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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

Solution vs Budget: The Great Dilemma

Posted by Jack Kasel on Thu, Feb 11, 2021

Typically, when a salesperson doesn't win an account it's due to a few different factors; the prospect didn't have a compelling reason to make a change, the salesperson didn't do enough to uncover their capacity to invest, or the incumbent wasn't properly eliminated from the running.

In this article, we discuss the 3 Rules every successful salesperson must follow in order to eliminate stalls and objections during the sales process.


There is an age-old debate about which came first, the chicken or the egg. While that debate may never be solved, there is one “which comes first” situation that shouldn’t be up for debate and that is “see the solution first or know the budget first?” 

In my work with helping client’s develop their sales talent, I know there are two topics that get avoided on a regular basis, and both are to the detriment of the sales person. Those two “taboo topics” are discussing the incumbent and uncovering the budget. I will address the incumbent discussion in a later blog.

When I refer to the budget, I am referring to it in three categories commonly known as ‘TMR’—Time, Money, and Resources. What are they willing to commit, in the context of time, money and/or resources to make their problem go away? It is my experience that the stronger sales professionals don’t shy away from that discussion. They are successful because they follow these rules.

Rule 1#

Have the conversation. The 800 lbs. budget gorilla is in the room so talk about it. Don’t make it part of your opening conversation, but don’t ignore it either. If the need is big enough, and your solutions fixes it, most of the time, they will find the money.

Rule #2

Provide context. Regardless of the investment your prospect needs to make to fix their problem, it needs to be framed in the context of their pain and your ability to eliminate it. If the pain is minimal, then your solution won’t seem that great. We’ve had prospects tell us their problem is a “two-comma problem” meaning their cost of turnover was over $1 million dollars. That’s context.  Know their cost before you proceed

Rule #3

Don’t show your solution until you know the budget. It’s really that simple. If you have ever provided a solution to a prospect only to hear them say “that’s more than we intended to spend”, then you have an issue discussing the budget. Does it make sense to know their appetite for change, including budget, before you provide your solution? Here is where the strong sales professional is different. If the prospect doesn’t want to discuss budget, they know it can be for one of two reasons. They haven’t uncovered enough pain or the prospect simply wants to use you as a pencil sharpener for the competition. You don’t get paid to be a pencil sharpener so don’t become one.

In closing don’t be afraid of the conversation. In the history of sales, no one died from discussing budget. I doubt you will be the first.

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Topics: qualifying prospects, Selling Success, asking questions, Qualifying skills, increase sales


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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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