Welcome to The Pipeline.

What’s in Your Pipeline? – Execution!27

You know in sales it’s all just talk till you put in action.  You can plan, strategies, prepare, put on your killer suit and tweet all about, but till you execute, you got bubkas.

So when you look to answer the question What’s in Your Pipeline, it starts and ends with execution, the last word in sales!


What’s n Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Death Of Salesman 2.0?55

Ah, the poor 21st century sales professionals, if he/she is not getting it from their manager, they are being squeezed by what he thought was a “loyal” customer, wringing yet another concession to ensure they keep the business.  As if all that were not enough, there is always a sniper, pundit or sales expert ready to threaten their existence and value.  One such “end is near” piece was on SellingPower.com, entitled “How Many Salespeople Will Be Left by 2020?“, according to which the species will be all but extinct by the end of this decade.

While I think it is important for experts and pundits to challenge sales people to stretch and evolve, to stay on top and ahead of evolving trends and technology, it is also important to keep it real.  Since the advent of technology, especially from the start of the last century on, there has been a debate about the impact of technology on selling and sellers.  The recurring prediction that sales people will be replaced or diminished in importance by automation, seems a favourite among some.

Technology no doubt brings levels of efficiency that will make selling different and impact the interaction between sellers and buyers.  And while this discussion is important, it also needs to be real.  It is important that we pundits help and contribute to the process of evolution, rather than impede or distract with outlandish statements that serve a narrow and self-serving agenda.

The piece starts and builds from a question asked by the author at Sales 2.0 conference, relating to acquiring books from Amazon.com, and interaction with Amazon.com staff.

For me, and for all professional sales people, the piece has some short comings, not the least of which are it fails to address or distinguish the real difference between B2B and B2C; it fails to differentiate between transaction – interaction – purchasing and selling.

If there is the dramatic reduction in the species that the piece suggests, it is almost certainly to come in the B2C camp, not in the B2B.  Buying a book from Amazon is as retail as it gets, even more so than the drive through at SONIC℠.  There is a great difference between selling and buying, and more so between buying/selling and fulfilment, which is what Amazon does when it comes to books.  The book was sold by the author, publisher, pr firm, Oprah, and these days social media, but Amazon, they just delivered it.  Most people these days will go in to B&N look at the book, compare and then transact using the fulfilment facilities offered by Amazon, There is no more selling by Amazon there than going to your local Piggly Wiggly® for a tube of toothpaste.  Just look at how Piggly Wiggly® describes itself on their site,”America’s first true self-service grocery store, was founded in Memphis, Tenn. in 1916 by Clarence Saunders.”  Not much new there, it has been going for 100 years; the store has just shifted to my screen.

As for the statement: “Gartner, a research organization, predicts that by 2020, 85 percent of interactions between businesses will be executed without human intervention. It is likely that of the 18 million salespeople in the United States, there will be only about 4 million left.”  Gartner quotes interactions not sales.  EDI has been around for a long time facilitating interactions between business, with the victims being more inventory clerks than B2B sales professional.  Even when you look at concepts like Vendor Managed Inventories, the reduction in bodies have been related to warehouses and accounts payable staff than in the sales people who sell the service to begin with.

While we are all impressed with Watson’s success, that is a long way from creating demand, generating leads, dealing with all the variables that human interactions involve when it come to risk, money and emotion.  I am not sure Watson answered complex questions as much as to chew through reams of data with breakneck speed.  Dealing with a buyer afraid to pull the trigger on a change that is good for the company. Or responding and managing to emotionally based “objections”, are the same as searching a database at any speed.  For an interesting examination of this read a Slate.com piece: “Jeopardy, Schmeopardy, Why IBM’s next target should be a machine that plays poker“.  By Chris Wilson, Feb. 15, 2011.

Another puzzling aspect to this is that the same people who seem to harp on relationships, and “people buy from people”, seem to be the ones supporting the disappearing sales person view.  I don’t claim to be an expert, but how does Watson fit into the social selling world of the future?

An altogether more practical view of the issue was presented by Jeffrey Gitomer, in a piece in his July 5th edition of Sales Caffeinein a piece titled “Death of a Salesman! How alive are you?“.   He not only distinguishes between retail and B2B, but expands on the impact on the economy should all these sales people disappear.  Rather than  discussing how we will be replaced by machines, he outlines the advantage and opportunities presented to B2B sales people in the future.

