How to Achieve Sales Mastery - A Collection of Loosely Connected Thoughts

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 06, 2020 @ 15:07 PM

baseball flag

During our first of its kind Independence Day weekend, I thought about a lot of things that loosely tied into sales effectiveness and while they could all be articles in their own right, I decided to write one article tying them all together.

I've been writing articles for my Blog for fifteen years - since 2006 - so not only was I an early adopter, I've written close to 2,000 articles.   The five topics I have written most about are:

    1. The 21 Sales Core Competencies and the data from evaluating 1,988,673 salespeople.  
    2. Sales Process and the importance of having one that is customized, customer-focused, milestone-centric, staged, and optimized 
    3. Consultative Selling and why that approach will net better results than any other approach 
    4. Sales Coaching and its impact on revenue 
    5. Baseball and it's ties, connections, similarities and place in sales 

Baseball?  There are lots of reasons for baseball being in the top 5 but in 2005, I wrote my best-selling book, Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball

Baseline Selling uses baseball as a metaphor and includes a complete sales process and methodology rolled into one.  My son was two when I started writing that book. He became an outstanding baseball player and next month he leaves for college where he'll be continuing to play baseball at the next level.  During the past 15 years more than 100 of my articles had a baseball analogy somewhere in them and more than half of those had a mention of my son. In a way, my Blog chronicled his journey - both his successes and failures - from the first time he swung a Wiffle bat, through Little League, Travel Teams, High School, College Showcases and finally, college.

My Son's Baseball Journey is the same as any person's journey through a sales career - it involves constant improvement, practice, drills, role-playing, reinforcement, coaching, and at every level along the way, some level of proficiency and mastery.  While baseball players rise through the levels and a very small, but hugely talented group play beyond college, sales offers similar growth opportunities as salespeople rise from an assortment of sales roles with varying levels of difficulty up through sales management, sales leadership, and sometimes, for the very ambitious and talented, all the way to the C Suite. 

As my mind drifted I recalled my son's most memorable baseball moments.  This is my favorite memory ( video clip ) from last summer when he delivered the walk-off game-winning hit in the quarter-final game of a big tournament in Virginia.

That brought me to memorable salespeople.  While I have worked with and trained many salespeople who were quite memorable, I focused in on salespeople who were indispensable to my businesses.  After all, what would you rather be, a vendor/supplier, a resource, a partner, a trusted advisor, or totally freakin' indispensable?  I remembered 45 years ago when, at age 20, I opened the doors to my music business.  Yes, I was a musician but no, I didn't know enough about the other musical instruments and accessories I would be selling.  There were plenty of salespeople who wanted me to stock and sell their products, but there were two who taught me about which products there would be demand for, the distribution of products I would need to have on hand, the inventory levels that would be required, and even what I needed to know and ask so that I could be knowledgeable.  In the early years, they helped me profitably run, grow and finance my business.  They were indispensable salespeople

Moving back to baseball, my son actually played in four games this weekend.  Baseball is back!  Sort of.  Home plate umpires were calling balls and strikes from well behind the pitcher's mound.  They didn't have a supply of balls - new balls were thrown to the pitcher from a coach.  Umps and coaches wore masks for the traditional pre-game meeting at home plate, and parents were socially distanced and could not watch from behind the backstop.  But it was baseball and it gave us a sense of normalcy.  The game of summer adapted its rules to prevent (we hope) the virus from spreading.  That brings me to my next thoughts regarding the importance of adapting, being flexible and change.  

While baseball is still baseball, sales is still sales.  How we connect today has changed dramatically and will become the new standard. We must adapt, be flexible and change with the times. But once we have connected, we must still follow our customer-focused, milestone-centric sales process, take a consultative approach, sell value and thoroughly qualify.  That.Will.Not.Change.  You must still develop a relationship, build trust, find a compelling reason for them to do business with you, create urgency and differentiate yourself, recommend the ideal solutions and get them to buy from you.  That.Will.Not.Change.  However, the tools you have at your disposal have changed: 

  • Prospects and customers can click a link to schedule time in your digital calendar which syncs across all your devices to save you a ton of time like youcanbook.me.
  • The new crop of CRM applications with built-in playbooks to guide you through your sales process with an emphasis on opportunities and pipeline instead of contacts and companies like Membrain.
  • Digital document signing to replace the part of the closing process where documents requiring signatures go to die like Docusign and Adobesign.
  • Social Selling applications like LinkedIn, Twitter, Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and Hubspot to help you get inbound leads and make connections through Blogging, posts and shares.
  • Video Conferencing like Zoom.
  • File Sharing applications like AWS, Dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive and Egnyte.
  • Content Sharing applications like OneMob.
  • Collaboration tools like Evernote and Onenote
  • Organizational tools like ToDo.
  • Email like Outlook, Gmail and Spark.
  • If/Then/Next tools like Zapier.

