Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Did Your Salespeople Grow Up on the Farm?

Tags: managing sales people, record collection, coaching sales people, sales habits


You and your salespeople are a product of mom and dad, the people met, the experiences had and the education/knowledge acquired:

  • Nature and Nurture
  • Heredity and Environment

Recently, I read a Jack Reacher novel.  Jack is a fictional character in many of Lee Child’s novels.  Jack is a former military police officer and states to himself, “You can leave the army, but the army doesn’t leave you.”  I stopped and thought about that comment and related it to my own life and realized, “You can leave the farm but the farm doesn’t leave you.”

Those that know me and have heard me speak or train know that I reference my youth and growing up on the farm in Hammonton, New Jersey.  Hammonton is the blueberry capital of the world, home of the Hammonton Hawks, the Hammonton Blue Devils and Bruni’s Pizzeria.

I am a product of those experiences as well as the numerous people I’ve met, places I’ve been, books I’ve read, speakers I’ve heard and work/fun experiences I have had since I was 18.  But, I am pretty sure much of what I am today - how I think and how I act - are a result of those first 18 years.  The farm and growing up the son of Ray and Geri Cole laid the foundation that is me today.

The core values and beliefs I learned on the farm that still guide me today:

  • When all else fails, hard work works.
  • Get up early and go to work.
  • Go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep.
  • Learn how to hunt and provide for your family.
  • Working piece meal pays you your true value (i.e. working on commission).
  • Don’t try to control what you cannot control (i.e. Weather and the rate at which blueberries ripen for harvest).
  • There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
  • Someone will always have it better/worse than you.
  • Two things have to happen – death and taxes.
  • God will provide wisdom, strength and courage – you have to do the work.
  • Not everyone gets to play.
  • Winners are rewarded.
  • God provided us with two ears and one mouth, listen twice as much as you talk.
  • You have to be in great shape to play college football.
  • Thank and love Mom, Dad and God.
  • 4th place didn’t get a medal.
  • If you hoe long enough, blisters will become calluses.
  • Trucks run better with all four tires.
  • Hard work can be fun.
  • Make your handshake mean something.
  • All we have is our integrity.
  • Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be answer, ask and it will be given.
  • The only way to get a pretty girl to go out with you is to ask her out for a date.
  • Your heart will be broken and mend.
  • If you plant trees in good soil, take care of them with food and water and shelter them from harm, they will last a long, long time (See my picture of the sugar maple my dad planted over 60 years ago).
  • Love grows best in little houses.
  • Kids taking care of pets learn about responsibility, life and death.
  • Hugs are free.
  • There’s always room for Jello
  • Money doesn’t grow on trees.
  • I’m not a Rockefeller.
  • Practice what you preach.
  • Take care of your equipment and your equipment will take care of you.

Most, if not all, of this list has served me well over the years. There is also a list of things I had to unlearn/undo because it didn't/ doesn't serve me well.

  • Don’t talk to strangers.
  • Life isn’t fair.
  • Rich people are ‘rich bastards’.
  • You want people to like you.
  • Don’t upset the apple cart.
  • Fit in.
  • Play it safe.
  • Don’t trust salespeople.
  • Biases based on gender, religion and color of skin.
  • You can’t be wealthy and happy.

I’m sure I could add more, but I’m also sure that this is getting boring, so I’ll get to the point.  That point is this: you have to do more in your training and development program than just teach tactics and techniques.  There’s lots of stuff in your head -  and in the heads of your people - that influences what you do and won’t do.  To get the most out of any training and development program, you have to understand the “root” cause.

Understanding who your people are is critical in getting them to perform. Understanding who you are will help you help them.

Here is a way to learn more about how your people think when it comes to sales and sales management:  Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis.


