Sales & Sales Management Expertise

3 Reasons Why Sales Get Stuck – And 3 Steps to Keep Them from Getting Stuck

Tags: close more sales

sales-funnel-stuck.jpgEven if you are not in “sales”, you’ve actually been in sales your whole life and you’ve had sales get stuck in the pipeline. No? You don’t think so. Well, let me provide a few examples to clarify.

  • When you were 5, you spent an entire 30 minutes of shopping time at the grocery store asking your mom to buy you the shiny toy, and after asking please 100 times, you worked down the “buyer” and you got the toy.
  • When you were in high school, you wanted your own car and, after asking mom and dad 25 times, promising to do better in school, working part-time on weekends and getting all A’s and B’s on your report card, you finally drove your date to the prom in your own car.
  • Let’s be candid on this next one – how many “attempts to close” before you had that first “intimate moment” with that person you are now engaged to/in love with/married to?
  • Asking for the promotion
  • Asking for a raise
  • Asking to be transferred to another department
  • Asking for a shot at being partner

Every one of these situations requires some “selling”, and in every situation, you had to make a case for why the outcome you desired was a good outcome.  That, my friend, is the essence of selling.  So, why do sales get stuck?


I’m working on an opportunity right now that has hit a snag. Coincidentally, at the suggestion of Dave Kurlan at Objective Management Group, I’m reading SALES EQ by Jeb Blount.  Based on the 29 pages I’ve read so far, I think I’ve figured out why we - the stakeholders and I - are stuck.

SITUATION:  The stakeholders were looking for a solution to a management problem. They, based on PEAR (Previous experiences/Education/expectations Appearing Real), had a vision of what that solution would and should look like – Sales Management Coaching.


  1. I succeeded in uncovering the emotional motivation for taking action, BUT I have also introduced additional factors they have to consider because these new factors help solve the root cause of the problem(s) they face.
  2. These additional factors have created cognitive dissonance for the stakeholders and they are now in a pattern of trying to reconcile 1)what they initially thought they needed with 2) this “shiny new object” (this new solution that makes sense to them but something they weren’t prepared to deal with from a functional or investment perspective).
  3. I failed to meet with one of the money decision makers. This isn’t always a problem, but in this case, I believe it is a problem because he has no emotional attachment to the “new” direction regarding the solution.

cog·ni·tive dis·so·nance noun PSYCHOLOGY

noun: cognitive dissonance 1.the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.

3 Steps to Close More Deals More Quickly (To Keep Deals from Getting Stuck)

  1. You must create cognitive dissonance (show them the “shiny new object”). This is done when you can express a value proposition, a brand promise, a catalytic mechanism that sets you apart and keeps you from looking, sounding and acting like everyone else selling anything else.
    1. NOTE: This is important!  Keep in mind that your prospects face lots of salespeople in lots of different aspects of their life.  They’ve been inundated with sales pitches and so are numb to the same old same old.
  2. You must find a way to connect your pitch to their experience. Mitch Anthony and Scott West do a great job of helping sales professionals do this in their book – Story Selling for Financial Advisors
    1. NOTE: Don’t let the title fool you or discourage you.  The principles of right brain selling work and make a difference in even the most left brain world like engineering and technology.
  3. You must “rehearse” their decision-making. What I mean by this is that, no matter what the situation…
    • Go to committee
    • Work with other trusted advisors
    • Talk to partners
    • Run it up the ladder
    • Think it over
    • Talk to spouse

The buyer(s) will go through a process of:

  • Remembering their original intent and have difficulty reconciling that original direction with the new information/potential solution you help them discover.
  • Then, assuming for a minute that your solution expanded their thinking and may require they expand their wallet, your prospect will start left brain thinking (logic). Depending on their finances, they may default to their original plan with someone else (they trust) simply because of the money involved.
  • **NOTE: “Rehearsing them” simply means that you must take them through the process of their thinking. Ask them what they will do when someone on the committee challenges their thinking.  What will they do when the current provider sharpens their pencil?  How will they deal with a partner who doubts or challenges a solution that differs from the original objective(s)?

