Welcome to The Pipeline.

No Decision24


One trend that has grown in 2009 is the growth in sales ending in “No Decision” (ND).  While most sales people will tell you that they hat loosing opportunities most, for me the worst is the ND.  Having said that, ND’s do have one advantage over lost deals, the ability to reengage them in a shorter time span than those lost. The risk is that there is no guaranty that the result will be any different the second time out.

To avoid this you have to include it in you qualification/quantification routine. To do that you have to go back to the beginning and treat these outcomes as you do wins and loses, and do an analysis of ND’s as well. Of course you all do win/loss analysis right?  Actually it probably not true, some do win analysis, more do loss analysis, but combined they still are less than those that do not do any at all. But the smallest group are those that do analyse their ND sale efforts.

Once you have the analysis you will see specific attributes, behaviours, actions and inactions in these prospects.  Once you have enough of these, you can begin to look for commonalities and consistently recurring elements.  With that you are now in a position to not only to look for these things and address them before it’s too late.  Needless to say that when you spot them early you can get ahead of it, take steps to alter direction or at times just have the confidence to walk away.  Please remember, walking away is a viable option, while no one doubts your resolve and commitment, no one can get you the time you invest back; so invest wisely.

You can also use your analysis to draft questions that will help you understand if the prospect is displaying the tendencies of a non-decider.  The upsides to these questions is also the fact that you are taking a proactive posture that could in itself change the curse of the sale, as being proactive puts you in the lead.  Again, while the questions will serve as indicators as to whether the prospect will act or not, allow You to MAKE a decision.  As stated above, since you will have the opportunity to come back, and make use of the information you glean now.

I realize that this may seem like tedious work, and it certainly not as exciting as being “out selling”, but as with most things worth doing, there are continuous dividends both in terms of increased sales, and saved time.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

A Random Walk Up Sales Street – 2116


Ends versus Means

The age old moral dilemma, “does the end justify the means?”; who knows, who cares, and frankly does it matter most of the time?  Well in B2B sales it does but in a different context.  Specifically, it appears that in B2B sales, most sales people seem to focus on the means, and spend little time on the ends.

The ends in this case is the actual ultimate impact for the buyer, the tangible difference and advantage the buyer will have by virtue of buying, implementing and using the seller’s offering.  The means is the product itself, which while important to the seller and stakeholders in his company, is of little direct consequence to the economic buyer who is much more concerned about the outcome, hopefully improved in some ways by the seller’s offering.

This not that new of a concept, but by simplifying it in some ways we find many sales people are able to deal with it without many of the distractions they normally have to deal with in a sale.  The means here represent not only the product or solution, but the messaging Marketing wants you to deliver, which often the buyer does not appreciate.  Not because it is not a “work of art”, but rather it deals with the deliverable not the outcome.  Many marketing people, sales managers and sales people, get so enamoured with the product and it’s advancements over the last generation or the competition that they forget that the buyer really could care less about the “uniqueness” of the product/solution, and are much more driven by the impact it has on their end situation.

Research companies are forever trying to impress their buyers with their methodology, “proprietary process”, the thoroughness of their algorithm, and so on.  But they forget that the end user, the real economic buyer, the VP of Marketing, CIO, Product Manager, cares about how they will use the output of the research firm’s glorious process.  Sellers fail to realise that often the “end” user, the person using the processed information, not the person doing the processing, often only deals with aspects of the service, and usually in conjunction with other inputs, brought together in a way that allows the ultimate recipient to make decisions.  The measure of worth here is the impact and quality of that decision not the myriad of inputs and sources that went in to it.  Stated another way, what counts, no, the only thing that counts, is the end, not the means.

At times sales people embrace half this idea, they focus on their own ends, the sale, not the buyer’s ends which is the successful resolution of their issue, be that a problem or an opportunity.  First challenge is to fully understand who the real end buyer is.  A marketing manager may be making the purchase of a report or a subscription; an IT manager may be buying a solution, software/hardware or both.  In both cases these people may be the ones transacting and interfacing with the sales person, but they are not the end buyer.  Right away, it needs to be asked why the rep didn’t approach the end buyer.  Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, no access (we’ll deal with that another day), even then the approach should be based on the end goal of the ultimate users, not the specs of the intermediary.  The intermediary is (or should be) aware of the ultimate end of the project, not every detail but they know the end goal of the person or group benefiting from the work they will do with the goods or services you sold.  If they didn’t feel or know how they can serve that end with your product, they would not buy it, waste time talking to you.  But knowing how the game is played they get you to focus on price competition and other distractions, rather than allowing you to build value based on the end goal.  That is if you let them, do you?

