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.

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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 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

Solution vs Budget: The Great Dilemma

Posted by Jack Kasel on Thu, Feb 11, 2021

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.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: qualifying prospects, Selling Success, asking questions, Qualifying skills, increase sales

The Terrible Twos: Getting Your Prospect's Attention

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Tue, Feb 02, 2021

The pandemic has caused fewer face to face meetings, and many salespeople have yet to make the pivot (successfully) to virtual relationship building. 

In this article, we cover the impact and importance of speaking your prospect's "love language" when setting a meeting and engaging them further in conversation.

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According to the Mayo Clinic, the terrible twos has long been used to describe the changes that parents often observe in 2-year-old children. Generally, this perception comes as parents observe rapid shifts in their child’s mood and behaviors.

This brings me to the subject of prospects… and how they react to poorly prepared salespeople who fail to “tailor their message for resonance.” By that, I mean the salesperson fails to speak their prospect’s love language. And what exactly is the prospect’s love language? That means two things:

  1. The problems or challenges that the prospect is dealing with
  2. Future growth opportunities that the prospect may see on the horizon

If you talk about anything other than those two things, congratulations… you are guilty of wasting the prospect’s time (and yours).

As a national sales training and sales coaching firm, Anthony Cole Training Group has a front-row seat to the financial services industry and the problems they are facing in the first quarter of 2021. And we know there are two main concerns:

  1. The pandemic has caused fewer face to face meetings, and many salespeople have yet to make the pivot (successfully) to virtual relationship building. They are unable to deal with the resistance that prospects have to meeting face to face. Fewer prospect meetings have greatly reduced opportunities entering the early stages of the pipeline.
  2. And because of that, if the salesperson does get a deal cooking, they are all too willing to cave on rate or price to simply push the deal across the finish line. And that is eroding margin.

So, guess what? We lead with those two things… and nothing else. 

I may have been born yesterday, but I stayed up all night studying, and I figured out we would have more conversations with prospects if we led with things that prospects wanted to talk about.

So maybe the twos are not so terrible after all. But then again, you don’t have to change if you don’t want to change. But I would encourage you to be ready for the time-out chair the prospect will ask you to sit in while they spend time with another salesperson who is speaking their love language.

Go sell like a champion today!

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: qualifying prospects, sales meetings, sales prospecting

Fishing for Sales Prospects

Posted by Alex Cole-Murphy on Mon, Jul 01, 2019

Sales and marketing go hand-in-hand.  Without leads, salespeople will have a hard time selling.  Without marketing, salespeople will have a difficult time sharing their product and features with prospective clients.  

But how much is too much?  In this article, we discuss the difference between giving salespeople every lead and teaching them how to cultivate their leads to strengthen their pipelines and their careers as a whole.  

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I’m sure a majority of people have heard the Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

This, of course, means it’s more worthwhile to teach someone to do something (for themselves) than to do it for them (on an ongoing basis).

Well, I’ve created a new proverb. A sales proverb, if you will:

“Give a salesperson a prospect, and you strengthen their pipeline for a day. Teach a salesperson to prospect, and you strengthen their pipeline for their career.”

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

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Several of the companies we partner with supply their new, or tenured, salespeople with leads consistently. In theory, this sounds great but it can cause problems in the long term. If you are feeding leads to your salespeople on a regular basis, we encourage you to continue to do so.

However, your salespeople can’t, and shouldn’t, rely on them as their main resource for potential business. They should be capable of replicating the process and generating their own opportunities. If they produce solely off of inbound marketing leads, the salesperson will just survive, and not thrive within your organization. If they don’t know how to effectively create, cultivate and generate leads, they will only do what is required of them to sell and close the leads they are given.  They won’t try to uncover new opportunities and in the end, you, the sales manager, and the salesperson, will be disappointed with their performance.

And it’s not just a matter of teaching them how to prospect, but how to prospect effectively. Anyone can go out and get a list of names but how they contact those names, what they say, what questions they ask all play a role in effectively “fishing” for leads.

So how can you help your salespeople?

Start by setting a new lead expectation. Making it mandatory to produce fresh opportunities on a weekly basis will force your salespeople to go out and make the dials. Next, identify your “Zebra” or ideal prospect persona. For a better understanding of the concept and best practices on identifying “Zebras” watch this short Sales Guy Unplugged video. Don’t let your salespeople call on anyone other than those that fit the personas identified.

After, research the best ways to reach your ideal prospect. Is it via email or phone call? Is LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter their preferred social media platform? Knowing how and where to reach your target persona will positively impact your salespeople’s’ ability to hunt, qualify and discover potential new business.

A salesperson's job, although difficult to do, is not difficult to understand. There are 3 major components:

  1. Go out in the marketplace and uncover opportunities,
  2. Qualify those opportunities and close for the business.
  3. Don’t let your salespeople get by on just your internal leads  fishing for prospects is 33% of their job.

Need more help? Download our free E-Book “Why is Qualifying a Prospect so #%&@ Hard”. This book is packed with practical information that you can put into practice today to immediately increase your sales.

Looking for more sales tidbits, techniques, and video content?  Subscribe to our weekly Sales Brew email below!

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Topics: qualifying prospects, sales prospecting, contacting prospects, reaching prospects, prospect engagement, prospect outreach

Declare Independence From Your Own Obstacles

Posted by Walt Gerano on Fri, Jun 21, 2019

As we approach the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, our own Walt Gerano shares his thoughts regarding the obstacles holding us back from experiencing the sales success we desire.

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243 years ago, 13 colonies declared themselves as newly independent sovereign states and no longer a part of the British Empire. Instead, they formed a new nation—the United States of America.

Have you declared your independence from the things holding you back from experiencing the success you desire?

When you look at your business today, you might agree that you need to prospect more consistently, qualify better and know when to move on from a prospect. But you still have opportunities in your pipeline that are stuck. The question is why and what are you going to do about that?

Why don’t you prospect more consistently

  • You don’t have enough people to call on.
    • When was the last time you asked for an introduction or spent meaningful time on LinkedIn?
  • You don’t have the time.   
    • What activity is more important to the growth and success of your sales practice than prospecting? Schedule prospecting time first.
  • You are fearful of rejection. 
    • Rejection is nothing compared to failure.

What about qualifying?

  • Do you prepare with a pre-call plan for every call to make sure you know how you will get the answer to the question; “why am I here?” (First question you should ask on a call)
  • Are you ready for the curve balls? Those are the annoying questions that you wish they didn’t ask.
  • How and when will you deal with the incumbent?

Why are “opportunities” stuck in the pipeline?

  • Does the prospect really have enough PAIN to move forward and make a change?
  • Do they have the money to fix the problem?  Did you even ask about it?
  • Are you meeting with all of the decision makers prior to presenting your solution?
  • Have you dealt with the “return of the incumbent?”

There is nothing here that you don’t already know. It’s the middle of the year so take a few minutes and evaluate where you are and what you will do about it.

Claiming your independence requires nothing compared to what was sacrificed all those years ago. Let’s remember this week what was at stake and what an incredible gift their fight and sacrifice is to this day. God Bless America.

Topics: qualifying prospects, freedom, sales prospecting, getting sales decisions

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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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