Why Keep A Complimentary Pipeline of Opportunity – by Elinor Stutz

Why Keep A Complementary Pipeline of Opportunity?

Most salespeople in need of making a monthly sales quota merely maintain a sales pipeline. However, when you maintain a complementary pipeline of opportunity, you will find it becomes the motivating force for over-achieving quota.

While some trainers insist that sales are just a numbers game, I whole-heartedly disagree. Sales leaders will tell you there is so much more to the profession than the simple declaration.

Elements of the successful sales process include:

  • A give and take conversation where the prospect and salesperson energetically engage one another. The exchange consists of insights, personal stories, and troubling circumstances in a heart-to-heart plus mind-to-mind communication style.
  • All the while and throughout each conversation credibility and trust build.
  • Timelines are typical, and follow-through with timely delivery on all requests is the usual occurrence.
  • Periodic check-ins after the sale are included to maintain client satisfaction.
  • The personal touch with human feeling attached is the ultimate sales experience that puts the representative at the top of the charts.

A numbers game? Hardly!

It is the complementary pipeline of opportunity that increases motivation on a daily basis. For a moment, imagine what high-energy motivation will do for you each day.

  1. Entrepreneurs, think about the offers others provide and focus on those that excite you the most
  2. Job Seekers, consider the company openings that will put your skill set to the best use.
  3. Salespeople, while you do the mundane to attain quota, keep sight of the exciting possibilities ahead.

Should you buy into the extra elements of successful selling, it becomes clear as to why a complementary pipeline of opportunity is essential. The following list is of ideas that you might include to maintain enthusiasm and a smile:

Prospects You Enjoy

Similar to not everyone is your friend, not every candidate is friendly or close to being a good choice. The numbers element may be in your primary sales pipeline, but be sure to omit from your opportunity pipeline. Instead, keep a record of the prospects and clientele you most enjoy.

Notable Companies for the Resume

Few people remain at one sales job their entire career. As you gain experience and contemplate furthering your career, add notable companies that will light up future employers and in the meantime, will keep you motivated to do your best.

Sizable Initial Sale

Challenge yourself to take on a massive sale where others in your space are also competing for the business. Believing you can do it, and motivating yourself to learn will see you accomplish more than you thought possible. Taking on a sizable challenge keeps the motivation and excitement fresh.

Potential Repeat Business

As you continue to learn and grow, and motivation is a constant, channel your enthusiasm in conversation with clientele. Prospects and clients pick up that you are continually learning and growing, encouraging them to do business with you.

Upon continuing the sales cycle, more business develops. In your complementary pipeline, partition the clients that are likely to provide repeat business and referrals.

Referrals

Underneath your list of clients providing repeat business, list the companies they refer. Referrals are more likely than chance encounters to do business. Using the same sales methodology above will increase the likelihood of referred parties asking to do business with you.

Time management is an essential piece of not only securing the everyday sales but also earning the more complex. Attention to detail and focus on client need will work in your favor. And the excitement in the opportunity pipeline is what will put you at the top of the sales scoreboard.

Sales Tips for Pipeline of Opportunity

  1. Lead client conversations with insightful questions
  2. Listen carefully to each reply for elements not addressed
  3. Use enthusiasm to help build interest in you and your services
  4. At the end of each day prioritize the prospects that interest you the most
  5. Acknowledge the areas that attract your interest to seek out more of the same
  6. Leverage all areas that hold your attention
  7. Commit to education for improving your effort
  8. Ask the clients you enjoy if they know of others who may have a similar interest in your services
  9. Follow-up immediately with new referrals to impress the referring party
  10. Celebrate Success!

Today’s blog is provided to help you achieve The Smooth Sale!

 

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Turning never closing to always closing

Hi there. How are you going? How do you feel? Wakening in the morning with a somewhat bad feeling, a kind of stress of not closing your deals as expected? You used to be the “closing machine” those days. But now, it’s seems like the “no-close-witch” has appeared and poured tons of syrup into your order book, broken all signing pens…

It’s may not be any consolations, but you’re not alone. Many sales people feel pressure making their quota and all are having times when deals aren’t closing that easy. But what makes a turn-around from a not-closing period to winning deals again?

