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5 Commonly Overlooked Sales Tools

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Feb 13, 2019

In a business world filled with an abundance of technologically advanced CRM tools, there are 5 tools that salespeople must use and sales managers must implement throughout their day-to-day activities and agendas, in order to be successful.

They include:

  1. Effective Personal Goal Setting
  2. The Ideal Week
  3. Sales Process
  4. Huddles
  5. The Success Formula and the 10% Difference


Do you have all the sales tools you need to succeed? If yes, then forget about this article and go to The Truth About Prospecting.  If you feel you don’t have the tools, or the tools you have are not getting you to your desired sales results, then read on.

I was first introduced to sales tools when I was recruited into the Life Insurance business by David Zimmerman. That tool was the One Card System developed by Al Granum of Northwestern Mutual Insurance. Al’s process of tracking and holding insurance agents to a formula for success is legendary in the Life Insurance industry and is the basis for most CRM strategies used today. Simply stated, Mr. Granum’s research identified that an agent needed 10 leads (suspects) to generate 3 prospects (who will participate in a full fact-finding meeting) to get 1 client.

Over the years, I have seen many variations of this but ultimately the objective is the same. Help a salesperson understand exactly what they need to do to hit their objectives. But this tool by itself is not nearly as effective as when combined with other tools.

Despite all the fuss with sales force automation, lead generation and pipeline management, we know the following to be true: 

  • 33% of the production team is responsible for over 90% of sales results
  • 67% of the team is responsible for less than 10% of the sales results
  • None of the 67% were hired NOT to succeed

So, what is the problem? Why the variance of performance when all these tools purchased and implemented were supposed to fix sales? Here are the 5 commonly overlooked tools that salespeople must use and sales managers must implement.

#1: Effective Personal Goal Setting- Too often companies establish goals for their sales people and then 3 months later the argument ensues about ‘whose goal it was’.  Goal setting must be a personal activity. This is what drives internal motivation and it is internal motivation that keeps your people focused on shareholder value. Spending a day with your people with a thought-out plan to help them focus on personal goals and a corresponding work plan is the bases for the other 4 tools. 

#2: The Ideal Week- We conduct a full-day session on helping companies drive internal motivation and eliminating the excuse of - “I don’t have time”. The reason salespeople don’t have time to do the required and necessary lead generation activity is because they don’t control their business. They sacrifice pleasing outcomes for pleasing behaviors. In other words, instead of sticking to their schedule and making calls at 10:00, they take the inbound customer service call.

#3: Sales Process- Our data shows that over 85% of elite sales people (only 7% of all sales people) use a milestone-centric sales process. The first step in the journey is to get a name, the last step in the journey is to get a decision. Everything else in the middle must be identified as a step and measured.

#4: Huddles- Think of huddles as a communication system that allows the user and manager to collect real time information so that real time feedback can be given, or realized, and real time coaching and instruction can take place.

#5: The Success Formula and The 10% Difference- This is simple math based on the theory of Mr. Granum but a little more granular. 

Topics: development of sales, predictable sales growth, sales motivation, no excuses, sales skill, sales acceleration, salespeople

What is Your Sales Team's Motivation?

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, May 19, 2017


As many of you know, we use the Objective Management Group's (OMG) assessment to evaluate every organization that we do sales and sales management training, coaching and consulting for.  The process helps us (and helps our clients) determine with great accuracy the answers to these 4 questions:       

  1. Can we be more effective (sell more, more quickly at better margins)?
  2. How much more effective could we be?
  3. What would it take?
  4. How long would it take?

Answering these four questions requires the ability to uncover at least two important contributors to improved effectiveness:

  1. Their “will” to improve in selling and sales management
  2. Their ability (sales and sales management DNA)


There are 6 known contributing factors that OMG uses to determine “will to sell”  (click here for a review of the OMG pre-hire assessment tool).

