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Saturday Sales Tip – 1416

Multi-Tusking or Multi-Failiure

At the risk of stating the obvious, there are more demands now on sales professionals than ever before.  Not only do the have to thrive in a competitive environment, with the lay offs in 2009, fewer of them are expected to deliver more than as a group they had to before.  To be fair to companies, many have put tools and processes into place to help sales professionals be more productive.  The rise in Sales 2.0 is a reflection of the latest iteration of the age old quest for sales to leverage every innovation available to deliver in more and more demanding times.

Along with the tools, there is also the actions and behaviours of sales people, some right some wrong; some self imposed, some driven by demands of managers or companies.  Some of these have taken on a life of their own, where just saying you are doing it, just using the word, implies you are doing the right thing, and after a time, the assumption is never second guessed, everyone just buys into the fact that it is good”, and people stop doing reality checks to confirm if it was a fact or not.

One of these things is the notion and practice of “multi-tasking”.  The notion that someone can successfully execute multiple tasks, each requiring skill – attention – quality, all at the same, all to their best capabilities is both absurd and accepted at the same time.  Trying to juggle all these “multi” things with only two hands, especially when one is on the phone or BlackBerry is really a great concept, perhaps a noble objective, but in reality impractical.  In most cases, multi-tasking is just an opportunity to mess up or not complete a whole bunch of things all at once rather than ably deliver on key tasks related to sales.

Now I know that some of you will tell me that this is where technology can step up and help deliver, after all if they did not invent the phrase, they have spent time and money promoting it, basing aspects of heir ROI arguments on it.  There is no doubt that there some mechanical things that can indeed be  more efficiently achieved with automation and technology, but those are not usually the crucial factors to sales success.  The danger or fallacy of that argument, carried to its logical extreme is that sales eventually can be fully automated.  While this is the case with some transactional sales, it does not apply to sales, most sales people I work, and they sales they execute, require human ingenuity, and therefore full concentration to successfully complete.

So despite the temptation, plan to do one thing at a time, plan it do it and move on to the next things.  Done right at the end, when you finish important tasks, finish them well, one at a time, you will find that it will not take you much longer, and you will have done them better.  As we have discussed in the past, allocate the time to the activity, and then manage you activities in the time allocated.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Automate This!24

I am a big believer in technology, especially in improving efficiencies, even more so when that efficiency is aimed at improved communications with customers and prospects. However, as we have all experienced many companies confuse “messaging” with “communication” and automation with efficiency.  I for one do not consider a generic auto responses as communication or even acknowledgement that my communication has been received.

Some companies have taken this sort of “inefficiency” to an art form, which I guess is part of the lingering smell we have to endure as consumers. But it becomes really bizarre when the culprit in question is a leading social media site, a medium touted to be the pinnacle for interactive two way communications.

This is especially a challenge for rapidly growing social media sites who need to deal with the business realities of growth while trying to maintain the experience and intimacy that is “social media” or “social networking”.  It is hard to be social on a mass basis, and while they may be able to facilitate a “social” experience among members, they face the risk of losing credibility if they can’t sustain a “social” experience between the site and individual members.

Case in point is a “social networking” site which recently made changes to how one uses, or posts on the site. In my view, and those of other users I spoke to, the changes were not improvements; they made it harder to do what I was able to do with relative ease before the change, and had a direct negative impact on the outcome of my actions, experience and outcome on the site.

I finally decided to find out why the change was made, perhaps I was not fully aware of how to take advantage of the change (I am sure internally they refer to it as an improvement or upgrade, as a user I feel it is neither).   There was no warning that the changes were coming, even more frustrating, no explanation once they did come. As I recall when Facebook made changes recently they did make effort to let users know why, and how to best make use of the updates, but the site in question did not, nothing before hand, and offered no help after it implemented the change. 

In an effort to learn about the change, I decided to reach out directly, which is when it turned into some sort of virtual antisocial obstacle course, if you get past a few hurdles and moats, you may get some clarity. You start off with some FAQ’s, but being that the change was recent, there are no answers, of course since it has yet to upset enough people to make it a “frequently” asked question.  No answer, but they did want to show a warped sense of humour, stating that if I did not find their completely irrelevant answers helpful, I had the opportunity to send a preformatted e-mail with my “specific question”, so I did.

