ACTG Sales Management Blog

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5 Commonly Overlooked Sales Tools

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Feb 13, 2019

In a business world filled with an abundance of technologically advanced CRM tools, there are 5 tools that salespeople must use and sales managers must implement throughout their day-to-day activities and agendas, in order to be successful.

They include:

  1. Effective Personal Goal Setting
  2. The Ideal Week
  3. Sales Process
  4. Huddles
  5. The Success Formula and the 10% Difference

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Do you have all the sales tools you need to succeed? If yes, then forget about this article and go to The Truth About Prospecting.  If you feel you don’t have the tools, or the tools you have are not getting you to your desired sales results, then read on.

I was first introduced to sales tools when I was recruited into the Life Insurance business by David Zimmerman. That tool was the One Card System developed by Al Granum of Northwestern Mutual Insurance. Al’s process of tracking and holding insurance agents to a formula for success is legendary in the Life Insurance industry and is the basis for most CRM strategies used today. Simply stated, Mr. Granum’s research identified that an agent needed 10 leads (suspects) to generate 3 prospects (who will participate in a full fact-finding meeting) to get 1 client.

Over the years, I have seen many variations of this but ultimately the objective is the same. Help a salesperson understand exactly what they need to do to hit their objectives. But this tool by itself is not nearly as effective as when combined with other tools.

Despite all the fuss with sales force automation, lead generation and pipeline management, we know the following to be true: 

  • 33% of the production team is responsible for over 90% of sales results
  • 67% of the team is responsible for less than 10% of the sales results
  • None of the 67% were hired NOT to succeed

So, what is the problem? Why the variance of performance when all these tools purchased and implemented were supposed to fix sales? Here are the 5 commonly overlooked tools that salespeople must use and sales managers must implement.

#1: Effective Personal Goal Setting- Too often companies establish goals for their sales people and then 3 months later the argument ensues about ‘whose goal it was’.  Goal setting must be a personal activity. This is what drives internal motivation and it is internal motivation that keeps your people focused on shareholder value. Spending a day with your people with a thought-out plan to help them focus on personal goals and a corresponding work plan is the bases for the other 4 tools. 

#2: The Ideal Week- We conduct a full-day session on helping companies drive internal motivation and eliminating the excuse of - “I don’t have time”. The reason salespeople don’t have time to do the required and necessary lead generation activity is because they don’t control their business. They sacrifice pleasing outcomes for pleasing behaviors. In other words, instead of sticking to their schedule and making calls at 10:00, they take the inbound customer service call.

#3: Sales Process- Our data shows that over 85% of elite sales people (only 7% of all sales people) use a milestone-centric sales process. The first step in the journey is to get a name, the last step in the journey is to get a decision. Everything else in the middle must be identified as a step and measured.

#4: Huddles- Think of huddles as a communication system that allows the user and manager to collect real time information so that real time feedback can be given, or realized, and real time coaching and instruction can take place.

#5: The Success Formula and The 10% Difference- This is simple math based on the theory of Mr. Granum but a little more granular. 

Topics: development of sales, predictable sales growth, sales motivation, no excuses, sales skill, sales acceleration, salespeople

Asking “Is It Over?” Can Lead to Greater Sales Success

Posted by Alex Cole on Wed, Feb 06, 2019

Part of being a highly successful and effective salesperson is having the ability to walk away from an opportunity. After numerous attempts to contact a prospect and close a deal, there will be a time when you as a professional must determine when and how to call it quits.

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As the quote says, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

There is always something to be learned when it comes to a sale we have lost. One of the most distinguishing traits of successful salespeople is that they always learn from the mistakes they make in selling. And, generally speaking, they will not make the same mistake twice.

One of the mistakes that I observe salespeople making is they fail to ask what I have termed, “The Animal House” questions. Do you remember the 1978 movie, Animal House? Of course, you do- it’s a cinematic classic. Think of the scene near the end of the movie when the Delta fraternity members are being kicked out of school when Bluto says, “Great… 7 years of college down the drain. Over?!? Did you say it’s over?!?!  Nothing is over until we decide it is. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

Now, while Bluto was just a little off in his recall of history, he DOES give us an excellent reminder that there are times when we need to simply ask our prospect, “Hey, is it over? Are we done here?”

Perhaps they’ve promised you some information and you still don’t have it. Perhaps they’ve promised to set up a meeting but it still hasn’t been set. Or maybe they’ve promised to make a decision and now we’re two weeks past that deadline and they’ve gone radio silent. Do yourself a favor- sell like Bluto. Muster up the courage to ask the Animal House questions, “Is it over? Are we done here?”

Find out, and if you are done, maintain control of your sales process and move on. Don’t let the rejection get in your way of pressing forward, learning from your mistakes and hunting for real qualified prospects.

Topics: sales skill, qualified leads, how to prospect, sales advice, sales acceleration, think it overs, salespeople, overcoming rejection

Stop Accepting "Think It Over (TIO)"

Posted by Walt Gerano on Wed, Jan 30, 2019

stop in the name of love

Facing stalls and objections throughout the sales process is a common occurrence for many salespeople. What we find is that, often, it is due to ineffective qualifying and not asking for the prospects commitment to take action prior to presenting a solution.

In this blog, we will cover the 10 common symptoms that suggest you may accept put-offs from prospects and how that is affecting the strength and quality of your sales pipeline.

While we are hoping to hear yes after our presentation, sometimes we hear a no. But how many times are you hearing “think it over”?

Think about the last 10 sales opportunities you had in your pipeline where you didn’t get a yes.  How many of them are still in the pipeline because you are “hoping” for a yes while they “think it over” and get back to you?  Now ask yourself what percentage of the time when you allow “TIO” do you get the business? My guess is that if you are like the rest of us, the number is pretty small. So let’s stop kidding ourselves about the strength of our pipeline and quit accepting “think it over” as an answer.

