Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Why is It So #%&@ Hard to Solve the Sales Growth Problem? – The 5 Constraints to Growing Sales – Part I

Tags: Sales Tracking, sales performance coaching, sales productivity, how increase sales, predictable sales growth

I’ve written on this subject, talked about it at workshops/keynotes and presented it to our clients in our Sales Managed Environment® Certification program for over 20 years.  But, here I go again and for good reason – it’s still a problem.  It’s still in the news.  It’s still something that we get asked about when we present at the Community Bank CEO Network and other venues.  It’s a problem that doesn’t seem to have a solution.

Wrong!

Let’s take a minute first to analyze the problem or to help you identify if you have a problem.  (This will be kind of like Jeff Foxworthy’s “You know you're a redneck if” routine.)

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You know you have a sales growth problem if…:

  • You cannot consistently and accurately predict future sales GROWTH
  • You recognize that most of the sales (90% or so) are being generated by 33-45% of the sales team.
  • Less than 10% of the sales are being generated by over 50% of the team
  • You have salespeople in the middle of the sales performance bell curve that are not performing as you expected. (Did you really hire those people to only perform like the average sales person on your team?)
  • Your new hires are not ramping up fast enough
  • Your cost of “ghosts” (people that you hire and are no longer there) is a 2-comma problem
  • You seem to be coaching the same stuff over and over and over again
  • Your people continually make excuses for lack of outcomes, performance results.

I could go on, but why?

I first recognized the sales growth problem in sales organizations many years ago when I was working with Anthem Blue Shield and Blue Cross here in Ohio. I was meeting with Jim Barone, who is currently the National Vice President – Business Development for Lincoln National.  At the time, he held a regional sales management position for Anthem and he and I were scheduled to meet in Cleveland with his sales team for a training session and sales meeting.

In preparation for the meeting, I reviewed the production report year-to-date for the team (about 25 reps). I had not yet read any Perry Marshall material on The 80/20 of Sales and Marketing (The book hadn’t been published yet…) and, though I had heard of the Pareto Principle, I really didn’t understand it like I do today.  When looking at the numbers, I discovered that roughly 20% of the reps were responsible for about 80% of the results.  That was startling. But, not nearly as startling as what I discovered next.

The bottom 20% of the team – about 5 reps – were responsible for less than 1% of the results and the bottom 33% of the team was responsible for less than 10% of the results.  The first question I was going to ask Jim was, “Why are these people still with you?” (CLICK HERE here to get rid of the 80/20 in your organization.)

Over a year ago, I did the same type of analysis for a large nationally-based broker dealer specializing in serving the credit union market.  We looked at 100 advisors.  What we were looking for was data to support the position that, in order for a financial advisor to break through the upper limits of their productivity, they had to segment their book. 

As I looked at the collective data, it became very obvious that every advisor in every quintile had a book that had a similarity – 36% of the clients represented in their client base (as many as 1,000 clients) were responsible for 94% of their total AUM (assets under management).  Furthermore, when we analyzed the bottom 36%, that group only represented less than 5% of the total revenue.  Taking one more step, we uncovered that it would take 16 sales from the lower 36% to equal the average AUM from the top 20% of the book.

We thought we knew this, but now we had the data to prove it. 

Just for fun, I looked at the AUM from the 100 advisors for the broker dealer and guess what I found?  You guessed it – 36% of the advisors were responsible for over 90% of the total AUM.  Again, the questions have to be – Why do you have the other 64% of the advisors?  Why do they perform so poorly?  Were they hired this way – to perform at this level?  What was missing in the on-boarding, training and management of those advisors?

One of the easy reactions to the data is this – “Tony, you have to understand that some of the advisors we were looking at don't have the same tenure as those in the top 36%.”  Okay, I will buy that.  But, are you telling me that is the case from #1 all the way to #100?  The answer is no.  In the mix of the top 1/3, there are less tenured advisors, and in the bottom 1/3, there are very senior advisors. 

The tenure argument doesn’t work. The economy argument doesn’t work. The competition argument doesn’t work. The compensation argument doesn’t work and, finally, the DoL regulation or regs of any sort argument doesn’t work.  In every instance, the numbers hold up.

So, what is the problem?  What are the constraints to sales growth? Why is it so $%^&* hard to solve the sales growth problem?  There are five reasons I want to discuss, but first, let’s agree to some assumptions:

  • Your organization has a solid strategic plan to gain market share. (If not, contact Gazelles.  Verne Harnish is a genius and the concepts in his book, Scaling Up, will change your business.)
  • Everyone is either rising or sinking with the economic tide.
  • Your company’s compensation plan fits with in the suggested range of the industry. (Contact Peter Bielen or Scott Stathis to discuss compensation.)
  • You have access to the products and services that the ideal prospects identified in your strategic plan want and need
  • Your support partners provide you the backend client services that you need.

