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Connecting the Dots on Sales Management

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 28, 2015 @ 09:05 AM

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Copyright / 123RF Stock Photo

Do you remember the morning that you couldn't find your keys, but they were right there on the counter?  Or the time that you couldn't find an article of clothing, but it was hanging right there in your closet the entire time you were looking for it?  Or the time you couldn't find your car in the airport parking garage?  And yes, it was right where you parked it.  Sometimes, things are right in front of you and you don't notice them!  And that brings us to this sales management topic.  

Last week, I wrote about the sales force where half of the salespeople resigned and why that happened.  If you didn't read that, please read that now.

And earlier this week, I wrote about the similarity between the 2 main characters in the movie Whiplash and a salesperson with a difficult prospect.  If you didn't read that article, please read that now.

So it was right in front of me and I missed it completely.  Until now.

The tormentor in Whiplash could have been the sales manager in the first article!  He didn't have relationships, he wasn't trusted, and he wasn't respected.  He may have confused respected with feared - he knew his students feared him and he believed - incorrectly - that it was respect.  He didn't take the time to know what motivated his students, although he assumed, like most sales managers do, that he knew.  In this case, he assumed it was greatness or stardom.  He didn't have any need for his students to like him, he put tremendous pressure on them and was hated!  Fletcher and Jeff are the same person!

Objective Management Group's statistics show that 18% of all sales managers should not be in sales management, 34% of them cannot be trained to become effective sales managers, and only 7% are elite at their role.

You should know by now that half of a sales manager's time - 50% - should be spent coaching their salespeople.  Unfortunately, most sales managers don't allocate that kind of time for coaching and aren't very effective at it.

That's why we hold our annual Sales Leadership Intensive where, among other things, we spend the major parts of two days on how to master sales coaching.  Assuming that you and your sales managers are not among the elite 7%, this two-day event is the fast track to joining that elite group.  Learn more about our August Sales Leadership Intensive right here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales leadership, Sales Coaching, training, whiplash

Whiplash on the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 26, 2015 @ 06:05 AM

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I don't know too many people who saw the award-winning movie Whiplash.  This past winter, Tom Schaff, an OMG Partner in St. Louis, recommended it and thought that I would love it.  As luck would have it, we were living in an igloo this past February, when temperatures never rose above freezing (for 6 weeks), we had nearly 10 feet of snow on the ground, and our home was encased in ice.  That was a great time to be watching movies!  I did love Whiplash and there were so many great scenes that I could have written about. I never did get around to writing about it, but no problem.  Chris Collias, a friend, loyal reader, and longtime client going back to the 1980's, sent me an email with his suggestion for an article.  Here it is.  Chris said that the main character, the incredible drummer, Andrew, is a metaphor for a salesperson. Fletcher, the brutal and narcisistic music professor, could be viewed as an extremely difficult customer or prospect.   

In the movie, the more impossible that Fletcher made it for Andrew, the harder Andrew worked.  The louder Fletcher yelled, the quicker Andrew put his head down and tried harder.  The more manipulative Fletcher became, the more tireless Andrew was.  Andrew is the epitomy of commitment - doing whatever it takes to succeed.  It wasn't conditional commitment; it was unconditional commitment. No-matter-what.

Chris noted that many salespeople aren’t committed to their profession.  They don’t put in the 1,000 hours that it takes to achieve mastery so when they encounter a prospect similar to Fletcher (who actually threw a cymbal at Andrew's head), they don’t react by working harder or facing their weaknesses. Instead, they rationalize, make excuses, or move on to another company (or band). 

Chris said, "Andrew was able to overcome his nemesis by working hard, planting his feet, and calling his tormentor's bluff by delivering his best.  Some prospects, especially in purchasing, can be real bastards.  However, instead of becoming emotional, timid, defensive or sarcastic, you should view them as providing an opportunity for learning. Face them head on, remain calm, and consider that you might be the only salesperson who ever got this far with this particular difficult prospect."

Well stated, Chris!

