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Pipeline

Just as it doesn’t matter what we say, it matters what our prospect hears, how we listen to our prospect while determine whether we succeed in getting paid on the information we gather instead of going into knowing mode and presuming a sale when none may exist.

Our prospects are smart. They are also (for now) human so sometimes they forget to check a box in their selection process or they fall victim to a heuristic. This is a great opportunity for us to break rapport or elevate ourselves closer to “trusted adviser” status by asking a presumptive question.

In a training session several years ago, I wanted to demonstrate the power of language to our clients so I role played with one of our kindest, gentlest clients.

You probably know someone who has set goals for next year or will do between now and when the calendar turns over. History tells us that most of those goals will turn into mirages before lunchtime on January 3.

In elementary school we were continually reminded of the three Rs – reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic. Let’s update those for leaders seeking success to reporting, rhythm and relevant.

To achieve our corporate goals, we need to get the best people on our team then get the best out of them. With many demands on our time it can be challenging to figure out where best to invest our time with each one of our direct reports.

A leader’s most valuable asset is their time. The biggest stroke a leader can give to one of their direct repots is investing time with them. Both go sideways when we attempt to “boil the ocean” in a coaching session.

We’re heading into holiday season. Whether we’re celebrating Diwali, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, Thanksgiving or the myriad other holidays celebrated around the world between now and January 1 we will be consuming a lot of calories in the next little while (also a great double entendre as we will soon see).

At some point in a quarter, or at least a year, the proactive prospecting activities that have worked to fill our funnel stop working. No matter the type, prospect or talk tracks the activities that were working last week aren’t this week and might not for weeks to come.

Everyone wants to know what business closed today. Or this week. Or this quarter. But is that really all we should be asking?

 

Humans are either open or close minded to any suggestion. Once the mind is closed its nigh impossible to open it back up again until that person wants to re-open their mind.

No one really wants to talk to a salesperson. I have never said to either of my children “I hope you become a salesperson.” I have said “entrepreneur,” which is code for salesperson, but they’ll figure that out later.

In part 1, we covered two major crimes salespeople make on prospecting calls that significantly reduce their chances of having a conversation with their prospect much less booking an appointment. In part 2 we’ll cover several misdemeanors that tend to build on each other and can create as much damage to having a successful call as the crimes covered in part 1.

Salespeople commit a lot of crimes on prospecting calls, which put them in a disadvantageous position to even having a conversation with their prospect much less booking an appointment.

When we’re attempting to have a conversation with someone, professionally or personally, who doesn’t appear to be paying attention we want to call them out. That’s not a great way to maintain rapport with a prospect or client.

When our salespeople are proactively prospecting their activities fall somewhere in the “effective/comfortable” matrix.

Like having the occasional slice of cake doesn’t appear to be doing any us any harm occasionally skipping our daily and weekly prospecting or account management activities doesn’t appear to be doing any harm towards creating full funnel freedom. That’s because we don’t have a visual reminder of the cost of our task avoidance.

Like most clichés, “it’s easier to sell to someone who’s already buying from you,” contains a grain of truth. Yet, account management also know, as “farming,” is typically a passive activity.

Our prospects (un)intentionally say or do things to put pressure on us and push us into their system for buying, which turns us into a commodity (whether we’re literally a commodity or not).

David Sandler said, “it typically takes three or more questions to get to the truth,” which was the basis for his “rule of three plus.”

Prospects who play “close to the vest” can be incredibly frustrating. No matter how we frame our questions they respond with “sure,” “I don’t know,” or “tell me more and I’ll tell you if I like it.”

During crisis it’s tempting for us to agree to meet with anyone who passes the “fog a mirror” test, especially if it’s an inbound lead.

As David Sandler said, “it’s okay to want the business, but it’s not okay to need the business.” When our prospect sense that we are needy or desperate they are firmly in control of the sales process and will get us to say or do things that aren’t in our best interest (like do free consulting or discount for no reason).

Most salespeople are having fewer prospect interactions even if they’ve increased their overall proactive prospecting efforts. While they are earning compound interest, to quote David Sandler’s rule, they are also having more opportunities to go offside when they do have a real business conversation with a prospect.

