Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Coaching for Sales Success

Tags: Sales Growth, coaching salespeople

We spend a great deal of time with our clients teaching and coaching them about how to drive sales growth. The process for them is rarely easy. The reason(s) being:

  • They have their own set of beliefs about how things should or shouldn’t be done.
  • They’ve had ‘some’ success doing things the way they do things.
  • If they have a need for approval or believe that the best way to get their salespeople to perform is to get those salespeople to like them then they are not very likely to do things that might cause discomfort.
  • In many cases they’ve never been taught how to teach or coach. They’ve been taught to be great bankers, insurance brokers or investment advisors.
  • Their strengths lie in the administrative and operational duties of sales management rather in the development of people.

IF you’re are looking for a better, more effective way to maximize your sales growth, register now for the upcoming live broadcast "The 8 Strategies to Reach Your Company's Sales Growth Opportunity Gap".

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I was watching this Ted Talk that my friend Bill Eckstrom delivered at the University of Nevada. The title and subject of his talk was “Why Comfort Will Ruin Your Life”. I hadn’t thought about the connection of comfort and coaching until I watched the video just after delivering a full day workshop to a group of bank market and sales managers.

In the session, our topics were:

In our previous sessions, we covered:

We’re covering the same content for another bank’s investment advisory group and I'm observing the same reactions and results to what we are teaching/coaching in both groups. And as I think about all of the other companies we’ve worked with over 25 years the reactions and the results are the same. 

  1. The group normally gets very uncomfortable about how and what we are teaching and coaching.
  2. They get better at what they are doing and as a by product their teams perform better.

I can say without reservation that there is a connection between discomfort and growth. If your organization is in the need of sales growth, or there is a sales growth opportunity that you have to take advantage of or leverage, then those two outcomes won’t happen unless you cause some level of discomfort.

As the Canadian Olympic coach, Peter Jensen suggests, the levels of discomfort, or the passion to pursue the opportunity, have to be extreme. If not, you remain, your people remain in the comfort zone and remaining in the comfort zone means that change/growth will not happen.

Do You Have Sales Growth Problems?  Solution #3: Do Something with Your Pipeline

Tags: Pipeline management, coaching salespeople, qualified leads

Of course you have sales problems. If it’s not a production problem, it’s a productivity problem. If it’s not a productivity problem, it’s a servicing problem. If It’s not a service problem, it’s a sales/sales support turnover problem. In the words of Rosanne Rosannadana,“It’s  Always Something”

Most companies, if not all companies have some method for keeping and tracking sales pipeline activity and progress. We use Hubspot’s CRM because it ties very well with our inbound lead efforts, the pricing is extraordinary, the reporting is as good as anything on the market and getting up to speed is fast and easy. But putting data in the CRM and keeping an eye on it is not enough. You have to gain business intelligence and then act on what you know.

Conduct an Emergency Pipeline Anaylsis (EPA) for a simple but effective way to determine what stays in the pipeline and what goes to the pipedream (delete folder). EPA originator, Dave Kurlan, wrote a blog that goes into detail about the 16,000+ proposals presented to unqualified buyers by B2B salespeople every day. This data comes from the 1,000s of Sale Evaluations and Improvement Analysis (SEIA) done yearly by our firm and others around the world. In the SEIA we analyze the state of the current pipeline. Figure 1 identifies the quality of the pipeline assessed for a large sales organization. When assessing for closable opportunities the green area at the bottom should be much larger than the blue area at the top if the opportunities are truly qualified. If your closable opportunities are not really qualified you end up with a similar pipeline configuration to the one you see in the chart.

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The process to get this information is simple but effective: Create a number of qualifying questions that are based on the steps in your qualification checklist. Those questions may include but are not limited to:

  • Is there severe mental anguish to make a purchase/change and is it personal?
  • Did I attach value or monetize the problem or failure to leverage the opportunity?
  • Did I eliminate the incumbent?
  • Did I ask, “Is this a have to fix or want to fix problem” and did the prospect say ‘have to fix’?
  • Did they agree to invest the appropriate amount of time, money and resources?
  • Due I have a date of execution, purchase, contract?
  • I have met with the decision makers (not I will be meeting with decision makers at time of presentation) and they have agreed to make a decision when I finish my presentation.
  • I rehearsed the prospect on what they will do when the incumbent returns to beg for the business, fix the problems and match our fees, structure, contract.