  1. Desire to succeed in selling
  2. Commitment to succeed in selling
  3. Motivation
  4. Outlook
  5. Responsibility
  6. Enjoyment of selling


I don't believe there is a way to effectively rank those factors in terms of relevant importance.  Having used the tool and delivered results to dozens of companies and hundreds of people, my experience is that these 6 work together to form a puzzle that gives you an overall picture of someone’s “will to sell”.  In this article, however, I want to focus on motivation because, over and over again, when attending my workshops, attendees consistently the question, “How do I motivate or keep my people motivated?”


I was getting ready to work out at my club the other day and, when walking to the men’s locker room, I stopped and looked at this sign.  Now, I’ve seen this sign literally hundreds of times and have read it dozens of times. I have always found it interesting and a bit inspiring. 


I can imagine being a young tennis player who has big dreams of playing tennis on a large stage someday.  And that young person might take a photo of this poster and put it on their phone, locker room, door or wall at home.  They might even post it to social media – Facebook. Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat.

It all depends on that person’s motivation.

This person could be driven by pride, satisfaction, mastery, achievement, competition, enjoyment or recognition.  They could even be motivated by the love of winning or that hate of losing. They might just be trying to prove the naysayers wrong!


What motivates you?  If you are a manager, what is motivating your people?  If you are not motivated to:

  • Be more effective
  • Be more successful
  • Compete to be the best
  • Sell more to make your lifestyle dreams a reality
  • Make sure your children receive an education without the debt

I have to ask: Why?



Let me address two things:

  • Personal motivation
  • Motivation of others

My experience – my own true, personal experience - about motivation is that when you desire something greatly in your heart, then you will live and breath the desire to make the dream a reality.  Many of you know I played football at UConn.  I always considered myself blessed beyond reason to have had the opportunity to make my dream a reality.  But blessed does not stand alone as the only contributing factor for the scholarship.  Yes, I had some God-given talents (nature), but I also had some external factors (nurture) that contributed to my success.  Those factors were Mom and Dad and the attitudes they instilled in me regarding hard work, anything is possible, don’t give up, success requires commitment.  I learned early on that, if you really want to accomplish something great in your life, you must be willing to give up some things to get where you want to go.

  • When my classmates were going to Lee’s house to party after a game, I did not.
  • I hated vegetables, but my dad told me he would tell Coach Cacia I wasn’t eating right – I wasn’t going to let that happen.
  • At the end of a long day – 12 hours – working on the farm, I still ran my miles and lifted weights.
  • When I got beat on a certain play during practice, I would make that person pay the price on the next play.
  • I ran sprints every day at the end of practice.
  • I played hurt.
  • I studied and got the grades needed to get into college.
  • I did all of those things for 13 years.


On the other side of that coin are the years between 1998 and 2003.  Those 5 years are lost to me because of the event of our son's (Anthony) cardiac arrest and subsequent severe brain injury.  I could think of nothing but his full recovery to health.  Nothing else mattered and it showed up in the shrinking of our business.  One day, Linda walked into the office and said, “We need to talk.”  I thought it had something to do with Anthony.  Instead, she asked, “Are you ever going to start working again?”

Man, did that piss me off!

But, I started to work again because I had new motivation.  And that is my point.  I believe most people go through stages of motivation.  The stages probably look like the side view of a roller coaster – lots of ups and downs.  If you find yourself in the down, don’t assume that you will go back up.  You may be at the end of the ride.  If you are there, you need to find new and different reasons to get back in the seat and ride to the top.


When I answer the question - How do I motivate my people? - for workshop attendees, I tell them, “You cannot motivate them.  Motivation is an inside-out job and they have to come to the table with their own motivation.  The best you can do is create an environment where people want to come and they want to be motivated and excited because they have personal reasons to be successful.”

I remember having a discussion with Tom. Tom was a COO of a large insurance holding company and we were talking about his next day’s presentation to the troops.  He told me about his agenda and the key points in the speech.  One of the topics was shareholder value.  When he finished, I asked permission to ask a question and then make a comment.  “Permission granted,” Tom said.

