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

The Craziest, Most Unusual Sales Selection Criteria and What Really Works

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 09, 2016 @ 11:08 AM

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It was just last month that I wrote this hugely popular article about the tech buyer who hated salespeople.  In the first paragraph I mentioned that I had a crazy case of poison ivy.  At about the one-week point, I started searching Google to find anything that might help ease the itching and discomfort. As you might guess, the remedies I found included some very crazy things that common sense would tell you to stay away from.  Well, in the 31 years I've been in the sales consulting business, I have heard some very crazy sales selection criteria too.  When salespeople are hired but don't work out, executives and in some cases, entire industries, stick their head in the sand and call it normal or acceptable.  Life insurance, where turnover can run as high as 90%, is a perfect example of this.  Insurance industry executives say that it's perfectly normal.  However, outside of the insurance industry, most executives will try just about any remedy to stop the discomfort.  Here are some of the craziest I've seen.

A telecommunications company had to hire 300 salespeople.  By the time they called me they had hired 500 but only employed 150 salespeople.  You can do that math but it comes to 70% turnover.  In their case, it got so bad that they added the following selection criteria:

  • firm handshake
  • good eye contact
  • nice smile showing teeth
  • able to survive a round-trip car ride from upstate NY to Boston with the hiring manager

They did not have a clue as to why their salespeople weren't staying or succeeding and were willing to try anything to fix the problem.  Unfortunately, "anything" did not include identifying the real problem, which was the culture, and the sales managers who were doing the selecting and the on boarding.

A SaaS company was turning over SDR's at a rate of 50% and wanted to improve their retention.  They had been hiring from the 25 and under demographic and and decided that young was not quite enough. They "improved" on young by adding recent college graduates to their criteria and turnover went from 50% to 70%.  Apparently the recent grads were a lot smarter than the high school grads and most of them determined that the role wasn't for them earlier in their employment.

A technology company was turning over 100% of its territory sales reps.  They were a startup, with a brand new technology, higher prices than traditional companies in their space, and definitely not the safe decision for tech buyers.  Prospects were resistant to meet with them , resistant to change, and resistant to paying more.  The company's primary selection criteria was to hire salespeople from their top competitors where, they had never faced resistance, always had the lowest prices, and never had any difficulty scheduling meetings. Needless to say, at this new tech company, the salespeople failed with tremendous consistency.

But the winners of the worst sales selection criteria competition are the thousands of companies who believe that hiring people with good personalities will get the job done. While it could get the job done it would be a complete accident, not their personality making a difference.  Sales is more difficult than at any time in our history.  It has changed dramatically in the past 7 years.  Even professional salespeople who were successful ten years ago, are struggling to those results today.  Why would someone who possesses a resume of "great personality" be able to achieve sales success where professionals have failed?

Suppose you need to boil water for your dinner.  While there are many ways to do that, most of us will stick to the method where you simply apply heat to a pot.  You could burn some wood, but the timing would be more predictable if you place the pot on the stove.  Sure, you could add in lighter fluid, gun powder, or dynamite and throw in a match. While those 3 methods will certainly boil the water in a hurry, you won't be very happy with the overall results as you look down upon what's left of your house from your comfortable perch in Heaven.  You boiled the water - congratulations over your complete stupidity and carelessness.

Yesterday, in a LinkedIn group discussion about evaluating salespeople, members were requesting some home-grown survey form from one of the contributors, rather than looking at a professional, time-tested solution.  Stupidity!

Like I wrote in the forum, there are many ways to select salespeople and they all provide some benefit.  However, when there is already a proven, time-tested, accurate and predictable tool available, why would anyone consider the dynamite option?  It's completely customizable, easy to use, and a lot more affordable than adding the equivalent of gun powder - making a sales hiring mistake which, on average, can cost $250,000 or more in soft and hard costs. 

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, omg, sales hiring tools, sales selection

The 4 Top Sales Leadership Articles to Boost Sales Today

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Aug 05, 2016 @ 11:08 AM

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There have been at least 2 lists published of the sales books you should read on the beach this summer so we are not going there!  But summer is for sun and fun and some of the best things in life happen during the summer.  As a result, we miss some of the best work-related things because we aren't working as many hours, may be in catch-up mode and not have the time to get to everything we would get to during cooler months.  With that in mind, some of the best articles you haven't read were published this summer!

