ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

80/20 Prospecting Time

Posted by Jack Kasel on Thu, Jun 13, 2019

The most successful salespeople are always challenging and adapting their personal sales process to be more effective, but they don’t challenge the notion of the importance of making prospecting their A priority every week. 

They know that no matter how successful they are, if they don’t continue to add new relationships, that eventually, their business will decline. 

alarm-clock-calendar-close-up-908298

As we think about all of the things as sales professionals we're supposed to do, it really comes down to three things to get paid: 

  • Find Opportunities
  • Qualify them
  • Get a decision . . . We love Yes’, but No’s are OKit’s all the stuff in the middle that bothers us.

I want to focus on the first thing we get paid to do and that's to find opportunities.  There are many ways we can find opportunities; cold calls, drop in’s, direct marketing, social selling (LinkedIn and Twitter), getting introductions, etc. 

Although there are many ways we can prospect, some provide a higher return on the biggest investment we can make, and that’s our time.  In a previous blog, I tried to debunk the “time management” problem.  It isn’t a time management problem, it’s a priority management problem

As we focus on prospecting, the least return on our investment is cold calling.  For all the time you invest in cold calling, the actual return (speaking to a decision maker) is extremely low.  We know it’s a necessary evil, but not a permanent problem.  On the other hand, it is a proven fact, the highest return on our prospecting timeis in getting introductions.  

So here is what I would like you to consider:

  1. Time blocking
    • Do you have time set aside each week to prospect? If you don’t, you would be well-served to block time to prospect
  2. Allocate your time within the time block you’ve scheduled
    • If you have allocated an hour a day, my recommendation would be:
      • If you have allocated 15 minutes to cold call, you should be able to get 15 calls in within that time. If you call 15, you will probably speak with two people.  How long does it take to NOT talk to 13 people?  You can make a lot of calls in 15 minutes if you are focused.
      • 15 minutes for social selling to find introductions—maybe not sell, but find introduction opportunities.
        • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Blogging—whichever you are allowed to do within your work rules, do it on a regular basis.
      • 30 minutes on getting introductions
        • Calling people and saying “I’m looking to expand my base of contacts” Or “I’m looking to meet great people such as yourself, when can we get together to determine if we can help each other?”
        • Identify your 15 best clients and make it a goal to get three introductions from each of them. How much success would you have with 45 new names to call?

This is just a rough outline on what you can do but the big takeaways are this:

  1. Prioritize prospecting—make it a significant part of your week.
  2. Prioritize how you are prospecting—get introductions—it will provide the highest return on your time invested.

Someone needs what you do, so go find them and start prospecting today to find more of them!

Topics: Prospecting, introductions, Cold Calling, selling and social media, time blocking, 80/20 Principle

Go for the “No” Early in the Sales Process

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Jun 10, 2019

 In this article, we discuss the theory that a prospect might want what you are selling, if you (as the salesperson) are willing to walk away from the table first.  It may sound counterintuitive but one of the keys for more effective selling is going for the ‘no’ early in the sales process. 

no-1532844_1280

I learned this concept years ago especially when I was vulnerable to Think it Overs’ (TIO). I would get ‘think it overs’ at several stages in the sales process and maybe you get them as well:

  • On the initial phone call when you’re trying to get an appointment – “Let me think it over, give me a call next week.
  • At the end of your initial meeting – “This sounds really good and something I should consider. Let me think it over and I’ll get back to you in the next couple of days.”
  • When you finish your presentation and you ask for the sale  “You made a very compelling presentation and we are impressed with your depth of knowledge and your very creative solutions to our problems. Let us meet as a group and go over this one more time and crunch some numbers.  Let’s plan on talking next week.

Sound familiar?

Of course it does and these ‘think it overs’ are what is keeping you from being more effective in your sales process. That’s nice to know or consider but the question becomes, “What do I do about it?” (click here to listen to a 3-minute audio clip on eliminating TIO)

What is important to understand about getting ‘think it overs’ is the mindset of your potential buyer. Your potential buyer will tell you that they need to think it over because:

  • They really don’t intend on making any changes but you impressed them with some information that they want to take to their current provider and see if they can do what you can do.
  • They have a need for approval and instead of telling you they are not interested they want to let you down easy. Telling you they want to think it over gives you hope and get’s them off of the hook until the next time you talk.

