ACTG Sales Management Blog

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Mark Trinkle

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What Great Salespeople Do Not Do

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Aug 11, 2022

I know you have heard it before.  You know, the line that goes like this “if you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep getting what you have always gotten.”  As a coach, the most development I have seen in salespeople comes when they alone decide enough is enough which leads them to make changes.  And sometimes those changes are hard to make.

While there are many aspects that I love about my job, here are three in no particular order: 

  1. I have the privilege of working with some incredible companies and some incredible people across the United States.
  2. I have the privilege of working alongside a team at Anthony Cole Training Group whose talent is only eclipsed by the quality of their character.
  3. I have the privilege of sitting in a front row seat that allows me to coach and watch some of the best salespeople in the world.

 Today’s blog is about #3.

My sense is there are numerous articles and blogs on what great salespeople do…so today I want to flip that coin over and talk about what great salespeople never do.  Perhaps they used to do those things, but at some point, in their sales career they drew a line in the sand and said no more. And those things became habits. They became the habits of sales greatness.

Here are four things great salespeople never do: 

  1. They never show up unprepared and simply “wing it” on a sales call. They execute a precall plan where they identify the questions they are going to ask the prospect as well as they questions the prospect may ask them. They tailor the call for resonance by making sure they are talking about issues that are likely to be important to the prospect.
  2. They never blame anyone or anything for their lack of success. They don’t blame the economy, the competition, or the marketing department.  They own the outcomes they create.  By the way, that is my preferred definition of the word accountability – owning the outcome that you created.
  3. They never compromise the value they bring to the table. They know the value of their firm and they know the value that they bring to the table.  And if the prospect doesn’t see or appreciate that value, then the salesperson simply moves on.
  4. They never (and I mean never ever) stop prospecting. It does not matter if they are crushing it or if they are struggling, they keep networking and they keep hunting for new business.  They keep hunting because they know that weak pipelines make cowards of us all.  They know that it is hard to move on to better qualified opportunities if they don’t have those already in the pipeline.

As a salesperson, what are you doing that you should stop doing?  Who knows, you might be just one bad habit away from sales greatness.


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Topics: great sales people, sales greatness

Will the C-Suite See You?

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Jul 21, 2022

While there are many differences between elite salespeople and average salespeople, two of the more important distinctions are the ability to sell value (they can sell at a slight premium on price) and the ability to reach the top levels of the prospect’s decision-making team (typically the C-Suite).

It is the second of those two distinctions that serves as the title and the focus of this blog.  Average salespeople are quite comfortable and successful seeing the non C-suite members of the decision-making team.  Why are salespeople so comfortable with these people?  The answer is quite simple – because these people are easy to see.  They offer very little resistance.  So here is a general rule of thumb:  the easier the person is to get in front of, the less likely they will play a significant role in making the ultimate decision. To quote Eleanor Roosevelt, “never let anyone tell you no unless they also have the power to tell you yes.”

Here are 3 keys to getting in front of senior level executives:

  1. You must find someone to introduce or refer you. Recent studies have revealed that 80% of senior executives when surveyed have responded that they are extremely unlikely to meet with you or return your call or reply to your email if they don’t know you and your firm.  Cold calling, while for the most part is never effective is even worse when you are calling the top level of the organization.
  2. Brevity is beautiful. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “the most valuable of all talents is never using two words when one will do.”  C-Suite executives have the attention span of an 8-year-old in front of a broken-down ice cream truck on a hot summer day.  Keep it simple.  Keep it short.
  3. Tailor your message for resonance. Are you talking about issues that matter to senior executives?  Are you speaking their love language (talking about problems and solutions)?  If not, you are easy to ignore.

Happy selling.  I need to go.  I think I hear the ice cream truck heading by our office.

Screen Shot 2022-07-21 at 3.49.19 PM

Topics: sales succes, sale skills, decisions

Understanding the Customer Buying Motives

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Fri, Jun 24, 2022

Knowing and understanding your prospect's buying motives allows you to make better decisions on whether to engage and pursue a potential sales opportunity.


Before I decided to pursue a business degree in college (yes, I know that was a long time ago), I briefly pondered studying psychology. I find some aspects of that field to be quite interesting in terms of understanding the things that drive people to make the decisions they make. In sales, I think about how to use this to understand customer buying motives. The great Dr. Sigmund Freud is credited with uncovering the pain-pleasure principle, which says that most decisions people make in their life are driven by the desire to avoid pain or obtain pleasure.

Think about that for just a minute and how far-reaching that is in your life. If you decided to get up early this morning and exercise, that was probably driven by the desire to avoid the pain of bad health. If you had a big helping of biscuits and gravy for breakfast this morning (don’t judge me) that was driven by the desire to obtain pleasure. If you are putting off having a difficult conversation with a co-worker, that is quite likely being driven by the decision to avoid the pain of a challenging discussion.

But what about your prospects? How much do you know about the buying motives of your prospects? Dr. Freud would say his pain-pleasure principle still applies. If you have been exposed to even a small amount of Anthony Cole Training Group content, then you know that we are huge believers in asking two questions of all prospects:

  1. Do you have a problem?
  2. Do you have to fix it?

When we teach advanced selling techniques, we go one step further – we dig into what is going to motivate that prospect to make their decision. And we know that since change is hard, the easiest thing for a prospect to do is nothing. Not making a decision is making a decision, and that decision is often influenced by taking the path of least resistance, which is to maintain the status quo.

