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HR and Sales - Part 3: Top 7 Reasons We Make Sales Hiring Mistakes

 

Dennis Connelly is a Sales Growth Expert at Kurlan & Associates and Author of the Living Sales Excellence Blog.

CrashedAirplaneDid you ever wonder why so few sales candidates become top performers, even when they survive the first six months? Take a look at the last five sales people hired at your company. Do you share this common experience - that they have not become top performers - with so many other companies? If you have less than optimal outcomes in your own business in this critical role, take a look at your selection strategy.

If you missed Part 1 in this series on HR and Sales, click here.

If you missed Part 2, click here.

There are many factors that can impact sales recruiting, but let’s take a look at the most common reasons for a failed sales hiring strategy.

 Top-Seven Reasons Why We Make Sales Hiring Mistakes:

  1. Success in another sales job - "they must be good"
  2. Infatuation – “such a great person”
  3. They came highly recommended
  4. Failure to understand the influence of their circumstances (baggage!)
  5. Poor on-boarding process
  6. Desperation to fill a vacancy
  7. Laziness - "let's just get this done"

So what should we do differently? Here’s an idea that will set you on the right course.

Five-Step Sales Recruiting Solution:

  1. Appropriate, repeatable, selection process – See Part 2 of this series.
  2. Objective sales-specific assessment with accurate interpretation
  3. Effective interviewing skills
  4. Supportive sales culture and leadership
  5. Proper on-boarding experience – Read this article from Dave Kurlan

If you missed our recent open webinar on sales leadership, you won’t want to miss Part 2 of the series. You can view Part 1 here and register for Part 2 here.  It will be held on March 12th at 11:00 AM ET.

You may download our White Papers on sales candidate selection by clicking here.

Image credit: csakisti / 123RF Stock Photo

Copyright 2014 Dennis Connelly. All rights reserved.

HR and Sales - Part 2: How HR Drives Effective Sales Recruiting

 

Dennis Connelly is a Sales Growth Expert at Kurlan & Associates and Author of the Living Sales Excellence Blog.

Interview 250W 2We’ve been talking a lot, this month, about how non-sales key executives in companies can impact sales. Chris Mott wrote about the role of the CFO in driving sales and Dave Kurlan wrote about the important and often overlooked role of the CTO in the sales effort. My recent article addressed Human Resources and specifically explored the traits sales people must possess to be successful. There’s a lot more to add in the HR category. Today, let’s look at what HR believes it should do when hiring sales candidates. And let’s talk about what goes wrong.

If you look at normal HR general procedures for hiring, you will find something like the following:

  1. Advertise for candidates
  2. Screen candidates
  3. Properly interview
  4. Understand personality
  5. Demonstrated skills
  6. Background checks
  7. Pre-hire physicals

The first five of these steps are meaningful for our purposes in talking about how to build a world-class sales organization. We’ll leave numbers six and seven for HR to work out on their own. I have heard that those two last steps are commonly skipped. So let’s look at the first five one at a time.

 

Advertise for candidates

Almost all companies advertise for sales candidates ineffectively. This is usually because they believe that sales candidates are simply another employee just like any other employee, to fill a vacancy or to add a position. They are not. We want to attract normal employee candidates to the company. In sales, we want to reverse that. The advertisement is the first step. The ad must be written with the position in mind and it should address the nature of the selling environment so that the right person will see themselves in the ad. Start by looking at the selling environment from every angle and build your ad from there.

 

Screen Candidates 

Since sales candidates are different, we need to screen them differently. The trick is to set up an environment as part of the screening call to reproduce a challenging sales environment. The best sales people rise to that challenge and even relish it. If you’re concerned that you’ll scare them off, then your still thinking this is a different position. It’s not IT, it’s not accounting, it’s not logistics, it’s not customer service, etc. It’s sales. Make them sell, or live to regret it.

 

Properly Interview 

Like the screen, the first interview must re-create sales challenges. Do they know what they really want or are they throwing darts at their career? Is their resume real and do they own it? Are their inconsistencies we can call out? At this stage, we also want to carefully integrate the resume and any assessment tool we are using into the interview process. Interview skills can be learned that help you explore for issues and then dive deeper to uncover what’s really going on. If more than 50% of your interviewees aren’t stumped a few times and aren’t saying, “I hadn’t noticed that” or “I’ll rework my resume after this interview,” then you’re probably not doing it right.

Again, don’t confuse interviewing sales candidates with other positions. The object is not to be a jerk. It’s to create context for understanding their true skills and sales “DNA” and to see it in action. Let them perform. A recent interviewee insisted that he always asked lots of questions of prospects but asked me zero.

 

Understand Personality 

This one is tricky. There are a bevy of personality tests and behavioral styles tests on the market and here’s what they all amount to: Something is better than nothing. The addition of thought and energy into the selection process does far more to improve the process than an inadequate personality test. Once you’ve decided to follow a process, to be highly selective, and to involve top executives, you’ve moved the needle as far as you can without adding tools that are scientifically proven to help in this area. Unfortunately, the more commonly used tools won’t budge the needle any further, if they are appear to do so.

