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Easiest Way to Assess Degree of Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 13, 2018 @ 06:02 AM

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Recently, I published an article that introduced a way to measure sales progress by means other than conventional numbers and metrics. 

Today, I received an email from a property leasing salesperson who had his own question about sales effectiveness.  He asked, "How do I determine if I am seeing results from me being a good salesman or if it’s from my sheer volume and what kind of selling would you say a Real Estate Salesperson uses most?"

I explained that there are four types of sales conversations and by conducting some self-analysis you can determine whether success or failure is the result of your own effectiveness, or because of your company's reputation, quality and features of your product or service, the timing of your conversation, or that you happen to have the lowest price.

These are the four types of sales conversations and potential outcomes that I shared:

  1. They want to buy and you help and/or allow them buy from you.  You are not a factor in this decision - they are not buying due to your own effectiveness.
  2. They haven’t yet decided to buy but you persuade them to buy from you.  You are a major factor in this decision as you caused them to make a decision and take action.
  3. They haven’t yet decided to buy and you don’t persuade them to buy from you.  You are not a factor in this decision - they are not buying and you were not able to influence the prospect.
  4. They want to buy and somehow you mess it up and they don't buy from you.  You are a huge factor in this decision.  They were predisposed to buy and something you did cause them to change their mind.

In the end, your effectiveness is determined by how consistently you achieve scenario #2, and how infrequently scenario #4 occurs.

If you have a lot of successful #2's and few to none #4's, it would appear that you are very effective.  If you have a measurable number of #4's, it is safe to assume that you are a crappy salesperson.  If you don't have a lot of #2's, you are somewhat ineffective.  If you have a lot of #1's, you have very little do with your own success.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, keys to sales success, sales effectivnes

What Salespeople Can Learn from Josh McDaniels Gutsy Reversal

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Feb 09, 2018 @ 06:02 AM

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If you follow American football even a little, then you were paying attention this week when the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots to win Super Bowl VII.  You might have been paying attention when a day later the Patriots offensive coordinator agreed to take the head coaching position of the Indianapolis Colts.  The press conference was scheduled to take place on Tuesday, but 3 hours before Josh McDaniels would be introduced as the Colts new head coach he changed his mind, left the Colts in the lurch, and decided to remain with the Patriots.  Wow!  Good for Josh and the Patriots.  Bad for the Colts.  Bad for his reputation.  Interestingly, the thing that excited me most was that we now have a well-known, high profile example of someone  changing their mind AFTER the 11th hour.  And boy oh boy does this relate to sales!

Win rates are all over the place - from as low as 10% in technology sales to 75% for elite salespeople across most industries.  So let's average it out and suggest an average win rate of 42 percent.  For most salespeople, and for all of the bottom 50% who are just plain crappy, they are on the wrong side of success more than half the time.  I'm not going to suggest that crappy salespeople can change anything but good salespeople can...

The truth is that in some cases, people change their minds. 

But most salespeople hear that they aren't getting the business and can't wait for their prospect to hang up so that they can feel the pain of losing.  Fuck that!

The question is, what compelling reason might your prospect have for changing their mind?  Let's assume that they won't reverse their decision if they were happy with the incumbent vendor and decided to remain with them.  But they could change their mind if you were in the mix the entire way and on this opportunity they decided to go with your primary competitor.   How would you do it?

You could start by asking, "Have you ever changed your mind about anything?"  You need precedent.  If they're being honest, they'll say yes. Everyone has changed their mind.  Then you can ask, "For the right reason, could this be one of those times?"  The worst they can say is, "No."  But what if they say, "Yes?"  What if you could get just one in ten to say yes to that question?

Your challenge would then be what might constitute the right reason?  You can ask your them.  I'm sure they know what would get them to reconsider buying from you, assuming that you were being seriously considered right down to the wire.

Give it a try.  If Josh McDaniels can change his mind in public, take an absolute mass attack on his reputation and be OK with it, your prospects can change their minds in private.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, closing strategies, win rates

Is the Sales Force Getting Dressed Up or are Real Changes Taking Place?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 07, 2018 @ 15:02 PM

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Recently, I installed vented plastic garage floor tiles like those in the picture above to improve the look of our garage.  It's the same garage, but now it looks awesome.

