ACTG Sales Management Blog

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Leading a Sales Team: 10 Keys to Success- Part 1

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Thu, May 12, 2022

In our sales management training, we have developed 10 keys and a framework of activities that provide a new or tenured sales leader with a roadmap they need to put in place to help lead their team to greater sales success.

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Most companies engage in sales training, but we have found over our 29 years of business that few invest in sales management training. In part, due to the theory that a successful salesperson can transition to teaching and coaching others to do the same. This theory is flawed because there are very different skills required of sales managers than salespeople- the most important being the driving desire to develop and achieve success through others. Both roles do include a focus on relationship selling and the ability to quickly and effectively find and develop a bond with others. However, the core skills of a sales manager involve understanding how to transition from actively doing to teaching and coaching. In our sales management training, we have developed a framework of activities that provide a new or tenured sales leader with specific activities they need to put in place to help lead their team to greater success.

Here are 10 keys to success for leading a sales team:

  1. Guiding the team to set extraordinary goals
  2. Managing excuse-making
  3. Understanding the Will to Sell and Sales DNA factors beneath sales behavior
  4. Following a coaching process
  5. Coaching the deal and coaching for skill development
  6. Establishing personal and business goal setting
  7. Leading consistent sales huddles
  8. Creating a hiring profile and having a candidate pipeline
  9. Coaching a stage-based sales process
  10. The shadow of the leader

Guiding the team to set extraordinary goals: One of the biggest complaints of most salespeople is that their goals are set by the company and are not realistic. What is interesting about that is if a sales leader effectively takes their salespeople through a process of establishing their own goals, salespeople will typically set them higher than the company might. In our sales management training, we help managers with a specific approach of establishing Extraordinary Goals. Utilizing a matrix like the one below, a sales manager begins by asking the salesperson what a good goal for their year is, then discusses poor and failing levels. Once those are established they have a conversation about what an Excellent year would look like and then what an Extraordinary year would be. Numbers are essential, along with a discussion of what would be needed to achieve these levels. Once all those numbers are established the sales leader asks the salespeople to which level they want to be managed and coached. Most high-performing salespeople will choose the top level. The key, however, is the sales leader must ask the salesperson if they will allow them to be coached to that level, and gains the understanding that it will be hard and challenging. Utilizing this process, the salesperson has established their own goal and will be more committed to doing what it takes to achieve it.

CSFManaging excuse-making: We all make excuses, but one of the skills of top-performing salespeople is their ability to own their outcomes and results. In our sales management training, we help sales leaders understand the commitment levels of their salespeople and then how to coach to those various levels. We can all recognize some salespeople will do Whatever It Takes, which we call WIT. These salespeople rarely, if ever, blame the market, the company, or anything other than their actions for lack of success. So here is the strategy. When asked, "Why do you think you did not reach your annual goal, Joe?” Joe says, “Look how many accounts I am managing! How can I do this client servicing work and still bring in new business?” The sales manager replies, “If I did not let you use that excuse, what would you have done differently?” This approach reaps great success because it puts the ball squarely back in the salesperson's court, and they must think about how they could have adjusted their activities to achieve a different result. They must own it.

Understanding the Will to Sell and Sales DNA factors beneath sales behavior: When a salesperson does not prospect enough, avoids asking about the budget in the sales process, or does not ask enough strong qualifying questions, it is often the result of their underlying Will to Sell and Sales DNA. It is impossible to coach these behaviors without understanding what lies beneath the salesperson's actions. Relationship selling is a complex skill, and a sales coach will want to understand these underlying factors about their salespeople to effectively coach them to higher levels of performance. For example, if a salesperson does not believe that they have the right to ask budget questions or is uncomfortable doing so (uncomfortable discussing money), they won't ask. It is easy to teach a technique and help them with questions they can be comfortable with once they understand what is getting in their way.