These tools, if used effectively and integrated efficiently, will make your life easier.  None of these tools will do the selling for you, but it will make the ancillary tasks around selling easier for you to get done.  For instance, I can send out my newsletter in MailChimp, link to my Blog, get an inbound lead, connect over LinkedIn, give an interested prospect the link to my calendar to schedule our first video call over Zoom, move to the next stage of the sales process in my CRM, import collateral from Dropbox and share over OneMob, note the appropriate follow up work in ToDo, close, and have an agreement signed with AdobeSign.  This is how the right tools support and even streamline our selling efforts.  But you still have to do the selling!

I've been in the sales development space since 1985.  I could have very easily become old and out of touch, but instead I have chosen to stay young and at the forefront of all things sales.  From my work at Objective Management Group (OMG), I preside over the largest collection of performance data about salespeople on the planet.  As of July 5, 2020, we have nearly 2 million rows of data, each with around 180 findings or 360 million data points!  You can see some of that data here.  

Finally, sales mastery takes more than a decade to develop - just like baseball.  You don't show up for your first day in sales, attend orientation, go to a sales training class and declare yourself a professional salesperson.  While product knowledge is crucial, that knowledge does not contribute to being an effective salesperson.  Forgetting what you know so that you can ask good questions helps a lot more than telling people what you know.  Baseball players show up for their first day and have to learn to catch and throw and hit off a tee.  They progress from there.

Embrace the journey and the tools, hop on the train, and dedicate yourself to developing the mastery required to be an elite salesperson.  The top 5% of all salespeople are exponentially more effective than the bottom half of all salespeople.  What do you want to be when you grow up?

Image Copyright Megan Ellis on Unsplash

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Baseline Selling, sales process, crm, Baseball, membrain, mastery

New Data Reveals Interesting Differences in Salespeople's Ability to Work From Home

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 @ 10:06 AM

remote-worker

You wake up, the sky is blue, the sun is shining, you open the door and it's freezing cold outside.  Or there is the opposite of that, when there are thick clouds, it's drizzling, you open the door and it's hot and humid as hell!  Things aren't always what they appear to be.   

In early April, during the earlier stages of the virus-required lockdown, I wrote this article about some of the remote selling challenges that companies were experiencing.  Since then, things have improved, especially around the use of video.

However, things are far from perfect, especially around how suitable salespeople are for working from home.  John Pattison, COO of Objective Management Group (OMG), dug into OMG's remote seller data, and learned that similar to the weather, things aren't always what they appear to be.  The table below shows how this data changes according to sales experience.

Remote-Suitability-by-Years-1

As you can see, those with 20-24 years of experience are 32% more suitable for working from home in a sales role than those with 0-3 years of experience.  There are two possible reasons for this:

  1. Inexperienced salespeople need more direction and guidance and don't get it when they are working at home.
  2. Inexperienced salespeople are millennials and aren't as responsible as older and wiser salespeople.

Of course, the real reason may have nothing to do with experience or age, but more to do with the two most important things we measure for remote sellers:

  1. Ability to self-start
  2. Ability to work independently

However, even that can be called into question when we look at the data by geography.  While the differences aren't significant, there are variations by country.

For example, salespeople in North America are 35% more suitable for selling from home than salespeople in northern Europe (think Sweden, Denmark, Norway), !  How do you explain that?  Coincidence?  Hours of daylight in the summer can't keep them out of their swimming pools and off the golf courses?  

In the end, the score matters little but we absolutely must know the score.  Sales managers are the difference-makers when it comes to selling remotely.  If they are proactive and closely manage salespeople who aren't well-suited for it, those salespeople can still succeed working from home.

You should be hiring salespeople right now.  Job postings are getting 400 applications right now!  To find out whether your candidates can sell remotely and whether they will succeed in the role you are filling, use OMG's highly accurate, customizable and predictive sales-specific candidate assessment to help you select your ideal candidates.

Finally, OMG measures salespeople in 21 Sales Core Competencies.  See the competencies and the data here.

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales competenices, sales best practices, sales hiring assessment, remote selling

How Much Has Video Impacted the Way We Sell?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 22, 2020 @ 23:06 PM

video-call

Back in the old days, when you wanted to copy something, you would have said, "I'm going to Xerox this."  And for years when you needed a tissue you would have asked for a Kleenex.  And when you wanted to clean your ears you would have asked for a Q-Tip.  All three of these are examples where the brand and the product were one in the same.  We're getting to that same point with Zoom video, where more than half of all salespeople are now using Zoom!

