November 2011 | Click links (>>) below to read articles
  • Diagnose Selling Challenges Using Pipeline Report by Suzanne Paling >>
  • Only Perfect Practice Makes A Perfect Salesperson by Roy Chitwood >>
  • Are You Giving Away Your Profit? By Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter” >>
  • Nine Barriers to Coaching a Sales Team by Keith Rosen >>

Diagnose Selling Challenges Using Pipeline Report
by Suzanne Paling

When I look at my rep's pipeline reports I see that ... most prospects drop off after the product demonstration ... the reps send out a lot of proposals but few lead to closed deals ... the reps speak to a lot of decision makers but few agree to schedule a sales presentation.

Once my clients create and regularly read a pipeline report, the volume of insightful and actionable information provided surprises them. Unfortunately, some of what they learn disappoints them as well.

The Pipeline Report

By definition a pipeline report consists of all of the prospects being actively pursued by a sales representative, and separates them by their appropriate phase in the sales cycle. This information allows a manager to keep track of the total number of prospects the salesperson is working with at any given time.

The Sales Funnel

Ideally, a pipeline report should look like a funnel, with a larger number of prospects at the top and a smaller number of closeable deals at the bottom. Organizations need to understand how many prospects they need at each stage of the pipeline (with some percentage of prospects dropping off along the way) to be able to close enough deals to achieve quota.

Too Many / Too Few

At most companies however, pipelines do not resemble funnels but rather gluts and shortages -- too many prospects in some stages and a lack of prospects in others. Though frustrating, these lopsided funnels show salespeople as individuals who both excel in some areas and need help in others.

Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, this data enables managers to direct coaching and training efforts where they're most needed.

Typical Pipeline

Every product or service has a sales cycle. In general the steps include:

  • Introduction or prospecting call
  • Conversation with decision maker
  • Appointment
  • Product demonstration or sales presentation
  • Proposal
  • Closed Sale

Speaking with Decision Makers

If sales representatives experience difficulty getting through to or having a conversation with a decision maker they may:

  • Know little or nothing about the company prior to the call
  • Lack an introduction tailored to the specific prospect
  • Be unable to provide a relatable example of a potential customer benefit

To keep them on the phone, salespeople need to specifically explain why their product will benefit the decision maker.

Moving the Sale Along

Some reps find reaching and talking to decision makers relatively easy. They may struggle with moving a prospect from discussing a product or service to convincing them to take action in the form of a product demo or a proposal. These sales reps might be:

  • Assuming a level of interest that isn't there yet
  • Asking for the product demo or proposal too quickly
  • Failing to understand the prospects needs and concerns
  • Pushing features and benefits of no interest to the prospect

Product demos or proposals require a level of commitment. Most decision makers avoid going in that direction unless they are serious about a potential future purchase. They value their time.

Solving the Problem

Address the clogged pipeline situation initially by looking at your sales staff. Determine who excels at introducing themselves or conducting product demonstrations. Find out how they do what they do. As a starting point, share their best practices with the rest of the sales staff.

Ask reps struggling with those same sales skills to do some research on sites like Amazon. Have them look for books / tapes / workbooks that address the specific areas they need assistance in. At least skim the books they choose. Start a discussion about any revelations / new ideas they're discovering as they read. Begin to think about what further training / coaching they may need going forward.

The good news about a clogged pipeline report is that it can be unclogged. Sales reps need the right skills and support to enable as many of their prospects as possible to move from one phase to the next. Once the report begins to look like a funnel, revenues and productivity will increase.

About The Author:

Suzanne Paling is the principal and founder of Sales Management Services. She has over twenty years of experience in sales consulting, sales management, and sales for both field and inside sales organizations. Ms. Paling founded Sales Management Services in 1998 to provide practical advice to business executives, owners, and entrepreneurs seeking to increase their revenue and improve their sales organization’s performance.

Sales Management Services’ roster of clients includes companies in the software, construction, medical, telecommunications, manufacturing, delivery, pest control, and the recruiting industries.

