Archives for October 2012

Survey Question #7 Could Your Pipeline Support You if You Lost a Substantial Customer?

You know the drill…

In attending a planning meeting this morning with one of our customers, the topic of 2013 sales forecasting was our top priority. As in typical fashion the first screen shot was that of the organizations customer listing. This is always an interesting piece if information since it reflects the present and future of the entire organization. Pure and simple, no customers, no organization – you know the drill.

The next slide was forecasted growth with each customer. The next step was to compare this figure to that of the 2013 number.

The room was filled with excitement in that there is only a 7% shortfall between forecasted growth and that if the 2013 sales target.

Check the numbers….

In looking at their Top 10 customer listing, the Top 5 comprises 60% of their total customer base. More specifically their first customer has 20%, their second 18% and so on.

The ultimate question…

During this portion of the discussion the question from the CEO was posed to the sales leader ‘can our existing pipeline support us should we lose a substantial customer’? The response was ‘of course’.

Looking back 6 months…

Allow me to be totally transparent. Six months ago my customer did not have a pipeline. In fact they were confused between a prospect list and a pipeline. So how did they reach this level of confidence?

Below are some of the questions posed from our initial training session around creating a solid pipeline:

  • What is the difference between a prospect list and a pipeline?
    • A pipeline begins with a group of qualified prospects, and measures their progress through the buying cycle and ends with account management.
  • How do we qualify a prospect?
    • In their case a prospect was qualified when their business objectives were understood, the decision makers were identified, their requirements and expectations were determined, their spend was shared, date range in making a change, the incumbent was identified, and a valid reason for a potential change was defined.
    • Once these factors are determined and a clear understanding is established, then they are placed into your pipeline.
  • What type of stages are important?
    • Many B2B products and services are purchased differently. Some begin with an RFI or RFQ process on the front end, other do not.
    • Some basic stages include identify, qualify, follow up, quote, present, closure. You can identify these as they apply to your specific industry and prospect.
  • How often should we assess and adjust?
    • Monthly, this too differs with the length if the buying cycle, and industry.
    • Delays occur and are part of the process. However, if steady progress is not made then it is is time to revisit the priorities with the decision makers. Perhaps their priorities, or roles have changed.
  • How large should our pipeline be?
    • In this case size does matter, but more importantly is the time that it takes to get a prospect through the process and their buying potential.
    • Not all qualified prospects turn into new customers. My rule of them has been a 10:1 ratio, i.e. if I am looking for 1 customer over a period of time, then I need 10 qualified prospects.

Today my customer is selling with confidence as they head into Q4 and very soon 2013.

You too can experience the same level of incidence and success by creating a healthy vibrant pipeline.

Selling is both a craft and profession. If you have any questions or would like to discuss your pipeline in greater detail, you can reach me here.

To your success,

Survey Question#6: What Are Your Clear Points of Differentiation?

I just finished a positive meeting with one of our new customers. Their objective is to place a higher priority on new business acquisition for the balance of the year and going into 2013.

As part of their new business acquisition focus I thought that a quick check up on their areas of differentiation might be in order. So, I popped the question ‘what are your clear points of differentiation’? To my surprise every senior member present on the sales team knew their areas of differentiation and stated each area with total ease and confidence.

Lets be frank…this is rare.

So the question becomes what are sales organizations challenged with in the absence of clear points of differentiation?

Lets take a look at a few…

  • Forced to sell on price.
  • Finding their offering caught in the commodity trap.
  • Being viewed as a ‘me too’ company.

The sad part is most companies have a solid offering, but have not taken the time to really understand how they are different and what they really bring to the table. Some may even have identified their points of differentiation, but then the leadership doesn’t encourage their use (that is another story all in itself).

How about you? What are you clear points of differentiation?

Consider these questions as you develop your differentiation strategy:

  1. What are you known for?
  2. What is important to your customer?
  3. What do you do better than any of your competitors?
  4. Go further and identify your our real ‘sweet spot’? This is your best differentiator.
  5. What is the benefit that corresponds with each differentiator?

If you are applying your points of differentiation in building your business platform then congratulations are in order. If you are not quiet there, then lets get started. Give me a call, I am here to help.

To your success,

Survey Question #5: Do You Have A Solid Pipeline Going Into 2013?

Do you have time for a real story?

I spent the majority of today in a meeting listening to concerns as Q3 is nearing its end and Q4 is on the horizon.

Needless to say, the outcome of the election was a large topic of conversation and conjecture, but as the agenda unfolded other important topics surfaced such as EBITDA, YOY sales, etc. When the draft of the 2014 sales forecast hit the screen the room grew quiet while everyone studied the numbers. The numbers reflected how Q3 will end with Q4 projections rolling into a total for 2012. The forecasted outcomes stated that they will reach 98% of their 2012 sales goal. The CEO was not a ‘happy camper’.

Dripping with confidence…

The Senior VP of Sales stood and shifted slides. The next few slides articulated her confidence in how her team would meet their number in 2012 and enter 2013 with a strong tail wind (momentum). Her confidence was based on a strong pipeline loaded with qualified prospects. Immediately the room became charged with a new level of enthusiasm.

How did this happen?

Getting started by getting real…
As a sales professional ask yourself one simple question. “If I lost one of my Top 10 customers today, do I have a pipeline in place that can absorb this loss”?

If your answer is no, then let’s get started – now!

Getting the simple steps working in your favor is a must. Let’s take a quick look:

  1. Begin with those prospects that are the best fit for your organization. Place the others in a ‘later file’.
  2. After the prospects are qualified in terms matching your core objectives, spend, timing, decision makers, existing contract, etc. then and only then are they  rolled on to your pipeline.
  3. Measure progress monthly. If the buying cycle is not advancing, find out why.
  4. Reassess and remove prospects as needed; often circumstances change over time.
  5. Add new prospects to your list.
  6. Repeat the process.

So as you enter Q4 2012. do you have a solid pipeline of qualified prospects that can create the needed momentum as you enter 2013?

You can drip with confidence too.

If you would like to explore pipeline creation and new business acquisition for your sales team you can reach me here.

To your success,