Habits of Highly Successful Sales Managers

Tags: sales management, managing sales teams, sales habits, highly successful salespeople


The sales management activities that we are performing today are creating the results we are achieving today.  What activities are you doing now that are creating your current unsatisfactory results?  It is up to us as sales leaders to set higher standards for sales behaviors and hold people accountable so that we get better results.

It is a given that successful sales management requires contributions on many levels:  skill, time, effort, effective execution and systems and processes to support coaching, performance management and recruiting.

To help understand what makes a successful sales manager, it is helpful to review the Habits of Highly Successful Salespeople. I recently asked the participants of a workshop to identify and share those habits that they believed contributed to the success of their best salespeople.  Below are some of the common habits identified:

  • Develops great relationships
  • Networks regularly
  • Good time management
  • Gets to decision makers
  • Is selective in prospecting
  • Provides exceptional customer service

Then I asked them to talk about the flip-side of the list – those habits that inhibited or hurt a salesperson’s ability to close more business.  Below are some of the habits they identified:

  • Sells on price
  • Inconsistent prospecting
  • Procrastinates
  • Presents to the wrong people
  • Sells to anyone that fogs a mirror
  • Poor prioritization
  • Is too comfortable

How about you and your habits?  What are those habits that you can point to that you KNOW have a positive impact on your team’s sales behaviors and results?  Here are some that I observe and hear about:

  • Coaches: in-the-moment to get a deal closed
  • Reports sales results
  • Makes joint calls
  • Sets goals
  • Conducts regular sales meetings
  • Reviews and reports pipeline

This is a good list and with some additions, it can become a great list when we identify the skills of a great Coach, one of the most critical roles of an effective sales leader.  To examine what else you might want to consider, take a look at the following list of elements necessary for successful coaching:

  • Debriefs sales calls effectively
  • Asks quality questions
  • Controls emotions
  • Allows salespeople to fail
  • Implements and manages the execution of a consistent sales process
  • Motivates when coaching based on individual/personal goals
  • Coaches to improve skill and change behavior
  • Gets sales people to follow through on commitments

It’s not enough to just have the skill.  In order for managers to be successful at having a sales team built for growth, the manager must be in the habit of using those skills.

Being an extraordinary sales manager is grueling and time-consuming.  It requires attention to detail, the ability to have tough conversations with those who are not meeting their numbers, the desire and commitment to grow yourself and your salespeople, consistent activity and patience.  Like the coach of a winning team or conductor of an extraordinary symphony, you have the ability to positively affect the success and the lives of your salespeople and company. 


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

Change Your Habits, Change Your Outcomes

Tags: time management, sales goals, sales habits


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

The Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I don’t remember reading any accounts of Aristotle conducting sales training, but I believe he would have been pretty good at it.

I have a statement and a question that tie into Aristotle’s quote on habits:

  • The systems you have in place are perfectly designed to produce the results you are getting.
  • Do you own, and do you like, the outcome you produced?

Habits + Systems = Outcomes.  I think I can get agreement that, if both habits and systems are excellent and well thought-out, the outcome will be what it needs to be.  The problem is this: if either habits or systems are bad, the outcome will never be what it could be.  Here’s the good news though – you are in control of both the habits you create and the systems you follow.

Let’s take a look at habits.  There are many you can create.  One of the best habits you can develop is setting aside an appointment, each week, to meet with your most important customer.  That most important customer is you and the habit you must form is to never… under any circumstances… break that appointment.  During that appointment with yourself, plan and set goals for your week, read things to improve your skills and craft or just spend time organizing yourself.  You will be shocked how much better you can be by investing 30 minutes each week.

What systems do you have in place that will help you succeed? What are key factor you need to achieve to succeed in sales?  Are they introductions?  Cold Calls?  Appointments? Presentations, etc.?  What’s your conversion ratio?  How many calls turn into appointments?  How many appointments turn into presentations?  Have a system, measure the activity, find the gaps, do the things necessary to fix them.

