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Mark Trinkle

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The Death of Decision Making

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Fri, Apr 12, 2024

There have always been two certainties in life – death and taxes.

But I have now become convinced that there is a third certainty if you are a salesperson and that is the slow and painful death of decision making. Sure, prospects are still making decisions but there are some painful realities worth considering when it comes to how they make a decision:

  1. They are taking longer than ever to make decisions.
  2. They are involving more people in the decision-making process.
  3. The odds (while never really in your favor) are becoming increasingly in favor of the incumbent provider.

About five years ago the average number of people on a decision-making team was between 3 to 4 people for sales that were of some complexity in the B2B world. Now in 2024 most experts believe that number has increased to between 5 to 7 people who now make up the prospect’s decision-making group or team.

Why has this trend become the 3rd certainty in the life of a salesperson? I can give you 3 reasons:

  1. In a difficult or uncertain economy, prospects become very deliberate or conservative about making changes in existing relationships and/or spending money on new products or services. Spending freezes are not uncommon.
  2. Prospects take comfort in the “safety in numbers” approach. The thinking is that two heads are better than one…and six or seven seems even better.  The prospect’s belief is that this approach minimizes the chances that something will get missed.  And if something goes wrong, it is harder to blame a team of 7 as opposed to a single decision-maker.
  3. Buyers have fallen in love with the pursuit of consensus. But the problem is that consensus is rarely if ever reached.  After all, if everybody is thinking the same way about something then somebody is probably not thinking.

So how do you as a salesperson adjust? 

You must make sure you are having a conversation with all of the people (not some of the people) on the decision-making team. Is that a hassle? Yes, it is. But decision makers that are not accounted for during the sales process represent a huge red flag. 

And finally, you had better be incredibly effective in making sure that the existing relationship is breakable, and you must have demonstrated tangible proof of the value that you and your company can bring to your prospect.

Put the odds in your favor. Make certain that you have these issues uncovered and understood so that you have a more qualified prospect with a high likelihood of closing.

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Topics: Sales Training, asking questions, motivating sales people, asking sales questions, sales training tips

Do Your Salespeople Have the Ability to Push Back?

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Fri, Feb 23, 2024

One of the most important skills that a salesperson needs to possess is the ability to engage in what I refer to as “appropriate and respectful confrontation” with a prospect…at least when the need arises. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just refer to that as the ability to push back.

If you go on enough sales calls or have enough sales conversations with prospects, there is going to come a time when the prospect will say something that you disagree with. Maybe the prospect is just factually incorrect. Perhaps the prospect has reached a conclusion that is simply not well founded. What if the prospect is making forward looking statements about you or your company that don’t sit well with you? 

The elite level salespeople that I coach have two skills that are very helpful in dealing with the scenarios listed above:

  1. They have the confidence and the courage to push back (they are willing to challenge)
  2. They know the right way to push back (appropriately and respectfully)

I believe that most sales calls come down to just a few moments that really matter in terms of their ability to impact the call. And no doubt that one of the big moments is when the prospect says something that you just don’t agree with. When that happens, you have two options:

  1. You can play it safe and let it go
  2. You can push back

And do you know what the sad news is with all of this? Most salespeople are afraid to push back because they think it will upset the prospect. But the reality is this: not only will the prospect not mind, it is actually the conversation they want to have….as long as the push back is not aggressive and as long as the push back in non-emotional.

So here are the two words to remember: warning and permission. Salespeople who excel at pushing back always give the prospect fair warning that they intend to push back…and they ask for the prospect’s permission to do so. It might sound like this:

Bob, you said something just a few seconds ago that I have a different view on…would you be ok if I challenged your thinking just a bit and shared with you why I see that issue differently?”

I learned long ago that the word fear is an acronym that stands for “false expectations appearing real.”  Ask yourself, what is the worst thing that could happen if you push back? Of course, maybe you don’t want to push back. If that is you, would you be ok if I respectfully challenged your belief?  Would that be ok?

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Topics: Sales Training, motivating sales people, achieving sales success, sales training tips

Sales Success in the C-Suite

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Dec 21, 2023

I am enjoying reading the book Selling to the C-Suite by Nicholas A.C. Read and Stephen J. Bistritz. The book is an excellent summary of how selling to C-Suite executives is so dramatically different from selling in the lower levels of a company. As always, I hope you have developed the habit of reading as it allows you to share fellowship with great minds.

One of the more interesting principles upon which the book is based is the idea that when the economy is down, decisions go up. This means that decisions that were made at lower levels of the company in a good economy are now likely to be made at more senior levels of the company when the economy is challenging. No doubt that risk aversion plays a role in this trend.  And have you checked out the economy lately? It is not very good.

Objective Management Group has a considerable amount of data that shows the importance of sales skills as compared to the difficulty of the sales assignment.  In short, your skills do not matter nearly as much if you are selling a product that people are coming to you to buy as opposed to a conceptual sales context where you are selling a service to a person you had to go find.  Here is a sports analogy – you might be an excellent basketball player in high school in Small Town USA…but what happens when you are faced with the increase in competition at UCLA, Duke, Kentucky, or Kansas?

It is no different in selling. If you want to venture in the C-Suite, you will want to remember the following keys.

