Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 117: B2B Pet Peeves: Pipelines, Predictability, Control and MORE

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Another Sales Pipeline Radio, for you.  It runs LIVE every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific.  It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

We’ve already featured some great guests and have a line up of awesome content and special guests coming up.

We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year. We’ll publish similar highlights here for upcoming episodes.  You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes.

In this episode, our fearless producer, Paul Roberts and I talk about B2B Pet Peeves.  We have a lot of fun.  What are your B2B Pet Peeves?

Paul:  Welcome aboard. It’s time, once again, to grab your board and ride out into the sea of ideas. There’s one of them starting to curl up right over the horizon there. It looks like a sales pipeline, that master surfer there himself, Matt Heinz.

Matt:  How’s it going, Paul?

Paul:  Okay. I don’t know where I came up with this surfer image. I live in California. Sales pipeline seemed like the surf pipeline that I see every day at the beach. Does it have that kind of curling, ever changing appearance to it here?

Matt:  Sure. Honestly, it’s funny, we’re like, what, 120 plus episodes into Sales Pipeline Radio? It never really … I think today or last … It was kind of the first time where, like, “Huh.” Like, Sales Pipeline, surf pipeline. I guess that makes sense. You’re in Southern California. The imagery is good. It’s kind of fun to play with. It gives us something fun to talk about at the beginning of the show.

Paul:  Exactly.

Matt:  I’m all for it. I love the creative license. You could go wherever you want with this. If you want to change gears at any point, just knock yourself out.

Paul:  The thing I, and maybe we can talk about it today but, the thing that I always picture is a sales pipeline. All the images I see, it’s like a fixed pipeline. It’s a funnel, as everybody says. Is it just that? Where it gathers everybody together and narrows down to a little stream or is it a vortex? Is it an ever-changing size and shape to it? That’s the way I picture the pipeline out here, off the coast of California. The wave appears and you ride it a little while. Then it disappears, and you’ve got to wait until another wave builds up. I don’t know. Is it a continuous thing? Is it a fixed pipeline? Or is it an ever-changing shape?

Matt:  Honestly, it’s an important topic, because the pipeline assumes that you’ve got a bunch of prospects, and a percent of them are going to become actual sales opportunities, and a percent of those are actually going to buy. Mathematically, and maybe chronologically, that’s true but if you ask an individual prospect: A. they don’t think of themselves as a number in a pipeline; B. they don’t necessarily go just from left to right or top to bottom, if you’re doing a gravity-based pipeline. The end of the pipeline is really the middle of, what I would call “the revenue bow-tie,” right? If you are beginning a new relationship with a prospect or if you are beginning a new relationship with a customer, whether you’re a SAS business, or just trying to sell them more stuff ongoing, that initial sale is inconsequential compared to the lifetime value you’re going to hopefully create from that prospect. Maybe inconsequential is the wrong word. I don’t want to minimize the importance and the difficulty of-

Paul:  But it’s not once and done. The typical picture I see on every funnel graph or every funnel infographic is just like the kind of funnel I use to put oil into my car here. It’s a funnel. It’s a wide lip and then it narrows down to a little drip. It catches all of this stuff and forces it down into this one stream of stuff going somewhere. But once it’s got there, what image do I use for that second sale, which may or may not come right away? Or the third sale? Or the continuous sales? Or the even bigger sale or the little sale? That’s why I like this pipeline image of the surf pipeline, because it appears and disappears.

Matt:  It appears and disappears, and it never ends.

Paul:  It never ends. Right, exactly.

Matt:  If you’re doing a good job selling something to someone and they commit to it, just because they become a customer doesn’t mean you’re done selling. As a company, you have to continue to reinforce why someone should want to continue to work with you. Like surf, like gardening. You’re never done gardening. The surf never stops, it just keeps coming-

Paul:  You’re always tilling this soil. There’s another wave and another wave and another. Each wave is a little bit bigger or a little bit smaller, has different opportunities. You have to judge that wave. How are you going to ride it?

Matt:  Some days, you’re better at surfing than others. Some days the actual surf itself is more conducive to great surfing. Sometimes the weather conditions, and overall conditions make for great gardening.

Paul:  Little choppy.

Matt:  Some days, you suck at selling. Some days your marketing just doesn’t work. It happens to everybody, right? I think, you know, you get up the next day. You get back in the garden. You get back in the water. You get back on the phones. You get back in the market and you keep trying.

