Episode 147: Maintaining Momentum – Simon Portwain

Predictable Prospecting
Episode 147: Maintaining Momentum - Simon Portwain
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Whether you’re new to sales or you’ve been in the game for a while and you’re looking for a way to achieve sales mastery, today’s guest has some ideas for you Simon Portwain is the author of a new book, Sales Icon: Selling in the Shadows.

Simon joins the podcast today to talk about some of the ideas that he covers in his book. Listen in to hear what he has to say about sales momentum, developing a sales journey plan, and transitioners for salespeople. 

Episode Highlights:

Why Simon was motivated to write this book

What sales momentum is

The framework around sales momentum

How sales journey plans develop

Where sales journey plans start

What influences sales activity

How momentum and journey are linked to transitioners

Finding your success formula


Simon Portwain

Sales Icon: Selling in the Shadows – Amazon

Sales Icon: Selling in the Shadows – Barnes and Noble

Email Simon: simon@sales-icon.com 


Marylou: Hi everyone, it’s Marylou Tyler. This week’s guest is a gentleman by the name of Simon Portwain and he has written a book that we are going to love to talk about today, it’s called Sales Icon–Selling In The Shadows. What’s really intriguing about this book is it’s for either the novice, the people in our audience who are starting to get into this thing called sales and getting an understanding of the preparation that goes into becoming a successful, reputable, and predictable sales professional. There are also some great tips in this book on how to continue to master your salesmanship and also to move these prospects and clients through the pipeline at a faster clip, we call that the pipeline velocity, and getting that initial conversation started and then getting to close.

Simon is gracious enough to spend time with us today and we’re going to talk about a few things from the book that we feel will resonate most with this audience. Simon, welcome to the podcast.

Simon: Thank you for having me.

Marylou: Tell me, what prompted you to write a book like this? I mean, it’s just full of such great information. What got you motivated to do something like this?

Simon: I think what motivated me the most, I’ve fallen into so many pitfalls in sales and made so many mistakes over the many years and I didn’t really want other people to fall into them. It wasn’t until I was promoted into more of a sales management position, I saw other peers making exactly the same mistakes. I helped them, I’m coaching them and developing them. I thought you know what, I can probably do more here. I can help a wider audience to avoid the same mistakes and actually to be successful. That was one of the real motivations I wrote in the book.

I didn’t actually start out with the plans to write a book. I’ve just started writing some stuff down like processes that I follow, things that I do, things that have helped me in my career, and then it developed into a book. I’m happy to say now that it’s published, it’s got my name on it, and I’m really happy about it.

Marylou: Yeah, and that’s available on Amazon. I’ll make sure that in the show notes I’ll give you guys all the links that you can purchase this book.

I love what you said about you don’t set out to write a book, I am definitely in that camp. When we did Predictable Prospecting which was released in 2016, that was the result of one of my clients who is my co-author, his name is Jeremy Donovan. He just strongly suggested that the work that I was teaching them, he hired me as a consultant, and the work that we went through over that weekend’s seminar was nothing like predictable revenue, it was an enhancement or an extension of predictable revenue. It became very obvious to him that I needed to write another book because I had taken, just like you, I had written down all these things, I had tried this out with clients, I worked through different scenarios, came up with a more enhanced plan, but it was in my head and not in a book.

I am very grateful that you took the time to do this because planning for us is usually done not necessarily with repetition, and we don’t really think of it as a process, or a system, or a framework. You’ve put that in a beautiful framework for us so that we can take things and work on them as we need them and then invent and create our own workflow.

Now, you mentioned in our pre-call that you wanted to talk about three things that you felt would be most impactful for this audience. Let’s go through each of those and why don’t you help us by understanding the three that you want to talk about and why you selected these three knowing who our audience is so they get that reason why they should lean in and listen to what we’re going to be talking about in the next 30-45 minutes.

Simon: Sure. Three areas which I think would really add value to the people listening today, the conversation about sales momentum, what we call a sales journey plans, and then a topic that here in the UK, I call them transitioners for salespeople. I know in the past you’ve called them a different term of sequencing and cadencing. Really what I want for the message that we send for the people listening to have something to take away. I want them to be able to listen to sales momentum, sales journey plans, transitioners, and for them to be able to apply it later that day, the next day, the next week. That’s kind of the motivation for talking through the three topics.

