Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Sales Training Lessons - Generating More Sales, "Problem" People & The ONE Thing

Tags: Sales Training, sales lessons


Additional support information for this topic:

I conducted a sales training session yesterday for Central Investment Advisors.They are the investment division for Central Bank which is based in Jefferson City, Mo. We have been conducting 2 to 3 live sessions a year for 3 years now and, within our deliverable, I work with the Sales Manager, conduct online coaching sessions and provide access to our online learning library.

Yesterday, we were focusing on three critical functions for generating more sales:

  1. Executing a more consistent sales process – So many sales people, regardless of tenure, fail to have or execute a sales process. They have one, but it changes from opportunity to opportunity, day to day, week to week. As a result, gathering any business intelligences is impossible and therefore conducting any intentional coaching to improve skills or change behaviors is prohibited because there isn’t a baseline of performance to measure against.
  2. More at bats – Everything starts with getting more people to talk to and engaging those people in important conversations. Our subject matter was – Getting Introductions (Audio postcard).
  3. Positioning a Solution to Get a Decision (sample online workshop) – Even with all the training done on how to qualify prospects and how to present solutions, there is very little done in the way of positioning the close to get a decision. And, contrary to what would seem to be logical, it isn’t about the sales person telling the prospect, “This is what we do next.” Instead, it’s a matter of continuing to ask questions to find out how the prospect wants to proceed, what they have to see or hear that will allow them to make an intelligent decision, and then gaining agreement on making a decision once you deliver what they say they have to have.

We covered a lot of ground, made them role play, made them analyze their current approach and determine what was the one thing they really needed to address to improve the production, productivity and/or effectiveness. I asked them to write down that one thing so that they could take all the information and point it at just one area of improvement instead of trying to eat the whole elephant at once.

When we finished, I asked everyone to review their notes and identify the one thing they got from the session that will help them with the one thing they identified in the beginning of our workshop. The following are just some of the answers of what we all took away from our 3 hours together:

  • Do a better job of executing my ideal week – time blocking
  • Patience
  • Training is something we always need to do
  • Do a better job of asking better questions
  • When I role play/practice, I must practice how I have to perform when it really matters
  • Identify those people I really want to work with and make sure that, when I ask for referrals, I’m getting introduced to those type of people
  • Ask the question – “Is this a want to fix or have to fix problem?”
  • Make getting introductions part of my sales process
  • Have a process and follow the process
  • Make sure that I reach out to my peers and ask for help in preparing for larger sales opportunities
  • Conduct a “pre-flight checklist” prior to going out on a call or presenting a solution.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected reactions, answers and questions of the prospect.

As I said, this is just a sampling of the lessons from our session. We had close to 30 people in the room and many of those lessons identified were repeated by others. What is always fascinating to me is the variety of answers I get. We focused on just 3 things yesterday, I thought we had just 3 lessons... but the list here includes 11 take-a-ways.

The other thing that I find consistently fascinating is that normally the manager or organizer of the meeting warns me about "problem" people in the group that may not respond because of their tenure. What ALWAYS happens is that some of those tenured, experienced, "problem" people are the ones that learn the most, get the most, change the most and, eventually, produce the most. I think there is a correlation between their willingness to learn and their position in the stack ranking – they are normally the ones to the right of the median line in the bell curve.

My ask of you is this – Review the three topics covered, review the lessons learned and answer the question: “What’s the one thing I could do better?”

Feel free to comment with your answer. Please click any of the links at the beginning for additional resources.

5 Steps For Hiring Better Sales People

Tags: hiring sales people, hire better sales people



A couple of things before I get started:

  1. I really don’t believe it’s just five steps
  2. Google search finds us better when we post articles with #s in the title of the article
  3. This is all really good stuff, but there is one step at the very end – a bonus step - that trumps these 5 steps for hiring better sales people.

Step 1 – Realize and admit that you have people on your team today that are underperforming. That is the norm, but that doesn’t mean that you have to accept it. If you do, then you are part of the problem. Break out of the accepted premise that you cannot possibly have everyone on your team hitting their goal – that all you have to do is lower the goals. That, unfortunately, in reality is what most companies do. They don’t actually lower the goal; they just accept mediocrity when goals are not hit. 20 to 30% of the people on the team carry the load, get the overall performance to exceed expectations while everyone else gets a free pass. Sure, you have people on the way lower end - 3 standard deviations from the norm – but, normally, those are new hires or producers with large revenue streams who have “retired” but just haven’t told anyone.

Step 2 – Realize that you are perfectly designed for the results you are getting today. Everything you do around recruiting, performance management, coaching, mentoring, on-boarding, and training influences your ability to attract, hire and retain better sales people. When you look at the people you have on the team and put them on an 80/20 grid and realize that 33% of your people are generating north of 80% of the results, you can easily see that those others add virtually nothing to the equation when it comes to new business. My question is this – did you hire them that way or did you make them that way?

