Welcome to The Pipeline.

Demo Is a Four Letter Word27

This is not about bashing demos, but more about how many sales reps use, or misuse them, and the lost opportunities that result from the misuse.  The fact is that many in sales love demos because they feel that it creates the sale for them; and while it would be easy to blame the rep, it is often part of the corporate approach.  Many sales processes are built around the demo rather than discovering, deriving, driving and delivering value.  Nothing is more of a throwback to feature based selling than selling by demo.

What differentiates a good demo from a bad one is the demo’s timing and sequence in the sale.  In most instances, a seller meets a prospect, they have the right title, a pulse, and agree that they have the time for a demo; once completed, they spend time and effort retrofitting the “needs” of the buyer to things that seemed to appeal to them in the demo.  The net result is a longer sale, with more work, and generally reduced value for both the buyer and the seller.

Read On…

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Go Ahead, Sell On Price – Sales eXchange – 12717

We all know the potential pitfalls of “selling on price”, but usually that statement is incomplete.  If you were to sell at a price that represented full value for you, your company, and the buyer then there wouldn’t be that much talk about the whole thing would there?  Why not, because everyone realised value, and since value is subjective, it is not tied to a specific number, but to other elements, usually the buyers’ objectives and the challenges they perceive in attaining them.

So rather than spending time talking and worrying about price, sellers need to spend that time and energy building value in the mind of buyer, based on their current requirements and circumstance.  First thing we need is a definition of value.  Because this is such an important element of sales success, the tendency among many in sales and those talking to sales (people like me), to over complicate the definition, often introducing the attributes rather than focusing on defining value; once defined you can look at some attributes, and how to leverage those in establishing the level of value required by the client and you.

Lets start with the definition:

Buyers will see value in those things that eliminate barriers and gaps between where they are now, and their objectives.

If their objectives were easily attained, they would get to it and do it.  The fact that they may be seeking a solution, suggests that they are facing some challenges, obstacles and gaps in their ability to attain those objectives, or what I call opportunity.

Knowing what those objectives are require leveraging experience, work and discipline.  Let’s be clear, this does not exclude new sellers, experience includes leveraging the collective experience of your company and fellow sales people.

Experience involves reviewing outcomes of previous deals, not just those you win, but losses, and the ones that went to no decision.  Simply stated, understanding the wins will help you understand what to look for and repeat.  The other two, allow you to spot changing trends and help you avoid the tunnel vision created when you look only at the wins.  The bonus to the no decision camp is the opportunity to rekindle the opportunity with elements learned, and create a win in shorter time frames.

Couple the above with the core elements that impact buying decisions, that is why people buy, and more specifically why they buy your product, and from you.  You now have the base to build from, building the question set, you need to nail the objectives, the related obstacles and gaps.  With this in place you are now ready to Mine The Gap for success.  The interesting aspect of this is that while it is simple, it takes real work to execute, and offers no short cuts; in fact if you do try to short cuts, it will punish you with failure.  Sorry, no silver bullet here.

On the other hand, if you do develop the discipline, you will be able to engage with those who seem to be all set or uninterested, and be pleasantly surprised by the fact that people see the value you bring, and be willing to pay full value for it.  So go ahead, sell on price, full price.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2011

The six elements of a perfect sales meeting19

The Pipeline Guest Post – Matt Heinz

Do you dread the weekly sales team meeting? Feel like it’s wasting your time? If so, somebody’s not doing it right.

Reviewing a pipeline report may not be your idea of fun, but effective sales meetings are well-planned, well-executed, and full of information highly relevant to making reps better and both extracting & sharing information that can help the entire organization accelerate sales, customer and revenue growth.

Here are the six elements that, combined, make for a powerful regular sales team meeting.

1. Metrics
This is where you start. An empirical, objective, numbers-based look at current performance and what’s left to achieve. This is cause for celebration and alarm (often with the same dashboard), and will set the tone for the rest of the meeting. There shouldn’t be any surprises here, but it can drive urgency and focus in both the hour and days ahead.

2. Recognition
Take the time to recognize great performances across the team. It can be something as big as a huge new enterprise deal, or a small as the new guy’s first successful appointment. No matter how difficult your market or month is, there’s always something to celebrate.