There's a lot of talk about "times of unprecedented change," which is true. Unfortunately for leaders people don't change, they transition.

At some point during our week, we will face doing an activity that we’d rather avoid. Could be making a prospecting call, doing a performance review, having a conversation with a difficult client or role playing.

Our brain is an energy pig. It uses mental tricks, called “heuristics” (aka “biases”) to conserve energy. When we are in a rapidly changing environment these heuristics can create powerful stories (e.g. “don’t call your clients because they’ll want to cancel”) that stop us from doing the proactive activities that brought us success in the past.

To maintain control of our sales process there is great power in accepting what our prospect says. There is also great power in ignoring certain things our prospect says.

By accepting what our prospect says we pull them closer to us and lower their walls so we can, as professional salespeople, gather the information we need to determine if this prospect is qualified to be our client.

Professional salespeople approach prospects and clients from a position of Equal Business Stature; however, if our sales funnel looks slim or we are emotionally attached to a particular client we can fall into an “oh shit” spiral when our client approaches us from a less than positive position.

Professional salespeople use a selling system to work a repeatable sale process and are accountable to checking all of the boxes in their process to qualify their prospect before doing a proposal or a presentation.

Getting ghosted by a prospect happens. It happens less often if we are focused on qualifying instead of closing and on our prospect instead of on how awesome we are.

Tom’s best customer, Meg, called and asked for a favor: “Can you talk to my new assistant Karen about getting up to speed with your software? She’s got a couple of questions I don’t have time to answer.”

There are only three resources we need to be successful in sales. They aren’t good brochures, better prices, the “gift of gab” or any of the other myths and lies made up about and by salespeople.

Animals are wired to move toward pleasure and away from pain. Where we can go sideways when qualifying is not uncovering if the pain our prospect feels or gain they seek to realize is enough for them to take action.

This year, on Fridays, Dave talks about the attitude, behavior, and techniques of successful sales managers as he shares his thoughts on the 49 Sandler Rules for Sales Leaders.

 

Thanks for sitting down with me, Salesperson.

You’re welcome, Manager. The meeting invite said, “coaching on decision timeline.” What did you mean?

Glad you asked, Salesperson. Over the past three weeks I made a note on the Henderson opportunity, the Smidgen opportunity and the Olafsen opportunity you were moving to a proposal without understanding each prospect’s deadline for implementation, which is a crucial part of our qualification processv. In my experience one time is a coincidence, twice is a pattern and three times is a habit. Habits are easy to break when they’re just forming so I thought to call this meeting to support you in your development. Are you comfortable with that?”

Winners make choices and take action to implement those choices. We’ve been socialized in North America to believe that “action” equals a massive expulsion of energy, which can be paralyzing when making a choice then choosing what action take.

What to do when an employee comes to you with a "solution" that isn't feasible?

Maybe you've never had that experience or the experience of attempting to use logical, rational counterpoints to help your employee realize that their solution won't work in its current form and the conflict that arises from that attempt.

“Thanks for inviting me in today, Prospect. On the phone we set aside 30 minutes for our visit today. Do you still have 30 minutes?”

“Yes, Salesperson. I’ve only got 30 minutes. Look, we’re currently using Your Competitor. Do you have a price sheet I could see that I could refer to if I ever wanted to buy from you?”

Even if your team has a funnel full of real opportunities and they’re focused on their three weekly dials they will still end up with loose ends at the edges of their funnel that can feed their Hopium addiction.

This happens because (for now) we’re still selling to humans. Your salespeople may follow your sales process and selling system to the letter and still their prospects will ghost them.

Pizza’s pretty much on the “transactional” end of the sales spectrum, but a pizza order taker becomes a pizza sales professional by asking questions.

A pizza order taker might respond to “I’d like to get a couple of pizzas for delivery” with “sure, we’ve got Daily Special A and lots of people like our House Special. I need your credit card then I’ll confirm your address.” A rote transaction that’s really all about the order taker checking boxes instead of understanding their prospect.

The hardest four inches to move in our life is from our brain to our mouth. This is especially true for salespeople when they engage with a prospect if they aren’t role playing regularly.

Without consistent, regular practice (role play) salespeople will end up getting one of the three Fs of bad sales conversations.

