Trust is a must – about personal styles, DISC, and matching in sales


In other posts we discuss sales techniques and methods on selling value. To sell value, and be able to charge extra for that value, the value must be fully perceived… felt.. by the customer. Whether we get across with our message or not, is influenced by our styles, our behaviors in different situations, and how well we fit.  Sometimes this personal fit is simply referred to as… the personal “chemistry” between people. Let’s have a look!


Trust – a must


When we meet new people, our brain reacts by asking two questions immediately and subconsciously. The first is about how we will communicate – considering openness, warmth and trustworthiness, and the second is about the competence and knowledge. “Is this someone I will get along with and trust?” and “Is this someone I can respect and understand?”. Entering into a personal relationship with the person, the first always trumps the other. If we don’t feel we will get along with the person, the competence dimension becomes irrelevant.


In Sales it is generally the customer side that determines the level of trust that is needed in the relationship for the sale to take place.


To generate trust we need to:

  • Understand how others perceive and appreciate our behavior
  • Know how to read the behavioral style of our customer
  • Learn how to adjust our style to the customer


There are many models and tools that help us understand styles and behavior. But few are as simple and as well documented as the DiSC model. The reason why the DiSC model is so suitable to apply on Sales is because DISC simplifies the reality and allows us to take quick decisions.



The DISC model


It is out of the scope for this manual to provide all the details of the model, but we encourage the reader to learn more about the theory and the tool to gain a good understanding of the personality styles and how to adapt our behaviours.


The DiSC model dates all the way back to the 1930s and based on William Moulton Marston’s findings and thinking. Although far from complete, it provides some basic insights into our ways and how it is likely that we react and behave in certain situations. It is one of the most used instruments, and while it is not really measuring or evaluating our personalities, it does describe basic human behaviors.



The DiSC model identifies four different behaviour styles (D. I. S. and C). Too make the model simpler and more accesible, it uses individual color codes for each style, and tells us four different ways in which we usually react to a given situation.


D – Dominance Style (RED) :


People with a dominant style in their base behavior will see themselves as strong in a non-friendly (e.g. professional) environments. This is why they tend to try to dominate the situation and the meeting. They are straight forward in their ways, not afraid to speak their mind, find it easier than many to see how to overcome different obstacles. They are challenge driven and goal oriented. They are willing to change, but normally only if they think it can help them to get what they set their mind on. A dominant style person will perceive himself as powerful, energetic, innovative, goal oriented and resolute. By others they however are perceived as arrogant, pushy, aggressive and insensitive.


I – Influential Style (YELLOW) :


Individuals with a strong influential style will see themselves as strong in a naturally friendly environment. In general they feel they have nothing to fear from the environment and people around. Therefore they want discuss things, have others to share their opinion and try to influence them through friendly persuasion. Their primary goal in any situation is to be understood, accepted and involved. A person with high Yellow will see himself as convincing, confident, generous, inspiring and open. By others, this person can be seen as selfish, superficial, egocentric and unserious.


S – Steady – stable Style (GREEN) :


People with a predominant stability style often see themselves as weaker than the surrounding, and when given the choice prefer to be in a friendly and conflict-less environment. They are concerned with not upsetting or change this environment, and want to preserve it to continue to feel safe and good about themselves. On the other hand, to change they must first be convinced that they don’t risk losing anything at all. As a sales person, the style is often perceived as a bit passive, and with difficulties to get to a close with the customer. A stability-style person will perceive themselves as loyal, good-listener, encouragingly and calm. But at the same time others can see them as stubborn and reluctant to change.


C – Compliant Style (BLUE) :


A strong compliant-style person tend to think that the surrounding is generally hostile and thus feel weaker. Because of this perceived weakness, they don’t exercise much influence on their own. They tend to prefer working by themselves and take great care to fit into existing and predetermined structures and rules to reach their goals. To avoid risk and conflict they will analyze each situation carefully before deciding to do anything that would change the given structure. A person with high Blue will see him/herself as fact-seeking, knowledgeable, systematic, diplomatic and reflective. On the other hand this person can be perceived by others as pedantic, avoiding, indecisive and reserved.




5 steps to run trainings that stick

Training – an effective tool for change


To be efficient and effective as Sales Managers, there are a number of things we need to learn and become good at ourselves. One of the 6 pillars of Sales Management is building and developing your team.

Every time we ask our teams to perform something that is new to them, we need to step into the Develop & Build area to develop the new skills and behaviors.  Sometimes you have the option to bring in professional trainers, but for most daily learning you cannot bring in external resources.

