Why Sales Transformation Achieves Better Results Than Sales Training Alone

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 21, 2021 @ 19:01 PM

The Best 65-Inch TVs for 2021 | PCMag

You finally have that big new 4K flat screen mounted on your wall but now the movie you are streaming isn't sharp because your inconsistent internet connection negatively affects the resolution and the big screen makes it even more obvious.

Bringing it closer to sales, you invested in the CRM application you needed but your salespeople aren't using it the way you had hoped. As a result, you don't have realtime data to populate your dashboard and still don't know what's really going on with your sales organization, their pipeline and the forecast.

You brought in sales training but it didn't achieve the expected change because the training didn't address the bigger problems that went beyond selling skills.  You may not have realized that companies really need sales transformation and while sales training can be part of that transformation, on its own, it usually underperforms.

Why?

Sales training can provide Kay with the skills she needs but if you lack a customized, optimized sales process that Kay is required to follow, those skills can't be applied at the right time, for the right reason and in the right context. Sales managers, who are especially challenged when coaching salespeople, have even more difficulty when the coaching takes place outside of the sales process. Kay needs to be part of a sales transformation effort.

If Lee still wants to do everything his way and his sales manager isn't strong enough to make him do things the company's way, Lee will continue to perform inconsistently. Lee needs to be part of a sales transformation effort.

Bill continues to make promises, exceptions and claims that are inconsistent with what your product or services really do.  This causes problems and creates a lack of credibility.  Bill needs to be part of a sales transformation effort.

You can give Don the skills he needs but you lack a proper sales culture and Don has been allowed to whine and complain and act entitled.  If Don continues to engage in backstabbing, blaming others and fails to take responsibility when there are customer issues, that affects the company's brand and reputation which indirectly affects everyone else on the sales team.  Don needs to be part of a sales transformation effort.

Greg has self-limiting beliefs about the kind of conversation he can have with his prospects and doesn't believe the strategies and tactics in the sales training will work with his customers. Helping him requires a combination of advanced sales management coaching, stronger accountability, and being replaced could be in his future.  Greg needs to be part of a sales transformation.

If the team is struggling to get meetings with new prospects, that requires training in how to schedule new meetings, but may also require new messaging for those calls.  The customized messaging that is used throughout a sales cycle is part of a sales transformation.

The team is participating in training but still resisting putting those skills and strategies into practice. If your sales managers are part of that resistance, and/or ineffective at overcoming the resistance, it calls for sales transformation.

On its own, sales training is nice to have but doesn't change much and wastes time and money.  As part of a sales transformation effort, targeted, customized, sales training provides salespeople with the tools they need to more effectively do their part.

The key to identifying the parts of a sales transformation that need to be addressed is the OMG sales force evaluation.

I've written about sales force evaluations before and always find it extremely interesting to learn about the various challenges holding companies back.  Here are two must-read examples:

Did you read them?

Both articles should help you recognize that while sales training needed to be part of the solutions at each company, sales training alone would not have addressed the serious issues we uncovered.  If you think in terms of sales transformation then your sales organization, people, systems, processes and results will be transformed.

Topics: sales culture, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales training, sales evaluation, sales transformation

New Movie Has 3 Great Lessons for Salespeople and Sales Managers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 18, 2021 @ 16:01 PM

The Trial of the Chicago 7' is as timely as ever - The Stanford Daily

Among all the product shortages we have experienced in the past ten months, there has been no shortage of crappy movies.  It's almost like the movie studios decided to release all the movies filmed in the past several years that weren't ready for prime time and hope that people would stream them at home during the pandemic because we had watched everything else.

One exception to the crappiness of 2020 movies is The Trial of the Chicago 7.  This article is not a review of the movie but it was a terrific film and worth the time to watch it.  As good as this movie is, it comes with a bonus because it also provides three exceptional lessons for salespeople and sales managers.  Let's take a look!

