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6 Lessons for Sales Organizations I Learned on My Summer Vacation: Part 2

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Sep 03, 2020

Being successful in sales requires continuous growth and learning from day-to-day experiences. Identifying those buyer's you can actually help by doing great research and keeping detailed prospect notes, it part of that success.

MIVacation2

Last week, I wrote a blog that covered the first 3 lessons I learned during my recent RV vacation to Michigan with my wife, Linda. If you missed it, here it is! This week, I review the final sales lessons I took away from our time on the open road.

 

4. Do your homework! We booked a spot at the Bluff of Manistee. Sounds nice, right? I will not throw them under the bus, but let’s just say that we left after a very brief deliberation about the “concrete jungle”. We immediately started googling and found a spot at Orchard State Beach in Manistee.  

  • It makes sense to do some homework before you call on someone, especially when cold calling. You must get a feel for their business, challenges, organizational structure, and find out anything you can about their current business state. This helps you frame your questions so that you sound well-informed about them and their industry. This knowledge and understanding help you more quickly establish credibility.
  • Understand that what you think you know might not be true. Not that a company would intentionally lie or be misleading but understand that they are looking to put their best foot forward. So be cautious, ask more questions, and work to validate what you think you know and inquire about what you don’t.


5. Record the adventure when you travel. Take too many pictures. Make too many notes. It will help you remember why things went well or why you might do something different in the future. You will also be able to share that information and help someone else. One thing we learned about every RV’er we met is that they were all willing to share.

  • Record your notes in your CRM. Check off steps as you complete them. Any documents you send, make sure you upload them to the prospect's file. Be willing to discuss your opportunities with others so you can learn, and they can learn.
  • Go back and look at your notes so that as you progress through the process, you do not have to remember everything. It’s DOCUMENTED! This will free you up to pay closer attention when you are meeting with your prospect.


6. Someone always needs help. The “someone” in this case happened to be the horses at Reality’s Chance in Lake Pleasant Michigan. It’s a wonderful spot: a sanctuary for at-risk horses founded by a wonderful person and run by a group of volunteers that care so much about the work they do. It seems like it would be an endless quest to save all the horses, but helping just one at a time makes a difference to THAT horse.

  • There are plenty of people in your marketplace that need help. Not just any help but specialized help. Kind of what Lauren does for Mustangs at Reality’s Chance. You must be the provider of that specialized help.
  • To be that specialized resource, you cannot look, act, and sound like everyone else. You must have a different approach, have different conversations, and focus on presidential issues and business solutions instead of your products and services.

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Topics: coaching sales, Sales Growth, sales development, Business Development, driving sales growth 2020

6 Lessons for Sales Organizations I Learned on Summer Vacation: Part 1

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Aug 28, 2020

Everyday, there are things that can be learned that can impact our personal and professional lives.

 

In this week's blog, our Chief Learning Officer Tony Cole will discuss a few of the sales lessons he took away from his summer vacation.

MIvacation

Linda and I just came back from our first big RV camping trip where we visited Michigan. Upon my return, I received an email from Alex asking me if I had any brilliant insights to share with you all from my trip that might relate to growing sales. Here are the first 3 of 6 lessons I learned during our trip.

 

1. Enjoy the journey. We learned that there is normal travel time, and then there is RV time. My google maps would tell me I had a 240-mile, 4-hour journey, and I would arrive at 2:14 PM. I would drive for 30 minutes, look at my google map only to discover that I now had a 241-mile journey and I would arrive at 2:22.

  • As you plan your sales success, you must understand that the journey will take longer, and you will likely run into detours, accidents, and slowdowns.

  • If you do not slow down and enjoy each stop along the way, you will become irritable and frustrated. This will cause you to move things along faster and, when you do, you will miss steps and sights along the way, damage relationships, and potentially get lost.

 

2. Have a process and follow the process. For those of you that have RVs, you understand what I am talking about. You have to make sure that certain steps are taken so that you don’t; rip vents off of the roof, have contents falling out of your storage bins, leak your freshwater reserve, run out of propane, or get a flat tire.

  • What we know thanks to the Objective Management Group is that 95% of Elite or Strong Salespeople (roughly only 25% of all 2 million salespeople assessed) follow a consistent sales process. What is important to note today though, is that the process is more of an approach so that the salesperson can focus on the buyer’s process.
  • Don’t assume you’ve followed the process. Have a milestone-centric system within your CRM system (Membrain) so that you can check off each step along the way. There were at least 3 occasions on our trip when Linda would ask me, “did you…” and I would have to review my steps just to make sure I covered every detail.


