At a recent workshop I engaged in a conversation involving three parties, each from a different generation. Representing Generation X, I approached a Baby Boomer Sales Manager and a Millennial Seller discussing the ideal amount of activities required to fill out a “robust” pipeline. It quickly became clear that the Manager did not feel that the Seller was getting in front of enough prospects.
If you hang in a professional sales, consulting or sales leadership role long enough you will spend a few weeks of your life at the ANNUAL SALES MEETING. You know, the ones with clever themes that are going to make you feel like changing the world: “Aim Higher,” “Deliver,” “Innovate and Motivate,” “All Together,” “Amp it Up.” I could go on forever about the time and money companies spend to differentiate their yearly sales rendezvous - I have the t-shirts, water bottles, bag tags and pens to prove it - but at the end of the day, these meetings share a common purpose that usually boils down to a combination of the following:
Whenever I am at a sales conference, I notice one prevailing theme. Salespeople love to interact with each other and share ideas. During breakout sessions, when we give salespeople an activity that involves sharing their experiences and asking for feedback from their peers, we observe so much engagement and enthusiasm… and often a reluctance to turn back to the instruction at the end of the activity. To build on that, most surveys that we receive post sales meetings show that the sellers want more opportunities to share with and learn from their peers.
In consulting, we have the pleasure of working with clients across a variety of industries who share interesting stories. Every once in a while you hear a story that makes you stop and think about the traditional ways we try and advance a sale. Here is one of those such stories…
Recently, I had the privilege of dining at Per Se in NYC for the first time. What an incredible experience. Much has been written about Thomas Keller and his exceptional restaurants (French Laundry in Napa, Per Se in NYC, Bouchon bakeries, etc.) and their impact on fine dining globally, both through the chefs who have worked for him and through his cookbooks – although I can barely spell sous vide, not to mention know how to operate a machine effectively.
About 12 years ago I consulted with a Vice President of Sales who worked for a large Fortune 50 financial services firm. He was having, like many VP’s of Sales, an issue with his pipeline yielding enough so he could hit his number. If you know anything about business-to-business (B2B) sales, you know that the sales pipeline is constantly scrutinized to ensure a seller has enough pipeline opportunities to hit quota or goal.
In general, most companies assume sellers will win one-quarter to one-third (a win ratio) of their pipeline value, all things being equal. Thus, in a lot of cases, the pipeline value needs to be 3 or 4 times the quota.
As you take sales cycle time into the equation – for example, it takes 90 days to close an average deal –the pipeline math can be a bit more complicated.
This is the 3rd and final episode in the series in which I have shared my thoughts and ideas regarding some of the critical roles in the sales effectiveness world… all roles that I have had the distinct pleasure to play. We have addressed those who sell sales effectiveness solutions and sales training, as well as those who buy these solutions. In this final segment, I would like to talk specifically to my current peers – my sales training and coaching colleagues.
CSO Insights has been conducting research on sales for almost 15 years. In one of their surveys to over 1,000 sales leaders, they ask about the percentage of forecasted deals that actually close. On first blush, you would think this would be a fairly high number.
In the first blog post in this series, we embarked on a journey to discuss my view points on best practices for different players in the sales effectiveness solution “selling cycle,” including those who sell these solutions, those who buy these solutions, and those who deliver these solutions…all roles that I have played myself.
Episode 1 - Sellers
There are thousands, probably 100’s of thousands, of sales trainers walking our wonderful planet at this given moment. Certainly, a large number of us have had a point in time in which we “carried a bag,” some for many years, others maybe for only a brief moment. Many agree that while not a hard prerequisite, having “pounded the pavement” in one’s past gives the sales trainer a unique point of view and some credibility while in front of a bunch of seasoned sales pros.