6 tips to help reduce deal slippage this winter.


September is on its way out and we can see winter lurking up ahead. For a great many B2B companies it’s a stressful time of year as for some a big piece of the quarter is effectively unavailable for B2B selling due to the Christmas break. The stress is created because we know that some of the deals just won’t happen or at best will slip into the next period.

So maybe this is a good time to take stock of the health of your pipeline and identify what can be done to strengthen your position. Here are 6 top tips that you could employ now to improve your chances of hitting your number.

  1. Review your sales pipeline and identify where each prospective deal is sitting at present. Is the deal “stuck” at a particular stage? Is support needed to get the deal moving again? Pick out the bigger deals and work with them first. (Remember Pareto, 80% of your number will likely come from 20% of your opportunities).Slip-199x300
  1. Check that each deal meets your selection criteria. i.e. is the deal real, does an opportunity really exist? Is the deal attractive for your company, can you make money and is it something that’s part of your core offer. And of course, can you actually win the deal? e.g. Do you have the customer relationships to get the votes you need? If you don’t have a Selection Criteria, do that work now and apply it at the qualification stage of your pipeline to ensure that you pursue deals that are real, attractive and winnable.
  1. If the deal passes the selection tests, then check that you have a close plan. If not, build one. i.e. How are you going to win this deal? Who will be involved and what are the key milestones? What do you need to do to get this deal over the line.
  1. Communicate the close plan to all parties that touch the deal. (No matter how light that touch is). Make sure everybody knows what part they will play in winning the deal. Build a deal team for each opportunity (of a certain size).
  1. Establish a “sales war room” to regain traction, track progress and determine strategy and tactics on each and every validated deal. Ensure that every stage of the sales process is identified, and importantly, make sure that the activity required at each stage is identified along with who in the deal team will carry it out. Ensure that completion is tracked and progress is made to the next activity or stage. Establish a sense of urgency in the team.
  1. Make sure that there is constant focus on backfilling the pipeline. It is by its very nature a leaky vessel and deals will drop out as you progress them through. Remember that no matter how good you are, you won’t win every deal, so the pipeline needs to be constantly topped up. And secondly, sales naturally take time to transit the system; so make sure you act now. Delays in action only create delays in results.

Contact me now to learn more about how leading B2B companies have eliminated this stress by adopting a new visual approach to the sales process that can deliver all of the above, giving salespeople and leaders a panoramic view of accounts and deals, identifies what they need to do next, and helps prevent unseen deal losses.

Using Twitter to get C-Level Appointments a Case Study #Socialselling

Blog by @Timothy_Hughes

Using Social Media to get C-Level Appointments – A Case Study

Loews-Hotels-to-allow-booking-of-rooms-by-TwitterThis blog is about how a sales guy is using LinkedIn and Twitter to get C-Level Appointments.  People often say to me “Social Media is for teenagers, give me an example of where people are using Social Media to create, real, tangible, business.”  Here is that example.

Paul @snapdragon_paul contacted me over @Twitter, he lives close to me, so we agreed to have a coffee.  I was interested in his story on how he had saved £70,000 on recruitment fees by using Cloud and Social Media. We got talking, and Paul talked through his sales career (story was very similar to mine) and then talked about how he was using Social in his current sales role.

What hooked me, was when he told me he had made 10 C-Level appointments in a week!  This blog will now share with…

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“My CRM Does That.” No, It Doesn’t! Sales Effectiveness Platform | Revegy, Inc.

re Blog from Revegy Inc. (a sales planning and execution software house that my firm have partnered with. Mercuri International are Value Added Resellers)

CRM systems are great at what they were designed to do for sales teams – managing data and activities, reporting and metrics, just to name a few. But there seems to be a misconception about how far core CRM systems go in their abilities. We see it all the time in the statement, “My CRM does that.” But does it really? In some cases, yes…it sort of can, just not in the way you’re expecting it to. In other cases, no…it doesn’t. Just no. Let’s look at some examples of both cases:

My CRM improves the efficiency of my reps.

