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The Death of Decision Making

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Fri, Apr 12, 2024

There have always been two certainties in life – death and taxes.

But I have now become convinced that there is a third certainty if you are a salesperson and that is the slow and painful death of decision making. Sure, prospects are still making decisions but there are some painful realities worth considering when it comes to how they make a decision:

  1. They are taking longer than ever to make decisions.
  2. They are involving more people in the decision-making process.
  3. The odds (while never really in your favor) are becoming increasingly in favor of the incumbent provider.

About five years ago the average number of people on a decision-making team was between 3 to 4 people for sales that were of some complexity in the B2B world. Now in 2024 most experts believe that number has increased to between 5 to 7 people who now make up the prospect’s decision-making group or team.

Why has this trend become the 3rd certainty in the life of a salesperson? I can give you 3 reasons:

  1. In a difficult or uncertain economy, prospects become very deliberate or conservative about making changes in existing relationships and/or spending money on new products or services. Spending freezes are not uncommon.
  2. Prospects take comfort in the “safety in numbers” approach. The thinking is that two heads are better than one…and six or seven seems even better.  The prospect’s belief is that this approach minimizes the chances that something will get missed.  And if something goes wrong, it is harder to blame a team of 7 as opposed to a single decision-maker.
  3. Buyers have fallen in love with the pursuit of consensus. But the problem is that consensus is rarely if ever reached.  After all, if everybody is thinking the same way about something then somebody is probably not thinking.

So how do you as a salesperson adjust? 

You must make sure you are having a conversation with all of the people (not some of the people) on the decision-making team. Is that a hassle? Yes, it is. But decision makers that are not accounted for during the sales process represent a huge red flag. 

And finally, you had better be incredibly effective in making sure that the existing relationship is breakable, and you must have demonstrated tangible proof of the value that you and your company can bring to your prospect.

Put the odds in your favor. Make certain that you have these issues uncovered and understood so that you have a more qualified prospect with a high likelihood of closing.

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



Topics: Sales Training, asking questions, motivating sales people, asking sales questions, sales training tips

5 Tips for Asking Your Prospect Better Questions

Posted by Walt Gerano on Fri, Apr 05, 2024

You don’t want to look, act, or sound like every other salesperson when asking your prospect questions. There is an art and a science to being masterful at asking your prospect better questions and building a strong, credible relationship with them. Read on to learn 5 tips for asking meaningful, exploratory, and courageous questions.

Now even though many of you think you have this skill of asking questions nailed, it would be interesting to have a microphone hooked up to you during your next sales call to find out if you really ask meaningful, exploratory, and yes, courageous questions.

Here’s the #1 tip: think ‘presidentially’ with your questions. It is probably the single most important piece of advice we can share with you when you are meeting with an executive of a company or with a head of household. Think about the things they think about and worry about.

Executives, owners, and heads of households usually think about the bigger picture, longer-term issues such as the well-being of their enterprise. So, ask them questions about that. What you sell is just a part of the overall picture. Instead of focusing on a specific loan need, investment strategy, or benefit coverage, think broader and ask questions like:

  1. What is getting in the way of reaching your revenue goals?
  2. How does this impact growth?
  3. What is the effect on turnover?
  4. If you had to find the money to cover this cost where would it come from?
  5. How does this investment affect your longer-term goals? 

You get the idea. Really seek to understand the challenges facing your prospect, not just the specific product need you might be able to solve. This separates you from the other salespeople talking and pitching product solutions. You will be solving business problems instead!

So, what about when your prospect asks you questions like: How big is your company? What kind of service guarantees do you provide? What other companies in our space do you work with?

Here’s tip #2: These questions are not their real questions. Get beneath their question by asking: "Joe, I want to make sure I address the right concern or question you have, when you ask ‘how big’, what is your concern relative to size?" The prospect will now give you a more accurate answer – for example – I want to make sure that you have the resources to take care of our entire footprint.

Questions like these will drive a much deeper conversation.

Here’s tip #3 and a rule of thumb for questions: Follow the leader (your prospect). Too often salespeople have their list of questions and are prepared to ask those questions. They want to follow the script, but the problem is the prospect doesn’t know their lines. You have to follow their lines or lead. Here is an example:

  • You ask a question – “How concerned are you that you won’t be able to come up with the cash to take advantage of the market opportunity?
  • The prospect says Very concerned”
  • You ask Tell me more about ‘very concerned’ what specifically are you concerned about?
  • The prospect says My concerns are xy & z”
  • You ask – “Why does xy and z bother you? What is the impact?”