The reality is that computers will continue to replace transactions, order fulfilment, and other commercial interactions between companies; they will continue to bring efficiencies to selling in many forms, but when it comes to B2B sales, both for mission critical and discretionary offerings, they will remain a companion not a replacement.  It is true that sales people, like the products/solutions they represent will need to continue to add increasing value if they are to remain in the profession.   But for those who do, the future is more than bright, and more importantly rewarding.  For should it come to pass that our ranks are reduced by 75%, the remaining 25%, to quote a friend “will not only be in great demand, but be filthy rich due to our abilities”.

I know that as pundits it is our role to deal with issues in an exaggerated fashion to make an important point.  To do that, perhaps the question leading to the premise of the article should have been: “How many conference sponsors have bought sponsorship online; how many of you have done that without speaking to a conference rep?”

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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How To Stretch Your Value to the Max! – Sales eXchange – 10630

Through the mid and late 1990’s I sold an information solution, delivering live content directly into companies LANs, allowing them to create alerts. Not that big a thing today, but keep in mind this was before the Web, and while the delivery is no longer a challenge, functional and useful alerts, now marketed as triggers by many of the same folks, are still being sold, if not always bought.

The leaders of the company used to carry out a strange annual ritual that demonstrated their desperation and lack of sound business thinking. This specific product sold for $3,000 a month or $36,000 for the required minimum annual subscription. Every December the “Leadership”, would roll out the same special offer, an annual subscription for $30,000 if the customer committed before the all-important year-end, a $6,000 discount for those who bit.

The plan, theory, hope, as it was explained, was that once the service was flowing through the customers’ networks, and they had a chance to experience it, renewing them 12 months later at full price would be a mere formality.  Right!  To this day I am not aware of one client who renewed at full pop, all the renewals were all at $30,000 never $36,000. Not only did they never recover the cost of acquiring the account, but ended up paying a further $6,000 penalty for as long as the client maintained the service.

There were a couple of lessons and I learned from this, one right away, there other got clearer over time, especially as I sold more involved solutions.

The most important lesson set in after a couple of years of this silliness, when I realised how to leverage the reverse of the phenomenon.  Our losses stretched out as long as the client maintained the service, $6,000 per year, four years, $24,000.  Therefore, the same had to be true when a client was realising value from our service.

If you can get agreement from a buyer that using your service, they will save $20,000 a year; or using your service they can increase sales resulting in a $25,000 increase in net earnings, you can then extrapolate that out over the life of the service you sell.  Most sales people don’t go this extra step, they will stand their ground on that first figure.  So if your product costs $20,000 it may not look that attractive at either $20K 0r $25K return; but what if they had the benefit of your product for four years.  That changes things; they now have the potential to see an $80,000 benefit from a $20,000 investment.

It is important that you establish two basic things, first, and I mean first, the duration of the positive impact of your offering, it has to be established first, not that hard if you follow a disciplined approach to Discovery.  Second, the value gained, whether that is increased sales, reduced costs, longer asset life, reduced time to market, you name it, (well actually let the buyer name, you ask the questions that lead to that).  Armed with those two things, you are not only set to achieve full price for full value, but the elimination of a lot of daftness from the sale, for both you and the buyer.

For example, if I can get a buyer to see that my training will bring in an extra three sales a year, and he tells me that each nets $1,200, that’s $3,600.  If his average tenure for a rep is five years, that brings it to $18,000; makes the initial investment of $1,500 seem like a steal, even if we added in an annual refresher at $500, still total investment of $3,500 per rep, still leaves a return of $14,500 of the five years.  (Note to self, need to raise my prices).

The other obvious lesson learned was not to sell at a discount.  Once you sell it at $30,000, you have established the value, and all the dancing and barking you do when trying to renew does not change that fact and the value you set at $30,000.  Yes, there are arguments you can make, proof of worth you can present, but all that is just decoration, the fact is you sold it at $30,000, and that’s what it’s worth.  Some of the leadership threatened to withdraw the service, but not only did they lack the anatomical make up to do that; but they and the local rep had become addicted to the crack-revenue, and no one was going to suffer the withdrawal pains.  Besides, they would have to go out and replace what they lost, and they have shown that that was beyond their means.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Sales tips for your website47

The Pipeline Guest Post – David Leonhardt

Even when you sleep, your website is still selling for you.  Or is it?

Here are 10 factors to keep in mind to make sure that your website is not sleeping on the job.

1. Make sure your website is actually there. That means you need a reliable hosting account.  Before signing up with a web host check for negative reviews.  Search Google for the hosting company with words like “problems”, “down”, “issues”, etc.