Video is becoming such an important part of selling, especially during the shutdowns and quarantines, that Objective Management Group (OMG) is creating a new selling competency called Video Proficient.  As part of the development process to identify the attributes for this competency, we test various questions in advance and examine the distribution of answers to make sure that they are within the norms we need to have.  We also ask more questions than we will actually use.  In the past week, nearly 2,000 salespeople answered 10 potential questions and I thought it would be useful to share some of the data we have already collected.

In March, most salespeople were very uncomfortable conducting their business over video. Look at this article I wrote about video as recently as November!  Yet today, just three months later, 49% of salespeople prefer video to a phone call and another 28% don't have a preference.  That's quite a change!

So how do salespeople feel about video?

Video-feelings-1As you can see, 91% of salespeople now have positive feelings about using video for selling!

Are they Zooming? 

Video-platformsActually,  they are, with 56% of salespeople using Zoom.  I was surprised to see 38% still using Skype and 26% still using Facetime.  I predict that before the summer is over, most salespeople will have moved from those two platforms.

How serious are salespeople about their video and what kinds of accessories have they added to make their video more professional?  Nearly 40% are using virtual backgrounds and almost 20% have added external microphones, HD cameras, green screens and/or studio lighting.

How proficient are salespeople becoming with video?  They're doing better than I expected.  More than half consider themselves to be intermediate users, while almost 30% believe they have mastered their video platforms!

Video is here to stay and not just because so many of us will continue to work remotely.  It's here to stay because it's a far more effective tool than the phone and almost as good as being there!   

Image copyright 123RF          

Topics: Dave Kurlan, salespeople, zoom, remote selling, video conferencing

The Real Reason Why So Many Salespeople are So Bad at Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 08, 2020 @ 12:06 PM

construction

Would you like to start a business?  Can't figure out what business to start?  I have three ideas for you:

In the past four weeks, I have tried and tried and tried to get a glass company to replace the tabletop for a large outdoor patio table after the glass exploded in an early April storm.  Four weeks laster, we still don't have the glass replaced.

One of our garage door openers needs to be replaced because in every five out of six attempts to lower the door, the opener sends it back up again.  After calling six dealers in four weeks, I have not received a single return call. 

We have a double swinging gate at the bottom of our driveway and the electronics are twenty years old and need to be updated.  After four weeks of calling dealers I have not received a single return call.

In case you're thinking that it must be me, I have had success getting plumbers, stone masons, electricians, carpenters, power washers, and painters to the house but those other three categories are the outliers.  Start one of those three businesses today and you'll make a fortune!

In today's article, I will explain why this problem exists and how it relates to a bigger problem in sales.

The people who don't return calls are usually technical in nature.  The garage door openers, gate electronics, and glass people are all entrepreneurs running small businesses and their expertise is not sales or customer service, it's their technical subject matter expertise.  

By and large, "salespeople" like these make up a large portion of the bottom 50% of all salespeople.  They are passionate about what they do, know their product, can answer technical questions, are experts in their industry but don't have a clue about what it means to sell.  They believe that answering questions, explaining their products and producing a quote or proposal constitutes selling.  They have little concept of sales process, sales posturing, messaging, positioning, listening and asking questions, qualifying, or closing, and even less on how to do any of that effectively.  They don't know what they don't know.

A good example of this can be seen at Objective Management Group's (OMG) Statistics site.  Navigate to the site, click the "tell us what industry you are in" button, and expand Construction (23).  Select 238 or Specialty Contractors and then scroll through the 21 Sales Core Competencies.  You'll notice that the industry specific scores are consistently lower than the average scores for all salespeople.  Interestingly, the biggest gap is in the Hunting Competency where you will see that contractor salespeople score 18 points lower than the average for all salespeople.  The reality is that they do little hunting, getting their new business from existing customers and RFQ's.

The good news is that after senior management makes it clear that those in a selling role will be expected to proactively sell, rather than explaining and quoting alone, things do improve.  While some in the role are not well-suited for selling, with exposure to sales process, strategy, tactics and methodology, most will improve, become more comfortable, and more effective.  After an evaluation, introduction to the company's new formal sales process, and appropriate sales training, most of these people become more comfortable, more aware, and as a result, more effective.

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales pipeline, sales effectiveness

Definitive Playbook to Lead a Sales Force Out of the Current Crisis

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 20, 2020 @ 10:05 AM

playbook

You might be aware that I'm leading a one-hour, live broadcast tomorrow (Thursday May 21) on How to Get Your Company's Sales Engine Roaring Again.  

Why This Particular Event? 

