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Is your Sales Process Failing your Business?Home Telemarketing Skills Is your Sales Process Failing your Business? I ran a half day training session yesterday for a group of Business Development Managers and General Managers. Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more ‘sales ready’ leads at 33% lower cost. 57% of B2B organisations identify ‘converting qualified leads into paying customers’ as a top funnel priority.
The above is quite enlightening when you consider the key factors that drive lead generation. Gestation periods in b2b lead generation can be long especially where the value of sale is high. Given that a large number of business owners and manager feel that converting unearthing qualified sales ready leads is a priority, it’s a worry that more focus is not put onto the sales process.
GSA is a London based new business development and telemarketing consultancy with an office in Manchester.
If you’d like to find out how GSA Business Development can help Generate Growth for your Business or book one of our new business development and marketing strategy workshops, contact us now on 0845 658 8192 or send us an email. 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.
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. 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.
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”.
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. Sales people have an interesting relationship with their pipelines, definitely emotional, sometime rational, and often, regardless of how they protest, predictable. This leads to the second problem, the fact that there is so much in their pipeline, specifically a lot of sh#t.
Constrained – we have seen these sellers, partly optimistic, partly naive, partly lazy, and mostly squandering time and their success.
Once in a while you can flush these out, but unless you change the pattern, it gets blocked again.
While I don’t want to get into the discussion as to whether relationship selling is dead, limping or doing just fine, there some aspects of relationship selling that need to be rethought.
There too many sellers who give a disproportionate, if not too much, of their focus and energy for gaining a relationship, rather than getting the sale, which what they are paid to do. I see too many sales managers (former relationship sellers), who dance around expectations, who don’t inforce and reinforce things, who see metrics as a nice to have not as a means of driving change and improvement, as something that needs to be inspected, and no it is not OK if it is missed.
Speak to most people who were in the service, and one of the people they speak most highly of after the fact, the ones they have the most lasting and genuine relationships with, and they’ll point to their first drill sergeant, the one who helped them most to make the transition from civilian life to military success. While this long entrenched ritual has some utility, it more often than not ends up being a painful and torturous waste of time. 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. 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.
As I said above, want to increase quality of data, focus on improving the quality of execution.
There has been lots written about the common mistake companies make in selecting new sales managers; specifically the habit of promoting some of their best sales people to the management ranks, whether they are suitable or not. Adding to the challenge is that often these new managers are not given much help in the transition from being contributors, to effectively leading a sales team. The role of the sales manager, and other sales leaders, is to develop and bring the best out of all their teams. Every sales leader wants to surround himself with superstars, just as every coach wants a bench full of superstars. Again, I understand wanting to reward star sellers, but there are other ways, ways that allow you to avoid leaving a territory short, and a disappointed sales team.
How you manage and stage your pipeline can be the difference between an OK year or career, or a consistently great one.
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. Some will overlook things that fall beyond conventional qualification measures, an over reliance on BANT if you will.
But if instead you look to see how you may help someone achieve their business objectives, your universe of REAL potential expands considerably. Many fool themselves by looking at their pipeline and thinking, “wow, look at all the stuff I have in there”. 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. There is an all too familiar ritual that unfolds at the end of every fiscal period, for some it is monthly, for most it is quarterly, and at year end.
To start with, a good number of the deals that are “Driven in” on the 30th of September, will happen because of some concession made by the seller to the buyer.
Not only do you never see that money again, but there is the lost momentum and opportunities as you deviate from your routine, stop prospecting for a few days as you focus on closing.
The alternative is requires a bit more discipline, but results in less of a roller coaster ride and more money!
September 27, 2012 by RBDenterprise 1 Comment Tablet computing has hit the business world and has become mainstream. Most business uses for tablet computers involve word processing, spreadsheet editing and presentation apps.
Documents To Go has been around for some time, but now is a great productivity app for tablets (though maybe not best optimized for tablets). Google Docs now called Google Drive (Google Drive for Android and Google Drive for iPhone) is a free app that integrates Google’s cloud storage with editing capabilities. Retail businesses can use the above for reports, but they can also use their tablets as point of sale registers using apps that follow the sales process from beginning to end.