Step 3 – Decide today that you are going to hire better sales people and not deviate from that objective. Now, be careful about this. This can be like deciding to “get fit”. You set a goal for exercise and diet that is unreasonable given your current habits and condition and end up setting yourself up to fail. So, you have to be strategic about this. Segment your group into quintiles, identify the traits and qualities of those people and make sure that, if you are looking to replace someone in the 3rd quintile, your new hire is better than the one you are replacing. I hope I get this stat correct – according to Brad Smart, author of Topgrading, 75% of the new hires replacing old hires are either worse or no better than the person being exited. You can do better than that.

Step 4 – Put in a process of establishing exactly the right person for the job. In other words, instead of writing a job description, write down what it takes to be successful in the role and what the role is like day to day. Make sure in your job attraction ad you attempt to disqualify those people that are just looking for a new contract because they are sucking wind where they are today. That’s just the first step. You have to have a process that is followed routinely by everyone involved in the recruiting. Make sure you conduct strong phone interviews and have a pre-hire sales assessment versus just a personality or behavior profile – the profiles are nice for the manager and will tell if they can sell, but ultimately won’t tell you if they will sell.

Step 5Win the bet on the first tee. Once you find the exact right person (the perfect fit for the role) and you convinced them that your company is exactly the right place for them to finish their professional sales career, then… try to discourage them from taking the job. Tell them in precise detail exactly what is expected, how they will be managed, that the pressure to succeed is going to be high, that they will fill out activity reports, that they will keep their pipeline/CRM up to date, that there will be a huddle every week, that they will not be excused from sales training or sales meetings, that you will meet with them monthly to review the status of their success and lay out their career path for them. Give them plenty of reasons to reconsider. And oh, by the way, make sure that when you make your offer, they are ready to tell you yes or no

Now, remember the Bonus Step that I said in the beginning trumps all 5 of these steps for hiring better sales people? Well, here it is.

Bonus Step – Execute.

If you want to talk more about this, Text Me at 513.226.3913, Subject: Get a Yes or No at Time of Offer. Please make sure to give me your name as well.

What Habits Support or Prohibit Effective Selling?

Tags: sales management, bad sales habits, sales habits, effective selling


I reached out to 4 people that I respect in the field of sales and sales management.

  1. Bill Eckstrom, President and CEO of EcSell Institute and also the creator and developer of a super cool sales management application called Oneup.
  2. Dwight Kollmeier, President of First National Insurance Agency and former batting practice pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds.
  3. David Kurlan, President of Objective Management Group. Dave created and continues to improve the #1 pre-hire sales assessment in the world.
  4. Rick Wirthlin, Regional Director for Commercial Lending at Huntington Bank and scratch golfer. I’ve known each of these professionals for many years and respect their expertise and insight about selling and sales management.

Last week, I started writing about habits. I let everyone know that I promised my wife Linda that I would be more consistent in my good habit of exercise and that got me thinking about the habits of sales people. As I was thinking about what I wanted to write about, I emailed each of these guys and asked them to provide me a list of the “bad habits” they see in sales people. Below are their slightly edited responses:

Bill Eckstrom: I would say the following, in no particular order:

  • Procrastination
  • Lack of understanding the big picture  (can’t see beyond their own objectives)
  • Offering solutions too early in the process

Dwight Kollmeier: Unfortunately, I know these all too well. I see them everyday.

  • Over-confident with existing customers, assuming there is zero competition.  I believe in the old Satchel Page quote, “Don’t look over your shoulder because someone is always gaining on you.” Assume that there is always competition and ask the right questions to find out for sure.
  • Assuming that business in the pipeline will close but not knowing for sure (unclear and fuzzy future). Know the odds by asking the difficult questions up front and be able to walk away.
  • Over presenting and not having good, solid discussions with prospects to find out if it makes sense to do business together.  Ask questions and listen. Probe deep.
  • Wasting valuable selling and prospecting time by placing it low on the time management ranking and placing other non-productive activities higher on the list.  Do the hardest things early in the day religiously and then one can do other activities after prospecting is completed.
  • Failing to get upfront contacts or commitments from the prospect as to how the sales process will work.

Dave Kurlan: Top 5 Bad Habits of Salespeople:

  • Demo too soon in the sales process
  • Give up on contacting prospects several attempts too early
  • Don’t thoroughly qualify
  • Make too many assumptions
  • Don’t reach real decision makers

Rick Wirthlin:

  • Lack of desire,
  • Not executing to a consistent sales process,
  • Not setting goals so commitment to success is conditional
  • Not uncovering motivation to take action, make a change,
  • Not getting to decision makers,
  • Not making commitments to make a decision stick

This article has been sitting in the dock of my Mac for two days as I contemplated how to close. In the meantime, I realized that calling them “bad habits” may not be the right thing to do. Let’s just call them habits - habits that either support effective selling or prohibit effective selling.

