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The Sales Game: 10 Lessons for Winning & Losing

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Dec 21, 2022

It has been almost a month ago, but real fans will remember. It was a game for 45 minutes and then it wasn’t. I am talking about the Michigan, Ohio State rivalry football game played November 26, 2022.  Up for grabs was the Big Ten Football Championship Game and a shot at being in the NCAA football playoffs.

As I watched the game, I thought about all those sales opportunities that were close to being won for 45 days and then, they weren't. Up for grabs was a sale that would make hitting goal ‘easier’ and a chance to be identified with the other top salespeople in the organization.

Here are the 10 key lessons to take from this game and apply to your life or the lives of your sales team as you / they pursue wining sales opportunities.

  1. Follow the game plan.  Obviously, this requires that you and or your sales team have a milestone-centric sales process in place AND you have processes in place to manage execution of the sales process.
  2. Don’t panic. Things will go wrong.  
  • The prospect won’t always be completely honest with you about pricing, the competition, the budget, decision makers, timeline, commitment to take action or the decision-making process.
  • Your backroom may not be able to underwrite / approve / support this type of sale in the fashion to which they are accustomed.
  • The competitor may undercut your pricing or make other concessions to keep the business.
  1. Make sure you coach or get coaching every step of the way. It DOES NOT matter how many years you’ve been in the business. Great salespeople become great salespeople because they consistently hone their skills (practice) and they understand there are things that they don’t know.
  2. Be patient. You are not in control of the timing of the prospect’s process. You can do your best to influence timing by asking questions about the value of acting or the potential cost of waiting but, be patient and stick to your plan.
  3. Don’t be afraid, GO FOR IT! Get to decision makers, ask about budget, find out if the prospect will in fact leave their current provider if you solve their problem and /or provide a better solution.
  4. Keep track of everything. There isn’t anything that happened in the OSU / Michigan game (any competitive game) that isn’t tracked.  The information / data you get helps you make better decisions within the overall framework of your sales process. Pre and post call planning and weekly huddles are effective tracking strategies.
  5. Stay clinically detached. This is easier to do when you have a plan. Remember SW3N.  Some will, some won’t, so what, NEXT!
  6. Avoid feeling pressure to ‘score’ or win every sale by having a consistently full pipeline of opportunities.
  7. 9. Be discerning as to what you listen to from others. (The announcers were commenting early in in the game on how Michigan couldn’t win if they didn’t establish the ground game.)  Michigan threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to go ahead 17-13).  Lesson, take what the prospect gives you vs trying to force your game plan. Eventually MI did establish the ground game – stuck to game plan – and ou trushed OSU 252 yards to 143 yards.
  8. Be better than your competition.

You may not win every sale. But you have to be in the game every time you decide to move forward in your sales process AND it is critical that you have GREAT confidence that you will win BEFORE you present your solution.  In other words, reviewing your game plan score card, you must have a 75% chance of winning before you present your solution. Anything less than that will make you vulnerable to think it overs, second guessing by the prospect, price adjustments by the competitor and loss of momentum by the buyer. 

Topics: Effort in Sales, Closing business, How to Sell, How to be successful in sales

Why Success Formulas and Sales Plans Fail

Posted by Alex Cole on Fri, Aug 02, 2019

If you have followed my blog, read our sales newsletters or listened to our audio sales brews, then you’ve heard me talk about success formulas.  The concept is pretty simple.  If you follow the steps and execute the required activities to the required standards, you will be successful. Well, guess what? It doesn’t always work that way, especially if you are missing critical pieces of the process.

Success or Failure Sign

For most people, the success formula is a new exercise designed to create a logical and systematic approach to their sales process. It requires that one has clearly mapped the sales process and has some idea of what the conversion rates are from one step of the process to the next step of the process. It also requires an exercise where personal goals are identified and there is a financial or monetary value attached to the identified goals.

But… goals aren’t enough. There are a couple other critical criteria you must meet.

1. The goals have to be non-negotiable, AND...

2. The sales person has to be willing to do everything possible to succeed.

Without these criteria being met, then the success formula becomes just an exercise to complete rather than a fundamental business process that will increase the opportunity for success.

