Why Get Ahead Of The Buyer?0

 By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Rear view

I recently saw an ad for a sales program, and that big bold letters enticing me to buy read: “How To Get Ahead Of Your Buyer”. While I get where they were coming from, or more accurately who they were trying to appeal to, but there was just something wrong with the way it was phrased.

I think one of the biggest challenges sales people have is not to get ahead of the buyer, it seems to me that getting ahead of the buyer is the same as “leaving the buyer behind”, a dangerous notion and more dangerous practice.

One of the key things we help sales teams accomplish with the EDGE framework is alignment with the buyer. Executing the sale in a way that keeps you engaged and in step with the buyer, leads to a number of pluses, not to mention more sales.

Alignment is key, it helps you focus and cover objectives, which then allows you to offer practical means of helping the client achieve those objectives. The idea of getting ahead of the buyer has an old school ring of pain and needs based selling.

When you rush ahead of the buyer, because you are familiar with the scenario, you’ve seen and heard it before, you tend to want to “close” too early, usually relying on old school “closing techniques”. In some ways I thought we were past this, but this ad and a recent discussion in a LinkedIn group suggest that we are not. That discussion was based on the question “What’s the best, most effective question you’ve ever asked a client?” Apparently some sales people still ask what keeps the prospect awake at night. With thinking like that, and leaving the buyer behind, sellers move to close too early in the process, you may feel you are done your discovery, but the buyer is still defining and refining their requirements. Moving to close at this stage will at worst make the buyer feel pressured, scare them to compare to others, and at best, slow down the deal, requiring a longer sales cycle, the use of more resources, and less time to spend on other opportunities.

When this happens, and other companies enter the fray, price will not only become an issue, but a central issue. What was your deal to win, now becomes your deal to buy, and there is never money in that.

The flip-side of getting ahead, is falling behind, the relationship approach, “whatever makes you happy, I’ll be here when you’re ready.” The net effect of this again is that the buyer learns whet they require, after all you are there with all the facts and didees, and when they are ready to buy, they do so from the guy asking for the order, not the one waiting.

Work with the buyer, lead the buyer, based on their objectives, your expertise as a subject matter expert, but don’t get ahead, or fall behind, manage the alignment.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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Playing With Numbers – Sales eXecution 2470

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

crystal ball

I was never big on Shakespeare, took me long enough to master English as my third language, good old Willie just confused things that much further, I must admit that I do have an appreciation for the phrase from Hamlet “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”. Not only as a parent, but perhaps in a similar vein working with sales people, as exemplified by a recent exchange with a rep I am working with.

Earlier this month in a post title To Call Or Not, I cited some stats about the level of effort required to engage and sell new buyers. The rep in question was very defensive about some of the numbers, asking where they came from, when I shared that with him, he kept on protesting and questioning, just like the lady in Hamlet.

Having remembered that the company had recently done a trade show about a week before our conversation. I asked how many leads he picked up, he told me about a hundred or so. I went on “how many have you contacted or followed up with?” He told me about thirty or so. Or so? What is there a margin for error, or a margin for slackness? Either way, below the stat he was protesting, and likely the reason he was protesting, the light was just a little too bright.

At this point you have no choice but to don my Kevlar reinforced wetsuit, and ask “what about the rest?”

I bet if I asked you to look away from the screen you can guess the excuses, go ahead give it a go.

First just the lack of time, apparently there was a battery that had to be driven across town to a client. I took a bullet, in as much as he had to attend training. But my favourite was “Some of these are not real, some were just tire kickers, I can tell which are worth following up with, so I went to hose first, I will continue down the list.”

I right away called my wife “Honey, I met a real celebrity, I spent my morning with Kreskin”  I can just see him holding those business cards up in the air, one by one, and divining which were buyers and which were not.

“Have you sent a follow up e-mail to the bunch?”

“I though Marketing was gonna do it”

Sales people are no different than others, if you don’t like the message, you shoot the messenger, and if the messenger is wearing Kevlar, try to undermine the numbers in question.

