businessman on the beach

The “Dog Days” Of Sales0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

There is no denying that summer brings a different rhythm, energy and cadence to sales. Vacations, kids out of school, longer sunnier days are but a few contributing factors. Unfortunately, this just feeds in to tribal notions about selling the summer; no doubt helped by prospects and customers using “summer” to hold sellers at bay and fend off making decisions.

No, It Can’t Wait

While on the surface some of the reasoning presented by prospects (and often accepted at face value by some reps), may sound reasonable, they are not. When looked at in the cold light of time and quota, one can never take their eye off the prize, or assume that time somehow ticks away differently on the summer. A simple litmus test next time a prospect brings up summer, is to explore how tolerant their company is of seasonal short falls or slackness in effort.

Seasonal Adjustments

businessman on the beachOne benefit that the relaxed pace of summer brings, is people’s propensity to do mid-year reviews and status checks, and then adjust course accordingly. If you have dealt with a specific vertical, or set of buyers, you could be in a position to add to this process. Being that you have had greater exposure to best practices, you are in a position to offer value without talking product or sales. Having seen how different people and organisations approach similar opportunities, you should always be in a position to introduce new lines of thinking or tools that will help them complete their task, or enhance the effort. More on another way this can be handy in a minute.

Given that the cast of players in decisions is increasing, used to be 5.4, now it’s 6.7. Given that some of the players will be on vacation, others may be reluctant to make decisions. But that should not prevent you from going full speed into education and influence mode, using their relax stated to introduce elements into the discussion that will rekindle their enthusiasm, revive their energy to levels when they started their journey.

With the pressure gauge down, you will find it easier step back and refocus on things that precipitated the journey. We have had experiences, where mid-way through the year the focus and energy dips to where the project is abandoned, which explains the almost a third of deals that go to no decision. This is your opportunity to not worry about the ultimate decision, and have them emotionally recommit and reinvest in the project, which is an opportunity to review and learn what has changed, what would they do differently if they were to start over again, or at least based on their journey to date.

You must remember that some of these will in fact get back on track this year, others, while they may see merit again, will slip into next year, better than no sale at all.

Taking advantage of the mood of summer also allows you to explore the dynamics internally, and those that will have to be in place to ensure a decision coming out of Labour Day. How and who makes the decision, who can and has killed projects in the past, and other important facts that are much better exchanged in the Dog Days Of Summer.

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green targets with client marking, green arrows hitting the center and grey targets with prospect marking

New Quarter – Same Approach?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

On Friday, I dropped a tongue in cheek, some might say sarcastic (or cynical) thought/comment on LinkedIn, observing how the last day of the quarter, month, and the week, made for B2B sales version of “Triple Witching Hour”.  The icing on the cake (or thought) came around 4:00 PM ET, when I was prospecting a VP of sales on the east coast, she asked I call her back Monday (scheduled time, none of this call me back stuff), because she wanted to keep her line open in case she needs to approve some deals.

But it is easy sniping from the sidelines, that was last quarter, the question is what you do with the quarter starting today?

Time To Reduce

The question of quality vs. quantity plays itself out in many elements of sales, and while it is always a god idea to have a deep pool of opportunities to look to, narrowing your efforts can lead to more of the desired results, and in a shorter timeframe. By narrowing I mean the number of opportunities you focus on, not the level of effort in your execution. Too many sales people try to juggle too many opportunities at the same time, leading to a diluted effort across all their opportunities, and by extension watered down results.

First steps should be rather simple:

How long is your average sales cycle; subtract that number from nine (the number of selling months assuming a Dec. 31 yearend), and you will get a sense of how many new (real) opportunities you will need at the top of the funnel. From there you can drill down to understand that for all the stages of your cycle.

If you have multiple offerings with varying cycles, you will need to ensure that you strive for a blended pipeline, both in terms of deal size and time to close. You need to get the longer deals started sooner than shorter, etc.

Calculate how much quota is left to retire in the remaining nine months of the year, and adjust that to reflect your new quarterly and monthly quotas.

