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Exceed Your Sales Expectations

A main source of the divide between a sales forecast and the subsequent sales performance is that win probability is typically tied to the sales stage of the opportunity (e.g., if an opportunity is Identified, it has a 10% chance of closing, if they’re Contacted its 20%, Qualified 50% and Proposed 67%).  It is my experience that, when looking at pipeline from a macro perspective, the single best indicator for how long a lead will be in your pipeline and the likelihood with which it will survive to become a happy customer is the source of the lead.  Therefore, I suggest that you define the lead source at a very high level.  In my CRM, I have just three different lead sources.  They are:
A main source of the divide between a sales forecast and the subsequent sales performance is that win probability is typically tied to the sales stage of the opportunity (e.g., if an opportunity is Identified, it has a 10% chance of closing, if they’re Contacted its 20%, Qualified 50% and Proposed 67%).  It is my experience that, when looking at pipeline from a macro perspective, the single best indicator for how long a lead will be in your pipeline and the likelihood with which it will survive to become a happy customer is the source of the lead.  Therefore, I suggest that you define the lead source at a very high level.  In my CRM, I have just three different lead sources.  They are:

Seekers – these are prospects that seek you out
Sought – these are prospects that you seek out

Suggested – these are prospects that were referred to you

It is important to think of these categories when engaging with your prospects, forecasting your pipeline, and managing sales expectations.
It is important to think of these categories when engaging with your prospects, forecasting your pipeline, and managing sales expectations.

The Seeker

On the surface, this prospect appears to be the best.  After all, they’re most like your mother in that they recognize just how special you are.  They have demonstrated admirable wisdom by successfully identifying you as someone who can potentially solve their particular problem.  Perhaps they looked you up through a web search, found you through social media or just somehow innately knew that you were ‘the (wo)man!’  More likely, they are using one of your competitors and have decided, for one reason or another, to contact you.  

Unless you represent the clear-cut industry leader, the notion of a prospect seeking you out should actually be cause for some concern.  It should raise a red flag for you when companies look to spontaneously replace their current vendor.  If they were a good customer, paid their bills on time and worked in partnership with their current vendor, why would they be looking elsewhere?  If they were indeed a good customer and the incumbent vendor were moderately competent, that vendor, its sales team and customer service staff would be bending over backwards to make sure their good customer was happy.

Eventually, the reasons why this company left its incumbent supplier became painfully obvious.  In an unprecedented move, I presented a business case for why our company should fire this customer and no longer do business with them.  We gave them 30 days to find a new vendor.  Despite the loss of this revenue, I was able to sell far past the deficit and ended up in the top 1% among all sales people globally for my company.  I still say that my best and most profitable “sale” that year was selling my company on the idea of cutting that customer loose.
Eventually, the reasons why this company left its incumbent supplier became painfully obvious.  In an unprecedented move, I presented a business case for why our company should fire this customer and no longer do business with them.  We gave them 30 days to find a new vendor.  Despite the loss of this revenue, I was able to sell far past the deficit and ended up in the top 1% among all sales people globally for my company.  I still say that my best and most profitable “sale” that year was selling my company on the idea of cutting that customer loose.

The moral of the story: be very cautious when a prospect seeks you out.  Find out why they have sought you out.  Be very slow to give concessions.  Most importantly, establish a balanced, open communication system with them so that they view you as a respected partner and not a pawn.

The Velveteen Sales Rep
When I was an operations manager all I wanted was to become a sales professional. My eyes bloodshot from waking up at 3:30 am, I would peer out into the parking lot to watch the smiley sales people meandering in at 8:30, driving nice cars, wearing suits and sipping coffee.  Not to be negative, but some of the guys were real goobers, and I knew that I could bring a significant amount of value to the table in sales.  However, it took several years for me to break into sales.  I was told “no,” on more than one occasion, and was even told to give up the dream.   But I never gave up, and eventually my persistence paid off: I was given an entry-level sales position.

When you first start in sales, you may look around at everyone in suits and think that they are real, but do not let their appearance fool you.  It does not mean that they are real.  By the same measure, you may look at some veteran sales people and think that they are real, but again, not necessarily.  Contrary to what I have read in many blogs these days, the profession of selling is not dead, far from it as a matter of fact.  However, the notion that someone can be a “real” sales professional without embracing the discipline of sales is dying quickly, and I say good riddance.
The Suggested

These are relatively rare in B2B sales.  When you can get them, they can be fantastic.  Though not always an easy sale, they represent the opportunity to work from a position of mutual, professional respect.  Unfortunately this is something that is that is not common enough in the beginning of the sales cycle.  The main challenge with The Suggested is that they are often not properly qualified.

