ACTG Sales Management Blog

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Will the C-Suite See You?

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Jul 21, 2022

While there are many differences between elite salespeople and average salespeople, two of the more important distinctions are the ability to sell value (they can sell at a slight premium on price) and the ability to reach the top levels of the prospect’s decision-making team (typically the C-Suite).

It is the second of those two distinctions that serves as the title and the focus of this blog.  Average salespeople are quite comfortable and successful seeing the non C-suite members of the decision-making team.  Why are salespeople so comfortable with these people?  The answer is quite simple – because these people are easy to see.  They offer very little resistance.  So here is a general rule of thumb:  the easier the person is to get in front of, the less likely they will play a significant role in making the ultimate decision. To quote Eleanor Roosevelt, “never let anyone tell you no unless they also have the power to tell you yes.”

Here are 3 keys to getting in front of senior level executives:

  1. You must find someone to introduce or refer you. Recent studies have revealed that 80% of senior executives when surveyed have responded that they are extremely unlikely to meet with you or return your call or reply to your email if they don’t know you and your firm.  Cold calling, while for the most part is never effective is even worse when you are calling the top level of the organization.
  2. Brevity is beautiful. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “the most valuable of all talents is never using two words when one will do.”  C-Suite executives have the attention span of an 8-year-old in front of a broken-down ice cream truck on a hot summer day.  Keep it simple.  Keep it short.
  3. Tailor your message for resonance. Are you talking about issues that matter to senior executives?  Are you speaking their love language (talking about problems and solutions)?  If not, you are easy to ignore.

Happy selling.  I need to go.  I think I hear the ice cream truck heading by our office.

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Topics: sales succes, sale skills, decisions

What Making Assumptions in Sales Does to Your Success

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Jun 16, 2022

Doing research and preparing for a prospect meeting so that you know what questions to ask is important. However, it is even more important to have a healthy level of skepticism and not assume anything about what they may or may not need.

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Since Alex and her husband moved just around the corner from me and Linda, twice a week I ride my mower over to their place to mow their yard. I have time to do it, I like doing it, they are busy moving in and chasing their 21-month-old around, so why not.

Not too long ago on the way back to our house, I noticed a neighbor’s yard had not been mowed in a while.

I had a flashback to 24 years ago- Anthony, our son had a cardiac arrest and was in a coma and in Children’s hospital for over 90 days. It was the fall of the year. The grass was still growing and eventually leaves started falling. Our neighbors, without saying a word would occasionally pitch in. We would come home from an almost 24-hour a day and the grass was mowed and/or leaves were gone.

I thought that perhaps the same thing had happened to our neighbor, so I took a few moments to mow their front yard.

The next day I was driving home, drove down our street, and saw a sign that said; “Stop mowing our lawn, Karen!”

I’m not up on the whole “Karen” thing so I didn’t understand what the intended message meant. I just thought that perhaps there was a neighbor-type of dispute going on and one of the participants was named Karen. I come to find out that they were talking about me.

As I thought about it more, there are 2 sales & selling messages here:

Salespeople making assumptions. I assumed that there was a need when there wasn’t one. How often have you gone out on a call assuming that the prospect was compelled to buy something, was willing to spend money, and could fire their current relationship? Oh, you may not have assumed that in the very beginning but when:
    1. The prospects say they are unhappy, thinking about, considering, looking into, and you automatically start thinking they are looking to buy. This happens because you were either taught about “buying signals” or do not have a healthy skepticism of prospects.
    2. They said, “I’m the decision-maker” you took them at their word.
    3. They talked about mistakes made, lousy service, and price increases, you thought they were willing to leave the incumbent.
    4. The prospect said, “This looks great, I really like what you’ve done here” you figured that they were ready to buy, and were surprised when they said they wanted to think it over
Prospects make assumptions. My neighbor assumed that someone mowed their yard because the grass was really getting long, and perhaps was offended because it looked unkempt. How often do prospects make assumptions about you, and how you may go about doing business?
    1. They have been brainwashed by advertising that everything is about price.
    2. They believe that all insurance brokers, bankers, and investment advisors are only out there to make commissions and couldn’t possibly care about them and their needs.
    3. They figure that you are in the business of providing free information and quotes because that is what they experienced from all the other bad salespeople they’ve dealt with.
    4. They assume they can take their time because chances are you didn’t uncover any urgency by what you said and did.
    5. They think you are like all the rest because your pitch sounded like all the rest:
      • We have great service
      • Our products are industry-leading edge
      • We care about our clients
      • Our pricing is competitive

NOTE: No one in the marketplace says; our service sucks, our products are middle of the pack, our clients are secondary, or our prices are incredibly high.

So, the next time you make a call or go out on an appointment, pretend this is the first time ever that you sold to a farmer, doctor, department head, or CEO. Do your homework ahead of time about their industry so that you know the right questions to ask and understand their potential concerns but do not assume anything about what they may or may not need. Have the curiosity of a child BUT have a healthy level of skepticism as well.

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Topics: sales succes, think it overs

Effective Joint Sales Calls for Greater Sales Success

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, May 06, 2022

One of the critical components of sales success and sales coaching is the ability of the sales managers and their salespeople to run effective joint calls. 

There are four steps that will dramatically improve your sales team's ability to eventually conduct extraordinary sales calls on their own.

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Occasionally I have salespeople call on me.  Whenever there are two people on the call, my first thought is: Which one is the rookie? Next, I think;  why are two people here? Who is running the sales call? What are they hoping to accomplish besides trying to find out what I’m trying to accomplish? Is this a real sales call for the salesperson or just practice?