There is a ton of misinformation out there.  Much of it is written by people with an agenda, with a piece of technology to solve your problems, with a solution that will remove you from your money but not fix the sales problem.  Much of it is put out there by people with no clue as to what really needs to be done, what the challenges will be going forward, and how to address those challenges head on.  Most of these people have not had to lead sales organizations out of recessions and depressions before.  There is a revenue gap to be filled and your momentum was effectively stopped in the same way your car would be stopped by hitting a brick wall at 30 mph.  You might not be dead, but you aren't in the same condition you were a minute prior to impact!

The challenges aren't solved by technology because they are all people problems:

  • The challenge with the sales organization as a whole - what changes must be made to align with our new normal?
  • The challenge that sales leaders present to CEOs - what should sales leaders be doing right now that will impact revenue?
  • The challenge that sales managers present to sales leaders - what should sales managers be doing right now that will impact revenue?
  • The challenge that salespeople present to sales managers - what should salespeople be doing right now that will impact revenue?
  • The challenge that customers and prospects will present to salespeople - what sort of conversations should salespeople be having right now that will impact revenue?

Why Are We Charging $199 for it?

There are two primary reasons:

  1. A free webinar will make it no different, no better, no more unique than all of the free podcasts, webinars and videos that are circulating and being offered.
  2. This will truly be different.  It's not a teaser for something you need to pay for.  It's not a session with regurgitated information.  It's not a session where you don't get actionable, useful, timely steps.  I will provide the following and it's risk free - if you don't get value we'll give you a refund!

Slide 12

Why Should You Attend?

If you're a salesperson or a sales manager, you probably shouldn't.  But you should make sure that your senior sales leader and CXOs do attend.

If you're a sales leader or a CXO you can't guess what your next steps must be.  I'll provide an actionable playbook that you can put into action tomorrow!

--> Register <--

Image copyright 123 RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Force, economic crisis, sales playbook, recovery

One Thing Your Company Must Do Right Now to Increase Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 13, 2020 @ 12:05 PM

cherry-picking

Most in the cherry-picking news media are continuing to pound us with bad stuff: record unemployment, 80,000 dead, lockdowns into August, 30 trillion in debt, economy will be slow to recover, you'll be jailed if you open your business too soon, schools to remain closed in September, people will die, etc.  But there is good stuff going on that they aren't talking about because, for the most part, the media doesn't care about sharing the good stuff.  It's bad for ratings.   

For example, since the 30 million who temporarily lost their jobs are receiving unemployment at more than 100% of what they were earning before, they aren't facing the hardship the media would lead you to believe and the money is there for a reboot when it comes.  But the really good news is for companies that are able to hire salespeople.  Consider this!

Do you have cash on hand?  Do you have access to cash?  Money is almost free right now so don't discount traditional borrowing!  If you can invest some money, now is definitely the time to hire salespeople.  Whether you want to expand your geographical coverage, the verticals you call on, the audience you sell to, the products you offer, want more saturation in your existing space, or want to upgrade the quality and performance of your existing sales force, THERE WILL NEVER BE A BETTER TIME TO HIRE SALESPEOPLE.  EVER.

Consider the following statistics from Objective Management Group (OMG), who have assessed 1,972,665 salespeople.HIRING-PANDEMIC

You are looking at historical shifts in statistics!

If you can find a way to spend the money now (cost of tools and 3-months salary), and you use OMG'S predictive sales candidate assessment, you will see some incredible swings:

Your sales candidate pool will increase in size by 600.  Yes.  They are out there!

The number of sales candidates completing their sales candidate assessments will increase by 958% because it is an employer's market.  Just three months ago it was a candidate's market.

The overall assessment recommendation rate will decrease by 45% because there are a lot of crappy salespeople out there right now. Also, you will be able to raise the bar on the minimum requirements for a recommendation because there are a lot of good salespeople out there too.

Because of all the available sales talent right now, you will be able to identify and hire your salespeople 450% more quickly.

While the fixed cost for a sales candidate assessment license remains the same, the relative cost per assessment decreases by 958% and your annual compensation drops by 11% due to supply and demand.

Even if the market you sell to is sluggish right now, that won't be the case by the end of the summer.  Don't wait until then to hire!  Everything will shift again by Labor Day.  Both supply and quality of available sales talent will decrease as demand increases, the time to hire will increase, and the time to onboard your new salespeople will take longer as well.  DO. THIS. NOW.

Your current and new salespeople will face unprecedented challenges in the form of delayed closings, resistance to being sold anything at all, and resistance to spending more money than anyone has to.  This resistance will come in the form of stalls, put-offs, objections, excuses and sob stories.  Your current and new salespeople must have the skills to differentiate, take a consultative approach and sell value if you are to have any chance of maintaining your margins.  If your salespeople move forward armed with only the limited skills they had prior to the pandemic, your win rate and margins will be crushed.  YOU MUST EVALUATE YOUR EXISTING SALES FORCE, DETERMINE HOW BIG THE SKILLS GAPS ARE, AND PROVIDE THIS CRUCIAL SKILLS TRAINING NOW.  If you wait, you will find yourself fighting to survive from the back of the pack.

