ACTG Sales Management Blog

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How to Get Your Sales Leadership Questions Answered

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Sep 23, 2021

When executives think about their sales teams, they often ask themselves if they have the right people in the seat and how they can become more effective.

In this blog, we will discuss the leading questions sales executives face when considering their current producer team and how to get the answers they need.

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If you are a Jimmy Buffett fan (that would make you a Parrot Head), you recognize the title of his 1973 release by the same name. Buffett wrote the song about a one-armed veteran of the Spanish Civil War that he met during a show in Chicago.

So, what does any of this have to do with sales leadership? Here are just a few lines from the song:

He went to Paris
Looking for answers
To questions that bothered him so

Now that makes me think of the executives we speak with all over the country who “have questions that bother them so.” But their questions don’t have anything to do with travel, relationships, fishing, and drinking (not saying executives don’t think about those things). When executives think about their sales teams, here are the sales questions that “bother them so”:

  • Do I have the right people, on the right bus, and sitting in the right seats?
  • How much more effective can my sales teams become?
  • What will be required to make them more effective?
  • Why do we consistently have a hit-and-miss approach to hiring salespeople?
  • For my salespeople who disappoint me, did we hire them that way or did we make them that way?
  • Why do my salespeople so quickly cave on price instead of selling our value?
  • What are the common traits in my top performers that separate them from my bottom performers?

So here is my question for you: do these questions bother you? Do you need to get answers to these questions? If so, you don’t need to go to Paris. You just need to click on the link below to land on my calendar for a fifteen-minute phone call. I can get you the answers and you don’t even have to pay to get the answers. You just need to be bothered.

Are you? If so, click here:

Book a Time  With Mark!

See you In Paris!

Topics: Sales questions, Sales Leadership, sales leadership development

Do You Have a Sales Action Plan?

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Sep 16, 2021

A goal without a plan is only a wish. An effective sales action plan starts with collecting, measuring, and inspecting key success metrics that directly impact the end goal.

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Have you ever noticed that some of the sayings you heard the most when you were growing up have turned out to be incredibly accurate? In this blog article, I want to focus on one that I absolutely grew sick and tired of hearing, and that was “People don’t plan to fail; they fail to plan.” I might not have liked hearing it over and over, but there is no arguing the accuracy of the statement.

And you really can’t argue the veracity of this axiom when it comes to sales action plans that are built from solid sales metrics. I am stunned (and perhaps I should not be) at the number of salespeople and sales organizations that do not operate with sales action plans. They simply come up with a number for a sales goal, and then they hope the team gets to that number. But as Rick Page wrote in his fabulous book by the same title, hope is not a strategy.

A strategy would be a sales plan that is built on sales behaviors that the sales team is expected to execute on a weekly basis. A strategy would be having a sales action plan that allows the sales leaders to hold their teams accountable with agreed-upon, reported sales metrics. A strategy would be knowing the critical conversion ratios in the sales process – meaning the number of first appointments that result in opportunities, the number of opportunities that reach the proposal stage, and the number of proposals that result in wins.

Every single step in the sales process can be measured, and the data you need is easy to collect. At Anthony Cole Training Group, we know that salespeople fail for one of two reasons:

  1. Lack of effort
  2. Lack of skill

Why not engineer out #1 by having a sales plan tied to weekly sales metrics? And if you don’t grab that data, how do you even begin to know which parts of your sales process need more coaching?

That sounds like a plan.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: sales metrics, sales action plan

The Sales Coaching Conundrum

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Sep 02, 2021

The dictionary defines a conundrum as “a confusing and difficult problem or question.” I believe it is safe to say that we can put sales coaching into that category.

In today’s blog, I want to give you some sales coaching tips that will improve your sales coaching skills.

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Let us start with the fundamental truth that any sales organization is perfectly designed for the results they are receiving. And if an organization does not like those results, then the most important thing for them to consider is their appetite for change. And when it comes to sales coaching, many sales leaders quite frankly lose their appetite. Why? 

Because coaching salespeople is costly (time not money) and scary (any time you put people into the equation that tends to be the case).

