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Baseball, Sales Cycles, and the Quest for Shorter

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 23, 2014 @ 09:59 AM

Dave Kurlan is a top-rated keynote speaker, best-selling author, sales thought leader and expert on all things sales and selling.

waiting time

I was listening to a conversation on Sports Radio about the desire to shorten baseball games in 2015.  They've been talking about doing this for years so one might ask, what's different this time?  

When I was a kid growing up in the 60's, a baseball game was expected to last no more than 2 hours.  Today, a Red Sox-Yankees game might last 4 hours - or more!  I LOVE baseball, but even I can't spend 4 hours watching a baseball game on television.  It's way too long.  It's boring.  And that's why baseball is losing so much of its young audience to American football and basketball.  

Not a day goes by when we aren't talking with someone about their sales cycle and how long it has become.  The quest to shorten the sales cycle is similar to the desire to shorten baseball games.  The conversation is never-ending and the solutions are so very simple.

In baseball, they could insist that the batter not step out of the batter's box.  They could insist that pitchers not take more than 12 seconds between pitches.  They could limit the number of pitching changes in an inning and, for that matter, the game.  The could reduce the number of warm-up pitches between innings but then the sponsors would complain and they can't upset the sponsors!  The time between innings is currently dictated by TV and Radio so they aren't about to change that...They could limit the number of throws a pitcher can make to 1st base in an inning.  They could eliminate throwing the ball around the infield after a strikeout.  There are so many things they could do to shorten the game but they never change anything.

In selling, there are even more options for shortening the sales cycle.  They include:

Customizing and optimizing the sales process - most companies believe they have already done this well, but if the hundreds of processes shown to me are representative of what most companies think are completed processes, they have been severely misguided!

Elimination of unqualified demos, presentations, proposals or quotes - most salespeople can't wait to demo and send proposals but they are usually unqualified and that begins chase mode.

Spending MORE time listening and asking questions early in the first meeting or call - most salespeople speed up and try to move through this stage as quickly as possible but that only extends the sales process.  Slowing down accelerates it.

Uncovering their compelling reason to buy and/or move their business to you - most salespeople are fortunate to uncover issues and needs but rarely, if ever, uncover compelling reasons to buy.

Creating urgency - urgency comes from compelling reasons and most salespeople don't know how to uncover them.

Being the value - most salespeople are only able to talk about their value proposition but they don't know how to be the value.

Nailing down the money they will spend - most proposals and quotes are for amounts that prospects have no intention of spending.

Getting them to agree to spend a little more to do business with you - most salespeople end up attempting to compete on price.

Getting to and staying with the decision maker - most salespeople get no further than those tasked with doing research or buyers.

Being more memorable - most salespeople blend in and don't stand out.

Differentiating more effectively - most salespeople compare features/benefits but not much more.

Building a case - the sales cycle must build on itself but most salespeople don't know how.

Relationships - people still buy from people they like and most salespeople could do a much better job leveraging their relationships.

Positioning - most salespeople don't effectively uncover who their viable competitors are and properly position themselves with and against those competitors

Change the timeline - most salespeople extend the timeline when they ask when a decision might be made.  They need to shorten the timeline by asking when the prospect would like their problem solved.

Should we shorten baseball games?  What would you do?

Can you shorten your sales cycle?  How would you do it?  Start by using this free tool to see how effective your existing process is! 

Copyright: bswei / 123RF Stock Photo

© Copyright  Dave Kurlan All Rights Reserved

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After Inbound 14 - Anatomy of a Hybrid Sales & Marketing Role

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 22, 2014 @ 06:00 AM

Dave Kurlan is a top-rated keynote speaker, best-selling author, sales thought leader and expert on all things sales and selling.


Last week, when speaking on the Inbound Stage at Inbound14, my topic was Hiring for the Inbound Sales Role.  I asked the question, "Is this a sales or a marketing role?"

The audience desperately wanted this to be a hybrid - someone who could do both the marketing and the sales.  Unfortunately, a hybrid role it is not.