Again, the list can go on – in general, let’s assume that the basics to start and sustain a business are in place.  But, something is missing year in and year out that makes sales growth so difficult.  Here are the 5 constraints to consistent and predictable sales growth:

  1. Weak or lack of Performance Management. Understand what performance management is NOT – setting goals and then telling people that they have to work harder if they are not hitting the goals.  It is NOT using PIPS as a way to get people to perform.  A solid performance management structure and strategy requires a couple of steps, systems, and processes.
    1. Identifies the right metrics to measure success
    2. Creates benchmarks that force salespeople to work harder and better
    3. Holds people accountable to the THINGS they need to do to get sales growth results
    4. In addition to the items listed above, the executor (sales manager, sales coach, sales leader) needs to have the right sales management behaviors and skills
  2. Any coaching is in-the-moment coaching rather than Coaching for Success. Coaching for Success is intentional/planned coaching.  It is based on what the data identifies as choke points in executions or lack of effort.  In-the-moment coaching does not focus on changing behavior and improving skills. It’s kind of like what happens in a time-out in most sports.  There is a situation in the game that requires some additional thought and strategy.  The coach calls a time-out to discuss the strategy and lay out a plan to execute “in the now.”  That type of coaching is designed to solve the in-the-moment problem, but it virtually does nothing to change behavior or improve skill overall.  Coaching for Success requires:
    1. Data points established as a result of the performance management success formula (The metrics that define success identified in your performance management strategy)
    2. Data collection
    3. Reporting that identifies the variance in actual performance from goal performance
    4. Gaining business intelligence from the data report
    5. Effective coaching skills http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.bisanet.org/resource/resmgr/onesource/9_skills_to_coaching_success.pdf, systems and processes
    6. A consistent process of disciplined coaching designed to help the advisor get on track and stay on track because behaviors change and skills improve.

The remaining constraints are:

  1. Hiring sales people based on the wrong criteria with the wrong processes and systems. To Hire Better SalesPeople, you have to have a better way to attract better people and a better way to eliminate those 90% that will not do 100% of what you need them to do.
  2. Ineffective motivation via culture, sales meetings and recognition. Most sales managers don’t know what motivates their people.  If you are going to Motivate for Success, it is important to know what motivates them.
  3. Inadequate hiring. When just enough is good enough, the sales organization fails to regularly Upgrade the Sales Force.

Pass this article on! http://bit.ly/2jPOGFO 

Contact us – 513.791.3458

Contact Tony Directly -  tony@anthonycoletrainingcom or text 513.226.3913 with the message “Call me”

Additional Resources:

 

4 Steps to Create Client Advocates

Tags: exceeding customer expectations, creating advocates, solving sales issues

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

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Today's question is this: “What are you doing to keep your clients coming back... and telling their friends?”

Can you think of a place where you go, wait in a long line, spend a lot of money and yet can’t wait to tell others how great it was and go back again?  Well, that could describe a number of places, but the frame of reference I want to use today is the Disney experience.

No one would argue with the success that Disney has in exceeding expectations and creating advocates. When you go there your first time, it is more beautiful than you ever imagined.  You have such a magical time that you forget about how much things cost or how long the lines are for almost everything.  In his book, Inside the Magic Kingdom, author Tom Connellan shows us (in story form) the seven keys to Disney’s success and how they work to create a dazzling experience for all of their guests.  As you read the book, you can only imagine what would go into building and sustaining that kind of relationship with your customers.

In order to achieve “dazzling”, you must have a process that is consistent and predictable.  People need to know what they can depend on when they trust you with their business.  In other words, it’s not a once-in-a-while thing; it is just the way you do things.

Keep in mind that it does not have to be the same thing for all of your clients.  The way you support your top 20% needs to be different from how you support your bottom 20%. But, at the heart of it all, everyone gets the basics.

So, how DO you create advocates?

  1. You have to find out what they want.How do you do this?  Ask!  Give them a list of things to choose from with the option to add things that might not be on the list.
  2. Next, prioritize critical areas. The key here is to find out what they won’t tell you.  How many times have you left a restaurant after you told your server everything was fine when they asked… then you  get back to your car and vow to never go back?  Some of your clients may do the same thing.
  3. Identify performance levelsand find out where they are setting the bar; don’t assume you know.
  4. Negotiate expectations. Now is the time to deal with anything you are not willing to agree to. Sometimes we say “yes” because we think it’s a deal breaker; just ask and then decide.  If it is outside your process, then you are better served to move on because, unfortunately, it will always be a struggle and they will never become an advocate anyway.