Additional resources:

The 2 “MUST TAKE” Steps for Guaranteed Sales Results

Tags: close more sales, how to improve sales results, no excuses

Here’s the problem: Sales results are not what you expected.  Regardless of your role - sales manager or salesperson - you are looking at your sales results YTD and you are:

  • Not ahead of last year’s production
  • Not on pace to hit this year’s goals (personal or corporate)
  • Not keeping pace with those in your peer group (those you should be able to compete with based on experience and previous success)
  • Not up to par with your efficiency (conversion ratios aren’t the same, average size deal isn’t the same, you’re not getting the leads you used to)
  • Taking longer to get sales closed
  • Running out of time at the end of the week to get your prospecting done


Those are just a few of the symptoms observed by me, my staff and the many companies we work with when attempting to get our heads and arms around driving sales growth.  I have discovered that there are 2 “MUST TAKE” steps to address this; but, first…

I’m shooting in my first ever National Field Archery Association Indoor Nationals Tournament.  My brother, Michael, and his wife, Gwen, owners of Insight Archery in Binghamton, New York, have participated in this tournament for years.  This year, it is in Cincinnati, so I thought I’d enter.  The first round is today.

Yesterday, we went to the Duke Energy Center where the tournament is being held.  We registered, stored our bow cases and made our way to the practice venue.  I’ve been practicing some, but not enough, in the basement of my house.  My wife, Linda, is not thrilled with this, but I'm a pretty good shooter and honestly, there is very little down there for me to damage. 

The range I have in my home is about 11.5 yards long. The scores I am shooting (25 points per end) are really not a good indicator of how I’m shooting because the distance is too short.  The other night I shot a 244 out of a possible 250 and one floor joist when my release strap broke from my wrist and the arrow in the bow got away from me.

(Nice Shot!)

basement arrow.png

Yesterday, we practiced awhile and I realized that the shooting regulation distance – 20 yards – is a WHOLE lot different than the 11.5 yards I’ve been shooting at home.  The main problems, of which there are many, are

  • I can not see very well out of my right eye due to recent surgery.
  • The vision in my left eye isn’t nearly what it used to be.
  • Wearing glasses is not an answer because I haven’t figured out how to see around the frame of the glasses.
  • I shake a little more than I used to when I get up to about 50 shots because I haven’t had the time to practice to build up my endurance.
  • When I shoot by myself, I'm by myself. When you shoot in a tournament, there is someone right behind you and right in front of you creating a heck of a distraction.

When we finished practice, we walked over to another practice range and met up with Hilda, a friend of Mike’s and Gwen’s, who is also shooting in the tournament.  Right next to her was an older large gentleman with his bows and arrows… who  only had one arm.  He’s shooting at the same type of target I am …but minus his right arm.

I’ve seen videos of people doing this and I’ve heard stories about this, but I had never before witnessed it live.  He placed the bow (to rest on the stabilizer) on the floor between his knees.  He notched his arrow and lifted the bow with his left hand to bring the bow string close to his mouth.  He grabbed the release with his teeth and pushed the bow out to full draw with his left hand. He steadied his left arm, sighted slightly with his head and, finally, released the arrow by opening his mouth.

Then and there this article hit me!  I realized that the solution to sales success, sales growth and sales results really comes down to 2 basic fundamentals.  Sure, the man has skills, strength and stamina to do this, but he has 2 other things that trump everything else:

  1. Effort
  2. No Excuses


You don’t just show up at a tournament and NOT put forth the effort to compete... and then expect to compete.

AND… You don't allow excuses to get in the way of the effort (like I did - see above).

Sir, I don't know who you are. But I hope I see you again today, so I can say hello and let you know what an inspiration you are to me and maybe to anyone else who might read this article.

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


Let Silence Do the Heavy Lifting in Sales

Tags: Sales Strategies, close more sales, asking sales questions

A guest post by Mark Trinkle, Chief Sales Officer, Anthony Cole Training Group

Hello, darkness, my old friend.

I’ve come to talk with you again.

Because a vision, softly creeping,

Left its seeds while I was sleeping.

And the vision, that was planted in my brain,

Still remains…

Within the sound of silence.


So, that is the answer, courtesy of Simon & Garfunkel…And the question is this: “What song, released by a duo over 50 years ago, can help salespeople today?”

Yes, the unmistakable sound of silence. Wait a minute…does silence make a sound?  If you are a professional salesperson, you would say it absolutely does.  Susan Scott, the author of the wonderful book, “Fierce Conversations”, offers up some great advice when she suggests making your conversations more impact-ful by allow the silence to do the heavy lifting.

I think what Susan could have in mind are the hundreds of thousands of salespeople who treat silence like it is the Zika virus…they instantly run away from it.  But, what if silence was good within the context of having a powerful conversation?  What if silence led you a deeper level in a conversation?