RBD Retail 3.0 Solutions are a set of enterprise, cloud-based solutions for the mobile workforce that delivers powerful ERP, CRM, HRM, eLearning and Reporting modules to sales associates in the field, executives, management and back-office personnel.
Sales Pipeline for Excel is a Sales Management Application for Microsoft Excel – Easy to Use Excel Application which allows users to create, maintain, and manage their Sales Pipeline data and create Sales Reports with a click of a button in Excel. You can receive this Product Download immediately after purchase and start using this product in a few minutes!

After purchase you will receive your product download link immediately and you will start using this product in a few minutes.
And it’s actually quite simple if we perhaps just add a few more aspects to the business development melting pot.
A large number of sales guys feel that pre-sales is poorly carried out which means they have insufficient tools with which to achieve their goals. We offer new business development and marketing strategy, senior-level telemarketing services and telemarketing training to ensure that clients generate more new business and deliver ROI. The key is that how they manage their pipeline very much reflects how well they execute their sale, and how successful they may be. 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. 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. Nothing ever dies, every opportunity is sacred, just like a scene from a Monty Python movie. They have spent their careers nurturing relationships as a means of achieving revenue, wanting more to be the customer’s friend and advisor, rather than a subject matter expert fit to challenge convention, willing to shake it up a bit and get the buyer to buy what’s right, leading the process instead of trailing behind or just being a passenger. Managers’ goal should be to lead sales people out of their comfort zones, build calluses and develop their skills and talents. 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.
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. I find most use it to talk deal and tactical strategies to closing the deal now, a good thing, but not coaching. 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. 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.
To be fair, the thought behind the move is positive, rewarding deserving contributors, keeping good talent in house, and all that.
To shape individuals not in their image, (as man did with god), but into the best that their direct reports can be.
The reality is that many of stars made managers often decide to go back in to the field to sell, and because of egos and politics, it is often with another company that is looking for a star, not a future manager or cloner. 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.
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. 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. 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. I am sorry if your quarter comes down to the last day of the quarter, a Monday of all days, there is a whole bunch of things you are doing wrong, and a bunch of money you are leaving on the table. Sometimes these are small things, baked in specifically so they can be “conceded”, often not. May not seem that bad, but if you don’t prospect for a few days, you’ll create weakness in your pipeline, and when the next quarter end comes around, guess what. It comes down to owning your time and being accountable for your actions, (grab this e-book for details). When tablets first became popular, they were nothing more than a bigger version of your smart phone and an e-reader. However, it does make your wordprocessing documents, spreadsheets and presentations available for editing. Any files stored in Google Drive automatically show up in the app and are continuously synced with other Drive-connected devices. It is easy to use, is optimized for tablet computing and gives you all of the editing capabilities you find in Office products for computers. With a purchase you receive two Excel versions of this product: One for the new Excel and one for the older Excel versions. Based on your data in Excel this product will generate Sales Reports automatically so you can get a better insight into your Sales Force Performance.
Everything is very easy to use and you can customize your data entry based on your business such as use your own sales process steps, sales reps, and leads generated by your business. After purchase you will also join our free exclusive customer membership which includes free lifetime product updates plus continuous email updates on best practices, tools, tips and templates which will save you time and money and help you improve your business on a continuous basis.
Little did I know that we all might choke on some of the stats I unearthed about the poor quality of lead generation out in the world of business.
However, without a proper sales culture and process in place, your business will probably reside in amongst the statistics above and you won’t deliver your sales objectives. 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. If you look at pharma, it looks at the flow of product from concept to being brought to market. 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. What they lack is the skills to qualify, or more accurately, disqualify, leading them to grow their pile of prospects.
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. An active manager can help both sellers be better sellers, or as we like to say around here Sell Better! If you are a reader of this blog over the years you know that while I think relationships and the ability to foster and maintain relationships are very important traits of a successful seller, I have always taken issue with the sequence of things. There are too many sales people try to secure the relationship first, then worry about the sale, rather than the other way around.
