ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

"Gone Fishing" for Sales Prospects

Posted by Alex Cole on Fri, Nov 15, 2019

I’m sure the majority of people have heard the Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

This, of course, means it’s more worthwhile to teach someone to do something (for themselves) than to do it for them (on an ongoing basis).  Well, I’ve created a new proverb. A sales proverb, if you will:

“Give a salesperson a prospect, and you strengthen their pipeline for a day. Teach a salesperson to prospect, and you strengthen their pipeline for their career.”

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Makes sense, doesn’t it?

A lot of the companies we partner with supply their new, or tenured, salespeople with leads consistently. In theory, this sounds great but it can cause problems long term. If you are feeding leads to your salespeople on a regular basis, we encourage you to continue to do so. However, your salespeople can’t, and shouldn’t, rely on them as their main resource for potential business.

They should be capable of replicating the process and generating their own opportunities! If they produce solely off of inbound marketing leads, the salesperson will just survive and not thrive within your organization. If they don’t know how to effectively create, cultivate and generate leads, they will only do what is required of them to sell and close the leads they’re given.  They also won’t try to uncover other opportunities and in the end, the sales manager (you), and the salesperson, will be disappointed with their performance.

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And, it’s not just a matter of teaching them how to prospect but how to prospect effectively. Anyone can go out and get a list of names but how they contact those names, what they say, what questions they ask- all play a role in effectively “fishing” for leads.

So how can you help your salespeople?

Start by setting a new lead expectation. Making it mandatory to produce fresh opportunities on a weekly basis will force your salespeople to go out and make the dials. Next, identify your “Zebra” or ideal prospect persona. For a better understanding of the concept and best practices on identifying “Zebras” watch this short Sales Guy Unplugged video.

Don’t let your salespeople call on anyone other than those that fit the personas identified!  After, research the best ways to reach your ideal prospect. Is it via email or phone call? Is LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter their preferred social media platform?

Knowing how and where to reach your target persona will positively impact your salespeople’s’ ability to hunt, qualify and discover potential new business.

A salesperson's job, although difficult to do, is not difficult to understand. There are 3 major components:

  1. Go out in the marketplace and uncover opportunities.
  2. Qualify those opportunities.
  3. Close for the business.

Don’t let your salespeople get by on just using your internal leads- fishing for prospects is 33% of their job!

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Need more help? Download our free E-Book “Why is Qualifying a Prospect so #%&@ Hard”.   

Additional Resources:

Sales Productivity Tools

Must-Ask Questions Worksheet

Topics: hiring salespeople, Sales Management Training, hire better salespeople, consultative selling, increase sales leads,, sales effectiveness training, banking sales training, consultative sales coaching, sales training courses, online sales training, hire better people, insurance sales training, train the trainer

Sell Better. Coach Better. Hire Better.

Posted by Patrick Kollmeier on Tue, Nov 05, 2019

In today's blog or "vlog", we bring you our newest Anthony Cole Training Group's brand video.

Give it a watch below as we show you how we help build sales organizations into selling, coaching, and hiring better and what that means for their success: 

 

Topics: hiring salespeople, Sales Management Training, hiring sales managers, hire better salespeople, sales performance management, sales management tools, consultative selling, consultative sales coaching, online sales training, hire better people, insurance sales training, brand video

Creating Your Sales Success Formula: The 5th Sales Productivity Tool

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Nov 01, 2019

In our 5th Chapter of our Sales Productivity Tools blog series, we discuss the idea of creating a Success Formula for your sales team, which only works when you have a team that is committed, motivated, and takes responsibility for their decisions and outcomes.

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To support my objectives and goals of one day playing college football, I realized I had to have a success formula.  I had to have a workout routine for strength and conditioning.  I had to be coachable.  I had to eat the right foods (My dad always threatened to tell Coach Cacia if I didn’t eat my salad). And I had to take care of the bumps and bruises.