Answering/scoring these questions simply requires a 1 or a 0. You add up the scores vertically for the opportunities in your pipeline and then make a decision to either;

  1. Call your prospect and deal with the open items
  2. Reconcile that you have asked these questions and didn’t get the right answers and therefore make the ‘go, no-go’ decision to present.

There is a world of difference between managing the pipeline and looking at the pipeline and reporting the results. Managing is an active process. As a manager you must constantly and consistently evaluate the opportunities in the pipeline for:

  • Quality – are they true opportunities
  • Quantity – the number and value volume must match each individuals success formula
  • Movement – based on your buyers’ buying cycle you should be able to predict movement from one step in the process to the next
  • Measure the conversion ratios from one step to the next to evaluate effectiveness of the sales person’s execution of the process
  • Evaluate for credibility and validity
    • Credibility – did the projected close volume actually close
    • Validity – did the accounts in the pipeline actually close and account for the volume forecast and actual sales

This will take time but it’s important for you and your salespeople to do because it will ultimately result in closing more business, more quickly at higher margins.

CALL TO ACTION

Set up a 1-on-1 coaching call with one of our Sales Development Experts to discuss how to effectively build and manage a credible and valid pipeline report, regardless of the CRM you are using.

EMAIL: traci@anthonycoletraining.com

Subject line: 1-on-1 coaching call

Trouble Growing Sales? Solution #2: No More Bad Prospects

Tags: coaching salespeople, effective sales management

I’ve been working on growing sales for over 30 years. First with Nautilus Exercise Equipment, then in the insurance business and for the last 23 years with Anthony Cole Training Group. It’s been at least 25 years since I heard David Sandler, on a cassette tape, say; “there’s no such thing as bad prospects, just bad salespeople.” Not bad as in character, morals or integrity- just bad a selling.

But as I read Dave Kurlan’s blog this morning about choosing between bad salespeople and bad sales management it got me thinking about what Sandler said those many years ago and what we continue to hear from salespeople today when discussing opportunities won and lost. Let’s take a look at what’s happening or not happening. 

List of reasons for not getting the sale:

  • They had a long-term relationship/incumbent matched our proposal
  • The decision maker wasn’t involved 
  • Out pricing wasn’t competitive/ we didn’t have the right products
  • The timing wasn’t right

There are many, but in a nutshell the overall question to a salesperson would be; “When you asked them about, discussed, made sure that...(fill in the blank with any of the reasons listed above) What did they say?  What was their reaction?”  

As you read this as a sales person you might be thinking one of a few things: 

  1. I’m not asking those questions 
  2. Those are good questions to ask
  3. I should be asking those questions 
  4. I would never ask those questions 

If you are thinking #4, then your reasons for not getting the business are never going to change! That is what Sandler and Kurlan are talking about when they discuss bad salespeople. You cannot blame the prospect for having objections to buy. Heck you have your own set of objections/reasons every time you decide not to buy or change. 

But what about the sales manager? Where does that person fit into the equation? Simple: at the beginning, middle and end of every sales opportunity, sales meeting and coaching session. 

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Solution #2: Pre and Post Call Sessions and 1-on-1 Coaching

Pre-call coaching sample questions:

  • What buying process questions will you ask? (These are questions about compelling issues, stage in the buyer’s journey, options they are exploring, others solution providers they are exploring and solution selection criteria.) 
  • What answers do you anticipate?
  • How will you handle those answers?
  • What questions are you anticipating?
  • What will your response be?
  • What objections, delays or stalls should you anticipate?
  • What is your response?

