A Sales Expert's Take on Who is Most Deplorable

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 @ 06:09 AM

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I was home recovering from a bout of asthmatic bronchitis last week and I got a chance to watch some news shows on television.  That's when I realized how incredibly angry I am about the 2016 US presidential election!

Earlier this month I broke the business rule about not talking about religion when I revealed that God was my greatest secret of sales success.  I thought I might be criticized but instead I received dozens of supportive and encouraging emails.  So, if I can break that rule, why not go one step further and break the rule about politics too?  Specifically, I want to share my opinion on who is the most deplorable and who this entrepreneur/sales expert will support in November. I'll probably lose some readers.  I'm sure the trolls will find me and have their say.  But I'm willing to take that chance because what is taking place right now is completely crazy!

I'll start with Hillary.  I don't like her,  I don't like what she has done, and I don't like the prospects for business if she becomes the next president.  Her policies are bad for business and since this is a business Blog, I'll stick with that.

Donald is next.  I don't like him either but I do love what he stands for.  He stands for change, he's from the outside and he knows how to get things done.  His policies will create jobs so a Trump presidency will be good for businesses.  I'll stick with that.  By the way, back in May I wrote about the Rise of Trump for LinkedIn (a sales article, not an article in support of Trump).

So who is most deplorable?  Hillary has done some pretty deplorable things.  Trump has said some deplorable things.  But if you want to know who is the most deplorable, it's not them. It's the media.

You probably don't have the time or inclination to watch a Trump or Clinton campaign speech.  You might simply be reading headlines or getting little sound bites each day. That's what the media wants because your lack of attention allows the Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC, the biggest Clinton supporters, to take Trump's sound bites out of context and create some powerful anti-Trump headlines that make him out to be a racist.  The Washington Post writes opinion pieces based on these sound bites and every one of those articles is written to make sure we have the appropriate amount of hate for Trump and assure that Clinton gets elected.  CNN puts a political panel together - usually three Clinton supporters who talk about how horrible Donald Trump is. Two Trump supporters are then asked for their responses but are rarely allowed to actually state their opinions.  The hosts cut them off, badger and bully them, and try to make them say what the hosts want them to say.  Don't believe me?

Watch Don Lemon of CNN refuse to let Corey Lewandowski talk,

Watch Chris Matthews of MSNBC bully Rudy Giuliani. 

Watch Don Lemon badger Kellyann Conway on CNN.

And yes, Fox News will sometimes do the same thing - letting Trump supporters speak while shutting down Clinton supporters.  but as you can see in the comments below, this article proves that Fox was anti-Trump throughout the primaries.

When those same media outlets had the opportunity to press Clinton on the email scandal, they simply reported on it. You didn't read opinion pieces in the Washington Post, and CNN and MSNBC kept asking why we were still talking about it.  "Let's move on!" they said.

This is really scary.  This article shows that Google, Apple, Instagram and Twitter are manipulating searches to hide negative Clinton information.  And this is probably the most revealing information of all.  This video proves that the internet is manipulating what you read about Hillary and Donald.

I really don't care which candidate you support and I hope you don't care which candidate I support.  

On the other hand, I really hope you care that the media has so much power to change the narrative.  Last week, CNN's polls showed that Trump had taken the lead over Clinton both nationally and in some swing states.  But CNN spun that around and instead of talking about Trump's momentum, they talked about how he can't possibly win and what it will take to stop him.

Here's an example that is so fresh I'm sure most of you saw it or read it. Trump recently suggested that if Hillary is anti-gun, then perhaps her bodyguards should be disarmed.  If you heard the entire context for his comment then you would know that he was saying that if bad guys are the only ones with guns then we will be in even more trouble than we are now.  The media turned that into Trump's second call for violence against Hillary.  And yes, the same thing happened the first time.  Seriously, the media has put more words into his mouth than there is pollution in the Ohio River.

Today, new polls show Trump increasing his national lead to 7 points and being just one state away from the presidency.  However the NY Times shows Hillary with a 2 point lead.  How can that be?  They are reporting on poll results from 2 weeks ago and not including Gary Johnson in the results!  

When I was growing up, the media consisted of radio, television, newspapers and magazines.  Reporters reported on the story - they weren't part of the story.  Today, the media extends to everything on the Internet they are forcing their agenda on the American people.  It's propoganda, which I wrote about in July on LinkedIn

So I will cast my vote for Donald Trump because he represents what America needs, even if America doesn't particularly like him and the media is hell bent on keeping him out of office.  