Marylou: Okay, so let’s start with sales momentum, what do you mean by that, and what is the framework around sales momentum?

Simon: Brilliant. If I set the scene, I had the circumstance a few months ago. I was coaching a young lady, she had come to me with a nice opportunity she was working on. She just finished the first meeting and I asked her the simple question of how are we going to drive this opportunity forward? and after asking this question I received a rather blank expression from her. She didn’t know. She did not know what she should do to move the opportunity forward and it’s quite common that I see that. Not a very pre-sales person but of many, they don’t necessarily think about what we can use to push to the optimum position to make that sale.

One of the topics I discussed with her and I’ve talked about with many is the concept of sales momentum. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the World’s Strongest Man before, it’s this Goliath man doing a bunch of different events of lifting weights and those types of things. One of the events really demonstrates sales momentum perfectly and that’s the event of the truck pull. What they do for this event is these Goliath men put this harness on their back and they try to pull a truck over a hundred meters, or something like that, I don’t know how they do it. What we’ll notice is when they pull this truck, the moment where they lose momentum is the moment that that truck doesn’t move again.

That’s exactly the same in sales. In any sales opportunity, we want to build momentum and maintain that momentum. The moment we lose the momentum, the chances are we’ll lose that sale. That’s why sales momentum is so integral for any salesperson out there. The real imperative factors to consider are that we want to build and maintain that momentum but also time that momentum to a crescendo. In particular, I know you’ve got a musical background yourself Marylou, but that crescendo is the end of the sales process, is where we want to be using our most powerful sale steps that have the best chance of influencing that sale. If we use them early on, the chances are they’re not going to have a level of influence we need or expect them to happen.

That’s kind of the importance of a sales momentum, and that really links to part of the book that we talked about which is sales journey plans. I’ll go back to that example of that young lady I was working with. The advice I gave her was to put together a sales journey plan. All of that sales journey plan is a plan for the activity we’re going to use from the start date which is where we’re on now. It’s off to we’ve had that first meeting or the first conversation on the phone and the end of the opportunity close window which any proficient salesperson should uncover and find out early on because then they know the two parameters. They know where they’re starting and they know where they need to finish.

How will sales journey plans develop is that we fill that timeline with activities or what we call transitioners or what you would depict as sequencing, cadencing with powerful, influential activities within the sales journey plan.

Marylou: Now, are these sales journey plans built by a stakeholder, or is there a general one for an account, or what have you found is a good place to start? I know most of my clients and most of my audience, probably, don’t really do these types of plans, these accounts attack funnel journey type of plans. What do you recommend would be a good starting point in terms of segmentation in order to do your first plan?

Simon: The blueprint of most sales journey plans will have much of the same makeup but some will be different. That depends on the buyer you’re conversing with and it depends on the opportunity that you have. I love one of your business terminology, Marylou, of a jump client. I love that, I take that all the time and I use that for people. I can’t remember how you say it when they flutter their eyelashes, I think that’s the terminology you use but I love that. 

If you can imagine, if I had a prospect I was working with who I consider to be a jump client, I’d realize early on that they could be influential in my success, in my sales role in general, in my year’s quotes that I’ve got to hit. My sales journey plan for them could be quite different than it may be for one of my more average to smaller perspective clients. Definitely, the makeup will often be the same where we use different activity steps, what we call transitioners, to drive that opportunity towards a sale.

The key thing to remember here is that not every activity you use will have the same level of influence. If I just use an example on that topic, if I take the simplicity’s sake that I’m working with a prospect, I have an opportunity and I have one competitor competing for the same opportunity. I wish it would happen, it never does, but let’s just say the simplicity sake I’m competing with one person. If I follow the process, I use four different activity steps and all of the four activity steps are let’s say a phone call. 

Juxtapose this with my competitor who, again for simplicity, let’s say they use exactly the same number of activity steps, they only use four as well. Conversely, they start with a phone call. Their second step is they conduct a webinar with that prospective client. They then put together a trial for that prospect to use and they finish the sales process with a head office meeting. When they get the prospect to come into their head office to see the type of business, they all meet some of the team and really demonstrate their credibility as an organization.