In many cases, difficult prospects are actually easier to sell because there isn't a whole lot of competition.  Most salespeople give up or lose the prospect's respect before they get remotely close to doing any business with them.

It is important to be aware of potential weaknesses though.  For example, if you have need for approval - the need to be liked - it may be very difficult for you to navigate a situation like this without worrying about what the prospect will think or say or do.  Get over it.  

If you have difficulty recovering from rejection, you may be very uncomfortable putting yourself in a situation where a prospect like this could reject you.  You have nothing to lose!

If you lack self-confidence, it might be scary to jump in and deal with a prospect like this.  Push yourself and do it anyway.

As Chris says, difficult prospects will make you stronger and that will make it even easier for you to deal with prospects who are normal.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, sales weaknesses, objective management group, difficult customers,

Why Half of the Sales Force Resigned This Month

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 20, 2015 @ 08:05 AM

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Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

Half of the company's 20 salespeople have left voluntarily in just the last month and the CEO wants to know why everyone is resigning.  He wants Jeff, his sales manager, coached up and needs to recruit replacements.  He has tremendous urgency to get this moving and believes that Objective Management Group's (OMG) Sales Candidate Assessment will help him select good salespeople that will stick around.  But there is a hidden problem that the CEO is unaware of and even the most accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment on the planet - ours - won't overcome the issue.  It's worse than you can imagine!  It turns out that the sales manager is causing everyone to leave.

OMG had conducted a sales force evaluation a month earlier and the following issues were among dozens attributed to Jeff:

  • His salespeople don't trust him, so they won't trust his intentions or his coaching advice.
  • His salespeople don't respect him, so they won't perform for him or value his coaching.
  • He doesn't have relationships with his salespeople, so they won't share their concerns with him.
  • He has 86% of the attributes we look for in the Accountability Skill Set without complimentary Motivational or Coaching Skill Sets making him quite the task master/dictator.
  • None of his salespeople are comfortable working for a sales manager that places tremendous pressure on them to perform.
  • He only spends 10% of his time coaching, so there is pressure without any support.
  • He does not know what motivates his salespeople.

Any one or two of these findings alone would not be the end of the world, but when one sales manager has all 7, you realize that Jeff is hated!  That's why the salespeople are leaving - and fast.

So here is the question.  Do you urgently work to train and coach Jeff before he blows up the rest of the team or do you find a replacement for Jeff?

Of course, it depends on the rest of the team, but in my experience, it would be crucial to eliminate Jeff from the equation and look for a replacement at the same time that you are replacing the salespeople that have already departed.  If you were to retain Jeff, and make the faulty assumption that Jeff could be fixed, you could lose the rest of the team while you are doing repairs and run the risk that he would alientate the sales candidates that are interviewing for the available jobs.  If your company is big enough and the community is small enough, word could easily get out that your company is not a very good place to work, making it difficult to attract good salespeople for years to come.  

The bigger question is, how was the CEO so completely unaware of Jeff's failings and the salespeople's immense dislike for him?

The combination of a hands-off CEO (as in unapproachable) and a powerful (remember the accountability skill set) sales manager create the perfect storm for a scenario like this.  It's crucial for CEOs to be visible, approachable, involved and committed to the success of the sales force and clearly, that was not evident at this company.

Sales Managers often fail to have the desired impact on the sales force.  In most cases, they have not been trained or coached to lead a sales force, rarely understand what is expected of them, lack the skills to effectively perform in the role, and don't have a clue how to get people to follow them, perform for them or grow.

If you are a sales manager, did you get the equivalent of four years of college to prepare you for your role?  If you are a Sales Director or VP with sales managers reporting to you, did you provide them with that kind of training and development?  If you are a CEO, do you have people in sales management roles who have not been adequately trained to have an impact?

I'll be hosting my annual, top-rated, Sales Leadership Intensive on August 27-28, 2015 in the Boston area.  Click here for more details.  It would be very cool to have you and/or your people there!

