ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

Don't Dream It's Over: 1 of the Biggest Sales Challenges

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Oct 07, 2021

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is “how do I/we increase sales” or “how do I become more successful in sales?” It starts with recognizing when your pursuit of a prospect is over.

In this blog, the two fundamental truths of more effective selling.

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If you are a consistent reader of this blog (and why wouldn’t you be), you know by now that I have an affinity for music. You also know that my favorite decade of my life was the 80’s. And when those two things intersect, watch out!

Considered by some to be a one-hit-wonder, the Australian band Crowded House got to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 when they released “Don’t Dream It’s Over” in 1986.  

“Hey now, hey now
Don’t dream it’s over.”

So, let’s apply that majestic ballad to salespeople and the one thing above all things that they struggle with the most. That’s right, recognizing that their pursuit of a prospect is over (even when the prospect hasn’t told them in those exact words). Many salespeople can’t even begin to think that it’s over. Most don’t want to entertain the possibility. 

So, the question before us today is simple – why? I mean, it’s not like it has not happened to them before.

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is “how do I/we increase sales” or we are asked, “how do I become more successful in sales?” And the best answer I have is that you get better when you recognize two fundamental truths:

  1. You are going to lose more often than you win.
  2. When you are going to lose, you want to lose early.

Have you ever stopped to consider what your “pull-through rate” looks like? We use that term to explain a simple algebra equation:

Number of new clients / Number of initial sales conversations = pull-through rate 

If you have 100 initial sales conversations (or go on 100 prospect calls) in a year, and you wind up with 15 new clients, then your pull-through percentage is 15/100 or 15%. So, if that is your pull-through rate, don’t you think you should go on your calls with a bias for disqualification? Statistically, there is a far greater chance of you not doing business with a prospect than there is a chance that you will do business with them.

Stop dreaming and start asking questions. Ask questions that allow you to confirm that your prospect has a problem they have to fix and that now is the time to fix it. Operate with a bias for disqualification so you are not so surprised when the conclusion is that now is the time for you to move on. No is ok provided you hear it at the right time in your sales process.

Sweet dreams.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Questions for Prospects, qualifying sales prospects, sales challenges

The Data Driven Sales Executive

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Jul 15, 2021

Data Driven Sales Approach

In our business, one of the greatest sales challenges that most companies face is how to properly implement a data-driven sales approach. Some companies chase a bunch of data without any regard for the story that the data tells. Others struggle when they launch sales coaching without any data at all.

All of that leads us to what we call the “pull-through rate.”

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One of my most treasured memories of my younger days was buying and trading baseball cards. Perhaps I am being a bit too nostalgic, but those days were good days, and growing up in Cincinnati during the 1970’s I was a huge fan of the Cincinnati Reds and the Big Red Machine.

I particularly remember studying the back of each baseball card because it told the story of each player. And I can still recall the quote “everybody plays to the back of their baseball card” which is a reminder that year over year statistics can be used to forecast future performance.

In our business, one of the greatest sales challenges that most companies face is how to properly implement a data-driven sales approach. Some companies just chase a bunch of data without any regard for the story that the data tells. Other companies struggle when they launch sales coaching without any data at all which means they are simply guessing on both whether their people can improve and what it will take to cause that improvement.

Pull-Through Rate

All of that leads us to what we call the “pull-through rate.” Let’s start with not getting this confused with your hit ratio or close ratio. Both a hit ratio or a close-ratio are computed in the same way by dividing the number of wins by the number of presentations or pitches. That means a company that delivers 100 presentations and wins 30 new clients has a hit ratio of 30%.

What is Pull-Through Rate?

A pull-through rate is a different deal altogether. It is calculated by comparing the relationship between first-time or initial sales calls and the number of wins. For example, a salesperson who has 200 first-time sales appointments and who winds up with 30 new clients has a pull-through rate of 15%. For years Anthony Cole Training Group has taught that most prospects are not qualified to do business with you and the numbers across the country support that conclusion. In fact, our own pull-through analysis supports that conclusion as our pull-through rate runs around 20%. Nearly 80% of all the firms we have initial conversations with never become a client of our firm.

Pull-Through Rate Example

Finally, one of the most interesting parts of the pull-through calculation is that it allows your sales team to “dollarize” each sales call. For example, if your average sale is $50,000…and your pull-through rate is 15% then every time your team goes on that first initial call they are in theory making $7,500 every single time they run a sales call.

Conclusion

I still have my baseball cards (at least the ones my mom did not throw away). And the back of each card still has the statistics that tell a story. What does the back of your salesperson’s card look like? Do you like the story it is telling you?

Topics: unique selling approach, Sales Coaching, increase sales, sales challenges

3 Things That Will Increase Sales in 2020 and Beyond

Posted by Jack Kasel on Wed, Feb 12, 2020

The most successful salespeople are always challenging and adapting their personal sales process to be more effective.  However, 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.  If you really want to increase sales this year, you MUST block off time every week for prospecting new clients.