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Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, grow sales, recruiting salespeople, hiring salespeople, sales test, personality test, recovery

10 Critical Best Practices for Your Sales Force in This Crisis

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 27, 2020 @ 11:04 AM

superman

We are in week 6 of lockdown, week 8 of voluntary work-from-home, while adapting, guiding and directing companies who still need to sell their products and services to generate revenue.  At this point sales is about so much more than generating revenue for profit or to keep employees working.  For most companies, sales is now about generating revenue to survive, as we stare down a whole new way of doing business.  Forget uncertainty!  Where we are right now is downright scary.  But if the past 6 weeks have taught us anything, it's that with the right tools, strategies, mindset and tactics, we can adapt and even thrive.  For those who may read this after May 1, 2020, the following best practices are based on where we are as I write this on April 27, 2020.  

Everyone Has a Remote Sales Team - It's not just the geographically distributed sales teams anymore; it's everyone, and we need to consider the biggest challenges of leading remote sales teams:

  • Not everyone is tech savvy, especially in some old-school industries like building products, industrial distribution, and historical face-to-face selling environments.  You must set proper expectations about using phone and video, require all meetings to be virtual instead of phone, and provide proper training on using video technology.
  • Not everyone is well-suited for working from home.  I'm not talking about the ability to focus without distraction.  I'm talking about whether your salespeople have the DNA for working from home, independent of their team, and without supervision; whether they are self-starters and have the necessary time and organizational skills to work on their own for an extended period of time.  Working from home is not temporary.  This will continue even after the lockdown is in the rear view mirror because as long as kids are at home (no school, no summer camp), parents will be at home too and customers may not be ready to have outsiders visiting their offices and plants.  Also consider that some salespeople aren't able to handle the emotional disconnect from being isolated from friends, co-workers, families and customers.
  • Daily Huddles - Despite years of yelling from the rooftops that sales leaders must lead a quick daily huddle with their teams, it didn't happen.  It just wasn't convenient - for the leaders!  And despite the proven benefits of such huddles, most resisted while some compromised and ran weekly huddles.  The resistance and compromises must end.  You must huddle with your team twice per day to keep them connected, share success stories and demonstrate that we are in this together.
  • Coverage - salespeople will be able to cover their territories more efficiently than ever before.
  • Cost - Having your salespeople sell remotely is much more cost-effective.

Motivation - Your salespeople are scared.  They are looking to you for reassurance, positivity, motivation, success stories, support, guidance, direction and hope.  They are afraid:

  • Will they be able to make calls without offending people?
  • Will they be able to schedule virtual meetings?
  • Will they be able to sell over video/phone?
  • Will they be able to close anything in the short term?
  • Will they be able to keep their jobs?

Call Reports - I can't think of a single reason why you would waste salespeople's time by having them complete call reports.  Consider:

  • They use same piece of hardware for virtual meetings and emails as they do to access your CRM application.  Gone are the days where they were on the road, on site with a customer, on sales calls, in a hotel or airport or home too late without enough time to update CRM.  No more excuse making.
  • They must update CRM in real time,  as they complete each conversation, virtual meeting and call.  
  • You must make real time updates a condition of continued employment.  In the current environment of 15% unemployment, this requirement has teeth.
  • It's like spaghetti sauce - it's in there.  Everything you could possible ask for in a call report will be in the dashboard and/or reporting section of your CRM application.  Ditch the call reports.

Pipeline The one thing that every salesperson can do right now is build pipeline.  My conversations with CEOs reveal two problems:  Delayed closes and insufficient pipelines to compensate so:

  • Go on offense! Every salesperson - even account managers and farmers, should be all in, all hands on deck pipeline building mode right now.  If they won't do it you don't need them!  25 million people have already filed for unemployment in the US so 2.5 million are probably salespeople.  Unlike just three months ago when your salespeople were in the driver's seat, your salespeople can be replaced!
  • Phones - They're being used as talking devices again!  We haven't witnessed this kind of reconnection with the phone since administrative assistants were replaced by automated voicemail systems.  Executives are taking and returning calls and you should not allow your salespeople to hide behind their monitors using emails to reach out when people are answering their cell phones!
  • Viability - You need a comprehensive viability analysis of your pipeline to determine how much is high quality, how much is properly staged, and how much you will realistically win.  Without the viability analysis your forecast is a complete fabrication.

