sales management and sales experts

Why Aren't Your Sales People Selling?

Tony Cole

Tony Cole

Tony Cole, Founder and CEO of Anthony Cole Training Group


Does Your Team Need a Wake Up Call?

IgniteFireBoxTony Cole tailors workshops and keynotes to ignite the sparks of extraordinary motivation in your sales teams!

Browse by Tag

Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

What’s More Important - Sales Management Skills or Behaviors?


The obvious gut reaction answer is …both.  However, if you HAD to choose, it would be a dilemma similar to the age old “Which came first - the chicken or the egg?”  And, you know, I have never been able to answer that question. I honestly don’t know that there is a RIGHT answer to the question I’ve posed today, but if you held a gun to my head and demanded an answer – not that you would have to go to that extreme to get an answer from me – I would have to say start with the behaviors.

It’s not a lot different from helping our clients identify why the sales team isn’t generating the anticipated sales growth. When we complete our Sales Organization Assessment, we end up with a graphic that looks like this:


What you are looking at is a summary of the level of different skills that the sales team possesses.  You will see on the left that the very first sales skill set we examine is “Hunting”.  This particular group as a whole has just over 60% of the skills required to be effective at the behavior of hunting.  So, the question that this begins to answer is this: “What are our current sales capabilities?” Graphing the current capabilities then helps us answer the question, “Can we generate more sales?”  To answer that question, you must first analyze their hunting skills.  Are your people “hunters”?  Do they possess the required skills of being effective at hunting?  How many of your current team are hunters and who/how many have the potential to be hunters. To answer the question – Can we sell more? – you have to start with effort. Effort equals hunting.  If they will do the effort, we have a chance to win. If they have great skills (consulting, qualifying, and closing) but they never hunt, then it doesn’t matter.

I believe the same is true with sales management.  If they have great skills at coaching but they don’t coach, then the skills are wasted.  Kind of like a new chandelier in a run-down house or a brand new BOSE stereo system in a car that you keep parked in the garage.  I am absolutely convinced that success always starts with effort.  You’ve seen one of my dad’s favorite sayings here before – “When all else fails, hard work works.”

EFFORT = Are they doing the behavior? Do the behavior first and then we can figure out effectiveness.  Here is another graphic:

Chart 2

This graphic tells us whether a sales team has the skill set to sell more consultatively. (Read this book review about Seth Godin’s book “Linchpin”). This tells us what they are capable of doing, doing or not doing.  If you look closely, you will see a vertical line at the 50% mark. This indicates the number of skills that are possessed by less than 50% of the team. If this is the case, then the question has to be “What am I doing as a sales leader?”  Or, if you are the senior sales executive of the organization, then you must ask, “If this is what my sales team looks like or how they are performing, then what is my sales manager doing?  If my sales manager is coaching properly, then why do these problems exists?  Why do we lack the skills for selling consultatively?” This type of information now answers the question about the skills of your sales manager.  If they report that they are doing the behavior (coaching) but the sales results aren’t there, the sales skills aren’t there, the pipeline isn’t there, then what is the problem? The problem is effectiveness. This then leads to the importance of sales management SKILLS.

So, back to the initial question. Which one is more important:  Behaviors or Skills? Clearly, both are important, but it's the identification of required behaviors, it’s the inspection of the behaviors being done, and it’s the gathering of performance information that help you identify whether you have an effort or execution (skill, bias) problem.

As a sales guy who happens to blog about this stuff, I would be remiss if I didn’t provide you with some solutions to address these issues.  Here are some resources you can take a look at or contact us about.

  • Executive 1-on-1 Consult:  Call me directly about OneUp – The only effective way to help your managers become better at managing.  513.226.3913
  • Sales Manager 1-on-1 Consult:  Call me directly about OneUp.  The only way you can help yourself to become better at managing – 513.226.3913


Did you like today’s blog? Don't miss our future posts! Sign up HERE to have our weekly audio Sales Brew and monthly newsletter sent right to your inbox and then receive Tony Cole’s eBook, Why is Selling So #%&@ Hard?, as our thanks to you!

Connect with ACTG!

Twitter ACTG   LinkedIn Tony Cole   ACTG Facebook   Sales Brew

0 Comments Click here to read/write comments

Time Is Short – Get It Right


Occasionally, maybe 3 or 4 times since I started blogging, I write about something that is bigger than managing sales people, sales growth, sales coaching or selling.  Something happens that is meaningful to me and I feel compelled to write about it.  Maybe it’s my way of dealing with the event.  Often, the event is when someone in my life (or our lives) is lost.

This past Monday was my 60th birthday and many of my followers and LinkedIn connections reached out to wish me a Happy Birthday.  One of those was my good friend, Chuck Shanklin (Shade). Shade and I talk once, maybe twice, a year.  And, every time, it's a great talk about family, life in general, and occasionally, we talk business. But, honestly, business is normally the last thing we talk about.  About half way through our conversation, he had to tell me some news that I knew he didn't want to share because he didn’t want to “bring me down” on my birthday.  He told me our friend, Scott Lihme, had just passed away after a short, hard fought battle with pancreatic cancer.  He was just 50 years young.

Coles on beach

I haven’t seen Scott in a couple of years but, like my relationship with Chuck, we stayed connected via phone and email.  He was the one who introduced me to EPIC Insurance and Tony D’Asaro.  We ended up doing business with Tony but, when I went to EPIC in the spring, I found out Scott was no longer there. He had moved to another agency. Reaching out to Scott while I was in California is now added to my list of “Things I Should Have Done Because Life is Short.”

