ACTG Sales Management Blog

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The Two Truths and a Lie of Prospecting

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, Sep 10, 2019

Prospecting for salespeople is often a struggle due to varying factors including their ability to stay committed to the process and overcome rejection.

In this article, we cover the often dreaded, but mandatory, task of sourcing and creating new sales opportunities.

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Salespeople have to prospect – that’s the truth. Salespeople can find their prospects through a variety of different avenues, including; introductions, direct mail, internet offers, networking, internal referrals from business partners, cold calling, campaigns, association memberships, and business networking groups. 

What is also true is that, no matter how a sales person gets a name, the next step is to contact them. You can contact them by mail (email or snail mail) or by phone (the most common method). If you are going to have any chance to schedule time to talk with them about their current situation to determine if they are a prospect for you, you must have contact. That’s the truth.

Prospecting is FUN! Now, that’s a lie. Prospecting isn’t fun. It’s not intended to be fun. Anyone that says it’s fun is lying. If you are a manager, don’t tell your people to “just pick up the phone and have fun with it”. They will know you don’t know what you are talking about.

They’ve had fun before: Water skiing, swimming, hiking, going to a play or the opera, having a picnic, watching a ballgame, getting a promotion, a raise, or recognition for a job well done. All FUN! However, facing rejection, not talking to anyone, having people curse or hang up on you, having people who schedule appointments and then cancel or don’t show up?  ZERO FUN.

If prospecting isn’t fun, then what is it? Back in the day when I was still trying to figure out how to be successful in selling, my coach told me this:  “You don’t have to like it; you just have to do it!” And that is prospecting.  It’s called work and not play for a reason. It is work. You have to put a lot of preparation, emotion, intellect and skill into being successful at prospecting.

David Kurlan from Objective Management Group has found that the single biggest contributor to sales success is the ability to be rejection-proof. Even with all the skill, techniques, scripts and preparation, if you cannot handle the rejection and emotional roller coaster of prospecting, then you will struggle, be inconsistent and fail more than you succeed.

The bottom line is that this isn’t about making it fun. It’s about getting the job done so you have solid appointments that turn into solid opportunities that turn into closed business.

THAT’S where the fun is!

Topics: sales prospecting, contacting prospects, reaching prospects, prospect outreach, creating new sales opportunities

Know What You Aren't Looking for in a Prospect!

Posted by Jack Kasel on Tue, Aug 20, 2019

Prospecting isn't always the easiest task we are required to carry out in sales.  It can be daunting, monotonous, and inconsistent.  However, it must be done and it must be done well!

So, what are some ways in which you can make prospecting easier on yourself to get in front of the right people at the right time?  It all starts with knowing what you want and DON'T want in your ideal client, and being able to share this directly with your Centers of Influence in the marketplace.

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When trying to describe something obscene, William T Goldberg once said,  “I know it when I see it, and someone else will know it when they see it, but what they see and what they know may or may not be what I see and what I know, and that’s okay.” 

Confused?  Yeah, me too.

Unfortunately, many salespeople suffer the same challenges when attempting to describe what their ideal client looks like.  Why is this so important?  It eliminates wasting time (your most precious asset) and causing frustration for your Centers of Influence  (C.O.I.).

Even if trying to describe what you are looking for is challenging, it may prove helpful to first describe what you aren’t looking for

Here are some reasons why knowing what you aren’t looking for is important:

  1. It eliminates ambiguity
    • If you aren’t specific, it’s hard to get introductions. When I’m trying to make introductions for people and they are vague about what they are looking for, it makes it difficult for me to think of someone to make the introduction.
  2. It reduces frustration with your Centers of Influence
    • If you aren’t crystal clear on what you are looking for and what you are NOT looking for, your COI’s might make an introduction for you, only to find out you can’t help the person they introduced.
      1. When working with my introduction partners, I say “This is what type of business I’m looking for. Of equal importance, I really can’t help these types of businesses . . . and here’s why."
    • That brings clarity to the conversation.
  3. It reduces your opportunity cost.
    • Your opportunity cost is simply this . . . If you called on Company ABC, that means you AREN’T working on Company XYZ. Your opportunity cost is what you aren’t working on, which might be more viable for you and your organization.

