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The Pipeline Guest Post – An interview with Peter Cook

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about Peter Cook’s new book “Punk Rock People Management”.  Based on the response, I asked Peter to sit down and tell me more.  What follows is that interview with Peter, Author of “Punk Rock People Management” and “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll”

What in your background led you to write Punk Rock People Management?

I started out life playing in punk rock and rock bands, but took a job as a chemist working in pharmaceuticals.  It was a wise decision as I enjoyed earning money and doing science just as much as driving round England in platform shoes in the back of a van. I kept music as my hobby and travelled the world fixing factories.  Working for the company that became GSK also allowed me to study for an MBA.  I left the company at the age of 36 with no idea of how to run a business but with a great deal of passion and energy.  The learning I gained on the MBA was very instructive, but I learned just as much from being on stage, engaging an audience.  I eventually distilled this rich mixture of learning down into “Best Practice Creativity”, “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and “Punk Rock People Management”, which have been acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professor Charles Handy and featured on national TV here in the UK.

Punk Rock People Management is a really unusual title? What inspired it and what is the book about?

In case anyone is wondering, I am NOT suggesting that business people should don mohicans, smash up the reward system and pogo at the office party.  I am using punk rock in the sense that punk was about simplicity, brevity and authenticity.  Much of the stuff emanating from the HR institutes is about the opposite of these things.  Busy managers need short, simple and decent ways of handling people management if they are to generate high performance at work.  So Punk Rock People Management is for anyone who manages or has to get things done through people.  In terms of what it is about, the subtitle describes exactly what’s on offer:  A no-nonsense guide to hiring, inspiring and firing staff.  It follows the time-honoured ‘life, sex and death HR lifecycle': Getting a job, getting on with the job and getting out of a job.

I spent a lot of my early life playing in punk rock and rock bands, plus following bands such as The Damned, The Doctors of Madness, Siouxie and the Banshees, The Sex Pistols et al., having also played with and alongside a few original Brit Punk acts: John Otway, Altered Images, The Fall, Wilco Johnson and Norman Watt Roy, Ian Dury’s bass supremo.  I love all forms of music, even the pomp and circumstance progressive rock that preceded punk rock and which it aimed to eradicate.  Some punk music combines intelligence with brevity and this captured the nexus of what I wanted to do.  Just think of the sheer genius of Ian Dury’s words and music, Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello and one or two others in the genre.

In the spirit of punk you have made each chapter just two pages long. How have you condensed the information to make it quick and simple?

This was really difficult.  I recall that Winston Churchill said that he needed more time to write a 3 minute speech than a 3 hour one.  He is right and I was chatting on this very subject with the great Tom Peters a few weeks ago.  To write a chapter which is just two pages long requires huge amounts of discipline and creativity if you are to avoid the trap of just removing the content.  I did this by:

  1. Reducing the ‘size’ of each topic to manageable proportions e.g. appraisal, conflict, selection etc.
  2. Setting out a simple 3 part structure for every chapter: A critique of traditional people management practice in a particular area; the punk rock alternative and;  three pithy tips on how to get started.
  3. I ruthlessly edited it to remove all unnecessary words – I read the whole thing out to my I Mac and then edited it again so that it wrote like it might be read out, as many of the chapters lend themselves to keynote speaker events.
  4. Finally I applied some devices to improve the book’s ‘stickiness’ – a bit of alliteration and rhyming to help things along.

All of this bearing in mind that the content is still more important than the delivery vehicle.  It’s really a matter of tremendous goal focus and then following through with precision.  I’m absolutely sure that the approach leaves people wanting more in some of the areas I’ve covered.  We can always do more detail but we live in a busy world and I aimed to make it possible for people to be able to read a chapter and gain value from it in less time than it would take to pogo to a Ramones or Linkin Park song.

Do you think Kindles and reading online are more popular than print nowadays?

Decca records rejected The Beatles in 1962, saying that ‘Groups with guitars are finished’– they were wrong!  My hunch is that the same is true of print books.  However, certain types of reader clearly prefer to read books on a Kindle.  Reading online is very popular, as Amazon report that more than 50% of books are read in this way.  Kindles are not so good for books where you don’t always read from start to finish or you might want to compare something on one page with another etc.  For the ‘bookish’ person, I feel that print books as a format will be with certain types of reader for a very long time just as CD’s have not completely eradicated other music formats.  For this reason, Punk Rock People Management is available as a print book, a kindle version and a free pdf download

What is next for you….?

In business, I’m off to Greece shortly to give an HR keynote on how companies can rebuild themselves after the economic meltdown.  Also some long term management development (without the punk rock) in The United Arab Emirates and a follow on keynote from Tom Peters in South Africa. In music, I am working on some corporate conference offerings with my colleagues John Howitt, session musician to Celine Dion, Anastasia and Shirley Bassey and Bernie Torme, lead guitar player to Ozzy Osbourne and Ian Gillan.  In writing, I am constantly busy with The Rock’n’Roll Business Blog – I have a backlog of books to release – one lengthy tome on innovation, a follow up micro book ‘Hard Rock Marketing’ and a possible book of ‘business poetry’.  There isn’t time at the moment, but I am also planning to release a new album of electronic guitar soundscapes in 2012, inspired by the work of Bill Nelson of Be-Bop Deluxe, who I am proud to know and who has been a continuous inspiration since my teenage years.  Here is a piece of film soundtrack music I wrote and recorded in my basement to end with, inspired by Bill Nelson, entitled Mars Warming.

About Peter Cook


Peter Cook runs Human Dynamics, a creative management consultancy, serving the top businesses in the World. With over 20 years’ business, academic and consultancy experience: Leading innovation teams; International trouble-shooting; Internal business and OD consultancy: Leadership and management development.

Peter started life as a chemist, has an MBA and a ‘university of life’ qualification in leading rock bands.  Author of ‘Best Practice Creativity’ and ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock ‘n’ Roll’, acclaimed by Tom Peters, who said of it “Sex, Leadership and Rock ‘n’ Roll is a marvellous book, which closes the door on the tidy, hierarchical, know-your-place ‘Orchestral Age’ and ushers in a new, creative era of challenge and change.

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The Expert!20

The conventional wisdom in sales is that the more trust you establish the more likely you are to succeed with buyers who “trust” you.  Few would argue with the underlining premise, where chorus of options swells is when it comes to how, and when.

The two, how and when, are tied together because it is clearly easier to establish and build trust over time, assuming you get that time.  The reality is that often sales people do not have the advantage or luxury of time needed to establish trust. They are regularly thrust into situations where they have had no prior contact with a buyer, but still need to build enough trust where the buyer will fully engage, and ultimately buy.  So what is an average or slightly better, sales professional to do?  There are a number of ways to go about creating, building and maintaining trust, depending who you read.  Below is one I have used and have helped others to establish trust in a hurry rather than over time.

Read On…

Who’s Expectations? – Sales eXchange – 11917

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Sales Alchemy15

The Pipeline Guest Post – Gary Hart

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

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

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

Expected Income Per Sale X Probability = Total Revenue

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Gary Hart

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

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

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Cost vs. Value in Lead Acquisition23

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


What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Start With the End! – Sales eXchange – 1186

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

"Out There"18

The Pipeline Guest Post – Troy Babcock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Troy Babcock

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

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Punk Rock People Management20

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Is Cold Calling Dead?17

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

So what’s the deal?


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

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Customer Hot Potato – Sales eXchange – 11720

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

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

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

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

Me too, so why not deal with fixing it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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