Managing different sales personas

All salespeople are different. We call them yellow, red, blue and green salespeople.


Forget about stereotypes

People outside of sales think that there is just one type of salesperson: pushy. Often the assumption is that salespeople are extraordinarily extroverted. 

The best sales people are a balance of listeners and talkers. They are "ambiverts". In "Rethinking the Extraverted Sales Ideal: The Ambivert Advantage" Adam Grant showed that ambiverts "express sufficient assertiveness and enthusiasm to persuade and close a sale but are more inclined to listen to customers’ interests". This is the key selling skill.

Apart from personality types how else can you assess salespeople?

At PipelineCheck we have identified different types of salespeople based on the effort they are putting in and the effectiveness they are having. 

Broadly we measure effort and sales achievement.

Yellow Salespeople

Lots of effort with low sales achievement shows a lack of qualification skills and the listening skills to close a deal. We call these "Ineffective" aka "busy fools". They work hard on all their opportunities but don't get the same results as peers with similar or even lower levels of effort. These "busy fools" can have a build up of opportunities in their sales pipeline because they never walk away and they never hear the signals that say this opportunity is not real.


  • Qualify opportunities better with more hard questions about the decision making process
  • Listen to the best reps to learn how to improve the effectiveness of calls

Red Salespeople

There is another group of salespeople who do not seem to be putting in the effort, specifically effort on opportunities. They may be resolving customer issues or having lots of coffees/dead end conversations but they don't create or work enough opportunities to be successful. This can be laziness or sometimes gun-shy. They don't feel they have the skills to go out and sell so they freeze like a rabbit in the headlights. They need more opportunities to help them cut their teeth and learn from trial and error.


  • Spend less time on dead-end conversations and focus on uncovering opportunities
  • Ramp up the effort on real opportunities

Blue salespeople

The third "quadrant" of reps are salespeople who glide. They do not seem to do a lot but they close a lot. They make selling look effortless. In many ways this is the best group of salespeople because they are highly skilled. They may be able to exceed targets even with less accounts than others. They could be leaders or help develop sales methodologies to help others win. The key is that these reps needs to be good users of the CRM system so that people can get an accurate picture of how they are working. This is not just a question of logging everything they do. They should also be giving insight into how they do it. Other salespeople or managers or sales effectiveness/productivity coaches should be able to read their notes to understand what kind of conversations they are having and to get the detail in terms of qualification/discovery questions or objections that were handled to drive the sale to conclusion. These reps are a confident group and need to be convinced that it is in their best interest to show others what makes them successful. These reps are looking to be challenged to get to the next level of sales success.


  • Reinforce the need to use CRM and improve the qualify of data in
  • Challenge them with stretch goals in terms of the number and value of opportunities they are working

Green salespeople

The reps who are successful in the long term are those who work hardest provided they are learning as they go. This is the final quadrant: Productive salespeople. They do more than most and they close more than most. They have a process that they follow and get results. Their work translates into sales success. They don't coast when they are ahead of their peers: they double down. They are not afraid to share their knowledge or the way they work with their peers. They use the CRM system. These reps should be leveraged. They could be future leaders. They should certainly be given the opportunity to mentor and to shape sales processes.


  • Involve them in defining sales processes and training
  • Encourage them to mentor less effective salespeople
  • Recognise them for providing leadership in sales and CRM system usage

What kind of reps are you managing?

PipelineCheck's Retrospective analyses the effort and effect of your sales team. As well as providing this analysis we can provide specific key performance indicators for improving sales people.


Territory coverage - Too much or too little?

One of the most important questions for managing a sales organisation is: What should territory coverage be?

This could be one account per salesperson or it could be unlimited.

Too many accounts and the salesperson will not cover them but if there are too few the salesperson might not be product. There is only so many times you can turn over a stone to see what is underneath it.

The best salespeople can sometimes seem to be able to hit their target from a single account if they needed to. There is some truth in this but not everybody is as good as the best salesperson. It is better to plan based on good salespeople. Even the best salespeople will do better if they have a level of choice on which opportunities to pursue. Some of their skill is finding those and concentrating on them.

Now down to basics. 

How can you see this information in Not easily.

You can run a report that shows the number of accounts that each person owns but that won't tell you if they have opportunities.

You can run a report that shows accounts with opportunities but that won't show you accounts that don't.

