Is Benchmarking or Perfect Fit Analysis More Predictive for Selecting Great Salespeople?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 07, 2015 @ 05:10 AM

Last week I published a case history on a company that we nicknamed, BigBrains.  Many readers emailed asking if we could perform this analysis for them (yes, in most cases) and whether this would be considered benchmarking (no).  In this article, I will actually show you the difference between benchmarking and the Perfect Fit Analysis that we use as proof to clients and to customize Objective Management Group's (OMG) Sales Candidate Assessments. We use the Perfect Fit Analysis to achieve our legendary accuracy when predicting who will and won't succeed in a each sales role at each client's company.  First, you absolutely must go back and read Part 1 so that you can see how we arrived at a predictive accuracy rate of 83% (on selecting college graduates that would succeed as Sales Development Reps) at BigBrains.  While that's actually less accurate than our norm, when it comes to doing it with college grads, I think it's truly amazing!  Now, let's compare that result to what happens when benchmarking is utilized.

Benchmarking is the method of choice for assessment companies that produce traditional personality and behavioral styles assessments.  Those generic, non-role specific assessments, were never designed for sales, are not really for sales today, and only their marketing makes you think they can be used for sales selection.  The only things they ever changed in all of those assessments are the names of the findings.  They still measure personality traits and behavioral styles, still ask the same questions that have been asked for decades and those questions are still rooted in a social context, not sales or business.  The limitations as a result of their assessments being non specific to sales requires that you test your top performers so that they can look for common traits.  Their theory is that after finding commonalities among your top performers you can look for new salespeople with the same traits and they should perform well.  

Really?  Let's try that with BigBrains!  Had we benchmarked the BigBrains top performers, we would have started with around 100 findings and scores and narrowed them down to these findings that were common to their top performers.  As you can see, all greens (strengths) and all reds (weaknesses) but clearly, complete commonality!

I have always known that benchmarking doesn't work for sales, so just for kicks, let's see how their bottom performers scored when we used the exact same findings...

As you can see, (I apologize for being unable to get the columns to align perfectly) the bottom performers have nearly identical strengths and weaknesses to the top performers.  And that is the very reason why, despite the decades long practice of benchmarking top performers, personality and behavioral styles assessments consistently fail to be predictive of sales performance.  I've been saying this for 25 years!  The problem with looking at only the top performers, and then looking for common personality traits, is that inevitably, the bottom performers will have the same attributes as those you identify in the top performers.  Benchmarking to predict sales success will nearly always produce a false positive.  As Rocky LaGrone says, "It's like identifying the tallest midget!"

Now let's take a look at how those same findings - which will not be effective for identifying top performers - compare with the findings we actually used as the final criteria for the perfect fit analysis.


Used in Benchmark
of Top Performers 
and %
of Top Performers with Finding

% of Bottom Performers 
with that Finding

Finding Used in our Final 
Perfect Fit Analysis

Longevity Likely or Highly Likely Yes  - 100% as Strength 50% Yes
Strong Desire for Success in Sales Yes - 100% as Strength 75% Yes w/score >82
Takes Responsibility for Sales Results Yes - 100% as Strength 75% No
Enjoys Selling Yes - 100% as Strength 83% No
Highly Motivated for Sales Yes - 100% as Strength 100% No
Supportive Selling Beliefs  Yes - 100% as Weakness 83% No
Supportive Buy Cycle  Yes - 100% as Weakness 83% No

Comfortable Having a
Financial Conversation

Yes - 100% as Weakness 83% Yes w/score >32
Rejection Proof Yes - 100% as Strength 83% No
Sales DNA  Yes - 100% as Weakness 83% Yes w/score >62
Closer Competency Yes - 100% as Weakness 83% Yes w/score >32
Farmer Competency Yes - 100% as Weakness 83% No
Sales Posturing Yes - 100%  as Strength 33%  Yes w/score >47
Coachable Yes - 100% as Strength 100% No
Competition Resistant Yes - 100% as Weakness 100% No
High Ticket Seller Yes - 100% as Weakness 83% No
Doesn't Need Prospects to Like Them No n/a Yes w/score >74
Controls Emotions on Sales Calls No n/a Yes w/score >77
Hunter Competency No n/a Yes w/score >66
Consultative Seller Competency No n/a Yes w/score >55
Qualifier Competency No n/a Yes w/score >39
Account Manager Competency No n/a Yes w/score >40
Figure it Out Factor (Will Ramp up Quickly) No n/a Yes w/score >55
Sales Skills % No n/a Yes w/score >41
Sales Strengths % No n/a Yes w/score >54
Sales Weaknesses % No n/a Yes w/score <50

