ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

How to Create & Build Relationships Virtually

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Sep 23, 2020

Virtual relationships aren’t new and neither are virtual business relationships. What is new are the expectations and the tools. Instead of in-person meetings, we are now expected to meet via Zoom, GoToMeeting, Facebook Live. Technology is consistently providing us with more and better ways to connect. We must now:

  1. Become comfortable with virtual-relationship platforms (social networking),
  2. Transition from traditional to virtual relationship-building habits and platforms,
  3. Learn and master the art and science of virtual relationship prospecting, creation and development.
  4. Have a good grasp of our current strengths and weaknesses in relationship-building so we can better understand what we need to improve upon in virtual relationship-building.
  5. Understand that the advent of pandemic(s) may greatly alter the willingness of prospects to meet person-to-person, thus changing the landscape of prospecting and selling forever.

“The web has one big drawback: It’s harder to connect on a human level with people when they exist in two dimensions on your computer screen or mobile device. You need to work extra hard to make sure you’re interacting in a way that allows you to build genuine, meaningful relationships.”

“People want to work with colleagues they know, like and trust. When building professional relationships with people online, consider the intersection of these three qualities: transparency, likability and credibility. Transparency lets people get to know you, while likability reflects their interest in you and credibility builds trust.” William Arruda Senior Contributor Forbes 


This shift in the way we conduct business may have changed permanently and we must change with it. We need to understand and adapt to this cataclysmic shift so that we may be successful in this volatile new environment.

Here are the key concepts, practices and skills that should be considered and employed as you move forward growing your sales.

Key Concepts

  1. Prepare yourself for the following:
    1. It will be easier for people to ignore you. It will take longer to connect.
    2. “Don’t look, act or sound like every other salesperson.”
    3. Develop a tenacious Will to Sell (watch video or click link) to be successful.
    4. Overcome any negative beliefs you have about virtual relationships: e.g. “I can’t sell virtually”.
    5. Whatever challenges you have in the normal course of selling, be prepared for those challenges to be magnified.
  1. Best Practices – you must have a set of best practices.
    1. Have a checklist for each meeting:
    2. Do a rehearsal prior to the meeting. Have any presentation pre-loaded and ready to show.
    3. Check that lighting, audio and video are all in good working condition.
    4. In advance, share your agenda.
    5. Be yourself- be vulnerable, transparent. Don’t dominate the conversation to fill space. Ask questions. Listen intently.
    6. Use virtual backgrounds if your room is a garage.
    7. Dress appropriately for the meeting.
    8. Be memorable and unusual in a good way
    9. Know what your competition is doing virtually. While you don’t necessarily have to compete, you should understand how your virtual room will be evaluated.
    10. Finish each meeting with a clear next step.
  1. Common issues:
    1. Camera Angle and Distance- Spend time to view how others will see you. Eliminate distractions and “nose shots”.
    2. Fumbling to find and load a source or presentation.
    3. Finding a good tempo; one that will hold audience attention.
  1. Any weakness you have in personal meetings will be magnified on camera. Your desire, commitment and outlook must be strong. Your SALES DNA must support building and selling relationships in a virtual model. (Score your Sales DNA)
  2. Hone your sales process and approach. Because so much at the beginning of the sales cycle/buying cycle lays the groundwork for the proceeding steps, gaining trust and confidence while operating virtually might take longer. For example- You might have to do a better job with Proof of Concept. Or Qualifying might require different questions. Remember to Qualify for Budget and Decision-Making.

Our Sales Growth Coach can help you leverage virtual tools!

Topics: closing more sales, sales priorities, sales productivity, sales advice, sales effectiveness training, virtual selling

Catching a Wave with Hispanic Consumers

Posted by Sebastian Fuentes on Tue, Sep 01, 2020

Within 10 years, Hispanics will account for over 21% of the population in the United States. There is a valuable opportunity to understand and proactively adjust to this coming shift in demographics.


What are you and your organization doing to appeal and speak to this growing group of consumers?



Many people know the basic Spanish word for hello is hola. Do you know what happens when you drop the “H”? The resulting word, ola, means wave. And wave is the perfect word to describe the Hispanic market in the United States; it’s growing by the day, gaining lucrative force, and coming your way! Moreover, if you don’t give any consideration to how it will affect your business, the opportunities could be washed out to sea. 