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Topics: sales management, sales management training, sales leadership training, sales candidate assessment, sales test, problem sales manager

Chris Cagle - Great Example of Intangibles in Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 18, 2015 @ 06:05 AM

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You probably heard that BB King, the King of the Blues, died last week.  My wife and I met him after a performance in 2007 and the meeting inspired this article on work ethic.  Last week, on a flight from Dallas to Boston, I was sitting next to Country Music star Chris Cagle who told me all about his new business.  You just have to read his story and the great example of intangibles at work.  Cagle was on his way to Boston to perform at Toby Keith's Bar and Grill at Gillette Stadium.  Over the course of four hours, I learned a lot about him, his music and especially his new business.  He told me some of the stories that inspired some of his hit songs and then played the song that inspired one of his most emotional life moments, Probably Just Time.  So I'm listening to his song through my ear buds, on his iphone, when he tells me about his new business.  He started the business so that he could get off the road for good to be home on his ranch, with his wife and kids, full time.

It's a stucco, concrete and stone business, and as passionate as he is for writing, recording and performing his music, he was like a kid with a new toy when he started telling me about the stucco application jobs he was winning.  These aren't small jobs; he was already winning $500,000 jobs and bidding on $10 million jobs.  I asked, "Does being a country star down south help open doors for you?"

He said, "Are you kidding me?  They all say, 'Chris, I'm a huge fan!  How soon can you come over to meet?"

This is what we call an intangible.  Once in a while, a salesperson may not evaluate or assess that well, but could have a track record of success.  When this happens, how do we explain the disconnect between their success and the findings on the evaluation or assessment?  Intangibles.  Sales intangibles can not be taught or duplicated, but when a salesperson has some of these intangibles, success can be achieved with a set of skills that would cause other salespeople with similar skill challenges to fail. 

What are some of these intangibles?

Here is a screen shot from an Objective Management Group (OMG) sales candidate assessment where the candidate had 5 of a possible 12 intangibles (5 is great!).  

Intangibles-1.jpgEven though the candidate fell a bit short on sales competencies and Sales DNA, he was close enough to the cutoff that these 5 intangibles could make a difference and as a result, worthy of consideration.

Being a celebrity can certainly open doors and most salespeople won't ever have that luxury.  But there are some...

ernie-d.jpegLast year I was helping a client find a salesperson for a Rhode Island territory when I received an email from former NBA rookie of the year Ernie DiGregorio.  He had applied for the position and received our email reply asking him to complete an online application and our sales candidate assessment.  His long email explained that he was so well known, and such a great door opener, that an application or assessment was probably unnecessary.  Ernie D, a graduate of Providence College, would have been a very successful door opener.  But the company needed a product specialist/closer, not a door opener, so Ernie didn't really qualify for this position.  The lesson?  Intangibles can make a significant difference, but intangibles alone are not always enough.

Recently, OMG began including intangibles on its sales candidate assessments and sales force evaluations.  Now that it does, intangibles are usually the reason whenever a successful salesperson is missing important sales competencies or sales DNA.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales assessments, bb king, chris cagle, sales intangibles

Salespeople as Closers & 10 Other Sales Myths

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 14, 2015 @ 06:05 AM

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It was a beautiful spring day and while I was walking to lunch yesterday, I was thinking about my slugglish metabolism.  When I was young, I never stopped walking, running and bicycling and I probably burned more calories than I consumed.  I was only 115 pounds when I graduated from high school!  I'll turn 60 later this year, and other than the baseball coaching I do, and using the golf cart the few times I play golf each year, I am as close to inactive as possible. The common belief is that the metabolism slows with age, but yesterday it hit me: we slow (Okay, I slow) with age, so it's no wonder our (my) metabolism slows down!   There are also some common beliefs in sales that aren't necessarily true, beliefs which, if we (it's only fair - if you) fix them, change everything.  Consider these:

  1. Belief: Demos are excellent milestones and lead to revenue. 
    Reality:  Demos make you feel good, add unqualified opportunities to the pipeline, which are the real reason for inaccurate forecasts.

  2. Belief: The faster you go, the shorter your sales cycle.
    Reality: The faster you go, the more likely it is that your sales cycle will take longer and lead to a lost sale.

