Sales & Sales Management Expertise

How to Win Business in Any Market at Any Time!

Tags: sales prospecting, performance management, increase sales, selling in today's market


Selling in Any Market is one of my favorite keynote/workshops to deliver. When addressing a group of sales people or sales managers, I always create a stir when I loudly pronounce that the way to sell in any market is to “STOP making excuses and JUST SELL.”

When there are disruptions/economic conditions in your industry that cause you to get out of your normal flow in business, sometimes you end up spending more time playing defense than you do playing offense. 

In our primary markets – insurance brokerages, banking and investment services - disruptions have become a quarterly occurrence.  In my 20+ years in this business, I have asked audiences across the country if they have ever gone through a three-year period in their business when there wasn’t some sort of the disruption in the “normal” flow of business.  In short, their answer was no. In fact, disruptions in flow of business have become the norm.

In a recent discussion with one of our current client’s brokers, they described that the market is a hard market right now meaning that some prices are stable and some are going down.  As a result, some of the markets/carriers were lowering prices to grab market share.  When this happens, a broker’s own clients sometimes decide that it’s time to go for better premiums with the same coverage.  So, when this happens, brokers (like my client) have to play some defense to protect their turf.  And when that happens, brokers have a tendency to take their eyes off of prospecting – they stop playing offense.

I have several clients in the bank-owned investment brokerage business.  Last week, the Department of Labor passed new fiduciary regulations that have caused and will continue to cause a MAJOR disruption in that business.  Studies indicate that companies will literally spend billions of dollars to make sure they are compliant with the new regulations.  Not only will this require an investment of an enormous amount of money, but it will also take millions of hours invested by many for compliance training.  None of these activities are offensive in nature and so, in the end, will actually cost millions, maybe billions, more in lost productivity.

This is not necessary!  Here are just a couple of things to keep in mind as you attempt to manage performance during difficult periods:

  • Unlike 2008 (when a substantial piece of the market DID shrink), the current situation is not the same.
    1. Businesses are not going out of business because insurance premiums are going down.
    2. The amount of money in play in retirement and personal savings has not shrunk. If it’s a multi-billion/trillion dollar pile of money today, it will still be a multi-trillion pile of money once the Department of Labor regulations are fully implemented (January 1, 2018)
  • If your clients have a tendency to want to shop in a tough market, so do the clients of your competitors. Companies are in play, but you have to take the phone “off of the hook” and call them.
  • People that have invested their money with advisors that have not treated them in a way that is consistent with the new regulations (client focused/fiduciary responsibility) will be in the market to find an investment advisor/representative who will.
  • If you find that it is your smaller clients that want to shop – let them. My guess is that, if you let the bottom 20% of your insurance clients go, it will represent less than 5% of your total revenue.  One new client that looks more like your top 20% will replace at least 10 of your bottom clients.
  • If you are a financial advisor – DITTO. Frequently, my friend, Kevin Mummau from CUSO Financial, and I discuss the segmenting of books of business. Time and again, the 80/20 rule applies. Actually, based on his business intelligence, that industry looks more like 30/70.  But, still let the smaller accounts work with licensed bank reps or bring in an associate that can grow by growing with smaller accounts.

The bottom line is this: as a sales leader in an organization, you have the responsibility to keep your people focused on what it takes to win in any market, any environment.  Regardless of the score of the game, you have to…

Just like in a sport of any kind, stuff happens.  A team gets a big lead, catches a break, the wind shifts and the kick goes wide.  It doesn’t matter!  You cannot win just playing defense.

Sooner or later, you have to score more points than the opponent. That is offense!

Who is Your Superstar?

Tags: hire better sales people, increase sales, sales habits, upgrade your sales force

Kobe Bryant will be retired from NBA basketball when the final buzzer sounds in tonight’s game against the Utah Jazz.  If you are not a basketball fan or sports fan, this may mean nothing to you.  My intent is to frame a very important discussion about performance around a living legend of the LA Lakers and NBA.

As I listened to ESPN Radio Mike and Mike in The Morning, I heard commentary from former teammates, coaches and opposing players. There was a common theme in there discussion about Kobe Bryant and elite performers in athletics.  To be clear, I don’t believe the common theme is limited to athletic top performers.


As I started this article, I sent a question to my niece, Laura Wehrmeyer Fuentes.  Laura is an elite performer and vocalist who performs in the greater DC/Baltimore area.  I asked her if she ever bailed on a performance because she felt a little off or hadn’t prepared properly.  Her response:  “No way!  I’ve sung through bronchitis and pneumonia hopped up on steroids when I had to.  The show must go on!”