If you needed to hire an airline employee, would it be a pilot, flight attendant or a hybrid?  I once flew on a 9-seater with a lone pilot who, after reaching cruising altitude of about 1,000 feet, threw peanuts and pretzels from the cockpit...

They are different skill sets and attitudes.  One wants to fly high and the other wants to travel.

If you needed to hire an entertainment venue employee, would it be a food vendor, a security guard or a hybrid?   

They are different skill sets.  One wants to serve food and the other wants to show their muscle.

The marketer generates and posts content, performs some social selling, gets found, generates leads and works behind the scenes.  

The seller connects with the contacts, by phone or email, and must overcome tremendous resistance, get their attention, get them engaged, qualify them as a potential prospect, and convert them to an opportunity in the pipeline.  Or, if responsible for more of the sales cycle, convert that opportunity into something more, like a sale.

They are different skill sets.  One wants to generate and see leads come in, the other wants to engage those leads and convert them to opportunities.

One person asked, "If we could hire only one, which one should we hire?"  That's easy, with no leads, there is no inbound salesperson.  So, it becomes a different choice.  You must choose between a Marketer to generate content and begin developing inbound leads, or a more traditional, outbound salesperson to generate appointments.  If you can only afford to hire one, I would pick the one who could have an immediate impact on the company's ability to generate revenue.  That would be the outbound salesperson.

Inbound is still relatively new; and the people working in inbound roles, nearly as new.  There is much trial-and-error taking place, and the blueprint is still on the architect's table.  Anyone, who can tell you for certain how this role will evolve, has their own private-label, crystal ball.  For instance, take a look at traditional sales roles.  Those have been evolving for more than 100 years and are still changing - more in the last 5 years than ever before.  If we take traditional sales experiences and use those as guidelines for inside, inbound and social, the best we can reliably say is that these roles will probably be quite different five years from now.

The Fall Top Sales Academy offering is available (it's free) - you can see it here.  There is a sales management track and a sales track.  I'll be leading the session on October 8 and the topic is Mastering the Art of Coaching Salespeople.

Earlier that week, I'll be speaking at the EcSell Institute Fall Sales Coaching Conference in Dallas.  You can look here for more information.

Copyright: alexmit / 123RF Stock Photo

© Copyright  Dave Kurlan All Rights Reserved

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How Significant is the Migration to Inside Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 17, 2014 @ 05:30 AM

Dave Kurlan is a top-rated keynote speaker, best-selling author, sales thought leader and expert on all things sales and selling.

Sales Leadership Intensive

Last week, I led our annual Sales Leadership intensive and hosted the best group of sales leaders to ever attend the event.  Chad Burmeister, who is well known throughout the inside sales community, was one of the attendees.  At one of the lunch breaks, he was talking about the customers his company, Connect and Sell, helps.  He commented that most of them are inside sales organizations.  Chad thought that we would have data to demonstrate the transition to inside sales over the past several years.

I began by reviewing my personal clients at Kurlan & Associates and compared them with clients from several years ago.  Sure enough, the numbers were amazing.

As recently as 5 years ago, only 20% of my personal clients were inside sales forces.  Today, that has increased by 150%.  Half of my own training, coaching and consulting clients are inside sales forces!  I investigated further and looked at the many other Kurlan clients who work with the rest of my team and learned that 73% of those clients are inside sales forces.  

Next, I reviewed around 250 of the newest Objective Management Group (OMG) accounts for sales candidate assessments and discovered that 42% of the open positions are for inside sales roles.  That number is quite different from the percentage I found with Kurlan clients and even though 42% is significantly greater than five years ago, I wanted to learn more about why there was such a disparity between the Kurlan versus OMG percentages.  

I dug deeper and learned that the likelihood of an account being for an outside sales role was in direct proportion to the number of years that our OMG Parter/Sales Expert has been with OMG.  That's code for how old the OMG partner is!  Sure enough, most of the older, longtime OMG Partners are still most comfortable doing business with, or positioning themselves with companies that have traditional outside sales forces.  When I looked at the recent accounts represented by newer and younger OMG Partners, 75% of them were for inside sales roles - much more consistent with what I found when I looked at the distribution of Kurlan clients. 