3. Voice of the Customer
We’re not selling in a vacuum. At each meeting, the customer should be heard. This can be an overview of new research, feedback from a recent customer briefing, review of new market trends or analyst data, or even a quick presentation or interview (live or recorded) with an actual customer. No matter how you present it, ensure the customer has a place at the sales meeting table on a regular basis.

4. Training
Constantly make your team better. Bring in outsiders to teach a skill or customer insight. Review the latest product features. Practice objection-handling or consultative selling skills. Do role-playing. Review & discuss a new perspective, blog post or article you found. Training and learning is an everyday thing for the best salespeople in the world. Institutionalize this in your organization more frequently than you do it today.

5. Deal Drill-Down
Choose someone on the team to walk through a current or recent deal. This can either be a recently-closed deal and how it happened, or it can be a deal that’s stalled (and how/why it got there). The former allows an opportunity for your team to learn best practices from others in context, and the latter allows the team to help each other break through roadblocks and move deals forward.

6. Motivation
End each meeting on a positive note. This is different and separate from individual recognition. This is about firing up your team to burst out of the conference room and back on the phones or into the field. How great sales managers do this is personal (a video clip, a joke, a motivational quote, etc.), but we know sales is an emotional job. Play to that and send your troops back out to victory.

What have I missed in this list? What are essential elements you have used or experienced in great sales meetings?

About Matt Heinz

Matt Heinz brings more than 12 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations, vertical industries and company sizes. His career has focused on delivering measurable results for his employers and clients in the way of greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.  Matt is President of Heinz Marketing Inc.

Tactical use of Voice Mail13

Voice mail continues to be a topic of discussion whenever sales people get together.  For me the question of whether you do or do not leave voice mails when prospecting is so Sales -1.0, you do!  In the past we have looked at effective voice mail techniques, but here I was asked what other uses and advantages there can be to voice mail.  You can see my answer below, try it out, have some fun, and make some sales.

httpvh://youtu.be/RgEH0Yw9G40

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2011

5 Ways to Holiday Proof Your Pipeline! – Sales eXchange – 12614

A few years back I ran an article in our monthly newsletter – also call The Pipeline – talking about the perils of allowing your pipeline to take a holiday this time of year, called Make it a Happy New Year Now.  Rather than rerunning it as I have in some subsequent years, I thought we would take a fresh approach and highlight specific things you can do to make sure you enjoy the holiday season and still start next year in a successful way.

Clear out your pipeline – You know as well as I do that you have collected a lot of plaque over the last 12 months, clogging up your pipeline, giving you the false illusion that you have something to work on, while preventing you from getting to new opportunities due to clutter in the pipes.  Get rid of the dead wood, you can always revisit them later; with the clutter gone, you`ll be left with things you may close by year end, or kick the year off strong.

Re-fill your pipeline – With the cleaning done, you now have room for new real opportunities.

Call every prospect that went with someone else between December 2010 and the end of March this year.   They have had time to experience their decision and some will have realised they made a mistake, and some of those will be willing to do something about it.  The same can be said for deals that did not end in any decision at all.

Don`t allow yourself to be distracted – there are plenty of distractions this time of year, not the least of which are the pressures to “close” for year end and the draw of the holiday related events.  While you can feel good about closing some new business, and meeting with clients and others to celebrate the season, it could put a crimp in your plans to start the year strong.  While I am not suggesting you don’t close what you (realistically) can, or that you don’t celebrate the season, just make sure you continue to prospect, regardless of what the nay-sayers tell you about prospecting during Christmas season.  There are people looking to make decisions, and you should help them make them.

Make sure you have client appointments your first day back – A focus on the above point, but make sure you have at least one new prospect meeting your first day back after New Years, and one with a prospect in the pipeline, and finally with a client you are looking to upsell.  The tendency among most is to come back – catch up with colleagues, move some paper around, plan, and get ready to sell.  Forget that, nothing gets you going better than a client/prospect meeting, make sure you set that up now.

