ACTG Sales Management Blog

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Jack Kasel

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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. 

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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.

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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!

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

How to Eliminate Misunderstandings and Closing Delays

Posted by Jack Kasel on Thu, May 16, 2019

In business, especially in sales; delays, misunderstandings, and communication can go awry.  Sometimes, even with the influx of technology and communication tools, it is easy to misinterpret what a prospect, or salesperson, says. 

So, how do we make these communication lines more efficient?

The AWATL stands for the As We Agreed To Letter. It’s a brief correspondence that the salesperson can send out to clearly indicate what the expectations are (for both parties) in terms of what is needed and expected. It can be used early in the process, throughout the middle, and is extremely effective just before you present your solutions to the prospect.

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“What we have here… is a failure to communicate.” You may recognize that line from one on my all-time favorite movies Cool Hand Luke.  If you get nothing else out of this blog, do yourself a favor and go rent that movie. You will be glad you did.

Strother Martin’s character in the movie Cool Hand Luke makes that statement when the prisoners don’t do what is expected of them. This same problem can occur during the sales process and it can cause problems with moving the sale to a timely close. It usually manifests itself when something like this occurs—“I think I know what you are going to do" and "You think you know what I’m going to do, but neither one of us knows for sure what the other one wants or needs."

Thus, the need for the AWATL.

The AWATL stands for the As We Agreed To Letter. It’s a brief correspondence that the salesperson can send out to clearly indicate what the expectations are (for both parties) in terms of what is needed and expected. It can be used early in the process, throughout the middle, and is extremely effective just before you present your solutions to the prospect.

The AWATL process is pretty simple, but can be very effective. It’s a bullet-point letter or email, which spells out the go-forward expectations for both the salesperson and prospect. It also contains date-specific deadlines to make sure the process doesn’t get stalled or delayed.  Everything works better with deadlines and that is especially true when closing sales. As mentioned, it can be VERY effective just before your closing presentation. The important elements of the AWATL includes:

  • The problems that you have uncoveredyour prospect NEEDS to fix
  • The budget you need to stay within
  • All the decision makers will be present
  • Finally, and most importantly, the agreed to and anticipated date when a decision will be made

As sales professionals, you should try to control as many aspects of the sales process as possible. We believe the AWATL can help you accomplish that goal, or at least help eliminate any misunderstandings that may hinder you from closing more business. 

Topics: communicating expectations, expectations, Sales Presentation, AWATL

Creating a Habit for Success

Posted by Jack Kasel on Thu, Apr 04, 2019

In sales, it is critical for a producer to develop behaviors for success and systems to support those behaviors. But often times, salespeople struggle and settle for the results they get because they don’t know how to adapt.

In this article, we will review the formula and methodology for change and the key questions every successful salesperson must ask themselves when identifying how to improve their sales outcomes.


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The Greek Philosopher Aristotle saidWe are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I don’t remember reading any accounts of Aristotle conducting sales training, but I believe he would have been pretty good at it.

I have a statement and a question, that tie into Aristotle’s quote on habits:

  • The systems you have in place are perfectly designed to produce the results you are getting.
  • Do you own, and do you like, the outcome you produced?

Habits + systems = outcomes. I think I can get agreement that if both habits and systems are excellent, and well thought-out, the outcome will be what it needs to be. The problem is, if either habits or systems are bad, the outcome will never be what it could be. Here’s the good news, you are in control of both the habits you create and the systems you follow.

Let’s take a look at habits. There are many you can create. One of the best habits you can develop is setting aside an appointment, each week, to meet with your most important customer. That most important customer is you and the habit you must form is to never, under any circumstances, break that appointment. During that appointment with yourself, you plan and set goals for your week, read things to improve your skills and craft, or just spend time organizing yourself. You will be shocked how much better you can be by investing 30 minutes each week.

What systems do you have in place that will help you succeed? What are key factors you need to achieve to succeed in sales? Are they introductions? Cold Calls? Appointments? Presentations, etc. What’s your conversion ratio? How many calls turn into appointments?  How many appointments turn into presentations? Have a system, measure the activity, find the gaps, do things necessary to fix them.

Finally, let’s look at outcomes. Do you own the outcome you’ve created? Another way to look at it is, when something doesn’t happen the way you wanted or needed it to, do you look out the window for the reason or do you look in the mirror for the reason?

So there you go. A simple formula . . . Habits (good or bad) + Systems (good or bad) = Outcome . . .  If you own the outcome and don’t like it, fix the things on the left side of the equal sign.