When I got into the "real" sales world (Insurance business vs. taking orders for Nautilus Exercise Equipment) I was introduced to the One Card System created by Al Granum.  At National Life of Vermont, we were given a box with index cards and a Success Manual.  We were trained to use the cards to identify the various stages where a prospect was in the sales process, and we used the Success Manual to record our activity.  Today that entire process exists in whatever CRM your company uses.

A Success Formula is an old school sales tool that works but only if...

You have a sales team that is committed, motivated, and takes responsibility for their decisions and outcomes.

How Do Your Salespeople Compare?

Every salesperson knows what the right behaviors are to be successful. They know they have to reach out to prospects, schedule appointments, disqualify people and companies that don’t fit their business model, close and service accounts, and much more. There isn’t anything mystical about what it takes to succeed.  But the challenge is for the salesperson to be disciplined themselves to do the things they need to do based on their own success formula.

When salespeople fail, it isn’t because they lack the skills or product/industry knowledge needed to succeed. Most salespeople fail because they won’t do the things required to be successful

The answer as to why a producer won’t do those things lies in the findings of the pre-hire assessment and sales force evaluations.  To gain a better understanding of someone’s potential to be successful in sales, it would be important to have a deep understanding of the following:

  • Will to Sell
  • Sales DNA
  • Sales Competencies
  • Sales Skills

Not having this information would be like trying to coach a football team, direct a play, or construct a building without knowing the desire, skills and tendencies of the people you are relying on to meet your objective. 

To assess your current or incoming talent and their ability and willingness to make the right decision – be prudent – then it helps to have findings such as those identified in Objective Management Group’s – Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis.


Check out some of our additional resources below!

Sales Productivity Tools

Why is selling so #%&@ hard

How Do Your Salespeople Compare?

Topics: Sales Training, sales evaluation, hiring salespeople, Sales Coaching, increase sales, hire better salespeople, sales skill assessment, consultative selling, sales productivity tools, consultative sales coaching, corporate sales training, hire better people

How Do I Hire a Sales All-Star?

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Jun 17, 2019

Hiring an elite salesperson is tough work.  It's not easy to find a sales all-star and it's even harder to keep them on board if you do hire them.  

In this article, we provide 8 reasons why hiring elite salespeople is difficult and the exact steps needed to hire them in your organization.

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8 Reasons Why Hiring Elite Salespeople is Difficult:

  1. It's hard to find qualified candidates - only 7% of salespeople fall into the “elite” category (What elite sales people do differently)
  2. You have other responsibilities
  3. If things are “okay”, you don’t look for someone… until you have an opening and then you feel desperate to fill the seat
  4. Elite sales professionals – those with excellent sales skills – often are not actively looking for new jobs
  5. The resumes all look the same
  6. Personality and behavioral tests tell you how they like to be managed but don’t have any predictive validity for sales success
  7. Your HR (talent-acquisition partners) really don’t understand why hiring salespeople is different than hiring anyone else for a company
  8. It’s not your go-to skill set.

how to hire top salespeople

Step 1: Make sure you know and identify exactly what sales skills make your elite salespeople ELITE salespeople. 

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We just completed a Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis (SEIA) for the private banking segment of a regional bank.  This is what we know separates the top performers from the bottom performers:

Distinguishing skills and sales traits of top performers

  • Hunter
  • Possess over 50% of required sales skills
  • Strong at getting introductions
  • Get past gate keepers
  • Maintain a full pipeline (convert activity – prospecting – into opportunities)
  • Reach decision makers
  • Develop trust and confidence early in the relationship
  • Present product proposal at the appropriate time
  • Keep prospects from buying too early in the process
  • Not reliant on ‘”educating” the prospect or presenting to get the business
  • Love competing against others

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Sales Assessment Sample

We evaluate over 125 different data points when using a pre-hire sales skills inventory assessment and what we have found over the years is that there are usually between 20 and 30 variables that separate the best from the rest. THIS is the first step in making sure you are interviewing candidates with sales skills needed to succeed in your organization.

