The study has proven your email/LinkedIn DM’s are WAY too long

I want to thank Neale Martin and Lavender for sharing an amazing study that we’ll explore in this newsletter.  The summary – your emails and LinkedIn DM’s are way too long.  Even 100 words (which is only a few major sentences) creates anxiety in the prospect’s mind pre-reading your email.  Why – it fills their phone.  And if the message fills their phone, it’s like being asked to read a page of an Ernest Henningway book – quickly.  Not going to happen!

Here is what we’ll cover this week:
  1. Email/LinkedIn message < 40 words will 2x the response rates over > 100 words
  2. Prospect isn’t calling you back?  Overcoming the Dead Zone.
  3. The power of an Accountability Sales Coach.
  4. What’s your “Magic Date”?  The 3rd dimension to Quota Waterfalls.

Email/LinkedIn message < 40 words will 2x the response rates over > 100 words.

Email/LinkedIn message

I’m 44 years old.  What the digital world calls a “digital immigrant” – meaning I was not born nor grew up with the internet and hand-held devices.  I’m now at the perfect sweet-spot age where my peers are becoming CRO’s, CMO’s, CISO’s, etc. – your ideal buyer.  Even us, who are more patient than the next generation (millennials and now Gen Z) , tolerate longer emails because we grew up making and reviewing 5-paragraph essays – the science has spoken.  We just won’t anymore.  

Our world has become too “soundbite”, too “TikTok”.  My children talk, write, act in sound bites and that’s affecting my generation.  Your buyer is now… ME!

The science is clearly stating that the DM messaging world of WhatsApp, Slack, text have bled into all forms of written communication.  The best performing emails are < 40 words.  That’s not a lot.  You can’t describe complex product details in 40 words.  But that’s the point.

You need to be able to write in Hooks.

Also, I’m 1000% bullish in the performance of video inside a < 40 word email.  Video allows me three (3) advantages:

  • Humanize me.
  • Synthesize complex information into a 1-minute video.
  • Buying intent tracking.

Step 1 – start crafting emails that are basically Tweets.

Step 2 – leverage video inside these short emails to maximize the contextualization.

Prospect isn’t calling your back?  Overcome the Dead Zone.

The Dead zone

“Jamie, call me back in two weeks and we’ll move to next steps”.  I can the prospect back in two weeks, and 👻NOTHING.  Next week, nothing.  One (1) month later – nothing.  I’ll bet this happened to you many, many times as a seller.

We call this the Dead Zone.  It’s the uncomfortable feeling of expecting a response, and the prospect ghosting you.

Without empathy, it’s hard to understand why prospects do this to us.  Why can’t people keep their word?!?

The reality is people overpromise, under deliver, all day long.  They have 5-10 “priorities” (which if you have that many priorities you don’t actually have any priorities, you have open projects… but that’s another story) – at any given moment.  But that’s THEIR wish list.  Not the other 5-10 priorities that CXO #1 has, and 5-10 that CXO #2 has, etc.  So the average buyer is being pulled like spaghetti strings.

How do we combat this?
  1. Empathize with this reality.
  2. Recognize you are fighting mindshare.
  3. Remind the prospect of THEIR priorities.

Tactical Steps

  1. Create a storyboard of insights that will be helpful to your prospects priorities.  Start with 5.
Tactical steps
  1. Make assets that align to that story: competitive intelligence comparisons, video of what the first 100 days would look like as partners, examples of customers results, etc.
  2. Deploy this cadence over a two (2) week period.  Remember, you are fighting against mindshare.  Bring the prospect back mentally to their priorities.

Hope this helps.

The power of an Accountability Sales Coach.

Accountability Sales Coach

When I turned 40 I realized it was time to take annual physicals seriously.  I wanted to start investing in myself so I went to TELUS Health, a private clinic that basically does a diagnostic on me for 6 hours – they even ultrasound every organ to create 3D comparisons every year.  Amazing stuff.

At the end of my 1st year going there, I had three “yellow flags”.  Essentially I had a list of items that if I don’t tend to these now, they would become problems later in life.  One of those items was my flexibility.  I had always noticed that I appeared extremely stiff and sore compared to my friends, but I also chalked it up to my extreme sports (competitive waterskiing and backcountry snow skiing). 