  3. Belief: When a propsect doesn't return calls and emails, it's because they aren't interested.
    Reality: Today it takes 10-15 attempts to reach a prospect and when salespeople don't succeed in reaching their prospects, it's because they gave up too early.

  4. Belief: You need lower prices to take business away from an incumbent and win new business.
    Reality: You need to differentiate, solve problems, be the value, and become irreplaceable.

  5. Belief: You know your salespeople better than anyone.
    Reality: You know their results better than anyone.  Only a sales force evaluation can explain why they get the results they get, whether or not your underachievers can be saved, and what you can do to save them.

  6. Belief: The 80/20 Rule applies to the sales force because 80% of your sales come from 20% of your salespeople.
    Reality: You can write and/or follow any rule you want.  I suggest that you adhere to my 100/0 rule, where 100% of your salespeople are overachievers.

  7. Belief: There aren't any good sales candidates out there right now.
    Reality: The good sales candidates won't come to you right now, but if you know where to look, what to look for, how to get their attention and exercise patience, you will find good sales candidates.

  8. Belief: Salespeople must be good closers.
    Reality: If salespeople can find and add opportunities to their pipeline, follow a milestone-centric sales process, sell consultatively and thoroughly qualify, then closing is simply a milestone, rather than an event and, in the end, an unnecessary skill set.

  9. Belief: Sales Training is only necessary for new salespeople.
    Reality: Sales Training and coaching become more necessary as salespeople become more effective generating opportunities.  The top 6% - the elite salespeople - all have sales coaches, just like the top athletes do.  The bottom 74% of all salespeople?  They don't believe they need sales coaching!

  10. Belief: Beliefs are simply opinions.
    Reality: Beliefs drive and support behavior.  Salespeople will always act and behave in a manner that is consistent with their beliefs, even when those beliefs do not support ideal sales outcomes. Self-Limiting sales beliefs do not support elite sales performance.  

Just because you think it, does not make it normal, correct, supportive or useful.  Challenge everything you believe to be true in sales and ask whether or not it really needs to be that way.  Could you change your results if you changed your beliefs, expectations and thinking?  

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, common sales myths

How to End the Sales & Marketing Argument

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 11, 2015 @ 07:05 AM

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Republicans and Democrats argue all the time.  Fans of long-time rival sports teams argue too, regardless of whether the rivalry is at the high school, college or pro level.  Players argue with umpires, referees and judges.  Kids argue with their parents and everyone argues with their cable company and wireless phone providers.  So why is it so hard to understand why marketing argues with sales?Marketing generates leads and Sales tells them how bad the leads are. Worse, they fail to generate leads and Sales tells them how useless they are.  Sales follows up on the leads, gets traction with only 5 out of 100, and Marketing tells them they suck at lead follow-up and selling.  There must be a better way...

Both departments share the blame.

Marketing must stop confusing requests for free anything as leads.  These requests are simply people that requested free stuff.  They could become a lead at some point, maybe even tomorrow, but they sure as hell aren't leads right now.

Sales must finally learn, once and for all, how to more effectively follow-up on today's web-generated leads.  It's not the same approach as call-ins, write-ins, or bingo cards.

One thing that can help solve the problem is to put qualifiers on the (not leads) contacts.  Then, when a competent person follows-up, the contact can be objectively, rather than subjectively qualified.  The problem with this is that we should not be qualifying the opportunity, only scoring the quality of a contact.

Contacts can be awarded points for:

  • being an appropriate person by title,
  • being the right size company,
  • being in a targeted vertical or geography,
  • participating in relevant or related activities,
  • having appropriate interest, and/or
  • being in an appropriate timeline for buying.

They should not be qualified for whether or not they have the money to spend, whether or not you can speak with a decision maker right now, or whether or not they are ready to buy.  It's too early to be asking those questions and when salespeople or appointment setters start asking those questions, even a good lead will turn bad.  

