ACTG Sales Management Blog

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Jeni Wehrmeyer

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Is it Selling or Giving?

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Thu, Aug 04, 2022

We work with many community banks and while the commercial side of the bank usually has some “sales chops”, we often hear from leadership that retail bankers are less comfortable with “selling.” Or they may even avoid that word altogether. We like how the book Go-Givers Sell More positions the process of selling:

  • Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people's interests first.
  • The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.
  • The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.

 

Retail bankers have an incredible opportunity. They are the front door to the entire bank and even more importantly, they are the key to financial wellness for their clients. So, what happens when your current banking client comes into the branch?  Do your frontline bankers feel influential, authentic and receptive? Creating giving relationships is the core of what is most needed and is what your bankers must develop. To gain more confidence in sales they must ask the pertinent questions, like “How does this savings account contribute to your overall retirement plan?” Selling IS all about the client and how the bank can help them. We have found that when we focus on that aspect of a frontline banker’s role, they are more receptive. Understanding selling is understanding humanity and how people work.

Here are some specific areas that you can focus on when you are coaching your retail bankers that will help them to gain more confidence in sales:

  • Help them to stay in the moment – they should not be thinking about what products they can sell.  They need to listen and probe with good, interested questions.
  • When they find an area of concern, they should uncover compelling reasons to buy – ask a question like “Why is this home equity loan important to you?”  And…
  • They must really listen to the answer and ask more questions about that issue so they have more information and understanding.
  • This approach will build trust – the client’s needs are front and center and it is clear the banker wants to help them.
  • In order to help, the banker must be able to ask tough questions and that is where courage comes in. If their end goal is always to help the client, asking a question like “Do you have other deposit accounts elsewhere that we could help you with?” should not be that hard.  But it may take practice!
  • Good bankers take nothing for granted – meaning they always seek clarity and that means getting your client to talk, not you and…
  • They must have an appropriate amount of patience. Again, if the banker’s focus is on giving and helping, they should not need to push! It is more important that through their questions and discussion, the client comes to their own decision on their actions.
  • All of these actions, lead to developing strong relationships. And what retail bank does not want more of those!

A final thought on gaining confidence in sales - In life, in banking and in sales, it is always wise to have a healthy skepticism.  It may not work out that this client will take action, so it’s OK if they do not. If your banker has done their best to help and understand the client’s needs (and not push product), then they can move onto the next opportunity. They should continue to give, which is the essence of selling!

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Topics: achieving sales success, confidence in sales, gaining more confidence in sales

What are Soft Skills in Sales?

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Thu, Jul 28, 2022

It would be great if you could hand a new salesperson a manual, ask them to read it, take a knowledge test and they could successfully begin their job. Selling is a different animal and you will often hear the term “soft skills” in reference to training a salesperson. What are soft skills in sales? Let’s try to demonstrate that with a short example.

Salesperson walks into prospect's office (or enters Zoom room), they greet each other and salesperson says:

“Thanks for seeing me. I know we have many solutions that could help your business.” or

“What could we accomplish today that would make this a great meeting for you?”

Which of these approaches demonstrates a more skilled approach to a sales conversation? We certainly hope that you chose the second. That is just one example, but a salesperson’s ability to deftly open a meeting, ask enough, great questions and really listen are examples of what soft skills are needed in sales.

Since the most important soft skill for us to learn in selling is how to master our ability to ask not just questions but masterful questions, let’s explore that a bit. 

  • How do we get information from other people? We ask questions, right? 
  • When you ask a question, what kind of question do you ask? Are they technical in nature or for gathering data? 
  • Do your questions really probe and make people think?
  • Are your questions focused on the prospect’s core business issues or problems or are they about your products?
  • Do your questions sometimes make the prospect uncomfortable and do they bring out the real issues?

What about after you ask those questions?  How well do you listen?  I mean, really listen.  How often can you repeat what someone is saying to you?  How often do you take a key word in their answer and use that to phrase your next question or questions? Typically, there are two things going on in most sales conversations.  Salespeople are hearing and not listening.  Secondly, if they are listening, they are listening to themselves instead of their prospect. 

Try this the next time you are in a conversation with someone and you ask them a question.  Really focus on listening. Identify who you are listening to.  Are you making internal statements or creating internal thoughts about their answer?  If you are, then you are listening to yourself.