Having analyzed over 650,000 sales candidates using the top-rated OMG assessment tool, we can confirm that there is no such thing as a sales personality. So why use a test that measures personality? There are also behavioral styles tests. While there are certain behaviors that a good sales person might exhibit, the behaviors must exist in a sales context independently of a social context or any other context. An example would be a CEO who is driven for success but not driven to be a sales superstar. If the test only measures drive, we’re lost.

 

Demonstrated Skills 

Selling skills are important, of course, and this was the topic of my previous HR-related article. Click here read it. The takeaway is that often, the most important determining factors for sales success are hidden from view. The resume won’t reveal them; the interview won’t reveal them. Only a targeted assessment that specifically looks for them will do the job.

Demonstrated skills usually refers to specific selling skills. Does the candidate do the kinds of things that help them hunt for new business? Do they have the set of skills required of closers? Do their skills fit better with account management? Can they listen? Do they understand consultative selling? To find out if they are comfortable challenging prospects in specific selling situations is more difficult to determine. Sometimes candidates have all the answers and say all the right things, but due to hidden issues, cannot execute.

 

Now What? 

Hiring good sales people is important. Getting it right the first time saves time, aggravation, and money. The typical HR hiring process, while generally sound, needs a few tweaks to make it work for hiring sales people, particularly in the area of selection process and assessments. Feel free to comment below if you would like to add to this discussion.

If you missed our recent webinar on sales leadership, you won’t want to miss Part 2 of the series. You can view Part 1 here.  Register for Part 2 here.  It will be held on March 12th at 11:00 AM ET.

You may download our White Papers on sales candidate selection by clicking here.

It is usually better to evaluate your current sales organization before bringing in new sales people. It helps in determining the ideal candidate and to setting up an environment conducive for onboarding and retaining top sales talent. If you are interested in an evaluation for your company, click here.

 

Image credit: nyul / 123RF Stock Photo

HR and Sales - Part 1: The Challenge of a Sales Candidates' Market

 

Dennis Connelly is a Sales Growth Expert at Kurlan & Associates and Author of the Living Sales Excellence Blog.

NeedleStack 250Today, Human Resource departments must find ever more skillful sales managers in a market where the number of skilled managers is actually declining.  The data supports this odd trend, made even more interesting when you consider the vast growth in online sales content and the proliferation of sales books in the last 10 years.  Last fall, Dave Kurlan reached into our vast database of sales assessments and identified the trend.  Read about it and view the graph in this article. You will see the trend in the declining percentage of sales people and sales managers recommended by our sales and sales management candidate assessments.  We have seen reductions of 6% for sales people and 15% for sales managers.

If you missed our recent webinar on sales leadership, you won’t want to miss Part 2 of the series.  You can view Part 1 here.  Register for Part 2 here.  It will be held on March 12th at 11:00 AM ET.

What’s driving this trend, and what can business leaders do about it?  One of the most important reasons is that selling itself has changed.  When we assess candidates, we are looking for those who will actually succeed and make our clients successful.   While good selling skills have always been a virtue, it hasn’t always been necessary.  Not that long ago, during the internet age, but prior to the explosion in availability of fine-grained detail, sales people were needed to provide information that was relevant to prospects and unavailable any other way.  Today, they must reinvent their value to their prospects.

In 1995, there were 15 thousand registered domains.  Today, there are 350 million.  In 2000, there were 360 million internet users.  Today, there are 2.4 billion.  Do you think you should hire the same selling skills for 2014 as you did just 15 years ago?  This is a challenge for HR.

We no longer need sales people whose primary skill is giving presentations.  Prospects have quite enough information, thank you.  We need sales people who are more consultative, who ask good questions, enough questions, and tough enough questions to uncover the business needs and opportunities in a meaningful way for their prospects.  Salespeople who consistently hear the phrases, “I don’t know.” and “No one has asked me that before.” are doing it right.

HR owns the challenge of finding sales candidates who can do that.  What must they look for?

Some of the Required Skill Sets:

  • Consultative selling skills,
  • Modern hunting skills,
  • Lead qualification skills,
  • Account management skills, and
  • Business growth acumen.

Some of the More Difficult-To-Recognize Traits:

  • Rejection-proof,
  • Ability to listen,
  • Ability to stay in the moment,
  • Doesn't need to be liked,
  • Beliefs support success, and
  • Won’t get derailed at closing.

Some of the Near-Impossible-to-Recognize Traits:

  • Strong Desire,
  • Strong Commitment,
  • Positive Outlook, and
  • Takes Responsibility.

These are not easy to identify, but happily, there are ways to measure them.  Traditional selection criteria won’t work.  Most of the traits above cannot be easily discerned from an interview or a resume.  Have you ever made a bad hiring decision by hiring the one person who outshined the other 20 candidates?  Then you know this isn’t easy. 