Coaching - Forget 50% of your time coaching!  It needs to be 75% of your time.  You have the time, even if you are responsible for personal accounts.  Every salesperson, every day, for a minimum of 30-minutes of one-on-one coaching to:

  • Coach them up
  • Coach them through opportunities
  • Debrief completed calls
  • Join them on calls (easier than ever)

KPI's -  It's time to rethink your KPI's:

  • Focus on Pipeline Building KPI's!  Dials, Conversations and Virtual Meetings Scheduled. 
  • Add KPI's for opportunities that advanced to the next stage, opportunities that were pushed back to a prior stage, and opportunities that are no longer valid.  Counting only the good stuff is head-in-the-sand leadership.

Targeting - It's more important than ever! 

  • You may have lost entire Verticals (like travel/tourism), Segments (small specialty retail is a segment of retail) or Audiences (sales enablement and learning and development have been casualties). 
  • Target the verticals, segments and audiences that you can sell to now, that are continuing to do business.
  • Consider selling something different than what you usually sell to existing customers and seeking new customers for what you typically sell.
  • Your competition may not have been affected in the same way that you were, especially if they have other channels, verticals, products and services than what you offer.  Will they be concentrating more or less of their efforts on your target market?
  • Hard to Reach Opportunities are no longer hard to reach for territory salespeople.  They can reach them virtually!

Critical SkillsI can't be more clear about this and you have no option but to do something about this. If your salespeople continue to take a present/demo/quote/proposal-based approach to selling they will fail and the only business you will get will be low-margin business.  Only 15% of all salespeople have all four of the critical skills below as a strength: 

  • A Consultative approach, based on listening and asking questions, is the only way to differentiate your salespeople from your competitors
  • Value-Based selling, where your salespeople are the value, is the only way to maintain margins.  If you attempt to be competitive your only revenue will be low to no margin revenue and you will fail.  This is not talking about value; this is being the value.
  • Thorough qualifying.  You can't afford for your salespeople to be wasting time on opportunities that are no longer viable; but they will if you don't require thorough qualifying and justification for pursuit, and add verification and accountability.
  • Staged, milestone-centric, customer-focused sales process that supports the consultative, value-based, approach.

Right-Sizing - I'm sorry but you can't put this off.  There is no way around this.  You must do this today, unless you got PPP funding, in which case you must do this at 60 days post-funding!  You must be able to generate more revenue with fewer salespeople

  • Consider factors other than revenue and performance. 
  • Also consider overhead (sales expenses other than commissions)
  • Suitability for the role they are in (half of all salespeople are not well-suited for the roles they are in
  • Suitability for working from home (see remote sales team above - 41% of all salespeople are not well-suited for working from home)
  • Pipeline viability (see Pipeline above - 43% of all salespeople lack viable pipelines right now) 
  • Critical skills for selling in this environment - (See critical skills above - 85% of all salespeople are lacking these skills)
  • OMG's SmartSizing tool allows you to run a complete viability analysis on your sales organization to right-size it today.

Hire Salespeople - If you have the cash flow to hire salespeople, do it now.  This is the first time in about five years that good candidates are available and actively looking for their next home.  Just make sure:

  • Don't make any mistakes in your rush to hire
  • Use OMG's trusted, accurate, customizable (for the role) and predictive sales candidate assessment.
  • Rework your sales recruiting process for the current times.  You need to get every aspect right from the ad you post to your onboarding.

Get Help!  Sure you want to be a superhero but Kryptonite brought Superman to his knees and the enemy we are fighting today is our version of Kryptonite. Don't be embarrassed to ask an expert for help.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Salesforce, sales pipeline, b2b sales, best practices, remote selling

Why Reopening the Economy Won't Be Enough To Turn Things Around

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 20, 2020 @ 10:04 AM

quicksand

They will begin reopening the economy in three phases, but with some restrictions.  Sounds exciting, doesn't it?  It's sure as heck much better than what we have today, but will it work?  In this article, I'll explain why it won't work like they hope, and what must occur for the economy to thrive again.

When the economic light switch is flipped on, things are supposed to return to normal, but with appropriate social distancing and special protection of the at-risk population.  Money is supposed to start flowing again, but will it.  Trump is at his best when it comes to the economy but is he right this time? Let's take a look at the requirements for making the money flow.

Requirement #1 - Demand: People must start buying stuff from sources other than Amazon.com and the local grocery store.  Can you say retailers, restaurants and service firms?  Are people itching to buy or just itching to leave their homes?  Are people going to rush out and buy new wardrobes as many continue to work from home in their comfy clothes? Is there a pent-up demand for stuff? The biggest thing that people will need after this has ended is a vacation but the travel and tourism industry, as well as the industries that sell to them, are still shut down indefinitely.  I'm concerned that the demand won't be there when the economy begins to reopen.

