ACTG Sales Management Blog

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Stop Whining and Start Winning Deals in Regulation

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, Jan 25, 2022

One of the biggest challenges in sales is outplaying your competition, especially if that competition currently has the business.

When you are playing against the incumbent relationship make sure you ask the following question: “Who wins a tie?”

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If you are a football fan, you will clearly know what I’m talking about when I mention the Overtime Rule in the NFL. What the NFL’s Overtime Rule boils down to is:

  • If the game ends in a tie after regulation time, then an overtime period will be played.
  • The official flips a coin, and whoever wins the toss decides if they want to be on offense or defense.
  • If the team that has the first possession in overtime scores a touchdown the game is over, the scoring team wins.

This is what happened in the Chiefs vs Bills Divisional Playoff game Sunday, and the Bills lost. This is also what happened in the Chiefs vs Patriots AFC Championship game three years ago, and the Chiefs lost.

What does this have to do with selling and losing to the competition? Everything.

It almost never fails. Of the over 2 million salespeople tested by the Objective Management Group Sales Force Evaluation, 90% of the top 7% of all salespeople take responsibility for their outcomes. They don’t play the blame game. When you ask them why they didn’t get a sale, close an opportunity, or hit their quota, their answer will start with “I”.

Based on the research we’ve done over the last 25 years using the OMG tool, we know that at least 66% of the non-elite salespeople (93% of all salespeople evaluated) blame either the competition, the economy, or their company for lack of results or failure to close an opportunity.

It sounds something like this when a deal doesn’t close: “What happened?” “The incumbent came in and matched our price and kept the deal.”

Translation – I lost the toss of the coin, the other team got the last look, and they got the deal across the goal line and won.

What happens when we are in competition and it’s our own client that is shopping the market: “What happened? They looked at a competitor, told me what they were offering, we sharpened our pencil a little, and got the deal.”

Translation – I won the coin toss, saw what the competitor was doing, altered our original proposal, and won the deal.

When we win the toss, we don’t complain about a prospect shopping and picking us. When we don’t win the toss and don’t win the deal, we complain that the prospect wasn’t honest with us, used us to get a better deal, or the competition simply won on price.

You can’t have it both ways. I assure you that if the Buffalo Bills had won the toss and won the game no one in Buffalo would be complaining about the Overtime Rule.

The best way to deal with the overtime coin toss is to avoid getting there. When you are in competition against the incumbent make sure you ask 100% of the time the following question: “Who wins a tie?”

The answer will help you determine if you should risk a loss by going into overtime against an incumbent relationship that has already won the toss.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Qualifying skills, sales challenges, biggest challenges in sales

Sales Success: Declaring Independence from Your Personal Obstacles

Posted by Walt Gerano on Thu, Jul 01, 2021

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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245 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 curveballs? 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.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Qualifying skills, How to Increase Sales, sales commitment, increase sales

4 Questions to Ask Your Prospects and Gain Clarity

Posted by Jack Kasel on Thu, Jun 17, 2021

If we don’t fully understand the reason for a prospect's statement, the purpose of their question, or dig deeper to find the real problem, we will waste time and miss opportunities.

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In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey has a quote… “Seek first to understand. Then to be understood.”  I think that statement is especially true for sales professionals.

When we coach our clients, we try to get them to understand and remember these three tips when in conversation with their prospects and clients:

  1. The statement they make isn’t the actual statement.
  2. The question they ask isn’t the true question.
  3. The problem they have isn’t the actual problem.

So, as your prospects talk about their main concerns, your job is to determine the following: Is this a symptom or a problem?  Problems get solved, symptoms are tolerated.  I was working with a prospect and he kept saying he needed to fix his cash flow problem.  The more we talked, the more it became clear that cash flow wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was he missed out on an opportunity to purchase one of his competitors.  The symptom was cash flow, the problem was missing opportunities to acquire market share.  We focused on fixing his true problem.

One of the ways, and really the only way, to bring clarity to the conversation is by asking or saying the following when we hear prospects make statements or ask questions:

  • Tell me more about that . . .
  • What happens if that problem isn’t fixed?
  • When you say (insert statement here), I’m not sure I know what you mean.
  • Many people ask me that question for a variety of reasons; I would like to hear yours.

We also need to listen to emotionally charged words such as . . .

  • Need to fix…
  • I’m going to…
  • We simply can’t tolerate…
  • Others include: worried, upset, mad, frustrated

These are emotionally driven words and emotion drives sales.  Facts and figures justify sales, but emotion drives it.  If we don’t fully understand the reason for the statement, the purpose of the question, or dig deeper to find the real problem, we will waste time and miss opportunities. 

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Questions for Prospects, closing more sales, Qualifying skills, increase sales

The Art of Silence in Sales

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Apr 01, 2021

Most salespeople are afraid of silence because they perceive it to be awkward or a sign that the prospect has mentally checked out. But that's simply not the case! It is critical that you let silence do some of the heavy lifting during your prospecting conversations.

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Ah, the unmistakable sound of silence. Wait a minute…does silence make a sound? If you are a professional salesperson, you would say it absolutely does. Susan Scott, the author of the wonderful book, “Fierce Conversations”, offers up some great advice when she suggests, "To make your conversations more impactful, allow the silence to do the heavy lifting."

I think what Susan could have in mind are the hundreds of thousands of salespeople who treat silence like it is a bad virus; they instantly run away from it. But, what if silence was good within the context of having a powerful conversation? What if silence took you to a deeper level in a conversation with a prospect?

Most salespeople are afraid of silence because they perceive it to be a) awkward or b) a sign that the prospect has checked out on them. But, remember that you can speak much faster than people can listen, so sometimes they just need to be given time to allow their internal processor to catch up.

Here’s one more thing I have observed with salespeople- they ask a great question, the prospect goes radio silent, and then the salesperson ruins the moment by collapsing like a poorly dug prison tunnel.

Let the silence do the heavy lifting.

I know it will be a strange feeling at first, but sometimes strange is actually a good thing. Give your prospect some space to process the questions you ask them.

Now, go do some heavy lifting…actually, let the silence do the heavy lifting for you…and sell like a champion today.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Meaningful Sales Conversations, prospecting skills, Qualifying leads, Qualifying skills, sales prospecting

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

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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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