ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

Tony Cole

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5 Commonly Overlooked Sales Tools

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Feb 13, 2019

In a business world filled with an abundance of technologically advanced CRM tools, there are 5 tools that salespeople must use and sales managers must implement throughout their day-to-day activities and agendas, in order to be successful.

They include:

  1. Effective Personal Goal Setting
  2. The Ideal Week
  3. Sales Process
  4. Huddles
  5. The Success Formula and the 10% Difference

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Do you have all the sales tools you need to succeed? If yes, then forget about this article and go to The Truth About Prospecting.  If you feel you don’t have the tools, or the tools you have are not getting you to your desired sales results, then read on.

I was first introduced to sales tools when I was recruited into the Life Insurance business by David Zimmerman. That tool was the One Card System developed by Al Granum of Northwestern Mutual Insurance. Al’s process of tracking and holding insurance agents to a formula for success is legendary in the Life Insurance industry and is the basis for most CRM strategies used today. Simply stated, Mr. Granum’s research identified that an agent needed 10 leads (suspects) to generate 3 prospects (who will participate in a full fact-finding meeting) to get 1 client.

Over the years, I have seen many variations of this but ultimately the objective is the same. Help a salesperson understand exactly what they need to do to hit their objectives. But this tool by itself is not nearly as effective as when combined with other tools.

Despite all the fuss with sales force automation, lead generation and pipeline management, we know the following to be true: 

  • 33% of the production team is responsible for over 90% of sales results
  • 67% of the team is responsible for less than 10% of the sales results
  • None of the 67% were hired NOT to succeed

So, what is the problem? Why the variance of performance when all these tools purchased and implemented were supposed to fix sales? Here are the 5 commonly overlooked tools that salespeople must use and sales managers must implement.

#1: Effective Personal Goal Setting- Too often companies establish goals for their sales people and then 3 months later the argument ensues about ‘whose goal it was’.  Goal setting must be a personal activity. This is what drives internal motivation and it is internal motivation that keeps your people focused on shareholder value. Spending a day with your people with a thought-out plan to help them focus on personal goals and a corresponding work plan is the bases for the other 4 tools. 

#2: The Ideal Week- We conduct a full-day session on helping companies drive internal motivation and eliminating the excuse of - “I don’t have time”. The reason salespeople don’t have time to do the required and necessary lead generation activity is because they don’t control their business. They sacrifice pleasing outcomes for pleasing behaviors. In other words, instead of sticking to their schedule and making calls at 10:00, they take the inbound customer service call.

#3: Sales Process- Our data shows that over 85% of elite sales people (only 7% of all sales people) use a milestone-centric sales process. The first step in the journey is to get a name, the last step in the journey is to get a decision. Everything else in the middle must be identified as a step and measured.

#4: Huddles- Think of huddles as a communication system that allows the user and manager to collect real time information so that real time feedback can be given, or realized, and real time coaching and instruction can take place.

#5: The Success Formula and The 10% Difference- This is simple math based on the theory of Mr. Granum but a little more granular. 

Topics: development of sales, predictable sales growth, sales motivation, no excuses, sales skill, sales acceleration, salespeople

The Two Truths and a Lie of Prospecting

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Jan 11, 2019

Prospecting for salespeople is often a struggle due to varying factors including their ability to stay committed to the process and overcome rejection.

In this article, we cover the dreaded,  but mandatory, task of sourcing and creating new sales opportunities.

deceive-1299043_1280Salespeople have to prospect – that’s the truth. Salespeople can find their prospects through a variety of different avenues, including; introductions, direct mail, internet offers, networking, internal referrals from business partners, cold calling, campaigns, association memberships, and business networking groups. 

What is also true is that, no matter how a sales person gets a name, the next step is to contact them. You can contact them by mail (email or snail mail) or by phone (the most common method). If you are going to have any chance to schedule time to talk with them about their current situation to determine if they are a prospect for you, you must have contact. That’s the truth.

Prospecting is FUN! Now, that’s a lie. Prospecting isn’t fun. It’s not intended to be fun. Anyone that says it’s fun is lying. If you are a manager, don’t tell your people to “just pick up the phone and have fun with it”. They will know you don’t know what you are talking about.

They’ve had fun before: Water skiing, swimming, hiking, going to a play or the opera, having a picnic, watching a ballgame, getting a promotion, a raise, or recognition for a job well done. All FUN! However, facing rejection, not talking to anyone, having people curse or hang up on you, having people who schedule appointments and then cancel or don’t show up?  ZERO FUN.

If prospecting isn’t fun, then what is it? Back in the day when I was still trying to figure out how to be successful in selling, my coach told me this:  “You don’t have to like it; you just have to do it!” And that is prospecting.  It’s called work and not play for a reason. It is work. You have to put a lot of preparation, emotion, intellect and skill into being successful at prospecting. David Kurlan from Objective Management Group has found that the single biggest contributor to sales success is the ability to be rejection-proof. Even with all the skill, techniques, scripts and preparation, if you cannot handle the rejection and emotional roller coaster of prospecting, then you will struggle, be inconsistent and fail more than you succeed.

The bottom line is that this isn’t about making it fun. It’s about getting the job done so you have solid appointments that turn into solid opportunities that turn into closed business. THAT’S where the fun is!