- What habits that prohibit effective selling would be on your list?
- What do you see in common in all of the comments of these other sales professionals?
- What impact do these habits have on your team’s ability to sell more, sell more quickly, sell at higher margins?
- What influence do you have on this?
- Did you hire your people this way or make them this way?
- I know you inherited some of this, but now what?
- What training have you done and what impact has it had?

Habits are difficult to break. Maybe some of them are impossible. I don’t claim to know. In all cases, in order to improve any kind of performance, you must:

  • Recognize that you are getting an outcome that you DON’T want and HAVE to fix
  • Recognize there is a root cause that lies beyond the symptom of the outcome
  • Address possible ways to correct the habit
  • Implement a disciplined approach to changing the thinking and then the behavior
  • Inspect what you expect
  • Report on actual activity vs. goal
  • Adjust and take action


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Sales Habits, Sales Managers and Changing Habits

Tags: CRM, sales management, hiring sales managers, BASE CRM


As I continue to think about habits of sales people and the role of the sales manager in identifying, assessing and “correcting” habits, I keep looking for additional information that might be additive to this string of articles. I came across an old email sent to me from Ike Jablon. Ike is a media relations specialist at SoftwareAdvice a company that helps businesses find sales software. I asked Ike to tell me more about Software Advice.

Here is his response: “Many sales professionals come to the conclusion that technology, namely a CRM system, can be critical to maintaining organization as a sales-oriented business scales and grows. We're a free and trusted resource for CRM buyers who are feeling overwhelmed by all the choices of solutions out there. Our team of software advisors provides free telephone consultations to help buyers build a shortlist of systems that will meet their specific needs.” 

Ike sent me a link to a survey that was done regarding the hunt for sales managers/directors. Here is the link to the survey findings: Sales Director Job Listings. Obviously, the connection here is the finding around the job post for the role and their experience with technology. The report shows that 29% of the companies surveyed require “technical expertise”. Of those 29%, 100% of them require the candidate to have expertise in CRM technology.

I have a habit of saying, “What’s interesting is…” Occasionally, I will catch myself and re-phrase the statement so that it sounds more like: “What I find interesting but what you might find boring as hell is…” So, this is what I find intriguing or interesting and you might find boring as hell:

  • Why only 29%? With more companies requiring more work to get done by fewer people, why wouldn’t companies demand that the person who is the direct link between sales strategy and sales execution be masterful at using technology? Using the right technology and using it well can help a director increase their span of influence and free up their time so they can have more interactions with their people that are meaningful and intentional instead of data gathering. E.g. “So, what’s in your pipeline?”
  • A secondary education was required by 66% of the respondents and, of that percentage, it appears that about 70% of the job postings indicated that the employer wanted somebody with a degree related to business – Business, Finance, Marketing or Communication degree.


I understand the findings and I understand the tendency to want these requirements but… is it correct? Is this what companies should be looking for when hiring a director of sales?

I reached out to several sales executives and presidents of companies to inquire about what they see as the most common bad habits in sales people. I will be referring to their responses in the next several articles but, for this moment, let me share with you what Dave Kurlan, President of Objective Management Group, sent me:

  • Demo too soon in the sales process
  • Give up on contacting prospects several attempts too early
  • Don’t thoroughly qualify
  • Make too many assumptions
  • Don’t reach real decision makers

My question to potential employers is this: How does the business degree help with these bad habits? The answer is that the degree doesn’t help with the most common bad habits of sales people. Time and again, I’ve worked with sales directors with the appropriate degrees and still find these habits… as well as others. If having the degree was so critical, then why do these problems still exist? Why do most sales organizations have 70% of their sales force not hitting goals? Why would someone with an MBA allow a sales person to continue to be on the sales team after 18 months of failing to hit sales quotas? Imagine for a minute the IT director found out that 70% of the time a computer application responsible for financial reporting was providing incorrect information. What would happen?

  • The work experience required is also as expected. Experience in industry specific sales, experience in sales management, a minimum number of year sales etc.


I admit that I’m biased about what it takes to be an extraordinary sales director. I believe the same qualifications that make a good coach make a good sales manager. You have to be part psychologist, part teacher, part parent, part mentor, part accountability partner, part boss. Being a strong manager isn’t about being nice or mean. It isn’t about looking at the numbers and, when the numbers don’t add up, bringing in HR and putting the producer on a PIP.

I heard Dr. Peter Jensen speak at the EcSell Institute Sales Management Summit. He addressed the audience with the concept of the 3rd Factor of human behavior. The first two being nature and nurture. The third factor is our bias. In this specific case, he was talking about successful management. Regardless of the group or team you are trying to manage, coach and or improve, those successful coaches that he observed had a “coaching bias”. In other words, the most important thing to the coach was the development of another.

My question is: How do you find that in your next sales director?