Previously, at Thomson Corporation’s Warren, Gorham & Lamont and RIA Group business units, Suzanne managed high-performance teams selling information services to banking, real estate, and law professionals. Her accomplishments included reorganizing and turning around several underperforming sales groups.

For more details visit her website at:

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Only Perfect Practice Makes A Perfect Salesperson
by Roy Chitwood

Today's marketplace is more challenging than it has ever been.

In every way we are seeing how, in this shrinking economy, Darwin's theory that only the strong survive is true.

These troubling economic times have revealed what I have known all along: that the day would come in selling when only the true professional salespeople would be able to survive.

During the boom times earlier in this decade, making a sale was often a matter simply of writing up an order. Today, everything has changed.

Those salespeople who are not professionals have found that their lack of skills, education and commitment has not only made them lag behind their peers but has resulted in their unemployment.

That's because, as with any aspect of business today, sales has evolved into an extremely challenging profession that puts salespeople under intense pressure to continually make their numbers no matter how difficult the market is.

Success today is often purely survival. Salespeople must close deals these days or perish.

Persevering in this current economic climate is a job for a professional.

True professionals have a commitment to a calling.

They have chosen to acquire the education, training and expertise that an amateur does not have and they choose to conduct themselves with integrity, maturity and dedication.

Their goal is to have a positive impact on our economy as well as on the world. They strive to always be of service to their prospects and customers.

Professional salespeople stimulate the flow of business in the marketplace; they are the lifeline that brings in the dollars to help companies stay vital. They are in a unique position to be the heroes of this recession.

Professionals may not necessarily think of themselves as heroes, however, as they go about their daily activities. U.S. Airways Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III probably didn't think of himself as any sort of hero on the day his airliner ditched in the Hudson River in New York City. As many of us clearly remember hearing on the news, his aircraft experienced a sudden power failure, forcing him to make a split-second decision in order to save the lives of his passengers and crew.

During the Washington, D.C., hearing to review the crash, Sully's testimony reflected the importance of relying upon experience and memory in these kinds of unexpected emergencies. Written checklists, while helpful in the learning stages, must already be mastered through practice and flight time. Sully and his copilot had an impressive 20,000 hours of total flight time between them.

"Teamwork and experience," he said, "allowed us to focus on the high priorities without referring to written checklists."

The avoidance of what might have been a terrible tragedy and the remarkable survival of everyone onboard the plane have been attributed to Sully's instinctive decision-making skills and breadth of experience.

Put plainly: Sully became a hero because he was a professional.

At a time when many commercial airline pilots have complained about decreasing pay, long workweeks and dwindling pensions, Sully demonstrated that challenges and grievances must never take away from the importance of the task at hand. Remaining calm, composed and confident is how a true professional rises above all obstacles to become a hero.

How does one become a heroic "Sully" sales professional?

The same way Sully did - by making the commitment to spend the time necessary to become trained.

The first step is to find and learn a proven, comprehensive sales methodology that is consistent with the way people buy.

The second step is to practice this method - with coworkers, with friends, with a recorder - until it can be done instinctively. Sully did not refer to a written checklist amidst the crisis of saving his plane; salespeople must know their sales method by heart and be prepared to execute it flawlessly under any circumstances.

The procedure must be correct and deliberate and it must be practiced.

Practice does not make perfect; only perfect practice makes perfect.

How much perfect practice does it take to become a true professional?

A recent Wall Street Journal article about improving one's golf game by John Paul Newport entitled "Mastery, Just 10,000 Hours Away," discusses this idea. The author argues that the successes of extraordinary individuals like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Tiger Woods are far more likely to have been the product of intensive practice than mere brilliance.

The article cites research presented by two authors, Malcolm Gladwell in his book, "Outliers," and Geoff Colvin in his book, "Talent is Overrated." Both authors believe that the mastery of a game or profession is the product of making a commitment to, and following through on, training and practice.

"In explaining the development of extraordinary talent," Newport says, "both Mr. Gladwell and Mr. Colvin zero in on seminal research by Florida State University Professor Anders Ericsson who suggests the threshold for world-class expertise in any discipline - music, sports, science, business management - is about 10 years or 10,000 hours of persistent, focused training and experience."

