ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

Walt Gerano

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7 Rules of the (Prospecting) Road

Posted by Walt Gerano on Wed, Apr 10, 2019

There are a certain number of rules that must be followed when it comes to prospecting in sales. 

These include, but are not limited to, making the commitment to get out of the cold calling business, identifying who you will ask for introductions and referrals each week, ensuring exactly how you will evaluate your success, and creating a pre-call plan for every single call and/or face-to-face meeting.

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Some people say that rules were made to be broken. You might want to think twice about breaking some of these rules for prospecting.

The most successful salespeople I know are always challenging the ideas and methods of those that have succeeded before them, but they don’t challenge the notion of the importance of making prospecting their A priority every week. They know that no matter how successful they are, if they don’t continue to add new relationships, that eventually, their business will decline. 

Here are some rules to help you prospect and prosper:

  1. Play in your sandbox. Make sure you have a profile of who you need to be in front of. Call on the people and businesses where you have expertise, and can leverage that, along with your experience.
  1. If you are dependent on making cold calls, make the commitment to get out of the cold calling business. You will schedule appointments and make sales cold calling but the acquisition cost per sale is much higher than with referrals and introductions. Not to mention the sales process is generally longer.
  1. Look at your schedule each week and identify who you will ask for introductions and referrals. It could be face to face meetings, networking events or a meeting with a center of influence. Have a process for asking that makes it easy for people to help you. Bring your list of top 10 prospects to every meeting and ask them who they know on the list that would take a call from you? Better yet, make use of LinkedIn and look through their connections for people and businesses that look like your target prospect.
  1. How will you evaluate your success? Make sure to set objectives whether it is with a success formula or a commitment to specific behaviors and then TRACK IT!
  1. Have a telephone approach that when calling for appointments helps you sound like someone they want to speak with. What is your unique selling approach? What problems do you fix and why do people meet with you? It must be compelling.
  1. Do a pre-call plan for every call, on the phone or face to face, to help you stay on track. Know what questions you will ask, what questions you need answered and the tough questions they will ask along with how you will respond.
  1. Don’t quit, be persistent! Rejection is part of the process. It’s not falling down it’s staying down that defeats us all.

Topics: introductions, Cold Calling, Referrals, persistence, success formula, pre call sessions, effective sales process, hunting for sales prospects, ideal prospect persona, sales acceleration, salespeople, sales opportunity

How to Bring the Closing Magic

Posted by Walt Gerano on Thu, Mar 07, 2019

Great salespeople are masterful at asking open-ended, courageous questions of their prospects that either lead them towards, or away, from saying "yes" to their solution. There are many instances throughout the sales process where trial closes are appropriate to identify the prospects true compelling reason to make a change.

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Everyone is always asking me: “What are the magic questions when closing?” My answer is simple: There is nothing magical about it. People who consistently close business do so because they have an effective process that they execute every time.

If the only time you are closing is when you have presented a solution, you might be working on too many opportunities that are not really opportunities.

1.) The first opportunity we have to close is during the appointment.  When it sounds like there is some mental anguish or pain, we should ask the prospect to invite us out to discuss in more detail, or agree to another phone appointment when selling long distance.

2.) Our second opportunity comes after we have identified a problem.  They must tell you they are committed to fixing the problem.  In other words, they are going to pursue solutions until they find the one that works for them.

My 3 favorite questions to ask at this point are:

  1. Do you believe I understand your problem?
  2. Do you believe I have the ability to fix your problem?
  3. Do you want my help?

Remember this all happens BEFORE we go back and begin to work on solutions.

Our final opportunity comes after we have presented our solution and answered every objection and every question. 

This one is easy, simply ask:

“What would you like to do now?”

When they don’t respond right away, avoid the temptation to jump in and rescue them.  Wait for an answer.

If it’s a yes, schedule the next step, if a no go back to the pain.

Follow this process and your results will be MAGICAL.

Topics: closing more sales, Closing business, Closing skills, closing sales techniques, sales opportunity, when to walk away

Stop Accepting "Think It Over (TIO)"

Posted by Walt Gerano on Wed, Jan 30, 2019

stop in the name of love

Facing stalls and objections throughout the sales process is a common occurrence for many salespeople. What we find is that, often, it is due to ineffective qualifying and not asking for the prospects commitment to take action prior to presenting a solution.

In this blog, we will cover the 10 common symptoms that suggest you may accept put-offs from prospects and how that is affecting the strength and quality of your sales pipeline.

While we are hoping to hear yes after our presentation, sometimes we hear a no. But how many times are you hearing “think it over”?

Think about the last 10 sales opportunities you had in your pipeline where you didn’t get a yes.  How many of them are still in the pipeline because you are “hoping” for a yes while they “think it over” and get back to you?  Now ask yourself what percentage of the time when you allow “TIO” do you get the business? My guess is that if you are like the rest of us, the number is pretty small. So let’s stop kidding ourselves about the strength of our pipeline and quit accepting “think it over” as an answer.

Since we agree that “TIO” is not the most effective strategy for closing more business, let’s look at some of the symptoms.  You may not identify with all of these but it only takes one to derail your sales effectiveness.