Create an Action Plan – Many sales people spend time planning this time of year, either voluntarily – or more common – they are tasked by their manager.  Many of these plans are big picture, broad and general.  While that is necessary and good, you need to action them.  Make a detailed, step by step plan for achieving specific benchmarks and milestones within specific accounts/opportunities.  Make sure these include, names, times, actions, contingencies, and Plans B and C.  They should be clear enough, that if you win the lottery on December 26, and decide not to come back to work, someone can pick things up without losing a stride.  And since most of us will not win that lottery, it will be good to have that detailed plan to help us win when we come back

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto



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Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2011

Ten Point Phone Marketing Checkup for Lead Generation and Qualification16

The Pipeline Guest Post – Michael A. Brown

Rate what you do and how you do it. Then add up the points.

1.    The calling lists we rent or buy are based on

Demographics; e.g., SIC code, number of employees. Zero points
Business actions; e.g., moves, mergers, new processes. One point.
Affinities; e.g., related purchases, memberships. One point.

2.    We get our reps ready to call and then improve their skills by

Training and practice. One point.
Teaming with another rep. Zero points.
Throwing them on the phone. Subtract one point.
I don’t know. Subtract one point.

3.    When on the phone our callers follow

Scripts. Zero points.
Call/question guides. One point.
The data fields on their computer screen. Subtract one point.
Their instincts. Subtract one point.

4.    Our supervisors and managers monitor calls and coach our reps

Every day. One point.
When they can. Zero points.
Seldom. Zero points.
Never. Subtract one point.
I don’t know. Zero points.

5.    In how many seconds can your callers describe what your company does?

5-10. One point.
10-15. Zero points.
15-up. Subtract one point.
We’re so well known, they don’t have to. One point.

6.    What portion of lead generation calls results in substantive conversations?

Less than 5%. Subtract two points.
5% – 15%. Subtract one point.
15% – 25%. Zero points.
25% – 50%. One point.
50% up. Two points.
I don’t know. Zero points.

7.    What portion of lead generation and qualification conversations results in the prospect taking the next step in your marketing or sales process?

Less than 5%. Subtract two points.
5% – 15%. Subtract one point.
15% – 25%. Zero points.
25% – 50%. One point.
50% up. Two points.
I don’t know. Zero points.

8.    After the calls, we classify our leads as

Qualified or not qualified. Zero points.
Hot, medium, cool or A, B, C. Zero points.
Rated on a point-scale according to agreed criteria. Two points.
Whatever our gut and experience say. Subtract one point.
We don’t classify, we just send them along. Subtract two points.

9.    Your level of confidence that your own CEO would accept the kind of calls your reps are making

Slim to none. Subtract two points.
Quite low. Subtract one point.
So-so. Zero points.
Pretty high. One point.
Certain. Two points.
I don’t know. Subtract one point.

10.    Your level of confidence that your sales channel(s) will act on the leads you produce

Slim to none. Subtract two points.
Quite low. Subtract one point.
So-so. Zero points.
Pretty high. One point.
Certain. Two points.
I don’t know. Subtract one point.

Ten points or higher? You’re looking good. Congratulations!

Nine or eight? Make the tactical adjustments before your competitors force the issue for you.

Seven or six? Your lead efforts probably are mismatched to your sales requirements and almost certainly under-performing as well. Better make some big improvements.

Under six? Stop reading this and get professional guidance right now.

© 2011, Michael A. Brown

About Michael Brown

Michael A. Brown helps business marketers approach, influence, advance, and sell … via consulting and training. Clients include a “who’s who” of successful companies, from startups to the Fortune 100. Contact Michael in Austin, Texas, 800 373-3966. www.BtoBEngage.com

Vendors, Sellers & Resellers30

Earlier this year i had the opportunity to be the MC a number of events aimed at helping vendors and resellers better leverage the opportunities available to both through a consistent execution of their mutual strategy. The interview below looks at the resources available to both vendors and resellers to help them sell better, take advantage of the opportunities presented by the cloud and managed services. But as with any resource, you need to utilize it to benefit from it, your clients are turning to these new resources, the question is are they also turning to you?

Watch, enjoy, comment, put thing to use and profit, and if you like what you hear, give me a call and let’s discover how we can make it work for you, your team or company.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2011

It's About the Buyer, Stupid! – Sales eXchange – 12527

I was recently read a couple of things that got me to think about some aspects of sales, while not specific to day to day execution, I think worth sharing as we consider how we can attack and win given whatever 2012 brings.