The article says that the most successful performers engage in what Colvin calls "deliberate practice." That is, they have practiced a methodology or activity expertly designed and proven to improve their performance. As with any effective training system, activities were designed to be mentally challenging, repeatable and to work within a method that provided clear feedback.

While the thought of 10,000 hours of intensive practice can seem daunting to most of us who have packed schedules and hectic lives, Pia Nilsson, the instructor for golfer Anika Sorenstam and author of the book "The Game Before the Game," makes an important point.

"You don't have to spend 10,000 hours at it. If you only have two hours a week available, you can make those hours count for a lot if you commit to quality practice."

Almost anyone of any age, intelligence and education level can become a sales professional through the commitment of time to regular practice of an effective selling methodology.

Professional salespeople are not born; they are made through their commitment to a calling and their efforts to improve their selling skills.

Today, that calling is more important than it has ever been before.

It will take a new breed of courageous professional salespeople to face our current challenges.

Through commitment and conviction, however, comes inner strength and it is this strength that will help sales professionals become the true heroes of this economy.

ROY CHITWOOD is an author and consultant on sales and customer service. He is the former president and chairman of Sales & Marketing Executives International and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle, 800-488-4629, If you would like to subscribe to his free Tip of the Week, "You're on Track," please e-mail

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Are You Giving Away Your Profit? By Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter”

Want a quick way to destroy sales motivation and profit at the same time? Picture yourself as a sales manager who suddenly receives a phone call from a salesperson who is on the verge of closing a sale.  Here’s a sample of that typical conversation:

Salesperson: We have to cut our price to get the first order. Then, once they see what we can do for them, we will be able to raise our prices.  I’m sure once they see how good our service is, I’ll be able to convince them to pay the regular price.”

Hmmm.  Really?  I’ll let you fill in how you feel the sales manager should respond.

The sad comment is that too many times, the sales manager – after sounding tough on the telephone for 30 seconds – then gives way to the idea of lowering the price by saying something like, “Well, just this time, but we certainly can’t go making this part of our sales tactics with other customers. The only reason I’ll say ‘yes’ this time is because of how much business is at stake.”

I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard this rationalization.  Sadly, what blows me away is the number of times I have heard it when somebody is trying to land a new customer – but then I never hear from these same people a year or two later expressing what the long-term results have been.

Why do salespeople or sales managers never share with me the long-term outcome of such “price reduction” strategy?  Because it never works out the way the salesperson or the sales manager initially believes it will.

Let’s look at this from the customer’s perspective. If you bought something at one price, don’t you think you would be able to buy it again at the same price?  Sure you would.  So why do you as a salesperson think that increasing the price after the initial sale is going to go smoothly?

Cutting your price to secure the initial deal only does one thing — it takes profit out of your pocket.

Many of you are thinking that this is all right, because all that is being lost is some profit on the initial sale.  My experience is you’re giving up profit not only on the initial sale, but also on any future sales to come.

The reason is simple (so simple, in fact, that I can’t believe so many salespeople still think slashing price on the initial sale is a viable option).  The first price the customer gets is what they believe is the right price with the right value.  If the price is higher, they believe it to be unfair.

Sales motivation takes an even greater dive when the customer is ready for the next purchase, and the salesperson begins to wander down a dangerous path.  The salesperson justifies in their own mind why increasing the price is just “not the right thing to do” and will “jeopardize the long-term value of the customer.”  In the blink of an eye, with that one thought, the salesperson has committed themselves to lower profit on a going-forward basis (maybe even indefinitely. Yikes!).

As tempting as it might be to cut your price to gain a new customer, don’t do it!

If you can’t land the customer at the profit margin your business plan is built upon, then that particular customer is not worth having.  Think I’m crazy?  Run the numbers over the long-term and you will see what I mean.

To avoid being in the situation where you feel desperate to get a sale “at all costs,” here are some strategies to put in place:

First, maintain a strong pipeline of prospective customers. Discounting is far more prevalent when a salesperson believes the sale on which they are currently working is the only sale they are going to get.

