ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

Make the "Business-to-People" Sale

Posted by Alex Cole on Thu, May 23, 2019

Most Sales Managers would agree that completing prospecting activities and hitting sales goals are critical to success. However, what happens when we focus too much on the numbers and not enough on being a resource for prospects, we impact (or lose) the human element of our business.

casual-cellphone-cheerful-1289898In general, there are two different types of classifications in sales; Business-to-Business (B2B) or Business-to-Consumer (B2C). B2B — meaning you supply a product or service directly to an organization — i.e. you provide a chemical coating that will be sold to an aircraft manufacturer and applied to rotors. B2C — being that you provide a product or service directly to the end user — i.e. you sell anti-aging skincare products using social media and your network to women 30+. But what if what you do falls somewhere in-between?

What if you are in the B2P (Business-to-People) business?

I believe that Anthony Cole Training Group fits within that category. Before we get too far into this topic, I do realize that B2C sales technically describes what we are about to discuss below, but for the sake of this article, I ask that you expand your realm of thinking. See, we (ACTG) primarily provide sales hiring and production training for financial institutions. We usually work with pre-existing sales teams to uncover the problem areas they face and build our training and development around addressing those problems. But at the end of the day, it is the people that we impact first, not the organization. I would imagine 99% of the organizations that are considered B2B still have to sell to a real, living, breathing person who is responsible for making a decision.

So, at the end of the day, you’re in the business to people game too.

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So why does this matter? Sometimes, we get so caught up in our day-to-day activities of producing, prospecting and checking off our individual tasks, that we forget we're here to help people. We focus more on the RFP (Request for Proposal) in front of us than on the company and people behind it.

Typically, in B2C sales, the salesperson shares more of a personal relationship with the prospect as well as flexibility around conversations and decisions. In B2B sales, there is usually more restriction to the branding, marketing and positioning of products or services, as well as how we can approach people in the market. Now I’m not suggesting we should throw the handbook out the window, but I am suggesting that those of us in the B2B space can probably benefit from a healthy dose of “authenticity” and “the human element”.

Don't you think?

At the end of the day, you must remember that you are impacting people, regardless of the type of work that you do. The aircraft manufacturer that is buying your chemical coating still has a team of people they are responsible for, so they must confirm that the chemicals are safe and regulated—so talk with them about that. Not only why your coating lasts so much longer than your competitors’ brand!

When we stop focusing (solely) on the next sale, the next dial, or the next commission check; and instead focus on being a go-giver for our clients and prospects, more sales will occur. Be in the Business-to-People, or B2P, business.

It will be your most rewarding sale.

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Topics: go givers sell more, how to improve sales, sales advice, steward, new age selling, salespeople

Show Me the Money

Posted by Alex Cole on Wed, Mar 13, 2019

Without revenue, a sale cannot be made.  However, making a sale is not all about the money, and it is a salesperson's duty to overcome their prospect's money problem and be prepared for what objections are thrown their way.

In this article, we discuss the preparation involved in overcoming this common problem, and ultimately, the notion that, "If you win on price, you’ll also lose on price."

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Money is a critical part of every effective sales process, and yet, sometimes that very discussion causes us to get “off track” and lose focus on the objective of the call.

While I won’t argue that price is part of the decision-making process, what do you do when the prospect tells you it is the driving factor? This can be challenging, but you can use this information to your advantage to make critical decisions. Once you understand the motivation of the buyer, you can and should decide early in the sales process if it makes sense for you to work on the opportunity or not.

So, what should you do when you find out that it’s a price-driven decision? Well, you need to recognize the following:

  1. It’s part of the official buyer’s manual. Buyers have been conditioned to believe that there is always a lower price and a salesperson desperate enough to go there.
  2. Sometimes they buy on price because that is how THEY personally make buying decisions.
  3. When the prospect tells you up front that this is a price-based decision, you need to ask what else, besides price, is driving this decision and, if the answer is “nothing”, be prepared to move on.

So, what can you do to overcome the money problem? 

Answer: You must be prepared.

  • Make sure, in your pre-call preparation, you have specific questions to respond to the price issue, i.e. questions that look for things that are important to them other than price.
  • Ask questions to help them discover that low price may not mean lowest cost. Price is what you pay for something; cost is what you end up paying or losing out on because of that decision.
  • If you are committed to achieving your goals, then you must find prospects that place value on something besides just price.
  • In order to do that, you must look at why others are doing business with you.
  • Keep a full pipeline. The lack of an abundant pipeline puts pressure on us to work on low probability opportunities.

When you sell off of price, you sacrifice margin, trade “building the kind of business you want” for revenue today and constantly need to “defend” the sale. Unfortunately, we know that if you win on price, you’ll also lose on price.

Don’t let your business be driven by price shoppers. 

Topics: selling in today's market, sales advice, new age selling, salespeople, sales opportunity, price, money

How to Find and Cultivate Prospects That Fit Your Business

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, Dec 04, 2018

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Today, our customers are bombarded with sales, marketing, and advertising pitches from companies all hoping to win their business. They’re overwhelmed, or, in most cases, they simply tune us out. So, we try to reach as many potential customers as we can, but we spin our wheels and end up stuck in the same place, week after week, month after month, or year after year.

The problem? We’re not sure who we’re trying to reach. Many of our potential customers view their time as their greatest, most valuable asset, and so should we. We can protect that asset by having a clear understanding of who our target customer is.

Identify What a Zebra is

In order to hone that understanding, we have to begin with first identifying our “Zebra,” or our ideal prospect persona.

We can do that in three easy steps:

  1. Begin by segmenting our business’s book into thirds. For most companies, that top third brings in 90% of the company’s revenue. They are generally the best clients.
  2. Look for common traits and demographics in that top third. Ask questions like:

·      What do these customers have in common?