To fix the problem, eliminate ‘think it over’ as an option. Let your prospect know that when you finish the next meeting, next conversation, the final presentation, they will have everything they need to make a decision. You can tell them that you will be prepared to answer all of their questions and when you are finished, they will be in a position to make a decision- yes or no. Then simply ask what objections they have to that process.

This one key will help you close more business, more quickly at higher margins.

For more tips on how to uncover a prospects real reason for wanting to 'TIO' watch our Sales Guy Unplugged video on the "Question Behind the Question".

Topics: sales techniques, effective sales process, sales champion, think it overs, go for the no

Knock Knock…Is Your Prospect There?

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Fri, Jun 07, 2019

In today's world of selling, it is increasingly more difficult to get the attention of a prospective buyer after only a few outreach attempts. We know they're busy but let's face it, we're all busy. So, how do you stay consistent (and persistent) in your outreach with a prospect while remaining sensitive to their daily lives and the distractions they face?

communication-connection-contemporary-261706

From the dawn of time until present day, it has always been a difficult task for salespeople to be able to reach the prospects they call and email each day. They call…and they email…and they keep following up, wondering if anybody will ever do one of two things:

  1. Answer the phone.
  2. Return a voicemail/reply to an email.

While certainly not a new development in selling, engaging with prospects has become increasingly and dramatically more difficult in the last 10 years.  If we go back to 2009, it took around 8-10 outreaches on average to engage with a prospect. In 2019, that number has risen to 16-18 attempts. Keep in in mind those are averages. Sometimes it takes even more attempts to get the prospect to pay attention to you.

Recently I was leading a sales training workshop in Dallas and a high-ranking bank executive asked me why I thought the number of outreaches required had basically doubled in the last decade. In my judgment, there are three main reasons:

  1. Distraction: prospects are busier than ever before and are constantly battling the numerous distractions that come their way. Their mobile device buzzes and they have to look. The email notification on their computer sounds and they can’t resist. Some have estimated that the typical person picks up and puts down their mobile device between 600-700 times each day.
  2. Competition: there is more of it than ever before and it’s fiercer than ever.
  3. Commodity: the belief of the prospect that, in at least some industries, the vendor calling them and the vendor they currently use are essentially the same. The prospect just doesn’t see any meaningful difference. To them a bank is a bank. An insurance broker is an insurance broker. A technology provider is a technology provider.

Of these three reasons, #3 is the most concerning (or it should be). And here's why.  If you don’t differentiate yourself from your competition by providing value, your prospect will do the differentiating for you. But they won’t use a measuring stick of value. They will more often than not use a measuring stick of price.

Finally, here is another sobering statistic about the world of modern day selling. While the average number of attempts has increased to 16-18, most salespeople quit after less than 5 attempts. Maybe they think the prospect is being rude by not replying. Maybe they think that in the good old days people used to return calls. Regardless, the world has changed. Prospects are a hard fish to catch. 

You might need to be out there fishing just a bit longer than you would like.

Topics: sales madness, contacting prospects, reaching prospects, phone calls, prospect engagement, prospect outreach

How to Find and Cultivate Prospects That Fit Your Business

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Jun 03, 2019

Today, our customers are bombarded with sales, marketing, and advertising pitches from companies all hoping to win their business. They’re overwhelmed, or, in most cases, they simply tune us out.

So, we try to reach as many potential customers as we can, but our salespeople spin their wheels and end up stuck in the same place, week after week, month after month, or year after year.

pexels-photo-845451

The problem? We’re not sure who we’re trying to reach. Many of our potential customers view their time as their greatest, most valuable asset, and so should we. We can protect that asset by having a clear understanding of who our target customer is.