I think it’s the combination of my 60th birthday and the loss of Scott that has me in a funk.  I am at a point where I realize there is no turning back and I guess what I’m trying to say here today is that you don’t know really when that last day is.  I breezed through my 50s without any major catastrophic events… well, okay… I had two broken elbows and a flirt with ocular cancer – but, heck, I'm still alive and kicking, playing tennis, hanging Christmas lights and living life like I have lots of day ahead of me.  But the reality is that I don’t know that for sure... and neither do you.

I started writing a book several years ago called “Letters From Another Shore” – letters that I write to myself from people that are no longer with us.  Soon, I will be adding a letter from Scott.  As I sit here today, I think he would write that he forgives me for not taking the time to contact him while I was in Orange County this last spring and he would tell me, “Time is Short – Get it Right.”

What I do…what we ALL do… (I'm including you in this group of sales and sales management professionals that I work with) is important.  It’s important in that we help our clients solve problems.  Sometimes those are really big problems that are really important to our client and maybe lots of their employees and clients.  It’s important work.  It’s also important work because it provides the resources (time and money) that we need to support our families, our communities and ourselves.  It’s important to get this right because the time period we have to get it right is short.

But… at the end of the day, I mean the real end of the last day, no one is going to be by our bedside, at the memorial service or at our empty office and think about the sale we lost.  If we do this right, those people we leave behind will be wondering “What do I do now without him/her?”  They will be joyful for the time we spent with them.  There will be tears of laughter at the stories and tears of sorrow because of the loss.  No one will be crying over the lost revenue from a lost account in 2014.

It is tough to figure it all out. I admit to mulling this over quite a bit. So, in closing, here is what I have landed on to be a possible solution for balancing the important things in life. 

I don’t remember where I learned this or how long ago I learned this. And I wish I can tell you that I have mastered this, but I haven’t.  If you believe you can have completely uncomplicated balance of life, then I believe you set yourself up for failure and frustration.  Life just doesn’t work that way.  I do believe though that there is a solution and the solution I have learned but not yet mastered is this – Be where you are. 

When you are at work, be at work.  Give it your undivided attention and give your company, your co-workers, your clients, your business partners your undivided very best.  Don’t let the other important part(s) of your life interfere.  Don’t let yourself feel guilty about not being at a ball game, a practice or recital.  Once you make the decision to be at work, BE AT WORK. 

Conversely, when you make the decision to be at home (or anytime you make the decision to not be at work), then don’t let yourself feel guilty about not being at work.  BE AT HOME. If you feel guilty, then maybe you made a bad decision.  But, once you make it, live with it. Don’t spoil the moment for yourself or others you are with. 

Scott, thank you for your time, your smile and your influence even as you pass from this world to the next.

Did you like today’s blog? Don't miss our future posts! Sign up HERE to have our weekly audio Sales Brew and monthly newsletter sent right to your inbox and then receive Tony Cole’s eBook, Why is Selling So #%&@ Hard?, as our thanks to you!

Connect with ACTG!

Twitter ACTG   Tony Cole LinkedIn   ACTG Facebook   Audio Sales Brew

0 Comments Click here to read/write comments

"Old Tools" Work Really Well in Sales Management


As I have written before, I grew up on a farm in Hammonton, NJ., the Blueberry Capital of the World. As a matter of fact, come this next Monday, I was born there 60 years ago at 7:14am on a Wednesday morning at the Esposito Home (A small, privately-run hospital).

When growing up on a farm, it is beneficial to learn how to use certain tools.  Learning what the tools are at an early age was extremely helpful especially when dad (Ray) was working underneath a pickup truck or in the middle of a tractor engine and he said to his son (me), "Antny (Anthony), hand me the flat head screw driver."  Now, that one was always easy - it's the screw driver with the flat head. But "Antny, hand me the 9/16 inch wrench" - oh oh, that one was not so easy especially when I was looking at a tool box FULL of different wrenches. Dad had this amazing ability - he could just reach in the box and grab the right one. I, on the other hand, even today, have to read the imprint on the side of each wrench until I find the one that says 9/16.


"Tony," you might be asking, "what does this have to do sales management and sales management tools?"  "Well, reader," I'm thinking, "it has a lot to do with sales management and sales tools, and it also gives me a chance to reflect on my dad and my youth spent on the farm." But... now on to my point about tools.

This time of year I become "Sparky". You know...Chevy Chase of Christmas Vacation. So, the other day, I started working on the decorations and I needed some tools to hang some wreaths over the windows. The claw hammer, the pliers, the wire cutters, the flat head screw driver and a phillips head screw driver.  I've been using all those tools since I was a kid and, for me, "kid" was a long time ago. Let's just say over 40 years ago. And you know what? Those tools look exactly the same today and work exactly the same today as they did 40 years ago. My guess is that we could even go back 80 years and they would be the same.

As a sales manager, you need a tool box. It doesn't have to be sophisticated. It doesn't have to be online or mobile. It doesn't have to automatically spit out reports to you.  No, you really don't need or any other .com or cloud application to effectively manage your sales people.  You just need the simple basic skills and tools of the job.

