Welcome to The Pipeline.

Plan Goals and Plan On The Means Of Hitting Them5

The start of the year brings with it the ritual of goals and targets for the year.  In an exclusive article for Salesopedia.com, I explore the need to plan the means of hitting those goals.

Find out more at “Plan Goals and Plan On The Means Of Hitting Them”.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales eXchange – 2813

Has CRM Failed?

Late in December I sat in on a webinar, as is obligatory that time of year, there was a lot of pontificating about Sales 2.0 and trends for the coming year. In today’s post as in a post later this week, I’ll be looking at a couple lines of discussion that caught my attention.

Specifically today I want to react to a statement a proponent of Sales 2.0 made. In trying to add some depth to this marketing term, they said something to the effect that Sales 2.0 is the technology that addresses the void left “now that CRM has failed.”

Nice one I thought, with one fell swoop, he has killed CRM, and anointed Sales 2.0 as the second coming. Ah, I get it, second coming, Sales 2.0, can’t be coincidence, ha? It was a great way to shift the discussion from examining the validity and promise of 2.0 to the frustration many feel with their CRM deployment. But there was no attempt to validate whether CRM has indeed failed, and if it did, would other technologies do better or suffer the same fate.  By the way, I would argue CRM has indeed not failed.

Yes it is true that many companies have not achieved all they had hoped for with their CRM roll out, but at the same time you can point to many that have.  So it is probably more accurate to say that some roll outs have failed, others have not. If that is the case, then I think it is fair to say that the success of Sales 2.0 will also depend on the quality of the roll out, and as such will face the same challenges in adoption and conversion, and will lead to some great success and some massive failures.

One underlying elements is how the technology is sold at the outset. Often CRM is sold to management as a great tool for increasing visibility and control.  The executive spends the money, they build some great dashboards, they “enforce compliance” and then they expect results. Time passes, very few results, what do we do now; “I know, let’s get some mouse pads out there and have some contests, that will get usage up, and we’ll have what we want.”  Well not really, the problem is the front line staff has not been sold on what’s in the CRM for them, and how to get the most out of it to help them sell and succeed.  The front line often sees it as just another project thrust on their already busy day by IT, Marketing or senior management.  What’s to say that the same thing won’t happen with Sales 2.0?  In fact you can see this already when you talk to reps and how they see Sales 2.0.

The other challenge facing CRM is that at times they are deployed to solve problems that it was not meant to solve.  Specifically, issues that persist when there is a lack of a sales process to begin with. Without a sales process, one runs the risk of the CRM becoming a fancy contact management system rather than a tool that drives the relationships with your customers.  That same lack of process will not only impact Sales 2.0, but be compounded by the nature of the technology, being primarily a social broadcast environment rather than a business intelligence tool. 

Remember that Managing Relationships with Customers was a smart way of doing business before the technology came a long.  What made it a solid business concept was that it was based on how to best interact with your prospect, and continue to enhance that interaction with them once they become your customers.  If you start and end with that premise, technology is an enabler, other wise it is just a cost.

When you start out with the wrong premise, no process to manage it, then throw some technology at it, and you will fall short, no matter if it is CRM, Sales 2.0 or even 3.0 now being cooked up somewhere I am sure.  So before one revels in the “failure” of one technology, it would make sense to ensure your technology doesn’t face the same potential pitfalls.

EXTRA: You will also want to check out Salesopedia.com for an exclusive piece I wrote for them titled “Plan Goals and Plan On The Means Of Hitting Them”, a look at hitting your goals not just planning.  Last year I had the #2 most read article on Salesopedia.com, let’s see if we can do better this year, enjoy and profit.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Saturday Sales Tip11

Plan Time To Plan

Many sales people do different things to manage their time more effectively, if you are a reader of this blog you know we think trying to manage time is a bit futile, it is much better to allocate time to specific activities, and then manage those activities within the time allocated.  When we do exercises related to this with our customers we see two things, first people do not see planning as an ongoing part of their routine.  Second, they do not allocate time to the activity.

