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Tony Cole

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#5: Focus on the Best Version of Yourself | Tony's 5 Key Takeaways from 30 Years in Business

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Feb 03, 2023

Last week, I shared 5 key things that have helped us grow and serve others in the last 30 years, hoping they will be helpful to others on their journey. Now, I'm taking a deeper dive into the 5 key takeaways with a more detailed on each. Starting with #5: Focus on the Best Version of Yourself. 


Recently, we published a video celebrating our 30 years in business, and I appreciate everybody that's followed up and made comments and gave us a thumbs up. It certainly has been a joy, hasn't been without its challenges, but because of the great relationships we have with clients and friends around the country who have been able to succeed and grow, add to our staff, and have impact on a lot of people's lives. So I thank you. Our team thanks you.

So let's go ahead and get on today with these lessons. In that video, we talked about five important lessons that we've picked up throughout the years, and today's purpose is to go a little bit deeper, dive into some of those lessons and see where we go from there. So I'm going to go backwards and start with number five.

Number five is focus on the best version of yourself. And when we talked about the video, we discussed the spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, all those sorts of things. And that goes without saying. But my focus here today is, how about professionally? Are you operating as the best version of yourself? And one of the ways you might want to take a look at that is, well, okay, I'm hitting my goals. Well, is that why you got into the business? My experience is that a lot of people who end up in selling, end up as a lender, end up in wealth management, do so for other reasons other than I hope I can hit my goal. You're trying to provide for family. You're trying to have an impact on your community. You have loyalty to your company. You want to help them grow. And there's lots of components to that. And this isn't just selling.

Are you developing the relationships you have? Are you as good internally with your support group as you could be? Do you have people in the community that supports you and surround you and help you accomplish the things you're trying to accomplish?

And so if you take a look at different ways that you might create your own scorecard and your own report card like you did in school, then come up with your own criteria, I'm not going to try and dictate what that criteria ought to be and then score yourself on a scale of one to ten. I like ten because that's just the way my head works. And you go through when we do this. Typically in organizations, people end up with about a seven. I asked them to put a zero at the end. That makes it a 70. And I'm going to date myself. Now, when I was in school, the 70 meant average, I'm pretty sure that none of you got into the business that you're in to be average. So the next step would be well, how do I Close that gap? How do I go from my 7, 8.5, whatever the number is, to the absolute best version of yourself? So let's start with that.

Stay tuned for #4: Relationships.


Do You Need More Leads? –  Free Sales Prospecting eBook Download

Topics: Sales Management Training, Leadership Skills, banking sales training

5 Key Takeaways from Celebrating 30 Years in Business

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Jan 26, 2023

This year, we're celebrating a huge milestone- 30 Years of helping our clients sell, coach and hire better. In 1993, we decided to start our own training and development company – it was a bold move back then. In this video, I share 5 things that have helped us grow and serve others in these 30 years in the hopes they will be helpful to others on their journey. A big shout-out to all the wonderful people and clients who have made the past 30 years extraordinary. We look forward to the next 30!

Tony Cole


Do You Need More Leads? –  Free Sales Prospecting eBook Download

Topics: Sales Management Training, Leadership Skills, banking sales training

5 Behaviors of Effective Banking Sales Leaders

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Jan 19, 2023

The sales management activities that we are performing today are creating the results we are achieving today. Many or few, consistent or irregular, planned or impromptu, the behaviors and activities that we, as sales managers, use to motivate, train and hold our relationship managers accountable are at least partly responsible for the success of those we manage. In other words, what activities are you doing now that are creating your current unsatisfactory results?

The old adage, “If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always gotten” comes to mind. It is up to us as sales leaders to set higher standards for the behaviors and activities and hold people accountable so that we get better results. So, in the interest of bettering your bankers, we hope you will approach the following discussion with an open mind. A characteristic of truly successful individuals is that they welcome the opportunity to explore and implement new ideas and practices.