As you can see, most of the findings that were common to the top performers were either not used at all, or they were modified to be used with a cutoff score.  Our Perfect Fit Analysis looks for the findings, scores and cutoffs that differentiate the tops from the bottoms, therefore, we don't accidentally identify findings that bottom performers are likely to have as well.  In addition to that is the fact that all of our findings are sales specific!  There is not a single behavioral style or personality trait in the list.  You could argue that the need to be liked and controlling emotions are personality traits or behavioral styles but we aren't asking the questions in a social context - purely in the context of sales calls and meetings - so even those two findings are specific to how they affect salespeople when they are actually selling.

So OMG already has the most predictive sales candidate assessment on the planet, has earned the Gold Medal for Top Sales Assessment for 4 consecutive years, and we can prove it out for every selling role, calling on every level of decision maker, against every type of competition, at any price point, with any sales cycle, with any form of price sensitivity, with any level of resistance, at every company, and in more than 200 industries.  And to make sure that it's as predictive as can be, we can conduct a Perfect Fit Analysis too.

Why would you allow the least bit of uncertainty to creep into your sales selection process if you can be both certain and confident when using OMG?  Click here to check out OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments and see how much time and money we can save you and your company.

Last Calls:

Register for The Best Way to Coach Sales Reps.  I'll be leading this Webinar for sponsor, Handshake at 1PM ET this Thursday, October 8.

Register for my Overflow Sales Leadership Intensive.  This is an additional program that we added to accomodate folks who weren't able to attend in August.  It will be a much smaller group than normal with a lot more personal attention from me.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, hiring salespeople, Sales Benchmarking, sales selection, OMG Assessment

Great Selling Lessons in The Martian - But Should You See the Movie?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 05, 2015 @ 15:10 PM

Most of the great books I read are disappointing, at best, when they become movies.  The Davinci Code, Gone Girl, Absolute Power, Lone Survivor, Hunger Games, The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, The Lincoln Lawyer, 127 Hours, and Heaven is for Real are just some of my recent disappointments.  Unbroken, The Blind Side and Moneyball didn't get botched up too badly.  So it was with great anticipation, but limited expectations, that we went to see The Martian this weekend.  Not only was it the first book that I read where the movie was even better than the book, but there were some great, important lessons on selling to large organizations too!

Two of the great lessons occurred when the director of the Mars program tried to get the Director of NASA (played by Jeff Daniels in a role 180 degrees opposite Dumb and Dumber) to approve what needed to be done.  In the first instance, it was to get some satellite time so they could take a look at Mars where their mission had been aborted.  Later in the movie, after it was determined that Astronaut Watney (Matt Damon) was still alive, he made another attempt to convince the Director to rescue Watney.  In both cases, the Director said "No" because it was the safe decision, wouldn't jeopardize NASA's funding, and wouldn't cause any additional scrutiny of him personally.  Isn't that just like selling to the government?  Oh yeah, NASA is the government!  Isn't that just like selling to a major public corporation?  

So how did they eventually get the idea sold?  In the most unconventional of ways - but not inconsistent with what salespeople must do when they need to differentiate themselves in a large organization, with lots of options, limited budget and executives that are predisposed to maintaining the status quo.

:In this case, Vincent, the young scientist, made his case to the Director of NASA by walking into the conference room, and saying something along the lines of:

"You, stand right there.  And you, move over here."  Then he asked the Director, "Who are you?"  

The Director said, "I'm Teddy - I'm the Director of NASA."  

The kid said, "Cool."  

Then, getting both executives to pretend to be planets, he used a stapler and sound effects to mimic a spaceship and demonstrated the ship accelerating toward Earth, looping around Earth instead of landing, returning to Mars, intercepting and rescuing Watney, looping around Mars and returning back to Earth. 

