ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

Solution vs. Budget

Posted by Jack Kasel on Wed, Feb 27, 2019

Typically, when a salesperson doesn't win an account it's due to a few different factors; the prospect didn't have a compelling reason to make a change, the salesperson didn't do enough to uncover their capacity to invest, or the incumbent wasn't properly eliminated from the running.

In this article, we discuss the 3 Rules every successful salesperson must follow in order to eliminate stalls and objections during the sales process.

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There is an age-old debate about which came first, the chicken or the egg. While that debate may never be solved, there is one “which comes first” situation that shouldn’t be up for debate and that is “see the solution first or know the budget first?” 

In my work with helping client’s develop their sales talent, I know there are two topics that get avoided on a regular basis, and both are to the detriment of the sales person. Those two “taboo topics” are discussing the incumbent and uncovering the budget. I will address the incumbent discussion in a later blog.

When I refer to the budget, I am referring to it in three categories commonly known as ‘TMR’—Time, Money, and Resources. What are they willing to commit, in the context of time, money and/or resources to make their problem go away? It is my experience that the stronger sales professionals don’t shy away from that discussion. They are successful because they follow these rules.

Rule 1#

Have the conversation. The 800 lbs. budget gorilla is in the room so talk about it. Don’t make it part of your opening conversation, but don’t ignore it either. If the need is big enough, and your solutions fixes it, most of the time, they will find the money.

Rule #2

Provide context. Regardless of the investment your prospect needs to make to fix their problem, it needs to be framed in the context of their pain and your ability to eliminate it. If the pain is minimal, then your solution won’t seem that great. We’ve had prospects tell us their problem is a “two-comma problem” meaning their cost of turnover was over $1 million dollars. That’s context.  Know their cost before you proceed

Rule #3

Don’t show your solution until you know the budget. It’s really that simple. If you have ever provided a solution to a prospect only to hear them say “that’s more than we intended to spend”, then you have an issue discussing the budget. Does it make sense to know their appetite for change, including budget, before you provide your solution? Here is where the strong sales professional is different. If the prospect doesn’t want to discuss budget, they know it can be for one of two reasons. They haven’t uncovered enough pain or the prospect simply wants to use you as a pencil sharpener for the competition. You don’t get paid to be a pencil sharpener so don’t become one.

In closing don’t be afraid of the conversation. In the history of sales, no one died from discussing budget. I doubt you will be the first.

Topics: how to get a commitment to buy, consultative selling, providing value to customers, qualified leads, sales acceleration, sell faster, overcoming rejection

Asking “Is It Over?” Can Lead to Greater Sales Success

Posted by Alex Cole on Wed, Feb 06, 2019

Part of being a highly successful and effective salesperson is having the ability to walk away from an opportunity. After numerous attempts to contact a prospect and close a deal, there will be a time when you as a professional must determine when and how to call it quits.

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As the quote says, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

There is always something to be learned when it comes to a sale we have lost. One of the most distinguishing traits of successful salespeople is that they always learn from the mistakes they make in selling. And, generally speaking, they will not make the same mistake twice.

One of the mistakes that I observe salespeople making is they fail to ask what I have termed, “The Animal House” questions. Do you remember the 1978 movie, Animal House? Of course, you do- it’s a cinematic classic. Think of the scene near the end of the movie when the Delta fraternity members are being kicked out of school when Bluto says, “Great… 7 years of college down the drain. Over?!? Did you say it’s over?!?!  Nothing is over until we decide it is. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

Now, while Bluto was just a little off in his recall of history, he DOES give us an excellent reminder that there are times when we need to simply ask our prospect, “Hey, is it over? Are we done here?”

Perhaps they’ve promised you some information and you still don’t have it. Perhaps they’ve promised to set up a meeting but it still hasn’t been set. Or maybe they’ve promised to make a decision and now we’re two weeks past that deadline and they’ve gone radio silent. Do yourself a favor- sell like Bluto. Muster up the courage to ask the Animal House questions, “Is it over? Are we done here?”

Find out, and if you are done, maintain control of your sales process and move on. Don’t let the rejection get in your way of pressing forward, learning from your mistakes and hunting for real qualified prospects.

Topics: sales skill, qualified leads, how to prospect, sales advice, sales acceleration, think it overs, salespeople, overcoming rejection

Eliminating Prospects Who DON'T Fit Your Business

Posted by Jack Kasel on Mon, Jul 16, 2018

You may recall hearing in one of our videos or reading in one of our blogs the importance of identifying your zebra to build your business. In the unlikely event you did not, the purpose of identifying your zebra is to bring focus and clarity to your prospecting efforts so you don’t end up chasing or pursuing opportunities that aren’t the best use of your most asset . . . your time.

