desired outcome for you and your buyer.  While taking action is key, taking the right action is crucial, as actions do have consequences.

To kick off the New Year, a challenging sales year according to the pundits, Renbor has put together a new book looking at actions you can take, and ways to improve actions you are already taking.

Sales & Consequences, looks at sales from different viewpoints and situations, all with a view to helping you execute your sales more efficiently and more importantly in a fun way.  It looks at strategic and tactical aspects, examines the state of sales, decision making, and decision avoidance, either way, making a decision is a long way from taking action.

So click here, or click the picture at the top right of the page, and grab your free copy, hey get one for the cousin you forgot at Christmas.  Take a read, and feel free t comment, but most importantly, take action, cause the only thing with worse consequences than acting, is taking n action at all.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

In Business Interview22

Just before the holidays I was invited to sit down with David Wojcik of “In Business” to talk about sales, specifically about the content of the book I co-authored on trigger events.  I found it interesting in a number of ways, especially since David is not in sales.  He focused on different areas than some sales people do when discussing the book.

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I was also able to relate to a musician friend who always finds it difficult talking about his last CD.  While the CD discussed in interviews may be the most current available in the market, he is usually focused on his current project, which is the next release.  Being more than half way in my current book, it was interesting going back to concepts that were current two years ago; also interesting to see how ones thinking on sales progresses.  It was rewarding for me, you be the judge when the book is released.

What’s in our Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

3 January Must Do’s – Sales eXchange – 13027

Start of the year, not a time for a lot of talk, time to do, no secret there, so rather than wasting time pontificating, here are three things to do this week to kick start your sales year.

1.   Fire everyone in your pipeline that you thought definitely close by year end 2011. Forget the stories, forget the hope and the hype, and forget the “oh it’s this one is different”, it’s not. Hold your nose with one hand, and toss it out of your pipeline with the other.  There is no reason why some can’t be revisited, but that should been done based on merit rather than emotion; if it stands up to scrutiny, it may close next time you execute the sale.

2.   Reach out to the top three people in your competitors’ three biggest accounts. This seems to be the time for reviews, and that includes you competitors’ clients’, why not give them an alternative to think about or compare to. Even if you don’t get immediate positive responses, you are at least starting a relationship early. As well, given that you will end up talking. To at least nine people, they could be a great source for referrals in and beyond their current companies. Speaking of which, some of these people will leave where they are today, and may need your offering where they end up.

3.   Replicate your Marquee Client.  Sit down with any group of reps, and the war stories come out about how they won their marquee account.  But does that “one” have to be all that different?  If you review what made that sale great, from who they were, how you sourced them, engaged with them and won them over, is there a reason why that can’t be repeated again?  You can do this more than once a year, and over time elevate your game, and success.

Yes, short, but sweet, because it is more important to “do”, as I have said in the past, in sales it is about Execution, everything else is just talk.

What’s in Your Pipeline?

Tibor Shanto

Turn Trigger Events Into Exceptional Buyer Experiences34

The Pipeline Guest Post – Tony Zambito

When trigger events occur, they represent a unique moment in time for you and the buyer to establish a trusted relationship.  This unique moment in time may be one that may never occur again.  The question is: are you ready when this moment in time actually happens?

There is a high degree of importance in being ready for trigger events.  These events, as articulated by Craig Elias and Tibor Shanto, not only offer sales opportunities but offer the opportunity to create buyer experiences that can result in long-term loyalty.  Ultimately, while the end goal in responding to a trigger event is a sale, the ability to establish a long-term relationship will hinge largely on the experiences a buyer has during the response.   There are several ways you can be ready to turn trigger events into buyer experiences that keep buyers calling you when trigger events occur:

Buyer Intelligence

How much do you really know about your potential buyer’s organization when a trigger event occurs?  Buyers today have high expectations and one of those is the expectation that you are already grounded in knowing something about them.  If they are on your target list, are you keeping up with alerts on the events that are occurring with this buyer’s organization?  More importantly, are you aware of the events leading up to a trigger event?  Demonstrating intelligence about their organization translates into exceptional buyer experiences.  Why? Because trigger events are fraught with emotions and one thing a buyer is seeking is confidence that the situation is going to end in a resolution.  Knowledge breeds confidence.

Buyer Persona

How well do you know your buyer persona?  A buyer persona is an archetypal representation of your buyers that is derived from qualitative research.  Buyer personas are a means for encapsulating a deep understanding of buyer goals that directly influence purchase decisions.  As a sale executive, have you supported your teams with a fundamental understanding of who your buyers are and what goals drive their responses and decisions?  The ability to address buyer goals responsively during a trigger event is paramount to the buyer having an exceptional buyer experience.

