ACTG Sales Management Blog

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How to Prospect for Sales

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Aug 19, 2021

Some major shifts have occurred in the way that you should be prospecting for sales opportunities. But has your prospecting plan changed with it?

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I have always enjoyed watching the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross” because of the sales scene with Alec Baldwin. You know the scene, don’t you? ABC – which means always be closing. But I prefer ABP – always be prospecting. After all, there will not be much to close if you don’t have a prospecting plan that fills your pipeline with closeable opportunities.

I started my sales career in the early 1990’s and yes, I did have a “bag phone” for my first cell phone. I laugh now as all cell phones can fit in your pocket or your purse but back then the bag phone was a big deal. Fortunately, our cell phones have changed quite dramatically since then.

Do you know what else has changed? If you guessed prospecting strategies, you guessed correctly. To be even more clear, some major shifts have occurred in the way that you should be prospecting for sales opportunities.

The last 5 years have seen two major changes in how buyers interact with sellers:

  1. Prospects are starting the sales process all by themselves. No longer are they sitting and waiting for sellers to find them. They are the ones who get the ball rolling by reaching out to sellers who have been recommended to them (this is precisely why referrals…or what we call introductions are so important).
  2. And when those prospects start the sales process, they are armed with more information than ever before. As it turns out this thing called the internet might just be around for a few more years.

So here is my question for you – cell phones have changed. The times have changed. Selling has changed. But has your prospecting plan changed with it? Do you track your prospecting effort? Do you measure the effectiveness of the elements in your prospecting plan so you know which ones you should do more of and which ones you should consider putting off to the side? Are you taking a diversified approach meaning you use a combination of phone and email? Are you including video when you prospect? Are you blogging and putting out value-added content that positions you as a thought leader or even a subject matter expert?

ABP – always be prospecting. Just don’t forget your prospecting plan before you start.

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Topics: how to prospect, how to prospect for sales, prospecting plan

Coaching Sales Behaviors

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Thu, Aug 12, 2021

Coaching has become the single most important competency for sales managers to learn and optimally, they should spend 50% of their time coaching their salespeople. It is also the single most difficult sales management competency to learn and master.

In this post, we will review the skills that contribute to sales coaching effectiveness and introduce a sales coaching process any sales manager can implement immediately to coach sales behaviors.

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Sales Coaching Skills

The challenge for most sales managers or sales leaders is to have the ability to exhibit and execute these sales coaching skills of being an effective leader: Strong identity, self-assurance, credible authority, knowledge, and a foundational vision, mission, and goal orientation. Strong leaders do not need to be in the spotlight, do not act like they know it all, and ask questions instead of always providing answers.

There are assessments in the marketplace to help people identify if they have what it takes. We use Objective Management Group’s Sales Manager Evaluation. OMG identifies these specific sales coaching skills that a sales leader must master:

Screenshot (71)One of the most difficult skills for most sales managers to overcome is their need for approval from their salespeople. Coaching is different than managing and requires clear direction, discussion, examples, and even demonstration of what is expected of a salesperson. This can be hard for a manager, who also wants their team to like them. They may not want to come off as critical. Coaching sales behaviors is an art, not a science and a sales leader must be adept at asking, listening, and staying focused on developing salespeople to be their best.

Another skill of strong sales leaders is asking questions versus telling a salesperson what to do. In coaching sales behaviors, how you say something can be more important than what you say. Instead of saying “You should have asked your prospect about their current provider”, you could ask “What did you find out about their current provider?” Asking questions will allow salespeople to self-discover, which is the most effective learning mode.

It goes without saying that you must coach to a sales process. If there is not an established stage-based sales process for qualifying and closing prospects, how can a sales manager coach sales behaviors?

Coaching Sales Behaviors with a Sales Coaching Process

It is important that sales managers set aside specific time for intentional coaching, not just coaching to a specific deal or proposal. Consider putting time on the calendar weekly for 1-on-1 coaching with salespeople that can be used to prepare for an upcoming call or debrief after a recent sales call. But you must follow a sales coaching process. Here is the approach we recommend and use with our clients below. All of these steps can be done remotely, using virtual tools like Zoom so no excuses!

Gaining insight is all about what is happening in the field on a sales call or what is not happening. You can gain insight firsthand by observing a call or gather it from huddle data where you review sales behaviors and results. For example, how many calls and appointments are your salespeople supposed to make, and what were their results in a certain timeframe? Then, most importantly, what behaviors did your salespeople exhibit to get those results and if not to goal, how will they change their sales behaviors? We recommend the coach ask their salespeople “What would you do differently if you could not use that as an excuse?”