Most differentiation takes place in the field, not on websites!  Some of the things that are important when it comes to differentiating in the field are whether or not the salesperson:

  • Was Memorable
  • Taught Them Something They Didn't Know
  • Got the Prospects Engaged
  • Got them to Share Information Freely
  • Cared
  • Listened
  • Had the Conversation Nobody Else Would Have
  • Developed a Relationship
  • Pushed Back or Challenged

In addition to Vincent, who convinced them that this approach would work, it would take the work of another NASA executive.  After the convincing demonstration, when the Director still said "No" to a rescue mission, Mitch (Sean Bean), covertly sends the Mars crew a maneuver that convinces them to commit mutiny and begin the rescue mission against the Director's orders.  

When selling to large organizations, you need more than a champion.  You need a chauffeur like Mitch, who forced the Director's hands.

So there you have it.  Good movie, great selling lessons, and since it's a new movie and there aren't any online scenes available that I can link to, you'll have to go see it.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, selling tips, selling to big companies, matt damon, the martian

Sales Selection Case History - The Fix for This Insanity Works 99% of the Time

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Oct 01, 2015 @ 21:10 PM

If you had a crystal ball to predict whether or not your next sales candidate would succeed in a difficult selling role at your company, wouldn't you want to use it?  Heck, you would want to look into that thing even if it wasn't a difficult selling role.  But what if you were recruiting kids right out of college?  What would you do then?  Would you just recruit a whole bunch of kids and keep the ones who didn't quit?  Would you hire three times more than you needed and just keep the ones who were successful?  Would you just hire anyone who looked and sounded good and go from there?  What if you could use the crystal ball?  Could that even work with college grads?  Recently, we had an opportunity to study and answer that very question and the results will surprise you!

One company, we'll call them BigBrains, was hiring recent college graduates for an inside sales role where they would schedule appointments for the salespeople.  Lots of calls, a few conversations, and then convert those calls to meetings.  Some companies call these people BDR's, others call them SDR's, some call it Top of the Funnel, and others say it's Inside/Outbound.  Whatever you want to call it, I'm sure we can agree that it is very challenging, there is high turnover, and success is hard to come by.

They turned to Objective Management Group (OMG) and with BigBrains being as smart as they are, didn't believe the great results that others were achieving using OMG to help with sales selection would apply to them because they are different.  They target college kids and they are different.  Did I mention that they are different?  

I hate it when we have to prove over and over again that our sales candidate assessments are truly as accurate and predictive as all of our case studies, white papers, testimonials, awards and validations clearly state.  After all, OMG has legendary predictive accuracy and it's backed by science.  After assessing nearly one million salespeople over the past 25 years, the statistics show that of the candidates that are not recommended, but who brilliant executives hire in spite of that, 75% of them fail within 6 months.  And of the candidates that are recommended and are hired by other, not quite so brilliant executives, 92% of them rise to the top half of their sales force within a year.

So we offered to prove it to BigBrains.  We invited their top 5 and bottom 5 reps to take our sales candidate assessment and then we produced a comparison analysis as proof of concept for BigBrains.  From among our nearly 100 scores and findings, we identified 16 that clearly differentiated their tops from their bottoms and when we set the overall cutoff at 69%, 5 of their top 6 would have been recommended and 5 of their bottom 6 would not have been recommended.  For BigBrains, we had an overall predictive accuracy of 83% -  on predicting whether or not recent college graduates would succeed in this difficult SDR role.  In the image below, you can see the scores and findings for each salesperson.  Also note all of the green for the top performers and all of the red for their bottom performers.  Note that most of their bottom performers scored OK on the Hunter competency - the primary competency required for success in a BDR Role.  That's why, if we look at hunting skills alone, we will be fooled half the time.  Why is the closer competency used?  One reason is that they are closing for appointments and meetings.  But the other reason we used it is that the attributes within that competency are clear differentiators between their tops and their bottoms. 

But BigBrains didn't react the way most companies do.  Despite typically high turnover, they felt that OMG was unable to properly tune the assessment for their purposes.  What is normally a no-brainer for just about every company we talk with, caused just the opposite reaction at BigBrains.  They didn't think it would work on the college kids they targeted. 

But didn't we just prove that it would?  Doesn't our 83% trump their 33% 100 times out of 100?  I guess not.  Maybe the math works only 99 out of 100 times.  

Do you believe that they didn't act because they didn't believe the results?  Or that they didn't believe the results could be duplicated?  Or that it was too big of an investment?  Or that they feared something else?

