Living Sales Excellence - Dennis Connelly's Blog

Sales Candidate Selection and the Product Knowledge Fallacy

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Fri, Oct 16, 2015 @ 14:10 PM

16337353_s_ChicagoMercantileExchangeTradingFloorIn a recent sales management training session, one of the managers spoke up about what he believed were the qualities needed in sales candidates that would perfectly fit his business. “They must have,” he confidently stated, “at least 20 years experience in the industry. They must know the product, know the customers, and be able to price the stuff off the top of their head.” I thought he would add that they must also know how to ride unicorns without holding the reins, but he didn’t. Do you share this view about the requirement of industry experience and product knowledge?

I asked him how long he had been in the business. “Thirty years,” he said. I asked him if he sucked for the first 19. He said “no.”

Dave Kurlan recently wrote a fantastic science-backed series of articles on getting the selection criteria right for sales candidates, showing how to predict with 92% accuracy whether they would be successful. Click here for Part 1 and click here for Part 2 of that series. He even showed how to get at least as good as 83% accuracy predicting the success of recent college grads!

To analyze the “Perfect Fit,” he looked at 26 different criteria related to things like selling skills, beliefs and selling-specific “DNA,” all within a selling context for that business in that selling environment. Guess which one was not on the list. You’re right! It was Industry Experience.

Now having said all that, to reduce, but not eliminate, the pushback to this article, let me be clear. Industry knowledge is important for selling. In fact, you better know it, because your prospect does. This is the internet age, after all, and working within that context is precisely the challenge of this new era for today’s salespeople. If you want to help your prospects, it’s good if you know more than they do. But in this same era, it is not often the case that you know more, and because of that, you need to bring something else to the table. Otherwise, you risk bringing nothing new but your price.

Selling is hard enough on it’s own. In widely-respected business author, Dan Pink’s book, To Sell is Human, Pink shares with the rest of the business community what you and I in sales already know - that sales is a profession. Knowledge about an industry, a product, or a service is just that – knowledge. Selling is a profession that requires skills and abilities that need to be learned, tuned, and practiced. Selling acumen, selling skills, and selling-specific “DNA” is more important to your success than industry experience or product knowledge, even if that experience and knowledge are requirements for your success.

In many areas of life, we see people getting stuck on details that masquerade as the real story. The map, after all, is not the real territory. It’s just someone’s representation of the territory. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who wrote The Black Swan, learned this on the trading floors of Chicago, New York, and London. In his book, Antifragile, he writes of a very successful trader of Green Lumber at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange who genuinely thought the lumber was painted green rather than that it was simply ‘freshly cut,” and this was after years of trading it! And he was darn good at it. That’s one example. Here’s another. The guy in the London Exchange considered to be one of the very best traders of Swiss currency at the time, could barely place Switzerland on a map and didn’t know what languages were most commonly spoken there. It was Taleb who coined the phrase, ‘Green Lumber Fallacy,’ to describe this phenomenon. We could call it the Product Knowledge Fallacy in our world.

Goodness! What’s wrong with these people who don't know what they are trading or who aren't superstar experts in their product? The answer is, nothing. They are excellent at what they do. The problem is with our observers' view of what we think is important. And when we’re immersed in an area of expertise and know all the players and all the nuances about the product, it’s easy to mistake the map for the territory.

Getting back to my recent sales management training session, this one manager, as stated earlier, insisted that any new sales candidates have at least 20 years of experience in working with ‘fluids’ such as hydraulic fluid and motor oil. After a five-minute role-play, with the manager playing the part of the prospect, he, and the others in the room comprising managers and VP’s, with an audible gasp at the conclusion, were disposed of this belief. For a transcript of the role-play, click here.

How often does your company get sales selection right?

  • Does your selection criteria need to change?
  • Do you attract the very best candidates?
  • Is your selection process efficient and effective?
  • Is your compensation aligned with the job description?
  • Will your on-boarding process support retention of the very best?

You don’t always have to know what green lumber means to be successful selling green lumber. Sometimes we miss what is most important because we are fooled either by conventional wisdom or by our own misconceptions. And just because sales candidate selection at your company hasn’t given you satisfactory results, doesn’t mean the selection process cannot be optimized going forward. Try using the same accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment tool that has been voted best Sales and Marketing Assessment Tool four years in a row at the popular sales website, TopSalesWorld.com. Learn more here.

