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Success in Selling: The 5 Myths

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Dec 10, 2020

Selling is hard. Especially with the easy access prospects have to critical decision-making information. However, the struggle often begins with how and what we think.

In this blog, Tony discusses the personal beliefs and myths that often get in the way of a sales persons ability to see greater overall success. 

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There are no secrets in sales! The internet and the digital world have pretty much eliminated any secrets to success in sales, and how to do almost anything else. All you need is a mobile device with access to the internet, and you can find just about anything you want to know.

With facts and strategies being so readily available, why do most salespeople (about 80%) still struggle to be successful? A lot of it has to do with beliefs and myths. What about you? Do you accept any outdated myths as facts? Some may include:

  1. People only use 10% of their brains
  2. There is a dark side of the moon
  3. Behavior is affected by the full moon
  4. Sugar makes children hyperactive
  5. Lightning never strikes the same place twice

So what is the best method to move past the myth and see success? It starts by getting to the root cause of the problem.

As many of you know, Anthony Cole Training Group has specialized in providing specialized sales growth solutions for banking, investment advisory, and insurance. Primarily, those growth solutions include:

  1. Hiring better salespeople
  2. Executing an effective sales process
  3. Sales Management training

During our years of developing and delivering content to hundreds of sales organizations, we have used the #1 sales assessment tool on the planet. Not only is the accuracy of the sales inventory assessment tool unbelievable, but the Sales Effectiveness and Impact Analysis have been a game-changer. One of the most compelling segments revealed in the assessments is about personal beliefs. Each of us has personal beliefs that dictate our behaviors and thus determines our outcomes. This holds true for all areas - sales, sales management, and sales leadership. Whether aware or not, we all have beliefs about what we do that impacts our opportunity for success. 

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5 MYTHS MOST SALESPEOPLE BELIEVE

Here are the myths that many salespeople believe to be fact:

  1. People buy from people they like. Now, you may have purchased something from someone that you like, but that didn’t drive your decision. What drove your decision was your confidence and trust in the person, the product, and the company behind the product.
  2. People make buying decisions based on price. Staying with you and your purchasing habits for a second, let’s talk automobiles. According to MotorTrend, the cheapest car available today is the Chevrolet Spark with a base price of $14,095. If you own one, then you are a rare breed. The volume of sales of this vehicle in 2019 was only .75% of all vehicles sold in the U.S. If people only bought the lowest priced item, this would not be the case.
  3. Closing skills are the most important. This might be surprising to you, but in the last three studies I conducted in the banking segment, the top 33% of bankers, wealth managers, and private bankers who severely lack closing skills still led their teams in sales.
  4. The customer is always right. That is not the case. Due to information access, they're more educated regarding product knowledge, availability, options, and pricing but to assume they are right about everything is incorrect. However, this in and of itself is not the problem. The problem is this; if salespeople believe this, then they will never be gutsy enough to execute the challenger sale, the value-based selling system, the SPIN System, or our Effective Selling System.
  5. Prospects are always honest. 95% of respondents in all of our studies believe prospects are honest. That is until we conduct our first meeting with our clients and go through the process that buyers go through when executing their buying process. If a prospect were completely honest, they would tell the insurance agent who cold-called them that they got a renewal that is too high, and they want some competitive bids to keep the incumbent honest. We all know that doesn’t happen!

TRAINING ALONE DOES NOT GET LASTING RESULTS

Time and again, companies spend money on sales training to introduce them to a new:

  • sales language
  • sales approach
  • prospecting method
  • time management process
  • cross-selling strategy

What happens is that the company spends a lot of time, money, and effort, and yet, at the end of the event or training, they cannot point to any discernable difference in outcomes. Behaviors stay the same, problems that existed before are still there, effort changes for a while but soon returns to pre-training levels and salespeople still blame the economy, the company, or the competition for lack of success.

Top people are still performing at the top, people in the middle of your sales bell curve are maintaining, and your bottom 20% are not performing any better than the bottom 20% you had the year before. Why? Because the root problems associated with these beliefs were never uncovered.

For you, your team, and your organization to see greater success, it's critical to identify, address, and build strategies to overcome the myths or beliefs that are hindering personal growth.

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Topics: sales succes, improving sales results, increase sales, key to successful hiring, sales performance coaching

Why Prospects Are Like Fruit: Targeting Your Ideal Client

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Dec 03, 2020

Years ago, while attending the Objective Management Group International Sales Conference, Dave Kurlan, president of OMG, talked about how to effectively manage opportunities through the pipeline.  He made the analogy that prospects are like fruit and vegetables in the produce section of your local grocery – they are all perishable.