It's Decided

How many times have you worked a sales opportunity when at some point late in the process you finally determined that the decision had already been made and it wasn't you? The prospect invited several competitors to engage, went through the motions, and led them to believe they had a chance. You may have been a better overall fit, had a better solution, more of the needed capabilities, a better warranty, been able to deliver more quickly, had better pricing and terms, better references and more. Despite all that, none of it was going to make a bit of difference because the key decision maker, who they wouldn't let you meet, had a relationship with someone at one of your competitors and for optics, your contact was tasked to involve three other companies.  Another version of this occurs when your contact is the decision maker but engages competitors so that the process has the appearances of being fair and objective to anyone who might be checking in on them.  In either scenario, the decision was made before you got involved and nothing that you said or did was going to change that decision.  In the movie, the judge went through the motions of the months-long trial but it didn't matter how much proof of innocence the defense provided because the judge refused to let any of it be heard.  Someone above him had already decided what the outcome of this trial would be. 

The lesson is that if you are going to fail, you must fail early!  That requires thorough qualifying and inspection as to where you stand versus your competitors, questions and statements that most salespeople fail to ask,  like:

  • In my experience, when a potential customer won't let me meet the decision maker it's usually a pretty good indicator that I won't be getting the business
  • Decision makers for our solutions usually have a strong existing relationship with companies like mine, and Jim (the decision-maker) doesn't have a relationship with us, so who does he have a relationship with?
  • I'm getting the feeling that even if we can prove that we have a superior solution, you won't be working with us

According to the data from Objective Management Group (OMG) and the 2,051,794 salespeople they have assessed, 59% of all salespeople can't ask those questions because their need to be liked prevents them from asking a question that could cause their prospect to no longer like them.

See OMG's data here, filter by industry, see how your salespeople compare.

You're a Pawn

How many times have you worked a sales opportunity where your prospect was so interested that they requested a proposal or quote earlier than you expected?  You probably believed that you had a really strong opportunity, thought this would be an easy one and forecast it to close within 30 days.  Unfortunately, your prospect had an incumbent vendor that they planned to retain but needed the extra quotes to either make it appear that they collected three quotes or they were trying to keep the incumbent honest.  Had you quoted the lowest price, the business wouldn't have gone to you; they would have shown the quote to the incumbent and demanded that they match it if they wanted to keep the business.  In this scenario, you were being exploited. In the movie, the first two jurors that were sympathetic to the defense were removed under false pretenses.

The lesson is that when a prospect moves too quickly to a quote or proposal, you need to ask better qualifying questions, like:

  • Who do you usually buy this from? (XYZ)
  • Why didn't you call them?  (We wanted to explore our options)
  • In my experience, companies that are happy with who they are using don't usually take the time to look for options.  (They get defensive)
  • Why did you call us? (You were on the list)

They will probably tell you that yes, they are happy, but if you come in with a better price they would consider moving the business to you.  THAT'S YOUR CUE CARD!  It's not a sign that they're about to buy from you; it's a sign that they're NOT going to buy from you.  You should immediately say, "Based on experience, it sounds like you just need a quote to keep the other guys honest."  If you're face to face I suggest writing a random number on a napkin and handing the napkin to them.  If you are virtual, you can email them the same thing.  The point is, don't take the time to work up a quote, and don't take the time to produce a proposal. Just say, "No thank you." 

According to more of OMG's data, only 30% of salespeople have selling value as a strength.  Additionally, only 36% are able to control their emotions and at this point the sales conversation calls for staying calm and selling value.  Most salespeople lose the business because of the value selling skill gap and weakness controlling emotions.

See OMG's data here, filter by industry, see how your salespeople compare

For Sales Managers - The Expert Debrief

In one scene of the movie, the defense attorney was cross-examining the assistant to the mayor, a witness who said he was offered $100,000 to issue a permit to protest, and the request was a bribe, not a joke as the attorney suggested.  The attorney asked a bunch of questions that sounded something like this (it's from memory so the words that come after "when you called" might not all be exactly what was said):

  • When you called the US Attorney General what did he say?  (I didn't call him)
  • When you called the FBI what did they say? (I didn't call them)
  • When you called the Attorney General of Illinois what did he say? (I didn't call him)
  • When you called the State Police what did they say? (I didn't call them)
  • When you called the Chicago Police what did they say? (I didn't call them)
  • When you told the mayor what did he say? (I didn't tell him)
  • So if you didn't tell anyone then you must have believed the offer to be a joke.