Paul:  We talked about pet peeves, that maybe this show is about pet peeves. One of mine is this idea of a fixed pipeline, that once I build it, stuff just continues to flow at a continual rate and produces results at a predictable percentage. I get so many in, I get so many out. It’s a machine. I don’t know that it works like that. I know that’s everybody’s goal, but does it really work like that? Or is it more fluid and more changing?

Matt:  Yes and no. It’s a good topic. Thank you. We kind of went down the pigeon hole of the pipeline, but it’s a good way to introduce today’s theme on our show. We had a guest, we’re still trying to get ahold of him, but we may just have to reschedule him if he wasn’t able to join us. I’m excited. I definitely want to get him and his topic and what he can offer to the show.

Today we’re going to talk about B2B pet peeves. Certainly, the paint-by-numbers method of managing sales that I think a lot of companies want. There have been books written about a predictable, repeatable, scalable engine of growth. A lot of venture capitalists have read those books and have then told their early stage companies, “If you just hire enough sales people and make enough phone calls, the math works out.” You have to start somewhere, so you start with the math and you start with the plan, but sales is never that easy. One of my pet peeves is someone who has never done sales, and never managed a pipeline, and never even carried a number say, “I read a book. Therefore, this is the way that we’re going to sell,” right? I think that: A. books are great and books are important, but I think you’ve got to try new things. If everybody in the world just follows that book, then all of a sudden it becomes a little tough.

Paul:  I just think we have this notion that a pipeline, and that’s the only thing I object to the whole … I know your show is Sales Pipeline and it’s all about pipelines. I think we have to have a different definition of what a pipeline is. I don’t think it becomes just, “If I need more results, then I just got to get more leads.” Well, no. Maybe you’ve got to get better leads. Or maybe you’ve got to get better at converting the leads. Or maybe getting more leads from outside your sales pipeline is not the point. Maybe it’s to get more sales out of what you’ve already got and the establishments you’ve got. This idea of just go gather more, and pour it into the top of the funnel, and more will come out, is, I think, an oversimplification.

Matt:  I would agree with you. What I’ve found valuable about the concept of the pipeline … We call this show Sales Pipeline Radio. I continue to use pipeline as a metaphor. I have custom-made note pads that I use to take notes at meetings that has a funnel literally printed on every note. If you go to our website, you’ll see that our logo includes a fancy looking pipeline. By the way, if you look at that out of context, like, I’ve got a Heinz Marketing sweatshirt that has that logo on it. I’ll wear it traveling sometimes. Literally, I will have people come up and they see “Heinz Marketing,” they think, “ketchup.” The logo is, basically, kind of a squiggle of a pipeline. If you think it’s ketchup, it looks like just a squiggle of ketchup.

So people say, “Oh, that’s a cool ketchup. I didn’t know Heinz was changing their logo.” I’m like, “Well, they didn’t and it’s … Oh never mind.” The pipeline, I still think, is valuable as a starting point. I think you’re absolutely correct if you assume you’re just going to throw a bunch of content in the top, you’re just going to throw a bunch of visitors, or a bunch of web traffic in the top, and then just naturally they’re going to convert into the right prospect.

Paul:  Or just going to filter down.

Matt:  A. That’s incorrect. B. if you assume that you have to start at the very top, you have to start with this massive amount of traffic to get to where you want, that’s not correct either.

Paul:  Right, right. Again, I’m throwing out my other analogy here, maybe it’s more like the surfing pipeline. You get into the pipeline, it appears, and there’s a momentary opportunity there, and you flow through it as quickly and as well as you can, and then you have to go catch another wave, or you have to go wait for another pipeline to open up and develop. Each one is a little different depending on the tide, depending on the time of day, and depending on the conditions surrounding you. How about that?

Matt:  One of my other pet peeves, related to that, is, I think, what I’ve often called, “the marketing of more.” I think a lot of marketers, even today, are enamored with big numbers. We want more traffic, more clicks, more leads. More sounds better. It sounds better, it looks better if you put that on a chart and put more in front of your board, in front of your leadership team, those up-and-to-the-right charts that look great. More sounds great, but, honestly, in many cases more can be counterproductive. You don’t need a thousand good leads; you need maybe 10 great ones.