The only way to exceed your customer’s expectations is to know what they actually are, not what you think they are.  Start by having that conversation first and soon you will have them coming back for more and telling their friends.

Additional Resources:

Solving Problems for Prospects

Developing Rapport Quickly with Sales Prospects

Tags: Sales Strategies, close more sales, rapport with sales prospects, asking sales questions, initial sales meeting

sales-rapport.gifA guest post by Jack Kasel, Sales Development Expert, Anthony Cole Training Group

Rapport can be the fertilizer to help develop relationships quicker and with deeper roots.  However, most salespeople confuse rapport with having things in common.  Hello, everyone, this is Jack Kasel bringing you the latest Anthony Cole Training Sales Brew—Developing Rapport.

Most salespeople, upon entering a prospect’s office for the first time, become Robo-Salesperson – scanning the room for something to make a witty and insightful comment about.  When they hone in on a picture on the desk, they ask, “Is that your family?”   The prospect may answer differently, but is thinking “No, that’s the family of the person who had this office before me.  I liked his family better, so I kept the picture.” (Pause) “Of course, it’s my family, Captain Obvious.”

Don’t get me wrong; making those observations are helpful, but needing to be mentioned at the right time and mentioning it “right off the bat” isn’t the right time.  Why?  Because 10 out of the 12 previous salespeople who called on your prospect did the same thing.  You don’t want to be like all the other sales people; be different, be memorable.

Our definition of building rapport is this:  Prove you belong at the table.   You prove you belong at the table by the way you conduct yourself, the questions you ask and how you manage the interaction with the prospect.  That includes how you open the call.

We suggest two things when opening the call:

  • Don’t thank them for the meeting
  • Ask a great opening question

The opening statement could sound something like this: “I’m glad we could coordinate our schedules; I’m looking forward to our conversation.”   If we give the impression we are just a lowly salesperson, it doesn’t create “Equal Business Stature.”  They are professionals, we are professionals; we are going to have a professional business discussion.  IF we give the impression we are so grateful they could fit us in to their busy schedule, that doesn’t get the conversation started correctly.  Remember: our time is just as valuable as theirs, so act like it.

Asking a great opening question may sound like this, “Mr./Ms. Prospect, What do we need to discuss over the next 40-45 minutes that would make you say, ‘I’m glad we scheduled this meeting’  OR  ‘This was a good use of my time today’?   That forces them to talk about things important to them and gets the meeting started correctly.

As I mentioned earlier, discussing things on a personal level (sports, interests, hobbies, etc.) is best saved for when you are closing up the meeting.   That can bring a personal touch to the conversation; just make sure it’s done at the proper time – which is the end of the meeting, not the beginning.

Additional Resources:

4 Steps for Creating a Dazzling Client Experience by Walt Gerano

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5 Sales Activities that Lead to Success: Are Your Salespeople Assertive Enough?

Tags: sales competencies, sales management, sales prospecting, Sales Strategies, asking sales questions

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Assertive (not aggressive) salespeople win more business than others.  They care so much about doing the right thing for their clients that they are willing to risk the relationship and the deal in order to make sure the prospect or client makes the right decisions.  Does that describe your people?  Are they assertive?

When we say assertive, what do we mean?  What sales habits do assertive and successful people do day in and day out?  In 2010, I wrote a blog entitled 5 Direct Sales Activities That Lead to Sales Success that has been one of my highest readership blogs.  I went back and reviewed and here are the five steps:

  1. Activities that lead to getting names - networking, speaking engagements, sponsored seminars, meeting with centers of influence and/or asking for introductions
  2. Calling a suspect on the phone for an appointment
  3. Conversations and meetings to qualify a suspect
  4. Gathering additional information that leads to a presentation meeting
  5. Presentations/pitch meetings that lead to decisions

Steps 1 and 2 have changed dramatically in the last 6 years.  Social selling and the evolution of the buyer’s process utilizing all of the multiple channels of information has completely changed the process of prospecting for business.  Step 2 - getting a suspect on the phone - is virtually impossible with voicemails and phone trees.

Our Own Prospecting Case Study

Earlier this year, we decided to test the waters for our hiring business solution, www.hirebettersalespeople.com.  We had some initial success right off the bat with our launch in January of 2016, but then activity seemed to cool down.  We purchased a local lead list based on company size and title and I began calling.  Here are the calling results:

  • 66% of the dials took me directly into a recorded phone tree
  • 25% of the calls took me to a receptionist who was very helpful and informative but transferred me to voicemail
  • Of the remaining 9%, I had in depth conversations with 3 people, met with one and generated one sale from that contact

3 people fit our profile; I met with 1 and sold that one… but not to help them hire better salespeople, but rather to help them test, train and track some of the salespeople that were not “hitting their weight”.  The second was not interested at the time and the 3rd introduced me to someone in the home office. That contact has put us in the middle of negotiations for a 5-figure initial engagement.

