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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!

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"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. 

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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

The Best Advice Sales Managers Can Give to Help Increase Sales

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Mar 12, 2020

In this blog article, we discuss the best advice sales managers can give their salespeople, and that is to "keep moving."  If you want to increase sales within your organization, you must keep moving throughout the ups and downs, the missed opportunities, the clients who "ghost" you, and more.

No one ever said that consultative selling or sales coaching would be easy, but you must motivate your team to keep moving and to see the bigger picture.

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I met Al several years ago at my health club while we were playing early morning tennis with a group of 6 others. At the age of 57, I was the youngest in the group.  I played regularly with this group for about a year and as I honed my tennis skills, I would come home and brag to Linda about how my partner and I crushed the other team that morning. 

One morning, I think she had heard enough and wanted to know more about the competition I was playing. After all, I had only been playing tennis for just over a year. She and I would hit balls on a local tennis court so she knew my game really wasn’t that good. It was either I kept drawing great partners or the competition was suspect.

In the spirit of full transparency, I will go through some of the competitors I crushed. 

  • Frank – 72 years old, arthritis in a hip and bad feet from early childhood development issues
  • Bill – 70 - recovering from his 2nd by-pass surgery
  • Ron – 68 retiree with a bad back, hip replacement and vision issues
  • Chuck – 71 – braces on both knees
  • Jim – The best of the lot, 69 but in good shape
  • Jim – Former military, 72, recovering from hip and back surgery
  • Al – At the time Al was 89 and a retired man of medicine

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The jig was up and my story had been exposed.  I was competing against the walking wounded you might see in a 4th of July Parade playing a flute, carrying a flag, and playing a drum.  In reality, they were quite good tennis players who tolerated my lack of skill with great humor.  They often took advantage of me as a result of my lack of talent and experience as well.

I ran into Al just last week and that is when I learned the best advice any manager could give a sales team.  Both Al and I had just finished working out. I was walking through the locker room as he was getting ready to leave. I don’t see Al as often as I used to, so when I do, I always take some time to chat with him and ask him about his life.

Tony – Al, how are you doing my friend?

Al – I’m doing alright, can’t complain, you know just getting in a workout and heading home.  Doing pretty good though.

Tony – You look great Al.

Al – Well I just keep moving.  I figure if I keep moving, I’ll be alright.  I can still walk 3 miles with no problem.  I work out on the elliptical.  But I’m losing my memory.  I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name.

Tony – It’s Tony.

Al – I just can’t remember things like I used to and you know what that means…. ( silence of acknowledgement).  By the time I get upstairs, I won’t remember your name.

Tony – That’s okay Al.  Are you still driving?

Al – Sure!

Tony – Al, how’s your wife? 

Al - She’s fine, just fine.  She’s the young one.

Tony – You are my hero, my inspiration to just keep moving.  Thanks. Can I give you a hug.

Al – Sure

Tony – Thanks Al,  Great to see you,  you take care of yourself and I’ll see you again soon.

Al – Okay.

Al is 97 and his wife is 95.  They survived the Holocaust and continue to thrive today. They thrive today because they are both committed to this one piece of great advice that all sales managers must provide to their sales team - Just Keep Moving.

When salespeople or sales teams fail, it is a result of one or both of two things:  Effort and/or Execution. 

As I’ve been teaching and coaching in our Sales Managed Environment program for years now...

Effort Requires No Skill

To Al’s point, more than half the battle of surviving and thriving is this; Just Keep Moving.  Keep calling prospects, keep meeting with them, keep inquiring about the business those prospectsrun, keep asking powerful and insightful questions, keep finding out if there is anything you can do to help someone achieve their objectives, and more.

But everything starts with effort. And effort starts with the will to just keep moving.

Thanks Al for the lesson!

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Topics: sales conversations, sales effectiveness training, banking sales training, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, corporate sales training, sales force performance management, social selling, online sales training, politics, 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 team evaluation, keys to selling success, keys to selling

Increasing Sales in 2020 | Ask Your Prospects Better Questions

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Feb 27, 2020

In this blog, we discuss why prospects object when it comes down to buying time, and why we can't always blame the prospects in these situations. Overall, salespeople must ask better questions to help increase sales, build better relationships, and help uncover their prospect's compelling reasons to buy. 

On the other side, their sales managers must be present for their salespeople at the beginning, middle and end of every sales opportunity, sales meeting, and coaching session. 

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I’ve been working on growing sales for over 30 years.  It’s been about 25 years since I heard David Sandler say,

“There’s no such thing as bad prospects, just bad salespeople.” Not bad as in character, morals or integrity; just bad at selling.

But as I read Dave Kurlan’s blog about choosing between bad salespeople and bad sales management, it got me thinking about what Sandler said those many years ago and what we continue to hear from salespeople today when discussing opportunities won and lost. Let’s take a look at what’s happening or not happening. 