When you ask sales professionals to list all the things they have to do to be successful, planning is rarely if ever a part of the mix.  You get the usual, selling, prospecting, client care, client management, admin, training, handling emergencies, and loads more, but rarely planning.  When we highlight this we get answers like, “Ya, I plan, but I do it all early in the year and I spend time executing.”  When we point out that by not planning they almost force themselves to be reactive rather than proactive, we hear “I know what you mean, but that’s why we plan things out early in the year and then we are being proactive.

I guess I may buy that if you can show me that you have clear visibility the whole year out, and that your world never changes, requiring you to alter your game plan.  Back to square one, the need to plan.  The reality is that things do change, in both small and large ways, and these changes make part or all of your plan from the beginning of the obsolete as soon as one of these changes occur.  So depending on your sales, you may have to plan weekly or even more often. 

A year is a long time, it is much better to break it down to smaller increments, and frankly weekly seems to work best.  If you can sit down and plan your week based on events from the week before and your objectives moving forward, you can update, revise or scrap your plan based on events.  This does not mean you have to make wholesales changes, or that you need to spend hours each week to rewrite those plans.

What it does involve is a short amount of time each week to ensure that the premises inherent in your plan are still valid and current, if not, then what needs to be revised.  Once revised what impact does it have on your existing plans and meetings, and will the adjustments be reflected in you calendar and impact other must do activities like prospecting, proposals, etc.

The best thing to do is to ensure that you mark a planning session in your diary every week.  If you have changes to make, you will have the time without taking away from other activities.  Putting it in your calendar will ensure that you do it every week, which is a must; if by chance some weeks you do not require as much time as you earmarked, you can use the time for another activity that’s key to success, like filling your pipeline with real opportunities.

Speaking of planning, it is our plan to deliver better content this year.  To do that we plan to be a bit more predictable in some areas so that we can better explore in other areas.  To that end we will be posting three times a week, Monday’s Sales Exchange, Thursdays, and Saturdays predominantly posting sales tips.  This of course makes it easier for you to plan to set aside 5 minutes each of those days to get your full dose of The Pipeline.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

What's The First Thing?12

As we close off the first decade of the 21st century, I would like to thank everyone for their support throughout 2009.  We’ll be back in 2010 hopefully better than ever and with less grammar errors.  One thing that will change in 2010 is frequency and regularity of postings.  Until further notice we will post Mondays, (Sales Exchange) Thursday and Saturdays.  Of course you can always just subscribe to the RSS feed and we’ll bring it to you, but I know you love the graphics.

As we inch closer to midnight, I’d like to leave you with one question, no, not What’s in Your Pipeline, but what is the first thing you will do in 2010 to make it a great year?

Happy New Year,

Tibor Shanto

Loose Ends11

I write most of the posts that end up on this blog on my BlackBerry, the memo pad allows me to capture ideas as soon as I think of them.  I could be waiting for a client, or standing in line at the bank, or waiting for a show to start, idea pops up, bam, it’s in the blog run.  Some get worked on right away, others sit in binary state waiting to be taken to the next stage of evolution, then presented to you, the loyal reader.

This morning I was watching the talking heads on the financial network when an idea hit, went for the Berry, and then realized I had a few unfinished ideas sitting there.  So I thought why not present them as a list, give them the light of day as is.  Some will get the full treatment next year, and if it is good enough you won’t see it as repeat but a form of green writing where I recycle ideas as a means of balancing my carbon foot print, even though I don’t use a pencil.  Right!?!

Language and Credibility:
Let’s look at the thing that grabbed my ear this morning.  As mentioned, I was having my glass of digital Kool-Aid on the financial network, the head of North American research from BofA Merrill Lynch , in discussing outlook for 2010 said something to the effect that one of the things that could negatively impact the recovery is “irresponsible behaviour by the government.”  I couldn’t stop laughing, notice the name of the company BofA Merrill Lynch, remember when they were just Merrill Lynch (not too long ago), as I recall it was their irresponsible behaviour that got us to this to begin with.  As smart as this guy’s hair cut was it wasn’t going to make up for his poor choice of words.  Same is true for sales, watch how you say it because it does impact reception.