·      What industry are they in?

·      Who is our main point of contact?

·      How do we contact them?

·      What is the size of their organization?

Having the answers to questions like these helps identify other potential customers in the market.

3. Once we know what traits we’re looking for in that top third, we should commit 2/3 of our time to looking for, or attracting, customers from this group.

 

Identify What a Zebra Isn't

Of equal importance is to know, and clearly articulate, what isn’t a Zebra for us. If we know who doesn’t fit our ideal customer persona, we’ll bring clarity to our network and prospecting efforts, and again, continue to value time as our greatest asset. Here’s why it’s important to know what a Zebra isn’t:

1.    We eliminate ambiguity

Introductions have been proven to be the No. 1 way that top producers grow their business. But if we aren’t specific about who we serve best, it’s hard to get those introductions. We need to be specific and clear about what type of zebra we serve best.

2.    We reduce frustration with our Centers of Influence (COI)

We want to capitalize on our COI’s relationships, but if we’re not crystal clear with who we’re looking for, our COI may make an introduction to someone we can’t help. When working with our COI, it’s helpful to articulate the type of business or individual we’re looking for, along with what we’re not looking for and why.

3.    We reduce our opportunity cost

Our opportunity cost is what we’re not working on that might have been more viable for our organization. If we’re calling on Company ABC, we’re not working on Company XYZ. Are we losing out on better business, because we’re not calling on the right prospects?

If we know what we don’t want and the reasons why, it might reduce the quantity of opportunities in our pipeline, but the quality will increase dramatically. 

Cultivating Zebras

Once we’ve determined which customers are and aren’t Zebras, we need to understand the best ways get in front of them and build relationships.

Start by doing some research.

Should we call or email them?

What is their preferred social media platform – LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter?

Knowing how and where to reach our target persona will positively impact our ability to hunt, qualify and discover potential new business. Undoubtedly, our most effective approach is to utilize the relationships we have with our top third by asking them to introduce us to others they know, who will most likely fall into that ideal customer profile.

It takes work to find these prospects and then contact them, but it’s well worth the effort. Our chances of success are now much higher because we know we’re reaching the right audience, the Zebras who become our best clients. 

Topics: sales growth and inspiration, finding customers, zebra, new age selling, ideal prospect persona

FinTech or PeopleTech?

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Nov 28, 2018

blurred-background-close-up-coffee-cup-908284

I drive a Ford Explorer.  Most of the people that ride with me, except my friend Jerry Barron, think I’m a good driver. Not only do I drive well, but I know my vehicle, how to maintain it and how to make adjustments to my driving and the vehicle when necessary.

However, all the enhancements in the vehicle won’t keep me from crashing if I fail to turn into the slide instead of against it, or if I fail to ‘tap’ the breaks when I hit a sheet of ice on a frozen bridge.

The same is true for Fintech.

There is an article in The Investment News from October 8, 2018 written by the President of the Financial Planner Association discussing a survey of top advisors.  Here are the highlights:

  • A survey of 300 advisors found that only 15% possess enough of the three traits that qualify them as behavioralist. Those traits are:
    • Will
    • Skill
    • Means
  • That group outpaces the general planning community in net growth rates, referrals and percentage of clients that would refer their advisor.

There should be many questions that stem from this study for Sales Managers, VP of Sales, Sr. Sales Executives or Program Mangers.  This study applies to anyone leaning on technology to turn a lethargic sales team into a high-powered, no limit, fully functioning sales machine.

Understanding Behavioralist Traits:

  • Will: will to do what? I would suggest that fundamentally there are 5 contributing factors to ‘will’ that a business development person – sales rep, producer, broker, banker, agent or advisor –must have:
    • They have to have the will to succeed in selling. Not just the will to succeed, but the will to succeed in selling. 
    • Selling requires significant desire and commitment, taking full responsibility for outcomes (no excuse making) and a high level of motivation and a positive outlook.
  • Skills: what skills? The best way to answer that is to answer this question:
  •  
    • When your salespeople fail in their role, why do they fail? I don’t just mean those that you exit from your company but also those salespeople that occupy the bottom 3/5s of your sales team and represent less than 30% of total sales generated. Is it because they lacked the skills to operate your CRM, word, excel? Did they fail to understand the technical aspects of your business?  Did they fail to execute the compliance requirements?
    • Based on the dozens of Sales Improvement and Effectiveness Analysis we’ve done over 25 years, the reason that salespeople fail is because they lack the appropriate competencies/skills for:
      1. Prospecting, hunting and generating new leads
      2. Consultative selling
  • Strong presentations skills:
  1. Quickly developing trust and confidence
  2. Selling Value
  3. Qualifying
  • Closing
  • Means: have you provided them the ‘Fintech’ or sales enablement tools to help them succeed, provide greater information and business solutions to clients, give them an unfair advantage in the market place? If so, what has your ROI analysis told you? Has the investment met expectations?
    • In a recent discussion with a regional manager for a large regional financial institution, we discussed three sales enablement tools that are available to the producers to enhance the client experience. When attempting to correlate the use of the tools and their success there was no direct correlation. Those at the top use the tools and use them well, as do those at the bottom
    • What we do know is that in the 9 months we’ve worked with the group to improve performance management skills and coaching skills, the group is experiencing a 39% increase in revenue year over year.

What am I trying to get to?

You could deliver to my door tomorrow the most advanced automobile in the world.  It can have all the technology bells and whistles and the most powerful engine ever made.  And you could take me to Kentucky Speed way and tell me to have a go.  Chances are I won’t leverage all the AutoTech available. And chances are, if I attempt to make the turn to high, to low, to fast or to slow – I’m going to crash and it has nothing to do with the technology.

 

Topics: technology, new age selling, fintech, peopletech

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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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