You need to be able to see the percentage of accounts with open opportunities.

This requires some custom fields on the account. Rollup summary fields that show if there are open opportunities, the number and the value of them.

The screenshots show what those fields look like.


Then you need to add a report that lets you see that information. It is useful to have a formula field on this that shows the % of accounts with open opportunities.


Review this information to see what your best reps are doing. What percentage of their accounts have open opportunities? What is the average age of these open opportunities? What is the average age of closed won opportunities?

This will help you decide what your territory coverage model should be.

PipelineCheck's application comes with these as standard if you want them out of the box.



An artist can be honoured by exhibiting a "retrospective" of the work he or she had done. It is a way to get a sense of how the artist developed over time. It shows their thinking about their own work and their subjects.

Salespeople do not usually get such an honour. They and their managers tend never to look back. If they are off the back of success then the focus is on the next period's opportunities. If they have failed then the post mortem can be a painful process for all concerned. Post mortems are never a positive experience for the living.

Everyone can get value from a properly conducted post mortem or post-match analysis if you prefer. supports the capture of a lot of information out-of-the-box. The standard fields on opportunities includes competitors (as a related list). There is an opportunities with competitor report that lets a company review opportunities by the competitors that have been related to the opportunity with a list of the strengths/weaknesses that have been manually added to the opportunity by the owner or anyone involved in it with the rights to update the opp. customers use this report less than any other opportunity report. If you google top sales reports for you won't find it high on the list. Win/Lost Dashboard from custom fields. Win/Lost Dashboard from custom fields.

In the latest version of "Sample CRM Dashboards Winter '17" by it does not get a mention. Someone at did suggest in an earlier article ("6 Dashboards Every Sales Leader Needs", 1 August 2013) that it was a good idea to have a specific dashboard for competitive analysis. You can see a lot of the information in the screenshot but keep in mind that the competitor related list in does not show which competitor won or lost and does not have the ability to customise the information to show this. The article shows a competitive win/lost dashboard is based on having the information about which competitor won or lost. 

The "Opportunities with competitors" report is one of the least used reports by customers because there is are few people who bother to enter meaningful information against it - not the competitor and certainly not the strengths or weaknesses. Even if salespeople do use it and enter multiple competitors then they won't be able to select a front runner or if they lose to select which one they lost to from the competitors that they have related to the opportunity.

Is this a big deal? 

It depends on your market position. If you don't often lose to competitors then you can be complacent (for a while) about this information. If you are in a competitive market then it makes sense to be all over the analysis of who you are competing with and the intelligence that your sales organisation is gathering about them.

In my experience leaving this to the marketing department, even if they have a competitive analysis team, is a mistake. Salespeople can be much more connected to what the customer cares about when they are considering competitive offerings. Potential buyers will be blunt about it sometimes. A good competitive analysis team will want as much information as they can get from the sales team's interactions on a day-by-day basis. They will want to be able to see that information in  Competitive Analysts will want to get ahead of the competition rather than wait for a crisis in revenue to identify the need for a response to particular competitor. This is especially true for international companies that will tend to only respond to global competitors rather than addressing niche competitors in particular markets. is the story of an irrelevant, small startup in the CRM market eating its competitors from the toes up. Competitors ignored it for too long and dismissed it after it could not be ignored and then finally conceded defeat with its traditional on-premise approach and joined in the cloud. Ignore your competitors at your peril! 

Is there always a competitor?

As a salesperson, in I never liked being forced by a sales methodology or mandatory field to ask a customer about the competition. It makes no sense to raise competitors as part of a discovery process because sometimes prospects are not seriously evaluating competitors. Salespeople who raise the idea make buyers feel like they should look at the competition more seriously. Prospects infer fear of the competition. Prospects more often have a preferred vendor. If you are that vendor it is better not to get yourself drawn into a conversation about competition. 

Other alternatives?

Customers often don't select a vendor after a sales cycle. Inertia is is the real competition. Salespeople should be more worried about this "Do nothing" outcome. "DIY" type solutions are the next most common outcome. For example they may change internal process or use other resources already available to fix the problem.

Customer will usually delay a decision to try these options first. Delayed decisions are the biggest reason for salespeople not to hit their numbers. Good salespeople will ask the question at the start of the sales cycle that a good CFO will ask at the end of it (before signing-off on budget): "what other alternatives have you considered?".

