Tag Archive for 'selling'

Do you know how to load your Sales Pipelines?

Here’s an ancient marketplace maxim: Selling is a numbers game.

A maxim is a generally accepted truth and this is one because of two realities:

1.  There are hundreds – if not thousands – of things that can cause a fully qualified prospect to not complete a transaction, at least not on your time parameters.

2.  Regardless of how many bumps you encounter on the path to a signed contract, it’s still your job to produce enough gross profit from sales revenue to stay in business.

Enter the sales pipeline: a planning concept that helps managers and salespeople forecast sales for any given period – week, month, quarter or year. Think of your sales pipeline as overhead plumbing with faucets positioned at the time intervals your operation requires. And from these faucets you draw the mother’s milk of any business – sales revenue.

But there’s one pesky thing about sales pipeline faucets: they all come with screens that only allow sales from qualified prospects pass through, while poorly developed prospects are blocked. So if you’re counting on revenue pouring out of a faucet when you turn the handle on the day you need sales, you must load only qualified prospects into your pipeline to begin with.

A qualified prospect has answered enough questions – directly or through research – to allow you to determine that they will likely purchase what you sell from someone in the forecastable future. Before you place a qualified prospect in the pipeline, you must know at a minimum:

· What’s left to do for them – demonstration, trial, proposal, final close, etc.;

· Anything else that has to be done to move them to customer status.

Your appraisal of all of this information will help you forecast which faucet you should expect a particular sale to pour out of this Friday, next week, next month, next quarter. Once in the pipeline, a prospect is either on track to become a sale, a lost sale, or a forecasting mistake to be removed.

Alas, in the absence of professional sales management, poorly trained salespeople will try to forecast low-quality prospects. And any company that counts on such practices is headed for a cash flow crisis and ultimate business failure. Not because the product wasn’t good, or the price was too high, or because of Amazon. But because the sales team didn’t load the sales pipeline with enough qualified prospects.

At this point, let’s refer to The Bard. In Act I, Scene III, of Hamlet, arguably Shakespeare’s most important work, Polonius famously says to his son, Laertes, “This above all, to thine own self be true.” If your sales team is honest with each other and management about a prospect’s qualified progress to faucet-conformity, you’re setting yourself up for success. If not, well, you know.

Sales has been and always will be a numbers game. But in the Age of the Customer, it’s increasingly becoming more of a quality prospecting game. Consequently, how much revenue you draw from your sales pipeline depends on the two elements of the 21st century sales success calculus: quantity x QUALITY = your ultimate sales performance.

Here’s Blasingame’s Law of Sales Pipeline Success: Load the pipeline with enough (quantity) qualified prospects (quality) to flow through the faucets of your sales pipeline whenever you need them (success).

Write this on a rock … Load your sales pipeline with quantity and quality, and to thine own self be true.

Four things salespeople can learn from Sir Laurence Olivier

The great English actor, Sir Laurence Olivier, once admitted after a lifetime on stage and screen that he had always suffered from stage fright.

Think about that. One of the 20th century’s most revered actors, who appeared in over 120 stage roles, 60 movies, more than 15 television productions and countless performances, actually battled the fear of rejection and failure. But when you look at his numbers, it’s obvious that Sir Laurence’s “condition” didn’t cost him success.

So, what about you? What do your “numbers” look like? Your sales numbers, I mean.

Sadly, too often, well-trained and motivated people allow something to prevent them from achieving their numbers. That “something” is to the marketplace what stage fright is to acting: call reluctance, brought on by the fear of rejection and fear of failure.

The good news about call reluctance is that you can overcome it the way Sir Laurence overcame stage fright. Indeed, his success, and the fact that he was willing to talk about his condition, provides us with at least four clues about his professional courage and spirit.

1. He recognized a personal performance challenge.
2. He accepted it as something that must be dealt with.
3. He took steps to minimize negative effects.
4. He refused to let it get in the way of his goals and success.

How can you tell if you or someone in your organization has debilitating call reluctance? You’ll find it in the numbers: insufficient call reports; a missed selling step such as proposal delivery; a poor close ratio; and of course, failure to meet sales budgets.

Those afflicted with call reluctance will often:

  • Call on customers they like instead of new prospects.
  • Spend time on safe activities, like paperwork, instead of face-to-face prospecting.
  • Make excuses when asked about why they aren’t getting in front of customers.
  • If you aren’t making your sales numbers, the problem might be call reluctance. See if you recognize any of the behavior in the list above. If so, consider Sir Laurence’s list again. There’s a good chance that you’ll need help with the first point, recognition, because most of us aren’t good at seeing our own shortcomings. And the third one, taking steps to minimize the challenge, will likely require help from a professional trainer.