Since it is rare that these numbers will unfold in a linear fashion, we are going to need to factor in seasonality and other fluctuating trends that will require you to make correlating adjustments to your activity as a counterbalance.

With the above in hand you will have a real idea of how many opportunities you will need to generate and take through the cycle. This in turn allows you to be much more in control and not be distracted by things that don’t contribute to your success.

One of the biggest and avoidable distractions comes from having too many opportunities in your active pipeline, and looking at all prospects as being equal or worthwhile. Being selective and reducing the number of opportunities you pursue in the first instance, and decide to continue to sell to, will improve your results. Fewer opportunities, especially a reduction in “Spaghetti Opportunities”, frees up your time while allowing you to use less resources in a more effective way.

If you are routinely and methodically reviewing the outcome of all opportunities that go into your pipeline, you will begin to gain an understanding of specific reasons and actions that lead to Wins, Losses, and No Decisions. You can then use these factors and trends to triage and prioritize opportunities and activities required to win.

Taking Control

One simple way to tier your efforts is to look at two basic criteria. One is:

A. The total potential value of an opportunity
B. The probability of closing them either in a given quarter, or fiscal year.

You will need data and info for this, this is not finger in the air stuff, this why the deal review is key.

Then plot the specific opportunities by name, on a chart where the A from above is one axis, and B the other. Then draw the usual quadrant lines, and you will see your opportunities fall into three groups worth pursuing.

Click on image to download a copy.

Top right quadrant, your best opportunities, high value, and high probability of closing. In terms of prospecting, 50% of your time and effort.

The next best quadrant is something you will need to decide. If you have a product line that allows you to “land and expand”, you may want to look at the bottom right, where the initial value may be smaller than others, but your probability of close is strong, and once you have landed, you can expand, but you’re now “in”.

For others, for a number of reasons, (low turnover, few potential prospects, etc.) you may see the top left as being your second-best group to target.

In either case, whichever your number 2 is, spend 30% of your prospecting efforts there, and the remaining 20% on the third group.

There are a number of other filters you can use, we do with our clients, but the goal is to achieve a selling environment featuring reduced clutter in your pipeline. That will allow you better leverage your most important resources, time. Slowly gaining back control of the things that will allow you to drive and deliver quota, not chase in the hopes of.

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3 Must Have Attributes of a Real “NEXT STEP”1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Definitions are an important factor in sales success, talk to the best sales people, best here being measured in results, not likability, and you will find that they thrive on clear definitions, it is their competitive edge.  To identify weak sales people, look for those with plenty of opinion, but little or no clarity in approach or definitions for core elements of their success.  One common example is “Value”, it is part of almost every sales conversation, yet there are numerous, at times conflicting definitions.  I ask a group of five also rans to define value, and you’ll end up with seven different definitions, because the first two will change their mind based on what the next three say.

Another common element of successful selling that is all too often undefined (and usually unenforced), is the discipline of next steps.  Sure, everyone pays lip service to “next steps” (or advances, or other synonyms), but what they say is not what they mean, and not at all defined, agreed on, or universally supported.

I was brought up in the sales school that held that without a “next step” you are likely working with someone who is fully not engaged, if at all, and therefore not a prospect, but a lead.  This makes a “next step” a crucial delineator between real opportunities, or those pretend opportunities, taking up space in your pipeline or CRM, but lack any empirical evidence to suggest that you are working with a real prospect or an opportunity that will convert in a predictable time frame.

There is not an opportunity review that goes by where a reps is asked:

“Do you have a ‘next step’ with this prospect?”

Rep: “Sure do!”

“What is it?”

“I’m calling him Monday to set a meeting”, or “I told him I would call Monday to see what he thought of the proposal”

“What time is the call scheduled for?”

“I don’t have it formally scheduled, I told him I’d call Monday, and he said fine, I’ll do it after I am back from the Northern demo.”