As discussed here before, sales people fall into one of two groups, what I’ve referred to as the X Factor of sales, execution, or excuses.  Not only was our boy not ready to execute, he was great excuses, a complete lack of accountability. Now to be fair, there was little clarity from the organizations as to what was expected after the show, i.e. “follow up with all leads within 72 hours.” But in the end, for someone so ready to question the numbers, he was doing a lot to hide form them and little to disprove them.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

To Call or Not9

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Touch

I am often asked a question I really hate, and while I have learned not to let it get on my nerves, and usually manage to deal with it calmly, it still pains me that my fellow professional sellers would ask it. The question relates to how vigorously one should pursue a potential prospect? I find the question bizarre on a number of levels, not the least of which is that today’s potential; prospect is tomorrow’s prospect, next week’s customer, and a stream of revenue (if not commissions) for some time after that. Ya, you should pursue it vigorously.

I am have a hard time not screaming when a sales person asks me “Should I call that prospect or not, I called him a couple of weeks ago, he didn’t call back, I guess he is not interested.” No, from where I sit, it is the sales person making that statement who is not interested. If they were, they’d be reaching out to the potential prospect, not asking the question. Not only do they lack the interest, but a good and executable pursuit plan needed to engage the potential prospect and start a mutually satisfactory relationship.

Consider the following:

48% Of Sales People Never Follow Up with a Prospect
25% Of Sales People Make a Second Contact and Stop
12% Of Sales People Make a Third Contact and Stop
Only 10% Of Sales People Make More Than Three Contacts
2% Of Sales Are Made On the First Contact
3% Of Sales Are Made On the Second Contact
5% Of Sales Are Made On the Third Contact
10% Of Sales Are Made On the Fourth Contact
80% Of Sales Are Made On the Fifth to Twelfth Contact

It is clear that the answer is not whether you should make the call (e-mail, tweet, smoke signal…) or not, but how many times, and what will you communicate. It is one things know how to spell nurture, another to execute it well

A good pursuit plan maps out how many touch points you will execute, in what sequence and frequency. Frequency is an important often overlooked or mismanaged factor. These touch-points should be made in a much narrower timeframe than many recognize or feel comfortable with. If you set out a pursuit plan that includes say eight touch-points, which is a median number, some go higher, some go lower, if you’re going to err, err on the higher end, so eight is about right. The time horizon should be between three to four weeks at the max. Long gaps, a week or two will just diminish the compounding effect of the touch-points.

When looking to connect with someone you have had no direct contact with, two or three touches a week are necessary, but most people don’t want to do more than one a week, you may as well not bother. One of the reasons they don’t call you back is you are allowing them to forget about you, and more importantly what you are trying to engage them around. That combined with the fact that you lose focus, and allow your attention to wonder during the long gaps.

The other key component is the combination of content, and medium. While I still think that Marshall McLuhan, would have been a lousy sales person, because it is the message that drives revenue, the medium does count. A combination of phone, e-mail, text, LinkedIn, tweets, introductions, smoke signals, you name it. No single touch should overwhelm the recipient, remember the goal is to engage directly not to sell. The content should entice the recipient to engage, while each may build on the other, the goal is to have the opportunity to complete the picture directly, even if it takes a few tries.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

EDGY Conversations: How Ordinary People Can Achieve Outrageous Results0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

EDGY Conversations

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while are more than familiar with Dan Waldschmidt, we have done webinars and other events, and his guest post a couple of years back Retarded Sales Behavior and The Reasons We Under-Perform, had one of the biggest responses I have had to a guest post. He never fails to deliver to his moniker of EDDY CONVERSATIONS.

Well fortunately for all of us, who enjoy edgy, or want to get the EDGE, Dan has written a book, EDGY Conversations: How Ordinary People Can Achieve Outrageous Success, an exceptional “how to manual” for ordinary people who are out to achieve truly extraordinary things. What makes it a great read and must have, is not just the content, but Dan’s innate and unique way of articulating things, to borrow from the usual book parlance “It’s a page turner!”

Dan spent four years looking at what high performers were doing in business, math, science, sports and politics. He put together 1,000 stories of ordinary people who achieved success against the odds. As a result of its breadth, this book delivers right from the start. Open a page and you’ll find everything you’ve never seen before in a traditional business book. In presentation alone the book is differentiates and engages, beautiful illustrations and vibrant colors jumping off the page just punctuate and brings the messages to life. After reading a host of books of this nature, it was pleasantly surprising to feel the lift after reading EDGY Conversations. I felt powerful and motivated and encouraged to do the hard things that lead to extraordinary success.