I asked, “How many people in the audience are shareholders?” One, he said.

I then said, “Tom, with all due respect, those people don’t give a rat’s #@%  about shareholder value. What they care about is having enough money to retire, pay for a wedding, have the dream vacation, pay for college, and eliminate debt.  Talk to them about how the company will support their efforts to make those things happen and then you will have an audience who will listen and respond.”


The problem, in many cases, is that the sales executive in charge of getting more out of the sales team has no idea what motivates those people on the team.  Without knowing that, how could you possibly create a motivated environment?

While assessing numerous organizations, we have found three things that hinder the motivation and success of the sales team: 1) 90% of the sales managers don’t believe they need to know what motivates their sales people.  2) 25% of the sales managers are not motivated to be successful in the role of sales manager and 3) Virtually 100% of the salespeople lack personal goals, lack a personal goal plan and fail to have a process in place to track if they are achieving goals.

How could you possibly have a motivated sales team?


Motivation Quotes in Unlikely Places – Dave Kurlan

Pavarotti and Motivation – Music and Self Motivation

Robert De Niro Inspiring Speech at NYU School for The Arts - Youtube

Motivation – What Would You Attempt If You Knew You Couldn’t Fail?

DOWNLOAD FREE eBook -  How to Hire Advisors Who Will Sell More


Topics: developing sales talent, Motivational, getting consistent sales performance, predictable sales growth

Fixing a Broken Sales Environment with 3 Essential Sales Tools

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, May 12, 2017

The 3 Es

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  1. Speed to failure
  2. Conversation is still king (the person with the best conversation wins)
  3. Technology that supports SELLING – NOT finance

Before I get to the 3 essential sales tools, consider for a moment all the systems and processes you have in your organization:

  • IT
  • Communication
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Physical plant
  • Hiring
  • Technical training
  • Underwriting
  • Risk management
  • Sales
  • Customer service

(Also watch this video – it is worth every minute of your invested time).   


I know the list above isn’t a complete list, but let’s pretend for a minute that you just invested $500,000 in new technology.  It could be a website enhancement, new finance applications to improve billing and financial projections, improved communication equipment or a sales CRM.

Let’s pretend that the investment was for finance.  Your expectations are to “tighten up” the reporting on payables, receivables, compensation reports, taxes and forecasting.  The company you bought the service from told you that it would probably take about 90 days to work any bugs out, but certainly, by year end, your expectations would be met.  You meet with your CFO and ask, “How’s it going?”  She responds, “Pretty good!”  You then inquire, “Pretty good means?”  She replies:

  • Our payable reports are about 66% correct, but trending the right direction.
  • Our overdue receivables still average 45 days, but we’re making progress.
  • Our compensation expenses are off by about 5% and we’re not sure why, but we’re working on it.
  • Taxes? Well, my best guess is that we are going to owe between 10% and 20% more than last year.
  • As far as forecasting revenue, well…our pipeline shows $5,000,000 to be closed in the next 6 months, but we’re not confident that the number is accurate.

How do you feel about your investment?  What is your reaction to a complete lack of success at meeting expectations?  Whose head is on the block as a result of this?  How long would you tolerate the continuance of this failure?  I’m not sure you’d fire your CFO, CTO, President, HR or your consultant, but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t say, “Okay, let’s give it another 30 days.”


I know I created a bit of a stretch scenario, but the point I want to make is that you probably get a report like this about your sales team; you just don’t know it.  What isn’t revealed in a sales meeting or in your monthly meeting with your sales manager is the detail behind the big numbers you talk about.  You talk about year over year results, you talk about sales YTD against plan, you might even talk about how you are doing against other sales divisions or peers in your industry.  What you don’t talk about is this:

  • Over 90% of your results are probably coming from 36% of your sales team. (LinkedIn article on the 80/20 of the 80/20).
  • What doesn’t get reported that would make you jump out a window is that the bottom 36% of your sales team is probably responsible for less than 4% of your total sales.
  • What the sales manager doesn't tell you is that - of the last 4 hires - only 1 of them is doing better than the people that were replaced with the new hires.
  • What you won’t talk about - but need to talk about - is the cost of putting the other 3 in the market for 12 months and then the cost of replacing them with 3 more that won’t make it either. (By the way, over a 5-year period, that is a 2 comma problem).
  • What is also probably not part of the discussion is that, if you really wanted to drive profit, you could probably eliminate the bottom 36% and increase profitability significantly.
  • You probably won’t have a discussion about how some of your more senior people are not performing nearly as well as some of your new people.