Sorry, but that’s not a next step.  It’s a plan, may even be a good plan, but at this point it is little more than hope in the form of a thought, and you know what they say about hope, and people addicted to hopium.

For a “next step” to be real and productive it needs to have three attributes, that when combined and successfully executed form a platform for sales success that can use to plan, strategize and execute their sale, usually in a shorter time frame than they had anticipated.

1.   Must Be Agreed On By Both The Buyer And The Seller – by agreed I mean that it is booked and confirmed, not just a “ya OK”, whispered as you are walking out. These days you can have an invite fired from your phone while you are still there.  The physical act of pulling out your phone to put in the time and date will lead them to go to their calendar, if they don’t you may have a problem that you need to address right then and there.  It is not unusual for my prospects to have accepted the next meeting before I leave or by the time I am checking e-mail in the parking lot.

Many will settle for this as a “next step”, but I don’t want you to be one of those.  There are people, even with the demands on time, who will meet with a sales person without a specific reason.  This is why the next attribute is so important, in fact of the three the most important.

2.  Moves The Journey Forward – going back without a clear purpose is a waste of time, you can sit at your desk twiddle your thumbs without adding to you carbon footprint. You want to go back to continue to move the process forward in a way that helps the buyer make the decision that you can help them achieve their objectives.  This can be asking them to do something that will validate their engagement, involvement and commitment to the buy/sale moving forward.

I suggest that you think in advance what that may be, leveraging your personal and organizational experience, map out the journey, understand the critical milestones, and how you have successfully arrived there in the past.  If you know that achieving something opens the door to the next phase of the process, then think of what has to transpire in the meeting to get the buyer to see that as a logical path forward.   This could be any number of things based on what you sell.  One example is to ask for the opportunity to interview other people impacted by the decision, and set a time to comeback, debrief and plan the “next step”.  You’ll often hear me say:

“So we’ve agreed that it would help if I had a chance to get the front line view, if you can give the names of three sales people to interview, I can set that up for next week, and be in a position to come back to review with you by next Wednesday, does 2:00 work for you?”

Now if they do not agree to the action requested, i.e. the team interviews, but do agree to meet next week to hear my recommendations, you have some choices to make.  Does it make sense to have that meeting without the input, can you viably make progress without that.  If not, then you need to understand where you and the buyer parted ways during the meeting, what you may have missed, whether it is an indication that they are not a real buyer, or do you need to retrace and build the value up again.

This is where “next steps” drive success long before the meeting, and how you bring the past to help you now.  Perhaps the most important aspect of “next step”, specifically how they help you plan, strategize and execute.  Since we can only speculate based on experience, it makes sense to visualize the meeting unfolding in a number of ways.  Again, we are not shooting for perfection, but to cover the most likely set of outcomes.  Therefore you need to have multiple “next steps” going into any meeting.  In essence, Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and more base on your reality.  Based on the above if Plan B is the follow up meeting without prior interviews, fine.  But if your experience shows that second meetings without an interview end in no sales, or lower margin or quality sales that take 50% longer than the average sale; you can comfortably walk away know you did not go into a trap.  Remember you can always revisit the opportunity down the road, rather than wasting time and energy traveling that unproductive road.

3.  Agreed On Timelines – This ties the first two elements together. And while it may seem too obvious, too many sales people have a plan going into a meeting, find areas of agreement and action, but leave the timing open ended.  Don’t believe, lock your office door, and have a true look at the opportunities in your pipeline, and see if you have any with no time lines.

Seems to me that if you are going to propose specific actions you and the prospect will take as a result of today’s meeting, and prospect agrees that it is something worth doing and they take on doing it, why not agree on a deadline or timeline.  Some sales people tell me they don’t want to seem pushy, when I hear that it sounds like “I am afraid of seeming professional”.

By suggesting a specific time you are helping the buyer (and yourself but let’s keep focused on the buyer), people have a lot coming at them, a lot of demand on the time.  Those things with times attached, deadlines, in their calendar, in their face, with purpose, leading to a desired and agreed on outcome, will be the ones that get done.  Those with any elements of looseness, like no specific time, who know, could be today, tomorrow, “hell, I lived with it this long, could be next quarter”.  Solidify you sales success using time.