The truth is it never turns. It’s about creating an environment where these period of Deals Sahara Desert never happen at all.

Sahara

Let me explain.

A couple of weeks ago, I had lunch with a business friend when we came across this topic. I told her about my start as a salesman, driving around the surroundings trying to sell software to small and medium sized companies. It was really trying, since I sold nothing in two years and then, suddenly, I was appointed as the best Sales Rep in the country.

My friend asked me how come? What did you do to turn it around? Was it a single detail or circumstance that made the change from a non seller to a master salesman? What did you learn – tell me!

Well. The answer is pretty boring. It never turned around. Or, rather, my behavior didn’t change even if the results did.

When I started as a rookie sales rep I was full of energy which I poured into my job. I was making records of number of prospect meetings every week, I drove thousands of miles with my old car just to meet with them. I was calling hundreds of phone calls to just start new connections. I was always happy and positive, even if the prospects sometimes just hung up the phone in three seconds. It was a victory they answered after all, I thought!

And there, somewhere, is the secret. Think of it as if you pour sand into a plastic bag. You pour and pour and the bag just becoming more and more full. Nothing is really happening, until the bag breaks. Then it will flood over you, in a never ending flow of grains. Think of the grains as potential deals and every single grain as an activity on your way to close it.

Without the grains you wouldn’t be able to fill your bag or quota. So respect all those small activities, even if they don’t lead to an immediate deal. They haven’t need to lead to a hot lead either. But it may be a contact that leads to another contact that leads to a meeting. And if you listen really carefully, it may be a deal in one or two years from now.

Honestly. You can’t spend a lot time to all grains, but you can put your passion into every single activity. Since an activity may last only a few minutes, you can’t say you haven’t got time to put grains in your bag.

You don’t know what deal will mature first. That’s why you need to take control of them. That’s the reason you make those activities as well. To control no-one else will be there when it’s time for harvesting.

Actually, what you do is to check the prospect’s buying process. The single question you need to prepare (but don’t tell the prospect) is how their buying process has been proceeding since last time you talked to them. You shouldn’t ask that question, but if you listen carefully, they will probably tell you. If you are polite, they definitely will.

So many times I didn’t ever met my prospect until it was time for signing, but felt like we’ve been knowing each others for years. Try to come to that feeling with your prospect and you will become friends. And friends are doing business.

Respect the small grains, put thousands of activities in your bag of quota, and you will end up as a top sales performer.

Best Regards,

Stefan

The Ultimate Sales Boom – Have You Done Your Toothbrush Test?

All sales people are looking for easy sales. When the customer buys – not you selling. No matter what, the customers seem to flow into your order books without any effort at all.

You’re in the Tornado.

The term “Tornado” is perfectly defined by my favorite marketing author Geoffery A Moore; author of the bestselling book “Crossing The Chasm” and following “Inside The Tornado”. In the serie of books Moore dicusses how to bridge the chasm in the technology life cycle between visionaries and pragmatists by defining your smallest niche and buildning a bridge-head on the pragmatist’s “Tornado” shore of the chasm using a bowling pin strategy. In my blog post Niche Marketing Defeats Large Competitors I go a little deeper in this topic of how. Interesting though that’s a lot of efforts and may take good piece of time.

And – more important – that strategy was introduced long before the social medias were born.

Nowadays we have examples as King (Candy Crush Saga) and more companies that really take advantage of the social media technology for their success. I’m pretty sure Candy Crush hasn’t been that huge success without Facebook. What’s new is that King builds the social media into the business model itself.

In Candy Crush Saga, Facebook is not a fancy add-on, it’s literally the true salesman for aquiring new users, collaboration between them and of course building the loyal community that will continue to spend time and money in the product.

Well. You may say this would only apply for consumer products or services, not B2B. I think it can, at least for digitial services. And if you do your Toothbrush Test.