    But dealing with two and four, acceptance and refusing to give in, will require calling on inner strengths. You’ll have to ask yourself if you’re allowing fear to control and direct your life. Or are you more like Sir Laurence Olivier – prepared to recognize, deal with and minimize the effects of your challenges? And in the face of these challenges, can you draw on your spirit to accomplish your goals.

    Write this on a rock … Don’t let call reluctance prevent you from having the maximum opportunity to be successful.

    The oldest profession is not what you think

    Contrary to what you’ve heard, selling is the oldest profession in the world, because “In the beginning,” the serpent sold Eve the apple. You might say she bought wholesale and then sold the apple retail to Adam. And as we now know, that was one expensive transaction.

    One characteristic that clearly separates humans from the other animals identified in Genesis is ego. And while ego can be a beneficial motivator in selling professionally, in order to sell successfully, we must do something that’s in direct conflict with our ego — we have to let someone else talk.

    Imagine you’re on a sales call. What are you doing? Are you telling the prospect about your products, pricing, etc.? If that’s what comes to mind, your selling career could be doomed.

    Of course, it’s important to deliver your company’s message. But if you talk about your stuff before you know what the customer wants, you’ve put the cart dangerously before the horse.

    So, if the gold we seek is in the head of our prospect, why do so many salespeople spend so much time in front of so many prospects running their mouths? It’s that conflict thing again. Sadly, the mouth — not the ear — is the ego’s tool of choice.

    The Blasingame Mint has once again struck a new axiom and a handy acronym to go with it: Shut Up - Listen - Sell! SULS. Tattoo those four letters on the palm of your hand, because that’s your first job.

    Here are four important steps to remember when practicing SULS.

    1. Keep Them Talking.

    Even prospects who aren’t egomaniacs like to talk about themselves, their businesses and their pain. Remember, the gold you seek is in your prospect’s head. You need time to mine that gold, which can only happen when the prospect is talking – not when you’re talking.

    2. Maintain Eye Contact.

    The most valuable thing your prospect can do for you is talk about what’s on his mind. Nothing stops this flow of golden information quicker than when it appears you’re not listening. And here’s a gender tip: Women prospects have a keener inattention antenna than men.

    3. Concentrate.

    Concentrate on your prospect’s every word and expression. Don’t think about what you’re going to say next. (The next tip will make this easier.).

    4. Wait Three Seconds.

    While the prospect is talking, train yourself to wait three seconds after you think the prospect is finished talking before you say anything. Waiting three seconds will help you concentrate on what is being said instead of what you’re going to say, you’ll still have time to think of your next question, and you’ll never commit one of the cardinal sins of selling: interrupting the prospect.

    Successful professional selling happens when the prospect does most of the talking.

    Write this on a rock … Selling is as simple as SULS.

    Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

    Selling services? Think price not wages

    Millions of small businesses sell personal services like consulting, website development, or janitorial services, instead of something tangible like a computer or a kumquat.

    Unfortunately, pricing a service is not as intuitive as a tangible product. Consequently, service businesses too often don’t charge enough to sustain themselves profitably.

    Recently I received a question from one of these owners about how to price the services of their new cleaning business. Perhaps my answer to them will help you.

    Don’t make the professionally fatal mistake of comparing what you charge customers to deliver a service to how much you would expect to make as an employee. Doing so, to paraphrase Mark Twain, is like comparing lightning to a lightning bug. You have to think pricing, not wages. Here’s why:

    1.  You’re a business now, which means you have price lists, not wage lists. And you collect revenue, which has to produce the gross profit to cover all expenses, including the salaries of the owners.

    2.  If you have no employees you’ll work more hours in a month than you can bill for, like time spent on marketing, selling and administrative tasks. Consequently, your business must collect enough revenue to cover the time and expenses of performing or outsourcing those tasks.

    3.  Until you have employees, you’re a 100% extension of yourself, which means your only revenue leverage is the hours you can bill multiplied by your hourly rate.

    CC photo via Pixabay

    CC photo via Pixabay


    Use this pricing logic to get you started: Determine all monthly expenses, including paying yourself as an employee. If you’re home-based include a reasonable office overhead factor and don’t forget payroll taxes. Then, divide that total by the number of billable hours you have the capacity to perform in a month (not the hours you actually perform). That quotient is your breakeven rate.