I tell you that story to make the following points about step #2:

  • Calling prospects on the phone doesn’t work like it used to.  
  • It requires more attempts and effort than ever before - you have to have a different tactic and message to differentiate yourself.
  • Once you make contact, you have to be extremely good at what you do and have a compelling reason for people to listen and stay on the phone. THAT is where being more assertive makes a difference.

Steps 3, 4, 5:  How to be More Assertive at Qualifying, Presenting and Getting Decisions

In our primary markets of financial institutions, investment services and insurance brokerage, we ARE the resource for sales growth solutions.  We coach our clients on the fact that the reason for either their sales growth or loss is due to their peoples’  1) effort or 2) execution.  But what does assertiveness have to do with Effort and Execution of steps 3,4 and 5?  In a word, EVERYTHING.

Steps 3,4, and 5:

  1. Conversations and meetings to qualify a suspect
  2. Gathering additional information that leads to a presentation meeting
  3. Presentations/pitch meetings that lead to decisions

In each one of these steps, the skill of asking the right questions, the right way, at the right time is critical.  In our selling system, we explain that -  in order for a prospect to qualify - they must:

  1. Have compelling reasons to buy, make a change, do something different
  2. Have the capability and willingness to invest the right time, money and effort required for the purchase/change
  3. Be in a position of decision making and be able to make the decision to find a solution to the compelling (have to fix) issue,  can make the money decision, can leave a current or add to a current relationship, and say yes or no.

There are lots of questions that need to be asked in order to find out if the prospect qualifies in these three areas.  Some of these questions require a sales person to be assertive.  Questions such as:

  • How will you go about telling your current broker/banker/relationship that you are no longer going to do business with them?
  • If you don’t have the money, how will you solve the problem?
  • The budget you have won’t be enough to get you the outcome you want. What part of the solution do you want to eliminate?
  • What will you tell your partner when they say they don’t want to make the change?

Additionally, sometimes statements are required that would be considered counter-intuitive to selling, gutsy and risky.

  • Based on our experience and deep domain knowledge about your business, your best action to take would be this: ________.  If that doesn’t seem to work for you, then there’s a possibility that we won’t be a good match.
  • If I treated my clients the way you’ve been treated, then I would expect to be fired.
  • When we finish our presentation, solve all of the problems you’ve asked us to address within your budget and answered all your questions, I’ll need for you to be in a position to make a decision on whether we’ll do business together or not.
  • Maybe the most important thing for you to consider is “fit”.  If there isn’t a fit between our two companies, then our products and pricing really don’t matter.

Imagine for a second that you had salespeople that were gutsy enough to have these types of conversations. What would happen?  You might fear that you would lose more business. But… suppose that wasn’t the case.  Suppose by being more assertive and gutsy, your salespeople eliminated tire kickers earlier.  Suppose this lead to the elimination of “think it overs” and actually got people to decide.  Imagine for a second that your salespeople stopped making presentations to people who could only say “no” and never had the authority or intention of saying “yes”.  What would happen?

Your people would sell more, more quickly, at higher margins.  They would stop wasting time, stop getting delays, stop being shopped by a prospect that was just trying to keep a current provider honest.  

Here’s How Sales Managers Can Get Their Salespeople to be More Assertive

Sales managers must hold their salespeople accountable to the right level of sales activity.  To do this, you must have a success formula and a well-defined sales process so that you can identify where the choke points are for individuals when they fail to close “sure thing” opportunities.  You must also have a pipeline tool that actually helps you predict the possibility of an opportunity closing rather than a tool that just reports that there is activity in the pipeline.  And, finally, you must have a full pipeline – an anemic pipeline makes cowards out of salespeople. These are the tools you will need to help your salespeople be more assertive and close more business, more quickly, at higher margins.

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7 Effective Sales Management Steps to Take NOW

Tags: success formula, managing sales teams, effective sales management

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Sales management, sales leadership and sales presidency require special diligence this time of year. Actions taken now will assure successful sales results in the coming year. In order to transition smoothly, here are 7 sales management steps that should be completed before the end of the year.  

