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How to Eliminate Sales Peaks and Valleys

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

“OMG, my sales funnel is bone dry!!” 

Panic sets in.  You sell like crazy, get some sales traction and start nursing your new found opportunities to closure.  You focus on nothing else for weeks.  A few of them close.  Champagne corks pop and commissions are calculated.  Finally, you pause for breath and look at your CRM. 

“OMG, my sales funnel is bone dry... again!”

The sales rollercoaster is the number one selling Pain chosen in a recent survey of my blog readers.  The peaks of the ride are a blast, but the valleys totally suck.  There is, however, a way to tame this 5 ticket ride and carve a path to steady, reliable and predictable revenue.

Here’s the thing – every sales person knows about the rollercoaster.  Strangely, they seem to readily allow themselves to climb on board.  They know if they get so busy closing business [or implementing new deals] and stop prospecting for net new customers their sales funnel will run dry, yet they repeatedly make this fundamental mistake.  How come?

I think it’s the dopamine effect.  Dopamine is the chemical in your body behind the feel good rush [pleasure] you get doing whatever your favorite thing is.  For sales people, the mere thought of closing business feels good. Closing sales feels even better – hello dopamine! 

Contrast this with the grunt work behind finding brand new clients.  Cold calling [lots of rejection], endless web research [boring!] and completing CRM fields [mind numbing] is super low on the dopamine producing scale.  It’s no wonder many sellers gravitate away from Prospecting.

To keep the dopamine flowing and get off the roller coaster, try some of these road tested and proven methods to minimize the valleys of the ride...

Hire someone else to do the heavy lifting prospecting work for you:  This one is road tested by me personally.  There is a market of highly qualified virtual assistants today that did not exist even 5 years ago.  Select one and pay them to do the part[s] of the prospecting process you don’t enjoy, are too busy to do or are just no good at.  Have this work done while you are busy closing your current sales opportunities.  When you are done with them, there will be fresh opportunities to close.  This investment will put money in their pocket, hours back into your day, and new prospects into your sales funnel.  It’s a win – win!

Set and keep a 45-minute appointment with yourself every day:  For most sellers 45 minutes a day focused on acquiring net new sales opportunities, will more than meet their sales productivity needs.  Imagine, 240 [or so] focused prospecting sessions a year!  The secret[s]?  First, find the 45 minutes.  Even if you are quite time efficient my bet is you can tighten up here and there and create this golden chunk of time.  Second, be focused [no personal phoning, texting, Facebook, inbound email alerts, etc] when prospecting.  Third, use CRM to record your work religiously.  This will allow you to get productive the first few minutes of your session and not burn time getting organized. 

Set and measure your prospecting productivity goals:  Something like “Each week I will generate a total of ‘X’ number of net new prospects” will do.  Next, tell someone else about your goal.  Sharing goals has a way of cementing them in our minds, and firming our resolve to meet them. 

Refine your prospecting methods:  Cold calling is dead.  If you are still performing this soul sucking task you need to stop... Now!  Search your favorite book store and select a book that will teach you how to get your prospecting into this millennium.  There are many more effective, efficient and enjoyable ways to find your next big client than cold calling.’s called social media.

With just a little discipline and stick-to-it ‘ness you can get off the sales rollercoaster.  If you adopt any of the above strategies my prediction is you will flatten the peaks and valleys, make more money, and have a great time doing so.  Have fun!

Customer Relationship Management for Sales Part 2: Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Microsoft has their own Customer Relationship Management tool – Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Starting at $60 per month with a 30-day free trial, Dynamics CRM is a helpful tool for sales teams.

The strongest selling feature for Dynamics is the integration with other Microsoft products. This is great if you use Office 365 with Outlook and SharePoint, etc. If this is the case then Dynamics can work well for managing your sales process from start to finish.

A handy feature is the Outlook integration. It has the ability to track emails, appointments, tasks and contacts. For legacy Outlook users this keeps things familiar and makes life very easy. I also like the ability to take notes with OneNote during a call and have that saved with the contact's record.