Topics: Prospecting, introductions, Cold Calling, sales management, commitment, networking, salespeople, overcoming rejection

Go for the "No" Early in the Sales Process

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Dec 20, 2018

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One of the keys for more effective selling is going for the ‘no’ early in the sales process. I learned this concept years ago especially when I was vulnerable to ‘think it overs’ (TIO). I would get ‘think it overs’ at several stages in the sales process and maybe you get them as well:

  • On the initial phone call when you’re trying to get an appointment – “Let me think it over, give me a call next week.”
  • At the end of your initial meeting – “This sounds really good and something I should consider. Let me think it over and I’ll get back to you in the next couple of days.”
  • When you finish your presentation and you ask for the sale. “You made a very compelling presentation and we are impressed with your depth of knowledge and your very creative solutions to our problems. Let us meet as a group and go over this one more time and crunch some numbers.  Let’s plan on talking next week.”

Sound familiar?

Of course it does and these ‘think it overs’ are what is keeping you from being more effective in your sales process. That’s nice to know or consider but the question becomes, “What do I do about it?” (click here to listen to a 3-minute audio clip on eliminating TIO)

As I learned early on is to get ‘no’ as soon as you can. What is important to understand about getting ‘think it overs’ is the mindset of your potential buyer. Your potential buyer will tell you that they need to think it over because:

  • They really don’t intend on making any changes but you impressed them with some information that they want to take to their current provider and see if they can do what you can do.
  • They have a need for approval and instead of telling you they are not interested they want to let you down easy. Telling you they want to think it over gives you hope and get’s them off of the hook until the next time you talk.

To fix the problem, eliminate ‘think it over’ as an option. Let your prospect know that when you finish the next meeting, next conversation, the final presentation, they will have everything they need to make a decision. You can tell them that you will be prepared to answer all of their questions and when you are finished, they will be in a position to make a decision- yes or no. Then simply ask what objections they have to that process.

This one key will help you close more business, more quickly at higher margins.

For more tips on how to uncover a prospects real reason for wanting to ‘TIO’ watch our Sales Guy Unplugged video on the “Question Behind the Question”.

Topics: Sales Process, effective selling, effective sales process, think it overs

Sell Better, Sell Faster, Sell Smarter

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, Dec 18, 2018

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When a company first starts out, there probably isn’t much of a sales process, or team, in place. The one or two advisors target prospects, introduce them to the company, and close deals according to their own preferred methods.

Of course, as the business grows, sales leaders must implement a repeatable, scalable process to turn a trickle of income to a steady, predictable stream. With all salespeople using the same systems and playbooks and adhering to the same process, the sales organization (hopefully) becomes a well-oiled machine instead of a Frankenstein-esque contraption stuck together with duct tape.

What’s the secret to accelerating sales growth? While people and process usually precede systems, sales is somewhat of an exception. The right Customer Relationship Management system (CRM) can help empower people and define process.

The right CRM system can accelerate your business’ growth, bring in profitable, happy clients, and enable your sales team to sell better and faster.

Sales today is a far cry from what it was just 20 years ago. The advent of search and social media means sales requires research and careful customization as well as knocking on doors and building relationships.

But different doesn’t always mean better. Even though changing times necessitate new approaches, some salespeople merely transfer their old methods to modern channels and sometimes they are still effective because of their relationships and network.

As with the introduction of technology into the workplace, change is coming if it hasn’t already- and change is hard. But the right CRM system can not only enable salespeople to update their practices, it can also give them a competitive edge in the market.

Read more of The Definitive Guide to Selling Better and Faster by clicking on the button below.

 The Definitive Guide to Selling Better & Faster

 

Topics: CRM, sales acceleration, sell faster

How Do I Motivate My Salespeople?

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Dec 13, 2018

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Ineffective motivation of the sales team is not uncommon and it is the subject of one of the more frequent questions people ask me: “Tony, how do I keep my salespeople motivated?”  My first response is normally a question in return:  “Do you know what motivates your people?” 

The most common answer: “Well, uh, yeah, I think so.”  I cannot help myself when I ask, “Do you know or do you think you know?”  Their most common answer: “I think I know.”

With that in mind, how do you possibly motivate people when you just think you know what motivates them?

What we know about motivating salespeople is that it has changed over the years.  When we first started evaluating sales teams using the #1 Sales Evaluation Assessment – Objective Management Group Sales Evaluation and Impact Analysis – the findings told us that people were externally motivated.  Motivation was money and the things money can provide.  Today, however, we see a different set of results (Read this HBR article on motivating salespeople).

The current findings tell us that sales teams are highly motivated to succeed, but the source of motivation is internal rather than external.  They are motivated by a job well done. They want to be recognized for success and they are motivated by achieving their own personal standards for success and achievement.

I was 9 years old when I walked off the football field the very first time.  I had just finished practice and my dad was waiting on the sideline for me.  He asked me what I thought and I told him I loved it.  “Someday I’m going to go to college to play football.”  Dad asked me if I was sure and I said “yes.”  He then told me, “College football players are in great shape so, if you are going to play college football, you’ll have to be in great shape. Take off your helmet and shoulder pads and start running some laps.”  I followed his advice and I ran laps every night after practice to get in shape to play college football.  In February of 1973, I signed my letter of intent to go to the University of Connecticut to play for the team.

My dad – my manager – knew my goal and used that occasionally to keep me on track.  Occasionally, when I would fall off the training wagon, he would ask me if I still planned on playing college football.  I would always answer, “Sure!”  He would then say, “Well, I wasn’t sure. I haven’t seen you run or lift weights in a while.”  That’s all he needed to say.  Off I went.

When you know what motivates your people, you can then have the appropriate discussions to keep them on track and get them to operate at their highest level for your organization.

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Topics: effective sales coaching, sales leader, Sales Leadership, sales motivation

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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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