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The Levers Of Sales Success0

By Tibor Shanto – 

Proactive Prospecting Summer – Part 3

Last week in Proactive Prospecting Summer, we looked at time, and how the way high performers look at and utilize time, gives them an advantage in winning, just as the also-rans are limited by their view of the very same thing. But time is just one of five levers a seller can focus and to continuously deliver more wins, but more importantly as a means of continuous improvement. The challenge for the masses, more than anything else is the need to continuously improve, they see it as a chore, high performers see it as a never ending and highly rewarding journey.

The trick is not focusing on all five at one time, but instead focusing on one at a time, achieve improvement in that area, go back and look at the impact it has had on the other levers, assess, and focus on the next one, which will vary from rep to rep.

The fact that it does vary rep to rep, is a challenge for many managers, because they feel they have to come up with multiple coaching plans for each of their reps. It’s much easier to approach things from a one size fits all lens. The way we help our clients balance the playing field is two-fold. First, we start with accountability, mutual, what the manager brings to the mix, and the specifics the rep is accountable for. Second, is the introduction of our Activity Calculator tool, and the people who say sales is not a numbers game will hate this (and probably fail to hit quota), because it requires you to know your numbers as good or better than you know your favourite athlete’s numbers. But it is the tool that allows us to take a standardized approach to a very individual coach and execution experience.

The five Levers:

  • lincoln fiveQuota – While you may not be in control of this number, it is a key factor in how you plan your execution, use of time and other resources, and how you pull it all together.
  • Deal Size – This is variable you can directly impact and move. Unless you are specifically assigned to certain size accounts, you can choose to pursue accounts that will yield more per cycle. Mentally, it is like taking the cheaper options of the shelf; by not pursuing account under a certain threshold. Even if you are locked into a size of account, there are ways to have an initially larger sale, and to continue to upsell the opportunity.
  • Proposal to close – While this one sounds simple, it is not, usually because there are different ways of improving this ratio, and usually people are overwhelmed by choices, and just resort back to what they always do, and end up with the conversion rate they always do. One counterintuitive way to improve this is to reduce the number of proposal you put out there that you know won’t close, you know spaghetti proposals.
  • Discovery to Proposal – Probably the place you can have most impact in a number of ways, each leading to more improvement across the cycle.
  • Initial meeting to Discovery – this is all about that first meeting, where the ground work for the cycle is laid, a good initial meeting can facilitate all the other variable, a bad one, just leads to more unnecessary work.

As you enter or change any of the above, the tool will not only show you the change in the other levers, but allow you to adjust your execution to play to your strengths. This will all make sense when you download the tool. Some will have less choice than others, but again the tool will help you adjust for that.

Success with the tool is over time, pick a lever, pick a specific element that impacts that lever, set a goal: destination and time to achieve, make an action plan, break it down to bite size pieces, and then execute. Work with your manager (or call me), to keep you honest and on track.

Here’s the deal, whether you want to do this or not, at the start of your next fiscal year your quota will go up, and as that lever is pulled, you need to have a plan for the effect on the other four.

For those asking what all this has to do with prospecting, simple, the better you are at getting that initial meeting, the more choice you retain in how you approach the five levers above. If you struggle in prospecting, never setting aside enough time to master it and just do it, the more difficult all of your levers will be.

Don’t forget, to make full use of the Activity Calculator, and take your overall prospecting to the next level, check out the Proactive Prospecting Program on Sales Gravy University.

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The Antidote To Micromanagement0

By Tibor Shanto – 

People love to complain about micromanagement, even when at times they are just being actively managed , which is a perfectly good and welcome practice for front line management. While I agree that true micromanagement is neither effective nor desired, at times it is easy to understand why some managers turn to it. I also find that many who feel they are being micromanaged, are in fact just being managed, and can actually prevent the negative aspects of it if they were willing to take on a couple of core requirements for sales success. The biggest way to avoid being micromanaged is to embrace the other side of the coin – Accountability.

That’s right, if sellers were willing to be more accountable for their actions and outcomes, they would find that their managers would (or at least seem to) “micro manage” them less. I know that accountability is one of those “feel good” words in sales and business. Leaders talk about it, they want, even when they themselves are reluctant to be accountable to the team. Sales people love talk accountability, just rolls off the tongue, and talking heads like me, well what’s a good rant without accountability being bounced about. So let’s put a little teeth and definition into it.

One thing that continues to fascinate me even after all my years in sales is how many sales people know their own metrics. Let’s make it simple, let’s look at a few leading indicators, that when focused on, can have tremendously positive impact on sales success, and when ignored, well the opposite. Let’s take three simple examples, number of potential prospects you need to engage one “real” prospect; how many “real” prospects you need in order to generate one quality viable proposal; finally how many viable proposals lead to won deal. There are others I know, but for the sake of this discussion these will do. I am going to start by asking you to write down your own three metrics for the above, if you are a manger or higher, what is the average for your team?