Once non-negotiable goals and a “whatever it takes” attitude have become established, then you can go about the process of building a success formula. This leads us to the next challenge and that challenge is data. Unless you’ve collected data on your sales results, then you won’t know the conversion rates or the amount of activity required to be successful. The success formula then becomes a “guess at success”. And that can be the problem with success formulas.

If you have gone through this process and you aren’t at the level of success that you had predicted, then you’ve got to back to the drawing board and re-calculate your formula. If you aren’t successful, it can be attributed to one of the following 3 things:

1.  Lack of performance of the required activity – In other words, just a flat-out lack of effort.

2.  The formula was wrong because the assumptions of conversion ratios or average size accounts were wrong or…

3.  The goals were actually negotiable and you, the sales person, are not doing everything possible to succeed. Not just in effort, but also in those steps in the sales process that are difficult or contrary to your personal belief systems, your buy cycle, or your need for approval.

The sales formula was never designed to be a perfect solution to cure poor or failing sales performance. The intent again is to provide a sales professional with a logical and progressive way to approach selling. If you are executing your formula at 100% and you aren’t getting the results, review the goals, the assumptions and the conversion ratios.

Make needed adjustments and go back to work. One important thing to keep in mind: If you are not performing as effectively as you thought you would, then you must examine what it is that you’re failing to do to get the appropriate conversion rate. Your course of action will always be one of two actions: work harder or work smarter.

The choice is yours.


Topics: Sales Effort, Effort in Sales, success formula, sales success formula, things to do for sales success

The Whack-A-Mole Approach to Sales Management

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Apr 04, 2018

Before reading this article, please download our free e-book "Why is Selling so #%&@ Hard" to better understand the effort required to guide and lead your sales team to extraordinary results.

It’s been a few years since I’ve been in a Dave and Busters establishment. There was a time when I would go at least once a year. When I was younger, my source of entertainment was hanging out at sports bars with pool tables, shuffleboards and basketball games. About 25 years ago, that entertainment became watching my kids enjoy the arcade games Dave and Busters offered.

It was there that I learned about Whack–A–Mole and sales management. I really didn’t tie the game to sales management immediately. That is a more recent realization I have come to over the last 10 years as I’ve visited with executives who are trying to figure out sales growth (SGO) within their company. 

What I learned about Whack–A–Mole is that it did not require any specific talent. It did require effort – which requires no skill. And, it did require a couple of strands of specific athletic DNA:

  1. Hand/eye coordination
  2. Fast twitch muscle fibers

The same holds true for managing salespeople relative to effort. Putting forth the effort to coach and motivate people, as well as hold them accountable to performance, requires no skill. Let me repeat – THE EFFORT requires no skill. Therein lies part of the problem with growing your sales team.

With Whack-A-Mole, I never got a sense there was a systematic way to approach the game. The moles did not appear to be popping their little heads up in a particular sequence. They appeared randomly much like they used to in my back yard when I lived in Blue Ash, Ohio.


This is exactly what I observe and hear when talking to executives about identifying the sales growth opportunity within their sales team. Specifically:

  • What is the ideal model being used to eliminate hiring mistakes?
  • What is the coaching routine and methodology?
  • What is the culture that helps foster motivation?
  • When performance management discussions take place are they; consistent, punitive, additive and predictable based on exact metrics and standards?

The answers to these questions are what reminds me of Whack-A-Mole. There isn’t a consistency within the organization let alone consistency between one organization and another. To be clear, we do NOT work with broken companies. We work with companies that recognize there is greater potential within the organization and they realize that they need to figure out:

  • What is our sales growth opportunity?
  • What would it take go from where we are now to where we could be?
  • How does our current team, systems and processes help or hurt our ability to close the gap?
  • How long will/would it take?
  • What would need to be invested to close our sales growth opportunity gap?

The problem of not realizing full sales growth potential exists for many reasons. Too many to cover in one article so I will go about the process by writing a series specifically dedicated to help you identify what it would take to close the sales growth opportunity gap.

If you haven't already done so, please download our free e-book "Why is Selling so #%&@ Hard" to better understand the effort required to guide and lead your sales team to extraordinary results.

Click HERE to download  our free e-book!

Topics: Effort in Sales, effective sales management, building sales team


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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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