4 Keys to Selling to the C-Suite

  1. You better get referred or better yet introduced by someone in the senior executive’s network. Several studies have shown that senior level executives do not engage with salespeople that have not been referred to them.  One study went as far to conclude that only 1 in 5 senior executives will even talk to a salesperson they don’t know.
  2. You better get there early. By that I mean early in the sales process.  If you get there late and the ship has already sailed, you will likely find your path to the C-Suite blocked by lower-level executives who are not interested in returning the boat to the dock so you can board.
  3. You better think like senior executives think. They think big picture and they think about opportunities for growth, and they think about the threats that could interfere with that growth.
  4. And finally, you better have your sales game in order. You must be confident, and you must be consultative.  If you act like a traditional salesperson, you have no chance.

Ask yourself one question – if you were a senior level executive, and you called on yourself…would you take the call? As Socrates once said, the unexamined life is not worth living.


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Topics: Sales Training, motivating sales people, achieving sales success, banking sales training, sales training tips, sales coaching best practices

5 Keys to Fixing Prospect Indifference

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Fri, Oct 20, 2023

Every time we onboard a new client, we have a kickoff event where we lay the foundation of the sales process we teach at Anthony Cole Training Group. Inevitably, at some point during that kickoff event we talk about dealing with the competition, specifically how to differentiate yourself from the competition you will face.

But to me, it is important to back up the bus just a few stops and ask the question – who is your competition? Most training participants would say the name of another service provider that their prospect could choose at the conclusion of the sales process. Some other introspective training participants would say their greatest competition is themselves, meaning they need to stay out of their own way and deal with some head trash that interferes with them doing some of the harder things in sales. They recognize that they must become “comfortable with being uncomfortable” in order to be more assertive and ask more questions (and some of those questions need to be tough questions).

I can’t argue any of the above – they are all valid points. It is just that I believe something is missing. I have long held a deep conviction that the fiercest competition you will face in selling is what I refer to as “prospect indifference.” This is the dreaded moment at the conclusion of the sales process when they prospect says “we are just going to hold tight for the time being.”

Sometimes this is caused by fear of the unknown – with the prospect concluding maybe it is better to deal with the devil they know (the flawed incumbent provider) than to roll the dice with the devil they don’t know (you and your solution). Other times prospect indifference is the resistive inertia or the gravitational pull back to the incumbent. Regardless of why it occurs it is stiff competition.

Here are five keys to dealing with prospect indifference:

  1. You better be bold in your approach and your conversations. You must be willing to rattle the windows a little bit as you probe for the impact of the problem the prospect is dealing with.
  2. You better be sure that you know the difference between a problem that is just a problem and a problem that has become a priority that must be addressed.
  3. You must be in front of all the decision makers – and one of those decision makers must be the person who is feeling the deepest impact of the problem.
  4. You must provide “emotional transportation” to your prospect by using a story to move them to a future point where the problem has been solved to measure their reaction to that future state.
  5. You can’t be afraid to lose….and you must recognize that the best time to lose is early rather than late.

So, know your competition. And deal with your competition – even if it is you!


Need Help?  Check Out Our Sales Growth  Coaching Program for Managers!



Topics: Sales Training, banking sales training, sales training tips, prospect indifference

Three Immutable Truths About How Your Salespeople Should Respond to Rate Reduction Requests

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Fri, Jun 30, 2023

How should you coach your salespeople on how to respond to rate reduction requests from clients? Share this article or the information you've learned from it with them. These three immutable truths will help guide them to the best response. 

There are three immutable truths about rate reduction requests.

#1: It doesn’t cost a client anything to ask for a better deal. The worst thing that can happen to the prospect is that somebody will tell them no. It doesn’t cost anything to ask. In fact, you’ve probably been trained as a consumer to ask.

#2: Your attitude and your response to the request that your prospects and clients are making will have everything to do with setting the tone for future negotiations.

#3: Probably the most important of the three immutable truths; If you don’t move the conversation away from rate towards value, you will always be negotiating on rate for the rest of your relationship with that client.

Here’s the truth: What you win them with, is what you win them to. If you've used a very aggressive pricing model to win the business, then you have won them to that. And you have also created the expectation that is what the relationship is going to look like. You have created the reality for yourself that you’ll have them for a customer up until the point that somebody comes behind you that is just a little bit more aggressive. And they cut the rate. I mean, stop and think about that. The reality is what you win them with, how you win the business, is exactly what you’re winning them to.

So you have a decision to make on the front end, and you have a decision to make on the back end when they come and ask about these different requests. If you want to be good at responding, you need to be assertive. Why not use the word aggressive? It’s a fight to grow business. Don’t we need to be aggressive?

No, I want you to be assertive. The difference between an assertive and aggressive is emotion. Assertive people are under emotional control. Aggressive people are not, their emotions are in control of them. We want you to be assertive, standing up for what you believe is right. Asking all of the right questions, but with your emotions under control.

Number two is no surprise. You need to be skilled at asking questions and listening. We believe at Anthony Cole Training Group that the two most important attributes for a salesperson is that they are:

  • Great at asking questions
  • Great listeners
Let’s talk about listening for just a moment. Here’s the problem today. Most people (and particularly sales people) do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intention or desire to interrupt.

Great sales people are great listeners.

Number three, you have to be able to sell value.  You must believe that your offering has value, that you have value, that your institution has value. You must believe it. You have to be willing to walk away if the prospect doesn’t believe it.


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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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