ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

Sales Inspiration from Two Basketball Legends

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Aug 30, 2019

The buyer's cycle has changed. These days, when a buyer wants to make a purchase, they have all of the tools located in the palm of their hand.  If you are not making the buying process as frictionless as possible, then you are most likely going to lose out on a sale. 

Even if it's a long buying cycle, it still needs to be a seamless one!  In this article, we discuss valuable lessons for salespeople and their sales leaders, including an excerpt from legendary UCLA Head Coach John Wooden and his former player (and NBA star) Bill Walton.

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The only difference between successful salespeople and the other 77% is that the successful salespeople actually do the very things they don’t like doing.”  

This is a quote from Dave Kurlan’s blog post about Bill Walton and John Wooden (see Additional Resources below).  Dave uses role-playing as an example.  I see this all the time!  Ask someone to role play in front of the group and they shut tight like a clam. 

How can you possibly get better at pressure situations if you don’t practice under pressure?

Bill has published and is now marketing his book, Back from the Dead.  I read a couple of lines from an interview with GQ and immediately went to my Amazon add-in and downloaded the book with my 1-click.

Here was my amazing buying experience:

  • I read an article that got my attention.
  • I clicked on a button in my Firefox ribbon at the top of my page.
  • I searched Amazon for “Bill Walton”.
  • The book popped up.
  • I clicked on the little thing on the right side of the page that said, “Buy Now using 1-click.”
  • I wanted the Kindle version so I could read it on the plane without carrying a big book, so when Amazon asked me if I wanted it downloaded to my iPhone, I clicked “yes.”
  • This all took less than a minute.
  • And that, my friends, is today’s sales cycle.

In your sales world, it might not take as many steps or it might be more.  In your sales cycle, it probably takes more than a minutemaybe 30 days, maybe 120, maybe a year.

Bottom line: There is something that stimulates the buyer. The buyer gets the information they want and then… when they want to buy… they want to make the process easy and they want options.

If you are not doing those things (stimulating the buying response – providing information to make a buying decision – giving them options – making it easy), then you are going to lose the sale to those that do those things. 

Not only will you lose occasionally, but sooner or later, it will become a permanent condition.

Now, my favorite Bill Walton and John Wooden story.

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Watch the video to get the whole story, but in short, the lesson for the Sales Leader is this:

  • You’ve been hired to do a job – drive sales growth/win market share
  • Part of that responsibility is to put the best team in the market.
  • As the coach, you establish the culture for winning; you set the team rules.
  • You can lead people but you cannot make them do something – players have free will.
  • If someone violates the rules, something has to be done – bend the rules, keep the rules
  • If a salesperson wants to exert their independence, let them. But let them do it somewhere else.
  • They have to want to play for you and win more than compete against you and lose.

Additional Resources:

Dave Kurlan’s blog:
The Sales Success Secret Shared by Bill Walton and John Wooden

Unless you have strong leadership, the money you spend on sales training is wasted. Stop wasting money.  In addition to great players, the key to a sales team built for growth is great sales management Leadership and Management. Read more about our Sales Management Certification.

Make sure you get great players who are committed to winning for you – Hirebettersalespeople.com

Topics: NCAA, Bill Walton, John Wooden, close the deal, sales challenges, life lessons

Hitting Your Sales Goals – 3 Challenges to Overcome

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Aug 26, 2019

In this article, we discuss the 3 challenges facing salespeople today: 

  1. Will to Sell
  2. Sales DNA
  3. Sales Skills

During training discussions over the course of more than 20 years, the #1 most common answer when asking sales leaders how their teams could sell more consistently over the years has been, “If I had more / better prospects to call on.”

In order to address the problem of getting more qualified leads, sales leaders and salespeople need to first understand these three challenges.

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In the last 30 days, I’ve talked to more than a dozen company executives, sales people and sales managers.  I’ve asked them, “What is the #1 constrictor to hitting your sales goals?”  The answer every time was: getting more qualified leads.  I know this is not a large sampling and I would be concerned about the validity of this finding if only 25% of them said that getting more qualified leads was the main problem. But that isn’t the case.  The consistency of answer in this survey indicates a trend to focus on.

There is further validation of the current finding:

During training discussions over the course of more than 20 years, I’ve asked sales executives, presidents and sales teams to complete the following statement:  I (we) would sell more, be more productive, more effective if only I (we) … 

The #1 most common answer consistently over the years has been “If I had more / better prospects to call on.”

In order to address the problem of getting more qualified leads, sales leaders and salespeople need to first understand these three challenges:

  1. Will to Sell
  2. Sales DNA
  3. Sales Skills

Let me use an example to explain.  We are currently working with a financial institution that is hiring a new private banker in an expanded market.  Using the pre-hire assessment from our partner Objective Management Group, we created a ‘tailored fit model’ based on the performance of the top and bottom current private bankers.  Then, we assessed the 5 candidates they were still considering.