Of equal importance is to know, and clearly articulate, what isn’t a Zebra for you. If you know that as well, it helps to bring clarity and specificity to your network and prospecting efforts. I can think of one instance in my 3.5 years of selling with Anthony Cole Training when I had success working with an account that wasn’t a zebra for me. Here are some reasons why knowing what isn’t a zebra is so important:

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It Eliminates Ambiguity

  • If you aren’t specific it’s hard to get introductions. When I’m trying to make introductions for people and they are vague about what they are looking for, it makes it difficult for me to think of someone to make the introduction.

It Reduces Frustration with Your Centers of Influence

  • If you aren’t crystal clear on what you are looking for and what you are NOT looking for, your COI’s might make an introduction for you, only to find out you can’t help the person they introduced. When working with my introduction partners, I say “This is what type of business I’m looking for”. “Of equal importance, I really can’t help these types of businesses . . . and here’s why.
  • That brings clarity to the conversation.

It Reduces Your Opportunity Cost

  • Your opportunity cost is simply this . . . If you called on Company ABC, that means you AREN’T work on Company XYZ. Your opportunity cost is what you aren’t working on that might be more viable for you and your organization.

So, in closing if you know what you don’t want and the reason why, it could reduce the quantity of opportunities in your pipeline, but the quality should increase dramatically.

Watch our Sales Guy Unplugged video on "Calling Quality Over Quantity" to help further understand the concept and importance of identifying prospect zebras. Also, visit our website for additional tips, tricks and tools. 

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Topics: qualifying prospecting, qualified leads

Do You Have Sales Growth Problems?  Solution #3: Do Something with Your Pipeline

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Jan 05, 2018

Of course you have sales problems. If it’s not a production problem, it’s a productivity problem. If it’s not a productivity problem, it’s a servicing problem. If It’s not a service problem, it’s a sales/sales support turnover problem. In the words of Rosanne Rosannadana,“It’s  Always Something”

Most companies, if not all companies have some method for keeping and tracking sales pipeline activity and progress. We use Hubspot’s CRM because it ties very well with our inbound lead efforts, the pricing is extraordinary, the reporting is as good as anything on the market and getting up to speed is fast and easy. But putting data in the CRM and keeping an eye on it is not enough. You have to gain business intelligence and then act on what you know.

Conduct an Emergency Pipeline Anaylsis (EPA) for a simple but effective way to determine what stays in the pipeline and what goes to the pipedream (delete folder). EPA originator, Dave Kurlan, wrote a blog that goes into detail about the 16,000+ proposals presented to unqualified buyers by B2B salespeople every day. This data comes from the 1,000s of Sale Evaluations and Improvement Analysis (SEIA) done yearly by our firm and others around the world. In the SEIA we analyze the state of the current pipeline. Figure 1 identifies the quality of the pipeline assessed for a large sales organization. When assessing for closable opportunities the green area at the bottom should be much larger than the blue area at the top if the opportunities are truly qualified. If your closable opportunities are not really qualified you end up with a similar pipeline configuration to the one you see in the chart.

inverted pipelien.jpgFigure 1

The process to get this information is simple but effective: Create a number of qualifying questions that are based on the steps in your qualification checklist. Those questions may include but are not limited to:

  • Is there severe mental anguish to make a purchase/change and is it personal?
  • Did I attach value or monetize the problem or failure to leverage the opportunity?
  • Did I eliminate the incumbent?
  • Did I ask, “Is this a have to fix or want to fix problem” and did the prospect say ‘have to fix’?
  • Did they agree to invest the appropriate amount of time, money and resources?
  • Due I have a date of execution, purchase, contract?
  • I have met with the decision makers (not I will be meeting with decision makers at time of presentation) and they have agreed to make a decision when I finish my presentation.
  • I rehearsed the prospect on what they will do when the incumbent returns to beg for the business, fix the problems and match our fees, structure, contract.

Answering/scoring these questions simply requires a 1 or a 0. You add up the scores vertically for the opportunities in your pipeline and then make a decision to either;

  1. Call your prospect and deal with the open items
  2. Reconcile that you have asked these questions and didn’t get the right answers and therefore make the ‘go, no-go’ decision to present.