Let's begin with the investment.  It wasn't much of an investment.  We would have saved them hundreds of thousands of dollars that they were paying college kids to fail.  We would have saved them thousands of hours that they were wasting on reviewing resumes, and phoning and interviewing the wrong candidates.  It was going to cost them significantly less than one entry level salary while at the same time, assessing thousands of candidates. It couldn't have been the money.  

Let's tackle whether or not it was duplicable.  Well, we already have a great track record for predictive accuracy and that was proven to be accurate again with their top 5 and bottom 5. So it couldn't have been whether or not it was duplicable.  And they had to believe the results - it was on their very own people.

No.  It was none of those reasons.

They were afraid that we would reject 90% of their candidates.  That's right.  They believed that the OMG Sales Candidate Assessment would recommend not moving foward with 90% of those kids.  Think about it...  Isn't that actually the point - to not move forward with those who we already know won't be able to succeed and/or won't stick around?  But the big executives at BigBrains believed that a 90% rejection rate would mean they would have to find more candidates and that might be too difficult.  Their recruiters would have to work harder.  Their recruiters might feel badly that their candidates didn't make the cut.

So their solution?  The very definition of insanity - just keep doing what they've been doing right along.  While only one third of their recruits might survive and succeed, at least that's the devil they know.  Can you imagine the expense, wasted time, frustration and stupidity of that model?  Continue to Part 2 - the follow-up article on Benchmarking BigBrains!

Their loss can be your gain though.  Just because BigBrains doesn't get it, doesn't mean you need to follow in their footsteps.  You can begin using the same accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments that 10,000 other companies use.  Learn more here.

Handshake is hosting a 45-minute presentation next Thursday where I'll be talking about how to coach sales reps to get great results.  You can learn more and register here.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, hiring salespeople, objective management, sales selection

Sales Slumps - What Causes Them and How to Fix Them

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 28, 2015 @ 13:09 PM

During the course of a baseball season, both hitters and pitchers fall into slumps. In basketball, players slump with their outside shots and from the foul line. Football Quarterbacks go into passing slumps. Golf and Tennis pros have swing slumps. Tiger has been in a slump since Thanksgiving of 2009! (I'm sure there must be some kind of a slump that Soccer players can fall victim to, but I don't know enough about soccer to weigh in.) With slumps being so common, it shouldn't come as a surprise that salespeople get into slumps too. In this article, we'll explore what causes salespeople to get into slumps, what their slumps look like, and how can they be fixed.

In baseball, the sport I know the most about, slumps are often the result of poor mechanics, where the player gets away from doing things that work. My 13-year-old son is in a hitting slump right now. He hasn't been keeping his weight back, resulting in his being way too far in front of the pitch, taking unbalanced swings, dropping his hands, and pulling his head off the ball. It's not unusual, as you can see from the image of Yankee's star Alex Rodriguez, pictured above. My son had a game-winning grand-slam on Saturday, but he uncharacteristically struck out in four of his seven weekend at-bats. It's not his first slump and it won't be his last, but the time during the slump can be difficult as he deals not only with fixing the swing mechanics, but also with the frustration and discouragement of a slump.

In sales, slumps can also come from poor mechanics, where salespeople get away from doing things that work. Some slumps occur at the bottom of the funnel, when deals that were expected to close either don't close at all or are awarded to a competitor.  Slumps can also occur at the top of the funnel, when salespeople experience difficulty converting calls to meetings. Slumps can even occur in the middle of the sales cycle when reps struggle to get traction or velocity with their new prospects.

Regardless of the timing, the causes for a slump can usually be narrowed down to 2 possible categories.

In the 3 scenarios above, the most common cause is rushing, when salespeople hurry to reach a milestone they are comfortable with or an outcome they wish to achieve.  

The other possible cause is laziness. Sometimes the slump is less about converting an opportunity, and more about not having anything to convert. Sometimes salespeople get away from prospecting, asking for referrals, and following up with contacts that at one time weren't ready. 

If this behavior continues for just 90 days, and the salesperson has a 3 month sales cycle, the sales manager won't realize there is an issue until 3 months after the laziness has begun. At the same point in time, the salesperson finds very little in the monthly commission check. Assuming that the laziness is corrected, it will take 3 more months before new opportunities move through the sales cycle, close and produce commissions again. A six-month problem!