Management Skills:

  1. Sales person empathy - You need to care more about your people and their success than your own.
  2. Communication skills:  Listening skills - To hear what they are saying and not saying.  Questioning skills - To get deep into their head and heart.  Find out why they do what they do and why they even got into sales.
  3. Assertiveness - Being a sales manager isn't about being nice or being mean.  Be fair, be quick, be effective.
  4. Business Intelligence - Gather data about what your people are doing so that your coaching can be focused and intentional.
  5. Coaching Bias - You must have a heart and passion for developing people.

Management Tools:

  1. Data Gathering (on sales activities) - Paper and pen work just fine, so does an Excel spreadsheet.  Don't let technology be your excuse for not inspecting what you expect.
  2. Sales Forecasting - In today's world that means pipeline. Gathering realistic information about future sales is critical to the company and critical to the development of your people.
  3. Meetings about Selling - Make your sales meetings about selling. Keep all the other "stuff" out of the meeting. Sales people should leave thinking that it was a great meeting (one they don't wouldn't want to miss) and they always learn something from the meeting that will help them immediately.
  4. Rewards and Consequences - You need to know what motivates your people so that you can reward them appropriately AND you must have a disciplined approach to help them get back on-track when they get off-track.
  5. Recruiter - Not everyone you hire is going to stay with you and not everyone you hire is going to work out. Just like your sales people need a pipeline of prospects, you need a pipeline of candidates.
These are basic, fundamental skills and tools for effective sales management. Sure the .com applications can help you become more efficient, but that is not the key to developing a high performance, no excuses, over-achieving sales team.  Nope. The key is to be effective.  Be effective with people, efficient with things.
Next time you are in New Jersey, stop by Hammonton, NJ, especially around mid-July for the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Festival.  The oldest festival of its kind in the country.
Additional Resources:

Did you like today’s blog? Don't miss our future posts! Sign up HERE to have our weekly audio Sales Brew and monthly newsletter sent right to your inbox and then receive Tony Cole’s eBook, Why is Selling So #%&@ Hard?, as our thanks to you!

Connect with ACTG!

Twitter ACTG   Tony Cole LinkedIn   ACTG Facebook   Sales Brew

0 Comments Click here to read/write comments

Grab The Right End of the Problem For Effective Sales Management


My dad used to tell me, “Anthony, sometimes you have to pick up the dirty end of the stick.”  Well, actually, my dad’s quote was “Sometimes you have to pick up the shi**y end of the stick.”  For the life of me, I had no idea what he was talking about then…and I still didn’t know what he meant until many years later.  Why would I ever want to pick up the shi**y end of the stick when there was a perfectly clean end to grab? However, once I got into sales, sales management, sales training and became a president of a company, I think I finally understood.

Hand Grabbing Stick

Brian Tracey describes it as “Eat That Frog”.  Both metaphors have the same meaning – sometimes you have to do the hard thing, the uncomfortable thing, the unpleasant thing, the risky thing, the thing that might ruin a relationship, the thing you dread doing, the thing you may not be very good at… but, ultimately, it’s the thing you gotta do if you are going to be successful, grow, accomplish a task, and/or meet an objective. Put simply: To be effective, sometimes you have to get your hands dirty.

Two things have prompted this message today: 

1)     I had to write about something. I committed to writing a blog post on every day that I work in December and, although today is technically not a work day for me (on my Google Calendar, it says OUT), I’m writing a blog today to make up for missing Monday.

2)     I was reading discussion threads in the HBR Group in LinkedIn this morning about the discomfort or reluctance to give and receive feedback.  The comments were centered around the idea that “the shi**y end of the stick” discussions that have to take place are often ignored, delayed or softened because…

Well, there are lots of reasons for not wanting to give feedback to others.  Here is the short list:

  • Poor On-boarding - As a leader, we recognize that maybe initially we didn’t do a great job of explaining all the expectations we had and so, when someone fails to meet and objective of the role, we hesitate because we realize that maybe their failure is really our failure to effectively communicate.
  • Need for Approval – We would rather be liked than make sure that our team is performing the way they need to perform.  “I’d rather take a hit on their behalf from my boss rather than my team having ill feelings towards me.”
  • Beliefs – This is tied to Need for Approval – “I believe I can get more out of my team if they like me.”
  • Hiring – We believe we are hiring the right people that don’t need our feedback, so “If they don’t get the job done, we’ll just find a replacement.”
  • Not Hiring – We are not hiring better sales people AND we don’t have replacements, therefore we feel trapped in a bad situation. “I’m being held hostage by the person that is a terrorist or underperformer and so having someone in the chair is better not having anyone in the chair.”
  • Feedback – Our own self-esteem/confidence isn’t strong enough to handle feedback so we are less likely to provide it to others. “I don’t like feedback so I am not going to give it to others.”

Okay, get the idea?  Good.  So, here’s the solution: Sometimes you have to grab the shi**y end of the stick.  I really don’t care about all the reasons you can come up with for not providing the feedback, coaching and mentoring that your sales people deserve. Bottom line is that it comes with the territory and job title.  It’s the responsibility you take on when you accept the job and subsequently invite someone to join your team.

The reality is that everyone you hire is not a superstar. You generally end up hiring some marginal people – people that need coaching, feedback, mentoring and performance management.  To do provide that, you must have a more effective Sales Managed Environment (SME).

5 Things You Have To Do:

  1. Put on your BIG BOY/BIG GIRL Pants.
  2. Do a better job of explaining UP FRONT (BEFORE you hire them) that this is the job, this is how you will manage them and this is the pressure they will be under to perform.
  3. Give your team a chance to set their own standards of success and set their own expectations for their performance.  I promise you that, if they pass the intelligence test, they will set higher standards for themselves than you would set for them.  If they don’t, you made a bad hire.
  4. Get permission to coach them when you find that they are off track from hitting their own expectations.
  5. Coach them!!  There must be rewards for success and consequences for failure.