Yesterday I received an email from Richardson Training, letting me know that they have completed their 2018 Selling Challenges Study.  The data in the report, which you can download here, hasn't changed a great deal since 2017, but the report's new look is awesome.  I reported on last year's report in detail here, but my conclusion for 2018 is the exact same conclusion I came to in 2017.

In 2017, the biggest challenge that companies faced was selling value and that continues into 2018.  It's no surprise.  Most sales organizations that Objective Management Group (OMG) evaluates appear to be quite challenged when it comes to selling value. For example, if you visit OMG's public stats page and scroll down to the Selling Value competency, you'll notice the following:

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  • Only 35% of all salespeople have the competency as a strength.
  • All salespeople have an average score of only 56.

In order to effectively sell value, salespeople must also take a consultative approach and use a sales process that supports consultative selling and selling value.  If you scroll from the Selling Value competency to the Consultative Selling competency and then the Sales Process competency, you will find that:

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  • Only 22% of all salespeople have the Consultative competency as a strength
  • All salespeople have an average score of only 46 in the Consultative Competency

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  • Only 26% of all salespeople have the Milestone-Centric Sales Process as a strength
  • All salespeople have an average score of only 49.

By contrast, if you scroll to the Presentation Approach competency, you will find that:

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  • 69% of all salespeople have Presentation Approach as a strength
  • All salespeople have an average score of 73.

So the question is, why does selling value continue to be such a problem for so many companies?  

It takes me and my team at Kurlan & Associates about 8 months, training twice per month, to move salespeople to the point where they are confidently, effectively and efficiently selling value.  That's 16 training sessions, reinforced by at least 32 coaching conversations from their sales managers over the same 8 months.  And prior to those 8 months it takes some time to get sales managers to the point where they can handle the heavy lifting that coaching requires.  So it brings me back to my opening.

Do most companies do the sales training equivalent of laying down the garage tiles by finding non-disruptive training so they can say they provided training?  Or do they refurbish the entire garage - find training like Kurlan provides and make the decision to require their sales managers to become great sales coaches?

Only the refurbishing option will cause change.

Sales Managers won't find better training at turning them into great sales coaches than the training we provide at my annual Sales Leadership Intensive.  I have 5 seats left for the training on May 22-23 outside of Boston.  You can learn more here and register here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Richardson, value selling,

Measure Change in Sales Effectiveness without Numbers and Metrics

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Feb 02, 2018 @ 08:02 AM

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We want to get better at selling and as sales leaders we want our salespeople to improve.  We need them to improve.  We hope that training and coaching and sales ennoblement tools will get us there.  We have also been told that there is more than one way to skin a cat but it might come as a surprise that there is more than one way to measure the progress being made by your salespeople.

There are traditional lagging indicators, like revenue generated, and there are traditional forward looking indicators, like new meetings, pipeline value and pipeline quantity compared to a prior period.  Conversion ratios - calls to meetings, meetings to qualified opportunities, qualified opportunities to closable, and win rates, all compared with the same ratios from a prior period.

These metrics tell a story, individually and together, but forward looking indicators tell a more timely story, especially if you have a long sales cycle.  However, as you'll read below, measuring sales progress doesn't stop with metrics because there is another powerful way to get instant feedback on a salesperson's progress.

Sales coaching is the most powerful and direct way to improve sales performance, but only if the coaching is daily and effective.  Only 7% of all sales leaders coach frequently enough and effectively enough so there is much work to do in this area.  The best tool for a sales coach is the ability to role play, providing the fastest route to greater sales success.  This article explains how and why role-playing is the scariest component of sales coaching.

We need to discuss role-playing because it can provide you with instant feedback.  When you role-play with salespeople and ask them to play the part of a prospect, the salespeople/actors will actually mirror the behavior and attitude that they are currently experiencing from their prospects.  If they play a nasty prospect, then you know that is how prospects are treating them.  If they play a tough prospect, then you know that prospects are being very tough on them.  If they play an easy prospect, then you know that prospects are being easy and cooperative.  If you pay attention to the changes in their role-plays over time, salespeople who are improving will play increasingly more cooperative prospects.

