ACTG Sales Management Blog

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How to Find and Cultivate Prospects That Fit Your Business

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Jun 03, 2019

Today, our customers are bombarded with sales, marketing, and advertising pitches from companies all hoping to win their business. They’re overwhelmed, or, in most cases, they simply tune us out.

So, we try to reach as many potential customers as we can, but our salespeople spin their wheels and end up stuck in the same place, week after week, month after month, or year after year.

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The problem? We’re not sure who we’re trying to reach. Many of our potential customers view their time as their greatest, most valuable asset, and so should we. We can protect that asset by having a clear understanding of who our target customer is.

Identify What a Zebra is:

In order to hone that understanding, we have to begin with first identifying our “Zebra,” or our ideal prospect persona.

 We can do that in three easy steps:

  1. Begin by segmenting our business’s book into thirds. For most companies, that top third brings in 90% of the company’s revenue. They are generally the best clients.
  2. Look for common traits and demographics in that top third. Ask questions like:

·      What do these customers have in common?

·      What industry are they in?

·      Who is our main point of contact?

·      How do we contact them?

·      What is the size of their organization?

Having the answers to questions like these helps identify other potential customers in the market.

3. Once we know what traits we’re looking for in that top third, we should commit 2/3 of our time to looking for, or attracting, customers from this group.

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Identify What a Zebra Isn't:

Of equal importance is to know, and clearly articulate, what isn’t a Zebra for us. If we know who doesn’t fit our ideal customer persona, we’ll bring clarity to our network and prospecting efforts, and again, continue to value time as our greatest asset. Here’s why it’s important to know what a Zebra isn’t:

1.    We eliminate ambiguity

Introductions have been proven to be the No. 1 way that top producers grow their business. But if we aren’t specific about who we serve best, it’s hard to get those introductions. We need to be specific and clear about what type of zebra we serve best.

2.    We reduce frustration with our Centers of Influence (COI)

We want to capitalize on our COI’s relationships, but if we’re not crystal clear with who we’re looking for, our COI may make an introduction to someone we can’t help. When working with our COI, it’s helpful to articulate the type of business or individual we’re looking for, along with what we’re not looking for and why.

3.    We reduce our opportunity cost

Our opportunity cost is what we’re not working on that might have been more viable for our organization. If we’re calling on Company ABC, we’re not working on Company XYZ. Are we losing out on better business, because we’re not calling on the right prospects?

If we know what we don’t want and the reasons why, it might reduce the quantity of opportunities in our pipeline, but the quality will increase dramatically. 

 Cultivating Zebras

Once we’ve determined which customers are and aren’t Zebras, we need to understand the best ways get in front of them and build relationships.

Start by doing some research.

Should we call or email them?

What is their preferred social media platform – LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter?

Knowing how and where to reach our target persona will positively impact our ability to hunt, qualify and discover potential new business. Undoubtedly, our most effective approach is to utilize the relationships we have with our top third by asking them to introduce us to others they know, who will most likely fall into that ideal customer profile.

It takes work to find these prospects and then contact them, but it’s well worth the effort. Our chances of success are now much higher because we know we’re reaching the right audience, the Zebras who become our best clients.

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Topics: Questions for Prospects, qualifying prospects, sales prospects, consultative selling, how to prospect

Motivating Prospects to Take Action

Posted by Patrick Kollmeier on Thu, Nov 22, 2018

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Another day, another great resource available from us here at Anthony Cole Training Group.  

Are you ready to change the way you approach prospects to close more sales?

In his audiobook, Motivating Prospects to Take Action, Tony Cole shares with you how to identify the 3 different types of prospects and how to tailor your approach to help prospects make decisions.

You will learn the right questions to help identify severe mental anguish and get prospects to take action!

This 13-clip audiobook along with the worksheet will help you:

  • Identify the 3 types of prospects
  • Learn various strategies for uncovering pain including The Takeaway Technique
  • Identify the obstacles that prevent prospects from taking action
  • Know when you are seeing the REAL issues and pain
  • Develop a process for asking the right questions to uncover pain

Interested in receiving a Free copy?  Download available below!

Motivating Prospects to Take Action

Topics: Prospecting, sales plans, motivation, sales prospects, prospect communication, sales motivation, how to prospect, action

Increasing Lead Generation to Opportunity Ratio -  Several Steps Required!

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Sep 11, 2017

We’ve been doing a fair amount of research into lead generation through our primary source, Hubspot.  We’ve had a long business relationship with them because they provide a great platform for all things that are digital marketing and associated data.  One thing we will begin to take better advantage of is their CRM application.  This will allow us to tie our marketing efforts directly to a client management AND pipeline management system.