I would like to say more about #5 because I’m convinced this is why we avoid picking up the stick.  Most of the time we know we should provide feedback… but all of the feedback we are programmed to provide is of a punitive nature.  When someone is failing to accomplish what he/she needs to accomplish, HR says we have to take “corrective action.”  By the time that happens, it’s too late.  So, here are a couple of more points:

  1. Catch them early.  Collect data on performance and, the moment they start to slide off of the path, have a conversation with them about the agreement you have in place for coaching.
  2. Tell them this is a coaching discussion.  Corrective action must be instructive and disciplined, not discipline.
  3. Determine if the failure is effort or execution.
  4. Put in place action plans specifically to correct the real issue that will get them on track.  If it is an effort problem, then schedule time for them to execute the activity without fail.  If it is an execution problem, then schedule time for instruction and coaching.
  5. Inspect what you expect until they are back on track

Effective sales management is not about being nice or being mean.  It’s about doing your job to lead, coach, motivate and mentor your team to success. Remember, in order to become more effective, sometimes you have to get your hands dirty.

Additional Resources:

Performance Management – Online Learning Module

Workshop on “Why Aren’t My Sales People Selling?”

Call me directly for some feedback and/or coaching – 513.226.3913

Did you like today’s blog? Don't miss our future posts! Sign up HERE to have our weekly audio Sales Brew and monthly newsletter sent right to your inbox and then receive Tony Cole’s eBook, Why is Selling So #%&@ Hard?, as our thanks to you!

Connect with ACTG!

Twitter ACTG    Tony Cole LinkedIn   ACTG Facebook   Audio Sales Brew

0 Comments Click here to read/write comments

Commit To Sales Activity...and Stick To It


Well…I already blew my goal to blog every day that I work in December. That happened when I failed to do so yesterday, December 1st. But, I didn’t blow my commitment to making phone calls to prospects every day I work in December. As a rainmaker for Anthony Cole Training Group, I have a responsibility to keep an active pipeline of prospects. I made a choice. But, as president/owner of the company, I also have a responsibility to our CMO, Jeni Wehrmeyer, to keep my end of the bargain in marketing – I need to blog.

I like writing, but I’m not a great writer. I was a career “C” student in the English classes that I took in high school and college. Unfortunately, I tend to be inconsistent with blogging.  I admit that is similar to how I am with prospecting; I like prospecting but I don’t love it.  I like it. And though I’m decent at prospecting, I’m still inconsistent at prospecting. However, I have become much better at making sure I execute High Payoff Activities - prospecting, meeting with prospects, presenting to prospects, getting prospects to make a decision… ALL high payoff activities. And I admit it can sometimes be tough to find time to do it all.

Jeni would tell you, and I believe her, that blogging IS a payoff activity. Maybe not an immediate payoff like direct prospecting, but still a payoff.  I personally cannot begin to describe the total effect of my blog over the years, but I can tell you this: Jeni can. She can demonstrate that, when I post blog articles, we get more hits to our website, more interest in what we are doing and, occasionally, we get someone to reach out and ask about our services. These ARE valuable leads and, occasionally, a lead from my blog posting does pay off. But we don't get as many leads through the blog as Mark, Walt, Jack and I get when we ask for introductions. But, at the very least, I know that the cumulative sum of all my blogs does pay off in a BIG way when it comes to people finding our company through a Google Search – Anthony Cole Training Group

In today’s world, it makes sense to be active on LinkedIn just as much as it makes sense to ask for introductions and network at conferences/association meetings.  It also makes sense to have a newsletter to discuss specific topics like Prospecting, The Only “A” Priority.  AND it definitely makes sense to tweet or blog.

My point here is that you cannot ignore any of those activities. I agree that there IS a balancing act between the activities you have to do and/or manage to get opportunities into your sales pipeline.  But, the reality is that it is just a matter of blocking out time to do the activities and then sticking to your schedule. Personally, I blog best first thing in the morning – so, this is being written at 6:56 AM – BEFORE my coffee.

My other point is this: if you commit to something, do it. Yes, you may miss a day or you may miss making the calls at 1:00 PM on a Tuesday. But, that doesn’t mean you cannot make up for it by adjusting your schedule. Make a firm commitment to execute the activity and then reschedule it for another time if something disrupts your original schedule.  Don’t just give up at the first sign of conflict.

As a sales leader, you must become very sensitive to this type of thinking, especially this time of year. It can be easy for sales people to “give up” on prospecting now, e.g. to assume that everyone is busy with holiday stuff and “no one is in.” That is BS. People are still working; prospects are still concerned about their business operations, and they will still take calls from your sales people if they have problems that your product and services can solve! Your sales people still have time to prospect… regardless of how big a book they have that renews on January 1.

Make the commitment to hold yourself and your people accountable to your formula for success. Adopt a “No Excuses” policy! Don’t let the Holidays be a convenient excuse not to have a great end of the year or a great start to the new year.

Additional Resources:

Success Formulas

The "I Don’t Have Time to Prospect" myth – An audio post card to send to your sales team

Why is Selling So Damn Hard? <--- Get this book for your entire staff!