Will to Sell & Sales DNA-1

Following a Coaching Process: Much like mastering a sport like golf and tennis, there are different styles and approaches, but there are technical factors involved in becoming adept at these sports. Similarly, in our sales management training, we help sales leaders with the technical side of coaching with a 5-step coaching process. Yes, they must be adept at each of these steps below, but if they commit to coaching their salespeople in this manner, they will see a lift.
  1. Gain insight: find out what is happening or not happening through huddle data or observational coaching, schedule a coaching session
  2. Provide feedback: have quality conversations that are timely and specific, asking questions of their salespeople to help them self-discover, and gain agreement on the real problems
  3. Demonstrate and instruct: Identify skill gaps, demonstrate mastery of the skill, and instruction on critical steps to improve
  4. Roleplay: Complete a pre-call for an upcoming call, RM roleplays, complete a post-call debrief together, coach gaps
  5. Develop an action plan: determine action steps, observe, inspect and coach again, celebrate results, and address failure

Coaching the deal and coaching for skill development: Many sales coaches are great at coaching the deal, helping a salesperson understand if the prospect fits their target, researching the industry and issues, the complexities of the structure of the deal, etc. However, at a separate time, sales managers must focus on sales behaviors to help a salesperson make improvements in their strategies, skills, and approach. We recommend establishing coaching hours on the calendar. This is when a salesperson commits to a meeting with their manager, reviews a prospect pre or post-call and reviews the questions they will ask/asked, and completes a qualifying scorecard on the prospect. This is time to sharpen their sword. One of the most important jobs of the sales manager is to practice with their salespeople, take time to help them with a new approach, ask questions differently, and help them get comfortable with closing questions. This time is set aside not to focus on a deal but to improve skills and affect behavior change. Remember, change takes repetition and practice!

Tune in to our blog next week for the Sales Leader's final 5 keys to leading their team to success!

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Topics: relationship selling, Sales Management Training

Effective Joint Sales Calls for Greater Sales Success

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, May 06, 2022

One of the critical components of sales success and sales coaching is the ability of the sales managers and their salespeople to run effective joint calls. 

There are four steps that will dramatically improve your sales team's ability to eventually conduct extraordinary sales calls on their own.

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Occasionally I have salespeople call on me.  Whenever there are two people on the call, my first thought is: Which one is the rookie? Next, I think;  why are two people here? Who is running the sales call? What are they hoping to accomplish besides trying to find out what I’m trying to accomplish? Is this a real sales call for the salesperson or just practice?

I don’t claim to know if other presidents and decision-makers are thinking these things, but you cannot discount that they might.  Based on that assumption, it is critical that you have a sales call that is well-defined and choreographed so that the prospect is impressed with the meeting, and you, as either sales manager or salesperson, accomplish what the prospect wants to accomplish. Generally speaking, that is to solve a problem.

Here are 4 steps to more effective joint calls:

  1.  A Quality Phone Call- Remember, the quality of the phone call will determine the quality of the appointment.  You must follow a strict phone process to make sure that the joint call is taking place with a qualified prospect.
  2. Conducting a pre-call- In pre-call sessions:
    • Salespeople make sure they are prepared to ask the necessary questions to identify if there is a real opportunity and, if so, set up an additional meeting
    • The sales manager and salesperson roleplay the appointment
    • Everyone agrees to and identifies who will do what during the sales call
  3. Identify the reason for a joint call - If it is for learning purposes, then the sales manager has a very small part in the call.  If it is for qualifying or closing a large account, then the role of the sales manager can be more prominent.
  4. Do a post-call debrief - This is an opportunity to help salespeople recognize opportunities that they missed, questions they could have asked better, and commitments they failed to gain.  These insights need to be followed by an agreement as to the observations made, a demonstration by the sales manager of the correct approach or technique, and finally, a roleplay of the correct way to handle the sales call.

In addition to these steps, the sales manager has to be prepared to let the salesperson fail on the call. Sooner or later, you just have to let them go. If you rescue them all the time, then the salesperson becomes dependent on the sales manager and never develops the sales skills they need to succeed. These four steps, tied to discipline one-on-one coaching, will dramatically improve your sales team's ability to eventually conduct extraordinary sales calls on their own.