Giving Feedback is when coaching sales behaviors gets more difficult. Here are a few tips:

  • Makes sure feedback is timely and specific
  • Review the Good, Bad & Ugly (find something good to point out)
  • Ask questions to help them self-discover
  • Gain agreement on the real problem

Demonstration of the sales behaviors you want and expect can be hard for many sales leaders because they may not have come out of a sales role but they can demonstrate the questions needed to be asked and the sales approach that should be followed. We call this the Shadow of the Leader. To effectively coach sales behaviors sales leaders must identify the gaps, demonstrate the desired behavior and instruct on the critical steps.

Roleplay is never anyone’s favorite activity but once the sales manager has demonstrated the sales behavior, it is important to have the salesperson role play. Don’t call it role play, just name it a practice session but make sure they do it. Muscle memory needs repetition!

Action Plan is putting the learning into action. Is the salesperson going to call the prospect back and ask those additional questions about their current provider? Make certain to identify specific actions that will take place, set a follow-up to discuss the outcomes, inspect, then coach their sales behaviors again. And don’t forget to celebrate the success and address the failures.

Coaching sale behaviors is an all-the-time effort. Are you devoting 50% of your time to developing your team?

 

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Topics: sales coaching skills, coaching sales behaviors, sales coaching process

How to be Successful in Sales in 2021

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Aug 05, 2021

Here at Anthony Cole Training Group, we are always striving towards helping our clients achieve sales success. We interviewed our Sales Development Experts for a curated list of how to be successful in sales for 2021. Their advice includes successful sales traits, habits, and characteristics. Use this detailed resource to your advantage, and boost your sales success in 2021!

How to Be Successful in Sales

Salespeople are measured against one thing and one thing only; closing deals.  However, salespeople know that there's so much more to getting results than picking up the phone and calling.  It takes a combination of attitude, work ethic, and personality to be a good sales person.  It's not easy being a salesperson, but if you can possess some of these traits and habits, you're on your way to becoming a more successful salesperson.

Successful Sales Traits

trait: a distinguishing quality or characteristic, typically one belonging to a person.

  1. Commitment
    Oftentimes, one of the reasons salespeople struggle to see great sales success is because they aren’t as committed as they need to be. Be willing to try and do whatever it takes, even when you are uncomfortable.
  2. Have an attitude of success
    Selling can feel like a solitary pursuit and you need to believe you will get there. Half the battle of success in sales is owning your own style and having faith in your skills, knowledge, and abilities. If you believe you will win, your likelihood of winning increases substantially.
  3. Do the work
    Selling is hard work and cannot all be done sitting at a computer. Get out and meet with current clients to leverage the relationship and ask for introductions. Also, attend networking events to meet different experts in your or target industries.
  4. Have a sense of urgency
    Send the follow-up email the first time you think of it. Make the return phone call when you first get the message. Work when your competition isn’t.
  5. Stick to the schedule
    Different things can get in your way daily- emails, internal meetings, proposals, etc. Highly successful salespeople build and stick to a time-blocking schedule religiously. Identify what your key activities are when the best time is to do these activities and build a schedule you can live by.
  6. Never Answer the Unasked Question
    One of the key sales characteristics that elite producers have is the ability to only answer the question in front of them. Salespeople will often get ahead of themselves, fall into pitch mode, and divulge too much information too quickly.
    For example, when a prospect asks “how big is your company?” they usually aren’t concerned with how many employees there are or how many locations you have. They are trying to identify if you have the bandwidth, expertise, and/or time to work with them. The key is to slow down, take a breath, and ask for clarification before answering.

