ACTG Sales Management Blog

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Alex Cole

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Fishing for Prospects

Posted by Alex Cole on Fri, Nov 10, 2017

I’m sure majority of people have heard the Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” This, of course, means it’s more worthwhile to teach someone to do something (for themselves) than to do it for them (on an ongoing basis).

Well, I’ve created a new proverb. A sales proverb, if you will:

“Give a salesperson a prospect, and you strengthen their pipeline for a day. Teach a salesperson to prospect, and you strengthen their pipeline for their career.”

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Makes sense, doesn’t it?

A lot of the companies we partner with supply their new, or tenured, salespeople with leads consistently. In theory, this sounds great but it can cause problems long term. If you are feeding leads to your salespeople on a regular basis we encourage you to continue to do so. However, your salespeople can’t and shouldn’t rely on them as their main resource for potential business. They should be capable of replicating the process and generating their own opportunities. If they produce solely off of inbound marketing leads, the salesperson will just survive and not thrive within your organization. If they don’t know how to effectively create, cultivate and generate leads they will only do what is required of them to sell and close the leads they’re given, won’t try and uncover other opportunities and in the end, you, the sales manager, and the salesperson, will be disappointed with their performance.

And it’s not just a matter of teaching them how to prospect but how to prospect effectively. Anyone can go out and get a list of names but how they contact those names, what they say, what questions they ask- all play a role in effectively “fishing” for leads.

So how can you help your salespeople?

Start by setting a new lead expectation. Making it mandatory to produce fresh opportunities on a weekly basis will force your salespeople to go out and make the dials. Next, identify your “Zebra” or ideal prospect persona. For a better understanding of the concept and best practices on identifying “Zebras” watch this short Sales Guy Unplugged video. Don’t let your salespeople call on anyone other than those that fit the personas identifies. After, research the best ways to reach your ideal prospect. Is it via email or phone call? Is LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter their preferred social media platform? Knowing how and where to reach your target persona will positively impact your salespeople’s’ ability to hunt, qualify and discover potential new business.

A salespersons job, though difficult to do, is not difficult to understand. There are 3 major components: go out in the marketplace and uncover opportunities, qualify those opportunities and close for the business. Don’t let your salespeople get by on just your internal leads- fishing for prospects is 33% of their job.

Need more help? Download our free E-Book “Why is Qualifying a Prospect so #%&@ Hard”. This book is packed with practical information that you can put into practice today to immediately increase your sales. Also, listen to the recorded live broadcast of Anthony Cole Training Group’s President and Chief Sales Officer, Mark Trinkle, covering “How to Create, Cultivate and Convert Sales Leads".

Listen to the Recording Here!

Topics: Prospecting, Qualifying leads, create & convert leads, coaching salespeople

Sales and Super Mario

Posted by Alex Cole on Fri, Oct 27, 2017

Last week, my fiancé and I were gifted a new Super Nintendo Classic with all the originals preloaded- Donkey Kong Country, Street Fighter, Zelda and of course, Super Mario World. Now I realize only a certain group reading this will know the exact system I am referring to but my theory still applies to Atari lovers, Gameboy enthusiasts and even those of you who know nothing about gaming and gaming consoles.

The first night we picked up the retro remotes we discovered something—these games are hard! Particularly Super Mario World. Being someone who grew up with this technology, I thought getting back into it would be simple. I was wrong. I was so excited to be playing again I found myself running the course, taking risky jumps, trying to collect all the coins I could and would end up falling to my virtual death or getting hit in the head by a turtle shell. I realized that I had an opportunity to make it through to the next level but I wasn’t doing what was necessary to convert that opportunity into a win. I rushed through. I took risks that weren’t worth it but I made them anyway because it was the only play I had. And then I had an epiphany- the same thing happens in sales.mario2.jpg

One of the problems we hear our clients talk most about is their ability to grow sales and its direct correlation to their salespeople’s ability to create and convert opportunities. Lead generation and conversion requires two things: effort and effective execution. Majority of the time, we find that the effort is there but the execution could use work. If you were to ask your salespeople to show you their pipeline for the next 30 or 60 days, what would it look like? There are probably enough opportunities but are they properly vetted? Does the lead or prospect qualify to do business with your organization? Does your company qualify to do business with them? Or are they just in there to make it look like your sales person has a full dance card for the next month? Weak, unqualified pipelines make cowards of us all- we don’t want to throw the unqualified ones out because if we did, what would we have left?