There's a good reason why those types of qualifying questions can't be asked until a compelling reason to buy has been identified.  Until that point, a prospect has no incentive to share the answers to those questions because it's a waste of their time and salespeople are disqualifying a disproportionate percentage of opportunities because they jump the gun on qualifying.  On the other hand, at least those who are doing the disqualification are making an effort to qualify - even if they are too early...

There will always be some friction between Sales and Marketing, but the two can get along, collaborate and work together if they can agree on 4-5 subjective qualifiers that can place proper expectations on what constitutes a lead, who should follow-up on leads, and what that follow-up should sound like.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, marketing, leads, lead follow up, sales follow up

Do We Have Sales Compensation All Wrong?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 06, 2015 @ 06:05 AM

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Earlier this week, I posted an article that explored whether or not a salesperson should be punished for landing a big deal if that same salesperson had nothing else in the pipeline.  It generated some heated discussion in the comments section and since there was disagreement about compensation in the comment section, I thought it would be helpful to discuss that.  Should a salesperson receive the maximum commission on the big deal if there was no other activity, critical KPI's weren't met, and the pipeline is essentially empty?

I believe the question merits more than a simple yes or no answer.

The negative comments appeared not only on my Blog, but also in the various LinkedIn Groups where the article was shared. One commenter said that we can't reward effort OVER results while another commenter said that we can't reward results to the exclusion of effort.  Both have their pros and cons, but is there a happy medium?

Let's suppose that our company expects each of its salespeople to generate $2 million annually, or $500K each quarter.  The sales cycle is 8 months, the average sale is $50,000, the closing percentage is 30%, and one quarter is already in the books.  The company has 5 salespeople and their quarterly performance was as follows:

Salesperson

# of Opps 
in Pipline

Value of Opps 
in Pipeline

Revenue YTD

Qualified 
Proposals

 Overall
Results

Overall 
Performance

1

0

$              0

$500,000

0

  On Target

 Poor

2

27

$ 1,850,000

$385,000

6

  Below Target

 Good

3

16

$    800,000

$520,000

3

  On Target

 Excellent

4

6

$    300,000

$250,000

2

  Under Target

 Poor

5

30

$ 1,500,000

$550,000

4

  Above Target

 Excellent

 

One commenter said the only thing he cared about was the results. He was referring to the big deal that salesperson #1 landed in the first quarter.  He wanted to celebrate this deal and this salesperson, but when you see the overall performance in black and white, it's clear that with an 8 month sales cycle and one quarter in the books, salesperson #1 will have annual sales of only $500,000 - the same number achieved for the first quarter.

Salesperson #3 is on target, but with a 30% closing ratio, there is not enough in #3's pipeline to support more than $240,000 in additional revenue.

# 5 will be fine, but #4 is currently failing and the rest of #4's year will likely be horrible.  

The interesting example is #2, who is below target, but has the healthiest pipeline, the greatest number of qualified proposals and will likely lead the sales force in revenue for the year.

Now let's factor in compensation.  If #1 maximizes his possible compensation by hitting his quarterly number, and then bombs the rest of the year, he will have been overpaid for his first quarter contribution to revenue.  If #2 is paid on the lowest possible scale for missing first quarter quota, she will have been underpaid for her first quarter contribution to revenue.

Those two salespeople and their first quarter performance make a great case for a compensation plan that factors results as well as quality effort (# of new opportunities/value of opportunities).  Results should still be weighed more heavily than effort, but if we include both, then both salespeople would be paid more in line with their overall performance.

If sales is worth 75% and effort is worth 25%, how would that affect compensation for these two salespeople on a bonus plan that pays out a maximum of 10% of revenue?

Salesperson #1 would be paid 75% of the maximum $50,000 (on $500,000 quota), or $37,500 for revenue and $0 for effort.

Salesperson #2 would be paid 25% of the maximum $50,000, or $12,500 for effort and 75% for revenue, or $28,500, for a total of $41,000.  Despite sales that were $115,000 short of quota, salesperson #2 would earn $3,500 more than salesperson #1 for adding 27 opportunities worth $1,850,000 to the pipeline.