Requirement #2 - Large business spending:  One of the first signs that the economy is heading for recession is when large companies initiate spending freezes so that they can conserve cash.  If big business doesn't immediately release their spending freezes, all of the companies who sell to those large companies will continue to suffer and we are unlikely to see another PPP get signed to help companies retain employees.  

Requirement #3 - Small business revenue: You've been hearing this for weeks now.  Small business is home to half of all the employees.  If small businesses aren't able to crank up their cash flows because other businesses aren't spending money, or there is a lack of demand from consumers, the economy won't recover for years.

In my opinion, opening the economy is purely a symbolic move. It will make people feel like we are moving forward, beating the virus, and returning to normal and in the short term it will be good for emotional well-being.  But without tremendous spending in the sectors unaffected by the pandemic, the recently robust economy will be the quicksand economy.  Stuck and unable to recover.

The government sent $1200 to qualifying American families to help pay for expenses while things were shut down.  Unemployment benefits were being paid at 100% and most of those who remained employed were still paid their normal wages.  That should have prevented people from going deeply into debt over the past 45 days. 

So what can be done now?

Requirement #4 - Buying Sprees! I think governments in all countries should send everyone a gift card to go on a buying spree.  500 or 1,000 to go out and buy stuff!  That would help retailers, the states (sales tax), distributors, manufacturers and consumers.  We just need to get some flow and in the US alone that would create $40 - $80 Billion worth of instant flow.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: grow sales, revenue, Economy, reopen, stimulus, spending, freeze

Why the Future of Selling Won't Resemble the Past

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Apr 17, 2020 @ 12:04 PM

past or present

It's April 17 and nearly every salesperson is selling from home.  It's just temporary, right?

Maybe.  But what if it's not? According to the President, Vice-President, Scientists and some Governors, the economy will begin reopening in stages, perhaps as soon as May 1.  So it's back to the office and your territories, right?  Wrong.  You'll still be home.  Welcome to the future of selling where I'll share my top five reasons why.

Reason #1 - School: Your kids are still home from school, they probably won't be back this spring, they probably won't be going to summer camp, and may not even be at school in September.  And if they're home, then your salespeople are home too.

Reason #2 - Efficiency: Once your salespeople have begun to sell not only remotely, but virtually via video conferencing, you'll quickly realize that they can meet with 6-8 prospects and/or accounts per day, compared with 2-3 when they're traveling in a territory.  Think about how much more business they can generate and how many more touches your customers will get from your salespeople?

Reason #3 - Cost: Depending upon your business model, the cost of cars, gas and maintenance, parking, airfare and hotel, meals and entertainment can be drastically reduced or even eliminated when your salespeople are selling virtually. 

Reason #4 - Coverage: Many companies don't have enough coverage to blanket the entire region, country, or continent.  Their customers are spread out so they deploy salespeople where most of their customers are.  With virtual selling, your salespeople can reach every customer that's out there.

Reason #5 - CRM Compliance:  Your salespeople have great excuses for not keeping their CRM up-to-date.  They were "traveling", "on the road", "away from their computers", "unable to get to it", or they forgot.  But when they are selling via the very same piece of hardware that their CRM is in, there are no longer any excuses for lack of compliance.  It will finally be time for them to live in CRM and you'll finally have the visibility into real-time data that you wanted when you invested in your CRM platform.

Although those five reasons as to why selling from home will become the new normal, you should be forewarned.  Selling from home is not without its challenges.  Three primary challenges will make selling from home difficult:

Challenge #1 - Only 41% of all salespeople are well-suited for working from home.  This speaks to whether they are self-starters, can work independently from a team, and can work without supervision.

Challenge #2 - Sales Managers will need to coach more, not less, increasing the time they spend on coaching to as much as 75%.  Unfortunately, most don't spend even 25% of their time coaching.  Sales Managers will need to huddle with their team twice per day despite the fact that most haven't even begun leading daily huddles yet.  Only 7% of all sales managers have the coaching skills required to coach up a remote team.

Challenge #3 - The new world of selling will appear very much like it appears today, only everyone will get better at it.  They must!  Selling has been pretty easy the past three years and despite that, fewer than half of all salespeople were meeting or exceeding quota.  It won't become easy again for a quite a while.  Companies will either be on spending freezes, have money but not want to spend it on what you're selling, or if they are buying, will demand that you sell it for less than ever before.  All this at a time when it's more important than ever that you maintain your margins.  This will require your salespeople to master three competencies that most salespeople aren't very good at:

Competency #1 - Consultative Selling - only 15% of all salespeople effectively differentiate by listening and asking great questions

Competency #2 - Value Selling - only 41% of all salespeople have the ability to be the value

Competency #3 - Qualifying - only 31% of all salespeople can thoroughly qualify an opportunity

Good luck!