Photo Credit: ©Demetrio Mascarenas/123RF.COM

Topics: sales, sales candidate selection, recruiting, WCSO, roleplay, evaluation, OMG Assessment, sales managerment

Sales Management - The Most Important Job in the Company

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Tue, Jun 10, 2014 @ 11:06 AM

12059360 s SalesManagement 061014When we see sales organizations move from a state of underperformance to a state of high growth, we’re consistently reminded that the sales manager has the most important job in the company.  If you’re a CEO, sales director, sales VP, and/or otherwise lead a team of sales managers, you understand the outsized influence this group plays on the success of their teams and the company as a whole, dwarfing the role of individual salespeople, and even sales superstars.

Yes, you need a great sales team, full of A players. Yes, you need great marketing to shout from the highest perch about your products and services. Yes, you need great organizational leadership. And yes, you need a good reason for anyone to do business with you. But it doesn’t mean a whole lot without sales. And sales will flourish or wither on the skills and mastery of sales management.

So what’s the single most important job of the sales manager? Coaching. And coaching should account for about half of your managers’ time. Yep. Half. The sales manager is not an administrative function. Watch how a basketball coach paces on the sidelines, calling out instructions or screaming at the refs, watching every player’s every move, gauging the resistance posed by the competition, and redirecting the team. That’s like sales management. It’s in the moment, real time, hand-to-hand, and total commitment.

I know I’ll get pushback from the folks who spend most of their time on business and product strategy, organization and reorganization, planning, managing compensation, internal company issues, dealing with crises, and direct selling. Some or all of those tasks are vital to your success and all are good functions of sales management, just like watching the tapes and devising a training program for your basketball players. Keep doing them, but make coaching a larger part of your day.

The coach watches how the job is getting done and provides expert advice on how to get even better. The coach turns a player with promise into a real contributor. A great coach can turn a star into a superstar. How many big stars have you seen fall off the radar after they move to a new team? How many salespeople have you hired that were superstars elsewhere but fell flat at your company. But for a precious few elite self-winding sales machines, often, their stardom was a function of the organization and the attention they received from management. Read Dave Kurlan's terrific article on the keys to making significant improvements in your team.

Sales Managers must view coaching as their primary function. But let’s break down what that means by first talking about what coaching is not:

Coaching is not…

  1. A pipeline review
  2. The daily plan
  3. Yesterday’s rundown of prospecting activity
  4. Tips on presentation skills
  5. “How’s it going with the Jones deal?”

Rather, these are all opportunities to advise, motivate, and hold people accountable – very important. And while one can argue that coaching is part of the discussion, they are not really getting at the heart of high-impact coaching.  Managers often do a good job of discussing opportunities as they unfold but it is often ad hoc and momentary – good enough to provide direction, but not deep enough to change behavior. It looks a lot like coaching, but it’s not enough. 

Coaching is…

  1. A structured, regularly-planned, one-on-one conversation
  2. A deep dive into a specific opportunity
  3. A careful strategizing of an upcoming opportunity
  4. Finding where the process broke down
  5. What went right; what went wrong
  6. How to do it better the next time
  7. How to go back and undo a mistake
  8. Elevating your salesperson’s game

Similarly, coaching sales managers means ensuring that these steps are taken, that administrative functions are minimized to what is truly important, and that a culture of coaching is fostered.

One measure of a good salesperson is how well they find and close opportunities. One measure of a good sales manager is how well they develop their team. To carry this one step further in the organization, a sales VP should be concerned with the development of each salesperson reporting to the manager.  This, and the corresponding growth of the organization, is the measure of the sales manager’s success. The manager makes sure he or she has the right team and coaches their people to close more business. The VP makes sure he or she has the right managers and coaches them to ensure they are developing their team.

A culture of coaching and constant day-to-day improvement is the secret to continual record-setting growth. The other functions of the sales organization support this activity. Does your sales organization have the skills, DNA, aptitudes, will, and commitment to get to this level? Maybe it's time for a sales force evaluation. The quality, ability, and willingness of your sales team to sell depends on the activities of your sales managers. If you believe you you’re not hitting your full potential, look carefully at this position, and ask if your organization regards it with the importance it deserves as the most important job in the company.

 

Phote Credit and Copyright: neilld / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: sales, sales management, sales leadership, assessment, evaluation, sales VP, world class, sales conversation

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

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Thu, Jan 30, 2014 @ 14:01 PM

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


Topics: Dave Kurlan, frank belzer, evaluation, sales enablement, sales architecture, marketing, sales optimization, kurlan, chris mott, webinar, world class sales organization



Dennis-Headshot1 
 

 

Subscribe to Email Updates

Scan the QR Code with your smartphone for immediate access to Dennis Connelly.

Dennis Connelly LinkedIn

Follow Me

Connect

Or Ask for Help 

               Email Me

Sales Leadership Intensive 

http://www.kurlanassociates.com/sales-leadership-event/

Most Popular Posts