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Tony Cole

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Finding and Cultivating the Right Prospects for Your Business

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Jun 10, 2021

Knowing how and where to reach our target persona will positively impact our ability to hunt, qualify, and discover potential new business.

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Today, our customers are bombarded with sales, marketing, and advertising pitches from companies all hoping to win their business. They’re overwhelmed, or, in most cases, they simply tune us out. So, we try to reach as many potential customers as we can, but we spin our wheels and end up stuck in the same place, week after week, month after month, or year after year.

The problem? We’re not sure whom we’re trying to reach. Many of our potential customers view their time as their greatest, most valuable asset, and so should we. We can protect that asset by having a clear understanding of who our target customer is.

Identify What a Zebra is

In order to hone that understanding, we have to begin with first identifying our “Zebra,” or our ideal prospect persona.

We can do that in three easy steps:

1. Begin by segmenting our business’s book into thirds. For most companies, that top third brings in 90% of the company’s revenue. They are generally the best clients.
2. Look for common traits and demographics in that top third. Ask questions like:

·      What do these customers have in common?

·      What industry are they in?

·      Who is our main point of contact?

·      How do we contact them?

·      What is the size of their organization?

Having the answers to questions like these helps identify other potential customers in the market.

3. Once we know what traits we’re looking for in that top third, we should commit 2/3 of our time to look for or attract customers from this group.

Identify What a Zebra Isn't

Of equal importance is to know what isn’t a Zebra for us. If we know who doesn’t fit our ideal customer persona, we’ll bring clarity to our network and prospecting efforts, and again, continue to value time as our greatest asset. Here’s why it’s important to know what a Zebra isn’t:

1. We eliminate ambiguity. Introductions have been proven to be the No. 1 way that top producers grow their business. But if we aren’t specific about who we serve best, it’s hard to get those introductions. We need to be specific and clear about what type of zebra we serve best.

2. We reduce frustration with our Centers of Influence (COI). We want to capitalize on our COI’s relationships, but if we’re not crystal clear with who we’re looking for, our COI may make an introduction to someone we can’t help. When working with our COI, it’s helpful to articulate the type of business or individual we’re looking for, along with what we’re not looking for and why.

3. We reduce our opportunity cost. Our opportunity cost is what we’re not working on that might have been more viable for our organization. If we’re calling on Company ABC, we’re not working on Company XYZ. Are we losing out on better business, because we’re not calling on the right prospects?

If we know what we don’t want and the reasons why, it might reduce the number of opportunities in our pipeline, but the quality will increase dramatically. 

Cultivating Zebras

Once we’ve determined which customers are and aren’t Zebras, we need to understand the best ways to get in front of them and build relationships. You start by doing some research. Should we call or email them? What is their preferred social media platform – LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter?

Knowing how and where to reach our target persona will positively impact our ability to hunt, qualify, and discover potential new business. Undoubtedly, our most effective approach is to utilize the relationships we have with our top third by asking them to introduce us to others they know, who will most likely fall into that ideal customer profile.

It takes work to find these prospects and then contact them, but it’s well worth the effort. Our chances of success are now much higher because we know we’re reaching the right audience, the Zebras, who become our best clients. 

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Prospecting, qualifying prospects, hunting for sales prospects

5 Habits for Greater Sales Success

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, May 27, 2021
Keeping your good habits “habitual” is dependent upon your level of commitment to your goals. If you are truly committed and willing to sacrifice immediate gratification for the long-term good, then good habits stick.

But how do you correct your behavior and become more habitual? Here are our 5 steps to creating better sales habits.

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I’m an educator by degree. During my undergraduate work at UConn, my fellow future teachers and I were taught that behaviors and habits are a result of combinations of rewards and consequences. If you wanted your student to develop certain habits or skills, part of the development, in addition to the teaching and coaching, was rewarding success and disciplining failure. Sometimes the disciplined approach was punitive; other times it was a matter of repeating the behavior, skill, or activity until they (the person being taught) got it right. Once they got it right, they were rewarded.

Given all of this background, here are my thoughts for today about habits.

