ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

Finding and Cultivating the Right Prospects for Your Business

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Jun 10, 2021

Knowing how and where to reach our target persona will positively impact our ability to hunt, qualify, and discover potential new business.

pexels-akil-mazumder-1072824 (1)

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 whom 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 look for or attract customers from this group.

Identify What a Zebra Isn't

Of equal importance is to know 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 number 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 to get in front of them and build relationships. You 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. 

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Prospecting, qualifying prospects, hunting for sales prospects

5 Habits for Greater Sales Success

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, May 27, 2021
Keeping your good habits “habitual” is dependent upon your level of commitment to your goals. If you are truly committed and willing to sacrifice immediate gratification for the long-term good, then good habits stick.

But how do you correct your behavior and become more habitual? Here are our 5 steps to creating better sales habits.

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I’m an educator by degree. During my undergraduate work at UConn, my fellow future teachers and I were taught that behaviors and habits are a result of combinations of rewards and consequences. If you wanted your student to develop certain habits or skills, part of the development, in addition to the teaching and coaching, was rewarding success and disciplining failure. Sometimes the disciplined approach was punitive; other times it was a matter of repeating the behavior, skill, or activity until they (the person being taught) got it right. Once they got it right, they were rewarded.

Given all of this background, here are my thoughts for today about habits.

  • Good habits are called good habits because they contribute to the successful completion of the goals and objectives you say you are committed to.
  • Bad habits are “bad” because, instead of taking you towards your objectives, they take you away. They keep you from accomplishing what you said was important to you.
  • Keeping your good habits “habitual” is dependent upon your level of commitment to your goals. If you are truly committed and willing to sacrifice immediate gratification for the long-term good, then good habits stick.
  • If you find that you cannot consistently execute your good habits, it is probably due to your lack of commitment to the things you say are important to you.
  • “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” - Vince Lombardi
  • Often the things/habits you need to be doing aren’t urgent: exercising, eating well, taking baby aspirin, getting enough sleep, prospecting, blogging, etc.
  • Habits become urgent when something else urgent happens: heart attack, bodily injury, stroke, diabetes, organ failure, put on performance improvement program because of lack of production, lack of website activity.
  • Your habits are expressive of your commitments.

How do you correct your behavior and become more habitual? Here are my 5 Steps to Better Habits:

  1. Identify goals and objectives that are non-negotiable
  2. Have a plan to achieve those goals. Make sure the plan is detailed.
  3. Have a system to track your progress, execution of the necessary habits, activities required to achieve your goals.
  4. Inspect what you expect.
  5. Have an accountability partner that loves you and cares enough about you to hold your feet to the fire.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Prospecting, sales succes, Sales Activities, sales commitment

Managing 80/20 Prospecting Time to Increase Sales

Posted by Jack Kasel on Thu, Apr 08, 2021

The most successful salespeople are always challenging and adapting their personal sales process to be more effective and increase sales. However, they don’t challenge the notion of the importance of making prospecting their "A" priority every week.

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They know that no matter how successful they are, if they don’t continue to add new relationships, that eventually, their business will decline. If you really want to increase sales this year, you MUST block off time every week for prospecting new clients.

As we think about all of the things as sales professionals that we're supposed to do, it really comes down to three things that actually get us paid: 

  1. Find Opportunities
  2. Qualify prospects
  3. Get a decision

I want to focus on the first thing we get paid to do and that's to find opportunities. There are many ways we can find opportunities⁠—cold calls, drop-ins, direct marketing, social selling (LinkedIn and Twitter), getting introductions, etc. 

Although there are many ways we can prospect, some provide a higher return on the biggest investment we can make, and that’s our time. In a previous blog, I tried to debunk the “time management” problem. It isn’t a time management problem, it’s a priority management problem

As we focus on prospecting, the least return on our investment is cold calling. For all the time you invest in cold calling, the actual return (speaking to a decision-maker) is extremely low. We know it’s a necessary evil, but not a permanent problem. On the other hand, it is a proven fact, the highest return on our prospecting time is in getting introductions.  