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List of reasons for a salesperson not getting the sale:

  • The prospect had a long-term relationship/the incumbent matched our proposal
  • The decision maker wasn’t involved in the selling process 
  • Our pricing wasn’t competitive/ we didn’t have the right products for them 
  • The timing wasn’t right

There are many, but in a nutshell, the overall question (from a sales manager) to a salesperson would be;

“When you asked them (the prospect) about, discussed, made sure that...(fill in the blank with any of the reasons listed above) What did they say?  What was their reaction?”  

If you read this as a salesperson you might be thinking one of a few things: 

  1. I’m not asking those questions 
  2. Those are good questions to ask
  3. I should be asking those questions 
  4. I would never ask those questions 

If you are thinking #4, then your reasons for not getting the business are never going to change! That is what Sandler and Kurlan are talking about when they discuss bad salespeople. You cannot blame the prospect for having objections to buy. Heck, you have your own set of objections/reasons every time you decide not to buy or change. 

But what about the sales manager? Where does that person fit into the equation? They fit in at the beginning, middle and end of every sales opportunity, sales meeting, and coaching session. 

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Solution #2: Pre and Post Call Sessions and 1-on-1 Coaching

Pre-call coaching sample questions:

  • What buying process questions will you ask? (These are questions about compelling issues, stages in the buyer’s journey, options they are exploring, other solution providers they are exploring, etc.) 
  • What answers do you anticipate?
  • How will you handle those answers?
  • What questions are you anticipating?
  • What will your response be?
  • What objections, delays or stalls should you anticipate?
  • What is your response?

Unfortunately, what we do know from the thousands of sales managers assessed for coaching skills, is that less than 10% of them have adequate skills to be effective at developing salespeople. 

What does this all mean?

  1. To eliminate bad prospects, eliminate bad salespeople
  2. To eliminate bad salespeople, eliminate bad sales management/ lack of sales coaching
  3. To eliminate bad sales management, hire people that have the skills to be effective in the role 
  4. Don’t use sales management as the next step in the career path for successful salespeople
  5. Provide the training, development and coaching your managers need to be effective

Need further assistance with the post-call session? Click HERE or the button below to view our Post-Call Debrief Analysis Worksheet.

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Topics: sales professional, Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis, sales differences, creating new sales opportunities, sales productivity tools, sales conversations, sales effectiveness training, banking sales training, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, corporate sales training, sales force performance management, sales training courses, buyers journey, social selling, 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

10 Things to Start & 3 Things to Stop When Hiring Better Salespeople

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Feb 24, 2020

Recruiting new sales talent and hiring better salespeople are complicated and time-consuming processes. Especially, when you're not prepared to fill a vacancy, don't have a pipeline of candidates, or have an idea of what "better" means for your business. 

In this article, Tony Cole discusses what to start doing and what to stop doing to upgrade your sales force and increase sales starting today!

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What are the keys to hiring better salespeople?

In our weekly huddle today, Jack Kasel shared a parable about a woman who asked the pastor at a revival meeting to pray that the cobwebs in her life be removed.  She appeared a second night and a third night with the same request.  The pastor granted her wish the first two nights, and prayed that the cobwebs in her life be removed.  When she appeared the 3rd time at the revival with the same request, the Pastor stopped her mid-request because he realized he had been asking God for the wrong thing.

The Pastor instead prayed; "Father, we do not ask you tonight to clean the cobwebs from Ms. Rameriez’ life.  In fact, Lord, keep them there for now.  But tonight, we ask for something much greater.  Tonight, we ask that you kill the spiders in Ms. Ramirez’s life."

What does killing spiders have to do with recruiting and hiring better salespeople?  Well, indirectly nothing, but metaphorically speaking, it has a lot to do with hiring better salespeople. 

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Here are 10 things to "Start doing" and 3 things to "Stop doing" when it comes to recruiting and attempting to hire better salespeople:

Start Doing:

  1. Create a profile of a salesperson that describes exactly what success they need to achieve. This will work more effectively than writing a job description and posting it to a job site, or telling your network that you're looking for a "great salesperson".
  2. Use a pre-hire assessment in the 2nd step of your hiring process. Before you have a phone or face-to-face interview, assess EVERY candidate with a sales specific assessment that can match sales experience with your specific sales success requirements.
  3. Interview only those that have be recommended for hire as THE salesperson you are looking for.
  4. Create an interview process that mimics the sales process. If they have to be great on the phone, then interview them on the phone before you meet, and give them the same amount of time to impress you that they would get with a prospect.  If they can’t impress the hell out of you in 3 minutes, they won’t impress a prospect either.
  5. In your first face-to-face interview, make them do the "hard stuff".  Such as:
    • Make them establish bonding and rapport.
    • Make them ask you questions about what it takes to be successful, what do the top salespeople do in your organization and what do they have to tell you to make sure they make it to the next step.
    • Schedule only 30 minutes but make sure there is an extra 30 minutes for an interview with another person in your office. I promise you that you will know if you should proceed after 30 minutes.
  6. Make sure that when you are ready to make an offer, they are ready to decide. Inform them of that process so they are prepared to tell you "yes" or "no".  Your offer should meet their expectations, you must be able to answer all of their questions and you must know what you are willing to negotiate to get the person you want to hire.  DO NOT let them use your offer to get a better deal.
  7. Onboard them so that they clearly understand what it takes to be successful and what is expected of them in the first 90 days. Make sure they understand that there are no excuses accepted for lack of compliance to training, onboarding and any sales activity required.  Additionally, you must be able to answer all the questions on this list.