My answer is:

  • Create the right profile for the role. Identify what you need them to DO rather than what they have done.
  • Create a job post that attracts exactly what you are looking for. Tell the readers of the job post that “The job isn’t for everyone. If you are going to be successful in this role with my company, then you MUST be able to demonstrate success doing…”
  • Assess if they will do what you need them to do not can they do. The #1 assessment tool in the world helps Anthony Cole Training Group help its clients hire the right people and eliminate hiring mistakes thus impacting both top-line and bottom-line.
  • Interview for what you are looking for. If your sales director has to inspire trust from the team, do you feel like your candidate is someone you can trust? If they must be masterful at performance management, how will you know your candidate can do that based on your current interviewing approach? If they must develop your sales team, how will you know that your candidate has developed extraordinarily successful sales teams (not just have a successful sales stud or studette that carried the rest of the team)?
  • Win the bet on the first tee. Make sure they know exactly what is expected and how they will be managed for the first 6 months on the job. Tell them exactly what will happen if people don’t improve and/or if metrics do not demonstrate that they are having and impact.
  • Make sure that, if they don’t come to the table equipped with all the know-how on using technology, that you direct them to sources like Software Advice to determine the right CRM, pipeline management, sales force automation applications for the job you need to get done. Don’t let them get hung up on the marketing glitz of the CRM with the biggest marketing budget. Don’t let them bring their past into your experience.
  • Pay for what you hope to get not what they’ve done in the past. Hiring the right person is similar to investing. Past performance is no guarantee for future returns. Make sure everyone has skin in the game for future growth.


Additional resources:

Don't miss out on our Extraordinary Sales Manager Webinar Series! It's not too late to get involved - Part 2 is coming up June 29, 2015. SIGN UP TODAY for the "Hire Better Salespeople" FREE webinar and get ready to take your hiring to a whole new level!


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Beliefs and Their Impact on Sales Success

Tags: Sales Beliefs, sales success


I had no idea about beliefs and the relationship between my beliefs and how I executed as a sales person until I was introduced to the Objective Management Group Sales Person Evaluation Tool. That was about 21 years ago. Most of what we teach and coach at Anthony Cole Training Group regarding beliefs, selling and sales success is a result of our relationship with the OMG company and the use of their extraordinary evaluation tools.

But, before I go into a discussion about beliefs and sales success, let me take a minute to just focus on beliefs, attitude and behavior.

I’m an educator by degree, preference, nature and nurture. As a result, I’ve spent a lot of my reading and research time over the years learning about why people do what they do. I’ve also come to realize many things about myself and why I do what I do.

  • I believe that we are all created for a great destiny. Our job is to determine what that destiny is and pursuit it with all our heart, body and soul.
  • I believe that we are responsible for our outcomes and, as a result, we shouldn’t make excuses and play the blame game.
  • I believe in the law of cause and effect. There are no accidents. There are unfortunate events, but I assure there is a cause.
  • I don’t believe in luck. That would mean I would have to believe in “unluck”. There are things in my life that could be considered unfortunate, but it has nothing to do with being unlucky.
  • I believe we all share the common gifts trilogy of time, talent and treasures and that we are responsible for leveraging those gifts into something greater than ourselves. I, like many, waste my time, talent and treasures. It pains me to admit, but being honest is something I also believe in doing.
  • I believe in Emerson’s essay on the Law of Compensation. To summarize the entire essay in one phrase – if you want more, give more. Whenever I exercise – spend energy – I feel more energetic.
  • I believe that Jesus is my Lord and Savior and died for my sins. Knowing this, believing in this makes me eternally grateful for my very existence.

I share this brief list (I have many beliefs some of which I probably cannot even express) because I also belief in transparency. I believe that if you really want to relate to a person or audience you must be willing to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. Also, by sharing this list of beliefs, we can transition this discussion from personal beliefs and how they influence how we live our lives to our beliefs about selling and how these beliefs impact our sales success.

Here are some of my beliefs as they relate to selling:

  • If a president of a company is taking time to talk with me, there must be something going on in that person’s business that needs exploring. I don’t know if the issue has anything to do with sales training, sales management develop or hiring better sales people, but that’s not my concern at that moment.
  • I believe people pay for products, solutions and services based on their perceived value of how the purchase will help them solve a problem they have or a problem they perceive in their future.
  • I believe that the price is important, but it is not the determining factor.
  • I believe people pay exactly what they think the solution is worth. My job is to create or help the prospect the see enormous value in what our company will do for them. The perception of enormous value eliminates “buying on price”.
  • I believe I have the right to choose who I do business with. What we do as a company isn’t for everyone. The companies we work with have an appetite for change. They recognize that there is “gold in them thar hills” and that, if they knew how to mine the gold, they’d have it. But they don’t. They value outside expertise and are willing to invest the appropriate time, money and resources for the perceived return.
  • I believe my clients.
  • I believe that prospects have their own agenda and objectives that they want to accomplish. Their agenda rarely lines up with mine and so that is what makes the buying selling scenario so challenging and interesting. My job is to find out what their objectives are and why are they talking to me.
  • I believe you can close a deal on the first call.
  • I believe you can establish a strong relationship on the first call.
  • I believe that you can get someone to tell you what their budget is.
  • I believe you can ask someone how they will fire their current provider.
  • I believe you can tell someone that they don’t have enough money to fix the problem.
  • I believe you can sell something that is higher priced.
  • I believe that if you want more referrals you should give more referrals.
  • I believe that you can earn unlimited amounts of money in selling.
  • I believe that it is okay to want to make a lot of money.
  • I believe that the question “when is enough enough?” is the wrong question.
  • I believe that people buy when they are in severe mental anguish over something and you’ve demonstrate that you can make that go away.
  • I believe that you can demonstrate your expertise by asking great questions and by having great dialog with clients by telling stories about other successes and other situations you’ve handled.
  • I believe that, if you are stuck or in a rut, you have everything you need to change that.
  • I believe that Tony Robbins is right when he says “you can change in an instant”.
  • I believe that companies should build their budgets based on the personal goals and ambitions of the individual sales people instead of handing them out like candy or spreading the budget out like peanut butter.
  • I believe that sales managers are the key to a company’s sales success.
  • I believe that most sales managers are under-trained and, in many cases, unarmed for going into the battle.
  • I believe that maybe this article has gone on too long.
  • But, I also believe that, if you get your beliefs “right”, your behaviors and action will follow.
  • I believe that. if you want to change any outcome in your life, you must first find the root cause and this root cause will be your beliefs about that one thing in your life that you want to change.

Additional resources:


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Sales Habits – Coaching Bad Habits Out of Sales People

Tags: managing sales teams, coaching sales people, bad sales habits, creating habits for success



Let’s start with the premise that we all have at least 1 bad habit. As I stated in a previous article about habits, a bad habit is one that takes you away or keeps you from accomplishing your objectives and goals. We all have at least 1.

With that in mind, let’s assume that even your best sales people have a habit or two that, if identified and corrected, would help them sell more, be more productive or more effective.

Here are just a couple of bad habits that I can think of:

  • Making excuses
  • Letting the business control them
  • Talking too much
  • Not setting goals
  • Not listening to understand
  • Not letting the other person think about the answer to a question they’ve asked
  • Being impatient
  • Making bad priority choices

I’ve emailed some of my clients and friends and partners in selling and asked them to provide me a list of their top 3 to 5 bad habits of sales people. I’ll keep you posted on the information I get. Feel free to comment on this blog or this article on my LinkedIn.

What to do about bad habits? That is what we really need to be talking about here.

I don’t have a 12-step program like they have for rehab, but here is the progression I would follow:

  • Acknowledge the problem exists – e.g. talking too much
  • Identify the most common bad habits within the group and for each individual.
  • Discuss in a sales meeting the idea of bad habits and get feedback as to the fallout/outcome of having these habits.
  • Schedule an initial 15-minute meeting with each producer to discuss their particular worst bad habit

o   Why did they pick that one as the worse?

o   What is the impact on their productivity and effectiveness?

o   What is the outcome if they let it continue?

o   Is that the outcome they want? (This is better understood in a live role-play. If you would like to talk about this, text me at 513-226-3913, Subject: Habit role-play. I’ll call you.)

o   Do they perceive this as a have-to-fix or want-to-fix problem?

o   Assume it’s a have-to-fix problem – Schedule 5-minute conversations just to talk about what they did to eliminate the habit.   Ask about the outcome as a result of the change from a bad habit to a good habit.

o   Observe them in sales meetings, 1-on-1 coaching sessions, and on your joint calls. (Hint: you should already be doing all these things with your sales people)

  • 30 days after you have completed the 1-on-1 meetings, make this a topic in your sales meeting

o   Get everyone to identify the habit they worked on, what changes they made and the outcomes they are now realizing

o   Do something dramatic to “bury the habits”

  • Have them write their old bad habit on a piece of paper
  • Put it in a shoe box and actually bury it
  • Put them in a container where you can light a fire and burn them
  • Take the pieces of paper and rip them to shreds

o   Begin working on next habit

If you google “breaking bad habits,” you will find more than enough information on how this should be done. I do not recommend that you get into the discussion on how they should go about eliminating bad habits. Instead find some articles, print them out, provide them the link to the articles and let them figure it out. Remember, they decided it was a have-to-fix problem. Don’t let your bad habit of rescuing get in the way of letting them fix themselves.


Don't miss out on our Extraordinary Sales Manager Webinar Series! It's not too late to get involved - Part 2 is coming up June 29, 2015. SIGN UP TODAY for the "Hire Better Salespeople" FREE webinar and get ready to take your hiring to a whole new level!

