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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

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?

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Develop Your Sales Pipeline to Increase Sales

Posted by Jack Kasel on Mon, Jun 01, 2020

Sales pipelines are similar to the story of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears. " This one is too fat, this one is too skinny, and the rarest one of all; this one's just right. 

Why does this happen with pipelines and what should leaders be doing about it?  In today's blog, we discuss developing better pipelines to improve your coaching skills, increase sales within your organization, and to build better habits in 2020 and beyond.

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Fat Pipelines

This usually results from the overly optimistic salesperson.  They call on a prospect and come back thinking some iteration of this, “We really hit it off . . . They really liked what we can do . . . We have a LOT in common”. 

Another cause for a fat pipeline is that it feels like comfort food.  Their pipeline has $X amount in it and they feel pretty good about it.  I mean, come on, some of it has to close doesn’t it?  This type of thinking gives them great comfort.  Pipelines need two things:

  • The proper amount given their ability to win business (close ratio)
  • It must be properly staged

Here is where your leadership plays a critical role.  Your skills at asking great questions are absolutely essential.  Tone and tonality are of paramount importance, AND they must be fierce and helpful.  Questions like:

  • What did you hear the customer say that leads you to believe they would be a great customer for us?
  • When you asked them the impact of not fixing this problem, what did they say?
  • Who else in their organization will be impacted if they switch providers?
  • What did they say when you asked about their decision making criteria (not process, criteria, there is a difference)
  • When is the last time they chose a supplier that wasn’t the lowest cost?
  • How much is in their budget to make this problem go away
  • When asked them “How do you envision working with us”, what was their response?
  • How did they choose their current provider?

Never EVER ask, “How’d the call go?” It’s a waste of time.  Be great at asking questions.  By asking great questions, you are coaching your salespeople.  The questions listed above are the type of questions they should be asking the prospect.  Your coaching session is nothing but a sales call.  Be curious and when you coach, simply keep this in mind when meeting with your team, “Am I asking questions or am I making statements?”

Also, by asking great questions to your team, you find out where your people need to be coached.  If you hear your salesperson say, “I didn’t ask that question” during your pipeline discussions, you need to find out if they are unable to ask those questions (they need more sales training) OR if are they unwilling to ask those questions.

Skinny Pipelines

There are two main reasons that a salesperson might have a “skinny pipeline”.  They are getting beat up if something doesn’t close, or their activity isn’t where it needs to be.  My question to you as a leader is, “When a piece of business doesn’t close, what does your lost business conversation sound like?” 

There is no sin in losing a sale, the only sin that occurs is if nothing is learned from it.  Don’t let one loss beat you twice.  A couple of quick questions “What did you learn?” and “How will you get better because of it?” 

The other reason for a skinny pipeline is activity.  What are you measuring, how frequently are you measuring it (you need to measure weekly), and are you allowing excuses for poor effort?  Salespeople fail for two reasons:  Lack of Effort and/or Lack of Execution.  You need to know which it is. 

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Just Right Pipelines

These types of pipelines are the rarest of all because they require the salesperson and manager to have a great and open relationship, while staying committed to their sales process and understanding the metrics needed to win business.  For the salesperson, they need to understand what is their late-stage (close in 30 days) win ratio?  If their late-stage win ratio is 50% and their monthly goal is $100,000, they need to have a minimum of $200,000 in late-stage opportunity each month.   

The only reason a “Just Right” pipeline is possible because the salesperson is finding opportunities all-the-time.  They understand prospecting is an all-the-time thing.  They are constantly making calls, asking for introductions, and networking.  

It’s healthy to have a pipeline “flush” on a regular basis.  An opportunity moves through the pipeline or moves out of the pipeline on a regular basis.  If a salesperson wants to cling to an opportunity, and want to defend keeping it their pipeline, is probably because they have nothing else to take its place.   Coach them, encourage them, challenge them.

 

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11 Concepts For Managing Yourself and Your Employees During Change

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, May 15, 2020

In today's blog, we discuss the notion that effective sales leadership requires leaders to meet the challenge during times of major change. 