If you want to improve your coaching, you would do well to avoid the four most common mistakes that so many companies make with sales coaching:

  1. They assume that high-performing salespeople will naturally or automatically become high-performing sales leaders. There is very little data to support such a claim. The jobs are quite different. The logic is flawed.
  2. They don’t use a predictive sales-related assessment (we prefer the Objective Management sales manager assessment) on the pre-hire side to make sure the sales leader candidate will be strong on setting standards, coaching, managing pipelines, holding people accountable, recruiting new sales talent, etc.

They hire sales leaders who really don’t want the job. I mean they might be right for the job, but the job is not right for them. 

  1. Why? Because they love selling and their heart is not in it when it comes time to coach and holds their team accountable.  
  2. They don’t train their sales leaders. While most companies do not hesitate to train their salespeople, they don’t give much if any thought to training the specific skill sets that a sales leader must master to be successful.

Here is another word of the day – insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting outcomes to change. So, do you have a conundrum on your hands? Or do you have a sales coaching problem that has become a priority that you have to fix?

Download our Free  9 Keys to Successful Coaching eBook

Topics: effective sales coaching, Sales Coaching, sales coaching process, sales coaching tips

5 Important Sales Concepts - Be Unique

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, Aug 31, 2021

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Important Sales Concepts

In this article, we'll be covering some of the most important sales concepts to keep in mind when you're out there selling, these are:

In our sales training classes, we spend a great deal of time on the appropriate "attitude" required to be successful in selling. With the right attitude, you can count on consistently executing the required conduct and sales techniques to be successful.  I once heard another sales development expert explain that "sales technique is just a change in language.  You already have a sales language; it just may not be as effective as it could be."  (If you want additional information on "attitude", you can find more posts in our blogs.) 

However, in this article, we'll be focusing on 5 important sales concepts.  You can also call them "techniques" but sometimes problems occur when someone tries to duplicate the exact technique that a trainer uses.  For example, if your facilitator is from the northeast part of a country where the communication style is a little more direct, faster-paced and some would describe as "aggressive", but you are a mid-westerner, then you may find yourself failing to bond well with prospects, not because of what you have said, but more because of how you said it.  So, for that reason, we'll focus on the concepts and let you develop your technique.

However, with that in mind, don't let your "record collection" or "need for approval" get in the way of executing the concepts. (There I go again- back to attitude)

 

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Sales Concept #1:  Be Unique.

You have your elevator speech, your 15-second commercial, your value proposition, your positioning statement, etc.  It doesn't matter what you call it.  The concept is this:  Have a concise way to describe to someone what you do when you first meet him or her. 

Here's the problem.  Everyone in selling has been taught the elevator speech, the 15-second commercial, the value proposition, and the positioning statement, etc.  You know it's supposed to describe what you do: 

  • "I help companies like yours manage their insurance risk." 
  • "I sell customized clothing to busy executives."
  • "I own a CPA and tax consulting practice specializing in the needs of companies that generate between 5 and 10 million dollars in revenue".

Sound familiar?  That's the problem.  There is nothing unique about the approach from any one of these statements. Here's the rule about the concept:

What you say should cause the person with whom you are talking to respond either verbally or mentally in one of three ways.  You have to give the prospect a compelling reason to keep listening. When you deliver whatever it is, they should respond with either:

  1. "That's me".
  2. "How do you do that?"
  3. "Tell me more."

Examples:

  • Insurance:  "I provide people buckets of money in the right amount, at the right cost and at the right time." (How do you do that?)
  • Banking:  "My clients are companies that discovered that working with a bank should be more than just a place to get money or leave money." (Tell me more.)
  • Accounting:  "I'm in the business of helping small businesses that are sick and tired of sending the government more money and keeping less." (That's me!)

The idea is to think about what people or companies have chosen to do business with you or your company or why they buy the product and service that they have bought from you. What problem was it that they wanted to go away or solve?  Or what benefit were they looking for that they weren't getting?  Take that information and create your "unique sales approach" (usa).

The technique:  Before you deliver your "usa", you may want to start by telling the person that you are talking to that it is easier to describe what you do by asking a couple of questions. "In a nut shell, what I do is...(deliver your usa)" and close by asking, "May I ask you a question?"

DOWNLOAD our FREE eBOOK -   Why is Selling So #%&@ Hard?

 

 

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Sales Concept #2:  Start Strong.

The start of any undertaking is obviously the most important step.