  • Good habits are called good habits because they contribute to the successful completion of the goals and objectives you say you are committed to.
  • Bad habits are “bad” because, instead of taking you towards your objectives, they take you away. They keep you from accomplishing what you said was important to you.
  • Keeping your good habits “habitual” is dependent upon your level of commitment to your goals. If you are truly committed and willing to sacrifice immediate gratification for the long-term good, then good habits stick.
  • If you find that you cannot consistently execute your good habits, it is probably due to your lack of commitment to the things you say are important to you.
  • “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” - Vince Lombardi
  • Often the things/habits you need to be doing aren’t urgent: exercising, eating well, taking baby aspirin, getting enough sleep, prospecting, blogging, etc.
  • Habits become urgent when something else urgent happens: heart attack, bodily injury, stroke, diabetes, organ failure, put on performance improvement program because of lack of production, lack of website activity.
  • Your habits are expressive of your commitments.

How do you correct your behavior and become more habitual? Here are my 5 Steps to Better Habits:

  1. Identify goals and objectives that are non-negotiable
  2. Have a plan to achieve those goals. Make sure the plan is detailed.
  3. Have a system to track your progress, execution of the necessary habits, activities required to achieve your goals.
  4. Inspect what you expect.
  5. Have an accountability partner that loves you and cares enough about you to hold your feet to the fire.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Prospecting, sales succes, Sales Activities, sales commitment

8 Steps to Effectively Close More Business

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, May 21, 2021

We recorded a video on Laying the Foundations for the 8 Steps to More Effective Closing to close more business more quickly with higher margins. And we talked about the foundation. 

Today we are going to get into the actual 8 Steps of Becoming an Extraordinary Closer.

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I can tell you that the best deals I have ever put together and closed were deals where someone almost literally asked me, “Tony, how much do we write the check for?” There was never a formal presentation. There might have been a bit of pitch or a discussion around our capabilities, but they just closed and never asked for anything formal. Understand, though, that those are the outliers. 

But once you lay the foundation, the other types of sales require these 8 Steps:

1) Be prepared – And I don’t mean go through the technical aspects of the sale to make sure you have the right coverage, the correct provisions, and those sort of things. But I want you to be prepared to be DAZZLING. That’s an entirely different level of preparation.

2) Review - When you are at the meeting, the first thing you do is review. Review everything as to what brought you to this point. In other words, you go back to the as-we-agreed-to email. Make sure nothing has changed.

3) 3-Page Presentation - This might startle you and knock you off your chair, but your presentation should be a 3-page presentation, and that’s only IF you have a cover page/slide. The second page should list the problems or benefits they want to take care of, and the third page is all about the solutions. That’s it! Now you might have a box on the side with all the back-end stuff you’ll go through, but they don’t get that. All they get are those three pages.

4) Ask Where To Start - Within your presentation, they’ll see a list of problems they said they want to get solved. You ask them where THEY want to start. That’s a HUGE difference because you don’t know. Maybe they might be thinking about item #5, and you want to start at the top. You’ve lost them already.

5) Discuss Your Solution - Go through the solution to that problem.

6) Get a Score - When you’re finished with the solution to the problem, you have to get a score as to where they are. So you ask them, “On a scale from 1 to 10, how do you feel about that solution? If you get a 7, or better, you’re in pretty good shape. Anything less than 7, you’ve got trouble. And when you get anything less than 10, you’ve got to ask the questions, “What did I miss? What questions haven’t you asked me yet that you need the answers to so that you feel comfortable with a 10?”

7) Address all Solutions - Go to the next solution until you are finished with all of them.

8) Find Out What’s Next - When you’re finished, this isn’t a big dramatic part to try and close the business. You can do one of two things. You can ask, “What would you like to do now?” OR... Ask these three questions: 1) Do you feel like I understand the problems of your business? 2) Do you feel I can help you with the problems of your business? And 3) Would you like my help? Not complicated but very effective.

Aside from the foundation and these 8 Steps, the most important key to becoming a more effective closer is to be willing to hear a “no.”

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: closing more sales, Sales Presentation, increase sales

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

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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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