In this article you will find some hints and tips for how you can plan your own trainings for your teams.



5 steps to build a training that sticks

As you are not (and we assume you do not want to become) a full-time teacher/trainer, we advise you to use this knowledge to build only short condensed and interactive sessions, rather than full day or multiday trainings.

Longer trainings are very complex to build, and difficult to run. They require a rich set of competences to achieve real learning in the team.



The 5 steps to remember when we are to build effective trainings are:





Gain a thorough understanding of the materials, and the messages that you want to convey. You don’t need to be black belt 5 star expert, but you need to know enough to convey the content in a credible manner, and be able to answer basic questions around the subject.





There are many pedagogical models and methods available. One model, that we have chosen in this context is called 4MAT. Dr. Bernice McCarthy (USA) developed the first basic structure of the 4MAT system in the late 1970s. Since then, the method has systematically and continuously been used, developed and linked to the newest research in the field. ( )


Basically, model stresses that people have different learning styles. This means that for ANY training we want to build, we need to accommodate for these different learning styles, and build our training block so that all phases are included. Some people are focused on:



                • WHY? – “Once I understand why we need something I’ll figure out the rest”
                • WHAT? – intellectually understand what is needed: “If you give me the book to read or present to me in a lecture, I will do it myself later”
                • HOW? – activity: “Ok, I got it, just let me try myself, let’s see here…”
                • WHAT IF?-finding and testing alternatives “And why couldn’t we do it this other way?”





Try to use a wide variety of techniques in your trainings. Vary your style so you can both lead the class, and use more interactive methods.


Use the button to download our one page quick guide



One Page Quick Guide



A common mistake is to only focus on the training session itself when we design the training. Especially since we want to build short, concentrated blocks, it will be extremely important to use before and after in a good way.


  1. BEFORE: Preparation by all involved
  2. DURING: A Well-designed Training Session
  3. AFTER: Structured and active follow-up


As you can see in the picture below, a good way to plan your training sessions is to map the content and the technique blocks you are planning to use against a “WHY?”, “WHAT?”, “HOW?” And “WHAT IF?” timeline.




The preparatory tasks you send out lends themselves very well for the “WHY?” And to some extent “WHAT?”, so that you can spend more time in the classroom for “WHAT?” and “HOW?”. After the session, it will be about putting the learning into practice, and therefore to the “HOW?” and experimenting with the “WHAT IF?”. The experiences are ideally captured and shared in a separate follow up session.


Plan the activities carefully and think through the steps, creating and writing what we call the Running Master, or Timings plan.


It should contain:

  • Objective – learning points
  • Preparations (for the teacher)
  • Before – Preparations for participant – timing/dates
  • During – Blocks, content and method/technique – timing minutes
  • After – how to put to practice and follow up.





Only 10% of the effect in a change effort comes from lectures, training and reading.  20% can be attributed to tools, systems and structure such as feedback supporting the training and the changed behaviour. Finally, 70% derives from on-the-job training and experiences.

En bild som visar text Automatiskt genererad beskrivning

Unless on-the job training, experiences and reinforcement of the tools and behaviours learnt is truly put into daily use, changed behaviours will not succeed.

If you are the manager of the team you hold the training for, you have a fantastic advantage compared to most teachers and trainers around. Most trainings fail due to lack of management support, follow up and integration of the matter into daily work. You, on the other hand, have all cards on your hand to actually make it stick!


Athletes train activities and fine-tune behaviours, you should too!


Clear and challenging goals boost performance 

Studies show that by setting clear, challenging, meaningful and agreed objectives for ourselves, our productivity increase 10-15 percent. When the goals are followed up though structured feedback methods, the positive effects are approximately doubled (!!)  (“A little book on Goals”, Christopher Svensson & Stefan Söderfjäll 2020)


Performance (Activity) and Learning objectives are not micro management


Setting and working with objectives on all levels is enormously effective and will almost certainly guarantee you a new boost to your growth. You as the teams manager need to become very good at using different types of objectives in combinations, often adapted to the capacities and experience of each individual.


Most companies we work with have sales targets for sales personnel, in the form of quota letters, with or without financial rewards attached to them (bonuses). These are pure Result Goals, and the problem is that we cannot coach or improve results – they already happened! (See our article on Leading and Lagging Indicators)


Our focus must move to Performance/Activity and Learning. The Activity, how well we perform it, and which customer we prioritise, explain a good part of the productivity increase, the rest is explained by the increased motivation through the intrinsic sensation of empowerment and control of your own situation. 