"Every journey starts with the first step" 

"If you want to run a marathon, you have to start with the first step"

"Putting yourself in a position to win means you have to start competing"

When it comes to building the confident and trusting relationship associated with a strong seller / buyer relationship,  the start is especially true. I'm not just talking about the immediate "bonding and rapport" part of selling.  That is important, but the "start" isn't a 5-minute segment of chitchat talking about the sailfish on the wall or the soccer pictures on the credenza.  No, the start is the entire first contact process.  It doesn't matter if it is a phone call or a meeting at a chamber meeting or the initial meeting after the phone call.  It's the start that will often, if not always, determine your finish. In today's post, I focus on the initial face-to-face meeting with a suspect.

I want to describe this segment via the "HAVE-TOs"

  • You have to be prepared (pre-call strategy).  Aside from your internet research, you have to prepare for the sales process.  In other words, you have to know what questions you are going to ask that are going to move the sale forward, not just questions about the technical aspects of their current position or status.  You have to anticipate the suspect's answer to those questions and then be prepared with your follow up dialog.  Too many sales people take this step for granted because "they've been in the business for ... years."  You have to be prepared for their questions and how you will respond to them.  And finally, you have to be prepared for curve balls.  Suspects / prospects always throw them, and when you are unprepared, you will always miss them or certainly never get a clean hit.
  • You have to identify clearly what your preferred outcome is.  In the book, Getting to Yes, the authors do a great job of explaining how defining your preferred outcome helps guide you through any meeting that you have.  In selling, and specifically for the initial call, most sales people define the objective of the first call as "to get a second call".  I will change that and suggest that your objective be to make this the only call.  Try to disqualify your suspects instead of trying to qualify them.  I guarantee you will end up with more qualified opportunities.
  • You have to demonstrate your credibility, not by what you say, but by how you conduct yourself.  Make yourself different (see first blog in this series). You will do this by the questions you ask, by your focus on the prospect and what is important to them, and by your reluctance to get into a sales pitch and do a data dump in their lap.  You demonstrate your knowledge of the industry by the stories, analogies and metaphors you use about their business.  You demonstrate your professionalism by the way you ask professional penetrating questions and by how you don't look, act or sound like every other sales person that has met with this executive.
  • You have to have the courage to ask the tough questions and have fierce / honest discussions.  Everyone reading this probably knows the questions that you are supposed to ask and how you are supposed to ask them and when you are supposed to ask them. Yet, every one of you most likely leaves initial calls having failed to ask the tough questions like, "How will you make this decision?  When do I meet the decision maker?  If you don't have a budget, then how will you pay for this?  If you are shopping for low price, then what happens if I show up and I'm not the low price?  Who wins a tie?  When you told your current provider that you were unhappy with the current situation and you were shopping to replace them, what did they say?"  And finally,  "When I show up to make my presentation, I need for you to be in a position to tell me 'yes' or 'no', what objections do you have to that process?"  You all know that you should ask those questions, but time and time again, you fail to.  How come? 
  • You have to leave your need for approval at the door when you leave the house in the morning.  You have to re-write your record collection about how people buy in your industry. (Let your sales manager stew over that one.) You have to leave your personal buy cycle at the car lot where you debated for the last three weeks on which make and model to buy and where you negotiated with the manager for 2 hours.
  • You have to qualify suspects/prospects to do business with you rather than you attempting to qualify to do business with them. Too many salespeople still go to a meeting feeling like they have to qualify to do business with someone.  No, you don't.  You have to make sure that the person you are meeting with qualifies to do business with you.  Not just from a profile perspective or from an underwriting or credit perspective.  Also, qualifying is more than, "Did you do a needs analysis, discuss the features and benefits, get a budget, and agree to a decision-making process?"  In our world, in our effective selling system, it means the following:
    1. Do they have a compelling reason to take action quickly?
    2. Will they invest the time, money, and resources to solve a problem they have or the problem they see coming?  Will they invest that time, that money, or those resources in a timely fashion, or are they in the "seeking" mode of buying?
    3. Will they tell you "yes" or "no" when you present?  In order to do this, you MUST have eliminated the current provider.  You MUST have heard them say they want to "fix it", whatever "it" is. And you MUST have a solution that is appropriate for their problem.  You cannot make the mistake that, even though your solution isn't exactly right, you are good enough to sell them on buying something that doesn't fit their exact specs.
  • You have to close.  Not close the sale, but close this step and get a clear next step.  There is always the next step even if you are in a "one appointment close" business.  It doesn't matter if your business requires multiple meetings, or one and done.  Always close what you came there to do and then move on.  I promise you that, if you get masterful at this step, you will have fewer meetings and your close ratio will improve.  Ask for closure, ask for a clear next step, ask for the business.