Choice or Confusion:
There a number of schools you can place sales people into, like are you the modern, the classic, the neo classic, post modern classic, post modern neo classic reconstruction minimalist, and so on.  Each school has certain beliefs and styles that describe the art, its attributes, and certainly help the audience know where to stay away from.  Once you know the school, you have an idea as to how they stand on specific subjects.  It is the same in sales, two specific schools are determined by how a particular sales person stands on choice.  Choice in the form of multiple solutions presented in the same proposal to a  prospect.  Option one includes these features for this term at this price; option two is this, and option three is that.  Frankly I am not from this school, I believe in the single option plan.  Now before you go jumping up and down, I know that those that believe in options have what they feel are legitimate reasons for providing options, I have heard them, I respect them, I just think they are dead wrong.  As professionals who have taken the time to conduct a proper Discovery processes with a buyer, should come back with their best plan.  If that plan does not fit, there needs to be further discovery and the plan adjusted to reflect the new discoveries.  But to me choice just invited debate and negations on top of the confusement caused by presenting options to begin with.  So just like you are never going to sell me a post modern reconstruction neo minimalist landscape, I can’t see the utility in options.

15 Minutes of Conviction:
Ever notice how fleeting principles and convictions are?, “I believe today, I am different tomorrow.”   No doubt amplified by increased demands and shrinking resources, by the media, page one till Thursday, then page 16.  Remember in June everyone was green because the wrong mad man got in to office in Iran, so everyone went Green Tweet, not that much green now, still the same mad man, on to the next flavour.  Similar in sales, “I am selling blue today, but I know I was telling why you should buy red yesterday.”  One of the big fear many managers have is that if they lose Johnny to the competition “he may take his book and our best clients.”  Nonsense.  Clients for the most part deal with companies, yes they may like the sales person, but they know that , it is the company that delivers the service/solution, that does the research and innovation, and supports their day to day.  In fact studies have shown that purchasers like to deal with reps they feel can marshal the resources of their companies when the client needs it.  When Johnny Rockstar leaves, clients don’t follow, their conviction is much more tied to the provider than to the representative.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

A Random Walk Up Sales Street – 2713

Lessons Learned – Lessons Applied

On the cusp of the new year, and on what many believe is the turn away from the kind of market conditions that were dominant over the last 15 to 18 months, it is truly a unique time to reflect and capitalize on experiences and lessons.  During the last major recession that I had the pleasure of surviving, one of the key lessons I learned was to avoid debt.   Before the 1990 – 1991 downturn, I was happy go lucky, was liquid and really didn’t mind carrying a balance on those shinny credit cards.  Recession hit, fortunes turned and were amplified by the amount of debt I was carrying.  Lesson learned: no more debt.  So this time out as I was reading the papers about the rising amount of debt North Americans were carrying, I knew they weren’t talking about me.

This time there were different challenges, and now I am looking to understand what I can learn from this recession that will help me moving forward and during the next meltdown.  I know that there will be one or two things I learned this year that I will not be doing anymore, and with that not be held back by them during the next recession.

From a sales perspective the lesson learned is that selectivity is good.  It is more important to dance with the right partner than to dance with everyone.  Having resisted the call to specialize, and having stuck with working with B2B companies looking to improve the execution of their new business acquisition plans, there is a tendency to lose focus.  This is not that bad in fact may be good, during good times, but has some downside during difficult markets.  Focus during down times is much more important, and it took me a bit longer than it should have to bring focus to Renbor’s activities.  Having said that, once I was able to realize that, and more importantly step back and adjust for it, it made things much more manageable and as a result lucrative.  This lesson learned is one that will now pay dividends through the promised recovery, or any condition the market may serve up.

This is a great time to sit down and take a “real” look at what you faced not just in 2009, but since the start of the economic downturn.  By examining how you were impacted by the market; how clients and prospects reacted to the same market and your efforts; you should be able to identify significant things that help you overcome your challenges.  The key is to understand which can have a lasting and positive impact on your game in both good and questionable markets.

So here is the question to you, what lesson(s) did you learn that you can now leverage in the recovery to gain ground?  Share your thoughts, and as usual, we’ll share and award a small prize to a worthy entry.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

BTW, as of next week, New Year, new decade and all, we will be renaming this weekly piece from it’s current name of A Random Walk Up Sales Street, to Sales Exchange.