The challenge to organizations (and what matters most) is the answer to the question:  Are we hitting our numbers?  As long as that answer is yes, you’re okay.  BUT, if you are unwilling to accept 90% correct in your tax estimate or compensation projections… or 90% of the calls getting through or 75% of the customers being happy… or your website being operational 66% of the time, why are you settling for anything less than 100% execution from your entire sales team?

What I know and what I’ve stated before:

  • You don’t intentionally hire sales people to fail; so, if they do…
  • You either hired them that way or…
  • You made them that way


What does this have to do with the 3 Essential Sales Tools?  Maybe not everything, but these 3 tools have a lot to do with fixing a broken sales environment.

  • Speed to failure – With your new hires, do your best to find out quickly if both of you made the right decision. Make sure that, as you are making the offer, you let them know all the crap they are going to have to go through, what they will be managed to and what is exactly expected in the first 90 days and the following 6 months.  Let them know that the hire is going to be probationary and that you have a 3 Strike Rule.  (Call me at 513.226.3913 about the 3 Strike Rule).
  • Conversation is KING – Despite all the technology that is available to help your salespeople create opportunities, nothing yet has replaced the value of quality conversations. This means you need to have a very high standard for training, practice and preparation before you put people out into the market.
  • The technology that you buy to support sales has to support sales not finance. Finance should find its way to use the appropriate sales tool to get the information they need not the other way around.  Your sales technology should make it easy for salespeople to communicate to suspects, prospects and clients.  It should be easy to use and provide extremely useful information for the sales manager as well as salespeople.  It should make it easy for your people to consistently follow your sales process.  Finally, it should help you predict with a high level of validity what is actually going to get sold over any given time frame.

Implementing these three sales tools will go a long way to helping you improve your sales environment and improve the productivity of the entire team.  In my next blog – What do you know (really know) about your sales manager’s and your team’s WILL TO SUCCEED in sales management and sales?


Call 513.791.3458 now to get a copy of a recent case study on Will to Succeed and the productivity of the sales organization –Ask to speak to Jeni.

Find out about the WILL of your sales team as defined by The World’s #1 Sales Skills and Sales Manager Skills Assessment

Find out about the #1 Assessment HERE

Topics: developing sales talent, hire better salespeople, predictable sales growth, consistent sales results

What You Don’t Know Can Kill Sales Growth

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, May 02, 2017

I had a conversation this week with 3 executives that run bank-owned investment programs.


  • The first executive is restructuring his program to go from $3 million to $8 million in revenue and will do that via a team approach to the credit union membership.
  • The second executive is looking to improve the effectiveness of junior advisors and improve the quality of new hires. He is the president/program manager and sales manager.
  • The third executive has sales management executives, and is part of a very large bank that has a robust training department, several leadership programs, a very tenured group and a full calendar of training programs scheduled for the balance of the year.