But it was genetic.  Like anything, flexibility is a learnt skills/muscle that deteriorates over time.  If kept unchecked, I would be like all the immobile elderly people you see shuffling around the mall.  I wanted to prevent that.  So I knew I need a solution.

I acquired a stretching coach.  That coach worked with me for a few months to:

  1. Make sure I showed up to stretch every day.  Never miss a day.
  2. Stretched properly.
  3. Ate and drank things that would aid, not hinder that new found flexibility.

80% of anything is getting started.  Over the last 4 years, I stretch for 20 minutes EVERY day.  Since then, I have never had an injury that I couldn’t shake off in a few days.  I waterski competitively every day in the summer (which is like being hit by a car some days), and I ski in the backcountry off a cliff every weekend in the winter.

In sales, we tend to not seek out coaches.  Yes, you may have an internal sales enablement team.  Typically, sales enablement is fantastic at program managing a series of initiatives, but rarely are SME’s at very specific skills.  If you have a prospecting problem, you want to talk to a prospecting EXPERT.  On speed dial, every day, have their access.

Go get a sales accountability coach!

What’s your “Magic Date”?  3rd dimension of Quota Waterfalls.

Magic data

 We have all seen quota attainment charts.  The reverse-engineer your financial target (typically in dollar value), and the compute this financial target into more controllable attributes like:

  • # of Deals Won
  • # of Opportunities to Create
  • # of Conversations that Lead to Opportunities 

To be able to design these waterfalls, you need two metrics:

  • Volumes
  • Probability (Conversion)

Again, most companies have these readily available from their CRM.

What is often missing is the 3rd dimension – TIME.  Time in sales is called Velocity.  The speed at which deals are typically won.

As an example, in Pipeline Signals, the Velocity of our sales cycle in 2022 was 38 days.  Meaning, on Average (and the Medium of these transactions was 40 days), that within +1 month, a prospect would move forward or not.  By Day 90, the opportunity almost never closed.  This was either a Top 3 priority for the buyer, or it wasn’t.

The reason Velocity is so critical is because of Legacy opportunities that bleed between Time Period 1 and 2.  As an example, if you have an average sales cycle timeline of 120 days, with a FYE of December 31, then any opportunity created from September, October, November or December is most likely going to bleed into next year.  This is often forgotten.

Sales leaders will build these elaborate models and say “we need to create 10 opportunities every month for 12 months = 120 opportunities, and we’ll get to our plan”.  Actually, no.  If the pipeline coverage is bare (meaning you don’t have many to any open opportunities), and your sales cycle is 120 days, then you have to create 120 opportunities in 8 months – 15 per month!

The speed at which sales opportunities close is like wind to a sailboat.  You can plot the direction in which to sail, but you have to also calculate the speed at which wind will take you there.

FREE RESOURCE – Fortune 2000 Executive Job Change Report (every month).

Do you sell into the Fortune 2000?

We are tracking all executive job changes in these organizations, and providing you that lead list – FREE.  Download it here.

Never miss the ‘Window of Change’ ever again.  The ‘Window of Change’ is a magical time period between Day 30-Day 100 when new executives are most open to new people, process and technology for their new team.

Key Stakeholder
Free fortune 2000 - executive job change database

Seller utilization on tools starts with buy-in on WHY, not HOW.

Simon Sinek said it best: “You start with your why and work outward into the what and how from there. Sales Enablement and Sales Operations teams spend way too many calories on features and functions, ultimately the HOW. The HOW only makes sense if you’re fully bought in, and tool utilization dictates that +80% of your sellers aren’t there… YET…

Here is what we’ll cover this week:

  1. Seller utilization of tools starts with buy-in on WHY, not HOW.
  2. Show your “Customers on the Move” how much you really value relationships with a gift campaign.
  3. 22% of sellers made quota in Q4 2022 due to poor time management.
  4. Gift cards for SQLs are a weak GTM strategy.

Seller utilization on tools starts with buy-in on WHY, not HOW.

Seller utilization on tools starts with buy-in on WHY, not HOW.