I'm sure this will cause many to chime in with their own versions and variations and that would be awesome!  And based on what we read from commenters in the earlier article, I'm sure others will criticize the concept and they are more than welcome to do so.

I'm simply suggesting that we can get more from our salespeople if we factor more into the compensation plan than results.

Let's get as much feedback as possible. Have a comment?  Want to read what others think?  Either way, please use the buttons at the top of the article to share it on LinkedIn and Twitter to reach a wider audience for their thoughts.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales pipeline, sales performance, Compensation

Should a Salesperson be Punished after a Huge Sale?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 04, 2015 @ 11:05 AM

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My wife and I watched with a combination of fascination, sadness and shock as the coach of our son's 12 and under AAU baseball team made them run suicides after the double header they won on Saturday, and again after the double header they won on Sunday.  Why would he punish them after winning four games this weekend?  And how does this apply to sales?  You'll be amazed by what you read.On Saturday, the team had a chance to win both games by the mercy rule (the game ends if one team is ahead by 10 runs or more after 4 innings), but let the other team back into the game both times.  The coach didn't like their effort and execution and taught them a lesson by making them run suicides for 20 minutes after the second game.

On Sunday, the team won the first game, but allowed the other team to tie the second game forcing extra innings.  They eventually had a walk-off win, but once again, he thought they were flat, didn't like their effort, pointed to mental mistakes, and made them run suicides for 30 minutes after the second game.

As his parents, this punishment overshadowed a very impressive ball-crushing performance by our son.  But for the coach, the team's performance comes first.  The coach is paying more attention to behavior, attitude, and effort, than he is to the score.  He believes that by focusing on these three things, he will drive home the lessons he wants them to learn from this.

Shouldn't sales leaders be applying these lessons with their sales organizations?  While the best sales leaders do, in fact, follow this strategy, many sales leaders pay too much attention to sales results - the numbers - while ignoring the significance of metrics and conversion ratios that lead to revenue.

For example, Bob leads the team in sales this quarter with $500,000 in sales and he is praised, recognized, and presented with an award for his outstanding performance.  But it's a sham.  Bob landed one deal the entire quarter instead of the 6 he should have closed.  Although his quota for the quarter was only $300,000 and he killed it, if this deal hadn't come through, he would have been dead last.  Additionally, this deal was forecast for the previous quarter, so he really had nothing going on this quarter.  Had sales management looked more closely, they would have seen that he did not add any new opportunities to the pipeline in the quarter, and had only 6 conversations on just 12 outbound attempts.  Where was his effort?  What's with his attitude?  And where was the behavior?  Should Bob have been the hero or should it have been pointed out that he sucked all quarter and happened to get lucky once?

Clearly, it benefits the entire sales organization to call attention to a big deal and a quota-buster.  We want to make sure that everyone knows that these results can be achieved and should be achieved.  At the same time, if the other salespeople approach Bob and ask how he did it, the opposite effect will occur.  They would learn that it is OK not to make calls, not to have many conversations, and not to convert those conversations to meetings.  Additionally, they would learn that ineffective qualifying and forecasting can pay off, and letting prospects off the hook, not closing the door, and being passive and mentally lazy can work as well.

The scenario with the Bobs of the world is no different than what happened last weekend with the baseball coach.  We can't reward results unless the attitude, effort and execution that led to the results was consistent with those results.  In addition, we shouldn't punish salespeople who put forth the proper effort, attitude, behaviors and execution, only to come up short.  When we identify the most meaningful KPI's, and recognize salespeople for achieving those, the results will come.

[Update - Stick around and read the comments to this article, add one of your own, share it on LInkedIn or Twitter (buttons above the photo) and read this follow-up article.]

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales conversation, Baseball, sales behaviors, sales KPI, sales effort, sales forecast, sales execution

How Can Consultative Selling Already be Dead?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 30, 2015 @ 08:04 AM

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In this article for Middle Market Executive,Tom Searcy insists that Consultative Selling is dead.  He says that consultative sellers end up with buyers who can only make small decisions, experts end up in purchasing and only industry authorities can reach executive decision-makers.  He also says that consultative sellers ask, "What is your pain?", experts say, "Here is your pain.", and authorities say, "Here is the pain your industry is having and how you can uniquely overcome it."

