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Data Driven Sales: Proven Concepts, Proven Results (Full Article)

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, May 26, 2022

If you and your organization don't have a data-driven sales approach and process, you could be missing out on some key information that would help increase sales success.



As I thought about this article, I figured it would only be fair to present separate information important to the three primary sales roles in a company. These include; the president, the VP of sales or leading sales manager, and the actual producer in the field responsible for generating sales revenue.


However, I encourage you to read all three sections as there is critical and useful information that will benefit you regardless of your role or responsibilities.


Presidential Data: Top-level data tells you the story of who is and who isn’t

President DataIf you are the president of a company with a sales force of over 30 or so people, you should pay attention to the chart above which reflects 183 salespeople. The findings here will probably be pretty close to what you would find in your organization.  

What stands out to you vs. what should stand out are two different things. What should stand out for you as a president are the following:

  • The 80 / 20 rule isn’t applying here. Not even close. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing. But if I were you, I would check my team to see if we are hitting our numbers on the backs of a few. If so, that makes you vulnerable to a key loss by design or by default. It also makes you vulnerable to creating a “just enough is good enough” culture.
  • The middle 20% is being outperformed by the top group 2 to 1. If you are president, you should be asking why that is the case. All of these people have been hired to do the same job, are all in similar markets, and are all paid the same. Most companies think it’s a longevity thing. It is not. Notice that the average Years of Service (YOS) are only marginally different.
  • The bottom 20% is being slammed by a 3.39 to 1 margin on total and about the same for average production. So, what is going on there? Again, no major difference in YOS. Ask yourself what is that bottom 20% costing you in salary, benefits, lost opportunities, additional coaching and managing, and recruiting turnover?

Sales Manager Data: What does it take to be successful?

VP DataFor the VPs of sales and sales managers, this tells you why there is a difference between your top performers and bottom performers. In this graphic, evaluated salespeople from all industries and over 25,000 companies are on the left, and the non-performers are on the right. 

As you consider your training, coaching, and recruiting, how much time do you spend making sure that your salespeople have what it takes based on data vs. gut, instinct, or feel?

When you consider the training dollars spent on technique, approaches, pitches, and presentation skills, do you wonder why:

  • Your people don’t change their behavior
  • Skills don’t improve
  • You constantly work on the same "choke points" in the sales process with the same people
  • Prospecting is a never-ending problem
  • The pipeline continues to be anemic or constipated
  • New hires that cost you a fortune take too long to ramp up or fail out of the company

Salesperson Data: Target your top 36% average account

SP Data

For years, salespeople have tried to figure out how to get to the next level of success. Certainly, it takes the Will to Sell, the Sales DNA, and the sales competencies identified in the Objective Management Group Sales Evaluation that has 92% predictive validity. But in addition to that, it requires that you have a business model that is built to help you sell more business, more quickly, at better margins.

The model represented here is not new. If you’ve read any sales books in your, career you have probably heard of the Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule. I’ve taken it one step further.

Focus on the cells in green and plug in your own numbers:

  • This book of revenue represents 30,000,000 in loans. Yours could be premium, units, revenue, or renewals. It doesn’t matter. Take that number and multiply it by 80%.
  • There are 75 clients in the portfolio and we’ve multiplied that number by 20% to get to 15.
  • In short 15 clients represent 80% of the entire book of business.
  • Go 1 step further and do the math again. You’ll find that 96% of the entire $30,000,000 is;
    • Represented by 36% percent of the clients = 27
    • The average loan represented by this group is 1,066,667

Here is what takes you over the top:

  • Compare the average loan from the top 36% to the loan average of the bottom 64%.
  • Who would you rather be selling to?
  • Assume that your top 36% of clients know at least 5 other people like them
  • Ask your top 36% of clients for an introduction.
  • Assume you get 50% to say yes, half of those people qualify, and half of those that qualify do business with you.
  • Using the numbers above, that would be 6 new clients at over $1,000,000 in loans.

The closing question is this: How many sales would you have to make from your bottom 64% of clients to equal one from your best client group? The answer: 40.