Whether good or bad, the behavior that prospects exhibit is a direct result of the flexibility, approach, tonality, questions, conversation and collaboration of a salesperson.  Salespeople are completely responsible for how their prospects behave.

If your salespeople don't seem to be portraying easier prospects each time you coach them, then they aren't getting any better.

Having salespeople play a prospect is one way of getting instant feedback, but you can also have salespeople play the salesperson's part.  This role-play runs 25-minutes but it's a great example of what it should sound like when 2 salespeople role play with each other.  You'll notice that I interrupt whenever the salesperson goes off track, doesn't listen actively, doesn't ask a good question, or otherwise could be more effective.

We spend an entire day on learning the nuances of role-playing as a foundation of sales coaching at my annual Sales Leadership Intensive.  The top-rated annual event is May 22-23 and there were 6 seats left on February 1.  Register here.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, great sales management training, key to growing revenue

Predictions for 2018 - The Sales Triad Will Provide Record Sales Growth

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 29, 2018 @ 06:01 AM

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The economy is doing well, unnecessary regulations have been rolled back, the stock market is soaring, unemployment is low, consumer confidence is up, manufacturing has returned, companies are investing in the American economy, businesses are confident about the future and tax cuts are about to make paychecks bigger for about 90% of all Americans.  What will consumers do with that extra money?  They'll spend it of course!  As a result of these positive developments, what should you expect to happen from a sales perspective in 2018?

Companies are spending money, so that's a good thing.  Executives whose past actions suggested that your product or service was nice to have, but not a must have, might want to buy it this year!  Companies that didn't have budgets during the past few years might have budgets this year.  Decision makers who didn't have enough in their budgets may have a surplus this year.  There will be plenty of money to go around.  Hallelujah!

Warning: Don't get too excited.  While companies will be buying and spending, it doesn't mean that your company will get the business.  More buying and spending means more competition and with the internet, companies need not be local in order to compete for and win that business.  

With the availability of money and additional competition, I can tell you this.  If you aren't the low price leader, the best-known company, or the safest decision that a buyer can make, you will have to do some real SELLING to get that business.  And not just selling, but thoughtfully, effectively, efficiently, and articulately selling value.  What?  You already sell value?  Really?  I'll bet you don't.  I'll bet the salespeople in your company talk about value and justify your pricing, but talking about value is not selling value.  Do you ever tell prospects that you will be competitively priced?  Then you're not selling value.  Do you ever discount your price?  Then you're not selling value.  Do you ever make exceptions to your pricing?  Then you're not selling value.

Selling value is extremely challenging for most companies because on it's own, it doesn't translate to a sale.  Selling value is an approach in a sales process with a consultative methodology that supports selling value.  You are undoubtedly familiar with the nuclear triad, and the combination of a consultative sales process, value selling approach and a consultative selling methodology is the selling equivalent.  It's the sales triad!

Companies that still take a transactional approach to selling may have very difficult year when it comes to acquiring new business and retaining existing business.  This will be the year that sales dinosaurs become extinct.  In 2015 I wrote that 1 million salespeople would become obsolete by 2020. Not only has the time come, it has come earlier than expected and it came for many more than 1 million salespeople.  This year, I predict that 3 million salespeople will either lose their jobs to the internet or to salespeople who can sell consultatively and sell value.