Unfortunately, what we do know from the 1,000s of sales managers assessed for coaching skills is that less than 10% of them have adequate skills to be effective at developing sales people. 

What does this all mean?

  1. To eliminate bad prospects - which really don’t exist - eliminate bad salespeople. 
  2. To eliminate bad salespeople- eliminate bad sales management/ lack of sales coaching
  3. To eliminate bad sales management- hire people that have the skills to be effective in the role 
  4. Don’t use sales management as the next step in the career path for successful salespeople
  5. Provide the training, development and coaching your managers need to be effective

Need further assistance with the post-call session? Click HERE or the button below to view our Post-Call Debrief Analysis Worksheet.

Post-Call Debrief Worksheet

Do You Have Sales Growth Problems?  Solution #1: Coach the team you have.

Tags: Sales Growth, Sales Manager, coaching salespeople, effective sales management

In a remarkable show of grit, the University of Alabama clawed back from a 20-point deficit against the University of Minnesota, though they eventually lost by 5. Most of you are probably thinking 1 of 2 things:

  1. I don’t care about Alabama basketball – that's just something that happens between football season and spring football practice.
  2. They still lost so why is this relevant?

It’s relevant because of a detail you wouldn’t know about unless you watch college basketball or follow sports shows regularly. For those totally out of the loop, in basketball each team has on the court at any one time 5 players. Due to an injury, a player fouling out and several players being ejected from the game Alabama played the last 10+ minutes of the game with just three players on the court!

Avery Johnson, the head basketball coach for Alabama, was asked to explain how he believed his three guys managed to pull off the most amazing loss in NCAA history. His response was that they practice a lot of defensive 5 on 3 basketball. There is no reason to go into the details of that here other than these two important things:

  1. Understanding the situations you know you are going to be in at some point during the game is imperative.
  2. Coaching your players on how to react and what to do in those situations is crucial for your success.

How is that any different than sales? The short answer is that it is not. So why doesn’t it – coaching the team that you have - happen?

  • Hiring managers believe they are hiring people with the appropriate skills and know how.
  • Most managers don’t believe that their salespeople need practice of basic fundamental sales skills – if they did, more sales training and 1-on-1 coaching would be taking place and more people on the sales team would be hitting their goals.
  • More time is spent on crafting the ‘deal’ then on practicing what to do when:
    1. The decision maker doesn't’ show up for the presentation
    2. The company hasn’t committed to leaving their current supplier, relationship, banker, insurance broker
    3. The prospect wants you to ‘sharpen your pencil’
    4. The prospect wants to ‘think it over’
  • Most sales managers – yes this might include you – haven’t been trained on effective coaching, don’t schedule time for coaching opportunities, don’t demand role-playing in sales meetings and confuse performance management with coaching.

Our assessment and research of dozens of companies with dozens of sales managers tell us that less than 10% of sales managers have the appropriate coaching skill set.  As you can see from this Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis snapshot of this sales organization the sales managers who are employed there have 44% of the required skills and are 59% effective when coaching. 

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In addition to effective coaching (Download Keys to Effective Coaching E-book) a Sales Managed Environment requires performance management, effective recruiting, motivation that works and upgrading the sales team.

Here are a couple of ideas worthy of consideration and implementation:

  1. Carve out time and be a slave to your schedule for 1 on 1 coaching to specifically improve skills and change behaviors
  2. Make sure that in every sales meeting you have a segment on sales skills improvement that includes drill for skill and role-playing
  3. Every week in your schedule you should have time for the ‘situation room’. This is the opportunity to conduct pre–call strategy sessions and post meeting debriefs
  4. Instruct and demand your sales team schedule joint calls with you once a month. 
  5. Make documentation of ALL activity in your CRM a requirement to get reimbursed for business expenses. 

In a 1,000 word blog we cannot solve all the sales problems outlined in the beginning but tackling coaching is a great start. For another step in that direction take action NOW. For a free sample of the Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis click the botton below.

Free SEIA Sample

Fishing for Prospects

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

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!

Sales and Super Mario

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

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!