ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

6 Steps to Start the Sale

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Oct 06, 2022

The start of any undertaking is the most important step. 

When it comes to building the confident and trusting relationship associated with a strong seller / buyer relationship, the start is especially important. I'm not just talking about the immediate "bonding and rapport" part of selling or a 5-minute segment of chitchat. The start I’m referring to is the entire first contact process whether it is a phone call or an association meeting or the initial meeting after the phone call.  The start will often, if not always, determine your finish. 

The 6 Steps to Start the Sale:

  1. Pre-Call Plan
  2. Have a Unique Value Proposition
  3. Ask Thoughtful, Open-Ended Questions
  4. Check Your Sales Attitude
  5. Get a Clear Next Step
  6. Qualify vs Disqualify the Prospect

  1. Be prepared (pre-call strategy).  Be prepared for the sales process. Know what questions you are going to ask to move the sale forward. These are not questions about the technical aspects of your prospect's current position or status.   Anticipate the suspect's answers to the questions you ask and be prepared with follow-up dialog.  Too many sales people take this step for granted because "they've been in the business for __ years." Don’t fall into this trap. Also, be prepared for the inevitable curve balls the prospect will throw at you. This is your chance to build credibility.

  2. Demonstrate your credibility by what you say and by how you conduct yourself.  You’re your value proposition different. Do this by the questions you ask, by your focus on the prospect and what is important to them, and by your reluctance to get into a sales pitch. Avoid doing the typical product dump.  Demonstrate your knowledge of the industry by stories, analogies and metaphors that work to show you understand their business. Demonstrate your professionalism by the way you ask penetrating questions.  Demonstrate your focus on their issues by not looking, acting or sounding like every other salesperson they have met.

  3. Have the courage to ask tough questions and have fierce/ honest discussions. You probably know the questions, but do you often leave an initial call having failed to ask:
    • How will you make this decision? 
    • When do I meet the decision maker?
    • If you don't have a budget, how will you pay for this?
    • If you are shopping for low price, what happens if I show up and I'm not the low price? 
    • Who wins a tie? 
    • When you told your current provider that you were unhappy with the current situation, what did they say?
    • When I show up to make my presentation, I need for you to be in a position to tell me 'yes' or 'no'. What objections do you have to that process?
  4. Check your sales attitude – the head stuff will drive your sales behaviors so leave your need for approval at the door when you leave the house in the morning.  Re-write your personal beliefs about how and why people buy.  Think about the impact of your personal buy cycle at the car lot where you debated for the last three weeks over which make/ model to purchase and where you haggled over price with the manager. Go out expecting people to buy.

  5. Qualify suspects / prospects to do business with you rather than the other way around.  Don’t go to a meeting feeling like you must audition for the business. You don't.  You shouldn’t. However, you should make sure that the person you are meeting with qualifies to do business with you. In an effective selling system, qualifying means the following:
    • Does the prospect have a compelling reason to take action and when?
    • Will they invest the time, money and resources to solve a problem they have or a problem they see coming?  Will they invest that time, money or resources in a timely fashion or are they in the information collecting mode of buying?
    • Will they tell you "yes" or "no" when you present?  In order to accomplish this, you must have eliminated their current provider.  You must have heard them say they want to fix it, whatever "it" is. And you must have a solution that is appropriate for their problem. 
  6. Get a clear next step.  There is always a next step even if you are in a "one appointment close" industry.  It doesn't matter if your business requires multiple meetings or is typically "one and done".  Always close per your identified objective for this meeting. Then move on.  I promise you, that if you get masterful at this step, you will have fewer meetings and your closing ratio will improve.  Ask for closure. Ask for a clear next step. Ask for the business Yes or No.

Master these 6 Steps to Start the Sale and you will close more business, more quickly, at higher margins.


Do You Need More Leads? –  Free Sales Prospecting eBook Download

Pink Minimalist Positive Four Step Process Instagram Post

Topics: meeting sales goals, setting sales goals, sales goals

Sales Goal Setting

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Oct 03, 2022

Sometimes that means just go do the work! Early on in our business, I established rules for our sales success. One of my rules was No Cold Calling. Even though there is lots of information on effective cold calling, by having that rule, I was forced to get introductions and network with centers of influence. This has worked well over the years and our entire team follows that path. Occasionally, you need to change your approach to maintain your success. Here is one approach I tried and have adopted to set and reach our sales goals.


Lesson 1 - Have a plan, think through the plan, go do the activity.

Recently I grabbed a business card from a prospect that attended a Cincinnati Chamber session that I delivered earlier this year.  I decided to just stop by his office, hand the receptionist his card and my card and ask "Is this guy in?" I was going to be in the area so I decided today would be a good day to just drop in.

