Welcome to The Pipeline.

The Incredible Lightness in Selling – Sales eXchange – 9319

Recently there was some chatter dealing with the notion that the 18 million sales people in the USA today will shrink down to about 3 million by the year 2020.  Let’s assume that you buy into this, and let’s not bicker how many of these are B2B vs. B2C sales people.  Think for a minute what that transformation would mean, in fact think if it is truly viable?

First, think of the impact on the economy; imagine how it would shrink along with the numbers in sales.  If it doesn’t shrink in proportion to the dwindling sales professionals, it will mean that the remaining 3 million will be filthy rich, as those left will be the most proactive, talented and skilled.  I believe the concept was that much of the reduction in the number of sales people would be due to technology and automation, and the continued empowerment of the buyer.

I for one do not foresee B2B sales becoming almost entirely self-serve, which is the implication in the above suggests.  While technology and automation will continue to grow in importance and function, and may push the weakest of the heard to a career in hospitality, that will represent a small part of the 18 million, it may slow the growth but not reduce it by the scale suggested.

The reality is that much of the automation has had its greatest impact among those already “in the market” or those considering a move to the market in the coming months.  At best, this represents maybe 30% – 35% of the potential market.  This still leaves some 65% to 70% of potential buyers uninvolved.  Yet it is in this large pool that most proactive sales professionals have their greatest success.  If this portion of the market was left to its own, most companies would not survive.

Yes it is true that automation will help companies maximize the 30% of “declared” or “semi-declared” buyers, but it takes more than that to engage those most would describe as being in the “status quo”, the remaining 70%.  The conventional thinking to date has been to perceive this group as happy with their current state, hence the label status quo.  But if you have spent time prospecting and selling to this group successfully over time you will understand that they are not necessarily happy with their current state, but in fact it is more accurate to say that they do not perceive a solution to their requirements, and until they do they will not take action.   This is why abandoning them to automation will not bring the success level experienced with the “declared/semi-declared” group where automation does bring value and results.

Unfortunately, the only way to understand this is to experience it.  If you fear to venture into the dark jungle of the status quo, whether it is because you lack the skills or are soft, and would rather hunt at the peripheral, waiting for the odd prospect to poke his head out in curiosity, you will be limited to what comes your way.  If however you develop your skills, understand the aspirations, requirements and habits of potential buyers, and utilize all tools available, including automation, you will always be more successful than sellers praying on those in or near the market.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a knock against automation, or the companies that provide it, after all there seems to be a host of willing buyers.  Companies who have seen their sales teams spend all their time being reactive, waiting, waiting for buyers to declare their intent or for events beyond their control initiate action.  Once in play these sellers do great, unfortunately it would appear that there are some 15 million doing the same thing at the same time with a small number of buyers.  The other 3 million spend their time where the real opportunities are, and I suspect will be in 2020 and beyond, where technology is key but not a replacement for real sales people.

For more around this subject, I will be involved in a Top Sales World Roundtable this Wednesday, entitled “Is Selling Going Soft?“, along with Jeb Brooks, Anthony Iannarino, Dan Waldschmidt, moderated by Jonathan Farrington.  I will also be posting a recent Top Sales Hard Talk segment on the topic Wednesday.  As well on Thursday, I will be part of a webinar looking at a proactive approach to Triggers in sales.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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How Marketing Can Help Sales After the Handoff13

The Pipeline Guest Post – Jeff Erramouspe

As companies work to establish processes that embrace and support the buying journey from contact to close, an interesting result occurs. Marketing and Sales become unified around one process, instead of each focusing only on their respective ends of the revenue pipeline. Marketing automation integrated with CRM helps to bridge that chasm that used to serve as a dividing line between unknown entities and qualified leads acceptable for sales pursuit.

The key is that buyers don’t care which side is communicating with them, they care about what’s in it for them as they work toward solving business problems.

Recent research by Demand Gen Report found that, “…58 percent of B2B marketers believe the role of a marketer ‘never ends’ even when the lead has been transitioned to sales…” Marketing automation helps marketers add value to buyer relationships even after those prospects have begun to interact with salespeople.