This is how to get to the bottom of the real issues that need to be solved – not just the surface issues. 

Let’s say you have uncovered a prospect’s motivation to take action and you know that they have a real pain that is costing them. Hidden in the conversation though is another pain. The pain of change. Tip #4 – The key thing to remember is that there are two pains at work – the pain of not changing and the pain of change. The pain of not changing has to be substantially greater than the pain of change. So, with that in mind you have to ask about the pain of not changing:

Here are some examples:

  • How long has this problem been going on?
  • What happens if you don’t fix it?
  • What is the cost to you, the company, your family, or your community?
  • Who in your organization is impacted by this change and how will you handle that?

 Tip #5: Occasionally your prospect will want to transfer the pain...

“Well if we don’t do this then the company, the department, the marketing group, etc” will… Transferring the pain to someone else makes it easy for your prospect to ignore the problem. This is why you have to make it personal. When you ask the question: “What happens if you don’t fix the problem” and you get a “pain transfer” answer, you must re-ask the question. “I’m sorry Sally, what I meant to ask is this: Why is this a problem for you specifically if you don’t fix it?”

So, there are 5 tips you can use today, to get better at discovering what is really bothering your prospect. Go give them a try right now and see how they work for you.

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



Topics: Sales Training, asking questions, motivating sales people, asking sales questions, sales training tips

Why Companies Struggle with Hiring Salespeople Who Will Sell

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Mar 29, 2024

Putting the best people in the right seats is the biggest problem identified by most business execs, especially as it applies to critical sales roles. In today’s high tech, fast-moving economy, finding the right people who can and will sell for your company is a keystone for success. What can your firm do differently to attain better results and attract top talent? After working with hundreds of companies over the last 30 years, here is what we have learned are the 5 most common problems companies struggle with when hiring quality salespeople.

#1: They outsource their recruiting and the responsibility. Recruiting is something that the company has to own. Be cautious of outsourcing the work and the responsibility. That makes it too easy for people internally to throw up their hands and transfer failures associated within the hiring process to the outsourced firm. If company execs need to improve the quality of their hires, they have to own the process.

#2 There is a lack of a consistent process for constantly searching. Most, if not all, firms make the mistake of looking for candidates only when they have an opening. This leads to many problems:

  • They are held hostage by salespeople with “large books”. Managers feel they cannot do anything about them for fear of losing the “books” since there aren’t any replacements.
  • They feel desperate to fill a chair with a warm bottom when there is a vacancy. A body,
    anybody, is better than no one sitting in the chair.
  • The do not replace underperformers because there isn’t a pipeline of candidates to choose from. The underperformers stay around too long; others know it and realize that they don’t have to perform to keep their job, so overall team production continues to decline.

#3: Companies are not getting quality candidates entering the process. The traditional model of recruiting is one where the placement firm tries to convince their client why a candidate should be hired. Companies should, on the other hand, work extremely hard to disqualify candidates because there are specific skills that apply for that sales job and many/most candidates do not have those skills. Bottom line, the company has to assess at least two things: 1) Do they have enough of the right strengths to be successful? 2) Will they sell versus can they sell? Here’s some information on how to find out if your producer candidate will sell.

#4 There is poor communication about the specific role and expectations of this new hire. Too often, everyone is so excited about getting the seat filled that no one takes the time to get into the details of the day-to-day requirements of the job. This leads to early misunderstandings about the role and eventually, failure on the part of the new hire to meet the expectations of the company. Failure to “negotiate on the 1st tee” leads to misunderstanding and failure to execute on the sales goals.

#5 The on-boarding process is inadequate in the area of selling. Most companies are ill-equipped to effectively on-board new salespeople. They spend time introducing them to the “culture” of the operation, the mechanics of the job and how to get things done. They introduce them to HR, their support team, marketing and their partners. And, yes, there is discussion about goals, sales activities and how to enter data into CRM. And then… the new hires are on their own.

Firms think that they have hired their next sales superstar and then, 12 months later, they cannot figure out what went wrong. They look at the numbers and discover that the new hires are producing “just like everyone else in the middle of the pack.” The process many companies have in place currently to recruit and hire salespeople perpetuates this problem. Coaching in the first 6 months is essential for producer success.

If you need help or more information on hiring better salespeople, we have many resources available for you. Click the button below to learn more. 