We’ve already learned that traditional assessment tools won’t help either.  They are either based on personality or on behavioral styles.  Despite the sales jargon that might be added for effect, they are ineffective at predicting sales success.  We use the OMG tool which was built for sales and there is an interesting fact that emerged from a database of over 700,000 salespeople and sales management assessments.  Ready?  There is no such thing as a sales personality.  I was on the phone today with a self-described introvert who ran a public library.  He was an idea factory, full of passion for libraries and their many uses for making towns and cities wonderful places of learning and collaboration.  He too was surprised to hear that there is no such thing as a sales personality.

This is a good time to think about how to build a better sales organization by using the tools available today to find salespeople who can prosper in today’s market.  As we have seen, this represents a shrinking pool.  HR must elevate standards and find ways to efficiently and effectively do what Tom Hanks’ character described in Saving Private Ryan as “finding a needle in a stack of needles.”

If you are interested in learning more about sales candidate selection, click here.

If you are interested in evaluating your current sales team, click here.

Image credit: grekoff / 123RF Stock Photo

How Sales Can Help Marketing With Your Go-To-Market Strategy

 

Dennis Connelly is a Sales Growth Expert at Kurlan & Associates and Author of the Living Sales Excellence Blog.

MixingIntoFlasks KateLeighAll month, Dave Kurlan, Frank Belzer, Chris Mott, and I have been writing on Sales Architecture as part of an ongoing series on what it takes to build a world-class sales organization.

We’ve touched on issues of enablement, management, infrastructure, and other critical areas this month as well.  These articles have been written in support of our upcoming webinar that you won’t want to miss if you are a business leader or sales leader who believes that sales could be a lot better at your company than they currently are.

In this fast-paced, one-hour webinar, we're going to cover sales architecture and other related issues in more depth.  If you're the person who needs to get the sales organization right, this webinar is for you.

Here is the webinar agenda:

  • Sales Process - Optimizing Conversions
  • Sales Methodology – Why It Matters
  • Sales Messaging - How to Get It Right
  • 3 Critical Conversations
  • Executing in a Changing Economy
  • Sales Model – Making It Scalable
  • Channels - Optimizing Your Traction
  • Sales Training - Critical Components for Maximum Impact
     
If you missed some of the articles specifically related to these issues and this webinar, here they are:

Today, I want to talk more about how sales and marketing must work together.  It's sort of nuts, in today's market, to let these two organizations work in a vacuum.  They must continually feed each other valuable market information in a healthy, robust, iterative process of information gathering and feedback.

Far from silos, the line between these two organizations has been mixed together like chemicals in a flask, producing a new kind of hybrid organization within the existing company structure.  Sales leadership and marketing leadership must have the right chemistry to drive results for the organization.  Let’s take a look at some of the questions we need to be asking:

Who are our customers?

So what are some of the ways that sales and marketing can help each other?  Of primary importance is answering the question of who we are targeting.  Who is our customer and what are their issues?  And another important and often overlooked question is who do we want as customers in the first place?

What is our strategy?

How are we getting in front of our customers?  How are we getting their attention?  What role is marketing playing and what does the handoff to sales look like?  Ideally, not only is marketing feeding the front end of the pipeline, but they are also planting seeds in the minds of your prospects, or more accurately "suspects."  These seeds or issues then serve as a conversational starting point from which the sales staff can probe further.  When marketing points out a source of frustration or a missed opportunity, it preframes the discussion for your sales people.

How do we gain traction?

No, not the kind where they drill holes in your head.  But more like a good snow tire.  Can sales move the prospect through the sales process effectively?  How can marketing help?  How far along the sales cycle is marketing bringing the prospect?  And how far should the salesperson back up the prospect in the process to ensure that the bases are properly covered? 

Marketing might be setting the stage, but sometimes they've shared so much information that it creates a false impression in the mind of the salesperson that they are further along the sales cycle than they really are.

How many of your sales people will recognize as a mirage, when a prospect only appears to be in a later stage of the sales cycle, but really isn't?  How many of them can properly bring this prospect back to an earlier point in the cycle, perhaps somewhere near that point discussed above where marketing might have identified a key source of frustration?  If you're not sure, you can click here to find out.

How do we get the business?

Finally, how are we getting the business?  Where do we fit in the market?  What kind of feedback can sales bring back to marketing to adjust the message and continue an iterative process that improves your results and desired outcomes with time?

MarketingSalesDiagram

 

Not long ago, marketing created the brand, researched the market, and positioned the products.  The job of sales was to close the business that marketing teed up for them.  The problem is that communication wasn't strong enough nor frequent enough, leading to complaints from both sides.  "The leads were no good."  Or, "Why can't those guys close the business?"

Today, a more iterative approach is needed.  The market is changing rapidly.  Marketing must solicit from sales real-time information gleaned from all interaction in the field to constantly adjust their message and ensure that their positioning statements are resonating with their intended audience.

Join me and a panel of sales experts for a powerful, one-hour webinar that will address the topics that the Kurlan team has been writing about this month.  The webinar is on February 5th and we will discuss, "Leading Your Ideal Sales Force - Part 1"at 11 AM Eastern Time.

