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Alex Cole

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"Gone Fishing" for Sales Prospects

Posted by Alex Cole on Fri, Nov 15, 2019

I’m sure the majority of people have heard the Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

This, of course, means it’s more worthwhile to teach someone to do something (for themselves) than to do it for them (on an ongoing basis).  Well, I’ve created a new proverb. A sales proverb, if you will:

“Give a salesperson a prospect, and you strengthen their pipeline for a day. Teach a salesperson to prospect, and you strengthen their pipeline for their career.”

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Makes sense, doesn’t it?

A lot of the companies we partner with supply their new, or tenured, salespeople with leads consistently. In theory, this sounds great but it can cause problems long term. If you are feeding leads to your salespeople on a regular basis, we encourage you to continue to do so. However, your salespeople can’t, and shouldn’t, rely on them as their main resource for potential business.

They should be capable of replicating the process and generating their own opportunities! If they produce solely off of inbound marketing leads, the salesperson will just survive and not thrive within your organization. If they don’t know how to effectively create, cultivate and generate leads, they will only do what is required of them to sell and close the leads they’re given.  They also won’t try to uncover other opportunities and in the end, the sales manager (you), and the salesperson, will be disappointed with their performance.

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And, it’s not just a matter of teaching them how to prospect but how to prospect effectively. Anyone can go out and get a list of names but how they contact those names, what they say, what questions they ask- all play a role in effectively “fishing” for leads.

So how can you help your salespeople?

Start by setting a new lead expectation. Making it mandatory to produce fresh opportunities on a weekly basis will force your salespeople to go out and make the dials. Next, identify your “Zebra” or ideal prospect persona. For a better understanding of the concept and best practices on identifying “Zebras” watch this short Sales Guy Unplugged video.

Don’t let your salespeople call on anyone other than those that fit the personas identified!  After, research the best ways to reach your ideal prospect. Is it via email or phone call? Is LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter their preferred social media platform?

Knowing how and where to reach your target persona will positively impact your salespeople’s’ ability to hunt, qualify and discover potential new business.

A salesperson's job, although difficult to do, is not difficult to understand. There are 3 major components:

  1. Go out in the marketplace and uncover opportunities.
  2. Qualify those opportunities.
  3. Close for the business.

Don’t let your salespeople get by on just using your internal leads- fishing for prospects is 33% of their job!

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Need more help? Download our free E-Book “Why is Qualifying a Prospect so #%&@ Hard”.   

Additional Resources:

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Topics: hiring salespeople, Sales Management Training, hire better salespeople, consultative selling, increase sales leads,, sales effectiveness training, banking sales training, consultative sales coaching, sales training courses, online sales training, hire better people, insurance sales training, train the trainer

How Sales and Super Mario World Are Connected

Posted by Alex Cole on Tue, Aug 13, 2019

In this article, we discuss the similarities between Super Mario World and life in sales.  After playing, I realized that I had an opportunity to make it through to the next level but I wasn’t doing what was necessary to convert that opportunity into a win. I rushed through. I took risks that weren’t worth it, but I made them anyway, because it was the only play I had.

Salespeople tend to rush through the sales process after hearing the littlest pain indicator or buying signal. They feel the quicker they move, the more likely the prospect is to say “yes” at time of close. However, that’s rarely how it works out.


A couple of years ago, my fiancé and I were gifted a new Super Nintendo Classic with all the originals preloaded- Donkey Kong Country, Street Fighter, Zelda and of course, Super Mario World. Now I realize only a certain group reading this will know the exact system I am referring to, but my theory still applies to Atari lovers, Gameboy enthusiasts, and even those of you who know nothing about gaming and gaming consoles.

The first night we picked up the retro remotes, we discovered something—these games are hard! (looking at you Super Mario World)  Being someone who grew up with this technology, I thought getting back into it would be simple. I was wrong. I was so excited to be playing again I found myself running the course, taking risky jumps, trying to collect all the coins I could and would end up falling to my virtual death or getting hit in the head by a turtle shell.

I realized that I had an opportunity to make it through to the next level but I wasn’t doing what was necessary to convert that opportunity into a win. I rushed through. I took risks that weren’t worth it, but I made them anyway, because it was the only play I had.

And then I had an epiphany- the same thing happens in sales.

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One of the problems we hear our clients talk most about is, their ability to grow sales and its direct correlation to their salespeople’s ability to create and convert opportunities. Lead generation and conversion requires two things: effort and effective execution. Majority of the time, we find that the effort is there, but the execution could use work. If you were to ask your salespeople to show you their pipeline for the next 30 or 60 days, what would it look like? There are probably enough opportunities, but are they properly vetted? Does the lead or prospect qualify to do business with your organization?

Does your company qualify to do business with them? Or, are they just in there to make it look like your salesperson has a full dance card for the next month? Weak, unqualified pipelines make cowards of us all- we don’t want to throw the unqualified ones out because if we did, what would we have left?

Salespeople tend to rush through the sales process after hearing the littlest pain indicator or buying signal. They feel the quicker they move, the more likely the prospect is to say “yes” at time of close. However, that’s rarely how it works out. Usually when we rush, we are left with “think it over”, stalls and objections or the prospect decides not to answer calls or emails at all. So, what can your salespeople do TODAY to help fix the problem?