This is absolutely the most powerful way to debrief salespeople.  Assume they did what they were supposed to do by asking, "When you asked what it was about their current vendor that they were unhappy with what did they say?" Continue to ask questions using, "When you asked..." about everything they should have asked until your salesperson says, "I didn't ask that."  Then you can learn whether it's because the salesperson didn't know to ask that question or knew to ask but was uncomfortable asking.  And finally, why was the salesperson uncomfortable.  Then, and only then, does the coaching actually begin and it begins with a role play! 

More of OMG's data says that only 7% of all sales managers can debrief, coach and role play effectively.

See OMG's data here, filter by industry, see how your salespeople compare

If you want to learn to coach like that - and there are so many examples of how to properly debrief and coach, join me for my annual public (virtual this year) 3-day Sales Leadership Intensive from May 19-21.  Register here. You'll be glad you did!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Sales Coaching, asking questions, selling tips, sales lessons, chicago 7

Are Sales Managers Coaching More Frequently Now That Everyone is at Their Desks?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 14, 2021 @ 06:01 AM

coach

Nearly a year into the Pandemic, most salespeople have adapted to selling over video.  But how are sales managers doing at adapting to coaching their sales force over video?  Inquiring minds want to know.

We know how sales managers were doing before the pandemic.  It wasn't very good and I wrote about it here.  The data in that November article was for the last 10 years.  What do you think would be different if I filtered the data to show only the last six months of 2020, the time during which sales managers should have already made changes?  Do you think it got better, worse, or stayed the same?

Let's find out.

I won't even show you the data.  It remained the same.  But why?

The data doesn't answer the "why" question but observation can.  I still work with clients so I have some anecdotal observations I can share.  As recently as November, most sales managers were still making excuses for not coaching their salespeople more often despite coaching conditions being better than ever.

When salespeople were out in the field, sales leaders used that as an excuse as to why they didn't coach more frequently. "They are not in the office and I'm not in the field with them this week so it's really hard to coach them."  Last year that changed to, "They are making calls and having Zoom meetings so it's really hard to coach them."

How difficult is it to join a phone call or a Zoom meeting and then debrief it?  And with coaching platforms like Refract, calls can be made from the platform, recorded into the platform, and sales managers can coach to it later. With sales leaders at their desks too these conditions make it easier than ever to create coaching time! 

Clearly, the time and location excuse no longer works and was never the real issue.  So what is the real issue?

There is no actual data to back up what I'm going to say but I believe that the real issue is that sales managers are petrified of actual coaching.  Oh they'll have conversations about opportunities and suggest strategies but that isn't coaching.  Coaching is when they conduct opportunity reviews as described here.  Or when they role play as described here.  Both scenarios require sales leaders to challenge themselves and their salespeople and the combination of discomfort and ignorance around those two topics is daunting.

I can help.  My annual Sales Leadership Intensive will be held virtually on May 19-21, 2021- three five-hour days - and we focus on one major topic.  Coaching. How to do it correctly, how often, for how long, how to impact deals, how to coach up salespeople, how to role-play effectively, how to get salespeople wanting more, how to pre-call strategize, how to post-call debrief, how to use technology, and more.  Attendees LOVE this training - especially the time we spend listening and dissecting actual coaching conversations!  You can learn more here.  Register here.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, Sales Coaching, sales management training, sales coaching summit, sales managerment, sales management course

My Prediction - What's in Store for Sales Teams in 2021?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jan 08, 2021 @ 11:01 AM

prediction2021

When I made my predictions for 2020 I'm pretty sure I didn't predict a pandemic.  Making predictions isn't easy. 

In the US, sales teams are coming off three robust years of sales growth and while revenue was up during that time, the percentage of salespeople hitting quotas was not.  That means the top 20% were not only carrying the load, they carried more of the load.

That dynamic growth hit an iron barrier last spring when COVID became the unexpected economic disrupter, but the second half comeback was quite impressive.  What does 2021 have in store for those of us in the sales world?  In the US, how will Democrat control of all three branches of government affect sales and selling?  And how long before that kicks in?

