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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

How to be Successful in Sales

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Thu, Nov 11, 2021

Whether you are just starting out in sales, or a company executive planning your sales growth for next year, wouldn’t it be important to know how to be successful in sales? And wouldn’t you like to know what attributes and skills need to be mastered in order to be successful selling?

In this blog, we will discuss the four key skills that top, or elite, producers have mastered.


Whether you are just starting out in sales, or a company executive planning your sales growth for next year, wouldn’t it be important to know how to be successful in sales? And wouldn’t you like to know what attributes and skills need to be mastered in order to be successful selling? For many years, before I came to work at a sales training company, I heard things like the best salespeople have the gift of gab. They are extroverts and like to talk to people. Sound familiar? Well, it turns out, there are actually specific skills, in fact, 21 core sales competencies that when mastered, will help you or your salespeople to be successful in sales. Let’s focus on what we consider to be the most important four competencies.

If you are investing in a sales training program, make sure that the training includes skill development on how to be a hunter, differentiate with a value approach, follow a strict sales process, and be a consultative seller. Why you ask? Because, these are four very key skills that top, or elite, producers have mastered.

Let’s break them down and as we review these four in more detail, please be thinking of your own skills or those of your salespeople. We can actually help you with a free assessment if you are a sales leader with more than 3 salespeople, but more on that later.

It all begins with hunting. If you need to know how to be successful in sales, you first need to get better at hunting. Of course, one reason is that it is a numbers game even if you are in a narrow market like agricultural banking. You still must consistently and effectively reach out, call, contact, link in, email, you name it. The first thing on your calendar each week and day must be prospecting time. And here is the most important reason. Your pipeline must be so full that you (or your salespeople) are not desperate when a deal doesn't happen! Hunting is all about filling the pipeline so that you are not held hostage by too few prospects.

Need More  Sales Management Training?

The second key skill is differentiating with a value approach. What exactly does that mean? It means understanding your prospect SO well that you know what is of value to them! Every prospect has parameters around what is important to them and their business so if you focus on your products, your service, your company, you are out of bounds. Elite producers operate as business advisors and understand more than just the product area for which they provide solutions. Their value is defined by understanding how what they offer interacts and affects how their prospect’s business is run, and how it may contribute to the growth of that business. Stop for a minute and reflect on your approach or the approach of your salespeople. Do you differentiate with a value approach? By the way, there is no shortcut to value selling. It is a long-term play.

The best way to understand why following a sales process (the 3rd skill) is important is to compare selling to a baseball diamond. In baseball, you must first hit the ball (hunt and find a prospect), then run to first base (uncover the prospect’s problems and severity of pain), then on to second (determine time, money, and resources to address problem/pain), then on to third (gain commitment and timeline to take action), and then home base to score! And that of course is the sale. So, what happens if a salesperson runs from first to third in baseball? They get thrown out! And the same is true in selling. If you do not effectively follow a sales process, you will miss very important steps to helping the prospect discover they need to make a change and so, they will not. This is how to be successful in selling; follow a sales process. If you are in search of a sales training program, make sure it includes training on an effective sales process.

The 4th and perhaps most important skill is becoming a consultative seller, a second cousin to value selling, and this skill is all about asking enough of the right questions at the right time. Consultative salespeople are not really selling. They ask their prospects solid discovery questions to help them understand if they need to change. And listening. It is very easy to ask a question, then hear one piece that validates that a prospect might need what you have to offer. But a consultative seller will listen and then probe further, not offering a solution until the prospect has led themselves to that spot by answering your questions. This is a skill that takes practice, a genuine interest, and concern for your prospect. Consultative selling is key to becoming more successful in selling but it also means mastering enough of the right questions in your toolkit and using them comfortably. If you are in search of a sales training program, make sure it includes a focus on consultative selling.

If you are interested in more information or would like to take advantage of a free assessment of your sales team (minimum three) on the 21 core sales competencies, click below.

Learn More About the  21 Core Competencies!

Topics: sales training programs, How to be successful in sales


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    About our Blog

    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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