There was one piece in Fast Company, looking at the battle between Apple and Android for mobile and other device dominance. They compared the battle to that of a political campaign, with platforms, the gamble, upside and risks for organizations and manufacturers take on in selecting one over the other. Reminded me of the debate between Sales 2.0 and Sales Un-dot, especially when you are exposed to the passion and noise from all these camps. At one point the article mentioned the factor of proprietary systems vs. open source; this resonated with me as you can see a similar debate in sales; that is those who promote a specific one size fits all approach to selling, versus those who offer a fluid methodology that helps sales people improve their craft in an open ended way.

In many ways, like in technology, the proprietary methods provide great ways to deal with aspects of complex sales, or specific stages or phases of a sale. The downside is that you have to do it entirely their way, it is all about the box, you either love being in it, or risk failure. Never been much of a black & white guy, and I suspect most long term successful sales professionals have also felt restrained by the box, no doubt leading to the term thinking outside the box. I further suspect that most would see themselves in the “open source” sales camp, evolving and improving with the market and customer demands; demands that are forced to evolve with the market and other developments.

The challenge with the “boxed” or proprietary approaches is that they tend to start with a specific challenge in a specific vertical or type of sale. Sometimes these translate well to other types of sales, most often they don’t, hence their limitation. When combined with other “sales systems”, you do get the advantage of a varied approach; this no doubt is how the “open source” sellers leverage the “boxed” without being trapped. The challenge for the proprietary box sellers is that they either need to evolve, rare, or try to retrofit every situation to their “method”, less rare, and less effective in almost every way.

Just as I was getting my head around this question, especially being the co-author of a “boxed type” book, but a practitioner of “open source” selling, which is what the current book will serve up, I read another interesting piece by my friends over at Sales Benchmark Index, always great reading. They were suggesting that you “Don’t read any sales best practices written pre-internet. They no longer apply.” Hmm, bad news for SPIN, Miller Heiman, PSS and host of others.

But I wouldn’t lose much sleep over it since I don’t think human nature (and yes buyers are human), has changed all that much since the advent of the web. Seems like Marshall McLuhan creeping into sales, but in reality for buyers it is not the medium, it is the message, which is why things written before the internet still work when executed properly. Don’t believe me, just watch some old sales training films from the 1930’s and 40’s, and you’ll hear a lot of familiar concepts promoted by the post internet sellers. So to borrow from Marshall and Bill Clinton, “it is the buyer, stupid, not the medium”.

At about this point many of you should be asking what’s the point? Exactly, and for those that didn’t ask, thank you and good selling.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Top Sales & Marketing Awards 2011

Top Sales & Marketing Awards 201122

It seems like only the other day that we were celebrating the winners of the 2010 Top Sales Awards, and here we are set to vote for the winners of this year’s awards.   To Jonathan Farrington’s credit, rather than resting on the success of the inaugural event, he has expanded things again, this year he has improved and expanded it to the 2011 Top Sales & Marketing Awards.

This year again, I have the honour and privilege to be nominated in five categories alongside some great sales thinkers, and friends.  While each category will have a winner, the real winners are the readers who have the chance to take insight from these sales experts.

In the Top Sales Article category, my article Implementation vs. Execution, the category also features colleagues Paul McCord, Wendy Weiss, Kelley Robertson and others.

The work on my blog The Pipeline, garnered two nominations.  One for Top Sales & Marketing Blog, where I share the company of last year’s winner S. Anthony Iannarino, Paul McCord, Ardath Albee, Mark Hunter, Dave Kurlan, Dave Brock, Ian Brodie, Dave Stein, Dan Waldschmidt.  Almost all of these great bloggers have contributed as guest bloggers to The Pipeline, and I would encourage you to visit and subscribe to theirs.

In the Top Sales & Marketing Blog Post, Mastering Voice Mail, was nominated alongside posts from Christian Maurer, Ken Thoreson,  S. Anthony Iannarino, Paul McCord, Mark Hunter, Dave Kurlan, Dan Waldschmidt.  Almost looks like we should form a band, but no surprise, top bloggers lead to top posts.

