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2 Keys for Improved Sales Performance: Perception and Consistency

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Aug 13, 2020

Perfect practice prevents poor performance! To improve your overall sales effectiveness, you must become masterful at the skills required to be successful.

In today's blog post, you will learn why perception and consistency are critical factors when it comes to upgrading your selling results.

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I’d like to blame my actual visual perception on my crappy golf game but the real problem is my consistency in practice. I’m not consistent. Therefore, my consistency on the golf course is non-existent, which leads to scores anywhere between 92 and 102. 

I can shoot a 44 on the front and a 54 on the back. Don’t get me wrong being virtually blind in one eye doesn’t help with depth perception, which sucks when you are trying to figure out how far the pin is from your ball. Yes, I have a device on my phone that tells me the distance, but I assure you it doesn’t help. And it makes for some good laughs when I’m trying to light candles on a birthday cake. Just ask my daughter Alex.

Let’s talk about these two contributing factors and how they impact sales performance.

Perception

It has been my observation for over the last 25 years that salespeople tend to lump all sales calls into product categories:

  • If you are a lender, most all of your sales calls start with you talking to someone to figure out if they need a loan or how you can help them have access to capital.
  • If you are in employee benefits solutions, you approach all of your calls with the intent on how to help them get better coverage and better pricing.
  • If you are a property and casualty agent, you focus your attention on risk vulnerabilities, risk assessments, and price.
  • And finally, if you are an investment advisor, you tend to focus on where people can put money to generate a great return, minimize taxes, or reduce the risk of losing money.

All of these scenarios occur because of our perception of what the client wants or needs. The perception exists for one of two reasons:

  1. Our years and experience in the business
  2. The words the prospect used when we set up the initial call

There are two problems here: 

  1. Years of experience have nothing to do with the current condition. Let’s go back to golf for a minute. One of the things that make the game so interesting, great and frustrating is that you never really play the SAME course twice. The weather conditions are different. The conditions in the fairway are different. The roll of the ball on the green can be different. And the pin placement always requires a different approach to your putt.
  2. What the prospect tells you initially is never the truth. Not that they are lying to you but they are not telling you the real problem. They normally describe a symptom to the problem or ask you to solve a problem that is actually caused by a bigger problem.  

If we close our eyes and don’t count on what we hear, then we would have to expand our thinking, which will change our perception of the problem we need to solve.

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Consistency

In the elite and strong categories, we know that 80% of the top 25% of all salespeople follow a consistent sales process. What does this mean?

  • They have a process that is milestone-centric - it’s systematic in that when the steps are followed they lead to a conclusion of getting a decision thus eliminating think it overs and delays
  • They document the process and what happens at each step so they know if they are on the right track and if they need to go back and uncover information they may have missed
  • They can look at data to determine what choke points they may have that are keeping them from generating more sales, more quickly at higher margins
  • They can use the data to model success and repeat the process over and over again

Again, very much like a good golfer. During practice, or while on the course during a match, really good golfers have a systematic approach to their game. They approach the ball the same way on the tee. They position their hands the same way when attempting a bunker shot. They line up consistently when making a putt. Those that are consistent in their approach to golf will be more consistent in their scoring and will more than likely have lower scores than someone like me.

The reality is I would like to be better at golf, but I lack commitment. I’m not willing, at this time, to do everything possible to succeed at a higher level. The same might be said of your approach to selling. If you are not selling more, more quickly, at better margins, it might just be a commitment problem rather than a perception or consistency problem.

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Topics: sales performance, improving sales results, How to Increase Sales, consistent sales results, increase sales cincinnati

Call a Sales Audible!

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Jun 11, 2020

In today's blog post, we discuss the importance of calling a sales audible at the line of scrimmage.  Like an elite Quarterback, an elite salesperson must be willing to change things up when they're not working and be open to trying something completely different in the field.

We've all been there before and we all know the definition of insanity by this point.  So, what can you do about it when things aren't going your way and you are ready to increase sales?

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An audible is, "A change in the offensive play called by the Quarterback at the line of scrimmage."

A few years ago , I thought of that definition in Chicago, IL, as my Uber driver made several deviations from her GPS directions in transporting me from the Midway Airport into downtown.

As I rode along with the windows down on a beautiful and sunny day in the Windy City, my thoughts turned from sightseeing to salespeoplespecifically, the need for salespeople to make changes on the fly, whether that be during the initial phone call, the first meeting, or even at the time they present their solutions.  

Is there a better time than right now to try something different in your sales approach?

Anyone and everyone who has had any exposure to our company knows that we are completely sold on the importance of process.  We have table-pounding conviction around how important it is for a business driven by sales to have certain key processes in place regarding their sales infrastructure. 

And, of course, we believe that sales training creates the most return on a client’s investment when the salespeople and sales managers are following a sales process where opportunities are moving through the funnel in a stage-based and milestone-centric manner. 

We believe that firms who don’t have a consistent sales process (everyone following the same steps and using the same terms to describe stages in the sales process) but who implement such a process can often see a 15% to 20% increase in new business sales.

But, here is something worth rememberinglife is complicated.  Ferris Bueller (I can’t come to Chicago and not think of him) told us to slow down or we might miss something

And the same is true with selling.  Sometimes you just need to slow down and do something unconventional.  Sometimes you need to do something that is contrary to what even your training has taught you to do. 