Take a look at 3 ways marketing automation can be used to help salespeople after the handoff:

  1. Post Handoff Scoring: Once a lead’s score reaches the qualification threshold for transition to sales doesn’t mean that their activity with your website and content ceases. In fact, it could even accelerate as they get involved in the complex details necessary to validate that your solution will actually serve their specific situation. With visibility into just which content your qualified leads are accessing, marketers can provide salespeople with additional content and collateral that matches buyer activity to help keep the momentum toward purchase moving along.
  2. Continuous Nurturing: By creating a post-handoff nurturing program jointly with your sales team, marketers can continue to provide late-stage “touches” that help to prove the value sales reps bring to the conversation. Because marketers know which content leads have viewed to date, they can continue to build the relationship on behalf of salespeople. The integration with CRM will help salespeople choose when to interact as well as provide them with fodder for relevant follow-up conversations.
  3. Growth in Interest: Anonymous Web Visitor ID can help marketers identify website visits from additional contacts at the qualified lead’s company. With B2B buyers involving more influencers and stakeholders, sharing this insight with sales reps can help them gauge the true level of buying interest and spot opportunities to extend conversations and offer additional information that may help the buying committee take next steps.

The above are only three suggestions for how marketing automation can help companies establish a seamless end-to-end buying process, facilitated by sharing the insights to prospect behavior that sales reps can act upon to expedite the purchase decision. Marketing automation software generates the data marketers need to provide new levels of support to sales. The challenge is in developing the processes for sharing the data in ways that help salespeople have better conversations and more relevant interactions that serve buyers’ needs.

About Jeff Erramouspe

Jeff is President of Manticore Technology, an Austin-based marketing automation solutions provider.  Prior to joining Manticore in 2008, Jeff was VP of Market Development at Digby, and was the co-founder and CEO of Deepfile Corp. (now StoredIQ), a leading provider of file management solutions. Prior to founding Deepfile, he was a venture fellow at AV Labs, the seed-stage fund associated with Austin Ventures, where he provided executive leadership to several portfolio companies. Jeff has also served as an adjunct professor for entrepreneurship at the University of Texas Graduate School of Business and is considered a thought leader in the areas of sales, marketing, partner management, business finance and infrastructure.

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Prospecting and the “Last Inch”13

Regardless of where you stand on Sales 2.0, the use of internet and other tools that leverage Web 2.0, if you are going to be proactive in your selling, which includes prospecting, there will come a point where you need to reach out and engage with your potential buyers.

This week I talk to the importance of the internet to sellers, but the greater importance of knowing how to plan, manage and execute that “Last Inch” that creates the personal interaction.  There is a role for the internet there, but if you are in B2B sales, not a self-serve environment, you will need to master the last inch.


As you can see, the subject turned to voice mail at the end, which will be the topic of the next instalment in two weeks, so mark that down, but we’ll see you before that I am sure.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Targets vs. Metrics – Sales eXchange – 9216

It’s not news that sales is very much a communications experience, with language and words being two core building blocks of communication, and by extension your sales success. The words you select matter, and while it may be true in the school yard that “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you”, in sales they can kill you, and hurt you a lot as you experience said death.

As with most things in sales for the infamous 80% of the 80/20 divide, their use of specific words is shaped by the leaders of their organization. Misuse of certain words or using the wrong words can and do lead to critical misunderstandings of the message, resulting actions and outcome.

Two words that many sales leaders use loosely and interchangeably are Targets and Metrics.  In case you haven’t concluded it yet, I think there is a difference.  Targets are what sales people need to hit to be successful, their goal.  While many may not like their targets, feel that they are unfair or arbitrary (sometimes true),  they are necessary.  As Zig Ziglar said even a champion archer can win without a target to shoot at.

Metrics measure productivity and effectiveness of key activities in a process.  Say the speed with which an athlete run 100 metres, the batting average of a ball player, the length of time from hand shake to close, or the rate of conversion of prospects to proposals, etc.  In other words, measures of actions or factors that help a sales person hit or surpass their target.