Buyer Learning

There is a good bet that a buyer and his team may be facing a trigger event situation for the first time or it has been a good length of time since a previous event had occurred.  Sharing knowledge and providing a learning opportunity for buyers gets you a seat at the table of trusted advisors.  How prepared are you to share how similar customers have resolved similar situations?  What type of content and documents do you have prepared to share that are specific to trigger events?  A trigger event is time to go “off messaging” and to demonstrate your role as a trusted advisor with substance.  Enable an exceptional buyer experience by providing your buyers with learning opportunities that they will want to share with their peers.

Buyer Stakeholders

In most circumstances, a buyer is the focal point that represents various stakeholder groups within an organization.  You can be sure that the buyer has these groups on his or her mind during a trigger event.  How much are they on your mind?  All eyes are on the buyer by these various stakeholder groups during a trigger event.  And all eyes are on you as well.  They are looking for a solution to what may be a very challenging situation or perhaps are in crisis mode.  Are you prepared to address how your role and your solution address various stakeholder groups?  Are you gaining access to such groups to understanding the impact of the trigger event in their area?  Understanding and addressing stakeholder concerns provides opportunities for exceptional buyer experiences to be shared enterprise-wide.

To succeed with trigger events requires a high degree of readiness.  It is the degree of readiness that plays a pivotal role in turning trigger events into exceptional buyer experiences.  As mentioned at the start of this article, trigger events represents a unique moment in time that perhaps may never occur again.  You may have only one opportunity to demonstrate your ability to be seen as a trusted advisor and to provide an exceptional buyer experience.  Are you ready?

About Tony Zambito

Tony Zambito is Founder and Principal of Goal Centric, a buyer strategy consulting firm. Goal Centric is also the originator of the buyer persona methodology. Tony is launching BUYEROLOGY™ as a new means of understanding buyer behavior. Tony also served in the role of Vice President in Sales and Marketing capacities for TRW, Knight-Ridder, and Compaq (HP). He holds a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management. Read Tony’s blog Buyerology Now for insightful commentary on changing buyer behavior.

Change One Thing23

The New Year always brings optimism and promise.  It is also a time of reflection and planning for the new year.  One mistake some make is choosing to change or improve a whole bunch of things in the coming year; why, because it is often too ambitious, and leads to few if any being accomplished.  As soon as one isn’t achieved, people become disappointed, and fall back to what they did before.  Their day to day responsibilities catch up, and they stop trying to change the other things on their list, and next thing you know….

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So write down that one thing, master it, scratch it off your list, and on to the next.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto



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Stop Insulting Your Buyer – Sales eXchange – 1295

The other day I got an invitation for a webinar by a company that ostensibly helps sales people sell better and more effectively.  However, I will never know, why, because their approach was so outlandish and void of credibility, that I just could not see myself, or for that fact anyone with a brain, buying anything from them, or even waste a minute of my precious time taking in what they were going to spew.  What was their crime?  The complete dishonesty of their headline:

Selling in a Volatile Economy!

The reality is that the economy is anything but volatile.  So it is clear that they have no clue what is going on around them; they are trying to manipulate reality to put their needs vs. my needs, or they think we are all stupid and can be scared into caring or taking action – or as I suspect – all of the above.  Unfortunately the above is not an isolated instance, we see both companies and sales people doing this type of low brow selling all the time.

Don’t get me wrong, a pinch of FUD, to accentuate an otherwise good recipe for success is fine, but a blatant fear mongering, especially when it is baseless and insulting to the buyer.  Even when your prospect faces real risk, it makes more sense to focus on the impact of your product in dealing with it vs. rubbing it in their face.

This type of selling relies to heavily on the notion that people always buy on emotion, and then rationalize the purchase.  Somewhat contrary to the other theme in the e-mail, which was promoting the upside of social media and wealth of information available to buyers today.  If, as I would agree, buyers have much greater access to information, and make greater use of it than in the past, you would think that those same informed buyers would be hip to the fact that the economy has not been volatile, the stock market has, and people’s reaction has, but not the economy, if anything it has been stable and dull.

You are much better off helping the buyer sort the overwhelming information available in a way for them to gain knowledge that will help them address their objectives.  It does take more work, conducting a proper discovery process.  Leveraging the information you have about the buyers objective, and formulating those questions that will encourage an exchange of information that results in mutual value.  Laziness may explain why some choose the low road, but the returns are less frequent and much lower than the alternative to fear mongering.