Finally, let’s look at outcomes.  Do you own the outcome you’ve created?  Another way to look at it is, when something doesn’t happen the way you wanted or needed it to, do you look out the window for the reason or do you look in the mirror for the reason?

So, there you go.  A simple formula . . . Habits (good or bad) + Systems (good or bad) = Outcome. If you own the outcome and don’t like it, fix the things on the left side of the equal sign.  Finally, always remember this: Someone needs what you do; go find them.

So, change your habits and you will change your outcomes. Remember: schedule a 30-minute weekly appointment with yourself to…

  • Spend time organizing yourself
  • Plan and set goals for the week
  • Read to improve your skills
  • Develop a system and measure the activity
  • Find the gaps and decide how to fix them

What Habits Support or Prohibit Effective Selling?

Tags: sales competencies, sales management, sales success, sales habits


I reached out to 4 people that I respect in the field of sales and sales management.

  1. Bill Eckstrom, President and CEO of EcSell Institute and also the creator and developer of a super cool sales management application called Oneup.
  2. Dwight Kollmeier, President of First National Insurance Agency and former batting practice pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds.
  3. David Kurlan, President of Objective Management Group. Dave created and continues to improve the #1 pre-hire sales assessment in the world.
  4. Rick Wirthlin, Regional Director for Commercial Lending at Huntington Bank and scratch golfer. I’ve known each of these professionals for many years and respect their expertise and insight about selling and sales management.

Last week, I started writing about habits. I let everyone know that I promised my wife Linda that I would be more consistent in my good habit of exercise and that got me thinking about the habits of sales people. As I was thinking about what I wanted to write about, I emailed each of these guys and asked them to provide me a list of the “bad habits” they see in sales people. Below are their slightly edited responses:

Bill Eckstrom: I would say the following, in no particular order:

  • Procrastination
  • Lack of understanding the big picture  (can’t see beyond their own objectives)
  • Offering solutions too early in the process

Dwight Kollmeier: Unfortunately, I know these all too well. I see them everyday.

  • Over-confident with existing customers, assuming there is zero competition.  I believe in the old Satchel Page quote, “Don’t look over your shoulder because someone is always gaining on you.” Assume that there is always competition and ask the right questions to find out for sure.
  • Assuming that business in the pipeline will close but not knowing for sure (unclear and fuzzy future). Know the odds by asking the difficult questions up front and be able to walk away.
  • Over presenting and not having good, solid discussions with prospects to find out if it makes sense to do business together.  Ask questions and listen. Probe deep.
  • Wasting valuable selling and prospecting time by placing it low on the time management ranking and placing other non-productive activities higher on the list.  Do the hardest things early in the day religiously and then one can do other activities after prospecting is completed.
  • Failing to get upfront contacts or commitments from the prospect as to how the sales process will work.

Dave Kurlan: Top 5 Bad Habits of Salespeople:

  • Demo too soon in the sales process
  • Give up on contacting prospects several attempts too early
  • Don’t thoroughly qualify
  • Make too many assumptions
  • Don’t reach real decision makers

Rick Wirthlin:

  • Lack of desire,
  • Not executing to a consistent sales process,
  • Not setting goals so commitment to success is conditional
  • Not uncovering motivation to take action, make a change,
  • Not getting to decision makers,
  • Not making commitments to make a decision stick

This article has been sitting in the dock of my Mac for two days as I contemplated how to close. In the meantime, I realized that calling them “bad habits” may not be the right thing to do. Let’s just call them habits - habits that either support effective selling or prohibit effective selling.

- What habits that prohibit effective selling would be on your list?
- What do you see in common in all of the comments of these other sales professionals?
- What impact do these habits have on your team’s ability to sell more, sell more quickly, sell at higher margins?
- What influence do you have on this?
- Did you hire your people this way or make them this way?
- I know you inherited some of this, but now what?
- What training have you done and what impact has it had?