Salespeople tend to rush through the sales process after hearing the littlest pain indicator or buying signal. They feel the quicker they move, the more likely the prospect is to say “yes” at time of close. However, that’s rarely how it works out. Usually when we rush, we are left with “think it over”, stalls and objections or the prospect decides not to answer calls or emails at all. So, what can your salespeople do TODAY to help fix the problem?

  1. Slow down! Don’t rush the sales process. When we rush, we get inconsistent results and are likely to face more problems on the back end.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions. The #1 reasons salespeople struggle with creating and converting leads is because they think they need to be liked in order to get the business. This will keep them from asking great, robust questions that allow them to properly qualify for the opportunity. It will also help your salespeople stand apart from their competitors.
  3. Use our free tool “Qualify Your Prospects” to help your salespeople better qualify and then have them remove prospects from their pipeline as soon as they realize there isn’t anywhere to go. They don’t need to continue wasting their time with another “discovery call” or follow-up email. Put them in your tickler system and move on to the next lead.

There are many other techniques to help your salespeople keep from getting hit in the head with “think it over” turtle shells. Sign up for our free live broadcast, “Learn How to Create, Cultivate and Convert Qualified Leads for Great Sales Growth” for more tips and tools! Your salespeople will learn proven methods to find and connect with real buyers in this new world of selling.

Sign up for How to  Create, Cultivate & Convert Sales Leads  Live Broadcast!

Topics: create & convert leads, Qualifying leads, Prospecting, coaching salespeople

Motivating Salespeople Involves Knowing Them

Posted by Alex Cole on Fri, Aug 11, 2017

How well can you relate to the following situations: producers not meeting sales expectations, there aren't enough opportunities in the pipeline, too few of the people are carrying the sales production load for the entire team? In almost every sales organization, these three situations exist no matter how many sales meetings are held, what CRM system is used or how closely the sales team is managed- these problems persist.

Now, why does this happen? Is it because your salespeople aren’t armed with the right tools to go out, find and close business? Nope. Maybe it’s because they don’t have the required skills? Possibly yes. Maybe they just don’t care about their own success? Or maybe it's because YOU don't care enough about their success.

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That seems harsh, I know, but let me explain. According to an article "You Can't Lead People You Don't Know, written by Jim Bouchard, creator of Black Belt Mindset Productions, less than half of the leaders they work with report knowing the people who report to them. They obviously know the role that they play and the features of their job, but they admit to not knowing them on a personal level. So, my question is this: how can you expect to motivate someone to meet sales expectations, generate opportunities and produce results when you don’t know them? You don’t know what drives them, what gets them out of bed in the morning. Your salespeople don’t care about shareholder value and year over year growth of the division or the department. They care about their kids in school, paying off college debt, building a deck on the back of the house, saving for the wedding, the vacation home and the retirement years. That is their sales motivation. 

Our partners at Objective Management Group believe that there are three ways people are motivated- altruistically, intrinsically and extrinsically. Salespeople who have altruistic motivation are those who care more about the success and well-being of those around them. They are more relationship focused and they thrive off of doing great work for the benefit of others. Intrinsically motivated salespeople find motivation in the praise that they receive for a job well-done. And those that are extrinsically motivated are considered the “original salesperson”- they’re motivated by making money. The point is you obviously need to know your salespeople personally in order to understand what motivates them to succeed.

So, what do you do now?

First, watch this short video featuring Tony Cole on the importance of motivation and personal goals. Next, create an environment where your salespeople believe their dreams can come true. You foster the ability to pursue those things that are near and dear to their heart. You create a recognition program (or incentive process) that recognizes the things that are important to them. You find a way to mesh what they want, with want you want (more sales) and what is required in their role. Motivating your salespeople is crucial for the success of your organization, so go out and meet your team. Learn what is important to them. Discover what drives them so you know how to drive their success.

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Topics: sales motivation, motivating sales people

Be a Rock Among Pillows

Posted by Alex Cole on Fri, Jul 14, 2017

My pup, Rocky, loves to lay on top of pillows. ALL pillows. He doesn’t care if they are round, square, flat, cushy, or even sewn on and attached to the back of the couch- he will find a way to lay on them. And though it irritates me to no end to walk into a room to find all of my decorative pillows haphazardly thrown around, I must appreciate Rocky’s determination. He will do whatever he can to make sure he is on top. He fights, and sometimes literally claws, his way to the peak of that pillow mountain. He epitomizes the great sales candidates you should be looking for- except maybe the dog part.  

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Great sales candidateswill think the same way Rocky does- they have to be on top. They will do whatever it takes to make sure that they are successful. They will find ways to differentiate themselves amongst their peers. The hardest part, however, is being able to spot those great salespeople without wasting a lot of your, or their, time.

