ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

Increase Sales by Earning First Call Status

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Wed, Nov 24, 2021

Every salesperson wants to win now and increase sales. But what are the chances that you will actually reach your prospect when they have a problem they want to fix?

In this blog, we will discuss how to best position yourself with your prospect so you are top of mind, even when it means sitting at 2nd place.

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As a sales training and coaching company, Anthony Cole Training Group is always hired…no matter the industry…for the same reason which is to increase sales. Every salesperson wants to win. Every salesperson wants to win now and increase sales. No doubt the instant gratification world that we live in has contributed to this reality. Amazon has made it abundantly clear that there is really no need to wait for anything.

But for salespeople, patience is more than just a virtue. It is a requirement. Think about all the sales activities that a salesperson must execute in their sales process. They make outreaches in order to schedule appointments. They go on appointments to find opportunities. They do the work necessary to make those opportunities lead to proposals. They position their value to win their fair share of deals from those proposals.

I don’t know about you, but to me, there are a lot of stars (and a lot of sales activities) that must line up just right in order to win a deal. What are the chances that you will reach out at just the right time, i.e., when the prospect has a problem that they are thinking about fixing?

For that reason, while everybody wants to be #1 it is my belief that is ok to be #2…while you continue to build your relationship with your prospect. I have previously blogged about pull-through rate – which is defined as the percentage of first-time new business appointments that wind up becoming your client. For most of our clients that number runs around 15%. That means it is much more likely than not that you are not going to find the stars aligned on that first appointment. Maybe the prospect does not have a problem. Maybe they do have a problem, but the timing isn’t right.

When you create your pre-call plan, don’t forget to plan what you are going to do if the stars don’t align. How will you leave the appointment with the door open to future relationship-building activities? My suggestion is to ask your prospect to think about who they would call in the future if they did need to make a change. Who has earned first call status? Tell your prospect that you would like the chance to work your way onto that list.

There is nothing wrong with being #2. Think about what sales activities you can be doing until you get to #1.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: sales activity, increase sales

The Data Driven Sales Executive

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Jul 15, 2021

Data Driven Sales Approach

In our business, one of the greatest sales challenges that most companies face is how to properly implement a data-driven sales approach. Some companies chase a bunch of data without any regard for the story that the data tells. Others struggle when they launch sales coaching without any data at all.

All of that leads us to what we call the “pull-through rate.”

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One of my most treasured memories of my younger days was buying and trading baseball cards. Perhaps I am being a bit too nostalgic, but those days were good days, and growing up in Cincinnati during the 1970’s I was a huge fan of the Cincinnati Reds and the Big Red Machine.

I particularly remember studying the back of each baseball card because it told the story of each player. And I can still recall the quote “everybody plays to the back of their baseball card” which is a reminder that year over year statistics can be used to forecast future performance.

In our business, one of the greatest sales challenges that most companies face is how to properly implement a data-driven sales approach. Some companies just chase a bunch of data without any regard for the story that the data tells. Other companies struggle when they launch sales coaching without any data at all which means they are simply guessing on both whether their people can improve and what it will take to cause that improvement.

Pull-Through Rate

All of that leads us to what we call the “pull-through rate.” Let’s start with not getting this confused with your hit ratio or close ratio. Both a hit ratio or a close-ratio are computed in the same way by dividing the number of wins by the number of presentations or pitches. That means a company that delivers 100 presentations and wins 30 new clients has a hit ratio of 30%.

What is Pull-Through Rate?

A pull-through rate is a different deal altogether. It is calculated by comparing the relationship between first-time or initial sales calls and the number of wins. For example, a salesperson who has 200 first-time sales appointments and who winds up with 30 new clients has a pull-through rate of 15%. For years Anthony Cole Training Group has taught that most prospects are not qualified to do business with you and the numbers across the country support that conclusion. In fact, our own pull-through analysis supports that conclusion as our pull-through rate runs around 20%. Nearly 80% of all the firms we have initial conversations with never become a client of our firm.

Pull-Through Rate Example

Finally, one of the most interesting parts of the pull-through calculation is that it allows your sales team to “dollarize” each sales call. For example, if your average sale is $50,000…and your pull-through rate is 15% then every time your team goes on that first initial call they are in theory making $7,500 every single time they run a sales call.

Conclusion

I still have my baseball cards (at least the ones my mom did not throw away). And the back of each card still has the statistics that tell a story. What does the back of your salesperson’s card look like? Do you like the story it is telling you?

Topics: unique selling approach, Sales Coaching, increase sales, sales challenges

What We Know: A Consultative Sales Process

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Jul 08, 2021

On average, salespeople possess only 15% of the attributes required to sell consultatively. 

In this blog, we discuss the characteristics of a consultative salesperson and the impact having and following a strict sales process can have on increasing sales.

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Consultative Sales Process

I have always enjoyed the Farmers Insurance commercials. You know the ones, right? They always end with the tagline “we know a thing or two because we have seen a thing or two.” And guess what? At Anthony Cole Training Group, we have indeed learned a few things about a consultative selling approach over the last 28 years.