The receptionist left with my card in hand and then came back out saying, "Rich will be with you in a minute." Rich came out with a big smile on his face, greeted me and said that it was great that I would stop in.  I told him that if I didn't have the guts to stop in and see him, then he shouldn't hire me to begin with. 

You see, I'm a bulldog when it comes to prospecting.  Once I get a sense that there is something we should be talking about, I just keep calling, writing, and in this case, really get outside of my normal box and drop in.  I didn't have on a suit or blazer with a tie.  My first meeting was very informal; I was clad in blue jeans, cowboy boots and polo shirt.  I was, as Seth Godin would put it, a Purple Cow.

Lesson 2 - Be unique.  It is what clients are looking for today.

We spent an hour together and I learned a great deal about their business - what is working and not working, how the business has changed and what is keeping them from performing at a higher level.  No sales pitch, no sales talk, just asking questions.  I asked them questions that went well beyond areas that I specifically could help them with, because I am interested.  And the best way to help anyone is to be sincerely engaged in their business and courageous enough to ask sometimes tough and unusual questions.

Lesson 3 - Have courage.  What is the worst that could happen?

Rich took me on a tour and we just happened to go by the VP of sales office where he introduced me to Jim.  He told Jim about our history, our conversation that morning and that Anthony Cole Training Group had some really "good stuff" for sales and sales management.  Additionally, he suggested that we have a meeting to discuss what they do, what they need to do, and how "maybe" we might be of help.  Jim said yes.

Lesson 4 - If you ask enough times and be persistent, sooner or later someone will say yes.

Additionally, given the nature of their business - B2B, with lots of dropping in and cold calling - the VP was very impressed that the President of the company would be out on the road dropping in on prospects. What I did not mention before is that I had dropped by six other businesses and the person I wanted to see at each of those firms was not in. I left my card and perhaps, made an impression.  In today’s world of virtual touchpoints, you may just find that an in person drop and stop can set you apart. Can you do that virtually somehow?  Are you making full use of Zoom and other video devices? Be creative and look for ways to be different and unique. Be a purple cow.

Lesson 5 – Go Back to Lesson 1 and Go Prospect.


Do You Need More Leads? –  Free Sales Prospecting eBook Download

Topics: meeting sales goals, setting sales goals, sales goals

Creating a Habit for Success

Posted by Jack Kasel on Thu, Apr 04, 2019

In sales, it is critical for a producer to develop behaviors for success and systems to support those behaviors. But often times, salespeople struggle and settle for the results they get because they don’t know how to adapt.

In this article, we will review the formula and methodology for change and the key questions every successful salesperson must ask themselves when identifying how to improve their sales outcomes.


The Greek Philosopher Aristotle saidWe are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I don’t remember reading any accounts of Aristotle conducting sales training, but I believe he would have been pretty good at it.

I have a statement and a question, that tie into Aristotle’s quote on habits:

  • The systems you have in place are perfectly designed to produce the results you are getting.
  • Do you own, and do you like, the outcome you produced?

Habits + systems = outcomes. I think I can get agreement that if both habits and systems are excellent, and well thought-out, the outcome will be what it needs to be. The problem is, if either habits or systems are bad, the outcome will never be what it could be. Here’s the good news, you are in control of both the habits you create and the systems you follow.

Let’s take a look at habits. There are many you can create. One of the best habits you can develop is setting aside an appointment, each week, to meet with your most important customer. That most important customer is you and the habit you must form is to never, under any circumstances, break that appointment. During that appointment with yourself, you plan and set goals for your week, read things to improve your skills and craft, or just spend time organizing yourself. You will be shocked how much better you can be by investing 30 minutes each week.

What systems do you have in place that will help you succeed? What are key factors you need to achieve to succeed in sales? Are they introductions? Cold Calls? Appointments? Presentations, etc. What’s your conversion ratio? How many calls turn into appointments?  How many appointments turn into presentations? Have a system, measure the activity, find the gaps, do things necessary to fix them.

Finally, let’s look at outcomes. Do you own the outcome you’ve created? Another way to look at it is, when something doesn’t happen the way you wanted or needed it to, do you look out the window for the reason or do you look in the mirror for the reason?

So there you go. A simple formula . . . Habits (good or bad) + Systems (good or bad) = Outcome . . .  If you own the outcome and don’t like it, fix the things on the left side of the equal sign.

Topics: meeting sales goals, setting sales goals, sales systems, expectations, underperforming salespeople, success formulas, creating habits for success, creating sales habits, underperforming sales team


    Subscribe Here

    Most Read

    Follow #ACTG


    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.


    Recent Blogs