Image credit: kateleigh / 123RF Stock Photo
Diagram credit: Dennis Connelly, Kurlan & Associates

© Copyright  Dennis Connelly All Rights Reserved


Marketing and Sales Feedback Loop Can Help You Grow

 

Dennis Connelly is a Sales Growth Expert at Kurlan & Associates and Author of the Living Sales Excellence Blog.

JackLambertI was recently at a marketing conference where the main theme was Inbound.  Thanks to Brian Halligan at Hubspot, “inbound” is now almost a household word.  He put a name to what is surely one of the more powerful phenomena shaping the business environment, and by extension the selling environment, today.  For the record, the conference to which I'm referring was not Hubspot’s own "Inbound13" held last fall.  At that event, the recurring theme was “Be Remarkable” and it was best embodied in Seth Godin’s brilliant keynote address.

The two recurring themes heard most at this other event, were that inbound marketing was, on average, bringing prospects 70 percent of the way to the sale, and that companies did better when technology people worked closely with the marketing department.  Each of these statements is true.  Yet each has a glaring hole.  You might have heard this before, but just because we know tomatoes are fruit, doesn’t mean we put them in fruit salad.

Let’s take the first one first - that prospects are 70 percent of the way toward making a purchase by the time marketing hands them off to sales.  Ask yourself if you have any salespeople at your company who possess a gazillion contacts, a stuffed pipeline, and lots of meetings and conferences to attend, but only a trickle of business falling out of the end of the funnel.  Marketing is doing a better job than ever, but the elite salesperson will understand the pitfalls inherent in the overdeveloped lead.

We normally like baseball analogies here, but ‘tis the season to talk gridiron.  So imagine you’re the Cincinnati Bengals offense, Ken Anderson, in September of 1976 up against the defense of Mean Joe Greene and Jack Lambert (pictured above), et al. of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Don't worry if you're not sure what that means. The Steelers defense that year was arguably the best in the history of the NFL. Suffice it to say that being on the Steelers 30-yard line didn’t mean much. If you were up against their defense, you probably weren't going to close the deal if you were on the 2-yard line.  Ken scored 6 points in that game.  Later in the season, he played them again and scored 3 points. Again, for the uninitiated, that's not a lot of points.

There are actually two problems when a salesperson starts on the 70-yard line.  One is that the last 30 yards is the toughest, especially when you start there, and two is that you’re simply standing on the wrong part of the field.  At 70 yards, your prospect wants a proposal, a demo, pricing, and references.  An elite salesperson will not take the bait.  It will only lead to an endless chase scene in a bad movie.  Rather, thank your marketing department and then walk your prospect back to your own 25-yard line so you can drive them down the field properly.  In today’s world of selling, the salesperson makes the difference.  Marketing is an important ticket to the game, but when everyone’s website looks the same, the difference is the salesperson.

Now for the second theme - that marketing should work more closely with the IT folks.  That rings true to me.  Collaboration is a proven business fundamental.  And while that’s a good pair, it is as important that marketing collaborate with sales continuously.  Usually, these two groups do not always see the value that each provides.  Marketing people are often flustered that salespeople aren’t closing all the business they have handed them, especially when they believe it need only be walked over to the end zone.  And sales people keep telling marketing that while leads are up, the quality of the leads are down.  Wouldn’t it be better if it worked a little more like this:

  1. Marketing focuses on perceived customer needs,
  2. Marketing builds awareness,
  3. Marketing generates leads and hands off to sales,
  4. Sales questions leads using consultative skills,
  5. Sales learns about key business issues,
  6. Sales stays alert for other market trends,
  7. Sales informs marketing about what’s truly important, and
  8. Marketing adjusts message.

There is a glorious opportunity for companies who find the synergy in their marketing and sales departments.  Working together can create an upward spiral of feedback and progress to improve the quality of your leads.  Then, it’s critical to have the right sales people under the right sales leadership to take advantage of all the opportunities.  Today’s sales people must be more than just relationship people.  They must also be able to do the following well:

  1. Listen,
  2. Ask good questions,
  3. Ask tough questions,
  4. Ask enough questions,
  5. Uncover truly compelling reasons to buy,
  6. Make appropriately-timed presentations, and
  7. Remain present and unemotional at the close.

This is a subset of the consultative skill set.  Can all of your sales people do that, every time?  Last week Frank Belzer, author of Sales Shift, wrote an important article on the Architecture of a Sales Force.  And Dave Kurlan, author of Baseline Selling, wrote a piece that you shouldn’t miss on Sales Methodologies, an often misunderstood concept.  If you’re wondering about the capabilities of your own sales force, it might be time for an evaluation.

Join me and a panel of sales experts for a powerful, one-hour webinar that will address the topics the Kurlan team has been writing about this month.  The webinar is on February 5th and we will discuss, "Leading Your Ideal Sales Force - Part 1" at 11 AM Eastern Time.

