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Top 12 Reasons Why Sales Methodologies Fail

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Mar 09, 2015 @ 12:03 PM

sales methodologies

 McKinsey & Company did a study and documented that 75% of solution selling efforts were considered failures after only three years. I read this statistic in a book about sales conversations and was struck by it, but perhaps not why you might think. The authors went on to make a bold leap of logic. It’s the “messaging behind the methodology” that’s the problem, they concluded.

Why did this statistic jump off the page? It wasn’t because solution selling isn’t working. We know about its limitations. It wasn’t because they said “the right messages” are the key. I am sure that a good message is important. It wasn’t because I was shocked that most sales initiatives fail. That’s why I’m in this business.

It struck me because it’s almost exactly the same statistic as the number of salespeople who suck, 74%. Maybe they were rounding; I’m not. After assessing over 800 thousand salespeople, that’s the resulting number, and has remained consistent for the last three decades. It makes sense that the weaknesses at the salesperson level would scale up to organizations more generally. Without understanding why that happens and without understanding the impact of management, most sales process implementations will be doomed to failure.

Let’s take a look at what might be going on under the hood, but I’d like to start with two quick definitions:

What is a sales process? These are the specific steps you follow on your way from a lead to a closed piece of business. What are the stages along the way? What are your milestones within each stage? How do you know you completed a stage? How does that inform your pipeline and allow you to forecast?

What is a methodology? This is how you go about executing certain steps within your process. Solution selling, for example, is a methodology that suggests that you find out what your prospect needs and present a solution from your basket of goods or services. There are many others, including some that work well depending on the specific stage of the sales process.

We know there are lots of sales processes and methodologies. It could be that your “messaging behind the methodology” is not good enough, as the book suggested, or it could be that the messaging is only an important component of the execution of the whole process. Messaging, as described, is really a methodology itself. In a sales process, messaging is most important at the beginning, when you are getting the attention of your prospect, and at the close, when you are confirming your value differential.

In both cases, you are talking about whom you help and how you help them. At the beginning, your message refers to a hypothetical person, but presumably one just like your prospect with the same kinds of problems. At the end of the sales process, we’re talking about exactly your prospect, because now we have enough knowledge to do so, and furthermore, you identify the manner in which you help that highlights what your competition doesn’t have or doesn’t do well, but that your prospect needs. I believe that was the key message of the book I was reading.

Most salespeople don’t follow a process. To be precise, 90% of salespeople don’t follow a process. We know that because we asked 800,000 salespeople if they had one and 90% said they didn’t. Could that be indicative of the problem with your team? Just having a process, of course, won’t solve the problem, as the opening statistic from McKinsey pointed out. But without one, you’re wandering in a darkened Fun House at Coney Island hoping you bump into the exit door.

Most salespeople don’t use a methodology either. In my view, a good methodology should tap into what is already fundamental about selling and make it easier to follow so that everyone can use it. Dave Kurlan’s Baseline Selling, for example, accomplishes that.  Since Baseline Selling has a sales process built into it, the methodology component is comprehensive because it covers the entire process. When salespeople learn a methodology, sometimes it only covers a portion of the process.

To make matters worse, even when salespeople memorize a process and learn a methodology, they won’t necessarily execute it unless they have the skills and the underlying DNA. They might have to remove psychological barriers and other hidden weaknesses to clear the path. To learn more about this phenomenon, read this excellent article by Dave Kurlan.

So if most salespeople don’t have a sales process and don’t use a methodology, or if they do, it’s incomplete, and if most salespeople are missing important skills or have hidden weaknesses that prevent success, the fact that 74% of salespeople suck should be believable. As you might have guessed, that number isn’t a guess; it comes from those same 800,000 salespeople assessed by Objective Management Group, covering some 140 million data points.

It’s not enough to point out the failure of an incomplete and probably poorly executed launch of a methodology like “solution selling” and declare that messaging is the answer. There could be lots of other reasons for the failure rate.

Here are my Top 12 Reasons that Sales Methodologies Fail

  1. Leadership’s ability to create change
  2. Management’s impact on the sales force
  3. Inappropriate or incomplete methodologies
  4. Incomplete sales process
  5. Not following a sales process
  6. Too many skill gaps
  7. Hidden weaknesses
  8. Not enough training
  9. No reinforcement
  10. Ineffective coaching or simply not enough coaching
  11. No follow-through
  12. Lack of accountability

An evaluation of your sales team would reveal why your sales aren’t improving as much as you believe they could be.  It might be, after all, how you are messaging. It’s more likely, however, that it’s not that simple.

