ACTG Sales Management Blog

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Do You Have a Coaching Bias?

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Oct 08, 2020

In every sales training and coaching program we work with individuals to help them write and deliver their phone scripts, value propositions and elevator pitches. These are important components for salespeople to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. And this exchange should begin the relationship on the right foot by getting the audience engaged.

Here is the approach I use when calling on executives that fit our ideal prospect profile:

Hello John, this is Tony Cole. (pause)

Yes Tony, how can I help you?

Well John, I’m certain of two things: 1. You were not sitting by your phone today waiting for a call from me and 2. If you are like many of our clients there is currently a lot of pressure and concern about making revenue and budget numbers.

Pause – and wait for a response.

Can I tell you why I called? Sure.

Our clients are those that recognize that their current sales structure is perfectly designed for the results they are getting today. And today the results may not be enough to make budget projections. I’m calling to find out how much you, as president of the company can relate to that scenario. Pause. Can I ask you a question?

In a word how would you describe the overall results of your company as it relates to taking the full advantage of the opportunity in your markets? (Assume the prospect says, “pretty good”.)

Why just pretty good? What is missing? (Engagement begins)

You must understand the game

Years ago, one of the lead execs from our client Key Bank shared an article called, “What it takes to be a Coach”. It began with You Must Understand the Game.

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At the time, most did not understand that the ‘game’ is the game of selling. Managers and internal trainers must really understand the game of selling. Unless internal trainers have strapped a headset on, make hundreds of dials, asked for introductions, been rejected, sold big cases and started with small sales, then they cannot understand the game. It would be like taking flying lessons from a pilot trainer that did all of their flight learning in a simulator. Would you want them as your flying coach?

Most sales managers end up in their manager role because they were good to great salespeople and the company was looking to replace a current position.:

Rarely if ever does that person go through an intense, fully integrated sales training development program to help them effectively execute the required skills of an effective coach.

As an example, in the script above an effective coach will teach their salespeople to get a prospect involved in the conversation as quickly as possible. This is done by executing two steps:

  1. Saying your name and then being quiet
  2. Informing the listener that it may not make sense for the call and ask for permission to proceed

Ideally, the prospect gets involved in the conversation within 3 seconds and then gives the salesperson permission to make their value proposition or elevator pitch. That takes coaching knowledge and skill. You must know the game.

Peter Jensen is an Olympic coach from Canada and author of the book “The Third Factor”. I met Peter at Bill Ekstrom’s EXSELL Conference many years ago. He states that the first two factors for success in anything are nature and nurture. The Third Factor, specific to coaching, is:

You must have a coaching bias.

Need to Improve Your Coaching Skills?

This is what it takes to be successful at coaching: you must love coaching and the game of selling. You must thrive on developing others to be the best versions of themselves. It must be about helping others gain the spotlight, success and financial rewards or a job well done. It requires sacrificing ego and the need to be right for the other person to discover their path, develop their skills and become the expert.

There are assessments in the marketplace to help people identify if they have what it takes. We use Objective Management Group’s Sales Manager Evaluation. Three key findings are identified and scored:

  1. The Will to be successful specifically in the role of manager or sales leader
  2. The Sales Manager DNA
  3. The Sales Manager Competencies

The evaluation provides an index percentage that tells the evaluated sales manager how they rank against other who have taken the evaluation. If their percentage is 80%, they are better than 80% of the managers who have taken the evaluation. Our 20+ history has verified that most sales managers have less than 10% of the skills needed to be an effective sales coach.

In summary, most sales managers struggle to get their salespeople to perform for one of the following reasons:

  • The manager doesn’t have what it takes - the skills - to be good at the job
  • The manager doesn’t take the time or doesn’t have the bandwidth to handle the job and spend appropriate time coaching
  • There isn’t a consistent ‘Sales Managed Environment’ to execute to so that day in and day out, it’s a different process.

We may well be entering into a new reality when it comes to sales and business success moving forward. In order to stay ahead of the curve, and competition, companies need salespeople who are as can differentiate themselves in a virtual environment. They need sales managers or coaches with a coaching bias who can monitor and track each individual’s sales activities, coach, and hold them accountable to behaviors that will produce revenue.