  • The first part, how well we do customer work, depend on competence and skills, and improvement happen through Learning
  • The second part – prioritising the right customers and contacts in the right moment, improves through pro-active calendar planning and careful selection of where we invest out time. 


When you define tactical 1-2 month objectives, plan the month together, and move focus to almost exclusively discuss the activity, not the result. Set goals for the activity, who to visit, where to present, contacts to prioritise. While the overall Result objectives may stay the same for a year, your road there – the choices you make, the visits you plan, the trade fairs you attend, the calls you make – will be constantly adapted, revised and changed! 


Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.

Richard Branson 


As the manager, your principal goal is make your sales rep become successful, to sell more with less effort, spend more time with prio customers, and eventually having a better life, more time with family.  This is important to understand, the wish to excel must be present, and rooted inside our rep. As with all change management, the desire to perform must be there before you can introduce new ways of setting goals. Otherwise you risk being perceived as “micro managing”. (See ADKAR model, on Desire in change management )



The swim coach and you


You can compare the methodology to coaching Athletes. The Athlete and his/her coach set up a common goal. “I shall win the World Championship in 200-meter Medley”. None of us would expect a Coach to just give the Athlete the Result Objective of winning the championship and then walk away wishing him/her luck. Right? Yet this is what we often do as Sales Managers/Directors.


What does the coach do? The coach follows the Athlete through training, identifies weaknesses, uses strengths for tactics, build individual training programs and coaches and helps the Athlete to push him/herself to the limit, and cross it.


In Medley, the three strokes are carefully studied, and optimal individual training programs are planned and executed. Just like we need to balance our Platform in Sales, the swimmer need to balance training in Butterfly, Backstroke and Breaststroke. And it is the coach ́s job to cut the Total Time of the 200m distance down to a minimum. (as it is our job to maximise Revenue)


The training and exercise program that the coach build is everything to the success of the Athlete. And it is Activity Based – the Result objective of winning championships is there at the horizon, but the daily challenge revolve around movement and behaviour – Activity. The coach looks at every movement in the water. Should the left hand be a little more angled during the stroke? Is the position good in the water?


The same way, we can only help our Salesrep if we know where in the process he/she tend to get stuck, where he/she spend too much time, if he/she is talking to the right people, is saying the right things, making the right questions. Our job as Sales Directors is to build these individual training programs, and by joint activities and follow up, coach our Sales Rep to excellence! 


Interview candidates with a purpose – template

If you are a bit new to recruiting and interviewing, and need some basic tips and tricks, continue reading. As with most things in Sales Management, putting a little structure and thought behind your recruiting will enhance your chances of selecting the right person and getting off to a great start as a manager.


In this article we have put together some general guidelines and tips to help you prepare for your interviews.



Who do I want to work with?

The first area to spend some time on is to define what is truly important for the role.




We all understand the importance of understanding your advanced technology, or that the candidate has a great network, extremely experienced at the same time as young, hungry and full of energy. We can call these the “hard” skills. They are often tangible, more easily measurable – and 9 times of 10, are what managers I talk to mention as the most important criteria when recruiting.


On the concrete or “hard” competences, you will want to evaluate the candidates

  • market knowledge and network in the territory
  • product and technology understanding
  • sales skills/technique competences




Very often the “soft” abilities are passed to a second plane, they are more difficult to define and measure, or even to talk about. Yet, they are key to a successful transition into your team and to reach productivity.


In The LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2020: U.S. Edition, 500 buyers and 500 salesreps/managers were asked what 10 characteristics buyers desire from salespeople compared to the characteristics sales managers look for in the sales reps they hire. Buyers were ranking Active Listening, Problem solving, Confidence (Trust), Relationship Building and Communication skills as the top 5 traits. Technology understanding, Years of Experience, Industry Expertise came lower.


During your interviews, pay special attention to that the candidate:

  • will adapt to the context and support network you have in your company
  • learn well and can adapt to ways of working
  • is open to change
  • will fit in your culture, make it easy to work together
  • share similar values, and will subscribe to the corporate values



Recruiting the right person to the wrong place


There are only too many examples of great salespeople – absolute top performers who are recruited into a different context but selling something very similar to the same people, who still failed to succeed or even get close to the previous success. The “hard” competences all fit, product/technology, market/industry, contact network, and demonstrated sales methods and techniques, all “check!”, yet they fail, why?


What happens is that the soft abilities and cultural fit just don’t align with how your team and company works. This is everything from your internal team dynamics, culture and jargon, but also misalignment with the expected surrounding support, HR, pre/tech sales, support, services, marketing etc.