I'm going to share four of them right here, tell you why the article will help today, and you can decide whether or not to read it.

Buyer Who Has No Use for Salespeople - This has been the most popular article of the summer.  It started with a buyer who contributed an outrageous comment on another article and this article began as my formal response.  But many readers commented, attacked him and he returned and attacked back so it morphed into a very entertaining read.  The key here is that it exposed what happens when weak salespeople fail to bring value to their customers and prospects.  This article is a must read.

Sales Process and Shoes Analogy - This sounds stupid but this short article links to the finest article I have ever written on sales process.  You must read it if you have even the slightest doubt as to whether your sales process is perfect as it is.

Ineffective Sales Managers - This is really two articles and the link on your left links to the second.  The link to the first article appears in the first sentence.  The first article discusses the many reasons why most sales managers are so ineffective and the second article provides examples of how they do things wrong, and what they could be doing instead.  There is also a great baseball analogy and you know how I like those!

Digital or Analog - This is an interesting read on the different approaches that newer companies - often in the technology space - take, versus older, traditional companies - often in manufacturing or distribution - and how they get to a common middle ground.  Read this is to compare what you have in place to best practices.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales management, sales leadership, top articles on sales and selling

Do You Know if Your Sales Organization is Digital or Analog?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Aug 04, 2016 @ 07:08 AM

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During our very first conversation with a CEO, the talking path is determined by whether their company is analog or digital.  

Digital companies are typically on the cutting edge in their thinking and actions, their CEO's read content like this, are active on LinkedIn and Twitter, they are aware that selling has changed dramatically, they already have inside sales teams, playbooks, demo decks, sales enablement, online tools beyond CRM and in true digital fashion, they live by their KPI's which count the elements of their work flow.

Analog companies are old school. Analog salespeople still pound the phones to find opportunities, and visit their prospects to close sales. Their CEO's may have a LinkedIn account, but it probably isn't used much, they don't tweet, read online content like this, and most importantly, have little clue about how dramatically selling has changed in the past 5 years.  They may not be aware of the migration to inside sales, typically make little use of selling tools, don't know what a sales playbook is, and in true analog fashion, measure work product, not flow.  

The difference between work flow in a digital company versus work product in the analog company is dramatic too.

Work flow represents a series or flow of actions.  With inbound marketing for example, a company might use a combination of landing pages, email templates and rules to generate the flow of contacts, leads and opportunities, all of which are counted.

Work product represents outcomes.  Analog companies are more likely to measure how hard their salespeople work. Analog versus digital. Counting versus measuring. 

Digital companies usually think that they have it all figured out because they read free content like this, make use of the latest tools, have millennials working their inbound marketing effort, have inside and outside sales, hire expensive sales leaders, and together they built a sales machine.  But when it's not generating enough revenue, the sales machine is broken.

Analog companies aren't really aware that they are old school, but they have recognized that what used to work doesn't appear to be generating the same results today.  Their salespeople struggle to close new business, they are losing important accounts, margins are slipping because their salespeople are unable sell value, and their veteran salespeople are in denial.  Their ability to generate sales by pounding the phones and managing their territories has become inefficient and ineffective.  You can even recognize an analog sales force by looking at them.  With rare exceptions, it's a group of fat, aging, white guys.

In the end, it simply doesn't matter whether a company is analog or digital.  The commonality between them is that their sales organizations are not bringing in enough business and there are several reasons for this - or more!

One of the many reasons for less than stellar revenue is that these companies - both analog and digital - often fail to hire the right salespeople for the role.  That's the easiest of all things in sales to correct.  A simple change to your selection criteria and an accurate and predictive sales tool will drive up your rate of success and consistency with hiring very quickly!

If you are interested in learning how we use *digital magic* to help companies hire the right salespeople, then you might enjoy spending 30 minutes with me next month.  On September 28, I will lead a fast-paced behind the scenes online tour of the magic behind OMG's award-winning sales selection tools.  You can join me by registering here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales assesments, sales consulting, sales selection tool, selling has changed

What Sales Managers Do That Make Them So Ineffective

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 26, 2016 @ 14:07 PM

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Earlier this week I wrote an article on why so many sales managers are so bad.  In today's article, I'll share what makes them so ineffective.  The easiest way to explain this is to start with a baseball analogy.