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Donald Trump, cnn, don lemon, chris matthews, media, hillary clinton, msnbc, washington post

The Buyer Journey - Myth, Reality, Hybrid, or an Avoidable Part of Selling?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 @ 15:09 PM

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The Buyer Journey is front and center again.  Dan McDade posted the second in his 3-part series on Lies and Myths and part 2 is about the Buyer Journey.  8 Sales Experts weighed in with their thoughts about the Buyer Journey and you can read those here.  Don't miss Mike Weinberg's comment - I love it!  It's pretty clear where the sales experts stand, so where is all of the Buyer Journey data coming from if not the sales experts?

Could it be the people with the most to gain from propagating the myth of the Buyer Journey?  Those people are the big proponents of inbound of course.  If they can get you to believe it's 57% over when a salesperson gets invited in, then there is more reason for you to purchase inbound programs and applications to generate even more inbound leads for which you can be late.

The reality is that when salespeople are late to the party, in most cases it is because they are passive rather than proactive about pursuing an opportunity - a trait of weak salespeople or the bottom 77%.  And then, when those same crappy, passive salespeople enter the opportunity late, they aren't able to suddenly become proactive because they are afraid they will lose the business.  Another trait of weak salespeople.  So they facilitate and offer up demos, quotes, proposals, referrals, tours, trials and discounts.  Nothing of value.  Nothing to create urgency.  Nothing that qualifies the opportunity.  Nothing that gathers information.  Nothing.  So that group - 77% of them - would actually perceive a buyer journey where prospects are at least 57% along the way to buying.  And that group will have a loooong sales cycle and a pit.i.ful win rate.

So what is it that enables salespeople to behave so passively on these sales calls?

In my experience, even with weak salespeople, you can blame sales process - either ineffective, inefficient, or a complete lack of a sales process. In some cases, it is a sales process that sales management is not holding salespeople accountable for executing.  With a proper sales process, this.does.not.happen.

This week I wrote an article for Gazelle's Growth Institute's Blog and it just so happens to be on the benefits of getting your sales process right.  You can read that article here.

So what do you believe relative to the buyer journey?

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales cycle, closing ratio, dan mcdade, win rates, gazelles, the buyer journey

How This Awful Cold, Voicemail Message Could Have Actually Worked

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 12, 2016 @ 11:09 AM

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The timing on these two events could not have been more perfect!  Both occurred last week and I wanted to share them with you today.  First came Dan McDade's article - the first of three parts - on whether cold calling is dead.  He asked a number of sales experts to weight in and articulate whether it is truth or a lie.  It was very well done and you'll want to read it.  Then came the comments - most notably on LinkedIn - from both sides of the argument.  And finally, I received a cold call from a salesperson who was following up on an email.  It's a great example of a call that was a complete waste and I'll share that call with you as well as how that call could have worked.

First, let's take a look at Dan's article and his quest to determine if "cold calling is dead" is fact or fiction.

Next, let's wander over to one of the LinkedIn discussions and take a look at the argument in progress.  Click on the comment icon to reveal all of the comments.

Finally, let's listen in on this voicemail.  In the context of "cold calling is dead" it's interesting because cold calls like these are obviously not dead.  Although it's far less common to get the call following up on an email, it's not unheard of either.  But what was the real purpose of the call?  To see if I got the email?  Really? Why would anyone expect this call to work?  Listen first, and then we can discuss it.

He did not give me a reason as to why his initial email or a future conversation with him might be important to me.  In other words, it was a total waste of a call for him and for me.

So what could he have done instead?

He could have started with something that I would have agreed with like: "Dave, I sent you an introductory email last week, but if you're as busy as me, it was probably buried in an avalanche of holiday email and you never saw it."

He could have continued with why he sent it to me. "I sent the email because I believe that we could help you in much the same way that we have helped other growing consulting firms like yours."  This demonstrates that the call was targeted, he knows I have a growing consulting firm, and there is reference to having done this before.

And he could have given me a good reason to call.  "If you could give me five minutes next week, I will make sure that you don't waste your time and I'm sure that you will be glad we talked."

And here is a cold call from this morning. Listen to this one.

Just like the first one - what is the purpose of the call?  To formally introduce himself?  Why would that be compelling unless he said his name was Sean Connery.  I know, Connery is Scottish, but you know what I mean.

So what could he have done differently?  He could have said, "I know you're with Toshiba and a lot of Toshiba customers have been frustrated over inaccurate invoicing and moving to us at Kyocera.  I was hoping that we could spend 5 minutes to see if we could provide with you a more enjoyable experience."

Finally, if you aren't tired of these dissections, here is one you can simply read.

Cold calling isn't dead, but most salespeople don't do it - only 35% of salespeople prospect consistently - and that makes it appear dead. Those that do prospect tend to suck at it - 34% aren't able to schedule meetings when they make a cold call.