Two classical scenarios:

  • the medium sized company who decide to open a new sales office in a new country/market, and hire a top manager from the incumbent competitor for the job. This is always a bad idea, as the first person in the market need to do all the work him/herself initially, and there is no support network yet.
  • large corporation that hires people from startups often find it difficult to accommodate for the hires appetite for creativity and room for own decisions, and the employee often feels hindered and suffocating under all processes.


Note that we are not saying one is better than the other, but as hiring managers, we must be conscious of our own ways, culture, and values, and must be sensitive to which candidates will fit in our context.



The Process




Make sure to complete the “hard” job descriptions with the most important “soft” characteristics you are looking for. Then design the interview template that help you evaluate the candidate in all these dimensions. You can download a simple template clicking the button below.



The more important you deem the values, culture and other “soft” skills are for the role, you may want to consider a personality test, and make sure you prepare your interview well and focus on these areas. If you are using an agency, they can often set up a DISC test or similar for you.

If the job require technical skills, set up a test that your candidate need to solve, or ask them to prepare a convincing sales meeting if recruiting telesales.



Do have at least 2 people apart from yourself interview the candidate throughout the process. Let them meet with different personalities and roles, to catch possible moments where non desired behaviours come up to the surface. You will get a moch more complete picture of the candidate. After each round do set up a debrief with the interviewers, and run through the evaluation criteria.



Interview template

To help you structure the interview, we propose a simple template that you can follow. It should not be a questionnaire, but list the key competences and personal traits you will want to evaluate.


Use it as a support that help you formulate questions and conduct the conversation so that in the end you feel confident all areas were covered to your satisfaction. The question in all cases being:

  • “How well/badly do I think the candidate will be doing……?”
  • “Will the candidate be strong enough in ……..?”
  • “Is the candidate motivated and able to learn this ……. quickly”



Download template


Prepare by thinking through each area, and note what specifics you will want to know, and how to formulate the question to get the answers you need.


Remember to ask for relevant references, and to complete the interview with a contact to those references.


Onboarding for growth

The importance of a great Onboarding


Studies show that employees give their new companies about 6 months on average before they decide whether to go all in or not with their new employer. At the same time , other sources point to a learning curve, and time to full productivity of a year or more, at least one full sales cycle. In a culture where success often is made synonymous to revenue and sales numbers, new salespeople risk losing interest and enthusiasm long before success and hitting their numbers.

The combination of high expectations, a long ramp up/time to sales, together with short patitence of both the new employee and often the organization as well, becomes an explosive cocktail of high attrition on new hires, with stagnated growth as the most severe consequence.


The onboarding program helps mitigating the effect, by

  • shortening the learning curve and time to productivity, and
  • redefining and widening the term success, since activity metrics, competence development and personal growth are also considered successes along the way.
  • keeping people interested and motivated from the first day and throughout the learning process


A great onboarding program helps new hired individuals perceive and appreciate the company’s effort to develop and grow them, and are more likely to return the favor by staying on and being more motivated.



Defining what is important

We have prepared a template for a 12 month onboarding plan, where we have selected some standard areas for sales reps in a complex technology sales context. Use this as inspiration to create  your own plan. Consider what is truly important and if possible differente a sales rep in your company and context.


Some are you may want to include are:

  • Market and ecosystem understanding
  • Contact network
  • Customer understanding
  • Product and Technology
  • Personal traits
  • Values & Cultural fit
  • Sales technique
  • Sales process and strategy
  • Tools & Methods


A structured approach to competence management is helpful throughout all phases, from recruiting to the periodical evaluations. What you do the initial evaluation, already in the recruiting phase, and construct a initial training program to cover any weakness you discovered, we call it our Onboarding Program.



a simple onboarding plan based on competence areas helps providing structure

Onboarding program for a Sales Person

Below you find a template to use to create your own onboarding program. Fill the boxes with the training, meetings, and activities that your new hire should be planned to do within different time horizons. To help you organise your thoughts, go area by area, one by one, and fill in the boxes. You may be surprised at the end by the quantity of activities the new hire need to do to get up to speed. Keep this is mind when you set the expectations for sales and productivity for the fist couple of months!


Many of the activities sucha as “getting to know the company” , and walk through of practical tools and arrangements need to happen early on, and others will be more evenly spread out over the year. We suggest you stage the learning in


  • Immediate (< 2weeks)
  • 1st month
  • 3 months
  • 6 months
  • 12 months


In each area you may also want to add success criteria, or milestones that you can check off and celebrate with your hire as he/she makes each one. Click below to download our onboarding template.