To be more specific, what we have seen are dramatic increases in sales productivity when companies are willing to give full attention to two things:

  1. Building, executing and inspecting a staged sales approach
  2. Teaching a consultative sales process

A sales process is important because a) most firms don’t have one and b) it is really hard to hold salespeople accountable in the absence of a stage-based and milestone-centric sales approach. If each salesperson is simply doing his or her own thing it becomes nearly impossible for sales management to coach salespeople. And of course, that interferes with a sales leader’s ability to answer two main questions:

Why is your sales team failing?

What are you going to do about it?

Our Consulting Sales Process

So here is what we know: companies that don’t have a well-defined sales process who decide to implement one can expect a 15% increase in sales production. Even if they disagree with all of our other observations, if they will agree with our methodology around the sales process, they will see on average a 15% increase in the sales results of their team. That is how powerful a sales process can be. But we also know this: according to Objective Management Group, the average score from looking at data on over 2,000,000 salespeople tells us only about 45% of all salespeople follow a sales process.

And here is what else we know about those nearly 2,000,000 salespeople: the same data from Objective Management Group shows that on average salespeople possess only 15% of the attributes required to sell consultatively…which we define as being great at asking lots of questions…that are robust questions…challenging questions…and being great listeners. These are the kinds of salespeople who become trusted advisors to their clients and even more importantly, to their prospects. Their prospects wind up paying more attention to them than they do to their current provider. Our consultative sales training is built around coaching the specific traits necessary to become a trusted advisor.

Here is another thing we know. You can easily and inexpensively find out how your sales team measures upon not only the sales process and the consultative sales process but on 18 other key sales skills as well. If you would like more information, we would love to hear from you.

Do you need to find out if your salespeople have a consultative
sales process?

Topics: increase sales, effective sales process, consultative selling

Sales Success: Declaring Independence from Your Personal Obstacles

Posted by Walt Gerano on Thu, Jul 01, 2021

As we approach the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, our own Walt Gerano shares his thoughts regarding the obstacles holding us back from experiencing the sales success we desire.

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245 years ago, 13 colonies declared themselves as newly independent sovereign states and no longer a part of the British Empire. Instead, they formed a new nation—the United States of America.

Have you declared your independence from the things holding you back from experiencing the success you desire?

When you look at your business today, you might agree that you need to prospect more consistently, qualify better, and know when to move on from a prospect. But you still have opportunities in your pipeline that are stuck. The question is why and what are you going to do about that?

Why don’t you prospect more consistently

  • You don’t have enough people to call on.
    • When was the last time you asked for an introduction or spent meaningful time on LinkedIn?
  • You don’t have the time.   
    • What activity is more important to the growth and success of your sales practice than prospecting? Schedule prospecting time first.
  • You are fearful of rejection. 
    • Rejection is nothing compared to failure.

What about qualifying?

  • Do you prepare with a pre-call plan for every call to make sure you know how you will get the answer to the question; “why am I here?” (First question you should ask on a call)
  • Are you ready for the curveballs? Those are the annoying questions that you wish they didn’t ask.
  • How and when will you deal with the incumbent?

Why are “opportunities” stuck in the pipeline?

  • Does the prospect really have enough PAIN to move forward and make a change?
  • Do they have the money to fix the problem?  Did you even ask about it?
  • Are you meeting with all of the decision-makers prior to presenting your solution?
  • Have you dealt with the “return of the incumbent?”

There is nothing here that you don’t already know. It’s the middle of the year so take a few minutes and evaluate where you are and what you will do about it.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Qualifying skills, How to Increase Sales, sales commitment, increase sales

4 Questions to Ask Your Prospects and Gain Clarity

Posted by Jack Kasel on Thu, Jun 17, 2021

If we don’t fully understand the reason for a prospect's statement, the purpose of their question, or dig deeper to find the real problem, we will waste time and miss opportunities.

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In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey has a quote… “Seek first to understand. Then to be understood.”  I think that statement is especially true for sales professionals.

When we coach our clients, we try to get them to understand and remember these three tips when in conversation with their prospects and clients:

  1. The statement they make isn’t the actual statement.
  2. The question they ask isn’t the true question.
  3. The problem they have isn’t the actual problem.

So, as your prospects talk about their main concerns, your job is to determine the following: Is this a symptom or a problem?  Problems get solved, symptoms are tolerated.  I was working with a prospect and he kept saying he needed to fix his cash flow problem.  The more we talked, the more it became clear that cash flow wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was he missed out on an opportunity to purchase one of his competitors.  The symptom was cash flow, the problem was missing opportunities to acquire market share.  We focused on fixing his true problem.

One of the ways, and really the only way, to bring clarity to the conversation is by asking or saying the following when we hear prospects make statements or ask questions:

  • Tell me more about that . . .
  • What happens if that problem isn’t fixed?
  • When you say (insert statement here), I’m not sure I know what you mean.
  • Many people ask me that question for a variety of reasons; I would like to hear yours.

We also need to listen to emotionally charged words such as . . .

  • Need to fix…
  • I’m going to…
  • We simply can’t tolerate…
  • Others include: worried, upset, mad, frustrated

These are emotionally driven words and emotion drives sales.  Facts and figures justify sales, but emotion drives it.  If we don’t fully understand the reason for the statement, the purpose of the question, or dig deeper to find the real problem, we will waste time and miss opportunities. 

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Questions for Prospects, closing more sales, Qualifying skills, increase sales

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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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