Meetings don't get scheduled unless somebody picks up a phone.  Read this article on the next big game changer for sales.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, cold calling, linkedin, dan mcdade

The Biggest Secret to My Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Sep 09, 2016 @ 06:09 AM

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Remember this week.  On Tuesday I shared the single biggest selling lesson of my life.  On Thursday I shared the second biggest selling lesson of my life.  And today, in my most controversial article ever, I will share the biggest secret of my sales success.  Some will undoubtedly call this the Dave went crazy article.

Some of you might be able to sense what my secret is.  Some of you won't appreciate how simple it is.  But I'm guessing that most of you will love what I share in this article and if not, you don't have to continue reading it.  Find something else that resonates for you.

Everyone knows that in business there are three topics that you must not talk about.  This year it's been very difficult not to talk about US Politics and it doesn't matter which side of the aisle you side with - you'll be in for an argument if it's the side opposite your lunch companion.  While it should be easy to keep sex out of business conversations, we continue to read about scenarios in which sex was not only included, but the focal point.  And the third is religion.  And I agree that religious beliefs should not be a topic of business conversation. Religious differences cause most wars! But religion is not equal to God.  Here's an Algebra equation for you.  Religion is to God as Amazon is to Samsung.  Think about that for a moment.  God is a manufacturer and the various religions are the resellers.

Over the past 10 years and 1,500 articles, I have typed the word God five times.  In only one of those occasions did I give God any credit and few people actually read that great article!  But today we'll change that.

Those who believe in God say that God will provide.  That's a lot like the book, The Secret, where one only needs to make the affirmation known and it will come true.  The Secret leaves out the work part - the what you have to do part.  Before The Secret, there was Earl Nightingale's The Greatest Secret. The new version was hugely popular but the first book was the real deal. God will provide though - if you do what you're supposed to do.  For example, it is a lot easier for God to provide - in this case protect - if you are living indoors or driving a car down the highway as opposed to living on the streets or driving a go-kart on the highway.  You can't be passive! There are certain common sense things that you must do for yourself in order for God to provide.

In the case of sales, God will provide too, as long as you have done your part.  The sales version of living indoors or driving a car on the highway is having a sales process.  A sales process provides the framework, the symbolism, something to believe in, similar to how a Cross, Rosary Beads, Mezuza or Star of David might serve that purpose in some religions.

I want to share two specific examples of when I have always taught the God part of selling without attributing any of it to God.

Faith in God - After providing about a year of sales training, I have always said something along the lines of, "You just need to have faith that when you respond to your prospect and open your mouth the right words will come out."  I always positioned it as not having to think about the response, staying in the moment and being present. Back in the early 90's I wrote an entire book about that last sentence, called Mindless Selling. The key word in that sentence, and the way I always meant it though, is faith.  Not so much faith in your words, but faith in God - to help you through the conversation and providing you with a good outcome - the right outcome - the outcome that was meant to be.

God Will Provide - When conducting a goal-setting exercise, it is important to get from the personal dream or goal, to the amount of sales required, to the commission required, to the number of sales required, to the daily activity required in order to meet and exceed the goal.  The focus then becomes on the activity rather than the goal.  This was always a very effective way of getting salespeople to focus on the prospecting required to fill the pipeline.  In many cases, it was prospecting that salespeople were not doing nearly enough of.  And I always told them that in my experience, when you take responsibility for doing the right things - for yourself - then good things would happen and the universe would reward you in the form of business that drops into your lap.  While I had them focusing on activity that would be rewarded, what I really believed was that God will provide if you do what you are supposed to do.

Those are two key things that I have taught and now you know that they were really about God.  Here is another key piece to the puzzle.

Gratitude, Asking for Help and Promises - I pray to God almost every night - that is if I don't fall asleep before I can get started.  I've been doing this for as long as I can remember and I feel a great sense of peace after my little chat.  I always - always - begin with thanks and gratitude.  For my God-given talent, life, accomplishments and family.  I continue by asking for help where I need it and praying for others.  I ask for what I want help with but not without thanking God for what I already have.  And this week, I promised that I would write this article if he helped.

The biggest secret of my sales success?  My faith in God.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, God, goal setting

The Second Most Important Sales Lesson of My Life

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 08, 2016 @ 15:09 PM

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Earlier this week I posted an article that told the story of the biggest sales lesson of my life.  I received so many emails about that article because it seemed to really resonate with my readers.  Yet, as much as it resonated, there was one question that several of them asked in their emails.  They wanted to know why we were in that tenement building in the first place.  And the answer to that question leads me to the second most important sales lesson of my life.