 

Step 2:  Interview for fundamental skillsOnce you’ve received an application or some notice of interest in your available career opportunity, you send the candidate a notice letting them know you’ve received their information and that, in order to move forward in the process, two steps will take place:

  1. They will be asked to complete the online sales skills inventory assessment.
  2. If the assessment findings indicate that their sales skills match what you are looking for, then a 10-minute phone interview will take place.

 

Why The Phone Interview

At Hire Better Sales People (White Paper), this is the beginning of Step #2.  In the 23 years of our sales consulting practice, I cannot recall a single client where phone skills were NOT critical to the success of the salespeople being hired.  With that in mind, it stands to reason that the first thing you should look/screen for are their phone skills.  Most of the time, our clients outsource that to us. The reasons for that are:

  • Consistency
  • Lack of a bias towards any candidate

In the phone interview, you want to make sure that this person can conduct themselves on the phone like you would expect them to when talking to prospects.  In order to do that, you must create a similar environment that the candidate will have to react to: 

  • No bonding and rapport done by the interviewer
  • Create time pressure so that they have to react and attempt to take control of the phone call
  • Challenge them on their answers to questions (certainly, prospects will ask them questions on the phone – wouldn’t you want to know how well they react as well as what they say?)
  • Let them know that you will be making a decision about who will go on to the interview step and see if the candidate attempts to “close” for that opportunity. If they fail to close for the next step, they will probably fail to close a prospect for an appointment.

 

Step #3 – Use the data from the resume, the application and the pre-hire skills assessment.

Top salespeople hunt for opportunities, reach decision makers, quickly establish confidence and trust, love to compete against others, have strong desire and commitment to success in selling, take responsibility for outcomes, are highly motivated for success in sales, and have a high figure-it-out factor.  Here’s some ideas for assessing these traits in potential candidates:

  • Make the candidate bring their calendar for the next 30 days and make them count the number of new business appointments they have scheduled
  • Make them establish the bonding and rapport. Tell them to take a seat, tell them that you’ve scheduled 60 minutes, but it may only take 30, and see what they do next.  If bonding, rapport, confidence and trust are important, see what your candidates do to make that happen.
  • Ask about competitions they have won
  • Tell them to describe in detail situations where they did everything possible to succeed at something especially when they had to change, overcome a difficult challenge and they overcame despite terrific odds.
  • Ask them to tell you about a situation when they faced failure at accomplishing something personally or professionally. (Hint – they need to say “I failed…”)
  • Give them a test of any kind and see how long it takes for them to figure it out or…
  • Create a role-play scenario out of thin air, give them a couple of minutes to figure out how they want to go about the role -play and then role play.

There is certainly no guarantee for any new hire.  You still have to consider cultural and team fit.  Is there synergy between the new hire and the hiring manager?  How about their technical and professional credentials? 

We’re just talking about sales skills here, but, to be clear, it’s rare that someone fails to succeed in selling because they lacked the required technical or professional expertise for the field they were in.  Nope… people normally fail because they fail to generate sales!

Looking for more sales tidbits?  Sign up for our weekly Sales Brew Email below:

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Topics: hiring, hiring better, hiring salespeople, find salespeople, hiring top salespeople

Onboarding: One Key to Successful Hiring

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Aug 10, 2016

In January, we launched Hire Better Salespeople.  It is the recruiting business solution to help companies profile, attract, screen, evaluate, hire and on –board “A” sales talent.  We specialize in financial services, banking and insurance.  There are actually three differentiators in our approach, but now I only want to talk about one of the three – Onboarding.

Here are a couple of things to recognize before we get into onboarding:thumbs-up.jpg

  1. Your current recruiting process/system today is perfectly designed for the results you are getting today and will get tomorrow.
  2. Assuming you have more than 10 salespeople, the Pareto Principle is probably alive and kicking in your organization. If you double click on the 80/20 rule, you will most likely discover that about 40% of your team is responsible for 90% of your revenue.
  3. Assuming you have 10 people and the 80/20 rule applies to your organization, you have 6 people responsible for less than 10% of your revenue.
  4. If we switch from the 80/20 principle to thinking about a traditional bell curve, you have a large segment of your production team in the fat part of the bell curve. Most likely, those people in the middle standard deviations and those on the extreme left are probably not hitting their production goals.