Whether it's professional sales training or sales coaching, your sales managers will play a major role in this transition.  Your sales managers can get a jump start on this by attending my annual public Sales Leadership Intensive on May 22-23 outside of Boston.  As of this writing (January 29) there are just 7 seats remaining so you'll need to act quickly.  Learn more at http://kurlanassociates.com/sales-leadership-event.  Register here

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, selling value

When Good Prospects Can be Worse Than Tough Prospects

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 17, 2018 @ 17:01 PM

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I was on the way to a meeting and the traffic was stop and go - not moving for a minute, then back up to 30 MPH, and then back to a dead stop.  I've been driving since 1972 and have driven in all kinds of conditions.  Pitch black on a moonless night on a narrow winding road with no street lights; on a 4-lane highway in white-out conditions where you can't see where the sides of the road are, down-hill on black ice with zero control of breaking and steering; snow-covered, two-lane road with cars stranded all over the place during the height of a blizzard, torrential rain when the roadways were flooded, heavy fog when you can't see the hood of your own car; and over a bridge in a tropical storm where the wind was blowing so hard it was difficult to keep the vehicle on the bridge.  I haven't driven off-road.  

Comparing the stop and go traffic to the other conditions I have driven in got me thinking about a sales analogy that you might find helpful.

As bad as those conditions may have been, they didn't surprise me, they didn't change, and other cars were not really factors in dealing with the conditions.  While it was challenging to drive in those conditions, I was prepared for those conditions.  The weather forecast called for those conditions. I knew about those conditions before I entered the vehicle.  It was as bad as I expected but not worse than I expected.

On the other hand, stop and go traffic, even on dry roads with sunlight, scares the crap out of me because I don't know what will happen next, when it will happen, or where it will happen.  As white as the knuckles get in the worst conditions, in stop and go traffic I can get lulled into complacency and then, BANG.  Someone slams on their brakes and it's time to brace for impact again.

Good salespeople can handle the toughest prospects because they are prepared for those prospects.  They know what they are walking into and those prospects are consistent.  They are as bad as expected but not worse than expected. 

On the other hand, stop and go prospects are extremely scary.  One minute everything is fine, they're a good prospect, and the next minute everything is wrong and they're a tough prospect.  You finally get them comfortable again, they're a good prospect again, and then BAM, they go off the rails again.  Their inconsistency can be unnerving and even the best salespeople get caught off guard, are truly surprised by the behavior and frankly, don't always know what to do.

So what should you do?

The same thing you should do in stop and go traffic.  Don't get lulled into complacency in the first place!  If the prospect goes off the rails, slow down, take a deep breath, ask them what just happened, back up and MAKE SURE THEY ARE COMPLETELY FINE BEFORE YOU SAY ANOTHER WORD.  Don't move forward if they aren't 100% OK because that's then they're most likely to go off the rails again.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales tips, cold prospect

What You Should Know When Your Cold Prospect Suddenly Returns From the Dead

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 15, 2018 @ 06:01 AM

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Last week I wrote about the deep freeze, why prospects suddenly go cold, and how you can prevent that from happening. That article was instantly as popular as any I have ever written.  I also posted a 6-minute  cold-calling rant on LinkedIn that had more than five-thousand views after just a couple of days. The video, like the article, was about mindset, not scripting and tactics.  And last week I also posted an article about writing a good prospecting email.  It seems that there was a theme to the week and it resonated really well with the readers.

Let's build on that theme and discuss the same prospect that went cold two months ago, and now he calls or sends you an email. 

Hopefully, you had archived the opportunity rather than hoping and praying for its revival.  The biggest mistake that salespeople make at this point is they get excited.  I don't know about you but for me, when a supposedly good prospect goes cold and then returns two months later, it's more like the return of the flu.  This prospect caused you a lot of anxiety, embarrassment with your manager, and wasted time.  Who wants more of that?  I raise that issue because the chances of your prospect going cold again are greater than the likelihood of a sale.

For that reason, skepticism should be your number one strategy.

Why has your prospect returned and why now?  A number of things happened with your prospect since your last conversation and you need to hear their story.  What they share could be predictive of what will happen next and what you should do.  For example:

What They Might Say What That Could Mean What You Should Do
We have one more question They will go cold again as soon as you answer the question Ask them a question.  Why did they call you back?  Do not accept "because we had a another question for an answer.  Instead, mention that they didn't return calls and emails for two months so why now?
We would like a proposal They are moving forward but at what speed and with whom? Ask how many proposals they are requesting.  Ask why they included you.  Don't accept out of respect for the time you already invested. Instead, suggest that it doesn't sound like you are their first choice so why are they including you? 
We want to meet A good sign - they like you enough that it won't be a waste of time Schedule time to meet and ask what is on their agenda and their desired outcome of the meeting.  Then ask if you can share your agenda and outcome.
We want you to present They are moving forward but at a snail's pace.   Ask how many companies they invited to present.  Ask why they included you.  Don't accept out of respect for the time you already invested. Instead, suggest that it doesn't sound like you are their first choice so why are they including you?  
Our [top-ranking executive] wants to talk with you A good sign - they like you enough that it won't be a waste of time Schedule time to meet and ask what is on their agenda and their desired outcome of the meeting.  Then ask if you can share your agenda and outcome. 

The reality is that in most cases, prospects go cold when you weren't talking with the right person.  When they return from their self-imposed ice age they are still the wrong person so don't expect anything different to happen unless the top executive decision maker is fully engaged.

You could even experience these issues if you are talking with a weak decision maker who needs to build consensus.  Decision makers go cold too if they don't get the consensus they are looking for.

If you maintain a healthy level of skepticism, ask plenty of questions and keep your discussion conversational you will get a much better sense of where you really are and whether you will get the business.

Although the prospect has returned, the opportunity can be reactivated in CRM and the odds are no longer zero, don't become too optimistic.  Your odds of closing the business are no greater than 49%.

Image Copyright 2018 iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales pipeline, sales tips, dead prospect, cold prospect

7 Reasons Why Prospects Go Cold and How to Avoid it

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jan 05, 2018 @ 09:01 AM

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Outside of Boston, today is the day after the blizzard of 2018, it's a winter wonderland, and the deep freeze we have been experiencing is expected to get worse, with extended periods of sub-zero temperatures and wind chills approaching -30 degrees Fahrenheit.  What does that have to do with selling?  Plenty!

One of the biggest frustrations that salespeople and their sales leaders have is when good prospects go cold.  These include prospects that were projected to close soon yet, they aren't returning calls, emails, inmails or overnight deliveries.  Not only have the prospects gone cold; the salespeople have been frozen out.  But it's more like the weather than the two scenarios sharing common words.  

I finished reading Dan Brown's new book, Origins.  I think it's his best work since The DaVinci Code although I did correctly guess the ending...  Anyway, at one point they are reading the Roman Numerals XI + I and coming up with an answer of 12.  12 was not the answer required to decode the matter at hand.  Professor Langdon, the main character, changes his perspective.  He rotates the equation by 180 degrees, turning it upside down until the equation becomes I + IX.  The new answer is 10, exactly what they needed.

If you change your perspective about prospects going cold, you might discover that you caused them to go cold, rather than the myriad of other possibilities.  I'll explain.

The deep freeze didn't just suddenly arrive last week.  The weather has been working up to this since temperatures began to drop in mid November.  It's been getting cooler and cooler and then colder and colder until now.  There is a lead-up to the freeze and if we take a step back, it happens nearly every year around this time.

Your prospects don't suddenly go cold either.  There are signs. 

In half of the cases the salespeople had developed a case of happy ears earlier in the sales process and their belief that the prospects were interested or warm or even hot was entirely imagined.  Their prospects didn't go cold as much as they were already cold and couldn't find another way to tell the salesperson to go away!

In some instances, the prospects were actually hot but the salespeople complicated things and didn't get out of the way enough to allow their prospects buy.  The prospects became frustrated with their inept salespeople, bought from someone who could quickly help them, and didn't talk to the original salesperson again.

In many of the cases, the salespeople were moving more quickly than the prospects.  The salespeople were on their own timeline and the prospects didn't have the same urgency.  Feeling more pressure than they were comfortable with, the prospects decided not to talk with those salespeople anymore.

Many prospects go cold when they aren't the actual decision makers, they haven't engaged the decision makers, and have nothing to report.  These salespeople made two huge mistakes: 

  1. They achieved nice to have, but not must have.  If you aren't talking with the decision maker, nice to have will never be enough to empower a subordinate to ask the decision maker to participate or get the decision maker to approve the needed funds.
  2. They didn't start with the decision maker!  It's nearly impossible to sell up hill and while selling downhill isn't ideal, it doesn't cause your heart to beat as fast as trying to sell up hill.

