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6 Steps to Start the Sale

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Oct 06, 2022

The start of any undertaking is the most important step. 

When it comes to building the confident and trusting relationship associated with a strong seller / buyer relationship, the start is especially important. I'm not just talking about the immediate "bonding and rapport" part of selling or a 5-minute segment of chitchat. The start I’m referring to is the entire first contact process whether it is a phone call or an association meeting or the initial meeting after the phone call.  The start will often, if not always, determine your finish. 

The 6 Steps to Start the Sale:

  1. Pre-Call Plan
  2. Have a Unique Value Proposition
  3. Ask Thoughtful, Open-Ended Questions
  4. Check Your Sales Attitude
  5. Get a Clear Next Step
  6. Qualify vs Disqualify the Prospect

  1. Be prepared (pre-call strategy).  Be prepared for the sales process. Know what questions you are going to ask to move the sale forward. These are not questions about the technical aspects of your prospect's current position or status.   Anticipate the suspect's answers to the questions you ask and be prepared with follow-up dialog.  Too many sales people take this step for granted because "they've been in the business for __ years." Don’t fall into this trap. Also, be prepared for the inevitable curve balls the prospect will throw at you. This is your chance to build credibility.

  2. Demonstrate your credibility by what you say and by how you conduct yourself.  You’re your value proposition different. Do this by the questions you ask, by your focus on the prospect and what is important to them, and by your reluctance to get into a sales pitch. Avoid doing the typical product dump.  Demonstrate your knowledge of the industry by stories, analogies and metaphors that work to show you understand their business. Demonstrate your professionalism by the way you ask penetrating questions.  Demonstrate your focus on their issues by not looking, acting or sounding like every other salesperson they have met.

  3. Have the courage to ask tough questions and have fierce/ honest discussions. You probably know the questions, but do you often leave an initial call having failed to ask:
    • How will you make this decision? 
    • When do I meet the decision maker?
    • If you don't have a budget, how will you pay for this?
    • If you are shopping for low price, what happens if I show up and I'm not the low price? 
    • Who wins a tie? 
    • When you told your current provider that you were unhappy with the current situation, what did they say?
    • When I show up to make my presentation, I need for you to be in a position to tell me 'yes' or 'no'. What objections do you have to that process?
  4. Check your sales attitude – the head stuff will drive your sales behaviors so leave your need for approval at the door when you leave the house in the morning.  Re-write your personal beliefs about how and why people buy.  Think about the impact of your personal buy cycle at the car lot where you debated for the last three weeks over which make/ model to purchase and where you haggled over price with the manager. Go out expecting people to buy.

  5. Qualify suspects / prospects to do business with you rather than the other way around.  Don’t go to a meeting feeling like you must audition for the business. You don't.  You shouldn’t. However, you should make sure that the person you are meeting with qualifies to do business with you. In an effective selling system, qualifying means the following:
    • Does the prospect have a compelling reason to take action and when?
    • Will they invest the time, money and resources to solve a problem they have or a problem they see coming?  Will they invest that time, money or resources in a timely fashion or are they in the information collecting mode of buying?
    • Will they tell you "yes" or "no" when you present?  In order to accomplish this, you must have eliminated their current provider.  You must have heard them say they want to fix it, whatever "it" is. And you must have a solution that is appropriate for their problem. 
  6. Get a clear next step.  There is always a next step even if you are in a "one appointment close" industry.  It doesn't matter if your business requires multiple meetings or is typically "one and done".  Always close per your identified objective for this meeting. Then move on.  I promise you, that if you get masterful at this step, you will have fewer meetings and your closing ratio will improve.  Ask for closure. Ask for a clear next step. Ask for the business Yes or No.

Master these 6 Steps to Start the Sale and you will close more business, more quickly, at higher margins.


Do You Need More Leads? –  Free Sales Prospecting eBook Download

Pink Minimalist Positive Four Step Process Instagram Post

Topics: meeting sales goals, setting sales goals, sales goals

Sales Goal Setting

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Oct 03, 2022

Sometimes that means just go do the work! Early on in our business, I established rules for our sales success. One of my rules was No Cold Calling. Even though there is lots of information on effective cold calling, by having that rule, I was forced to get introductions and network with centers of influence. This has worked well over the years and our entire team follows that path. Occasionally, you need to change your approach to maintain your success. Here is one approach I tried and have adopted to set and reach our sales goals.


Lesson 1 - Have a plan, think through the plan, go do the activity.

Recently I grabbed a business card from a prospect that attended a Cincinnati Chamber session that I delivered earlier this year.  I decided to just stop by his office, hand the receptionist his card and my card and ask "Is this guy in?" I was going to be in the area so I decided today would be a good day to just drop in.

The receptionist left with my card in hand and then came back out saying, "Rich will be with you in a minute." Rich came out with a big smile on his face, greeted me and said that it was great that I would stop in.  I told him that if I didn't have the guts to stop in and see him, then he shouldn't hire me to begin with. 