How do you fix a sales slump?

Slowing down, listening and asking more questions will usually help salespeople solve sales slumps that arise from rushing.  But just like baseball, you need to practice doing it the right way. And as I learned in short game school, practice makes permanent!

One advantage of a modern opportunity-focused CRM application, a formal, structured, milestone-centric sales process, an up-to-date sales methodology, and on-going sales training and coaching is that each is a reminder of the fundamental things that work. It is far easier to slump without these resources than with them. However, the single biggest resource that can prevent a slump is....

...the sales manager. Daily accountability and coaching are the two most important things a sales manager can do to head off slumps before they can happen.  

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that a proactive sales manager that practices accountability and coaching will replace the resources I just mentioned. No way. They are a package. They must go together! You need a proactive sales manager, and the right CRM, sales process, sales methodology and training.

Pull these things together to minimize the slumps and maximize the sales!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales methodology, sales pipeline, sales slump

Why Prospects Won't Talk with You and How to Fix it

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 @ 15:09 PM

Would you put steaks and burgers on the grill before it was hot?  Would a pitcher throw as hard as he could without first throwing some long-toss and then pitching 20-30 slower pitches?  Would a runner sprint without stretching?  If you were in a cold climate in the middle of winter and your car was parked outside overnight, would you shift into drive without letting the engine warm first?  If the concept of warming up makes perfect sense, then why in the world would salespeople do this?

Today I coached a salesperson who, despite his hard work at developing consultative selling skills, could not understand why prospects didn't want to talk with him?  Watch this short video for an explanation of what he was doing wrong, and what to do instead.


It's all about warming up the prospect before you can have the conversation you really want to have.  My new eBook might help. It has 63 great tips for selling face to face, on the phone, and for managing salespeople.  You can download it free right here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales tips, phone selling

The Secret to Coaching Salespeople and Why It's So Scary 

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 21, 2015 @ 05:09 AM

If you have time to read only a single one of my articles this year, read this one on the great business disconnect that was published on LinkedIn.  You won't be sorry.  And if you want to see just how awful Microsoft's latest Office 2016 for Mac is, read this off-topic post here

I was speaking at the AA-ISP event in Boston earlier this month when I learned something very interesting about how sales leaders feel about coaching salespeople.  

I was leading a session on how to coach Inside Salespeople.  The session had the same components as I would normally include for showing sales leaders how to coach salespeople.  We discussed Shaping the Sales Environment, The Different types of Sales Coaching Conversations, the Importance of Role-Playing and then we listened to an actual coaching call.  Under normal circumstances, each of those topics would get at least an hour before reviewing actual calls.  Under the best of circumstances, like during my Sales Leadership Intensive, we spend the better part of two days.  At this event I had just 30 minutes...

So what is the surprising lesson I learned at this event?

I learned that the way in which sales leaders react to the exact same material differs exponentially in accordance with the time we have to discuss it.

After two days, testimonials suggest that my Sales Leadership Intensive is simply the best sales leadership training on the planet and that we cover the topic differently and more effectively than anyone, anywhere.

However, when we have only two hours, sales leaders like what we are sharing with them, but that's it.  They only like it.

And when we had only 30 minutes, sales leaders simply hated the exact same material.

I'm interested in what you think about that.  What do you make of it?

Of course, I have my own opinion.

The difference may be very similar to this ocean analogy:  In our two-day scenario, we slowly wade into the icy cold water, give our bodies plenty of time to acclimate, and gradually move deeper before going for a swim.  

In the 30-minute scenario, we are on a fast-moving motor boat when we are dropped into the icy cold, deep, dark sea without a life preserver or wet suit.

When getting "dropped in", sales coaching seemed difficult, scary and confrontational to the 30-minute gang.  When wading in and slowly acclimating, the two-day groups understand that while sales coaching may certainly be challenging, there is ample time for them to recognize how powerful it is and despite how different it may be from how they have coached in the past, there is plenty of time for them to get comfortable.

Why is sales coaching so difficult and for some, so scary?

In a word, Role-Playing.