By now, you should have:

  1. Evaluated the individuals on your team for the year. Unless you have anomalies at the end of the year, your team’s individual outcomes and results are pretty much set.
  2. (Based on the evaluation) Begun to have meetings with all your people. The meetings are similar to performance reviews, but they’re not the corporate type of review that gets put in the HR file.  These reviews put your team members in 1 of four groups. You then have a discussion about what group they are in.
    1. Met or exceeded sales goal and sales activity requirements group
    2. Met or exceeded sales goal but currently not at sales activity targets group
    3. Met or exceeded sales activity targets but failed  to hit sales targets (below 100% is failing)
    4. Has not met sales or sales activity targets

(If you would like information on what the conversation should sound like for people in each of these groups, call me or text me at 513-226-3913.  If I don’t answer, just leave a message with your name, mobile number and email requesting, “Where’s Walter?” information.  You can also email me at tony@anthonycoletraining.com.)

  1. Reviewed performance, actual effort and execution effectiveness results against targets for the year.
  2. Assessed where the choke points are for people on the team who are not succeeding. To do this, you look at the conversion ratios in your sales success formula that was built last year and reviewed every quarter.  (Don’t have a success formula?  Click here –> Success formula download)
  3. Revised the success formula for 2017 based on each person’s commitment to performance via the “extraordinary discussion”. (Haven’t had that discussion? Ask Jeni at Jeni@anthonycoletraining.com to send you that information.)
  4. Conducted an offsite where your salespeople identify personal goals, translate the personal goals into a personal income requirement and translate that into a work plan that you will follow up with every quarter. (Yes, we have information on what that offsite should look like.  Even though it’s late to be doing that now, conducting the session in January would be better than not conducting one at all.  Let us know if we can help: 513-791-3458)
  5. Talked to your HR department about additional FTEs for the coming year to grow your sales team and replace the people that are not performing. Think about this: Suppose you had to hire better salespeople (3) but can only grow your sales team by 2 – who would you let go?

These 7 things are the minimum functions for sales management at this time of year.  Failure to execute on these 7 steps will pretty much guarantee that your next 12 months will look like the past 12 months:

  • Only a few people will meet or exceed the goal
  • Most of the people will miss the goal by at least 10% and some as much as 20%
  • The bottom 33% of your sales force will represent less than 5% of your new business revenue
  • Salespeople that fail will continue to make excuses
  • The salespeople that had a “one-off” great year will coast in the next year and live off the laurels of this year.
  • Your top performers will continue to be frustrated by lack of attention, support and recognition for their outstanding contributions.

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28 Sales Traits to Identify When Hiring Better Salespeople

Tags: Sales DNA, managing sales teams, managing salespeople, top sales performers

So, what are you looking for in your next great sales person?  I guess the most important question is this: Are you really looking for the next great sales person or are you looking for a sales person that will fill the FTE allocation?  Will you settle for someone that is “at least as good as” your average sales person?

No one in their right mind would say “yes” to those questions, but if your sales organization is large enough, the data would support that your hiring practices are getting you exactly that.  According to Geoff Smart (Topgrading), 75% of the hires made are not as good as or only as good as the person they are replacing.

If we were to look at the 80/20 power curve in your organization, we would probably find out what we normally do – that about 36% of the sales force is responsible for over 90% of your sales results.  So, what is the other 64% doing?  How did they end up on your sales team?

In order to get the right people, you have to know what you should be looking for.  In conjunction with Objective Management Group, we have studied our clients.  We have evaluated their top performers and non-performers.  Looking at over 100 data points, we know what separates those who will sell from those who won’t sell.  Do you?

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Ignore the words and numbers.  Just look at the sea of green which is representative of performers and compare that with the sea of red representing non-performers.

Here is the list we’ve come up with after analyzing the sales teams of 5 of our clients in the financial services/banking business:

  1. Strong desire for success in selling
  2. Strong commitment/motivated to do everything possible to succeed in selling
  3. Trainable
  4. Has a strong figure-it-out factor
  5. Possesses Sales DNA Competencies
  6. Has no need for approval
  7. Controls emotions
  8. Has supportive beliefs
  9. Comfortable discussing money
  10. Handles rejection
  11. Hunter
  12. Sales posturing
  13. Consultative seller
  14. Qualifier
  15. Closer
  16. Follows consistent sales process
  17. Compatibility with top performer profile
  18. Prospects consistently
  19. Schedules meetings
  20. Reaches decision makers
  21. Recovers from rejection
  22. Does not need to be liked
  23. Comfortable talking about money
  24. Has a strong self-image
  25. Loves to win
  26. Motivated by recognition
  27. Loves competing with others
  28. Rejection proof

What I find interesting about some of the items is that there are a few that have a significant variance between the performers and non-performers:

  1. Commitment – The commitment to succeed in selling is 77% GREATER in performers than in non-performers.
  2. The trainability in performers is 34% HIGHER.
  3. The hunter skill in performers is 112% HIGHER.
  4. Performers have a 48% HIGHER figure-it-out factor.
  5. Performers score 119% HIGHER in handling rejection.
  6. Those that hit sales goals score 87% HIGHER in sales posturing
  7. This one blows me away – neither group is particularly strong in closing: non-performers have only 13% of the closing skills required.  Even though top performers OUTSCORE their counter-parts by 150%, they still only have 33% of the required closing skills.