Take a look at these findings:

Figure 1 – How well did the candidates match the clients’ work history criteria for success?  The client created a profile that indicated that the non-negotiable sale success criteria where: 1) must be competition resistant (successfully sold in a competitive environment), 2) Successfully sold value rather than price, 3) Sold to executives, 4) Has successfully hunted and sold new business (this addresses challenge #3 sales skills – specifically skills for hunting/ prospecting), 5) Is an entrepreneurial seller.  As you can see all the candidates being considered marginally met the client criteria for success with 3 of the 5 having an 80% match.

When we look at other findings, we find the 3 challenges most common to organizations that are trying to consistently hit / exceed their sales goals.

Figure #1 -When we look at Challenge #1 – ‘Will to Sell’ we find the following:

Only 1 candidate meets all the criteria for Will To Sell. The question becomes:  How important is the will to sell when attempting to overcome the challenges of finding qualified prospects to talk to?

If 1/3 of your current team lacks the will to sell, what is the likelihood  - despite all the ‘prospecting’ training you provide them – that they will actually execute?  Also note that one of the candidates with strong desire, commitment and outlook will still be prone to making excuses for not prospecting, asking for introductions and networking. (Desire for Sales Success)

Figure #2 – Sales DNA (Sales DNA Audio) findings for the 5 candidates looked like this:

This post won’t go into the definitions of all the criteria you see here, but understand that green is good, and red is not so good.  If you look to the right of the graph and look at the Total Sales DNA, the scores in green and red told our client what they needed to know.  If everything else is equal in the equation, then your people with strong sales DNA are more likely to do the activity of prospecting and will be more successful.

*Candidate #2 meets the criteria of the client, has a very strong will to sell, and has the highest sales DNA score.  How many of the people on your sales team measure up to this ‘elite’ candidate?

The world of selling is certainly different today than it was just 5 years ago.  Your prospects in the marketplace have more ways to find more information about you, your products and services. They have more ways to compare you against your competition and all of this happens without you or your salespeople even making contact with them.

To meet the challenges of today, you need a sales team with the right stuff to get the job done!

 

Topics: sales skills, Sales DNA, developing sales skills, will to sell, sales challenges

Do You Have Sales Growth Problems? 

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Aug 23, 2019

Of course you have sales problems. If it’s not a production problem, it’s a productivity problem. If it’s not a productivity problem, it’s a servicing problem.

If It’s not a service problem, it’s a sales/sales support turnover problem.  But, how do you help ease the pain and start to fix things? 

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In the words of Rosanne Rosannadana, “It’s  Always Something”

Most companies, if not all companies, have some method for keeping and tracking sales pipeline activity and progress. We use Hubspot’s CRM because it ties in very well with our inbound lead efforts, the pricing is extraordinary, the reporting is as good as anything on the market and getting up to speed is fast and easy. But, putting data in the CRM and keeping an eye on it, is not enough.

You have to gain business intelligence and then act on what you know.

Conduct an Emergency Pipeline Anaylsis (EPA) for a simple but effective way to determine what stays in the pipeline and what goes to the pipedream (delete folder). EPA originator, Dave Kurlan, wrote a blog that goes into detail about the 16,000+ proposals presented to unqualified buyers by B2B salespeople every day. This data comes from the 1,000s of Sale Evaluations and Improvement Analysis (SEIA) done yearly by our firm and others around the world.

In the SEIA, we analyze the state of the current pipeline. Figure 1 identifies the quality of the pipeline assessed for a large sales organization. When assessing for closable opportunities, the green area at the bottom should be much larger than the blue area at the top, if the opportunities are truly qualified. If your closable opportunities are not really qualified, you end up with a similar pipeline configuration to the one you see in the chart.

inverted pipelien.jpgFigure 1

The process to get this information is simple, but effective: Create a number of qualifying questions that are based on the steps in your qualification checklist. Those questions may include but are not limited to:

  • Is there severe mental anguish to make a purchase/change and is it personal?
  • Did I attach value or monetize the problem or failure to leverage the opportunity?
  • Did I eliminate the incumbent?
  • Did I ask, “Is this a have to fix or want to fix problem”, and did the prospect say "have to fix"?
  • Did they agree to invest the appropriate amount of time, money and resources?
  • Due I have a date of execution, purchase, contract?
  • I have met with the decision makers (not I will be meeting with decision makers at time of presentation) and they have agreed to make a decision when I finish my presentation.
  • I rehearsed the prospect on what they will do when the incumbent returns to beg for the business, fix the problems and match our fees, structure, contract.

Answering/scoring these questions simply requires a 1 or a 0. You add up the scores vertically for the opportunities in your pipeline and then make a decision to either;

  1. Call your prospect and deal with the open items.
  2. Reconcile that you have asked these questions and didn’t get the right answers and therefore make the ‘go, no-go’ decision to present.