Image Copyright 123 RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, qualifying, value selling,, selling remotely, selling from home, selling virtually, video conferencing

Companies Surprised by Unexpected Remote Selling Challenges

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 09, 2020 @ 17:04 PM

roller-coaster

Forget Consultative Selling, Value Selling and Sales Process - the things I talk about most often.  The inability to sell that way is nothing - and I mean nothing compared with what I'm going to explain today!

For most salespeople and companies, the last three weeks has been an absolute roller coaster. Most companies expect their sales teams to be not only active, but proactive; to replace face-to-face meetings with virtual meetings; and to continue pipeline building so that there is business to close when we return to work.  But is that what's happening?  In today's article, I'll blend my usual mix of statistics with some personal observation from the clients I have been helping for the past three weeks.  I also included three videos that I extracted from a sales training session earlier this week.  You'll be surprised!

Yesterday, in a previously scheduled virtual training program to a global seller of test equipment, I learned that they weren't handling the "new" objections (we're not meeting with anyone now; we're not spending any money now) in a way that was consistent with how I trained them to handle objections just one month ago!  This helpful one-minute video about handling these objections was extracted from the training.

 

I was further surprised when I asked them if they had moved their face-to-face meetings to virtual meetings.  Only 3 of their 18 salespeople were doing that!  This two-minute rant about their lack of virtual meetings was also extracted from that training.

 

I was surprised again when I asked if they were making outgoing calls and building pipeline on deals they couldn't close today.  Less than a third of them were doing so.  My final three-minute rant, extracted from that training, is about their lack of proactive calling.

 

Should I have been surprised?  Upset?

Kurlan & Associates had Objective Management Group (OMG) evaluate this company's sales force last summer and the following bullet points are among the things we learned about their sales team that are still very relevant today:

  • Their regional sales managers weren't coaching - ever.
  • Their sales managers weren't holding their salespeople accountable and  83% of their salespeople were making excuses.
  • 75% of their salespeople weren't motivated and 84% weren't goal orientated.
  • Nearly half of their salespeople are fishermen (they won't hunt but they'll follow up on an inbound lead), half were potential hunters (they would hunt if someone required them to but as I mentioned above, the sales managers aren't holding them accountable) and only one - one! was a pure hunter.
  • 75% of their salespeople had Closing as a weakness and their average score in the Closing competency was only 28!
  • Eleven out of twelve salespeople lacked commitment to achieve greater sales success
  • Half of their sales force was in the bottom 35 percentile of all salespeople
  • Only half of their salespeople were well-suited for working remotely.

Remember, these factors were discovered last summer and are still impacting their ability to get anything productive accomplished today.  In addition to these issues, they scored poorly in 9 selling Competencies other than Closing, 6 Sales DNA Competencies and 2 Will to Sell Competencies other than Commitment, Excuse Making and Motivation.  Click here if you want to see what the average scores are for nearly 2 million salespeople in all 21 Sales Core Competencies that OMG measures, what they are in your industry, and what they are in your company.

Go back and review the last bullet point - suitable for working remotely.  In the old days - February 2020 - this finding only applied to salespeople who were covering a territory remotely from home office, and who worked for sales managers that didn't closely manage them.  Today it applies to every sales person on the planet that is not being closely managed by a sales manager.  With existing salespeople it's nice to know.  When you're hiring new remote salespeople, it's an important criteria of the recommendation to hire.  Under today's conditions, it could be the most important factor aside from selling capabilities.  Three of the key attributes of working remotely are:

  • Self-Starter
  • Works independently
  • Works without supervision

I looked at the data on the most recent 61,000 employed salespeople that OMG evaluated and found that only 41% overall were suitable for working remotely. 

Sales Percentile Percent Suitable
for Remote Selling
Elite (Top 5%) 67%
Strong (Next 15%) 61%
Serviceable 51%
Weak (Bottom 50%) 33%

As you can see in the table above, even a third of the best salespeople in the world aren't suitable for working remotely!  How will the bottom half perform?  And when two thirds of the bottom half can't effectively work from their homes, and most industrial salespeople fall into the bottom half, they're kind of screwed!

You can't make a salesperson who is not well-suited for working remotely suddenly suitable.  But as with the Pandemic, you can mitigate.  Have a conversation over video three times per day instead of once per week!

These times are different enough.  You shouldn't have any use for a salesperson who won't double down, work twice as hard, and find business wherever they can right now.  

Comments?  Leave them here on the LinkedIn discussion.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, overcoming objections, delayed closings, remote selling

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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