Our son, who is now 14, is a very talented baseball player.  In addition to me, he has been coached in some capacity by approximately 15 other baseball coaches with varying degrees of effectiveness.  Some were very good, and some were very bad.  Not because they were bad people, but because they simply didn't know what they didn't know.  Here is an example of a bad coach from when our son was 12 years old.  The pitcher (not our son) was not throwing strikes and had walked 3 straight batters.  The coach yelled out, "throw strikes!"  Now if these were high school kids and the pitcher was trying to be too nibble, that instruction, or just, "Pound the zone" might work.  But 12 year-olds are still learning to pitch so asking for an outcome without providing instruction isn't very helpful.  Next the coach yelled, "Fix your mechanics!"  Again, if the pitcher knew which mechanics and/or how to fix them it might be helpful but of course, he didn't.  The next thing the coached yelled was, "Make an adjustment!"  I wasn't coaching this team so there wasn't anything that I could do, but I knew what should have happened.  If the coach actually knew which mechanics needed to be adjusted he would have called time out, walked to the mound, and had a chat.  He could have shared any one of the following examples of adjustments to pitching mechanics:

  • You're rushing - slow down your delivery
  • You're not pushing off the rubber - use your legs!
  • You're throwing across your body - turn your chest toward home plate before your arm comes around
  • You're not finishing your pitches - follow through
  • There is too much movement - pitch from the stretch 
  • You're releasing the ball too early, too late, too high, too low.
  • You're not extending your arm - throw down hill
  • You're over throwing - don't throw it as hard
  • You're holding the ball too tight - loosen your grip a bit
  • You're too anxious - breath!

And if the coach was oblivious to the mechanics, but still insisted on yelling out to his pitcher, he could have simply yelled out some encouragement! In lieu of instruction, at least encouragement will motivate, and not demotivate.  Now let's make the transition from baseball to sales management.

Sales Managers are usually guilty of the exact same thing.  We've all heard sales managers ask salespeople to:

  • Close more sales
  • Qualify them better
  • Make more appointments!
  • Ask better questions
  • Ask for more money
  • Go back and try again!
  • Get it closed before the end of the quarter
  • Give them an incentive!

How many sales managers know how to actually coach their salespeople?  How many of them can debrief in such a way that they can identify exactly where a sales conversation went south?  Identify which key question didn't get asked or followed up?  Role play how the conversation should have gone?  Role play how the next conversation should sound? Identify why a prospect was stuck on price when the goal was to sell value?  Determine why the prospect lacked urgency?  Figure out why the salesperson was unable to reach the decision maker?  Understand what in the salesperson's Sales DNA interfered with executing the sales process?  Learn which skill gap was responsible for the outcome?

Typically, most Sales Managers are not any better at providing coaching on the mechanics of selling than volunteer baseball coaches are at providing coaching on the mechanics of hitting or pitching.  We have a long way to go!

One of the challenges facing some companies is that many old school, veteran salespeople don't understand why they need to change their approach, change expectations or even participate in training and coaching.  With the world around them changing at breakneck speed, they appear to be blind to to it all.  Despite global competition, prospects who don't need a typical salesperson calling on them, and the need to sell value instead of price, these salespeople refuse to admit that anything has changed.  To make matters worse, their sales managers are often afraid to challenge them.  They are concerned that the salesperson's may quit if feathers are ruffled or worse, the sales manager will get terminated if a veteran salesperson complains to the C Suite.  It's an awful situation and it's made worse when weak, unqualified and ineffective sales managers are put into these roles.

We need a revolution!  I don't want to sound like Bernie but that is truly what is needed with the current state of sales management.  Will you be a leader, a follower or a resistor?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales training, sales management, Sales Coaching, Baseball

Why So Many Sales Managers are So Bad

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 25, 2016 @ 06:07 AM

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Image Copyright 123RF Stock Photo

I see bad ones everywhere I look. They are not usually bad people and they might not have been bad salespeople, but they are usually so ineffective in their role as sales managers.  We will discuss some of the reasons and share an example next!

One reason that sales managers are ineffective is that many of the articles, information and guidelines about sales management practices are so bad!  Why?  Because so many of the people who write the articles are not experts on sales management! For example, for a couple of months the folks over at Pipedrive.com have been asking me to link to their article on sales management.  They told me that I failed to include the definition of sales management in this article on hiring salespeople and that if I pointed to their article on sales management it would fill in the gap.  