Identify What a Zebra is:

In order to hone that understanding, we have to begin with first identifying our “Zebra,” or our ideal prospect persona.

 We can do that in three easy steps:

  1. Begin by segmenting our business’s book into thirds. For most companies, that top third brings in 90% of the company’s revenue. They are generally the best clients.
  2. Look for common traits and demographics in that top third. Ask questions like:

·      What do these customers have in common?

·      What industry are they in?

·      Who is our main point of contact?

·      How do we contact them?

·      What is the size of their organization?

Having the answers to questions like these helps identify other potential customers in the market.

3. Once we know what traits we’re looking for in that top third, we should commit 2/3 of our time to looking for, or attracting, customers from this group.

 

Identify What a Zebra Isn't:

Of equal importance is to know, and clearly articulate, what isn’t a Zebra for us. If we know who doesn’t fit our ideal customer persona, we’ll bring clarity to our network and prospecting efforts, and again, continue to value time as our greatest asset. Here’s why it’s important to know what a Zebra isn’t:

1.    We eliminate ambiguity

Introductions have been proven to be the No. 1 way that top producers grow their business. But if we aren’t specific about who we serve best, it’s hard to get those introductions. We need to be specific and clear about what type of zebra we serve best.

2.    We reduce frustration with our Centers of Influence (COI)

We want to capitalize on our COI’s relationships, but if we’re not crystal clear with who we’re looking for, our COI may make an introduction to someone we can’t help. When working with our COI, it’s helpful to articulate the type of business or individual we’re looking for, along with what we’re not looking for and why.

3.    We reduce our opportunity cost

Our opportunity cost is what we’re not working on that might have been more viable for our organization. If we’re calling on Company ABC, we’re not working on Company XYZ. Are we losing out on better business, because we’re not calling on the right prospects?

If we know what we don’t want and the reasons why, it might reduce the quantity of opportunities in our pipeline, but the quality will increase dramatically. 

 Cultivating Zebras

Once we’ve determined which customers are and aren’t Zebras, we need to understand the best ways get in front of them and build relationships.

Start by doing some research.

Should we call or email them?

What is their preferred social media platform – LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter?

Knowing how and where to reach our target persona will positively impact our ability to hunt, qualify and discover potential new business. Undoubtedly, our most effective approach is to utilize the relationships we have with our top third by asking them to introduce us to others they know, who will most likely fall into that ideal customer profile.

It takes work to find these prospects and then contact them, but it’s well worth the effort. Our chances of success are now much higher because we know we’re reaching the right audience, the Zebras who become our best clients.

Topics: Questions for Prospects, qualifying prospects, sales prospects, consultative selling, how to prospect

Why Monitor If You’re Not Going To Fix It? 5 Steps to Fixing Your CRM and Salespeople Issues

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, May 30, 2019

In this article, we offer solutions for your CRM system and provide 5 concrete steps in helping your salespeople improve their numbers and ratios so that a sales manager can more accurately identify choke points in the sales process.

pexels-photo-1089438

My wife Linda and I were recently in Columbia, Maryland visiting family. While having a mid-afternoon lunch at Clyde’s, I happened to see a “LifeLock” commercial on the bar TV. All I caught was the following caption:

“Why Monitor If You're Not Going to Fix It”?

Forbes contribution editor, Will Burns, writes about the absurdity the Lifelock ads point out. He even does us the favor of including the Dentist, Robbery and Pest Control ads in his article.

Many companies, probably including yours, have monitored pipeline opportunities. The idea is to have information about the opportunities being created by the sales team. Companies want to know: 

  • What stage in the sales process is the opportunity
  • What the next steps are to move the opportunity through the pipeline
  • The likelihood of winning the business based on a probability % either calculated or assumed based on the sales stages
  • The future sales revenue of all the opportunities in the pipeline.