Sort of. The idea that CRM systems save reps a boatload of time just seems like wishful thinking. The ability to access account information quickly and easily is very convenient. But unless all of your contact information, leads, etc. are automatically importing to your CRM through form submissions or some other automated system (Again, wishful thinking. Sorry, Marketing!), there is still the need for reps to manually input field after field of information on a daily basis. This can take a boatload of time! I’m not sure how they did it pre-CRM, a.k.a. “the stone ages,” but sometimes a Rolodex doesn’t sound so bad!

My CRM provides forecast accuracy.

It doesn’t. At best, core CRM systems will provide you with a comprehensive view of your pipeline based on the data that your reps enter – often a sales stage and a close probability percentage. But what are your reps using to determine which value to select? This is where CRMs’ fall short – don’t mistake visibility for accuracy. For true forecast accuracy, you need to remove the “gut feel” from your staging criteria and look at hard data like political, economic and cultural events happening in the deal.

My CRM manages the sales process.??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

It doesn’t. The common misconception is that core CRM systems will translate into an actual sales process all by themselves. Yes, they can keep track of your sales process stages, but they can’t reinforce the behavioral components that make a formal sales process beneficial for success. CRM systems can work in tandem with your sales process to achieve great results, especially when aligned with your customers’ buying processes. There are additional platforms out there designed to work with your CRM that can bring your sales process to life. By itself, your CRM solution should only be considered a tool to reinforce your sales process – one of MANY.

My CRM takes care of account planning.

Sort of. CRM systems can provide a lot of visibility into accounts, but there is so much more to be desired. Core CRM systems lack the visualization needed to snap things into focus, doing little to help reps figure out how to more strategically engage with key customers to achieve deeper penetration at the level of detail needed for true strategic account planning. Yes, they keep historical data, but you want revenue in the future – not the past. In order for this to happen, it will take collaboration with your customers, which is definitely not something a CRM can do.

CRM systems are a great tools. There is no question about the benefits they can provide your sales team, as well as many other areas of your organization. Do your best to understand their limitations before automatically assuming, “My CRM can do that.” Know that if there is something it lacks on its own, there is probably a platform out there that will pick up where it left off. You simply can’t expect too much from your CRM – you need to let it do what it does best and look for other tools to augment the areas where it was never designed to perform.

“Back to School” – time to Re-New, Re-Fresh and Re-Focus

Although we are currently working our way through the month of June, before we know it we’ll be mourning the end of summer and starting to think seriously about how we hit the sales number in the last few selling months of the year.

In some industries this period is known as “Back to School”. It’s a time that any of us that have children will recognize as when we prepare our offspring for a new school year and invest in equipping them with new uniforms and supplies to ensure they can be as confident and successful as possible.

ImageMaybe businesses should do the same for their people? Why does investment in training have to be a remedial event? Perhaps it should be a planned event to prepare individuals, teams and organisations for the challenges that we all know lie ahead.

In a lot of organisations a re-fresh of best practice activities and skills is all that’s needed. Sometimes it’s a little more, re-newing skills by adding new insights and practicing the set piece or maybe it’s the need to re-focus attitudes and your approach to your target markets.

So here are a few pointers that you might want to review to check if your people are going to need some “back to school” investment post summer.

  1. The pipeline is starting to look as if it could thin out and there is a risk of feast and famine rearing its ugly head. Worse still, the famine in results looks like it will hit at the end of Q4 or perhaps affect your sales into 2015.
  2. The “hygiene factor” noise from the team  is starting to increase in volume.
  3. Last years sales at the end of Q4 and perhaps Q1 this year were touch and go and although you hit the number, it involved a lot of scrabbling around.
  4. The business habitually goes tactical at the end of summer as the activity levels struggle to return to pre-summer levels.



A series of short articles asking some of the awkward questions that we never seem to ask?

No 1: Why do we stick our heads in the sand?

In my career to date there are a number of incontrovertible truths that I have come across. One of the truths that will rise to the surface regularly is that businesses have a tendency to stick their heads in the sand and ignore the warning signs, or worse, the history of their business and its revenue trends.