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Topics: Sales Training, motivating sales people, achieving sales success, sales training tips, sales team excellence

Achieving Sales Team Excellence – The Will to Manage

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Thu, Mar 21, 2024

It's difficult to choose what the toughest part of any sales manager’s job is and it can vary by company, industry or geography. Undoubtedly, it will be about people – finding the right salespeople, hiring and onboarding, coaching them on important deals and for skill development. And don’t forget about holding them accountable to the goals established and their activity to achieve those.

Sales managers must also keep their people engaged and utilizing the tools made available for pipeline management such as the company CRM. It is a known reality that salespeople would rather not… Then, there is the motivation factor – how to help each and every individual stay focused on attaining their personal and professional goals, driving effective sales meetings and huddles, to keeping the competitive juices alive. That is a long list, yet not exhaustive by any means. How does a sales manager succeed in this role and achieve sales team excellence?

We rely on the pioneer in the industry and #1 sales management evaluation by Objective Management Group to help understand exactly what skills and qualities drive success in the sales management role. Three key findings are identified and scored:

  1. The Will to be Successful specifically in the role of manager or sales leader
  2. The Sales Manager DNA
  3. The Sales Manager Competencies

The Will to Manage Competencies, as defined by OMG, measure a sales manager's overall drive to achieve success in sales management. Without a strong Will to Manage, it is difficult for an individual to change their habits or learn new skills. Now let’s break that down into the specific competencies within The Will to Manage.

  • Desire: Sales managers feel urgency to take action, prioritize sales results, or care deeply about achieving sales results. While there are many responsibilities that fall on their shoulders, great sales managers put the bottom line first, driving revenue and growth. Certainly, that means that they must be very good at delegating and making sure that they are not too immersed in operations, compliance, or HR issues.
  • Commitment: Sales managers persevere in selling to a difficult prospect, push forward despite their own discomfort, or do what is required to achieve sales quota. And, they help and coach their salespeople to do the same. This is where a sales manager’s own selling ability and learnings from the field can come in handy. Not to utilize those skills and experiences directly, but to teach with them and help their people try different and bolder approaches that have worked in the past.
  • Outlook: Sales managers feel positive, focused, and appreciative about their career prospects. This competency is so important in setting the tone, culture, and even the relationship the manager has with their team. Imagine the difference between a team that has a positive, we will prevail sales leader with one who is downtrodden and feels like the competition has a leg up and the company is behind. The sales manager’s outlook affects the very heart of the team.
  • Responsibility: Sales managers hold themselves accountable for any lack of sales results. One of the biggest problems in many companies is the tendency to make and allow excuses for lack of results and it typically starts at the top. If a sales leader allows excuses and makes excuses, it creates a culture that becomes complacent with not achieving goals and that very quickly affects the performance of the team. For example, if loan operations are slow to process a loan, the sales manager will not use that as an excuse for a long sales cycle. They will figure out what they can do to affect change, no excuses made or allowed.
  • Motivation: Sales managers have a compelling dream or goal to drive sales performance. Motivation is a personal, inside job and it will vary by person, making it difficult to manage salespeople who are motivated differently. Some will be pumped up with praise and kudos in front of the team while others will be motivated specifically by money and rewards. Of course, this also applies to sales managers and while there are differences in how they are motivated, the critical component for achieving sales team excellence, is that they have a compelling dream and can communicate that with others.

Take a few moments to evaluate yourself on these 5 Will to Manage Competencies. The hallmark of an effective sales leader or salesperson is the continual focus on becoming even better at what they do and finding resources to help them achieve sales team excellence.


Download Free eBook:  The Extraordinary Sales Manager



Topics: Sales Training, motivating sales people, achieving sales success, sales training tips, sales team excellence

How to Respond to Common Sales Objections

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Fri, Mar 15, 2024

Sales objections typically arise in several key areas during the sales process. The first is when you’re trying to secure someone’s time during prospecting, attempting to schedule a meeting on their calendar and obtain a few minutes of their attention. The second occurs when you are delivering a presentation and seeking a commitment or decision.

It’s important to recognize that there’s no magic silver bullet that universally overcomes objections. Instead, objections are rooted in emotions, and when emotions take over, rational thinking often takes a back seat. The best approach when faced with objections is not to try to overcome them but instead, effectively deal with them.

Attempting to outright overcome objections is generally ineffective. Consider how challenging it is to convince a loved one, friend, or colleague that they’re viewing something incorrectly. Similarly, when prospecting for time, it’s crucial to assess whether you come across as someone worth listening to. Are your calls focused on your products, your services, or are you addressing the prospect’s needs and challenges?