STOP selling those that look like your bottom 64%.

Don’t believe me? Look at these results from our clients who have implemented this process:

Banking Case Study


Insurance Case Study

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Topics: data driven sales, data driven sales approach

Leading a Sales Team: 10 Keys to Success (Part 2)

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Thu, May 19, 2022

Sales leaders must be both effective managers and great coaches by arming their salespeople with the skills to be successful and managing their strengths.

This week, we identify the final 5 keys to success in leading a sales team.


A good sales manager helps salespeople by arming them with the skills, knowledge, and strategies to help them be successful. A good coach motivates people by managing their strengths, hopes, and dreams, holding them accountable, and helping them recover from negative encounters. A good sales leader must be both a good manager and a good coach. 

We have identified 10 keys to success in leading a sales team. In last week’s blog, we dove into the first five keys. Today, we will expand on 6-10.

  1. Guiding the team to set extraordinary goals
  2. Managing excuse making
  3. Understanding the Will to Sell and Sales DNA factors beneath sales behavior
  4. Following a coaching process
  5. Coaching the deal and coaching for skill development
  6. Establishing personal and business goal setting
  7. Leading consistent sales huddles
  8. Creating a hiring profile and having a candidate pipeline
  9. Coaching a stage-based sales process
  10. The shadow of the leader

Establishing personal and business goal setting: Unfortunately, the results of thousands of sales management evaluations tell us that most managers do not know the personal goals of their salespeople. If a leader needs to get to the heart of why their salesperson is not reaching business sales goals, they must understand how they are motivated and what personally motivates them. Is the salesperson intrinsically or extrinsically motivated? Does their salesperson respond to being at the top of the stack ranking and recognized by others, or is money or freedom to run their business more important? Let’s face it, we all work to have time, money, and freedom. If a sales manager does not understand what is important to the salesperson (vacation, retirement, education, etc.), how can they establish appropriate activity goals and coach their salespeople? We offer a comprehensive Personal & Business Workplan template that can help sales managers with this critical goal-setting process.

Leading consistent sales huddles: Huddles, as defined by Verne Harnish, founder and President of Gazelles, are:

  1. A communication process or system that allows for sharing of real-time information
  2. An opportunity to focus on "burning platform" issues for a team or company
  3. A way to bring sharp focus and attention to a critical business driver
  4. The most important 15 minutes in any company

If a sales manager does not have a regular and timely means to monitor what is going on in the field in real-time, they cannot coach or adjust the play or get in front of any client issues or trends. Huddles should provide real-time information so that sales managers can make real-time decisions and provide real-time feedback or coaching.

Creating a hiring profile and having a candidate pipeline: Most sales leaders start the recruiting process when there is an opening. Managers should be recruiting all the time so that when that happens, they are prepared and have a recruiting list. The first step is to create a profile of the ideal person in the role by identifying, evaluating, and listing specific skills and traits of current top producers. Then, gather management and others in the company to ask who they know that fits that description. This is how you start to create a recruiting list. A hiring profile and candidate pipeline are necessary for new and tenured sales leaders. It is a critical piece in any sales management training program.

Coaching a stage-based sales process: According to the #1 sales assessment in the world, elite salespeople follow a stage-based sales system. By mastering the process and asking the right questions at the right time, top producers take the prospect through a discovery process and identify the problem or pain, monetize that pain, and then uncover the time, resources, and budget to fix that problem. Within that stage-based sales process, skilled salespeople also discuss the current provider relationship, decision-making process, and commitment level to make a change. This stage-based process is essential for a coach to help their salespeople discover where they are getting stuck and coach them to the next level. We know that by implementing a consistent sales process, companies can achieve a 15% lift. Make certain that your sales management training program includes this important area.

The shadow of the leader: Being a sales leader is not an easy job- they have many responsibilities with multiple activities to get done throughout the day. But, a sales leader’s #1 job is to make their people wildly successful and improve their skills so they are more successful than they would have been on their own. Casting the shadow of the leader also involves a continual focus on self-development to become a better manager and coach. Commitment cannot be taught, but it can be demonstrated. 

