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Tony Cole

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Create More Sales Opportunities with These 5 Activities

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, May 13, 2021

Business planning as a sales professional has several components.  But, there isn’t a component that is more important than using your calendar to plan for your “green” activity.

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One of my favorite expressions is “You are tomorrow what you are planning for today.” My favorite thing to do is accomplish goals and I’ve learned over the years that the best way for me to accomplish goals is to plan for them first.

Business planning as a sales professional has several components.  But, there isn’t a component that is any more important than using your calendar system to plan for your “green” activity. Now, what I mean by “green activity” is this: “Green activity” is sales activity. “Green” means “go” and “go” means “go to the bank”.

And in my mind, there are 5 activities that have to be included when you are talking about “green” or “go to the bank” activities.

  1. Activities that lead to getting to the names. Now the EASY thing to do is to do email and do all the social networking. The HARD thing to do is ask for introductions, go to networking events, and work hard to get speaking engagements. THAT’S the high pay-off activity; it’s not just doing the social networking.
  2. You have to CALL those names. You can’t get in front of people unless you call somebody.
  3. Sales conversations. You’ve called them, you’ve scheduled an appointment, and now you’re going to have a qualifying appointment.
  4. Sometimes, depending on the type of business you’re in, you’re going to have an opportunity or you have a need to gather information. So, that’s a “go-to” activity. 
  5. You have to have an opportunity to make OUTSTANDING presentations and pitches.

Those are the 5 “Go-To” Activities – those are what get you paid! Everything else is just stuff – stuff that you let get in the way.

Topics: planning for success, sale accountability, increase sales, sales planning, traits of successful people

3 Critical Factors to Include in Your New Hire Onboarding Program

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Apr 15, 2021

In the final installment of our No Assembly Required Hiring series, we discuss the importance of having a strict and detailed onboarding process when bringing new sales talent into your organization.

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For this segment, I thought it would be best to interview Anthony Cole Training Groups expert on hiring, Alex Cole-Murphy. We tricked Alex into leaving a great job at a recruiting firm to join ACTG and run our Hire Better Salespeople program. As part of that segment, Alex spends a great deal of time helping our clients onboard new salespeople into their organization.

Question 1: Alex, I’m sure there are many contributing factors to successfully onboard a new salesperson, regardless of experience. What would you say are the three most critical steps included in a successful onboarding program?

Answer: I would say that the three most critical steps in the onboarding process are:

    1. Using a sales-specific pre-hire assessment, like the one from Objective Management Group, as a training and development tool. The assessment helps to pinpoint some of the skill gaps that a new hire would need additional coaching and help with. It can save you a lot of time, energy and will help get the new producer up and running more quickly.
    2. Having strict, black-and-white goals and metrics to track. Specifically, a success formula that the new salesperson can live by and the manager overseeing that individual can hold them accountable.
    3. And lastly, weekly coaching and training focused on improving their sales skills and gaps in competencies (which you would identify using a pre-hire assessment). Most organizations know and understand that training around company policies, techniques, products, etc. is critical. But for the new hire to successfully sell for your business, problem areas within their sales process also need to be addressed.

Questions 2: Without the sales-specific pre-hire assessment information, how difficult would it be for anyone to effectively onboard a new hire? Additionally, without analytics like their personal Sales DNA or Will to Sell, what does the typical coaching look like or sound like between the manager and new hire?

Answer: The short answer is very difficult. Here’s why- all salespeople, regardless of experience, come with some gaps in skills or personal beliefs that impact their sales process. If you don’t know what those specific problem areas are, it becomes a matter of guessing, which is never effective. You could have hired a highly competent salesperson, but if you don’t know how to address and coach their weak spots, they will struggle to succeed in your business. The coaching that does take place when things like Sales DNA or Will to Sell aren’t available tends to be more general management. The manager or coach of this new hire will often listen to a problem, assume they know the exact cause based on their personal experience and correct the new salesperson in a “this is how it should be done” fashion. Eventually, the new hire and the sales manager become frustrated because very little progress is made. The job becomes much easier when you start with this information in front of you.

Click Here for Additional Hiring Tools!

