ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

Make the "Business-to-People" Sale

Posted by Alex Cole on Thu, May 23, 2019

Most Sales Managers would agree that completing prospecting activities and hitting sales goals are critical to success. However, what happens when we focus too much on the numbers and not enough on being a resource for prospects, we impact (or lose) the human element of our business.

casual-cellphone-cheerful-1289898In general, there are two different types of classifications in sales; Business-to-Business (B2B) or Business-to-Consumer (B2C). B2B — meaning you supply a product or service directly to an organization — i.e. you provide a chemical coating that will be sold to an aircraft manufacturer and applied to rotors. B2C — being that you provide a product or service directly to the end user — i.e. you sell anti-aging skincare products using social media and your network to women 30+. But what if what you do falls somewhere in-between?

What if you are in the B2P (Business-to-People) business?

I believe that Anthony Cole Training Group fits within that category. Before we get too far into this topic, I do realize that B2C sales technically describes what we are about to discuss below, but for the sake of this article, I ask that you expand your realm of thinking. See, we (ACTG) primarily provide sales hiring and production training for financial institutions. We usually work with pre-existing sales teams to uncover the problem areas they face and build our training and development around addressing those problems. But at the end of the day, it is the people that we impact first, not the organization. I would imagine 99% of the organizations that are considered B2B still have to sell to a real, living, breathing person who is responsible for making a decision.

So, at the end of the day, you’re in the business to people game too.

So why does this matter? Sometimes, we get so caught up in our day-to-day activities of producing, prospecting and checking off our individual tasks, that we forget we're here to help people. We focus more on the RFP (Request for Proposal) in front of us than on the company and people behind it.

Typically, in B2C sales, the salesperson shares more of a personal relationship with the prospect as well as flexibility around conversations and decisions. In B2B sales, there is usually more restriction to the branding, marketing and positioning of products or services, as well as how we can approach people in the market. Now I’m not suggesting we should throw the handbook out the window, but I am suggesting that those of us in the B2B space can probably benefit from a healthy dose of “authenticity” and “the human element”.

Don't you think?

At the end of the day, you must remember that you are impacting people, regardless of the type of work that you do. The aircraft manufacturer that is buying your chemical coating still has a team of people they are responsible for, so they must confirm that the chemicals are safe and regulated—so talk with them about that. Not only why your coating lasts so much longer than your competitors’ brand!

When we stop focusing (solely) on the next sale, the next dial, or the next commission check; and instead focus on being a go-giver for our clients and prospects, more sales will occur. Be in the Business-to-People, or B2P, business.

It will be your most rewarding sale.

 

Topics: go givers sell more, how to improve sales, sales advice, steward, new age selling, salespeople

How to Eliminate Misunderstandings and Closing Delays

Posted by Jack Kasel on Thu, May 16, 2019

In business, especially in sales; delays, misunderstandings, and communication can go awry.  Sometimes, even with the influx of technology and communication tools, it is easy to misinterpret what a prospect, or salesperson, says. 

So, how do we make these communication lines more efficient?

The AWATL stands for the As We Agreed To Letter. It’s a brief correspondence that the salesperson can send out to clearly indicate what the expectations are (for both parties) in terms of what is needed and expected. It can be used early in the process, throughout the middle, and is extremely effective just before you present your solutions to the prospect.

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“What we have here… is a failure to communicate.” You may recognize that line from one on my all-time favorite movies Cool Hand Luke.  If you get nothing else out of this blog, do yourself a favor and go rent that movie. You will be glad you did.

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

Thus, the need for the AWATL.

The AWATL stands for the As We Agreed To Letter. It’s a brief correspondence that the salesperson can send out to clearly indicate what the expectations are (for both parties) in terms of what is needed and expected. It can be used early in the process, throughout the middle, and is extremely effective just before you present your solutions to the prospect.

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

  • The problems that you have uncoveredyour prospect NEEDS to fix
  • The budget you need to stay within
  • All the decision makers will be present
  • Finally, and most importantly, the agreed to and anticipated date when a decision will be made

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

Topics: communicating expectations, expectations, Sales Presentation, AWATL

Why Success in Sales Leads to Personal Freedoms

Posted by Walt Gerano on Thu, May 09, 2019

Achieving the work-life balance sales professionals all hear and dream of starts with having a personal vision and a set of non-negotiable goals.