Toothbrush

A toothbrush test is a way of testing if your product is used frequently enough to change peoples lives. You’ll not gonna change somebody’s life if your product is used one or twice a week. But if your product is so compelling or desirable that people will use it as often they brush their teeth – in average two times per day and as a habit – then you will have a good starting point for a tornado.

Then it’s a question of how large your target group is – how many people would change their lives using your product. It doesn’t matter if your product is even so amazing for your favorite customer, if it’s not applicable to more than them.

A couple of weeks ago I visited Singularity University in Silicon Valley. Their mission is to research in and inspire leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges. To change the lives of billions of people. I learned, if you want a massive tornado, start change your perspective: For how many can my product change their lives? And in what way?

Here’s the paradox; you need to narrow down your idea to a tiny vertical, but the customer need have to be valid for many more people than in this initial vertical to get a tornado in place. As it’s told in the book “Crossing The Chasm” you first become the market leader in one verical and then, maybe after years, the adjacent verticals will fall as bowling pins since they have identical needs, and at the end creating that tornado.

Of course you haven’t got that time. You want the tornado now. The toothbrush customer need is your key to very fast create your tornado.

To succeed, you need to switch your perspective looking more at customer need than features you have in your existing product. To start, ask the following questions to yourself:

  • Can you narrow your business idea to fulfill one single core need?
  • Would that fulfillment change the lives for many people you’re targeting?
  • Will your product be used (at least) twice a day?
  • Is it easy to make it a habit? Gamification has the potential to add stickiness to your product in a whole new way
  • Is your product easy to share or – better: is the social medias a part of your service and business model?

Happy to be with you today, we’ll keep in touch!

Stefan

The death of the Cold Call

I’m sooo tired of sales persons calling me. A completely unknown person steals my time. Since it’s working time it’s my most valuable asset! The cold call itself is a one-directional intention of contact. There are no possibilities knowing if there are mutual interests before the rep calls. How can those companies authorize the destroying of their own brand year after year? Are there more clever and modern tools to connect with prospects early in their buying process? The phone was invented over hundred years ago. It seems that using it as the major tool in prospecting has come to an end.

Dating for its own sake? 
Several years ago I met a client that told me they would totally focus on the “dating” part of the sales process. By the “dating part” he meant to segment a suitable number in the CRM database every Monday and book sales meetings for the coming week. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were field days performing those sales meetings. Friday was the reporting day to management. And so the pace went on and on, for weeks, months and years.

At first, it was enough with 6 meetings a week for a rep to perform, but after a while the pressure from management and owners pushed the number up to the levels of 7, 8 or even 9 meetings per rep. Last time a spoke to them every rep has to perform 12 sales meetings every week to be on the gold side. The consequense is that the prospects are flooded by more and more stressed sales people just trying to keep the pace of booked meetings, not stressed helping you.

Getting first touch too late
Recent reports and my blog post Early Customer Buying Process… tell us the customer buying process has been ongoing much longer before the sales process even is started. That’s mean your sales process starts when the prospect already has done the major part of their homework before they get in touch with a sales rep.

Buying-Sales processes

The thing is: You don’t call the prospect; they call you. Or not. In other words; if they have found you, if they believe you’ve got an interesting product, if your brand is strong, if you already have any relationships and so on.

The risk not being contacted at all is huge. Can you afford that risk? And even if you would be one of the chosen ones, the only part left to shape would be negotiation of price and terms.

The new generation way of connecting
I sat down with my son last week. He studies international marketing and he needed my help filling in a form to the authorities. He smiled about the fact the form was in paper, not a web service on the net. It was so old-fashioned he told me all the time. When the form was filled in, he was roaring with laughter. The paper form must be put in an envelope, with a by hand written address (approximately in the right position of the front side of the envelope), he had to buy a stamp and, finally, he had to wait several days until he would get any feedback!