The year was 1974 and as a very young salesperson I assumed that I should target families that were financially secure.  After all, that cutlery I was selling was very expensive and only the well-to-do could afford it.  We were taught to sell complete sets - $175 or so back in 1974, which equates to around $675 in 2016 dollars.  Pricey knives!  This is what happened.  I called on 100 couples of means - all known to me as family, friends, relatives or acquaintances.  They all purchased from me but not one of them bought the complete set.  Almost every one of them bought a single knife.  My average sale was around $15!  Now, I certainly understand had I not been known to them they might very well have purchased nothing from me, but felt obligated to buy something, and bought the least expensive thing they could.  It's also possible that they were all frugal, believing that a single knife could do the work of 10.  And it's also possible that my sales managers knew what they were talking about when they redirected me to young couples and teenage girls that didn't have any money.  

By that point I had run out of family acquaintances and as long as I had to begin knocking on the doors of strangers, why not broke strangers?

The other big lesson I learned was around judging.

I couldn't use where they lived, the size of their homes, the cars they drove, what they earned, or how they furnished their home as a predictor of what they could or would spend.  And $5 per week for the first nice thing a young person would ever own was much more appealing to someone who had limited income, than additional nice, but seemingly unnecessary thing to someone who had plenty of income.  Targeting is important but making assumptions about who you target will get you into trouble.

Those early lessons apply today, in B2B selling, just as much as in 1974 in B2C selling.  For example, a startup, operating out of a one-room office, may have more urgency to buy a product or service than a mid market company generating $150 million annually.  To the buyers of products and services, there are three categories:

  1. No Interest
  2. Nice to Have
  3. Must Have

When companies do demos to generate interest in their products, scenarios 1 and 2 will be the most common outcomes.  That's the primary reason why sales cycles are so long and win rates are so low.  However, when the same company uses a consultative approach, uncovers their prospect's compelling reason to buy and sells value, they will often create a scenario where their product becomes a must have.  Once your product or service moves into must have territory, your prospects will find the money.

Companies with cash often won't spend it on your products or services because if it fails to be viewed as a must have, they can easily put off the joy of something that is merely nice to have when the pain of installation, training, change, and push back make the purchase undesirable.

In order to cause your prospects to believe that they must have your product or service, you must take a consultative approach.  There is simply no other way to get there.  Most salespeople don't sell that way, relying on demos, product knowledge and price to get prospects to take action.

You can train the salespeople you have and it will take the better part of a year to get them there.  It's not the easiest way to sell.  Or, you can hire salespeople who already know how to sell that way.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales lessons, sales tips

Remembering The Most Powerful Sales Lesson of My Life

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 06, 2016 @ 15:09 PM

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Hold on for a moment and I'll share that lesson with you or, if you can't wait, scroll down to "How I Learned to (Really) Sell.  

If you had to choose a single idea, concept, tip, tactic, developing strength or strategy, which one do you think helps salespeople succeed more than anything else?

It is a difficult question to answer because while we have plenty of science to identify the biggest reasons why salespeople struggle and fail, simply fixing one of those isolated issues won't automatically translate to instant success.

For example, one salesperson might be failing because he needs so much to be liked.  But another salesperson, who doesn't have that issue, might be failing because he can't talk about money.  And yet another might be failing because his Sales DNA doesn't support hunting.  And a fourth might be failing because she lacks Commitment to sales success.  Those might be there single biggest weaknesses, but helping them to overcome their single biggest weaknesses without helping them with all of their other challenges won't lead to success.

So back to my original question, which one thing helps almost every salesperson succeed, even when they have other challenges?

Compared to what I usually write about, the science on this is a bit fuzzier but after more than 30 years of helping companies and their salespeople generate more revenue, I am certain that it all starts with sales process.  A staged, visual, milestone-centric process.  I've written a lot about sales process over the years and my most recent article, for Growth Institute, was one of the best.  

Sales process also causes one to ask, "Which sales process?"  This article answers that question but make sure you watch the video from that article - it brings the concept to life.

Regular readers should be familiar with my best-selling book, Baseline Selling.  Baseline Selling is both a sales process and methodology.  After 10 years, in response to all of the subscribers who have asked for an audio version of the book, the wait is over.  Michael Lenz did the narration and the audio book is now available.  You can order it here but if you are one of the first 5 readers to respond via email I will provide you with a promo code to receive a complimentary copy of the audio book! [Update - Congratulations to Jeff Woolf, Benjamin Barron, Brad Betson, Jeff Anderton and Scott McNeil - winners of the five promo codes.]

Let me share my favorite story from the book.