So, in closing if you know what you don’t want and the reason why, it could reduce the quantity of opportunities in your pipeline, but the quality should increase dramatically.

Good luck and happy hunting.

 

Topics: qualifying prospecting, prospecting skills, centers of influence, sales prospecting

Get Your Prospect to Hit the 'Buy Now' Button

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, Aug 06, 2019

According to an excerpt in Don Miller's "Building a Story Brand," in order to help someone with a trust issue, the salesperson has to provide their prospect with a plan.  

This plan must help them arrive at the‘ buy now’ button on their own. Or, it must be a plan that helps them feel more confident after they’ve pushed the ‘buy now’ button. 

So, how do you go about getting your prospect to hit that button?  

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I’m stuck this morning. I’m reading “Building A Story Brand” by Don Miller and I'm looking over my own book “The Best Prospecting Book Ever Written”.  Don points out in Chapter 7 that in order to get a prospect to push the ‘buy now’ button they have to trust that everything is going to turn out okay. That means that they have to trust you and everything you’ve said and presented to them.

That’s a tall order if you are selling high-ticket items.

In my book, I just read the intro to Chapter 11 where I recount a meeting with Ron Rose at a Cincinnati GAMA meeting. I was a rookie in the Insurance business where Ron, on the other hand, was a 30-year veteran and multi-year MDRT (Million Dollar Roundtable) agent. I asked him what his best method for gaining prospects was and he took me through a series of questions that started with: “If I had your family locked up in a closet with a bomb, that was going to go off in 24 hours if you didn’t make a sale, who would you call on first?” I said, “somebody I already know”.

And that’s how I got stuck. 

Over the last 25 years, I have literally spent thousands of hours learning more and more about how to build a sales practice, craft a strong sales message, present solutions to get people to say yes, and more effectively guide my prospects through their buying process.

Having said that, there are very few books, articles or presentations I’ve read that didn’t address prospecting. I’m in the middle of writing a script for our Instructor Lead Training Session on Getting Introductions. In the process of writing the script, I googled ‘Getting Introductions-- Tony Cole’ to see what else I may have written about the subject and that search took me to my book.

And that's where I got stuck.

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You see, in Don’s book he points out that in order to help someone with the trust issue you have to provide your prospect with a plan. A plan that helps them arrive at the ‘buy now’ button on their own. Or a plan that helps them feel more confident after they’ve pushed the ‘buy now’ button. He used the analogy of putting down stones for the prospect to cross a creek.

That lead me to think about you and your sales approach. It caused me to stop and ask this question – what is your test drive? How do you help people get comfortable enough with you and your process so that the anxiety of making a mistake is minimized?  Imagine you’re buying a $50,000.00 vehicle without a test drive. Now put the number at $500,000.00.

And that is where I got unstuck.

Imagine how much easier it is for any prospect of yours to make a decision if you made it a habit of getting introduced to the person that is eventually going to ask you to write a check for $500,000.00.

Doesn’t getting introduced eliminate some of the anxiety and stress because someone you already trust and have confidence in has taken the test drive?

I'll let you find this one out on your own...

Topics: sales prospecting, prospect outreach, getting introductions

Fishing for Sales Prospects

Posted by Alex Cole-Murphy on Mon, Jul 01, 2019

Sales and marketing go hand-in-hand.  Without leads, salespeople will have a hard time selling.  Without marketing, salespeople will have a difficult time sharing their product and features with prospective clients.  

But how much is too much?  In this article, we discuss the difference between giving salespeople every lead and teaching them how to cultivate their leads to strengthen their pipelines and their careers as a whole.  

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I’m sure a majority of people have heard the Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

This, of course, means it’s more worthwhile to teach someone to do something (for themselves) than to do it for them (on an ongoing basis).

Well, I’ve created a new proverb. A sales proverb, if you will:

“Give a salesperson a prospect, and you strengthen their pipeline for a day. Teach a salesperson to prospect, and you strengthen their pipeline for their career.”