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“In the end, we’re all just fruit.” That is one of my all time favorite lines from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

That phrase has stuck with me all these years, and we continue to reference it when we are presenting our Effective Sales System workshops and when we are working with our new clients. 

NOT EVERYONE HAS THE SAME "SHELF LIFE"

Prospects- they have a shelf life just like fruit. Some of them a little longer than others.  Bananas – not so long, apples and mandarins a little longer, potatoes – not forever, but if they start to sprout, you can at least plant them in the ground and get more potatoes.  The bottom line is that none of them last forever.  You need to either pick them now or find a way to preserve them for later.

As you go about looking at the shelves for the produce you need for tonight’s meal or for meals over the next couple of days, you need to be somewhat selective so that the food you select is fresh enough for cooking and/or consuming.

WHEN IT'S TIME, IT'S TIME

The same holds true for prospects relative to their buy cycle.  They are not in that cycle forever. Depending on what services you sell, they could be off the shelf in a week.  They may be in the looking, considering, or “thinking about” cycle for a while, but once they decide to buy – it’s time to buy!

Years ago, I was in the market for a new vehicle.  The Chevy Avalanche had been out for a couple of years and I knew, when the day came, that was going to be my purchase. There is a Chevy dealership just down the road from my house in Montgomery, Ohio where I had purchased vehicles in the past.  When the day came – my lease was expiring – I went in, told them I had a check in my pocket and would like to test drive the red Avalanche. I asked for a salesperson who wouldn’t get in the way and just let me buy. Two hours later, I drove off of the lot in my new shiny red Avalanche.

DON'T LET PROSPECTS PERISH

Here is the point.  When going out into the market, you can find yourself wasting your time with prospects that aren’t quite ready or are already past their prime time for consumption. You may experience:

  • That the prospect is too "green"
  • They just opened a new account with their bank partner
  • Just renewed their insurance
  • Their lease expires in 11 months

If you want to close more business, more quickly at higher margins, then find the highly perishable prospects and work with them on solving their problem. Present a solution to them and get them off of the shelf.  Do not neglect the potatoes, bananas, tomatoes or green beans; continue to check on them, plant them in your database (your CRM) and, when the time comes to make potato salad, they will be ready.

Topics: prospecting skills, improving sales results, increase sales, qualifying sales prospects, contacting prospects

2 Keys for Improved Sales Performance: Perception and Consistency

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Aug 13, 2020

Perfect practice prevents poor performance! To improve your overall sales effectiveness, you must become masterful at the skills required to be successful.

In today's blog post, you will learn why perception and consistency are critical factors when it comes to upgrading your selling results.

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I’d like to blame my actual visual perception on my crappy golf game but the real problem is my consistency in practice. I’m not consistent. Therefore, my consistency on the golf course is non-existent, which leads to scores anywhere between 92 and 102. 

I can shoot a 44 on the front and a 54 on the back. Don’t get me wrong being virtually blind in one eye doesn’t help with depth perception, which sucks when you are trying to figure out how far the pin is from your ball. Yes, I have a device on my phone that tells me the distance, but I assure you it doesn’t help. And it makes for some good laughs when I’m trying to light candles on a birthday cake. Just ask my daughter Alex.

Let’s talk about these two contributing factors and how they impact sales performance.

Perception

It has been my observation for over the last 25 years that salespeople tend to lump all sales calls into product categories:

  • If you are a lender, most all of your sales calls start with you talking to someone to figure out if they need a loan or how you can help them have access to capital.
  • If you are in employee benefits solutions, you approach all of your calls with the intent on how to help them get better coverage and better pricing.
  • If you are a property and casualty agent, you focus your attention on risk vulnerabilities, risk assessments, and price.
  • And finally, if you are an investment advisor, you tend to focus on where people can put money to generate a great return, minimize taxes, or reduce the risk of losing money.

All of these scenarios occur because of our perception of what the client wants or needs. The perception exists for one of two reasons:

  1. Our years and experience in the business
  2. The words the prospect used when we set up the initial call

There are two problems here: 

  1. Years of experience have nothing to do with the current condition. Let’s go back to golf for a minute. One of the things that make the game so interesting, great and frustrating is that you never really play the SAME course twice. The weather conditions are different. The conditions in the fairway are different. The roll of the ball on the green can be different. And the pin placement always requires a different approach to your putt.
  2. What the prospect tells you initially is never the truth. Not that they are lying to you but they are not telling you the real problem. They normally describe a symptom to the problem or ask you to solve a problem that is actually caused by a bigger problem.  