Why is this important?  Because without a coordinated system that links marketing and sales:

  • Sales and marketing will probably not be in sync
  • There will be duplicates of effort attempting to generate helpful data regarding the impact of marketing efforts
  • The ability to clearly see the conversion of marketing lead generation to sales opportunity is compromised due to user error or lack of participation (not entering data)
  • Failure to coordinate the lead generation with a milestone based sales process makes it difficult for managers to effectively manage performance and conduct intentional coaching. (The manager will find it difficult to determine if the sales person has an effort problem or an execution problem)
  • Predictability of future sales revenue is dependent upon knowing exactly what is going into the pipeline – lead generation – and the conversion of those leads throughout your sales process.

How well aligned is senior management, including those leading the marketing effort, with sales management and the sales force?  Our data, using the Objective Management Group Sales Force Evaluation, tells us that there is usually a significant disconnect between leadership and management when it comes to the following strategies:  Business, Sales and Marketing.  Below see the findings from a bank with three managers.  Their overall alignment with senior leadership is 69%.  A series of questions are asked of the president of the bank and his three market presidents.  The percentages indicate how often the answers from each of the market presidents match with the bank president.

As you can see below the marketing area is where they are least aligned at 53%.  This isn’t the end of the problem.  We also asked all of the relationship managers (16) to write out the bank’s value proposition, brand promise and elevator pitch.

 

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Overall results (not shown) indicate that less than 50% of the relationship managers in the group were able to express the value proposition with any consistency and only 25% responded with the correct brand promise.  On the other hand, there was a 75% consistency in the elevator pitch.

Solutions:

  • Assess your sales management team to identify the variance in strategy alignment and the messaging being communicated by the sales team.
  • Communicate, train and coach sales managers on how to effectively deliver the brand promise, the value proposition and the elevator pitch.
  • Get sales management and marketing to work with the relationship managers to make sure they know the promise of the organization and can effectively communicate it to one another and to the market place. (Training sessions that include drill-for-skill and role-playing are useful.)
  • Have sales managers perform joint calls with relationship managers so that they can observe and critique delivery of the message.
  • Create and embed email templates within your CRM system that RMs may use when communicating to suspects, prospects and clients.
  • Overstate the brand promise in sales meetings.

The First Moment of Truth isn’t what it used to be. I’ve quoted this research before, The Zero Moment of Truth (ebook), because it helps companies understand that the buying process has changed dramatically.  The first moment of truth in the selling/buying process used to be initiated by a sales person.  That is hardly the case anymore because sales people simply cannot get to influencers and decision makers any more.  The buyers are either out or busy! Buyers today begin the buying process when they are stimulated by something they have seen, heard or read via the dozens of access points they have via the digital / technology / internet age.

The first moment of truth for your sales people today may in fact be the first time they’ve had the chance to talk to a suspect but what they don’t know, probably never knew, is if the buyer is an active or inactive buyer and has already begun the process.  This person may already be in the ‘Awareness’ stage of their buying journey and maybe in the middle of their “Assessment Stage’ of their buying journey.  Identifying the stage is more important then finding ‘pain’ in this first moment of truth.

Solutions:

  • Stop thinking about your sales process to improve converting leads to opportunities
  • Identify the buying process of your market place and match your approach to working with them to that buying process
  • Understand that in order to get someone to move your sales people from the assessment stage to the buyers decision stage they have to be more informative. Informative about things that they buyers doesn’t already know.
  • This doesn’t mean ‘pitch’ them on the features and benefits of your products or solutions.
  • This does mean that your people have to be better at providing useful information, becoming a resource for business solutions and guiding prospects through their buying stages

The world of buying has changed.  It’s time to change the world of selling.

How well does your team measure against your industry?  Assess your salespeople on the 21 core selling competencies.

Compare Your Salespeople on 21 Core Competencies

Topics: sales prospects, sales leads, generating leads, how to prospect

You Can't Handle the Truth

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Fri, Sep 08, 2017

At some point that title won’t make me think of the great Jack Nicholson and his role as Colonel Nathan Jessup in the 1992 movie “A Few Good Men” … but it is safe to say that point in time is a long way off for me. It is one of my all time favorite movies.  For now, that famous line from Colonel Jessup has me thinking about how selling has changed so dramatically even within the last few years.

So, if you can handle the truth, here is the truth:  selling has changed…but salespeople have not.

There are two significant changes that have swept over the sales landscape:

  1. The buyer is initiating the sales process…what HubSpot refers to as the buyer’s journey.
  2. The buyer is further along in their thinking than ever before.

