ACTG Sales Management Blog

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Jack Kasel

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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 skills, qualifying prospects, salespeople, sales management, sales advice, consultative selling

Eliminating Prospects Who DON'T Fit Your Business

Posted by Jack Kasel on Mon, Jul 16, 2018

You may recall hearing in one of our videos or reading in one of our blogs the importance of identifying your zebra to build your business. In the unlikely event you did not, the purpose of identifying your zebra is to bring focus and clarity to your prospecting efforts so you don’t end up chasing or pursuing opportunities that aren’t the best use of your most asset . . . your time.

Of equal importance is to know, and clearly articulate, what isn’t a Zebra for you. If you know that as well, it helps to bring clarity and specificity to your network and prospecting efforts. I can think of one instance in my 3.5 years of selling with Anthony Cole Training when I had success working with an account that wasn’t a zebra for me. Here are some reasons why knowing what isn’t a zebra is so important:

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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.

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. 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.

It Reduces Your Opportunity Cost

  • Your opportunity cost is simply this . . . If you called on Company ABC, that means you AREN’T work on Company XYZ. Your opportunity cost is what you aren’t working on that 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.

Watch our Sales Guy Unplugged video on "Calling Quality Over Quantity" to help further understand the concept and importance of identifying prospect zebras. Also, visit our website for additional tips, tricks and tools. 

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Topics: qualified leads, qualifying prospecting

Developing Rapport Quickly with Sales Prospects

Posted by Jack Kasel on Fri, Jan 06, 2017

sales-rapport.gifA guest post by Jack Kasel, Sales Development Expert, Anthony Cole Training Group

Rapport can be the fertilizer to help develop relationships quicker and with deeper roots.  However, most salespeople confuse rapport with having things in common.  Hello, everyone, this is Jack Kasel bringing you the latest Anthony Cole Training Sales Brew—Developing Rapport.

Most salespeople, upon entering a prospect’s office for the first time, become Robo-Salesperson – scanning the room for something to make a witty and insightful comment about.  When they hone in on a picture on the desk, they ask, “Is that your family?”   The prospect may answer differently, but is thinking “No, that’s the family of the person who had this office before me.  I liked his family better, so I kept the picture.” (Pause) “Of course, it’s my family, Captain Obvious.”

Don’t get me wrong; making those observations are helpful, but needing to be mentioned at the right time and mentioning it “right off the bat” isn’t the right time.  Why?  Because 10 out of the 12 previous salespeople who called on your prospect did the same thing.  You don’t want to be like all the other sales people; be different, be memorable.

Our definition of building rapport is this:  Prove you belong at the table.   You prove you belong at the table by the way you conduct yourself, the questions you ask and how you manage the interaction with the prospect.  That includes how you open the call.

We suggest two things when opening the call:

  • Don’t thank them for the meeting
  • Ask a great opening question

The opening statement could sound something like this: “I’m glad we could coordinate our schedules; I’m looking forward to our conversation.”   If we give the impression we are just a lowly salesperson, it doesn’t create “Equal Business Stature.”  They are professionals, we are professionals; we are going to have a professional business discussion.  IF we give the impression we are so grateful they could fit us in to their busy schedule, that doesn’t get the conversation started correctly.  Remember: our time is just as valuable as theirs, so act like it.

Asking a great opening question may sound like this, “Mr./Ms. Prospect, What do we need to discuss over the next 40-45 minutes that would make you say, ‘I’m glad we scheduled this meeting’  OR  ‘This was a good use of my time today’?   That forces them to talk about things important to them and gets the meeting started correctly.

As I mentioned earlier, discussing things on a personal level (sports, interests, hobbies, etc.) is best saved for when you are closing up the meeting.   That can bring a personal touch to the conversation; just make sure it’s done at the proper time – which is the end of the meeting, not the beginning.

Additional Resources:

4 Steps for Creating a Dazzling Client Experience by Walt Gerano

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Topics: rapport with sales prospects, asking sales questions, close more sales, initial sales meeting, Sales Strategies

Close More Sales with AWATL

Posted by Jack Kasel on Wed, Oct 26, 2016

A guest post by Jack Kasel, Sales Development Expert, Anthony Cole Training Group

“What we have here . . . . is a failure to communicate.” 

You may recognize that line from one of my all-time favorite movies, Cool Hand Luke.  If you get nothing else out of this Sales Brew, do yourself a favor and go rent that movie.  You will be glad you did. 

Struther Martin’s character in the movie, Cool Hand Luke, makes that statement when the prisoner’s don’t do what is expected of them.  This same execution problem can occur during the sales process and it can cause problem 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 really knows for sure what the other one wants or needs.  Thus, the need for the AWATL.

The AWATL stands for “As We Agreed To Letter”.  It is a brief correspondence that the salesperson should send out to clearly indicate what the expectation is (for both parties) on what is needed and expected.  It can be used early in the process or during the middle and is also extremely effective just before you present your solutions to the prospect.

The AWATL process is pretty simple, but it can be very effective.  It is 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 previously, it can be VERY effective just before your closing presentation. 

The important elements of the AWATL includes:

  • The problems you have uncovered that your prospect NEEDS to fix
  • The budget you need to stay within
  • All the decision makers who will be present
  • Finally, and most important, the agreed-to and anticipated date when a decision will be made.

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

In closing, please remember this, someone needs what you do . . . . make sure you don’t “fail to communicate” with them.

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Topics: close more sales, effective sales process

Change Your Habits, Change Your Outcomes

Posted by Jack Kasel on Fri, Mar 11, 2016

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A guest post by Jack Kasel, Sales Development Expert, Anthony Cole Training Group

The Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “We 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 this: if either habits or systems are bad, the outcome will never be what it could be.  Here’s the good news though – 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, 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 factor 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 the 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.  Finally, always remember this: Someone needs what you do; go find them.

SUMMARY:
So, change your habits and you will change your outcomes. Remember: schedule a 30-minute weekly appointment with yourself to…

  • Spend time organizing yourself
  • Plan and set goals for the week
  • Read to improve your skills
  • Develop a system and measure the activity
  • Find the gaps and decide how to fix them

Topics: time management, sales habits, sales goals

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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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