 

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Sales Concept #3:  Identify Objections.

If you've been in sales training with any reputable training company, at some time you will have the motivation the prospect has to take action, the commitment for a budget of time, money, and/or resources to make the problem go away, or to make their dream realized. 

The normal process now is to agree to make a presentation, answer their questions, and at that time overcome any objections they may have.

Dealing with objections is really important, but dealing with them for the first time at presentation is Wrong! 

The time to eliminate the objections and stalls and to be completely prepared to answer questions is right now!  It is absolutely critical that you find out in advance of your presentation what the objections and stalls will be to making a decision.

This is not a complicated step but it may be difficult if your own buying cycle or record collection does not support the execution of the step.  Here are the steps to executing this step and making sure you improve your probability of closing the business once you present.

  • Review the motivation to take action and the budget items
  • If you haven't already done so, make sure that the prospect has committed to fixing the problem and to finding a provider for the solution.
  • Transition into the "pre-close step"-  It may sound something like, "I hate to assume things so I'd like to get clarity on our next step.  Can I share with you the process that seems to be mutually acceptable to most people I work with?"
  • Commitment dialog-  "I'll be prepared to come back and present a proposal.  The proposal will meet your expectations in every aspect in terms of objectives and features and benefits.  I'll present a solution within the budget parameters discussed.  And I will be prepared to answer all of your questions.  If I can't deliver on these three items, then I won't need to make a presentation.  When I finish my presentation, I'll need for you to be in a position to do one of two things.  Can I share that with you?" (Assume "yes")  "One thing you could do is tell me 'yes,let's do business.'  The second thing you can do is tell me 'no, let's not do business.'  Either one is ok.  I would prefer that you tell me yes, but no is ok."
  • Identify objections - "What objections do you have to this process?"

This process will not eliminate objections; it will move them up in your sales cycle.  This, in turn, allows you to separate the contenders from the pretenders and present only to those that truly qualify to do business with you.

 

5 keys to coaching

Sales Concept #4:  Follow Up.

You've prepared.  You had a great start to the relationship by conducting an amazing first client-facing appointment.  Now what?  "Now" is where the weak link normally occurs in every sales organization's execution of an effective sales process. 

"Now" is the follow-up after the appointment and the preparation for the next step.

Assuming that the next step is to present a proposal that meets the client's needs, it's within their budget and you'll be in a position to answer all of their questions once you present.  Having stated that, your follow-up should be a memo or documented communication of some sort that should review what has been discussed and what is expected at the next step. The next step in our example is "presenting a solution".  Sandra Usleman of USI - Austin calls this step the "as we agreed to" letter.

The "as we agreed to" letter would look like and read something like the following:

  • Opening, greeting
  • Review previous meeting discussions
  • "Agreed to" points
    • The problem or desired outcome
    • The budget of time, money or resources needed to solve the problem or arrive at the desire outcome
    • The decision process
  • Next step - getting a decision to move forward or stop
  • Follow-up phone call to confirm the contents of the letter

As simple as this may sound, it can have a significant impact on your ability to close more business. The challenge isn't in completing this step; the challenge is making sure that you cover the critical points in an effective selling system as outlined above.

 

 

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Sales Concept #5:  Get a Decision.

Every salesperson worth their salt will need to be able to close, of course.

Every salesperson has been taught to 'Ask For the Business',  'Always Be Closing', 'Get The Sale'.  The problem with these exhortations is that salespeople translate them into 'get a yes'.  Which is different than getting a decision.

Salespeople struggle in getting decisions because they are afraid to hear 'no' or their sales leadership has not given them permission to get a 'no'.  If you don't get a 'yes, then typically the next alternative is 'think it over' or any one of its relatives:

  • Showing it to someone
  • Getting additional proposals
  • Going to committee
  • Have to look at the numbers
  • Haven't met with my current provider yet

All of these are rotten alternatives to a no.  You lose sleep.  You make unreturned phone calls.  You get more delays.  You lose confidence.  You lie to your manager telling them that you 'think' you're in good shape, should close now any day, they liked us, they loved the proposal, it just has to...