Imagine you gave every seller on your team a Porsche to get to work faster. The goal is to shave 15 minutes off their commute. You think you’re a hero. You train the team on how to start the car, shift gears, and steer.

Weeks later:

  • 20% of your sellers got to work faster.
  • 50% of your sellers use the Porsche some days and their old car the others.
  • 30% of your sellers just kept using the subway, bicycles, walking, etc.

The 50% of “fickle” users saw occasional value on sunny days, when the stars aligned and there was no traffic (so rarely that they just reverted back to habit), and 30% of sellers didn’t know why change was necessary in the first place.

It Sounds familiar.  Welcome to every sales and marketing tool you introduce into the organisation.

Sellers need to fully understand:

  • What is broken needs change or improvement. Show the objective evidence.
  • What does best-in-class look like, and what could it look like in the future?
  • What’s in it for them? WIFM (make them money, save them time).

The HOW is when you show real-life use cases. Programmatic step-by-step that if you follow the Yellow Brick Road, you will end up in Oz.

Building a business case for why doesn’t sound practical and is naturally breezed over by sales enablement. Don’t.  Take your time. One step backward is four steps forward. 

Show your ‘Customers on the Move’ how much you really value relationships with a gift campaign.

how much you really value relationships with a gift campaign.

I once got a pair of branded ski socks from a customer with my face on them. I loved it. My kids thought it was creepy. These socks lasted 5 years, and I wore them all the time at my cottage. The brand experience I had for my customer was crazy. Heck, I’m writing this right now, drinking out of a Yeti water bottle that Celestica got me for speaking at their SKO. It showed they cared.

You work so hard to win customers and develop authentic relationships, but when they leave your customers, you toss them aside like spoiled food. Make your customers a renewal resource.








As part of your ‘Customers on the Move’ campaign. The CXOs from your customer base moving into other prospects are excited and nervous about their change. Like the first day of school. Show them you care. Send them something that showcases that:

A. You are thinking about them.

B. This gift would be helpful in your first 100 days in your new role.

 Something like an Audible subscription with 5-10 suggested podcasts for success in their role?!

how much you really value relationships with a gift campaign.

This could be the least expensive Cost of Customer Acquisition ever!

22% of sellers made quota in Q4 2022 due to poor Time Management.

22% of sellers made quota in Q4 2022 due to poor Time Management.

This probably doesn’t shock you, but also a MASSIVE change to the 50% of sellers making quota in 2019 published by Gartner.  This is a combination of so many factors, but to simplify:

  1. These results are a reflection of actions taken in Q1/Q2 2022 when sellers were high on the hog in the last remaining “good times” (not prospecting).
  2. Time management is the vampire. Time spent on the WRONG ACCOUNTS.  Making subjective decisions.
22% of sellers made quota in Q4 2022 due to poor Time Management.
  • Chasing Whales
  • Sexy Logos
  • focused on vanity metrics like size of employees, number of store locations, revenue, etc.
  1. Rather than focusing on the signals, compelling events, and triggers that actually preclude change,
  • IPO Readiness
  • M&A
  • Executive Leadership Changes
  • Customers on the Move
  • Buying Intent
  • Product usage and integrations
Signal Intelligence

How are you going to prevent this subjective account selection and prioritisation in 2023 and 2024?

Gift cards for SQLs are a weak GTM strategy.

Gift cards for SQLs are a weak GTM strategy.

Listen, I know booking demos is getting harder and harder.

  • The customer is learning with or without us and doesn’t need sales to make many informed decisions.
  • CFOs are tightening their belts, and I mean ratcheted down.
  • The customer is also sales-fatigued.

But abandoning the value creation of chotchkies and gimmicks is merely gaming your SQL creation. This isn’t sustainable, most likely not profitable, and demonstrates that you DON’T BELIEVE IN YOUR SOLUTION.

Where is the time-for-knowledge exchange? You know where you share such valuable insights that the buyer evaluates the opportunity cost of their time vs. not learning more… and decides to book time with you?