A couple of hours later I got a generic auto response, thanking me for my note, stating “All of our members’ opinions are valued and your comments will be shared for review.

No “specifics” about my question or a time frame for response, just a disingenuous comment about valuing my opinion.  I wrote back asking when I may expect some “specific response” to a very “specific question” about a “specific functionality” that was there one day, gone the next.  This question got an even more ambiguous response:

Thank you for your reply.

Your feedback has been sent to our research and development team for future consideration.

Even though we are not able to respond individually to the numerous recommendations we receive, we would like to invite you to subscribe to the XXXXX Blog (http://blog.XXXXX.com) to receive the latest notifications on site improvements. It is our way of keeping you and our other members informed on all the exciting work we are doing behind the scenes.

Have a great day and thank you for being a valued member of our XXXXXX community!

While not feeling really valued, I was game, I went to the blog, and like the FAQ’s, there was no notice of change in functionality, no information relating to the change, Nothing!

Maybe I am looking at this the wrong way, or maybe at our company we have set the bar too high for responding to customers, but when some asks a specific question about specific functionality, I am not sure I was helped by being sent somewhere for “future consideration”.  It is also clear that they did not actually read my note/question, because if they had they would have known that it did not contain a recommendation but a plea for help.  They would have recognized that I did not see what they did as an improvement nor did it strike me as exciting work. 

The fact remained that they made a change but had not taken the time to prepare or help their users leverage it, and they seem to believe that generic disingenuous note with false complements and platitudes equals communication with their users.  It would have been much better to get a note back saying: “it’s our playground, take it or leave it, and frankly what you think has little impact on what we do.”

Either way, not very social!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales eXchange – 4012

The Active Coach

Last week in our monthly newsletter, we published a piece on activity that featured a discussion on the need to plan and understand the level of activity needed to deliver against goal. We even included a link to a calculator to help readers figure out the exact levels of specific activities.

In that article the focus was on the front line rep, but as we all know, the front line rep is not in this alone, or at least should not be in it alone.  If the rep is to fully succeed the other relevant participant needs to be the front line sales manager.  The daily coach who can help his/her reps adopt and extend the processes and habits needed to succeed in their daily battle. Unfortunately, many managers fail to deliver full value as a coach their teams when it comes to prospecting.  We’ve discussed in the past, there is a difference between sales management and sales coaching. This is especially true when it comes to the fundamental skill in engaging with new prospects.

There are a number of contributing factors to this shortcoming by some (many) managers.  One reality is that many were ‘so so’ prospectors when it came to their own career. Hunters are a much rarer breed in sales than “farmers” are.  Even where they exist, they often don’t aspire to be managers, seeing it as something that is less rewarding financially and otherwise, different than their “farmer” counterparts. When you step back and think about it, it makes sense.  Those we label “farmers” is sales, tend to be better at nurturing accounts, managing them day to day and tending to their needs.  They are better at managing relationships than changing the status quo.  The growth that occurs from their activities is usually steady, not dramatic; they are more likely to “tend” to things than change things, hence the expression “organic growth”. 

So it is not surprising that when they become managers they are much better at helping their teams and individual members do what they did best when they were successful in their sales careers.  Don’t get me wrong they know what to say, and often use the right words at the right time.  They can tell their reps to go out and get new accounts or get new streams of revenue from existing accounts, but saying it and coaching it are two different things.  Just as customers can differentiate between talk and substance, front line reps can too.  As a coach you should be able to more than just talk to things at an abstract level, you should be able to demonstrate the right process for success.  This is different than demonstrating how to prospect by just getting on the phone and making a couple of calls, or firing off a few e-mails. 

This difference is key for two reasons.  First just getting on the phone and banging out a couple calls is not demonstrating best practices needed for consistent success.  Second, and I think more important, is the fact that it is a coaching skill that can be learned, and with that, there is the promise and hope that even if one was a “farmer” as a rep, you can still effectively coach prospecting when you become a manager.  As with many things it is a question for learning and putting into practice; not that different than what you are looking for your reps to do with prospecting.