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Topics: Sales Management Training

Leading a Sales Team: 10 Keys to Success (Part 1)

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Thu, May 12, 2022

In our sales management training, we have developed 10 keys and a framework of activities that provide a new or tenured sales leader with a roadmap they need to put in place to help lead their team to greater sales success.

Screen Shot 2022-03-08 at 10.18.18 AM

Most companies engage in sales training, but we have found over our 29 years of business that few invest in sales management training. In part, due to the theory that a successful salesperson can transition to teaching and coaching others to do the same. This theory is flawed because there are very different skills required of sales managers than salespeople- the most important being the driving desire to develop and achieve success through others. Both roles do include a focus on relationship selling and the ability to quickly and effectively find and develop a bond with others. However, the core skills of a sales manager involve understanding how to transition from actively doing to teaching and coaching. In our sales management training, we have developed a framework of activities that provide a new or tenured sales leader with specific activities they need to put in place to help lead their team to greater success.

Here are 10 keys to success for leading a sales team:

  1. Guiding the team to set extraordinary goals
  2. Managing excuse-making
  3. Understanding the Will to Sell and Sales DNA factors beneath sales behavior
  4. Following a coaching process
  5. Coaching the deal and coaching for skill development
  6. Establishing personal and business goal setting
  7. Leading consistent sales huddles
  8. Creating a hiring profile and having a candidate pipeline
  9. Coaching a stage-based sales process
  10. The shadow of the leader

Guiding the team to set extraordinary goals: One of the biggest complaints of most salespeople is that their goals are set by the company and are not realistic. What is interesting about that is if a sales leader effectively takes their salespeople through a process of establishing their own goals, salespeople will typically set them higher than the company might. In our sales management training, we help managers with a specific approach of establishing Extraordinary Goals. Utilizing a matrix like the one below, a sales manager begins by asking the salesperson what a good goal for their year is, then discusses poor and failing levels. Once those are established they have a conversation about what an Excellent year would look like and then what an Extraordinary year would be. Numbers are essential, along with a discussion of what would be needed to achieve these levels. Once all those numbers are established the sales leader asks the salespeople to which level they want to be managed and coached. Most high-performing salespeople will choose the top level. The key, however, is the sales leader must ask the salesperson if they will allow them to be coached to that level, and gains the understanding that it will be hard and challenging. Utilizing this process, the salesperson has established their own goal and will be more committed to doing what it takes to achieve it.

CSFManaging excuse-making: We all make excuses, but one of the skills of top-performing salespeople is their ability to own their outcomes and results. In our sales management training, we help sales leaders understand the commitment levels of their salespeople and then how to coach to those various levels. We can all recognize some salespeople will do Whatever It Takes, which we call WIT. These salespeople rarely, if ever, blame the market, the company, or anything other than their actions for lack of success. So here is the strategy. When asked, "Why do you think you did not reach your annual goal, Joe?” Joe says, “Look how many accounts I am managing! How can I do this client servicing work and still bring in new business?” The sales manager replies, “If I did not let you use that excuse, what would you have done differently?” This approach reaps great success because it puts the ball squarely back in the salesperson's court, and they must think about how they could have adjusted their activities to achieve a different result. They must own it.

Understanding the Will to Sell and Sales DNA factors beneath sales behavior: When a salesperson does not prospect enough, avoids asking about the budget in the sales process, or does not ask enough strong qualifying questions, it is often the result of their underlying Will to Sell and Sales DNA. It is impossible to coach these behaviors without understanding what lies beneath the salesperson's actions. Relationship selling is a complex skill, and a sales coach will want to understand these underlying factors about their salespeople to effectively coach them to higher levels of performance. For example, if a salesperson does not believe that they have the right to ask budget questions or is uncomfortable doing so (uncomfortable discussing money), they won't ask. It is easy to teach a technique and help them with questions they can be comfortable with once they understand what is getting in their way.