In this article, we will discuss the 4 must-do sales activities and the characteristics that all successful salespeople share when striving for the freedom of success.

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We recently celebrated Cinco de Mayo, which is an annual celebration held on May 5th. The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army's (unexpected) victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza.

So today let’s commemorate the victory and personal freedoms that comes from success in sales.

There are two freedoms that successful people enjoy: the freedom of time and the freedom of choice. You see, when you are always playing from behind, you never feel like you can take time off or treat yourself to that vacation or long weekend.

Successful people aren’t successful by chance or luck. They all have (at least) four things in common.

  1. They all have a vision of where they want to go, starting with the end in mind.
  2. They have a mission. The “how you will achieve your vision” -in other words what are the behaviors associated with success.
  3. Goals become the mile markers that let you know when you’ve “left the road”.
  4. And they have a “WHY”- why they keep going when they don’t want to.

So, decide what freedoms you want. Determine what those freedoms require. Build your plan to get there.

  • It all starts with your success formula, the behaviors you must execute day in and day out to accomplish your goals.
  • Track your behaviors weekly and be accountable to someone other than yourself (we’re too good at explaining to ourselves why we didn’t do something).
  • Know your SMART numbers- what are the key metrics that really drive your business, those can’t miss numbers.
  • Build your Unique Sales Approach (USA) that is compelling to the people in your sandbox; those that fit your profile.

Finally, don’t do all of this and stick it in the drawer. You should review your vision, mission and goals annually and your success formula and SMART numbers quarterly.

Now go out and sell something and celebrate the freedom of success.

Topics: success formula, Sales Plan, freedom, achieving sales success

Hit Sales Growth Goals and All Other Problems Go Away

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, May 02, 2019

Disconnect in the business world is pretty common. But, that doesn't mean it should be. Specifically in sales, your job as a leader is to create a model that benefits both the company and the salespeople that work there. So, how do you do this?

This article will provide you with a list of questions to ask yourself, and your producers, when your sales team is underperforming and improvements need to be made.

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I recently met with a firm that was struggling with its sales team hitting sales goals. Sound familiar? And talking to the president, she shared with me her frustration over this and the various attempts taken to correct the problem, and nothing seemed to work. The most recent strategy was to change the compensation payout on one of the products being sold. Keep in mind there wasn’t a change to the amount being paid out, just the way the payout would occur. 

You would have thought that she was reducing the comp schedule by 50%, changing the 401K match and eliminating the contribution schedule to the employee health insurance plan all in a 24-hour period. The reaction from the sales team was negative and swift. For days, salespeople were focused on:

  • Why is the company doing this?
  • This isn’t fair, I’ve always been paid within 30 days of the sale.
  • Is this a punishment?
  • This doesn’t motivate me to sell more!

As I’ve been thinking about this for the last week or so I wondered...

  1. Would any of this be a problem if in fact the sales people had hit their sales goal in 2018 and so their payouts would be consistent with their personal financial needs?
  2. Would this be a problem if year to date each of the sales people was on track to hit their goals for 2019?
  3. And finally, if the 2019 sales goals were being met, and cash flow met the requirements of the business plan, would the president have been put in a position to do something in an attempt to light a fire under the pants of the sales team?

I believe the answer to all of those questions would be no.

Dealing with sales problems within an organization is no different than dealing with a specific sales opportunity that is stuck in the pipeline. Too often a sales person attempts to put pressure via constant emails and calls inquiring about "Where are you in the process of making a decision to move forward with this”?  This is the wrong end of the problem in sales. If a sale is stalled or is not made, the sales person with the help of the sales manager has to work the right end of the problem. The right end is examining what happened or failed to happen at the beginning of the milestone centric sales process that the company developed as part of the sales enablement and CRM strategy?

  1. Was there a compelling reason to act?
  2. Was the incumbent eliminated from the process?
  3. Was the capacity to invest time, money and resources discussed and agreed to?
  4. Was there an agreement for the prospect to pay more if required?
  5. Did the sales person fully understand the buyer’s buying journey / process and what stage they were in?
  6. Was the sales person in front of decision makers: users, implementers, finance, IT etc.?
  7. Was there urgency?
  8. Was there an agreement to decide at time of presentation?
  9. Was the company in a position to solve the business problem for the prospect based on the prospect’s selection criteria and priorities?
  10. Was the prospect given several opportunities to back away from the discussions?
  11. Did the sales person ‘own the room’ when they made the presentation?
  12. Was the presentation compelling and designed to lead to an obvious conclusion to buy?