Business in our country is becoming increasingly cognizant of Hispanic consumers because they are becoming increasingly powerful. The purchasing power of Hispanics was forecasted to hit 1.7 trillion dollars this year. Look for the signs in your own consumer experience…How many times have you called a customer service line to hear “for English press one, para Español oprima dos?” Even your entertainment experiences are increasingly highlighting Hispanic actors, characters, or subjects. ABC’s Magnum P.I. reboot features Mexican-American actor Jay Hernandez as the iconic Thomas Magnum. Netflix makes our stomachs growl with Street Food: Latin America and our hearts pound with Money Heist (the most popular non-English show on the entire platform).    


By 2030, Hispanics will make up over 21% of the population of the United States. Take a moment and think about what that means for your business. The fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population will make up 1 out of 5 consumers in fewer than 10 years. No other segment is even close to that pace of growth. Even if you’re not currently operating in a state with a large Hispanic population (think California or Texas), that doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore the numbers. There is a valuable opportunity to understand and proactively adjust to this coming shift in demographics. Is your business ready to make a splash?  


Simply translating your current advertising, sales, or service materials into Spanish is valuable, but you can’t stop there; Hispanic consumers can’t be won over by a solely linguistic sales approach. This market segment is multi-dimensional, intersectional, and language is only one element. Think of it this way- Colombians and Mexicans speak Spanish, as do Cuban-Americans hailing from South Florida. Are these Hispanic communities alike? Absolutely not. The vibrant tapestry of Hispanics in this country may share a linguistic thread, but it’s essential to acknowledge their distinct cultures. In fact, a study conducted by PwC shows that reaching Hispanic consumers has become less about language and more about connection with the content. Culturally relevant news sources such as Mitu and the increasing visibility of Hispanics in media (remember Magnum P.I.?) show the power of representation.


So how does all of this affect your business strategy? You have to start by thinking about the specific populations that are already where you are, or where you want to be. What do those cultural pockets respond to positively? Are the most influential Hispanic consumers in your operational area older or younger? First-generation? Third-generation? Are you making an effort to understand them?      


Here are some important points to consider regarding your business and its positioning with Hispanic consumers:

  • What is the regional scope of your business? In other words, are you always going to operate in a singular geographic area, or are you in multiple places?
  • How populous is the Hispanic community in your regional scope? The numbers may surprise you!  
  • Do you have a strategy that is properly equipped to sell to Hispanic consumers? (We’re not talking about overhauling your sales strategy. We are talking about honestly examining your sales/market penetration strategy so you’re getting the most out of it.)  
  • Even if your Hispanic customer base is small in numbers, that’s OK. Use this opportunity to think about your long game and generate ideas about how you could adjust if your regional scope were to see a change in demographics.    


Chances are, one or several of these considerations will present you with an opportunity for improvement. That’s a good thing because addressing areas in need of reinforcement now could translate into bigger opportunities for the future. Winston Churchill once said, “If you don’t take change by the hand, it will take you by the throat.” Give your business the attention and positioning it needs to meaningfully connect with this important demographic and you’ll gladly say “Hola, ola!

Topics: develop relationships, closing more sales, Sales Growth, Target Marketing, relationship selling

Hit Sales Growth Goals and All Other Problems Go Away

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, May 02, 2019

Disconnect in the business world is pretty common. But, that doesn't mean it should be. Specifically in sales, your job as a leader is to create a model that benefits both the company and the salespeople that work there. So, how do you do this?

This article will provide you with a list of questions to ask yourself, and your producers, when your sales team is underperforming and improvements need to be made.

10190907_xl guy drawing chart increase sales-2

I recently met with a firm that was struggling with its sales team hitting sales goals. Sound familiar? And talking to the president, she shared with me her frustration over this and the various attempts taken to correct the problem, and nothing seemed to work. The most recent strategy was to change the compensation payout on one of the products being sold. Keep in mind there wasn’t a change to the amount being paid out, just the way the payout would occur. 