You should be aware even and especially when they are not, this way you can lead the process and have the discussion at that level on the specs and views of an intermediary.

Executing the sale based on focusing on the end rather ha the means is straight forward, not easy but straight forward.  Use the discovery process to demonstrate your ability to positively impact their end goal in the buyer’s terms; conversely the risk to the end goal if they don’t buy from you.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

6 Ways to Get More Sales Appointments15

And Then Some!

Jan Visser, founder of SalesMarks.com has put together a great e-booklet highlighting how to get more appointments consistently in a competitive B2B market place.  I know it is great because I wrote the content, but more importantly have road tested each of these ways, and simply put: they work.  You can sit back and waste the opportunity presented by the market today, or you can get proactive and start driving sales.  But before you can close sales you need to have prospects, and you won’t know if someone is a prospect or not till you meet with them, which means you have to first get the appointment.
It would be hard to argue, however, that for the vast majority, nothing happens without appointments.
No matter how good one sells, it can’t happen alone, you need prospects, and that all starts with the appointment.
Jan has pulled together six of best practices into one FREE e-booklet, six key things you can do to get more appointments; and more appointment lead not only to more sales, but more referrals, more opportunities, more options. 
All you need to do is download, read and EXECUTE and PROFIT!

Just remember that in these days of global warming, the inconvenient truth is that you still have to cold call, but you can still be environmentally friendly by sharing with a friend.

Bypassing Objectoins Webinar November 17, 2009

Once you have read the e-booklet, you can register for a great webinar presented by the queen of Cold Calling – Wendy Weiss.

If you are hearing this: “We’re not doing anything right now.” “We’re not spending right now.” “We’re not buying anything right now.”   You need to attend this webinar.

Let’s face it, prospects are spending less, buying less, committing to less and voicing more objections and stalls than you ever imagined were possible. It has never been more challenging to sell. 

Challenging times call for strong skills and strong action.

Join Wendy Weiss, The Queen of Cold Calling in this powerful information-packed webinar where she will share the secrets of Bypassing Prospect Stalls, Responding to Prospect Objections and Closing the Sale. 

Register now!

You will learn:

  • How to speed up your sales cycle
  • The secret to bypassing prospect objections before they are even voiced
  • How to never again hear, “I’m not interested”
  • To respond to any and all pricing objections (a big one in today’s economy)
  • And much more.***Plus: Have all of your questions answered by The Queen

Register and then submit your questions for The Queen to answer, personally.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Customer Care: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly II14

Part II: The Ugly

Tuesday, in Part I we discussed The Good side of Customer Care, using Godaddy as an example of the Good, and a couple of Canadian wireless carriers exemplifying the Bad.  Today we talk UGLY.

The Ugly category is characterized by Apple and the folks at the Apple Store in suburban Toronto.  I have to give the prize to Apple for taking bad customer care to new heights (or depths), it seems propelled by what appears to be their arrogance towards their customers. I may understand that stance if my experience with their products lived up to the hype and their attitude, but it has not.  My whole adventure and experience with Apple is a result of a continuously malfunctioning iPod Touch. For me Apple has taken a generally ugly trend in customer support to new levels.  I’ll first describe the trend, and then tell you why Apple gets the Ugly prize.

The trends is this, as customers call in to the support centre or visit an outlet, they are put off, shuffled around, made to jump through hoops as the provider avoids dealing with the issue. They slowly wear down their customers to where they either give (because their lunch hour was spent on hold); or they get so wound up by the lack of care, that they blow their cool (this is the camp I am in), and from that point on the focus of the exchange becomes the demeanour of the customer, rather than the product issue or problem that caused them to lose their cool.  Ever have to speak to Emily and her gang?