So here is what I would like you to consider:

Time blocking
  • Do you have time set aside each week to prospect? If you don’t, you would be well-served to block time to prospect

Allocate your time within the time block you’ve scheduled

  • If you have allocated an hour a day, my recommendation would be:
  • If you have allocated 15 minutes to cold call, you should be able to get 15 calls in within that time. If you call 15, you will probably speak with two people. How long does it take to NOT talk to 13 people?  You can make a lot of calls in 15 minutes if you are focused.
  • 15 minutes for social selling to find introductions—maybe not sell, but find introduction opportunities.
  • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Blogging—whichever you are allowed to do within your work rules, do it on a regular basis.
  • 30 minutes on getting introductions
  • Calling people and saying “I’m looking to expand my base of contacts” Or “I’m looking to meet great people such as yourself, when can we get together to determine if we can help each other?”
  • Identify your 15 best clients and make it a goal to get three introductions from each of them. How much success would you have with 45 new names to call?

This is just a rough outline on what you can do but the big takeaways are this:

  1. Prioritize prospecting—make it a significant part of your week.
  2. Prioritize how you are prospecting—get introductions—it will provide the highest return on your time invested.

Someone needs what you do, so go find them and start prospecting today to find more of them!

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Prospecting, prospecting skills, sales prospecting, increase sales, time blocking

3 Rules to Improved Candidate Selection

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Feb 25, 2021

When you don't have a pipeline of sales talent to go to when making a hire, you can become desperate. You become desperate because you believe having someone in the role is better than a vacancy.

In the 6th blog of our series No Assembly Required Hiring, Tony discusses how to avoid making reactive hiring decisions and the 3 rules you must follow to improve your candidate selection.

gerald fishing

What are your expectations of your salespeople when it comes to prospecting activity and a healthy pipeline? If you were going to go fishing, what is one of the keys to catching more fish? Not into fishing, then let us talk photography. If you want to capture the perfect sunrise picture, what is a fundamental principle to improving your probability of success? Last question to help make my point. If you want to improve any skill you have, change any outcome that you are unhappy with, what must you do?

The answer to these questions can be summarized here:

  • You expect your salespeople to consistently prospect
  • You need to have your lure in the water
  • You need to snap hundreds of photos to get the ONE
  • If you want to get better at a skill, you must practice thousands of times

What does this have to do with improved candidate selection?

Trial the Highly-Predictive  Pre-Hire Sales Assessment

Rule #1 Always be prospecting

As in the movie Glengarry Glen Close, when Alex Baldwin tells his salespeople to always be closing, I’m telling you to always be prospecting. 100% of the time over the last 25 years, when I ask sales managers, sales executives, and presidents if their prospecting was more proactive or reactive, they say reactive.  That is a problem because you are now acting out of desperation. When you become desperate, you feel pressure to find someone to fill the chair because your mindset is that you cannot let that chair go empty. Someone in the chair is better than no one in the chair. Do not believe that lie.  

The problem is, when you are reactive, it can also mean that you are being held hostage by someone. Let us assume that the recent open chair is a result of a termination you had to make. Chances are it was a decision that you made months ago but could not pull the trigger sooner because that employee:

  • Had tenure
  • Managed a single large account
  • Had a significant book of business or portfolio
  • Wasn't costing you anything

I want to challenge you on this. If you budgeted to hire two but could only grow headcount by one, who would be gone tomorrow? Then why are you waiting? You're waiting because you don’t have a pipeline of potential salespeople.

Rule #2 Own lead generation

I am not going to suggest that you stop using recruiting or placement firms. What I am suggesting is to stop using them as the reason you are not seeing enough candidates.

What do you do when your salespeople blame their lack of sales on the competition, the economy, or the mindset of your company? I am hoping you ask them: “If you didn't use that as an excuse, what would you be doing differently?" You must have that same attitude about filling your candidate pipeline.

