ACTG Sales Management Blog

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How to Create & Build Relationships Virtually

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Sep 23, 2020

Virtual relationships aren’t new and neither are virtual business relationships. What is new are the expectations and the tools. Instead of in-person meetings, we are now expected to meet via Zoom, GoToMeeting, Facebook Live. Technology is consistently providing us with more and better ways to connect. We must now:

  1. Become comfortable with virtual-relationship platforms (social networking),
  2. Transition from traditional to virtual relationship-building habits and platforms,
  3. Learn and master the art and science of virtual relationship prospecting, creation and development.
  4. Have a good grasp of our current strengths and weaknesses in relationship-building so we can better understand what we need to improve upon in virtual relationship-building.
  5. Understand that the advent of pandemic(s) may greatly alter the willingness of prospects to meet person-to-person, thus changing the landscape of prospecting and selling forever.

“The web has one big drawback: It’s harder to connect on a human level with people when they exist in two dimensions on your computer screen or mobile device. You need to work extra hard to make sure you’re interacting in a way that allows you to build genuine, meaningful relationships.”

“People want to work with colleagues they know, like and trust. When building professional relationships with people online, consider the intersection of these three qualities: transparency, likability and credibility. Transparency lets people get to know you, while likability reflects their interest in you and credibility builds trust.” William Arruda Senior Contributor Forbes 

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This shift in the way we conduct business may have changed permanently and we must change with it. We need to understand and adapt to this cataclysmic shift so that we may be successful in this volatile new environment.

Here are the key concepts, practices and skills that should be considered and employed as you move forward growing your sales.

Key Concepts

  1. Prepare yourself for the following:
    1. It will be easier for people to ignore you. It will take longer to connect.
    2. “Don’t look, act or sound like every other salesperson.”
    3. Develop a tenacious Will to Sell (watch video or click link) to be successful.
    4. Overcome any negative beliefs you have about virtual relationships: e.g. “I can’t sell virtually”.
    5. Whatever challenges you have in the normal course of selling, be prepared for those challenges to be magnified.
  1. Best Practices – you must have a set of best practices.
    1. Have a checklist for each meeting:
    2. Do a rehearsal prior to the meeting. Have any presentation pre-loaded and ready to show.
    3. Check that lighting, audio and video are all in good working condition.
    4. In advance, share your agenda.
    5. Be yourself- be vulnerable, transparent. Don’t dominate the conversation to fill space. Ask questions. Listen intently.
    6. Use virtual backgrounds if your room is a garage.
    7. Dress appropriately for the meeting.
    8. Be memorable and unusual in a good way
    9. Know what your competition is doing virtually. While you don’t necessarily have to compete, you should understand how your virtual room will be evaluated.
    10. Finish each meeting with a clear next step.
  1. Common issues:
    1. Camera Angle and Distance- Spend time to view how others will see you. Eliminate distractions and “nose shots”.
    2. Fumbling to find and load a source or presentation.
    3. Finding a good tempo; one that will hold audience attention.
  1. Any weakness you have in personal meetings will be magnified on camera. Your desire, commitment and outlook must be strong. Your SALES DNA must support building and selling relationships in a virtual model. (Score your Sales DNA)
  2. Hone your sales process and approach. Because so much at the beginning of the sales cycle/buying cycle lays the groundwork for the proceeding steps, gaining trust and confidence while operating virtually might take longer. For example- You might have to do a better job with Proof of Concept. Or Qualifying might require different questions. Remember to Qualify for Budget and Decision-Making.

Our Sales Growth Coach can help you leverage virtual tools!

Topics: closing more sales, sales priorities, sales productivity, sales advice, sales effectiveness training, virtual selling

7 Things Companies Do to Thrive Anywhere, Anytime

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, Aug 04, 2020

Regardless of the current state of business, it is easy to get caught up in managing day-to-day tasks. It's also easy to lose focus on the end goal and continue to take the necessary steps to move your business forward.  

If you and your organization need to thrive and not just survive, these 7 things can and will help!

JeffBezos-2This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

With so much noise about the current environment, I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped reading now, but don’t! This is not the same old message about what to do in the middle of a crisis. This is information and direction for any organization any time they need to thrive.

Things companies do to thrive anywhere, anytime.