I had a chance to speak with Dan about the book, and what he took away from the experience. I asked him what common connections he found when he looked at high performers in business, math, sports, science and politics? He pointed to “four characteristics that we call EDGY: extreme behavior, disciplined activity, a giving mindset and a human strategy, were all prevalent in high performers, even across completely different verticals, like science and sports. The same radical beliefs that enable an Olympic competitor to push themselves beyond human capacity is the exact same belief system that enables a researcher to uncover a human biological breakthrough.

Some folks see edgy or extreme as being out there, but Dan presents a different more compelling view. When suggested that extreme, by definition, “too much” of a good thing, Dan offered up that “no, being extreme is not too much of a good thing. Extreme behaviour starts with a mindset change. It is really the core belief that you can achieve success regardless of the obstacles in your way simply through a relentless pursuit of answers. It’s a belief that by working hard enough and long enough, there isn’t anything that you can’t do. When you have that belief system, you look at problems as just another opportunity to be creative rather than bad luck or “everyone picking on you”. That mindset is important because it’s inevitable that each of us will face problems in our struggle to be successful. You can’t ever believe in yourself too much.”

Whether you are edgy in your approach to life, success or just being, or thinking about becoming successfully with an edge, this is a must read, so rather than keep you waiting, all you have to do is click here, grab your copy, and hold on.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Social Selling is Just Good Selling – Sales eXecution 2440

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Last week I had the honour of placing in the top 10 of the 30 The Top 30 Social Salespeople In The World.  But more than ever before it highlighted the need to unhyphenate sales, and focus on those things that make sales people good at what they do.  I can’t speak for the others on the list, but I do not see myself as a social seller, but as a sales person who takes the profession seriously, and as a result of that commitment use every available tool to communicate with my market, and deliver avenues and means for them to achieve their objectives vis-à-vis their business.

top30socsale

This is why I had some gentle fun with Social Selling’s predecessor, Sales 2.0. These are not just marketing terms, but limiting terms, especially in the hands of the wrong people, especially the pundits. If Sales 2.0 was the label for those who were leveraging Web 2.0 tools and opportunities in their sales, then what number do we assign to those sales people who were early adopters of the first wave of web capabilities, Sales 1.0? What about those of us who jumped on things like portals, the original BlackBerry pagers, Sales 0.0. And what of the sales people who invested in Palm Pilots and green screen e-mails, Sales -1.0. Take to the logical conclusion voice mail in the 1908’s Sales -3.0, answering services introduced in the 1930’s Sales -6.0, etc.

Silly marketing terms that pre-occupy sales people and sell products for those selling to sellers. So let’s unhyphonate sales, especially silly, potentially revenue destructive labels like “No Cold Calling”, “Referral Selling”, “Trigger Event Selling”, and others. These address one small aspect of sales in a very incomplete and ineffective way and serve only to sell a product. This may explain why some were left off the list who are in one light much more “social” than many of us on the list.

I can only speak for myself, but I suspect I was on the list because I love selling, and writing about selling and will use every available tool and means of selling better, these days that includes social. I think if you want to hyphenate sales, there should only be one Good-Selling, everything else is just packaging.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

 

Self-Serve or Full Service? – Sales eXecution 2422

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

stake and wine

I overheard an interesting discussion recently at the airport. Two guys talking about eating out a lot, could even have been road warrior sales types. One was waxing poetic about how is sick and tired of seeing tipping jars at staff cafeterias, or fast food places. When his buddy asked why, his reply was that the people in those place do not do anything that merits a tip. They stand at the cash, ring you out, and sometimes even muster a “thank you”. Even at a place like Starbucks, the baristas are nothing more than a short version of a short order cook.

He felt waiters deserve a tip because they create and add to the dining experience, and are often the difference between a great night out experience, and a meal eaten outside the home. He felt that waiters are with you from start to finish, making recommendations, the good ones take time to understand your preference and what you are hoping to get out of the experience and more. They also sell and upsell you from wine to desert and everything between, helping their restaurant sell more profitable items, increasing the size of the bill, their tip, and your experience. In other words earning their tips. To quote “WTF does the guy behind the counter at Starbucks add to the experience?”

This got me to think about some of the current discussions in sales, and how people are confusing roles and outcomes, sometime innocently, sometimes intentionally to drive their own agenda, even at the expense of their buyers and facts. When I read that “buyers are over 60% of the way through their buying process before they reach out to sales person”, I get confused. Sales person, really? I think not, more accurately, the person they call when they are 2/3 of the way through their “buying” process is an order taker, there is no selling taking place here, there is just taking an order the buyer by definition arrived at on their own. Looking at that experience as a sale, is like confusing a sandwich off a stand outside Penn Station with a dinner at Carbone.

