Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Why Companies Struggle With Hiring Quality Sales People

Tags: hiring sales people, hire better sales people, recruiting sales teams


Putting the best people in the right seats is the biggest problem identified by most business owners, especially as it applies to critical sales roles. Here are the 5 most common reasons most companies struggle with hiring quality salespeople.

#1 Companies outsource their recruiting and the responsibility. Recruiting is something that a company has to own. They can no longer outsource the work and the responsibility. That makes it too easy for people internally to throw up their hands and transfer failures associated within the hiring process to the outsourced firm. If companies are going to improve the quality of their hires, they have to own the process.

#2 There is a lack of a consistent process for constantly searching. Most, if not all, companies make the mistake of looking for candidates only when they have an opening. This leads to many problems:

  • Being held hostage by salespeople with “large books”. Companies feel they cannot do anything about them for fear of losing the “books” since there aren’t any replacements.
  • Feeling desperate to fill a chair with a warm bottom when there is a vacancy. A body,
    any body, is better than no one sitting in the chair (branch).
  • Not replacing underperformers because there isn’t a pipeline of candidates to choose from. The underperformers stay around too long; others know it and realize that they don’t have to perform to keep their job, so overall team production continues to decline.

#3 Companies are not getting quality candidates entering the process. The traditional model of recruiting today is one where the placement firm tries to convince their client why a candidate should be hired. Companies should, on the other hand, work extremely hard to disqualify candidates because there are specific skills that apply for that sales job and many/most candidates do not have those skills. Bottom line, the company has to assess at least two things: 1) Do they have enough of the right strengths to be successful? 2) Will they sell versus can they sell?

#4 There is poor communication about the specific role and expectations of this new hire. Too often, everyone is so excited about putting the deal together (getting the seat filled) that no one takes the time to get into the details of the day-to-day requirements of the job. This leads to early misunderstandings about the role and eventually, failure on the part of the new hire to meet the expectations of the company. Failure to “negotiate on the 1st tee” leads to misunderstanding and failure to execute on the sales goals.

#5 The on-boarding process is inadequate. Most companies are ill-equipped to effectively on-board new sales people. They spend time introducing them to the “culture” of the operation, the mechanics of the job and how to get things done. They introduce them to HR, their support team, marketing and their partners. And, yes, there is discussion about goals, sales activities and how to enter data into CRM. And then… the new hires are on their own.

Companies think that they have hired their next sales superstar and then, 12 months later, they cannot figure out what went wrong. They look at the numbers and discover that the new hires are producing “just like everyone else in the middle of the pack.” The process most companies have in place currently to recruit and hire salespeople perpetuates this problem.

If you need help or more information on hiring better salespeople, we have many resources available for you. You can also text me directly at (513 226-3913) and type “Hiring” in the subject line. You will get my undivided attention!


Keep Doing What You’ve Been Doing… Unless You Need Different Results

Tags: qualifying prospects, closing more sales, sales prospecting, getting better sales results

A guest post by Walt Gerano, Sales Development Expert, Anthony Cole Training Group


There is a saying that goes something like “If you do what you have always done, then you will get what you have always gotten.”

I talk to a lot of salespeople who continue to plow ahead working harder to make more sales with the same approach they have used for years. In the words of Dr. Phil, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”

You would probably agree that the basics around what salespeople need to do to be successful hasn’t changed – they still must hunt, qualify and close.  If your results are not what you want them to be, then maybe what needs to change is the way you go about those three critical tasks.

How is your Hunting?

  • Are you still hunting with old technology or are you using Sales 2.0 tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to connect with prospects, customers and former customers?
  • Are you still relying on mass marketing approaches in the hopes that enough people will respond only to realize that most of those that do are looking for free information?
  • Do you have a systematic approach to generating a stream of introductions and referrals or do you still depend on cold calls?

What about Qualifying?

  • Are you still telling the prospect why they should do business with you or asking them why they agreed to meet with you?
  • Do you have an effective selling system that tells you when to stay and when to walk away?
  • Are you selling consultatively? Asking good questions, asking enough questions, developing relationships early in the sales process, understanding why prospects buy and listening effectively?

And what about Closing?

