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What We Know: A Consultative Sales Process

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Jul 08, 2021

On average, salespeople possess only 15% of the attributes required to sell consultatively. 

In this blog, we discuss the characteristics of a consultative salesperson and the impact having and following a strict sales process can have on increasing sales.

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Consultative Sales Process

I have always enjoyed the Farmers Insurance commercials. You know the ones, right? They always end with the tagline “we know a thing or two because we have seen a thing or two.” And guess what? At Anthony Cole Training Group, we have indeed learned a few things about a consultative selling approach over the last 28 years.

To be more specific, what we have seen are dramatic increases in sales productivity when companies are willing to give full attention to two things:

  1. Building, executing and inspecting a staged sales approach
  2. Teaching a consultative sales process

A sales process is important because a) most firms don’t have one and b) it is really hard to hold salespeople accountable in the absence of a stage-based and milestone-centric sales approach. If each salesperson is simply doing his or her own thing it becomes nearly impossible for sales management to coach salespeople. And of course, that interferes with a sales leader’s ability to answer two main questions:

Why is your sales team failing?

What are you going to do about it?

Our Consulting Sales Process

So here is what we know: companies that don’t have a well-defined sales process who decide to implement one can expect a 15% increase in sales production. Even if they disagree with all of our other observations, if they will agree with our methodology around the sales process, they will see on average a 15% increase in the sales results of their team. That is how powerful a sales process can be. But we also know this: according to Objective Management Group, the average score from looking at data on over 2,000,000 salespeople tells us only about 45% of all salespeople follow a sales process.

And here is what else we know about those nearly 2,000,000 salespeople: the same data from Objective Management Group shows that on average salespeople possess only 15% of the attributes required to sell consultatively…which we define as being great at asking lots of questions…that are robust questions…challenging questions…and being great listeners. These are the kinds of salespeople who become trusted advisors to their clients and even more importantly, to their prospects. Their prospects wind up paying more attention to them than they do to their current provider. Our consultative sales training is built around coaching the specific traits necessary to become a trusted advisor.

Here is another thing we know. You can easily and inexpensively find out how your sales team measures upon not only the sales process and the consultative sales process but on 18 other key sales skills as well. If you would like more information, we would love to hear from you.

Do you need to find out if your salespeople have a consultative
sales process?

Topics: increase sales, effective sales process, consultative selling

Go for the “No” Early in the Sales Process

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Jun 10, 2019

 In this article, we discuss the theory that a prospect might want what you are selling, if you (as the salesperson) are willing to walk away from the table first.  It may sound counterintuitive but one of the keys for more effective selling is going for the ‘no’ early in the sales process. 

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I learned this concept years ago especially when I was vulnerable to Think it Overs’ (TIO). I would get ‘think it overs’ at several stages in the sales process and maybe you get them as well:

  • On the initial phone call when you’re trying to get an appointment – “Let me think it over, give me a call next week.
  • At the end of your initial meeting – “This sounds really good and something I should consider. Let me think it over and I’ll get back to you in the next couple of days.”
  • When you finish your presentation and you ask for the sale  “You made a very compelling presentation and we are impressed with your depth of knowledge and your very creative solutions to our problems. Let us meet as a group and go over this one more time and crunch some numbers.  Let’s plan on talking next week.

Sound familiar?

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Of course it does and these ‘think it overs’ are what is keeping you from being more effective in your sales process. That’s nice to know or consider but the question becomes, “What do I do about it?” (click here to listen to a 3-minute audio clip on eliminating TIO)

What is important to understand about getting ‘think it overs’ is the mindset of your potential buyer. Your potential buyer will tell you that they need to think it over because:

  • They really don’t intend on making any changes but you impressed them with some information that they want to take to their current provider and see if they can do what you can do.
  • They have a need for approval and instead of telling you they are not interested they want to let you down easy. Telling you they want to think it over gives you hope and get’s them off of the hook until the next time you talk.

To fix the problem, eliminate ‘think it over’ as an option. Let your prospect know that when you finish the next meeting, next conversation, the final presentation, they will have everything they need to make a decision. You can tell them that you will be prepared to answer all of their questions and when you are finished, they will be in a position to make a decision- yes or no. Then simply ask what objections they have to that process.

This one key will help you close more business, more quickly at higher margins.

For more tips on how to uncover a prospects real reason for wanting to 'TIO' watch our Sales Guy Unplugged video on the "Question Behind the Question".

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Topics: sales techniques, effective sales process, sales champion, think it overs, go for the no

7 Rules of the (Prospecting) Road

Posted by Walt Gerano on Wed, Apr 10, 2019

There are a certain number of rules that must be followed when it comes to prospecting in sales. 

These include, but are not limited to, making the commitment to get out of the cold calling business, identifying who you will ask for introductions and referrals each week, ensuring exactly how you will evaluate your success, and creating a pre-call plan for every single call and/or face-to-face meeting.

9836407_xxl road to success sign

Some people say that rules were made to be broken. You might want to think twice about breaking some of these rules for prospecting.

The most successful salespeople I know are always challenging the ideas and methods of those that have succeeded before them, but they don’t challenge the notion of the importance of making prospecting their A priority every week. They know that no matter how successful they are, if they don’t continue to add new relationships, that eventually, their business will decline. 