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Successful Sales Habits

habit: a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior

  1. Stop worrying about selling and focus on helping
    Stop offering to come by and visit the prospect and instead ask “would you find it helpful if….”  Ask prospects what you can do to help them without regard for whether or not there is a sale involved. It is why the 3-step inoffensive close ends with:  Do you think I understand your problem? Do you think my firm can help you solve your problem? Do you want my help?
  2. Every exit is an entry somewhere else
    Don’t give up or be let down just because someone said no – maybe they can help you with a referral or you’ll land a client with that next phone call or meeting after the discouragement.
  3. Have a sales goal that you are committed to reaching
    Most salespeople focus on just hitting their year-end goal, not exceeding it. When you strive towards an extraordinary goal (roughly 20% above your year-end goal), and that’s your only focus, even if you don’t hit it, you will likely meet or exceed your company goal.
  4. Be OK with “no”
    It frees up the conversation and lowers the walls of resistance when the prospect knows that it is OK for them to say “no.”  There are three different parts in the sales process where the salesperson should be letting the prospect know it is OK to say “no”: (1) on the phone setting up the first appointment, (2) at the last meeting before the proposal is delivered and then finally (3) at the meeting where the proposal will be shared.
  5. Be a giver
    Support your internal partners as they prepare for conversations and presentations. Make sure that your ‘selling’ is all about asking great questions and listening to understand so that you can help your clients grow (vs sell them something).
  6. Build a rapport
    To many, bonding and rapport means liking the same sports team, enjoying the same weekend activity, or frequenting the same restaurant as a prospect. To us, bonding and rapport means proving you deserve a seat at the table. Your proven benefit and value are more critical to developing trust and relationships than similar taste in food. Ask your prospect what the key challenges for their business and industry are for the year or what is in the way of their growth.
  7. Utilize social networks
    LinkedIn can be your best fishing net and your best safety net. Use social networking sites like LinkedIn to make connections and develop relationships, as well as explore new opportunities.
  8. Develop yourself as an industry expert
    Continue to educate yourself on new trends, the changes in your market, and developing different techniques. This will help you stay relevant in your space and position yourself as a leading professional.
  9. Celebrate the successes
    It’s difficult to win these days so don’t forget to enjoy those moments- no matter how big or small. Every sale gets you one step close to hitting your personal and professional goals.

    Download our Free  9 Keys to Successful Coaching eBook

Successful Sales Characteristics

characteristic: a feature or quality belonging typically to a person

  1. Persistence
    Stay with it whether it is making calls, following up, or following through. What we know is 80% of sales are made between the 5-12 outreach to a prospect so persistence to win business is crucial.
  2. Be coachable
    In other words, be willing to admit there is a lot that you don’t know and always ask for help.
  3. Be resilient  
    Don’t let prospects squash you with think it overs, stalls, objections, and “no’s”. There is always another door to try- it’s just about asking the right questions of the right person at the right time.
  4. Don’t get in your own way
    Eliminate roadblocks and excuses from your headspace. Don’t let the anxiety of being turned away keep you from picking up the phone. Don’t allow internal “noise” interrupt what you get paid to do- which is hunt, qualify and close business.
  5. Don’t get happy ears
    Don’t let soft buying signals like “This looks great. It makes a lot of sense. I’m interested” rush your process. Keep a level head and really drill down with your qualifying questions to identify if a prospect is really interested or just blowing smoke.
  6. Be unique
    Those that don’t look, sound, or act like the other salespeople in the marketplace have greater overall sales success. Follow the sales process, remain professional, but don’t be afraid to be yourself. The “human element” is what makes a difference in closing more business.

We hope this helps you achieve greater sales success in this coming year! Successful selling in 2021 from your friends and partners at Anthony Cole Training Group.  Call us if you need help!

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Topics: key to sales success, sales success, successful sales habits, successful sales traits, successful sales characteristics

Cold Calling Strategies with a Warm Approach

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Thu, Jul 29, 2021

The best cold calling strategies involve doing the work necessary to warm your cold calls up.

In this blog, we discuss the top 5 cold calling sales tips that you can implement into your sales process today.

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I like my house cold at night and my wine slightly chilled, but I don’t like cold calls. Who does? But it must be done. We must make chilly outreaches, and they can still be productive (and even fun). In this article, we’ll cover ways to stay positive and attract more sales with our cold calling strategies.

Cold Calling Sales Tip #1: Warm It Up!
First, don’t let the cold stop you! All salespeople have the job of prospecting, finding new potential clients that they can help. Therein lies the cold call sales tip #1. Identify, find, and reach out only to those you know you can help, and then it won’t be so cold. I call on associations and groups where our sales development experts can help their members with sales leadership strategies and tools. I make cold calls on those directors in charge of events and education. I start with their website and find out what events they are working on that align with what we do. I personalize every communication (warming it up) to their association and event and ask the question – could we be a resource for you? I provide examples of how we have helped other associations with similar events. l also look for connections we have to that association. Who could reach out and introduce us as a trusted resource?