If I were writing opinion pieces for a baseball audience (that would be so much fun for me!) I wouldn't have to define baseball and because I write opinion pieces for a sales leadership audience so it doesn't make sense for me to define sales management.

Anyway, I clicked the link they provided, read it and unfortunately much of what is in their article is either outdated or not part of the core role of a modern sales manager.  From the definition, where they failed to mention that 50% of a sales manager's role is coaching, to the compensation, where they were off by as much as 50%, it just didn't resonate.  Given what they sell, I understand their need to build it around pipeline, but still.  Is it any wonder that when information like this is distributed to potential sales managers, that (1) it could attract the wrong people to the role, and (2) they could begin with a false sense of understanding of the requirements of the role?

I've written about the sales management role a lot and while I can't point to each of the 500 or so articles from here, one article has the essence of what sales management is all about and it's one of my 10 most popular articles of all time - the top 10 sales management functions.  Earlier in this article I mentioned that coaching is now 50% of a sales manager's job.  This article discusses the percentage of sales managers who have the necessary coaching skills while this article talks about why coaching salespeople is so scary for sales managers.

Two more reasons for ineffective sales management:

  1. Sales management is a full-time job but many sales managers who continue to sell, make it a part-time job.  Whether the choice to sell is theirs or management's, it's a bad choice because their first priority will always be their customers, their sales and their commissions.  Coaching, for development and to impact revenue, will be an afterthought.
  2. Executive Leadership often fails to understand what sales managers should really be doing with their time. As a result, they allow the sales managers to define their role, often resulting in less than ideal choices.

A couple of important links:

Hubspot Sales VP, Pete Caputa, compiled a great list of the top 33 sites for free sales and sales training videos.  Thanks for including me Pete!

An online war of words between me, a tech buyer who wrote an outrageous comment to my article on why more salespeople suck, and my readers exploded last week.  After I wrote an article in response to his comment about why he doesn't need salespeople, he wrote some very aggressive responses to the reader comments and the article and things got very interesting from there!  You can check out that lively discussion right here and please add your own comment to the page.  You might hear back from Todd!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, HubSpot, Sales Coaching, sales management functions, pete caputa, pipedrive, sales management role

4 Critical Changes to Go from Failure to Success in Sales Today

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 18, 2016 @ 13:07 PM

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Today I'm in Florida, preparing to speak at a company's national meeting.  Like many companies, they have not only realized that selling has changed dramatically, but that their salespeople may not have adapted, developed new skills, and changed the way they sell.  If you're a regular reader, active on LinkedIn or Social Media, then you have certainly read about the many ways that selling has changed.  But most senior executives haven't put two and two together yet.  They know that win rates are down and sales cycles are longer, they know it's more difficult than ever before, they see that their salespeople are struggling to meet quotas, but they don't realize the extent to which things have changed.  There are four critical requirements which, together are the difference between success and failure.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that we are talking about good salespeople, not bad ones.  There is an elite group of 7% - superstars - a larger group of an additional 16% that are fairly strong, and then the bottom 77% who suck.  We're going to talk about the changes that the top 23% need to make.  While the manner in which the bottom 77% approach selling can significantly change their results, there are issues other than those we will discuss here that limit their success.

1.  Value.  Since there is more competition than ever before and competition puts pressure on margins, it is more important than ever that salespeople have the ability to sell value.  Refer to this article for more on selling value today.  I just analyzed the data from nearly 8,000 OMG (Objective Management Group) sales candidate assessments from earlier this month.  I narrowed it down to 66% who have been in sales for 5 years or more and found that on average, these sales veterans possess only 62% of the attributes of a value seller.

2. Consultative Approach.  It is not possible to sell value unless it is integrated into a consultative approach to selling.  Refer to this article for more on a consultative approach, which helps you to tailor your solution and differentiate you and your company from the competition.  Today, salespeople possess, on average, only 48% of the attributes of Consultative Sellers.

3. Process.  If you can't sell value without a consultative approach, then the same can be said for the approach.  Value and a consultative approach will not work unless they are integrated into a formal, structured, staged, milestone-centric sales process.  Read this great article for more on sales process.  In surveys, most companies say they have a sales process in place. However, our sales force evaluations and sales candidate assessments reveal that salespeople possess, on average, only 52% of the attributes required for following a Sales Process.