Handling Sales Objections about Pricing

Objections related to fees, pricing, or comparisons with competitors are common. It’s essential to understand that objections don’t necessarily signal a refusal to buy. Prospects may present objections to test whether you are willing to adapt or make adjustments, especially in terms of pricing.

To effectively handle objections, we advocate the PAC method. The “P” stands for pause, providing a moment to collect thoughts and calm emotions. A well-timed pause may also encourage the prospect to share more information. The “A” is for acknowledge, expressing gratitude for the objection and validating the prospect’s perspective. People often feel upset when they believe they are not being heard. Finally, the “C” is for get curious. Understand the underlying motivations behind the objection and inquire about what the prospect is truly looking to achieve.

It’s crucial to avoid slipping into sales mode when confronted with objections. Whether seeking an appointment or responding to pricing concerns, maintaining a non-salesy approach is key. Resist the temptation to push back aggressively or launch into a sales pitch.

Dealing with Sales Objections about the Other Bank

Another frequent challenge relationship managers encounter is when prospects express loyalty to their current financial provider, citing years of satisfaction with their services. So, utilizing the PAC method; when a prospect declares, “I’ve been doing business with ABC Bank for X years, and I’m satisfied,” apply the PAC method. Pause, then acknowledge with a positive response like, “Thanks for sharing. I am grateful for our happy clients as well.” Next, get curious by asking questions. For example, inquire about the top two or three aspects that have kept them “satisfied” and loyal to the competitor. Is there a state beyond satisfied that they would be open to? If they could fix or change one thing, what would it be?

Use an approach like, “Mary, it seems you’re not ready to shift your relationship, and I understand. Could you elaborate on the key factors that have kept you with ABC Bank and contributed to your satisfaction?” Alternatively, express optimism for the competitor’s success but gently prompt with, “Mary, in a perfect world, what could they do or another bank do to take you from satisfied to ecstatic?”

Your goal is to position yourself strategically for future opportunities. Inquire, “Mary, what can I do to be your first choice if you encounter a problem that needs fixing that your current bank cannot address?” Once you gather insights, collaborate with Mary to create an action plan to stay in touch without appearing desperate. And remember, maintaining a robust pipeline ensures you can confidently address objections.

Addressing Sales Objections about Timing

What about an objection related to time – when prospects express the need to delay a project or a decision on a project? Timing is crucial, and learning about potential delays should happen early in the conversation. However, let’s focus on what to do when faced with the objection of needing to postpone a decision. It’s not an ideal situation, especially during a presentation meant to secure a decision.

Consider this perspective: aim to close 100% of your qualified opportunities. Closing doesn’t necessarily mean a positive decision; it means obtaining a clear outcome. Whether they accept your proposal or choose to stick with their current financial provider, closure is key.

In reality, many opportunities linger without a resolution. Deals seem like planes circling the airport without landing. When a prospect expresses interest but wants to delay, don’t settle for uncertainty. First, acknowledge their concerns. Then, inquire about the cost of inaction (COI). Ask them what will happen to their problems while they wait. Problems don’t usually vanish on their own; sometimes, they worsen. What could waiting cost them? Make sure and stay silent and let them answer those questions fully.

Dealing with this objection involves addressing the fear and hesitation that salespeople often carry – that inner voice urging caution. To quote Plato, “The first and most important victory is to conquer oneself.” Challenge the belief system that tells you to play it safe. Be a bit disruptive, respectfully questioning the consequences of delaying. Don’t be too quick to comply; rattle the windows a bit, get them thinking. When faced with a prospect wanting to postpone, ask why and explore the implications of waiting.

Remember, objections don’t necessarily mean a lack of interest. They might indicate it’s not the right time or a potential willingness to buy with certain adjustments. By employing the PAC method—pause, acknowledge, get curious - you can increase your chances of navigating objections successfully.


For 30 years, Anthony Cole Training Group has been helping community banks and other financial service organizations close their sales opportunity gap by helping them sell better, coach better and hire better. Utilizing science-based, data-driven research and working hand-in-hand with clients, ACTG evaluates the organization, the market, and current individual and company strengths. Our skilled and sales-experienced Sales Development Experts then help to align company strategies and implement customized Sales Managed Environment® framework that fosters sales growth and production. Our financial focus, customized programming, sales-experienced personnel, and owner’s perspective have made us the Community Banking source for revenue growth. Our Mission: Grow People, Grow Organizations.


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Topics: Sales Training, motivating sales people, achieving sales success, sales training tips


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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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