Call me directly - 513.226.3913

Did you like today’s post? Don't miss our future posts! Sign up HERE to have our weekly audio Sales Brew and monthly newsletter sent right to your inbox and then receive Tony Cole’s eBook, Why is Selling So #%&@ Hard?, as our thanks to you!

Connect with ACTG!

Twitter ACTG   LinkedIn Tony Cole   Facebook ACTG  Sales Brew

0 Comments Click here to read/write comments

Sales, Goals & Life... and Lauren Hill


Once again, I’m flooded with stuff happening around me that has nothing or very little to do directly with sales… and I cannot help myself but to connect these thoughts and events to what I love to do – coach and teach sales and sales management.

I think it was 1992 when Pat Riley, as part of a speaker’s event, came to Cincinnati and spoke at the convention center.  I don’t remember a thing from his speech other than his comment about being taken to the cleaners by the media after losing the 1984 NBA championship to the Celtics.  He said (paraphrasing):  They [the media] just don’t understand that the NBA Championship is in the Toy Department of Life.

Lauren Hill Layup

For reasons unknown to me at the time, that line has stayed with me all this years.  As I approach the completion of my 60th year, I think I understand that what I thought Coach Riley was saying is that basketball - and in fact, any sport - is just a game.

At the same conference, Steve Palermo spoke.  In July of 1991, after umpiring a MLB game between the Rangers and the Angels, Steve and a couple of other umpires were dining at a local Dallas restaurant when they heard a couple of waitresses being assaulted in the parking lot.  They rushed out, a shot was fired, and a bullet struck Steve in the spine.  After surgery, he was told that he would never walk again.

The day that he spoke in Cincinnati, he approached the podium using two crutches. He stood there, talked to the crowd and, when he finished, he took questions.  Someone in the crowd asked, “When do you think you will be able to walk well enough to umpire another MLB game?”  Steve responded, “I don’t know; maybe today.”

It was more than just a hopeful response; it was a response of commitment and conviction that, if he continued to do the things he needed to do to walk, then maybe, just maybe, today would be THE DAY.  I thought he was saying that pursuing your professional career is something that requires constant vigilance and work.  But, I was wrong.

So, in walks Lauren Hill. Perhaps you’ve heard of her. She isn’t just making the news on ESPN and other sports media outlets.  She’s being seen and heard everywhere.  She’s a freshman basketball player at Mt. Saint Joseph, here in Cincinnati, Ohio.  But, she’s a freshman with a difference; Lauren has an inoperable brain tumor.  It was diagnosed in her junior year of high school. They told her at that time that her life expectancy was 2 years.  Last year, she played basketball her senior year in high school. This year, she enrolled in Mt. Saint Joseph and joined the basketball team.  An updated MRI earlier this year changed her prognosis.  She was told that her life expectancy was now December of this year.

Originally, this season’s first game was not scheduled to be played until December.  However, Mt. Saint Joseph, working together with the NCAA and Hiram College (their first opponent), made arrangements to get the game played this last Sunday.  As soon as the game day was set, news spread like wildfire and everyone wanted to come show their support for Lauren. Normally, the Lions play in front of about 100 fans, but the amount of interest in tickets for the game required a change of venue. Xavier University stepped forward and provided the Cintas Center which was sold out in less than an hour. Local and national stations made arrangements to televise the game to include thousands who were unable to get tickets.  All of the workers who normally help stage events at the Cintas Center volunteered their time for the game.  So, instead of just a few family and friends, over 10,000 people in the Cintas Center and millions nationwide watched Lauren’s dream of playing college basketball come true as she stepped out onto the court and, in the first seconds of the game, shoot a left-handed lay-up to score.

How does all this come together for me and what can the message be for all of us?

Selling and managing sales people isn’t a lot different than playing and coaching.  You recruit the best you can find.  You coach them, you practice the strategy, you go into the market and find people to play/sell to and, when it’s over, you either win or you lose.

I thought Pat Riley was saying that winning the NBA championship was in the toy department of life.  I was wrong.  I believe that he was saying that losing the NBA championship was in the toy department of life. Winning is important.  Winning sales is important.  But losing one?  No one will ever remember the ones you lost.

Steve Palermo wasn’t talking about working hard to walk again because of his pursuit of his professional career.  He was talking about working hard, having a “can do” attitude, and an attitude of “MAYBE TODAY’ because he was in pursuit of doing something he loved to do.  Aside from his wife, baseball was the love of his life.  He could not imagine a life without baseball.  Steve later became a supervisor of MLB umpires. 

For Lauren, there will be no championships or second chances.  This is her life.  Playing in a college basketball game was her dream and eventually her dream came true.  For Lauren, playing basketball was/is in the toy department of life.  At age 18, it’s supposed to be.  Everything else pales in comparison to the fight she now fights – to keep breathing.

I ask you to stop and think a moment when you read this.  Not for me, but for yourself… and for Lauren.  Pat and Steve, no reason to worry about them, they are fine.  But for Lauren and her family, there is a very rough road ahead. For you?  I don’t know what your dream and goals are.  I don’t know what you aspire to, but I would suggest the following:

  1. Make sure you are waking up every day and getting a chance to do what you love to do
  2. Make sure that you put losing in perspective – it’s never fatal or final.
  3. Winning is fun; it’s exciting. In sales, it pays the bills and helps you accomplish the dreams and aspirations you have come true.
  4. Ask yourself everyday – What’s Important Now (WIN) – and then go do what’s important now.
  5. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself to pursue what appear to be insurmountable goals and achievements.  You never know what you can achieve if you don’t give it a shot.