So unless you enjoy and pay for being insulted, please don’t do it to you buyers.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

How Your Sales Team May Be More Like Santa’s Reindeer Than You Realize20

The Pipeline guest Post – Leanne Hoagland-Smith

In the 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” the vividly describes by naming the Santa’s reindeer. Then in 1939 in a booklet Rudolph arrived with his red nose.

Possibly, your sales team may share some of the same attributes of Santa’s Reindeer.

Dasher is the salesperson always dashing about.  He or she lets no sales lead die. However, all this motion does not necessarily mean progress.

Dancer is the supreme master of the sales process.  New sales leads are danced through the sales process from the first handshake to the delivery of the solution. Of course, this may mean he or she may be reluctant to find a new dance partner.

Prancer prances around everything. Energy is high when Prancer is in the office and everyone loves Prancer. Yet, securing the goal to increase sales is rarely attained.

Vixen knows how to leverage his or her talents. The customers love Vixen. Yet sometimes Vixen is thought to be condescending to ever egotistical.

Enter Comet or rather exist Comet.  This salesperson spends the least amount of time in the office.  Pounding the pavement, meeting with sales leads to customers comprises most of his or her time. The downside is paperwork might be somewhat disorganized and relationships might be rushed causing some reluctance to fully engage with Comet.

Cupid is the salesperson everyone loves from both internal and external customers. Sometimes it seems he or she just gets the order without rhyme or reason. Cupid’s behavior may create some internal resentment as follow-through may not be this salesperson’s strong suit.

When Donner speaks, everyone listen. His or her voice sometimes sounds like Thunder. What may happen is this loud voice may shut out others during important sales meetings as well as customers.

Then there is Blitzen who is the lightening to Donner’s thunder.  Blitzen will speak with lightening precision and brings value by getting to the essence of any challenge. However, Blitzen’s approach may be regarded by some as lacking emotional intelligence to also being potentially arrogant.

Finally, Rudolph is the salesperson who is noticed first.  Her or his ability to market and brand herself or himself is extraordinary.  The only challenge is getting past the marketing phase of the sales process to the selling phase.  Rudolph is probably your best team player as long as the route is carefully laid out.

So take a few minutes and see if you have a balanced sales team like Santa’s reindeer. Then determine what actions you may need to undertake to get your reindeer sales force flying high in both good and bad weather.   Merry Christmas!

About – Leanne Hoagland-Smith

Leanne Hoagland-Smith, M.S., Chief Results Officer of ADVANCED SYSTEMS and author of Be the Red Jacket has 25 plus years experience in public and private sectors in sales, organizational development and talent management. As a strategic tactician, she supports forward thinking leaders who are tired of failed executions. Her contact information is 219.759.5601 CST or coach@processspecialist.com

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The Number 1 Word in Sales!18

Whether we like it or not, sales is a game of semantics.  The words you choose make a difference.   You want to make sure that you facilitate communication, and fully drive the Discovery process.  It also has a strong impact as to the level of engagement by your buyer, the more engaged and the more they communicate the entire picture, the greater the likelihood that you will uncover crucial information you need to convey and deliver value; as importantly, the more difference they will perceive in you vs. other sellers they are speaking with.  So when I was asked what is the number one word in sales, I knew that it was…..

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What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Slow to Close or Slow to Die? – Sales eXchange – 12831

This time of year is a good time to ask, and to answer the question “What’s in Your Pipeline?

One of the things we discover are opportunities that have been there for some time, long term tenants.  Most of these are dead and should be tossed, but that may leave the pipeline a little lean, which is why they were left in the pipe to begin with, filler, more for appearance sake than results.  Eventually this build up does clog the flow of deals and opportunities through the pipeline and results in a massive attack on your income and success.

Some of these opportunities are real and need to be continued to be worked, others have been dead for a long time, and are costing you in multiple ways.  The challenge for many is which is which, are they indeed one of those opportunities that don’t conform to the norm, but will yield results, or are they just plaque in the pipeline?

First thing you have to do is define the “norm” that your opportunities need to conform to.  For me it has always been easy based on what I was trained and have practiced since.  First discipline is to understand the average length of your sales cycle, and by definition the average and optimal length of each stage of the sale.  While there may not be an exact number, there is a pattern and if you track it, you can quickly arrive at that number.  This is a breeze with some of the tools provided by leading CRM packages.  If you are stuck in a stage or a sale too long, it is less likely to close.  You know that, I know that, everyone knows it, so you are only fooling yourself by keeping it in your pipeline.  Some think, “If I have plenty to work on in my pipeline I have an excuse not to prospect”.  If something is past it “best before date”, you need to replace it, which is what most are trying to avoid.  At one point, the moment of truth comes and you will have to replace the plaque.  A simple way to change this is to dedicate time every day, every week to prospecting and adding new opportunities to your pipeline, and then you will be able to take out the trash and still have plenty of good in the pipe.