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

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Several of the companies we partner with supply their new, or tenured, salespeople with leads consistently. In theory, this sounds great but it can cause problems in the long term. If you are feeding leads to your salespeople on a regular basis, we encourage you to continue to do so.

However, your salespeople can’t, and shouldn’t, rely on them as their main resource for potential business. They should be capable of replicating the process and generating their own opportunities. If they produce solely off of inbound marketing leads, the salesperson will just survive, and not thrive within your organization. If they don’t know how to effectively create, cultivate and generate leads, they will only do what is required of them to sell and close the leads they are given.  They won’t try to uncover new opportunities and in the end, you, the sales manager, and the salesperson, will be disappointed with their performance.

And it’s not just a matter of teaching them how to prospect, but how to prospect effectively. Anyone can go out and get a list of names but how they contact those names, what they say, what questions they ask all play a role in effectively “fishing” for leads.

So how can you help your salespeople?

Start by setting a new lead expectation. Making it mandatory to produce fresh opportunities on a weekly basis will force your salespeople to go out and make the dials. Next, identify your “Zebra” or ideal prospect persona. For a better understanding of the concept and best practices on identifying “Zebras” watch this short Sales Guy Unplugged video. Don’t let your salespeople call on anyone other than those that fit the personas identified.

After, research the best ways to reach your ideal prospect. Is it via email or phone call? Is LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter their preferred social media platform? Knowing how and where to reach your target persona will positively impact your salespeople’s’ ability to hunt, qualify and discover potential new business.

A salesperson's job, although difficult to do, is not difficult to understand. There are 3 major components:

  1. Go out in the marketplace and uncover opportunities,
  2. Qualify those opportunities and close for the business.
  3. Don’t let your salespeople get by on just your internal leads  fishing for prospects is 33% of their job.

Need more help? Download our free E-Book “Why is Qualifying a Prospect so #%&@ Hard”. This book is packed with practical information that you can put into practice today to immediately increase your sales.

Looking for more sales tidbits, techniques, and video content?  Subscribe to our weekly Sales Brew email below!

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Topics: qualifying prospects, sales prospecting, contacting prospects, reaching prospects, prospect engagement, prospect outreach

Declare Independence From Your Own Obstacles

Posted by Walt Gerano on Fri, Jun 21, 2019

As we approach the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, our own Walt Gerano shares his thoughts regarding the obstacles holding us back from experiencing the sales success we desire.

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243 years ago, 13 colonies declared themselves as newly independent sovereign states and no longer a part of the British Empire. Instead, they formed a new nation—the United States of America.

Have you declared your independence from the things holding you back from experiencing the success you desire?

When you look at your business today, you might agree that you need to prospect more consistently, qualify better and know when to move on from a prospect. But you still have opportunities in your pipeline that are stuck. The question is why and what are you going to do about that?

Why don’t you prospect more consistently

  • You don’t have enough people to call on.
    • When was the last time you asked for an introduction or spent meaningful time on LinkedIn?
  • You don’t have the time.   
    • What activity is more important to the growth and success of your sales practice than prospecting? Schedule prospecting time first.
  • You are fearful of rejection. 
    • Rejection is nothing compared to failure.

What about qualifying?

  • Do you prepare with a pre-call plan for every call to make sure you know how you will get the answer to the question; “why am I here?” (First question you should ask on a call)
  • Are you ready for the curve balls? Those are the annoying questions that you wish they didn’t ask.
  • How and when will you deal with the incumbent?

Why are “opportunities” stuck in the pipeline?

  • Does the prospect really have enough PAIN to move forward and make a change?
  • Do they have the money to fix the problem?  Did you even ask about it?
  • Are you meeting with all of the decision makers prior to presenting your solution?
  • Have you dealt with the “return of the incumbent?”

There is nothing here that you don’t already know. It’s the middle of the year so take a few minutes and evaluate where you are and what you will do about it.

Claiming your independence requires nothing compared to what was sacrificed all those years ago. Let’s remember this week what was at stake and what an incredible gift their fight and sacrifice is to this day. God Bless America.

Topics: qualifying prospects, freedom, sales prospecting, getting sales decisions

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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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