Download template

Sales Call Coaching – getting the most out of every sales minute


Sales Call Coaching – going together to customers is a great coaching tool

Sales Calls Coaching, means visiting customers together with the purpose of receiving feedback and improve sales skills. They  are on-the-job-training for all of us, regardless of position or role. It is a vital part of the continuous development for the whole sales organisation. It is a tool for sales professionals to learn, develop and at the same time get to know each other better, sharing knowledge and experiences.

As a Sales Manager you need to sharpen your coaching skills to do this well, but when done well, it is an invaluable input for later on when you hold more global  performance evaluations. Do this live kn customer situations, and not by interviewing the sales person. Discussing and coaching on activities and quality of work  is not realistic nor trustworthy without continuously observing and studying behaviours in real live situations.


Sales Call Coaching is your best tool to get first hand feel for sales behaviour. You should consider doing this with all customer facing personnel, Inside sales, Product Specialists as well as Account Managers. We all need to develop a self-awareness and understanding of how our behaviours affect the outcome in customer situations.



Why should all managers Coach on Sales Calls?


The first line sales organization aims to provide increased customer value. To ensure Sales Reps can perform in line with this and provide this increased customer value, also Sales Management needs to change and provide added value for Reps. Sales Call Coaching is a key tool to achieve this.


Doing Sales Calls with reps will help managers to:

  • Continuous improvement – towards a world class sales team!
  • Benchmark successful behaviors
  • train and ensure product knowledge among Sales Reps and other customer facing team members
  • help develop sales skills in all staff
  • find out about Sales Reps spend their time
  • obtain good ideas for Benchmarking and Best practice
  • ensure Value Sales is applied professionally
  • gather information from the market
  • practice and improve yourself in difficult negotiations, meeting key customers etc
  • get to know staff better and further improve teamwork


Download - How To: Sales Call Coaching


Evaluating and giving feedback on different customer interactions in the sales process require different skillsets of the manager. Sometimes we may even need to work on multiple roles at the same time, in complex multirole meetings selling as a team.


Sales Directors and higher management should also make an effort to find the natural opportunities to visit customers together with their sales reps and managers in order to help them become better at what they do – for the manager, this is coaching the reps.


The Sales Manager should spend at least 2 working days per week in the field. Some of the visits can of course be virtual, just make sure you apply a mix of different types of meetings and situations so that you coach and support all phases of the sales process.

Sharpen your skills evaluating reps in, and coaching for all situations!

If planned and executed well this work should not take more than half our week.


Download - Sales Call Evaluation template


What to look for


You should pay attention to basic sales process situations, and how different tools and sales situations and parts of the meeting (see example below) are applied.


Different steps of the Pipeline sales process require different skills. See the evaluation template for inspiration. Adapt the template depending on what type of meeting it is that you coach. How is the Sales Rep performing in different situations? E.g. When they for instance are:

  • attempting to open new parts of the business with a focus/growth customer
  • cross selling on higher levels of the management of key accounts
  • applying Value Selling to increase share of wallet in already well established accounts

… etc. etc. –  the examples are infinite, select the situations to train and coach according to your tactical needs and go for it! 


The GROW model

The GROW Model is a simple sequential coaching model that allow executives to simplify the complex realities to reach the right conclusion on directions to take and decision to make. It is often used by executive coaches all over the world as a framework to hold on to in the sessions and in their work. 

As a manager you are wise to learn how to use it in your 1-on-1s for mentoring and coaching your team members. 


GROW is an acronym that stands for:

  • Goal (establish objectives for the session)
  • Reality (how things are going right now)
  • Options (possibilities to consider)
  • Way Forward (agreement and commitment going forward)


Needless to say, an open and fluent coaching session doesn’t necessarily follow a clean 4 step sequence, but it is a great tool for us as new managers to hold on to and use as guidance for our conversations. 


As you gain experience and confidence with the model, it becomes a natural flow for your 1-on-1s and you allow the conversation to move a bit back and forth throughout the structure. 


Similar to many sales techniques such as SPIN and Solution selling, the key to using the GROW model and to coaching in general lies in asking the right question. This is central, because here we are not telling people what to do — good coaching is about helping them to find their own answers by asking the right question – at the right time.

Below you find the GROW framework, and some questions that can serve as inspiration for each step in the process. 




Coaching starts with establishing a goal. This enables us to focus on one specific thing to try to solve in the session, here its helpful to consider what goals can actually be:

·      Result or achievement goals

·      Activity or performance

·      Learning and development goals

·      Process, Problem solving, decisions to make 


Formulating objectives is not easy either, to get more productive sessions (and for many other discussions as well) you may want to train and practice target setting with the SMART model. 