You see, I'm a bulldog when it comes to prospecting.  Once I get a sense that there is something we should be talking about, I just keep calling, writing, and in this case, really get outside of my normal box and drop in.  I didn't have on a suit or blazer with a tie.  My first meeting was very informal; I was clad in blue jeans, cowboy boots and polo shirt.  I was, as Seth Godin would put it, a Purple Cow.

Lesson 2 - Be unique.  It is what clients are looking for today.

We spent an hour together and I learned a great deal about their business - what is working and not working, how the business has changed and what is keeping them from performing at a higher level.  No sales pitch, no sales talk, just asking questions.  I asked them questions that went well beyond areas that I specifically could help them with, because I am interested.  And the best way to help anyone is to be sincerely engaged in their business and courageous enough to ask sometimes tough and unusual questions.

Lesson 3 - Have courage.  What is the worst that could happen?

Rich took me on a tour and we just happened to go by the VP of sales office where he introduced me to Jim.  He told Jim about our history, our conversation that morning and that Anthony Cole Training Group had some really "good stuff" for sales and sales management.  Additionally, he suggested that we have a meeting to discuss what they do, what they need to do, and how "maybe" we might be of help.  Jim said yes.

Lesson 4 - If you ask enough times and be persistent, sooner or later someone will say yes.

Additionally, given the nature of their business - B2B, with lots of dropping in and cold calling - the VP was very impressed that the President of the company would be out on the road dropping in on prospects. What I did not mention before is that I had dropped by six other businesses and the person I wanted to see at each of those firms was not in. I left my card and perhaps, made an impression.  In today’s world of virtual touchpoints, you may just find that an in person drop and stop can set you apart. Can you do that virtually somehow?  Are you making full use of Zoom and other video devices? Be creative and look for ways to be different and unique. Be a purple cow.

Lesson 5 – Go Back to Lesson 1 and Go Prospect.


Do You Need More Leads? –  Free Sales Prospecting eBook Download

Topics: meeting sales goals, setting sales goals, sales goals

Increasing Sales: The G2 Formula

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Dec 30, 2020

Lots of people talk about goals and having a plan to achieve said goals. And there is lots of information out there about how important it is to have an tracking system in place to make sure you execute your plan effectively. But what about the GRIND required to increase sales and achieve success?


There is a sales production target out there – somewhere. It’s different for every person and every organization but it’s out there. And for every person and every organization there is the actual sales production result that is being achieved today. That is the Sales Opportunity Gap. 

The Objective Management Group Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis is the guide that makes you the hero to close the sales growth opportunity gap. The findings in this analysis clearly lays out the current status of the sales team in these areas:

  • Will to Sell and Will to Manage Sales
  • Sales DNA, Sales Management DNA
  • Sales and Sales Management skills
  • Systems and processes that support sales growth
  • And more

These items are critical to understand if you ever hope to strategically and intentionally grow sales in your organization (or for yourself).

But this alone is not enough. Goals and Grind are also 2 requirements to get you from where you are to where you could be.

I'm reading Bob Rotello’s “How Champions Think in Sports and In Life”. I am in the middle of the chapter: Goals, Plans and Process. Lots of people talk about goals, goals setting and having a plan to achieve said goals. And there is lots of information out there about how important it is to have an accountability system in place to make sure you execute the plan. But the thing that struck me about Bob’s chapter is the discussion about the GRIND.

GRIND: it’s not talked about enough when it comes to discussing how to achieve a goal. The grind is the day-in and day-out stuff that you have to do to leverage your natural talents. The grind is the hard stuff, the stuff where we have a tendency to procrastinate.

So, what’s the grind in Sales?

  • Making the prospecting effort on a consistent basis
  • Pre and post call sessions
  • Practicing your sales skills
  • Inputting data in your CRM
  • Going to sales meetings
  • Having 1-on-1 coaching sessions with your manager

This is the grind. This is the stuff day-in and day-out that, when executed properly, leads you to your definition of success. This is what leads you to accomplishing your goal. Without the grind your goal is just a dream.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: reaching sales goals, sales prospecting, sales goals, increase sales, prospect outreach

It's Goal Setting Time: How to Turn Your Personal Goals into a Business Workplan

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Nov 19, 2020

Money should be looked at as a vital resource. A resource like food, air or water. In other words, you cannot live without them. Money buys you freedom of time and the freedom to choose. So, in order to choose and then achieve your personal goals, you must have money!

Here are some specific steps to help you translate your small, big and important personal goals to a business workplan that will help you achieve these goals.

Break down your goals into these 3 categories: short-term, medium-term and long-term goals. And then within each one of those categories, identify your goals as either urgent, somewhat urgent or not really urgent at all. This process will help you narrow down the types of goals you need to focus on first and foremost.

Typically, when people think of goals, they think in terms of things they want to have or things they want to accomplish like eliminate debt or pay for a wedding. More challenging goals that we also need to consider are those types of goals that we call ‘freedom to choose’ goals. An example might be the ability to work 4 days a week or the ability to take a month off to do ministry work in a third world country. Those goals also require financial freedom. So, at the end of the day regardless of the type of goal, there is normally some sort of financial requirement attached to the ability to achieve that goal.

Your second step is to identify at least 12 freedom to choose goals and identify their associated financial requirement.

