ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

7 Rules of the (Prospecting) Road

Posted by Walt Gerano on Wed, Apr 10, 2019

There are a certain number of rules that must be followed when it comes to prospecting in sales. 

These include, but are not limited to, making the commitment to get out of the cold calling business, identifying who you will ask for introductions and referrals each week, ensuring exactly how you will evaluate your success, and creating a pre-call plan for every single call and/or face-to-face meeting.

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Some people say that rules were made to be broken. You might want to think twice about breaking some of these rules for prospecting.

The most successful salespeople I know are always challenging the ideas and methods of those that have succeeded before them, 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. 

Here are some rules to help you prospect and prosper:

  1. Play in your sandbox. Make sure you have a profile of who you need to be in front of. Call on the people and businesses where you have expertise, and can leverage that, along with your experience.
  1. If you are dependent on making cold calls, make the commitment to get out of the cold calling business. You will schedule appointments and make sales cold calling but the acquisition cost per sale is much higher than with referrals and introductions. Not to mention the sales process is generally longer.
  1. Look at your schedule each week and identify who you will ask for introductions and referrals. It could be face to face meetings, networking events or a meeting with a center of influence. Have a process for asking that makes it easy for people to help you. Bring your list of top 10 prospects to every meeting and ask them who they know on the list that would take a call from you? Better yet, make use of LinkedIn and look through their connections for people and businesses that look like your target prospect.
  1. How will you evaluate your success? Make sure to set objectives whether it is with a success formula or a commitment to specific behaviors and then TRACK IT!
  1. Have a telephone approach that when calling for appointments helps you sound like someone they want to speak with. What is your unique selling approach? What problems do you fix and why do people meet with you? It must be compelling.
  1. Do a pre-call plan for every call, on the phone or face to face, to help you stay on track. Know what questions you will ask, what questions you need answered and the tough questions they will ask along with how you will respond.
  1. Don’t quit, be persistent! Rejection is part of the process. It’s not falling down it’s staying down that defeats us all.

Topics: introductions, Cold Calling, Referrals, persistence, success formula, pre call sessions, effective sales process, hunting for sales prospects, ideal prospect persona, sales acceleration, salespeople, sales opportunity

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

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

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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

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

It's the Little Things in Selling

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Wed, Jan 16, 2019

people-2588594_1920Selling is a 'slight edge business' that is driven by one more phone call, one more prospecting effort, one more cold email outreach, one more social media push, and one more effort to build a new relationship and land a new client.

In this article, we cover the basic principles of control in sales and how the little things are actually the big things when it comes to selling effectively and separating yourself from the competition.


One of the most frequently asked questions we receive from salespeople is, What is the secret sauce to sales success? or, Can you just give me the magic?  I need to sell more business.  Actually, there is a secret sauce, and if you will permit me to enter your kitchen, I am going to serve it up to you.

There is no one thing that is a big thing in selling.  In our organization, we refer to selling as a “slight edge business.”  By that we mean that the line that separates high performers from mediocre performers is usually a very small difference.  Think in terms of maybe just one or two more conversations a week, or one or two more presentations a month.

The Olympics are a perfect example of this truth.  Think of almost any race, whether that be swimming, track and field or skiing.  Do you know what separates the athlete who wins the gold medal from the athlete who finishes just outside the bronze medal?  The answer is fractional seconds, sometimes even as little as tenths of a second.

There is very little you can control in selling.  You can’t make prospects take your call.  You can’t make prospects agree to meet with you.  You can’t make them move forward in your sales process and you certainly can’t make them buy from you.  There are only 3 things you are in control of:

  1. Your effort on a daily basis
  2. Your attitude on a daily basis
  3. Your investment in becoming a better or smarter version of yourself (self-improvement)

Selling is not going to suddenly become easier.  Leads are not likely to become more plentiful. So, the question that is worth asking is this:  What are you doing to shave fractional seconds off your sales time in the 2019 race you are running?  What are the little things that when done week in and week out will amount to big things in terms of your 2019 production?  Maybe it is the one more conversation you need to have each day with a prospect.  Maybe it is the one book you will read or the one new connection you will add to your network that will make all the difference.

Sometimes little things are so small you won’t even notice them when you look back at your sales success.  But that doesn’t mean that it is not a big thing to worry about the little things.

Topics: sales competition, sales growth and inspiration, things to do for sales success, how to improve sales, sales advice, sales acceleration, salespeople

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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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