Above I asked you to look at your pipeline and see how many opportunities are without a time line.  While you are in there, take a look at the 3 attributes highlighted above, and see where some opportunities in your pipeline come up short.  And then go and fix them, set a meeting, execute your plan, and secure the “next step”, as defined.

So if you are not using “next steps” as success driver, not just in the meeting, but long before, then you are probably working harder than you have to.  Further, if you are not clear on what “next steps” really are, and are working with a different definition than above, you are likely not as productive as you could be.

Your next step now, put the above into practice, it is a discipline.  Need help, your next step is call me: +1416 822-7781.

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Tibor Shanto

 

 

Ready – Set – Go Part I0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

iStock_start biz race resized

Tuesday we enter the “final half” of the sales year, the unofficial intermission that is summer comes to a figurative end, and harvest season is upon us. Now if you did a good job of ploughing, seeding and nurturing (even fertilizing), in the spring, you are truly in a position to harvest. On the other hand, if you did not tend to your pipeline before the summer, you’re left hoping for rapid growth season before winter descends on your income; too bad they don’t make Miracle-Gro® for pipelines.

Based on which of the above groups you are in, you will need to attack September – December in different ways. If you are in the first group, and invested the time and effort early in the year, and set yourself up for a bumper crop, you have two areas of focus, first to fully harvest and maximize your opportunities; second to set yourself up for success in 2016.

To fully maximize opportunities, start early, segment your pipeline in to two general groups, those that are truly just in need of harvesting, and those that still need some work to complete. In this latter group I would take a close look at those opportunities that based on past experience have the attributes of a deal likely to close this year, and those that, on sober consideration, are not likely to close this year, but will/may likely slip into next year. To be clear this is not to say that you toss or forget or sandbag, in fact the opposite, work them, because they will contribute to next year’s quota, but be practical and think about how you spend your time proportionally. Time is not recyclable, leads (and opportunities) are, invest your time in a way that yields maximum results, now and in the future; divide your time to skew towards those opportunities that are ripe and ready to happen now.

With the opportunities that will close, it is all about coverage, and focus. Start with a recommitment to having a plan and executing that plan. The challenge as always, is having a plan aligned to the buyer’s objective and demonstrating your ability to impact and drive those objectives. Part of that plan is understanding what needs to happen at each stage in order to continue to move the opportunity forward based on previous deals. Map it out so you can identify critical points along the buy/sell trip, and critical actions required to successfully complete those critical points. The map is your planning tool for your meetings and encounters with buyers, helping both you and them agree on next steps and move towards desired and identified outcomes. This will help you accelerate deals, and free up bandwidth to prospect and set yourself up for next year.

Now if you are in the other group, in a panic to make something of the year, tune in next Monday for Part II of Ready – Set – Go.

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

Is Your Pipeline Constrained or Constipated? – Sales eXecution 3022

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Pipeline plunge

Sales people have an interesting relationship with their pipelines, definitely emotional, sometime rational, and often, regardless of how they protest, predictable. The key is that how they manage their pipeline very much reflects how well they execute their sale, and how successful they may be.

First let’s look at the notion of pipeline and how it unfolds in sales. For the most part it is built around the concept of “Flow”. If you look at pharma, it looks at the flow of product from concept to being brought to market. There are several stages along the way, some products make it all the way, and some will die along the way for any number of reasons. In the oil patch, again flow, carrying the product from Alberta to points south (well it would if politics didn’t get in the way). But it’s all about flow, anything impeding or adversely affecting the flow, including speeding it up too much, creates an imbalance, a lack of efficiencies and desired results. In sales, that is clearly a lack of clients and revenue.