You don’t need all the people, all the people at top of the funnel. You need the opportunities. The opportunities may come from a more finite campaign. It may come from doing less, but doing it in front of the right people. Just this year, we’ve done work with clients that clearly have that marketing-of-more mentality. We start talking about, “Hey listen, let’s do smaller campaigns. Let’s do more direct campaigns. Let’s focus on, instead of 100 prospects, let’s focus on the 22 that actually show some interest, that have some characteristics or attributes that we think we can actually sell.” So we get a higher conversion rate and a more efficient set of marketing and they’re like, “Yeah, but our numbers are so small. It just doesn’t look good.”

Paul:  “It doesn’t look good,” come on!

Matt:  I’m like, “What do you mean it doesn’t look … Do you really want more traffic?” Literally, I mean. So now, the problem with the pet peeve episode here, of course, Paul. You get me on a rant and I won’t stop.

Paul:  We won’t stop!

Matt:  I’m a judge for the Content Marketing Awards for the content marketing world here in September. Yesterday, I’m going through my categories, and one of my categories is, I’m judging multi-author blogs. People submit their blog, and they do a write-up that says, “Okay, here’s what we’re really excited about. Here’s our results,” right? In the results section, the vast majority of people, when they talk about results, it’s, “Well, here’s how much traffic we got,” and, “Here’s how traffic we got.”

Paul:  And mine’s bigger than yours.

Matt:    Yeah, exactly! That’s exactly what it is. It’s just showing how much volume we’ve got. It may be dentists South Carolina that are visiting your SAS enterprise software blog, and they count in those numbers, I guess. Maybe I’m just a hammer and everything looks like a nail, but I’m reading all these submissions and I’m saying, “Wow, you did a great job getting traffic to your blog. You did a great job using social to increase pass-along and engagement. But you can’t buy a beer with any of those metrics.”

Paul:  And they looked at you shocked and, “Well, but I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. You’re supposed to reward me and say ‘atta-boy.’ Look how much traffic I drove. Look how many-”

Matt:  We’ve always done that as marketers, too. I think, as leaders of marketers and of organizations that are managing and hiring and evaluating marketers, we like more. CEOs like up-and-to-the-right. They like seeing more traffic. The boards are used to thinking that marketing isn’t responsible for a number, not responsible for the sales number. They’re responsible for the marketing metrics. More marketing metrics feels better.

Paul:  Yean, right. We’ve got to do what feels right to me right now, which is run a commercial and stop you, because you’re just going to go off. We’ve got to break this up for a second here.

Matt:  Okay, we’ll take a quick break. We’ve got to pay some bills. Thank you for joining us today, special episode: Pet Peeves. We’ll be right back on Sales Pipeline Radio.

*Break*

Matt:  All right, thank you everyone for joining us on a special episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. We had a last minute cancellation with guest. No big deal. We’ve got lots of stuff to talk about here. We decided to call today’s episode “Our B2B Pet Peeves.” Literally, Paul, as I look at the list of things I put down as our pet peeves, I’ve got six things; we’ve covered one. We’re going to run out of time for sure on this.

Paul:  We’re going to run out, yeah.

Matt:  I think if we would have planned this out in advance and encouraged people to call in, this probably would have been a very popular topic.

Paul:  Maybe we conceive a future show here this way. We give them an address or an e-mail or someplace, if they have a pet peeve that they want to voice or air or have us or you talk about, where would they send that?

Matt:  You could send that straight to me. You could just send it to [email protected] Just send me your pet peeve and let me know what bothers you about B2B sales marketing. Not a bad idea, Paul, to maybe make the pet peeve of the week. Have a regular feature here on Sales Pipeline Radio. I like our format of bringing on some really great guests, and really asking them hard questions, and having a great conversation. Boy, a pet peeve of the week would be a lot of fun.

Paul:  My pet peeve of the week is that too often we think, you’ve said one of them, that more is better. My pet peeve is why is the new customer more valuable than the existing customer? Here’s what I mean by that: we spend so much time chasing the new that we sometimes overlook what we’ve already got, and take it for granted, I think.

Matt:  I think you’re right. I think at a lot of companies … Look, if you’re early stage and you don’t have a lot of customers, by definition you have to go acquire clearly. I think it is significantly more profitable for you to work on keeping your existing customers than going after new customers.

Paul:  It’s sure easier.