If you own it, then you will fix it. Also, you can't blame HR or the hiring managers. You hired them; they have a responsibility to make sure the job is getting done consistently both in activity for candidate lead generation and execution of your recruiting process. 

Rule #3 Inspect what you expect

If you expect salespeople to report on sales activity, pipeline opportunities, and client retention meetings, then you and the executive team must submit to inspection on candidate lead generation, and execution of the recruiting/hiring process.

  • If you have a team of 5 people assigned to get introductions, network within associations, talk to former/current employees or connect with product partners, you need to inspect monthly their activity compared to the goal.
  • If your hiring procedures identify that assessing is the first step in the recruiting process, then you need to inspect that it's being done. No one should go rogue on this just because it is a candidate they know, and or the local president knows all the players in their market.
  • If you use a scoring process that objectively evaluates candidates every step of the way, then everyone that touches the process must follow and use the same process.

Failure to have a documented hiring process like the one we use, the Sales Talent and Acquisition Routine, will lead to inconsistent steps and processes. That will eventually result in the variability of performance from your new hires.

Click Here for Additional Hiring Tools!

Topics: Prospecting, sales talent acquisition, hire better salespeople, recruiting sales talent

80/20 Prospecting Time

Posted by Jack Kasel on Thu, Jun 13, 2019

The most successful salespeople are always challenging and adapting their personal sales process to be more effective, but they don’t challenge the notion of the importance of making prospecting their A priority every week. 

They know that no matter how successful they are, if they don’t continue to add new relationships, that eventually, their business will decline. 

alarm-clock-calendar-close-up-908298

As we think about all of the things as sales professionals we're supposed to do, it really comes down to three things to get paid: 

  • Find Opportunities
  • Qualify them
  • Get a decision . . . We love Yes’, but No’s are OKit’s all the stuff in the middle that bothers us.

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I want to focus on the first thing we get paid to do and that's to find opportunities.  There are many ways we can find opportunities; cold calls, drop in’s, direct marketing, social selling (LinkedIn and Twitter), getting introductions, etc. 

Although there are many ways we can prospect, some provide a higher return on the biggest investment we can make, and that’s our time.  In a previous blog, I tried to debunk the “time management” problem.  It isn’t a time management problem, it’s a priority management problem

As we focus on prospecting, the least return on our investment is cold calling.  For all the time you invest in cold calling, the actual return (speaking to a decision maker) is extremely low.  We know it’s a necessary evil, but not a permanent problem.  On the other hand, it is a proven fact, the highest return on our prospecting timeis in getting introductions.  

So here is what I would like you to consider:

  1. Time blocking
    • Do you have time set aside each week to prospect? If you don’t, you would be well-served to block time to prospect
  2. Allocate your time within the time block you’ve scheduled
    • If you have allocated an hour a day, my recommendation would be:
      • If you have allocated 15 minutes to cold call, you should be able to get 15 calls in within that time. If you call 15, you will probably speak with two people.  How long does it take to NOT talk to 13 people?  You can make a lot of calls in 15 minutes if you are focused.
      • 15 minutes for social selling to find introductions—maybe not sell, but find introduction opportunities.
        • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Blogging—whichever you are allowed to do within your work rules, do it on a regular basis.
      • 30 minutes on getting introductions
        • Calling people and saying “I’m looking to expand my base of contacts” Or “I’m looking to meet great people such as yourself, when can we get together to determine if we can help each other?”
        • Identify your 15 best clients and make it a goal to get three introductions from each of them. How much success would you have with 45 new names to call?

This is just a rough outline on what you can do but the big takeaways are this:

  1. Prioritize prospecting—make it a significant part of your week.
  2. Prioritize how you are prospecting—get introductions—it will provide the highest return on your time invested.

Someone needs what you do, so go find them and start prospecting today to find more of them!

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Topics: Prospecting, introductions, Cold Calling, selling and social media, time blocking, 80/20 Principle

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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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