In sales there are two common pipeline conditions that result in insufficient sales. The first we will not deal with in this piece, specifically a lack of new things coming into the pipeline, no prospecting, leading to an empty pipeline. The second is an overly full pipeline. Some may not see this as an issue, but it is. The first problem is that sales people have their emotions driven by the state of their pipeline, when it is full, they have less propensity to prospect, “look man, I have so much sh#t in my pipeline, let me go close it.”

This leads to the second problem, the fact that there is so much in their pipeline, specifically a lot of sh#t. These people think of their pipeline as something to fill, not about flow, having it full is their goal, not moving it through from lead to client in a consistent and repeatable fashion. This usually results from either their unwillingness to take things out of the pipeline, constrained; or inability to close prospects they have in their pipe, constipation.

Constrained – we have seen these sellers, partly optimistic, partly naïve, partly lazy, and mostly squandering time and their success. Nothing ever dies, every opportunity is sacred, just like a scene from a Monty Python movie.  These sales people feel they are more successful as they have a bigger and bigger pipeline, I have some tell me that as long as they can bring more opportunities, the more are like to close. These where the downside of relationship selling shows itself. “If I can engage and have relationships with more and more buyers, deals will close themselves.” No they won’t. If they cleared out the trash from their pipeline they would not only see this, but would feel the urgency to act more decisively. Often these sellers have skills, they just don’t apply them, their optimism and naiveté constrain their ability to deal with more of the right prospects and close more deals.

Constipated – these are sales people who have difficulty closing. To their credit, they prospect, and prospect well, they continue to bring opportunities. What they lack is the skills to qualify, or more accurately, disqualify, leading them to grow their pile of prospects. They also can’t engage well enough to conduct a proper discovery with prospects, and as a result can’t close the sale. Often if you can hold your nose, and pick through, you’ll find prospects who have long bought elsewhere. They are good at the front end, but blocked at the back end, constipated.

Once in a while you can flush these out, but unless you change the pattern, it gets blocked again. The answer to both is having a clearly defined process and active management. The process with stages, actions, objectives, tools, and evaluation to determine if the opportunity has merit, ready to go to the next stage, or needs to be dispatched to the recycling bin. Notice not garbage bin, but recycling, yes, leads are recyclable, you can always come back when the timing is better. This will help create balance and help opportunities “flow” through to results.

Active management is important to help both type of clogs to be cleared. And to be fair to sellers, it is often their managers that contribute to the problem. An active manager can help both sellers be better sellers, or as we like to say around here Sell Better! Active management focus them on the right activities at each stage of the opportunity, and allow them to get rid of things that don’t belong. This may lead to a thin pipeline, then active management needs to turn to better prospecting. But in both cases management needs to have an active role beyond highlighting the problem.

So go ahead, give your pipeline a flush, and then focus on flow not volume.

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

Why Are You Still Doing Pipeline Reviews?2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Nigeria Sale Concept

Why?

While this long entrenched ritual has some utility, it more often than not ends up being a painful and torturous waste of time. Reps are rarely truly prepared and while this is not excusable, it is usually because they feel that regularly these are a CYA exercise their managers go through. Numerous times I have seen mangers schedule their pipeline reviews just in advance of their review with their higher ups in the hierarchy, not much in that for the rep but the stress.

The whole concept of a pipeline “review” is flawed and a practice that should be a relic of the past, a past where CRM’s did not exist, and managers had to submit everyone to the grind, be that one-on-one or a group agony. Some still tell me that a pipeline review meeting is conducted to confirm and validate the information in the pipeline on each deal, be that end date, deal size, weighted likelihood of closing, and other data are all accurate. Why? Their answer “Managers need to ensure that their sales forecast is accurate, questionable opportunities that could impact accuracy, need to be identified, flagged and or removed.” CYA, fun with numbers, the manager brings his/her subjective bias to things, the Director adds his/hers, and by the time it makes it “upstairs” the plot and theme of the story has little to do with the rep.

The other subtexts is about coaching “Great coaching opportunity”, but is it. I find most use it to talk deal and tactical strategies to closing the deal now, a good thing, but not coaching. In fact when I ask most front-line managers if they have an annual coaching plan for individual reps, the answer is no, which is why the coaching is tactical and situation, all of which would improve if they were aligned to an ongoing development plan.