Mobile capabilities are impressive with the right tablets and phones. It’s great for outside sales reps on the go. Team collaboration with the integrated Microsoft products is also helpful for closing more deals.

For managers Power BI is a tool that has informative, interactive dashboards with customizable reports. It’s easy to use and an excellent tool for Sales Managers to monitor results and provide feedback to reps.

Unfortunately, Dynamics CRM can be complicated to learn and clunky. My personal experience in learning to use it was somewhat painful. It was one of those "once you know how to use it, it is quite easy" experiences. In short, I did not find the software to be intuitive. This can definitely be a roadblock to adoption by your sales team.

The product has a significant customization capability, but that can get costly to set up. One of my high tech clients took it upon themselves to do their own customizations. Even they found it challenging to make them, so beware. If you do decide to purchase Dynamics CRM, make sure that you hire assistance for the setup and customization.

Overall, if you like Microsoft products and currently use them, this may be a good tool for you. However, setup time and cost, plus the time involved to get a sales team up to speed are factors that must be considered before making a buying decision.

Rating: 3 / 5

Customer Relationship Management Options for Sales Part 1: Salesforce

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

For salespeople and managers, tracking sales efforts is vital to success. At its most basic, using CRM allows you to track sales activities and corresponding results. Used effectively, using CRM will allow you to refine and optimize your sales and revenue generation processes towards reaching your sales goals on a reliable and predictable basis.

Over the course of the next few months I’m going to review several CRM options. Hopefully this will be helpful in pointing you in the right direction toward choosing the one that is the best fit for you and your team.

Let's start with, one of the most widely used and recognized sales tracking tools.

Salesforce starts at $25 per month with a 30-day free trial. The fees vary based on number of users etc., so get clear on that so you can derive your costs.

The dashboard allows users to see an overview of their day at a glance, including their tasks and calendar. There are a variety of reports available which reps and managers can run to see their sales opportunities, new business won, and existing accounts. I find the dashboard to be quite readily customizable. You don't need any technical knowledge to do so, just some patience with clicking on drop downs.

It is easy to add new leads, and track tasks and activities connected to them. Because it can integrate with Outlook, all correspondence can be attached to that record for easy reference and increased productivity.

Excel tracking can be eliminated by using the opportunity forecasting tool. Reps can identify where to focus their sales efforts based on what is in their sales pipeline.

Collaborating with other reps can be done through the Salesforce Chatter tool, which works far better than email.

Managers are able to readily analyze sales activities and results across the business and eliminate the need to track down individual reps for information. They can also easily communicate where sales are now and where they are trending.

The bottom line... Salesforce is a robust CRM tool that will do just about anything you ask it. It has numerous bolt-on options to increase functionality and just about every sales automation app out there will interface with it. The only downside I've experienced is that to make it really hum you'll need a third party integrator to ensure all of the bolt-ons you want are connected properly so they function as desired.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

What to do When Your Buyer Goes Dark

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

What do you do when your buyer goes dark?

This is one of the most frequent questions I get from my coaching clients. It’s always delivered with a distinct tone that’s a mixture of frustration, exasperation, and more than a whiff of "I feel hurt."

This is totally understandable. The wooing of a client is like a dance. When your dance partner excuses themselves to freshen up and doesn’t return to the dance floor, well it stings! Of course you feel frustrated and exasperated.

Here’s the thing...wooing a client is like a dance but in reality it is a business relationship you are trying to nurture. Different rules apply. Don’t get caught up in the romance of it. Remain objective and you’ll be able to navigate the process more adeptly.

Here is how I recommend dealing with the “my buyer has gone dark” conundrum…

Don't take it personally

If you have done your best, arrived for each buyer interaction prepared and carried yourself professionally recognize that a buyer going dark simply means the time is not right for them to make a decision. They need some space. 

Be empathetic

Like you, buyers are busy people. To state the obvious, making a decision on your deal has fallen down on their list of priorities. Your sales job [never an easy one] is to elevate that decision on their list. Given this...

Get analytical

Work backwards to where your buyer went dark. Analyze what happened in the sale to that point. Are there any A-ha’s here – any obvious reason for them disengaging?