There is a world of difference between managing the pipeline and looking at the pipeline and reporting the results. Managing is an active process.  As a manager you must constantly and consistently evaluate the opportunities in the pipeline for:

  • Quality – are they true opportunities?
  • Quantity – the number and value volume must match each individuals success formula
  • Movement – based on your buyers’ buying cycle you should be able to predict movement from one step in the process to the next
  • Measure the conversion ratios from one step to the next to evaluate effectiveness of the sales person’s execution of the process
  • Evaluate for credibility and validity
    • Credibility – did the projected close volume actually close?
    • Validity – did the accounts in the pipeline actually close and account for the volume forecast and actual sales?

This will take time but it’s important for you and your salespeople to do because it will ultimately result in closing more business, more quickly at higher margins.

Topics: Pipeline management, increase pipeline, sales growth problems, close the deal

Know What You Aren't Looking for in a Prospect!

Posted by Jack Kasel on Tue, Aug 20, 2019

Prospecting isn't always the easiest task we are required to carry out in sales.  It can be daunting, monotonous, and inconsistent.  However, it must be done and it must be done well!

So, what are some ways in which you can make prospecting easier on yourself to get in front of the right people at the right time?  It all starts with knowing what you want and DON'T want in your ideal client, and being able to share this directly with your Centers of Influence in the marketplace.

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When trying to describe something obscene, William T Goldberg once said,  “I know it when I see it, and someone else will know it when they see it, but what they see and what they know may or may not be what I see and what I know, and that’s okay.” 

Confused?  Yeah, me too.

Unfortunately, many salespeople suffer the same challenges when attempting to describe what their ideal client looks like.  Why is this so important?  It eliminates wasting time (your most precious asset) and causing frustration for your Centers of Influence  (C.O.I.).

Even if trying to describe what you are looking for is challenging, it may prove helpful to first describe what you aren’t looking for

Here are some reasons why knowing what you aren’t looking for is important:

  1. It eliminates ambiguity
    • If you aren’t specific, it’s hard to get introductions. When I’m trying to make introductions for people and they are vague about what they are looking for, it makes it difficult for me to think of someone to make the introduction.
  2. It reduces frustration with your Centers of Influence
    • If you aren’t crystal clear on what you are looking for and what you are NOT looking for, your COI’s might make an introduction for you, only to find out you can’t help the person they introduced.
      1. When working with my introduction partners, I say “This is what type of business I’m looking for. Of equal importance, I really can’t help these types of businesses . . . and here’s why."
    • That brings clarity to the conversation.
  3. It reduces your opportunity cost.
    • Your opportunity cost is simply this . . . If you called on Company ABC, that means you AREN’T working on Company XYZ. Your opportunity cost is what you aren’t working on, which might be more viable for you and your organization.

So, in closing if you know what you don’t want and the reason why, it could reduce the quantity of opportunities in your pipeline, but the quality should increase dramatically.

Good luck and happy hunting.

 

Topics: qualifying prospecting, prospecting skills, centers of influence, sales prospecting

Stop Accepting Think It Overs (TIO)

Posted by Walt Gerano on Thu, Aug 15, 2019

Facing stalls and objections throughout the sales process is a common occurrence for many salespeople. What we find is that, often, it is due to ineffective qualifying and not asking for the prospects commitment to take action prior to presenting a solution.

In this blog, we will cover the 10 common symptoms that suggest you may accept put-offs from prospects and how that is affecting the strength and quality of your sales pipeline.

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While we are hoping to hear yes after our presentation, sometimes we hear a no. But how many times are you hearing “I need to think it over”?

Think about the last 10 sales opportunities in your pipeline that didn't convert to a "yes."  How many of them are still in the pipeline because you are “hoping” for a yes while they “think it over” and get back to you? 

Now ask yourself what percentage of the time when you allow “TIO”, do you actually get the business? My guess is that, if you are like the rest of us, that number is pretty small. So let’s stop kidding ourselves about the strength of our pipeline and quit accepting “think it over” as an answer.

Since we agree that “TIO” is not the most effective strategy for closing more business, let’s look at some of the symptoms.  You may not identify with all of these but it only takes one to derail your sales effectiveness.

  1. Do you keep going on appointments with prospects that don’t fit your ideal profile?
  2. Are you answering more questions than you are asking?
  3. Are you completing a pre-call plan for every sales call with questions you will ask and curve balls you expect?
  4. Do you rely on cold calls instead of introductions and referrals?
  5. Do you think “running faster” is a strategy?
  6. Are you too trusting of prospects and what they say?
  7. Are doing most of the talking on your sales calls?
  8. Are you talking too much about products and not enough about problems?
  9. Do you go on any appointment because you don’t have enough in your pipeline?
  10. Are you asking for the prospect’s commitment to a “Yes” or “No” answer before you come back, present your solution and answer all of their questions?

Eliminating “TIO” is easier than you think.  First, let’s agree that it’s OUR fault.  If you have a sales process that allows for “think it over”, then you are going to get the “think it over" response every single time. 

If you don’t have an effective sales process, then what are you waiting for?  It's time to get one and follow it consistently.  

Stop fooling around with prospects that want to “think it over” and go sell something!

Topics: sales commitment, think it overs, extra mile, yes or no

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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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