You must be able to do what we do.  You must be handle any scenario, in any stage of the sales process, with any set of challenges, with the toughest prospect imaginable, and demonstrate through role-play how it would have sounded had your salesperson executed properly.  You must also be able to demonstrate how to solve any selling scenario that your salespeople find themselves in.  This isn't telling them what to do.  This isn't providing them with a strategy.  This is being able to conduct the sales side of the conversation and ask the right questions to get a desirable outcome.  It's hard.  We do it all day - every day - in 200 industries.  Sales Leaders must do this all day - every day - with each of their salespeople.

We can teach you how to do this.  If you would like to become really effective at coaching salespeople, I am hosting an overflow Sales Leadership Intensive for those who were unable to make the August dates work.  This will be a much smaller group, with more one-on-one attention.  The dates are October 13-14 outside of Boston. You can learn more here and register here.

My new eBook is also available.  63 Powerful Tips for a Huge Increase in Sales.  Free Download here.

Have I learned my lesson?  Not really.  On October 7, I'll be conducting a 45-minute Webinar on Sales Coaching that is sponsored and hosted by Handshake.  Stay tuned for more details.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, inside sales, sales management coaching, aa-isp

Did You Know That There is a Season for Hiring Salespeople?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 17, 2015 @ 05:09 AM

I live in the Boston area and there are some things that I know will always be true about the seasons.  School buses start rolling in September, fall foliage peaks in October, the first freezing cold days arrive in late November, snow storms are routine by mid-December, the coldest, driest days are in January, the snowiest month is in February, the days begin to get longer in March, the snow has melted so that baseball can be played in April, flowers blossom and leaves appear on the trees in May, summer weather arrives for good in mid-June, it turns as hot as the fireworks in July and the weeds thrive and attempt to choke out the plants in August.  

Did you know that when it comes to hiring salespeople, there are also seasonal trends we know to be true ?

It's as certain as the ice storm we seem to get every year right around the New Year.  The first graph below is a running total of the number of sales candidates assessed since 2009.  Beyond the obvious trend towards more, which has more to do with Objective Management Group (OMG) than hiring, you should be able to notice the many peaks and valleys.

If we look at the same data in a different way, those peaks and valleys will make more sense.  In the next graph we separated the data by year (the different colors represent the years 2009 - 2015) and month (1-12). If you look closely, you can see that March and October are the seasons for hiring salespeople!  You can also see a few other things that are reflective of conditions in the economy.  Note how the peaks did not occur in 2010, because the economic recovery had not yet kicked in. And note how with the exception of March, the number of candidates is down in 2015.  This is not about OMG, but it is about the current shortage of sales candidates.

On first blush, it's easy to mistakenly believe that more candidates are looking to change jobs during March and October.  But the reality is that more companies hire salespeople in the last first and last quarters. How do I know?  OMG has an uptick in licenses and subscriptions sold during March and October.  So, if we are closing in on October and most companies hire salespeople in October, shouldn't you be thinking about doing that too?

What's that?  You don't need any salespeople? Are you sure?  When 50% of salespeople don't make quota and 30% of salespeople can't be trained, some simple math would suggest that 15% of your sales force should be replaced each year. Perhaps it's time to replace your worst performer(s).

It's also important to see that you will have less competition for those candidates if you hire in July, September, and the Winter months.

If you don't already use OMG to get sales selection right, this would be a great time to start!  Plans start at just $99 per month and you can use this link to learn more and subscribe.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales selection tool, hiring sales candidates, sales assessment test

Very Alarmed Over the Latest Data on Sales Forces

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 16, 2015 @ 05:09 AM

Almost two weeks ago I weighed 188 pounds, gained 5 pounds over the 4-day Labor Day weekend and last Tuesday was up to 193.  I ate well, lost 3 pounds over the next 3 days, went into the following weekend at 190, gained 5 pounds again and was at 195 at the beginning of this week.  In other words, the good eating I manage during the week is all for nothing as my bad eating over the weekends cancels it out.

I reviewed some of the latest statistics from Objective Management Group (OMG) and it's safe to say that all of the great work that some of us in the sales development world are doing is also for nothing.  We have been attempting to bring the selling profession to the next level, getting companies and their salespeople to take a more consultative approach and training and coaching them to do it more effectively.  And while we are successful with the clients we work with, recent statistics show that the overall sales population has not achieved any measurable progress.  You just won't believe some of these statistics...