  1. Hiring

Great sales managers understand hiring lenders, for example, requires a different process than hiring support or admin personnel. No other role in a company faces the same challenges and deals with the same performance pressures as the lenders. No one faces greater scrutiny and is on a shorter leash than those tasked with developing and bringing in new relationships. The hiring behaviors of great sales managers include: 

  • Writing a great job attraction post – specific skills exhibited by top lenders
  • Utilizing a pre-hire, sales specific, evaluation is the only way to know
  • Having an initial phone interview to discover how good the banker is on the phone
  • Conducting interviews like auditions – make it as tough as a prospect will
  1. Offer and On-boarding

When the manager finally selects the candidate based on the above steps, the final step in the hiring is to have an effective offer meeting that includes the following:

  • They make sure the candidate is prepared to make a decision when the offer is made to avoid using the offer to get a better deal from the current bank
  • They lay out all the expectations for sales activity, sales goals, sales meetings, use of CRM, and define being a good citizen and how they will be managed and coached
  • They gain agreement on all the conditions of taking the role, and then to solidify the agreement they ask this question: “Are you sure?” To which the candidate will say yes. They then explain that it’s ‘going to be hard’ and then don’t say another word to let that statement sink in and see what they say. Ask them, “Will you allow me to coach you?”

The three behaviors are critical. The reason they are critical is that many candidates that become 'new hires' fail especially in the execution area of sales activity - hitting goals, attending sales meetings, using your CRM and responding to your managing style and culture.

  1. They Manage

Great banking sales managers understand what Jim Collins means when he states: “There is no such thing as micro – managing. You are either managing or you are not managing.” Effective Sales Managed Environments must include managing behavior. The behavior goals must be introduced in the very beginning of the new relationship manager’s career, and then yearly at least 1 sales cycle before the end of the sales year. The following discussions must take place:

  • What sales results are attached to the words extraordinary, excellent, good, poor, and failing results? Setting goals.
  • What activities and success formula will they need to arrive at the outcome the banker has committed to?
  • Making sure they are committed to the activity by asking: Are you sure? And then stating: 'This is going to be hard."
  • Discussing what happens when the data is telling you that your new hire is off track. Great managers get permission to coach salespeople when they are failing.
  1. They Coach

As stated by Henry Kissinger; “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” Great leaders reap their rewards by gaining success through others and by developing others to be their absolute best selves. Sales coaching includes:

  • 1-on-1 coaching sessions to improve skill and change behaviors
  • Pre- and post-call strategy sessions to improve the probability of success of each opportunity the lender is calling on
  • Meeting quarterly to review activity numbers against actual results to discuss success, where they are headed and gaining discrepancy between the behavior numbers and the sales results
  1. They Verify

A strong sales leader has Healthy Skepticism. This doesn’t mean that they don’t believe what their bankers are telling them or what they are reporting. They have a Ronald Reagan approach: Trust but verify. Great sales managers stay off the “They’re going to make it because they have a big deal that is about to close” bandwagon.

If you and your bank must drive better sales performance, consider these 5 behaviors. You can also pull down our eBook The Extraordinary Sales Manager for more ideas.


Do You Need More Leads? –  Free Sales Prospecting eBook Download

Topics: Sales Management Training, Leadership Skills, banking sales training

5 Keys and 3 Suggestions for Your Company's Unique Sales Approach

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Jan 13, 2023

Today I will cover one of the ways we at Anthony Cole Training Group, LLC coach sales managers to help them coach their salespeople to have more and better initial sales calls: Your USA!

USA is the terminology we use at Anthony Cole Training Group as part of our Effective Selling System (ESS). It stands for unique sales approach.

Yes, my staff recognizes me as the king of ACRONYMS. I Googled acronyms this morning and discovered that I may in fact be king of INITIALISM. This is not the point of this article.

The point is that most, if not all sales growth development and training programs, teach something along the lines of the elevator pitch / value proposition as part of the prospecting section of the sales training program. You can download a free copy of "Better Than the Best Prospecting Book Ever Written!"

Next week I will be working with one of our community banking clients on this very issue. Executive leadership is so convinced that this is the key to greater productivity and effectiveness, that they want to have a special session with just their market presidents.

Here are the key things I will convey to them to keep in mind, consider, remember when writing, developing, delivering the USA for their company.