2. Make sure your pages are structured well. Everybody like a “good looking” website, but more important is that people can find what they need.  One good way to see if your website is meeting people’s needs is to get a heat map of where they are clicking.  There are several services to do this: I reviewed one at http://www.seo-writer.com/blog/2007/05/28/crazy-egg-website-conversions/ The review is now four years old, but it pretty much holds true today.

3. Don’t hard sell. It might seem like you are not there to guide a client through the sales process, so you need to really drum home the message.  But the Internet is not like that.  For the most part, people seek information, even when they are just about ready to buy.  Provide complete, accurate, easy-to-understand information, with compelling reasons why your product is good, and you will sell them.

4. Free Bonuses are good. No hard sell does not mean you should avoid using sales tactics.  One tactic that works very well on the Internet is to offer lots of free bonuses worth a ridiculous amount of money.  Although it is not part of our regular sales process on the web, we offer book-writing clients a free synopsis and query letter.  On their own, we might charge $500 for this, but once a writer is already working on writing the manuscript, the incremental amount of work involved is minor.  Adding value works on the Internet.

5. Discounting works on the Internet, too – but be careful. It works for products better than  for services.  Discounting price also discounts value.  Be careful about a blanket discount that can reduce the perceived value.

6. Setting a time or space limit seems to work well on the Internet, too. This is one way in which discounting can work – sign up before midnight tonight to get 35% off.  After that, you pay full price.  Of course, this works best when there is a believable reason for discounting, other than the we-want-your-money reason.  For instance, “We want to kick-start this program big, so we are offering a special price just for this week.”

7. Perhaps better than a time limit for discounts in certain niches is exclusivity. “We want to kick-start this program big, so we are offering a special price just for the first 100 people to join.  Reserve your spot in line.”

8.  Scarcity is great.  Of course, exclusivity and discounts don’t need to be paired together. You can offer “limited seating” without a discount, too.  The limitation makes the product more valuable (as opposed to discounting, which makes it less valuable) and the limitation can build a sense of urgency that propels a prospect to action.

9. Lead on, fair website. Are you leading people to your sales page?  Very important – yes, you want to give people plenty of good, reliable information, but you also want to give them the opportunity at frequent intervals to “buy” or “see specs” or whatever they need to do to convert a sale.

10. Do you serve multiple client groups? Perhaps you need to speak a different language or emphasise different features or uses of your product for different  audiences.  Governments, private contractors and end users might not all think alike.  Does your website try to sell to all of them at once, or does it address each one individually?

Websites can be amazing sales tools.  They don’t get moody or need to be fed.  But they do need to be set up to sell well — even while you sleep.  Does yours sell well, even while you sleep?

About David Leonhardt

David Leonhardt, an Ottawa SEO consultant, who blogs about attracting traffic to your website. Follow him on Twitter: @Amabaie

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Don't Be Burnt By Yes35

As sales people we are very much conditioned to look for yes, after all when a deal is “closed” it is as a result of the customer saying yes, likely a number of times along the way; and while it is the final yes that seals the deal, it is not the most crucial answer in the process.

But I think in some ways we should be searching ‘no’. There are a couple of reasons for that, one is that if ultimately they are going to say no, especially after a series of soft ‘yeses’, it is better know that early, and be able to focus time and resources on other more viable opportunities. Now I am not saying that we overtly push the buyer to say no; what I am promoting is the use of a qualification method that allows you to disqualify the weaker opportunities, the soft ‘yeses’, which leaves you working with your truly viable prospects.

Having a combination of process, metrics, and continuous skills development, and most importantly a management that allows their sales people to be selective and focus on the best opportunities.  This permission is crucial, but rare, and sales people will chase anything that breaths.  Again, there needs to be definition, standards and other elements that ensure the process is serving your collective needs, but just as you would fire bad clients, you should even more so fire bad prospects.

Another upside to using an objective approach to looking for no is the number of “prospects”, who just can’t say no till the very end, when it stings most. Rejection is best suffered early.  How many times have you had people who were with you through the sale; looked at subjectively, a sales person can conclude that there is a willing committed participant, a viable opportunity. The same sale, when looked at objectively, after you work to confirm specific elements, utilizing your discovery process and standard to evaluate, could look entirely different, and demand a different course.