How do you explain that last item?  Look at the others strengths:  Desire, commitment, trainability, hunter, figure-it-out qualifier, consultative, posturing… they are REJECTION proof! 

The purpose of this post is to get you to think more seriously about what it is that you really know about the candidates you are looking to hire as well as what you really need to know before proceeding with the interview and hiring steps.

Any questions? Please call or write:
513.226.3913 tony@anthonycoletraining.com

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Chicken Little and The Impact of Dol (pt.1)

Tags: managing sales teams, DoL regulations, managing advisors

chickens.jpgAs the story goes, Chicken Little gets hit on the head and declares the sky is falling.

Last spring, the Department of Labor passed new fiduciary regulations on the financial advisory business, and since then, there have been an untold number of articles written about the impact on advisors, the industry and consumers.  Several of these have stated that:

  • Trillions of dollars will saved in investor commissions because advisors will soon be held to a much stricter fiduciary standard that affects transactional incentives.
  • Advisors will lose ½ of their revenue because what was a solid investment recommendation and seen as ‘suitable’ will soon be considered conflicted advice because it paid them commission.
  • The industry is in turmoil as it attempts to figure out how to meet DoL regs, hold on to high-performing advisors and effectively make-up the assumed lost revenue.

The sky is falling?!?

I read Bank Investment Consultant at least 3 times a week.  The publication and its editors/authors do a great job of keeping people connected to the industry in the loop on the latest changes, trends and thought leadership.  Lee Conrad, Editor of Bank Investment Consultant, recently wrote an article titled:  Bank Advisers:  Prepare to Cut Your Book by Half

Here are a couple of excerpts from the article:

The fiduciary rule will require most bank advisors to trim their books of business to a much more manageable level. How much is really a guessing game at this point. But, for many advisors, especially those who have focused on transactional business, it will be significant.

This was just one of the discussions from our last Industry Leadership Forum in Denver. We hold these meetings in conjunction with Stathis Partners as small, invitation-only gatherings for industry execs to discuss the top issues on their radar screens.

So, how many clients can an advisor reasonably manage when they are acting in a fiduciary capacity? The numbers bandied about in our meeting were in the low hundreds: about 200 give or take.

***

REALITY CHECK
How many clients do advisors really have? Consider some research we did earlier this year for our annual Top Program Managers ranking. In addition to asking each nominee how many advisors they had on their teams, we also asked how many households their teams served. We've never used those results until now, but the average was 750 client households per advisor. The median was a bit lower--about 550--but many of the individual programs had well over 1,000 clients per advisor.

***

TEE-UP THE CROSS SELL
Here's one more assumption, on my part, that I feel pretty good about: Advisors don't want to lose too much of their pay. If they generated, say $200,000 in annual production in 2016 and next year they find themselves with a book of business that's been cut by half, the natural move for them will be to get more profit from each client. (Just how to segment a book was another discussion at our forum, which we'll write about in a future installment.)

So, here is the first thing you should keep in mind about Dol and its impact:

It’s easy to get caught in the DoL quicksand.  Two friends of mine who also happen to be well -respected people in the industry, Michael Graham from Midwest Securities Trading Company and Kevin Mummau from CUSO, are not panicking.  Actually, we all seem to agree that this is a great opportunity for advisors:

  • The money hasn’t gone anywhere.
  • Advisors that aren’t very good at really advising clients and struggle with “fiduciary” standards will leave the business.
  • The solutions to the “problems of revenue loss” already exist: financial planning and risk management products.

So, is the sky really falling? We will answer that question in our next post!

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Did Your Salespeople Grow Up on the Farm?

Tags: managing sales people, record collection, coaching sales people, sales habits

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You and your salespeople are a product of mom and dad, the people met, the experiences had and the education/knowledge acquired:

  • Nature and Nurture
  • Heredity and Environment

Recently, I read a Jack Reacher novel.  Jack is a fictional character in many of Lee Child’s novels.  Jack is a former military police officer and states to himself, “You can leave the army, but the army doesn’t leave you.”  I stopped and thought about that comment and related it to my own life and realized, “You can leave the farm but the farm doesn’t leave you.”