The first change brings to mind the 2011 Google eBook titled “ZMOT”.  ZMOT is an acronym standing for the Zero Moment of Truth and is defined as the exact moment in the sales cycle that is between the stimulus (how the prospect became aware of a product) and the first moment of truth (a P&G term referring to the decision to make a purchase).  In short, ZMOT refers to the point in time where the buyer is researching a product or service offering and the seller is completely unaware of the buyer’s actions.

Here is a quote from the Google book:

“If you’re available at the Zero Moment of Truth, your customers will find you at the very moment they’re thinking about buying, and also when they’re thinking about thinking about buying.” (ZMOT, 2011)

So, it all comes down to three simple questions:

  1. Is your company winning or losing at the Zero Moment of Truth?
  2. How do you know that?
  3. What are you going to do about it?

It is inarguable that more and more buyers are finding and researching options online before they ever talk to a salesperson.  Some estimates have YouTube doing 3,000,000,000 searches each month and uploading 100 hours of video every 60 seconds.  And if they can’t find you…when they are looking for you…even if you don’t know they are looking are for you…. you are losing the Zero Moment of Truth.

As Colonel Jessup would ask “We live in a world full of prospects…who’s going to call them?  You?  They may have already passed their Zero Moment of Truth."

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Topics: sales prospects, sales leads, generating leads, increase sales leads,, how to prospect

Hitting Your Sales Goals – 3 Challenges to Overcome

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Sep 06, 2017

In the last 30 days, I’ve talked to more than a dozen company executives, sales people and sales managers.  I’ve asked them “What is the #1 constrictor to hitting your sales goals?”  The answer every time was: getting more qualified leads.  I know this is not a large sampling and I would be concerned about the validity of this finding if only 25% of them said that getting more qualified leads was the main problem. But that isn’t the case.  The consistency of answer in this survey indicates a trend to focus on.

There is further validation of the current finding:

During training discussions over the course of more than 20 years, I’ve asked sales executives, presidents and sales teams to complete the following statement:  I (we) would sell more, be more productive, more effective if only I (we) …  The #1 most common answer consistently over the years has been “If I had more / better prospects to call on.”

In order to address the problem of gettin more qualified leads, sales leaders and salespeople need to first understand these three challenges:

  1. Will to Sell
  2. Sales DNA
  3. Sales Skills

Let me use an example to explain.  We are currently working with a financial institution that is hiring a new private banker in an expanded market.  Using the pre-hire assessment from our partner Objective Management Group, we created a ‘tailored fit model’ based on the performance of the top and bottom current private bankers and then assessed the 5 candidates they were still considering.

Take a look at these findings:

Figure 1 – How well did the candidates match the clients’ work history criteria for success?  The client created a profile that indicated that the non-negotiable sale success criteria where: 1) must be competition resistant (successfully sold in a competitive environment), 2) Successfully sold value rather than price, 3) Sold to executives, 4) Has successfully hunted and sold new business (this addresses challenge #3 sales skills – specifically skills for hunting/ prospecting), 5) Is an entrepreneurial seller.  As you can see all the candidates being considered marginally met the client criteria for success with 3 of the 5 having an 80% match.

But when we look at the other findings, we find the 3 challenges most common to organizations that are trying to consistently hit / exceed their sales goals.

Figure #2 -When we look at Challenge #1 – ‘Will to Sell’ we find the following:

Only 1 candidate meets all the criteria for Will To Sell. The question becomes:  How important is the will to sell when attempting to overcome the challenges of finding qualified prospects to talk to? If 1/3 of your current team lacks the will to sell what is the likelihood  - despite all the ‘prospecting’ training you provide them – that they will actually execute?  Also note that one of the candidates with strong desire, commitment and outlook will still be prone to making excuses for not prospecting, asking for introductions and networking. (Desire for Sales Success)

Figure #3 – Sales DNA (Sales DNA Audio) findings for the 5 candidates looked like this:

This post won’t go into the definitions of all the criteria you see here but understand that green is good and red is not so good.  If you look to the right of the graph and look at the Total Sales DNA the scores in green and red told our client what they needed to know.  If everything else is equal in the equation then your people with strong sales DNA are more likely to do the activity of prospecting and will be more successful.

*Candidate #2 meets the criteria of the client, has a very strong will to sell and has the highest sales DNA score.  How many of the people on your sales team measure up to this ‘elite’ candidate?

The world of selling is certainly different today than it was just 5 years ago.  Your prospects in the market place have more ways to find more information about you, your products and services. They have more ways to compare you against your competition and all of this happens without you or your sales people even making contact.  (See ZMOT – Google Research – Zero Moment of Truth).

To meet the challenges of today, you need a sales team with the right stuff.

 Find Out More about our Fall Sales Workshops

Topics: Prospecting, sales goals, sales prospects, qualified leads, sales leads, generating leads

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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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