ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

Starting TODAY, Control Your Professional Sales Life to be Happier and More Successful

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, May 12, 2023

We’ve been talking to, teaching, and coaching sales organizations for 30 years.  We’ve been through every economic, political, and social uptick and downturn that you’ve been through. As a result, we’ve heard every reason for success and failure. The one true constant throughout those years and swings in environment is that there are always a small group of salespeople that succeed regardless of what is going on around them. What is their secret key to success?

You can’t control if someone will be there when you call, if they will return your email, or if someone will give you a business card and tell you to call them. You can control if you call, how you present yourself, and if your message is captivating and engaging. You control your willingness keep calling and following up, you control if YOU PERSONALLY provide something to the marketplace that is needed and wanted by many. You can control if you ask for a business card. You can control asking a new suspect if they are sure that they want you to call them, or if they are just being polite.

You can’t control if someone tells you to send them something just so they can get you off the phone, but you can control asking them if they are just trying to get you off the phone. You can ask them "Once I send it, then what?" You can control setting up a specific time to follow-up and ask if there is any reason that they wouldn't take your call. Also, you can ask them how many times should you attempt to follow up with them. 

You can’t control if they have a strong relationship with their current provider, but you do control asking about the current relationship and the willingness and ability to end that relationship when you bring something to the table that is better than what they are getting today.

You can’t control if the incumbent or new competitor is looking to capture market share by being the low-cost provider. You control telling prospects that you are not the low-cost provider, but your clients still choose to do business with you knowing full well they could save money. Why do you think they do that?

You cannot control prospects mis-representing or embellishing the truth. And I assure you that they will mis-represent or hide the truth about problems, capacity to invest time, money, and resources, and they will most certainly not be forthcoming about who has authority to make the final decision and how decisions will be made. 

  • You can control if you ask if the problem or opportunity is a have-to-fix, want-to-fix, or consider-fixing issue. 
  • You can control telling a prospect to let you know when the problem becomes a have-to-fix problem. 
  • You can control asking about where the money will come from if they don’t have a budget. 
  • You can control monetizing a problem or opportunity. You can control making sure the financial influencer is part of your discussions and you can control asking about who wins a tie.

You cannot control a prospect's decision-making criteria or priorities. You can control asking, aside from money, what are the other decision criteria and how would you prioritize them?

You cannot control what the incumbent will say and do, to discredit you. You control if you ask your prospect what they will do when the incumbent begs to keep the business, or changes their pricing to match yours and you can ask, why did it take me getting involved to get your current provider to do what they should have been doing all along?

You cannot control the environment you will be presenting in when you get ready to make your pitch. You can control the following:

  • Making sure you’ve agreed to a scope of work before presenting
  • Explaining that all the influencers need to weigh in before you present if they are not going to be in the presentation
  • Sending an as-we-agreed-to letter to your prospect after you’ve completed all of your qualifying meetings and the next step in the process is to present a formal proposal
  • Making a phone call to verify that everything you put into the as-we-agreed-to letter is accurate and the decision time frame still holds
  • Making sure that your prospect understands that at the end of your presentation you will ask three questions:
  1. Did they feel that based on what you presented, you understood the nature of the problem they want to fix?
  2. Do they believe that you can fix the problem?
  3.  Do they want your help.

You control all of these components of the presentation stage.

But perhaps the single most important thing you control is your attitude.  It is your attitude that determines your beliefs and those beliefs are what drive your actions. You can control if you believe you have control.

With regards to selling and closing deals, my experience is that the most highly successful salespeople exhibit great control to move on when they don't get a deal. They have the uncanny ability to say and think, some will, some won’t, so what, NEXT.  

That is the ultimate control of your destiny.

Thanks for your time.


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Topics: Sales Management Training, sales managed environment, effective sales management, consistent sales results

Why Data Matters When Recruiting People that Will Sell

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Apr 28, 2023

Let’s talk about why data matters when recruiting people that WILL sell versus CAN sell. There is a big difference.