PipelineCheck suggests setting up a custom object to capture these "alternatives" and linking them as a related list to the opportunity object. There should be an option to select a leading alternative or even to rank alternatives. Marketing can then run reports to see which alternatives are coming up frequently or costing revenue e.g. the do-nothing option or built something internally or a specific competitor if that is what customers are saying. 

Implementing your own custom object is a better solution because it caters for the notion of "alternatives" better than the "competitor" related list. In any case, doesn't give the ability to add custom fields to the competitor related list on the opportunity (as of 20/3/2017). With "only" 106 votes for the idea is "under the threshold" to be implemented by so there is no way to identify the primary alternative/competitor using the "competitor" related list on its own.

Salespeople can be prompted to update the primary "alternative" if an opportunity is moved to "closed lost". 

The custom object for "alternatives" should also allow activity and attachments to be associated with it so that any salespeople who come up against an alternative can see previous intelligence gathered or approaches taken to steer prospects away from the alternative.

 Alternatives with list of opportunities where they were considered and the outcome.

Alternatives with list of opportunities where they were considered and the outcome.


Use a lookup field on the opportunity for different alternatives (e.g. primary alternative and other alternatives. 

 Alternatives listed on the opportunity page layout with feedback gathered from the prospect.

Alternatives listed on the opportunity page layout with feedback gathered from the prospect.

Create a validation rule that requires at least a primary alternative where the opportunity is changed to "Closed Lost".

Salespeople or competitive analysts can look at the "Alternatives Object" and see exactly what opportunities this alternative was considered by the salesperson/prospect to be the primary alternative.


PipelineCheck & Competitive Analysis

PipelineCheck analyses the competition by reviewing the effort salespeople have put into opportunities they have lost and then using that information to assess how severe the competition is. It is one thing to lose an opportunity after a quick call that determined there was a bad fit. It is a different thing entirely to have your 'head' handed to you on a plate by the competition after a twelve month sales cycle where you fought at every turn.

If you would like help improving the way you use to compete please let us know. We would be delighted to help.



Large Account Managers and CRM

There are some funny people who think that CRM is for the "little people" or at least that good use of a CRM system is for inside sales.

At PipelineCheck we don't see it that way. Big deals take time. They take co-ordination. They take assessment by multiple stakeholders who play a part in winning those deals. These factors require good use of a customer relationship management system.

McKinsey's study Unlocking Growth in Large Accounts found “large buyers biggest pain point is disjointed relationships, marked by forgotten follow ups, multiple points of contact, conflicting messages and opaque processes”. 

Growing Large Account Revenues.png

The researchers state that “one of the most important roles for the key large-account team is to manage the full customer experience, from the front-end sales process to ongoing service and support. When done well, this focus helps companies improve key-account revenue by 5 to 10 percent or more, while maintaining margins”.

The research supports the importance of good CRM usage to improve the sales experience by capturing effort on accounts, contacts and opportunities.

 PipelineCheck identifying the opportunities that matter and highlighting CRM usage issues.

PipelineCheck identifying the opportunities that matter and highlighting CRM usage issues.

Mitra Mahdavian, talking in a McKinsey podcast about different research on fast growth companies, linked strong presales capability with higher win rates. The critical enabler for these companies was that "they're better able to deploy their resources against opportunities that matter".

These fast growing companies had the presales resources to craft solutions for customer problems and had win rates of 40 to 50 percent in new business and 80 to 90 in renewal which was well above other companies studied.

Large account managers need to be able to follow all customer interactions and justify the allocation of resources opportunities based on evidence. They need to be able to assign tasks to others through the CRM system. They can get better sales outcomes for themselves and their customers if they can hold others to account base on disciplined use of CRM by them and their colleagues in other roles.

Big deals are expensive to chase and the rest of the organisation needs to be able to follow progress on the deals, not just wait until the ink dries before deciding whether it was a good idea or not.

PipelineCheck uses all of the data in the CRM system to measure the input by different parties into opportunities at the account and contact level. It makes this work transparent. PipelineCheck, the fitness app for salespeople, helps keep opportunities on track over longer sales cycles. It does this by measuring the cadence to the work that is going into the opportunity and making that transparent to everyone involved.