As it turns out, your most significant competitive threat may not be coming from one of your competitors. It might be PI, what I call prospect indifference, or just keeping with the status quo. And what would motivate a prospect to make that decision? Because it is an easy decision, the prospect can avoid the pain of change as well as the change of delivering unpleasant news to the existing service provider.

Think about your prospects or customers’ buying motives on your next sales call. It will allow you to make better decisions on whether to engage with a prospect. After all, shouldn’t one of your motives be to understand your prospect’s motives?

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Topics: advanced sales techniques, buying motives, customer buying habits

Houston, We Have a Problem (How to Avoid Selling on Price)

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Apr 14, 2022

In all moments of selling, there are many things that can go wrong. And when something goes wrong, it is in fact time to say “Houston, we have a problem.”  But who is the “we” that caused the problem?


How to Avoid Selling on Price

I have always loved President Theodore Roosevelt’s quote on problems: “If you could kick the person in the pants who is most responsible for most of your trouble you would not sit for a month.”  Just like in tennis or golf, many of our problems are self-induced.  They are “unforced errors.”

Our sales coaches, we are always dealing with sales challenges that span the entirety of the typical sales process.  From the opening moments of finding a lead to uncovering an opportunity to presenting and getting a decision, there are many things that can go wrong.  And when something goes wrong, it is in fact time to say “Houston, we have a problem.”  But who is the “we” that caused the problem?

Speaking of Houston, I was there this week delivering a keynote address at the 2022 Mid America Lenders Conference.  My training was on selling in a rate-sensitive environment which is a hot topic given that 2022 will be a year with multiple rate increases.  In my keynote, I asked the attendees if they were working on the right end or the wrong end of the problem.  When a prospect asks you at the end of the sales process for a concession (rate or terms), that tends to be a real trouble spot for salespeople.

Every company we work with believes in the power of having a value-based selling approach.  None of them want to be the low-cost provider in their respective industry.  And while we are called upon to help with last-minute or late-cycle negotiations, that is working on the wrong end of the problem.  The right end of the problem is at the beginning of the sales process where it is essential to introduce value into the equation.  After all, the primary reason why salespeople struggle to defend value at the end of the sales process is that they fail to introduce that value at the beginning of the sales process.  

From the sales assessment tool that we use by Objective Management Group, here are the skills of a value-based seller:

  • Focused on value over price
  • Comfortable discussing money
  • High threshold for money
  • Willing to walk if the prospect does not see value
  • Always positions value
  • Sales process supports value
  • Learns why prospects will buy
  • Doesn’t need approval
  • Asks enough & great questions
  • Avoids making assumptions
  • Quickly develops rapport
  • Not compelled to quote

Start helping yourself by positioning your value early.  Make it impossible for your prospect to miss it.  Find out if your prospect values it and protect your bottom line.

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Topics: sales challenges, value-based selling

Value-Based Selling in Challenging Markets

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Mar 24, 2022

Do your lenders provide your prospects and clients with the consultative financial and business advice that establishes value and makes you rate-resistant?

One of the areas where we are spending a significant amount of training time in 2022 is on sales negotiation strategies, value-based selling, as well as sales negotiation techniques.


As a 29-year-old sales training company dedicated to serving the needs of financial institutions, we have learned much about the challenges that confront those institutions on an almost daily basis. From concerns around regulations to concerns around declining net interest margins to concerns around intense competition, it is fair to say that times have been quite challenging. And now in 2022, we are likely to see several rounds of rate increases that will provide another challenge to profitable loan growth.

One of the areas where we are spending a significant amount of training time in 2022 is on sales negotiation strategies as well as sales negotiation techniques. And based upon my numerous conversations with CEOs and Presidents, the ability to sell value has become quite a conundrum. The leader gathers his or her lenders together for a meeting and says the following with passion: “We are better than our competition so stop cutting rates to get deals done.”

The reaction to this is almost always the same. The lenders smile and nod their heads in tacit agreement. Then after the CEO walks out of the room, the lenders have the meeting after the meeting where they commiserate and ask each other how long their CEO is going to spend on Fantasy Island. After all, it is brutal out there in the field. And the thinking goes if they don’t match or beat rates then it will be all but impossible to win deals.

All of that leads me to want to talk about working the “right end of the problem.” The knee-jerk reaction is to focus on negotiation training and that is not a bad thing. But the right end of the problem means recognizing where the problem is really starting and that is during the very first sales call or conversation. What’s the problem? Simple – the lender is not providing any value as they speed through the process with the prize being able to send the prospect a term sheet. And since the prospect does not see or experience any value…because the prospect is not taken through a differentiated experience…and because rates are easy to understand and compare, the prospect simply decides to use rate as their yardstick in comparing the difference between the available options.

The key is to add value early in the sales process by tailoring your message for resonance. Differentiate yourself from your competition by taking a consultative sales approach. Get the prospect to wonder why other banks have never asked them the questions you are asking them.

After all, the main reason why lenders don’t do a very good job of defending value is quite simple. It is hard to defend something that was never provided in the first place. Time to start working on the right end of the problem – how your bank and your lenders can differentiate and provide your prospects and client with the consultative financial and business advice that makes you “rate-resistant.”

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Topics: value-based selling, sales negotiation techniques, sales negotiation strategies, consultative sales approach


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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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