At Hire Better Salespeople, we believe that you should be able to learn everything you need to know within the first 5 minutes of any interview. If you are asking the right questions, you should know how well this person handles themselves on the phone, if they have the strong will and determination you need and if they are a fit for your opportunity. The point of the first interview is not to review a resume or sell them on the details of the position. Instead, it is to drill down on their capability of doing the job you need them to do. If your organization needs a hunter, you must say, “We need someone that is going to hunt and close new business. How do we know this is you?” A great sales candidate will give you a concise answer with facts to support their position. They won’t be flustered by the direct questioning and will have the ability to answer your questions with little hesitation or "word fluff”. You should only have to ask 3 or 4 questions to determine if individuals should move forward in the interviewing process.

Even more importantly, a great salesperson will attempt to close for the next step at the end of the call. Any candidate who asks robust follow-up questions, wants specific details pertaining to the next step or directly states why they are the right fit should immediately advance to the next stage. If a sales candidate doesn’t attempt to close you at the end of the interview, it is very unlikely they will do so with a prospect.

The number one question I ask myself after any interview is this: “Would I like to compete with them in the marketplace?” If the answer is no, strongly consider this individual for a position within your organization. What if they don’t have the specific experience you are looking for? Don’t worry! You can train someone on the technical parts of being a banker or insurance rep, but it’s a lot harder to train them to be a great salesperson. 

So, next time you’re interviewing a sales candidate, remember Rocky and his quest for higher, softer ground and his grit to get there. If you are interested in learning more about how to Hire Better Salespeople, sign up for our free webinar—“Ruff” Realities About Recruiting. During this webinar, you will learn how to hire your next “top dog” using our proven process for searching, evaluating skills using a sales assessment, interviewing, hiring and onboarding new hires.

Webinar Details

Thursday, July 27th, 12-1 pm EST

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REGISTER HERE for "Ruff" Realities Recruiting Webinar

 

Topics: aquire sales candidates, 5 minute interview

Become a Pipeline Hound!

Posted by Alex Cole on Fri, Jul 07, 2017

How important is it for your salespeople to have a pipeline of prospects? Probably pretty important. How crucial is it that your salespeople continue to feed into that pipeline? Just as crucial! We all know that, in order for your organization to succeed, it is vital that your salespeople build, grow and maintain a solid pipeline. But what happens if one of those great salespeople leaves? Do you have someone on the sidelines ready to take that spot?

The first thing that we teach our Hire Better Salespeople (HBSP) clients is that it is just as imperative for you to have a pipeline of potential candidates as it is for your salespeople to have a pipeline of prospects. Most companies find themselves reacting to the loss of an employee as opposed to being proactive about it. When companies don’t proactively recruit new sales talent, they typically find themselves with a vacancy for a much longer time. For example, last year, HBSP partnered with a financial institution out of Cheyenne, WY and it took over 8 months to find a qualified individual partly due to the absence of a sales candidate pipeline. When this happens, you now have the daunting task, and added pressure, of finding a replacement... and quickly! But what happens when we rush things? Usually a mistake is made, right? Your hiring decisions and processes are not something to be rushed or else large, costly mistakes will occur. It doesn’t matter if things are going great or going terribly- a candidate pipeline has to exist.

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So, what is the best way to build a sales candidate pipeline? Be a candidate watch dog! Start with the people you know. Typically, great people know other great people and are happy to refer them. Ask your family, friends and employees if they know of anyone who may be a fit for your organization. Networking events are also a great place to receive names and meet potential sales candidates. Once you gain a few leads, reach out and see if they would be interested in getting together. In no way are these conversations interviews- they shouldn’t be! Interviews are for applicants who are actively looking when you have an active opening. At this point, you are just trying to gauge interest and add potential sales candidates to your network.

Creating a candidate pipeline won’t solve all your recruiting troubles, but it’s the first place to start. If you are interested in learning more about how to Hire Better Salespeople, sign up for our free webinar—Ruff Realities About Recruiting. During this webinar, you will learn how to hire your next “top dog” using our proven process for searching, evaluating skills using a sales assessment, interviewing, hiring and onboarding new hires.

Webinar Details:

Thursday, July 27th at 12 PM EST

REGISTER HERE for "Ruff" Realities Recruiting Webinar

Topics: sales candidates, recruiting sales talent, increase pipeline, hire better salespeople

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    About our Blog

    Founder and CLO Tony Cole has been working with financial firms for more than 25 years to help them close their sales opportunity gap.  He is a master at using science based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss his weekly sales management blog insights.

     

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