Here are some rules to help you prospect and prosper:

  1. Play in your sandbox. Make sure you have a profile of who you need to be in front of. Call on the people and businesses where you have expertise, and can leverage that, along with your experience.
  1. If you are dependent on making cold calls, make the commitment to get out of the cold calling business. You will schedule appointments and make sales cold calling but the acquisition cost per sale is much higher than with referrals and introductions. Not to mention the sales process is generally longer.
  1. Look at your schedule each week and identify who you will ask for introductions and referrals. It could be face to face meetings, networking events or a meeting with a center of influence. Have a process for asking that makes it easy for people to help you. Bring your list of top 10 prospects to every meeting and ask them who they know on the list that would take a call from you? Better yet, make use of LinkedIn and look through their connections for people and businesses that look like your target prospect.
  1. How will you evaluate your success? Make sure to set objectives whether it is with a success formula or a commitment to specific behaviors and then TRACK IT!
  1. Have a telephone approach that when calling for appointments helps you sound like someone they want to speak with. What is your unique selling approach? What problems do you fix and why do people meet with you? It must be compelling.
  1. Do a pre-call plan for every call, on the phone or face to face, to help you stay on track. Know what questions you will ask, what questions you need answered and the tough questions they will ask along with how you will respond.
  1. Don’t quit, be persistent! Rejection is part of the process. It’s not falling down it’s staying down that defeats us all.

Topics: introductions, Cold Calling, Referrals, persistence, success formula, pre call sessions, effective sales process, hunting for sales prospects, ideal prospect persona, sales acceleration, salespeople, sales opportunity

Go for the "No" Early in the Sales Process

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Dec 20, 2018

cup-of-coffee-1280537_1280

One of the keys for more effective selling is going for the ‘no’ early in the sales process. I learned this concept years ago especially when I was vulnerable to ‘think it overs’ (TIO). I would get ‘think it overs’ at several stages in the sales process and maybe you get them as well:

  • On the initial phone call when you’re trying to get an appointment – “Let me think it over, give me a call next week.”
  • At the end of your initial meeting – “This sounds really good and something I should consider. Let me think it over and I’ll get back to you in the next couple of days.”
  • When you finish your presentation and you ask for the sale. “You made a very compelling presentation and we are impressed with your depth of knowledge and your very creative solutions to our problems. Let us meet as a group and go over this one more time and crunch some numbers.  Let’s plan on talking next week.”

Sound familiar?

Of course it does and these ‘think it overs’ are what is keeping you from being more effective in your sales process. That’s nice to know or consider but the question becomes, “What do I do about it?” (click here to listen to a 3-minute audio clip on eliminating TIO)

As I learned early on is to get ‘no’ as soon as you can. What is important to understand about getting ‘think it overs’ is the mindset of your potential buyer. Your potential buyer will tell you that they need to think it over because:

  • They really don’t intend on making any changes but you impressed them with some information that they want to take to their current provider and see if they can do what you can do.
  • They have a need for approval and instead of telling you they are not interested they want to let you down easy. Telling you they want to think it over gives you hope and get’s them off of the hook until the next time you talk.

To fix the problem, eliminate ‘think it over’ as an option. Let your prospect know that when you finish the next meeting, next conversation, the final presentation, they will have everything they need to make a decision. You can tell them that you will be prepared to answer all of their questions and when you are finished, they will be in a position to make a decision- yes or no. Then simply ask what objections they have to that process.

This one key will help you close more business, more quickly at higher margins.

For more tips on how to uncover a prospects real reason for wanting to ‘TIO’ watch our Sales Guy Unplugged video on the “Question Behind the Question”.

Topics: Sales Process, effective selling, effective sales process, think it overs

Close More Sales with AWATL

Posted by Jack Kasel on Wed, Oct 26, 2016

A guest post by Jack Kasel, Sales Development Expert, Anthony Cole Training Group

“What we have here . . . . is a failure to communicate.” 

You may recognize that line from one of my all-time favorite movies, Cool Hand Luke.  If you get nothing else out of this Sales Brew, do yourself a favor and go rent that movie.  You will be glad you did. 

Struther Martin’s character in the movie, Cool Hand Luke, makes that statement when the prisoner’s don’t do what is expected of them.  This same execution problem can occur during the sales process and it can cause problem with moving the sale to a timely close.  It usually manifests itself when something like this occurs . . . . . I think I know what you are going to do and you think you know what I’m going to do, but neither one of us really knows for sure what the other one wants or needs.  Thus, the need for the AWATL.

The AWATL stands for “As We Agreed To Letter”.  It is a brief correspondence that the salesperson should send out to clearly indicate what the expectation is (for both parties) on what is needed and expected.  It can be used early in the process or during the middle and is also extremely effective just before you present your solutions to the prospect.

The AWATL process is pretty simple, but it can be very effective.  It is a bullet-point letter or email which spells out the go-forward expectations for both the salesperson and prospect.  It also contains date-specific deadlines to make sure the process doesn’t get stalled or delayed.  Everything works better with deadlines and that is especially true when closing sales.  As mentioned previously, it can be VERY effective just before your closing presentation. 

The important elements of the AWATL includes:

  • The problems you have uncovered that your prospect NEEDS to fix
  • The budget you need to stay within
  • All the decision makers who will be present
  • Finally, and most important, the agreed-to and anticipated date when a decision will be made.

As sales professionals, we should try to control as many aspects of the sales process as possible.  We believe the AWATL can help you help you accomplish that goal… or at least help eliminate any misunderstandings that may hinder you from closing more business. 

In closing, please remember this, someone needs what you do . . . . make sure you don’t “fail to communicate” with them.

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Topics: close more sales, effective sales process

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