An example: The historical revenue trend for company X says that we’ll have a dip in  core revenues across the Christmas period and again in the height of summer. So, we build this into our plans and forecasts and lo and behold we hit our numbers in those months. Yippee!

iStock_000011530241MediumHowever, we also know from history that either the preceding or following months can also suffer with lower than acceptable performance and when we analyse this we cannot attribute it to any specific seasonal factor, other than …. “Our salespeople have taken their foot off the gas and it will take a few weeks to get back up to speed”. Or the blame game version “Our customers are still on vacation” or even, the market isn’t buying!

On the theme of vacations, why is it that the salesperson is surprised when the deal they were waiting on, you know the one, the big one, the dead cert, the one that was going to make his year, stops dead in its tracks! As a result the sales number is missed big time and when challenged, the response is, “the decision maker has gone on vacation”. Why didn’t we know that this was likely to happen? It’s vacation season after all!

So why don’t we take the time to ask the questions that would help us understand the buying process steps along with its twists and turns, or invest in advance in the selling activities that will help stop these periods from being problematic? A classic case is summer vacations and post-summer “Back to School” periods.

Why is it that in B2B selling we don’t routinely invest in making sure our sales teams are refreshed, renewed and refocused for when they get back from their summer vacation? Or use the tools that we use at other times of the year to manage the pipeline flow effectively or use the skills we’ve been taught over and over to be able to ask the awkward questions?


Been busy !

A short announcement ! 

I’m back. Yes, the blog is back up and running. It’s been so busy the last couple of years that I neglected to maintain the blog. A cardinal sin I know. But one that is now corrected. The reason for the absence? I ended up being on so many different social media platforms that It became impossible to maintain sensibly and have a life at the same time. So I all but stopped the maintenance. I actually decided to leave a couple of platforms that I found particularly annoying. 

As a result, I’ve re-assessed my digital persona over the last few months and have whittled down my cyber presence to the platforms that I find most interesting, least annoying and of course, easy to use.

So this version is designed to mainly just share “stuff” that I think is interesting, newsworthy, funny or potentially useful to others. Of course, there is normally a business theme to the things I think of as interesting, as business is a big part of who I am. However, not every post will be immediately obvious as part of that theme. You may have to search around a bit to make the connection. Sometimes there might not be a connection.

“Stuff” includes unique thoughts of my own, insights I’ve picked up from others, observations that I make whilst tending to my professional life, things I like that I think you might like as well and of course various photo’s and links to music/videos.

Please feel free to comment, interact and connect



Sound familiar ?

“As a result of an internal business review we’ve built a detailed specification of our requirements for [insert descriptive] that we feel your organisation may be able to satisfy. We’d like you to complete the attached RFP by [insert unreasonable time-frame]  and if considered suitable, to attend our offices on [insert non-negotiable date] and make a presentation about why you should be considered as a potential supplier”.

…and the unspoken bit hidden between the lines, “ We’ve also managed to come up with a list of your competitors and have asked them to do the same. Of course, one of your competitors is the incumbent and as such is very likely to retain the business”.

Sound familiar? Unfortunately, this type of conversation is becoming more and more common as buyers of B2B goods and services increasingly access publicly available information and use it to work out their own needs. Some studies suggest that they are completing as much as 60% of purchasing decisions before even engaging a supplier or speaking with a salesperson.

Of course, the RFP is an extreme of how the “informed” buyer is handling the procurement task. Not every solution is acquired through an RFP. Maybe it’s a scenario where the prospect says things like “I’ve been on the internet”, “I know how much it should cost”, “I’m familiar with the technical specs” or countless other examples. One things for sure, it’s a fact that every prospect can tap into information that just wasn’t accessible a few years ago and that changes the game.

So how do you adapt your sales approach to ensure that you are seen as an invaluable part of the buying process and be the one that secures the customers’ business?

An approach to this conundrum has been developed by Global Sales Training and Results Improvement Specialists, Mercuri International, and is centred on Differentiated Selling™ or put another way, the ability to flex your sales approach to the way people buy.