Don’t miss these!

Tony Cole video: Someday
Mark Trinkle audio:  What is Your Dream?


Did you like today’s post? If so, you’ll love our weekly audio Sales Brew and monthly newsletter! Sign up HERE and receive Tony Cole’s eBook, Why is Selling So #%&@ Hard?, as our thanks to you!

Connect with ACTG!

Twitter ACTG   LinkedIn Tony Cole  Facebook ACTG   Sales Brew   

0 Comments Click here to read/write comments

PRO, FUN & MON: 3 Really Good Things to Manage To in Selling


I just spent the last five days with my client and good friend, Ric Stoakes, from Lincoln, Nebraska. In addition to being a principle at the UNICO Group, he is an avid traveler and “a nutcase of a Nebraska Football Fan”.  If you spent enough time in Lincoln, you would soon discover that “a nutcase of a Nebraska Football Fan” is not a group of one. From Tuesday through Friday, I spent time with him, his sales team and other partners in the firm.  I stayed a couple of extra days in Lincoln after Ric and Scott Nelson invited me to watch their beloved Cornhuskers play/beat Rutgers.

Huskers Stadium

There were at least 2 really important things I learned from my client this last week:

  1. There may be a difference between what you are doing and what is getting done.  I believe it was Chad Ideus that brought this concept in our group session on Wednesday morning. This thought/concept is very important for sales managers and sales people alike to grasp and think about EVERY day.  Too often, maybe even every day, we (I’m including myself) do a quick accounting of our day, week or month and review what we spent our time doing. If we did a true accounting of what got DONE as a result of what we were doing, what would our assessment be, look or sound like?  It’s kind of like what one of the local sports show hosts said when discussing the Nebraska quarterback, “Evaluating a quarterback isn’t about asking or determining if he has talent; it’s about evaluating what he has done to win.”

    Over the next 30 days, track and determine what actually gets done as a result of what you’ve been doing.

  2. During one of our “fireside” chats, Ric and I were talking about the team and how our training program with them was going. He shared with me that, when they bring people on board, one of their tenets in the organization is Pro, Fun & Mon.  Those are the 3 priorities:  Be PROfessional, have FUN and the MONey will take care of itself.  I like the trilogy, but it needs some exploring.  Specifically, I want to explore the “be professional” aspect.

I went to my good friend, Mr. Google, to find out what it takes to be a professional.  On the first page, just below the first paid listing was a link to the Institute of Internal Auditors. What came up on the screen was a PDF, and on the first page, I read the following:  To be a professional:

"Professionalism does not occur overnight. Rather, it is a process that evolves out of focused commitment and dedication, ongoing study and professional growth, high-road ethics, unwavering determination, and plain, old-fashioned hard work."

Also, According to the RSC (Royal Society of Chemistry) code of conduct, professionalism is defined as:

“A profession demands advanced learning, practical experience and judgment in the application of special skills and is governed by a code of ethical conduct and practice. Those who claim professional status must, individually and as a whole, adhere strictly to the code and carry out their duties accordingly.”

These two views are consistent with my thinking and why I wanted to address this issue.  In my interaction with the sales team at UNICO, I am convinced that they handle themselves in a manner that is consistent with the idea of “Be professional.”  They all clearly exhibit:  high-road ethics, hard work, practical experience, and solid judgment in the application of special skills and knowledge of their insurance profession.  They also exhibit commitment to being masterful in their expertise in insurance. 

There is a significant difference between being an insurance professional and a sales professional.  To be a professional in sales ALSO requires advanced learning and commitment and dedication to ongoing study and professional growth in the art and science of sales and selling!

As the manager, leader, coach, mentor, and motivator of your sales team, what are you doing to make sure your people become masterful, ultimate professionals in selling?

Additional Resources:

  • Does my sales team need professional selling help? – Sales Force Grader
  • What do I need to be a professional sales manager? Free Sales Management Webinars
  • Call me directly to talk about sales or sales management professional development at 513.226.3913

Did you like today’s post? If so, you’ll love our weekly audio Sales Brew and monthly newsletter! Sign up HERE and receive Tony Cole’s eBook, Why is Selling So #%&@ Hard?, as our thanks to you!

Connect with ACTG!

Twitter   LinkedIn  Facebook  Sales Brew

0 Comments Click here to read/write comments

The ONE Secret to Selling More


I’ve been in the sales and sales management consulting business for 21 years.  Prior to that, I was an insurance wholesaler, an insurance agent, a Nautilus Regional Sales Manager, a Nautilus Regional Sales Rep and collegiate athletic coach.  During my 30 year professional career, I’ve read a lot of books, met with many keynote speakers and listened to hours of audio recordings.  Many, if not all, of my learning from others’ experiences include a common theme:  “Secrets”.  And several years ago, there was even a DVD, Book and Audio Series called just that - The Secret.

The Secret (The book)

Today, I bring you THE ONE secret to getting your sales people to sell more, more quickly at higher margins.   I will illustrate this “secret” based on my last 4 sales.

Traditionally, I would tell you that in our business of selling business consulting services – specifically, evaluating sales teams, helping companies hire better sales people, sales training, and sales management development – the sales cycle is anywhere between 3 and 9 months.  Over the last years, when we project sales, our revenue projections are about 75% accurate. 

In the last 4 sales, the sales cycle – from the moment we had our 1st serious conversation about the problems a company is facing to the time they said, “Yes, we will pay you to help us” – has taken less than 30 days.  Why?