Topics: meeting sales goals, setting sales goals, sales systems, expectations, underperforming salespeople, success formulas, creating habits for success, creating sales habits, underperforming sales team

Solution vs. Budget

Posted by Jack Kasel on Wed, Feb 27, 2019

Typically, when a salesperson doesn't win an account it's due to a few different factors; the prospect didn't have a compelling reason to make a change, the salesperson didn't do enough to uncover their capacity to invest, or the incumbent wasn't properly eliminated from the running.

In this article, we discuss the 3 Rules every successful salesperson must follow in order to eliminate stalls and objections during the sales process.

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There is an age-old debate about which came first, the chicken or the egg. While that debate may never be solved, there is one “which comes first” situation that shouldn’t be up for debate and that is “see the solution first or know the budget first?” 

In my work with helping client’s develop their sales talent, I know there are two topics that get avoided on a regular basis, and both are to the detriment of the sales person. Those two “taboo topics” are discussing the incumbent and uncovering the budget. I will address the incumbent discussion in a later blog.

When I refer to the budget, I am referring to it in three categories commonly known as ‘TMR’—Time, Money, and Resources. What are they willing to commit, in the context of time, money and/or resources to make their problem go away? It is my experience that the stronger sales professionals don’t shy away from that discussion. They are successful because they follow these rules.

Rule 1#

Have the conversation. The 800 lbs. budget gorilla is in the room so talk about it. Don’t make it part of your opening conversation, but don’t ignore it either. If the need is big enough, and your solutions fixes it, most of the time, they will find the money.

Rule #2

Provide context. Regardless of the investment your prospect needs to make to fix their problem, it needs to be framed in the context of their pain and your ability to eliminate it. If the pain is minimal, then your solution won’t seem that great. We’ve had prospects tell us their problem is a “two-comma problem” meaning their cost of turnover was over $1 million dollars. That’s context.  Know their cost before you proceed

Rule #3

Don’t show your solution until you know the budget. It’s really that simple. If you have ever provided a solution to a prospect only to hear them say “that’s more than we intended to spend”, then you have an issue discussing the budget. Does it make sense to know their appetite for change, including budget, before you provide your solution? Here is where the strong sales professional is different. If the prospect doesn’t want to discuss budget, they know it can be for one of two reasons. They haven’t uncovered enough pain or the prospect simply wants to use you as a pencil sharpener for the competition. You don’t get paid to be a pencil sharpener so don’t become one.

In closing don’t be afraid of the conversation. In the history of sales, no one died from discussing budget. I doubt you will be the first.

Topics: how to get a commitment to buy, consultative selling, providing value to customers, qualified leads, sales acceleration, sell faster, overcoming rejection

Bringing Clarity to Ambiguous Conversations

Posted by Jack Kasel on Wed, Jan 23, 2019

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In selling, properly qualifying a prospective buyer is crucial in order to move an opportunity through the pipeline and ultimately close in your favor. Highly effective salespeople do this through the art of asking great sales questions and not fearing the outcome if they challenge a prospect’s statement, or question, in order to gain clarity.  

In this blog, we cover the 3 things to remember about all prospects and how to fully understand and qualify their motivation to make a change.

 

Seek to understand, rather than being understood is a very loose paraphrase of what Steven Covey said in his book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. I think that statement is especially true for sales professionals. When we coach our client’s we try to get them to understand and remember these three tips when in conversation with prospects and client’s:

  1. The statement they make isn’t the actual statement.
  2. The question they ask isn’t the true question.
  3. The problem they have isn’t the actual problem.

Your job is to fully understand, is this a symptom or a problem? Problems get solved, symptoms are tolerated. I was working with a prospect and he kept saying he needed to fix his cash flow problem. The more we talked, it became clear that wasn’t the real problem, the real problem was he missed out on an opportunity to purchase one of his competitors. The symptom was cash flow, the problem was missing opportunities to acquire market share. We focused on fixing his true problem. There are many ways a sale can be killed. Too many times sales are killed by Assume-icide. We assume we know what they want.  However, we never truly understand the real problem or challenge.

One of the ways, and really the only way, to bring clarity to the conversation is by asking or saying the following when we hear prospects make statements or ask questions

  • Tell me more about that . . .
  • What happens if that problem isn’t fixed?
  • When you say (insert statement here), I’m not sure I know what you mean.
  • Many people ask me that question for a variety of reasons; I would like to hear yours.

We also need to listen to emotionally charged words such as . . .

  • Need to fix. .
  • I’m going to. .
  • We simply can’t tolerate. .
  • Others include. . Worried, upset, mad, frustrated

These are emotionally driven words and emotion drives sales.  Listen for them!  Facts and figures justify sales, but emotion drives it.  If we don’t fully understand the reason for the statement, the purpose of the question, or dig deeper to find the real problem, we will waste time and miss opportunities. 

Topics: qualifying prospects, Qualifying skills, sales management, consultative selling, sales advice, salespeople

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    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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