The first step is gaining an understanding of what is required to get your desired outcome. The next step is finding out what is standing in the way. We don’t have to guess, and we don't necessarily have to add a complicated message that only the elite 6% can execute. It’s best to measure precisely what is needed and construct a plan that results in a team that, regardless of your message, knows how to find a way to close more deals, faster.

By improving your sales force so that the bottom 74% are trained up or out; and by improving management to effectively recruit, coach, motivate, and hold people accountable; and by selecting the right processes and methodologies for your business, it’s much more likely that you won’t find yourself among the 75% in the graveyard of failed initiatives.

Topics: Hidden Weaknesses, sales process, sales methodology, sales management, sales evaluation, sales skill gaps

Sales Process Gone Wrong or A Negotiation Tactic?

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Tue, Jun 17, 2014 @ 12:06 PM

28604675 s Negotiating TimeToCloseThere are critical moments when many deals fall apart. It’s after you’ve gone through the whole sales process, have a proposal on the table, believe you have the right solution, and believe your prospect knows it. Suddenly, they throw a curve ball. “This is twice what we want to spend. Money’s tight this year and we just can’t do it at this price.” You scratch your head, “Where did I go wrong?” Failure to proceed, at this critical moment, the right way is likely to kill this deal.

Many sales professionals reading the above might be thinking, “You failed to find the budget. You didn’t do a trial close. Your ROI (return on investment) wasn’t large enough,” or some variation of, “You screwed up, silly. This is your fault.” But you’d be right…and wrong. You're right that it might have been possible to avoid this in the first place. But it might be that there something else going on.

Then you might be thinking, “Well, they just don’t like you. They want to bow out gracefully. You missed an important part of their buying process or overlooked key internal politics.” All very possible indeed, and you might not find that out until this deal is either won or lost – until the last phone call is made.

These are the moments where laziness and complacency lose. This is the moment when you need to look carefully at your schedule and figure out what you can move, because this is time sensitive. If you’re confident you've done everything right, then you are not dealing with a normal objection; you are dealing with a negotiator, and they just signaled that it’s time to close the deal.

It’s important to learn and understand the distinction between an objection and its close cousin, a negotiation. It is precisely your understanding of the mechanics of the sales process that will guide you. Executed properly, one must have faith in the process. Run through the checklist. Figure out if you missed anything. Read the cues from your prospect. Where are they coming from? What’s in their tone?

I’ve worked with a client recently who heard the phrase, “You’re really not treating me fairly, and I don’t like it. Who at your company put you up to this? Was it the president?” And they went on to close that deal. How?

An objection is a deflection. Treat it like an opinion. Don’t get caught up in it or there will be no end to them. As Dave Kurlan points out, an objection often comes when you are too close to closing the deal for comfort, in the mind of the prospect. Read his excellent article on the subject here

Objections throw you off track, put you on the defensive, weaken your position, and are meant to delay the process. In a negotiation, your prospect wants to do all of that and extract something from you.

Let’s get back to our example, “You’re not treating me fairly.” Inexperience or the tendency to get emotionally involved might lead you to defend yourself. “We don’t mis-treat people around here.” Big mistake. And this is why deals at this stage are often lost. Don’t get defensive. Don’t defend. Don’t convince them that they are wrong about you. The essence of getting too emotionally involved is getting yourself caught up in what you are going to say. Read another article by Dave Kurlan about getting emotionally involved, here. It’s when the chatter inside your head drowns out your prospect. You cannot properly hear them, and you lose control of the process.

Here is just one example of a response that might work better. “I’m sorry you feel that way. This is the solution that will work for you. Anything short won’t work and you’ll be wasting money.” Treat the harsh words like an objection and acknowledge their opinion. As soon as you feel accused, you’ve lost. Stay in control. If you’re right about this deal, then the response above does two things: 1) You avoided a battle you can only lose; and 2) You remained steadfast and gave them a reason to say ‘yes.’

There is a delicate moment here. If you even start down the road of defending the accusation, you’ve created a new environment where that concern must now be resolved before you can work together. By letting it run off your back and moving on, it might not need to be further addressed.