For deeper insight try doing a Pain-Gain-Value analysis. Do you have a clear picture of the buyer’s Pain points, the Gains they were trying to achieve by resolving them and the Value they wanted to realize by doing so? [for more on Pain-Gain-Value theory and how it works click here]. If there are cracks here it can often explain why they went dark. Understanding why they went dark will help with managing the deal once you get reconnected with them.

The Mechanics

Here’s how you can approach getting reconnected with your buyer:

Let's say your previously responsive buyer has gone dark. Your last email about next steps in the sale was not replied to. After waiting the appropriate number of days [based upon your communication pattern with them to this point]...

  1. Resend the email to them. This time however include a header above the original email body text that says "I'm not sure if you received message below, so I thought I would resend it. If you could please confirm your thoughts about my notes that would be greatly appreciated." Put a row of asterisks below that sentence to separate it from the body text. This is a polite way of saying "I would like a response to my email please."
  3. Wait two business days and if no response, then call your buyer. If you get them on the phone simply say “Hi. I’m calling you to follow up on my last email. Do you have time to chat, or should we schedule something in the next few days to do so?”
  5. If you get their voicemail leave a message saying "I'm just calling to follow-up with you on the last email I sent. I’m wondering how you feel about proceeding from here. If you could please reply to that email or give me a call that would be greatly appreciated."
  7. Wait 5 more business days. If you still haven’t heard back then send a final email that says "I have done my best to reach you. Unfortunately, we were unable to connect. As such, I feel in the dark about how you would like to proceed. What I will do is respectfully leave the ball in your court from here. If you would like to speak I would of course be happy to do so. Otherwise, it's been a pleasure dealing with you." You may want to follow this up with a voicemail as well. You will of course have to tweak the wording I’ve suggested based upon your own unique situation but you get the point.
  9. Move on. Tag that deal as Dormant or Follow Up in 3 Months and start working on a deal that has a higher probability of turning into money.

I have suggested this approach to my clients and they're all pleasantly surprised with the response rate the last email generates. Buyers who went dark due to busyness or other priorities respond to say “I’m so sorry for not responding...let’s proceed this way...” Buyers who went dark due to disinterest either say so, or don’t respond. Either way, you get some closure.  

Note – A Good Sales Habit

Early in the sale, say at the end of your very first meeting with a buyer asked them "what is the best way for me to communicate with you – email, phone, text?" Follow that with "I know you are extremely busy. Just to help me understand you better, what's your usual turnaround time in responding?" By virtue of having this conversation around communication & expectations you will establish that communication is important to you. By no means will this completely eliminate a buyer going dark, but it may contribute to minimizing it.

A buyer going dark can be frustrating and may leave you feeling like you did something wrong. Most likely, you did not do anything wrong at all. Your buyer is simply not ready to buy. When this happens, be clear with them that you are there for them if and when they are ready. Then, move on to another buyer who is more ready to buy.

Five Ways to Boost Sales Productivity

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Even sales people who don’t have a service or project management component to their role wrestle daily with boosting sales productivity. The magic to maximizing sales productivity lies in being ruthless with your time. Here are five ways you can sharpen your focus and get a strong ROI on your sales time and effort.

Live in Your CRM – I routinely see sales people that, despite having a CRM tool provided to them, don’t use it. To me that’s like building a house and saying “thanks for the compressed air nail gun, but I’ll just stick to my trusty old hammer.” Sure, you can still build that house but it will be a much slower [and painful] process. CRM is the first software top sales producers open in the morning and it’s the last one they close at night. They update it real-time as they work on their deals. Doing so allows them to shorten the time it takes to pick up the thread on each deal, create a well thought out strategy around how to progress it, plan for a productive sales meeting and then hold it.

Score Your Sales Opportunities – Time spent working on low probability deals is time you can’t invest in high probability ones. I’ve created a simple yet highly effective scoring method that my clients use to score their deals. The score tells them what information they have about each deal, which information they don’t and what to do about it. Create a deal scoring process to apply to your sales opportunities. Use what it tells you to determine which deals have the highest probability of becoming closes and invest your selling time accordingly.

