Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Why Sales Coaching is to Growing Like Low & Slow is to Tasty BBQ

Tags: Sales Tracking, Sales Coaching, sales performance coaching, sales productivity

It’s this simple:  If you want great barbeque ribs, brisket or chicken, the key is low temperature and slow cooking. Having said that, if you want maximum flavor and tenderness, make sure you sear or char the meat first, then go low and slow.  This is an undeniable truth.  Just read the Science of Cooking and discover all the neat things you can do to improve the outcome of any meal.


20 years in sales does not guarantee future success.  Just ask anyone that has lost a sale at any time in their career.  Something always happens just a little bit differently.  If there isn’t an adjustment, a lesson or some learning as a result, then the salesperson is prone to repeating the sames mistakes or errors over and over again.

When you effectively coach your people, they will get better.  When they get better, you will close more business, more quickly at higher margins.  This is undeniable as well.  Just look at the information provided by The Sales Management Association.  **FYI - it’s also undeniable that a lack of coaching has a negative impact on sales success and talent development!

(Bob Rotella – coach to PGA Tour Players – Author – How Champions Think)



In our Sales Management Certification Program, we discuss 5 Keys to Coaching for Success in our coaching module. These 5 keys cover what to do and how to do it when you are face-to-face with your salespeople. Many managers, before going through our certification, complain/tell me/make excuses that there isn’t enough time to effectively coach their people.  I don’t buy it. There are several opportunities for coaching without adding to an already busy schedule:

  1. Sales meetings
    1. Segment on sales training
    2. Role-playing phone calls to get appointments
    3. Role-playing conversations to get appointments with internal partners
    4. Role-play how to position financial planning
    5. Overcoming objections
    6. Appropriately dealing with questions, and stalls.
  2. Pre–call strategy sessions
  3. Post-call debriefing sessions
  4. 1-on-1 intentional coaching sessions
  5. Ad-hoc moments when they ask you if you have a minute
  6. Every time they give you an excuse for lack of effort or execution


Coaching does take place today, but most of it is in the moment. Kind of like when a coach calls a time out in a game. The team is gathered around the coach and a strategy is developed to take advantage of the “in the moment” opportunity. Normally, that’s the type of coaching that takes place in sales – in the moment.  That type of coaching helps close a sale, get an appointment, and/or move an opportunity through the pipeline, but it does nothing to change behavior or improve skills!

Do you find yourself or your sales managers constantly covering the same ground to close deals, improve effort or refine execution?  Are opportunities getting stuck in the pipeline in the same spot for the same reasons over and over?  When you look at the performance (effectiveness and productivity, not just the results), do you see actual improvement in sales ratios like average size sale, conversion ratios from opportunities to closes and average production for each quintile in the team?

Those are the types of metrics that determine if your coaching is effective!  Failure to collect that data leads to failure of the effectiveness of your sales manager and your sales team.  Collecting the data and then doing nothing about it leads to lackluster enthusiasm for entering data, thus limiting the integrity of your forecasting.


So, let’s assume for a second that 1) you are collecting data and  2) you are creating opportunities to coach people.  We can now discuss The 5 Keys for Coaching for Success.

  1. Gain insight from data points: Your data points have to include data (numbers representing leading and lagging indicators), observational opportunities via joint calls, and observations made during role plays in meetings.

    The data points you have should not be a secret to your people. Share with them what you know and what you’ve observed.  Prior to meeting with them, call them to set up the coaching meeting. Tell them that the data you have indicates there might be some problems with them hitting their established extraordinary goal.  (Remember the extraordinary goal discussion?) Then tell them that you want to meet with them during your established coaching hours. Set the appointment.
  1. Provide feedback: Now that you both have the date, you don’t have to ask the worse possible question in your meeting, “So, Joe, what’s going on?”  Instead, you acknowledge that you’ve looked at the numbers and they’ve looked at the numbers and then you ask a question about the problem that you see.

    Let’s pretend that you see a choke point where his conversion of conversations isn’t leading to the assumed number of appointments. All the other assumptions look good, but - because the conversion is off - the number of appointments isn’t meeting the goal.  Without this information, the only coaching you can do is to tell Joe that he needs to see more people. But, with all the data, you see that the effort is there – the dials and discussions – but that effort isn’t leading to appointments.

    Instead of pointing that out, you ask Joe what he sees when he looks at the conversation ratio compared to the model in the success formula.  Assuming Joe sees the same thing as you, you are now in a position to ask further questions.  The key here is that both parties must agree as to what the problem is.