Matt:  If you want to grow, if you want more market share, then clearly you’ve got to go get new customers, but a lot of companies put so much effort into that and leave a random e-mail newsletter and toll-free number for their customers and wonder why their churn rates suck. I think you do have to put a little more effort into that. I think it’s a challenge. I think marketers often see that there is an account management organization and say, “Well, I don’t own the customers’ success number, but I have been told I have to generate pipeline. I’ve been told I need to generate new customers,” and assume, you know what they say about assuming, assume that when you put that content out there that a customer is going to see it too. Customers will go to our blog too. But I think there is a different angle you want to take and a different approach and a different strategy you want to use for those existing customers.

Paul:  My late father was, at one time, the head of customer relations for Chrysler Corporation. Big job. Even back then, this was back in the 70s, this is a million years ago, he complained he could see what was happening, where customer relations was getting cut back while marketing was growing. Meaning, it was less important to keep the current customers happy than it was to go find a new customer. That was not the world he grew up in. Their world was if you captured a customer early enough, for Mobil gas, for Chrysler cars, for whatever, they’d stick with you for life. The assumption started to be, “They’re going to change anyway, so we better just be looking all the time.”

Matt:  Yeah, boy. Some of this is easier said than done for companies. I think that when we talk about marketers and the marketing of more and trying to adjust the objectives that you have to revenue-centric metrics. If you’re a CMO listening to this, and can sort of come out of this Podcast, and you can say, “Listen, I’m going to start focusing on better metrics.” It’s not that easy. You’ve got a board that’s used to seeing up-and-to-the-right. You’ve got a leadership team that’s used to seeing a certain set of metrics from you. You, at least, have to have a conversation to transition them to think about that. Then you’ve got a bunch of marketers on your team that are used to prioritizing more, they’re used to buying the most leads at the lowest possible price.

If you now come to them and say, “I don’t care about how much it costs, I want to know how much it’s worth.” If I now say that there are certain leads that I’m willing to spend 5x to acquire, versus what I’d been doing before because I know that they’re the right customer, that if I can get to them more directly, more efficiently, I’d do that. That sounds great, but you’ve just entirely changed some digital marketing manager’s job. They may very well be afraid of what you just put in front of them. They may very well be worried about their job security.

Paul:  Let me ask you another question, and I’ll continue on my pet peeves. With the assumption you have already got a certain base of business there, and you take this for granted, “Great. I got that. Now I’m going to double it by finding new people,” rather than trying to get more business out of your existing customer base or even holding on to that business. If that assumption is true on my part, and I think it is true for a lot of companies, the new is better than the old. How do you market to the old? I don’t see much stuff aimed at me, as a current customer. I see a lot of stuff aimed at me to attract me to be a new customer.

Matt:  Right.

Paul:  I’m just thinking out loud. I don’t see a lot of campaigns that say, “Thank you for banking with us for 10 years. Here’s more stuff we would love to talk to you about.” They try and do that sometimes in the bank live when you’re standing , but I get more and more enticements to join the new bank than I do from my existing bank to stay there.

Matt:  I would agree. I think we take for granted some of the customers we have. That’s not true all across the board. I think what a lot of companies say is, “We need to go do something. Let’s send them something. Send them an appreciation gift,” right? Or, “You know what, we haven’t been doing enough for our customers. Let’s do a barbecue next Friday and invite all our customers to the barbecue.” That was fine, but there’s a difference between having customer appreciation and customer retention be part of your DNA, be part of what you do every day versus doing random acts of customer appreciation. Like saying, “Hey, let’s send everybody a coffee mug,” or “Let’s do a barbecue next Friday.”

Paul:  Exactly. I’ll give you another example, real quickly. We had somebody on another show talking about how you’re coming in and selling them some widget or something, and they know that you make this, but you don’t know and they don’t know that you also make another widget. They think of you just as widget A and not as widget B. They don’t think of you. They’re out looking for somebody to solve some new need, and they didn’t know you can do that nor did you know they’re looking for it.

Matt:  It’s a challenge. It’s not just in the communications. Sometimes it’s in the way that we brand ourselves, it’s in the way that we talk about what we have. Look, I think about this topic at least once a year. That once a year is usually the week of Thanksgiving, when all of a sudden my inbox is full of companies that tell me how much they’re thankful for me. Then I don’t hear from them again until the following Thanksgiving, when they will come back and tell me again that they … You know what’s happening, right? Someone comes in Monday morning and says, “We should do something for Thanksgiving this week. We should thank our customers for being customers,” right? If I only hear from you once a year during that week, how actual thankful are you? Being thankful is not a campaign. It is not an e-mail. It’s a culture change. It’s part of your DNA. It’s part of your values.