Image credit: Sports Illustrated, 1984

© Copyright  Dennis Connelly All Rights Reserved

The Overlooked Conversation Between Sales Managers and Sales People

 

Dennis Connelly is a Sales Growth Expert at Kurlan & Associates and Author of the Living Sales Excellence Blog.

coaching,sales management,assessments,sales leadership,conversation,selling,consultative

Did you ever wonder what the sales conversation is supposed to sound like?  Not the one you’re thinking about (between the sales person and the prospect), but the other one.  The market is full of books, blogs, and articles on the important conversation between sales people and prospects.  This very blog space addressed the topic of using conversational skills to differentiate oneself in even the most lopsided of sales environments.  If you’re curious about that, click here to read the article.  And if you haven't read Frank Belzer's article from yesterday, click here.  He addressed the important topic of how organic growth impacts sales architecture.  In that article, he gets more to the point of today’s topic by looking at the structure of the sales team as it grows.  When it has grown organically (read “without strategic planning”), it is not always supportive of the kind of management required to compete and win in today’s business climate.  And it’s this very structure which helps create an environment to foster the right kind of conversation happening in your company, with discipline and skill, every day.

Very likely, the single most important conversation, which has to happen so that your salespeople can have the right conversation with prospects, is with their sales manager.  Do you know what that sounds like today?  We have metrics of all shapes and sizes.  We look at calls, leads, inbound leads, qualified opportunities, revenues, margins, recurring revenues, demos, proposals, and on and on.  Some sales organizations have a daily handle on these metrics and can even speak about the gap between exactly where they are today and where they want to get to.  Most can’t.

But, how many CEOs, sales VPs and other leaders understand what the conversation between sales management and sales people should sound like compared with what it sounds like today (that's if there is a conversation actually taking place)?  How many know how critical this daily activity is to the success of the organization?  How many are listening and measuring the quality of this conversation? Our research at Kurlan & Associates reveals that only a tiny fraction of companies can say they do.  And fewer know just what that conversation should sound like.

In today's sales environment, we now know that up to 50 percent of a sales manager's time should be spent coaching sales people.  This is not to be confused with mentoring, motivating, or jumping up and down with your hair on fire.  Coaching is different, and it's the key to sales success.

Coaching is a specific kind of conversation.  It is a formal meeting (not water cooler), occurs daily, and can last for 30 minutes with each rep.  That's every day, with each rep, talking about either an upcoming meeting or call, or a previous meeting or call that didn't achieve the desired result.

Do your sales managers know how to have that conversation the correct way?  Can they affect deliberate, incremental, meaningful improvements to the skills of each of their sales people everyday?  Here's an example of what such a conversation sounds like: [insert link to Dave's coaching call on Wistia]. 

  • How many of your sales managers could have a conversation like that? [Dave Kurlan 1-minute video on this topic]
  • Can they roleplay what the call will sound like before it happens?
  • Can they roleplay how the last conversation went and pinpoint where the wheels fell off? [Frank Belzer 1-minute video on this topic]
  • Can they make the proper corrections to prevent the problem from reoccurring?
  • Can they instruct how to salvage a deal going the wrong way? [My 2-minute video on this topic]
  • Do they understand the hidden weaknesses of their sales team and incorporate that into their instruction? [Chris Mott 1-minute video on this topic]
  • Can they help their people move past personal barriers and head trash to execute the skills which they are learning?
  • Do they understand their own weaknesses and work to overcome them?

What would happen to your company if your sales team were methodically improving every day for one month, six months, or even a year?  How much better would they be?  If you are not sure about some of these questions, you might be interested in learning more at our webinar on February 5th at 11:00 am Eastern Time.  And I recommend that you check back soon to read Chris Mott's article on the challenges of managing technical salespeople.   

The next time you think about the sales "conversation", think about the conversation your sales manager is having with the reps to understand the impact of the performance on the team. 

  • Does he or she have the capability, knowledge, and skill to impact the effectiveness of the team? 
  • Who on your team will accept daily coaching?
  • Who can improve, and by how much?
  • Is it worth training your sales manager how to do this? 
  • Can they learn or do they believe they have it all figured out?
  • How much better can this conversation be at your company?

Join me and a panel of sales experts for a powerful one-hour webinar which will address this subject on February 5 when we discuss, "Leading Your Ideal Sales Force - Part 1" at 11 AM Eastern Time. 

Image credit: Public Domain

 

 

Commitment to Sales, and Soccer in the Snow

 

Dennis Connelly is a Sales Growth Expert at Kurlan & Associates and Author of the Living Sales Excellence Blog.

CentralParkSoccer1 300 borderSomeone didn’t tell the people in this picture that there was a snowstorm and it was below freezing outside.  These men were playing a soccer game in Central Park and barely seemed to notice that it was so cold out and that the snow was coming down so hard that they should simply cancel their game and go home.  My son and I were on our way to the Frick Museum on the other side of the park when we walked passed them and took this picture.

We thought these folks were crazy, but it occurred to me that they must have known that the weather was bad.  We were quite bundled up and they were playing in it.  If I told them it was cold and snowing, it wouldn’t have been new information to them, and they probably would have just laughed.

Does that remind you of certain kinds of salespeople?  We have a finding on our sales candidate assessment that if too low, triggers a DO NOT HIRE recommendation.  About a week ago, I was asked to review just such an assessment.  The client was mystified.  This candidate had it all, they said.  He had “personality,” hunting skills, lots of excellent relationships, and he knew how to close business, but he wasn’t recommended.  How could it be?