Don’t be a like the unfortunate moth, drawn in by the heat and light of the yes, only to be burnt by that last no from a prospect who couldn’t or chose not to say no before.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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18 Steps To Improving Your Sales – Sales eXchange – 10549

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I don’t play golf often, it is really not a game that likes me, just look here.  But a couple of weeks ago I did participate in a tournament, and due to the nature of things a bunch of sales types were playing as well.  My friend was involved in organizing things, so we arrived well in advance of the others, so I got to see things unfold at a leisurely pace.

As the sales types showed, some of whom I have worked with, it was interesting to observe their actions.  After the obligatory niceties, most picked up either a putter and headed to the putting green, or a driver and made their way to the driving range.

I made my way down to the driving range and watched as there sales people not only practiced in earnest, but sought out advice and input from other participants, and then immediately put that advice into practice.  While at times it did not go well the first time, they kept at it, and most didn’t let their frustration get the best of them.

Now this was a meaningless tournament, sure there was a cause of some sort, there were be strategic foursomes leading to potential business, but in the end it was meant to be and turned out to be an afternoon of fun.

Yet many of the sales reps put more practice and preparation into their game that afternoon, than they do into practicing and preparing for selling, which for most represented their livelihood.  It struck me odd that many pay for lessons from a pro, while they squander and dismiss learning opportunities given them by their companies in the form of sales training.

The 30 to 45 minutes of prep and practice before the round that afternoon was more than many would do for a week’s or a month’s worth of selling.

Clearly they are not lazy, so what is it?

As I try to figure it out, I think it does open a new business opportunity.  “18 Steps To Improving Your Sales”.   The idea being that for a slightly higher price than the current price, we deliver sales training on the course during the round.  There is always that foursome ahead of you have to wait for, there is the banter between players, well why not include a sales lesson on each whole, tie it to their game and presto: outdoor learning, better revenue, and not only should my game improve, but more importantly, their sales will.  Call me to sign up!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Get Your Veteran Salespeople to Take Baby Steps35

The Pipeline Guest Post – Dave Kurlan

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We expect newer salespeople to be sales challenged, that is, not very effective when it comes to listening and questioning.  But the reality is that for at least 74% of the sales population, veteran salespeople aren’t very effective at this either. Here are some of Objective Management Group’s additional statistics from assessing more than 500,000 salespeople:
•    58% talk too much
•    58% don’t ask enough questions
•    84% present too early in the sales process
•    85% offer quotes or proposals too early in the sales process
•    86% take prospects at their word – they trust enough to not ask a clarifying question

I see this over and over again in the early stages of sales development at every company we help.

Read this great example from yesterday’s mailbag:

A salesperson emailed his lessons learned and included this one:

“The final lesson again concerns the compelling reasons to buy. Ideally in your line of questioning during uncovering these you should try and get the prospect to attach a monetary value to the compelling reasons. This made me think of a prospect of mine where I believed I had two separate compelling reasons but when I looked at them I didn’t have the monetary value associated with the issue. The two reasons were: 1) The current test environment is all physical and is taking up too much space in the datacenter. By replacing it with new virtual infrastructure it will save lots of space and data center power and cooling. My next question should have been ‘How much money is it costing you each month in space, power and cooling by not moving to the new infrastructure?’ 2) The test environment was so different to their production environment half of all application go lives were backed out of after application issues when they moved into production. Again, my next question should have been ‘How many times has this happened and what do you estimate the cost of each aborted go live to be?’”

I wrote back, “On your very last example, you suggested questions that you could have asked – good job.

“To help even further, there should be some additional questions in and around “how many times has this happened?” and “what did it cost?”

“It should start with:

Tell me more about that!
How big of a problem does that cause each time it happens?
What are the users saying?
Who are they saying it to?
How do you feel when you have to retract an app that already went live?
How many times did that happen in the past 36 months?
What should that number be?
How much time is wasted as a result?
What does it prevent you from doing?
What would it be worth to recover that time?
Is there a lost opportunity cost associated with this?
Is there a hard cost associated with an abort?
So if you had to guess, what is the overall cost associated with not moving to the new environment?
Is that a lot?
Who else cares about that?
How do you feel about that?”

That’s 17 additional baby steps to get from “half of the go lives have to be backed out” and “how much did it cost?”  Most of your salespeople attempt to go from A to Z without stopping to visit B through Y.

You cannot script these questions.  Your salespeople must be able to identify the questioning opportunities in real time while their prospects are responding to the question currently in play.

This requires VERY focused listening, note taking, and patience.  And the biggest challenge?  Your salespeople must avoid the temptation to jump to a different question topic, jump to presentation, or jump in with a solution!