Paul:  I agree. Getting to know your customer, you assume that sales reps are in there with the customer, and will see an opportunity or will present, “Hey we now have this new line and here’s something else you didn’t know we did.” You assume that’s the sales person’s job, but doesn’t the marketing department have some responsibility to inform people, “We have new offerings, we have new things, and new services we can add to what you’re already buying from us,”?

Matt:  They’re your customers. They want to hear from you. They want to know what you’re thinking. I think the nice thing about the customer marketing side is it’s not like having to go buy a bunch of lists. It’s not like you’ve got to.

Paul:  Exactly!

Matt:  Yeah. You have access, and they’re going to listen to you because they give you their monies. It doesn’t mean they’re going to read an e-mail every day. It doesn’t mean that if you mail someone an invoice and put 14 sheets behind it, they’re going to read every word of those. You still have to be smart about your marketing. I think, also, it is not about buying people coffee mugs and barbecues. Just be thankful. Literally, embed thankfulness, embed appreciation into your marketing. Embed being proactive and thoughtful about asking your customers, “What else can we do to make you successful? What else do you need from us? What else do you need, in general, to be successful?”

Paul:  Right. That’s what that whole consultative sales that’s been around for so long, “Let me get to understand you,” maybe “I’ll find other ways I can help,” or maybe “I can’t help you but I can refer you to somebody.” All of that feeds into this. I just am amazed, you brought up two topics that I’ve never heard anybody talk about, the idea that more is always better than less when it comes to marketing: “Obviously, I’ve got to have more leads. Obviously, I’ve got to have more clicks and impressions.” Maybe not. And, my pet peeve of, why is the new always better than the old? Why do we spend twice as much to get the new than we do to hold on to the old?

Matt:  Yeah. I think that’s a good one. Well, hey, I know we’re going to run out of time here. What have we got, Paul? We’ve got like a minute or two left before we got to run. I’ll tell you, I like the idea of this Pet Peeve of the Week. I’ve got this list here of other things that I’m really, really frustrated about. One of the ones I’m going to bring up just sort of as a last thought. We’ll maybe treat this as sort of the format of the Pet Peeve of the Week. It’s not going to be a whole show, it’s going to be something we have to do just in a minute or two.

One of my pet peeves, right now, is companies and marketers that think that technology is going to solve it. I say “it” as a pronoun, because “it” stands for so many different things. They’ll say, “You know what, let’s just go buy a tool and it’ll do it,” right? Or, “We’re committed to this imitative, so which tool will do that for us?” Look, there are tools that are out there that can help you accomplish what you’re trying to get done. They can help you execute on strategy, but if you want any tool to be successful, you have to first commit to the strategy. You have to commit to the “why” and you have to come up with a concept of what you need to accomplish.

I would further say, that any time you think you need technology, start with some kind of a proof of concept that requires no technology at all. If you want to do account-based marketing, you start with a spreadsheet. Maybe a telephone and an e-mail address, but you start with a spreadsheet. If you can segment out your buyers into the members of the internal buying committee; if you can think about how to talk to them differently, and then segment those messages by stages of buying journey, then figure out how to have conversations where you’re building consensus amongst those internal buying committee members. That, my friends, is foundational ABM work. That you can do over the phone. That you can do in a meeting. That you can do by simply segmenting those messages and know what those messages need to be. Now, there are tools that can help you certainly expand and scale that beyond being able to just do it in a spreadsheet, but if you do the tool without the spreadsheet, it’s not going to do much for you.

Paul:  So you’re not saying to just go buy the tool and then figure out what to do with it?

Matt:  No, that is not. That is the essence, Paul, of the pet peeve, is apparently our very first short form Pet Peeve of the week. All right, I know we’re out of time. This has been a lot of fun. We should do this more often, just sort of kick our guests off the show, and we’ll just spit ball on stuff that we think is interesting. Hopefully everyone listening has found this interesting. If you’re first time with Sales Pipeline Radio, thanks for joining us. If it’s not your first time, really appreciate your attention. We’re going to be here every week, 11:30 pacific, 2:30 eastern. You can catch every past, present, future episode on salespipelineradio.com. For my producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz, thanks for joining us for another week of Sales Pipeline Radio.

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