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Topics: sales succes, joint sales calls

3 Musts for Successful Sales Training Workshops

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Thu, Apr 28, 2022

Sales training workshops are often critical cultural touchpoints, allowing salespeople and sales leaders to come together.

 

Here are three musts to ensure that your next sales training workshop is as effective as it can be.

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How to Run an Effective Sales Workshop

 

Every year we deliver between 30-40 sales and sales management workshops, and we do everything we can to make sure that our delivery is top-notch and our audience is engaged. We work with clients, prospects, and associations on these workshops so they are all unique. Sometimes the audience is large and includes a mix of employees – both sales and support. Sometimes the participant groups are smaller, and we integrate our messaging with the leadership/CEO message. There is one shortcoming of all sales training workshops, and we will be upfront and transparent about that. By their nature, they are one-time events, and while they can be helpful to get folks focused and revved up, they usually do not make a long-term impact. But we will address that later.

 

Here are three musts to ensure that your next sales training workshop is as effective as it can be.

 

Must #1: Sales Training Workshops must be customized and interactive

We do not deliver many off-the-shelf workshops. It is always our goal to make sure that we understand and leverage the goals of the event, any theme, and of course, who is in the audience. We also speak the language to the best of our ability of those in attendance. It helps that we understand financial services and the nuances like the loan approval process and the impact of interest rate increases. This effort to customize our workshops to the company’s sales culture often helps us gain credibility and engagement with our audience, so we work hard to fully understand what our client wants to be the result at the end of the workshop. We always ask them, “What do you want the participants to think or feel when we are done with this workshop?” Then we make it happen.

 

We often start our workshops with music and music trivia or a Kahoot poll with something relevant and funny. Our workshop providers (Sales Development Experts) have an entertainment factor and build in humorous stories and examples. Yes, as they say, humor sells, and it especially does when you are trying to keep the attention of a group. We run surveys, show movies, and call on participants all the time, and since this is a common thread, everyone gets more comfortable and starts contributing. Learning is accelerated when people participate and engage so this is very mindful that we layer activities into our sales training workshops.

 

Must #2: Sales Training Workshops must provide quick and easy to use tools and strategies

We have all been to a workshop or two that was heavy on theory and concepts, and while you must touch on some of that, if we only have an hour or two, we try to get very quickly to application tools and strategies. Again, learning is accelerated when participants can apply the learning right then, right there, and so we will often do "drill for skill" where we ask participants to try out a sales technique. We often do a round-robin approach where a sales conversation starts with two and then goes around the room. People learn from each other, so this is a great way for top producers to share their approaches without being put on stage or doing the dreaded roleplay. Everyone participates in a non-threatening way. It is our experience that the best way to make an impact with a sales training workshop is to provide a tool like a Business & Personal Workplan or a Prospect Scorecard, or a Sales Action Plan. These are tools that participants can use right away when they leave the building.

 

Must #3: Sales Training Workshops should not be 1-time events

This might sound like I am selling, but I am not! As you evaluate a sales workshop provider, ask them what they can provide after the event to sustain the momentum. How can your company put a focus and even tracking to the activity that was covered in the workshop? For example, we do many Prospecting Sales Workshops, and one of our most popular is Getting Introductions. In follow-up, it is ideal for the company to track introductions and help coach their salespeople to make that activity continue. Do whatever you can to get your money’s worth! Sales skills are soft skills, and they take time and repetition to master, so see where you can build in practice and video and demonstration. 

 

Ask your sales workshop provider if they can give you videos on the topic, which will sustain the life and focus. In effect, work with your provider to make certain that your sales training workshop is NOT a one-time event.

 

Lastly, these events are often critical cultural touchpoints and offer the opportunity for Sales Leaders to lead, demonstrate and be part of the key focus. We always want to stand side by side with the leader to deliver and support the company or association's message. It’s a win-win for all!

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Topics: sales training workshops, sales action plan

3 Keys to Motivation and Continued Sales Success

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Apr 21, 2022

Research shows that money is NOT the primary motivator for success in sales, ESPECIALLY with today's younger generations.