Here is the secret and I guess this turns out to be 2 secrets – 1 for you and 1 for your sales people:

The Secret:  Make sure that, when you are presenting your solution, you ONLY present your solution to prospects that are qualified.  “Qualified” means the prospect has: 

  1. described a problem that has to be fixed  
  2. committed in advance to spend money to fix the problem
  3. agreed to make a decision once you present your solution

If you can coach your people to only present to qualified buyers 100% of the time, you will close more business, more quickly at higher margins.  Guaranteed!

More Resources:

Why is Qualifying Prospect So Hard eBook

Audiobook on Qualifying

Qualifier Checklist

For more information on executing the perfect sales process, call me directly today – but only if you are qualified – 513.226.3913.

Did you like today’s post? If so, you’ll love our weekly audio Sales Brew and monthly newsletter! Sign up HERE and receive Tony Cole’s eBook, Why is Selling So #%&@ Hard?, as our thanks to you!

Connect with ACTG!

Twitter ACTG   Tony Cole LinkedIn   ACTG Facebook   Sales Brew

0 Comments Click here to read/write comments

Are You That Someone Else for Your Sales Team?


Ever wonder if your sales people are really listening to you?  Do they respond and react... or do they sit politely listening and then continue to do what they’ve always done?  As a sales manager or sales executive, you have many roles to fill in order to get the most out of your sales team.  You must coach them, you must motivate them, you must have some level of performance management and, in some ways, you must mentor them.

Manager Scratching Head

When I was coaching at Iowa State University, I was interviewed by a local TV sports reporter about my role as the strength and conditioning coordinator for the varsity athletics.  At the conclusion of the interview, the reporter said, “Your job is really one of parent, teacher and sometime psychologist, isn’t it?”  “Yes, it is,” I said. Your job as a sales manager is much the same.

If I were to attempt to evaluate your effectiveness, I would look at the following to determine the impact you have had on your sales team:

  • Are incorrect behaviors changing for the better?
  • Are your sales people all hitting their sales activity goals?
  • Is the sales cycle reasonable to the industry segments to whom you market?
  • As a team, are you becoming more productive? Is #5 on the team better than #5 from last year’s team?
  • Are you consistently improving the quantity and or quality of your pipeline?
  • Is your closing ratio improving?
  • Is your team selling more today than they did last year?
  • How is your go-to-market message – is it consistent?
  • Do you have people who work well with your corporate objectives?

My intention here is to help you think about your success and improvement as a sales manager and sales executive.  You have an awesome responsibility for the recruiting and developing of your people. Even if you recruit the SUPERSTAR in your market, that superstar still needs a coach - someone to motivate them and keep them on track. The best in any profession are the best because they always work on getting better and most, if not all of the time, they do that with the aide of someone else.  YOU are that “someone else” for your sales team.

And so, back to the original question – Do your people hear you when you are attempting to instruct them, coach them or motivate them?  If not - how come?  The easy thing to do is to blame them.  The hard thing to do is to take ownership of the situation and assess what it is about you or your message that isn’t resonating or having the intended impact.

When we evaluate sales management strengths, weaknesses, tendencies and areas of effectiveness using the Objective Management Sales Manager Evaluation, we receive findings in several areas. Some of the usual key findings are:

  • Many sales managers believe “It isn’t important for me to understand what personally motivates my sales people"
  • Some believe that "It isn’t my responsibility" to raise their team's self-esteem
  • They lack commitment and desire to be successful as a sales manager
  • They are not taking responsibility for results
  • They are ineffective at giving recognition for success or discipline for failure
  • They have a high need for approval from their sales people

If you have a strong ego, it will be difficult to admit that any of these can pertain to you. You may not understand this or accept this, but when you took on the responsibility of sales manager, the focus of the job was to develop your people to be the highest and best they can be.  If that isn’t happening, then it’s time to take a closer look and do something about it.

One Up – Contact me directly to discuss the most important sales management tool you can have today to drive sales results.  513.791.3458 or email me at  Put in subject:  I want to talk about One Up

Additional Resources:

Top Sales World – Article on Sales Coaching Best Practices

Worksheet – Determine who needs what coaching on your sales team

Sales Coaching Skills – 9 Audio clips about improving critical coaching skills

0 Comments Click here to read/write comments

Sales Managers – Why Isn’t Goal Setting Easy?


I was first introduced to goal setting in sales when I was an insurance agent with National Life of Vermont.  The General Agent was Dave and his manager was Bob.  The company subscribed to the “Al Grannum” school of 10-3-1 - see 10 people, 3 will be qualified buyers, 1 will buy. Based on that equation, the established goal was to write 100 lives.  You do the math.

Al Granum

I never did write 100 lives but, based on the sales activity reporting I did every week, I should have.  When I fell short of my activity goal, Bob’s intense coaching often included, “See more people!”  Okay, Bob.  Did I see more people?  Nope, I just wrote down a bigger number to keep Bob off my backside. I failed in the life insurance business. 

Well, not entirely.  Towards the end of my career, I contracted with a sales trainer, Tom.  Tom introduced me to an idea of a sales cookbook.  Yes, the tenets for success was still based on a formula of sales steps and conversion ratios from one step to the next, but... there was ONE MAJOR difference – personal goal setting.

As I write this, maybe I should change the title to “Sales Managers – Why Isn’t Goal Achievement Easy?” Because in relationship to one another, the goal setting is easy compared to the goal accomplishing, but only if you take the easy way out when setting goals.