This past January my 11 year old daughter bought an iPod Touch at an Apple store in Toronto, using her own money having saved up birthday, holiday and other ill-gotten cash with great anticipation. The first time the iPod broke down was a month later. Diligently we drove back to the store (snow in both directions), lined up, and eventually were attended to. They could not make the thing come back to life, so they gave her a new one. A couple of months later, we went back again (rain no snow), this time they disappeared with the unit to the back of the store, and came back having “restored” it and off we went.

The unit broke down again in September, but this time we discovered that we now needed “an appointment” to have a unit under warranty looked at. The online “appointment setter” told us we could not have an appointment for a number of days, just like going to the doctor, take time off work, take my daughter out of school and go to the Apple store. But when we got to the store, the “nurse” lectured us a bit about a lack of an appointment, but was able to squeeze us in that day.

Appointments, hmm, got me thinking, is the Apple product line so bad, that they are overcome with disgruntled customers, and the only way to prevent the disaffected from congregating at the store and forming a mob, is to have them make appointments?

Well last week the fPod, as we now affectionately call it, broke again, oh joy, we get to go to the Apple store “one-mo-again”, (sunshine all the way), and that was our Saturday morning adventure.

Now you have to understand that having not drank the “Kool-Aid”, I don’t feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven when I go to the Apple store. In fact quite the opposite; it’s like stepping into some modern day mall version of The Stepford Wives, or the Landru episode of Star Trek, “all is good in Landru”. 

We got there early (10:00 am), not many people in the store, no one at the service counter but a few Apple employees, all with different coloured t-shirts, must be some secret rank that I was not tuned into.  Cindy, in turquoise was the first to greet us, my daughter brought her up to speed, and the first question of course was “do you have an appointment?” no, “I’ll get someone to look at this”.  In comes the Orange shirt, thoroughly trained in aggravating customers.  My 11 year old daughter, puppy dog eyes and all, begins to tell Orange the story, but Orange just wants to know one thing, “do you have an appointment”, no my daughter informs him.  Well he begins to tell her with great efficiency and in corporate speak, remember she is 11, spent lots of cash on something that in her eyes never worked quite the way it looked in the adds, “I understand, but you have to understand that you need an appointment, I can check and see what we have available”.  He looks up from his screen and says he can fit us in at 12:10.  “But there is no one here” I chimed in.

Orange: “Yes but we have appointments booked”
Me: “But they are not here, we are, so they missed their appointment”
Orange: “Yes but you don’t have an appointment”

Back and forth a few times, both of us deaf to the other, he didn’t seem to care much that we were the customers, because we had no appointment and those that did were not there.  But hey, why cloud the issue with facts?  We continued:

Me: “Well you know we didn’t need an appointment to buy the thing; the unit didn’t make an appointment to break down this or the other three times, so why are we wasting time going back and forth, let deal with fixing the unit.”
Orange: “Well we can give you an appointment for 12:10, and see if we can fit you in earlier”
Me: “What am I supposed to do for two hours?”
Orange: “You can look around, have a coffee, go and come back, we can call you”

This is when I dropped the f-bomb
Me: “What about my f-ing time, who is going to cover that?”

And that’s when everything changed.  Out of nowhere, the store Manager pops out, lecturing me on how I need to have respect for her team, and watch my language.  Hey I am considerate:

Me: “You are right, I should have used a less graphic word to describe what you are doing to us, but that does not change the fact or the act that I should have used a different word to describe”
Manager: “Well you need to have respect for my team”
Me: doing my best Ali G impression I reached out my fist gently “Respect.  Now let’s deal with the real issue, fixing the unit”

And they did, not sure if it was my Ali G, or acknowledging that no matter what words you use it can’t disguise the act, or did it finally dawn on them that given the opportunity, it is much better to help a customer than to robotically repeat a silly rule.  The time it took them to tell me about how I needed an appointment, all while someone who ostensibly had one was not there to use theirs, they could have fixed the unit.