So if you are a good manager who was a great farmer, but preferred not to hunt, it would be a good thing to go out and seek some coaching on how to coach the hunting skill, especially if your success rests on the ability of your team to consistently and successfully source new revenue beyond their base.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Related Posts:
The EDGE Framework for Sales Coaching Success

Saturday Sales Tip – 1316

What Is The Impact?

(* A bit late today because my 5:00 pm frpm Calgary last night finally took off at 10:00 pm.)

If you’ve been in sales for longer than two days you are familiar with WIIFM: What’s In I t For Me?  The question every prospect is asking and the one they have the right to know. Still a large number of sales people confuse the ME in the question for themselves rather than the prospect.

This is not because they don’t care, or want to ignore the buyer, but because they confuse what is of interest to the buyer, or how the prospect makes key decisions. Most still think that what is in in it for the buyer is what their marketing brochure or website features.  If you think I am too harsh, take two minutes got to any five web sites at random and see if it speaks to the buyers’ view or the sellers’ view.  With some web site, it’s hard to understand who they speak to at all, or what they are speaking about period.

One exercise we always do with sellers is asking them to answer: “what do you sell?”  For the most part what we hear is product description; on a good days broad benefits, and a great day specific benefits. What we rarely if ever hear is the impact the sellers’ offering has on the buyer’s business or objectives.

Once the buyer can clearly understand the specific impact the seller and their offering can have on the buyer’s business, or conversely, the downside impact of not having our offering will have, then there is a not only a greater likelihood that they will engage, but that they will also act.

The key to knowing the impact rests in two areas, the discovery questions you use, and experience. Now experience does not mean that new reps have an excuse, they can draw on the collective experience of their organization.  This where the manager and the induction process a company has in place will have an impact on the success of new reps ramping up quickly, and by extension the success of the selling organization.

Taking that experience and learning how to turn them into good Impact Questions is the next step.  Again, this is a simple process of building on things many sales people are already good at and taking it to the “Art” level of sales.  Most are good at the old game of feature benefit, all you have to do then is ask the question “to what end?”

From the clients’ stand point, in understanding their objectives, to what end is that feature truly a benefit.  What is the direct and specific impact for the client?  So maybe instead of focusing on the client asking “What’s In It For Me?”  Sellers should answer the more relevant question the buyer is likely asking: “What’s The Impact For or On Me?”

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Better Excuses Inc.20

I think I’ve discovered a new business opportunity. For a nominal service charge, I can allow sales reps to blame me for their lack of performance.  Here is why, with the Great Recession almost behind us, there are less and less things that sales people can use as an excuse for their results, or more accurately their lack of results.

This came to me the other day towards the end of a workshop I was delivering.  With our Proactive Prospecting workshop we always include a call session towards the end of the day. This allows the participants to put into practice what they learned (much) sooner rather than later.  Having done this a few times, you learn that some reps will use the time productively and responsibly to reinforce the learning their company paid for, while others will do the usual nothing, and just to check voice mail e-mail, or anything but what they were supposed to.  But there is no hiding when they come back because we take a tally and the ones that slacked get called out by their peers.  I have learned to tell them in advance that they shouldn’t mess around, and if they do they will be called out by their peers, and that’s when you see the excuse machines power on.

And so it was with this one rep, while everyone was making calls his eye were darting around; he finally spied the service rep, talked to him a couple of minutes, shuffled some paper, but no phone. I guess the pressure got to him, because he chased me down to say the following:

“Tibor I just want to make sure that you understand, I want to make calls, but I am new, I just started in this office two weeks ago, so I don’t have anyone to call.”

“So they haven’t assigned you a territory as yet?”

“No hey have, I am just new, so I don’t have anyone to call; I mean I love your stuff, and I think what we learned is great, I just don’t have anyone to call yet”

Are you kidding me man?  No one to call?  New territory, and you don’t have anyone to call? Does it get any more lame than that?