4. Social.  Cold calling isn't dead but it is on life support.  It takes between 10-15 attempts to reach a decision maker and the conversion rates are falling like a piano dropped from the roof of a skyscraper.  Salespeople must be able to leverage their social networks, get introduced, and reach out to prospects via LinkedIn, Twitter and email to supplement the calls that they make.  Salespeople possess, on average, only 38% of the attributes of a Social Seller.  This one is worse than that score.  More than 1/3 of this group scored below 25%!

What Can You Do?  If you want to dramatically change and improve results, there are three things you can do.

  1. Bite the bullet and have a customized, optimized modern, staged, milestone-centric sales process created for you ASAP!
  2. Get your sales force trained and coached on the new process, a consultative approach to selling value, and social selling.
  3. Hire the right salespeople - those who already possess these capabilities!  The best selection tool is OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment.  Check out the free trial!

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

11 Ways You Can Quickly Increase Sales, Revenue and Profit

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 13, 2016 @ 14:07 PM

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Image Copyright 123RF Stock Photo

Verne Harnish is the President of Gazelles - the coaching organization that helps fast growth companies.  In addition to his best-selling books, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and his latest, Scaling Up, he writes the Weekly Insights, which I always read from top to bottom.  In his June 30 insights, Verne included a quote from Greg Brenneman, author of Right Away and All at Once - 5 Steps to Transform Your Business and Enrich Your Life.  Verne really liked Greg's emphasis on how to drive sales.  Greg says, "Empirical evidence shows that you get at least four times the market value for a dollar of profit that comes from revenue growth versus a dollar of profit that comes from cost reduction."  

Isn't that a great quote?  But it's more than a quote.  It's a blueprint!  Let's discuss some of the ways that you can achieve the desired revenue growth.

I have encountered far too many companies that expect their growth to come from acquisitions, or their increase in profit from cost-cutting and it never made any sense to me.  With as much data as we have at Objective Management Group (OMG), we didn't have that 4x data.  I love it!

So the question to ask is, how can any company organically increase its revenue, beginning today?

From 30,000 feet, there are eleven possibilities:

  • Expand your channel(s)
  • Add salespeople to your existing geography and/or territories
  • Replace under performing salespeople
  • Raise prices
  • Add products or product lines
  • Expand your geography and/or territory
  • Improve sales performance
  • Improve sales management effectiveness
  • Improve sales strategies
  • Improve sales systems and processes
  • Expand business within existing customers

From my 30 years of experience helping companies do many of these things, the easiest and fastest of these is the price increase.  Most companies handle price increases very poorly, over complicate it, ineffectively communicate it, and manage to somehow get their sales force distracted for months by this simple step.

I worked with one company in Los Angeles that everyone knows and visits and we needed to change three months of sales training where we were working on their consultative approach and refocus on how to deliver the message of the price increase.  All of that focus on price made them nervous, negative, and took them off message.  It would have been much more effective to simply ignore the change and handle it when customers asked!

Replacing under performing salespeople and adding salespeople works - but only if you are significantly better at hiring the new ones than you were at hiring the old ones.  If your recruiting and selection process haven't undergone significant changes, you might select salespeople who are even more ineffective than the salespeople being replaced!  Check out the leading sales candidate assessment to drastically improve sales selection.

Expanding business within existing customers is a lot more challenging for salespeople than it should be.  At this point in time they probably have great relationships and won't want to jeopardize those relationships by pushing for more, especially if the customer believes they are already buying as much as they can from you.  In this case their need to be liked is a huge weakness.  Read this article for more on how the need to be liked limits sales effectiveness.

Geographic and Channel Expansions are expensive and take time.  While they usually pay off in the long term, they suck up resources, spread the leadership team thin, and the move is often risky and frustrating.

Adding Products can open new doors and increase revenue from existing accounts.  However, your existing salespeople are typically creatures of habit and often struggle with new products.  You'll probably have to bring on new salespeople if you want new product lines to successfully add revenue to your top line.

Companies get the biggest bang for their buck when they focus on Improving overall sales performance, sales management effectiveness, sales strategies, systems and processes.  These tend to be some of the most cost-effective, fast-working, long-lasting changes a company can make to increase revenue.  Read this article and this article for more on Sales Process.  The most important thing to be aware of with this particular choice is that the improvements become an integral part of your sales culture and continue to pay dividends in the near and distant future.

There are several ways to achieve revenue growth but some will work 4 times better than others. 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, verne harnish, Rockefeller Habits, scaling up, greg brenneman

About Dave

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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