If we close our eyes and don’t count on what we hear, then we would have to expand our thinking, which will change our perception of the problem we need to solve.

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Consistency

In the elite and strong categories, we know that 80% of the top 25% of all salespeople follow a consistent sales process. What does this mean?

  • They have a process that is milestone-centric - it’s systematic in that when the steps are followed they lead to a conclusion of getting a decision thus eliminating think it overs and delays
  • They document the process and what happens at each step so they know if they are on the right track and if they need to go back and uncover information they may have missed
  • They can look at data to determine what choke points they may have that are keeping them from generating more sales, more quickly at higher margins
  • They can use the data to model success and repeat the process over and over again

Again, very much like a good golfer. During practice, or while on the course during a match, really good golfers have a systematic approach to their game. They approach the ball the same way on the tee. They position their hands the same way when attempting a bunker shot. They line up consistently when making a putt. Those that are consistent in their approach to golf will be more consistent in their scoring and will more than likely have lower scores than someone like me.

The reality is I would like to be better at golf, but I lack commitment. I’m not willing, at this time, to do everything possible to succeed at a higher level. The same might be said of your approach to selling. If you are not selling more, more quickly, at better margins, it might just be a commitment problem rather than a perception or consistency problem.

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Topics: sales performance, improving sales results, How to Increase Sales, consistent sales results, increase sales cincinnati

7 Things Companies Do to Thrive Anywhere, Anytime

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, Aug 04, 2020

Regardless of the current state of business, it is easy to get caught up in managing day-to-day tasks. It's also easy to lose focus on the end goal and continue to take the necessary steps to move your business forward.  

If you and your organization need to thrive and not just survive, these 7 things can and will help!

JeffBezos-2This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

With so much noise about the current environment, I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped reading now, but don’t! This is not the same old message about what to do in the middle of a crisis. This is information and direction for any organization any time they need to thrive.

Things companies do to thrive anywhere, anytime.

  1. To borrow from Jim Collins's book, Built to Last, great companies lean heavily on their core ideology. This emphasis is what makes companies visionary. Re-state your core ideology at every opportunity. Take this moment to become the visionary in your segment or industry. Make sure you have people that drink the ideology Kool-aid.
  2. Increase the intensity around achieving objectives. This doesn’t mean don’t have empathy for those that suffer either financially, medically, or socially. It does mean that the core of your organization will see you and your people through difficult times, but only if you remind them of the objectives, do not allow them to wallow in a pity party, and support them so that they can succeed.
  3. Focus on cash in the door. That means sales. Yes, sales will be tougher to get, and maybe fewer and farther between, but that just means you need to be more diligent about sales activities upfront. Raise the standards for activity, increase the frequency of huddles, use more data to help coach, and support and hold salespeople accountable.
  4. Hire great talent. Not just occasionally but all the time even when you don’t have the money or don’t have an open spot. What we know from our work with Objective Management Group is that of the 2M salespeople assessed, only 7% of them are at the "elite" level (Sales Quotient over 139). Another 18% score as "strong" (Sales Quotient between 130-1390). If the axiom is true – nothing happens until something is sold – then find great salespeople and hire them anytime, at any price. (Smartsize your organization NOW!)
  5. Improve the knowledge, behaviors, and skills of your people. There is a commitment to invest time, money, and resources to the development of the talent you hire. Recognize that your people, just like professional athletes, need constant conditioning, training, performance management, and coaching. Failure in this area is what leads to the "reverse" Pareto principle. I describe this concept in a recent article – The Evolution of Sales in 2020.
  6. Stay optimistic despite all of the evidence to the contrary. (Click HERE for the ‘There’s got to be a pony in there somewhere’ joke). When we started our work with Key Bank, Beth Mooney was fond of discussing the concept of "Shadow of the Leader". Quite simply it means that you as a leader, set the tone, posture, mental stability, and emotion for your organization. If you want your people to be energized and enthusiastic then it starts with you!
  7. They pick the can up and do something with it, instead of kicking it down the road hoping for a better time, a more appropriate set of circumstances, or for things to turn around. Great companies make things happen. They are creators rather than creatures of circumstance.

This brief outline requires many things from many people in your company. We can help in three areas:

 

  • Leading Through Change
  • Selling in Any Environment
  • Hiring Better Salespeople

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Topics: Selling Success, sales management success, improving sales results, increase sales, upgrade your sales force, sales advice, sales acceleration, sales productivity tools, driving sales growth 2020

Why Are My Salespeople Not Perfoming as Expected?

