ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

Hit Sales Growth Goals and All Other Problems Go Away

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, May 02, 2019

Disconnect in the business world is pretty common. But, that doesn't mean it should be. Specifically in sales, your job as a leader is to create a model that benefits both the company and the salespeople that work there. So, how do you do this?

This article will provide you with a list of questions to ask yourself, and your producers, when your sales team is underperforming and improvements need to be made.

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I recently met with a firm that was struggling with its sales team hitting sales goals. Sound familiar? And talking to the president, she shared with me her frustration over this and the various attempts taken to correct the problem, and nothing seemed to work. The most recent strategy was to change the compensation payout on one of the products being sold. Keep in mind there wasn’t a change to the amount being paid out, just the way the payout would occur. 

You would have thought that she was reducing the comp schedule by 50%, changing the 401K match and eliminating the contribution schedule to the employee health insurance plan all in a 24-hour period. The reaction from the sales team was negative and swift. For days, salespeople were focused on:

  • Why is the company doing this?
  • This isn’t fair, I’ve always been paid within 30 days of the sale.
  • Is this a punishment?
  • This doesn’t motivate me to sell more!

As I’ve been thinking about this for the last week or so I wondered...

  1. Would any of this be a problem if in fact the sales people had hit their sales goal in 2018 and so their payouts would be consistent with their personal financial needs?
  2. Would this be a problem if year to date each of the sales people was on track to hit their goals for 2019?
  3. And finally, if the 2019 sales goals were being met, and cash flow met the requirements of the business plan, would the president have been put in a position to do something in an attempt to light a fire under the pants of the sales team?

I believe the answer to all of those questions would be no.

Dealing with sales problems within an organization is no different than dealing with a specific sales opportunity that is stuck in the pipeline. Too often a sales person attempts to put pressure via constant emails and calls inquiring about "Where are you in the process of making a decision to move forward with this”?  This is the wrong end of the problem in sales. If a sale is stalled or is not made, the sales person with the help of the sales manager has to work the right end of the problem. The right end is examining what happened or failed to happen at the beginning of the milestone centric sales process that the company developed as part of the sales enablement and CRM strategy?

  1. Was there a compelling reason to act?
  2. Was the incumbent eliminated from the process?
  3. Was the capacity to invest time, money and resources discussed and agreed to?
  4. Was there an agreement for the prospect to pay more if required?
  5. Did the sales person fully understand the buyer’s buying journey / process and what stage they were in?
  6. Was the sales person in front of decision makers: users, implementers, finance, IT etc.?
  7. Was there urgency?
  8. Was there an agreement to decide at time of presentation?
  9. Was the company in a position to solve the business problem for the prospect based on the prospect’s selection criteria and priorities?
  10. Was the prospect given several opportunities to back away from the discussions?
  11. Did the sales person ‘own the room’ when they made the presentation?
  12. Was the presentation compelling and designed to lead to an obvious conclusion to buy?

These are just a few examples of steps in a milestone centric sales process as described in this audio blog – A Suspect Remains a Suspect Until.

Back to our president and the company. The challenge here is to ask the sales team the questions I asked above. Get to the right end of the problem and you can avoid many problems closing opportunities and growing sales in your company.

Topics: closing more sales, reaching sales goals, motivating salespeople, sales opportunity

Enough is Enough

Posted by Alex Cole-Murphy on Thu, Apr 18, 2019

Complacency in selling is not a new phenomenon.  In fact, it has been going on for a number of years with salespeople accepting their status, their shiny new toys, and their numbers in the business, while exclaiming,

"Enough is enough.  I've accomplished it all!"

In this article, we discuss three keys to help sales managers bust the myth that “enough is enough” and continue to get the most out of their top producers.

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Too often, highly successful salespeople reach a point in their career where they become complacent and “enough is enough”.  This happens for many reasons, but one of the main causes I've observed is because "they've made it".  It doesn't matter what the gender or tenure may be — all that matters is that one day the sales person wakes up, takes a look around, and discovers that all of the things they strived for when they entered into the business have been accomplished.

For example:

  • They have the big house
  • They have the right car
  • They have the club membership
  • They are either empty nesters or they have the kids in private schools

In the past, Dave Kurlan at Objective Management Group has said that highly successful salespeople are motivated by earning more money. Recently though, Dave has done some additional research to indicate that money is NOT really the primary motivator, especially with today's younger generations.  

With this in mind, I don't want to focus on money as the motivator, but I don't want to totally discount the idea either - Money does help people achieve the other extrinsic motivators that are important to them. However, it is actually the specific goals of the individuals, that provide the motivation for earning more money.

For example, let's suppose you have a sales person who says spending time with the kids in extracurricular activities is important. I would suggest that being successful in selling "buys" one the time to have balance in their life and “buys" the ability to make the choice to go to a field hockey game at 3:30 in the afternoon. This freedom of time and choice might require your sales person to succeed at a higher level. People who are actively dreaming and motivated to reach their goals will continue to work towards financial success to fulfill those goals.

Here are 3 Keys to help sales managers bust the myth that “enough is enough” and continue to get the most out of their top producers. And if you are a top producer yourself, these are three areas you should question and reflect on for yourself.