Americans can't be certain that threats to pack the supreme court, make DC a state, and change the rules will come to fruition, but the incoming administration has been very clear about their intent to quickly increase taxes, especially on corporations and people with annual income of more than $400,000.  Given the ambitious progressive agenda they wish to implement and the enormous cost - trillions of dollars we don't have - it's likely that the tax increase will include the middle class too.  How will that affect our ability to sell stuff for at least the next two years?

Their progressive agenda, some anti-capitalist cabinet appointments, and Biden's history of coziness with China suggest that the next two years will not be very business-friendly.  Tax increases lead to reduced spending by corporations, small businesses, and consumers.  Lay-offs come next as companies scramble to do more with less.  Sound familiar?  That was the new normal from 2008-2016 so what's old is new again.

That said, we can be sure of three things thanks to the ripple effect of a China-friendly administration, a massive tax increase and lay-offs: 

  1. Imports from China will be on the rise and that means increased competition from low-cost competitors. 
  2. There will be increased pressure on sales teams to boost revenue and profit to compensate for the cost of the tax increases.
  3. Companies will be significantly more restrained about what they purchase from sellers.

See the challenge?  While sellers will be under tremendous pressure to generate additional revenue, the very companies on which they rely for revenue will be more resistant to buying and more price conscious than ever!  

There's more.

With Democrats in control, fear about the new strain of COVID, and the vaccine still months away for most people, it's likely that many more states besides California will be back in a lockdown.  If the new lockdown is anything like the last year's lockdown, the shit show known as 2020 will be back for an encore performance.

You can't endure lockdowns, tax increases, lay-offs and Chinese imports and expect selling to resemble anything routine or easy.

Salespeople will fail.  Objective Management Group's (OMG) data on 2,050,385 salespeople shows that the bottom 50% lack the selling skills to handle resistance, competition, and price sensitivity.  This screen shot represents the percentage of salespeople who have these ten tactical selling competencies as strengths.  See all 21 Sales Core Competencies here.

Mastery of these 10 selling competencies is required for times like these but as mentioned above, fewer than half of all salespeople have them as strengths.  We know that the top 20% of all salespeople generate 80% of the revenue so if the bottom 50% are going to fail, that will either reduce revenue by 20%, or place even more pressure on top producers to compensate for the shortfall.  Neither option is a winning strategy.

That leaves two viable strategies:

  1. Evaluate and train the ever living crap out of them.  OMG's sales force evaluation will identify the areas in which each salesperson needs help in all 21 Sales Core Competencies and then training and coaching can be targeted.  Typically, around 65% will improve but it may take 8-16 months! 
  2. Replace them with top performers. OMG's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments will help you identify and select those who will succeed in your roles but it won't eliminate the need for on-boarding and you still have to allow for ramp-up time (the length of your learning curve plus the length of your sales cycle plus 30 days).

There is always one more option.  Hide under your desk, hope that things work themselves out, and that you won't have to do anything different.  We already know from last year how that option worked out!  Companies that asked for help during March, April and May of 2020 had absolutely rocking, kick-ass fourth quarters.  By the time the US began reopening during the middle of the year, those who didn't ask for help earlier were so far behind the 8-ball, they were no longer in a position to even pay for the help they so desperately needed.

What will you do to make sure that 2021 is a growth year?

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales training, sales evaluation, sales predictions, 2021, democrats in control

2021 Challenge:  Put a Little Beatles Into Your Selling!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 04, 2021 @ 16:01 PM

beatles2

Although it's been more than 50 years since Paul McCartney announced the break up of The Beatles, I am fairly certain that regardless of your age and geographic location, you know who The Beatles were and have heard at least one of their songs, even if the one you listened to was recorded by another artist.  Most of you probably know dozens of Beatles tunes!

During the holiday break I was listening to the Beatles channel (18) on SiriusXM radio and it helped me to realize just how similar the Beatles are to selling!

Their songs were timeless. In the last decade alone, Beatles songs were covered by 186 artists!

Their song-writing system was repeatable as they focused on their titles, beats per minute (BPM), choruses, rhythms and rhymes.

They were memorable.  Everyone knows John, Paul, George and Ringo - in that order.  And most people knew the words to their favorite Beatles songs.

They were incredibly likable!

You only needed to hear a song once to love it, like, "She Loves You."

Their songs told stories, like, "In My Life."

Their songs had calls-to-action, like, "Get Back."