You may laugh, but this was the first time ever he posted an ordinary letter. You may think he’s too young or that my parental education is a joke? Well, think of the fact in just three years from now he would be influencing some decisions related to your business. Even using e-mail for communication is too old-fashioned in his mind. Instant action and reaction is essential for the new generation way of connecting. They are grown up with internet, fed with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in mother’s milk, are online-alltime and never installs a local program on their computer – they don’t own any. Softwares are services and they like to try instead of buy. They know exactly what products you sell, your weaknesses compared to your competitors and even got referrals long before you would ask to send your case studies of your most loyal customers to them.

Summary
First thing is to stop destroying your own brand. Discontinue using the phone as a tool if you don’t know the recipient. Second; start take part in industry forums, blogs and social networks. Try not to sell, try to help. Even if the buying process would be invisible you will increase the possiblility they will contact you later on. And last, but not least; be prepared of people like my son soon will be the decision maker of your deals.

Would you make a cold call to him? You’d rather wait…

Please download the Sales Scenario app for iPad, thanks.

Take care / Stefan

Who is doing the farming in new sales?

This is an old favourite of mine. Still I realize so many clients still struggling setting an organization and process for just a simple thing; Communication. Do we ever learn to be truly collaborative within our internal organizations? Not being that at first, how would we cope with the next challenge, approaching by very high speed: the external and social dimension in collaboration?

The Sales Process Blog

While New Business sales focus on signing the potential customer as quickly as possible, key account management’s target is to expand existing customer engagements. How can you combine these two opposite momentums for better profitability?

Hunting and Farming differences

When first finding a potential customer, obviously they have got some type of need or problem. The qualification process evaluates type of need, when the business may take place, if there is a budget, our type of solution to their problem, if we may identify decision makers and so on. If all goes well sales management keep pace pressure on to close the deal in line with defined KPI’s so the sales rep can start focus on the next opportunity.

Hold on for a sec. Two questions;

  1. Was it the right customer need the sales rep went for?
  2. Didn’t the potential customer have more than the initially identified need?

The point is if there was…

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,700 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Happy New Year To You All!

Our Best Regards,

Stefan & Håkan

2013 ends with a confession…

I have to admit, against my better judgment, I have fallen for some trends. Perhaps I’m getting to an age where I have surrendered my principles, but I am doing it to gain something else. Statistics! I love numbers and have found a couple of areas that are trendy right now that provide me with them. So, principle for numbers is my trade-off.

The first trend was to exercise. Not that I am lazy and against it, but in my past I have NEVER done anything without the goal to be best or accomplish something extraordinary (like my pipe dream to do an Ironman). If I started with an activity I would drive myself to be a winner or I would quit. But exercising just to stay in shape is new to me. So I got the App “Run keeper” to set goals, follow up my workouts and to stay motivated. It has been fantastic to push me to take that extra run in the week, just to maintain my numbers and to keep pushing my kilometer time.
The second is connected to another part of the health trend, losing weight. So I got a diet App called “ShapeUp”. It has been very helpful to log all my intake and my output. There is a database with all types of food and a bar scanner connecting the scanned product to the calorie input in pieces/slice/weight or volume. Really helpful for med to quickly add in my intake without any big effort, and therefore I do the work and I get my graph. I also track my weight and there are more great features. This helped me lose 8 Kg and kept it interesting!
Why is this relevant? Because the apps I used where tailored to theses specific areas, because they got me to do all the work no other person or software ever got me close to doing before and it delivered results!! I enjoyed doing it! Apart from me taking part of the information, it is now part of the Big Data cloud as information that can be used in a number of areas. I have provided structured data, packaged and ready to be analyzed and it only cost the companies the development cost of the apps to get it.

Why doesn’t this work within companies? Why do tools in companies have to be so complicated and general? Ok, I see that there is a cost, but as a company, can you afford to miss out on data because it is too complicated to collect? At what cost are you missing out on information? What usually happens is that the need is recognized, but the budget is set so that the solution only goes part way. And when people are not filling in the information it’s their fault things are not going the way management expected.

So, before you pack too much into your budgets for 2014 think about this. Find your key areas of change that really matter for your business and make them happen. Make them simple, user friendly and…fun.

Don’t assume where you should know…