How I Learned to (Really) Sell

I learned to (really) sell from a career pots-and-pans salesman, Bob Jiguere, one of the top sellers at WearEver™ Aluminum from the 1940s through the 1960s. By the time he got to me in 1974, Bob was in his early sixties, and I had been with the company for just over a year, eleven months longer than most of us who began selling Cutco knives to people in their homes.

I will never forget the first call I went on with him, because it was so surprising in so many ways. First, the call was the complete opposite of the “features and benefits” selling that I had been taught to emphasize. Second…well, I should just tell you the story and you can draw your own conclusions.

We walked up to the third floor of a six-unit apartment building in Lowell, Massachusetts. We were calling on an eighteen-year-old girl who lived in the four-room apartment with her mother. Girls typically bought kitchenware for their hope chests; their mothers usually had well-established kitchen accessories. As we entered the apartment, I noticed that Bob didn’t have his samples with him. But I figured he wouldn’t need them, because this girl could not possibly afford a $250 (1974 prices) set of knives—never mind cookware, flatware, or china. I was sure she and her mother were destitute.

We all sat down at the table, an old gray, plastic-topped table with metal legs. Although Bob did talk with the girl, he spent most of his time talking with her mother. He asked her to make coffee, then cookies, and then complimented her baking.

We had been in there for about 45 minutes, and if it were my sales call, I would have been finished by now. But Bob hadn’t even started! He finally got around to asking the girl some questions—but why in the world was he asking these questions? “Would you ever like to be married?” “Would you ever like to have a family?” “Will you want nice things?” “Have you started putting things away?” “Do you have a hope chest?” “What’s in there?” “Are you helping her, Mom?” “If you found something really special and you really wanted it, could you put aside $10 a month?” I had been taught to present and build value by asking if a prospect was impressed with what I was demonstrating.  I didn’t know where he was going with these questions.

Finally, he sent me to the car for the samples. He opened them but didn’t demonstrate anything, didn’t explain anything, didn’t “build value,” or tell any stories about the knives. He just opened the display and sat there looking at the knives as if they were gold bullion.

Just then there was a knock on the door. It was the girl’s boyfriend, coming over to visit. I figured he was fairly possessive and jealous, because his first question was, “Who are they and what are they doing here?”

Well, the girl very nicely replied that “these boys are showing me some nice knives for when we get married.”

“You don’t need that shit,” he said.

I knew where this call was going. We were about 10 seconds from being back in the car and going on our next call.

Bob turned to her mother and said, “These punks are all the same today. All they want to do is get in your daughter’s panties.”

I was going to die, right there and then. I didn’t think it could get any worse, when her mother said, “You’re right! I want you out of my house!”

The punk replied, “Baby, you gonna let her talk to me like that?”

The girl said, “She’s right. Get out!”

Up to this point, I had been 100 percent wrong about everything that had happened. But even as I began to sense that Bob actually knew what he was doing, I couldn’t have predicted what would happen next. Mom said, “I don’t know how much you sell those knives for, Bob, but I’d like to get a set for my daughter—and another set for me.”

Bob said, “Of course. You are one sharp cookie and a hell of a baker, too. The two sets come to just $500. Do you have that under the mattress?”

The mother said, “Oh, Bob. You know me like a book. Come on into my bedroom and I’ll show you where I keep the money.”

He followed; she lifted the mattress, took out a wad of cash, peeled off $500, pinched his cheek, thanked him for coming, made us finish the cookies, and wished us well.

A dozen or so qualifying questions, no presentation, and he sells two outrageously priced sets of knives to a mother and daughter with no creature comforts or possessions to their name. If you were on that call, would you have sat up and taken notice? I sure did. Selling would never be the same again!

While selling has changed dramatically since then, the lesson has not.  He was ahead of his time and while he would have much to learn about selling today, that approach, integrated into a modern sales process, would fit in very nicely, thank you.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales process, sales methodology, sales tips, how to sell, sales lesson

Are Millennials Who Enter Sales Better or Worse Than the Rest of the Sales Population?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 31, 2016 @ 12:08 PM

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Image Copyright: kchung / 123RF Stock Photo

Millennials are more independent, more spoiled, have a shorter attention span, tend to be more into their technology than into people, don't like working traditional hours, and don't enjoy working in traditional ways.  That said, would you expect them to be better or worse suited for selling than the generations who came before them?

I took to the data to see what story it might tell. I found data on more than 43,000 millennials in sales and here is what I learned.  This information should be very helpful for hiring new salespeople and developing them as well.

To get a sense for the actual comparison, I looked at four data sets:

  1. All Millennials
  2. The Top 10% of Millennials
  3. The Top 10% of Salespeople with 10+ years in sales and in their industry
  4. All Salespeople with 10+ years in sales and in their industry

So how do Millennials compare?  