Their songs asked questions, like, "Do you want to know a secret?"

The only thing that would make the Beatles different today is technology.  The sound quality would be SO much better.  It wouldn't change their songs but the songs would sound better.  It wouldn't eliminate the work they did to write the songs but they would get the songs transcribed and notated more quickly.  They would still have to record their music but the recording would be digital which would make mixing much easier.

Isn't this all pretty much the same as sales?  Let's take a run-through.

People have been selling for centuries - it's timeless.

Only since the time of the Beatles have more formal selling approaches, systems and processes been developed.

The best sales processes are repeatable and deliver repeatable results.  See Baseline Selling.

The best salespeople are memorable.

The best salespeople are very likable.

The best salespeople are great story-tellers.

The best salespeople have calls-to-action.

The best salespeople ask great questions.

And that brings us to technology.  All that technology that the best salespeople use, like video, CRM, document signing, calendar applications, email, social selling, and more make salespeople more efficient.  The technology doesn't do the selling or make anyone a better salesperson, but it does replace the rolodex, index cards, printed agreements, paper calendars and literature.

As I completed writing this article I was overcome with a feeling of Deja Vu.  Sure enough, I have tackled the Beatles before!  I'm embarrassed to say that my search revealed that I wrote a very comprehensive article on how The Beatles taught us to sell as recently as August of 2019!  Back in 2010 I included The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones in an article about differentiation as a way to close big deals.

One thing that mediocre salespeople seem so unwilling to do is practice.  Malcom Gladwell, in his book, Outliers, wrote that The Beatles had performed for 10,000 hours prior to becoming an overnight sensation.  As a result, The Beatles gave one the sense that performing their songs was effortless.  Great salespeople have seemingly effortless yet consequential conversations with their prospects but that ease and comfort also come from more than 10,000 hours of practice as they attempt to fine tune and improve their performance.

A challenge for 2021?  Put a little Beatles into your selling!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, selling tips, Malcom Gladwell, the beatles

Key to Successfully Hiring Salespeople: Getting it Right Versus Getting it Over With

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 21, 2020 @ 08:12 AM

8 Ways You May Be Washing Your Hair Wrong | Shape

I'll get to the content related to the title, but first, some context.

In March, at the beginning of the pandemic, I wasn't paying attention to where I was walking and slammed my big toe into a door.  I destroyed the nail. Not wanting to lose it I superglued it back in place and several months after it turned black, it fell off, revealing an emerging new nail that had grown half way to the tip of my toe.  It took 8 months for a new nail to fully replace the old nail but my replacement nail was perfect and clearly an upgrade over my tired, old, destroyed nail.  

Let's discuss what that has to do with hiring salespeople.

There are typically two approaches to hiring salespeople: choosing between getting it over with, or getting it right. 

Getting it over with involves a lot of short cuts, and in more than 50% of the cases, disappointment and frustration because you got it wrong.  If you got it wrong there are two more options: living with it or taking the shampoo approach: rinse and repeat.

It's a vicious cycle of hiring the wrong way, making the wrong decisions, needing to start over, and repeating the process again and again and again. Groundhog day.  It can take months or even years before you get the right salesperson into that role.

On the other hand, what would happen if you took the broken nail approach?  Sure, it might take longer, but instead of just getting it over with and dealing with the consequences of your choice, you choose getting it right and being done for the long term.

What does getting it right involve?

  • A well thought-out repeatable sales recruiting process
  • Role Specific criteria for success
  • Well-worded job posting on the right job sites using the right parameters (like Indeed)
  • Applicant Tracking system (like RecruiterBox for hiring  up to a few or the BigGuys for bigger projects)
  • Accurate and Predictive sales-specific assessment that is customized to your criteria (like OMG)
  • Scoring system (for objectivity)
  • Great interviewing skills (to challenge every claim on their resume)
  • Patience (waiting for the ideal candidate rather than the first one you like enough to hire)
  • Discipline (no skipping steps)
  • Thorough onboarding (a formal 90-day onboarding program)

A sales manager at an OMG client told a candidate they were going to move forward subject to the results of the OMG assessment.  The sales manager's approach was a huge mistake.  He interviewed prior to assessing when he should have assessed first. He fell in love with a candidate, but still had to assess because it was company policy. That suggested to the candidate that the assessment was the defining criteria when in reality, the assessment is one of around a dozen additional data points that all matter, including, but not limited to cover letters, resumes, experience, expertise, fit, phone presence, interviews, references, intelligence, professionalism, respect, employment tenure, and background checks.  The sales manager raised the candidate's expectations only to destroy those expectations and get upset when the assessment did not recommend the candidate.  You must know that BEFORE you waste everyone's time interviewing and getting emotional!  