Who knew?

Chad knew.  Way to go, Chad!

What do these number mean for you?

Last year I wrote about the Great Migration to Inside Sales.  The article highlights eight scenarios that help you determine whether or not making that move is right for your company.

I wrote about the move to inside sales again in December and asked why the migration took so long to occur?  That article explains the various inside roles and makes a better case for migration winning out over the status quo.


OMG is working on a major sales effectiveness study that looks not only at traditional sales effectiveness, but also inside, inbound and social selling effectiveness.  The study must be inclusive and not just for huge companies and that's why I need your help.  I would be so appreciative if you would take 5 minutes from your busy day to provide your anonymous data.  No names, no emails, no follow-up.  Although it's an easy survey to take, it's crucial that we produce this unbiased study.  Won't you please help me?

The September, Week 4 Issue of Top Sales Magazine is available 
here.  And the brochure for the 2014-2015 Top Sales Academy is available here.  On October 8, I'll be leading the session on How to Master the Art of Coaching Salespeople

Salesforce.com's blog posted an article of mine that asks whether or not you can turn customer service reps into salespeople.  If you have CSR's, then you must read this article.

© Copyright  Dave Kurlan All Rights Reserved

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Taking Your Prospecting to the Next Level

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Sep 14, 2014 @ 06:00 AM

Dave Kurlan is a top-rated keynote speaker, best-selling author, sales thought leader and expert on all things sales and selling.

sales prospecting

Do you ever wonder how selling evolved to where it is today?  Do you ever think about how salespeople sold in the old, old days?  All sales calls were face-to-face (no phones) and the sellers traveled by horse, canoe, boat, and later, ship.  That doesn't sound like it was efficient - or fun.  Over time, selling and our options for connecting with potential customers, moved to a new level.

Five important inventions were huge aids to selling - and they're not what you think they are: 

  • Car
  • Phone
  • Plane
  • First-Class Mail
  • Overnight Shipping

Think about how difficult it must have been before those five things came along!  How long do you think they were in place before people viewed them as ways to advance selling?  Remember that until we had dependable mail, companies could not mass market.  Years ago, much of the mass marketing that didn't appear in newspapers and magazines was in the form of direct-mail campaigns.

Then, in the mid 1980's, the invention that would bring prospecting to the next level came along.  The Fax Machine provided us with a way for one to reach many, without paying for postage.  People were using the PC at that time, but not for the things we use them for today.  Back then, a PC's primary use was for spreadsheets and word processing.  Mainstream email, web and internet marketing didn't begin to take form until the late 90's.

Four recent innovations have further improved our ability to connect:

  • Cell Phones
  • On-Demand Teleconferencing
  • On-Demand Video Conferencing
  • On-Demand Webcasting

Those four technologies have changed the face of my businesses.  At one time, I lived in airports and hotels, but I travel far less today.

We take today's technology and selling tools for granted.  They provide us with so many more options.  Now that we have these tools at our disposal, how can we use them to take your prospecting to the next level?

When you attempt to connect over the social networks, email and by phone, are your attempts all the same or do you customize them?  Customization takes more work and preparation.  You must convert your one-to-many approach to a one-to-one approach.

I've written a lot about how to make calls and emails sound better, but here's an approach we haven't discussed often.  Everyone has potential customers with whom they just haven't been able to gain traction.  There may have been a first conversation or email, but it didn't go far enough.  What have you done to get those opportunities back on track?  Do you have a powerful and effective call or email to figure out what's going on and/or how to get a prospect who has gone missing refocused?

I don't have much time to devote to business development.  I pass most leads to my team.  I usually contact only those who are referred to me by my own clients, as well as some of those who write to me.  Because I have so little time, it's not unusual for a potential opportunity to fall through the cracks.  The other day, I sent an email to 14 people.  They were all prospects from the past 2 years who had flown off the radar, went silent or gone missing.