Need to Improve Your Coaching Skills?

Topics: effective sales coaching, Effective Coaching, sales management success, coaching sales people, sales performance coaching

Lessons from a Few Great Leaders

Posted by Linda Cole on Thu, Oct 01, 2020

Many Great Leaders precede us and the mentorship these leaders provide can help us move our businesses forward if we study and implement some of their learnings and accomplishments. A myriad of basic business tenets demonstrated in the leadership of many influential historical figures have the potential to help us plan our next expansion, create or grow with exploding demand or navigate unprecedented times of change.

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Charles Schwab comes to mind. His book, Invested; Changing Forever the Way Americans Invest, provides us the biography of his revolutionary consumer-direct investment concept. Schwab led the way for the birth of an industry with his passion, beliefs and tenacity in the face of a traditional and hostile Wall Street. The take-aways from his book are numerous and inspirational. Most notably, Charles Schwab had an unwavering vision. His commitment, tenacity and fortitude are demonstrated throughout the book.

Abraham Lincoln created a team composed of able political rivals-- People who were unafraid to voice their opinion or disagree with him. These people were confident in their own leadership abilities. Early examples of diversity and inclusion, Lincoln’s actions help us understand how much better we can be if we find and recruit people from differing perspectives who challenge our thinking. This is particularly relevant for attracting and representing differing constituents--when we are looking to expand our appeal to various market segments or different types of employees. 

Beth Mooney of Key Corp, became the first female CEO and Chairman of a top 20 US bank in 2011. Mooney led the way for women to become management and executives in banking. In an interview with Barron’s published April 3, 2020, she tells the story that in 1979 she was a secretary for a bank in Texas. She applied and interviewed for a management training program, then refused to leave the interview until she was accepted. Which she was, with the caveat that she earn her MBA.

Clearly, Beth Mooney was ambitious. She demonstrated commitment and a stubborn focus throughout her career. She knew firsthand the challenges that women and minorities faced in the white-male dominated banking space and through her determination and actions, Mooney made it possible for many women, minorities and LGBTQ to succeed.

Jesus had a servant heart. “The least of you shall be the greatest.” Focus on the needs of those people for whom you are responsible. Balance conviction with passion – Do not bend from your objectives when correcting behavior or outcomes. At the same time, do not “break the backs” of your people. The bricks and mortar of your business may crumble but armed with great followership you can remain strong and prosper. Leadership skills will only take you as far as your character allows. No amount of skill will overcome a lack of transparency, integrity or honesty.

Margaret Thatcher, the autocratic leader, was known as the “Iron Lady”. Her conviction and values along with her determination enabled her to set goals and see them through, even in the face of personal threat. An example of this was her reducing the influence of mining unions in the UK in 1984-95 , regardless of the push back from public and private opinion. A controversial leader, Thatcher believed that too much government involvement stymied economic growth and she worked untiringly transitioning the economy into the hands of the British people and businesses. Believe in your guiding principles with your heart and soul. If you fail, fail as a result of execution rather than belief. 

Who are your leadership heroes and what takeaways do you take from each? Maybe a parent or teacher provided great leadership qualities. What qualities do you hold yourself to? What qualities do you hold others to?

Identify areas where you are strong and defend your position. What would others say about your list? What are necessary areas of improvement for you? Where are your gaps? What impact do these gaps produce? Are they problematic? Must they be addressed and if so, how will you fix them?

Finally build your own plan for improvement. Then share the plan with others and express your expectations of them. The best way to do that is to tell a story. What is your story?

Need to Improve Your Leadership Skills?

Topics: sales management success, sales leadership development, Leadership Skills, traits of successful people

Leadership in Times of Change

Posted by Steve Jones on Thu, Aug 20, 2020

As a leader, have you ever wondered why your salespeople don't adapt to and follow the new guidelines you have established? Often, managers focus their energy on defining procedures and identifying expectations during times of change. However, they fail to understand the impact and personal needs of the employees that are responsible for following these new requirements. 