Chris Mott, my trusted colleague and friend, specified the first dashboard - how all millennials scored. Sales Quotient, the overall score, is shown in the top right corner.  108 is weak.  Sales DNA, the combination of strengths, is shown in the middle.  61 represents a salesperson that will not be able to execute sales process, strategies, skills and tactics because the strengths are actually weaknesses.  Commitment, the willingness to do what it takes to achieve greater success in sales is shown in the upper left hand section.  53% represents a lack of commitment.  You'll notice that Handling Rejection and Relationship Building are the only two areas where millennials scored well in the areas of Sales DNA and Selling Competencies.  Scroll down for more.

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After Chris showed me the first dashboard, I populated the next dashboard with veteran salespeople with 10 or more years in sales.  You can see that as a group, they have higher scores in all of the areas we discussed relative to the previous dashboard, except - and this is a head turner - Relationship Building!  Who could have seen that coming?  Interestingly, they score 39% on Responsibility which means they are twice more likely to make excuses than their younger colleagues.  In this comparison, based on their Sales Quotients, the older salespeople are at least serviceable while the Millennials are simply weak.  Scroll down for more.

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The third dashboard represents veteran salespeople again, but this time only the top 10%.  As you can see, the top 10% are elite, with Sales Quotients averaging 142 and Sales DNA averaging 83.  Nearly every score is in the green and all of the scores are higher than either of the two prior groups.  These are the salespeople you want to hire!  And wherever possible, you want to coach up your existing salespeople to be like the top 10%.  Scroll down for more.

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The fourth dashboard represents the Top 10% of Millennials.  It isn't very different from the top 10% of Veteran Salespeople with the notable exception of their respective scores for Figure-it-Out-Factor, or how quickly they will ramp up.  Notice the low score on Relationship Building!  This group scores the highest on Desire, Responsibility, Outlook, Sales DNA and Coachable!!  Scroll down for more.

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It should be clear from this comparison that overall, Millennials are not a great choice for sales.  However, the Top 10% of Millennials are an excellent choice for sales!  So the million dollar question is, when you are hiring salespeople, and millennials are in the mix, how do you determine whether they are millennials of the 108 Sales Quotient or of the 143 Sales Quotient?

I apologize.  That was a trick question. As you can see from the dashboard of all Veteran salespeople, that group only averages a 121 on Sales Quotient. It shouldn't matter whether millennials are in the mix or not. You need the ability to differentiate between the 140's, 120's and 100's with every candidate, and do it as early in the sales recruiting process as possible.  Weed out the undesirable sales candidates in the very first step!  So how can you tell whether you have a 140 or a 108?  Use Objective Management Group's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments. They're built on science and customizable for your business and selling role.  

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, top salespeople, Sales Candidate, sales selection, objective management group, OMG Assessment

Dissecting the #1 Sales Best Practice

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Aug 26, 2016 @ 09:08 AM

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One company is attempting to create a compilation of best sales practices by sending out a weekly survey to sales leaders and asking them to choose from multiple choice questions what they most often do and teach.  The topic changes each week.  This is silly because (1) it just isn't that simple, (2) it's different for each selling role, each vertical, the decision makers they call on, their price points, the length of their sales cycle, and their respective competition, just to name a few.  In addition, when you ask multiple choice questions like this, the answers will be so varied that there won't be even a few, never mind a single best practice.  Here is an example of what they asked this week:

Select the action with which you have the most direct experience or expertise.
(My comment - The question is poorly designed and then the choices that follow include about 10 more than is ideal to arrive at best practices.)
  • Proactively ask customers about the “decision criteria” 
  • Directly ask customers about their buying criteria 
  • Develop a set of questions salespeople can use to uncover customer decision process and time line
  • Conduct after sales reviews with customers to determine the real value
  • Develop a set of questions to ask customers at each step in the sales process
  • Develop account plans 
  • Ensure that your sales process is adaptable 
  • Identify and prioritize your high growth and high potential accounts
  • Gather feedback from customers on a regular basis
  • Train sales representatives in active listening and empathy
  • Ensure salespeople are always asking customers questions about what they want and why 
  • Ensure sales and marketing teams are fully aligned on value proposition / messaging
  • Annual review of accounts 
  • Align compensation with the behavior you want 
  • Develop a list of potential objections at each stage in the sales process and a playbook of specific responses to them

So what should the best practice be relative to context of the question and responses provided?