At the end Orange reminded my 11 year old that she only had 99 days left on her warranty, so I figure at the rate the fPod is breaking down that’s another 2 or 3 visits to the Apple store, joy.  Orange started to remind me that we would need an appointment, but I suggested he leave it alone, “really not worth revisiting”

Think Different
Tibor Shanto

Your 2010 Sales Are Here Now10

Football Funnel 

The automakers are not the only ones who get a jump start on the upcoming year, by the time you will be reading this it will be mid November, leaving about six selling weeks in 2009, a year few will be sad to see go; take out Thanksgiving (USA), and the seasonal holidays, and you are looking at about five weeks of productive time. It is around the time of year that people begin to focus on closing the year on target by trying to “make those deals now”. There is no denying that there needs to be a focus on trying to do as much as you can (without discounting or cheating) to salvage a year or to bring in revenue NOW. The challenge is to do it in a way that does not adversely impact other aspects of your on going success.

It is an old familiar challenge, we are all familiar with the “You can pay me now or pay me later” syndrome. The reality is that if you have a sales cycle longer than five weeks, most of your prospecting as of now will likely be a 2010 revenue. Look at it differently if you ease up on your prospecting now to “close”, you are going to pay for it in 2010. You need to redouble your efforts right across the board to ensure no let down January 2nd, because I’ll bet you any amount you’ll have a new Target January 1st, and it may just be higher than your number was for 2009.

So what can you do?

Read On

Customer Care: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly10

Woman with headset

Part I: The Good and The Bad

While I usually focus on B2B occasionally I need to unload as a consumer, especially when I encounter three very different experiences I faced as customers. One good, the other truly bad, and the third, well, that was down right ugly.

There seems to be two trends in customer service I am running into consistently these days. An example of the plus side is Godaddy, from the moment you engage with them to after the interaction is complete, you are made to feel that you not only count, but that your business matters and is the focus of their operation. In small ways and in big ways.

Right from the start you can see the difference; while you may have to wait, you are told how long you may be on hold. This in itself nothing new, but the fact that it is accurate is; and then comes the differentiator: they give you the option of NOT listening to annoying muzak they cheaped out on. If you ever had to suffer through SOLO’s auto attended, then have to sit through their obnoxious and offensive musak for what seems like days on end, only to be greeted by someone who seems to be nothing more than a parrot reading from a bad script. A script that does not include you or your needs, and when finally it becomes painfully clear that they can’t (or won’t) help you, they pass you up to the next level of incompetence.

At Godaddy they take time to understand what the issue is and then proactively move to help you. When they can’t, they go and investigate and then come back with the answer, or alternatives.  Please understand, I do not work for Godaddy or paid by them, but after being abused by companies who choke on the word customer and only see you as a receivable.

At the end of the call with SOLO they say the most lame and hollow thing: “is there anything else I can help you with?”. As though they have helped in anyway up to that point. While they say the same at Godaddy, it has meaning, and to back it up, they send a survey no matter how big or small the issue may have been, as does PayPal.  SOLO does not, while it would be easy to think that they just don’t care, I think it also is a fact that they know the truth, so why waste time confirming it with the customer.

I understand the need for profit and efficiencies, but considering the small cost difference in providing superior customer care and experience, it is hard to understand why more people who rely on customers for their profits don’t make the effort.

But this was just the Good and the Bad, Thursday we’ll look at the Ugly.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

A Random Walk Up Sales Street – 2012

sales exchange

A Search for Superstar Nomenees and A Search for Reasons

First the search for reasons:

It was a sunny week on Sales Street this past week, so I spent a lot of time out and about selling, being sold to and interacting with other sales types.  Maybe it’s the time of year, leaves changing and falling, I am not sure, but I found myself in a reflective mood, asking why things are the way they are at times.

For example, I heard a couple of sales people use a familiar refrain of the also ran in sales when presented with some core sales concepts: “There is nothing new here”.  I buy that, most of the things you read in sales have been said before.  It is very much the truth that the wheel has been invented, at this point it really is a question of how you spin it.  The issue that remains is that if an also ran understands that there is nothing new here, then why are they not a win, place or show, why with all their knowledge are they still an also ran?