In this article, we bring you 11 concepts to adopt for managing yourself and your salespeople; to help increase sales, productivity, and trust within your organizations.time-for-change-sign-with-led-light-2277784

  1. What would you do if today where your first day on the job?
  2. What kind of attitude would you have?
  3. How would you respond to the responsibilities of your new job?
  4. You would you interact with your new co-workers?
  5. You come in the 2nd day of your new job and the company asks you to do something different. How do you respond?
  6. Who is more valuable in the marketplace, someone that adapts or someone that resists change?

Consider this: “You think you understand the situations, but what you don’t understand is the situation has changed.”  Putnam Investment advertisement

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Concept #1 – Commitment is a gift you should give to yourself

  • What are you committed to?
  • If you are not committed to do whatever it takes to succeed and increase sales, then you must:
    • Set personal goals that are non-negotiable
    • Have a vision of where you want to go (and where you want to end up)
  • Failure to do these things will lead to failure to fully commit 

Concept #2 – Senior management must empower all others to think like a CEO.  If senior management can accomplish this, then non-managers will think and act like they are CEOS; looking out for the entire company, and not only for themselves.

  • Support people to make decisions
  • Train them on how to make decisions
  • If bad decisions are made, it is because of the following:
    • Leadership hired the wrong people
    • Failure to communicate well
    • Failure to train on decision-making

Concept #3 – The use of technology

  • You must use it and demand it of yourself and your team!
  • If you have people that have a belief that ‘You can’t treat old dogs new tricks’, get those people off of your stage

Concept #4 – Flexible thinking and changing beliefs are critical.  There are some truths that you will have to accept.

  • Life isn’t fair!
  • Life isn't fair!
  • Life isn't fair!

Concept #5 – Companies are curious:

  • How can you increase my top line?
  • How can you add to the bottom line?
  • How will you prove it via accountability to measurable achievements?

Concept #6 – Your company will be asking, “Why should I keep you”? 
You must demonstrate that:

  • You are a good employee
  • You work hard
  • You get things done
  • You are capable of learning
  • You have experience that is valuable to YOU and to the future of the compnay

Concept #7 – Lifetime learning

  • Information doubles every 5 years
  • Power and speed of the microchip doubles every 18 months (Moore’s law)
  • The cost of computing drops roughly 30% every year while working faster and better
    • Are you twice as smart today as you were 5 years ago?
    • Have doubled your capacity in the last 18 months?
    • What are you doing today to be twice as smart in 18 months?
    • How much are you costing the company? Are you a better “buy”

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Concept #8 – Job security

  • The ability to initiate new relationships
  • Being able to create and sell creative solutions to qualified buyers
  • Your ability to facilitate decisions to buy from you

Concept #9 – Make sure you contribute more value than you cost

  • The company’s perception about contribution vs cost is the reality
  • You are not entitled
  • Prove your worth
  • If you consider leaving, would the company do whatever it takes to keep you?
  • How is your value measured by the company?
  • How is your cost measured?
  • The value of every company is outside the company (The marketplace) what are you doing to bring that value into the company?

Consider This: “The factory of the future will only have two employees, a man / woman and a dog.  The person will be there to feed the dog and the dog will be there to make sure the person doesn’t touch the equipment.”  Warren Bennis


Concept #9 – Serving others

  • What does it take to please them (everyone in your sphere is a "them")
  • How can you contribute to the success of others?
  • The person at the next desk, down the hall on another floor; make no mistake they are your clients and customers.
  • The "Best Bargain" is based on the value you bring. The consumer will seek and find the best bargain. They will either get it from you or from someone else

Concept #10 – Ownership / Responsibility / Accountability

  • You are responsible for your attitude
  • Philosophy > Attitude > Behavior

Concept #11 – Be a fixer, not a problem creator

  • Create or find solutions vs. announce and identify problems
  • Base conversations and actions on principles rather than your own personal position
  • Focus on getting outcomes instead of creating rules regulations and procedures.

Consider This:  Who are you holding captive for your success, you or your employer?

How appropriate are these concepts today?  Everyone of these thoughts, ideas and action items can and will help you lead yourself and others through challenging times. 

What I think you might find interesting is that these notes are a result of a book I read by Pritchett and Associates titled: The Employee Handbook of NEW WORK HABITS FOR A RADICALLLY CHANGING WORLD.