About Dave Kurlan

Dave is the founder and CEO of Objective Management Group, Inc., the industry leader in sales assessments and sales force evaluations, and the CEO of Kurlan & Associates, Inc., an international consulting firm specializing in sales force development.  He possesses 30 plus years of experience in all facets of sales development, including consulting, training, coaching, recruiting, systems, processes, and metrics.

Dave has been a top rated speaker at Inc. Magazine’s Conference on Growing the Company, the Sales & Marketing Management Conference and the Gazelles Sales & Marketing Summit.  He is internationally known for his ground breaking work in evaluating sales people, he is the developer of a tool for evaluating sales forces, and the co-developer of several software and web applications that help sales managers coach and hold their salespeople accountable. The Death of 20th Century Selling, 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life, Volume 2, and the brand new book, Stepping Stones, with coauthors Deepak Chopra, Brian Tracey and Jack Canfield.


Sales as Return On Time12

Time is about the only neutral thing on the planet, it does not discriminate, provides everyone with the same opportunity.  What you make of it, how you use it, spend it or misspend really is the difference between mediocre – good – great.

This weeks video presents the idea of looking at time as an investment vehicle, investment capital as it were.  How you spend it, invest it determines your success.  Don’t be like many, who only appreciate it’s value when it runs out, often all too soon.

As always, we welcome your feedback, but don’t spend too much time on it.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto



3 Ways To Reduce Friction In A Cold Call – Sales eXchange – 10418

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Let’s begin by stating clearly that cold calling is alive, doing well as part of an overarching client acquisition process that includes other elements such as referrals and inbound marketing; in fact the only time it does not work is when you don’t do it, which is why it doesn’t work for many who choose not to do it.  But if you are one of the ones who do, and are looking to improve, here are three things, in no specific order,  you can do, or improve if you are already using these techniques.

1.    Know whom you are calling! – Sounds simple, but you’d be surprised.  I still see many people call, as well as receive calls from sales people who start the conversation by asking: “can you tell me who is in charge of your receivables?”  (Or insert any function).  It takes so little to find out who you should be talking to, but it pays so many dividends.

First, just by asking for the right person by name, shows that you have invested a minimal amount time and effort in advance of the call.  Second, people respond to their names, if you want their attention, you need to shift their focus from what they were involved in when the phone rang, to the call; using their name to grab their attention before jumping into the rest of the call can be part of the difference.

2.    Be specific, speak their language – Building on the above, know what they do, not just in terms of the company, but what they, their role, and department contribute to the success of their company.  Speak specifically to that, nothing else; if they see you as fitting in to their current flow, you have the opportunity to engage, if it is outside of that flow, you’re toast, white bread and burnt!

We have heard it before, but this is not the time to speak about yourself or your company, the people who care about that are not on the call.  Really, you want to succeed, forget about you and your company, no one cares that you are the “Senior Account Manager”, no one cares that you are a Fortune 500 company, not on this call.  What they care about is the age old “What’s in it for me (my company)”.  So stick to that, what have others in their role or position, accomplished using your offering?  Deliver the meat they crave, and deliver it flavoured in a way they like and are willing to pay for.  This means using their jargon, their reference points, their metrics, in the scenery that they live in.  You can find this by looking at what specific value your current and past customers have realised with your offering.  The upside is not only will you have great talking points, but also find that you have some great testimonials that you’ll be able to leverage in a number of ways.

3.    Project confidence, it is infectious – One of the reasons sales people get rejected on cold calls is because they ask for it.  They don’t come out and say it –”please reject me”, but just about everything else they do suggests that.  As the recipient of the call is evaluating whether the interruption merits their time and attention, one of the factors is the confidence you project, not only in the call, and in the way your offering can help based on point 2., above.   In addition, your overall confidence is key, no one wants to deal with a submissive, milli-mouthed, cap in hand talking advert for their company.  This is most important in dealing with objections, contrary to popular belief, objections are not rejection, in most cases, when the call is handled right to that point, objections are an opportunity to create genuine dialogue.  If like most sales people you treat it as a rejection, and begin to “defend” and push back, you come across as weak and lacking confidence, and the ability to articulate the value you potentially offer.  Your lack of confidence distracts from the conversation, you may think you are being polite and respectful, but you’re not.  You are coming across as weak and lacking confidence, and no one wants to deal with someone like that, especially when you are an unknown alternative to something they already have.

The above are a start, and need to be practiced, and constantly improved, but as you master them, you will see opportunities to tackle other barriers to prospecting success.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


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