It usually comes down to execution.  Many sales people may know it, but they won’t do it or fail to do it, this continues to be the mystery in sales.  Almost every sales person knows what has to be done, very few do it.  I am not sure exactly why, if I did, I would bottle it and have more fun and make more money; but the fact is that knowing is one thing, doing is another.  Just like in music, there aren’t many notes being invented on a daily basis, but there is a lot of interpretation; it’s not like Beethoven’s 9th is being rewritten, same notes, but different conductors and orchestras play it at varying levels of quality.  Some understand practice and execute, others understand but fail to execute.  In sales the reasons are as many as there are also runs, but usually it comes down to lack of commitment and running out of time, both of which are in their control.

Further up the Street, I was struck by another interesting occurrence that got me thinking about sales people and their belief that the latest and the greatest in tools and automation may help them achieve more, and easier.  The ongoing debate, if not battle between Sales 2.0 and traditional approach to prospecting.  At the end it really is a question of how the two can work together, but it seems the propensity is to pit one against the other.  The question for me is why do sales people feel that automation will save them from having to do the work, rather than helping them do it more efficiently.  What got me thinking about it is a bit removed and bizarre, but it caught my eye and imagination.

I was sitting at a popular coffee place in Toronto waiting for a couple of associates.  From my arm chair I had a direct view of entrance.  I became aware of something I though was a bit strange (to me anyways, and hey, it’s my blog).  The entrance was a typical glass door with a comfortable handle, I used it myself when I came in, but there was also a small handicap button on the frame right next to the aforementioned comfortable handle.  The door was not heavy, easy to open, didn’t snap back or anything, yet a vast majority of the people coming in selected to push the handicap button, step back and wait for the door to slowly open.  Please remember that both the button and the handle were at the same height, about 3 inches apart; and most, I would say over 80% went for the button rather than open the door themselves.  None of the people were handicapped, most were not carrying parcels, it’s not like they were struggling to grab the handle or hit the button with their clenched fist or elbow; nope the same finger that could have pulled the door open, was used to push the button to slowly open the door.  They were all healthy, hell some of the women were even wearing those popular yoga outfits highlighting their assets and concern for physical fitness; except when it comes to opening doors?

This kept on like this right through the hour or so I was there.  Don’t ask me why, but I began to wonder. Were they lazy, was I missing something?  The button opened the door but in a measurably slower time than had they opened manually; there was it seemed to me more effort in pushing the button, having to step back out of the way to let it creek back slowly.  So why were people opting for the less efficient, only so slightly easier way of getting to their coffee?  I am open to suggestions.

I began to think it must be the same thing that keeps many sales people from taking a straight forward approach to winning sales, and in no way am I suggesting they are lazy, are they?  I thought maybe they are being resourceful, but no, there was no real advantage in using the button; the slight saving of energy in not pulling the door was negated by the energy in having to take an extra step or two. 

I began to think how this manifests itself in sales.  Sales people doing, or more accurately avoiding or deferring things in favour of something less efficient.  More to the point, using some tools or techniques for the sake of using the tool or technique, rather than for the purpose of moving the sale forward.  Is it the illusion of productivity, the ability to appear to be up-to-date?  (My Facebook is cuter than yours)

What ever the reason, I admit I am not sure, and if you have ideas please share, it does raise the notion that ease and appearances seem to carry more weight with some then productivity, and profit.

Or maybe I just had one too many double espressos.

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What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Keys To Converting Your Sales11

draft tools

The great thing about sales is the volume of information available to those that have the time to read it, and some you should, especially those on the Blogroll to the right.  I suppose with Sales 2.0 you can double that, add the wave of info relating to selling in a recession – in a recovery – in whatever, and you can get lost in it all.  But with all this advice, wisdom and insight, it is still surprising how few sales people know or take an interest in the most important information they need to know, the key conversion rates.

These key conversions are:

Lead to Prospect
to Proposal
to Close

Yes simple, but foundations usually are, that’s what allow you to build great things on them.  Yes simple, but I will bet you if you asked the next ten sales people you meet, less than half will be able to tell you their own.   Some will tell you with great conviction that it depends, you know what we say to that: “Depend is an adult diaper”.   There are reasons, some are too modern and see no room for these factors, yet even in Web 2.0 circles the measure of success is conversion.

It really doesn’t take much to track them, a piece of paper and crayons will do, but with all the tools and dashboards available, it is still surprising that sales people do not have a lock on these numbers.  But it does lead to the question of how they plan in broad terms and specifics if they don’t track these.  How can they decide how much time they need to allocate to given activities; how can they understand which aspects of their game they need to focus on improving; how can execute their plans, territory and account plans.