  2. Demonstrate what you expect to be done: In this case, you would listen to Joe’s approach to converting conversations to appointments.  You would identify areas where he might need to change or improve his approach and you demonstrate what that would look/sound like.

  3. Role–play: Now that you’ve demonstrated what you expect, you role-play various situations with Joe giving him several different responses.

  1. Action step: It is critical that every coaching session ends with an action step.  An example of that would be to agree to a number of calls that Joe is going to make over a short period of time (i.e. by the end of the day or week) and then instruct him to report back to you (on a specific day and time) the outcome of his effort.

(Click here for 9 critical coaching skills)


Understand that this might be an ongoing process for Joe, and you may have to take a more disciplined approach to his coaching and execution of the skills he is struggling with.  At the end of the day, the key is to recognize that improvement is vital for sales growth.  You cannot expect to grow sales without improving effort and/or execution. If you want to improve sales, invest your money in developing your sales managers and stop wasting money on sales training until your managers can and will coach.

Additional Resources:

Demo online Sales Learning Module

Sales Managed Environment® Certification Module – Free Document

Is Your Sales Growth Stuck in The Chimney?

Tags: Sales Coaching, closing sales techniques, sales closing mistakes, how to close a sales deal

So, this morning, Linda and I were watching Morning Joe while talking business.  We were discussing our brand promise of, “When you lie awake at night worrying about sales growth, we lie awake at night.”  We compiled a list of questions that often haunt managers throughout the day and into the night when they should be preparing for a good night’s sleep:


As we’re talking, we see a news banner at the bottom of the screen about a man who was arrested for breaking and entering a home.  He was apprehended after the police entered the home and saw his feet dangling from the chimney.  As usual, I automatically started thinking about how that related to sales, sales management, performance management, coaching, pipeline, pre-call strategies, etc.

My first question is this – “Do you have sales opportunities that are important/critical for hitting your goals and growing sales that are stuck?”

My second, but maybe the most important question, is this – “Is this particular opportunity a repeat offender?” 



Now, there are 2 things to consider when attempting answering that 2nd question.

  1. Is that opportunity familiar to you and the salesperson who has entered the opportunity into your pipeline management system? (This isn’t the same as your CRM). If we’ve worked on this opportunity before and they – the opportunity – “got away on a technicality”, then this would be defined as a “repeat offender”:
    1. Not the decision maker
    2. Wasn’t able to undo the current relationship
    3. Decided to not make a change
    4. Couldn’t arrive at the price point
    5. Really didn’t have a solution that fit the features and benefits they were looking for
    6. The timing wasn’t right
  2. Are other opportunities stuck in the pipeline/chimney for the very same reasons as this one – the salesperson failed to execute the qualifying steps in your sales process:
    1. No compelling reason to make a change identified
    2. Competition unknown
    3. Incumbent still part of the equation
    4. Budget for investing time, money resources is a mystery
    5. Decision making process has not been uncovered
    6. Timing or urgency of making a decision not clearly understood
    7. Agreement on next steps unclear
    8. Did not ask the question – Is this a “want to fix” or “have to fix” problem?



Sales growth is dependent upon this – CMBMQHM.  My staff hates it when I make up acronyms like this.  When I put these in our learning decks, the people in my office  want to know what the acronyms mean.  I generally tell them that they don’t really need to know; they just need to make sure the rest of the deck is done correctly. I know what it means and I will explain it to the sales team we are working during our training session.  But, they insist on knowing, so here it is:

Close More Business, More Quickly, at Higher Margins

It’s almost as good as WITALAIITU. (If you want to know that one,  click HERE.)

So, what does it take to accomplish CMBMQHM?

  • You have to have a milestone-centric sales system – something that can be quantified, measured and evaluated for progress towards the objective of “getting a decision”. (This is not the same as “getting the sale”.)
  • You have to have a process for building a success formula for each salesperson based on that sales system.
  • You have to have complete buy-in to the use of your pipeline management process. Here are the guidelines to get that buy-in. It needs to…
    • Be easy to use
    • Be effective
    • Be beneficial to the user
    • Provide you with business intelligence
    • Automatically generate and send reports to you so you don’t have to go find the information
  • You have to have a system of pre-call strategy sessions for EVERY opportunity that meets or exceeds the benchmark of your top 33%.
  • You have to have a post-call debriefing session for every opportunity you discuss in the pre-call session.
  • You have to conduct a CSI – “Crime Scene Investigation” – for every deal you don’t get.
  • Finally, you have to conduct 1-on-1 coaching sessions that are intentional.
    • They are based on the findings from your pre- and post-call meetings
    • They are based on what your data is telling you about the choke point(s) a particular salesperson is having or the most common choke point(s) for the group
    • The coaching needs to accomplish 1, if not 2, things:
      1. Change behavior
      2. Improve skill

In the next post, I’ll talk about the 5 Keys to Effective Coaching.  (Pam, don’t let me forget that is the next blog topic!).  In the meantime, here are the 9 skills needed!