Among many other findings, OMG measures salespeople in 9 primary selling competencies and 21 Sales Core Competencies in all.  Although we began measuring a few of these competencies fairly recently, we have been measuring most of the others for decades.  Here are some:

  • Hunter
  • Consultative Seller
  • Qualifier
  • Closer
  • Account Manager
  • Farmer

In 2011, salespeople had an average of 71% of the attributes of the Hunter Competency and in 2015 it has soared to 73%.  

The Qualifier Competency has not changed at all during this time - still averaging around 55% of the attributes.  

We have seen a tremendous increase in the Closer Competency as scores have increased from 29% to  30% over five years.  

We have seen the average scores for the Account Manager Competency drop from 54% to 52% over the same time span.

We observed a similar drop in the Farmer Competency as scores went from an average of 34% to its current average of 32%.

But the real news is in the average score for the Consultative Seller Competency.  After all, that is where the primary focus of any and all sales training and coaching should be.  This is the Competency required for effective Value Selling.  That is the Competency required for leverage in order to easily and effectively Qualify.  And this is the Competency required to differentiate in the field, where all differentiation takes place.  Are you ready for this?  After years of Blogs, newsletters, speaking, videos, audios, books and training, salespeople have gone all the way from an average of 47% to 48% of the attributes of a Consultative Seller!

It has all been for nothing.

Don't take this the wrong way. Clients, whose salespeople are expertly trained and coached, see a spectacular rise that translates into increased win rates, shorter sales cycles and larger average orders.  However, the sales population as a whole have not budged.  We looked at data from nearly 350,000 salespeople so the sample size wasn't small.  The salespeople and related data were from more than 200 different industries so no one industry could have skewed the results. Half of the data comes from existing salespeople that were employed at companies that underwent sales force evaluations, while the other half came from sales candidates applying for sales positions.  Most of the candidates were experienced salespeople so that couldn't skew the data either.  We constantly update the competencies and related attributes as selling requirements change so we aren't measuring outdated competencies. Facts are facts and these facts are clear.  When companies fail to hire competent sales training firms that can effectively teach modern sales process, strategies and tactics, sales leaders on their own generally fail to bring their salespeople to the next level.

A Guaranteed Fix for Inaccurate Sales Forecasts

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 15, 2015 @ 06:09 AM

The weather has become quite predictive - if you want to know what it will be like in say, an hour.  Meteorologists are still fairly accurate within 24 hours, but for the most part, especially where I live in New England, they are challenged to get it accurate beyond a day in advance.

Think of that in terms of your pipeline, forecast and budget.  We know that forecasts are notoriously inaccurate, but that's when you're looking at the forecast for the month, quarter or year.  Meteorologists would never be accurate if attempting to predict temperatures, precipitation, cloud cover and storms a month in advance.

Are your expectations completely unrealistic when you attempt to forecast sales for the month or quarter?  For most companies, inaccurate forecasts are the norm and expectations for accuracy are insane.  But that's when companies rely on CRM applications that fall victim to any of the following 10 challenges:

  • It was designed for customer service rather than sales.
  • It has a contact or customer focus rather than an opportunity or sales process focus.
  • It was over-designed with too many features.
  • It is not user friendly.
  • Salespeople hate to enter information into it.
  • It's too easy for salespeople to manipulate the likelihood of closing.
  • Sales Managers do not regularly inspect opportunities for accuracy and appropriate stage.
  • Pipeline is a state of being, not a gap analysis.
  • Pipeline is a report rather than a staged, visual representation of the business.
  • Salespeople don't live in it and it hasn't become an essential part of the sales culture.

There are dozens of CRM applications out there.  While some are very well-known, like, others are very obscure.  Well-known doesn't mean you should use it at your company - it might not be right for you.  Obscure doesn't mean that you shouldn't use it at your company - it might be perfect.

In the end, regardless of features, if the salespeople don't embrace it, then it will be a failure.  We have so many clients that bought CRM applications that aren't being used as expected, it's embarrassing.  Yet moving to another CRM application seems like throwing money out the window and admitting that your initiative was a failure.

On the other hand, companies think nothing of changing copier brands - even in the middle of a lease, they change banks when terms or relationships make it necessary, executives move in and out of cars every two years, homeowners cycle through crappy landscapers, we upgrade our phones, tablets and laptops every year or two, and we never think twice!  Why is it such a nightmare to move to another CRM application?