Question 3: You mentioned as one of your three factors the idea of having a goal that the salesperson owns and building a success formula to match. Tell me more about those two things and why it’s critical to successful onboarding.

Answer: The goals set for a new salesperson are often too general. Typically, success standards for a new hire can leave a lot up to interpretation. The common thought from a management perspective is “we’ll put these goals in place, but if they don’t hit them… Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.” And that’s a dangerous, perpetuating cycle. That’s how you end up keeping unsuccessful salespeople on your team long after they should be let go. Having specific metrics in place lets everyone know right from the start that if certain things are incomplete after the first 90 days, the new hire has not been successful, and they will be penalized. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy; simple metrics like attending every sales meeting, completing all internal and product training within 90 days, making 50 calls a week, etc., should be considered non-negotiable. If they're unable to hit these standards, that gives you a pretty clear idea of what working with them for the long run is going to be like. Using a success formula helps you identify what those standards and metrics need to be.

Question 4: Every week, for a minimum of 13 weeks, you talk to and coach new hires. What I find interesting is that you schedule just 15 minutes each week. Our readership might be wondering, why 15 minutes and what can you possibly accomplish?

Answer: To start, 15 minutes is about 5 minutes beyond the attention span of the average salesperson. Anything much longer than that, and they start to lose focus and interest. My goal is to make our short time together as impactful as possible. We specifically focus on current opportunities in the pipeline and game planning for the next step with those prospects. I help them develop their process and pre-call plan, and we spend time roleplaying. I also listen for and refute excuse-making so we get to the real issues as quickly as possible. A coaching session that lasts more than 15-20 minutes is not going to be hugely effective as there is a lot of information for this person to digest and then try to implement. Biting off a piece at a time is going to be your best bet.

Question 5: In closing, what would you offer our readership, perhaps to help them improve the probability of success for future new hires?

Answer: I said it once, but it’s worth repeating- start by using a pre-hire assessment, preferably a sales-specific assessment. It will give you many of the details and analytics you need and provides you with a good roadmap for training and development. If you are interested in a tool like the one from Objective Management Group, click here or the button below for a free trial. Lastly, develop a plan and the success metrics we discussed earlier and commit to them! It will immediately start to positively impact your onboarding process and the success of your new hire.

Trial the Highly-Predictive  Pre-Hire Sales Assessment

Topics: success formula, pre-hire evaluations, sales assessments, increase sales, hire better salespeople, sales onboarding

Confirming the Role and Expectations When Hiring Sales Talent

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Mar 25, 2021

When you get to the offer step in your hiring process, it can be tempting to rush ahead and get your candidate contracted. However, this is a critical point in your system that cannot go overlooked. 

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When was the last time you went to a movie, and the movie didn’t live up to the trailer you saw on your television or online?

It’s like that with recruiting talent as well. In our previous article about the 11 deadly sins of interviewing, I mention that the candidate has one thing in mind – convince you that they are the right person for the job. That is what the trailer is designed to do – convince you that this is a must-see movie. So, what happened to the candidate that seemed to be perfect but isn’t working out in the first six months?

DON’T BLAME THE NEW HIRE!

Before you condemn yourself, the candidate, or your hiring team, you must take a look at the steps and processes in place that are responsible for reviewing the role and your expectations. How do you communicate these details to a candidate as part of your offer and contract steps? Too often, companies that are either hiring lots of people to leverage market opportunities or are desperate to fill a chair are so excited about having a candidate they rush to contract and skip this important step.