The CXO or VP you’re selling to is already (most likely) independently wealthy and doesn’t need another Starbucks card or water bottle. They are worth $100’s or $1,000’s of $$$ per hour.  You need to provide them with 6, 7, 8, and 9-figure ideas. Not more crap to clutter their desk. Dirty desk, dirty mind. Fuel their minds with great ideas.

Do you sell into the Fortune 2000?

Immediately launch your Fortune 2000 sales campaign to book meetings / SQL’s. Free Fortune 2000 – Executive Job Change Database – Access it here.

Happy prospecting!


3 Archetypes of buyers you’ll need to adjust your prospecting for

It’s quite obvious that sellers are pressing “send” on their sales engagement platforms way too haphazardly.  I call this the “Drinking Bird Effect”.  Homer Simpson would get the drinking bird to do his work for him.  This is unfortunately what sellers are doing with their prospecting.

Archetypes of buyers

Here is what we’ll cover this week:

  1. 3 Archetypes of buyers you’ll need to adjust your prospecting for.
  2. Focus on Sales Process over Sales Platform / Tools.
  3. Ninja Hack – the text-to-call 1-2 punch that works.

3 Archetypes of buyers you’ll need to adjust your prospecting for

Archetypes of buyers

Vanilla messaging works on maybe, maybe 1% of your market.  But if you’re trying to engage the top 10% of your market (see Chet Holmes Pyramid) you need to create unique messaging based on 3 different types of buyers.  These are role based Archetypes, they are LEARNING-based Archetypes.  You need to adjust to how people learn!

You need to adjust to how people learn!

Archetype #1 – The Dead Zone

Archetype #1 - The Dead Zone

A prospect says “call me back in 2 weeks”, or “let me check my calendar and get back to you”, and then 1 week, 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 8 weeks go by… and 👻NOTHING.  This buyer is busy, so busy in fact that they are spinning multiple plates at the same time.

How do I help this archetype?

  • Socially Surround them.  Gain the social support of others in the buying committee.  This archetype is being pulled in too many directions.  Helping create priority alignment will focus this buyer on you as a Top 3-5 priority.
  • Find insights (competitive intelligence, data sheets, studies, reports, etc.) that will push this buyer off their stagnant status quo and help trigger the opportunity cost of “Time-for-Knowledge” exchange.

Archetype #2 – Yellow Brick Road

Archetype #2 - Yellow Brick Road

You get the suspicion that this buyer just doesn’t get it. You’ve been outlining the solution but cannot seem to straighten out their path. How can you turn something that seems complex to them into little bite-size chunks? Lay down the Yellow Brick Road for this stakeholder, brick by brick.

How do I help this archetype?

  • Make a video of Step 1, Step 2, Step 3.  People learn in 3’s.  Most people are also visual learners.  Make it visually super simple to understand how in 3 steps, success can be achieved.

Archetype #3 – Mental Pretzel

Archetype #3 - Mental Pretzel

This buyer thinks they’re a resident expert. They commoditize complexity. You get frustrated at their perceived arrogance and simplification of your service. How can you help them understand the cascading effects of “ready, fire, aim”, without designing a bigger strategic plan? How can you help a line manager think like a CEO, rather than only about their micro-initiatives? This is the art of a trusted advisor, and not a sales representative.

How do I help this archetype?

  • Paint pictures with the opportunity cost of bad decisions.  Tell war stories of companies that made simple, subjective decisions without understanding the opportunity cost of those decisions.
  • Visualize decision-making trees.  Showcase Path A = their path vs. Path B = companies with great success.

Focus on Sales Process over Sales Platform / Tools.

Focus on Sales Process over Sales Platform / Tools.

What wins a triathlon.

  1. The wetsuit you wear, bike you ride and shoes you run in?
  2. The training, diet, sleep, rest, vitamins (preparation routine) you adhere to over 9 months?

Of course you would say option B.

Focus on Sales Process over Sales Platform / Tools.

Unfortunately sales teams are fixated on tools.  You may have a sales & marketing tech stack that is super shiny and looks amazing (like a fancy triathlon race bike).  Problem, most of the sales team fails the “utilization” test.  Tools are just mechanisms to accelerate a process.

Focus on Sales Process over Sales Platform / Tools.