All well formulated objectives are:

  • Specific (concrete, that you understand)
  • Measurable (can be determined if we achieve or not)
  • Attainable (within our realistic reach)
  • Relevant (matters – of real importance for us)
  • Timebound (agree by when it should happen)



To set the goals/objectives for the session you may want to ask:


  • What do you want to achieve from this coaching session?
  • What goal/objectives do you want/try to achieve?
  • What would the benefits be if you achieved this goal?
  • What would you like that [someone/thing] did?
  • What outcome/result would be ideal?
  • What do you want to change?





Here we are trying to gain awareness of the reality, what is the real current situation? How far off are we from the ideal? What is going on, and how good /bad is it?


Use your soft skills and go easy with your questions. Plan the question and let the person reflect on the answer. Listen, and avoid jumping to suggestions or sharing your own opinions and experiences in this stage. Here we are defining the context and reality, not finding the answers and solution, not just yet. 


Here are some questions you may find inspiration in:


  • So what’s the status now (who, when, and how often)? Where are you now in relation to your goal?
  • Have you already taken any steps towards your goal? (What have you already tried?)
  • How would you describe what you did?  What was the effect so far?
  • On a scale of one to 10, what progress did you make?
    • What things worked out the best? 
    • What could you do better this time?
    • What is working well right now?
  • Why haven’t you reached that goal already? What do you think is stopping you?
  • On a scale of one to 10, how bad/urgent is the situation?



Obstacles and Options 


Only when you have agreed, established, the current situation, you can move on to the solution. Start by evaluating obstacles to success, and then the available options, let the employee lead, guided by your questions. 


Here are a few samples you may find helpful: 


  • What is the hardest/most challenging part of that for you?
  • What do you think would happen if someone else did/said that?
  • What is the best case? what could make that happen? What would the worst case? What should you avoid for that not to happen?
  • What do you think you need to do next? Which option do you have?
  • What do you think you need to do to get to your goal?
  • Could you find help in anyone, anywhere?
  • What has worked for you already? How could you do more of that?
  • What would happen if you did that?
  • What options do you feel are the lowest hanging fruit?
  • How have you tackled the same situation before?
  • If there were no limitations at all, what would be the best way forward? 



Way Forward 


Similar to the Accept phases in sales techniques, we probe for acceptance and commitment to the actions. When accepted, we establish a clear path to the  

Finally, again, here you have a list of questions that will help you guide your coachee to commit to the right actions to achieve the goal. 


  • So, what should you do to start? What do you need to do right now?
  • Tell me how you’re going to do that.
  • How will you know when you have done it?
  • Doing that, what is the likelihood of your plan succeeding? (use a “on a scale 1 to 10” if you like). – Subsequently – What would it take to make it a 10?
  • What hinders do you expect, roadblocks that require planning?
  • What else do you need? Is there anything missing? What support do you need to get that done?
  • When will you start? Tell me at least two things you can get started with and done already this week? 
  • How motivated do you feel to get this done now?
  • What would happen if you don’t get this done? What would the consequences be? 

If you want to download the article in PDF format, click the button to the right:

Sales Efficiency – the art of disqualifying in time

Efficient sales – pipeline control


If we knew from the beginning which deals we will actually win, I think all will agree that we would only be working with those deals. So, the earlier we can qualify opportunities and the better we do it, less time we will spend on deals that will not be closed. The larger the opportunities, the fewer transactions we need to juggle simultaneously, and better our life. Easy! Or…?


As the teams Sales manager, one of your most important tasks is to improve and identify challenges in your teams pipeline management, and opportunity control.  Pipeline Efficiency should be your mantra.


Introducing Pipeline Efficiency


How much of your team’s time is spent on deals that will never happen?

Let’s say you get 300 online-qualified leads from marketing, and from those you close 10 deals on average. Great! But now look at the effort spent to get from 300 to 10!


Look at the picture below, all three curves start at 300 and end at 10. The conversion from lead to deal, win-rate or conversion rate is the same in all cases. The hours you and your team have spent getting there (the area under each curve), however, is very different…




You probably will have other names to your pipeline stages, these names are merely for illustration purposes.


The green rectangle in the bottom represent the work you do on the opportunities that actually become deals. If you had perfect information on who will buy from you and who will not, this is the effort you would spend. Needless to say, this will merely be your theoretical optimum cost of sale, but will be useful to us as the reference for calculating our own ratios.


Consequence 1: Waste our time on “no-hopers”


The farther away from the green box you are, the more time is spent on deals that weren’t successful. The red curve therefore represents a more inefficient pipeline, than the green line represents a more efficient one. The green line drops earlier in the process, because qualification is done better and earlier in the process. The red area, the difference between the curves represents the improvement potential!