Is he right?

Let's discuss that right now before your clothes go out of style...

Point 1: Objective Management Group's (OMG) statistics on nearly 1 million salespeople evaluated show that on average, salespeople have only 21% of the attributes of a consultative seller.  In the research phase of my recent White Paper, The Modern Science Behind Sales Force Excellence, more than 80% of executives claimed that their sales force was selling consultatively, but my first-hand observations at many of these companies is that they use the word "consultative", but after we evaluate their sales forces, we learn that they aren't anywhere close to selling consultatively.  They only think they are.

Point 2: Like Searcy, most people believe that taking a consultative approach to selling is about finding pain, but that's not true.  Sure, a few consultative methodologies from the 70's were pain-centric, but the consultative approach that my team shares with companies today is about identifying a compelling reason to either buy something for the first time, or a compelling reason for a prospect to move their business from a competitor to your company.  A compelling reason is not necessarily pain, and it will often be an opportunity.  But a true consultative approach uncovers the consequences of not taking action, gets to an emotional level, makes it personal, includes quantification, and creates urgency.  Fewer than 20% of all salespeople have ever learned how to ask more than a question or two before moving to their pitch, presentation or proposal.

Point 3: Today, in order to effectively differentiate, a salesperson must have the conversation that nobody else is having.  That conversation begins with a consultative approach and if it becomes a great conversation with pushback (the challenging of outdated, ineffective or inefficient thoughts, ideas and strategies), it will transition to a collaborative conversation. The salesperson will have earned the respect and status required to sell to an executive.

Summary: I believe that what Tom is really suggesting is that what people are calling consultative selling, is really the same old transactional selling with a few more upfront questions.  He is saying that if salespeople continue to sell that way, they will be relieved of their jobs.  Additionally, if their companies continue to employ this approach, they will no longer be relevant.  A true consultative approach will not only prevail, but will continue to help salespeople differentiate and lead to success.  However, an old and ineffective approach (with 2 or 3 lame questions and a consultative label attached to it) is surely deader than a door knob.

[Update - I heard from Tom Searcy shortly after publishing this article and he responded in the nicest way, as only a professional of his stature would.  Tom said:

Tom Schaff speaks highly of you. Reading your article I have a greater appreciation of why -
Your comments are very accurate and presented in a fashion designed to help people better understand. Thanks for reading and reacting to the article. I think that the issue I am pushing the hardest is not one of “drop consultative” approaches and pick up something new. It is more the issue that consultative selling is not enough and I agree with you, what most refer to as consultative selling is inaccurately labeled.
Best wishes on all of your projects. If there is something that you are working on and I can be of assistance in promoting it, please let me know.
Thanks Tom!]

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales methodology, Tom Searcy

Difference Between a Good Sales Email vs. Bad

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 27, 2015 @ 06:04 AM

Good-Vs.-Bad

Last week I received a request for help via email.  The reader asked if I could recommend a response to an email reply he received (at least he got a reply!).  The thing is, he deserved the reply he received because his introductory email absolutely sucked!  In today's article I'll share what he wrote, the reply he received, and my recommended response.  All of the names and organzations have been changed to protect the innocent.  Ready?  Here's his original introductory email:

 

From: <The Salesperson> [mailto:thesalesperson@thesalespersonsgmailaccount.com]
Sent: Thursday, April 23, 2015 4:15 PM
To: <The Prospect>
Cc: <The Salesperson's Boss>; <The Referral Source>
Subject: <The Referral Source>/Toner from <The Company>

Hi <The Prospect>,

I wanted to connect with you as our company would like to get on your bid list for toner, both black and colored. <The Referral Source>, the CEO of our company and I engaged in a conference call a few months ago. <The Referral Source> and I finally met today and he mentioned you were the go to person for these items.  I believe you have 10 or 11 HP 9050's but we could not find out what model printers have the colored toner.