If any of these rings true for you, consider the following:

If you’ve read any of my posts over the last 10 years, you know that our initial step in any engagement is to first assess the current state of the sales organization.  In our initial conversation with any prospect, we attempt to explore…

  • What’s happening
  • What’s not happening
  • What the objectives and expectations are
  • The gap (money) between where they are and where they need to be; Attempt to uncover the symptoms that indicate the “why”
  • If the problems are “have to fix” or “want to fix”

If we arrive at a “have to fix” state, then we discuss the process required to “fix” it.  To help paint the picture, I normally describe a situation where someone has a “have to fix” problem.  I choose improving my golf game as an analogy because I’m in a constant state of saying that I want to improve my golf game.  (Apparently, improving my game isn’t that important because I always fail to take one really important step – I don’t take lessons.  But… that is another story…)

I go on to ask, if my prospect was my new golf coach and we were in our first lesson, what would the golf coach do in our first lesson?  Almost everyone (over 90%) replies, “Ask you to take a few swings with a club.”  I ask why would the pro want to do that.  Again, almost everyone responds with, “So they can see what might need to be fixed.”  I respond with, “Perfect - that is exactly what we have to do.  We can’t go about fixing the problem unless we know the root cause.”  We have to have some insight into:

  • The skills of your salespeople
  • The strengths and weaknesses that support or hinder effective selling
  • The systems and process that exist
  • The skills of the sales manager, their tendencies and where (in the 4 functions of sales management) they are most effective
  • The actual performance of the entire team
  • Answers to 19 critical sales growth questions


As an example of what we find out, look at the chart below that describes the leadership and sales management skills, tendencies and effectiveness of two sales managers.


The names have been changed to protect the innocent, but the data has not been altered.  Here is just one example of one of the findings from the assessment that companies find so useful when attempting to analyze the “why” of productivity and sales outcomes:

#1 – The score tells you how well Gene and Paul scored in their skills for the various data points evaluated as sales managers and sales leaders.

#2 – This helps us understand what a manager’s “go-to move” is when there is pressure to drive performance.

#3 – This tells us how effective the manager is when executing to a skill (recruiting, coaching, motivating, performance management, strategic thinking)

Looking only at the sales manager’s skills - performance management, recruiting, coaching and motivating - you can see that there are problems with motivating and recruiting effectiveness for Gene.  Both of these are his strongest tendencies, but he lacks the skill and perhaps has a problem with the make-up of his sales team (not coachable). Therefore, he is not very effective.  You would want to know this prior to implementing any type of sales management coaching program.

Paul, on the other hand, is average at best at 3 of the 4 sales management skills needed to effectively drive sales growth.



I once heard Tony Robbins declare that “Knowledge is NOT power.”  He went on to say that “Knowledge in Action is Power.”  That is the purpose of this post.  Too many companies create budgets for training and development without good intelligence.  Too many companies believe that training salespeople on the latest sales process concept is the way to drive sales.  Suppose you have people that lack desire?  Suppose they are un-coachable?  Suppose you have managers that don’t have the skills to support the dollars and effort you spend on training your salespeople? 

Before investing time, money and effort to train and develop your sales managers or salespeople, strongly consider doing a study - an x-ray, if you will - of the team that you have. Find out why they perform the way they perform, how coachable the team is , what the opportunity for growth is and if you’re going to help them with those contributing factors that support effective execution.

Supporting information:

Root Cause Analysis Training Video

Find out Why Selling is So $#$%! Hard?

Talk to Tony about the Sales Effectiveness and Impact Analysis – 513.226.3913 (Text:  SEIA – provide your name)

How Do I Grow Sales? – An article that answers that question

Request a Free Demo or Sales Assessment Sample

Topics: developing sales talent, how to manage salespeople, effective sales management, predictable sales growth

Sales and Sales Management Scorecards – How Can They Drive Sales Growth?

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Feb 03, 2017


I don’t believe that scorecards drive sales growth. I say “believe” because I don’t have any definitive proof one way or another and I’m not about to sort through over a million responses from Google search to find out.  But, instead, I will tell you about my experience and exposure to scorecards and the impact they can have.



My golf experience would not indicate that scorecards improve my golf game.  However, many years ago, I decided to do more than just keep score.  I also tracked fairways and greens hit in regulation and the number of putts I took on each hole.  (Full disclosure here:  I am a lifetime mid 90s’ golfer which gives me a handicap in the low to mid 20s.) The year I decided to track more information, I set a goal to get under a 20 handicap.  At that time, I didn’t play a lot of golf – no more than 20 times a year, but I managed to end the season at an 18.  I believe that tracking the RIGHT information on the scorecard AND setting a goal AND working to improve metrics are what led to meeting the goal of making improvement.