Activate One New Sales Opportunity Daily – All sellers know an empty sales funnel is a dismal sight. Filling it is the heavy lifting of sales work and can be a slow process. If left to run dry, filling it becomes an urgent activity that eats a ton of time and causes your schedule to back up. Activate [reach out in an attempt to book a meeting with] at least one net new sales opportunity every day. That’s 5 per week, 20 per month…you get the math. Taking this approach will spread out the time this task takes over days and weeks, and keeps your revenue production evergreen.

Honor Prime Selling Time – When their buyers are available is when great sellers sell. Sounds obvious, right? Outside sales people who “take five minutes” to pop into the store, or Inside sellers who “take five minutes” to find a good roofer on the web during the work day erode their sales productivity [BTW, we know these seemingly small activities rarely take five minutes]. Discipline is not easy. Sell when it’s time to sell, and slot the other stuff into non-prime selling time hours. Within one week an appreciable increase in productivity will be seen.

Don’t Do Trade Shows – I know I’ll get lots of pushback on this one. Trade shows are huge time – and money – eaters. Unless the show is one where the express purpose is to book orders, don’t go. Pay the attendee walk-in fee and get the attendee list instead. You can gain far more meaningful traction toward reaching your sales goals from your desk [using the trade show attendees’ list] than you can from walking the show. This is not my opinion – this is what my clients have told me. If you just need some time out of the office, take a few vacation days instead.

Think you or your team could be more productive but feel stuck as to how to get there? I’d be happy to help with ideas and suggestions [at no charge, just to help out…]. Feel free to contact me at

Accountability And Sales Success

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Sales is the ultimate accountability sport. Win or lose, the scoreboard is visible for everyone in the company to see. The accountable sales team owns their results and continually strives to improve them. Getting to accountability is not always easy though. I have found a tool that makes that road a whole lot smoother. Let me share it with you.

The Oz Principle is a book by Roger Connors, Tom Smith and Craig Hickman. In it, they describe a highly effective method any organization can follow to increase accountability towards performance improvement.

In the book the authors identify a line in business that separates success from failure. This line applies to every employee in every department – from sales to operations to management. Below the line is the blame game. It’s where people come up with excuses for why sales targets weren’t met or projects weren’t completed on time. Above the Line® is where people take ownership. These people look for solutions. They are the action takers; the ones who are committed to success.

It is perfectly normal to slip below the line once in a while. Sometimes it feels very legitimate to blame someone or something else for a current situation, especially when we feel helpless to change our circumstances. But what is discussed in The Oz Principle®, with comparisons to L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, is that it’s only through accountability that we find the best solutions & achieve greater success. 

We can tell we are below the line if we are ignoring or denying a problem, claiming it’s not our job, pointing our fingers at someone else, wanting someone to tell us what to do, spending our time covering our tails, or deciding to wait and see if the problem will go away on its own.

When this happens, it helps to keep The Oz Principle’s definition of accountability in mind:

A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results — to See It, Own It, Solve It and Do It.

This definition includes the 4 steps to achieving accountability: "See It, Own It, Solve It and Do It," which this book gets into in great detail.  When applied, this simple process works magic when it comes to getting a team to be more accountable for its situation and results.

The power of this book lies in its language. It provides a nonjudgmental, safe and respectful way to talk to your team about accountability, or lack thereof. To say “what I’m hearing from you sounds like Below the Line language” is far more respectful and productive than saying “quit your whining and get this thing figured out!”

I highly recommend this book to anyone in business. Over the years I have referred my clients to it innumerable times. Applying The Oz Principle changes the way your sales team looks at down markets and poor sales performance. It gives them a way to see their sales situation differently, take ownership of the elements that are theirs and create solid solutions that get revenue flowing again.

Two Tuna - Two Salmon

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The following exchange occurred at a sushi restaurant recently…

Me: I see on the menu you have tuna sashimi [note: for non-sushi people, sashimi is a generous bite-size piece of fish without the rice blob beneath], and Salmon sashimi, but not a combo. Could I please get 2 pieces of tuna and 2 pieces of salmon sashimi as one order?