The finding had to do with commitment.  He scored 33 out of 100.  Upon further investigation, we learned that there were issues in this person’s life that made it unlikely that they would stay in this job, no matter how good they were.  In our experience, when we have encountered this problem where candidates with low commitment, but excellent findings in other categories, were hired against the assessment recommendation, they usually left the company in under six months.

Both desire and commitment are needed as foundations for a successful career in sales.  Desire is how much you want to succeed.  Commitment is what you are willing to do to get there.  Dave Kurlan provides the clear difference in this blog post.  Imagine if your entire sales team was like the Central Park soccer players that day?  They played on Saturdays, period.  The weather didn’t matter.  They were committed to their group to be there.  They were committed to themselves to be there.  They didn’t make the obvious excuse.

When there is a “good” reason not to succeed, such as the economy is suffering, interest rates are going up, no one’s buying, or our products aren’t the best on the market, etc., those without commitment will fold.  People who are committed to their success and to the success of the company will ask, “What can I do differently to succeed in this environment?"  At some point during that day, each one of those soccer players asked, “What will I need to do to play in this weather?”  Sometimes, it’s only a matter of asking the right question. 

  • How many people on your team are willing to do whatever it takes to succeed?
  • How many are looking past the hurdles as if they are not even there?
  • How many are asking better questions of themselves and their prospects?
  • How many are using their resources to overcome unplanned obstacles?
  • How many people on your team would come out in the “snowstorm” and play full out?

The best way to find out might be to evaluate the whole team and see where improvement is needed.  If you are assessing potential new sales candidates, you can avoid the dilemma described above by assessing before you interview.  By placing only those candidates who pass the assessment into the continuing selection process, you won’t make the mistake of falling in love with a candidate who won’t succeed.  Envision your team bringing their top game to any environment and letting the worst of the unpredictable economic tundra keep them from asking how they can succeed against the odds, let alone a little snow.

Building Rapport - The First Step in Your Sales Process

 

Dennis Connelly is a Sales Growth Expert at Kurlan & Associates and Author of the Living Sales Excellence Blog.

CrossFit 240 borderYesterday morning, for a brief 49 minutes, I wasn’t very thankful for Navy SEAL, Lt. Michael P. Murphy.  But today I am.  And I will continue to be, every day until the next time I subject myself again to the particular workout that bears his name, simply called “Murph.”  It’s a CrossFit exercise explained in this New York Times article.  He called it body armor, because it so effectively made you stronger and faster.  And yesterday morning, when I was in the middle of it, I wanted to have a word with this guy and tell him what I thought of it, given the pain and strain I was under to complete it.  But I couldn’t, because he was killed in Afghanistan, at the age of 29, in 2005 fighting for our country, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

In the United States, today is our holiday called Thanksgiving.  As you read this, it might not be today anymore, but think back not too long ago, if you will.  Many of my clients are not from the U.S., but this holiday is so easy to embrace that most seem pretty cheerful about going along.  There’s nothing necessarily religious or geo-political about it.  You get together with family and/or friends and eat.  Humans like eating. 

But of course, Thanksgiving is also about being thankful.  I’m not going to indulge in list-making today with all of things I’m thankful for, and it’s a long list.  That’s not the point of this blog.  But I will relate it to living sales excellence.

Thankfulness is a close cousin of gratitude.  Being thankful is about acknowledging what’s good in your life.  Gratitude comes from the good feelings you have for the people in your life.  When you meet someone new, try bringing both of those feelings to the surface.  Find a reason to feel thankful for this new encounter.  Find something about them to appreciate and feel grateful to them for sharing that part of themselves with you.  Isn’t that a recipe for rapport?

Now try it with a prospect?  See how your tone changes, how relaxed you become, and how your good feeling helps make the dialog more natural and conversational.  Your appreciation and understanding, born of a genuine sense of gratitude and thankfulness, moves the conversation in a positive direction, allows people to breathe, and opens them up to consider your offer of help where there might once have been resistance.  Isn’t that the first step in the sales process?

I’m sore today from the Murph yesterday morning, but I completed the exercise and made another incremental improvement.  I’m one day stronger, one day healthier, and one day closer to a personal goal.  I spared you my long list today, but it is worth remembering, on this day of Thanksgiving, that Lt. Murphy and so many others have died for the cause of our health and safety.  I learned about this man from Mike Collette, who owns the CrossFit gym where I work out. 

The good feelings generated by these and so many other great people in my life shape my attitude every day.  They contribute to an overall balance and sense of purpose that is the motor of my willingness and desire to help company executives achieve in sales, what Dave Kurlan calls “results they only imagined.” 

My gift to you on this day is to make you aware of a book entitled, Just Listen, by Mark Goulston.  I’ve included it on my book list, but I call attention to it today because it holds the secrets of rapport – of understanding and appreciating the world of others.  I hope you enjoy it.