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As we think about all of the things as sales professionals that we're supposed to do, it really comes down to three things that actually get us paid: 

  1. Find Opportunities
  2. Qualify prospects
  3. Get a decision

I want to focus on the first thing we get paid to do and that's to find opportunities.  There are many ways we can find opportunities⁠—cold calls, drop ins, direct marketing, social selling (LinkedIn and Twitter), getting introductions, etc. 

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Although there are many ways we can prospect, some provide a higher return on the biggest investment we can make, and that’s our time.  In a previous blog, I tried to debunk the “time management” problem.  It isn’t a time management problem, it’s a priority management problem

As we focus on prospecting, the least return on our investment is cold calling.  For all the time you invest in cold calling, the actual return (speaking to a decision maker) is extremely low.  We know it’s a necessary evil, but not a permanent problem.  On the other hand, it is a proven fact, the highest return on our prospecting time is in getting introductions.  

So here is what I would like you to consider:

  1. Time blocking
    • Do you have time set aside each week to prospect? If you don’t, you would be well-served to block time to prospect
  2. Allocate your time within the time block you’ve scheduled
    • If you have allocated an hour a day, my recommendation would be:
      • If you have allocated 15 minutes to cold call, you should be able to get 15 calls in within that time. If you call 15, you will probably speak with two people.  How long does it take to NOT talk to 13 people?  You can make a lot of calls in 15 minutes if you are focused.
      • 15 minutes for social selling to find introductions—maybe not sell, but find introduction opportunities.
        • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Blogging—whichever you are allowed to do within your work rules, do it on a regular basis.
      • 30 minutes on getting introductions
        • Calling people and saying “I’m looking to expand my base of contacts” Or “I’m looking to meet great people such as yourself, when can we get together to determine if we can help each other?”
        • Identify your 15 best clients and make it a goal to get three introductions from each of them. How much success would you have with 45 new names to call?

This is just a rough outline on what you can do but the big takeaways are this:

  1. Prioritize prospecting—make it a significant part of your week.
  2. Prioritize how you are prospecting—get introductions—it will provide the highest return on your time invested.

Someone needs what you do, so go find them and start prospecting today to find more of them!

Sell Better. Coach Better. Hire Better.

Topics: increase sales, hire better salespeople, create & convert leads, sales challenges, sales productivity tools, sales conversations, sales effectiveness training, banking sales training, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, corporate sales training, sales training courses, buyers journey, hire better people, driving sales growth 2020, sales training workshops

The Best Habits of Highly Successful Sales Managers

Posted by Jack Kasel on Mon, Dec 23, 2019

In this blog, we discuss the best habits of highly successful salespeople and sales managers.  Being an extraordinary sales manager is grueling and time-consuming. 

It requires attention to detail, the ability to have tough conversations with those who are not meeting their numbers, the desire and commitment to grow yourself and your salespeople, consistent activity and patience. 

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The sales management activities that you perform today create the results that you achieve today.

What activities are you doing now that are creating your current unsatisfactory results?  It is up to us as sales leaders to set higher standards for sales behaviors and hold people accountable so that we get better results.

It is a given that successful sales management requires contributions on many levels:  skill, time, effort, effective execution, and systems and processes to support coaching, performance management and recruiting.

To help understand what makes a successful sales manager, it is helpful to review the Habits of Highly Successful Salespeople

I recently asked the participants of a workshop to identify and share those habits that they believed contributed to the success of their best salespeople.  Below are some of the common habits identified:

  • Develops great relationships
  • Networks regularly
  • Good time management skills
  • Gets to decision makers
  • Selective in prospecting
  • Provides exceptional customer-service

Then I asked them to talk about the flip side of the list – those habits that inhibited or hurt a salesperson’s ability to close more business.  Below are some of the habits they identified:

  • Sells on price
  • Inconsistent prospecting
  • Procrastinates
  • Presents to the wrong people
  • Sells to anyone that "fogs a mirror"
  • Poor prioritization skills 
  • Is too comfortable

How about you and your habits?  What are those habits that you can point to that you KNOW have a positive impact on your team’s sales behaviors and results?  Here are some that I observe and hear about:

  • Coaches in-the-moment to get a deal closed
  • Reports sales results
  • Makes joint calls
  • Sets goals
  • Conducts regular sales meetings
  • Reviews and reports pipeline

This is a good list and with some additions, it can become a great list when we identify the skills of a great Coach, one of the most critical roles of an effective sales leader.  To examine what else you might want to consider, take a look at the following list of elements necessary for successful coaching:

  • Debriefs sales calls effectively
  • Asks quality questions
  • Controls emotions
  • Allows salespeople to fail
  • Implements and manages the execution of a consistent sales process
  • Motivates when coaching based on individual/personal goals
  • Coaches to improve skill and change behavior
  • Gets sales people to follow through on commitments

It’s not enough to just have the skill.  In order for managers to be successful at having a sales team built for growth, the manager must be in the habit of using those skills.

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Being an extraordinary sales manager is grueling and time-consuming.  It requires attention to detail, the ability to have tough conversations with those who are not meeting their numbers, the desire and commitment to grow yourself and your salespeople, consistent activity and patience. 