Confirming the role and your expectations

  1. Once you make the offer and the candidate accepts, you want to give them a chance to back out. You ask them, “Are you sure?” They are going to say yes. You tell them it’s going to be hard, and they will say I know or no problem. Then you ask, “Does that mean you’re willing to do everything possible to succeed assuming ethical, legal, and moral standards?” They will say yes.
  2. Review the role. This includes but is not limited to; hunting for opportunities within your target markets, executing the prospecting plan at 100%, and entering all activity and opportunities into your sales enablement tools. It may also include managing current relationships in the portfolio or book assigned to them, as well as cross-selling into other business units within your organization at agreed-to standards.
  3. Review expectations when entering opportunities in the CRM and keeping it up to date, attending and participating in all sales meetings, and completing your onboarding training and development program.
  4. Quarterly reviews of goals, activities, and year-to-date results.
  5. Participating in all pre-and post-call assigned meetings to discuss opportunity strategies.
  6. Review consequences for missing targets and execution.
  7. Review the compensation plan and rewards for success.
  8. Let them know that all the parts to their onboarding are more than suggestions; they are requirements that you expect to be met at 100%.
  9. If they miss a target or fall short of an expectation, you will have a discussion. It’s understood that a miss within the onboarding period (whatever length of time you establish) is a strike.
  10. You take a baseball approach to manage this process – 3 strikes, and you’re out.
  11. Finally, you ask the question, “Is there anything about this you don’t understand or have questions about?”
  12. Depending on how that conversation goes, you ask them to repeat back to you what you just heard.
  13. Ask them how they will make sure they execute this plan and will avoid “strike” conversations.
  14. Finally, if all goes well, you ask, “Okay, do you still want the job?”

Here is what I assume. 

  • You read this and said; that’s crazy, and no one does this. I would respond that you are probably right.
  • You’ve had problems in the past with candidates not working out. I would say that your contracting and onboarding process is perfectly designed for the results you are getting.
  • You feel this is too extreme. I would tell you that it might be and suggest that you find your middle ground. But whatever you do, make sure you confirm that the candidate clearly understands the role and expectations before signing the final employment contract.
  • You may not have all the steps in place to carry out this kind of onboarding process. Give us a shout, and we’ll walk you through how to get that done.

Enjoy the movie!

Click Here for Additional Hiring Tools!

Topics: sales talent acquisition, hire better salespeople, sales onboarding, assessing sales talent

How to Make a Job Offer the Candidate Can't Refuse

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Mar 18, 2021

Making a job offer that a candidate can’t refuse, needs to think over, or can use to get a better deal from their current employer can be a difficult task.

In the 8th blog of our series No Assembly Required Hiring, we discuss how to properly set up the offer meeting to help improve the probability of getting a yes from your sales candidate.

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Whenever someone asks me what my favorite movie is, my immediate response is Rocky. What is probably a better movie, and always in the discussion about best movies ever, is The Godfather.

There are so many great and quotable scenes, but one of the most memorable is when young Michael Corleone explains to his girlfriend Kay Adams how Frankie Fontaine became a star because he got a part in a movie that the director didn’t want to cast him in. His response was, “My father made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.”

That is one of the secrets to getting candidates to accept your offer, as well as the following 6 keys. 

  1. Make them an offer they can't refuse. You can only do that if you know what they will say yes to. Here is what you do:
    1. Ask and discuss their criteria that must be met in a new opportunity
    2. Prioritize the criteria. One of the criteria will always be money and associated benefits, title, expenses, contract terms, and conditions. Get all of this out on the table early. Let's call this table stakes. If you can't meet the table stakes, get out of the game. You can't win.
  2. Set the expectations for the offer meeting/discussion. Assume for purposes of this article that you uncovered every single decision-making factor and two things have happened:
    1. They have bought your value proposition on why this is a transformational move that meets their objectives and goals
    2. You can meet all of their criteria
  3. Deal with the incumbent or current employer and rehearse for the counteroffer
  4. Make sure all other contenders are eliminated
  5. Tell the candidate that you are prepared to:
    1. Make an offer that meets their criteria and priorities
    2. Compensate them in a way that meets their financial needs, goals, and objectives
    3. Answer all of their questions
  6. Explain to the candidate that at the end of the meeting, they will be in a position to accept or decline the offer. Then ask, "what objections do you have to that process?"

You can expect any candidate to say something like, “I don’t know how I could accept an offer I haven’t seen.” That is easy. Remember, you have uncovered all of their criteria and prioritized their needs, wants, and objectives. You know what the financial requirements are, and you can meet or exceed them. You’ve made sure that they have compelling reasons to make a change and that change MUST take place. If you’ve done that and you presented an offer that meets all the criteria, what is there to think about?