Next, we have to become laser focused. We want you to identify for the next 12 months from all the goals that you identified, which are the 12 non-negotiable goals. You can't miss these come hell or high water - you're going to achieve these goals! Now, what behaviors will you need to do to make these goals happen – break it down into steps and set some deadlines. A goal without a due date is just a wish.

You just completed the easy part! Now its time to roll up your sleeves and translate these individual personal goals and their financial requirement into a business work plan. We call it a work plan because in order to achieve success you must have a plan AND work the plan.

Here are the Workplan components:

  • Your Success Formula
  • Your Market Niche
  • Your Prospecting Strategy
  • Your USA

The Success Formula is the math that helps you understand the amount of activity in each step of your sales process that you must execute to get to your revenue goal. Keep in mind this one very important idea – your goal has to be YOUR goal. It must be a number driven by your needs and not the needs of the company. But here is the catch – your number should always be higher than what the company requires from you. Remember these are your personal goals to reach.

The best way to identify your Market Niche is to take a look at the top 20% of your current book of business and identify the common demographics. That is who you serve well and the trick will be finding more of them!

If your business is like most, your larger, top 20% clients probably generate North of 70% of your revenue and the rest of your book of business is made up of a smattering of various size accounts. To refine this into your workplan, you want to identify approximately the number of accounts you want to sell at each size. This will give you an idea of the number of sales at the various levels you need to make in order to reach your goal.

Your Prospect Strategy to reach out into the market place is the key to your success. The best way to meet a new prospect is to ask your current clients for introductions but you must have multiple strategies.

Your USA or Unique Sales Approach to the market place is critical. How will you stand out? Here is the test of the effectiveness of your USA or elevator pitch – If you heard your pitch, would you respond with one of the following?

  • Tell me more about that.  
  • That's me.
  • How do you do that?

Most of us believe that in order to get a better outcome we need to start doing something. In reality sometimes the first requirement is to stop doing certain things. To complete your workplan, identify those things that you are doing that are killing your business and killing your ability to be more effective – then stop them!

Take a minute now and review this newsletter. Ask yourself - what are the top three things you need to execute because you believe that when you do, they will have the most dramatic and positive impact on your business.

Now go plan your work and Work your plan!

Need a Goal Setting Workshop?

Topics: personal goals, setting goals, sales goals, how to hit goals in sales

It's Goal Setting Time, Start Here

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Nov 12, 2020

Video Transcript:

I want you to think about your success over the last 12 months. This assessment isn’t complicated.  Just break down your life into two areas:  Your work success and your personal success and think about your answer to these three questions:

Question 1: Over the last 12 months what was the most important thing you wanted to achieve in your personal life? 

    • Rate yourself on a scale of 1 – 10, (1 is not even close and 10 is I blew it away)
    • How did you do?

Question 2: Over the last 12 months what was the most important thing you wanted to achieve in your business life?  On the same scale - how did you do?

Question 3: And Last question – why did you get these results?

That one will take some reflection. Now as we get started on this meaty topic, I want you to think about this question:
What would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn’t fail? 

Goal setting is more than just thinking about and writing down goals. Goals without actions are just thoughts you have about what might happen.  Writing goals with action items is a waste of time if you don’t commit to time frames.  And ultimately you have to inspect what you expect. The joy of accomplishing goals is what will keep you moving forward.  This course is about goal accomplishment and not just goal setting.

There are many wonderful books on the topic of setting goals and achieving your personal best and I hope you are reading them!  We know that salespeople who accomplish their goals do these things consistently:

  1. Their goals are written down
  2. They have a time frame to achieve them
  3. Their goals are defined and measurable
  4. They have an accountability partner or a coach to keep them on track
  5. They set too many goals
  6. They stretch and set extraordinary, big hairy audacious goals

Mark Victor Hansen challenges people to write 100 goals so that you have more opportunity to announce VICTORY when you achieve a goal. And instead of just establishing reasonable goals make room for those that are extraordinary.  All the resources you need to have an extraordinary life are available to each of us.  Quoting Mark Victor Hansen again, “There is normally only one person between you and your greatest achievement.”   YOU

Your success is really about you versus you. It has very little to do with your company’s strategies or the economy or the competition.  This really is all about you and your desire and commitment to make your dreams, your plans come to fruition.

One of the challenges that people have when they attempt to write goals is a lack of process to create the plan.  My suggestion now is for you to take out your calendar and identify at least two hours of time for writing out in detail your goals/your plan for the future.  

OK, Remember the question - What would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Keep these things in mind as you get started on your 100 goals.

There are no goals that are too small, too, large, too far out, etc.  Don’t edit your thoughts – write down any and all goals that come to mind.  Don’t limit yourself because you think a goal is too big, too foolish, not foolish or big enough.

Next go through your categories of life and begin writing those things that are in your head and on your heart – goals for family, community, spiritual, work of course, financial, fitness, things you want to have and want to do. Write them all down and remember – no self edits!  Spend some time on this – don’t short cut it!

And keep in mind Steven Covey’s famous quote:  Begin with the end in mind…

Need a Goal Setting Workshop?


Topics: personal goals, reaching sales goals, sales goals


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    About our Blog

    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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