Once you do focus on the key conversion points you find that you can develop and execute improvement plans much more easily and effectively.  As a manager you can coach to very specific objectives and help reps overcome challenges one step at a time, help them maintain an improvement course based on facts and metrics rather than gut feel.

Starting is not hard, you just need to start measuring, don’t get hung up if the numbers are good or bad, high or low, at first just get comfortable measuring, and establish a base line.  Once you have that base line you will see a few things you can begin to change, again there is no right or wrong element to start with, the key is to focus on just one, you will not be able to change everything at once, and if you try you will just frustrate yourself, give up and go back to your previous ways.  Much like any new routine, fitness, diet, what have you, the key is to have a plan, pace yourself and stay with it.

Understand that these are not the only things involved in sales success, but they are fundamental, once you master this and make it part of your over all strategy, it will help you in improving other elements of your sales even those that are more subjective.  If sales indeed is partly are and partly science, these conversion rates will help you master the science so you can unleash the artist in you.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

A Random Walk Up Sales Street – 1912

sales exchange

Your Timing Is Great

There is a lot of talk in sales about timing, some write about how to improve it, some talk about how you can be a victim of it, others will tell you how to manage it.  If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that we too believe that time is one of the key elements of success in sales. What we don’t believe in is the notion of “time management”.  In many ways it is a hollow and worn out concept that at best distracts sales professional, and at worst frustrates them. After all isn’t time already managed for us, nicely organized across borders and languages is units of 60, assembled in cartons of 24, stacked in piles of 7, those then placed in crates of 52, loaded into 12 trailers. Sound pretty organized and well managed to me, a German logistics company couldn’t improve on it, so don’t waste time on time management.

With time, the focus needs to be on usage;  if you want to manage something, manage your activities, manage the urge to multi task, and instead focus on managing to get something done, multi tasking will only help you not get a number of things done at the same time. Now that’s not to say that you can’t use systems, processes and tools (applications) to help you get things done even as you are doing something else, or to keep you on track when you need to do that “one thing” at the right time.

Case in point is the time allocated and spent on managing your leads funnels.  Next to active prospects, leads in your leads funnel are probably the most important thing for many sales people. I’d much rather spend energy managing my leads than trying to manage time, and to do that I use Renbor’s Contact Strategy: Touch > Contact > Engage . A simple process for Touching, Tracking, Contacting leads and converting them to prospects on a consistent basis.  Doing this consistently and properly will not only help you reduce the need to constantly cold call by having a funnel full of people brewing to become prospects, but as they move down the lead funnel, you will have an easier time converting them.

As an example, I have been pursuing a company for some time, I first called the VP of Sales back in April of 2007, and after a good conversation it was clear to both of us that it was not the right time to engage.  We have stayed in touch regularly, met at industry events, and he has always been open and forthright about their situation.  Needless to say he has been reading our monthly newsletter.  Their industry has been hit severely by the economy and the rising Canadian dollar, and we have had a few discussions specifically about that impact.  When we spoke in September he indicated that there was an initiative looking at training across the company and suggested I get in touch with the person spearheading the initiative.

When I called that person the conversation went something like this:

TS: Hi John, Max Sales suggested we speak, as he is aware of the work, we do with B2B sales forces in helping them attain their goals.

John: Well Tibor, I must say your timing is great,….

TS: Actually John, timing had little to do with it…

Indeed it didn’t, it had much more to do with the process, the execution, and allocating time to getting it done.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Fractured Adages12


We are all familiar with the old adage: “A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for his client.”  I was sitting with a prospect the other day when this adage floated up.  As he was laying out his plan to have his sales managers conduct sales training for his direct sales team.  The same team that missed goal in 2008, managed by the same managers who were unable to lead their teams to hit reduced goals so far this year (and in case you wondering I saw their pipeline for the rest of the year, let’s just call it Arizona).  As he was waxing poetic about his plans, I thought yup, he’ll save some bucks.  Then a variation on the adage surfaced and I wondered: “Does a sales organization who is their own trainer have a fool for a client?

What’s in our Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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