Habits are difficult to break. Maybe some of them are impossible. I don’t claim to know. In all cases, in order to improve any kind of performance, you must:

  • Recognize that you are getting an outcome that you DON’T want and HAVE to fix
  • Recognize there is a root cause that lies beyond the symptom of the outcome
  • Address possible ways to correct the habit
  • Implement a disciplined approach to changing the thinking and then the behavior
  • Inspect what you expect
  • Report on actual activity vs. goal
  • Adjust and take action


Don't miss out on our Extraordinary Sales Manager Webinar Series! It's not too late to get involved - Part 2 is coming up June 29, 2015. SIGN UP TODAY for the "Hire Better Salespeople" FREE webinar and get ready to take your hiring to a whole new level!


Did you like today’s post? Read more of Tony Cole’s Blog HERE and don't forget to subscribe now so you don't miss any of ACTG's upcoming articles and events.  For more great tools and information on what we can do for your sales organization, visit our website at


Connect with ACTG!

twitter     linkedin.jpg      facebook     Sales-Brew-New-logo


Sales Habits – Coaching Bad Habits Out of Sales People

Tags: effective sales coaching, sales management, sales habits



Let’s start with the premise that we all have at least 1 bad habit. As I stated in a previous article about habits, a bad habit is one that takes you away or keeps you from accomplishing your objectives and goals. We all have at least 1.

With that in mind, let’s assume that even your best sales people have a habit or two that, if identified and corrected, would help them sell more, be more productive or more effective.

Here are just a couple of bad habits that I can think of:

  • Making excuses
  • Letting the business control them
  • Talking too much
  • Not setting goals
  • Not listening to understand
  • Not letting the other person think about the answer to a question they’ve asked
  • Being impatient
  • Making bad priority choices

I’ve emailed some of my clients and friends and partners in selling and asked them to provide me a list of their top 3 to 5 bad habits of sales people. I’ll keep you posted on the information I get. Feel free to comment on this blog or this article on my LinkedIn.

What to do about bad habits? That is what we really need to be talking about here.

I don’t have a 12-step program like they have for rehab, but here is the progression I would follow:

  • Acknowledge the problem exists – e.g. talking too much
  • Identify the most common bad habits within the group and for each individual.
  • Discuss in a sales meeting the idea of bad habits and get feedback as to the fallout/outcome of having these habits.
  • Schedule an initial 15-minute meeting with each producer to discuss their particular worst bad habit

o   Why did they pick that one as the worse?

o   What is the impact on their productivity and effectiveness?

o   What is the outcome if they let it continue?

o   Is that the outcome they want? (This is better understood in a live role-play. If you would like to talk about this, text me at 513-226-3913, Subject: Habit role-play. I’ll call you.)

o   Do they perceive this as a have-to-fix or want-to-fix problem?

o   Assume it’s a have-to-fix problem – Schedule 5-minute conversations just to talk about what they did to eliminate the habit.   Ask about the outcome as a result of the change from a bad habit to a good habit.

o   Observe them in sales meetings, 1-on-1 coaching sessions, and on your joint calls. (Hint: you should already be doing all these things with your sales people)

  • 30 days after you have completed the 1-on-1 meetings, make this a topic in your sales meeting

o   Get everyone to identify the habit they worked on, what changes they made and the outcomes they are now realizing

o   Do something dramatic to “bury the habits”

  • Have them write their old bad habit on a piece of paper
  • Put it in a shoe box and actually bury it
  • Put them in a container where you can light a fire and burn them
  • Take the pieces of paper and rip them to shreds

o   Begin working on next habit

If you google “breaking bad habits,” you will find more than enough information on how this should be done. I do not recommend that you get into the discussion on how they should go about eliminating bad habits. Instead find some articles, print them out, provide them the link to the articles and let them figure it out. Remember, they decided it was a have-to-fix problem. Don’t let your bad habit of rescuing get in the way of letting them fix themselves.