Second, never attempt to close a sale until the customer has identified to you the specific objectives and you’ve had the opportunity to explore the needs they have. When the customer understands the benefits you’re helping them with and the gains they’re going to get from those benefits, then you’re in a much better position to close the sale by not having to discount your price.

Too many times, the salesperson gets taken down the price discount road only because they have not taken the time upfront to get the customer to fully explain the benefits they’re looking for.

As tempting as it can be to close a sale quickly, the pressure of the price discount is many times what emerges when you attempt to close too early.  Allow the customer to verbally describe the benefits for which they are looking. This gives you time to expand on them and, in turn, help the customer see the full value of what it is you’re offering them.

Protect your profit.  Protect your sales motivation.  Both are too valuable to toss aside, all in the name of making a sale.

Mark Hunter, The Sales Hunter, is a consultative selling expert committed to helping individuals and companies identify better prospects, close more sales, and profitably build more long-term customer relationships. To find out more, visit

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Nine Barriers to Coaching a Sales Team by Keith Rosen

For any executive sales coaching initiative to be effective and long-lasting, there are important obstacles that a manager or internal sales coach needs to address.

Barrier One: No Coach the Coach Program

One of my clients recently called me with questions about building an internal coaching program. It seems the person who was spearheading the initiative was having a difficult time putting the processes and procedures together as well as getting the managers to embrace the new philosophy and approach. Since the company felt they could build the internal coaching program on their own, they didn’t hire an outside expert or consultant. The person in charge of the initiative wasn't even a coach but someone in HR. Without a coach training program to develop coaching skills and competencies, you can change your managers' titles, but not their essence, their thinking, or their skills.

Barrier Two: Coaching Is a Choice—Not an Obligation

The coaching relationship is a choice, not an obligation. The relationship between the coach and the people who are coached is a designed alliance, a collaborative partnership, and more. As such, remedial or sanctioned coaching is often met with resistance rather than with open arms. How is coaching being offered to your team or to your employees? As a perk, an incentive, an option, an obligation, or a remedial response to under performance? Are you offering it to your entire team, to a select few, or to just one person?

Barrier Three: Surrender Your Agenda When Coaching

What if your boss walked up to you today and said, “Your career, your bonus, your position in this company, and your salary will depend on how well your team performs. That said, I want you to start coaching all the people on your team, one on one. Hold them accountable and be unconditionally supportive, while surrendering your agenda and maintaining objectivity.” Could you do it?

My clients consist of a myriad of companies and professions, all shapes and sizes, selling products and services in practically every industry and profession. Yet, the one truth I share with them is this: “When you work with me as your coach, this will be the only relationship you have where it will always be 100 percent about you.”

There’s a big difference between coaching people and changing people.

If you’re an internal coach, this may be a stretch to fully surrender any agenda or attachment to your sales team's performance, especially since their performance directly reflects on you. In such cases, there’s an inherent challenge for you, as the business owner or manager, to separate your agenda from theirs and have no personal expectation from the relationship other than your unconditional commitment to their continued growth and success. It’s going to take some adjustment on your part to develop an unconditional and authentic relationship with your salespeople.

Barrier Four: You're Coaching People, not Changing People

There’s a big difference between coaching people and changing people. However, for executives or front line managers who are commissioned to hit some aggressive sales numbers, coaching is the last thing they want to talk about. The real distinction is that coaching is a process of discovery. A coach cannot push for results or attempt to change people overnight. The traditional scenario to facilitate change is typically a stressed-out manager who lays the same stress on his salespeople that his boss dumped on him. “Work harder; get focused; our jobs can be on the line; just bring in some more business.” This hollow approach seldom drives change.

Barrier Five: Connection—It Has to Be the Real Thing

In coaching it’s critical for unrestricted, honest communication in the coaching relationship. It's extremely challenging to connect with your salespeople at a deeper level, the type of connection necessary between the coach and the person being coached. Many employees are afraid that if they disclose too much, it will be held against them in the future. So they limit their vulnerability level to what is absolutely needed to perform their job function. This restricts safe and open communication, limiting the chance to connect with your people in a way that allows coaches to get to the real issues and barriers;—barriers that are preventing improved performance.

Barrier Six: Confidentiality and No Judgment? Sure, Boss!