Price Pritchett does a great job of outlining 13 ground rules for job success in the information age. The booklet was written in 1994!  However, the principles and ideas make as much sense today as they did back then.  Some of the technology data might be a bit off given the advancement of the IT science but if anything, the technology has gotten smarter and faster due to big data capabilities.

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Topics: hire better salespeople, online sales training, hire better people, insurance sales training, online sales management training, sales training workshops, sales training seminars, sales training programs, sales candidate assessment, sales force performance evaluation, sales team evaluation, keys to selling success, keys to selling, consultative sales coaching cincinnati, consultative selling cincinnati, banking sales training cincinnati, corporate sales training cincinnati, hire better people cincinnati, sales coaching cincinnati, sales management training cincinnati, sales productivity tools cincinnati, sales training programs cincinnati, sales training workshops cincinnati, train the trainer cincinnati, hiring sales people cincinnati, increase sales cincinnati, professional sales training cincinnati, sales candidate assessment cincinnati, sales effectiveness training cincinnati, sales force performance evaluation cincinnati, sales performance management cincinnati, sales training cincinnati, sales training courses cincinnati, sales training seminars cincinnati

Go For The "No" Early in the Sales Process

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, May 12, 2020

In today's blog post, we discuss the technique of going for the "No" early in the sales process.  It may seem counterintuitive, but countless studies have shown that humans desire what they can't have.  

When we go for the "No", we force a prospect to think of the value we bring to the table as salespeople. Are they really interested?  Will something more come from this meeting?  Go for the "No" early to ensure that you are on the right path with your prospect to increase sales, or move on to the next one!

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One of the keys for more effective selling is going for the "No" early in the sales process. I learned this concept years ago especially when I was vulnerable to "Think It Overs" (TIO). I would get TIOs at several stages in the sales process and maybe you have received them as well:

  • On the initial phone call when you’re trying to get an appointment –
    Let me think it over.  Give me a call next week.
  • At the end of your initial meeting –
    This sounds really good and something I should consider. Let me think it over and I’ll get back to you in the next couple of days.”
  • When you finish your presentation and you ask for the sale – 
    You made a very compelling presentation and we are impressed with your depth of knowledge and your very creative solutions to our problems. Let us meet as a group and go over this one more time and crunch some numbers.  Let’s plan on talking next week.

Sound familiar?

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These TIOs are keeping you from being more effective in your sales process. That’s nice to know or consider but the question becomes,

“What do I do about it?”

Your potential buyer will tell you that they need to "Think it Over" because:

  • They really don’t intend on making any changes, but you impressed them with some information that they want to take to their current provider.
  • They have a "need for approval" and instead of telling you they are not interested, they want to let you down easy. Telling you they want to "think it over" gives you hope and get’s them off of the hook until the next time you talk.

To fix the problem, you must eliminate "Think it Over" as an option for your prospect!

Let your prospect know that when you finish the next meeting, next conversation, or the final presentation, they will have everything they need to make a decision then and there.

You can tell them that you will be prepared to answer all of their questions and when you are finished, they will be in a position to make a decision – a "yes" or a "no."  Then, simply ask what objections they have to that process. 

No hard feelings.  Nothing personal.  Just business.

This one key will help you close more business, more quickly, and at higher margins.

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Topics: hire better salespeople, sales effectiveness training, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, corporate sales training, sales force performance management, online sales training, insurance sales training, online sales management training, sales training workshops, sales training seminars, sales training programs, sales candidate assessment, sales force performance evaluation, keys to selling success, consultative sales coaching cincinnati, consultative selling cincinnati, banking sales training cincinnati, corporate sales training cincinnati, hire better people cincinnati, sales coaching cincinnati, sales management training cincinnati, sales productivity tools cincinnati, sales training programs cincinnati, sales training workshops cincinnati, train the trainer cincinnati, hiring sales people cincinnati, increase sales cincinnati, professional sales training cincinnati, sales candidate assessment cincinnati, sales effectiveness training cincinnati, sales force performance evaluation cincinnati, sales performance management cincinnati, sales training cincinnati, sales training courses cincinnati, sales training seminars 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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