Did you like today’s post? Read more of Tony Cole’s Blog HERE and don't forget to subscribe now so you don't miss any of ACTG's upcoming articles and events.  For more great tools and information on what we can do for your sales organization, visit our website at


Two Other Patterns that Set Breakthrough Companies Apart from the Crowd, Pt.2

Tags: sales success, extraordinary sales, breakthrough companies

tonysbubble2A guest post by Tony Scelzo, President of Stringcan

Tony Cole of Anthony Cole Training, LLC has been advising and training for 22+ years in banking, insurance and investment verticals. We asked him about his experience with domino companies. He explained:

“I’ve had a chance to see a lot of companies go from small, flat, non-growing organizations to organizations where something happens and they really begin to kick into gear and they start to grow.” He then added with a chuckle, “There probably isn’t anything they can bring to the table that we haven’t seen before.”

That being said, we teased out two patterns he’s noted among domino companies he’s partnered with.

1. Breaking the Status Quo is in their DNA: Breakthrough companies not only have a culture of change and an appetite for change, but it’s a foundational part of their DNA. They are completely willing to give up who they are at any given time to achieve what they want to achieve. What’s more, leaders in these companies don’t feel that their role or job or contribution to their organization is being questioned or threatened by someone from the outside either. In fact, breakthrough companies don’t have “sacred cows.”

In Cole’s words,

“Seth Godin wrote a book—Sacred Cows Make the Best Hamburgers. So you’ve got to have a kind of mentality that ‘okay, there are no sacred cows.’ And in his organization, in his process with his clients and partners, he explains that “We take an entire company and treat it like a puzzle—pour it on the table, start putting this thing together again, and we use all the pieces.”  

It’s hard for organizations to realize that they have to be willing to not only break themselves on the macro level but to be breaking themselves every day, to innovate, to iterate and to build a culture of continual change. Many companies just aren’t wired that way. What’s unique about Cole’s company is that it works to help other companies embrace the DNA of constantly breaking the status quo in order to help them move and grow.

2. Breakthrough Companies are Good Partners: The second thing about breakthrough companies is that they are good partners. In a good partnership, they realize that they need to think and be pushed out of their comfort zone for success.

It’s very difficult to move from small to big and to do so quickly without having infrastructure around it go upward, which is why it’s so important to partner with organizations that will naturally accelerate your growth. Moving upward fast is near impossible when focusing solely on internal points of view.

According to Cole, the kinds of partners that breakthrough companies both associate with and actually function as are those which not only make a “job easy, but when you sit down and talk with them about what they are trying to get done and you challenge them with some thoughts, you don’t get the resistance that you get with others. What you get are some questions like: How would that work? What impact does that have? What would we have to do to accommodate that? They look at the positive side or look for the answer to ‘How do we do that?’ verses having a discussion around “We can’t do that because of X, Y, Z, etc.’”

A good partner realizes that not everything is going to work and they iterate the things which evolve correctly and move what doesn’t. They follow a series of actions—test, try, come back, look at the data, see how it works and iterate. What’s more, a good partner doesn’t judge every single idea or individual piece of information or strategy alone by the test of whether or not it works right—a good partner realizes that not everything works in sales and marketing, for example, the way you think it will or should.

Domino companies realize they can’t do it solo and that they need partnerships with organizations that will challenge them. They realize they don’t have everything it takes internally to move from small to big, which brings us to the final point—how breakthrough companies bring about this change and growth--via—technology.

Not surprisingly, one of the biggest commonalities among domino companies is what they realize about how the Age of Google and rapid change have impacted the way we do marketing and sales. Read more about this in Two Truths about the New Age of Technology, Google and the Internet that Breakthrough Companies Recognize in next month’s post.


Did you like today’s post? Read more of Tony Cole’s Blog HERE. Also, we bet 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!




Sales Success – It’s a Function of Beliefs, Habits and Skills

Tags: sales goals, sales success, sales habits


I’m going to skip over beliefs and skills today because, when I started thinking about this post, I decided I wanted to write about habits.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

About 6 weeks ago, maybe longer than that, I developed a new habit – not blogging. It was an easy habit to develop. One day, I didn’t post a blog, and then I didn’t post one the next day, or the next, or the next and, the next thing you know, it’s June 1st. I decided that I’ve had that bad habit long enough and now it’s time to develop a new habit – blogging.

I’ve had this habit before. Usually, it last about 6 months and then I just stop. And then the not blogging habit takes over. The same thing happens with my exercise routine - I exercise consistently and then something happens to break that habit and I develop my habit of not exercising. That is a really easy habit to stick with. Last week, my wife Linda asked me to promise her that I would get up early the next day and go to the club to work out. I promised her that I would and so I have now hit the club 4 out of the last 7 days, played golf once, and tennis twice.

Already I feel better about doing the right thing and getting back into a good habit.