Others will point to the need for data quality, but I have always wondered why focus on the quality of the data rather than the quality of execution, if you had that, the data would be much better to start with.

So what is the alternative?

Switch gears, go from reverse to forward, from Reviews to Previews. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against reviewing deals, why we win, lose or get no decision at all, and there are many lessons to be gained. But if you want to help reps with their pipeline, and change ongoing performance, close more and beat quota, you need to look forward. Do pipeline Previews. Look at active opportunities they will be interacting with in the coming week, a better focus. Who are they going to see, why that person, what are they looking to specifically accomplish that will move the opportunity forward or allow them to disqualify it, yes take it out of the mix, what are the potential roadblocks, resources they may require achieve things. Examine how many new (real) opportunities are in the pipeline this week over last. These are not only more forward looking, more telling about the quality of execution but an opportunity to coach in the present, when it can make an immediate and long term impact, rather than review the past. Question of Leading vs. Lagging indicators and related actions. Do this regularly, weekly, rather than monthly, do it as a team, great learning by osmosis opportunity. Do not do this at the same time as a coaching meeting, schedule those individually, and another day of the week; yes formal coaching every week, over and above the situational daily coaching.

As I said above, want to increase quality of data, focus on improving the quality of execution. If they were allowed and instructed to take trash out of the pipeline, and coached on how to get real opportunities in, and then how to usher them through to close, the data would not only be impeccable, as well as the results.

Tibor Shanto

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A Thanksgiving Audio Treat0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Radio Renbor the pipe

Given that today is Thanksgiving in the States, it is not the time for heavy reading (maybe heavy eating), so today’s post is an audio delight that you can take with you and enjoy. It is a recent interview I did on Biz Radio Canada, talking about what else, Pipeline and Sales.

You can use it to distract you from the other in line or at the mall, or stop you from getting trampled as you reach for that last discounted super-duper flat screen. Hey, you never know, you may discover a nugget or two that will allow you to Sell Better next year and allow you to hire a personal shopper to troll the mall for specials, or just not worry about paying full price because of the increased sales you’ll make, and stay home and watch the game on your flat screen.

Enjoy:

Happy Thanksgiving

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Using a Top Ten List to Grow Your Sales (#guestpost)0

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The Pipeline Guest Post – Butch Bellah

How would you like to be able to easily (almost effortlessly) track your ten hottest prospect and keep them moving toward a sale? Well, you’re in luck! By using a Top Ten List, you can do just that. David Letterman has made a lot of money with a Top Ten list and now you can, too.
First, what is a Top Ten List? In my world it is simply the ten hottest prospects you are currently working, ranked in order of their ability to be closed. It is not a Wish List, it’s not an “I’d love to have that business” list, it is made up of the Ten best prospects you’ve made presentations to and are working through the sales cycle.

NOTE: If you don’t have ten today, that’s OK. But, if you don’t have ten a month from now there’s only one person to blame.

The Top Ten List depends on the old adage, “You can manage what you can measure”. Think about that, what we measure we have the ability to manage. In this case, if you leave your list of top prospects rattling around in your head or just as part of a massive database, they’ll get lost, forgotten and probably never become a customer.

The Top Ten List allows you to see at a glance who they are and allows you to ask yourself the most important question in sales: “What can I do to move this relationship forward?”

Assume your Top Ten List is completely fully. Position 1 is the person who should become your next new customer, Position 2 is the next most likely and so on. Every day—yes, every day you should look at this document and ask yourself, “What do I need to do to move them closer to a sale?”

How do you get number 6 into position 5? How do you get the prospect in position 4 into position 3? This is a fluid, living document and will change weekly. Just because someone is your hottest prospect this week (Position 1) doesn’t mean they’ll hold that spot next week. If something happens in the process with the prospect in position four that moves them to the top of the list, GREAT!