Sales people seek out and engage with people who have not started the buying process, had not intention on doing anything different when they went to work that morning. That is why it is a “sales process”, not a “buying process”. Sales people are not standing at the checkout counter waiting for the next buyer to walk up. They study their territory, understand who potentially will benefit from their offering. They segment and prioritize, and develop a pursuit plan based on where they are most likely to engage with potential buyers, buyers who without the seller’s initiative would remain on the sideline, and unnoticed by sales people waiting for a call from someone who has completed 2/3 of their decision. Not to mention the pundits who promote this type of lazy order taking; how can one present an entire “sales” methodology predicated on taking orders rather than making a sale? I am with my man at the airport, let’s not call the combo meal at the local sub shop a four course dinner. Now shut down the browser, and go out and sell, the incoming orders will come anyways, look at them as you bonus, not your goal.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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Unavoidable – Sales eXecution 2380

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

change

One of the most frequent questions I am asked all start with “How do I avoid…?” Many are surprised when I respond “Why do you want to avoid it?” The answer is obvious, they either don’t know how to deal with something, so they look for ways to avoid it. Or the know how to avoid it, but don’t want to do what it takes for number of reasons.

The former is easily fixed, they can be taught, they put things into practice, and over time they don’t even remember that they were trying to avoid it, and now speak like experts. The latter is a bit of a challenge, all too common challenge.

Some things you can avoid, in Renbor’s Objection Handling Handbook, I talk about specific way to present things to prospects, especially while prospecting that allows us to steer the discussion in a certain direction, or better yet, initiate the conversation in a way that eliminates a specific objection. For example, (and there are others in the book), when you follow up on information you sent a prospect, and they say “Haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, give me a call next week”, you can take that away and avoid the objection by starting your call like this:

“Bob, it’s Susie, I am following up on the information I sent you as you requested last week, you probably haven’t had a chance to read it yet, have you?” Just the nervous laughter is worth the call alone, but you have avoided the response by taking it away.

But there will be things in sales, unpleasant things, which not only you can’t avoid, but should not want to avoid. People want to find a way to avoid the most common objections while telephone prospecting. I can understand why, but I would argue that there is more upside in learning how to deal with it, and benefit from that, and benefit in a much more profitable way than if you were able to avoid the objections.

For the sake of full disclosure, there is one proven sure proof way to avoid objections faced in telephone prospect, works every time, but it does have big risk associated with it, really big risk. The method is not to make the call. Works every time, and oddly the chosen method of many. One just needs to look at some of the “be found” stuff being offered as practical ways to generate engagement and prospects.

The side effects, are fewer opportunities, and missed quotas, in my view, infinitely worse than any punishment faced while prospecting. Just today I got a note in my inbox from CSO Insight, that only 58.2% of reps attained quota. Give me a stern “not interested”, or “I am good, all set”. That I can deal with, take away the objection and drive engagement.

The other dark side of trying to avoid things, is that you fail to set in to motion other practical elements of a sale. Sure you avoid the discomfort of one thing, but that prevents you from getting to what is behind it. Does the old expression, “you need to crack a few eggs”, remind you of anything? You need to hit that first domino

The biggest down and dark side, is that failure at times is the cost of growth. None of us learned to ride a bike, play hockey, or ask someone on a date without falling a few times. You may succeed in avoiding some unpleasantries, but mostly you’ll avoid success.

Note – someone pointed out that I have been deliver the Sales eXchange for the last 200 plus weeks, and while there is information exchanged, the topics and the themes are more around sales execution. And with their input I have introduced a slight change to the series, and moving forward it will be called Sales eXecution! Because after all in sales, it is about Execution – everything else is just talk!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

Sales Leaders – You Get What You Ask For – Sales eXchange 2372

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Money on scale

Price is a ‘big’ subject for all in sales, right from those developing product, to marketing, all in the sales organisation, and as important as any, the customer. We all have an economic and emotional involvement in it, yet it often continues to be a challenge for all in the chain.

I think one reason is the message many sales leaders send their teams, and their peers in the revenue generation process. I think in some terms, it is the mixed messages they send that confuses and leads to undesired results.