There are people currently on your team that can sell, but don’t. And for the life of you, you don’t know why. When you hired them, you certainly didn’t think they would occupy the bottom of your stack ranking or the extreme left of your sales production bell curve, but there they are. So, what happened? But first:

What, you don’t have a stack ranking or a sales production bell curve?  Click this link to explore: Building a Sales Managed Environment

I will show you what happened in this first figure. Here are the instructions:

  • Don’t get hung up on words.
  • Look at the colors. (Red means weakness hindering sales success, green means strength supporting sales success.)
  • Look at colors in the circle.
  • Look at the data I give you about the graphic.


Using the Objective Management Group Sales Force Assessment, we analyzed a top 10 insurance brokerage agency with producers across the country.  I’ve ranked them here based on the potential each of the brokers had. The calculation was done using their current production information provided by the client, and the sales improvement quotient provided by the assessment.  The predictive index of the assessment is 92%. In other words, you can take it to the bank if it tells you someone WILL sell and grow or if you CANNOT expect someone to SELL or Grow.

I circled the areas you see here to demonstrate that the top performers / those with greatest potential and the bottom performers have some characteristics, traits, habits, beliefs, and skills in common. As an example, you might think that those at the top of the production stack ranking would be stronger in desire, commitment, and responsibility. NOT THE CASE – View the first circle to the left.

And so, it is with all those areas where you see a mass of green. These are the things that all 50 had in common. What separates the best from the rest? This graphic!

How much better are the top 5 assess in key differentiators?

  • Commitment – 100%
  • Outlook – 75%
  • Will to sell – 33%
  • Handling rejection – 13%
  • Consultative selling- 13%
  • Presentation approach -19%
  • Avoid purchasing agents -50%
  • Capable of short sales cycle -100%
  • Outloook – 400%
  • Selling to small business – 200%
  • Working straight commission – 400%


Tony, what does it matter?  It means that the top performers have the potential to outperform your bottom performers 3 to 1.  (Look at the small circles.  The opportunity for the top 5 is 1,823,994$)

When you look at this list, you have to ask:  How important are these things for success in my organization?

Back to the title – Why data matters. Data matters if you have efficiency numbers that are critical to your success, if margins are thin and competition is fierce. It matters if you are investing dollars in training, marketing and IT and the bottom group is sucking up time, money and effort and being outperformed 3 to 1.

Here’s the real story. The real opportunity is in the middle group.  I’m not suggesting that you fire those at the bottom, but it wouldn’t be the worse idea. I am suggesting that you do the following:

  1. Have a better hiring process and candidate selection process. Free evaluation of your salespeople using the number 1 sales candidate assessment in the world here
  2. Have a milestone centric on-boarding process used for all salespeople regardless of pedigree, years of service.
  3. Have workflows and checklist for sales so that you can clearly and early identify where your salespeople need additional help in prospecting, qualifying, closing and presenting.
  4. Contact us for more information about how a ‘Stats Finder’ can help you better understand your sales force and how it compares to others in your industry AND a 1 hour consultation here

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Topics: Sales Management Training, sales managed environment, effective sales management, consistent sales results

Accountability – The 14-Letter Dirty Word for Many Sales Organizations

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Apr 21, 2023

Accountability in an organization is kind of like the old country song by Joe Diffie: Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die). In the song Joe sings the following:

Well I ain't afraid of dying, it's the thought of being dead

I wanna go on being me once my eulogy's been read

Don't spread my ashes out to sea, don't lay me down to rest

You can put my mind at ease if you fill my last request

Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die

Lord I wanna go to Heaven, but I don't wanna go tonight

Fill my boots up with sand, put a stiff drink in my hand

Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die

It’s the line: “Lord I wanna go to Heaven, but I don’t wanna go tonight” that most closely reflects the sentiment expressed in the title: Accountability – the 14 letter dirty word. Time and time again when we conduct a pre-training Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis, the findings come back to us and the client highlighting the level of Responsibility and Accountability that either exists or is absent.