Focus on the process.  Develop great stories, leverage various mediums, tell these stories throughout a structured cadence.  Design your process first at sub-scale.  Get results.  Then move inch by inch into scale.  

How do you create process?  Partner with best-in-class enablers.  Learn how to develop a process that you can accelerate.  Great triathletes have training buddies and coaches for a reason:

  • Accountability
  • Direction
  • Shortcuts to Success

Ninja Hack – the text-to-call 1-2 punch that works.

Ninja Hack - the text-to-call 1-2 punch that works.

I was listening to the Beyond a Million podcast with my friend Brad Weimert and his sales team has a fantastic tip to increase cold call conversions:

Step #1 – get comfortable with text.  You have to be willing to send text messages to prospects you don’t know… or this doesn’t work.

Step #2 – text your prospect with your NAME + with a Call-to-Action to your email / LinkedIn message.

Ie. “John, this is Jamie Shanks.  As per my email, keen for your feedback on XYZ insights.  Looking forward to our conversation.  Jamie Shanks”

Step #3 – immediately call your prospect and your NAME will appear in the Caller ID.

Archetypes of buyers

Conversion = WAY, WAY higher as the buyer assumes they know you, as you’re “on their phone”.

Archetypes of buyers

Do you sell into the Fortune 2000?

Immediately launch your Fortune 2000 sales campaign to book meetings / SQL’s. Free Fortune 2000 – Executive Job Change Database – Access it here.

Happy prospecting!


Your CX team is KILLING your future prospecting in 2024

We have entered a new sales era where Net Retention Revenue (NRR) and Gross Logo Retention (GLR) are the topic du jour.  No more are we growing at all costs.  Revenue teams have recognized the financial impact of losing a logo and its revenue is far more detrimental than winning the next new logo.  BUT, babysitting the existing customer base and not thinking about expansion in/around your customers, will have a massive impact on:

  • Upsell
  • Cross-sell
  • Customer Referral
  • Customer on the Move into a Prospect

You’ll be a growth zombie before you know it.

In our inaugural newsletter there are four topics this week:

  1. Your CX team is killing your future prospecting in 2024
  2. 2023 has exposed the Sales Enablement Gap
  3. Job Change Signals – marketing “air cover” vs. sales “ground cover”
  4. Day 31 – 75 for new CXOs, the ultimate “Window of Change”.

Your CX team is KILLING your future prospecting in 2024

future prospecting

Let me tell you a story.  We had an enterprise SaaS CRM customer that had a mission – monitor CXO’s that leave their customer base into a set of named prospect accounts.  Easy.  

  • Chief Digital Officer
  • Chief Technology Officer
  • Chief Information Officer

These were examples of the decision-makers they wanted to capture.

In Month 1 & 2 we identified 100’s of these amazing opportunities.  Chief Digital Officer “John Doe” moved into Prospect A < 90 days ago.  Check.  Chief Information Officer “Jane Smith” moved into Prospect B < 90 days ago.  Check.  We thought this was a slam dunk.

A few months into prospecting, their demand generation team noticed a pattern.  These CXO’s had NEVER HEARD of our customer?!?  How could that be?  These were the executives that even authorized the purchase of their platform.  The challenge was that the CX team was woefully “single-threaded”, meaning that had forged deep relationships with middle managers (like a Director of IT), but outside of that relationship, had few connections.  As time went on in the account, the CDO, CIO, CISO, CMO would move onto other companies, not really having any connectivity to our customer.  So when the past customer arrived at a new company, there was no brand attachment to our customer.

The opportunity was lost one year prior when CX had an opportunity to “socially surround” the buying committee (decision-makers, champions, influencers) and maintain those relationships for years.  Those relationships would inevitable leave and job new accounts, creating massive customer referral opportunities at scale.

Lesson learnt – the time you spend with customers today will pay massive dividends to your new business development team next year!

2023 has exposed the Sales Enablement Gap

Sales enablement gap

The market has turned.  Cheap capital, easy sales and upside-down CAC:LTV models were allowed in a 0% interest rate world.  That’s now dead.  All hail the new regime that requires way more productivity from what appears to be an ever shrinking GTM team/budgets.

