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Develop Your Sales Talent to Increase Sales in 2020 and Beyond

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Mar 25, 2020

If you are not in the acquisition business, then you must develop your talent in order to increase sales in 2020 and beyond.  One of the keys to doing that is to understand how to drive sales improvement. 

You must determine what is really happening with your salespeople when they fail to acquire a new piece of business, and then you must take key steps to help you determine if they lack the skills to get the job done, or if they are making excuses for their lack of success. 

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Companies are constantly trying to figure out how to drive organic growth by:

  • Acquiring a revenue stream by buying a business or lifting out talent from a competitor
  • Developing current talent

If you are not in the acquisition business, then you must develop your talent.  One of the keys to doing that is to understand how to drive sales improvement.  You must determine what is really happening with your salespeople when they fail to acquire a new piece of business. 

Are your people just making excuses for failure or do they have deficits in the required sales competencies or will to sell?

To be successful in determining the real issues with your salespeople, you must have a system.

I read a blog the other day by Dave Kurlan.  We’ve had a strong business partnership with Dave and his company OMG (Objective Management Group) for most of our 24 years in business.  With OMG, we have the ability to determine the answer to the question – is it excuses or is it a talent issue?

Dave’s post  - 12 Reasons They Didn’t Like You Enough To Buy From You – helps address some of the issues associated with “not getting the business”.  It primarily focuses on the area of matching styles.

This got me thinking about the issue of “style” as it relates to talent, which relates to sales competencies and excuse making.  The challenge for the sales manager is determining if the reason a salesperson did not get the sale was really a talent issue, or an excuse issue.

To determine the root cause of the results, a sales manager must work more closely with the relationship managers and implement a process that Bill Eckstom calls “intentional coaching”.  This process of working closing with your RMs is addressed in our Sales Management Certification Program in the Coaching for Success Module.

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Here are the 5 steps you must take to help you determine if your salespeople lack the necessary skills to succeed or are making excuses for their lack of success:

  1. You must gain insight. You gain insight by using various data points. The data points you MUST use are: 
    1. Observational joint sales calls – You do not run the sales call; you observe your RM
    2. Data from your CRM or SAT program (SAT – Sales Activity Tracking)
    3. Sales meetings – In all of your sales meetings, you need to include a segment on skill development where you drill for skill, role play and conduct strategy development discussions
    4. 1-on-1 coaching – Each week, you should have time set aside for 1-on-1 coaching with those people that are NOT in the 1st quadrant of the “Where’s Walter?” matrix
  2. Provide feedback. In advance of the discussion about lost opportunities, you want to provide your RM with the data you have – no ambushing.
    1. You discuss – ask the RM questions about what they see in the data
    2. You provide them feedback based on what you see and where the problems might be
    3. You discuss what the future might look like if the current trends continue
    4. You agree that there is a problem
  3. Demonstrate – Once you identify the problem as either an excuse or a skill issue, you demonstrate to the RM what you expect them to execute.
    1. If they are making excuses – "They didn’t understand the value of our offering” – You ask, “If I didn’t let you use that as an excuse what would you have done differently?”
    2. If it’s a skill problem – “I asked them if they had a budget and they said yes.” “When you asked them what it was, what did they say?”  “They said they didn’t want to tell me.”  “When you asked, ‘why not?’, what did they say?”  “I didn’t ask that question.”
  4. Role play – The scenario above allows you to now role play with you acting as the prospect. You need to start with Drill for Skill and then graduate to the full role play.  Getting them to practice what you expect them to do takes patience and repetition.  Do not believe for a second that one role play will be enough.  You need to start your RM on a weekly coaching session repeating the required skills over and over again. 
  5. Action steps – Each coaching session must end with action
    1. "Bill, so what I want you to do is call Mary and have this conversation we just role played."
    2. "I want you to report back to me by end of business today what happened as a result of that conversation."
    3. Hold your salespeople accountable while also coaching them along the way! 

Implementing a process of gaining insight, providing feedback, demonstrating, role playing and establishing action items will go a long way in helping your team discern the difference between making excuses for failure and the need for skill development.

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How to Move Forward and Increase Sales During Uncertain Times

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Mar 16, 2020

In this blog post, we pray for the health and safety of those at risk or sick during this time in human history.