There are four things they could be thinking about:

  1. They really can’t make a move or don’t want to make the move
  2. They are hiding something about the money or other criteria
  3. Someone has put another offer on the table, and they want to compare
  4. They don’t know if they can leave their current people and or join your people

Deal with these things before you consider making an offer. You will probably still want to make an offer, and you will probably let the candidate think it over. But do your best to follow these keys to make it incredibly hard for them to say no. Worst-case scenario, take a page from The Godfather.

Click Here for Additional Hiring Tools!

Topics: sales talent acquisition, hire better salespeople, key to successful hiring, recruiting sales talent

11 Common Mistakes When Interviewing Sales Talent

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Mar 11, 2021

In previous articles, I have talked about the things you should do during the hiring process to improve your success when sourcing sales talent. Today, I will specifically address things you should refrain from doing during the interviewing process.

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The interview is probably the 3rd most critical part of the hiring process. Two other areas set the stage for a successful hire that I will cover later:

  • Making an offer
  • Onboarding your new hire

 

But for now, let’s stick with the interview process. Interviewing, in most cases, involves more than just one meeting, and it should be considered a process rather than a singular event. In other words, the process should include but is not be limited to:

  • Pre-planning for your interview
  • Using data from the OMG pre-hire assessment, interview guides, and resumes to frame your meeting
  • The pre-interview conversation you had with the candidate to make sure they know what to bring or expect
  • Objective checklist for post-interview review and sharing
  • Ending the process with a candidate or preparing them for the next step

 

Within this process, there are several “deadly sins” committed that I will highlight here.

 

11 Deadly Interviewing Sins

  1. Not preparing the candidate. There are two things your candidate should bring or be able to validate in the interview:
    • Proven sales success (the best way to do this is for them to validate their income)
    • Sharing or being able to describe to you their calendar of appointments over the last 30 days and the next 30 day

  2. Selling the position, opportunity, or the company. Now is not the time for you or your interviewing staff to be selling

  3. Failing to understand that the candidate has one objective in mind: convince you that they are perfect for the job. This candidate will not look, sound, or act any better than they do when they show up

  4. Taking away the most important thing a salesperson must do: quickly establishing bonding, rapport, confidence, and trust. The meeting, after a cordial hello, should start with, “have a seat and let’s get started”

  5. Failing to have an objective list of questions you should answer when you review the interview with others:
    • Do I trust this person? (Would you trust them with your money, company, or family)
    • Would I meet with them again if I were a prospect?
    • Would I want to compete against this person in the market (your answer should be no)?
    • Would I buy from them?


  6. Eliminating the candidate immediately when you know they are not a fit. Just because you schedule an hour for the interview does not mean it needs to last that long. I assure you that you know when you know, and you should end the interview at that time.

  7. Make sure that you tell the candidate to book 90 minutes to 2 hours in-case it goes well. While you have them in the office, take them straight into the 2nd interview if they passed the first interview.

  8. Have a series of must-pass criteria:
    • Did they establish rapport?
    • Did they get rattled when I asked them difficult questions?
    • Did they ask questions?
    • How well did they tell stories, use analogies or metaphors?
    • Did they close me for the next step?
    • Did they prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, their sales and hunting success?

  9. Asking behavior-based questions and believing the answers. Again, they are there to convince you of how good they are. Salespeople are skillful at selling themselves, so you have to investigate further to uncover the truth

  10. Forgetting that this is an audition. Make the candidate roleplay:
    • Their opening phone call
    • The start of a discovery meeting
    • Dealing with objections, questions, and stalls
    • Asking for the business

  11. Forgetting that salespeople are different than the rest of the positions you hire. Your interviewer MUST be great at specifically interviewing salespeople.

Effective interviewing is an art and a science, and often we rely on our own biases, tendencies, likes, and dislikes when conducting interviews. Make sure you have some objective systems and processes established to take the emotion out of the decision. Make sure that these systems and processes allow you to compare candidates based on scorecards and checklists. Finally, make sure you are not desperate. Vince Lombardi stated that “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” The same is true with interviewing. Not having a pipeline of potential candidates will make cowards of us all.

 

Click Here for Additional Hiring Tools!

Topics: sales talent acquisition, Interviewing, hiring salespeople, hire better salespeople

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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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