Lets get right to what you're thinking. Your role as supervisor or boss presents some inherent problems with coaching that need to be addressed head on.

Given the parameters, guidelines, and principles necessary to be a masterful coach, trust is critical to make the connection. After all, if your employees can't trust you as their manager, forget even trying to coach them. Coaching requires an elevated level of trust that transcends the superficial trust between employees and management.
And what if some of your salespeople already have a problem with you as their boss and now you're going to try and coach them? How does that get handled? Do you think any of your employees are going to just come out and say that? Think again.

As a result, this relationship could quickly turn into more of a mentoring rather than a coaching relationship. This is a major reason why companies bring in an expert coach from the outside who doesn’t have any direct ties to the company as a manager would.

Barrier Seven: Anyone Can Manage, Not Everyone Can Coach

“I’m really not cut out to be a coach.” The hard fact is there are managers who want to be coaches, managers who need to be coaches, and managers who shouldn’t be coaches, and probably shouldn't be managers, either.

Companies that force all managers into a coaching role make a costly assumption that all of their managers would actually make great coaches, just like every college athlete should automatically make the pros. The rules work the same. Desire, attitude, ability, and skill will always be the formula for becoming a successful coach, or athlete. Then there is the mistake of pushing managers to do something they don't want to do. Managers can easily sabotage their own coaching efforts, and in the end, corporate may learn the wrong lesson: "I guess our internal coaching program didn't work."

Companies often assume that all of their managers would actually make great coaches, just like every college athlete should automatically make the pros.

Barrier Eight: Full Accountability

If you want to become powerful, hire a powerful coach. It's a simple, yet highly effective strategy. If you want your salespeople to be powerful, you need to be a good role model for them. As you evolve, so does your team. Consider this truth: Your team is a reflection of you. If you're not prepared to be 100 percent accountable for the success and failure of your team, if you skirt accountability in any way, if you lack professionalism or proficiencies in certain areas, your team will reflect these weaknesses. If you choose to evolve, so will your salespeople. If you want a world-class sales team, you have to become a world-class executive sales coach.

Barrier Nine: Competitive Managers

The most effective leaders develop other leaders. They encourage their people to perform as well as they do—even better. That is the sign of a true master and the real testament of a great manager. But what if the manager perceives his coworkers and subordinates as a threat? What if the manager is driven strictly by ego, the need to prove himself and his worth? What if this manager thinks he has survived only by keeping a competitive distance from his peers and salespeople? I've known managers who don't share their tools and best practices with their salespeople for fear their salespeople will outdo them. These are likely to be inferior managers who will seek to selfishly leverage the coaching relationship in a way to better themselves and their position rather than for the betterment of their sales team.

Now that we've listed the barriers that can get in the way of implementing an effective internal coaching program, do not be disheartened. With greater awareness comes choice. The good news is, you possess the power to make a difference.

Your team is a reflection of you. If you want a world-class sales team, become a world-class executive sales coach.


Keith Rosen – Executive Sales Coach, Author and Global Authority on Sales and Leadership

Keith Rosen is fanatical about increasing your sales, improving your business and helping you achieve what matters most. That's why more top global sales organizations today chose Keith’s sales training and management coach training solutions to drive more sales. Keith addresses the specific challenges and objectives unique to your company, then moves beyond traditional training by coaching your salespeople and managers around best practices and best thinking which develops true champions. A globally recognized authority on sales and leadership, Keith is the CEO of Profit Builders, named the Best Sales Training and Coaching Company Worldwide. Keith has written several best sellers on time management, selling, prospecting and leadership coaching, including the widely acclaimed Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions, winner of Five International Best Book Awards. He was also inducted in the inaugural group of the Top Sales Hall of Fame in recognition for his outstanding contributions to professional selling and sales leadership. Often featured in the media, Inc. magazine and Fast Company named Keith one of the five most influential executive coaches.

For more information on sales coaching, executive coaching, his award winning sales training or management coach training programs or to subscribe to his newsletter, The Winners Path, visit, email us at info(at) or call 516-771-1444 . Find more sales and management coach training videos and podcasts on


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