We are currently talking with a prospect, and one of the biggest problems they want to correct / solve is the lack of accountability. I’ve been here before and have had this discussion. What I inform every CEO and President is that, despite your desire to fix this problem, you will suffer collateral damage. They ask, ‘what do you mean’?

I tell them as soon as you attempt to change your culture and implement systems, processes and coaching to improve accountability and responsibility, you will have push back. It will come from two places:  

1.     Your most successful and or tenured people

2.     Your least successful most tenured people

No alt text provided for this image

When this happens what is your appetite for the pushback and perhaps people exiting the building of their own free will or because you recognize that they lack the willingness or ability to accept responsibility for their outcomes.

THUS the 14 letter dirty word.  Everyone wants it, but no one really wants to do what is required to make it happen!

Let’s look under the hood of Accountability Competencies for the organization findings in Figure 1.

Most organizations and sales managers think of accountability as ‘micro-managing’. As you can see from the graphic, there is a lot that a manager needs to bring to the table to be effective at Setting Standards and Accountability. As to micro-managing, Jim Collins has been quoted as saying “There is no such thing as 'micro-managing.' There is either managing or not managing”.

Here is the kicker, when you hire the right people, you shouldn’t have to manage them.  Again, a quote from Jim Collins. Get the right people and tell them during the interview process that:

  1. You expect them to set high standards for themselves that far exceed what the company expects of them.
  2.  You expect them to manage themselves to those standards.
  3. The organization will be collecting data on sales effort and effectiveness to help them determine if they are on track to achieve those high standards.
  4. Finally, they must allow, agree to coaching from the sales manager when the data indicates that they are either not going to hit their standards or are doing the activity, but the results aren’t there.

Failure to do this will lead to failure for every new hire you make.

Failure to do this with your current team will lead to continued outcomes that you get today.

I’ve discussed in earlier articles about the importance of coaching. What I can tell you with 100% certainty is this: Without executing the accountability step, your coaching will not be effective.

If this resonates with you and your company, and you’d like an hour of consult with one of our Sales Development Experts, reach out: Contact Us

Performance management IS all about setting higher standards for success, holding people accountable to the effort and execution to hitting those standards and changing the definition of ‘good’ in an organization.

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Topics: Sales Management Training, sales managed environment, effective sales management, consistent sales results

5 Behaviors Great Sales Managers Exhibit to Drive Consistent Sales Results

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Apr 14, 2023

Improve your sales management skills by implementing these 5 behaviors to help your sales team drive consistent results. 

1.   Hiring

Great sales managers that understand hiring salespeople requires a different process than hiring support or admin personnel. No other role in a company faces the same challenges and deals with the same performance pressures as the sales team. No one faces greater scrutiny and is on a shorter leash than salespeople. The hiring behaviors of great sales managers includes but is not limited to: 

  • A great job attraction post
  • Pre-hire, sales specific, evaluations
  • Initial phone interview to discover how good the candidate is on the phone
  • Conducts interviews like auditions

2.   Offer and On-boarding

When the manager finally selects the candidate based on the above steps, the final step in the hiring is to have an effective offer meeting that includes the following:

  • They make sure the candidate is prepared to make a decision when the offer is made to avoid using the offer to get a better deal from the current employer
  • They lay out all the expectations for sales activity, sales goals, sales meetings, use of CRM, and define being a good citizen and how they will be managed and coached
  • They gain agreement on all the conditions of taking the role, and then to solidify the agreement they ask this question: “Are you sure”? To which the candidate will say yes. They then explain that it’s ‘going to be hard’ and then don’t say another word to let that statement sink in

The three behaviors are critical. The reason they are critical is that many candidates that become 'new hires' fail especially in the execution area of sales activity hitting goals, attending sales meetings, using your CRM and responding to your managing style and culture.

Failing to get agreement to performance in these areas will always, ALWAYS, cause you headaches down the road if you fail at the last behavior - gaining agreement.