Sales professionals need to “own” these numbers, and those who understand the importance of accountability for success do. One reason some feel they are being micromanaged is because their manager is asking for these numbers, (sorry, I forgot, sales is not a numbers game), metrics. Many managers are asking because they want to develop an improvement plan for the rep in question, i.e. taking accountability for their rep’s success. If they come with the number in hand and present it to the rep, it will be fuel for micromanagement fire, it is much better if the rep knows and owns the number and is an equal partner in the development plan, but without an agreed on starting point and end point it is hard to move forward.

The challenge for sales managers and organizations is commonly called the Accountability Paradox: the harder you try to create accountability, the less accountable people actual become. Many believe their only option is to try harder, which again just sends a different message than intended. While the goal may be coaching to success, the interpretation by some is that they are being micromanaged. This where frequent and consistent coaching comes in.

In many organizations there are regular meetings with reps, but it is often data processing not coaching. What coaching may take place seems skewed to the managers’ requirements, not as a means of helping the rep improve. The easiest way to encourage accountability, is to demonstrate it. As a manager, you should have a coaching plan for your team as a whole, and for each individual on the team. Coaching sessions should be frequent, at least weekly, more often where needed. In case you believe that this may not be a good use of time, some indicate that ten minutes of contextual coaching can lead to reps increasing revenues by up to 17%.

If coaching is not a regular expectation, it becomes an event, usually an event centered on a short coming. As someone once said, “you only get coached when you’re not doing as well as they want”. One way managers can drive accountability is to be accountable for the success of their people, not just the numbers, after all, if their people are successful and improving, the numbers will follow.

Micromanagement sucks for all involved, why not commit to the antidote, and commit to mutual accountability.


Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

Why Are You Still Doing Pipeline Reviews?2

By Tibor Shanto – 

Nigeria Sale Concept


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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Choosing the Sales Start-Up Mentality!2

By Tibor Shanto –

Start Up

Every day entrepreneurs all over the country start with an idea, some resources, tons of energy and even more attitude, and jump into the deep end of starting a successful business. Those very same days there are business people in the same market segment who decide they can no longer make a go of it and go out of business. What differentiates the two?

Every day there are new sales people stepping into new jobs, often into underperforming territories, and they not only make a go of it, but thrive. In those same companies there are other, more experienced sales people (or at least sales people with more years at the company); these sales people who claim to be smarter and to know better, struggle to make a go of it. They resort to spending their time telling everyone who will listen as to how the world, their company and their customers have conspired against them, causing them to fall behind. And to prove their point, they remind everyone (who will listen), of those gone by years when they were a contributing performer. What changed, what makes them different than the rookie?

Given that both pairs have access to the same resources, information and markets, both are limited and buoyed by the same market realities, why do they end up on opposite side of the same reality? While attitude has a lot to do with it, it would be too easy, not to mention depressing, if that were the only factor. While attitude is important, and can be adopted and some say trained.

In talking to both sales people and those who have succeeded in starting competitive and thriving companies, (not necessarily serial entrepreneurs), they both seem to share a Start-Up Mentality. Rather than seeing all the reasons why they may fail, they are drawn to, focus on and act on those factors that will deliver success. This is not to say that they ignore obvious pitfalls they will need to figure out how to avoid, they just that know that they are factors in the outcome as opposed things that predetermine the outcome.

When I deliver programs for sellers, I share freely with them that there are a million reason I can point to to why the methodology I teach will not work, but there are specific reasons why when consistently executed they do lead to sales success. One group, focuses on the former (without ever trying to put it into practice). The smaller group, chooses to focus on those steps that lead them to success. When I work with the reps individually, there are those who just remind me of those who succeed in Start-Ups. It is not genetic or attitude, it is focus and the discipline of execution, but more importantly the ability and the willingness not to follow the crowd, but to follow their plan.

When they are first on-boarded, most new sales people are eager to earn, learn, and impress their manager, and the company; the best way to do that is to do that is to follow and execute the process they are given. Many companies do have proven formulas for success, all you have to do is adopt and work it. But after the on-boarding is complete, they are set loose with the herd, and with that comes the indoctrination by their peers, and with the 80/20 reality still in place, the people doing the indoctrination, are the ones who have time to do it, the 80% driving 20% of the revenue. The 20%, the consistently deliver because they know what won’t work, and rather than “wasting” their time on trying those “things that don’t work”, they have time to do something other than sell, like indoctrinate.

The top 20%, the ones with the StartUp Mentality, do care about the new guy, but they don’t have time for get involved in the indoctrination ritual, they are busy selling. They are just like the entrepreneur who is just “too stupid” to fail.

Those sales people who can start their week, their month, their quarter, with the Start-Up Mentality, approaching each week or period as greenfields. While not ignoring failures, what they take with them into the next week are the lessons learned, and they start again; their experience is not an albatross worn with pride as they go down with their ships, but as building blocks.