Additional Resources:

Download the Success Formula Worksheet

Try out the Effective Selling System online learning demo

Sales Management Effectiveness Certification Program

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.

Non-Performing Sales People and What to Do With Them

Tags: hire better sales people, Sales Tracking, sales management, Sales Coaching, 80/20 Principle

I have 30 years tenure with my wife, Linda. “Tenure” may not be the right way to put it, so I’ll say it the way I do when we celebrate our wedding anniversary – 30 years of “marital (I pronounce it myrtle) bliss”. And the future is looking really good for me - based on how Linda makes decisions about when to keep things and when to discard them.


You see, Linda hates to get rid of stuff that’s working. Except for coffee makers. She is very particular about how her coffee tastes and how long it takes the coffee maker to make the coffee. Aside from that, as long as an appliance, an article of clothing, a piece of furniture is working, is functional, is not broken – she keeps it. It doesn’t have to function as well as when it was purchased; it just has to function well enough to avoid being replaced by a newer, better model.

I celebrated by 60th birthday last December. For my birthday, I wanted a new wide screen 4k flat screen. I pained her to get rid of our 16 year old, boxy big screen Toshiba. But it still worked. The picture was… well, it was a picture from a 15-year old TV that had the “3 guns” that created the picture on the screen. It was connected to the digital box from the cable company and provided us with all the TV entertainment we needed.

The way I see it, as long as I am functional, I’m in good shape. When things stop working in our house or we finally decide that we need to “get rid of something”, we just put it out by the street in front of our house and, depending on what it is, you can generally count on it being gone before the next morning. So, as long as Linda doesn’t ask me to sit out by the street, I figure I’m good.

What does any of this have to do with you and your sales people? Plenty.

Who do you have on your team that’s just getting by? Yes, they are functional; yes, they produce some numbers that contribute to your overall success; yes, they might manage books of business that may leave if you fire them; and, yes, you need a warm body in the seat. But, does that mean you should keep them? Does that mean you shouldn’t take them to the shop for some upgrading? Does that mean you should tolerate their lack of performance just because the team, as a team, is hitting its numbers? The answer to all three questions is no, no, no.

You know the 80/20 rule right? (Perry Marshall’s 80/20 Power Curve – Must see!) Do you know the 36/96 rule? If you double click on the 80/20, that is what you get. Let’s suppose you have 100 sales people generating 1,000,000 of something. 20 of your salespeople are responsible for generating 800,000 of something. If you apply the 80/20 rule to the remaining 80 people, you get an additional 16 people for a total of 36% of the sales team. These additional 16 people are responsible for 80% of the remaining 200,000 of something – 160,000. Add that to the initial 800,000 for a total of 960,000 somethings or 96% of the total.

36% of the sales team responsible for 96% of your results. What the hell is everyone else doing and why are they still with you?

I understand a couple of things about a couple of things. If you have these 100 people and some of them are sitting in chairs in rural Ohio, Indiana, Wyoming, New Mexico, etc., then you need someone there. You just cannot eliminate the only person working the location, but that doesn’t mean you should not have someone there that isn’t hitting their goal. Now, forget about the rural salespeople for a minute; that doesn’t explain why you keep others that are in the heart of metropolitan areas like Indianapolis or Columbus.

So, here’s what you do:

  1. You get these underperformers in a room (if possible) and you show them the data, show them the results. You then ask them to answer the question - “Why should you stay employed here?” Make them all answer the question. Tell them that their answer isn’t good enough and that, starting today, this is how things are going to work.
  2. How things are going to work – everyone must commit to a sales productivity number by going through the “extra-ordinary discussion”. (Call Jack in our office and he’ll explain that to you or text me at 513-226-3913, Subject Line: “Extra-ordinary” and I’ll give you a call. Please provide your name).
  3. Build a success formula based on that target number.
  4. Build huddles to start collecting relevant sales activity information.
  5. Start providing data back to them.
  6. After 60 days, review your data and, to each individual with whom you are working, report back the business intelligence you’ve gained because of the data.
  7. Put the people that are failing to perform – either sales activity or sales results – on a disciplined coaching schedule so that you can correct the one or two problems contributing to the lack of results –effort and/or execution.
  8. After an additional 60 days, if you do not see improvement, ask them to go sit out by the street.


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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:

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