Those that know me and have heard me speak or train know that I reference my youth and growing up on the farm in Hammonton, New Jersey.  Hammonton is the blueberry capital of the world, home of the Hammonton Hawks, the Hammonton Blue Devils and Bruni’s Pizzeria.

I am a product of those experiences as well as the numerous people I’ve met, places I’ve been, books I’ve read, speakers I’ve heard and work/fun experiences I have had since I was 18.  But, I am pretty sure much of what I am today - how I think and how I act - are a result of those first 18 years.  The farm and growing up the son of Ray and Geri Cole laid the foundation that is me today.

The core values and beliefs I learned on the farm that still guide me today:

  • When all else fails, hard work works.
  • Get up early and go to work.
  • Go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep.
  • Learn how to hunt and provide for your family.
  • Working piece meal pays you your true value (i.e. working on commission).
  • Don’t try to control what you cannot control (i.e. Weather and the rate at which blueberries ripen for harvest).
  • There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
  • Someone will always have it better/worse than you.
  • Two things have to happen – death and taxes.
  • God will provide wisdom, strength and courage – you have to do the work.
  • Not everyone gets to play.
  • Winners are rewarded.
  • God provided us with two ears and one mouth, listen twice as much as you talk.
  • You have to be in great shape to play college football.
  • Thank and love Mom, Dad and God.
  • 4th place didn’t get a medal.
  • If you hoe long enough, blisters will become calluses.
  • Trucks run better with all four tires.
  • Hard work can be fun.
  • Make your handshake mean something.
  • All we have is our integrity.
  • Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be answer, ask and it will be given.
  • The only way to get a pretty girl to go out with you is to ask her out for a date.
  • Your heart will be broken and mend.
  • If you plant trees in good soil, take care of them with food and water and shelter them from harm, they will last a long, long time (See my picture of the sugar maple my dad planted over 60 years ago).
  • Love grows best in little houses.
  • Kids taking care of pets learn about responsibility, life and death.
  • Hugs are free.
  • There’s always room for Jello
  • Money doesn’t grow on trees.
  • I’m not a Rockefeller.
  • Practice what you preach.
  • Take care of your equipment and your equipment will take care of you.

Most, if not all, of this list has served me well over the years. There is also a list of things I had to unlearn/undo because it didn't/ doesn't serve me well.

  • Don’t talk to strangers.
  • Life isn’t fair.
  • Rich people are ‘rich bastards’.
  • You want people to like you.
  • Don’t upset the apple cart.
  • Fit in.
  • Play it safe.
  • Don’t trust salespeople.
  • Biases based on gender, religion and color of skin.
  • You can’t be wealthy and happy.

I’m sure I could add more, but I’m also sure that this is getting boring, so I’ll get to the point.  That point is this: you have to do more in your training and development program than just teach tactics and techniques.  There’s lots of stuff in your head -  and in the heads of your people - that influences what you do and won’t do.  To get the most out of any training and development program, you have to understand the “root” cause.

Understanding who your people are is critical in getting them to perform. Understanding who you are will help you help them.

Here is a way to learn more about how your people think when it comes to sales and sales management:  Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis.

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Is Your Sales Team HUNTING or Hunting?

Tags: sales competencies, hunting for sales prospects, sales hunting

When I was a youngster, I used to go hunting with my dad and my older brother, Ray.  I never hunted with my younger brother, Michael, until just a few years ago.  But Ray, Dad and I spent many weekday evenings and weekends in the woods. We were doing two things:

  1. Preparing to hunt
  2. Hunting

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PREPARING to hunt included:

  1. Going into the woods to scope out the places where deer frequented or could be convinced to frequent
  2. Building tree stands in close proximity to deer paths or food plots
  3. Going to the sweet potato or squash fields to pick up potatoes and squash left from the previous day harvest. Sometimes we would get apples or peaches
  4. Taking basket after basket after basket of deer food (see number 3) into the woods
  5. Practicing our bow skills by shooting targets at 20 yards. Dad was so good he could hit a moving quart milk jug!
  6. Getting a license to hunt
  7. Getting the right clothes for cold weather
  8. Getting the equipment ready
  9. More practice

HUNTING included:

  1. Sitting in a tree stand freezing your baguettes off waiting for a deer to show up
  2. Not moving for 3 hours even if you had to pee
  3. Shooting at a deer
  4. Retrieving arrows that missed the deer
  5. Tracking, finding and field dressing the deer if the arrow hit its mark
  6. Carrying the deer out of the woods – sometimes up to a mile
  7. Skinning and butchering the deer (Actually, I did none of #6 or 7...)
  8. Eating the venison (I did lots of this!)

Everything I just listed (and yes, Ray, I’m sure I missed something…) would be defined as HUNTING.  Even if it appears that sometimes it is waiting and not actually hunting, I assure you it is all hunting.