3.   They manage

Great sales managers understand what Jim Collins means when he states: “There is no such thing as micro – managing. You are either managing or you are not managing.” Effective Sales Managed Environments must include managing behavior. The behavior goals must be introduced in the very beginning of their career, and then yearly at least 1 sales cycle before the end of the sales year. The following discussions must be take place:

  • What sales results at attached to the words extraordinary, excellent, good, poor, and failing results?
  • The conversation to lay out the success formula to arrive at the outcome the salesperson has committed to?
  • Making sure they are committed to the activity by asking: Are you sure? And then stating: 'This is going to be hard".
  • Finally you must discuss what happens when you see the data is telling you that your new hire is off track. Great managers get permission to coach salespeople when they are failing.

4.   They Coach

  • 1-on-1 coaching sessions to improve skill and change behaviors
  • Pre and post-call strategy sessions to improve the probability of success of each opportunity the sales person is calling on
  • They meet quarterly to review activity numbers against actual results to discuss success, where they are headed and or why there is a discrepancy between the behavior numbers and the sales results

5.   They Verify

Not being fooled is the behavior driven by a SALES DNA factor called Healthy Skepticism. This doesn’t mean that they don’t believe what their salespeople are telling them or what they are reporting. They have a Ronald Reagan approach: Trust but verify. Great sales managers stay off the “They’re going to make it because they have a big deal that is about to close” bandwagon.

If you and your organization is must drive better sales performance, consider these 5 behaviors. If you would like to find out if your sales management team is capable of executing these behaviors and or how to execute these contact me at tony@anthonycoletraining or

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Topics: Sales Management Training, sales managed environment, effective sales management, consistent sales results

Coaching Championship Sales Teams: Pat Summitt Says it All!

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Apr 06, 2023

There are five pillars that make up a strong Sales Managed Environment which in turn will help you build a consistent, championship-quality sales team.


The below information was published on June 28, 2016, the date the late GREAT Pat Summitt passed away.

The numbers are astounding: 1098 career victories (most ever by a male or female), 16 SEC titles, 22 Final Fours, 8 national championships, and 7 national Coach Of The Year awards.

An average of 16,565 fans per game in 1999. An Olympic gold medal as the coach of the 1984 U.S. team. A Naismith Hall of Famer (2000). A Medal Of Freedom Award in 2012. Author of three books. Yet as we honor Pat Summitt for what she accomplished in 38 years as the Tennessee Vol's women's coach, we remember what she did on and off the court.

20 years ago we developed our Sales Managed Environment program to help companies strengthen/develop the link between sales strategy and sales execution. That link is the role of sales management. You may not call it that in your organization but someone, somewhere in your company is responsible for the following:

  • Recruiting: Hiring Better Salespeople
  • Developing: Coaching for Success
  • Setting Standards: Accountability and Responsibility
  • Growing Sales: Implementing an Effective Sales System
  • Leading: Motivation that Works

These are the five pillars for developing a strong, successful Sales Managed Environment.

Here are five quotes from the late Great Pat Summitt. Read them as a guide to help you build a consistent championship-quality sales growth team.

  1. Setting Standards: “If you don’t admit a mistake and take responsibility for it,  you're bound to make it again.”
  2. Developing: "A guy raised his hand and asked if I had any advice when it came to coaching women. I gave him a death-ray stare and said, 'Don't worry about coaching women, just go home and coach basketball'."
  3. Growing (winning) Sales: Offense sells tickets, defense wins games, and rebounding wins championships."
  4. Recruiting: "You can't always be (have) the most talented person in the room, but you can be (recruit) the most competitive."
  5. Leading: "Everyone thinks we may curl up and die. I don't think it's going to happen, so put away your hankies."

My closing thought from Coach Summitt: 

“It's what you learn after you know it all that counts the most,"

What is it that you or your sales team could learn, should learn now that they know it all?

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Topics: Sales Management Training, sales managed environment, effective sales management, consistent sales results


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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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