The Soft Skills of Selling - Asking Questions

It is a universal truth that often in a selling situation; salespeople will not ask the question because they do not want to disqualify a prospect.  Be truthful, hasn’t this happened to you?  The best part about mastering the soft skills of asking questions is that you will become more courageous as you get more comfortable ‘drilling down’ with your conversation.  This will not only help you become better at qualifying your prospects, it will help you clean the deadwood out of your sales pipeline. And that gives you more time for prospecting, the number one job for all salespeople.

 

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Topics: selling skills, sales skill, soft skills in sales

10 Tips to Building Confidence in Sales

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Thu, Jul 14, 2022

Selling is a “slight edge business.” By that, we mean that the line that separates high performers from mediocre performers is usually a very small difference.

There is very little you can control in selling. You can’t make prospects take your call.  You can’t make prospects agree to meet with you. You can’t make them move forward in your sales process and you certainly can’t make them buy from you. However, there is a multitude of things you are in control of and mastery of these 10 tips will give you greater confidence in sales.

How to Build Confidence in Sales

  1. Identify and Create a Sales Process
  2. Practice and Improve your Sales Pitch
  3. Follow Up on Open Deals
  4. Be a Great Listener
  5. Embrace Rejection
  6. Learn from a Mentor
  7. Review your Strengths and Weaknesses
  8. Identify what Motivates You
  9. Be Able to Walk Away
  10. Prioritize your Wellbeing

 

  1. Identify and Create a Sales Process

First and foremost, you’ll need a repeatable sales process that you and your sales team can implement. Based in the #1 sales evaluation, “elite” salespeople utilize a consistent, stage-based selling system. Having a sales process keeps salespeople on track on the stages a buyer goes through on the path to a decision and will help to remove any inefficiencies from the sales cycle. Just by implementing a great sales process alone, salespeople can see better results in a short period of time. 

  1. Practice and Improve your Sales Pitch

Much like your sales process, sales reps need to hone, craft, and practice their perfect sales pitch. You can start creating a better sales pitch by doing more research on your prospects, always put yourself in their shoes and ask through their lens “what’s in it for me?”. As a salesperson, you must invoke confidence. You can do this by practicing and perfecting your sales pitch. We call this your Unique Selling Approach and when you share it, your prospect should react with “That’s me” or “How do you do that?” Practice this so that your USA is natural and conversational to build your confidence in selling. 

  1. Follow Up on Open Deals

A good sales rep follows up on open deals.  It’s great to get the word out, but as a salesperson, you will have more success following up on your existing prospects. It’s estimated that nearly half of salespeople never follow up on a prospect, and only 10% follow up three times or more. In fact, it’s estimated that 80% of all closed deals occur between the 5th and 12th outreach.

Following up also shows the prospect that you’re organized and considerate to reach out again.  Most people will appreciate your follow up, and just by reminding them of your previous conversation, you can be more top-of-mind amongst your prospects, and build credibility.

  1. Be a Great Listener

Having an open dialogue is critical in nurturing your prospects and giving them a voice.  Make sure you’re really listening to what they’re saying as it can help you close more deals. By listening to better understand your prospects, you can better identify what your prospect wants, how they want it, and why. Listening to understand takes concentration and the ability to not get distracted by what you can offer as a solution. Only by understanding what your prospect wants and needs from you, will you build confidence in sales that will allow you to better align your sales pitch to meet and exceed their expectations. 

  1. Embrace Rejection

In sales, you will always be met with rejection.  Accepting this fact, and learning from your no’s is key in becoming a better salesperson. A better way of dealing with rejection is by better uncovering why the prospect did not buy from you.  This will help you build confidence and improve your sales process with better prospect information.

Elite salespeople are quick to get back on track and have robust sales pipelines. Rejection in sales is just part of the job that helps them move on to the next opportunity.

  1. Learn from a Mentor

Learning from a mentor is one of the best ways to build confidence in sales and become a better salesperson. Having someone who can show you the ropes and provide constructive feedback, can drastically improve your sales abilities. If your company is looking for professional sales training, guidance, and leadership, check out our sales growth coaching program

  1. Review your Strengths and Weaknesses

All great salesperson take time to evaluate their strengths and their weaknesses and focus on leveraging their strengths, while working on strengthening their weaknesses. Purposely identifying areas where you seem to excel in prospecting, communicating with prospects, or closing deals, can help you increase more of those desired actions. Sales evaluations can provide salespeople insight in areas they may not recognize, to help build confidence in your selling approach. And by identifying your weaknesses, you can improve upon your weakness or work around it. Successful and confident salespeople are continual learners that intentionally gather information about their own strengths and weaknesses.