1. You must have the correct opening questions,
2. You must know what to listen for,
3. When you hear it, you must be able to ask a countless number of follow up questions,
4. You must be able to repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have uncovered their compelling reason to buy,
5. You must know the consequences for them if they don't move forward with a solution
6. There must be emotion associated with the consequences
7. You must quantify or monetize the consequences.
8. You must be able to leverage this information through the remainder of the sales process.

This sounds a lot easier than it actually is!  This is the consultative approach to selling (follow that link and also follow the links to the two additional articles for more on the consultative approach) and it takes months for salespeople to master.  The question is, do you want them to continue selling the way they sell? That leads to inconsistent and even decreasing sales each year and within two years they may become obsolete.  Or do you want them to be challenged to learn the proper way to sell?  That leads to more predictable results, increasing revenue and a valued, or trusted adviser status with customers and clients.  As always, the choice is yours. 

Three times each year, we offer a comprehensive, live, interactive, 12-week online training program that brings Baseline Selling alive. This training teaches salespeople to utilize the 8 steps I outlined above.  If you are interested for yourself or any of your salespeople, please respond to me directly.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, asking questions, sales best practices, active listening

Top 10 Reasons Why Sales Don't Grow

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 @ 06:08 AM

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Have any of these things ever happened to you?  

  • Physical issues - low energy, prolonged pain or discomfort
  • Automobile issues - vibration under the seat or in the steering wheel, car accident
  • Home issues - leaks, faulty electrical, down trees or power lines from storm damage
  • Legal or Tax issues

If they did happen to you, what did you do? Did you call the doctor, car dealer, electrician, plumber, insurance company, lawyer or accountant?  Or did you hope it would all go away by itself?

Of course you made the call because things don't fix themselves.

Yet, despite knowing that things don't fix themselves, thousands of executives believe that sales problems will resolve themselves, change, and improve.  Why?

That's the key question.  Because when you don't know exactly what's wrong, it's much easier to remain in denial.

Most companies all deal with the exact same issues with their sales organizations. Flat or lethargic sales growth, the bulk of the revenue coming from a small percentage of the salespeople, not enough new business, difficulty selling against low priced competition, longer sales cycles, lower win rates, and on and on and on.  It's universal frustration and companies seem to fall squarely into one of four categories on this:

  1. They identify the cause and fix it.  "Hooray.  Sales and profits are on the rise!"
  2. They don't identify the cause but try to fix it through guesswork.  "Well, that didn't work.  We wasted another year!"
  3. They identify the cause but don't fix it. "We can do this ourselves."  Sure you can.
  4. They don't identify the cause and don't fix. "Hey, everyone has these issues!"

While most companies have similar issues, the causes are usually different.  There can be any number of problems that contribute to the observable issues, but these are the 10 I see most often:

  1. Recruiting - ineffective process and/or inconsistent sales selection
  2. On Boarding - is neglected, shortcuts are taken, or it's done poorly
  3. Coaching - sales managers don't coach enough and don't do it effectively
  4. Accountability - there isn't any so it's very easy for salespeople to fall behind
  5. Messaging - you wouldn't believe how bad - how inconsistent - the messaging is at most companies
  6. Sales Process - there usually isn't one and when there is it's either awful or nobody follows it
  7. Training - it's usually either do it yourself bad or it's not provided at all
  8. Gaps - skill gaps that prevent salespeople from being able to take a consultative approach or sell value
  9. Sales DNA Gaps - the strengths required to support tactics, strategies, process and methodology are missing
  10. Pipeline - usually a mess - filled with unqualified opportunities that will never close

Yet it's not enough to simply acknowledge these problems. Even if you are aware that some or all of these problems exist, whether or not they can be fixed is another story altogether!  That's because it is all about capabilities.  What are they capable of today, can they become more capable, how much more capable, and what will it take?  

To answer those questions we need to know if the people trainable and coachable.  Can sales leadership learn to coach effectively and hold salespeople accountable for the required changes?  Can the sales culture be improved to become a coaching culture?  Is leadership strong enough to replace under performers who can't be coached up?  Which skills and competencies must be developed?  How do you deal with the weaknesses in Sales DNA?  If recruiting and selection are to blame, how can it be improved?  How do you incorporate best practices into a inadequate sales process and/or methodology?  Do we need a playbook?  Is it our scripts?

The problem with improving sales performance is that the more you know, the more questions there will be.  And that is why it is so insane when so many executives ignore the problem, pretend they know what to do about it, and don't call for help call until the revenue issue reaches such a state that there isn't enough time or money to fix it.

It is so easy to blame the sales force but don't. They didn't recruit themselves, they didn't train themselves, they didn't set unreasonable expectations, and they didn't make themselves suck.  The blame gets placed higher up - where a false sense of hope and optimism live.