We also discuss that NOW is the time to ensure that your sales growth efforts are stronger than ever to help increase sales in 2020 and beyond!

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"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." - Charles Darwin 1809

I don’t mean that as it relates to the Covid-19 virus, though the expression will certainly bear that out during this pandemic.  For those that are sick or know those that are sick or at risk, we at Anthony Cole Training Group pray for your health and safety.  In the meantime, there is the business of trying to keep your business alive as well as the businesses of your clients.

To that end, I’m referencing Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.  If you Google “Only the Strong Survive”, here is what you may read:

Natural selection is the theory that only the strong survive. For example, the animals that can outrun their predators live to pass on their speedy genes; the slow are eaten.” 

When the markets go down, the competition for market share gets aggressive and companies are faced with making budgets and decreasing revenues. 

NOW is the time to make sure that your sales growth efforts are stronger than ever.  If you don’t put time, money and resources into sales then you will have a difficult time surviving.  You might survive but the climb back up will be long and painful.   It is CRUNCH time!

I recognize that crunch time might mean tightening the financial / budget belt and eliminating "non-essential" expenses.  That list normally includes but is not limited to:

  • Marketing
  • Technology
  • Travel and entertainment
  • Benefits
  • Training

As you go about crunching those numbers, consider the following:

  • Be strategic – Think outside of the box and get creative with using money and resources to drive revenue. It doesn’t take a lot of creativity to cut expenses.
  • Stop thinking “non-essential” – If those expenses and resources were non-essential, then you wouldn’t currently be spending money on those items.
  • Think about wise investing. Where could you invest time, money and resources that could be additive to your objectives and keep you in the hunt for new business and revenue?
  • Look through a new lens when considering how to handle your sales staff and how to help them become better during a difficult period.

Objective Management Group

As you go about crunching, one thing we recommend is strategically pairing down your sales team to improve your ROI and profitability DRAMATICALLY.  As an example, 3 years ago we assessed a commercial lending group of 60 lenders.  Of the 60, this is how the numbers worked out:

  • The top 1/3 of the group (20) represented over 70% of the revenue from new and portfolio business. This should not be surprising as it is consistent with the Pareto Principle.  It’s the next item that should get your attention.
  • The bottom 1/3 of the group (again 20 lenders) represented less than 6% of the new and portfolio revenue. As an aside, this is NOT an outlier.  We see this EVERY TIME we do a quintile analysis of a sales group.
  • When the president of the group was asked what the profit impact would be if they eliminated the bottom 20, the answer was; “We would add $2,000,000.00 to the bottom line.”

My strategy here isn’t to offer early retirement in order to manage expenses but be more strategic in who you let go.  Look at the right numbers and not just years of service or those close to retirement.  Additionally, you should consider how you go about new hires.  Yes, you should be hiring now.  Many companies will downsize the wrong people for the wrong reasons.  Now is a great time to pick up great sales talent. 

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Again, you want to be selective.  By using the Objective Management Group pre-hire assessment, you can accomplish a couple of critical objectives:

  • Using the "Ideal fit" you can identify EXACTLY what it takes to be successful in sales at your organization.
  • You can match all candidates against the ideal fit and have great insight as to what the candidates Will to Sell, Sales DNA and Sales Competencies are.
  • Using the Stat Finder you can compare your sales team in 21 sales core competencies against over 1.8 million other salespeople & over 26K companies. And, specifically you can measure your team against those in your industry. If you are in banking or financial services, you can stack your team against 500 other companies.
  • Using the information from the STAT finder you can build and deliver micro learning / training sessions to help your people become more effective in this difficult market.

Finally, you must make the decision that training and developing this current team that hasn’t experienced these competitive conditions before is critical.  To accomplish what you can, take advantage of technology and distance conferencing to improve the skills of your team and change their behaviors.

No longer do you have to pull people out of the field into a conference room for a full day to have an impact on sales skills.  With a micro-focused strategy to address specific “choke points” in the execution of your sales process you can conduct 90-minute sessions that involve drill for skill, role-play and strategy development.

Yes, you will take action over the next several days, weeks and probably months to outrun the competition and not be eaten. But to do that your sales organization must be faster and stronger than ever before.