There are normally at least three problems with the use of CRMs and pipeline management:

  1. Validity - The true accuracy (validity) of the predictive nature of the CRM is dependent upon making sure that a milestone centric sales process has been mapped and made to be part of the CRM being used.
  2. Credibility – Even if you have the right sales process mapped and documented, there is still the element of GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out. If your sales team is entering opportunities into the pipeline to keep management off of their back and assuming that the opportunities have met the criteria for each step in the sales process, then you still have a predictive problem with your pipeline.
  3. Lack of helpful business intelligence – It’s one thing to enter data and get raw numbers from what has happened and what we think will happen. It’s another thing to build your CRM so that you have reporting that tells you how sales people are performing against the sales success formula developed for each individual. Without comparative data, then a company or manager is monitoring activity without identifying, if in fact, there are any problems.

What a company should be looking for, so that it’s in a position to ‘fix it’, are critical numbers and ratios so that a sales manager can clearly and more accurately identify choke points in the sales process for each individual.  Additionally, the data can and should, tell the manager and the organization if training and coaching is required, or if the current training and coaching is having the intended impact: Improving the effectiveness and results of the sales team. 

Let’s assume the following sales effort and effectiveness performance model: 

Action Plan.png

  •  The sales person that is failing to hit sales targets is supposed to:
    • Create 10 new leads a month
    • Convert 50% of those into opportunities
    • Convert 50% of those into presentations
    • And get 50% of those presentations to turn into sold business
    • Additionally the average size sales is supposed to be $10,000.00 
  • Lets assume the following actual sales effort and effectiveness:
    • 9 new leads are being created but we don’t know why 9 instead of 10?
    • 50% of leads are being converted to opportunities
    • 50% of those opportunities are leading to presentations (but keep in mind over time there will only be 90% of the planned for opportunities because of failure to hit the lead goal)
    • 45% of the presentations turn into sold business instead of 50%
    • And, the average size sale is $9,000.00 instead of $10,000.00

If this is monitored and not addressed/fixed, then this sales person will be short of their goal in access of 25%. This will be a gradual event because, unless the CRM is built to provide this information, no one will notice. No one will notice because the numbers are either: not being monitored or not being addressed because they are ‘close enough’ (9 instead of 10. Management sees this as being 1 off of target rather than 10% off target). Or, coaching to fix the problem falls into the category of ‘do more’ instead of "let’s coach you on how to do better."

Does any of this look or sound familiar? It may not, especially if you have enough of the right people (about 33% of your sales group) doing enough of the right things. With 33% of the team carrying the load, you will still end up with about 90% of your goal.  Then, all you will need is a few of the remaining 67% of the team to contribute something to the production number. You will be close enough.

“Fixing” it has to be part of the investment when investing in sales enablement tools, systems and technology. Fixing the problem requires the following 5 steps:

  1. Building a milestone centric sales process that is part of the CRM
  2. Creating sales success formulas for each sales person based on their historical actual performance and agreed to sales goals
  3. Timely monitoring and updating of sales effort and sales execution data so that you can ‘catch them early’ in real-time when their performance is a negative variance from the plan
  4. Using the data to develop intentional coaching strategies to help your salespeople deal with the specific challenges they are having in either effort or execution. No more ‘run faster’ coaching
  5. Use metrics to determine your success: 
    • % of sales people hitting effort target increases to 100%
    • % of people hitting conversion ratios improves
    • Production from each of the sales team segments (1/5s) improves year over year
    • The 80/20 rule starts to shift to a 70/30 > 60/40 rule
    • Validity and credibility in your pipeline prediction improves
    • Adaption of your CRM is at 100%

Call To Action: 

Request a 30-minute live Emergency Pipeline Analysis Session to evaluate current opportunities in your pipeline. What you will get/learn.

  • Complete instruction on how to more effectively evaluate the validity and credibility of your pipeline opportunities
  • How to more effectively identify choke points in the sales process
  • A method of intentional coaching to improve the probability of closing current opportunities.

Email:  tony@anthonycoletraining.com if interested.  Thank you for your time!

Topics: solutions, solving sales issues, underperforming sales team, monitoring sales issues

    Follow #ACTG

     

    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.

     

    Subscribe Here

    Most Read

    Recent Blogs