Thanksgiving is a day that generates feelings that are just like those that help us build the kind of rapport that is so helpful in the early stages of the sales process, unless of course, you’re in the middle of the Murph.  But like any worthwhile effort, the pain of the exercise goes away, leaving you stronger and maybe a little better than when you started.

 

Breaking Through a Common Sales Management Hidden Weakness

 

Dennis Connelly is a Sales Growth Expert at Kurlan & Associates and Author of the Living Sales Excellence Blog.

HighJumpBarbedWireFence 200pxWe often talk of “breaking through barriers” as an important step to getting unstuck, achieving goals, and reaching full potential.  As many of us know, entire industries have been created around this topic.  When we speak of “living sales excellence” (the purpose behind these blog posts), understanding and overcoming our barriers is an important part of that conversation.  This might surprise you, but I’m not going to cover the whole topic in this article, partly because my limited knowledge on that very broad topic would endanger you, and partly because my computer doesn’t have enough ink.

So, let’s just look at one common barrier amongst sales leaders:  Need for Approval from Salespeople.  This differs from Need for Approval from Customers as the titles suggest, but they do not necessarily go together.  When we assess sales managers (and we’re up over 150,000 in our database), we find every combination of one or the other, prospects and/or staff.  In smaller companies, sometimes the sales manager wears other hats (including CEO).  Without the bandwidth to focus 100% attention on sales people, there is often less understanding of how to manage them and greater fear of upsetting them.

First, here’s a short explanation.  Need for Approval means that one needs to be liked.  It means that one is concerned enough about being liked that certain kinds of questions are not asked, certain topics are not broached, and a theme of avoidance of difficult topics permeates every discussion.  It’s difficult to properly challenge a prospect when there is need for approval.  So, how can you be consultative in your approach?  Similarly, when it applies to sales staff, there is a fear that actions, statements, or demands might diminish how one is perceived and lead to some form of mutiny.  If you have this fear, how can you really hold your people accountable?

Recently, I was working with a sales leader who had this particular weakness, which the OMG Sales Manager Assessment clearly indicated.  In his case, he was particularly good at motivating people.  It’s analogous to having one bad knee.  You limp a little and make the other leg carry more load.  This could lead to a cascade of other problems including back pain.  Interestingly, his weakness in the area of Need for Approval led him to emphasize his ability to motivate, in an obvious but subconscious attempt to overcome the weakness.

In other words, if holding people accountable is hard, one might look for alternative ways to accomplish that in the thinking that it might alleviate the need to stand up to your people.  “Gosh, if I can get them fired up and performing, I won’t have to have a hard conversation with them for not performing.”  The root cause of this particular brand of Need for Approval might be fear.  The “back pain”, however, is the lack of respect and corresponding ineffectiveness in holding people accountable.

If you’re starting a new job as a sales manager, or if you have just hired someone with this issue to lead your team, here is a way through it:

  1. Like all barriers, the first step in moving past it is acknowledging it.
  2. Start out on the right foot and set an expectation that accountability will be enforced.
  3. Tell your people that you will be “tough, but fair; confrontational, but kind.”
  4. Prepare your people for “hands-on, constructive criticism when appropriate, all in the spirit of making them better”.
  5. Now, go live up to your words.  It’s easier once you’ve set the expectation.

If you’re not new, but know you have this problem, it’s trickier.  You must now make a change in your behavior, and people notice changes.  If you are already worried about how your people view you, this might make it even more difficult.  Sometimes it’s helpful to combine this change with other corporate changes, such as new demands for higher growth, greater margins, expanding territories, increased market share, new partnerships, or any other goal to which you can reasonably tie your change in behavior.

You might say something like this: “Our shareholders are demanding 10% growth this year coupled with a 25% reduction in overhead.  These are big goals.  We’re a motivated group of talented salespeople, but we need to elevate our game.  I expect to lead the way by elevating my own game.  You can expect, going forward, that I will do a better job of clearly defining what I need from you.  My goal is to bring out the best in you so you can achieve the goals of the organization.  At times, I might be tough, but fair; sometimes confrontational, but as kind as I have always been.  It’s going to feel a little different to you and that’s understandable because you won’t be used to that from me.  But know that my commitment to your success is unwavering and together we can be much better.”

Is your leadership in fear of the sales team?  Do you or they believe that upsetting salespeople will put the company in jeopardy?  Are there certain sales staff around whom you walk on eggshells?  Are you in control of sales staff or the other way around?

It might be time for a sales force evaluation.  Try this handy sales force grader and see if you might be ready for that step.  Take a look at this case study to see what happens when, instead of reacting to the need to make changes, you stop and assess to find out what’s really happening.  Sales force development is a broad topic.  Dave Kurlan explains it well in a video found at this link.  How much better can you be?  What will it take to get there?  What would you do if you had no fear of negative reaction from your sales team?

Retail Selling, the Role of the Salesperson, and Missed Opportunities

 

Dennis Connelly is a Sales Growth Expert at Kurlan & Associates and Author of the Living Sales Excellence Blog.