As the information age continues to gather pace, there are a number of your customers who having researched everything, feel that they know clearly what they want and are very comfortable to continue to trust you to provide it. In these situations the salesperson is fulfilling a known set of requirements in a “safe” relationship and only has to provide the solution. Typically, this type of selling situation would be managed by an Account Manager. That is, a salesperson who is focussed totally on the quality of the relationship between your company and the client.

But what happens when the prospect is not clear about their requirements and whether they want to work with your company at all? How do you approach this type of prospect?

Or the prospect who knows what he wants (or thinks he knows) but is not happy or convinced about working with you?

Differentiated Selling™ is essentially an approach that flexes dependant on the buying situation of the prospect. It requires you to think and act differently in different situations rather than have a “one size fits all” sales approach.

Are you ready to start being different? If you are, it could be useful to have a discussion with us first. We have some provocative insights into how you can turn your customer’s way of thinking on its head.

Interested in hearing more? Contact me by clicking here to arrange an introductory discussion and discover how to win that elusive customers business a little more often.

Who are they ?

Like most methods of communication, blogs are all about content. The content of this blog is normally fairly informal covering general topics that have sparked my interest or that have come up in everyday conversations with business colleagues, friends and peers.

In this post I’m not going to do the talking. I thought that maybe it’s about time that my  posts have a bit of context to them. So it would be good to share a little about the company I work for and what it is that we do for our clients.

If you are in the business of selling and/or leading people that sell then it’s likely that this video might strike a chord. If so, please take the time to contact me or call me on + 44 (0) 7515 394373 – we probably should be talking.

Who’s going to be on top?

There is lots of bad economic news circulating on a daily if not hourly basis at the moment. Economic experts from around the world are telling us with varying levels of hysteria that the end is upon us if the Euro collapses. Apparently the UK will be badly hit despite it being just one of the many export markets we serve. 

This is interesting to some and very worrying for others. I prefer to sit in the interesting camp. Let me try to explain why.

Many years ago my father said to me “there is always a winner in a recession, no matter the industry or sector, there is always someone who comes out on top”. (My father was Chief Buyer with Shell International, so he knew a thing or two about selling, albeit from the other side of the table).

Having recently reached my half century I have lived through a range of recessions and economic downturns. Of course, I’ve also lived through the boom years. When I sit down and think about how those periods of negative economic growth affected me and the companies I worked for, I can honestly say that they spurred me on to be the one who came out of it smiling.

My reactions to tough times varied in execution mix but were always remarkably similar in theme. It was always a resounding “let’s get our act together and be the absolute best we can be”. We re-focused our investments in training and re-training our sales and other customer facing staff, accelerated new product introductions or found a new way of adding value and sometimes we just worked harder and smarter.

The net outcome was always the same. We emerged from each downturn showing top line sales growth, delivering sound profitability and all done with limited losses in staff numbers.

The overriding lesson to me in over 25 years of sales and sales leadership is that it is an attitude of mind coupled with smart thinking and actions centred around how, where and what you sell that will not just get you through the pain, but actually thrive whilst others struggle and sometimes fail.

If you’d like to confound the economic doom-sayers and come out the other side with a smile on your face then maybe we should talk. Call me for an exploratory chat on +44 (0)7515 394373 or click here to contact me

Picture credits:
iStockphoto credit: http://www.istockphoto.com – MERCURINT2010



Thinkstock credit: http://www.thinkstockphotos.com – jfmessier

Great example of how hard work and determination pays off.

12 Months of Creativity

So today my inspiration does not come from a sculpture or a photograph – but from my best friend and counterpart, who for the past few years has worked hard, kept an open mind, and grown in so many incredible ways along the road…

Andrew has been working tirelessly towards his goal of becoming a flight instructor this past year… at last, today was the big day – the final check ride as it is called. From 8am to around 4pm he taught lessons, answered questions, talked about regulations, worked out scenarios and did a final flight with the chief pilot. Yes, that’s like an 8 hour final exam. Phew! And at the end of this tiring day – which comes at the end of a tiring year – he has passed and is now a Certified Flight Instructor in helicopters.

I can still remember a little over year ago…

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