Here are 3 Keys to help sales managers and top producers bust the myth that “enough is enough” to continue to see great sales success.

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How to Stay Motivated in Sales

Too often, highly successful salespeople reach a point in their career where they become complacent.  They become complacent for many reasons, but one of the main reasons I've observed is because "they've made it". It doesn't matter what the gender or tenure is. All that matters is that one day the salesperson wakes up, takes a look around, and discovers that all the things they strived for when they got into the business have been accomplished.

  • They have the big house
  • They have the right car
  • They have the club membership
  • They are at the top of the food chain in their sales company (top 10%)
  • Their net worth is comfortable
  • They have freedom of time and freedom to choose
  • They take wonderful vacations
  • They are looked at as the leader of the sales team
  • They are defined by sales management as “irreplaceable”

What the people (Dave Kurlan) at Objective Management Group have stated for years is that highly successful salespeople are motivated by earning more money. Nowadays though, research shows 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 the actual goals of the individuals that provide the motivation for earning more money. For example, let's suppose you have a salesperson 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 salesperson to succeed at a higher level. This is just one example. 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 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 salespeople.) However, once you know what is important to your people, 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 those salespeople own shares, don't give a hoot about shareholder value. They care about sending their kids to school, buying a place in the mountains, and paying for the weddings.

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. 

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Topics: sales succes, successful selling

Houston, We Have a Problem (How to Avoid Selling on Price)

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Apr 14, 2022

In all moments of selling, there are many things that can go wrong. And when something goes wrong, it is in fact time to say “Houston, we have a problem.”  But who is the “we” that caused the problem?

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How to Avoid Selling on Price

I have always loved President Theodore Roosevelt’s quote on problems: “If you could kick the person in the pants who is most responsible for most of your trouble you would not sit for a month.”  Just like in tennis or golf, many of our problems are self-induced.  They are “unforced errors.”

Our sales coaches, we are always dealing with sales challenges that span the entirety of the typical sales process.  From the opening moments of finding a lead to uncovering an opportunity to presenting and getting a decision, there are many things that can go wrong.  And when something goes wrong, it is in fact time to say “Houston, we have a problem.”  But who is the “we” that caused the problem?

Speaking of Houston, I was there this week delivering a keynote address at the 2022 Mid America Lenders Conference.  My training was on selling in a rate-sensitive environment which is a hot topic given that 2022 will be a year with multiple rate increases.  In my keynote, I asked the attendees if they were working on the right end or the wrong end of the problem.  When a prospect asks you at the end of the sales process for a concession (rate or terms), that tends to be a real trouble spot for salespeople.

Every company we work with believes in the power of having a value-based selling approach.  None of them want to be the low-cost provider in their respective industry.  And while we are called upon to help with last-minute or late-cycle negotiations, that is working on the wrong end of the problem.  The right end of the problem is at the beginning of the sales process where it is essential to introduce value into the equation.  After all, the primary reason why salespeople struggle to defend value at the end of the sales process is that they fail to introduce that value at the beginning of the sales process.  

From the sales assessment tool that we use by Objective Management Group, here are the skills of a value-based seller:

  • Focused on value over price
  • Comfortable discussing money
  • High threshold for money
  • Willing to walk if the prospect does not see value
  • Always positions value
  • Sales process supports value
  • Learns why prospects will buy
  • Doesn’t need approval
  • Asks enough & great questions
  • Avoids making assumptions
  • Quickly develops rapport
  • Not compelled to quote

Start helping yourself by positioning your value early.  Make it impossible for your prospect to miss it.  Find out if your prospect values it and protect your bottom line.

Free Evaluation of the  21 Core Competencies!

Topics: sales challenges, value-based selling

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    Anthony Cole Training Group has been working with financial firms for close to 30 years helping them become more effective in their markets and closing their sales opportunity gap.  ACTG has mastered the art of using science-based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss our weekly sales management blog insights from our team of expert contributors.

     

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