Recruiting salespeople doesn't need to be difficult or complicated, but it is a process and needs to be completed thoroughly and correctly.  Ask yourself this question: eighteen months from now, would you prefer to have spent five months to get it right and have a productive new salesperson, or three months getting it over with, only to have to do it again four months later, and again four months after that.  Choose getting it right over getting it over with.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, sales recruiting, HR, human resources, sales leadership, hiring salespeople, sales assessements

The Nutcracker in 2020 and 3 Critical Year-End Lessons for Salespeople and Their Managers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 15, 2020 @ 17:12 PM

nutcrackers

Two Holiday traditions in one.  In mid-December each year, my family spends the weekend in Boston and we enjoy the Boston Ballet's performance of the Nutcracker.  At the same time each year I repost a seasonal favorite, an article I first wrote in 2010 with 3 great sales lessons from the Nutcracker.  Please read my original post because it's one of my best analogy articles ever!

But this is 2020 and everything is different. That is as true for the ballet as it is for my article.  So while we won't be in Boston, we will stream a performance on TV and while there may not be any in-person sales calls, virtual sales calls can be quite satisfying in December.  Today's article explores the three most likely December scenes in which you may find yourself as well as what you must watch for.

Scene 1 - The Year-End Discount - Chances are you have some closable opportunities that have been clogging up your pipeline for a while. Your prospects are just waiting for you or your sales manager to call and offer year-end numbers to which they can't possibly say "no."  If you sold it incorrectly, didn't uncover their compelling reason to buy, didn't provide the kind of value that differentiates you from your competitors, and your offering is merely nice to have, and not a must have, a discount is probably the only way you'll win this business in December.  You could opt to hold the line on price but one of your competitors will certainly offer the big incentive before the year ends so if you hold your ground, and they don't have a compelling reason to choose you at the higher price, over your competitor at a lower price, you certainly won't close this business this month.  It's a reasonable penalty for not selling it correctly but performing the old song and dance instead.

Scene 2 - Money to Spend - You might also come across some fairly new opportunities that are moving quickly because the company has money in their budget that must be spent prior to the end of the year.  Money to spend and moving quickly might be music to your ears, but the reality is that it could cause your opportunity to spiral out of control.  When your prospect is moving more quickly than you are accustomed, the tendency is to move at their speed instead of slowing things down.  When you match their speed, the sales cycle becomes completely transactional, you fail to differentiate, and your conversation inevitably becomes all about price, causing an encore performance of the year-end discount.

Scene 3 - The RenewalSome of your customers are approaching contract renewal time and you certainly want to avoid an intermission.  With this being 2020, the year when everything that can go wrong will, customers who have renewed without issue in prior years may be seeking pricing relief this time around. Your competitors have been talking with them for the past 60 days and making offers that sound too good to be true.  Unless you have a great relationship, provided value for which they are truly appreciative, find you indispensable, and believe that there is risk in moving to a competitor, you are in danger of losing their business unless you cave to their price demands.

The theme common to all three scenes is that most opportunities are not being sold and managed correctly.  As we approach the New Year and contemplate our goals for 2021, upping your sales game to master these capabilities should be at the top of your list.  You should be indispensable to your prospects and customers and it should be obvious to them as you lead them through your sales process.

I will be posting two more articles before I shut it down for 2020 so stay tuned.

Image copyright 123RF

My Dog Has Better Listening Skills Than Most Salespeople and I'll Prove It

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Dec 10, 2020 @ 06:12 AM

listening2

Short article today.  Prospects don't pay a lot of attention so the less you say the better.  It helps them listen and comprehend more of what you share with them when you use fewer words.  But prospects aren't the only ones who don't listen.  Salespeople don't listen very well either.  As a matter of fact, my dog has better listening skills than most salespeople because my dog knows what to listen for. Don't believe me?  I'll prove it in the video below.