Download "9 Tools to Increase Sales" Whitepaper

Topics: creating new sales opportunities, sales productivity tools, sales effectiveness training, banking sales training, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, corporate sales training, sales force performance management, sales training courses, online sales training, hire better people, insurance sales training, brand video, train the trainer, driving sales growth 2020, 5 keys to sales coaching, handles rejection, online sales management training, sales training workshops, sales training seminars, sales training programs, sales candidate assessment, sales force performance evaluation, insurance prospecting system, assessment tools for salespeople, life insurance call script, sales team evaluation, keys to selling success, prospecting personality definition, star sales training, keys to selling

The Best Advice Sales Managers Can Give to Help Increase Sales

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Mar 12, 2020

In this blog article, we discuss the best advice sales managers can give their salespeople, and that is to "keep moving."  If you want to increase sales within your organization, you must keep moving throughout the ups and downs, the missed opportunities, the clients who "ghost" you, and more.

No one ever said that consultative selling or sales coaching would be easy, but you must motivate your team to keep moving and to see the bigger picture.

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I met Al several years ago at my health club while we were playing early morning tennis with a group of 6 others. At the age of 57, I was the youngest in the group.  I played regularly with this group for about a year and as I honed my tennis skills, I would come home and brag to Linda about how my partner and I crushed the other team that morning. 

One morning, I think she had heard enough and wanted to know more about the competition I was playing. After all, I had only been playing tennis for just over a year. She and I would hit balls on a local tennis court so she knew my game really wasn’t that good. It was either I kept drawing great partners or the competition was suspect.

In the spirit of full transparency, I will go through some of the competitors I crushed. 

  • Frank – 72 years old, arthritis in a hip and bad feet from early childhood development issues
  • Bill – 70 - recovering from his 2nd by-pass surgery
  • Ron – 68 retiree with a bad back, hip replacement and vision issues
  • Chuck – 71 – braces on both knees
  • Jim – The best of the lot, 69 but in good shape
  • Jim – Former military, 72, recovering from hip and back surgery
  • Al – At the time Al was 89 and a retired man of medicine

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The jig was up and my story had been exposed.  I was competing against the walking wounded you might see in a 4th of July Parade playing a flute, carrying a flag, and playing a drum.  In reality, they were quite good tennis players who tolerated my lack of skill with great humor.  They often took advantage of me as a result of my lack of talent and experience as well.

I ran into Al just last week and that is when I learned the best advice any manager could give a sales team.  Both Al and I had just finished working out. I was walking through the locker room as he was getting ready to leave. I don’t see Al as often as I used to, so when I do, I always take some time to chat with him and ask him about his life.

Tony – Al, how are you doing my friend?

Al – I’m doing alright, can’t complain, you know just getting in a workout and heading home.  Doing pretty good though.

Tony – You look great Al.

Al – Well I just keep moving.  I figure if I keep moving, I’ll be alright.  I can still walk 3 miles with no problem.  I work out on the elliptical.  But I’m losing my memory.  I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name.

Tony – It’s Tony.

Al – I just can’t remember things like I used to and you know what that means…. ( silence of acknowledgement).  By the time I get upstairs, I won’t remember your name.

Tony – That’s okay Al.  Are you still driving?

Al – Sure!

Tony – Al, how’s your wife? 

Al - She’s fine, just fine.  She’s the young one.

Tony – You are my hero, my inspiration to just keep moving.  Thanks. Can I give you a hug.

Al – Sure

Tony – Thanks Al,  Great to see you,  you take care of yourself and I’ll see you again soon.

Al – Okay.

Al is 97 and his wife is 95.  They survived the Holocaust and continue to thrive today. They thrive today because they are both committed to this one piece of great advice that all sales managers must provide to their sales team - Just Keep Moving.

When salespeople or sales teams fail, it is a result of one or both of two things:  Effort and/or Execution. 

As I’ve been teaching and coaching in our Sales Managed Environment program for years now...

Effort Requires No Skill

To Al’s point, more than half the battle of surviving and thriving is this; Just Keep Moving.  Keep calling prospects, keep meeting with them, keep inquiring about the business those prospectsrun, keep asking powerful and insightful questions, keep finding out if there is anything you can do to help someone achieve their objectives, and more.

But everything starts with effort. And effort starts with the will to just keep moving.

Thanks Al for the lesson!