Server: No, I’m sorry I can’t do that.

Me:  [surprised] Why not?

Server: Well, a combo is not on the menu and the boss is not here to say it’s okay to offer it.

Me:  ???

How empowered are your people? Do they have the authority and information required to make decisions of the type they need to make?  Having to “go to the boss” to get authorization for seemingly straightforward requests tarnishes your customer’s experience. 

At best, going to the boss is a minor irritant like the sushi example above. At worst, it creates distrust in the mind of your customer. If you have bought a car it is likely you been left sitting in the Sales Associate’s office as they went to speak to the manager to get approval on one of your requests. You were probably thinking “Why do they need to go to the boss on this one? Is this some sort of ploy or negotiating tactic?”  

Dealing with an empowered employee is a liberating experience. They either A) have been given reasonable authority to make day-to-day decisions or B) know the parameters within which their decision-making must be made. Either way, you end up with issues resolved more quickly, smoothly and with pleasant journey along the way.

Have a look at your policies and procedures. Are there decisions that require one up approval today that would be better put the hands of your staff?  Are there decision-making parameters you can outline that will facilitate them providing a better customer experience?  Perhaps allowing your folks to say yes to a 2 tuna and 2 salmon request will result in more satisfied buyers. 

Bon appétit!

When patience is NOT a virtue

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Client: [speaking proudly] "I worked a sales lead for 18 months, and I finally landed it!"  

Me: "Awesome!  A quick question for you… What size deal was this?"

Client:  "Well, not a large one. To be honest, it was more on the medium to small side."

Me: "Question...Over the 18 months, what was involved in closing it?"

Client:  "Oh, numerous emails, several telephone conversations and a few face-to-face meetings. But, I finally brought it home [smiling].

There are often several reasons behind doggedly working a sales lead for an extended period. Maybe the lead is a large one or strategically important.  

When I see undue effort being spent on a small opportunity I think a mistake is being made.  The time and effort applied to that small sale [that is frustrating and takes forever to close] could in fact be applied to finding the the firm's next huge client.

As my meeting with the client unfolded we talked about the notion of return on time invested. We talked about the desire to win, sometimes to our detriment.  We also talked about the reality that when you apply time and effort to one task, others remain unattended to or sometimes go undone.

Don't let pride or stubbornness [I WILL get this waffling buyer to commit!] get in the way of executing on other higher value sales activities.  When it comes to chasing small Leads for an extended period, patience is not a virtue.  

Hope is NOT a Strategy

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Planning for your team’s sales success means knowing — down to the account level —where the revenue to hit your sales targets will come from. Few sales organizations do this well. Buck the trend and be one of them. 

Simply stated, there are two sources of new revenue: new revenue from existing customers, and “New Logo” business (net new customers who represent a “new logo” on your customer list). Forecasting how much of your required growth will come from each gets your team focused on the right areas straight out of the gate.

New revenue from existing customers is the easiest place to start. The cost of acquiring this business is low, as you are connected to key decision makers already. These customers know you and love you. There are two approaches to developing new business within your existing customer base.

The first is to have each of your people consider their top existing customers and ask, “What products or services do these customers not buy from us that are a natural extension of what they do buy from us?” For example, if you are in the office products business, maybe your top account buys their consumables from your company, but has never spoken to your decor design division.

Next ask, “Who within the account can I speak to and what questions should I ask to learn if they have needs that these extension products will fulfill?” Determine whether you are appropriately connected to begin the selling process. Does the person who makes the consumables decision make the furniture decision? If not, how might you get connected to that person?  

Nailing down this detail will create a quick strategic sales plan that can be acted on immediately.

The second way to generate new revenue within existing customers is solution innovation.

It may be that you are meeting your top account’s stated needs already. Leverage this relationship and engage them in a “round table” idea-generating exercise to explore potentially unmet needs and consider ways to meet them.

For instance, maybe your top customer is facing cost challenges associated with rogue purchases made outside of their discounted contract with you. Perhaps a managed inventory solution — a service you don’t offer today — would be a perfect fix for this problem.

Take this idea to Engineering, Marketing, and R&D. You just might build something that other customers can use too.