I don’t claim to know if other presidents and decision-makers are thinking these things, but you cannot discount that they might.  Based on that assumption, it is critical that you have a sales call that is well-defined and choreographed so that the prospect is impressed with the meeting, and you, as either sales manager or salesperson, accomplish what the prospect wants to accomplish. Generally speaking, that is to solve a problem.

Here are 4 steps to more effective joint calls:

  1.  A Quality Phone Call- Remember, the quality of the phone call will determine the quality of the appointment.  You must follow a strict phone process to make sure that the joint call is taking place with a qualified prospect.
  2. Conducting a pre-call- In pre-call sessions:
    • Salespeople make sure they are prepared to ask the necessary questions to identify if there is a real opportunity and, if so, set up an additional meeting
    • The sales manager and salesperson roleplay the appointment
    • Everyone agrees to and identifies who will do what during the sales call
  3. Identify the reason for a joint call - If it is for learning purposes, then the sales manager has a very small part in the call.  If it is for qualifying or closing a large account, then the role of the sales manager can be more prominent.
  4. Do a post-call debrief - This is an opportunity to help salespeople recognize opportunities that they missed, questions they could have asked better, and commitments they failed to gain.  These insights need to be followed by an agreement as to the observations made, a demonstration by the sales manager of the correct approach or technique, and finally, a roleplay of the correct way to handle the sales call.

In addition to these steps, the sales manager has to be prepared to let the salesperson fail on the call. Sooner or later, you just have to let them go. If you rescue them all the time, then the salesperson becomes dependent on the sales manager and never develops the sales skills they need to succeed. These four steps, tied to discipline one-on-one coaching, will dramatically improve your sales team's ability to eventually conduct extraordinary sales calls on their own.

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Topics: sales succes, joint sales calls

3 Keys to Motivation and Continued Sales Success

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Apr 21, 2022

Research shows that money is NOT the primary motivator for success in sales, ESPECIALLY with today's younger generations.

Here are 3 Keys to help sales managers and top producers bust the myth that “enough is enough” to continue to see great sales success.

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How to Stay Motivated in Sales

Too often, highly successful salespeople reach a point in their career where they become complacent.  They become complacent for many reasons, but one of the main reasons I've observed is because "they've made it". It doesn't matter what the gender or tenure is. All that matters is that one day the salesperson wakes up, takes a look around, and discovers that all the things they strived for when they got into the business have been accomplished.

  • They have the big house
  • They have the right car
  • They have the club membership
  • They are at the top of the food chain in their sales company (top 10%)
  • Their net worth is comfortable
  • They have freedom of time and freedom to choose
  • They take wonderful vacations
  • They are looked at as the leader of the sales team
  • They are defined by sales management as “irreplaceable”

What the people (Dave Kurlan) at Objective Management Group have stated for years is that highly successful salespeople are motivated by earning more money. Nowadays though, research shows 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 the actual goals of the individuals that provide the motivation for earning more money. For example, let's suppose you have a salesperson 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 salesperson to succeed at a higher level. This is just one example. 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 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 salespeople.) However, once you know what is important to your people, 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 those salespeople own shares, don't give a hoot about shareholder value. They care about sending their kids to school, buying a place in the mountains, and paying for the weddings.

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. 

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Topics: sales succes, successful selling

5 Habits for Greater Sales Success

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, May 27, 2021
Keeping your good habits “habitual” is dependent upon your level of commitment to your goals. If you are truly committed and willing to sacrifice immediate gratification for the long-term good, then good habits stick.

But how do you correct your behavior and become more habitual? Here are our 5 steps to creating better sales habits.

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I’m an educator by degree. During my undergraduate work at UConn, my fellow future teachers and I were taught that behaviors and habits are a result of combinations of rewards and consequences. If you wanted your student to develop certain habits or skills, part of the development, in addition to the teaching and coaching, was rewarding success and disciplining failure. Sometimes the disciplined approach was punitive; other times it was a matter of repeating the behavior, skill, or activity until they (the person being taught) got it right. Once they got it right, they were rewarded.

Given all of this background, here are my thoughts for today about habits.

  • Good habits are called good habits because they contribute to the successful completion of the goals and objectives you say you are committed to.
  • Bad habits are “bad” because, instead of taking you towards your objectives, they take you away. They keep you from accomplishing what you said was important to you.
  • Keeping your good habits “habitual” is dependent upon your level of commitment to your goals. If you are truly committed and willing to sacrifice immediate gratification for the long-term good, then good habits stick.
  • If you find that you cannot consistently execute your good habits, it is probably due to your lack of commitment to the things you say are important to you.
  • “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” - Vince Lombardi
  • Often the things/habits you need to be doing aren’t urgent: exercising, eating well, taking baby aspirin, getting enough sleep, prospecting, blogging, etc.
  • Habits become urgent when something else urgent happens: heart attack, bodily injury, stroke, diabetes, organ failure, put on performance improvement program because of lack of production, lack of website activity.
  • Your habits are expressive of your commitments.

How do you correct your behavior and become more habitual? Here are my 5 Steps to Better Habits:

  1. Identify goals and objectives that are non-negotiable
  2. Have a plan to achieve those goals. Make sure the plan is detailed.
  3. Have a system to track your progress, execution of the necessary habits, activities required to achieve your goals.
  4. Inspect what you expect.
  5. Have an accountability partner that loves you and cares enough about you to hold your feet to the fire.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Prospecting, sales succes, Sales Activities, sales commitment

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    Anthony Cole Training Group has been working with financial firms for close to 30 years helping them become more effective in their markets and closing their sales opportunity gap.  ACTG has mastered the art of using science-based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss our weekly sales management blog insights from our team of expert contributors.

     

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