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Topics: sales conversations, sales effectiveness training, banking sales training, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, corporate sales training, sales force performance management, social selling, online sales training, politics, hire better people, insurance sales training, brand video, train the trainer, driving sales growth 2020, 5 keys to sales coaching, handles rejection, online sales management training, sales training workshops, sales training seminars, sales team evaluation, keys to selling success, keys to selling

28 Sales Traits to Identify When Hiring Better Salespeople

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Mar 05, 2020

In this blog post, we ask the question, "Are you looking to hire better salespeople or are you looking to hire salespeople that will simply replace your former employees?" 

According to Geoff Smart of Topgrading, 75% of new hires do not perform as well as the employee they replace, or they perform just as well as the person they replace. In order to hire better people, you must know what you're looking for!

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So, what are you looking for in your next great salesperson?  I guess the most important question is this: Are you looking to hire better salespeople or are you looking to hire salespeople that will simply replace your former employees?  Will you settle for someone that is “at least as good as” the most average salesperson on your team?

No one in their right mind would say “yes” to those questions, but if your sales organization is large enough, the data would support that your hiring practices are getting you exactly that.  According to Geoff Smart (Topgrading), 75% of the hires do not perform as well as the employee they replace, or they perform just as well as the person they replace.

If we were to look at the 80/20 power curve in your organization, we would probably find out what we normally do – that about 36% of the sales force is responsible for over 90% of your sales results.  So, what is the other 64% doing?  How did they end up on your sales team?

In order to hire better people, you have to know what you are looking for in your next hire.

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Here is the list of 28 sales traits to identify when hiring new salespeople that we’ve come up with after analyzing the sales teams of 5 of our clients in the financial services/banking business:

  1. Strong desire for success in selling
  2. Strong commitment/motivated to do everything possible to succeed in selling
  3. Trainable
  4. Has a strong "figure-it-out" factor
  5. Possesses Sales DNA Competencies
  6. Has no Need for Approval
  7. Controls emotions
  8. Has supportive beliefs
  9. Comfortable discussing money
  10. Handles rejection
  11. Is a Hunter
  12. Sales posturing
  13. Consultative seller
  14. Qualifier
  15. Closer
  16. Follows consistent sales process
  17. Compatibility with top performer profile
  18. Prospects consistently
  19. Schedules meetings
  20. Reaches decision makers
  21. Recovers from rejection
  22. Does not need to be liked
  23. Comfortable talking about money
  24. Has a strong self-image
  25. Loves to win
  26. Motivated by recognition
  27. Loves competing with others
  28. Rejection proof

What I find interesting about some of the items is that there are a few that have a significant variance between the performers and non-performers:

  1. Commitment – The commitment to succeed in selling is 77% GREATER in performers than in non-performers.
  2. The trainability factor in performers is 34% HIGHER.
  3. The hunter skill in performers is 112% HIGHER.
  4. Performers have a 48% HIGHER figure-it-out factor.
  5. Performers score 119% HIGHER in handling rejection.
  6. Those that hit sales goals score 87% HIGHER in sales posturing
  7. This one blows me away – neither group is particularly strong in closing: non-performers have only 13% of the closing skills required.  Even though top performers OUTSCORE their counter-parts by 150%, they still only have 33% of the required closing skills.

How do you explain that last item?  Look at the others strengths:  Desire, commitment, trainability, hunter, figure-it-out qualifier, consultative, posturing… they are REJECTION proof! 

The purpose of this post is to get you to think more seriously about what it is that you really know about the candidates you are looking to hire, as well as what you really need to know before proceeding with the interview and hiring steps.

Interested in learning more? Watch this video below from our Founder and CLO Tony Cole on the difficulty behind hiring salespeople that will sell for your organization:

Learn More about Hiring Sales Talent 

 

Topics: sales productivity tools, sales effectiveness training, banking sales training, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, corporate sales training, sales force performance management, sales training courses, social selling, online sales training, hire better people, insurance sales training, train the trainer, driving sales growth 2020, 5 keys to sales coaching, online sales management training, sales training workshops, sales training seminars, sales training programs, sales candidate assessment, sales force performance evaluation, insurance prospecting system, assessment tools for salespeople, life insurance call script, sales team evaluation, keys to selling success, prospecting personality definition, star sales training, keys to selling

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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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