The one consistent lesson I learn from these StartUp sellers, is they look at every week as a start-up week. If they were starting their sales job today, if they were new to the company and or territory, how would they approach it? By approaching every week with this outlook, they can still benefit from experience, good or bad, but they benefit much more from the market view they get as a result of their StartUp Mentality, like it or not, it’s a choice, and your choice, no one else’s.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


The “M” Word – Sales eXchange 2140

By Tibor Shanto –


I’ve spoken before about how sales people seem to have a better grasp on the stats of their favourite athlete than their own numbers, just sit back watch them pick their football pool. When you speak to them in the context of coaching or training, they all recite the familiar quotes: “What gets measured gets done”, or “if it’s not measured it’s not managed”. Yet as soon as you introduce any form of metrics, and a means to manage the data/outcome, many sales people resort to the M word. Micromanagement!

One tool that our clients like is our Activity Calculator, not tracker, calculator (e-mail me if you would like the tool). It allows reps and managers to plan their activities based on their individual key conversion rates. It helps them use their time more effectively, and create an improvement plan based on the individual reps capabilities and specific metrics tied to sales cycle, their goals and process. It has helped managers coach better, and sales people improve specific attribute of their selling. But as with any calculator, you need data, or more specifically accurate data, without that it is just an empty tool, and no change or improvement.

While I am not for adding to reps’ work load, it is them that have to provide the data for the calculator. Just for clarity, we are talking a few data points a day, the tool calculates everything else, and the only other time commitment is to review (and benefit), in the first month this may be 10 minutes a week, after that once a month. Not a lot of time, certainly no more than that required for the pool, not a big investment to change the way you sell and the outcome, hey if nothing else, more commissions.

Some reps see the tool and embrace the opportunity, the ability to diagnose their performance, decide on what to change and how, they not only run with it, but take complete ownership of the process and outcome.

Others default to the M word, right away whinging not only about “all the extra work” they’re going to have to, it’s “gonna slow me down”, and “you know, I don’t need to be micromanaged.”  Please, being provided with a tool, any tool, or process that helps you sell better and make more money is not micromanaging. Especially given the fact that many of the very people complaining are the ones that should focus on changing most.
Micromanagement is having everything you do be managed and controlled by your manager with every thing you do, not being provided with a tool, and be expected to use it. Nothing less than the expectations one would have of the football players they are betting on in the pool.

At the same time, many of the reps who complain about micromanagement, are the same reps who complain that their companies don’t invest enough in their development, their managers are not invested in their success, and refuse to be accountable for their actions and outcomes.

Next time these reps feel like leaning on the “M” word, they should replace Micromanagement with Mindset.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

The Two EX’s of Success0

By Tibor


Most people, and contrary to rumors, sales people are people, when faced with completing a task, especially a difficult task or one they don’t like, will do one of two things. I call this the Two EX’s of Success. They will either EXecute, or make EXcuses as to why they did not execute.

Now I know there are some reading this saying that’s not entirely so, there could be reasons, extenuating circumstances, etc., sure there could be, but that doesn’t change the fact that they didn’t make the effort to execute.

Some tell me they weren’t quite ready, they needed to make some adjustments, get ready, needed to have things just so or in place, the cosmos aligned, or whatever.  None of that matters, they didn’t execute.  Maybe I can help you relate differently, you know when your flight is delayed, and you face getting to an important meeting late, doesn’t matter what the airline says, it doesn’t change the fact that it was late.

No matter how badly one executes, it is better than the best excuse.  We can fix things done badly, but you can’t help those that don’t do it, we can’t even begin to evaluate what may need to be addressed.

I can understand the various reason for performance anxiety, poor performance is not a source of pride.  Or is it.  After all don’t we have respect for those who try and fail, then try again, until they make progress, and then start it all again to take things to the next level.  The bonus in sales is you make money as a result and get to keep your job.  The downside is that even make you make excuses you all too often get to keep your job.  This often leads to a culture of excuses.

Let me be clear, I don’t blame the reps, it is usually the managers’ or management’s fault.  If you have kids you know that you need to set the expectations and rules.  When I meet with front line managers and their seniors, and ask what their expectations are of reps, you get clear big picture stuff like results, but little clarity around the activities that lead to those results.  A lack of consistency on reviewing, training and reviewing the activity and the quality of execution.

Further, when those same managers are challenged about the results, their failure to execute their mandate, what do they do, offer up excuses, excuses excepted by senior managers.  I can tell my kids not to feed the dog off the table, but if I do it, what’s the take away?  Discipline is a hard thing to balance, and I am not advocating an intolerant culture, but excuses, no matter how creative, or how hard market conditions may be, will not lead to improvement or success, execution will.

One way to change excuses to execution is to utilize a clear process, a roadmap if you will with activities, objectives, and desired outcomes.  This allows you to take the subjectivity out of discussions, allowing reps to lower defences, and accept that they can do things badly, as long as they do things, rather than being frozen by fear of failing.  Central to success is a proper review regime, again the accountability for this is the manager’s not the reps, and rather than feeling pestered, it will show them you care and willing to help.  Add a solid long term coaching plan, and you have a platform for ongoing success and improvement.

May sound odd, but let’s encourage them to do things badly, rather than accepting brilliant excuses, that probably required more creativity and effort than the completing the task in question.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


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