In the last few months we are seeing a heavy emphasis on skills development because we need more “yield per seller”.  Why is this?  It’s a waterfall effect:

  1. As capital and sales opportunities dry up, Inbound Leadflow shrinks
  2. The % of self-generated sales quota requirements (the burden placed on AE’s / CSM’s to “self-generate” increases to cover the delta/gap)
  3. Sales teams wake up to a reality. The AE’s / CSM’s – can’t, won’t, aren’t prospecting to cover this gap
  4. Seller’s need to sharpen that axe to make the “quota gap”.

I’m going to write more about this as I see it transpire, but I’m going to call it now – 2023 to 2025 as the market is bearish, sales enablement will boomerang as a massive growth driver for the business.  Great sales enablement teams and programs will be able to:

  1. Increase sales tool adoption/ultization (eliminate ‘shelfware’)
  2. Drive accountability to daily/weekly sales activities, highly influencing sales opportunities 
  3. Transferring bold & different sales ideas to unlock stuck and stagnant accounts.

Job Change Signals – marketing “air cover” vs. sales “ground cover”

Job Change Signals-marketing

Here is a best practice that our customer Snowflake started one year ago with their Relationship Signals that we have passed onto other newer customers – and it’s worked with great success.

Situation: There are two main Signal sales plays.  Follow your Fans + Window of Change.

Opportunity: Rather than inundate the sales team with 100’s and 100’s of Signals per month, they focused the routing process.


  1. Ground Cover (Sales) – anyone that leaves a Customer (Follow your Fans) and joins a Prospect, that Signal is routed to a live BDR.  That BDR can personalize the relationship building with the past customer.  This is important because these are PAST CUSTOMERS!
  1. Air Cover (Marketing) – anyone changing jobs in their Prospect accounts (job change is not related to a Customer on the Move, just purely new hires and promotions), these Signals are routed to marketing and placed into marketing automation for campaigning.  From there, marketing engages these prospects via organic content, paid media, email marketing campaigns.  Any of these job changes that showcase Buying Intent, they then reroute ONLY THESE Signals to sales.  Now you have an account with Buying Intent + new executive change.

This best practice maximizes the sellers capacity while also highlighting Buying Intent accounts with a real action-packed group of compelling events / triggers.

Day 31 – 75 for new CXOs, the ultimate “Window of Change”

future prospecting

Walk a mile in the shoes of a new executive.

Day 1 – 30 = “Where are the washrooms”?  “Who reports where?”.  At this moment, when your sales team reaches out, the response is usually “Thanks for reaching out.  I just got here and am still trying to get my bearings”.

Day 31 – 75 = “Ok, I have a board meeting in 2 months.  What are the key initiatives and changes I want to make this year?”  At this moment, when your sales team reaches out:

  • The buyer is open to new ideas and thinking creatively (being bold & different compared to their predecessors).
  • The buyer wants to recall all the people, process, technology that made them successful in the past (legacy bias)

This is your moment.  This is where you are planting the seeds of inception!  Push the buy to think BOLD & DIFFERENT.

Day 75 – 100 = “I’m in board prep mode.  Let me focus.”  At this moment, when your sales team reaches out, there might be an opportunity to slip in a new idea or two, but it’s focus on the big meeting.

Day +100 = “I’m focused on executing my 3-5 initiatives for the year that I acquired budget for”.  At this moment, when your sales team reaches out, they are competing against the mindshare of other initiatives and the buyer has had a moment to evaluate the pain/friction of displacing legacy people, process and technology VS. the opportunity cost of fighting over other political 

Do you sell into the Fortune 2000?

Immediately launch your Fortune 2000 sales campaign to book meetings / SQL’s. Free Fortune 2000 – Executive Job Change Database – Access it here.

Happy prospecting!


Relationship Signals are the bread & butter of Professional Services

I’ve owned multiple professional services companies, so speaking from the heart – it’s all about people and relationships.  I joke with my business partner that we have some customers that are the “5 timers” (a reference to SNL’s most utilized guest hosts like Steve Martin and Justin Timberlake who have been there +5 times).  As a professional services firm, you want to find your “5 timers” – but tracking this at scale is far too difficult/time consuming.  This is where we step in.  