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Jun 26, 2020

Why do so many of my salespeople fail to perform as expected?  It's a loaded question.  Or, is it?  In our corporate sales training experience, we've seen that evaluating underperforming salespeople in the pre-hire sales assessment is crucial for success in your business.

From poor diagnosis of the right contributing factors for success, to other candidates being eliminated due to weaknesses rather than hiring on sales STRENGTHS, there are specific reasons that not all of your salespeople are performing the way that you thought they would.

Did you hire them this way or did you make them this way?  Let's take a look...

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If you are a sales leader and you look at your numbers and the people producing those numbers, do you ever scratch your head in confusion over why you are looking at a lack of sales results?

Certainly, you didn’t hire these people to be in the middle of the pack or at the tail end of the conga line, but that is right where they are.  I know you don’t believe you hired them that way, but it’s either that, or you made them that way.

Don’t get upset with me here.  The reality is that your team’s performance is a result of who you’ve hired or what you’ve done (or not done).

So, in general, why do so many salespeople fail to perform? I have detailed answers to that question that you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else besides right here.

  • Underperformers have 80% of the desire of top performers. *Note – not all performers have off-the-chart desire – that is about 7% of all top sales people.
  • Those that underperform have about 44% of the commitment to succeed in selling that top performers do.
  • These two factors combine to measure motivational level. Underperformers have about 60% of the motivation of your top people.

SUMMARY – Underperformers just are not as motivated to succeed.

SOLUTION – STOP hiring people that are not motivated to succeed at the highest level of performance!

Using the Objective Management Sales Evaluation, there are over 100 data points to measure the opportunity for sales growth of a sales team/organization.  Additionally, this data helps us to predict the likelihood of success of new sales people and managers. 

Here are some interesting findings based on the raw data I have from assessing salespeople (as well as firsthand knowledge of some of the people in the study).

  • Top performers are trainable and coachable
  • Top performers have a high figure-it-out factor
  • Top performers have a low need for approval and…
  • Top performers score an average of 86.8 (higher score is better) and underperformers score 39.6 for handling rejection!
  • Top performers are hunters, consultative sellers and closers (average score for skills is 55% of required skills while underperformers average 39.6% of required skills)

SUMMARY  Salespeople – regardless of tenure or previous success - need training and coaching. Also top performers handle rejection extremely well and move on.

SOLUTION  Do not hire based on past performance. (It’s like investing in a mutual fund – past performance is not a guarantee of future returns.)  During the interview process, reject the heck out of the candidate – the strong ones will recover and attempt to close you over and over again!

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The following data indicates that sales strengths are better indicators of success rather than sales skills:

  • Underperformers have 85% of the sales skills of top performers and have…
  • Only 71% of the sales strengths that support execution of sales skills and…
  • The severity of their sales weaknesses are 52% higher than that of top performers

SUMMARY – The skills are about the same, but those with strong strengths of desire, commitment, outlook and responsibility win.

SOLUTION – Make sure your pre-hire assessment process looks for strengths and “will sell” rather than just skills, personality and behavioral traits.

So, back to the original question:   “Why do so many of my salespeople fail to perform as expected?”:

  • Poor diagnosis of the right contributing factors for success
  • Candidates eliminated due to weaknesses rather than hiring for sales strengths
  • Too much credit given to sales skills exhibited during interview process
  • Lack of solid training and development on the root causes of poor performance

Now that you have the answers to the question, what will you do about it?

Topics: improve sales, sales management secrets, sales meetings, individual sales success, sales management responsibility, humor, inspect what expect, sales management skills, 8 Steps for Closing, hiring salespeople, sales practice, sales management, sales results, sales management success, improving sales results, sales metrics, inspiration, sales problems, hiring sales managers, sales management, sales success, keys to selling, sales pitch, sales performance management, sales prospects, how to manage salespeople, sales onboarding, hiring better salespeople, sales menagement, sales management tools, #1 sales assessment, hunting for sales prospects, how to improve sales results, initial sales meetings, how to get a commitment to buy, how increase sales, hiring top salespeople, sales recruitment, sales motivation, how to close a sales deal, how to hit goals in sales, sales skill assessment, consultative selling, 5 keys to coaching sales improvement, how to prospect, sales productivity tools, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, insurance sales training, 5 keys to sales coaching, online sales management training, insurance prospecting system, consultative sales coaching cincinnati, consultative selling cincinnati, sales management training cincinnati, sales productivity tools cincinnati, hiring sales people cincinnati, increase sales cincinnati

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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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