One obvious factor and lever is incentive. I keep hearing, as I have heard throughout my sales career, that incentive drives behaviour, if so why do so many companies (senior sales executives), continue to reward sales people on the price they get, rather than the profit that sales person contributes? I used to work with someone who kept insisting that companies go out of business due to lack of sales. He would never accept that in fact businesses go under due to a lack of profits. Even when I showed him that many businesses had their best revenue days when the bankruptcy trustees were holding liquidation sales.

I have fund that companies who incent their sales people based on gross profits are consistently better aligned with their reps, and achieve mutually better results. But many continue to base incentives on top line gross revenues, others on some proxy for revenue or some model of potential residual revenue stream to materialize in the future, even when the incentive is paid out now.

Sellers who are paid on revenues only, are more likely to discount, and advocate for the buyer, rather than drive mutual value. As we all know, a $500 discount on a $10,000 piece of equipment, can have little impact on what the reps gets paid, but could be a huge part of the gross or net margin.

One has to wonder why in today’s economy anyone would pay out based on top line vs. GP. One company I worked with couldn’t really tell you what their margins were, as a result they went with paying on the top line, which only compounded the issue, as they didn’t know if commissions were wiping out the last bit of profit, or… At the end of the quarter they were either profitable or not, but either way not by design. This may be an extreme example, but I don’t think it is rare.

It is not just about the company’s profits, but many who pay on GP, are able to attract and develop better sales people. Sales people who want to and sell at full value, a true win-win-win situation. The same instincts that allow sales people to choose a discount when paid on top line, drive sale reps paid on margin to deliver value for all three key parties. No value for the client, no sale, no commission; no discounts offered, because those come as much out of the seller’s pocket as the company’s. Clients don’t get gouged, because there would be no sales, no commission.

There is no doubt that switching from top line to margin payouts cause reverberations, and push back from sellers. But I am willing to bet that only from those who can’t survive on the crumbs they leave in any given deal. Sometimes you need to shake things up, thin the herd to make room for those who want to feast along with the customers and their employers.

Once They Bought Product – Make your Client Change1

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

change

Change is hard for all of us, that much more so for sales people. On one side they are trying to get buyers to change, clearly articulating the upside of change. Some of the most creative modern prose have flowed from sales people enticing their buyer to change, “Your business dreams, are but one change away”. Yet as sellers, we rarely hold that mirror up in front of us, we don’t like change, believe me I spend a lot of time helping sellers to change, and it requires a lot. Much like their potential buyers, they are resistant to new things, and are much more willing to live with the pain of what they know, than experience the pain they associate with change.

This could be the very reason why many sales people prefer to be “gatherers” – account managers than hunters. After all, spending 80%, 90% or more of their time with their base, allows them to regularly avoid having to talk about change. When they do, they are not only in-congruent, but on a number of levels dishonest with their potential buyers. After all, singing the praises of change all the while thing it yourself, just sends the wrong message, regardless of how much they rehearse, intentions and genuineness always rings through.

Not only that, but as soon as they “change” a buyer from their previous provider to being their client, they cast off their mask, and become steadfast defenders of the status quo, doing everything they can to make their client forget change.

But just like with fire, the best way to fight change, specifically the type of change your competitors are trying to sell your customer, is with change. Start by forgetting the product, yes, I know, it’s hard, such a warm blanket. While many are fixated with upgrade and new releases, there are other and “better” changes a good sales person can present.

As in the sale, the differentiation, and often the value, comes not from the product but from the sale. The way the seller engages, and conveys value to the buyer has to transcend the product, especially in a world where on a good day the overlap between you and number 2, is at least 80%. And once you are the incumbent, your competitor, number 2, will embellish that 20% until only a small discount is needed to entice your client away.

But if you the focus off the product, and placed it on how the client uses the product; how it specifically impacts their reality, their profits, competitive edge, or other non-product dependent things, then change is not about the product, but you, and what you do for them. Sure they can use the other product, but they will lose the benefit of you, your expertise, and the value you bring. It is easy to change the box, it will be hard to replace how you help them benefit from the box.