Here is what we’ll cover this week:

  1. Relationship Signals are the bread & butter of Professional Services.
  2. How your University Alumni is an untapped “Relationship Signal”.
  3. “Just check in to update my CRM” – cut from your sellers vocabulary TODAY.
  4. How I jumped from Customer 1 to winning Oracle in < 18 months.

Relationship Signals are the bread & butter of Professional Services.

bread & butter of Professional Services

When I pioneered Social Selling with my company Sales for Life, I assumed professional services firms would flock to embrace digital / modern selling rooted in relationship building.  They didn’t. or not at the pace that technology companies did.

When I launched a “do it for you business” with Pipeline Signals, I knew we would hit a home run for professional services:

  • Relationships are the essence of a firm’s success
  • Producers in a firm are too busy delivering to focus on ‘Customers on the Move’
  • Thus, we would become their “eyes and ears”

Since launching Pipeline Signals, we are watching HUB International (insurance), Celestica (industrial automation), Lionbridge (language translation), BrandMuscle (marketing), SBI (sales consulting), and many more really lean into their customer base + relationships moving.

I can’t stress enough how valuable focusing on PEOPLE becomes to a professional services firm.  People make decisions, not companies.  Follow the people, and the projects will come.

How your University Alumni is an untapped “Relationship Signal”.

Relationship Signal

You have an untapped Relationship Signal – the people that walked the same campus as you.  They know that town, the hilarious rituals/cultures at your school, and they will forever be connected to “their kind of people”.  People buy from people they like, and people like people like themselves!  Focus on people that have walked a mile in your shoes.

Step 1 – Using free LinkedIn, search for Schools.

LinkedIn, search for Schools.

Step 2 – Click on Alumni of your School.

Alumni of your School

Step 3 – Reverse-engineer your Ideal Customer Profile.

*** Note you can search for Job Title, Job Function, Company, City, etc.  

Reverse-engineer your Ideal Customer Profile

You now have a group of ICP’s that lived in the same location as you, experiencing the same experiences you did.  

Best practices – engage with a personal touch.


“John – when was the last time you were back in Ottawa?  I miss the beer and chicken wings at Fathers & Sons, and skating on the Rideau Canal.  My company Pipeline Signals helps sales teams create sales opportunities by tracking your ‘Customers on the Move’ at scale, then enabling your team on prospecting best practices.  Looking forward to talking about pipeline creation.  Jamie Shanks”.

Tap into your University Alumni as it could be a gold mine for you!

“Just check in to update my CRM” – cut from your sellers vocabulary TODAY.

Update my CRM

I got yet another one of these emails this week.  

“Jamie – I’m updating my CRM and would like to know where we stand”.  WTF!?!

Apparently I work for the vendor.

I hate this type of message.  Valueless.  Unfortunately, it’s all too common as sellers rely on sales engagement platforms like Salesloft, Outreach and Groove, and clearly have run out of road.  What I’m seeing most often is that sellers are NOT STORYBOARDING their sales plays in advance of designing their sales engagement sequences.  The seller may have taken the time to craft a strong message #1 or #2, but then ran out of “Time-for-Knowledge Exchange” (valuable insights that are so valuable that I want to learn more).  So they revert back to primary levels of selling.

Don’t allow your sellers to become Drinking Birds, hitting the send, send, send button in your sales engagement platform.

Work with your sales team to design at least 5 storyboarded sales plays in advance.  This will help the sellers create depth in their messaging cadence that stretches into many days/weeks into the future.

Kill the break-up emails.  They’re useless.

How I jumped from Customer 1 to winning Oracle in < 18 months.