The reality is that in most scenarios, salespeople caused their prospects to go cold.  When salespeople have been frozen out it's usually because they were talking with the wrong person, weren't moving at the correct speed, or didn't get their prospects to sense that they must have this product or service.

If you are wondering why salespeople find themselves in these scenarios so frequently you don't have to look any further than these 5 Sales Core Competencies:

  1. Sales Process - the freeze will nearly always happen when an effective sales process is not followed and presenting occurs too early.
  2. Doesn't Need to be Liked - when this competency appears as a weakness, salespeople won't ask the necessary questions to smoke this out.
  3. Consultative Seller - when the salesperson fails to take a consultative approach they will fail to uncover the compelling reasons to buy and fail to get past nice to have.
  4. Value Seller- when salespeple fail to sell value, it can be difficult for prospects to justify spending the money
  5. Qualifier - when salespeople aren't thoroughly qualifying, they will often find themselves selling to the wrong person

There are 21 Sales Core Competencies in total and while they all play some part in the freeze, these five take center stage.

If you are a sales leader, one thing you can do to address this issue is to hire stronger salespeople who won't find themselves in the deep freeze.  It begins with an accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment.

What can you improve upon to eliminate most instances of the deep freeze?  And equally important, if your prospect returns from the deep freeze, will you know why and will you do the right thing?  Read Part 2 here.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales problems, selling value

How to Write a Sales Email That Works

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 03, 2018 @ 14:01 PM

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I receive so many unsolicited emails each day that it makes my head spin.  Most of them, like the cold calls I get, are simply horrible.  Delete.  Delete.  Delete.  Junk.  Block.  Unsubscribe.

This week I received the daily double - a cold call with an identical, corresponding email.  The email read like this:

Hi Dave, 

I hope this message finds you well.

We spoke in the past regarding the copier equipment in your office.  At the time you indicated that your existing contract will be ending just over a year from now.  Have you started to look into this yet?  Our company would love a shot to earn your business.

 

I'll go through this line by line and explain what's horrible, what's OK and how I would change it.

 

He began with "Hi Dave."  That's the best part of the email!  Seriously.  It was personalized, but not too much.  I would have cringed if it said Hi Dave Kurlan.  Or Hi Kurlan.  Or Hi DKurlan.  I also hate Good Day, Hello, Dear Dave, Sir, Dear Sir, Good Morning, Good Afternoon and Good Evening.  Greetings, Dear Reader, Dear Subscriber and Mr. Kurlan.

 

Then came, "I hope this message finds you well."  OMG!  That is completely inauthentic and way too typical.  You don't even say that to your friends!   Saying nothing at all is better that saying that.

 

He followed with, "We spoke in the past..."  Unfortunately for him, we didn't speak in the past so that makes him a liar.  Why say that?  And even if we had previously spoken, I wouldn't remember it so in my mind, that would still make him a liar.

 

Next came, "regarding copier equipment in your office."  That's right at the top of my list of exciting things to talk about.  Copier equipment.  Again?  Didn't we just do that for 3 years?  I have people for that.

 

"At the time, you indicated that your existing contract will be ending just over a year from now."  I don't know about you but I don't start looking at cars a year before my car lease ends so that certainly wouldn't be part of the plan for copiers.  It doesn't matter when my lease ends!!!  We could be two years out but if he could help me identify something that my current machines don't provide - that would help my business - I might make the switch today!  One year out might as well be 3 years out.  There isn't a good reason to talk about the timeline for a new lease because we don't yet have a reason to take any action.  He just skipped from reminding me that there is an alphabet all the way to the letter Q for qualifying in one sentence.

 

"Our company would love a shot at your business."  Isn't that a terrific incentive for me to meet with him?  Because he wants a shot at my business?  Geez!  

 

A better approach to the ingredients in this email that follow Hi Dave should be something more like what I wrote below.  I used CEO because he called and emailed me and that is my title.