  1. Everyone of your competitors is attempting to do the same thing as part of their marketing strategy.

  2. None of the people you compete with will have a USA that includes any of the following:
  • Our prices are high
  • Our service is just about average
  • Our products are out of date
  • Our people are kind of dedicated and semi-professional

3. Keeping in mind #2 – your USA SHOULD NOT include any of the items listed above

4. The USA should describe the outcome of what happens when clients choose to work with you, your people, and your company.

  • Earn more, keep more, pay less
  • Eliminate the frustration, anxiety, madness about…
  • Find a relationship that provides solutions consistent with their overall business objectives.  (one of my favorite examples for banking is this:  We work with companies that want more out of a banking relationship then just a place to put or get money)


5. THIS IS THE BIG: Your USA should result in one of the following three reactions:

  • Tell me more about that.
  • How do you do that?
  • That’s me! (This is something they will be thinking when you say something like, “My clients are those in the ag business that are sick and tired of short term solutions to insuring their operations and on-going negotiations over rates)

In addition to what I just covered, keep the following 3 suggestions in mind:

  1. Have a very specific target market. i.e. If the go-to market strategy of your company is to be a high value, high price, custom solution provider, then you need to make sure you are talking to people that are looking for and willing to pay for that kind of offering
  2. Know exactly what the problems and opportunities are within that target market
  3. Role play your USA with the most critical person you can find, and ask them to be completely honest about one thing: Did my 10 second ad cause you to say or think: Tell me more, how do you do that or that’s me? If it didn’t, start over and get it right.

Copy of Copy of White and Blue Did You Know Interesting Fact Instagram Post-2-1


Topics: unique selling approach, Sales Management Training, sales coaching skills

The 9 Do’s of Better Hiring: An Alternate Perspective to LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions 9 Mistakes

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Jan 05, 2023

I would like to provide you with an alternate perspective to LinkedIn's article- a list of 9 Do’s you can use when looking for and hiring new talent. Because we specialize in helping companies Sell Better, Coach Better, and Hire Better, my comments will focus specifically on sales but understand that these principles will apply for most hires in your company.  

Linkedin Talent Solutions wrote this article focusing on the mistakes or “don'ts” of hiring talent. The Linkedin Talent Solutions 9 mistakes include:

  1. Your hiring team’s roles aren’t clearly defined
  2. Your job post isn’t clear or compelling enough
  3. You’re not targeting your job post to the right audience
  4. You’re not tapping into your personal LinkedIn network
  5. You’re not revealing what makes your company unique
  6. You ignored red flags during the interviews – the first interview should be based on what they must be great at
  7. You’re not getting to know the candidate
  8. Your evaluation criteria is unclear
  9. You don’t close the loop with all applicants

We have a Hire Better Salespeople program that helps our clients who are working to upgrade their sales teams. We train our clients on how to identify, and understand the importance of, people who are strong in the following areas:

  • Hunting for new opportunities
  • Relationship building
  • Consultative selling
  • Selling value
  • Qualifying
  • Presenting
  • Closing
  • Following a consistent sales process
  • Managing accounts
  • Farming opportunities  

Using the LinkedIn article as a guide, I would like to provide you with an alternate perspective- a list of 9 Do’s you can use when looking for and hiring new talent. Because we specialize in helping companies Sell Better, Coach Better, and Hire Better, my comments will focus specifically on sales but understand that these principles will apply for most hires in your company.  

1. Most companies don’t have a “hiring team”. They have people who, when the moment occurs, participate in some aspect of the hiring process. With that as the most common model, what we strongly suggest you do is:
  • Make sure the same people execute the same role, every time.
  • Make sure the people you assign have the skills required for that role. For example, your interviewer must be willing to ask challenging questions, be able to disqualify candidates, have a great deal of healthy skepticism, etc.
2. Your job post is probably a job description. That is the fundamental flaw. It ties very closely to #5 – revealing what makes your company unique. If you are attempting to position your company as unique in the marketplace, then start with what we call the “job attraction post”. The job attraction post will be compelling if:

  • It works to disqualify candidates.
  • Instead of selling the position, it states what the candidate is required to SUCCEED at rather than have experience doing (You will get people with the experience, but they probably have a failing experience). Have a list of “must haves”- must demonstrate the ability to, has a proven track record of, etc.
  • In the case of salespeople, we would write the following in the job attraction post; “Must have a strong desire and commitment to be highly successful in selling in a very competitive market, selling high quality, high priced, non-tangible business solutions to prospects that are price-focused, difficult to get in front of, and tend to “shop around.” You must be very comfortable working in an environment where you are expected to manage yourself to success, undergo high pressure to hit goals and be coached by your manager to improve skills and change behaviors. During the interview, you will be expected to roleplay your outreach phone call and initial qualifying conversation with a prospect that already has a great relationship with the incumbent.

3. Target your job attraction post to people that have success selling in verticals that you sell to or have great relationships in your market EVEN if they haven’t sold your product in the past.

4. Simply put, it makes sense to reach out to people you know. But make sure they know what you are looking for.

5. Make sure you look at other job postings in your space and commit yourself to writing something that would cause you (if you were a candidate looking for a TRANSFORMATIONAL career change) to think or say: “wow, now that’s a challenge, that’s something I need to investigate.” NOTE: Also, make sure your job attraction post scares off candidates just looking for a bigger payday or an opportunity to negotiate against their current employer. See #9.

6. To help you with RED flags, identify in advance what the candidate must be able to demonstrate they can do. For example:

  • If they have to be great on the phone, your first interview step MUST be a phone interview.
  • If they must be able to close on the phone, make sure they close for the next step during the phone interview.
  • If you expect them to establish bonding and rapport on the first call, make them do that when they walk into the room for your first face-to-face interview. Make them do the hard work.
  • If they must be great at asking questions, take note of the number and quality of questions they ask during the interview process (other than ones about compensation, vacation, CRM, benefits, etc).

It is also critical to identify in advance what you want to hear from your candidate:  

  • I have 30 new appointments a month. I’m passionate about success in sales because I have huge dreams and goals for myself and my… which require a lot of money.
  • When I fail, it’s because of something I didn’t do.
  • I make sure that I know the budget the prospect has before I ever present a solution.
    I call on nothing but CEOs and Presidents.

Next, write down the questions you need to ask to get the answers you are looking for. What you should be looking for (link to sample pre-hire sales evaluation)

  • Will to sell
  • Sales DNA
  • Sales competencies


7. Getting to know the real candidate can be misinterpreted as having a personal discussion with them to find out how likable they are. Too often candidates proceed through the interview process because interviewers “liked them”. Being likable is helpful but not as critical as willingness and ability to:

  • Hunt for new business
  • Qualify prospects by asking enough, and the right, questions
  • Ability to call at the decision-making level
  • Close for the next step
8. Have clear evaluation criteria based on what the candidate must be able to prove they’ve done, what skills they must demonstrate, and how they handle difficult, challenging questions. The best way to do this is to create a scorecard that everyone must complete when interviewing candidates. In addition, use a pre-hire evaluation tool to give you insight into items you can’t see or hear in the interview. I.e.: problems discussing money, uncomfortable making quick decisions, would rather be liked than get the business, etc.

9. “Closing the loop” in our world means making sure the candidate is always closing for the next step. Make sure you completely define your decision-making process (like the one below) and gain an agreement to that process:

  1. Identify the candidate's compelling reason for looking at your opportunity.
  2. What are the monetary, and contractual considerations that have to be met?
  3. Deal with competition: Current employer, other opportunities they are considering, etc.
  4. Present everything there is to know about the opportunity and make sure that it is a career change the candidate would make if the monetary and contractual considerations were met
  5. Allow them to think it over before making your offer
  6. Make an offer that meets their criteria
  7. Ask them to decide once the offer is made

If you would like to attend a zoom meeting webinar to learn more about Hiring Better reply to this post, or email Alex Cole-Murphy, our Hiring Manager, at


Copy of Copy of White and Blue Did You Know Interesting Fact Instagram Post-1


Topics: hiring, relationship selling, 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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