There is a world of difference between managing the pipeline and looking at the pipeline and reporting the results. Managing is an active process. As a manager you must constantly and consistently evaluate the opportunities in the pipeline for:

  • Quality – are they true opportunities
  • Quantity – the number and value volume must match each individuals success formula
  • Movement – based on your buyers’ buying cycle you should be able to predict movement from one step in the process to the next
  • Measure the conversion ratios from one step to the next to evaluate effectiveness of the sales person’s execution of the process
  • Evaluate for credibility and validity
    • Credibility – did the projected close volume actually close
    • Validity – did the accounts in the pipeline actually close and account for the volume forecast and actual sales

This will take time but it’s important for you and your salespeople to do because it will ultimately result in closing more business, more quickly at higher margins.

CALL TO ACTION

Set up a 1-on-1 coaching call with one of our Sales Development Experts to discuss how to effectively build and manage a credible and valid pipeline report, regardless of the CRM you are using.

EMAIL: traci@anthonycoletraining.com

Subject line: 1-on-1 coaching call

Topics: Pipeline management, coaching salespeople, qualified leads

Hitting Your Sales Goals – 3 Challenges to Overcome

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Sep 06, 2017

In the last 30 days, I’ve talked to more than a dozen company executives, sales people and sales managers.  I’ve asked them “What is the #1 constrictor to hitting your sales goals?”  The answer every time was: getting more qualified leads.  I know this is not a large sampling and I would be concerned about the validity of this finding if only 25% of them said that getting more qualified leads was the main problem. But that isn’t the case.  The consistency of answer in this survey indicates a trend to focus on.

There is further validation of the current finding:

During training discussions over the course of more than 20 years, I’ve asked sales executives, presidents and sales teams to complete the following statement:  I (we) would sell more, be more productive, more effective if only I (we) …  The #1 most common answer consistently over the years has been “If I had more / better prospects to call on.”

In order to address the problem of gettin more qualified leads, sales leaders and salespeople need to first understand these three challenges:

  1. Will to Sell
  2. Sales DNA
  3. Sales Skills

Let me use an example to explain.  We are currently working with a financial institution that is hiring a new private banker in an expanded market.  Using the pre-hire assessment from our partner Objective Management Group, we created a ‘tailored fit model’ based on the performance of the top and bottom current private bankers and then assessed the 5 candidates they were still considering.

Take a look at these findings:

Figure 1 – How well did the candidates match the clients’ work history criteria for success?  The client created a profile that indicated that the non-negotiable sale success criteria where: 1) must be competition resistant (successfully sold in a competitive environment), 2) Successfully sold value rather than price, 3) Sold to executives, 4) Has successfully hunted and sold new business (this addresses challenge #3 sales skills – specifically skills for hunting/ prospecting), 5) Is an entrepreneurial seller.  As you can see all the candidates being considered marginally met the client criteria for success with 3 of the 5 having an 80% match.

But when we look at the other findings, we find the 3 challenges most common to organizations that are trying to consistently hit / exceed their sales goals.

Figure #2 -When we look at Challenge #1 – ‘Will to Sell’ we find the following:

Only 1 candidate meets all the criteria for Will To Sell. The question becomes:  How important is the will to sell when attempting to overcome the challenges of finding qualified prospects to talk to? If 1/3 of your current team lacks the will to sell what is the likelihood  - despite all the ‘prospecting’ training you provide them – that they will actually execute?  Also note that one of the candidates with strong desire, commitment and outlook will still be prone to making excuses for not prospecting, asking for introductions and networking. (Desire for Sales Success)

Figure #3 – Sales DNA (Sales DNA Audio) findings for the 5 candidates looked like this:

This post won’t go into the definitions of all the criteria you see here but understand that green is good and red is not so good.  If you look to the right of the graph and look at the Total Sales DNA the scores in green and red told our client what they needed to know.  If everything else is equal in the equation then your people with strong sales DNA are more likely to do the activity of prospecting and will be more successful.

*Candidate #2 meets the criteria of the client, has a very strong will to sell and has the highest sales DNA score.  How many of the people on your sales team measure up to this ‘elite’ candidate?

The world of selling is certainly different today than it was just 5 years ago.  Your prospects in the market place have more ways to find more information about you, your products and services. They have more ways to compare you against your competition and all of this happens without you or your sales people even making contact.  (See ZMOT – Google Research – Zero Moment of Truth).

To meet the challenges of today, you need a sales team with the right stuff.

 Find Out More about our Fall Sales Workshops

Topics: Prospecting, sales goals, sales prospects, qualified leads, sales leads, generating leads

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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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