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Develop Your Sales Talent to Increase Sales in 2020 and Beyond

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Mar 25, 2020

If you are not in the acquisition business, then you must develop your talent in order to increase sales in 2020 and beyond.  One of the keys to doing that is to understand how to drive sales improvement. 

You must determine what is really happening with your salespeople when they fail to acquire a new piece of business, and then you must take key steps to help you determine if they lack the skills to get the job done, or if they are making excuses for their lack of success. 

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Companies are constantly trying to figure out how to drive organic growth by:

  • Acquiring a revenue stream by buying a business or lifting out talent from a competitor
  • Developing current talent

If you are not in the acquisition business, then you must develop your talent.  One of the keys to doing that is to understand how to drive sales improvement.  You must determine what is really happening with your salespeople when they fail to acquire a new piece of business. 

Are your people just making excuses for failure or do they have deficits in the required sales competencies or will to sell?

To be successful in determining the real issues with your salespeople, you must have a system.

I read a blog the other day by Dave Kurlan.  We’ve had a strong business partnership with Dave and his company OMG (Objective Management Group) for most of our 24 years in business.  With OMG, we have the ability to determine the answer to the question – is it excuses or is it a talent issue?

Dave’s post  - 12 Reasons They Didn’t Like You Enough To Buy From You – helps address some of the issues associated with “not getting the business”.  It primarily focuses on the area of matching styles.

This got me thinking about the issue of “style” as it relates to talent, which relates to sales competencies and excuse making.  The challenge for the sales manager is determining if the reason a salesperson did not get the sale was really a talent issue, or an excuse issue.

To determine the root cause of the results, a sales manager must work more closely with the relationship managers and implement a process that Bill Eckstom calls “intentional coaching”.  This process of working closing with your RMs is addressed in our Sales Management Certification Program in the Coaching for Success Module.

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Here are the 5 steps you must take to help you determine if your salespeople lack the necessary skills to succeed or are making excuses for their lack of success:

  1. You must gain insight. You gain insight by using various data points. The data points you MUST use are: 
    1. Observational joint sales calls – You do not run the sales call; you observe your RM
    2. Data from your CRM or SAT program (SAT – Sales Activity Tracking)
    3. Sales meetings – In all of your sales meetings, you need to include a segment on skill development where you drill for skill, role play and conduct strategy development discussions
    4. 1-on-1 coaching – Each week, you should have time set aside for 1-on-1 coaching with those people that are NOT in the 1st quadrant of the “Where’s Walter?” matrix
  2. Provide feedback. In advance of the discussion about lost opportunities, you want to provide your RM with the data you have – no ambushing.
    1. You discuss – ask the RM questions about what they see in the data
    2. You provide them feedback based on what you see and where the problems might be
    3. You discuss what the future might look like if the current trends continue
    4. You agree that there is a problem
  3. Demonstrate – Once you identify the problem as either an excuse or a skill issue, you demonstrate to the RM what you expect them to execute.
    1. If they are making excuses – "They didn’t understand the value of our offering” – You ask, “If I didn’t let you use that as an excuse what would you have done differently?”
    2. If it’s a skill problem – “I asked them if they had a budget and they said yes.” “When you asked them what it was, what did they say?”  “They said they didn’t want to tell me.”  “When you asked, ‘why not?’, what did they say?”  “I didn’t ask that question.”
  4. Role play – The scenario above allows you to now role play with you acting as the prospect. You need to start with Drill for Skill and then graduate to the full role play.  Getting them to practice what you expect them to do takes patience and repetition.  Do not believe for a second that one role play will be enough.  You need to start your RM on a weekly coaching session repeating the required skills over and over again. 
  5. Action steps – Each coaching session must end with action
    1. "Bill, so what I want you to do is call Mary and have this conversation we just role played."
    2. "I want you to report back to me by end of business today what happened as a result of that conversation."
    3. Hold your salespeople accountable while also coaching them along the way! 

Implementing a process of gaining insight, providing feedback, demonstrating, role playing and establishing action items will go a long way in helping your team discern the difference between making excuses for failure and the need for skill development.

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The Best Advice Sales Managers Can Give to Help Increase Sales

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Mar 12, 2020

In this blog article, we discuss the best advice sales managers can give their salespeople, and that is to "keep moving."  If you want to increase sales within your organization, you must keep moving throughout the ups and downs, the missed opportunities, the clients who "ghost" you, and more.

No one ever said that consultative selling or sales coaching would be easy, but you must motivate your team to keep moving and to see the bigger picture.