Elite performers prepare and perform at the highest capabilities regardless of the situation, the score, the environment or circumstances.

Some comments made about Kobe made me think about the content and theme of this article.  Here is just a sampling of what was said about Kobe and other top performers:

  • They demanded the best of others. When others were not performing at their best, giving it their all in practice or in a game, they call them out.
  • When it’s game time, nothing else matters. When Kobe’s family came to LA to watch him play, they stayed at a hotel instead of his spacious home.  He focused on the task at hand.
  • Regardless of the score of any game, if you watched Kobe play, you would swear that the Lakers must be down by 20. His intensity for playing the game rather than playing the score made him elite.
  • When comparing Kobe to Magic Johnson, the comment was made about Magic after they lost the championship to the Lakers. “You couldn’t find Magic in LA.  Here is a guy that likes to be out, is normally seen out and is everywhere where the lights are.  After the loss you could only find him in one place – the gym.”
  • Elite players make other players better. They recognize that they are a big piece of the puzzle, but still only one piece.  They elevate the game of others in order to win the team
  • Elite players have a tendency to rub others the wrong way. Not because they are arrogant individuals, but they have an arrogance about how they view the game and how it should be played and how one should be prepared to play.  They are haters – haters of losing and those un-willing to pay the price to win.

I could go on, but this makes the point and takes me to the question in the title of this article – Who are your elite players and are they doing the things that superstar/hall of fame players do? 

  • Are they elevating others?
  • Are they demanding of others?
  • Are they team-objective focused or focused on their own stats?
  • Do they do everything possible to win individually and get others to win as a team?
  • Are they your go-to people in a crisis?
  • Do they grind and grind to get it done?
  • Do they work relentlessly on their skills?
  • Do they focus on the details of the game so as to eliminate repeated errors or mistakes?
  • Do they call others out?

*Data on approximately 100,000 sales managers

  • Have, on average 43% of the Sales Coaching Competency 
  • Only 39% have at least 50% of the Sales Coaching Competency.  
  • Only 7% have more than 75% of the Sales Coaching Competency and
  • Only 3% spend at least 50% of their time coaching their salespeople
  • Only 7% of sales people assessed fall into the elite status based on performance, sales DNA and 21 core sales competencies.

As a CEO, president, national sales manager, vice president of sales or sales manager, the responsibility you have is to drive revenue.  When that seems difficult or impossible there needs to be more to the solution than work harder, see more people, increase the marketing budget, do more social networking, expand the sales force, etc.  Just like you would look into the numbers (expenses) to figure out how to improve profit, you need to look at the root problems impacting revenue.

It isn’t the latest sales enablement technology that improves sales results.  It is the human technology that drives sales today and will drive sales tomorrow.

Helpful Links/Resources:

Objective Management Group – White Paper on Talent Selection

Anthony Cole Training Group – Link to Sales Management Certification Program – Self-explanatory link

Burning platform issue – You have a problem now, You want it fixed now – call me directly:  Office: 513.605.1301 or call/text  Mobile 513.226.3913.


Picture of Kobe – link to YouTube

Is it an Expense or an Investment?

Tags: sales management, Sales Coaching, increase sales, building successful sales teams


I just returned from the 2016 Bank Insurance and Securities Association annual convention. As always, it is a great event where competitors come together to discuss processes and strategies to deal with the challenges of growing financial institution-owned investment (broker) programs.

I believe this is actually my 7th conference: the first one being 2009.  As you can imagine, that year was quite a conference as banks and investment firms/companies were in the throws of a financially disastrous economic downturn.  This year, there is a new challenge on the horizon - the impending DOL (Department of Labor) legislation regulating fiduciary responsibility of advisors when discussing, presenting and offering solutions to retirement funds.  Although there was way too much information to get it all a single post, the topic did leave me with much I would like to share with my readers.

So, this is my thought for today - investing in success.

This is going to sound self-serving.  However, I assure you, it is not.  As a company, we have probably invested $40,000.00 in real dollars to learn about the industry the BISA represents as well as learn more about the problems and challenges facing those that are responsible for leading and managing sales teams to meet the investment program goals.  This year alone, and I just finished tallying just my expenses for the trip, we will have invested very close to $20,000.00 so that we can better understand AND service our target market. 

Understand that when I say "our company" I really mean my wife, Linda, and me.  It is our company.  It is our money.  So, every dollar we spend in and for our company that is a dollar that we don’t invest in our own family and future.  It really is our money. The point is that we look at it as an investment and not just an expense.  It's an investment that will return future dollars to the company.