LuxuryStore Mall 250pxJust yesterday, I was walking through the Time Warner building at Columbus Circle in New York with my son. After getting our free chocolate truffle from the Godiva store, we stumbled into a famous luxury goods store while we enjoyed our little confections. I should note that if you like chocolate, the Godiva membership is one of the few that gives away something for nothing. One need only wait until the calendar changes to the next month to get your yummy treat. You don’t need points; you don’t need to buy ten to get one; you don’t need to spend a nickel – ever. You just show up and get your free truffle. 

This isn’t a marketing blog but there’s something there worth noting. I know Godiva fully expects that I’ll buy stuff along the way. But that’s beside the point. While other companies work to build “relationships” with their customers with all kinds of strings, caveats, and quid pro quos, Godiva is acting more like a friend. “Here, have one. I ask for nothing from you.” Seth Godin writes copiously about this kind of behavior toward customers becoming increasingly important in a noisy, information-rich world of companies desperate for your narrowing spans of attention. And Frank Belzer, whose new book Sales Shift is in the running for Top Sales World "Top Sales & Marketing Book" of the year. Vote here.

But I want to talk about the luxury good store experience because we can learn something about selling. We walked in, turned right (just like the research showed we would), and started looking at stuff in the glass cases. Art deco lighters, fancy cigar holders, and thousand-dollar pens were among the items so you get the idea of the type of store we were visiting. The young salesperson walked toward us and asked, “Can I help you find something?” I replied, “No.” He said, “Okay,” and backed away. That was it. Poor “ol’ sport,” I thought, having just seen Gatsby and having not yet completely purged that phrase from my head.

How do you spend a fortune renting retail space at Time Warner on the ground floor, with carefully-designed layout (the result, no doubt, of all the latest in psychological testing), and the best in customer acquisition strategy, and still manage to neglect the part about actually getting the sale? If inbound marketing gets you 70% of the way to making the sale (their figure), in this modern era, the upscale retail shop is designed to go even further. It has to, after all, given the expense of all the bricks and mortar they took the time to assemble. If it didn’t work, they wouldn’t keep building them. Humans, occasionally, like to get up from their computers and move around. We get cabin fever, eventually, and continue our voracious shopping habits in person.

The mentality that led to such poor salespersonship at “Luxury Store” reminds me of the approach that car dealers take, where the role of sales is misunderstood and misdirected. (More on that in another article.) The corporate executives undervalue the role of sales, rely on imagecraft, market positioning, aesthetics, and prestige, etc. and for the most part, it works. People walk into the Honda dealership because they already like Hondas, not because they have no idea what they want and lucky for them, the nice salesperson is there to help them figure it out. Gazillions are spent on advertising to help minimize the role of the salesperson, whose job is to get the person to stay long enough to experience the paper-shuffling, manager-approving Jedi tricks and sign on the bottom line.

The good ones don’t lose the sale. The lousy ones make people furious. Really, haven’t you had that experience, or know someone who has? Don’t you know people who will never buy a car from so and so till the fiery underworld remodels itself as an arctic getaway? But what about real salespeople? Can’t they make a sale where there wasn’t one? Of course they can.

Let’s replay that conversation with Ol’ Sport using a simple conversational technique I learned from TopSalesWorld Hall-of-Famer, Dave Kurlan. “Hi! Should I say welcome, or welcome back?” Me: “I haven’t walked in here before.” OS: “Then welcome. What made you walk in here today?” Me: “You were across from Godiva and I was too busy enjoying my chocolate to notice which store I was wandering into.” OS: “Perfect! If there were a reason to wander in here, what would it be?” Me: “I like cool pens.” OS: “Do you have a pen collection?” And so on, which might include questions like, What’s your favorite pen? Why? Is it sentimental or design or quality? Etc. “You know,” I might think to myself, “I wasn’t expecting to have a real conversation.”

Instead, OS stood back, afraid to say anything more, and eliminated the risk that he would lose a sale that he thinks might otherwise automatically happen. Why is this allowed? It happens because the leadership of Luxury Store, the manager, the marketing department, the board of directors, the finance team, and the sales staff are all on the same page. They undervalue the role of sales. Sales is increased, in their thinking, by the clever product creation, history, story, reputation, design, store layout, inbound strategy and marketing. The sales associate is there to open the glass cabinet, make light conversation, and ring up the purchase, right?

This is a missed opportunity because it’s possible to dramatically increase sales.

  • How many of your sales people are falling into this trap?
  • Is your company fostering the problem?
  • How much pressure do salespeople have to not blow the sale?
  • Do your sales people have the necessary selling skills?
  • Do they have the DNA to overcome their own weaknesses?
  • Can they listen?
  • Can they react in the moment?
  • Do they have the presence to be the added value themselves?

Maybe it’s time to evaluate your sales organization? Maybe it’s time to look at what you might be missing from your sales team. What are their current capabilities? How much better could they be? What would it take to make them better? And how long would it take?

Someday, I’ll buy a super nice pen because I like pens. When that happens, there was nothing about my experience at Luxury Store that puts them on the short list. But there could have been. It was a missed opportunity to make a sale much more than it was a careful execution to not lose one.

 

 

 

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