  1. Ask the right question(s). It really isn't about money - how much they want to make, how much they want to have, when they want to retire, etc. The better questions focus on helping your highly successful salespeople determine what they would like to have to shape and define their lives. Ask them to rethink their goals to include some things that would be important to them to have as a legacy regarding who they are and what they accomplished.
  2. Create an environment where goal setting is also goal sharing. Too often, sales managers don't feel that it is necessary to know exactly what it is that motivates their salespeople. As a sales manager you may argue this, but the OMG data shows that 75% of all sales managers do not feel it is important to know what motivates their people. However, once you know what is important to you then, then you are more effective as a mentor and a coach.
  3. Build the company sales revenue plan from the ground up. Start working with your people and help them identify what their requirements are to have a lifestyle filled with happiness, success, and financial freedom. Document their individual requirements and provide a process to translate those requirements into a selling success formula. 

I've explained to salespeople that if the company has a bigger goal for them than they have for themselves, they shouldn't blame the company. The salespeople need to blame themselves because smaller expectations are a clear indication that they have stopped dreaming and stopped setting goals. I’ve explained to executives that it isn't about shareholder value. Their salespeople, unless they own shares, don't give a hoot about shareholder value. They care about sending their kids to school, buying a place in the mountains, paying for the weddings, etc.

When you have an environment where your people can continue to make their dreams come true, then you have something special where “enough is enough" is never an issue. 

Topics: motivating sales people, effective sales management, salespeople, sales opportunity, driven, complacency

7 Rules of the (Prospecting) Road

Posted by Walt Gerano on Wed, Apr 10, 2019

There are a certain number of rules that must be followed when it comes to prospecting in sales. 

These include, but are not limited to, making the commitment to get out of the cold calling business, identifying who you will ask for introductions and referrals each week, ensuring exactly how you will evaluate your success, and creating a pre-call plan for every single call and/or face-to-face meeting.

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Some people say that rules were made to be broken. You might want to think twice about breaking some of these rules for prospecting.

The most successful salespeople I know are always challenging the ideas and methods of those that have succeeded before them, but 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. 

Here are some rules to help you prospect and prosper:

  1. Play in your sandbox. Make sure you have a profile of who you need to be in front of. Call on the people and businesses where you have expertise, and can leverage that, along with your experience.
  1. If you are dependent on making cold calls, make the commitment to get out of the cold calling business. You will schedule appointments and make sales cold calling but the acquisition cost per sale is much higher than with referrals and introductions. Not to mention the sales process is generally longer.
  1. Look at your schedule each week and identify who you will ask for introductions and referrals. It could be face to face meetings, networking events or a meeting with a center of influence. Have a process for asking that makes it easy for people to help you. Bring your list of top 10 prospects to every meeting and ask them who they know on the list that would take a call from you? Better yet, make use of LinkedIn and look through their connections for people and businesses that look like your target prospect.
  1. How will you evaluate your success? Make sure to set objectives whether it is with a success formula or a commitment to specific behaviors and then TRACK IT!
  1. Have a telephone approach that when calling for appointments helps you sound like someone they want to speak with. What is your unique selling approach? What problems do you fix and why do people meet with you? It must be compelling.
  1. Do a pre-call plan for every call, on the phone or face to face, to help you stay on track. Know what questions you will ask, what questions you need answered and the tough questions they will ask along with how you will respond.
  1. Don’t quit, be persistent! Rejection is part of the process. It’s not falling down it’s staying down that defeats us all.

Topics: introductions, Cold Calling, Referrals, persistence, success formula, pre call sessions, effective sales process, hunting for sales prospects, ideal prospect persona, sales acceleration, salespeople, sales opportunity

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

How to Bring the Closing Magic

Posted by Walt Gerano on Thu, Mar 07, 2019

Great salespeople are masterful at asking open-ended, courageous questions of their prospects that either lead them towards, or away, from saying "yes" to their solution. There are many instances throughout the sales process where trial closes are appropriate to identify the prospects true compelling reason to make a change.

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Everyone is always asking me: “What are the magic questions when closing?” My answer is simple: There is nothing magical about it. People who consistently close business do so because they have an effective process that they execute every time.

If the only time you are closing is when you have presented a solution, you might be working on too many opportunities that are not really opportunities.

1.) The first opportunity we have to close is during the appointment.  When it sounds like there is some mental anguish or pain, we should ask the prospect to invite us out to discuss in more detail, or agree to another phone appointment when selling long distance.

2.) Our second opportunity comes after we have identified a problem.  They must tell you they are committed to fixing the problem.  In other words, they are going to pursue solutions until they find the one that works for them.

My 3 favorite questions to ask at this point are:

  1. Do you believe I understand your problem?
  2. Do you believe I have the ability to fix your problem?
  3. Do you want my help?

Remember this all happens BEFORE we go back and begin to work on solutions.

Our final opportunity comes after we have presented our solution and answered every objection and every question. 

This one is easy, simply ask:

“What would you like to do now?”

When they don’t respond right away, avoid the temptation to jump in and rescue them.  Wait for an answer.

If it’s a yes, schedule the next step, if a no go back to the pain.

Follow this process and your results will be MAGICAL.

Topics: closing more sales, Closing business, Closing skills, closing sales techniques, sales opportunity, when to walk away

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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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