I’ll bet you every one of those sales people would tell you they had a good relationship with their buyer, but they still lost the revenue.
Sometimes getting them to stretch requires more than a smile and suggestions, it requires challenging the rep, setting some nonnegotiables, and following through with the consequences. 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. 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. But if you want to help reps with their pipeline, and change ongoing performance, close more and beat quota, you need to look forward.
There are also smart sales people who realise that management is not their first choice, who prefer and make the choice to stay in a sales role, usually with greater career satisfaction and financial rewards. But leading a sales team while managing a sales process is another thing, something HR often assumes will be provided by “the sales leadership”.
This requires a different skill set, different methods and tools, than those relied on for being a number 1 rep.
Hire someone who can lead a sales process, who can lead people to execute, the how is secondary.

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. Are you limiting your sights and pursuits to those people that have the pains or other mundane signals, those your product has traditionally addressed? 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. 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.
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. 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. These can be a price concessions, either in the form of a price adjustment, or the inclusion of goods or services that normally would have had a price tag, but being the last day of the quarter, “and we need to bring in the numbers”, they are thrown in to secure the deal “today”. So now you are out the revenue you gave away in concessions, and the revenue from prospects you will either never have, or will closer later than they could have.
If you know your conversion rate at critical stages of the cycle, you can focus on executing the key tasks you have to throughout the cycle, and not sweat the days.
The app also supports live collaboration, meaning you can edit a document simultaneously with other users. It also can integrate directly with cloud storage accounts from Google Docs, Dropbox, Box, and SugarSync. By using this tool you can manage your Sales Force more effectively by saving time and having organized sales pipeline reports which helps you make better business decisions. They need clear goals and they need to measure their progress towards achieving those goals. 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.
They also can’t engage well enough to conduct a proper discovery with prospects, and as a result can’t close the sale.
Notice not garbage bin, but recycling, yes, leads are recyclable, you can always come back when the timing is 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.
The best way to build and grow a real and solid relationship is to deliver value, and keep delivering it.
Like it or not, The Challenger crowd raises some interesting questions about relationship sellers.
But mostly they fail to help their reps because they would rather have a relationship above all else. Hard to do when you are fixated on relationships above all, some of your best sales people will not always be your best friends. 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. 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.
Interestingly enough we both came in behind someone who had a nice blend in their pipeline, big, small, short, long, and everything in between.
Although once you offer it, it’ll be there October 2, or even next week, the buyer has seen weakness and will not give it back.
Some things in sales are straight forward, if you have a three month cycle, and you close one of every five deals you qualify into your pipeline, it doesn’t take much to see how this quarter end dance will hurt. 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).
Often if you can hold your nose, and pick through, you’ll find prospects who have long bought elsewhere. This may lead to a thin pipeline, then active management needs to turn to better prospecting.
You can argue, but there are too many examples of people sellers thought they had a relationship with who ended up buying from someone else, despite that relationship. Look at active opportunities they will be interacting with in the coming week, a better focus. But many sales people, and by extension their sales organizations, hold all kinds of inactive opportunities in their active pipeline, distracting time and resources. And – it will be the first of many to come, you’ve set the precedent, both you and the buyer have been conditioned.
If you don’t prospect from the 27th to the 30th (of any quarter), then your next sale will be delayed by so many days. While it doesn’t have advanced editing capabilities, you can do basic edits like text color and style, alignment, indention, and bullet points. It means a good CRM system to capture relevant and useful information to support the sales funnel. 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.
If they cleared out the trash from their pipeline they would not only see this, but would feel the urgency to act more decisively.
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. 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. There are a lot of distractions, things to entice you, being a home run hitter has its appeal. Sure you can make up for it in some ways, but then you’ll have other distractions, the ones you can’t help, but this one you can. It also means that the people on the phone either making or receiving sales calls, must be trained to capture good qualification criteria and also there needs to be a proper follow up process in place. Often these sellers have skills, they just don’t apply them, their optimism and naivete constrain their ability to deal with more of the right prospects and close more deals. 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. But with planning and discipline, you can map out a prospecting regimen that helps you balance the pipeline just so.
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. 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. 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.

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