I mean talk about green fields, all those existing clients who have been without a rep for a couple of months, all those competitive accounts that are just crying out to be rescued from the grips of the status quo, and he has no one to call.  That’s when it hit me, that excuse was just not up to snuff, I could do better, he could do better if he just blamed me.  I could take the hit, and for a small fee, I can come up with an excuse his manage would buy, cause that one, the one he was trying to pawn on me, was below standard for any self-respecting B2B rep; or was it, and I am just on the brink of a new revenue stream.  Hmm!?!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales eXchange – 3913

Trust

Last Thursday I posted a piece about reputation in the days of Web 2.0, we referred to it as Reputation 2.0, looking at the impact of people’s “Social Media Footprint”, this piece is specifically about trust, perception of trust and the impact of loss of trust in economical terms. While clearly trust impacts reputation it wasn’t my intent to post on trust immediately, but the question of trust has come up a couple of time in business related discussions over the lat few days; fortunately in both instances neither involved me and my clients, but rather people looking to do business with me, so it heightened my sensitivity of trust and perception of trust in dealing with my clients.

While there are a number of components to trust, there two every sales person needs to be acutely aware of and fight to be on the right side of, they are intent and their track record.

Certain actions can fall on either side of the trust line, and the thing that distinguishes which side they are on is intent. This is especially difficult in sales where on the one hand you want to make sure that your buyer and their interest are your primary drivers, delivering value and exceeding expectations to support it. At the same time you have obligations to your company’s financial health and meeting quota which have direct impact on making a living and staying employed.

Good sales people with good products/solutions work hard and succeed in balancing these two objectives. Others who may not have the most robust or complete solutions have a greater challenge. Full disclosure of all the facts could always leave them as runners up. Some sales people will compensate for this by doing a thorough discovery and exploration of the buyer’s circumstance, helping clients prioritize their requirements, and showing them that based on the client’s specifics, their solution, while not having all the bells and whistles of the top players, still deliver on every aspect needed to address the buyer’s requirements and specs. Unfortunately, there are other sales people, not necessarily bad, just not great, who take a different approach, fudging or omitting facts during their sale.

Now depending on you moral compass the sin of omission may not seem to be a sin, especially in sales. But it is.  Some may be able to rationalize – apologize – editorialize matters; they can fast talk their position.  But being aware of a deficiency vis-à-vis the agreed on requirements of a buyer and not disclosing it, is a breach of trust. Working with the buyer to pin point their requirements, then mutually revising requirements accordingly so the deficiency is no longer an issue, is selling.  Burying the deficiency and side stepping the client’s needs is not.

We have all seen sales people do a nip and tuck on reality or facts to make a deal happen; we have all worked for managers who have told their reps to do whatever it takes to win the deal, and they meant it literally. The challenge for the sales professional is to resist the urge and continue to focus on maintaining trust even if it means the deal taking longer or at times not happening.

Let’s face it these days it is easy to believe that one can and should do things to facilitate their needs and relegate trust to second or third priority. While Tiger may not have harmed most of us directly, he did betray trust. While some sponsors distanced themselves, it was primarily for optics rather than conviction. Disagree?  Well let’s talk again after his “triumphant” return at the Masters, increased ratings, revenues, a commercial catharsis, and the sponsors will be tripping over themselves once more. And who can blame Tiger? He was just doing what he learned from a former president, who was no different than Newt, who just did what Jesse “Rhymin’ Man” Jackson did.  All of them betrayed trust, each with the clear intent to put their own interests first, second and third.  They each breached trust, yet suffered no consequence. 

So what is a poor sales person with real pressures to do?  Well at the risk of sounding naïve, do everything they can to maintain it, as mentioned above, even if it means the deal, because over the long run, those deals will be short lived, as will their reputation and the ability to sell more.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Saturday Sales Tip – 1218

Time For Spring Cleaning

With the unusually warm weather and spring coming in this weekend, I like most people have had a spring in my feet (sorry) the last few days.  But as we threw open the drapes, opened the windows wide to let the light in, we also illuminated the dreary side of winter, the accumulation of things we could not bother to take out in the cold of winter, it was easier to let it collect in the corner or under the bench, with the promise that it’s alright, we’ll deal with it in the spring. 