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I met Al several years ago at my health club while we were playing early morning tennis with a group of 6 others. At the age of 57, I was the youngest in the group.  I played regularly with this group for about a year and as I honed my tennis skills, I would come home and brag to Linda about how my partner and I crushed the other team that morning. 

One morning, I think she had heard enough and wanted to know more about the competition I was playing. After all, I had only been playing tennis for just over a year. She and I would hit balls on a local tennis court so she knew my game really wasn’t that good. It was either I kept drawing great partners or the competition was suspect.

In the spirit of full transparency, I will go through some of the competitors I crushed. 

  • Frank – 72 years old, arthritis in a hip and bad feet from early childhood development issues
  • Bill – 70 - recovering from his 2nd by-pass surgery
  • Ron – 68 retiree with a bad back, hip replacement and vision issues
  • Chuck – 71 – braces on both knees
  • Jim – The best of the lot, 69 but in good shape
  • Jim – Former military, 72, recovering from hip and back surgery
  • Al – At the time Al was 89 and a retired man of medicine

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The jig was up and my story had been exposed.  I was competing against the walking wounded you might see in a 4th of July Parade playing a flute, carrying a flag, and playing a drum.  In reality, they were quite good tennis players who tolerated my lack of skill with great humor.  They often took advantage of me as a result of my lack of talent and experience as well.

I ran into Al just last week and that is when I learned the best advice any manager could give a sales team.  Both Al and I had just finished working out. I was walking through the locker room as he was getting ready to leave. I don’t see Al as often as I used to, so when I do, I always take some time to chat with him and ask him about his life.

Tony – Al, how are you doing my friend?

Al – I’m doing alright, can’t complain, you know just getting in a workout and heading home.  Doing pretty good though.

Tony – You look great Al.

Al – Well I just keep moving.  I figure if I keep moving, I’ll be alright.  I can still walk 3 miles with no problem.  I work out on the elliptical.  But I’m losing my memory.  I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name.

Tony – It’s Tony.

Al – I just can’t remember things like I used to and you know what that means…. ( silence of acknowledgement).  By the time I get upstairs, I won’t remember your name.

Tony – That’s okay Al.  Are you still driving?

Al – Sure!

Tony – Al, how’s your wife? 

Al - She’s fine, just fine.  She’s the young one.

Tony – You are my hero, my inspiration to just keep moving.  Thanks. Can I give you a hug.

Al – Sure

Tony – Thanks Al,  Great to see you,  you take care of yourself and I’ll see you again soon.

Al – Okay.

Al is 97 and his wife is 95.  They survived the Holocaust and continue to thrive today. They thrive today because they are both committed to this one piece of great advice that all sales managers must provide to their sales team - Just Keep Moving.

When salespeople or sales teams fail, it is a result of one or both of two things:  Effort and/or Execution. 

As I’ve been teaching and coaching in our Sales Managed Environment program for years now...

Effort Requires No Skill

To Al’s point, more than half the battle of surviving and thriving is this; Just Keep Moving.  Keep calling prospects, keep meeting with them, keep inquiring about the business those prospectsrun, keep asking powerful and insightful questions, keep finding out if there is anything you can do to help someone achieve their objectives, and more.

But everything starts with effort. And effort starts with the will to just keep moving.

Thanks Al for the lesson!

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Topics: sales conversations, sales effectiveness training, banking sales training, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, corporate sales training, sales force performance management, social selling, online sales training, politics, hire better people, insurance sales training, brand video, train the trainer, driving sales growth 2020, 5 keys to sales coaching, handles rejection, online sales management training, sales training workshops, sales training seminars, sales team evaluation, keys to selling success, keys to selling

Increasing Sales in 2020 | Ask Your Prospects Better Questions

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Feb 27, 2020

In this blog, we discuss why prospects object when it comes down to buying time, and why we can't always blame the prospects in these situations. Overall, salespeople must ask better questions to help increase sales, build better relationships, and help uncover their prospect's compelling reasons to buy. 

On the other side, their sales managers must be present for their salespeople at the beginning, middle and end of every sales opportunity, sales meeting, and coaching session. 

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I’ve been working on growing sales for over 30 years.  It’s been about 25 years since I heard David Sandler say,

“There’s no such thing as bad prospects, just bad salespeople.” Not bad as in character, morals or integrity; just bad at selling.

But as I read Dave Kurlan’s blog about choosing between bad salespeople and bad sales management, it got me thinking about what Sandler said those many years ago and what we continue to hear from salespeople today when discussing opportunities won and lost. Let’s take a look at what’s happening or not happening. 