In these final moments of negotiation, it is important to stay on top of it. They’ve given you an indication that this deal will get done in the next couple of days by lobbing out something provocative. It is the time to focus and drive through a final deal. In this example, an agreement was reached the next day for a number close to the original proposal.

 

Can your people do this?

Can they recognize a negotiation for what it is?

Can they consistently “handle” objections properly?

Can they stay emotionally uninvolved and maintain control?

Will they roll up their sleeves and finish the deal?

Are they too complacent?

Do they have ‘need for approval’ getting in their way?

Do they have the necessary closing skills?

Do you have the right sales people?

How effectively does sales management coach through this process?

 

A sales force evaluation would answer these questions among many others. And to learn more about sales force selection, download this white paper. If you believe your sales force could or should be performing significantly better than they are, and want to chat about that, send me an email.

 

Photo Credit: Copyright alphaspirit / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Emotionally Involved, Hidden Weaknesses, sales management, sales leadership, sales evaluation, negotiation, screwed

Inbound Marketing Part Three – The Other Hidden Weaknesses

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Tue, Oct 08, 2013 @ 14:10 PM

Screenshot 2013 10 30 16.32.03In Part One of this article series, I talked about how Inbound Marketing leads have changed the nature of selling and how sales and marketing must interface better.  I also talked about how an information feedback loop between sales and marketing is critical to the growth of sales and the success of the organization.  Frank Belzer’s book, SalesShift, best captures this change in the market and in how sales must be done in an Inbound world.

In Part Two, I discussed how the selling process is necessarily different as a result of the nature of leads generated through Inbound Marketing and how there are certain key skill sets, such as consultative selling, which must be mastered to survive and thrive in this new environment.  I explained how two important, potential, hidden weaknesses can thwart a salesperson’s efforts to master this kind of selling.

In this article, Part Three in the series, I'm going to look at three other hidden weaknesses which can get in the way of salespeople.  Hidden issues are important to understand because they can trump your knowledge and skill.  Training your people on how to sell consultatively will give them the knowledge which they need to sell in an increasingly Inbound world, but that won’t be enough to execute it.  To do that, the barriers, preventing them from performing at their best, must be removed .

In Part Two, I discussed Need for Approval and the tendency to get Emotionally Involved.  These two are of particular importance for consultative selling.  As I described in that article, Need for Approval can prevent one from asking tough questions; getting Emotionally Involved can result in losing control of the conversation.  When these weaknesses are strong, you’re missing your rudder and will have trouble navigating through the buoys and obstacles under the surface.

Three others of the most common hidden weaknesses include Discomfort Talking about Money, a Non-Supportive Buy-Cycle, and Self-Limiting Beliefs.  Let’s look at each one individually and think about how these might be affecting your sales people.

When someone is uncomfortable talking about money, it is harder to have conversations which lead to uncovering the budget, trial-quoting, and otherwise getting over the hurdle of price.  Ask yourself, "What is a lot of money?"  Find out if your salespeople are asking for more money than is comfortable for them.  Dave Kurlan wrote about this problem in this article a few months ago.  How uncomfortable are your prospects talking about money?

A non-supportive buy-cycle is referring to the strong correlation between how a salesperson makes purchasing decisions for themselves, and what they are willing to tolerate from and empathize with the prospect.  Most of the time, we think of empathy as a good thing.  And it certainly is a good thing in a sales setting if it contributes to your understanding of your prospects’ issues, concerns, fears, and desires.  When you empathize with your prospects’ put-offs, it becomes non-supportive.

Self-limiting beliefs (or as we call it, your “record collection”, if you are old enough to remember what records are) refer to the thoughts which we have about an outdated reality, even if they once served you.  Dave Kurlan has written about this issue as well in this article and he points out that our assessment research of over 650,000 salespeople reveals that the following three beliefs are the most common ones standing in the path of success for most sales people.  They are, "I must make a presentation", "It's not OK to ask a lot of questions", and "It's OK if my prospects shop around".  

Are any of the above hidden weaknesses getting in your way or getting in the way of your sales people?  Do you ever suspect that the ability of your sales team is really a lot better than their achieved results, but you don’t know why?  More than ever in the new world of Inbound marketing, the keys to success are moving past these issues and building a sales force of people who have no fear asking enough or the right questions, and who are able to engage in a business conversation rather than a sales pitch.