Will to Sell & Sales DNA-1

Following a Coaching Process: Much like mastering a sport like golf and tennis, there are different styles and approaches, but there are technical factors involved in becoming adept at these sports. Similarly, in our sales management training, we help sales leaders with the technical side of coaching with a 5-step coaching process. Yes, they must be adept at each of these steps below, but if they commit to coaching their salespeople in this manner, they will see a lift.
  1. Gain insight: find out what is happening or not happening through huddle data or observational coaching, schedule a coaching session
  2. Provide feedback: have quality conversations that are timely and specific, asking questions of their salespeople to help them self-discover, and gain agreement on the real problems
  3. Demonstrate and instruct: Identify skill gaps, demonstrate mastery of the skill, and instruction on critical steps to improve
  4. Roleplay: Complete a pre-call for an upcoming call, RM roleplays, complete a post-call debrief together, coach gaps
  5. Develop an action plan: determine action steps, observe, inspect and coach again, celebrate results, and address failure

Coaching the deal and coaching for skill development: Many sales coaches are great at coaching the deal, helping a salesperson understand if the prospect fits their target, researching the industry and issues, the complexities of the structure of the deal, etc. However, at a separate time, sales managers must focus on sales behaviors to help a salesperson make improvements in their strategies, skills, and approach. We recommend establishing coaching hours on the calendar. This is when a salesperson commits to a meeting with their manager, reviews a prospect pre or post-call and reviews the questions they will ask/asked, and completes a qualifying scorecard on the prospect. This is time to sharpen their sword. One of the most important jobs of the sales manager is to practice with their salespeople, take time to help them with a new approach, ask questions differently, and help them get comfortable with closing questions. This time is set aside not to focus on a deal but to improve skills and affect behavior change. Remember, change takes repetition and practice!

Tune in to our blog next week for the Sales Leader's final 5 keys to leading their team to success!

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Topics: relationship selling, Sales Management Training

Effective Joint Sales Calls for Greater Sales Success

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, May 06, 2022

One of the critical components of sales success and sales coaching is the ability of the sales managers and their salespeople to run effective joint calls. 

There are four steps that will dramatically improve your sales team's ability to eventually conduct extraordinary sales calls on their own.

adult-american-analyzing-1059111 (1)-1

Occasionally I have salespeople call on me.  Whenever there are two people on the call, my first thought is: Which one is the rookie? Next, I think;  why are two people here? Who is running the sales call? What are they hoping to accomplish besides trying to find out what I’m trying to accomplish? Is this a real sales call for the salesperson or just practice?

I don’t claim to know if other presidents and decision-makers are thinking these things, but you cannot discount that they might.  Based on that assumption, it is critical that you have a sales call that is well-defined and choreographed so that the prospect is impressed with the meeting, and you, as either sales manager or salesperson, accomplish what the prospect wants to accomplish. Generally speaking, that is to solve a problem.

Here are 4 steps to more effective joint calls:

  1.  A Quality Phone Call- Remember, the quality of the phone call will determine the quality of the appointment.  You must follow a strict phone process to make sure that the joint call is taking place with a qualified prospect.
  2. Conducting a pre-call- In pre-call sessions:
    • Salespeople make sure they are prepared to ask the necessary questions to identify if there is a real opportunity and, if so, set up an additional meeting
    • The sales manager and salesperson roleplay the appointment
    • Everyone agrees to and identifies who will do what during the sales call
  3. Identify the reason for a joint call - If it is for learning purposes, then the sales manager has a very small part in the call.  If it is for qualifying or closing a large account, then the role of the sales manager can be more prominent.
  4. Do a post-call debrief - This is an opportunity to help salespeople recognize opportunities that they missed, questions they could have asked better, and commitments they failed to gain.  These insights need to be followed by an agreement as to the observations made, a demonstration by the sales manager of the correct approach or technique, and finally, a roleplay of the correct way to handle the sales call.

In addition to these steps, the sales manager has to be prepared to let the salesperson fail on the call. Sooner or later, you just have to let them go. If you rescue them all the time, then the salesperson becomes dependent on the sales manager and never develops the sales skills they need to succeed. These four steps, tied to discipline one-on-one coaching, will dramatically improve your sales team's ability to eventually conduct extraordinary sales calls on their own.