Customer 1 to winning Oracle in 18 month

I don’t remember exactly how I came up with the idea; as with most sales methodologies, I drew on a sprinkling of ideas mashed together from various experiences.  My main memory is of drawing out my plan on a sheet of paper as if I was Dr. Brown from the movie Back to the Future, and I’d just developed The Flux Capacitor.  See example:

I started by drawing the Vision Critical logo onto the center of a sheet of paper; I then circled it and drew spokes radiating from that circle.  I then would look at my drawing and ask myself “who actually cares about my Vision Critical success story?”  I would just sit and think about it, and the more I really thought about my story, the more I found my thoughts drifting into the mindset of a customer.  It was then that I realized that I was making the same grave mistake many sales professionals do – telling stories to customers that just don’t care about that particular story.  They don’t care because THAT story isn’t relatable to THAT particular PERSON.  Eureka!  People buy from people, and people like people just like themselves.  And people listen to stories that they can actually envision themselves being part of.  It was through this customer-centric mindset that I began to draw my first “Sphere of Influence” around a particular customer.  I started by drawing a list of people and companies that I felt would be most interested to hear about Vision Critical and/or hear about Mark Bergen’s success.

September 2012 was when my fortunes changed.  At last I had a sales process that was becoming clearer to me.  I could see which people and companies I should logically approach because of my Sphere of Influence drawing.  My theory was sound, but my methodology had not yet been tested.  Time for an attack plan!  On September 11, 2012, I wrote a blog on our Sales for Life website about the Vision Critical success story.  That gave me a visual reference that I could guide future buyers to, and some real-life results that made my story more credible.  Next, I crafted two email messages – one that focused on both Vision Critici’s 31 sales qualified leads in 60 days, and one on Mark Bergen’s success as a sales leader creating 31 sales qualified leads in 60 days.  Finally, I used LinkedIn to map the accounts that had the highest social proximity to Vision Critical and Mark Bergen.  I then began engaging VPs of Sales and Marketing on LinkedIn, using InMail’s and free group messaging.  

Here’s what happened next:

Vision Critical had a competitor in Los Angeles called Us AMP.  I had met their VP Sales, Kevin Gaither, at the April 2012 AA-ISP Leadership Summit in Dallas, TX.  I emailed him the blog story on September 12, 2012, and won their business on February 27, 2013.

Mark Bergen was connected to a sales leader at Paragon Relocation, in the corporate relocation industry.  I met their team on a conference call on October 18, 2012, and won the business on November 19, 2012.  The success of their project created a tangent Sphere of Influence success story in the corporate relocation industry, which attracted MSI Mobility on March 4, 2013 and won that business on March 26, 2013.

Having read my Vision Critical blog, on December 21, 2012 Ronan Keane, a marketing leader at XO Communications, emailed me to discuss the successes from Vision Critical.  On January 25, 2013 XO Communications became a customer.  Within weeks of that project, their competitor Tata Communications heard about the Social Selling Mastery® training.  On March 13, 2013, Tata Communications became a customer.  

Relationship Signals

The success of helping two telecommunications leaders allowed me to create a Sphere of Influence that connected me to MTS Allstream in Canada on May 15, 2013 and won their business on July 18, 2013.  This telecommunications Sphere of Influence would go on to pay long-term dividends, as we’ve worked with dozens of telecommunications companies since.

The success of working with Kevin Gaither, a prominent figure at AA-ISP events, afforded me an invitation by Bob Perkins (the AA-ISP CEO) to speak at their upcoming event in Arizona in the spring of 2013.  This was my first speaking opportunity ever, and it turned out I was good at public speaking.  My appearance on stage enhanced my profile and, combined with my Sphere of Influence story with Kevin Gaither, I was introduced to Jill Rowley who was recently leading the global Social Selling program at Oracle.  On June 10, 2013, Oracle became a customer.

Let’s put this one-year chain of events together.  My simple motion of selecting accounts based on high social proximity leapfrogged my business from a $2,500 engagement with Vision Critical to the largest Social Selling training deployment in the world, with 23,000 Oracle sales professionals by the fall of 2013.  The Oracle account paved our path for global training engagements on a scale that I hadn’t imagined possible in 2012.

Account-based selling was a process long before digital sales, and will continue to exist long after digital becomes standard operating procedure in sales organizations.  Digital is only an accelerant to an effective process, and it’s the simplicity of the process that we at Sales for Life have designed that makes this so special.  Account-based selling is not about tricks or tools, but about aiming and deploying the right stories to the right people.  I hope the principles in this book change the course of your sales pipeline, sales team, business unit, or company, as they did for me.

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Happy prospecting!