 

In creating full funnel freedom for your organization you defined your ideal prospect profiles. What that exercise doesn’t account for is the ideal sale for your organization.

Your ideal sale (not your average sale) is the deal size and sales cycle that is ideal for your salespeople to close to achieve their target and your company target for the year.

Similar to how “natural” athletes will succeed, and occasionally excel, in their sport for a while “natural” salespeople will succeed… for a while. Then they have a choice. Continue relying on their “natural” sales skills and succeeding by default or succeed by design by taking those natural skills and making them intentional by practicing, preparing and debriefing.

“Success equals freedom” is a phrase that was thrown around a lot by my managers early in my sales career. One day a colleague said to our Sales Manager in a group meeting, “that’s demotivating for me. If I’m not hitting my targets, I feel like I’m in jail.”

Salespeople seeking to appear “confident” in front of their prospects typically fall back on spouting features-and-benefits or defending their product or policies.

Typically, sales funnels opt for opacity over clarity and salespeople forge ahead with gut feelings instead of focus. And it works. For a little while. Then panic sets in, whether prompted by a time of year or the funnel turning into a pencil.

Jane, a new sales hire, was settling into her workspace on Friday morning, all ready to celebrate the first quarter in which she’d been able to exceed her revenue target … when she got a voicemail message that made her stomach churn.

Diane, a recent sales hire, got an email from her manager, Luis, suggesting that he accompany her on an initial sales call with a prospect – and then debrief with her on what he’d observed. Diane replied that she thought that was a great idea.

Eliza, a new sales hire, had posted an abysmally low closing ratio in her first 60 days on the job. She was spending most of her time with prospects who ended up picking her brain for advice and information … and then disappearing. Frank, her manager, asked her during a coaching session why she thought that was happening.

Dave Trapani, Sandler trainer, shows you how to succeed with the attitudes, behaviors, and techniques needed to be more successful at managing your pipeline. Get the best practices collected from around the world.

Listen Time: 22 Minutes

 

Ryan, a salesperson in his mid-fifties, had hit a performance plateau. His commissions had been flat for the past six months, and he had narrowly missed quota in each of those months. He scheduled a meeting with his manager, Jeannine, to see if, working together, they could identify any steps that would turn this pattern around.

During one of their coaching sessions, Jason asked his manager Ellen if she could think of one area he could work on over the next 30 days that would result in a dramatic and rapid improvement of his closing numbers. He was surprised at how quickly she answered.

Brian, an inside sales rep, spent too much of his time chasing deals that ended up going nowhere. He knew it; his sales manager Francine knew it. Late one Friday afternoon, Francine asked him to give some thought to the matter, and to come up with some ideas about why this was a problem for him.

There are only a few weeks left in Q4, which means that lots of sales professionals are asking themselves a familiar question right about now: How do I make the most of the time between now and December 31?

Learn how to keep a healthy and sustainable sales funnel. Ken Guest is a Sandler trainer and author of Selling in Manufacturing and Logistics. He talks about how to clear out the junk, keep deals moving, and close more sales with a healthy pipeline.

Welcome to Selling the Sandler Way, with your host Dave Mattson, the president and CEO of Sandler Training. He is a five-time bestselling author, speaker, trainer, and consultant to hundreds of international organizations. In this show, he talks to other Sandler trainers about the Sandler selling system.

Mark’s sales manager, Irene, asked him to forecast the number of sales he would close over the coming month. Mark came up with his best guess. Unfortunately, Irene didn’t find his best guess very helpful. As it happened, the new monthly forecast was identical to Mark’s previous month’s “best guess” – a figure he had failed to come close to reaching.

After Thanksgiving, many of us sales people feel fat and happy, and decide to pull off the throttle and take some down time. After all, nobody really wants to talk to sales people, make decisions, or think about expenditures. Right? Wrong! The little known secret is that the holiday season is a fantastic time to assemble a powerful framework that builds your business, and sets you up for a great first quarter.

Creating an effective sales pipeline can be a massive headache for sales leaders because reps have been known to stuff the pipeline with opportunities that have zero chance of closing. In a previous life, I took over a product specialist role selling a web-based media monitoring and crisis communications program. My first six weeks in that role was spent culling a $3 million pipeline down to $160,000 of real, qualified opportunities