Stop Doing:

  1. Using behavioral and/or personality tests to determine if someone can sell. Stop using cold calling assessments to make your hiring decisions. Stop thinking that you have to sell the position early on to get a candidate interested in you.  (If they respond to a call, an email, a job post then they have already taken the first step TOWARDS you).
  2. Stop thinking that the decision is about money. In today’s working world, it’s about providing an opportunity that can be transformational.  Money will only get you people that will leave you for more money.
  3. Only recruiting when you need someone. Being reactive is a horrible position to be in.  You are held hostage and being held hostage will force you to make hiring mistakes.

So what does this have to do with spiders? The Pastor was attempting to make the point that we cannot (when it comes to recruiting), deal with symptoms; we must deal with the root causes.  We can try and train people longer, we can try and work on the compensation model, we can implement and execute PIP programs. In the end, the right end of the problem is dealing with the spider. 

Start with the right person and the cobwebs go away.

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Topics: Sales Coaching, sales performance coaching, sales effectiveness training, banking sales training, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, sales force performance management, sales training courses, buyers journey, social selling, online sales training, politics, 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

Implementing Core Sales Values to Help Your Sales Culture | Increase Sales 2020

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, Jan 21, 2020

In the 2nd post in our "2020: The Year for Sales Growth" blog series, our Founder and CLO Tony Cole, discusses the importance of maintaining core sales values within an organization, how these values relate to organized sports, the erosion of these said core values, and the impact they have (or can have) on your attempt to grow your sales organization and sales numbers in 2020.

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I have been playing tennis for close to seven years now.  If you watched me play, you would describe me as a "football player who plays tennis."  I play hard, I compete, I hate to lose, and I play to win.  But at my age, I recognize my limitations, and I accept them. 

It really doesn’t matter that my chosen sport was football. What matters more here is what it means to have participated in organized sports for many years, and what has happened to the core values and benefits passed down from generation to generation. 

One thing I have noticed is the erosion of those core values and the impact they have (or can have) on your attempt to grow your sales organization.

Last night, when I went to play in my weekly tennis league, I noticed a banner that you may have seen at the beginning of this blog (I'll Never Be Benched, Subbed or Picked Last).  With every movie I see, song I hear, or book I read; I always apply them to sales, selling, sales management or recruiting.  It happened when I saw the banner and it distracted me for the remainder of the evening.  I couldn’t help but think that the rest of the banner might read:

  • I won’t get the grades I need to get into school or a good job
  • I won’t get into the school of my choice
  • I won’t get the promotion
  • I won’t get a raise
  • I won’t win the part in the play
  • I won’t win the heart of a significant other
  • I won’t be able to beat my competitor in a tough sales situation
  • I won’t get the loan I need for a place to live

As you think about what is required of a successful salesperson, what attributes or characteristics are required to be successful? Dave Kurlan at Objective Management Group knows the answer to that question, and by extension of our relationship with him and his organization, we know the answer as well.

Click here to identify what your top performers look like compared to 1.8 million others and top performers in your industry segment.)

Sample Sales Candidate Assessment

What we know is that the top 25% of all salespeople have The Will to Sell which includes: 

  • Desire to succeed in selling
  • Commitment (willing to do everything possible to succeed) in selling
  • Taking responsibility for outcomes – they don’t make excuses
  • A strong outlook
  • Very motivated

Their Sales DNA scores exceed 68%.  This means that they have strengths in the following areas:

  • No need for approval
  • Control emotions
  • Supportive believes
  • Supportive buy cycle
  • Comfortable discussing money
  • Handle rejection

This research, based on close to 2 million sales evaluations, shows that perhaps the most important contributing factor in the DNA score is, "Handles Rejection."  Meaning, that the most significant factor in determining if your next salesperson hire will be a fit, comes down to if they can handle rejection from prospects. 

Simply put, if they can't, then they are probably not a fit for the role!

When evaluating your current talent or looking for new talent, put a check mark next to the attributes you think are important to succeed in your organization.  Then, make sure that in your vetting process, you look for those attributes.

Finally, make sure that your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephew are put in positions where they have to overcome adversity, work hard to succeed, and are recognized for what they actually accomplish, rather than just competing.

Sell Better. Coach Better. Hire Better.

Topics: increase sales, hire better salespeople, consultative selling, creating new sales opportunities, sales and sports, sales productivity tools, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, social selling, hire better people, driving sales growth 2020, handles rejection

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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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