For an overwhelming majority of salespeople, I can't even use "listening" and "salespeople" in the same sentence. That's because they either:

  • don't listen because they are so busy talking
  • hear but aren't really listening
  • listen but aren't listening for the right things
  • listen for the right things but don't ask the appropriate follow up questions to leverage what was said

According to Objective Management Group's (OMG) data on the evaluation and assessment of 2,040,738 salespeople, only 27% of all salespeople listen effectively.  Looking at the top 5% of all salespeople, only 57% of that elite group listens effectively. Only 10% of the bottom half and 0% of the bottom 10% listen effectively.

Listening is the one selling skill that salespeople find most difficult to understand and improve.  If you can't actively listen, then how can you ask the appropriate follow up question?  If you can't ask follow up questions because you don't know which question to ask next, then you'll find yourself explaining, educating, presenting, and wasting time because most prospects simply aren't interested in having salespeople regurgitate what they can find online in a couple of clicks.  And if that's what salespeople end up doing on sales calls, it becomes a transactional, price-driven conversation instead of a value-based, consultative conversation.

Watch how well my dog listens in this enjoyable one-minute video.

In the spring of 2017, we brought Dinger home as a puppy and I wrote this article explaining why he is so much easier to train than most salespeople. 

I don't understand why companies and their salespeople still claim to have competitive pricing.  It's a race to the bottom because no matter what you tell me, in your industry, vertical, territory, area of expertise, and product category, there can be only a single company that will have the lowest price and it's not going to be you!  How do I know?  If you had the lowest price you wouldn't be reading articles on how to become more effective.  Instead, you would be quite content taking orders from the buyers who only buy from the company with the lowest price

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, listening skills, questioning skills, dog

How a Mug of Dunkin Can Help You More Effectively Sell Value

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Dec 09, 2020 @ 08:12 AM

Amazon.com: In case of accident my blood type is dunkin donuts Cheap  lasunandsport Mug Coffee Mug Gift Coffee Mug 11OZ Coffee Mug: Kitchen &  Dining

I won't suggest that a cup of Dunkin coffee will make you more alert and more effective.  It's much more helpful than that.

This is another Bob story. Bob was on a sales call and the prospect told him that they were looking for the lowest price.  I hope you hate it when that happens.  It's a bad thing because while Bob was supposed to be selling value, a price-based conversation is transactional yet he's supposed to be taking a consultative approach to support the value he provides.  Would you like to guess what Bob did instead?  Yup, he got them his best price.  Ugh!

So what should Bob have done instead to turn this around and not waste everyone's time?

There are four things that Bob should have done and he must do them in the proper sequence:.

  • First, lower resistance - Bob needs to acknowledge that he heard them and say, "I understand."  Then he can leave it alone.  He has lowered their resistance and that was the goal.  He can come back to this topic later.
  • Uncover their compelling reason to buy - Bob can't sell value if he doesn't know their compelling reason to buy, buy now, and buy from him instead of his competitor.  This is the most important thing to focus on because if he doesn't uncover that reason and create urgency, he won't be able to provide and sell value, and neutralize their stated goal to buy at the lowest price.
  • Monetize their compelling reason - problems have consequences, including operational, functional, conceptual, emotional, economic, and perceived consequences.  These consequences must be monetized to include hard costs, cost of time lost, cost of not solving the problem, the gain from solving the problem, etc.  This is where value actually comes from! Bob must take the time to walk his prospect through what the problem really costs.
  • Sell Value - Bob must ask if, in order to solve the (cost that was calculated) problem the right way, they are willing to spend a little more with him.  If yes, he can ignore their lowest price comment because he successfully sold his value.  If not, he must learn whether they always buy this way or just this time.  For example, if they claim to always buy this way, he can find the weak link in that behavior.  Do they ever get coffee at Dunkin' Donuts? Really?  How often?  Why are they paying around $2 for a medium cup of coffee from Dunkin when It costs only 88 cents to make it using a DD K Cup in a Keurig machine, and only 30 cents to make a mug yourself using DD ground coffee that you buy for between $8-$10/pound.  They are paying as much as 650% more for the value of not having to make it themselves.  Now Bob has precedent that they don't always look for the lowest price.  He could also use a car analogy.  Most of the people you are selling to are not driving Kia's or low-end Fords, Chevy's and Chryslers.  They paid more for a better car! Analogies are great for changing perceptions.