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Topics: sales succes, joint sales calls

3 Musts for Successful Sales Training Workshops

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Thu, Apr 28, 2022

Sales training workshops are often critical cultural touchpoints, allowing salespeople and sales leaders to come together.


Here are three musts to ensure that your next sales training workshop is as effective as it can be.

Screenshot (157)


How to Run an Effective Sales Workshop


Every year we deliver between 30-40 sales and sales management workshops, and we do everything we can to make sure that our delivery is top-notch and our audience is engaged. We work with clients, prospects, and associations on these workshops so they are all unique. Sometimes the audience is large and includes a mix of employees – both sales and support. Sometimes the participant groups are smaller, and we integrate our messaging with the leadership/CEO message. There is one shortcoming of all sales training workshops, and we will be upfront and transparent about that. By their nature, they are one-time events, and while they can be helpful to get folks focused and revved up, they usually do not make a long-term impact. But we will address that later.


Here are three musts to ensure that your next sales training workshop is as effective as it can be.


Must #1: Sales Training Workshops must be customized and interactive

We do not deliver many off-the-shelf workshops. It is always our goal to make sure that we understand and leverage the goals of the event, any theme, and of course, who is in the audience. We also speak the language to the best of our ability of those in attendance. It helps that we understand financial services and the nuances like the loan approval process and the impact of interest rate increases. This effort to customize our workshops to the company’s sales culture often helps us gain credibility and engagement with our audience, so we work hard to fully understand what our client wants to be the result at the end of the workshop. We always ask them, “What do you want the participants to think or feel when we are done with this workshop?” Then we make it happen.


We often start our workshops with music and music trivia or a Kahoot poll with something relevant and funny. Our workshop providers (Sales Development Experts) have an entertainment factor and build in humorous stories and examples. Yes, as they say, humor sells, and it especially does when you are trying to keep the attention of a group. We run surveys, show movies, and call on participants all the time, and since this is a common thread, everyone gets more comfortable and starts contributing. Learning is accelerated when people participate and engage so this is very mindful that we layer activities into our sales training workshops.


Must #2: Sales Training Workshops must provide quick and easy to use tools and strategies

We have all been to a workshop or two that was heavy on theory and concepts, and while you must touch on some of that, if we only have an hour or two, we try to get very quickly to application tools and strategies. Again, learning is accelerated when participants can apply the learning right then, right there, and so we will often do "drill for skill" where we ask participants to try out a sales technique. We often do a round-robin approach where a sales conversation starts with two and then goes around the room. People learn from each other, so this is a great way for top producers to share their approaches without being put on stage or doing the dreaded roleplay. Everyone participates in a non-threatening way. It is our experience that the best way to make an impact with a sales training workshop is to provide a tool like a Business & Personal Workplan or a Prospect Scorecard, or a Sales Action Plan. These are tools that participants can use right away when they leave the building.


Must #3: Sales Training Workshops should not be 1-time events

This might sound like I am selling, but I am not! As you evaluate a sales workshop provider, ask them what they can provide after the event to sustain the momentum. How can your company put a focus and even tracking to the activity that was covered in the workshop? For example, we do many Prospecting Sales Workshops, and one of our most popular is Getting Introductions. In follow-up, it is ideal for the company to track introductions and help coach their salespeople to make that activity continue. Do whatever you can to get your money’s worth! Sales skills are soft skills, and they take time and repetition to master, so see where you can build in practice and video and demonstration. 


Ask your sales workshop provider if they can give you videos on the topic, which will sustain the life and focus. In effect, work with your provider to make certain that your sales training workshop is NOT a one-time event.


Lastly, these events are often critical cultural touchpoints and offer the opportunity for Sales Leaders to lead, demonstrate and be part of the key focus. We always want to stand side by side with the leader to deliver and support the company or association's message. It’s a win-win for all!

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Topics: sales training workshops, sales action plan

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    About our Blog

    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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