With many in sales, this phenomenon extends to their pipeline.  Things accumulated all winter, opportunities that in January looked great, now faded, but you are reluctant to throw them out, and now they are just collecting dust, taking up valuable space.  Time for spring cleaning!

I know it is hard at times to throw things out.  In January you were determined to get a good jump on the year, you organized your leads, and started the process of converting them to prospects.  Some clicked right away, and probably have closed by now.  Others eliminated themselves right away and were relegated back to the leads funnel, or were entirely eliminated.  The third group, well they didn’t quite click right away, but didn’t die fast either, pipeline cancer to be crude.  A few good meetings, some progress, a good feeling, you work it, but the opportunities begin to drift.   The prospect is not saying no, but they don’t always answer your call, always something that delays decisions or next steps; but just as you want to move on, something happens, nothing big, but it keeps you intrigued.  So you keep it in the pipeline, and the next one, and the next one, in fact a whole bunch.  Time for spring cleaning.

As we approach the end of the quarter (for most), it is a great time to unclutter your pipeline.  Let the sun shine in and take a realistic look, and take action.  Don’t just look at the ones with mold on them, look at all the ones that have been hanging around without purpose or movement since the start of the year.  Who are the ones that are not saying no, but can’t seem to say yes?  Looked good then, more than tired now.

Amazing thing, my wife made me clean out my closet, get rid of things I haven’t worn for a while, donate it to the local shelter.  You guessed it, not only do I have much more room on my closet, but I can actually see things I want ware that I had been “looking for”, things that were buried under all the stuff I wasn’t getting any use from for some time.  Same with your pipeline; get rid of the trash and you’ll have room to deal with the good opportunities, and more room to bring in fresh new opportunities with real promise to work on.  As the saying goes, what people emotionally believe their prospect base to be dictates their urgency to prospect.  With a bit of spring cleaning you will find your urgency will increase, as will your prospect base, your sales and success in Q2 and beyond.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Reputation 2.026

Your Reputation Gets Around Even When You Don’t!

When I was young(er) and just entering corporate life, I was lucky enough to meet someone who left a profound impression on me and my professional life since.  He told me, “When you first come in to business all you have is your reputation, and you spend the rest your career maintaining it.  If you lose that you have nothing at the end, not matter how much wealth you accumulate along the way”.
 
This was valid in the pre-web days, but this advice is that much more relevant today in the Web 2.0 days or for those of us in sales, Sales 2.0.  At a time when information truly moves at lightning speed, you can both enhance and ruin your reputation in an instance.
 
On the down side, your buyers are much more connected than ever, they are aware not only things you want them to know, and as much aware of things you always hoped they would never know.  Most sellers work hard at influencing their clients, creating an impression of their product, their company and themselves in the process, and while their good deeds are carried across the social waves, so are and indiscretions or simple faux pas, at time with much greater velocity.

Sellers need to be much more conscious and conscientious about their “social media footprint”.  Unlike what many want to believe, there is no separation between their personal and business related Web 2.0 or Sales 2.0 activities, it is all one stream.  We do not have the comfort of looking all very prim and proper on LinkedIn while “letting our hair down” (or other things) on Facebook.  It is no longer a novelty for companies to check out these and other sites when considering potential candidates for positions, or vendors and sellers when it comes to deciding on a purchase, it is SOP.

It goes a lot further than that, it does not take much to see what you Digg and how that jives with the image you are projecting with your buyer.  A disconnect there can only lead them to believe that you are disingenuous and may not be worthy of their business.  And they don’t even have to make much of an effort, there are companies that are happy to do it for them for a nominal fee.

Some may argue that this is not right, what you do in your personal time is your business and should not affect you as a seller, wrong Dorothy, it does.  This isn’t about the “business you” and the “private you”, especially if you are always preaching that people buy from people, yes they do, and now they have a way of seeing the “entire you”, not just the “9:00 to 5:00 you”.  This is also not about being right or wrong, as a friend of mine always asks me “do you want to be right, or do you want to be rich?”, in sales you want to go with rich.