Sometimes you just need to call an audible.

To be clear, usually your training is going to be correct.  But, sometimes, you will need to remember that selling is both science and art, and the art part means you might need to listen to your heart and occasionally let that heart override your mind. 

Of course, the best in the business know when to listen to their head and when to listen to their heart.  And if they get it wrong every so often, so what? 

They get back up and they keep going.

So, listen to your heart.  Sometimes you will need to call an audible to get back on the saddle and to increase sales within your organization.

Topics: sales performance, sales management secrets, sales succes, sales meetings, sales performance poll, sales plans, sales talent, sales priorities, sales management responsibility, sales professional, sales systems, sales skill improvement, sales thinking, sales trainers, sales myth, sales practice, sales management, sales results, sales prospecting, sales techniques, sales tips, sales improvement, sales success, sales leadership development, sales problems, sales recruiting, sales onboarding, sales menagement, sales management tools, sales productivity, sales recruitment, sales skill assessment, sales madness, sales training courses, sales training workshops, sales training seminars, sales training programs, sales team evaluation, sales training programs cincinnati, sales training workshops cincinnati, sales performance management cincinnati, sales training cincinnati, sales training courses cincinnati, sales training seminars cincinnati

Would You Buy from This Salesperson?

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Apr 20, 2016

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Time for an Honest Assessment of Your Sales Team

There are many factors involved in the business of selling.  As any salesperson can attest, the sales process can be a complex and daunting experience fraught with obstacles like aggressive competition, tight markets, shrinking budgets and incumbent vendors.  While there are many obstacles like these that are outside a salesperson’s control, there are many others they can control.  So, as an effective sales manager, what do you need to do to understand how and why a salesperson is performing or not performing? 

The obvious metric to use to measure performance are the sales results of the individual. If they hit or exceed goal, all is good.  So, that takes care of about 10 to 15% of your sales force.  But how about the rest of them?  Sure, the results numbers tell you they are not performing but, as an effective sales manager, you need to find out why.  The only way to do that is to look at additional data points.

Data points that you must observe to measure performance:

  • Critical ratios in the success formula
    • Are they doing the right effort?  (dials, networking, LinkedIn)
    • How effective are they? What do the critical ratios tell you? (10% of the conversations turned into an appointment– that is an example of a critical ratio)
  • Observation
    • Joint calls – Are they executing the company sales steps/process?
    • Joint calls – Are they executing the fundamental sales skills…?
      • Asking enough questions
      • Asking the right questions
      • Using stories, analogies and metaphors to weave a story and be conversational
      • Effectively listening
      • Inquiring for further information to clearly understand the impact of problems described by the client
    • Role-playing
      • Do they understand the fundamentals of your sales steps/process?
      • Do they intellectually understand what you mean by consultative selling, challenger selling, and client-focused interviewing?
      • Do they demonstrate in the classroom what you expect them do to in the field?
    • Additional data
      • Pipeline data – Is the volume increasing? Is it becoming more reliable?
      • Stack ranking - Are the various quintiles in your organization performing better this quarter/year than last quarter/year?
      • Sales activity – Are they doing enough effort to give them enough at bats to be successful?

In particular, for this article, I want to share a thought on observing your people perform.  Either in role-play or in live selling situations, you immediately get a reaction when you observe your people perform.  My guess is that your reaction could fall into 1 of 4 categories:

  1. I would not buy from this person ever; in fact, I would love to compete against them.
  2. I would not buy from them right now based on what I just saw/heard.
  3. I’m on the fence post with them; I need more information or more time to make up my mind.
  4. I would buy from this person; they were compelling, they got me engaged, made me discover some things that bother me that I need to fix and got me to a point where I was thinking I could undo any current relationships, add a new relationship and spend money that I didn’t think I needed to spend.

I have a client that just had a sales meeting that included about an hour of role-play covering a very specific step in their sales process. One of the product line specialists/experts commented the following: “With the exception of 2 people that I observed, I don’t believe I would buy from anyone else that I saw in that one hour.”

Wow, what a courageous, honest assessment.

My comment or suggestion to the team is to go back and review all the video or audio recordings of the role-plays and grade them using the standards I suggested above. 

As a sales leader, effective performance management requires the following:

  • Supportive beliefs about what it takes to coach people and get them to perform. If you believe you can manage people better if they like you, then you’re in trouble.
  • Recovering from rejection – If you cannot recover from rejection or fear of rejection, then you probably won’t tell one of the salespeople you work with that you wouldn’t buy from them.
  • Knowledge of desire and commitment - If you believe that all of your people are trainable and coachable, then you will spend a great deal of time with the same people covering the same sales execution problems.
  • Data nutcase - If you don’t look at data, then you won’t be able to have any intentional coaching sessions.
  • Time allocation - If you don’t take time to do ride-a-longs or role-plays, then you are missing two important/non-negotiable data points.

These are just a few of the requirements of effective sales management, leadership and coaching.  The key point in the message though is to do an honest assessment of your talent and then have discussions with them about how you honestly feel about their performance.  Yes, it will be difficult.  Yes, you might lose somebody over this.  And, yes, you might actually get people to work harder at their craft.

Resources to help you improve performance management and intentional coaching:

To inquire about distance learning, call me or text me directly: 513.226.3913

Topics: sales performance, sales results, evaluating salespeople, managing salespeople

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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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