Cold Calling Sales Tip #2: Find Advocates
So that is cold call sales tip #2 – find out who can put a good word in for you. You may find the prospect, but maybe your current client or someone you used to do business with can get that door opened more quickly. That is a cold calling strategy that top performers utilize daily – they have their advocates open the door and build trust for them. When you find your next prospect, research them, make sure you can help them, and find someone who can put a word out in your favor – and don’t forget to thank your advocates.

Cold Calling Sales Tip #3: Enjoy the Small Victories
Cold calling sales tip #3 is celebrating when you get a response. I get quite ditsy with delight when I hear back from one of my associations that they are interested in talking further or want to hire us for a workshop. Celebrate because, as all salespeople know, you send out 20 personalized communications and you may hear back from 2-3, or at least that is my hit ratio. So, you must celebrate when someone responds and sees your value.

Hop on that lead with no delay, which goes right into our next tip.

Cold Calling Sales Tip #4: Move Fast & Be a Problem Solver
Tip #4 is that leads are highly perishable. If you receive a lead, perhaps from your website or an introduction, you must quickly help them solve their problems and answer any questions or concerns they may have. By responding quickly to your leads, it creates a friendly environment where trust can be built and business can be won.

But to win business, you also need to be quick and agile in delivering follow-ups. Your prospects have plenty of other things going on in their day, much like yours. Striking while the iron is hot and providing a quick follow-up can keep you top of mind and close more sales.

Cold Calling Sales Tip #5: Nurture
Then nurture – cold calling sales tip #5. Nurturing comes naturally when you care, and it matters. When you are confident in what you have to offer and are eager to respond, provide more information, customize your delivery, and set a follow-up meeting. Your end goal is to make your prospect’s life easier so that you can wow them, and then they might think of you first next time they need your similar product or service.

In summary, the best cold calling strategies involve doing the work necessary to warm your cold calls up. It truly is a numbers game, but there are people out there who need what you are selling, and it is your job to go find them. Put in the work, celebrate the small victories, follow up quickly and have some fun along the way!

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Cold Calling, sales tips, cold calling strategies, cold calling sales tips

The Data Driven Sales Executive

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Jul 15, 2021

Data Driven Sales Approach

In our business, one of the greatest sales challenges that most companies face is how to properly implement a data-driven sales approach. Some companies chase a bunch of data without any regard for the story that the data tells. Others struggle when they launch sales coaching without any data at all.

All of that leads us to what we call the “pull-through rate.”

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One of my most treasured memories of my younger days was buying and trading baseball cards. Perhaps I am being a bit too nostalgic, but those days were good days, and growing up in Cincinnati during the 1970’s I was a huge fan of the Cincinnati Reds and the Big Red Machine.

I particularly remember studying the back of each baseball card because it told the story of each player. And I can still recall the quote “everybody plays to the back of their baseball card” which is a reminder that year over year statistics can be used to forecast future performance.

In our business, one of the greatest sales challenges that most companies face is how to properly implement a data-driven sales approach. Some companies just chase a bunch of data without any regard for the story that the data tells. Other companies struggle when they launch sales coaching without any data at all which means they are simply guessing on both whether their people can improve and what it will take to cause that improvement.

Pull-Through Rate

All of that leads us to what we call the “pull-through rate.” Let’s start with not getting this confused with your hit ratio or close ratio. Both a hit ratio or a close-ratio are computed in the same way by dividing the number of wins by the number of presentations or pitches. That means a company that delivers 100 presentations and wins 30 new clients has a hit ratio of 30%.

What is Pull-Through Rate?

A pull-through rate is a different deal altogether. It is calculated by comparing the relationship between first-time or initial sales calls and the number of wins. For example, a salesperson who has 200 first-time sales appointments and who winds up with 30 new clients has a pull-through rate of 15%. For years Anthony Cole Training Group has taught that most prospects are not qualified to do business with you and the numbers across the country support that conclusion. In fact, our own pull-through analysis supports that conclusion as our pull-through rate runs around 20%. Nearly 80% of all the firms we have initial conversations with never become a client of our firm.

Pull-Through Rate Example

Finally, one of the most interesting parts of the pull-through calculation is that it allows your sales team to “dollarize” each sales call. For example, if your average sale is $50,000…and your pull-through rate is 15% then every time your team goes on that first initial call they are in theory making $7,500 every single time they run a sales call.

Conclusion

I still have my baseball cards (at least the ones my mom did not throw away). And the back of each card still has the statistics that tell a story. What does the back of your salesperson’s card look like? Do you like the story it is telling you?

Topics: unique selling approach, Sales Coaching, increase sales, sales challenges

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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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