Yet time after time when I ask sales leaders if they have metrics in place, they say yes, and tell me their team’s targets.  This clearly indicates that they have not given a lot of thought to, or have a strong coaching culture.  When the only thing that is measured is the outcome, when there is only “made it” or not, it is hard for the team to get guidance on what they can do differently to achieve their targets.

It is important that sales leaders and field managers communicate both targets and metrics clearly, mixing the two up leads to not so much confusion  but a lack of execution, or execution of the wrong things in the wrong way.  It does not take long to figure out which are the basic activities and attribute needed to succeed in your organization, measuring those and building a coaching plan around them allows you to create focus on the right things, execution, and achieving targets consistently.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Battle Reparation Tactics Meet Marketplace Strategies16

The Pipeline Guest Post – John Durfee

In Operation Iraqi Freedom, the word “freedom” actually started after the initial invasion of Iraq, after we found out there weren’t any Weapons of Mass Destruction.  Our operation took a sharp turn from a search and recognisance to a damage assessment and societal reparation assignment. We went from a sweep and report fighting force, to one that had to watch the way we act, make sure we have a friendly appearance, and present a message of peace and support to the native Iraqi people. In a manner of speaking, we launched a militaristic marketing scheme that needed to succeed if we are to achieve any long term, sustainable peace and prosperity. When I returned home from my tour and got back to my job as the manager of a marketing team, I carried with me the lessons I learned in attempt to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. We took two definitive steps to get the Iraqi people to willingly let us help them get their infrastructure up and stable.

  1. Gain Trust and Rapport
  2. In a situation where my comrades and I had just finished sweeping through a country by force, it’s easy to imagine it might be difficult to gain the trust of the locals. But failure wasn’t an option. The way we began was with small offerings. We started by building or repairing wells and bridges and offering education to anyone who was interested.

    Similarly in the market world, you have to entice a clientele base by promoting heavily without really striving for a high profit margin. Promote sales, throw out freebies, offer free shipping for certain orders. This is the first step of a campaign – investment is high and the immediate returns may be low, but remember, this is an integral part in building a population of consumers who not only know about you, but absolutely love your deals. Once you’ve gotten their attention and their friends’ attention, you can move on to aim for more meaningful, more profitable interactions.

  3. Be Their Friend
  4. When you’re interacting with a a consumer, you need to show them that you’re not a salesman. It is important that they feel that you’re not trying to get them to do something that they wouldn’t otherwise want to do. They want to feel like you understand them and are working along side them to get them what they want. During my tour, we didn’t start rebuilding, repairing, and implementing infrastructure any way we saw fit. All of our actions were performed on a case by case basis from location to location based on localized information we gathered from local committees. Similarly, never assume that you know best. Perform surveys, organize a focus group, and gain any amount of REAL consumer data. It is worth it’s weight in gold when it comes to building a marketing scheme that really apeals to your target market. In Iraq, our long term interests were aimed towards long term international security and affording the Iraqi people a chance to improve their quality of life.

    In the marketing business, our goal is profits by way of customer satisfaction. Make sure your customers know you care about them with good deals and smooth transactions. Show them you’re willing to meet their needs and you’re building bridges. Long lasting business relationships are all about repeating that cycle of trust. They need to know that you are their friend, not their salesman.

    About John Durfee

    John is an Operation Freedom War veteran and a manager for Airsplat, the nation’s largest retailer of Airsoft Guns including Spring Airsoft Rifles.

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Time To Swap Rituals11

There is a ritual that can be observed in sales, it unfolds at the end of each month, and that much more so at the end of each quarter; much like “triple witching” on Wall St., when multiple contracts expire on the same Friday.

In sales it is the end of month or quarter corral, the “driving of the deals” to close the quarter strong. You hear managers across the land encouraging their teams to close what they can before the end of the quarter. Now I know there is sandbagging taking place, but with roughly only 50% reps making their quota last year, do they really need to be told to close it now? Maybe, and maybe that is why managers seem to tolerate discounts during these times, in fact some organizations create programs specifically to discount, especially during the year-end “witching hour”.