The key is to understand each of these ten is at a different stage of the sales process and they have to be handled as such. However, each should be moving forward. If they aren’t, why aren’t they?

Your Top Ten List is a perfect tool for sales managers to use to work with their team and is the single most important piece of data you own. If you use it effectively and truly concentrate on developing it as a tool, you will see your sales and closing percentage increase.
Why? Because you are spending your time with the people most likely to do business with you. Keep pushing the prospect in position eight up the ladder and that will, in effect, keep pushing the prospects ahead of them toward becoming a customer.
The key is to be honest with yourself. Where do these prospective customers rank and are they really deserving of being on the Top Ten List. If they do, then by all means work daily to move them toward a sale.

Question: How can you use the Top Ten list to impact YOUR sales?

About Butch Bellah

Butch Bellah is a Sales Coach & Trainer, speaker and author. He operates B2 Training & Development and www.butchbellah.com. You can order his new book, “The 10 Essential Habits of Sales Superstars: Plugging into The Power of Ten” here and follow him on twitter @salespowertips. He can be reached at butch@butchbellah.com or at 337-384-9204

3 B’s Of Pipeline Success0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

3Bs

How you manage and stage your pipeline can be the difference between an OK year or career, or a consistently great one. To use a sport analogy, your pipeline is your core, no matter what sport you are in hockey, tennis, or running, a strong core, a well exercised and maintained core adds to athletic performance and lifts one competitor to victory over a comparably talented athlete with a less conditioned core.

Below are three things every seller should consider and do, no matter which methodology they use to sell, to lift their execution and results.

Bold – This speaks to who or which opportunities you choose to peruse, there is the element of pursuing ALL REAL potential prospects that others either ignore, or completely miss due to personal or corporate blinders. There are many potential buyers that are overlooked by a large number of sales people. Some don’t see the dots and as a result can’t connect them; others see the dot’s but fail to or are afraid to connect them. There is a lack of imagination and boldness in their approach.

Some will overlook things that fall beyond conventional qualification measures, an over reliance on BANT if you will. The key here is that they be REAL, meaning given the right circumstances they would buy your offering, and qualifying comes down to how you view your market, and choose to align your offering. Are you limiting your sights and pursuits to those people that have the pains or other mundane signals, those your product has traditionally addressed? If so, you’ll likely miss many REAL prospects or opportunities.

But if instead you look to see how you may help someone achieve their business objectives, your universe of REAL potential expands considerably. This is huge from a pipeline perspective, the more REAL potential prospect you’ll be able to identify, the more REAL opportunities you can fill your pipeline with. Since sales is to a degree a numbers game from a conversion ratio perspectives, more opportunities translate to more and or better sales, and at the minimum more options for you as a seller.

Binary – Leveraging the above, being binary becomes easier and more productive. Let’s explain what I mean by binary. Your pipeline should contain only active opportunities, those prospects you are engaged with now, and in turn they are engaged with you and the sales process; it should not contain anything else. All those potential “prospects” you are not currently engaged with, as great as they may be, are leads, and should be managed in your leads funnel, not your active opportunities funnel or pipeline. But many sales people, and by extension their sales organizations, hold all kinds of inactive opportunities in their active pipeline, distracting time and resources. There are some common examples of this: former prospects who you met once or twice, who smiled, told you they were “really” interested but have not met with you or returned your call in weeks. Sure, they send you e-mails, saying they are still interested, they are just tied up, or on another project, or are waiting for some event, or maybe just waiting for Godot.

These are not engaged prospects and need to be moved out of your pipeline. This is not to say that they are not worth pursuing at some point in the future, but in popular vernacular, they are in the nurturing phase, not active selling phase of a pipeline. Alongside these are those “prospects” who are talking to you, but are doing less than nothing to move the process forward, move them out, they are just filler, and you can’t have that. The only opportunities that should be in your pipeline are those where the buyer is taking reciprocal action, executing their buying process as you are executing your selling process, and together you move to a mutual agreement. Binary – active – not active; taking action – avoiding action; on or off; keep the on’s and get rid of the off’s. Don’t clog up your pipeline with crap, not a place for a heart attack.