  1. To borrow from Jim Collins's book, Built to Last, great companies lean heavily on their core ideology. This emphasis is what makes companies visionary. Re-state your core ideology at every opportunity. Take this moment to become the visionary in your segment or industry. Make sure you have people that drink the ideology Kool-aid.
  2. Increase the intensity around achieving objectives. This doesn’t mean don’t have empathy for those that suffer either financially, medically, or socially. It does mean that the core of your organization will see you and your people through difficult times, but only if you remind them of the objectives, do not allow them to wallow in a pity party, and support them so that they can succeed.
  3. Focus on cash in the door. That means sales. Yes, sales will be tougher to get, and maybe fewer and farther between, but that just means you need to be more diligent about sales activities upfront. Raise the standards for activity, increase the frequency of huddles, use more data to help coach, and support and hold salespeople accountable.
  4. Hire great talent. Not just occasionally but all the time even when you don’t have the money or don’t have an open spot. What we know from our work with Objective Management Group is that of the 2M salespeople assessed, only 7% of them are at the "elite" level (Sales Quotient over 139). Another 18% score as "strong" (Sales Quotient between 130-1390). If the axiom is true – nothing happens until something is sold – then find great salespeople and hire them anytime, at any price. (Smartsize your organization NOW!)
  5. Improve the knowledge, behaviors, and skills of your people. There is a commitment to invest time, money, and resources to the development of the talent you hire. Recognize that your people, just like professional athletes, need constant conditioning, training, performance management, and coaching. Failure in this area is what leads to the "reverse" Pareto principle. I describe this concept in a recent article – The Evolution of Sales in 2020.
  6. Stay optimistic despite all of the evidence to the contrary. (Click HERE for the ‘There’s got to be a pony in there somewhere’ joke). When we started our work with Key Bank, Beth Mooney was fond of discussing the concept of "Shadow of the Leader". Quite simply it means that you as a leader, set the tone, posture, mental stability, and emotion for your organization. If you want your people to be energized and enthusiastic then it starts with you!
  7. They pick the can up and do something with it, instead of kicking it down the road hoping for a better time, a more appropriate set of circumstances, or for things to turn around. Great companies make things happen. They are creators rather than creatures of circumstance.

This brief outline requires many things from many people in your company. We can help in three areas:

 

  • Leading Through Change
  • Selling in Any Environment
  • Hiring Better Salespeople

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Topics: Selling Success, sales management success, improving sales results, increase sales, upgrade your sales force, sales advice, sales acceleration, sales productivity tools, driving sales growth 2020

Make the "Business-to-People" Sale

Posted by Alex Cole on Thu, May 23, 2019

Most Sales Managers would agree that completing prospecting activities and hitting sales goals are critical to success. However, what happens when we focus too much on the numbers and not enough on being a resource for prospects, we impact (or lose) the human element of our business.

casual-cellphone-cheerful-1289898In general, there are two different types of classifications in sales; Business-to-Business (B2B) or Business-to-Consumer (B2C). B2B — meaning you supply a product or service directly to an organization — i.e. you provide a chemical coating that will be sold to an aircraft manufacturer and applied to rotors. B2C — being that you provide a product or service directly to the end user — i.e. you sell anti-aging skincare products using social media and your network to women 30+. But what if what you do falls somewhere in-between?

What if you are in the B2P (Business-to-People) business?

I believe that Anthony Cole Training Group fits within that category. Before we get too far into this topic, I do realize that B2C sales technically describes what we are about to discuss below, but for the sake of this article, I ask that you expand your realm of thinking. See, we (ACTG) primarily provide sales hiring and production training for financial institutions. We usually work with pre-existing sales teams to uncover the problem areas they face and build our training and development around addressing those problems. But at the end of the day, it is the people that we impact first, not the organization. I would imagine 99% of the organizations that are considered B2B still have to sell to a real, living, breathing person who is responsible for making a decision.

So, at the end of the day, you’re in the business to people game too.

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So why does this matter? Sometimes, we get so caught up in our day-to-day activities of producing, prospecting and checking off our individual tasks, that we forget we're here to help people. We focus more on the RFP (Request for Proposal) in front of us than on the company and people behind it.

Typically, in B2C sales, the salesperson shares more of a personal relationship with the prospect as well as flexibility around conversations and decisions. In B2B sales, there is usually more restriction to the branding, marketing and positioning of products or services, as well as how we can approach people in the market. Now I’m not suggesting we should throw the handbook out the window, but I am suggesting that those of us in the B2B space can probably benefit from a healthy dose of “authenticity” and “the human element”.

Don't you think?

At the end of the day, you must remember that you are impacting people, regardless of the type of work that you do. The aircraft manufacturer that is buying your chemical coating still has a team of people they are responsible for, so they must confirm that the chemicals are safe and regulated—so talk with them about that. Not only why your coating lasts so much longer than your competitors’ brand!

When we stop focusing (solely) on the next sale, the next dial, or the next commission check; and instead focus on being a go-giver for our clients and prospects, more sales will occur. Be in the Business-to-People, or B2P, business.