In today's blog, we discuss why it is so critical for leaders to understand the overall impact change has on employees and how to best get new policies in place with everyone on board. 

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“Due to the virus restrictions, we have had to institute many new procedures. Surprisingly, some of my best employees are struggling to adapt to them!”

“We had to shrink our sales team due to business performance. This required us to juggle some client assignments among the remaining staff. Some have jumped right in, but a few are resisting. We have been clear about why the business needs to make these changes. They should be happy they have kept their jobs, but you’d never know it.”

What’s going on? In the past, our team has risen to every challenge and met every new goal with excitement and enthusiasm. Our compensation is more than competitive. Our competition hasn’t introduced any new products or services that we can’t compete against. We were very clear on the new procedures and assignments, and our performance expectations are basically the same as they have always been.

What could be going on is that you and your managers have focused your energy on clearly defining new procedures and expectations but may not have spent enough time focusing on the personal needs of the employees. When things are changing, employees will often take a step back to understand how the changes affect them personally before they focus on how the changes will benefit the business. They need the time to understand what they need to do differently and to what extent their world is being changed.

They might be asking:

  • “Do these changes affect my work schedule, which will in turn affect my schedule outside of work?”
  • “Am I going to need to rely on or develop a skill I never really needed in the past? Do I feel confident in that new skill? Am I willing to put in the time and effort required to learn the new procedure?”
  • “Will my selling style match well with the new clients I have been assigned, or will I need to adjust? Will I be able to adjust? Do I want to adjust?”

When change happens in our lives, it is natural for us to resist at first, particularly if we thought things were going well before. If the status quo was comfortable for me, I would prefer to leave things as they were. Unconsciously (or maybe consciously), I am hoping that if I resist the change then it will go away. You will let me continue to operate in my comfort zone.

The mistake we make as managers is that we believe all we need to do is clearly explain what needs to be done and why. If we do that, everyone will see the need for the change and jump on board. However, as long as your people are in resistance mode, they are not ready to listen to your arguments on why the changes are good for the company. They are taking care of themselves first.

The next time you need to institute changes take a more balanced approach:

  1. Be clear about the need for the change and the long-term benefits of everyone successfully adopting the new procedures.
  2. Acknowledge that this is a change and seek to understand what concerns your employees may have about adapting to the changes. Be sincere in your understanding that change can be confusing, time-consuming, and scary. If you have the flexibility to accommodate an individual’s specific concerns, let them know that.
  3. Discuss what the employees need to get comfortable with the changes. Do they need more information? Do they need time to learn new procedures before they are implemented? They certainly will need your patience as they adjust, and your understanding if they are not initially skilled at the new behaviors.
  4. As a leader, you need to define the desired outcome. Allow your employees to participate in figuring out the best way to achieve that outcome. If you do this, you will find they will more quickly “own” the new procedures and behaviors.
  5. When your employees struggle with the new “rules of the game” – and they will – be forgiving at first and encourage them to keep working at it. Acknowledge the effort to change, and they will feel you appreciate that it isn’t easy.
  6. When you feel the majority of your folks have successfully transitioned to the new way, take some time to celebrate. Remind them how far they have come, thank them for their efforts, and revisit the benefits of making the changes. This will help them continue to move forward even when they have setbacks.

Change is hard. Change is uncomfortable. Given the choice, most people will choose to not change what they feel has been working for them. Don’t try to manage the change by focusing on processes, measurements, and results. Instead, try to lead them through the change by partnering with them and supporting them along the new path you have set for them.

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Topics: Sales Leadership, sales management success, managing sales teams, sales leadership development, increase sales, motivating salespeople

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

Why Are My Salespeople Not Perfoming as Expected?

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Jun 26, 2020

Why do so many of my salespeople fail to perform as expected?  It's a loaded question.  Or, is it?  In our corporate sales training experience, we've seen that evaluating underperforming salespeople in the pre-hire sales assessment is crucial for success in your business.

From poor diagnosis of the right contributing factors for success, to other candidates being eliminated due to weaknesses rather than hiring on sales STRENGTHS, there are specific reasons that not all of your salespeople are performing the way that you thought they would.