You would have thought that she was reducing the comp schedule by 50%, changing the 401K match and eliminating the contribution schedule to the employee health insurance plan all in a 24-hour period. The reaction from the sales team was negative and swift. For days, salespeople were focused on:

  • Why is the company doing this?
  • This isn’t fair, I’ve always been paid within 30 days of the sale.
  • Is this a punishment?
  • This doesn’t motivate me to sell more!

As I’ve been thinking about this for the last week or so I wondered...

  1. Would any of this be a problem if in fact the sales people had hit their sales goal in 2018 and so their payouts would be consistent with their personal financial needs?
  2. Would this be a problem if year to date each of the sales people was on track to hit their goals for 2019?
  3. And finally, if the 2019 sales goals were being met, and cash flow met the requirements of the business plan, would the president have been put in a position to do something in an attempt to light a fire under the pants of the sales team?

I believe the answer to all of those questions would be no.

Dealing with sales problems within an organization is no different than dealing with a specific sales opportunity that is stuck in the pipeline. Too often a sales person attempts to put pressure via constant emails and calls inquiring about "Where are you in the process of making a decision to move forward with this”?  This is the wrong end of the problem in sales. If a sale is stalled or is not made, the sales person with the help of the sales manager has to work the right end of the problem. The right end is examining what happened or failed to happen at the beginning of the milestone centric sales process that the company developed as part of the sales enablement and CRM strategy?

  1. Was there a compelling reason to act?
  2. Was the incumbent eliminated from the process?
  3. Was the capacity to invest time, money and resources discussed and agreed to?
  4. Was there an agreement for the prospect to pay more if required?
  5. Did the sales person fully understand the buyer’s buying journey / process and what stage they were in?
  6. Was the sales person in front of decision makers: users, implementers, finance, IT etc.?
  7. Was there urgency?
  8. Was there an agreement to decide at time of presentation?
  9. Was the company in a position to solve the business problem for the prospect based on the prospect’s selection criteria and priorities?
  10. Was the prospect given several opportunities to back away from the discussions?
  11. Did the sales person ‘own the room’ when they made the presentation?
  12. Was the presentation compelling and designed to lead to an obvious conclusion to buy?

These are just a few examples of steps in a milestone centric sales process as described in this audio blog – A Suspect Remains a Suspect Until.

Back to our president and the company. The challenge here is to ask the sales team the questions I asked above. Get to the right end of the problem and you can avoid many problems closing opportunities and growing sales in your company.

Topics: closing more sales, reaching sales goals, motivating 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.


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

Ghostbusters I Predicted the End of the Sales Professional

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Apr 19, 2017


If you’re not worried about losing your job as a salesperson, an investment advisor, an insurance broker or a banker, think again.  It’s already happening and it will continue to happen. 

This is not a bold statement coming from someone trying to create hysteria to create more business for his own business solutions practice (Anthony Cole Training Group). Think of this as someone who is reporting today’s weather and attempting to tell you that the current weather patterns are predicting with some certainty that tomorrow will be cloudy with a 50% chance of severe thunderstorms with hail and rain coming down like cats and dogs.


(Click HERE for the MUST watch prediction of the future of salespeople…)


Dan Sullivan, co-founder of Strategic Coach and author of The 21st Century Agent, attempted to warn salespeople (agents) about what they needed to do to secure their future. These three keys to professional security were based on the known capabilities of the microchip in 1995.  At the time, Dan stated that the microchip was incapable of:

  1. Finding and creating new relationships
  2. Providing creative solutions
  3. Helping people make the decision to buy

But, how accurate are those comments today?  Not very!  Mobile technology, big data, sophisticated algorthyms and search protocols allow for anyone selling anything to:

  1. Reach out, find and attract potential buyers
  2. Digitally collect the appropriate data and apply that data to provide solutions for the buyer based on the purchase preferences of the buyer (For instance, I now buy most of my shoes on Zappos.)
  3. Provide a “1 click option” (like at Amazon) for people to purchase nearly anything in less than a minute

“So…” you reply, “this technology only applies to shoes, books and low cost items.”

Not so fast. Think about the last time, either at home or while in your car, seeing or hearing Flo from Progressive or the reptile from Geico telling you that you could get insurance from them cheaper and faster.  What about State Farm and Liberty Mutual who also consistently tell you that, not only can you get better coverage, but they will also pay your claims quicker and reward you for safe driving?

