ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

Why is Selling So #%&@ Hard?!?

Posted by Patrick Kollmeier on Wed, Oct 24, 2018


Why is selling so #%&@ hard?!?  It's a valid question.  One that many of us ask ourselves each and every single day.  But, does it have to be?  In our free e-book, learn from our Founder and Chief Growth Officer Tony Cole as he reveals insightful and practical information on what makes selling so hard today.  

With his 20 years of experience coaching salespeople, he will help you understand why you and your buyer behave the way you do in the sales process and what to do about it.  In this e-book, you'll discover how salespeople sabotage their own success, how your own buying process affects your selling, how the buyer's and seller's objectives differ, and fundamental ground rules of the selling process.

You can download the e-book directly for FREE here below.  Enjoy!

Why is Selling So #%&@ Hard?!?


Grab Your Copy

Topics: build a better sales team, consultative selling, how to improve sales, generating leads, building sales team

How Do Extraordinary Financial Planners Close the #Salesgrowthopportunity Gap?

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Apr 18, 2018

What prompted this article was a post from Jeff Ferraris, a program manager for CUSO Financial Services in Austin,Texas. The article – "Leading With Planning: Master Financial Planning With These 6 Steps" – takes investment advisors through a best practices process to have success implementing financial plans for high net worth clients. Aside from the ‘know how’ and the licensing required, what else do your advisors need in order to be successful in their role? 

There are many answers to that question but generally speaking they need to have these sales capabilities:

  • Hunting
  • Qualifying
  • Being a Consultative Seller
  • Presenting
  • Closing
  • Farming or account managing

Need to know how your team measures up against the
best in your industry?
Click here to access Objective Management Group's Stat Finder.

I’m going to focus on the skills required for success when qualifying and selling consultatively. Below are two charts of the competencies necessary to be successful in these two capabilities.

The Qualifier Skill Set

qualifier skills


The Consultative Seller Skill Set

consultative skills

As you can see there are multiple skills that make up the competencies for Qualifying and Consultative skill sets. In this scenario, and not unusual in general, of the 55 salespeople evaluated, 22% of the group had enough consultative skills to be effective and only 30% had enough qualifier skills to be effective.

What impact does this lack of skill in these two areas have on investment advisors and the ability to successfully execute a strategy of using financial plans? Broker dealers that are attempting to help clients improve both the quantity and quality of their plans must get to the root cause of the problem.

Here are the 3 BIG weaknesses in the Qualifier Competency:

  1. Talking to the decision maker: if your investment advisor fails to meet with the decision maker– UP FRONT– then it will impact the sales cycle duration and the closing ratio.
  2. Uncomfortable talking about money: Investment advisors often don't have to worry about discussing money. If you think about the challenges your advisors face when presenting a financial solution, many don’t close opportunities for risk products because they encounter a money objection and aren’t comfortable talking through price.
  3. Self–limiting beliefs: If your advisors don’t have a financial plan, if they don’t own individual disability or long-term care insurance, if they are way under insured for life insurance, how committed do you think they will be recommending it to a client?

And here are the 3 BIG weaknesses in the Consultative Seller Competency:

  1. Ask enough questions– Executing the financial plan process is more than asking how much. The effective IA must ask a ton of “why” questions.
  2. Demonstrates patience– The very nature of most advisors is to close the sale they have in front of them– the transaction for the IRA roll-over. How does that support the 90-day process of financial planning? It doesn’t.
  3. Maintain healthy skepticism– If your IA believes everything the client is telling them then they will never ask about other advisors, the other assets, the real decision-making process, etc. So instead of a 6x multiple from doing plans they will pick up the easy money from the next maturing CD.

To find out more about how to effectively identify those advisors ‘wired’ for fee-based sales and financial planning, email, subject line "tailored fit", to create your own case study by evaluating your top advisors.

Topics: consultative selling, how to improve sales, building sales team

Banking on a Consultative Selling Process to Meet Organic Growth Goals

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Aug 03, 2017

5 Reasons Consultative Selling Skills/Techniques Inhibit Organic Sales Growth

The events that Wells Fargo Bank found itself in the middle of brought to the bright lights one of the biggest challenges facing banks, credit unions and financial services (including insurance) companies.  How do we sell, distribute our products and services, gain market share, and grow organically without “selling”?

 DOWNLOAD our FREE eBOOK -   Why is Selling So #%&@ Hard?