It shows the effort over the lifetime of the opportunity as well as the recent effort in a single score and compares that to other successful opportunities by people in the same role.

There are lot of things that enterprise sales people can learn from good use of CRM by inside sales people.

Talking about sales and gamification

It is always great to see a lot of interest in sales and gamification in Ireland.  There was another well attended event in Dublin this month organised by Entanon and hosted in One Grand Canal Square. When one of Europe's biggest networking organisers for entrepreneurs and Bank of Ireland get behind something you know that it is a hot topic! 

Entanon runs great sessions across Europe for entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs.  I was delighted to speak at one in Dublin this month and post this video to give a flavour for the event.

Most of the attendees were not from a sales background so it was covering a lot in an hour or so.

The key points were;

- listen, listen, listen !

- stick to the truth when selling

- articulate the positive points 

- positive points are only positive for the listener when they address a requirement that the potential buyer has.

- gamification works when it is driving behaviours that impact goal achievement

Sign up for notification of more events on our events page.


Inside Sales the Way.

Inside Sales the Way.

•Hiring for inside sales
•Deciding territories
•Lead generation & management
•Qualifying for volume and value
•Discovering problems
•Establishing value and beating competitors
•Managing trials
•Selling by references
•Establishing real closing events
•How to forecast and manage pipeline

10 Ways to Cheat on CRM (& a bit on war).

Everyone is using CRM systems to manage sales people. A big part of the analysis is around win rates. Good sales people win more; bad win less. Over a period of time how good or bad a sales person can be measured by the value or quantity of opportunities that they win or lose. Gamers call it a “kill ratio”, “Kill / Death” or “k / d” ratio  in shmups (shoot ‘em-up games). It measures how often a player kills versus how often the player dies.

Win rates matter.

Militarians call it the “loss-exchange” ratio. Loss-exchange ratios are hard to get. It depends who you count. Allies and civilians can be counted optionally. Sometimes counting isn’t possible and sometimes people don’t count. General Tommy Franks is widely reported to have said in the Iraq invasion of 2003 "we don't do body counts".

966,000 Vietnamese were killed in war related deaths from 1965-1974 but that does not count those killed in the French phase of the war from 1954. It includes Vietnamese killed by the side allied to the United States.. If you ignore those and non-military deaths you get an estimate of 440,000 Communist military deaths. 56,000 Americans were killed. That gives a ratio of 8 : 1.

15 years after the end of the Vietnam war there had been considerable change.  40000 Iraq soliders were killed in the first Gulf War as against 148 U.S. military deaths or a 270 to 1.

Impact of win rates in sales

The impact of real win rates is massive in sales. Take two sales reps with a pipeline of 1,000,000 each. “A” has a win rate of 25% and “B” has a win rate of 20%. After working through the pipeline, “A” will have closed 250,000 and “B” will lag on 200,000. That is a 25% difference in sales revenue for the company for the better rep -  50,000 more than “B”. A beer with 5% alcohol is 25% more intoxicating than a beer with with 4% alcohol.

CRM systems make the analysis of win rates easier but there are ways to manipulate the numbers.

Problems with Win Rate Analysis

The goal is to see the effectiveness of sales people in revenue terms so it is natural to use the value of opps won versus the value of opportunities received. The value is a subjective opinion by a sales person or the person who passed the opp to them or even by the prospect. This leads some sales analysts or managers to use the count or number of opportunities won versus the number received.

Good sales people argue against this because they concentrate on bigger opportunities. There is an argument that win rates should ignore opportunities that are still open because they are undecided. However, leaving out open opportunities means that the rate can be fudged by leaving opportunities that are really dead open indefinitely. The wilful rep interprets a decision to go with a competitor for five years as a possibility that there is a deal to be had in a few years time.

For 10 years, I worked in; first selling and then managing sales people as a VP in EMEA. Without fear of contradiction I can say I got very good at running reports and dashboards. Good Excel pivot table make me smile and I think matrix reports in are beautiful.

But the beauty can be misleading. Sometimes there can be “systematic anomalies in the matrix” that show how misleading. Bad sales people can have high win rates.

The Top 10 ways to Cheat on CRM Systems.

These are techniques for sales reps in trouble with their win rates. Only bluffers should read on.

They could get you fired but then that is a distinct possibility anyway.