Did you hire them this way or did you make them this way?  Let's take a look...

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If you are a sales leader and you look at your numbers and the people producing those numbers, do you ever scratch your head in confusion over why you are looking at a lack of sales results?

Certainly, you didn’t hire these people to be in the middle of the pack or at the tail end of the conga line, but that is right where they are.  I know you don’t believe you hired them that way, but it’s either that, or you made them that way.

Don’t get upset with me here.  The reality is that your team’s performance is a result of who you’ve hired or what you’ve done (or not done).

So, in general, why do so many salespeople fail to perform? I have detailed answers to that question that you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else besides right here.

  • Underperformers have 80% of the desire of top performers. *Note – not all performers have off-the-chart desire – that is about 7% of all top sales people.
  • Those that underperform have about 44% of the commitment to succeed in selling that top performers do.
  • These two factors combine to measure motivational level. Underperformers have about 60% of the motivation of your top people.

SUMMARY – Underperformers just are not as motivated to succeed.

SOLUTION – STOP hiring people that are not motivated to succeed at the highest level of performance!

Using the Objective Management Sales Evaluation, there are over 100 data points to measure the opportunity for sales growth of a sales team/organization.  Additionally, this data helps us to predict the likelihood of success of new sales people and managers. 

Here are some interesting findings based on the raw data I have from assessing salespeople (as well as firsthand knowledge of some of the people in the study).

  • Top performers are trainable and coachable
  • Top performers have a high figure-it-out factor
  • Top performers have a low need for approval and…
  • Top performers score an average of 86.8 (higher score is better) and underperformers score 39.6 for handling rejection!
  • Top performers are hunters, consultative sellers and closers (average score for skills is 55% of required skills while underperformers average 39.6% of required skills)

SUMMARY  Salespeople – regardless of tenure or previous success - need training and coaching. Also top performers handle rejection extremely well and move on.

SOLUTION  Do not hire based on past performance. (It’s like investing in a mutual fund – past performance is not a guarantee of future returns.)  During the interview process, reject the heck out of the candidate – the strong ones will recover and attempt to close you over and over again!

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The following data indicates that sales strengths are better indicators of success rather than sales skills:

  • Underperformers have 85% of the sales skills of top performers and have…
  • Only 71% of the sales strengths that support execution of sales skills and…
  • The severity of their sales weaknesses are 52% higher than that of top performers

SUMMARY – The skills are about the same, but those with strong strengths of desire, commitment, outlook and responsibility win.

SOLUTION – Make sure your pre-hire assessment process looks for strengths and “will sell” rather than just skills, personality and behavioral traits.

So, back to the original question:   “Why do so many of my salespeople fail to perform as expected?”:

  • Poor diagnosis of the right contributing factors for success
  • Candidates eliminated due to weaknesses rather than hiring for sales strengths
  • Too much credit given to sales skills exhibited during interview process
  • Lack of solid training and development on the root causes of poor performance

Now that you have the answers to the question, what will you do about it?

Topics: improve sales, sales management secrets, sales meetings, individual sales success, sales management responsibility, humor, inspect what expect, sales management skills, 8 Steps for Closing, hiring salespeople, sales practice, sales management, sales results, sales management success, improving sales results, sales metrics, inspiration, sales problems, hiring sales managers, sales management, sales success, keys to selling, sales pitch, sales performance management, sales prospects, how to manage salespeople, sales onboarding, hiring better salespeople, sales menagement, sales management tools, #1 sales assessment, hunting for sales prospects, how to improve sales results, initial sales meetings, how to get a commitment to buy, how increase sales, hiring top salespeople, sales recruitment, sales motivation, how to close a sales deal, how to hit goals in sales, sales skill assessment, consultative selling, 5 keys to coaching sales improvement, how to prospect, sales productivity tools, professional sales training, consultative sales coaching, insurance sales training, 5 keys to sales coaching, online sales management training, insurance prospecting system, consultative sales coaching cincinnati, consultative selling cincinnati, sales management training cincinnati, sales productivity tools cincinnati, hiring sales people cincinnati, increase sales cincinnati

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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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