Since we agree that “TIO” is not the most effective strategy for closing more business, let’s look at some of the symptoms.  You may not identify with all of these but it only takes one to derail your sales effectiveness.

  1. Do you keep going on appointments with prospects that don’t fit your ideal profile?
  2. Are you answering more questions than you are asking?
  3. Are you completing a pre-call plan for every sales call with questions you will ask and curve balls you expect?
  4. Do you rely on cold calls instead of introductions and referrals?
  5. Do you think “running faster” is a strategy?
  6. Are you too trusting of prospects and what they say?
  7. Are doing most of the talking on your sales calls?
  8. Are you talking too much about products and not enough about problems?
  9. Do you go on any appointment because you don’t have enough in your pipeline?
  10. Are you asking for the prospect’s commitment to a “Yes” or “No” answer before you come back, present your solution and answer all of their questions?

Eliminating “TIO” is easier that you think.  First let’s agree that it’s OUR fault.  If you have a sales process that allows for “think it over” you are going to get “think it over.”  If you don’t have an effective sales process, well then get one and follow it every time!

Stop fooling around with prospects that want to “think it over” and go sell something!

Topics: qualifying prospects, increase pipeline, Qualifying skills, Closing skills, salespeople

Bringing Clarity to Ambiguous Conversations

Posted by Jack Kasel on Wed, Jan 23, 2019

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In selling, properly qualifying a prospective buyer is crucial in order to move an opportunity through the pipeline and ultimately close in your favor. Highly effective salespeople do this through the art of asking great sales questions and not fearing the outcome if they challenge a prospect’s statement, or question, in order to gain clarity.  

In this blog, we cover the 3 things to remember about all prospects and how to fully understand and qualify their motivation to make a change.

 

Seek to understand, rather than being understood is a very loose paraphrase of what Steven Covey said in his book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. I think that statement is especially true for sales professionals. When we coach our client’s we try to get them to understand and remember these three tips when in conversation with prospects and client’s:

  1. The statement they make isn’t the actual statement.
  2. The question they ask isn’t the true question.
  3. The problem they have isn’t the actual problem.

Your job is to fully understand, is this a symptom or a problem? Problems get solved, symptoms are tolerated. I was working with a prospect and he kept saying he needed to fix his cash flow problem. The more we talked, it became clear that wasn’t the real problem, the real problem was he missed out on an opportunity to purchase one of his competitors. The symptom was cash flow, the problem was missing opportunities to acquire market share. We focused on fixing his true problem. There are many ways a sale can be killed. Too many times sales are killed by Assume-icide. We assume we know what they want.  However, we never truly understand the real problem or challenge.

One of the ways, and really the only way, to bring clarity to the conversation is by asking or saying the following when we hear prospects make statements or ask questions

  • Tell me more about that . . .
  • What happens if that problem isn’t fixed?
  • When you say (insert statement here), I’m not sure I know what you mean.
  • Many people ask me that question for a variety of reasons; I would like to hear yours.

We also need to listen to emotionally charged words such as . . .

  • Need to fix. .
  • I’m going to. .
  • We simply can’t tolerate. .
  • Others include. . Worried, upset, mad, frustrated

These are emotionally driven words and emotion drives sales.  Listen for them!  Facts and figures justify sales, but emotion drives it.  If we don’t fully understand the reason for the statement, the purpose of the question, or dig deeper to find the real problem, we will waste time and miss opportunities. 

Topics: qualifying prospects, Qualifying skills, sales management, consultative selling, sales advice, salespeople

It's the Little Things in Selling

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Wed, Jan 16, 2019

people-2588594_1920Selling is a 'slight edge business' that is driven by one more phone call, one more prospecting effort, one more cold email outreach, one more social media push, and one more effort to build a new relationship and land a new client.

In this article, we cover the basic principles of control in sales and how the little things are actually the big things when it comes to selling effectively and separating yourself from the competition.


One of the most frequently asked questions we receive from salespeople is, What is the secret sauce to sales success? or, Can you just give me the magic?  I need to sell more business.  Actually, there is a secret sauce, and if you will permit me to enter your kitchen, I am going to serve it up to you.

There is no one thing that is a big thing in selling.  In our organization, we refer to selling as a “slight edge business.”  By that we mean that the line that separates high performers from mediocre performers is usually a very small difference.  Think in terms of maybe just one or two more conversations a week, or one or two more presentations a month.

The Olympics are a perfect example of this truth.  Think of almost any race, whether that be swimming, track and field or skiing.  Do you know what separates the athlete who wins the gold medal from the athlete who finishes just outside the bronze medal?  The answer is fractional seconds, sometimes even as little as tenths of a second.

There is very little you can control in selling.  You can’t make prospects take your call.  You can’t make prospects agree to meet with you.  You can’t make them move forward in your sales process and you certainly can’t make them buy from you.  There are only 3 things you are in control of:

  1. Your effort on a daily basis
  2. Your attitude on a daily basis
  3. Your investment in becoming a better or smarter version of yourself (self-improvement)

Selling is not going to suddenly become easier.  Leads are not likely to become more plentiful. So, the question that is worth asking is this:  What are you doing to shave fractional seconds off your sales time in the 2019 race you are running?  What are the little things that when done week in and week out will amount to big things in terms of your 2019 production?  Maybe it is the one more conversation you need to have each day with a prospect.  Maybe it is the one book you will read or the one new connection you will add to your network that will make all the difference.

Sometimes little things are so small you won’t even notice them when you look back at your sales success.  But that doesn’t mean that it is not a big thing to worry about the little things.

Topics: sales competition, sales growth and inspiration, things to do for sales success, how to improve sales, sales advice, sales acceleration, 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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