This is how much time someone at the red curve could save by better qualification. 


You get the idea? Your pipeline should have the shape of a trumpet horn.

  • The earlier it falls off downwards, the better. For every inch above the green line you are in any part of the process, you are wasting time and resources that you could have used on more leads, more prospecting, more sales…
  • If your reps´ curve is very flat, only to drop off in the very late stages (the red curve), he/she is seeing the world though “Rose tinted glasses”, meaning that he/she is hanging on to a bad qualification
  • The time spent on following up on no-deals, is obviously lost time. This has a cost for the company, direct costs through salary and other costs, indirectly through the frustration for the salesrep, who may end up leaving (or get fired) when he/she never reaches the expected numbers.

But, even more important, is the sales YOU COULD HAVE HAD, if time was spent more wisely. If you manage to liberate 1/3 of your time for productive sales, you potentially will sell 50% more!!


Consequence 2: Bad qualification makes bad forecasting.


There is also another reading you can make out of this. The red curve is common, just because in sales we tend to hope that everything will close, so as sales people we tend to hang on to old opportunities, and bring them up month after month in our forecast. Especially if we have few inbound leads to work with. This tends to give us a systematic forecasting error as well, as it will be very difficult to determine exactly HOW overoptimistic we are, and on HOW MANY deals.

Ever had sales tell you they would sell so so much by the end of month, only to end up selling less than half? Bet you thought you were fine until the last week…. Beware of the rose tainted glasses!

Up next…

If you want a few ideas on how you can calculate you own pipeline efficiency, do have a look at my article “how to guide: Pipeline Efficiency – “

Selecting a CRM that rolls itself out

CRM tools are fantastic! They help us manage opportunity and activity, coordinate ourselves and be efficient with our customers. As managers, CRM data is our map to navigate from and our eyes to see with. Yet most companies struggle to advance past the point where we use the system as little more than an online version of an opportunity/deal list in Excel. 


When you select your tool, we recommend you put special attention to ease-of-use and integrability to standard company calendar and mail tools. There are areas to foscu on: 


  • ease of use – registering data should be super simple, and as much as possible automated via calendar and communication (mail) systems
  • make it a multi-department tool for all customer facing activity, sales, support, trainers and consultants, installation people, etc. 
  • choose a tool that provide means to integrate, share and extend data with other systems.

Lets look at these in more detail: 






Choose a very easy to use tool, it should look good, have all sorts of drag and drop functionalities when updating pipeline. It should be dead easy to register and log everything.

If you have field sales, an excellent smartphone app is important. Always prioritise Ease-of-Use over a few more functions.

  • Any ”reporting” that takes more than a minute, will be saved ”for later”, normally Friday – “admin-day”.
    • A seller should be able to log a meeting taking a picture of a whiteboard, scribbling down a few bullets while in the meeting, even a voice memo is better than nothing.
    • It should be done during or immediately after the activity. The more fun ways of logging activity at minimum or zero effort, the better.
    • Make sure the system can receive mails, and attach to deals. Then bcc: the CRM on every customer mail you and the team send.
  • It is better to have a little information on ALL your activities and deals, than to have lots of information on few or NONE of them. Don’t make too many fields mandatory. Don’t try to be “perfect”.
  • Look for useful plugins that allow your sellers to get instant company background and contact person info from external sources, on the same screen. This will make it impossible for your seller to not love the handiness of having all info in one screen.
  • Look for automatic call logging tools, email integration, social media integration. This way you monitor activity, while letting people use their favourite tool for each type of activity.
  • Look for gamification opportunities. Why not put a realtime dashboard on the wall. Find fun challenges every day or every week that can be followed on the screen.



Make all customer facing areas use the system (CRM) to document and manage customer interaction. 



  • services team log trainings, projects, consultancy tasks they are performing,
  • presales team their demos, and the outcome and questions.
  • delivery and warehouse to register deliveries

TIP: Suggest to your service/consultancy and pre-sales teams to bcc the CRM on all customer mails. Most CRM systems has this feature today.

When you manage to reach this goal, you will see how all teams start putting more effort into their logging, it starts making more sense to log all, since other people will talk to the customer without asking first. If many roles touch the same customer, it becomes a necessity to coordinate ourselves via the notes in CRM. 