  1. Do you keep going on appointments with prospects that don’t fit your ideal profile?
  2. Are you answering more questions than you are asking?
  3. Are you completing a pre-call plan for every sales call with questions you will ask and curve balls you expect?
  4. Do you rely on cold calls instead of introductions and referrals?
  5. Do you think “running faster” is a strategy?
  6. Are you too trusting of prospects and what they say?
  7. Are doing most of the talking on your sales calls?
  8. Are you talking too much about products and not enough about problems?
  9. Do you go on any appointment because you don’t have enough in your pipeline?
  10. Are you asking for the prospect’s commitment to a “Yes” or “No” answer before you come back, present your solution and answer all of their questions?

Eliminating “TIO” is easier that you think.  First let’s agree that it’s OUR fault.  If you have a sales process that allows for “think it over” you are going to get “think it over.”  If you don’t have an effective sales process, well then get one and follow it every time!

Stop fooling around with prospects that want to “think it over” and go sell something!

Topics: qualifying prospects, increase pipeline, Qualifying skills, Closing skills, salespeople

9 Strengths of Consultative Sellers

Posted by Walt Gerano on Thu, Sep 27, 2018

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“It’s not you, it’s me!”  I love that scene from Seinfeld. 

In today's blog, we answer the sales question, "Is it me or is it you?"

Selling has changed a lot in the last 10 years and, if you haven’t noticed, some of the tried and true ways might not be as effective as they once were.

My vote is that the buyer and the buying process have changed the most, so it’s “them”. So, now that we have established who is at fault, let’s talk about why and what to do about it.

  • It continues to be harder to get to prospects. Everyone is busier and gets more e-mails, calls and texts.
  • Because they are busier, they don’t feel like they have time to meet.
  • Unless you have something compelling to say, they are less likely to listen.
  • Today, more than ever, the buyer starts the process; therefore, as salespeople, we enter the sales cycle much later than before.
  • As much as price was an issue before, it may be an even bigger issue for some today.

 So… what is a salesperson to do?

According to Dave Kurlan at the Objective Management Group, you need to sell more consultatively.

What does that mean?  Well, here are the 9 attributes for consultative selling from the OMG sales evaluation:

  1. Asks “Great” Questions. They must be questions that help uncover a problem not just lead to an issue that causes you to go into presentation mode.
  2. Asks “Enough” questions. Do you dig down beneath the surface to understand the impact of the problem or stop when you think you have enough to put together a proposal?
  3. Develops strong relationships. This goes beyond the chit-chat to a place where real trust develops.  It is a process, not an event.
  4. Presents at the appropriate times. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to present and, other times, we get ahead of the prospect.
  5. Uncovers issues. Real problems that exist or might come about if the situation is neglected.  It has to be beyond the “product”.
  6. Understands how prospects will buy. Remember, it’s their process; however, your questions can help drive urgency.
  7. Takes nothing for granted. Even if it looks like the others, it’s not!
  8. Able to ask tough questions. Anyone can ask the layups; prepare to ask questions even when it is uncomfortable.  That is one way to establish yourself as a trusted adviser.
  9. Able to listen and ask questions with ease. Listening does not mean waiting for your turn to talk.  Listen to understand what the prospect is really trying to tell you and then ask your question to clarify what you heard.  Don’t assume you know.

This is a lot of stuff to think about.  Could working on some of these 9 help you be more effective and sell more?  I think so, but it’s up to you.

4 Steps to Create Client Advocates

Posted by Walt Gerano on Tue, Jan 17, 2017

A guest post by Walt Gerano, Sales Development Expert, Anthony Cole Training Group

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Today's question is this: “What are you doing to keep your clients coming back... and telling their friends?”

Can you think of a place where you go, wait in a long line, spend a lot of money and yet can’t wait to tell others how great it was and go back again?  Well, that could describe a number of places, but the frame of reference I want to use today is the Disney experience.

No one would argue with the success that Disney has in exceeding expectations and creating advocates. When you go there your first time, it is more beautiful than you ever imagined.  You have such a magical time that you forget about how much things cost or how long the lines are for almost everything.  In his book, Inside the Magic Kingdom, author Tom Connellan shows us (in story form) the seven keys to Disney’s success and how they work to create a dazzling experience for all of their guests.  As you read the book, you can only imagine what would go into building and sustaining that kind of relationship with your customers.

In order to achieve “dazzling”, you must have a process that is consistent and predictable.  People need to know what they can depend on when they trust you with their business.  In other words, it’s not a once-in-a-while thing; it is just the way you do things.

Keep in mind that it does not have to be the same thing for all of your clients.  The way you support your top 20% needs to be different from how you support your bottom 20%. But, at the heart of it all, everyone gets the basics.

So, how DO you create advocates?

  1. You have to find out what they want.How do you do this?  Ask!  Give them a list of things to choose from with the option to add things that might not be on the list.
  2. Next, prioritize critical areas. The key here is to find out what they won’t tell you.  How many times have you left a restaurant after you told your server everything was fine when they asked… then you  get back to your car and vow to never go back?  Some of your clients may do the same thing.
  3. Identify performance levelsand find out where they are setting the bar; don’t assume you know.
  4. Negotiate expectations. Now is the time to deal with anything you are not willing to agree to. Sometimes we say “yes” because we think it’s a deal breaker; just ask and then decide.  If it is outside your process, then you are better served to move on because, unfortunately, it will always be a struggle and they will never become an advocate anyway.

The only way to exceed your customer’s expectations is to know what they actually are, not what you think they are.  Start by having that conversation first and soon you will have them coming back for more and telling their friends.

Additional Resources:

Solving Problems for Prospects

Topics: exceeding customer expectations, creating advocates, solving sales issues

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    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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