I’ve been in two meetings this week where scorecards for performance were presented.  One scorecard was really a financial data update reporting on actual performance against goal and year over year.  The other scorecard reported on various initiatives and the current stage of completion. The stages were reported as:

  • Green – on track or completed
  • Yellow – close to being on track or completed
  • Red – not on track to be completed by deadline


When Alan Mullaly left Boeing to take over Ford (see scorecard info), he implemented the Green, Yellow, Red scorecard concept that served him so well at Boeing.  If you read the book, American Icon (a GREAT read, by the way…), you find out one of the reasons they cannot be directly connected to sales growth.  Spoiler alert – not everyone reporting the status of the project is courageous enough to tell the new CEO when his or her project is not on target.

Alan met with the leaders of his production teams every week to get an update on progress being made.  The leaders had to report on what they were responsible for as Green, Yellow or Red.  For months, there was never a Red status on any project.  Alan knew that this could not possibly be true, but he let it ride.  He was certain that, sooner or later, someone in the group was going to step up and be willing to take some bullets.

Sure enough, a car launch that was scheduled for the holiday season was behind schedule and was in jeopardy of missing the launch date entirely.  The manager of that division decided that he’d rather take the bullets now rather than later and so he reported RED!.

(Back to my meeting…)

Nothing on the scorecard was RED.  As I sat there and calculated numbers on some of the various metrics, I saw that the levels of achievement year to date were in the 33% range when, to be on target, they needed to be in the 50% range.  I’m new on the committee, so I was a little uncertain as the newbie and I thought,”Should I speak up?  Is this something that has been addressed before and clarified?  Does the RED indicator show up when something is 30% or less?”  Finally, the gentleman sitting next to me asked the question, “How come we don’t see any RED?” The reasons given to the committee were both evasive and vague. 


What happened next is what can happen to make a scorecard report contribute to sales growth.

  • Questions were asked about the various projects in YELLOW
  • Clarity was gained on the exact status
  • A series of What, Why, Who, When, How, Now What questions were asked
  • We arrived at standards that would change a status from Yellow to Red

The point is this:  If you are going to build and use scorecards to impact sales growth, the following has to happen:

  • You have to have metrics that are both leading and lagging
  • Standards have to be set and they have to be set high enough to allow growth and eliminate mediocrity
    • At or above 100% - GREEN - Good
    • At a maximum 90 to 99% - Yellow - Poor
    • Anything under 90% is RED – AND you have to be willing to call it FAILING.
  • You have to have established confidence and trust in your team so that they are comfortable being truthful about the status or production, pipeline, sales activity and forecasting.


Finally, if you want to be able to answer, “Yes, our scorecards contribute to sales growth” you have to understand that the scorecard is like the meteorologist reporting the weather.  Normally, when it comes to weather, that’s all most of us care about. But, when it comes to sales growth, you better want to know why it is sunny or rainy!  That is Performance Management! To make your scorecards more effective always, ALWAYS be prepared to ask questions about outcomes that are either positive or negative:

  • Why are we getting this result?
  • When did we know this was going to happen? (I assure you it was known, or should have been known, way before the report was generated if you are collecting leading indicator sales activities via huddles.)
  • Who is or who are the DRI(s) – Directly Responsible Individual(s)?
  • What did we do/you do/they do the moment they knew?
  • What actions have been implemented to 1) duplicate this success 2) eliminate the problem and/or 3) slow down the negative trend?
  • What is happening now? What is the current status?

Having this type of discussion is what leads to sales growth not the scorecard alone!

Additional Resources: 

How well is your team doing? Try the free Sales Achievement Grader



Topics: sales performance coaching, predictable sales growth, how to hit goals in sales, salesforce evaluation


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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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