Before I started this post, I googled “sales habits”. Here are the first 5 responses:

I myself have written or spoken about sales habits in the past:

I’m an educator by degree. During my undergraduate work at UConn, my fellow future teachers and I were taught that behaviors and habits are a result of combinations of rewards and consequences. If you wanted your student to develop certain habits or skills, part of the development, in addition to the teaching and coaching, was rewarding success and disciplining failure. Sometimes the disciplined approach was punitive; other times it was a matter of repeating the behavior, skill or activity until they (the person being taught) got it right. Once they got it right, they were rewarded.

Given all of this background, here are my thoughts for today about habits.

  • Good habits are called good habits because they contribute to the successful completion of the goals and objectives you say you are committed to.
  • Bad habits are “bad” because, instead of taking you towards your objectives, they take you away. They keep you from accomplishing what you said was important to you.
  • Keeping your good habits “habitual” is dependent upon your level of commitment to your goals. If you are truly committed and willing to sacrifice immediate gratification for the long-term good, then good habits stick.
  • If you find that you cannot consistently execute your good habits, it is probably due to your lack of commitment to the things you say are important to you.
  • “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” - Vince Lombardi
  • Often the things/habits you need to be doing aren’t urgent: Exercising, eating well, taking baby aspirin, getting enough sleep, prospecting, blogging, etc.
  • Habits become urgent when something else urgent happens: Heart attack, bodily injury, stroke, diabetes, organ failure, put on performance improvement program because of lack of production, lack of website activity.
  • Your habits are expressive of your commitments.

How do you correct your behavior and become more habitual? Here are my 5 Steps to Better Habits:

  1. Identify goals and objectives that are non-negotiable
  2. Have a plan to achieve those goals. Make sure the plan is detailed.
  3. Have a system to track your progress, execution of the necessary habits, activities required to achieve your goals.
  4. Inspect what you expect.
  5. Have an accountability partner that loves you and cares enough about you to hold your feet to the fire.

In addition to the 3,7,11, 10, 25 habits mentioned earlier, execute these 5 Steps to Better Habits and text me at 513-226-3913 with the subject – “Call me about habits.”


Did you like today’s post? Read more of Tony Cole’s Blog HERE. Also, we bet 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!

Is Your Opening Hurting Your Sales Closing?

Tags: Initial Sales Call, sales prospecting


Business people at starting line

(**To hear the audio version, click here!)

When I was in high school, I ran track.  During my sophomore and junior years, I ran the 1-mile race.  Though I normally like to take the lead early, I really wasn’t entirely focused on a “great start” because I had 5,280 feet to make up for a slow start.

During my senior year, I ran the 880-yard event.  Not a sprint, not the exhausting 440, but certainly a little more demanding of speed and a good start than what I needed when I ran the mile.  I had half the distance to make up a poor start.

My best friend was Neal Stevens.  Neal ran the 110 high hurdles.  He has zero time to make up for a slow start.  And I don’t recall Neal EVER having a slow start.  His great start and his ability to time the hurdles perfectly was awarded in the state championships in 1973 when he won the gold medal in that event.

This concept applies to many things in selling, but especially when it comes to meeting, engaging, qualifying and eventually attempting to close a new piece of business.  I know that most of you, if not all of you, have heard the expression, “You only get 1 chance to make a great first impression.”  I am convinced of that adage as well as you only get one chance to conduct a great first meeting that improves your ability to close a piece of business.

If you think about the reasons you didn’t get a piece of business or secure an account over the last year, what are some of the reasons?

  • Price too high
  • Not talking to the decision maker
  • Didn’t provide the exact solution to match the prospects problem
  • The incumbent relationship came back and matched your offer
  • The incumbent came back, begged for the business, and promised to do better
  • You didn’t know about the competition
  • You didn’t understand the decision making process
  • The client was looking at other alternate solutions

This list is pretty long and probably close to all-inclusive.  So, why do we get these objections at time of close?

It all comes back to the first meeting.  Each and every one of these items can be and should be addressed early on.  Certainly most of them should be addressed in the first meeting because this helps you “disqualify” the suspect early so that you can get to those suspects that will qualify.  I understand sometimes this information may come out as you develop the relationship and work to determine if you want the business and can get the business. You may not get to all of these items in the first meeting, but all of this information should be known to you prior to presenting. If these are the objections you are going to get to buying from you, deal with them before you do all the work and invest all of your time going to underwriting, preparing proposals and practicing your presentation.  Negotiate all of the potential objections up front so that, when you finish, you can simply ask, “What would you like to do now?”

As always, thank you for reading and have a perfect day.


Did you like today’s post? Read more of Tony Cole’s Blog HERE. Also, we bet 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!

Will You Be Able to Recruit Good Salespeople in 2015?

Tags: hiring better sales people, recruiting, sales recruiting

A guest blog by Dave Kulran, President and founder of Objective Management Group, with an introduction by Tony Cole, President of Anthony Cole Training Group.