New Logo business is the next revenue channel to explore. This is often higher-margin business that, although it is small today, can grow meaningfully. Broadening your account base by securing New Logo revenue makes your business healthy and stabilizes revenue flow.

Acquiring New Logo business can be slow and frustrating. These accounts are seemingly impenetrable fortresses with skilled gatekeepers and guarded decision makers. Cold calling them is ineffective and useless. To meet this challenge, play the “Six Degrees of Separation” game.

First, have each person on your team identify their top ten New Logo target accounts.

Then bring the team together with their contact databases. Determine if any connections exist within those databases to the New Logo targets. Generating warm referrals into these targets will get you out of the cold calling trap and into productive sales meetings.

Sound account planning is not difficult to do. The strategies you create will take your team from hoping they hit their sales goals to planning to hit them. After all, hope is not a strategy.

How to Predictably Hit Your Revenue Goals

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

It’s the Sales Leader’s job to predict the company’s revenue future. Accurate predictions make it easier it to run the business and plan for its future.  The leader must know how much the team will sell, who they will sell it to, and when will they sell it.  To more accurately predict your sales results master the science of generating sales.

Achieving such mastery is a team effort.  All must commit to study what generates a sale at your company, in your industry, and in your market. Only by first auditing this process can work then begin to make it turn more effectively and efficiently.


Significant Sales Activities

The sales production process is composed of many Significant Sales Activities [SSA’s].  These are the things done by your sales team that cause a sale to happen.  To most accurately predict sales production, start measuring your SSA’s.  A few SSA’s to measure weekly are...

Contacts with sales leads:  This activity fills the top of your sales funnel.   Watch this indicator closely.  It is the first one to drop when things get busy.  A decrease in activity here leads to fewer sales to close later.

Sales meetings with buyers [in person or via telephone]:  These interactions move your qualified leads through the funnel towards closure.  A subtle drop in sales meetings this week leads to a measurable decrease in revenue produced the next month.  Keep the pace here.

Sales Closed:  On the surface this appears to be a lagging indicator of sales effectiveness.  When measured with greater frequency however [daily or weekly vs. monthly], it clearly predicts trends and becomes a leading indicator of revenue goal attainment. 

Speak to your sales team and identify which SSA’s contribute most significantly to causing a sale to happen.  Rank them in priority from most important to least.  Next, ask your sales team to record how many of them they do each week.  After four to six  weeks you will have a good baseline measure of how much of each SSA is required to maintain your current rate of revenue production. 

With your SSA baseline established you can now begin to shift the levels of each activity either up or down in an attempt to produce more revenue.  This sales process optimization will be ongoing as your business landscape will shift and change over time.


Measurement Challenges

A common challenge in initiating SSA data reporting – especially when it has traditionally not been done before - is salesperson resistance.  Resistance is defined as any deliberate action, or inaction, that runs counter to achieving a stated goal. 

Resistance might sound like “I don’t want you measuring my weekly activities.  That’s micro management!” Or, “I have enough reports to complete as it is.”  Or late submission of reports, incomplete data, or both.

The root cause of salesperson resistance is often fear of the unknown.  Understandably, questions arise in their minds like “We’ve never done this before.  Why do you really want this data?  Is it going to be used against me some how?” 

Managing Resistance

A few simple steps to effectively deal with resistance are:

Anticipate It:  Understand that change is hard for people.  Ask yourself, “knowing my sales team as I do what underlying concerns might they have?”  Prepare questions to uncover those concerns.  Prepare how you will respond to each anticipated concern.

Be Transparent:  People don’t do well with ‘grey’.  Be open and honest around the how,   what, and why’s of the SSA measurement initiative.

Involve Them Deeply:  This gives them insight into the process and a clear understanding of the importance of optimizing the sales process.

Communicate the Value:  Sales people who sell using an optimized sales process make more money.  Their job is easier.  It becomes more fun and fulfilling.  Engage your team in discussions about these positive outcomes

The path to predictably hitting your revenue goals is always challenging, but can be made more predictable with this straightforward approach to sales process optimization.

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