3. Sales growth requires nurturing. Driving through Ohio and Indiana, you will see more corn then you ever imagined. As you get into the western region of Michigan you start to see signs for cherries, apples, blueberries, corn, peaches, and all manner of fruits and vegetable stands. It reminded me of my days on the farm and how we had to nurture plants to maximize production. It did not matter how old or young the plants were. They needed soil, water, sunshine, and food.

  • No matter where you are in your career, you need nurturing. You need to be replenished with new information, be reminded of what you’ve done in the past that led to success, and receive coaching to improve skills and change behaviors.
  • Nurturing requires balance. Too much of one thing is not good. So micromanaging is not a solid strategy. Self-management and openness to corrective coaching is the solution for consistent sales growth.

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Topics: Sales Growth, sales development, Sales Coaching, Sales Process, driving sales growth 2020

7 Things Companies Do to Thrive Anywhere, Anytime

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, Aug 04, 2020

Regardless of the current state of business, it is easy to get caught up in managing day-to-day tasks. It's also easy to lose focus on the end goal and continue to take the necessary steps to move your business forward.  

If you and your organization need to thrive and not just survive, these 7 things can and will help!

JeffBezos-2This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

With so much noise about the current environment, I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped reading now, but don’t! This is not the same old message about what to do in the middle of a crisis. This is information and direction for any organization any time they need to thrive.

Things companies do to thrive anywhere, anytime.

  1. To borrow from Jim Collins's book, Built to Last, great companies lean heavily on their core ideology. This emphasis is what makes companies visionary. Re-state your core ideology at every opportunity. Take this moment to become the visionary in your segment or industry. Make sure you have people that drink the ideology Kool-aid.
  2. Increase the intensity around achieving objectives. This doesn’t mean don’t have empathy for those that suffer either financially, medically, or socially. It does mean that the core of your organization will see you and your people through difficult times, but only if you remind them of the objectives, do not allow them to wallow in a pity party, and support them so that they can succeed.
  3. Focus on cash in the door. That means sales. Yes, sales will be tougher to get, and maybe fewer and farther between, but that just means you need to be more diligent about sales activities upfront. Raise the standards for activity, increase the frequency of huddles, use more data to help coach, and support and hold salespeople accountable.
  4. Hire great talent. Not just occasionally but all the time even when you don’t have the money or don’t have an open spot. What we know from our work with Objective Management Group is that of the 2M salespeople assessed, only 7% of them are at the "elite" level (Sales Quotient over 139). Another 18% score as "strong" (Sales Quotient between 130-1390). If the axiom is true – nothing happens until something is sold – then find great salespeople and hire them anytime, at any price. (Smartsize your organization NOW!)
  5. Improve the knowledge, behaviors, and skills of your people. There is a commitment to invest time, money, and resources to the development of the talent you hire. Recognize that your people, just like professional athletes, need constant conditioning, training, performance management, and coaching. Failure in this area is what leads to the "reverse" Pareto principle. I describe this concept in a recent article – The Evolution of Sales in 2020.
  6. Stay optimistic despite all of the evidence to the contrary. (Click HERE for the ‘There’s got to be a pony in there somewhere’ joke). When we started our work with Key Bank, Beth Mooney was fond of discussing the concept of "Shadow of the Leader". Quite simply it means that you as a leader, set the tone, posture, mental stability, and emotion for your organization. If you want your people to be energized and enthusiastic then it starts with you!
  7. They pick the can up and do something with it, instead of kicking it down the road hoping for a better time, a more appropriate set of circumstances, or for things to turn around. Great companies make things happen. They are creators rather than creatures of circumstance.

This brief outline requires many things from many people in your company. We can help in three areas:

 

  • Leading Through Change
  • Selling in Any Environment
  • Hiring Better Salespeople

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Topics: Selling Success, sales management success, improving sales results, increase sales, upgrade your sales force, sales advice, sales acceleration, sales productivity tools, driving sales growth 2020

Develop Your Sales Talent to Increase Sales in 2020 and Beyond

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Mar 25, 2020

If you are not in the acquisition business, then you must develop your talent in order to increase sales in 2020 and beyond.  One of the keys to doing that is to understand how to drive sales improvement. 