Most salespeople are afraid of silence because they perceive it to be a) awkward or b) a sign that the prospect has checked out on them.  But, remember that you can speak much faster than people can listen…so sometimes they just need to be given time to allow their internal processor to catch up.

Here’s one more thing I have observed with salespeople.  They ask a great question….a killer question… the prospect goes radio silent…and then our salesperson ruins the moment by collapsing like a poorly dug prison tunnel.

Let the silence do the heavy lifting. I know it will be a strange feeling at first, but sometimes strange is actually a good thing.  Give your prospect some space to process the questions you ask them.

Thanks for listening. Now, go do some heavy lifting…actually, let the silence do the heavy lifting for you…and sell like a champion today.


Close More Sales with AWATL

Tags: close more sales, effective sales process

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

“What we have here . . . . is a failure to communicate.” 

You may recognize that line from one of my all-time favorite movies, Cool Hand Luke.  If you get nothing else out of this Sales Brew, do yourself a favor and go rent that movie.  You will be glad you did. 

Struther Martin’s character in the movie, Cool Hand Luke, makes that statement when the prisoner’s don’t do what is expected of them.  This same execution problem can occur during the sales process and it can cause problem with moving the sale to a timely close.  It usually manifests itself when something like this occurs . . . . . I think I know what you are going to do and you think you know what I’m going to do, but neither one of us really knows for sure what the other one wants or needs.  Thus, the need for the AWATL.

The AWATL stands for “As We Agreed To Letter”.  It is a brief correspondence that the salesperson should send out to clearly indicate what the expectation is (for both parties) on what is needed and expected.  It can be used early in the process or during the middle and is also extremely effective just before you present your solutions to the prospect.

The AWATL process is pretty simple, but it can be very effective.  It is a bullet-point letter or email which spells out the go-forward expectations for both the salesperson and prospect.  It also contains date-specific deadlines to make sure the process doesn’t get stalled or delayed.  Everything works better with deadlines and that is especially true when closing sales.  As mentioned previously, it can be VERY effective just before your closing presentation. 

The important elements of the AWATL includes:

  • The problems you have uncovered that your prospect NEEDS to fix
  • The budget you need to stay within
  • All the decision makers who will be present
  • Finally, and most important, the agreed-to and anticipated date when a decision will be made.

As sales professionals, we should try to control as many aspects of the sales process as possible.  We believe the AWATL can help you help you accomplish that goal… or at least help eliminate any misunderstandings that may hinder you from closing more business. 

In closing, please remember this, someone needs what you do . . . . make sure you don’t “fail to communicate” with them.


Effective Selling - Are You a Good Pitcher?

Tags: close more sales, effective sales process

Great closing pitchers get batters out. They always don't get people to strike out. Sometimes runners get on base, but then the next batter hits into a double play and now there are two outs and no one on base. The third batter hits a fly ball to the outfield, the outfielder catches the ball – ballgame. Another save for the closer.

Everything started with the pitch; the same is true in effective selling. Take a look at the cartoon from the Cincinnati Enquirer in November of this year:


Lt. Fuzz is the salesperson. Imagine you are Lt. Fuzz and you are calling the general on the phone instead of face-to-face. Or you are meeting someone on the chicken dinner tour and you are introducing yourself and what you do. Your initial “pitch” is “I have some nifty ideas that will do -, I’d like to come by and show you/tell you more about how this can save you money, improve effectiveness, reduce risk…”

Until you identify a benefit that benefits the prospect directly – something that has personal impact/appeal - then your pitch will miss the mark.

Several years ago, I heard Matt Hogan talk about the concept of “thinking presidentially.” I have often shared this concept with sales people and sales managers over the years during training sessions and keynote speeches. The idea is to think like the president of the company you are calling on.

Think about the things that matter most to the president. Yes, saving money is important, but why? Yes, reducing risk is important, but why? Yes, managing cash flow is important, but why? If you understand the why and address the why when you initiate the call, you are more likely to get the “I’m all ears” response rather than “I’m not interested.”

Additional resources:

Ted Talk – Simon Sinek – The Golden Circle of Why

Tony Cole Youtube Video – What’s Important to Your Prospect

Sales Process Grader – Is Your Sales Process Being Executed Effectively?

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

Tags: qualifying prospects, sales prospecting, close more sales

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.