Many fool themselves by looking at their pipeline and thinking, “wow, look at all the stuff I have in there”. Exactly, stuff not opportunities. This false sense of doing, just messes you up, and most importantly sucks up your time for a number of reasons, and most deadly, prevents you from prospecting. When we are stuffed we don’t eat, when the pipeline feels stuffed, you don’t prospect.

If you want to see this clearly, just look at any pipeline using the 90 – 60 – 30 method and watch how it piles up, what happens in the last 30 days; for validation just look at how many times opportunities are recast in the 30 day segment.

Blended & Balanced – I remember learning this lesson the hard way, I fancied myself an elephant hunter, and ignore many smaller and shorter cycle opportunities. Till one year the elephants went to a different field, and I was left short on my target. My friend on the other hand, she focused on the small and easy, didn’t over extend. Interestingly enough we both came in behind someone who had a nice blend in their pipeline, big, small, short, long, and everything in between. Seems obvious, but not always easy to execute. There are a lot of distractions, things to entice you, being a home run hitter has its appeal. But with planning and discipline, you can map out a prospecting regimen that helps you balance the pipeline just so. I now use a Plan P approach, P being for pursuit, this allows me to continuously balance things, think of it like balancing and rebalancing a portfolio actively to maintain the optimal mix for you requirements. This allows you to be Bold in you pursuits, forces you to remove the inactive opportunities clogging up your revenue artery, and maintain a productive and profitable pipeline.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

Add Salesformics – Stir and Sell0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Confident

One of the opportunities offered by the web 2.0 world, or as many around sales like to call it social selling, is to leverage a number of tools to improve and accelerate the quality of interactions, especially at the early part of the sales cycle. The challenge is how to leverage the various tools, integrate them into your daily sales-flow and work-flow, without adding, or being forced to alter your work-flow in order to get benefit.

In the process of lead-gen, lead gathering, evolving and lead conversion, some sales people and organizations are often faced with a choice, find an all in one tool that has key features and elements offered by other tools and apps built in, in effect a Jack-of-all-trade approach. Alternatively, use the best of breed tools, but be left on your own to integrate them on a work-flow level. Add to this the challenges around functionality, and something that should be fun and productive ends up being work.

One tool I have discovered allows me to keep using my favourite tools and apps, integrate them into a work-flow that matches my approach, and reflects my style of lead-gen and prospecting, is Salesformics. Here a couple of examples that will illustrate what I mean. Twitter is great gleaning and mining all kinds of executable information and insight about prospects, issues, and more. While there are some great tools for slicing and dicing twitter feeds, there is often the issue of shuffling that with other information, and creating action. With Salesformics, I am alerted to specific key words or phrases by potential leads, current prospects or clients. I can then initiate a sales-flow, either constructed or in response to the way things are unfolding.

As someone who delivers events, I am a user of Eventbrite, great tool. Eventbrite helps me grow your network and email lists by promoting my live or web events, and even allows me to do a great initial follow up. Salesformics takes that a step further by integrating with Eventbrite, one can enhance the follow-up, and ensure that I don’t miss a chance to follow up with a contact well after the event.

I also use Constant Contact, and have had to deal with some of the manual realities of using both Eventbrite and Constant Contact, given the overlap. With Salesformics, I can get the best of both, and keep my hair, more importantly, automate, use the work-flow, and gain back my most valuable resources, time, and all while gaining effectiveness as well as efficiencies.

A lot of people struggle with segmenting their social media followers and then adding them to email marketing services like Constant Contact, but Salesformics has a marketing automation platform that allows you to build workflow that bridge across third-party solutions, including the likes of Twitter, LinkedIn, Buffer, Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor, Dropbox and more.

In the end, we only have two hands and 24 hours with which to win sales, any tool that helps with that is a bonus, a tool that helps me get more out of and across all my tools and apps, like Salesformics, is a triple bonus.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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