Changing mediums, my webinar Leveraging Trigger Events for Sales Success, a jolly romp of triggers triggered and dodging bullets;  is up for Top Sales & Marketing Webinar.  The other nominees include Kendra Lee.

Finally, and frankly my favourite is the White Paper nominated for Top Sales & Marketing EBook, it is a piece I wrote focused on time called Sales Happen In Time.

So there you have it, please look at all the nominees in all the categories, and vote.  Voting is easy, just go to site, register, and off you go; in fact it is so easy, I encourage you to do it daily as part of health sales diet, but hurry, polls close December the 9th, and the awards are presented at a special on-line ceremony on December the 15th.

Thank you for participating and supporting all the nominees.

What’s in Your Pipeline
Tibor Shanto

Top Sales &  Marketing Awards 2011

Accelerate your sales, revisit your sales process!15

The Pipeline Guest Post – Alan Nieslen

Most companies have one; a sales process that is.   The process can be anything from a definition of sales stages used in pipeline discussions through to a complete manual on how to sell product x or service y.    In the move to CRM’s, often the steps are named out as “stages” and assigned a % likelihood of closing a deal.

As I visit with sales organizations, it surprises me how few of them get ongoing value from their documented sales processes.  Sure they use the stage names in forecasting and within their CRM’s, but beyond using the terminology most companies aren’t getting value.

Companies that get value refer to their sales processes daily. Sales people refer to them when creating call plans, manager’s coach sales strategy using outlines from the sales process.   There are many examples.  You get the idea.

If this is not happening in your company, it is a good indicator that it’s time to revisit and revamp your sales process.

The best sale processes, or maps, are those that resonate with your sales teams, add value to daily sales activities and are used by your sales people.  The best maps help draw prospects into the pipeline, accelerate them through the value identification and value creation stages and ensure proposals reflect the value sought by the client, and the payback expected.  The best sales maps reduce your sales cycle by allowing clients to buy easier, and your team to sell faster. Period.

The best maps are not just a series of stages for forecasting, but also guide and assist the sales team in planning, prospecting, and accelerating opportunities through the pipeline.

Ineffective sales processes reside in a drawer and provide common nomenclature for “stages” in a sales cycle.  They may be hauled out periodically when someone asks if you have a process but they are not a part of daily activities within the sales team.

How can you make your sales process an asset?

  1. Ensure it represents the best practices for your company, your product, and clients preferred way of purchasing.  All too often a sales process is a generic set of milestones that are only loosely related to your products or services.    Your sales process should reflect the best practices of your best people.  Your best people should recognize that their actions have been captured and shared in your sales map.
  2. Use your map to guide the sale.  Great sales maps provide linkages between steps.   For example does your, “first appointment stage” provide suggested questions that should be covered?   Does it go further and highlight questions that gather information to be used directly in your proposal?  Going further = meaningful.
  3. Make it a part of your sales culture.    Use your sales map in your hiring process by looking for people that have similar methodologies and approaches.  Use the sales map to define your induction process, and link your induction activities to your sales map.  Use your sales map in your team meetings, in your pipeline discussions, in your strategy meetings, and of course in your forecasting meetings.
  4. Revisit the map often.   Street maps are published annually because roads are added, things change.   Your sales map should be open to change.  As you bring on new products, as technologies change, as your customers change, as the economy changes, your map should change.  If your map does not reflect the changes that your sales teams face… it is bound for the drawer.
  5. Make it customer centric.   While you many not show your sales map to your prospects and clients you should not be concerned if they see it.   Your sales map should be set up to help the client see value, select the appropriate products or features, assist clients in obtaining internal buy in…. and so on.

Where does your sales process lie on this spectrum?

About Alan Nielsen

Alan Nielsen is the Managing Director of AdAlta Group, a sales consulting organization.   Alan works with his clients to increase their sales productivity and effectiveness by ensuring that all aspects of their sales force are aligned and then applying targeted improvements to meet his client’s objectives and expectations for return.

With over 25 years of experience in sales performance improvement AdAlta Group works to enhance a client’s sales foundation with targeted improvements that are readily adopted by the sales force.   Rapid adoption increases returns and maximizes a company’s investment in improvement.

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