  • Does your prospect agree to give you a decision after you present your solution or do you get a lot of “think it over” and “we’ll let you know?”
  • Do you get derailed because you present without all of the decision makers present?
  • Do you finish presenting your solution and NOT ask for the business by asking, “What do you think” or “What questions do you have” OR will you close with “What would you like to do now?”


Today’s buyers have access to information that used to be unavailable to them and there are always going to be desperate salespeople that will give them whatever they want with the hope of getting a “shot” to write the account.

Maybe your results are where you want them to be, but if not, think about what YOU are going to get if you don’t do some things differently.


Are Curve Balls Putting You in a Sales Slump?

Tags: sales prospecting, closing sales, sales curve balls

A guest post by Mark Trinkle, Sales Development Expert, Anthony Cole Training Group


“Straight balls – bats like very much…curve balls – bats afraid.”

If you are a fan of the movie Major League, I’m sure you recognize that opening line from the outfielder, Pedro Cerrano, who had a lot of trouble hitting curve balls.  So, in honor of baseball’s All-Star Game that was played in my hometown of Cincinnati, today’s post is all about curve balls.

Do you know who else has trouble hitting curve balls?  Salespeople. And I’m not talking about resurrecting memories from their baseball playing days, but rather I am talking about the curve balls that get tossed at them by their prospects during a sales call.

At Anthony Cole Training, we define curve ball questions as questions that could make you nervous…or questions that might make you squirm. Quite simply, they are questions you wish the prospect simply would not ask.  Now, clearly, the remedy for curve ball questions is adequate pre-call planning, but let’s leave that for another day and another Sales Brew.

For now, let’s look at some of the typical curve ball questions. Here are just a few:

  1. Why should I do business with you? Now that question is one prospects are taught when they attend prospect school; it gets covered on day 1.  If you want to diffuse it, your best bet is to simply respond with “I’m not sure that you should.”

  2. How big is your company? That is another question that has been known to make salespeople look foolish.  And, no doubt, part of the problem here is that the salesperson generally does not know why the prospect is asking the question.  So, here is your response… “I’m curious, I get that question a lot…why do you ask?”

  3. What makes you unique…or how are you different from your competition? Answer this question and you immediately begin to look like a salesperson.  Your best bet is to be able to succinctly sum up what your existing clients would say are the reasons why they hired you.

  4. We’re impressed with what you have presented, but we need some time to look over your proposal. Clearly, this happens most of the time because the salesperson delivers a solution without setting up the expectation around the yes/no option (i.e. we don’t deliver solutions without knowing we are going to get an answer.)  But, nonetheless, your best response here is to ask either “What happens to your problem while you do that?”…or “What have we missed or what is unclear that is preventing you from making a decision today one way or the other?”

Here is the thing about curve ball questions.  They are usually pitches in the dirt.  Stop swinging at them.

Thanks for listening…now go sell like a champion today.


Questions to Ask to Gain Clarity

Tags: asking questions, closing sales, solving problems for prospects

A guest post by Jack Kasel, Sales Development Expert, Anthony Cole Training Group


In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey has a quote… “Seek first to understand. Then to be understood.”  I think that statement is especially true for sales professionals.

When we coach our clients, we try to get them to understand and remember these three tips when in conversation with their prospects and clients:

  1. The statement they make isn’t the actual statement.
  2. The question they ask isn’t the true question.
  3. The problem they have isn’t the actual problem.

So, as your prospects talk about their main concerns, your job is to determine the following: Is this a symptom or a problem?  Problems get solved, symptoms are tolerated.  I was working with a prospect and he kept saying he needed to fix his cash flow problem.  The more we talked, the more it became clear that cash flow wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was he missed out on an opportunity to purchase one of his competitors.  The symptom was cash flow, the problem was missing opportunities to acquire market share.  We focused on fixing his true problem.

One of the ways, and really the only way, to bring clarity to the conversation is by asking or saying the following when we hear prospects make statements or ask questions:

  • Tell me more about that . . .
  • What happens if that problem isn’t fixed?
  • When you say (insert statement here), I’m not sure I know what you mean.
  • Many people ask me that question for a variety of reasons; I would like to hear yours.

We also need to listen to emotionally charged words such as . . .