It will be your most rewarding sale.

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Topics: go givers sell more, how to improve sales, sales advice, steward, new age selling, salespeople

Show Me the Money

Posted by Alex Cole on Wed, Mar 13, 2019

Without revenue, a sale cannot be made.  However, making a sale is not all about the money, and it is a salesperson's duty to overcome their prospect's money problem and be prepared for what objections are thrown their way.

In this article, we discuss the preparation involved in overcoming this common problem, and ultimately, the notion that, "If you win on price, you’ll also lose on price."

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Money is a critical part of every effective sales process, and yet, sometimes that very discussion causes us to get “off track” and lose focus on the objective of the call.

While I won’t argue that price is part of the decision-making process, what do you do when the prospect tells you it is the driving factor? This can be challenging, but you can use this information to your advantage to make critical decisions. Once you understand the motivation of the buyer, you can and should decide early in the sales process if it makes sense for you to work on the opportunity or not.

So, what should you do when you find out that it’s a price-driven decision? Well, you need to recognize the following:

  1. It’s part of the official buyer’s manual. Buyers have been conditioned to believe that there is always a lower price and a salesperson desperate enough to go there.
  2. Sometimes they buy on price because that is how THEY personally make buying decisions.
  3. When the prospect tells you up front that this is a price-based decision, you need to ask what else, besides price, is driving this decision and, if the answer is “nothing”, be prepared to move on.

So, what can you do to overcome the money problem? 

Answer: You must be prepared.

  • Make sure, in your pre-call preparation, you have specific questions to respond to the price issue, i.e. questions that look for things that are important to them other than price.
  • Ask questions to help them discover that low price may not mean lowest cost. Price is what you pay for something; cost is what you end up paying or losing out on because of that decision.
  • If you are committed to achieving your goals, then you must find prospects that place value on something besides just price.
  • In order to do that, you must look at why others are doing business with you.
  • Keep a full pipeline. The lack of an abundant pipeline puts pressure on us to work on low probability opportunities.

When you sell off of price, you sacrifice margin, trade “building the kind of business you want” for revenue today and constantly need to “defend” the sale. Unfortunately, we know that if you win on price, you’ll also lose on price.

Don’t let your business be driven by price shoppers. 

Topics: selling in today's market, sales advice, new age selling, salespeople, sales opportunity, price, money

Is Your Current Sales Opportunity Real?

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Feb 21, 2019

In this article, we discuss and identify the three main reasons why salespeople get duped into believing a specific opportunity will close and why some deals are not worth chasing.

They are:

  1. Weak pipeline
  2. Failure to ask tough questions
  3. Afraid to pull the plug

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“Reality is merely an illusion.  Albeit a persistent one.” - Albert Einstein

Throughout my sales coaching career, I have yet to meet a salesperson who does not understand that sales will require hard work.  Yes, they might all have a different willingness to put in that hard work, but they understand that selling is not for the faint of heart.  They know that there will be some rough days.  They also understand that when they accomplish what they need to each week, they will generally be tired come Friday afternoon.  They don’t mind working hard.

But what they do mind (and this is universal), is chasing hard after a deal that, as it turns out, they had no chance to win.  They were punching above their weight class.  And as a result, they wasted their time.  In my opinion, there is nothing more expensive to you as a sales professional than spending time pursuing an opportunity that you have no chance to win.  Simply put, you can’t get the time back.

So why does it happen so frequently?  If you knew you were lost, when would you want to know that?  I am guessing before you wasted more gas going in the wrong direction.  Right?

I believe we can identify three main reasons why salespeople get fooled:

  1. Weak pipeline – We know that weak pipelines "make cowards of us all."  If you have not eaten in a while, any food looks good to you.  It won’t matter if it is the right food…or if it is good food.  It is food so you will eat it.  Which is precisely why you should not go grocery shopping while you are hungry.
  2. Failure to ask the tough questions – The best day to lose an opportunity is the first day. The second best day to lose one is today.  Are you asking the tough questions of your prospect that will allow them the opportunity to self-select out of the decision?  Or are you asking the easy questions to get you to the next step in the process?  What are you pretending not to know?
  3. Afraid to pull the plug – Sometimes opportunities start well, but then the salesperson is met with radio silence from the prospect. And rather than “politely” confront the prospect with what the radio silence means, the salesperson keeps chasing.  Radio silence can mean the problem has gone away, the problem has been swallowed up by other priorities, or the prospect has solved the problem with someone else.

So, is it time for you to “get real” with a prospect in your pipeline?  The time you save is yours.

 

Topics: sales competency, how to improve sales results, sales advice, think it overs, salespeople, sales interjection, sales opportunity, radio silence

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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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