Read On…

Tibor Shanto

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Do It Again, Do It Again – Sales eXchange – 9114

Depending what you did in Q1, you are either lucky enough, or doomed to having to repeat the quarter again in Q2.  Notice I said what you did, not how you did. That’s because how you did in the quarter had more to do with what you did the quarter, or some period before January.  Therefore, if you did the same thing in Q1 as you did in the period before, it is likely that the outcome in this coming quarter will be similar.  If you did the right things, in the right measures, you will continue to do well.  On the other hand, if you don’t like how you did in Q1, you need to step back and change what you do now, or you will continue to suffer the same fate in Q3.

While this may seem like a big demand, it need not be, and certainly not a big demand on time and resources on an ongoing basis.  You just need to make review-and-analysis part of your day-to-day process, really nothing more than “watching the game tape” every week.

Before you start grumbling under your breath, I am not talking about a major encroachment on your time, or a major overhaul of your approach or execution; more fine tuning things based on empirical input.  Hence the “game tape” analogy, how to adjust your game based on your performance and on field conditions.

This means looking at a couple of specifics and the relationship between them; are you doing the right things and in the right proportion. Again, what I want you to consider is what you are in fact doing, not what you said you would do, but have not done yet, but again, doing.  My favourite example of this is prospecting, better yet prospecting for brand new customers; some sales people try to fool me by telling me they are prospecting when they call their existing clients, a good activity, but not prospecting. They plan to do it, say they’ll do it, but don’t.

The reason most often given for this lack of prospecting?  “Didn’t have enough time with all the things I have to do”.  Which brings us to the second specific in question, time, or more accurately, time allocation.  Did you allocate time to the right activities based on your product, territory and other responsibilities?  I have spoken several times about time allocation on this blog, and the need to allocate the right amount of time to the right activities.  As with most things in sales, these allocations are not static and need to be reviewed and adjusted based on market (on field) conditions and your conversion rates along the cycle.  By reviewing these inputs, you will have to make adjustments.  If in fact you are unable to prospect, you need to review what you are allocating time to, and see if it is all necessary, and carve out enough time to complete everything you need to in the course of a sale or successful quarter.

While over the course of the year you want to review a number of key factors, which is why every win, loss, or no decision should be reviewed, on a broad basis you should regularly review to make sure you have the right activity mix, and in the right amounts to achieve goal.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Winning with Voicemail18

The Pipeline Guest Post – Mike Weinberg

I’ve been working with several sales teams making a whole lot of phone calls, and am getting an earful about reaching a prospect’s voicemail. It appears the running average today is that somewhere between 75 & 90 percent of calls end up going to voicemail.

It has been interesting to hear all the varying theories on how to handle voicemail. There are as many opinions as there are people making calls. Seemed like a good time to revisit my own material to freshen up my coaching. I’ve been reflecting on my own experience, reading all I can, observing and tinkering with my clients’ approaches, and comparing notes with my favorite sales gurus.

Here’s what I am coming up with as Keys to Winning with Voicemail:

Mindset Matters – Positive Perspective:  Most people who make a living in sales complain about voicemail. They dread it. And it kills their energy, enthusiasm and effectiveness. Stop the whining and start seeing the opportunity it provides to “touch” the prospect. We all know it takes x number of touches to breakthrough. Be thankful for the chance to make this a positive touch.

Expect It – Prepare for It: We’ve all babbled like an idiot on someone’s voicemail. We’ve puked out nonsense. We’ve gone on too long. We’ve talked in circles. We’ve panicked and starting hitting the pound key or the star key hoping to kill the evidence of our pathetic effort! If we are going to get voicemail three-quarters of time, shouldn’t we expect it and be prepared to leave a well-crafted, articulate message?

Serve an Appetizer – Use a Snippet of Your Story: Go ahead make it a productive message. Leave a tiny piece of your story – making sure it is about a pain/problem/issue or two that you solve for customers. Just don’t ramble. We want to leave them hungry the main course.

Take the Long View – See it as a Campaign: Accept that it is going to take multiple messages to get a call back. Try to see your voicemail as one in a series. That will help keep it succinct and stop you from leaving 90-second messages. Use a slightly different snippet of your sales story with each message. Reality is that almost nobody calls back after receiving one message. So plan to make it a campaign.