When I got into the financial services segment in 1987, it seemed as though organizations would find every way possible to describe their representatives and the work that they do:

  • Account Executive
  • New Business Development Officer
  • Financial Advisor
  • Loan Officer
  • Insurance Broker
  • Consultant
  • Risk Manager

What is interesting is that - when you attend workshops, conferences, and industry meetings - there are always discussions about what their people/reps are failing to do.  When you look at the list of shortcomings, you see a list of things that you would normally associate with challenges of salespeople. 

  • Won’t or don’t prospect
  • Fail to qualify opportunities
  • Not getting to decision makers
  • Not fully understanding the depth of the problems of the prospect
  • Failing to uncover the strength of the current relationship
  • Challenges with overcoming budget or price issues
  • Difficulties explaining the value proposition
  • Not differentiating themselves from the rest of the market place.

What is the problem?  There are at least two BIG problems: 

  1. Perception
  2. Process



In our first workshop of the Effective Selling System, we take participants through an interactive exercise using the old TV show, Password.  If you are unfamiliar with the game, the set-up is this:  A celebrity knows the “password” and gives clues to the contestant that might get them to correctly guess the password. 

Example: The password is Grass.  1st celebrity clue – meadow; contestant guess – cow.   2nd celebrity clue - lea, contestant guess – hill.  3rd celebrity clue – mow, contestant guess – grass.  Ding, ding, ding!!! Next word.

**Password with Emma Thompson, Michael Cera, JIm Parsons and Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show.  For fun, click the link and watch

So, in our workshop, the password is Salesman (this works better than salesperson). The clues and guesses given include crooked, commission, insurance, slick, Herb Tarlick, plaid pants, fast talker, product pusher, aggressive, etc.

I promise you this is what we hear.  I’ve done this for dozens of groups for almost 3 decades now and these are the responses we get. This is the perception that many people have of salespeople. Isn’t any wonder why people don't want that on their business card?



According to Wendy Connick, from the blog post, The Balance, consultative selling techniques were “developed in the 70’s and came into their own in the 80’s.”  I don’t know what “came into their own” means - I assume that it means consultative selling obtained critical mass and became part of mainstream sales thinking and approach and it was considered new-wave selling technique compared to the traditional Dale Carnegie approach. Of course, times have changed and what worked then does not necessarily work now and companies are struggling to find the latest effective sales approach.

Per Connick’s article:

  1. Think how a doctor or a lawyer treats a client: The thought here is that, as salespeople, we need to ask appropriate questions that will help to diagnose the problem(s), further our relationship with the prospect and allow us to go to the next step.  In most selling situations, the account executive is an invader and, to the author’s point, our prospect isn’t openly willing to share. The prospect almost always holds back information, thoughts and feelings and rarely commits until he has made a decision.
  2. The trick is learning the specifics. It is truly a “trick” to ask all the questions and to learn how to ask the right question at the right time and in the right way. Ask the wrong question and you won’t get the information you need. Ask too early and you risk alienating the potential buyer. Ask too late and you’ve missed an  Ask the question in the wrong way and you could be eliminated as a possible source.
  3. Online resources like Google – Online search engines have replaced consultative sales people. Not long ago, sales people provided the necessary information. Now a tremendous amount of information is researched online and purchases are made without sales people or with minimal involvement of sales people.   
  4. Once you fully understand the prospect's current situation and the problems that he's facing, it's time to present him with the solutionBe careful. This is a trap. You have much to cover before presenting. You must still cover specifics of the decision-making process, determine the budget and uncover the competition. What do you have to do to win the business? Oh, and while you are at it, make sure you say the following: “After I present to you and your people, you must give me a “yes” or a “no”.

How many times have you presented and come away feeling great about the sale? How many times have you told your boss “They loved me. They loved us.  They loved the presentation and should get back to us next week!”.  Then you are hunting them down two weeks later. They’re not returning calls and you can’t get any response at all.

  1. When you both agree on the nature of the problem, step two is showing the prospect how your product is a good solution for this particular problem. No, there are steps 2, 3 and 4 (at least) prior to showing a prospect how your product or service solves a problem.  Think about how many times you’ve demonstrated your product and the prospect said something like, “Let me think it over…It has to go to committee…I’m waiting on two other proposals…I have to crunch the numbers.”  Why does this happen?  We missed the other steps because consultative selling says to 1. find out what the problem is, 2. agree there is a problem, 3. demonstrate that your product solves the problem and, if you did everything right, voila, you’ll get the business.

DOWNLOAD our FREE eBOOK -   Why is Selling So #%&@ Hard?


Topics: organic sales growth, consultative selling, selling techniques that don't work

    Follow #ACTG


    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.


    Subscribe Here

    Most Read

    Recent Blogs