It doesn’t take a lot to guard and be smart, you don’t have to “compromise” or “give in to the man”, you just need to be smart and prepared, which is a basic tenet in sales anyway, so just extend it to your “social media footprint”.  As we said up top, “Your Reputation Gets Around Even When You Don’t”, so make an effort to keep an eye on it.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales eXchange – 3826

 

Undercover Sales Guy

There is not a lot on commercial TV that catches my eyes these days, but there is a program lately that I have enjoyed, it is Undercover Boss.  As the name implies it involves CEO of major corporations going undercover to get a real feel for the state of their operations, see it from a different perspective without their titles interfering with the facts and events.

It got me thinking about how that would play out in sales organization.  Broadly speaking I see two types of executive leaders in sales organizations.  The first group, the more successful ones, ones I admire, and truly enjoy to work with, are the ones I call “Leading from the front”.  Then there is the second group, the ones that “Lead from behind”.  Behind their desk, behind spreadsheets, and behind the cover of their title. 

The first group are hands on and willing to roll up their sleeves and truly lead their teams if not to constant success, certainly to be the best that they can be on a consistent bases.  The processes they implement, the tools they introduce are done with an eye to help their teams deliver.  This is not to say that they are not demanding or have great expectations, in fact usually the opposite.  But they see their role as helping make that happen by getting involved.  I remember speaking to one individual who epitomizes this group, he was in the midst of organizational change and upheaval; during all that he had two concerns, he was not able to make himself as available as he wanted to his team, and felt he was loosing touch with the market as a result.  The second was that it had been a month at the time we were speaking since he had seen a client.

The second group, well not so much fun.  Usually very academic, limited, little or sheltered experience, yet with an ego that prevents them from fully understanding the nature of the beast they are meant to lead.  Looking at numbers, spreadsheets, or dashboards does not tell the story, doesn’t even begin.  These would be the individuals who would benefit the most from an experience the “undercover experience”. It would serve well to separate those who have it in them to learn and just need the opportunity, from those that spent their career avoiding the front line, and see clients selectively for their own purposes rather than the good of the organization and the mutual relationship.

Well, it would be nice if there were a TV producer reading, we could do our own sales version, I even have the name:  So You ThinQ Can Sell!

Sugartone Sweet Business Blogging Contest

Take a look at the Sugartone Sweet Business Contest, (you can learn more by clicking the badge to the left), great place to disocver great bloggers and a chance to support the ones you like. What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Saturday Sales Tip – 1117

Ya, It’s Personal

One of the dumbest pieces of advice sales professionals are given by bad managers or inept trainers when they lose a deal is “don’t take it personally, make sure you take the lesson and move on”.  While I agree that we need to learn from each deal, good or bad; but not taking it personally, is not only dumb, but shows a real lack of understanding of sales.  Most everyone agrees that a purchase/sale is an emotional event; that applies to both the buyer and the seller. 

The best sales people are very passionate about their product and craft. This means giving the sale your all, and to do that they get involved emotionally, they know that enthusiasm is infectious and they make sure they have what it takes to infect the buyer.  We have talked about this before, that all things being equal, the sales person that wins the deal is the one that really wanted it more.

The down side is that this opens the rep up to extreme emotional swings, soaring to great heights when they win a deal, and painful crash landing when they lose.  So what’s an enterprising sales professional to do to avoid wearing out before their time or lose their mind?  The best thing they can do is have a clear step by step process, and do their utmost to adhere to it.  This allows them to give every situation their full talent and energy, and recover quickly to execute their next sale.

This is not to say that they live in some fantasy world, but in sales you need to be fully engaged, which hard to do if you are not personally and emotionally involved.  The question simply becomes, do you hold back to spare your emotions, or do you go full out, and in the process win more deals, and reduce the times you have to deal with the let downs.

So go ahead, your really have no chice, take it personally, get engaged, win more deals, and use that same strength of character to understand the price of success, and then move to the next opportunity to get involved.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Video Bonus

While at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco earlier this week, I had a brief interview with Paul Simon of AllBusiness.com, about the up coming book I coauthored with Craig Elias, check out the interview below, to lean more about the book and be informed when it is released click here.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Y4ZTBA6OcU

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