Need some help with your sales force?  Feel free to contact one of our Sales Development Experts or consider Kurlan & Associates' Sales Leadership Intensive.

 

Topics: sales competencies, Dennis Connelly, Inbound Marketing, Hidden Weaknesses, sales training, sales force development, record collection

Inbound Marketing Part Two - Leads Are Up But Why are Sales Down?

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Thu, Aug 15, 2013 @ 15:08 PM

Inbound Marketing, Inbound13, sales, sales leads, Need for Approval, Emotionally Involved, Dennis Connelly, Hidden Weaknesses, HubSpot, SalesShift, Baseline SellingIn Part One of this Inbound Marketing blog series, I talked about how the fundamental nature has changed of what we traditionally think of as a lead due to the profound impact of Inbound Marketing.  Hubspot has played a huge role in both the service which they provide and in their thought leadership.  Their too-numerous-to-count, value-added resellers are helping to determine the outcome of that change on a global scale.

How do we cope with these new, very different leads?  Inbound marketing has cast the net much wider and dramatically increased the potential prospects with whom to follow-up.  We find, however, that most of these leads are not very strong.  That doesn’t mean that they cannot be converted.  Frank Belzer’s book, SalesShift, provides great insight on how to do that.  There was, after all, some reason why your prospect expressed interest in the first place, regardless of their level of commitment to solving any particular problem or desire to find some great opportunity.

I promised, in the last installment, to share with you two of the most important selling weaknesses to overcome in order to be successful with inbound leads.  First, I’d like to make an analogy about inbound leads versus traditional leads so that we can better grasp how important it is to handle these leads differently.  Think of a traditional lead as a prospect shining a spotlight at you signaling their interest, “Hey, I’m over here! And I’m interested in what you have.”  Think of an inbound lead as a firefly.  It’s much less bright, and it’s fleeting.  Look away, and you’ll miss it, “Just browsing, thanks.”

The firefly analogy goes a bit further when you add the fact that inbound leads burn out almost immediately.  So one rule of inbound leads is to jump right on them because they dissipate quickly.  Another rule is to use consultative selling as your number one tool - ask lots of questions, research their business, dig around, challenge and push back.

  1. The first hidden selling weakness which might get in your way when you take this approach, is what we call “Need For Approval” from your prospects.  To challenge your prospect, you cannot shy away from asking tough questions.  “At first, you said everything is great at Spacely Sprockets. But then you shared some problems which suggest to me that everything is not so great. Have you lowered your standards?”  Learn much more about this kind of questioning in Dave Kurlan’s bestseller, Baseline Selling.  Of course, to ask a question like that, you need to have some rapport skills. But it’s important to ask and show your prospect that you can be trusted to be straight, regardless of the interpersonal consequences.
     
  2. The second hidden selling weakness which might get in your way is the “Tendency to Get Emotionally Involved” in the conversation with your prospect.  Can you be open, present, and in control at all times?  When we get emotionally involved, we go into our own head.  When that happens, we lose control of the conversation.

To be a successful consultative seller, we must overcome both of these weaknesses: need for approval and emotional involvement.  It is through consultative selling that we cut through the clutter and find the opportunity to close new business with these fleeting, dimly-lit, passers-by, inbound leads masquerading as hot prospects!

  • Are your people asking good questions?
  • Are they asking enough questions?
  • Do they build rapport quickly?
  • Are they making presentations too early?
  • Are the uncovering the real reason to buy?
  • Do they know exactly how their prospect makes buying decisions?
  • Do they take certain information for granted?
  • Will they ask tough questions even if they believe it will put the relationship at risk?
  • Do they have the presence to listen intently and ask follow-up questions easily?

In Part Three of this Inbound Marketing blog series, we’ll explore three other hidden selling weaknesses which could cause your salespeople to get in their own way and lose more of these opportunities than they need to.  

If you are interested, have your sales force evaluated to see whether they can be effective at selling in an inbound world and whether they possess any of the hidden weaknesses which could be preventing them from succeeding.  If you’re heading to Inbound13 in Boston, please introduce yourself to us at the Kurlan Lounge on the third floor.

 

Topics: Dennis Connelly, Inbound Marketing, sales leads, Inbound13, sales, Need for Approval, Emotionally Involved, Hidden Weaknesses, HubSpot, SalesShift, Baseline Selling



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