  1. Identify what Motivates You

We all have motives behind everything that we do.  Identifying what motivates you can be one of the best things you can do to become a better salesperson. Are you motivated to become a better version of yourself?  Do you seek praise and want your work to be recognized?  Are you trying to achieve the lifestyle of your dreams? By recognizing what motivates you, you can start to put into play an action plan that gets you to your goals. This can be all the motivation to become a better salesperson and close more deals.

  1. Be Able to Walk Away

Earlier we mentioned the importance of following up.  But it’s also important to know when to fold the cards and walk away. If you’re reaching into double-digit attempts in outreach to a prospect, or they have seemed very standoffish, it might be in your best interest to recognize the situation and walk away. This can be hard to do the further you are down the sales pipeline, but you must be able to let go of a prospect and move on to your next opportunity. If a prospect is not returning your emails or phone calls, your time is better spent on new leads.

  1. Prioritize your Wellbeing

You have to prioritize your work/life balance and mental health. You’re no good to your company or your prospect’s time if you have too much going on, are burnt out, and distracted. The world of sales can seem like it’s always moving and moving quickly, which can be stressful.  Taking frequent breaks, getting fresh air, taking time off, and prioritizing a personal life can help counter balance the stress of your job and prevent burnout. In order to be relaxed and confident in selling, you must be healthy of mind and body!

 In Summary

Selling is not going to suddenly become easier.  Leads are not likely to become more plentiful. So, the question that is worth asking is this:  What will you do to create your slight edge in selling? What are the little things that when done week in and week out will amount to great progress in terms of your production? Try out one or all of these 10 tips for building confidence in selling and let us know how they work for you.

 

Confidence in Sales

 

Topics: sales techniques, confidence in sales

Building Rapport in Sales

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Thu, Jun 30, 2022

Building rapport in selling is really all about being caring and friendly, asking the right questions, and offering great advice and solutions.

There are 5 competencies that make a salesperson strong at developing relationships in sales.

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The title of this blog is also a highly searched keyword phrase on Google. Because we always try to write about topics that salespeople want to read, we are going to focus on this very important topic of how to build rapport in sales. I want you to think about a business relationship that you have that you think highly of, recommend, and will likely never leave. For my example, I will talk about our auto servicing and repair group, Donovan’s.

We have two cars in our family so we need a good service provider and we keep our cars on a regular maintenance program, so you might say, we are good prospects for this type of service. I found Donovan’s by following the general manager Chris over from another auto servicing group that was not nearly as good or memorable, but Chris was and is!

How to build rapport – Chris has always been courteous, happy to speak to me, remembers me and my car, does not keep me on hold, asks the appropriate questions about the issue needing service, calls me with the estimate, and has the car ready on time. In essence, he delivers. I would say that these are the components of rapport with Chris: genuine friendliness – he cares, consistency in availability, delivering the service needed, and advice and recommendations simply explained. When something expensive needs to be addressed, he will tell me what it is, why it needs to be fixed, and what happens if I don’t fix it. I never feel like I am being sold but I do feel like I am being taken care of.

Read the book – Go-Givers Sell More by Bob Burg and John Mann for more on this topic. Building rapport is just part of the business process for Donovan’s – if Chris does not answer the phone, whoever does is also friendly, caring, and helpful. They have found a recipe for success and it works. All of their people follow an approach that stands out from the auto servicing crowd. Additionally, after every service, their owner texts me to ask how they did. Now that is unique! I typically do not allow texts from companies but he is very specific in his question and once I answer it, that is that. That is not marketing or selling, it is building rapport! I feel like I can call the owner of Donovan’s at any time and talk to him directly, and would bet he will be as helpful, gracious, and caring as Chris.

One last thing about how to build rapport. When my son Steven was learning to drive, I reached out to Chris and asked if one of them would be willing to spend 15-20 minutes walking him around the car, helping him to change a tire if needed, checking the air pressure in the tires, checking the oil, etc. Chris (who is also the manager) did this himself and Steven learned some very valuable things about his car. He also remembers Chris each time he takes our car in for service. Did I mention that Donovan’s is not the cheapest auto service provider? That is not what I am looking for when it comes to something we depend on every day. However, they deliver more than what's expected at a fair price. Think about your business, do you do that? Nothing builds rapport like overdelivering on a service.