You must determine what is really happening with your salespeople when they fail to acquire a new piece of business, and then you must take key steps to help you determine if they lack the skills to get the job done, or if they are making excuses for their lack of success. 

pexels-photo-248547

Companies are constantly trying to figure out how to drive organic growth by:

  • Acquiring a revenue stream by buying a business or lifting out talent from a competitor
  • Developing current talent

If you are not in the acquisition business, then you must develop your talent.  One of the keys to doing that is to understand how to drive sales improvement.  You must determine what is really happening with your salespeople when they fail to acquire a new piece of business. 

Are your people just making excuses for failure or do they have deficits in the required sales competencies or will to sell?

To be successful in determining the real issues with your salespeople, you must have a system.

I read a blog the other day by Dave Kurlan.  We’ve had a strong business partnership with Dave and his company OMG (Objective Management Group) for most of our 24 years in business.  With OMG, we have the ability to determine the answer to the question – is it excuses or is it a talent issue?

Dave’s post  - 12 Reasons They Didn’t Like You Enough To Buy From You – helps address some of the issues associated with “not getting the business”.  It primarily focuses on the area of matching styles.

This got me thinking about the issue of “style” as it relates to talent, which relates to sales competencies and excuse making.  The challenge for the sales manager is determining if the reason a salesperson did not get the sale was really a talent issue, or an excuse issue.

To determine the root cause of the results, a sales manager must work more closely with the relationship managers and implement a process that Bill Eckstom calls “intentional coaching”.  This process of working closing with your RMs is addressed in our Sales Management Certification Program in the Coaching for Success Module.

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Here are the 5 steps you must take to help you determine if your salespeople lack the necessary skills to succeed or are making excuses for their lack of success:

  1. You must gain insight. You gain insight by using various data points. The data points you MUST use are: 
    1. Observational joint sales calls – You do not run the sales call; you observe your RM
    2. Data from your CRM or SAT program (SAT – Sales Activity Tracking)
    3. Sales meetings – In all of your sales meetings, you need to include a segment on skill development where you drill for skill, role play and conduct strategy development discussions
    4. 1-on-1 coaching – Each week, you should have time set aside for 1-on-1 coaching with those people that are NOT in the 1st quadrant of the “Where’s Walter?” matrix
  2. Provide feedback. In advance of the discussion about lost opportunities, you want to provide your RM with the data you have – no ambushing.
    1. You discuss – ask the RM questions about what they see in the data
    2. You provide them feedback based on what you see and where the problems might be
    3. You discuss what the future might look like if the current trends continue
    4. You agree that there is a problem
  3. Demonstrate – Once you identify the problem as either an excuse or a skill issue, you demonstrate to the RM what you expect them to execute.
    1. If they are making excuses – "They didn’t understand the value of our offering” – You ask, “If I didn’t let you use that as an excuse what would you have done differently?”
    2. If it’s a skill problem – “I asked them if they had a budget and they said yes.” “When you asked them what it was, what did they say?”  “They said they didn’t want to tell me.”  “When you asked, ‘why not?’, what did they say?”  “I didn’t ask that question.”
  4. Role play – The scenario above allows you to now role play with you acting as the prospect. You need to start with Drill for Skill and then graduate to the full role play.  Getting them to practice what you expect them to do takes patience and repetition.  Do not believe for a second that one role play will be enough.  You need to start your RM on a weekly coaching session repeating the required skills over and over again. 
  5. Action steps – Each coaching session must end with action
    1. "Bill, so what I want you to do is call Mary and have this conversation we just role played."
    2. "I want you to report back to me by end of business today what happened as a result of that conversation."
    3. Hold your salespeople accountable while also coaching them along the way! 

Implementing a process of gaining insight, providing feedback, demonstrating, role playing and establishing action items will go a long way in helping your team discern the difference between making excuses for failure and the need for skill development.

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How to Move Forward and Increase Sales During Uncertain Times

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Mar 16, 2020

In this blog post, we pray for the health and safety of those at risk or sick during this time in human history.

We also discuss that NOW is the time to ensure that your sales growth efforts are stronger than ever to help increase sales in 2020 and beyond!

selective-focus-of-a-boxer-s-fist-3562117

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." - Charles Darwin 1809

I don’t mean that as it relates to the Covid-19 virus, though the expression will certainly bear that out during this pandemic.  For those that are sick or know those that are sick or at risk, we at Anthony Cole Training Group pray for your health and safety.  In the meantime, there is the business of trying to keep your business alive as well as the businesses of your clients.