  • Need to fix…
  • I’m going to…
  • We simply can’t tolerate…
  • Others include: worried, upset, mad, frustrated

These are emotionally driven words and emotion drives sales.  Facts and figures justify sales, but emotion drives it.  If we don’t fully understand the reason for the statement, the purpose of the question, or dig deeper to find the real problem, we will waste time and miss opportunities.  I hope this audio clip has brought some clarity to your sales process.   

Now...someone needs what you do, go find them!


2 Really Easy Things to Do to Increase Sales

Tags: improve sales, sales management, increase sales


Ever watch a movie for the 2nd and/or 3rd time and notice something you didn’t notice the first time? I know the answer is yes.

I just watched the Legend of Bagger Vance for the 3rd time. Jack Lemon is the narrator of the story and the other star characters are played by Matt Damon, Charlize Theron and Will Smith.

During the match, Bagger Vance has a young assistant, Hardy Greaves (J. Michael Moncrief), who caddies after Bagger leaves. The beginning of the film features Hardy as an old man (Jack Lemmon) playing golf in the present day. Hardy experiences a heart attack and loses consciousness. The story ends with an old Hardy awakening and seeing a never-aging Bagger Vance on the golf course. As Bagger beckons, Hardy follows and the film ends.

I don’t recall seeing that when I’ve watched the movie before.

I just started reading (again) Verne Harnish’s book: The Rockefeller Habits. In my notes, I wrote “choke points”. Verne refers to choke points when he discusses how a company has to figure out what is the one thing or things that keep the company from growing. Certainly, when I read it the first time I did read it the first time, but I had forgotten how it is applied to business. Often, we talk to our clients about identifying the choke points in the sales process so that sales managers can coach their sales people specifically to how the problem impacts their sales outcomes.

My point here is to apply the same thing to your situation – your business, your sales team or your own personal sales practice. So, here are my 2 Really Easy Things To Do To Increase Sales:

1)     Identify what you are masterful at… and then identify why you are masterful at it!
2)     Identify what you suck at… identify why you suck at it… and then fix the why!

I know it’s a little more complicated than that; well, not really complicated - to increase sales growth - but think about what would happen if you just did those two easy things RIGHT now and then implemented the steps to model and repeat the stuff you are masterful at and fix the stuff you suck at.

Here’s the final scene: Collect data on everything you do. Use the data to gather business intelligence on the stuff you do everyday that you are masterful at and the stuff you suck at. Look at the data on a very regular basis – at least weekly. Adjust accordingly.

Additional resource: Let us help you find out what your team is masterful at and what they suck at: Sales Effectiveness and Impact Analysis Sample Findings

Two Truths about the New Age of Technology, Google and the Internet that Breakthrough Companies Recognize, pt. 3 of 3

Tags: breakthrough companies, building successful sales teams

In the Age of Google, the Age of the internet and the rapidly changing face oftonybubble3 technology, one of the biggest challenges that companies face today includes making the jump from old ways to new ways.

In Part III of our conversation with Tony Cole of Anthony Cole Training, LLC, we want to share our conversation about “gazelles and stagnates”, or organizations that are growing disproportionately fast. We uncovered two patterns; it is how domino companies approach these two patterns which set them up for the success they enjoy.

1. Moving from Old Ways to New Ways

What’s so baffling today is the fact that many organizations are simply unable or unwilling to see that the system of record they are using to manage sales and marketing is one that was designed when people use to return telephone calls and emails. What is it that domino companies, these “gazelles”, are doing that enables them to skyrocket passed established organizations, middle grade companies and other start-ups?

They Harness the New Way of Selling and Marketing: Domino companies have put aside old ways and have transitioned to the new ways of selling and marketing, whether it’s digitally or using alternative channels to get traction. Part of adopting the new ways of selling and marketing is realizing that the buyer has made a fundamental shift. Cole pointed out that this has been a critical shift in successful selling and marketing. The fact is that domino companies understand the new buyer.