I think if you look at the two pictures, you can see that my competitor, she has a much more powerful proposition than I do. We’re not even looking at product solutions, whatever that is we’re proposing, all we’re looking at is the activity steps we’ve used. The key takeaway of that in the sales journey plan is that different activities will carry more influence than others. A phone call by no means has as much level of influence as potentially a webinar, a trial, or a head office visit will. That’s often the message I’m sending to salespeople. It’s not necessarily about the quantity of activity steps you use, it is about that quality and the level of influence that they have.

Marylou: A question about that. When we look at the accounts themselves and the stakeholders and the accounts leveraging the type of buyer profile, does it also influence the activity? For example, I may have an influencer, like you said, that’s going to drive the conversations and drive the velocity of the pipeline and help us get to close faster with more quality at a higher conversion rate, for example. I may also have doers, or suppliers, or innovators in the audience that I want to make sure there are activities that get them excited and having that sense of urgency to move forward.

We do this in our sequences, we try to engage based on the type of buying scenario that these people are going to be influencing in the sale. They may not be influencers themselves but there may be some things that we need to incorporate in the activities to keep them engaged. When you’re thinking of activities besides influence, are you also looking at the motivation of the buyer, and what would drive them to engage with more velocity and more quality at the same time?

Simon: 100%, and that’s why I use to point out that not every sales journey plan will be the same. Certain organizations, certain buyers will be turned on or interested by different things. Not every step that you use with one buyer will have the same effect on another, and that’s why we highlight the importance of sales journey plans. It does need to be tailored to the prospective client you’re speaking to.

Where they get somewhat more complex is the example you mentioned of how complex the sales process is because then maybe multiple stakeholders in the decision-making process. If that’s the case, you may need to tailor a sales journey plan to those individuals. Then you may have a C-level sales journey plan for an opportunity but also a lower level more stakeholders who are involved and you need to tailor a sales journey plan for them but also for the C-network at the same time. It really depends on your client that you’re trying to bring on board. We work with organizations that sometimes there’s only one decision-maker in a process. That would be fantastic if that was always the case, keep it really simple. Typically, there are multiple people involved now. In that point, you need to tailor your sales journey plan to those stakeholders who are involved.

Marylou: Okay, but we could start off for those of you who are thinking ay, ay, ay! We could start off with the jump account, or the sharks, or the minnows. The way I like to look at this is let’s work backward from revenue, people. How are we getting our revenue, what types of accounts are getting us our revenue at a higher conversion rate, and that’s where we begin working on this new concepts like you’re learning today of the sales journey plan and building momentum. You’re going to walk through how to have the luxury of having clients, not all of you do and I know that, but if some of you have the luxury of having clients, you work it backward. How did we get this client? What steps did we do? What kept them engaged through the process? What kept them salivating to go to the next step with us? That becomes the baseline or the foundation for a sales journey plan, for example.

Then within that, those activities that kept them always engaged, and always wanting more, and always willing to have a conversation with you, time in the diary, time on the calendar, what were those events that led you to close one? I think if we start chunking those out and we draw them out on a piece of paper, or on our favorite digital whatever, we can then transition into this next step that Simon’s going to talk to us about which is his transitioners.

Let’s pretend, Simon, that we have now mapped out the journey. We figured out the activities that would keep this momentum. I love that analogy of the truck pull, I can totally see that, and not that I’m a truck puller but I can totally see that. Now we have that figured out, how is this then linked to transitioners?

Simon: The transitioners, as I define them, are those activity steps. If you were to look up the word transition in the dictionary, it would be defined as changing from one stage to another, whatever that be. We coined the term transitioner as actions or activity steps that help an opportunity move closer towards a sale. Whenever I’m working with salespeople, that’s what I’m asking. I’m asking what transitioner can you use to push this opportunity towards that sales close window, to put it in its optimum position to attain that sale.

You all have used transitioners in the post probably without even using terminology for them in sequencing or cadencing. Examples would be phone calls, the transitioner, a meeting, a webinar, a trial, a testimonial for having prospective clients or customers attend maybe an event or a webshop, or exhibition, all the type of things. There are multiple transitioners that you can use at one time. It’s how you manipulate them, how you use them in your sales journey plan. The key thing that I’ll reiterate on sales journey plans and utilizing transitioners is that momentum crescendo. The point I try to make on this piece is that we need to be mindful of the timing of the transitioners that we use because any transitioner, any activity that you use, its level of influence will diminish over time.