To that end, I’m referencing Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.  If you Google “Only the Strong Survive”, here is what you may read:

Natural selection is the theory that only the strong survive. For example, the animals that can outrun their predators live to pass on their speedy genes; the slow are eaten.” 

When the markets go down, the competition for market share gets aggressive and companies are faced with making budgets and decreasing revenues. 

NOW is the time to make sure that your sales growth efforts are stronger than ever.  If you don’t put time, money and resources into sales then you will have a difficult time surviving.  You might survive but the climb back up will be long and painful.   It is CRUNCH time!

I recognize that crunch time might mean tightening the financial / budget belt and eliminating "non-essential" expenses.  That list normally includes but is not limited to:

  • Marketing
  • Technology
  • Travel and entertainment
  • Benefits
  • Training

As you go about crunching those numbers, consider the following:

  • Be strategic – Think outside of the box and get creative with using money and resources to drive revenue. It doesn’t take a lot of creativity to cut expenses.
  • Stop thinking “non-essential” – If those expenses and resources were non-essential, then you wouldn’t currently be spending money on those items.
  • Think about wise investing. Where could you invest time, money and resources that could be additive to your objectives and keep you in the hunt for new business and revenue?
  • Look through a new lens when considering how to handle your sales staff and how to help them become better during a difficult period.

Objective Management Group

As you go about crunching, one thing we recommend is strategically pairing down your sales team to improve your ROI and profitability DRAMATICALLY.  As an example, 3 years ago we assessed a commercial lending group of 60 lenders.  Of the 60, this is how the numbers worked out:

  • The top 1/3 of the group (20) represented over 70% of the revenue from new and portfolio business. This should not be surprising as it is consistent with the Pareto Principle.  It’s the next item that should get your attention.
  • The bottom 1/3 of the group (again 20 lenders) represented less than 6% of the new and portfolio revenue. As an aside, this is NOT an outlier.  We see this EVERY TIME we do a quintile analysis of a sales group.
  • When the president of the group was asked what the profit impact would be if they eliminated the bottom 20, the answer was; “We would add $2,000,000.00 to the bottom line.”

My strategy here isn’t to offer early retirement in order to manage expenses but be more strategic in who you let go.  Look at the right numbers and not just years of service or those close to retirement.  Additionally, you should consider how you go about new hires.  Yes, you should be hiring now.  Many companies will downsize the wrong people for the wrong reasons.  Now is a great time to pick up great sales talent. 

Find Out More:  Virtual Sales Training

Again, you want to be selective.  By using the Objective Management Group pre-hire assessment, you can accomplish a couple of critical objectives:

  • Using the "Ideal fit" you can identify EXACTLY what it takes to be successful in sales at your organization.
  • You can match all candidates against the ideal fit and have great insight as to what the candidates Will to Sell, Sales DNA and Sales Competencies are.
  • Using the Stat Finder you can compare your sales team in 21 sales core competencies against over 1.8 million other salespeople & over 26K companies. And, specifically you can measure your team against those in your industry. If you are in banking or financial services, you can stack your team against 500 other companies.
  • Using the information from the STAT finder you can build and deliver micro learning / training sessions to help your people become more effective in this difficult market.

Finally, you must make the decision that training and developing this current team that hasn’t experienced these competitive conditions before is critical.  To accomplish what you can, take advantage of technology and distance conferencing to improve the skills of your team and change their behaviors.

No longer do you have to pull people out of the field into a conference room for a full day to have an impact on sales skills.  With a micro-focused strategy to address specific “choke points” in the execution of your sales process you can conduct 90-minute sessions that involve drill for skill, role-play and strategy development.

Yes, you will take action over the next several days, weeks and probably months to outrun the competition and not be eaten. But to do that your sales organization must be faster and stronger than ever before.

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Topics: creating new sales opportunities, sales productivity tools, sales effectiveness training, banking sales training, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, corporate sales training, sales force performance management, sales training courses, online sales training, hire better people, insurance sales training, brand video, train the trainer, driving sales growth 2020, 5 keys to sales coaching, handles rejection, online sales management training, sales training workshops, sales training seminars, sales training programs, sales candidate assessment, sales force performance evaluation, insurance prospecting system, assessment tools for salespeople, life insurance call script, sales team evaluation, keys to selling success, prospecting personality definition, star sales training, keys to selling

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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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