Other things that will help you integrate between teams:

  • Make the CRM tool reflect EVERYTHING that has anything to do with your customers, customer records, payment terms, purchase and support contracts.
    • Make sure integrations work to other departments tools, so that I as a sales rep immediately can scan through issues, support interactions, deliveries, cash collection problems, credit problems… it should all be easy to access.
    • Organise your integrations to Marketing, so that – you get all online-qualified leads automatically into the CRM as a “contact”, and an “activity” and/or “lead”. Organise your data so it becomes useful for segmentation for your online campaigns. (for instance, make it easy to separate existing customers from prospects etc. You don’t want to send introductory promotions to old customers, or loyalty program promos to recent new leads)




  • Look for automation plugins, and integration to other tools in used by the other areas in your company. For instance, if your customer support uses, or Zendesk, or similar, then find ways to make tickets visible, at least by title, in your CRM. Or, why not have your support system bcc the CRM?
  • Look for a tool that offers a decent API so that you can use integration platforms such as Zapier or similar to then push and synchronise information from one system to the other. Worst case you may have to spend a few thousand on your own integration if needed, but… at least it will be possible.


Remember, people will not use a tool just because we tell them to.

You will have results when your team truly believe using it is time well spent, not before.

“How to” guide: Pipeline Efficiency – Time to gain insight

KPI – How to measure Pipeline efficiency


Here you find some ideas on how to consider and calculate your pipeline efficiency. More important than to get the exact right formula, is that you consistently apply the same formula month after month, to compare progress.


You may want to have a look at this previous article for the discussion of Pipeline Efficiency and why it is so important. In short, what we are looking for is a way to measure the effort we have spent on all deals that were lost, and that we could have avoided if we had done a better qualification in the first call with the prospect.


First examine the typical successful sales cycle, look at the deals that were actually closed, look for patterns and try to establish what “it takes”, try to quantify the effort. This will be the yellow rectangle in our picture on the left side.


Then compare it to the total time your team spends on sales, prospecting, qualification, value demonstration and negotiation, your own “curve” in the diagram. Remember that you need to include all the calls and mails done to prospects that did not become customers as well, your total time employed, and remember to include time spent from people in other parts of your company, technical sales, admin, development, support team etc.


If you do good and reliable activity tracking in your CRM system, then you are only a simple query away from an automated report, otherwise you could do this as a team exercise on your next sales kickoff perhaps. (do have a look at our article on CRM adoption in your company “selecting a CRM that rolls itself out”)


The two effort “meters”

There are basically two pieces of data that you need.

  • Effort you spend in successful deals only,
  • Effort you spend in total – (i.e. worked hours)

As simple as that..



1.    Effort in successful deals


First of all, take the deals you and your team closed during the last month, and do a “post mortem” on each. You should have at least 10-15 deals, otherwise select a larger timespan, two months, a quarter, whatever makes sense for you.


How much effort went into each of these deals? Who were involved? Were techsales, development resources, support personnel, admin or any other part of the company involved? Did you need to meet physically? Phonecalls and videoconferences? Try to quantify.


Now map out the average successful sales cycle, and look for patterns.



Don’t jump to conclusions on what to improve just yet, just try to state the facts, and establish your current sales cycle and sales stages as it looks today. How many hours of work, from which resources, were needed? Which were the obvious stages that you seem to need every time?


Effort per Succesful deal = hours/€ spent on average in your succesful deals


And … While you are at it, try to register some other interesting metrics to compare over time:

  • Sales cycle length = average time from first contact (lead) to closed deal
  • Sales cycle complexity = average number of touches/activities you needed to perform with/for a customer in order to close a deal




2.    Total sales effort


Then, look at the same month, (the same period during which you made the deals in the first exercise), but now you look at the total resources employed during that period, try to limit yourself strictly to sales and directly related activities. Try to estimate in the best way you can, how many hours you needed. This will give you your total cost of sale, or sales effort.


Whatever concepts and hours you choose to include in your calculation, and the period you examine, that is fine, just remember to include the exact same items month after month, to give you a base for comparison. After all, it is the improvements you are after, rather than an absolute number.


Sales Pipeline Efficiency


Sales pipeline efficiency = effort spent on deals won during the period / total sales effort during the same period.


The ratio between these two numbers, will give you a notion on your pipeline efficiency. If every lead turned into a deal, this would be close to 1, and the more time your team spends on prospects that do not convert, the lower will the number be.


Once you have this overall measure controlled, and with data you feel you can trust, there are lots of exciting insights you can get playing around with the sales stages in more detail. Is there any particular stage that takes more time, why? Where do you normally lose a deal? Why? Do you see different behaviour between sellers? Why, who?


We hope you found this article useful. Best of luck with your pipeline work, happy selling!!