Selling value has nothing to do with sharing value propositions, telling people why it's better to do business with you or trying to meet a competitors's price. Those approaches take away from value and make you sound just like everyone else.  Selling value is about being valuable to them!

Dunkin has made it into my Blog a lot, having written about them four previous times:

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, selling tips, sales tips, selling value, dunkin, lowering resistance

The $225,000 Selling Mistake Most Salespeople Make

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 07, 2020 @ 07:12 AM

big-mistake

I'm going to share the story of a real salesperson and his current, real opportunity, but change the names of everyone involved.  I hear stories like this every day but this particular one happens way too often.

2 months ago, Bob agreed to a $25,000 pilot for an enterprise size company generating billions in revenue.  At the time, he was told a successful pilot would lead to much more business in 2021.  Last week he excitedly shared that the company was very happy with the results of their pilot to date, and they asked Bob to prepare a business case for exponentially increasing the size and scope of their spend.  The future purchase would be north of $250,000.

While colleagues and supervisors shared their enthusiasm for this exciting moment, my first reaction was, "And why do you think this is good news?" 

"Dave, you're so negative."

I was asked to explain why I felt that way because Bob and his team believed that this was clearly a positive development.  I pointed out that the request to prepare a business case was nothing more than a request for (another) proposal and Bob would once again need to prove and convince the company that doing business with them would provide value, create ROI, and justify the tenfold increase in spend.

The response from Bob's team?  "Good point."

This IS the customer moving forward, but only moving forward to resume their discussions as to whether to or not to move forward with an increase in spend.  One more time. The only thing moving forward is a resumption of the discussion about moving forward.  I did not hear anything about decisions, commitments, intent, budgets, terms, agreements, contracts, PO's, timelines, or closing dates.  The only thing certain, is that Bob can open the opportunity in his CRM application and place a checkmark to indicate that the pilot was successfully completed.  Check! The opportunity did not advance in any other measurable or meaningful way because he is right back where he was in October when he proposed the same solution only to settle for 10% of the business in the form of this pilot.  They weren't convinced then, and apparently, still aren't convinced. 

There are a few issues here:

  • The pilot was not sold correctly - When Bob agreed to the mini-pilot, there should have been a very clear understanding of what exactly would constitute success; and if he met the criteria for a successful pilot, what exactly would happen next.  If the "next" step is anything other than easily and automatically transitioning to the larger order, then Bob should not have begun the pilot.
  • The salesperson had happy ears - When the customer asked Bob to prepare another business case for 2021, Bob should not have been so eager to facilitate.  Instead, he should have asked why they were asking for another business case since he did that prior to the pilot.  Bob should have also asked what they were looking for in the business case, who would be reviewing it, and what would happen after it was reviewed.  If Bob hears anything other than "we'll be signing an agreement" it's a no-go on the new business case/proposal.
  • The sales manager did not push back - Given the poorly executed expectations and next steps prior to the pilot, and the new request for a proposal, the sales manager should have pushed back hard and not allowed either the pilot or the business case to move forward without a better understanding of timelines, next steps and commitments.

This story is not unusual in any way.  Scenarios like this occur at an alarming rate throughout each day at companies across the spectrum of more than 200 industries.  Even good salespeople make mistakes like these and ineffective sales managers allow them to happen time and time again.  Great salespeople, who make up the top 5% of the sales population, never allow scenarios like this to take place.  Weak salespeople, who make up the bottom 50%, always allow scenarios like this to occur.

The story I shared here is just one example of the ripple effect from lack of quality sales training and coaching, and lack of effective sales management.  Much of this could be solved with improved sales selection - hiring the right sales managers and salespeople to begin with.  The rest can be solved with a sales force evaluation to identify the core issues and gaps, and then the right training to better prepare the sales team to execute when they find themselves in scenarios like these.

Image Copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, closing, selling tips, sales managerment, sales milestones, terms, pilot

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

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