The next morning, I had already heard back from 8 of them.  3 of them are on the west coast and have not seen it yet.  Even so, that's a 57% response rate from people who had not responded to my infrequent attempts to connect with them over the past 2 years.  That's what I mean by an example of taking your prospecting to the next level.

What was this mystery email?  Why did it work so well?  What compelled people to respond to it?

Dave Kurlan's Mystery Email 
NonstopSalesBoom 1 s
Colleen Francis' new book, Nonstop Sales Boom has some powerful strategies to drive consistent growth through prospecting efforts.  You should check it out.

© Copyright  Dave Kurlan All Rights Reserved

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Sales Efficiency - Has Google Provided Us With the Golden Egg?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 10, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

Dave Kurlan is a top-rated keynote speaker, best-selling author, sales thought leader and expert on all things sales and selling.

It's 6 AM and we need to plan our day.  Oh boy.

There are 87 emails that came in since 6PM yesterday, 2 internal meetings, 3 external meetings, 5 phone meetings and 14 items on the to-do list that must be completed today, including proposals, follow ups, job offers and CRM updates.  Whew!

Does that sound like you and your typical day?

With all of the demands on our time, it's more important than ever that we become more efficient.  Some of that can be accomplished through the use of tools, but as with all automation, if you don't have a good manual process, the automated process probably won't help.

If you or your salespeople sell in a territory and you use an Android phone, or an IOS phone with Google Search, then Google tracks your every move.  Just go to https://www.google.com/settings/dashboard and click on location history and you'll see what I mean.  Creepy, right?  But their "Big Brother is watching you every single minute of the day and tracking every single place you go as well as when you go there" thing can be put to good use.  Click on the days in the calendar to see exactly where you traveled and when you traveled on that day.   
google dashboard
 Does it look efficient to you?  Could it be more efficient?

Another important tool for efficiency isn't really a tool, as much as it's an important feature on your tools and that's syncing.  You must be able to find exactly what you need, when you need it.  That goes for files, tasks, events, notes, websites and pages you frequently work with.  So here is my list of suggested applications, tools and services that meet my syncing and always available criteria:

  • Chrome Browser -With Google's free browser, your bookmarks, browsing history and favorite sites are synced across all of your devices so regardless of whether it's from your desktop, tablet, phone, or laptop, you have access to exactly the same information.  Two things make this work very efficiently.  The first is when you make liberal use of organized bookmarks like this:
    bookmarksThat eliminates typing in the URL's of any sites you visit; the second is a plug-in for Chrome called LastPass, which stores and enters your passwords and then automatically logs you in to each site you visit.  Boy, do these two things save a ton of time!
  • Wunderlist - a free to-do-list application does lists and tasks the way they were meant to be.  Your lists can have sub-lists that can be shared, you can add notes, customize the interface, and it syncs in real-time across every device.  It won't matter where you are, when you are there, or which device you are using, you will know and be able to edit exactly what it is you need to do.  
  • Calendar - If you use Google Calendar, then your calendar can sync across all of your devices too by using the IPad and IPhone application, Calendars, by Readdle.  And the Mac can access the Google Calendar via your browser or with the CalendarPro application from the Mac Store.  As with Wunderlist, you'll always know.
  • DropBox - My favorite file storage application for all the reasons we've been discussing here.  Quick, easy, and secure, with the ability to share specific files with others.
  • Postwire - Awesome platform for easily sharing specific content with customers, prospects and others.
  • Membrain - My all-time favorite Pipeline Management/CRM application.  Live in it.
  • Wistia and YouTube - You need video!  And the video must be served from a high-end video server like Wistia, or  for the masses, a search engine like YouTube. 
  • ToutApp - For excellent email template sharing, mail groups, and email marketing along with live email tracking.
  • Zoom Conferencing - For very easy, fast, video conferencing for up to 4 participants, Zoom Conferencing is very tough to beat and you can record some very good, quick video using the service while you're at it.

The world we live in calls for a more organized, efficient approach to selling and I hope that the tools I shared with you today will help you to optimize your approach to selling and sales.

© Copyright  Dave Kurlan All Rights Reserved

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