    But in order to sustain your business long-term, you have to make a profit, so the rate you charge customers is somewhere between breakeven and the impact of three more factors:

    1. What the market will bear (competitive pressure)

    2. How much you need the sale (badly at first)

    3. The commitment a customer is making to you (customers who sign annual contracts get discounts)

    This method should cover most variables you’ll face when proposing to a prospect. Plus it will help you see the negative impact when you deliver less than capacity, or the dynamic effect of adding employees.

    Write this on a rock … When selling services think pricing, not wages.

    Jim Blasingame is the author of the award-winning book, “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.”

    Your future and customer paradigms

    In his book, Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future, futurist Joel Barker explains that paradigms are filters through which humans view the world and around which we pursue our lives.

    Things that align with our paradigms sail right through; otherwise they meet resistance. A favorite color, for example, is a paradigm.

    We also establish marketplace paradigms. Perhaps the most interesting paradigm dynamic is between a customer and a business, because a customer’s product paradigm logically becomes a business’s production paradigm.

    Product paradigms always work for customers because they can pick and choose at will. But for a business, a production paradigm comes with significant risks, because they can be left with an investment – physically, financially and emotionally – in a newly unviable production paradigm.

    When there is a paradigm disruption – like customers changing preferences – that’s called a shift. Barker says when a paradigm shifts, everything goes back to zero; what once worked so well becomes unavailable or obsolete.

    When a shift occurs – the ability to buy stocks online, for example – customers easily transition to the new thing that likely caused the shift. But for a business with multi-faceted investments in the old paradigm – only stockbrokers can place stock orders – such a shift can be expensive and dangerously disruptive.

    In the past I’ve introduced you to several examples of how the marketplace is transitioning from The Age of the Seller to The Age of the Customer™. This transformation is creating a number of shifts which are at once exciting for some and disruptive for others.

    In the new Age, there are three primary shifts a business must now monitor constantly; each associated with a key element of customer relationships.

    The Buying Decision
    Customers have always controlled the buying decision element, but they now need less decision-making help from a business. The paradigm shift question: “How do we prevent our marketing and sales strategy from becoming obsolete?”

    The Information
    Previously controlled by businesses, access to information is now almost completely controlled by the customer. The paradigm shift question: “How do we maintain a relevant value proposition?”

    The Product
    Once controlled by the business, customers increasingly influence product development. The paradigm shift question: “How do we love what we do without loving how we do it?”

    Discover the future by monitoring customer paradigms.

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    To listen to or read more about how your business can flourish in The Age of the Customer™, click here.

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    Are you hidebound or visionary?

    Since 1995, control of the three major elements of your customer relationships – product, information, and buying decision – has been shifting from business to customer. As you may remember, I’ve identified this shift as a marketplace transition from the original age to the new one – the 10,000 year-old Age of the Seller is being replaced by the Age of the Customer.

    As this shift plays out, two types of businesses - Hidebound Sellers and Visionary Sellers - currently exist in parallel universes, but not for long. Which one are you?

    Hidebound Sellers

    These companies are so invested and entrenched in the old order of control that they deny the reality in front of them. They can be identified by the following markers:

    • Misplaced frustration: As performance goals get harder to accomplish, frustration makes those who deny the new realities think their pain is caused by a failure to execute.
    • Bad strategies: It is said that armies prepare for the next war by training for the last one. So it is with Hidebound Sellers. Not only do Age of the Customer influences make them think they’re being attacked, but they persist in using Age of the Seller countermeasures.
    • Destructive pressure: Convinced of execution failure, pressure brought to bear by management results in an employee casualty list instead of a growing customer list.
    • Equity erosion: Defiance in the face of overwhelming evidence sustains the deniers only until they run out of Customers with old expectations, and/or equity and access to credit are depleted.

    Visionary Sellers

    These businesses are adjusting their plans to conform to the new reality of more control by customers. Visionary Sellers are identified by these markers:

    • Acceptance: They accept that the customer is now in control and make appropriate adjustments to this reality.
    • Modern sales force: They hire and train their sales force to serve increasingly informed and empowered customers.
    • Technology adoption: They offer technology options that allow customers to find, connect, and do business using their preferences.
    • Relevance over competitiveness: They recognize that while being competitive is still important, today it’s just table stakes and is being replaced in customer priority by the new coin of the realm: relevance.

    In the Age of the Customer, Hidebound Sellers are dinosaurs waiting for extinction. Visionary Sellers are finding success by orienting operations and strategies around a more informed and empowered customer.

    So what’s the verdict? Are you Hidebound or Visionary?

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