Ask for a Call Back – State That You Will Call Again: Yes, leave your number at a pace someone could actually write it down and ask the prospect to call you back. But make sure to let them know that you will call again. We want to send the message that we are serious and that this isn’t a “one and done” half-baked effort to reach them.

Be Human – Use Humor or Guilt, Not Anger: I believe that a key to prospecting success is to convert the buyer from seeing you an anonymous salesperson making robo-calls to viewing you as a real-life human being. To make that happen through voicemail, we need to sound and act like real people. Normal people with feelings. Prospects don’t respond to robots going through the motions. They are much more likely, however, to respond to a fellow member of humanity who has a great story and is making a supreme effort to pique their interest. If I haven’t received a call-back after a few messages it is time to ramp-up the human-side. I like to do that with humor and possibly a little guilt thrown in. It’s amazing how often the return call finally comes after a  third message that includes something funny or plays on the fact that “I hope by now I’ve earned a call back based on perseverance alone.” Also, never get angry or show frustration in a message. You have no right to be angry. If they’re not calling back, it’s on you, not on them.

A client recently asked me if you can have a relationship with someone who isn’t returning your calls. I believe you can. You demonstrate commitment. You work the soil, plant the seed, fertilize then water… Very often something beautiful springs up out of the ground. But it takes work, skill and persistence on your part.

About Mike Weinberg

Mike’s specialty is new business development. He’s been the #1 producer in three companies and after 5 years leading sales organizations, returned to his passion, full-time sales coaching at the end of 2010. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Mike coaches sales leaders and sales teams, leads sales-force turn-arounds and shares insights on hunters and business development on his blog http://newsalescoach.com.

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Social Selling University – Webinar15

Triggers Fundamentals (101) – Events

Today – Thursday, March 31, 2011
1:00 pm Eastern Time /10:00 am Pacific

Register here

We are all familiar with the “domino effect”, one domino falls, causing the others to fall in a predictable way, the thing that causes the domino to fall in the first place is the “Trigger”. In sales there are many types of triggers, some simple and visible, others more intricate and not always in plain view.

Events are the simplest and most obvious form of triggers in sales, something happens, and this event sets things in motion, the dominos falling. How well prepared you are in advance will help determine how well you can leverage events when they come to your advantage. Events can include change in personnel in an account, a competing vendor; change in regulation; mergers and acquisitions; regulatory; economic and more. How well you plan, recognize and react to a given event will have direct impact on your success in winning more customers, penetrating and retaining existing clients; all with greater predictability and in shorter time frames.

This session will present the basics of buying modes, strategies and tactics on how to prepare for and act on key events that will advance your sales. You will learn specific steps to execute that will help you identify key events, and execute your plan to take full advantage of and to ensure that dominos fall your way.

About Social Selling University

Social Selling University: the industry’s first collaborative program designed to educate sales professionals on how to leverage social media technologies and methodologies to increase sales productivity and drive revenue throughout the entire sales cycle.

Social Selling University features on-demand and live content, which has been developed by thought leaders, authors and analysts.

About the classes:

  • Classes are designed for all levels of sales professionals (reps-execs)
  • Classes include entry-level social media instruction on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, best practices for managing personal online brands
  • Classes teach how to accelerate the sales cycle by leveraging recent business events, social conversations and social relationships (aka “social intelligence”)

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Prospecting – When Is The Best Time?22

Last week I talked about prospecting, why some like it when most don’t, rejection, and managing them.  This week I respond to the question of when is a good time to prospect, or when is the best time.  How long do I need to prospect, and a few ways to break it down to better manage and cope with prospecting.

The goal is not to convince you that you should love it, but that you should do it; do it in a methodical and productive way.  You’ll get some of that this week, and more next week.

One of the points raised in the clip, is the need to quantify things by using your goal and conversion rates as a means of pinpointing the amount of prospecting one needs to do.  To get more insight on that, you can read a related article “Working Backwards From Your Goal To Get Ahead“.


Look forward to your comments, and invite you to visit our YouTube Channel to view other SellBetter sales videos.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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