 

A lot of CEO's tasked their last copier to staff and as a result of them paying more attention to lease terms instead of capabilities, companies can't leverage the capabilities of their machines to generate revenue, improve communications, and move away from paper.

 

It would be cool for me and powerful for you if we could help you with that.  Would you like to talk with me about how we have helped other CEO's?

 

If you must use email as a way to get prospects to raise their hands, wouldn't it make sense to consider your audience, understand what they would find offensive and useful, and take the time to compose a more effective email?

 

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales emails that work, email prospecting

3 Lessons that Apply to Every Sales Call No Matter What You Sell

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 18, 2017 @ 14:12 PM

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It's a family tradition that each December we attend the Boston Ballet's performance of the Nutcracker.  It's truly a magical show and even though the primary dancers change from year to year, the execution of the show's script and musical score is flawless.

Several years ago, during one of the performances, it dawned on me that the orchestra's role in the show correlated very nicely to an effective sales presentation.  There were 3 fantastic lessons that I presented then and as I have done each year since, will present again here.

If you attend a Nutcracker performance or simply listen to some of the orchestral suite during the holiday season, one of the selections you'll hear is the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy".  Perhaps you can't match the music to the title, but I'm sure if you listen to the first 30 seconds of this version, you'll recognize the melody regardless of your religion or ethnicity.

Even though you've surely heard it before, can you identify the four primary musical instruments at the beginning of the selection?

In this version, you're hearing the glass harmonica, while most orchestral versions and performances feature the celesta, oboe, bassoon and flutes.  Can you hear them?

Just as the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" sounds familiar to you, your salespeople find familiarity in the sounds, questions, comments and discussions on their sales calls.  As much as you may not be able to distinguish the specific instruments creating those sounds in "Dance...", your salespeople may not be able to differentiate the credible comments and questions from the noise on their sales calls.

During a first sales call, suppose your salespeople hear one prospect say, "This has been a very interesting and productive conversation and we might have some interest in this."  And imagine another prospect at the same meeting says, "We'll get back to you next month and let you know what kind of progress we've made."  And still a third might say, "In the meantime, please send us a proposal with references and timeline."

Lesson #1 (based on Objective Management Group's data) - Of every 100 salespeople:

  • 70 rush back to the office to begin work on the proposal and tell their bosses that their large opportunity is very promising because all 3 prospects in the meeting were very interested;
  • 19 leave the call and make 2 entries in their journals - "propose" and "follow-up" - and they'll do both eventually;
  • 11 are still at the meeting, asking more questions.

Lesson #2:

  • Prospects' voices are like musical instruments.  Each instrument in "Dance..." has a specific role in the performance.  If the wrong instrument or notes are played or they're played at the wrong time, the entire selection is ruined.  Prospects' comments in the scenario above have different meanings depending on their business titles and their roles in the buying process.
  • If "please send us a proposal", "we're interested" or "very productive" are spoken from an Executive - the CEO, President or VP of something - it has a far different meaning than if the comment were to come from a buyer in Procurement.
  • When any of those 3 comments are spoken by a user - an engineer for example - rather than a buyer or an Executive, the comments may be far more genuine, but carry much less authority.

Lesson #3:

  • Sometimes it's more fun to listen to a song, symphony or simple melody and to figure out how and why the composer or arranger selected the particular instruments to play the particular parts of the selection.
  • Your salespeople must apply that wonder and analysis to their sales calls.  The prospect may be the composer (started the initiative), arranger (selected the vendors to talk with), director (charged with the initiative and conducting the process) or musician (following directions of the conductor).  It's the salesperson's job to figure out who they're dealing with, what role they play, what influence they'll have and how to get the various players aligned on the compelling reasons to buy and your ideal solution.

Homework Assignment - Return to Lesson #1 and answer 2 questions:

  1. Which of the 3 sales outcomes do your salespeople typically find themselves doing?
  2. Which additional questions do those 11 salespeople stay to ask?

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, asking questions, sales tips, Nutcracker, listening skills, sales put-offs

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About Dave

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

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