We believe we can outbid your best competitor on these items and provide you with outstanding service.  We currently service all of <Other University's> printers and several other facilities in RI.  I am extremely fond of <This University> as my son <Salesperson's Son>, graduated from <This University> in 2006. 

I currently have my nephew attending, <Salesperson's Nephew> who is currently a freshman.  I met with him today while I stopped in to meet <The Referral Source>. He has been great with trying to assist us in our endeavor. We would greatly appreciate your assistance.  Kindly provide us with the printer model for the colored toner and any paperwork that needs to be completed to get on <This University's> bid list. In addition, an estimate of your usage monthly.  Attached you'll find a partial list of some of our major customers and our value proposition. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

<The Salesperson>
Business Development Manager
<The Company>

###

<The Salesperson> got this reply one day later:

From: <The Prospect>
Sent: ‎4/‎24/‎2015 12:28 PM
To: <The Salesperson>
Cc: <The Referral Source>;<The Salesperson's Boss>
Subject: RE: <The Referral Source>/ Toner from <The Company>

<The Salesperson>,

We are currently dealing with two suppliers for our Toner and other consumables needs for all printers and some MFPs. Both of those companies are under contract and at this point I think we are all set.  We will keep you in mind if we find they are unable to serve our needs.

<The Prospect>

<The Prospect>, C.P.M., CPSM
Director of Purchasing and Auxiliary Services
<This University>

###

<The Salesperson> sent me an email asking, "Hi Dave, how would you respond to this reply?"

I said, "First, the opening paragraph of the email you sent him positioned you all wrong for this – so you probably deserved to have gotten blown off…"

He did everything wrong!

  • He failed to start with the relationship building facts and went right to business thereby sounding like every other salesperson attempting to get a foot in the door.
  • He didn't ask for a meeting, a call, or a discussion - he asked to be put on their bid list - thereby confirming what <The Prospect> suspected - he was just like all of the other copier salespeople on the street.  And why would you want to be on a bid list?  Wouldn't we just want to get the contract?
  • He positioned his service and company as one that could beat the prices of the competition - thereby confirming that he was not providing any value.
  • He talked about great service and value but didn't back it up instead assigning homework.  I like homework assignments but not until the prospect wants help!

###

That said, I suggested that <The Salesperson> respond with:

 

Thanks for responding to my email, <The Prospect>.

I understand that as the director of purchasing, it’s your job to reject, refuse, rebut, and turn away salespeople that are simply further interruptions to your day.  But I’m shocked at how you treated the father of an alumni, who paid more than $150,000 to attend your fine school, and the uncle of another student in the midst of forking over six figures…

Is that how <Dir of Admissions> or <CEO of the University> would want you to treat outside influencers?

As the director of purchasing, I know you take pride in providing <The University> with the greatest value and efficiencies available and I know we can help you achieve that.

Won’t you reconsider your previous reply and schedule some time to talk?

###

So we'll see what happens when and if <The Salesperson> sends that email and whether or not <The Prospect> responds...

In the meantime, what should his original email have said?  If it were me, I would have called, but since this article is about sending an introductory email, I would have sent this:

Hi <The Prospect>,

<The Referral Source> strongly recommended that we talk.

But first, to provide you with some background and to establish my ties to the school, my son <Salesperson's Son> graduated from <This University> in 2006 and my nephew, <Salesperson's Nephew>, is currently a freshman. 

Anyway, <Referral Source> met with me and the CEO of my company and he thought we could provide some additional value and efficiencies for the school.

Would you be willing to schedule a short phone call to see if there's a fit?

Thanks,

<The Salesperson>

Notice that there was nothing about the product or service, no bid request, no pitch, and nothing about about pricing or homework.  Emails must be concise and provide a reason for the prospect to engage.

It's really not that hard to write a great, simple, effective email.  But most salespeople continue to send the junk we saw here.  You can't make this stuff up!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, scheduling sales appointments, email prospecting, good sales email, effective sales email, introductory email

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