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List of reasons for a salesperson not getting the sale:

  • The prospect had a long-term relationship/the incumbent matched our proposal
  • The decision maker wasn’t involved in the selling process 
  • Our pricing wasn’t competitive/ we didn’t have the right products for them 
  • The timing wasn’t right

There are many, but in a nutshell, the overall question (from a sales manager) to a salesperson would be;

“When you asked them (the prospect) about, discussed, made sure that...(fill in the blank with any of the reasons listed above) What did they say?  What was their reaction?”  

If you read this as a salesperson you might be thinking one of a few things: 

  1. I’m not asking those questions 
  2. Those are good questions to ask
  3. I should be asking those questions 
  4. I would never ask those questions 

If you are thinking #4, then your reasons for not getting the business are never going to change! That is what Sandler and Kurlan are talking about when they discuss bad salespeople. You cannot blame the prospect for having objections to buy. Heck, you have your own set of objections/reasons every time you decide not to buy or change. 

But what about the sales manager? Where does that person fit into the equation? They fit in at the beginning, middle and end of every sales opportunity, sales meeting, and coaching session. 

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Solution #2: Pre and Post Call Sessions and 1-on-1 Coaching

Pre-call coaching sample questions:

  • What buying process questions will you ask? (These are questions about compelling issues, stages in the buyer’s journey, options they are exploring, other solution providers they are exploring, etc.) 
  • What answers do you anticipate?
  • How will you handle those answers?
  • What questions are you anticipating?
  • What will your response be?
  • What objections, delays or stalls should you anticipate?
  • What is your response?

Unfortunately, what we do know from the thousands of sales managers assessed for coaching skills, is that less than 10% of them have adequate skills to be effective at developing salespeople. 

What does this all mean?

  1. To eliminate bad prospects, eliminate bad salespeople
  2. To eliminate bad salespeople, eliminate bad sales management/ lack of sales coaching
  3. To eliminate bad sales management, hire people that have the skills to be effective in the role 
  4. Don’t use sales management as the next step in the career path for successful salespeople
  5. Provide the training, development and coaching your managers need to be effective

Need further assistance with the post-call session? Click HERE or the button below to view our Post-Call Debrief Analysis Worksheet.

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Topics: sales professional, Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis, sales differences, creating new sales opportunities, sales productivity tools, 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, hire better people, insurance sales training, brand video, train the trainer, driving sales growth 2020, 5 keys to sales coaching, handles rejection, online sales management training, sales training workshops, sales training seminars, sales training programs, sales candidate assessment, sales force performance evaluation

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

Being Sales Assertive in 2020

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Jan 09, 2020

Are there certain characteristics that make someone (or a salesperson) assertive?  We believe so.

And if you are a prospect, you want to have honest, direct and assertive conversations with a salesperson so that they can make better, more critical decisions.

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There are many contributing factors as to why someone may not be very assertive such as:

  1. Learned helplessness
  2. Having low self-esteem
  3. Not having a "Go-giver" mindset 
  4. False bravado
  5. Living life out of balance causing a sense of desperation and a crisis management approach to work rather than a self-management approach to work.

Assertive people have certain characteristics.

  • First of all, they have minimum acceptable standards for themselves and those people around them. They don’t associate with toxic people – they work with nourishing people.
  • They have a goal philosophy; they have lots of goals and then they continue to pursue those goals and achieve those goals.
  • They get outside the box. If you’ve seen the 9-dot exercise, you’ll know what I’m talking about. They get outside the dots- they expand their comfort zone.
  • Next, they take risks and they understand that taking risks can result in failure. But, failure becomes defined as just another step towards success. They’re persistent. They find other ways to close.
  • They make decisions themselves which makes it hard for them to understand why someone would want to "think it over".
  • They know what they stand for and they won’t fall for anything that falls under the category of an objection or a stall.  
  • They control the sales process. You can ask them about next steps and assertive people can give you specific details about what happens next.

To overcome the hurdles that might trip you up as you attempt to be more assertive, you might consider the following:

  1. As they said in The Godfather, “It’s not personal; it’s business.” Don’t take it personally.
  2. Take ownership of how you feel. Nobody can make you feel the way you feel in terms of being uncomfortable. You choose to feel a certain way.
  3. Consider Emerson’s quote, “Do the thing and you’ll have the power.” There will be times during a sales process or sales step where you will feel the need to be assertive but you will be afraid. DO the thing… do the thing that you’re feeling and you’ll have the power.

As always, thank you and have a perfect day.

Topics: effective sales coaching, Sales Coaching, sales motivation, sales producers, sales differences, sales growth problems, creating new sales opportunities, selling tools, sales productivity tools, sales conversations, sales effectiveness training, banking sales training, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, corporate sales training, online sales training, hire better people, driving sales growth 2020

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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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