Thank you lad





The People Have Voted


Number One


Wow 48.4% of the 2,985 votes cast, 1,445 votes cast for my article “How to shorten your sales cycle” in annual run off for the article of the year at Top 10 sales Articles.  That was 16.7% ahead of the article with the second most votes, and a full 40% ahead of the article with the third most votes.  Wow! Thank you!

I want to THANK everybody who not only voted for me, but took the extra step of getting out the vote from their network of contacts. People from Australia to Israel, India to Spain, UK to USA, and coast to coast in Canada, all these great readers took time and effort to show their support.  All I can say is Thank You, Thank You!   Hope to continue to meet your expectations.

I addition I was also informed that my article “Quantify – Don’t Qualify” was the second most read article in 2009 at Salesopedia.com.   It had 2,662 read as of yesterday morning since it appeared in April this year.  By the way at the same site where “How to shorten your sales cycle” has been read over 6,150 times since it appeared there in April 2008.

So thank you again for your support here at The Pipeline, and at Salesopedia.com.

Keep Reading
Tibor Shanto


Late again

This time of year everybody asks “what will you do to…..?”  The question usually ends with something like:

Lose weight in 2010
Be a better parent 2010
Make money in 2010
Stop global warming in 2010
Heat things up in 2010

And if you are in sales or the sales advisory business:

To improve you sales (or selling) in 2010

Well the reality is that for most sales people “doing” is not necessarily the best course of action, as they seem to be doing all together too much, which often prevents them from doing the right things in the right proportions.  If they stopped doing some of the unnecessary and unproductive things they do, they could free up bandwidth, energy and creative justices to actually do the right things.

So the question we have for you is – WHAT WILL YOU STOP DOING RIGHT NOW TO BETTER SUCCEED IN 2010?

Leave your answers as a comment below, and on or about January 4, (just a few days after you’ve stopped doing it), we will award a small prize to the winner, as well as a free consultation to help them better allocate their time to the right activities.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

A Random Walk Up Sales Street – 2611


Is The Customer Always Right?

Last week I presented a Masterclass webinar for the Top Sales Experts titled “An Inconvenient Truce”, dealing with the need to combine and use the best of Sales 2.0 and traditional selling.  During the webinar I was asked the following question:

“When it comes to Social Media and Sales 2.0 – is it not the case that we have to sell to our customers as they wish to be sold to? Isn’t it arrogant of us to make that decision for them?”

My brief answer was basically that this was not necessarily accurate, that it is a relationship among peers, and as such both the buyer and the seller need to be accommodated.  Having had a few days to think about it I would like to add a few things.

To expand on something I said then, as a professional sales person (as opposed to order taker), we are not only experts in sales but also experts in the field our product plays in.  The truly professional wireless sales person know as much if not more than most buyers of the service, be they IT or business buyers.  The same is true for a logistics/supply chain provider, they know more about trends, developments and opportunities in improving the movement of goods than most people buying their services.

I want to be clear, I am not saying better, but we are experts.  We are witnesses to best and worst practices and as such an invaluable resource for those trying to make a quality decision for their companies.  Conscientious buyers are actively seeking people with expertise of the level of top sales people.  Top sales professionals bring more knowledge and expertise to a given situation than many consultants; I am always reminded of the UPS commercial where two consultants had to admit their in ability to execute or go beyond advice.  Many of my customers rely on my expertise, opinion and direction long after there is a transaction involved, and I am happy to provide it.

As long as a buyer remembers that they are dealing with someone who is ultimately paid for selling, they can really benefit from the wisdom of top sales people.  Usually one of the things that make them tops in their field is that they are not mercenaries, but professionals delivering full value to their customers and employers; and buyers deserve to deal with experts.

So I don’t think you have to sell to “customers as they wish to be sold to.” Nor do I think it is “arrogant” to help the customer come to a decision in ways over and above they initially conceived, as long as sales people we keep mutual value the centre piece of the interaction. 

What do you think, how would you answer the question posed?

Tibor Shanto
What’s in Your Pipeline?

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