  1. Slow down! Don’t rush the sales process. When we rush, we get inconsistent results and are likely to face more problems on the back end.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions. The #1 reasons salespeople struggle with creating and converting leads, is because they think they need to be liked in order to get the business. This will keep them from asking great, robust questions that allow them to properly qualify for the opportunity. It will also help your salespeople stand apart from their competitors.
  3. Use our free tool “Qualify Your Prospects” to help your salespeople better qualify. Then, have them remove prospects from their pipeline as soon as they realize there isn’t anywhere to go. They don’t need to continue wasting their time with another “discovery call” or follow-up email. Put them in your tickler system and move on to the next lead.

There are many other techniques to help your salespeople keep from getting hit in the head with “think it over” turtle shells, but this is a great place to start.

Topics: Sales Execution, effective communication, little things, extra mile

Why Success Formulas and Sales Plans Fail

Posted by Alex Cole on Fri, Aug 02, 2019

If you have followed my blog, read our sales newsletters or listened to our audio sales brews, then you’ve heard me talk about success formulas.  The concept is pretty simple.  If you follow the steps and execute the required activities to the required standards, you will be successful. Well, guess what? It doesn’t always work that way, especially if you are missing critical pieces of the process.

Success or Failure Sign

For most people, the success formula is a new exercise designed to create a logical and systematic approach to their sales process. It requires that one has clearly mapped the sales process and has some idea of what the conversion rates are from one step of the process to the next step of the process. It also requires an exercise where personal goals are identified and there is a financial or monetary value attached to the identified goals.

But… goals aren’t enough. There are a couple other critical criteria you must meet.

1. The goals have to be non-negotiable, AND...

2. The sales person has to be willing to do everything possible to succeed.

Without these criteria being met, then the success formula becomes just an exercise to complete rather than a fundamental business process that will increase the opportunity for success.

Once non-negotiable goals and a “whatever it takes” attitude have become established, then you can go about the process of building a success formula. This leads us to the next challenge and that challenge is data. Unless you’ve collected data on your sales results, then you won’t know the conversion rates or the amount of activity required to be successful. The success formula then becomes a “guess at success”. And that can be the problem with success formulas.

If you have gone through this process and you aren’t at the level of success that you had predicted, then you’ve got to back to the drawing board and re-calculate your formula. If you aren’t successful, it can be attributed to one of the following 3 things:

1.  Lack of performance of the required activity – In other words, just a flat-out lack of effort.

2.  The formula was wrong because the assumptions of conversion ratios or average size accounts were wrong or…

3.  The goals were actually negotiable and you, the sales person, are not doing everything possible to succeed. Not just in effort, but also in those steps in the sales process that are difficult or contrary to your personal belief systems, your buy cycle, or your need for approval.

The sales formula was never designed to be a perfect solution to cure poor or failing sales performance. The intent again is to provide a sales professional with a logical and progressive way to approach selling. If you are executing your formula at 100% and you aren’t getting the results, review the goals, the assumptions and the conversion ratios.

Make needed adjustments and go back to work. One important thing to keep in mind: If you are not performing as effectively as you thought you would, then you must examine what it is that you’re failing to do to get the appropriate conversion rate. Your course of action will always be one of two actions: work harder or work smarter.

The choice is yours.

 

Topics: Sales Effort, Effort in Sales, success formula, sales success formula, things to do for sales success

Make the "Business-to-People" Sale

Posted by Alex Cole on Thu, May 23, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't you think?

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

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

It will be your most rewarding sale.

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

Show Me the Money

Posted by Alex Cole on Wed, Mar 13, 2019

Without revenue, a sale cannot be made.  However, making a sale is not all about the money, and it is a salesperson's duty to overcome their prospect's money problem and be prepared for what objections are thrown their way.

In this article, we discuss the preparation involved in overcoming this common problem, and ultimately, the notion that, "If you win on price, you’ll also lose on price."

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Money is a critical part of every effective sales process, and yet, sometimes that very discussion causes us to get “off track” and lose focus on the objective of the call.

While I won’t argue that price is part of the decision-making process, what do you do when the prospect tells you it is the driving factor? This can be challenging, but you can use this information to your advantage to make critical decisions. Once you understand the motivation of the buyer, you can and should decide early in the sales process if it makes sense for you to work on the opportunity or not.

So, what should you do when you find out that it’s a price-driven decision? Well, you need to recognize the following:

  1. It’s part of the official buyer’s manual. Buyers have been conditioned to believe that there is always a lower price and a salesperson desperate enough to go there.
  2. Sometimes they buy on price because that is how THEY personally make buying decisions.
  3. When the prospect tells you up front that this is a price-based decision, you need to ask what else, besides price, is driving this decision and, if the answer is “nothing”, be prepared to move on.

So, what can you do to overcome the money problem? 

Answer: You must be prepared.

  • Make sure, in your pre-call preparation, you have specific questions to respond to the price issue, i.e. questions that look for things that are important to them other than price.
  • Ask questions to help them discover that low price may not mean lowest cost. Price is what you pay for something; cost is what you end up paying or losing out on because of that decision.
  • If you are committed to achieving your goals, then you must find prospects that place value on something besides just price.
  • In order to do that, you must look at why others are doing business with you.
  • Keep a full pipeline. The lack of an abundant pipeline puts pressure on us to work on low probability opportunities.

When you sell off of price, you sacrifice margin, trade “building the kind of business you want” for revenue today and constantly need to “defend” the sale. Unfortunately, we know that if you win on price, you’ll also lose on price.

Don’t let your business be driven by price shoppers. 

Topics: selling in today's market, sales advice, new age selling, salespeople, sales opportunity, price, money

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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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