ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

4 Questions to Ask Your Prospects and Gain Clarity

Posted by Jack Kasel on Thu, Jun 17, 2021

If we don’t fully understand the reason for a prospect's statement, the purpose of their question, or dig deeper to find the real problem, we will waste time and miss opportunities.

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In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey has a quote… “Seek first to understand. Then to be understood.”  I think that statement is especially true for sales professionals.

When we coach our clients, we try to get them to understand and remember these three tips when in conversation with their prospects and clients:

  1. The statement they make isn’t the actual statement.
  2. The question they ask isn’t the true question.
  3. The problem they have isn’t the actual problem.

So, as your prospects talk about their main concerns, your job is to determine the following: Is this a symptom or a problem?  Problems get solved, symptoms are tolerated.  I was working with a prospect and he kept saying he needed to fix his cash flow problem.  The more we talked, the more it became clear that cash flow wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was he missed out on an opportunity to purchase one of his competitors.  The symptom was cash flow, the problem was missing opportunities to acquire market share.  We focused on fixing his true problem.

One of the ways, and really the only way, to bring clarity to the conversation is by asking or saying the following when we hear prospects make statements or ask questions:

  • Tell me more about that . . .
  • What happens if that problem isn’t fixed?
  • When you say (insert statement here), I’m not sure I know what you mean.
  • Many people ask me that question for a variety of reasons; I would like to hear yours.

We also need to listen to emotionally charged words such as . . .

  • Need to fix…
  • I’m going to…
  • We simply can’t tolerate…
  • Others include: worried, upset, mad, frustrated

These are emotionally driven words and emotion drives sales.  Facts and figures justify sales, but emotion drives it.  If we don’t fully understand the reason for the statement, the purpose of the question, or dig deeper to find the real problem, we will waste time and miss opportunities. 

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Questions for Prospects, closing more sales, Qualifying skills, increase sales

8 Steps to Effectively Close More Business

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, May 21, 2021

We recorded a video on Laying the Foundations for the 8 Steps to More Effective Closing to close more business more quickly with higher margins. And we talked about the foundation. 

Today we are going to get into the actual 8 Steps of Becoming an Extraordinary Closer.

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I can tell you that the best deals I have ever put together and closed were deals where someone almost literally asked me, “Tony, how much do we write the check for?” There was never a formal presentation. There might have been a bit of pitch or a discussion around our capabilities, but they just closed and never asked for anything formal. Understand, though, that those are the outliers. 

But once you lay the foundation, the other types of sales require these 8 Steps:

1) Be prepared – And I don’t mean go through the technical aspects of the sale to make sure you have the right coverage, the correct provisions, and those sort of things. But I want you to be prepared to be DAZZLING. That’s an entirely different level of preparation.

2) Review - When you are at the meeting, the first thing you do is review. Review everything as to what brought you to this point. In other words, you go back to the as-we-agreed-to email. Make sure nothing has changed.

3) 3-Page Presentation - This might startle you and knock you off your chair, but your presentation should be a 3-page presentation, and that’s only IF you have a cover page/slide. The second page should list the problems or benefits they want to take care of, and the third page is all about the solutions. That’s it! Now you might have a box on the side with all the back-end stuff you’ll go through, but they don’t get that. All they get are those three pages.

4) Ask Where To Start - Within your presentation, they’ll see a list of problems they said they want to get solved. You ask them where THEY want to start. That’s a HUGE difference because you don’t know. Maybe they might be thinking about item #5, and you want to start at the top. You’ve lost them already.

5) Discuss Your Solution - Go through the solution to that problem.

6) Get a Score - When you’re finished with the solution to the problem, you have to get a score as to where they are. So you ask them, “On a scale from 1 to 10, how do you feel about that solution? If you get a 7, or better, you’re in pretty good shape. Anything less than 7, you’ve got trouble. And when you get anything less than 10, you’ve got to ask the questions, “What did I miss? What questions haven’t you asked me yet that you need the answers to so that you feel comfortable with a 10?”

7) Address all Solutions - Go to the next solution until you are finished with all of them.

8) Find Out What’s Next - When you’re finished, this isn’t a big dramatic part to try and close the business. You can do one of two things. You can ask, “What would you like to do now?” OR... Ask these three questions: 1) Do you feel like I understand the problems of your business? 2) Do you feel I can help you with the problems of your business? And 3) Would you like my help? Not complicated but very effective.

Aside from the foundation and these 8 Steps, the most important key to becoming a more effective closer is to be willing to hear a “no.”

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: closing more sales, Sales Presentation, increase sales

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 

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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?

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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.

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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

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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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