INTRODUCTION: I’ve been working with companies for 22 years: companies of all sizes, in various business segments and across the country. One thing I’ve witnessed, discussed or heard for all of these years is the issue about talent. I’ve read books and articles and listened to keynote speakers talk about sales talent. What I cannot understand is this: why does this conversation still exist? For a problem that seems to be so obvious, you would think that, as an industry, we would work hard to ‘find a cure’ to the high cost of hiring the wrong sales people. (Click here to find out more about the cure)
About 20 years ago, I was fortunate enough to hear about David Kurlan and his company, Objective Management Group. After some initial discussions (and reluctance on his part), I managed to sell him on the idea that we would be a good distributor and a solid partner. At that time, I don’t think either one of us realized how true these predictions would be, and I certainly didn’t realize 1) how important Dave would be to our business at Anthony Cole Training Group and 2) how important he would become to the entire  industry of sales and sales development. At some point, I sent him a request for some information on recruiting pipeline and in return he sent me a link to a blog article which you will see included below. I have read the article before but I had forgotten that he was the one who wrote it. Reading it once again, I realize that there is a pioneer in our industry that continues to work hard at finding the recruiting cure. Thanks, Dave, maybe between you, me and all the distributors in your network, we will help companies fix this problem once and for all.
Will You Be Able to Recruit Good Salespeople in 2015?
By Dave Kurlan

Do you know when your car is not running properly?  It's usually quite obvious.  Lighting is very obvious too.  How about your home theater?  You probably won't know about a problem with that until after a component has stopped working.  Do you have a really good way to determine whether your sales recruiting process works the way it should and will work going into next year?  How can you determine whether your job postings are effective?  How do you know if you are getting enough candidates?  How do you know if the best candidates are making it to the interview stage?  How can you tell if you are about to make a hiring mistake?

Occasionally, my sales development firm conducts a turnkey search for a crucial sales, sales management or sales leadership role.  Usually, this occurs when the client lacks either the bandwidth, expertise, or desire and absolutely, positively cannot afford to get this particular hire wrong.

Last week, we completed two such projects where we were looking for salespeople that were absolute needles in the haystack.   This 2-minute video has my take on what constitutes "needle in the haystack" criteria.

Below, you can see a breakdown of candidates for each company and how they converted along the way.


Which project was more successful?  Was it the NY company where we identified 5 candidates that met their needle in the haystack criteria, or the CT company where we only identified 3?  Was it the NY company where we took 101 applications or the CT company where we took only 20?  Was it the CT company where it took less than 30 days, or the NY company that really did their due diligence and took 16 weeks?  Was it a tie because both companies got two great salespeople?

Determining winners and losers is dependent on roles and expectations.

From Objective Management Group's (OMG) perspective - both companies had licenses for unlimited sales candidate assessments, so it was a tie.

From Kurlan & Associates' perspective, getting the CT company completed in less than 30 days was more profitable and less labor intensive than what was required to complete the NY company.  However, the time and labor must be measured against the context of fees.

From the client's perspective, the CT company was the winner because we were able to exceed their expectations on the timeline.

From the perspective of the job sites, they won big on the NY company because they were paid for views and got 4 times as many.

If it had taken as long for us to complete the hiring for the CT company as it had for the NY company, the numbers, multiplied by 4, would have been very similar to the numbers of the NY company.

There are a few interesting side notes to this exercise.  We teach most clients how to do what we do instead of doing it for them.  In those cases, they are responsible for sourcing candidates, and typically, if a company had received only 20 applications, 12 assessments with only 7 passing the assessment, they would call to complain about a lack of candidates.  And if a company had received 101 applications and only 5 of the candidates that passed the test met their needle in the haystack criteria, they would be calling to complain about the quality of the candidates.

That's the thing about getting selection right.  The only thing that matters is that you have the patience to wait for the right candidates to appear, the ability (aided by tools) to recognize those candidates, and in the end, the ability to convince those candidates to join you.  The numbers and ratios are just that - numbers and ratios.  It's about getting the right candidates into the pipeline, not getting lots of candidates into the pipeline.

Of the candidates that viewed the postings, why did such a relatively small number send their resumes?  Because we wrote the ads in such a way that most of the readers knew that they did not fit the criteria for who we were looking for.

Why did fewer than half of the candidates complete applications?  Does the answer really matter?  All you need to know about the candidates that didn't complete them is that they didn't follow through.  Why did a third of the candidates that completed the application fail to take the assessment?  Again, who cares?  It's yet one more way in which we can disqualify those candidates that need to be filtered out.  Could we have lost out on some good candidates who decided not to complete applications and assessments?  That depends on what you consider good.  If those same candidates won't complete call reports, use CRM, attend huddles and meetings, follow through, or do things your way, then no, we didn't miss out on anybody.

I believe that there will continue to be a shortage of good candidates through the first three quarters of 2015.  You can counter the effects of a candidate shortage by getting some help, using good tools or having experts do the work for you.  Would you like to use the accurate, predictive sales candidate assessment that we use and recommend?  Click here for a free trial.