Moving is really not that difficult.  The problem is that it cost a lot of money to customize the first application, get everyone trained, and input all of the data.  There is a huge fear that moving to another application will be just as difficult as the first go-round.  But that's more fear than reality.

For example, we moved a client from a popular CRM application to a more useful and appropriate application.  They did spend and waste a fortune on the first one, they did spend months entering data, they did go through a long and drawn out training program for users and it was a monumental failure.  However, moving to the new application was a easy as pie.  It needed almost no customization, had no complicated navigation, and an hour of training had everybody up and running. The data was imported, not entered manually, and the salespeople love it so much they are not only using it, but embracing it.

The best news of all comes in the form of the client's results:  

  • Salespeople are living in CRM!
  • Opportunities cannot be arbitrarily moved forward in the sales process.
  • The likelihood of closing is calculated based on reality, not hope.
  • 100% adoption translates to real time, accurate data in the dashboard.
  • Salespeople see their pipeline stage gaps and proactively respond to them.
  • Forecasts are accurate.
  • Everyone is happy.

It's not that moving to a better CRM application is a new cost or even difficult - it isn't!  It's that for most, walking away from the initial investment of money, time, emotions, commitment and your bad decision is so hard.  But it's not a divorce, it's more like changing banks.  You move away from one that no longer suits your needs and begin working with another that you perceive to be better.

Do you need some help sorting out your CRM situation?  Just shoot me an email and I'll steer you in the right direction.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales pipeline,, sales forecast

Driving, Asking Questions, Inside Sales, and Sales Process with a Twist

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 08, 2015 @ 06:09 AM

Here's a quote from an article I wrote that appears now on the SellingPower Blog.  It's an analogy to help you understand why asking questions is so difficult for most salespeople.

"You’ve been driving a car since you were a teenager, but your cars have always had an automatic transmission and you’ve always driven on standard roads. Now we will ask you to drive a much larger car, drive it at faster speeds, on an obstacle course, with people in your way. Oh, and one more thing – for the first time, you’ll be driving a six-speed manual transmission. You might be afraid to take your foot off the clutch and put the car into first gear because, if you’re not careful, you might kill those people standing in front of your car!

"That’s how salespeople sometimes feel when they need to be liked and are expected to ask their prospects some really difficult questions. Salespeople think someone will be killed – and they worry that it might be them!"

Read more of the SellingPower article here.

And this is a quote from an article I wrote that appears on the Membrain Sales blog.

"We would have recommended 6 of their 7 top performers and only 1 of their 9 bottom performers. We would have been correct on 14 out of 16, or 88% which comes within a few percentage points of our usual predictive accuracy of 92%.  This is scientific sales selection. It's a necessary part of an overall scientific approach to sales and the sales force."

Read more of the Membrain article here.

This is a quote from an article on how to increase your sales by 20% by getting your sales process right, published right here on my Blog while most people were finishing up their summer vacation.

"There is a huge misunderstanding when it comes to sales process.  It's a lot like electrical work.  Everyone needs it, but they think that because they know how to change a light bulb they don't need to call an electrician.  Getting your sales process right is a lot more like needing electricity in the middle of a stone wall with no nearby source to tap into.  For you?  Impossible. For an electrician?  It's all in a day's work."

Read more of the article on sales process here.

This is a quote from another article on how to increase your sales by adding a twist to your sales approach.

"Regular readers know that I often champion the cause for a consultative approach to help differentiate and sell value in modern times.  But like I said at the outset, everything old is new again and this sales hack brings some presentation skills back to the early stage of the sales process."

Read more of the article on how to use this "everything old is new again" twist here.

This week's Top Sales Magazine features an article that I wrote 8 years ago!  It explains what integrated sales force development is and this morning, when I saw it in the magazine and reread it I felt that it was ahead of its time in 2007 and extremely applicable in 2015.  You can read that article here.

Finally, I'll be speaking on coaching salespeople at Inside Sales-Boston this Thursday, September 10.  If you're already planning to attend I'll see you there.  Otherwise, if you're in the Boston area, change your plans and catch the terrific lineup of speakers!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales force development, asking questions, inside sales, sales increase, selling power magazine, top sales magazine

About Dave

Dave Kurlan's Blog has earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award four years running and this year this article earned Gold. Read more about Dave.

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