Then... there is the hunting I’ve done the past week:

  1. I joined a hunting club.
  2. I showed up either early in the morning or early in the afternoon.
  3. Brian, the manager of the club, took me to a tree stand.
  4. Using a buck call, I called for and waited for a deer to show up.
  5. If one showed up, I shot it (I actually got my first dear about a month ago) and sent a text to Brian. If I didn’t see or hit one, I sent a text to Brian and he came to get me.
  6. When I hit a deer, Brian and I tracked the deer.
  7. Brian field dressed the deer.
  8. Brian took the deer to the processor.
  9. I picked up the packaged deer meat.
  10. I prepared venison parmesan.
  11. We ate.

This is hunting in my world today.  Notice the differences?

Yes, I still have to practice.  I still have to get my hunting gear together and make sure my equipment is ready to go.  I still have to get up early and get to the game club.  I still have to sit in the tree quietly and not move.  I still have to have skills to put myself in a position to draw the bow, release the arrow and hit the target.  What I really do not do anymore is sit and shoot… or, rather, just sit.

Now, I want you to think about the similarities in HUNTING for deer and HUNTING for prospects.  And then, I want you to answer some questions:

  • Which hunting is your sales team doing?
  • Which steps are they doing?
  • Which steps are they skipping or failing to do?
  • What impact does this have on their ability to close more business, more quickly, at higher margins?
  • If they are not consistently hunting, then what is the likelihood that they will have consistent sales results?

Brian and I went out last week when the weather was rather warm.  It was too warm to expect a good hunt, really.  I knew that.  He knew that.  But I told him I was going out anyway.  On the way to the stand, we talked about the weather and I made the comment, “It might be too hot, but I certainly won’t even get a chance to shoot a deer unless I go into the woods.”

And… there you have it.  Regardless of how you do it, regardless of the environment, regardless of the difficulties you have to face, the reality is that, in order to get someone to say “yes” to your product or services, you must have salespeople who "go into the woods" and hunt!

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Important Resource:

Find out if you have hunters, account managers or farmers – Assess the ability of your current team to grow sales.

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Habits of Highly Successful Sales Managers

Tags: sales management, managing sales teams, sales habits, highly successful salespeople

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The sales management activities that we are performing today are creating the results we are achieving today.  What activities are you doing now that are creating your current unsatisfactory results?  It is up to us as sales leaders to set higher standards for sales behaviors and hold people accountable so that we get better results.

It is a given that successful sales management requires contributions on many levels:  skill, time, effort, effective execution and systems and processes to support coaching, performance management and recruiting.

To help understand what makes a successful sales manager, it is helpful to review the Habits of Highly Successful Salespeople. I recently asked the participants of a workshop to identify and share those habits that they believed contributed to the success of their best salespeople.  Below are some of the common habits identified:

  • Develops great relationships
  • Networks regularly
  • Good time management
  • Gets to decision makers
  • Is selective in prospecting
  • Provides exceptional customer service

Then I asked them to talk about the flip-side of the list – those habits that inhibited or hurt a salesperson’s ability to close more business.  Below are some of the habits they identified:

  • Sells on price
  • Inconsistent prospecting
  • Procrastinates
  • Presents to the wrong people
  • Sells to anyone that fogs a mirror
  • Poor prioritization
  • Is too comfortable

How about you and your habits?  What are those habits that you can point to that you KNOW have a positive impact on your team’s sales behaviors and results?  Here are some that I observe and hear about:

  • Coaches: in-the-moment to get a deal closed
  • Reports sales results
  • Makes joint calls
  • Sets goals
  • Conducts regular sales meetings
  • Reviews and reports pipeline

This is a good list and with some additions, it can become a great list when we identify the skills of a great Coach, one of the most critical roles of an effective sales leader.  To examine what else you might want to consider, take a look at the following list of elements necessary for successful coaching:

  • Debriefs sales calls effectively
  • Asks quality questions
  • Controls emotions
  • Allows salespeople to fail
  • Implements and manages the execution of a consistent sales process
  • Motivates when coaching based on individual/personal goals
  • Coaches to improve skill and change behavior
  • Gets sales people to follow through on commitments

It’s not enough to just have the skill.  In order for managers to be successful at having a sales team built for growth, the manager must be in the habit of using those skills.

Being an extraordinary sales manager is grueling and time-consuming.  It requires attention to detail, the ability to have tough conversations with those who are not meeting their numbers, the desire and commitment to grow yourself and your salespeople, consistent activity and patience.  Like the coach of a winning team or conductor of an extraordinary symphony, you have the ability to positively affect the success and the lives of your salespeople and company. 

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