I recommend that you do everything possible to introduce as many of these prospects into your sales pipeline.  Sources can include your own marketing department, current clients, social media and your oldest and dearest friends.  The B2B sales elite treats all prospects with the utmost in professionalism, however, it is even more important to go the extra mile with these prospects.  Remember, with these prospects, your actions are not only a reflection on you but on the person that referred you.  By going the extra mile, you are turning a favor your referral source did for you into a favor you have now done for them.  Initially, they did you a favor by referring you customer.  If you do your job well, you will have done the person who referred you the business a favor by making them look very smart for recommending such an outstanding company and sales professional.  Lastly, make sure you report back the results to your referral source and, if possible, reciprocate by providing them with leads as well (email me and I’d be glad to share some ideas on how best to do this).
Over time, I was earning quarterly commission checks that were more than an entire year’s pay in operations.  Even with the success of consistent quota achievement and the subsequent earnings, I had great difficulty believing that I belonged in sales.  After all, I was not recruited, or drafted.  I did not have a degree in sales, nor did I possess a board certification.  It has always been curious to me that sales, despite being one of the highest paid professions, has no formal initiation process.  Therefore, anyone can get started in sales, but not everyone can be “real.”  This begs the question, how do you know when you are a real sales professional?

Realizing that there are salient differences between the types of prospects is one of the first steps in understanding a sales pipeline.  In reviewing potential sales opportunities, as a sales manager, ‘how did they get here?’ should be one of your first questions.  This will help to manage actions and exceed expectations.

The Seeker
The Seeker

On the surface, this prospect appears to be the best.  After all, they’re most like your mother in that they recognize just how special you are.  They have demonstrated admirable wisdom by successfully identifying you as someone who can potentially solve their particular problem.  Perhaps they looked you up through a web search, found you through social media or just somehow innately knew that you were ‘the (wo)man!’  More likely, they are using one of your competitors and have decided, for one reason or another, to contact you.  

Unless you represent the clear-cut industry leader, the notion of a prospect seeking you out should actually be cause for some concern.  It should raise a red flag for you when companies look to spontaneously replace their current vendor.  If they were a good customer, paid their bills on time and worked in partnership with their current vendor, why would they be looking elsewhere?  If they were indeed a good customer and the incumbent vendor were moderately competent, that vendor, its sales team and customer service staff would be bending over backwards to make sure their good customer was happy.

The moral of the story: be very cautious when a prospect seeks you out.  Find out why they have sought you out.  Be very slow to give concessions.  Most importantly, establish a balanced, open communication system with them so that they view you as a respected partner and not a pawn.
The moral of the story: be very cautious when a prospect seeks you out.  Find out why they have sought you out.  Be very slow to give concessions.  Most importantly, establish a balanced, open communication system with them so that they view you as a respected partner and not a pawn.

The Velveteen Sales Rep
When I was an operations manager all I wanted was to become a sales professional. My eyes bloodshot from waking up at 3:30 am, I would peer out into the parking lot to watch the smiley sales people meandering in at 8:30, driving nice cars, wearing suits and sipping coffee.  Not to be negative, but some of the guys were real goobers, and I knew that I could bring a significant amount of value to the table in sales.  However, it took several years for me to break into sales.  I was told “no,” on more than one occasion, and was even told to give up the dream.   But I never gave up, and eventually my persistence paid off: I was given an entry-level sales position.

When you first start in sales, you may look around at everyone in suits and think that they are real, but do not let their appearance fool you.  It does not mean that they are real.  By the same measure, you may look at some veteran sales people and think that they are real, but again, not necessarily.  Contrary to what I have read in many blogs these days, the profession of selling is not dead, far from it as a matter of fact.  However, the notion that someone can be a “real” sales professional without embracing the discipline of sales is dying quickly, and I say good riddance.
The Suggested
The Suggested

These are relatively rare in B2B sales.  When you can get them, they can be fantastic.  Though not always an easy sale, they represent the opportunity to work from a position of mutual, professional respect.  Unfortunately this is something that is that is not common enough in the beginning of the sales cycle.  The main challenge with The Suggested is that they are often not properly qualified.

I recommend that you do everything possible to introduce as many of these prospects into your sales pipeline.  Sources can include your own marketing department, current clients, social media and your oldest and dearest friends.  The B2B sales elite treats all prospects with the utmost in professionalism, however, it is even more important to go the extra mile with these prospects.  Remember, with these prospects, your actions are not only a reflection on you but on the person that referred you.  By going the extra mile, you are turning a favor your referral source did for you into a favor you have now done for them.  Initially, they did you a favor by referring you customer.  If you do your job well, you will have done the person who referred you the business a favor by making them look very smart for recommending such an outstanding company and sales professional.  Lastly, make sure you report back the results to your referral source and, if possible, reciprocate by providing them with leads as well (email me and I’d be glad to share some ideas on how best to do this).

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