The technology and AI of today has replaced sales jobs – make no mistake about it!


You think that your type of selling is really that sophisticated? Alec Ross recently spoke at the Bank Insurance And Securities Association (BISA) meeting at the beautiful Diplomat Resort and Hotel in Hollywood, Florida.  He provided a harsh look at reality to all of the advisors in the room when he candidly answered the following question:

“Alec, what is the one question that this audience (Presidents, program managers, advisors, sales managers, VPs of sales, Investment Product Companies and Broker Dealers) should be obsessing about?”

Alec:  You should be obsessing over ‘disintermediation’. You should be worried about the question – Will the future need financial advisors to help people with their financial independence and retirement planning? Given the state of artificial intelligence and the speed at which data – big data – is becoming available, you should be worried about the role you currently have.  You should be worried about being replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) that is so sophisticated that it functions as well, if not better than, any human advisor would and it does so at a lower cost and a higher level of productivity and effectiveness.

I have Alec’s book and am reading the first chapter about robots.  Quite clearly, he states that if your job is defined by

  • Collecting data and…
  • Applying that data to known information in a data base and then…
  • Providing information back to your prospect…

Then you CAN BE REPLACED by the microchip (artificial intelligence) that…

  • Doesn’t need a vacation
  • Won’t require medical leave
  • Won’t need health insurance or a 401(k)
  • Will work 24/7/365
  • Will never complain about management, competition or compensation

All companies will need to do is keep the machine in a cool room with fresh air, update the components every 18 months at a fraction of the cost 18 months earlier and you are set to go.


My current Ford explorer has just less than 100,000 miles on it.  I received a notice on my notification band (a wrist accessory that used be called a watch) that 1) it was time for a trade-in to maximize the value of the trade-in and 2) the market conditions were going to be perfect over the next 30 days.  The market was going to be perfect because of these 3 factors:

  1. The anticipation of a new trade agreement was going to provide tax incentives to manufacture more power alternative vehicles domestically
  2. The previous year models were going to be discounted or would have to be shipped overseas – the discount was a better economic alternative for the auto makers
  3. There would be a reduction in price due to the redistribution of labor cost

I’ve always dreaded the buying process when it came to buying a new car.  It’s not that I don’t like getting a new car; my family can tell you how excited I get as my vehicles close in on the 100k range.  I start thinking about and ogling cars for at least 6 months in advance. 

My good friend, JB, just bought the latest Lexus SUV… and I’m jealous.  JB is a habitual car buyer and an easy mark.  He takes his car in for service, they lend him a new one to drive around, he does his errands, gets seduced by the latest technology, fuel efficiency, et cetera… and, the next thing you know, he’s taking his golf clubs out of the old SUV (only 2 years “old”) and putting them in the new one.


Every time I search for anything on my laptop, my mobile connection device (MCD or notification band; no longer just a watch, phone or fitness monitor) begins popping up with small ads to notify me about the closet auto distribution center and the “best” deals in a 20-mile radius.  Honestly, I’ve never been one to shop for the best deals.  I’ve purchased cars from Bill for several years now and Bill is the one I will buy from again.

It’s Saturday. I just finished my workout and then headed over to see Bill… but Bill wasn’t there. As a matter of fact, it was hard to find anyone there. The service bays were open so I walked over there and asked to talk to someone about buying a car  - specifically, I was looking for Bill.  Joe, the service manager, told me to head over to the main entrance and I would find “Bill” inside.

I did as I was instructed.

I walked through the sliding glass doors and in front of me were a series of kiosks -   very similar in appearance to what you might see in airports or grocery stores.  They all had names on them and one of them was named “Bill”.  I walk over to Bill and looked at the screen, which welcomed me to the King’s Auto Distribution Center.  As I moved closer, Bill, the kiosk, began speaking to me:

 car dealer kiosks.png

  • “Hello, Tony, welcome back! It is great to see you again.” (I'm amazed that it even sounds like my old friend, Bill). Bill continues, “How have you been?”
  • I stood there, not saying anything. Eventually, Bill asked, “Tony, are you here to talk about buying another car? I got a notice that your Ford was closing in on 100k miles and I know from your history with us that you like to maximize your trade-in value and buy at just the right time in the market.  How can I help you?”
  • The screen instructs me that it’s okay to talk to Bill and that I should put on the headset and talk to Bill.
  • “Bill,” I say with some hesitance, “I'm here to look at some cars, SUV’s specifically. You’re right; I have 97,000 miles on my car, it’s got new tires and up-to-date maintenance.  I’ve been look at some other SUVs.  I still like Ford, but would like to see last year’s Lexus XL26.”
  • “Excellent, Tony. I'm glad you’ve come back here to let us help you with your transportation choices.  The Lexus xl26 also comes in the Lexus xlndr (NDR – No Driver Required) model.  May I ask you a couple of questions?”


Bill continued to ask me questions about my driving habits, preferences and skills.  He was very cordial and non-offensive with the delicate questions especially the ones about my ability to navigate now that I’m a bit older.  He knew that I’ve had a few vision problems for some time now and wanted to know how that impacts my driving in poor conditions like evening, rain, fog or snow.  He wanted to know if I always drive alone or if I have someone with me like my wife, Linda, my golfing friends or perhaps grandchildren.  He wanted to know how concerned I am about my own safety and the safety of others.  He wanted know if I'm planning on any long trips and if a sudden rise in traditional fuel prices would have a negative impact on my budget.

Once we got through this discussion, Bill informed me about the cars that match my profile that were available now or in the next 7 days. If I wanted to test drive a couple of the vehicles, then all he needed me to do was confirm my driver’s license number on file and to select a payment option as a security deposit.  I could now test drive each car for up to 12 hours with a limit of 3 cars over 5 days or 5 cars over 7.

I selected 3 cars over 5 days and I received a receipt telling me which parking spaces have the cars I’m interested in and codes had been sent to my MCD so that I can start the cars I choose to test. 

Bill wanted to know if I had any other questions. He sent me a notification that provided me with information on how to contact him while I’m on the road.  I can contact him directly from any vehicle or my MCD.  He thanked me for coming to Kings Auto Distribution Center, told me to give my family his best regards and said that he looked forward to talking to me again soon.  He hopes that I find a car to my liking.


No, this really didn’t happen, but as I prepared for writing this article, I spent a lot of time playing the “what if” game.  Given that today you can actually do a lot of car shopping online AND dealerships already have kiosks that have taken over various duties, it isn’t a far stretch to think that the auto industry will soon have a sales model that won’t need “a salesman on the lot”.

Several years ago, my wife and I bought a houseboat at Lake Cumberland, Kentucky.  We went to the lake, visited several marinas and looked at a dozen boats or more before settling on “Light’n Up”.  What I didn’t have to do is speak to someone about financing. I had already been approved for the boat loan… without even talking to anyone.  That was 12 years ago. 

It’s just a matter of time before someone can get a $1,000,000-dollar loan that way!


I know this article might seem harsh, but the situation is not hopeless. In summary, here are the things you can do to secure your future in selling. Be good, and I mean really good, at the items on this list:

  • Passion and commitment to success in selling
  • Taking ownership of outcomes
  • Finding high value, sophisticated opportunities in the marketplace
  • Deciding that you will only work with people that have a need and understand the value of what you bring to the table
  • Being masterful at a Discovery and Stewardship based sales approach.
  • Being able to recover from rejection anytime during the process
  • Being able to connect with people via social selling modalities and not be afraid of providing information to help people in their decision-making process.
  • Following a specific sales process and executing it flawlessly
  • Demonstrating that you are a great investment for a company because you know how to express their value proposition. You represent the company to their target market(s) and you drive revenue growth.
  • Being a self-starter
  • Having a great figure-it-out factor
  • Taking risk, failing, learning, growing
  • “Owning the room” when you present solutions

This list represents about ½ of the characteristics and skills demonstrated by elite salespeople as identified by the research done by Objective Management Group. Keep in mind that the top performers today are the ones who will have sales jobs in the future.

Additional resources:

Alec Ross' Book – Industries of the Future

Assessing Your Top Talent – How well will your salespeople perform in the future world of selling?

 Request a Free Demo or Sales Assessment Sample

Topics: closing more sales, buying process, effective sales management

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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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