Don't miss out on our Extraordinary Sales Manager Webinar Series! It's not too late to get involved - Part 2 is coming up June 29, 2015. SIGN UP TODAY for the "Hire Better Salespeople" FREE webinar and get ready to take your hiring to a whole new level!

Did you like today’s post? Read more of Tony Cole’s Blog HERE and don't forget to subscribe now so you don't miss any of ACTG's upcoming articles and events.  For more great tools and information on what we can do for your sales organization, visit our website at


Sales Success – It’s a Function of Beliefs, Habits and Skills

Tags: sales goals, sales success, sales habits


I’m going to skip over beliefs and skills today because, when I started thinking about this post, I decided I wanted to write about habits.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

About 6 weeks ago, maybe longer than that, I developed a new habit – not blogging. It was an easy habit to develop. One day, I didn’t post a blog, and then I didn’t post one the next day, or the next, or the next and, the next thing you know, it’s June 1st. I decided that I’ve had that bad habit long enough and now it’s time to develop a new habit – blogging.

I’ve had this habit before. Usually, it last about 6 months and then I just stop. And then the not blogging habit takes over. The same thing happens with my exercise routine - I exercise consistently and then something happens to break that habit and I develop my habit of not exercising. That is a really easy habit to stick with. Last week, my wife Linda asked me to promise her that I would get up early the next day and go to the club to work out. I promised her that I would and so I have now hit the club 4 out of the last 7 days, played golf once, and tennis twice.

Already I feel better about doing the right thing and getting back into a good habit.

Before I started this post, I googled “sales habits”. Here are the first 5 responses:

I myself have written or spoken about sales habits in the past:

I’m an educator by degree. During my undergraduate work at UConn, my fellow future teachers and I were taught that behaviors and habits are a result of combinations of rewards and consequences. If you wanted your student to develop certain habits or skills, part of the development, in addition to the teaching and coaching, was rewarding success and disciplining failure. Sometimes the disciplined approach was punitive; other times it was a matter of repeating the behavior, skill or activity until they (the person being taught) got it right. Once they got it right, they were rewarded.

Given all of this background, here are my thoughts for today about habits.

  • Good habits are called good habits because they contribute to the successful completion of the goals and objectives you say you are committed to.
  • Bad habits are “bad” because, instead of taking you towards your objectives, they take you away. They keep you from accomplishing what you said was important to you.
  • Keeping your good habits “habitual” is dependent upon your level of commitment to your goals. If you are truly committed and willing to sacrifice immediate gratification for the long-term good, then good habits stick.
  • If you find that you cannot consistently execute your good habits, it is probably due to your lack of commitment to the things you say are important to you.
  • “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” - Vince Lombardi
  • Often the things/habits you need to be doing aren’t urgent: Exercising, eating well, taking baby aspirin, getting enough sleep, prospecting, blogging, etc.
  • Habits become urgent when something else urgent happens: Heart attack, bodily injury, stroke, diabetes, organ failure, put on performance improvement program because of lack of production, lack of website activity.
  • Your habits are expressive of your commitments.

How do you correct your behavior and become more habitual? Here are my 5 Steps to Better Habits:

  1. Identify goals and objectives that are non-negotiable
  2. Have a plan to achieve those goals. Make sure the plan is detailed.
  3. Have a system to track your progress, execution of the necessary habits, activities required to achieve your goals.
  4. Inspect what you expect.
  5. Have an accountability partner that loves you and cares enough about you to hold your feet to the fire.

In addition to the 3,7,11, 10, 25 habits mentioned earlier, execute these 5 Steps to Better Habits and text me at 513-226-3913 with the subject – “Call me about habits.”


Did you like today’s post? Read more of Tony Cole’s Blog HERE. Also, we bet you’ll love our weekly audio Sales Brew and monthly newsletter! Sign up HERE and receive Tony Cole’s eBook, Why is Selling So #%&@ Hard?, as our thanks to you!