Ask me about a sales force evaluation - knowledge is power!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales force evaluation, sales performance, sales excellence

HBR or OMG - Whose Criteria Really Differentiate the Top and Bottom 10% of Salespeople?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 22, 2016 @ 10:08 AM

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Image owned by or licensed to CartoonStock®

The Harvard Business Review is at it again.  I honestly can't believe that a publication like HBR continues to publish and push junk science about sales.  Nearly every time they publish an article on sales or selling, they are usually as wrong as the mainstream media is with their attempts to manipulate readers and viewers to vote for their preferred candidates. 

I have previously taken issue with seven of HBR's articles: 

They did publish one that I agreed with on Looking for Potential in your Next Hire...

In their June 20, 2016 article, A Portrait of the Overperforming Salesperson, HBR identified several traits, attitudes and actions that they claim differentiate the top from bottom performers.  I'll summarize it for you below and then explain why I believe it is junk.  The findings include:

 

  • Focus which they described as including Money motivated, respected, likable and effective at prioritizing their time
  • Career Orientation which they described as including how much they think about work and why they went into sales
  • Personal Attributes which they described as including how they remember their childhood and what they use to make decisions
  • Customer Interaction Strategy which they described as tailoring, asking questions, being likable and having personal relationships  (these do differentiate tops from bottoms)
  • Attitude which was word association around sales management and sales process (word association?  really?)
  • Self Perception  which was checking off boxes to indicate the traits they believed they had

This was a survey of 1,000 salespeople. 1/3 of them are in field sales, 1/3 are in inside sales and the rest are sales managers or Sales VP's. 

Only 15% met the author's criteria of meeting quota 88% of the time. Although we weren't told what the quotas were, it's pretty safe to assume that the field salespeople manage accounts in existing territories.  Based on the questions asked, it is also safe to assume that the inside salespeople are making calls to and taking calls from existing customers.   So just in case you can't do the math, when you account for the sales managers and sales VP's in the survey, it changes the population from 1,000 top performing salespeople, to 150 people who don't have to find new business.  That is quite a distinction!  

I hate these surveys because surveys do not equate to science.

Compare this to Objective Management Group's (OMG) actual science from evaluating and assessing more than 1,000,000 salespeople from more than 200 industries over the past 2 decades.  7% are elite, and there are 16% more who are strong.  77% are ineffective.  From its 1,000,000 rows of data, I can assure you that no personality trait or behavioral style of any kind is predictive of sales success. Traits and styles are good to know - they help you understand who your employees are.  But they have never been, nor will they ever be, predictive of sales success.  

There are 21 Sales Core Competencies. Most of these competencies include as many as 10 attributes. Here are just some of the many differences between the top 10% and the bottom 10%:

Competency Average Score
for the Top 10%
Average Score
for the Bottom 10%
Sales Quotient (overall score) 143 (out of 173) 91
Sales DNA (supporting strengths) 84 (out of 100) 53
Motivation 75 57
Commitment to Sales Success 68 34
Closing 47 12
Hunting 74 37
Qualifying 81 31
Consultative Selling 74 37
Sales Process 67 39
CRM Savvy 77 37
Presenting 82 57 

If you look at Sales DNA - the combination of strengths that supports the use of strategy, tactics, process and methodology, you'll see that the top 10% are, on average, nearly 60% stronger than the bottom 10%.  You'll also see that the top 10% have an average Sales Quotient that is nearly 60% higher than the bottom 10%.  The top 10% have double the commitment to do whatever it takes to achieve sales excellence. For the more tactical competencies, the average scores for the top 10% are approximately double those of the bottom 10%. 

When we break sales down by difficulty level, industry sector, vertical market, decision maker to be called upon, price points, etc., the specific findings and scores that differentiate tops from bottoms change accordingly!  Now please tell me, when we have real science like this, what is the HBR thinking when they publish rubbish like personal attributes, attitude and self perception?

Will Barron recently interviewed me on some of these topics and it was a really good interview. You can watch or listen to it here.

Lori Richardson recently interviewed me on some of these topics too - another really good interview, that you can get here.

This article states that 4% of the salespeople sell 94% of the business.  I don't agree with their percentage but it gives you a sense of what is really taking place in sales.

And from OMG's data, this is just in.  The bottom 10% of all salespeople are actually better than the top 10% in 1 of the 21 Sales Core Competencies.  I'll bet you can guess which one...scroll down for the answer...

 

 

 

Relationship Building! It's no wonder that crappy salespeople keep getting hired.  You can hire the best salespeople for your role when you use OMG's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment.  Try it! 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, comparison of top salespeople, harvard business review, difference between good and bad salespeople, objective management group

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

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