The easy way out – Take everyone’s number, increase it by the growth goal percentage of the company, and say to them, “Here is your goal for next year.  Or, if you want to leverage our compensation model, you need to exceed this year’s goal by x.”  Or, if you want to use incentive travel/excursions to motivate people to higher levels of performance, you raise the bar required for people to qualify for the “President’s Club” trip.

I have inquired about incentives and changes in overall production of a sales team.  I’ve talked to sales VPs, I’ve talked to presidents of companies that agree to spend anywhere between $100,000 and $1,000,000 in incentive comps and trips, and finally, I’ve talked to people that sell people on incentive trips.  No one – I repeat – no one has been able to demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that any of this by itself improves top to bottom individual performance.

Why?  *Locke, Shaw, Saari, and Latham (1981) concluded that the relationship between goal setting and performance is reliable, persistent and strong.  Specific, difficult goals led to higher performance than did nonspecific, “do your best” goals in 90% of the studies they reviewed in which the goals could be assumed to have been accepted by the subjects.  However, the strength of the relationship varies considerably from study to study.  Despite care considerations around performance variability, a large amount of performance variability is unexplained by goal condition.  Three potentially important contributors to performance variability are  Situational Factors, Job Characteristics and Individual Differences. 

Just for the sake of simplicity, lets’ assume that all of your sales people have the same situational factors (market conditions, competitive issues, compensation, and tenure).  Let’s also assume the job is the same: Call suspects, meet with suspects, qualify them or disqualify them as prospects, gather appropriate information, present a solution, close.  Given these two assumptions, that leaves us with one variable – Individual Differences. This is what I believe makes goal achievement so difficult and, by extension, makes goal setting difficult.

In our Sales Managed Environment (SME) program, one of the important functions of the sales manager is to motivate the sales team AND keep them motivated.  Years ago, I heard Mark Victor Hansen say that motivation is an “inside/out” job.  In other words, it isn’t something that you can do for someone; it’s something they need to build internally for themselves.  You cannot motivate them; they can only motivate themselves to achieve those things that are only important to them.  If you were to inquire as to what was important to your sales people, way down on the list would be company growth, increase share holder value or demonstrate internal organic growth so that, when the company goes IPO, they can receive a premium multiple of earnings.

If you asked them what was really important, you would probably hear the following: pay for an upcoming wedding, eliminate my debt, plan for retirement, pay college tuition, build an addition/new home, replace old car, give to the community, achieve job satisfaction, contribute to life, and maintain life balance.  Unfortunately for you and them, they probably don’t have any of this in writing, don’t have a plan, don’t have a clue as to what they have to do to get any of this done.  This is where you come in; this is where you can help them make their dreams come true.

Over the next 3 weeks, I will be working with two companies to facilitate a personal goal setting/business work plan workshop. This is one of the deliverables in our SME program.  We will spend a minimum of 3 hours facilitating a discussion that is designed to help the participants dig into their own lives and identify what is important to them.  What motivates them? What are the objectives/goals in their life that are non-negotiable?  What is it that they are so committed to that nothing will stop them from doing the required activity/behavior that will eventually lead to the success they seek?  Once this is completed, we then will help them translate that into a work plan - a formula for success at work so that they can enjoy the freedom of time and choice they are seeking.

What you can do to help them and to make your goal setting easier is to create an environment where goal setting and goal accomplishment is possible.


Personal Goal Setting Workshop

Pre-workshop preparation (Audio clip) What is your Dream?

Call me directly to discuss this topic – 513-226-3913 (mobile)

0 Comments Click here to read/write comments

All Posts | Next Page

Are You Looking To Build An All-Star Sales Team?

Recruiting Sales Superstar

 Click HERE now!

FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY - Download this free AudioBook by Tony Cole!

Qualify Prospects Confidently

Act now to receive your copy of Tony Cole's ground-breaking new audiobook, "Qualifying Prospects with Confidence." You'll get immediate access to 14 audio tracks and a detailed worksheet. Get it now!

Ready for a Hiring Solution That Really Works?

Hiring Solution

This complimentary webinar will show you how the magic of OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment can make your hiring problems a thing of the past! Dave Kurlan presenting. Register here now!

Eliminate 96% Of Hiring Mistakes!

OMG Sales Candidate Assessment Request your FREE Sample
of the #1 Sales Assessment
in the world!

Free Recruiting Grader

FREE Recruiting Process Grader

How effective is your company’s process for recruiting top sales talent? Answer this short survey and get immediate results!

Best in Class Sales Training

Introducing the ACTG Learning Center which offers a full curriculum of sales courses at a price you can afford and 24/7 access for your convenience.  Click here for more information.

Follow Me

A Must-Read for Every Sales Professional!

Qualifying eBook

Get answers and strategies to immediately increase your sales. Download it now- it’s free!

Coach Your Sales People to Success

Tony Cole's focused selling techniques will arm your team with skills to achieve extraodinary sales results. Invite Tony Cole to present at your next workshop, conference, or keynote. Click here for more information.  Get a quick start on your 2013 sales success!

Beat the Daily Grind

Sales Brew Sign up to receive our weekly audio Sales Brew. Click here for a taste test!

Subscribe by Email

Your email:

Writer's Digest Award Winner!

RA book award


Anthony Cole Training Group Wins Award!

2012 Best of Award

Evan Carmichael Logo