Makes you sick just thinking about it, doesn't it?

So, here is the 5th of 5- Get a decision.  Prior to making your presentation, you have to make your pitch as to what happens next.  It sounds something like this:

Let me review to make sure I understand what we need to do next.  First, you want me to come back and provide you with a solution to all of these problems we've discussed today that are costing you lots of heartburn and money.  Next, you want me to provide you with a solution within the guidelines we established relative to your investment of time, money, and resources.  And the third item is an assumption. I assume you want me to be able to answer all of your questions at that time.  Does that sound about right?  

Good.  I need for you to be in a position to tell me one of two things, either one is ok. Can I share that with you?

Good.  When I come back and fulfill my part, I need for you to tell me 'yes, this makes all the sense in the world, let's do business' or tell me 'no, we aren't doing business. I would rather hear yes, but no is ok.  What objections do you have to that process?

This WILL NOT eliminate objections.  It will just move them up in your process and give you the chance to deal with them prior to presenting instead of afterward.  You deal with them now and you either eliminate them as a qualified prospect and don't present or you present to a qualified prospect and get an answer.

Topics: sales attitude, improving sales, sales prospecting, sales techniques

5 Keys to a Better Banking Sales Training Approach

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Thu, Aug 26, 2021
In this blog, we discuss the 5 keys to choosing and implementing a better banking sales training program.
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We talk to hundreds of community banks a month about their growth plans and how they are doing against their target production goals. Typically, they fall into one of two cultural categories: Service or Selling. We know right away if a bank CEO is OK with the concept of their people selling. They expect their managers to lead sales, they have sales metrics in place and they are comfortable with the idea of developing the sales skills of their frontline people. They are in the community selling the bank themselves every day. They recognize that their relationship managers or lenders or business development people’s primary responsibility is selling. Sometimes that selling is by developing additional relationships with a current client but it also includes bringing in new client names and companies. It always involves putting the client’s needs, goals and preferences first. These bank CEOs must grow their banks and they know that a banking sales training approach will help them by putting a structure in place for all to follow.

Here are 5 things to consider if your bank is thinking about a more effective banking sales training approach:

  1. Do some soul searching. Does your bank really need to know the answers to questions like; What are our current sales capabilities? How motivated are our salespeople and how are they motivated? Can we generate more business? Can we be better at reaching actual decision-makers? Can we shorten our sales cycle? Can we sell more consultatively? If so, time to look for a better banking sales training approach. Check out these 19 questions to help.
  2. It is hard to fix something you cannot see. In order to have a more effective banking sales training approach, you will need to take a peek beneath the hood, meaning that you must evaluate your sales team, managers, and salespeople. We utilize the #1 sales assessment in the world with our clients which provides them with information about the Will to Sell (and Manage), Sales DNA, and Sales Competencies of their people. You must have an X-ray to develop the treatment plan. Your evaluation should provide a clear picture of who to train, strengths and weaknesses, what priority areas of selling and sales management.
  3. Start your banking sales training development plan with your Management team and put consistent sales management practices, sales systems, and processes in place. We recommend a 4-pillar Sales Managed Environment® program that will make your managers better at setting standards, motivating their sales team, coaching, and upgrading/recruiting. Get your sales leaders a few steps ahead of the sales team and then implement a consistent sales process for all your team to follow. This should complement and align with your CRM so that everyone is evaluated on a consistent approach and your deals can follow a stage-based process. We know from working with thousands of salespeople that “elite” salespeople always have a consistent selling approach.
  4. People learn in different ways so make sure that your banking sales training program offers an integrated learning path with in-person, online modules, live virtual, video, online resources, and even phone coaching to talk about actual deals in the pipeline.
  5. Keep an eye on progress because as the saying goes, you must inspect what you expect. We also call this the shadow of the leader. The banks that are successfully implementing a banking sales training approach are led by CEOs and sales execs who have a passion for growing and inspect sales behaviors and metrics regularly and celebrate the wins. No one can hide from the expectation that they must help grow the bank.

Learn More About Our  Bank Sales Training Approach

Topics: banking sales training, professional sales training, advanced sales training, customized sales training

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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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