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What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

Dear Sales Diary3

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Diary

Those of you have kept or keep diaries, know that one of the reasons it has such great value is not just because you open up about intimate secrets, but that you share everything, not just the good, not just the bad, but all that and everything in between. You were able to go back and relive the experience, and more often than not glean lesson and things you would do differently if you had to do them all again. You didn’t just look at what you did well, or things that turned out to be good, living up to and beyond your expectations. You looked at the bad things that happened and tried to understand how you might avoid similar things in the future. The more honest you were the more rewarding the experience. If you skewed or slanted things one way, you may feel better for a while, but reality comes creeping back in, forcing us to deal with the bad, and the gray.

Sales people and sales organization need to keep a diary of their experiences, all of them, the good, the bad, and the in between. Most already do deal reviews in some format, but many do not, either choosing to them selectively, or just enough to satisfy a KPI or ScoreCard requirement. Few do the real deep dive required in order to get the most out of it, in the process allowing both a learning and revenue improvement get away. To be clear, and as you will see further on, “deep dive” does not have to be a laborious time consuming exercise with minimal payoffs, it can and should be an ongoing process that helps you with deals you are currently involved in, while also allowing you to capture and repurpose things on the fly. Done right, it should resemble the old EDS add about building an airplane while it is flying, the opportunity for sales people and organizations, is to build a continuously better sales, even as they are executing current sales, and prospecting for their next one.

Specifically this involves reviewing all deals you were involved in, those you won, those you lost, and those which go to “no decision”. Note, if you are involved in ten to a dozen deal a month, I recommend you review all of them; if on the other hand you are involved in dozens of deals, you may want to review a representative sample. If you have 7 wins, 15 losses, and 6 no decisions, review 25%, or seven, and you will get good, executable output. But as you’ll see, even if you don’t formally review each one, you will produce usable output.

Now some of you reading this may be aware that I am the coauthor of an award winning book about Trigger Events. In that book the recommendation was that you focus your reviews to only those deals you win. This will allow you to continuously repeat those things that are consistently help you win deals. Sound thinking, to a point. Let me explain, coauthoring a book is a lesson in compromise, you give you, you learn, you take, and in the end you produce a book that reflects the learning of both. But as you move on, the hope is that both authors evolve, not limited by the required compromises, and we each continue down our path, shaped by or experiences.

Since the release of that book, my thinking has evolved to where I see focusing strictly on one segment of your activities and only one of many outcomes, brings an unnecessary level of risk to one’s sales success, regardless of which one of the three possible outcomes you focus on. Given that on average, wins make up less than half of potential deals, if for no other reason than to broaden you perspectives, you should review outcomes other than just wins.

This is why the 360 Deal View was developed. It allows you to capture relevant information about the sale, the outcome and specific contributors to that. As with most tools, it is less about the tool itself, and much more about the approach and behaviours it promotes, which in turn lead to the desired results in more repeatable, predictable and consistent ways. It allows you to evolve you selling along with the way your market and buyers evolve.

While there is no denying that you want to know exactly what you are doing that is helping you win, you want to know what unfolded on the buyer’s side that prompted them to engage, and what outside and inside factors accelerate your sales cycle or cause it to slow and stall. What were the buyer’s objectives that allowed you to gain traction, and how you were able to connect with those? All important things you want to leverage. But it would be dangerous if not naïve to not go through a similar exercise with the other outcomes, losses and “no decisions”. Two simple advantageous to knowing why you lose, first, it may just take a small adjustment to change some of the inputs that will move a loss to the won column. Second, you may discover that a segment that made sense on initial exploration made sense to pursue, based on practice does not. Looking at “no decisions” will often allow you to understand when would be the best time to reengage, and take the cycle to fruition. It will also help you detect tire kickers a lot earlier.

These will be fallouts if you only review wins, but there is no denying that focusing on just one area, will lead to tunnel vision, causing you to miss changing trends that are more evident in the other categories, and more importantly, leave you very open to be blindsided. If you rely on one set of data, you will continue to find others who fit the mold, but it does not speak to the size of a market, things can continue to look good in a shrinking market, and by the time you react, many opportunities will have been missed, and competitors will have made unnecessary gains at your expense.

Most CRM’s and related apps will allow you to do a complete all three, and even allow you to get more granular if need be. You can download our tool here, but the key to success is not the tool, but the philosophy, and more specifically the discipline of doing it in up, down, or sideways markets. Just as with a diary, the best ones were usually written in simple notebooks, not fancy specially diaries, what made them great was the depth and completeness of what was captured, and the consistency of execution.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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