As I was flying back yesterday, I was thinking about that and thinking about those that attended and those individual salespeople (thousands of them) represented by the firms/companies in attendance and I realized a couple of things:

  *  There are people there just like me that are taking money out of their pocket and investing in a future.

  * There are people there that are using company dollars BUT they are using personal time away from their family and investing that time to invest in their future.

  * The investment, either way, is substantial.

  * The investment of time alone is close to three 14-hour days.

My point and suggestion today is this - in order to become all that you can be, you need to personally invest time, money and effort to learn.  It’s more than an investment of the 40 to 50 hours a week working in the business.  It is an additional investment of time working on your business necessary for future success.

2 Really Easy Things to Do to Increase Sales

Tags: improve sales, sales management, increase sales


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: sales management, Sales Coaching, increase sales, building successful sales teams

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

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

1. Moving from Old Ways to New Ways

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most People Don’t Lose Sales Because of Technological Incompetence

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

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

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

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

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

2. Working and Communicating Effectively as Teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Two Other Patterns that Set Breakthrough Companies Apart from the Crowd, Pt.2

Tags: sales management, increase sales, building successful sales teams

tonysbubble2A guest post by Tony Scelzo, President of Stringcan

Tony Cole of Anthony Cole Training, LLC has been advising and training for 22+ years in banking, insurance and investment verticals. We asked him about his experience with domino companies. He explained:

“I’ve had a chance to see a lot of companies go from small, flat, non-growing organizations to organizations where something happens and they really begin to kick into gear and they start to grow.” He then added with a chuckle, “There probably isn’t anything they can bring to the table that we haven’t seen before.”

That being said, we teased out two patterns he’s noted among domino companies he’s partnered with.

1. Breaking the Status Quo is in their DNA: Breakthrough companies not only have a culture of change and an appetite for change, but it’s a foundational part of their DNA. They are completely willing to give up who they are at any given time to achieve what they want to achieve. What’s more, leaders in these companies don’t feel that their role or job or contribution to their organization is being questioned or threatened by someone from the outside either. In fact, breakthrough companies don’t have “sacred cows.”

In Cole’s words,

“Seth Godin wrote a book—Sacred Cows Make the Best Hamburgers. So you’ve got to have a kind of mentality that ‘okay, there are no sacred cows.’ And in his organization, in his process with his clients and partners, he explains that “We take an entire company and treat it like a puzzle—pour it on the table, start putting this thing together again, and we use all the pieces.”  

It’s hard for organizations to realize that they have to be willing to not only break themselves on the macro level but to be breaking themselves every day, to innovate, to iterate and to build a culture of continual change. Many companies just aren’t wired that way. What’s unique about Cole’s company is that it works to help other companies embrace the DNA of constantly breaking the status quo in order to help them move and grow.

2. Breakthrough Companies are Good Partners: The second thing about breakthrough companies is that they are good partners. In a good partnership, they realize that they need to think and be pushed out of their comfort zone for success.

It’s very difficult to move from small to big and to do so quickly without having infrastructure around it go upward, which is why it’s so important to partner with organizations that will naturally accelerate your growth. Moving upward fast is near impossible when focusing solely on internal points of view.

According to Cole, the kinds of partners that breakthrough companies both associate with and actually function as are those which not only make a “job easy, but when you sit down and talk with them about what they are trying to get done and you challenge them with some thoughts, you don’t get the resistance that you get with others. What you get are some questions like: How would that work? What impact does that have? What would we have to do to accommodate that? They look at the positive side or look for the answer to ‘How do we do that?’ verses having a discussion around “We can’t do that because of X, Y, Z, etc.’”

A good partner realizes that not everything is going to work and they iterate the things which evolve correctly and move what doesn’t. They follow a series of actions—test, try, come back, look at the data, see how it works and iterate. What’s more, a good partner doesn’t judge every single idea or individual piece of information or strategy alone by the test of whether or not it works right—a good partner realizes that not everything works in sales and marketing, for example, the way you think it will or should.

Domino companies realize they can’t do it solo and that they need partnerships with organizations that will challenge them. They realize they don’t have everything it takes internally to move from small to big, which brings us to the final point—how breakthrough companies bring about this change and growth--via—technology.

Not surprisingly, one of the biggest commonalities among domino companies is what they realize about how the Age of Google and rapid change have impacted the way we do marketing and sales. Read more about this in Two Truths about the New Age of Technology, Google and the Internet that Breakthrough Companies Recognize in next month’s post.


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