The other discipline was ensuring that you are dealing with buyers who are as engaged as you are in the outcome or sale.  You can tell who is engaged and who is not, and best of all you can ensure that they are, or be at fault when they are not.  The easiest way to achieve this is to focus on how to keep the sale in motion and moving in the right direction, achieving specific milestones in specific time frames.  This comes down to having active opportunities in the pipe vs. inactive.  How do you determine who is active?  Two criteria, first, are they taking steps to move the sale forward, are they investing the time, resources; are they active participants, or passive spectators.  If you are able to consistently get them to commit to actions to be achieved in specific timeframes, you are getting next steps, and steadily marching towards the finish line with a willing partner who is also invested in making this happen in time.  That is an active prospect, if they are not actively engaged; they are not and should be removed.

The challenge sometime are those opportunities that do not conform, but are still viable opportunities, the ones that cause you to ask: “is this one slow to close, or slow to die?”  Valid question, but one that needs to be worked outside the pipeline.  Left in the pipeline, they will distract and siphon time and resources.  Remove them from your pipeline, you can still work them, but not suffer from a sluggish and underperforming pipeline.

We have all won deals that would be called anomalies when compared to the norm, so why treat them as though they were the norm.  Your pipeline should be made up of those opportunities that represent the norm, that is – predictable and manageable.  The goal is to deliver quota with the “norm”, and look at the anomalies as a bonus, for the very reason that they are not predictable, and therefore can’t be counted on.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that you do not pursue some of these anomalies, long shots if you will.  What you don’t want to do is pretend that they will come through when you have no way of mapping or predicting them.  If you cannot answer the question “is this one slow to close, or slow to die?”, then you need to remove it from your pipe, and work those that are predictable.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto



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The REAL Problem with Sales Training18

The Pipeline Guest Post – Jonathan Farrington

It seems that every week we are being told that sales training is not working in a very high percentage of cases – 85-90% was one statistic I read just yesterday

And actually I agree. In my opinion, hundreds of millions of dollars world-wide are wasted every year on irrelevant, unnecessary or inappropriate sales skills development. There are four obvious reasons ….

To begin with, the one off program may supply a short term motivational buzz and provide the delegate with a number of thought provoking ideas. However, in reality, once they are back at the “front-line”, the day to day pressures of hitting quota, etc. take over again and the reactive mindset returns.

Secondly, most – not all – but a very high percentage of courses on offer today deliver what I term “generalized” skills development.

For example, a person operating within the aerospace sector, negotiating multi-million pound contracts can find himself sitting next to a young saleswoman who markets insurance policies and is based in a call center. On her right is another person who is developing a successful career in manufacturing, selling hydraulic components and next to him…..I think
you will appreciate my point.

To achieve sustained success in all of these disparate industries requires specific skills sets and the “generalized” workshops simply cannot deliver them.

Thirdly, most – and again I would estimate it is at least 80% of – training organizations today make the assumption that all delegates are at the same level in terms of experience, expertise and have the same “commercial bandwidth”. This is of course, totally unrealistic.

Whilst it is not possible to equate age and experience with success, the reality is that, although some professional salespeople do have ten years’ experience, most have one year’s experience ten times! The very best salespeople – the ones that consistently exceed expectation, have usually received ongoing skills development from the “emerging” stage all the way through “advanced”, right up to “consultative” level if appropriate, but the keyword is “ongoing”

Finally – and this is the most significant and blatant error of judgment most Sales Directors make – every member of the team receives the same training, i.e.they are all dispatched off to the same course, regardless of whether or not they already have those skills or if indeed they need to have them in their current role.

The point here is that there is far too little planning, assessing and objective setting – it is much easier to abdicate responsibility to the training company… The downside to this approach is, of course, so much money is wasted!

So what is the answer? I don’t have all the answers, does anybody? But I have some of them, and I invite you to download the FREE white paper – registration is not required.

About Jonathan Farrington

Jonathan Farrington is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author, consultant, and sales strategist, who has guided hundreds of companies and thousands of individuals around the world towards optimum performance levels. He is the CEO of Top Sales Associates, Chairman of The jf Corporation and the creator of topsalesworld.com, topsalesmanagement.com and the annual Top Sales & Marketing Awards. Jonathan is based in London and Paris.

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