Cole explained the shift he sees to the new buyer and the opportunities that many companies are missing because they are not making the leap from old to new ways:

“Most of our clients are still using traditional methodology to penetrate the market place and they’re counting on referrals from centers of influence. If they’re in the bank space, they’re counting on introductions from bank partners, and if they’re in the insurance space, they’re looking to their current clients. If they’re a newbie, especially in the insurance industry, whatever list they can come up with—that’s what they’re looking to. It’s not as effective anymore, and I don’t know that it’s not effective or cost effective because people aren’t good at it. I think it’s because the buyer has changed; the buyer doesn’t buy that way anymore. There was a time in this world of ours in buying and selling where the seller initiated the buying process—well, that’s not the case anymore.”

Cole emphasizes that domino companies make it a point to be found. Whether it’s through harnessing the right technology to measure and tailor their product or service to their exact target or it’s changing how they sell in order to match the buying process which the new buyer is interested in, domino companies make it easy to take the next step at every level of engagement.

Today, less is more. Not every prospect is a buyer. Prospects don’t want to be lured in or hoodwinked. Some are window shopping. They don’t want to feel pressured to buy. Others are out for a stroll and see something that strikes them. They may go from no interest to fully engaged within a matter of seconds. Domino companies know how important it is to qualify marketing leads, to nurture them if needed, and when to pull the trigger and send the leads from marketing to sales. They understand their buyer, something which organizations that are following the traditional methodologies find themselves continually struggling to do.

Most People Don’t Lose Sales Because of Technological Incompetence

Cole also shared that the second problem organizations face when it comes to growing from small to big is a focus on the wrong things. While technology is ushering in breakthroughs and helping a good number of these gazelles achieve exponential growth over short time periods, technology alone is never the answer.

“Most people don’t lose sales because of technological incompetence. It’s not because salespeople don’t know the subject matter, but they don’t have access to it. So, where I’m going with this is [highlighting the value] in teaching people, coaching people, helping them understand what is it they need to be looking for when they buy a product or service.

You have to have access to the right information to share with the prospect. Then you have to be good enough as salespeople to take over the sales process, but to also manage the buyers to that buying process.

Once we do this, once we come with this information, we ask, “What is our next step? How do we keep the rapport? How do we help the prospect or buyer make a decision?” One of the key skill sets required to do this is the ability of the salesperson to get the decision maker to make a decision, and technology can’t do that— only a person alone can help somebody make a decision.”

Domino companies realize that technology can help them achieve success, but that technology must be directed by human intelligence and no amount of automation will ever replace sales people.

2. Working and Communicating Effectively as Teams

What’s more, domino companies realize the value of teams and the transformation that effective job allocation and communication delivers. Whether these break down into lead qualification teams, sales teams, and marketing teams—the teams work together, not against each other in competition. Cole’s organization has different names for these salespeople within teams—hunters, qualifiers, account managers, former ambassadors—but the idea is the same. The idea is to strategically arrange people’s roles around their expertise and not to demand results from people with the wrong skill sets. He talks more about this transformation is realized:

“I think this is a new transformation for companies that are recognizing that “Wow, I just hired a super start sales person, but this super star sales person has the same problems at prospecting that my average people do.” The transformation is they are trying to find ways to take that part of the job off the table. They are trying to do lead gen for all their sales people and allow the sales people to go do what they are really good at; getting face to face meetings, or having that conversation and moving a prospect to somebody who says, “Holy crap, I got to have your stuff.”

Domino companies are fun to watch, challenging to imitate and powerful to partner with. They understand that technology won’t fix their problems, not on its own. They understand the value of collaboration and synergistic efforts between marketing and sales. If there is one thing that domino companies get, it is that they understand the value in helping the consumer get from where they are to where they want to be, but this is rooted in the fact that they have clarity personally on an organization-wide level of where they as an organization want to be.

It was fantastic to talk to Tony Cole and to learn and grow from insights he’s come to working with the full range of organizations in financial verticals. It might not always be possible to sell to everyone because not everyone is buying. Helping your target get from where they are to where they want to be is critical and Tony’s brand mission is absolutely inspirational—a mission that we expect many other domino companies also value, which is why I’ll close the article with it:

“You will not find anyone else to partner with who cares about your success as we do.  If you are lying awake at night worrying about something, I assure you, we are too.  Your problems become our problems.”

Read Part 1 & 2 of this compelling and insightful series:

Don't Miss Tony Cole's Sales Management Books!


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


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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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:

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