I have a question about the people who are not hitting goals or are not performing as you thought they would when you hired them.  Did you hire them that way or make them that way? 

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ve probably read that question before.  If you’ve heard me speak or if you are part of our Sales Management Certification program, you’ve heard me ask that question.  It is a question that must be answered because the people that are on your team are your people.  I would venture to guess that you didn’t seek approval to hire someone to be average.  You probably expected them to excel.  So, what happened?

My final assumption (which I really shouldn’t do) is that you hired someone that should be successful, but something happened. Let’s assume those that are not performing were not bad hires. What happened?

Poor onboarding.

In our Hire Better Salespeople program, we “close out” each hiring project with an intensive onboarding process.  We assume that the hiring company will execute its own company onboarding process, but that normally doesn’t address some specific needs. Our system is designed to help the newly hired sales person to get up to speed quickly so that their ramp up time to success is as short as possible.  A solid “sales” onboarding program has several components. 

Here are just a few to-do items that we recommend to our clients or execute ourselves as part of the new hire onboarding.  (This list consist of items normally not covered in typical company onboarding)

  • Competitive information training
  • Company ideology, mission and vision
  • Sales training (especially when more senior salespeople are hired. There is an assumption that, because they are senior, they don’t need additional training or coaching)
  • Accountability processes that will take place
  • Review contact list
  • Joint calling schedule
  • Goals and business plan development
  • Sales and activity tracking system and process
  • Expectations for results, compliance and execution of sales tools
  • Appointment debriefing process

Adding to the onboarding list of to-dos is a list of questions that the hiring manager or sales manager must be able to answer for the new hire.  (Partial list)

  • What are all of the problems we solve?
  • Why are we better?
  • What is our brand promise?
  • How do we position ourselves in the marketplace?
  • Who are our customers?
  • How do we get to them?
  • Why will they see me?
  • What does the first call sound like?
  • What is our sales process?
  • What are the questions I should be asking?

Not only does a company have to execute these two examples, they must also address THE VERY important data acquired during the recruiting process.  That data is the information gained from initial phone contact interview, the pre-hire assessment data and the information gained about the candidate in the resume review and the interviewing process.

Recognize that no matter how good this candidate appears to be, all candidates come with some warts.  No one, I repeat, no one is perfect.  The problem with dealing with weaknesses occurs because typically the hiring manager is so thrilled with getting the position hired they just want to get the person in the chair, on the phone and in the market.  There is given little, if any, recognition that the person had some sales weaknesses, practice management challenges and/or maybe some technical problems to overcome. 

Take a look at this quick snap shot of a small portion of the information provided about a candidate that completes the OMG pre-hire assessment tool (click this link and complete registration form to receive a complementary pre-hire assessment evaluation to use on a current candidate)we use for all our recruiting:

OMG-chart.png

This particular candidate has several areas where work is needed.  Even if this candidate is determined to be hirable and a great fit for your organization, you are hiring someone that also has sales skill deficits in qualifying, presenting and closing.  You MUST have, as part of your onboarding, a sales development partner that addresses these specific areas or else the results you think you are hiring may not show up for a long time… or maybe not at all!

If you are going to spend resources - time, money and effort - recruiting top talent, then take the time to onboard them correctly. 

Here are some links to additional information and resources.

  • FREE WEBINAR - Do you need stronger salespeople to meet current selling challenges? If you answered yes, then this webinar is for you. Register NOW for our September 28, 2016 webinar, "The Magic of the OMG Sales Candidate Assessment.
  • How much are bad hires costing me?  Click this link to complete the formula
  • How well am I onboarding? Click this link to download and complete the assessment
  • I would like a copy of the Hire Better Salespeople slide document:  email Alex@hirebettersalespeople.com.  Subject line – Request Free Slidedoc

 

Topics: hiring salespeople, sales management, onboarding sales people, key to successful hiring, sales onboarding, hiring better salespeople

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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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