To use an example, if I had an opportunity that is 12 months away from the sale, then it would be ludicrous of me to instigate and push for a trial of my product in month one of that window. Because by the time I get to that finishing area of that 12 months cycle, that level of influence for the trial has completely diminished. That’s where the momentum crescendo is in. We want to develop ourselves journey plans to use the transitioners which helped to build the level of influence the closer that we come to that buying window. That might mean at the latter point of the sales cycle that we increase the regularity of activity steps, the transitioners, but more so that we increase that level of influence. That’s part of the key thing to also consider and take away.

A great example of this would be in politics, I always use this as a really good example often. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, whenever a party is brought into power, often what you’ll find is that early on in their term they will implement some of the more undesirable legislation. Then when it comes close to re-election time, they’ll often invoke more of the desirable governance. Things like tax reductions and type of things, they’ll often come when they’re looking for re-election. That’s because we as consumers, as members of state will remember the things that they used closer to the re-election time and we should be conscious of that in our sales process in the same token. 

The momentum crescendo influences the sale greatly so try and build our transitioners, our activity steps the closer we come to that buying window.

Marylou: To be respectful of time, I have one more question for you and that is our audience of folks for this podcast know that we are test and measurement machines. What we like to do is test a variety of different methods or in this case we may want to test a variety of different activities, one against the other, and split our list and see which one resonates and record that. Do you recommend as we’re putting these journey plans together that we do look at the ability of testing and doing an A versus a B version, or do you think it’s best to plan one scenario, run it through then talk about it, and then create another scenario based on the results of the first one?

Simon: To me, you want to find your success formula. You want to find that routine of the sales journey plan that most of the time always works. That will happen over time but what I always encourage salespeople to be mindful of is that you do need to tailor that sales journey plans with the person. You will get to a point in time where you’ll find, you know what, this process works. I’ll use this journey plan and nine times out of 10, it works. However, don’t get complacent with that. Use it but also tailor it where you need to because there will be that circumstance where you need to change something.

Once you’ve tried a few different ways, you’ll make mistakes 100%, I still make them every single day, you’ll find that success formula. You’ll find that sales journey plan that the majority of the time if I follow […]. More often than not, I’ll win that client or at least I put myself in the best position, the optimum position to win that client.

Marylou: This is so encouraging because as I say to my audience, we put our ego in our pocket, we test, we measure, and we’re looking for the optimum conversation. In this case, conversation wrapped in activity and momentum, I love the way you’re framing this up for us because I’ve never really thought of having a crescendo effect as we move further. But it makes perfect sense to do that. I’m very grateful that we had the time to talk today because I think we have some pretty good foundations here, and now this is a few better ingredients that we can add in and test and measure.

A lot of the tools we have here in the states that we use allow us to test our conversations, to test our activities, to test what you’re calling transitioners. It’s a beautiful way for us to start a plan, and actually activate the plan, and then test and measure the results of the plan. Then like we always do, we’re always iterating, we’re always improving, and this works really nicely with that.

Then and only then when we get to a plan that we’re comfortable with, we may want to look at segmenting that plan by persona, or by tier of account, or whatever segmentation that we feel is going to give us the higher yield conversion rates, the higher velocity which is to reduce the lag. And then based on the average deal size whether we have multi-stakeholders or not, we have a number of different ways to build momentum through the pipeline and get to the revenue that we’re looking for.

The book, again, everyone is Simon’s book, Simon Portwain, and it’s called Sales Icon–Selling In The Shadows. It’s available on Amazon in the US, it’s available brick and mortar, still, Barnes and Nobles, probably, throughout the country.

Simon, thank you so much for your time and I will ask you offline to give all your contact information so that I can put it on the page for the podcast. Is there a way that you would like to say now that we can get a hold of you if we have questions about the book or want additional information on the services that you offer?

Simon: Best way to get a hold of me is on LinkedIn so please reach out, feel free to connect with me, send me a message or you can email directly to me at simon@sales-icon.com happy to help anyone out there, feel free to get in touch.

Marylou: And the book is a definite must-read, guys, to put in our library because there’s a nice framework in here that would allow us to add on to our sequences and cadences. Because right now we’re a little bit spoiled and that we have tools that put the cadence together for us and put the sequence together but this is adding a twist to it, a richness to it that we want to make sure that we incorporate going forward.

Thanks again, Simon, for your time today. Very much appreciate you joining the podcast.

Simon: Thank you.