These are just a few examples of steps in a milestone centric sales process as described in this audio blog – A Suspect Remains a Suspect Until.

Back to our president and the company. The challenge here is to ask the sales team the questions I asked above. Get to the right end of the problem and you can avoid many problems closing opportunities and growing sales in your company.

Topics: closing more sales, reaching sales goals, motivating salespeople, sales opportunity

Enough is Enough

Posted by Alex Cole-Murphy on Thu, Apr 18, 2019

Complacency in selling is not a new phenomenon.  In fact, it has been going on for a number of years with salespeople accepting their status, their shiny new toys, and their numbers in the business, while exclaiming,

"Enough is enough.  I've accomplished it all!"

In this article, we discuss three keys to help sales managers bust the myth that “enough is enough” and continue to get the most out of their top producers.

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Too often, highly successful salespeople reach a point in their career where they become complacent and “enough is enough”.  This happens for many reasons, but one of the main causes I've observed is because "they've made it".  It doesn't matter what the gender or tenure may be — all that matters is that one day the sales person wakes up, takes a look around, and discovers that all of the things they strived for when they entered into the business have been accomplished.

For example:

  • They have the big house
  • They have the right car
  • They have the club membership
  • They are either empty nesters or they have the kids in private schools

In the past, Dave Kurlan at Objective Management Group has said that highly successful salespeople are motivated by earning more money. Recently though, Dave has done some additional research to indicate that money is NOT really the primary motivator, especially with today's younger generations.  

With this in mind, I don't want to focus on money as the motivator, but I don't want to totally discount the idea either - Money does help people achieve the other extrinsic motivators that are important to them. However, it is actually the specific goals of the individuals, that provide the motivation for earning more money.

For example, let's suppose you have a sales person who says spending time with the kids in extracurricular activities is important. I would suggest that being successful in selling "buys" one the time to have balance in their life and “buys" the ability to make the choice to go to a field hockey game at 3:30 in the afternoon. This freedom of time and choice might require your sales person to succeed at a higher level. People who are actively dreaming and motivated to reach their goals will continue to work towards financial success to fulfill those goals.

Here are 3 Keys to help sales managers bust the myth that “enough is enough” and continue to get the most out of their top producers. And if you are a top producer yourself, these are three areas you should question and reflect on for yourself.

  1. Ask the right question(s). It really isn't about money - how much they want to make, how much they want to have, when they want to retire, etc. The better questions focus on helping your highly successful salespeople determine what they would like to have to shape and define their lives. Ask them to rethink their goals to include some things that would be important to them to have as a legacy regarding who they are and what they accomplished.
  2. Create an environment where goal setting is also goal sharing. Too often, sales managers don't feel that it is necessary to know exactly what it is that motivates their salespeople. As a sales manager you may argue this, but the OMG data shows that 75% of all sales managers do not feel it is important to know what motivates their people. However, once you know what is important to you then, then you are more effective as a mentor and a coach.
  3. Build the company sales revenue plan from the ground up. Start working with your people and help them identify what their requirements are to have a lifestyle filled with happiness, success, and financial freedom. Document their individual requirements and provide a process to translate those requirements into a selling success formula. 

I've explained to salespeople that if the company has a bigger goal for them than they have for themselves, they shouldn't blame the company. The salespeople need to blame themselves because smaller expectations are a clear indication that they have stopped dreaming and stopped setting goals. I’ve explained to executives that it isn't about shareholder value. Their salespeople, unless they own shares, don't give a hoot about shareholder value. They care about sending their kids to school, buying a place in the mountains, paying for the weddings, etc.

When you have an environment where your people can continue to make their dreams come true, then you have something special where “enough is enough" is never an issue. 

Topics: motivating sales people, effective sales management, salespeople, sales opportunity, driven, complacency

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    About our Blog

    Founder and CLO Tony Cole has been working with financial firms for more than 25 years to help them close their sales opportunity gap.  He is a master at using science based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss his weekly sales management blog insights.

     

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