We use the #1 sales assessment in the industry by Objective Management Group which defines the 21 sales core competencies needed for sales mastery. Here are the competencies for Relationship Builder:

  1. Quickly develops rapport
  2. The relationship is the key factor to winning business
  3. Develops strong relationships over time
  4. Customers follow them to new companies
  5. Is extroverted

I would say that Chris and the folks at Donovan’s do a very good job on these 5 competencies, wouldn’t you? Building rapport in selling is really all about being caring and friendly, asking the right questions, and offering great advice and solutions. Think about what you and your people can do differently to build better rapport with your clients. It will extend the life of your relationships and they will tell others!

Free Evaluation of the  21 Core Competencies!

Topics: how to build rapport in sales, building rapport in sales

Leading a Sales Team: 10 Keys to Success (Part 2)

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Thu, May 19, 2022

Sales leaders must be both effective managers and great coaches by arming their salespeople with the skills to be successful and managing their strengths.

This week, we identify the final 5 keys to success in leading a sales team.

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A good sales manager helps salespeople by arming them with the skills, knowledge, and strategies to help them be successful. A good coach motivates people by managing their strengths, hopes, and dreams, holding them accountable, and helping them recover from negative encounters. A good sales leader must be both a good manager and a good coach. 

We have identified 10 keys to success in leading a sales team. In last week’s blog, we dove into the first five keys. Today, we will expand on 6-10.

  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

Establishing personal and business goal setting: Unfortunately, the results of thousands of sales management evaluations tell us that most managers do not know the personal goals of their salespeople. If a leader needs to get to the heart of why their salesperson is not reaching business sales goals, they must understand how they are motivated and what personally motivates them. Is the salesperson intrinsically or extrinsically motivated? Does their salesperson respond to being at the top of the stack ranking and recognized by others, or is money or freedom to run their business more important? Let’s face it, we all work to have time, money, and freedom. If a sales manager does not understand what is important to the salesperson (vacation, retirement, education, etc.), how can they establish appropriate activity goals and coach their salespeople? We offer a comprehensive Personal & Business Workplan template that can help sales managers with this critical goal-setting process.

Leading consistent sales huddles: Huddles, as defined by Verne Harnish, founder and President of Gazelles, are:

  1. A communication process or system that allows for sharing of real-time information
  2. An opportunity to focus on "burning platform" issues for a team or company
  3. A way to bring sharp focus and attention to a critical business driver
  4. The most important 15 minutes in any company

If a sales manager does not have a regular and timely means to monitor what is going on in the field in real-time, they cannot coach or adjust the play or get in front of any client issues or trends. Huddles should provide real-time information so that sales managers can make real-time decisions and provide real-time feedback or coaching.

Creating a hiring profile and having a candidate pipeline: Most sales leaders start the recruiting process when there is an opening. Managers should be recruiting all the time so that when that happens, they are prepared and have a recruiting list. The first step is to create a profile of the ideal person in the role by identifying, evaluating, and listing specific skills and traits of current top producers. Then, gather management and others in the company to ask who they know that fits that description. This is how you start to create a recruiting list. A hiring profile and candidate pipeline are necessary for new and tenured sales leaders. It is a critical piece in any sales management training program.

Coaching a stage-based sales process: According to the #1 sales assessment in the world, elite salespeople follow a stage-based sales system. By mastering the process and asking the right questions at the right time, top producers take the prospect through a discovery process and identify the problem or pain, monetize that pain, and then uncover the time, resources, and budget to fix that problem. Within that stage-based sales process, skilled salespeople also discuss the current provider relationship, decision-making process, and commitment level to make a change. This stage-based process is essential for a coach to help their salespeople discover where they are getting stuck and coach them to the next level. We know that by implementing a consistent sales process, companies can achieve a 15% lift. Make certain that your sales management training program includes this important area.

The shadow of the leader: Being a sales leader is not an easy job- they have many responsibilities with multiple activities to get done throughout the day. But, a sales leader’s #1 job is to make their people wildly successful and improve their skills so they are more successful than they would have been on their own. Casting the shadow of the leader also involves a continual focus on self-development to become a better manager and coach. Commitment cannot be taught, but it can be demonstrated. 

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Topics: Sales Management Training

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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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