1. Low ball until the deal is done.

This is a “cover up” before the fact if you know you are in real trouble. Understate the opportunity so that when it dies it won’t look too bad. Tell the sales manager there is  “nothing to see here” - just a small deal that won’t materially affect the total value of deals lost. Only if it is certain to close do you increase it to the true value. Advice: Trust no one. Previously-owned, unused ones are cheap.

2. Never kill an opp.

These opportunities become zombies. They exist in a terrible living dead state. They are still open in the CRM system but they have as much chance of closing as getting a royal flush in poker. It works if managers don’t include open opportunities in win/loss analysis. It is easy to get away with your manager tends to pass over opportunities that you don’t draw attention to. Advice: If ever asked about these say “I must follow up with them”.

3. Never create an opportunity until the deal is done.

This is “stealth mode” for the opp. It remains totally invisible until it is certain to add to the win pile. It has the advantage of not showing up in win / loss analysis by number of opps for nosey types. These characters have lost faith in the win / loss analysis by value because of “the cover ups”. Advice: invest in a fil-o-fax and a good pen. You should be able to get a previously owned one easily.

4. Change near dead opps over to other people (ideally dead people).

Dead people don’t complain. They can have win rates in the single digits and won’t be fired. Pass your most egregious dead opps to them. Think of it is organ donation. You benefit from their loss. Advice: If none of your colleagues have expired: try re-assigning to sales people who have left the company or changed role.

5. Misclassify the type of opportunity.

This is for advanced fiddlers. If the focus is on new business win rates, then classify opportunities as add-on/upgrade until you get a firm nod that paperwork is on the way. Then rectify your “mistake”.

6. Let territory poachers work opportunities that should be in your name until it closes then demand it.

This has the advantage of increasing your productivity in the sense that you will win more for doing less work. Try to assess if they are better than you. If they are worse it could go wrong. Remember not to compare your win rates as these may not be reliable. Advise: The timing of the dispute is important. The poacher might be more vulnerable before the paperwork arrives. Senior management might have a bias for the person holding the order. In this situation play for a split.

7. Keep the close date in the distant future and hope nobody notices.

This is like a zombie opportunity but might help it to stay off the radar and avoid the bouncing of close dates that sometimes attracts attention. Even if it is counted in the denominator for your win rate i.e. where open opps count in the win rate, it is still better than having a high value of dead opportunities. Managers will understand the damnable consequences of having you on the team more easily if you have a high dollar value on your dead opportunities. Advice: log some activity intermittently on the opportunity to show that you haven’t forgotten it.

8. Leave the close date in the distant past and hope nobody notices.

You can always claim it was a typo. At my age, I could put a date in the 1990s and claim it was an innocent mistake. Use a close month that might make sense e.g. if it is now May 2015, pick a month after May in an earlier year; that way you don’t have to explain how you got the month and year wrong - just the year. Advise: this works better if there is a perception that you are a bit careless about details.

9. Re-open old opportunities that are dead.

If you have been slow to create opportunities or are lucky enough to get a “blue bird” that lands in your lap, you can take the opportunity to give the Lazarus treatment to another dead opportunity. This has a “double whammy” effect because as well as getting a win, the dead pile goes down. Advice: make sure to adjust the key information on the opportunity so it reflects the right products etc.

10. Re-use opportunities that were linked to another account.

This is a complete transplant. You need to change a weak or dead opportunity from one account over to another account that you know will go better. You will need to change the details. It is like the opportunity joined the Foreign Legion to hide its past and got a new name. Advice: Use this too if you lose territory but have a “hold out” on opps created before a certain date. Pick an opp before that date and change all the details to the opportunity that came your way after you lost territory.

Be warned all of this could be traced back to you if someone smart gets suspicious and starts to dig around. It could get you fired but then if you are trying to bury your bad win rate, maybe that is a risk worth taking. Use the time that you might buy yourself well. Improve your game. Sales is a lot of fun when done well. It is worth getting better so that you can reap the benefits.

Best Advice

The best advice: do not to bluff your manager if they are good. They will try to help. Don’t bluff customers. They smell it a mile off. Win rates will drop like a stone. It might even be affecting you now if you have read this far instead of spending time talking honestly to potential customers. Most gravely, never bluff yourself. It will sap your energy. Most people can sell. Especially those who think they can’t. Try to be authentic. Real sells.