Like the coach of a winning team or conductor of an extraordinary symphony, you have the ability to positively affect the success and the lives of your salespeople and company. 

 

Topics: sales management secrets, sales management success, Sales Management Training, prospect engagement, develop talent, buyer, sales differences, deal or no deal, extra mile, getting introductions, close the deal, sales challenges, creating new sales opportunities, practice schedules, selling tools, solution, professional sales training, corporate sales training, buyers journey, hire better people

Is Your Sales Growth Stuck in the Chimney with Kris Kringle?

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Dec 11, 2019

In this blog, we discuss the concepts behind real, tangible sales growth and ask the question, "Is Your Sales Growth Stuck in the Chimney with Kris Kringle?" 

Sales growth is dependent upon Closing More Business, More Quickly, at Higher Margins and we are here to show you how you can accomplish this within your organization!

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This morning, my wife (and ACTG's President CEO Linda) and I were watching Morning Joe while talking business.  We were discussing our brand promise of:

"When you lie awake at night worrying about sales growth, we lie awake at night.” 

We compiled a list of questions that often haunt managers throughout the day and into the night when they should be preparing for a good night’s sleep:

As we’re talking, we see a news banner at the bottom of the screen about a man who was arrested for breaking and entering a home.  He was apprehended after the police entered the home and saw his feet dangling from the chimney.  As usual, I automatically started thinking about how that related to sales, sales management, performance management, coaching, pipeline, pre-call strategies, etc.

And, since it's that time of the year, it also made me think of this great scene in The Santa Clause: 

 

My first question, however, is this: 

  1. “Do you have sales opportunities that are important/critical for hitting your goals and growing sales that are stuck?”

My second, but maybe the most important question, is:

    2. “Is this particular opportunity a repeat offender?” 

 

QUESTIONS FOR EVALUATING OPPORTUNITIES

Now, there are 2 things to consider when attempting to answer that second question.

  1. Is that opportunity familiar to you and the salesperson who has entered the opportunity into your pipeline management system? (This isn’t the same as your CRM). If we’ve worked on this opportunity before and they – the opportunity – “got away on a technicality”, then this would be defined as a “repeat offender”:
    1. Not the decision maker
    2. Wasn’t able to undo the current relationship
    3. Decided to not make a change
    4. Couldn’t arrive at the price point
    5. Really didn’t have a solution that fit the features and benefits they were looking for
    6. The timing wasn’t right
  2. Are other opportunities stuck in the pipeline/chimney for the very same reasons as this one?  The salesperson failed to execute the qualifying steps in your sales process:
    1. No compelling reason to make a change identified
    2. Competition unknown
    3. Incumbent still part of the equation
    4. Budget for investing time, money resources is a mystery
    5. Decision making process has not been uncovered
    6. Timing or urgency of making a decision not clearly understood
    7. Agreement on next steps unclear
    8. Did not ask the question – Is this a “want to fix” or “have to fix” problem?

CMBMQHM AND WHAT YOU NEED FOR SALES GROWTH

Sales growth is dependent upon this – CMBMQHM.  My staff hates it when I make up acronyms like this.  When I put these in our learning decks, the people in my office want to know what the acronyms mean. 

Close More Business, More Quickly, at Higher Margins

So, what does it take to accomplish CMBMQHM?

  • You must have a milestone-centric sales system – something that can be quantified, measured and evaluated for progress towards the objective of “getting a decision”. (This is not the same as “getting the sale”.)
  • You have to have a process for building a success formula for each salesperson based on that sales system.
  • You have to have complete buy-in to the use of your pipeline management process. Here are the guidelines to get that buy-in. It needs to…
    • Be easy to use
    • Be effective
    • Be beneficial to the user
    • Provide you with business intelligence
    • Automatically generate and send reports to you so you don’t have to go find the information
  • You have to have a system of pre-call strategy sessions for EVERY opportunity that meets or exceeds the benchmark of your top 33%.
  • You have to have a post-call debriefing session for every opportunity you discuss in the pre-call session.
  • You have to conduct a CSI – “Crime Scene Investigation” – for every deal you don’t get.
  • Finally, you have to conduct 1-on-1 coaching sessions that are intentional.
    • They are based on the findings from your pre- and post-call meetings
    • They are based on what your data is telling you about the choke point(s) a particular salesperson is having or the most common choke point(s) for the group
    • The coaching needs to accomplish 1, if not 2, things:
      1. Change behavior
      2. Improve skill

Additional Resources:

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Sign up for our Effective Selling System Online Demo 


 

Topics: Sales Training, hiring sales people, Sales Management Training, How to Increase Sales, Sales Coaching, increase sales, hiring better salespeople, how increase sales, grow sales, sales growth problems, will to sell, sales challenges, life lessons, creating new sales opportunities, practice schedules, selling tools, sales productivity tools, budget, solution, sales conversations, sales effectiveness training, banking sales training, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, corporate sales training, sales force performance management, sales training courses, buyers journey, social selling, online sales training, politics, hire better people, insurance sales training, brand video, train the trainer

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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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