20 Lessons from a 10-Year Sales Blogger

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 16, 2015 @ 06:04 AM

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When my COO, John Pattison, had an excited look on his face, I thought he had a great new idea for a product enhancement.  Instead, he said, "Did you know that this week is the 10th Anniversary of your Blog?"  I didn't.  He also pointed out that I had written and posted 1,236 articles, generated more than 562,000 views directly on my blog and perhaps double or triple that number when you include syndication.  So what have I learned about blogging and how can that help you?

  1. The Blog is a lead generating machine!
  2. Readers are loyal and some are likely to become clients after reading for a while.
  3. For every reader that becomes a client, there are 100 more that consume all the free content I can generate.
  4. My better articles (my perspective) get fewer views and shares while some of my less worthy articles (again, my perspective), like this one, get shared and viewed more than they deserve.
  5. Readers enjoy my real world analogies. Whether about baseball, kids, weather, food or music, they seem to resonate.
  6. Views are higher when I follow a predictable posting schedule.
  7. When articles have lots of links to other articles or sites, those links are far less likely to get clicked than when they have one or two links.
  8. My primary audience is a CEO, President, VP Sales or Sales Manager.  When I write a general sales article, those are more widely read than when I write for my primary audience.
  9. I usually write about something recently experienced or witnessed.  I don't need to get creative because the analogy, case history, example or lesson is usually right in front of me.
  10. It only takes about 20 minutes to write an article like this.
  11. When I write about sales tools, secrets, or tips, it's more likely that someone will click a call-to-action.
  12. When I write about sales force evaluations, sales candidate assessments, or sales process, it's less likely that someone will click a call-to-action.
  13. I enjoy writing my Blog because it's therapeutic.
  14. Others can't fathom my seemingly limitless volume of content.
  15. I usually have as many as 8-10 future article titles and concepts ready to go at any given time.
  16. It seemed to take forever - 5 years or so - before I had a visible, viable Blog with a strong readership.
  17. People don't comment as much as they used to.
  18. People are more likely to tweet an article or share it on LinkedIn and comment in their tweet or share.
  19. When I try to write to get a specific outcome (i.e. views, shares, CTA's or comments), I am certain to fail.  When I simply write what's on my mind, it works really well.
  20. My 20 minutes are up!

Blogging can help you get found, build an audience of followers, and a source of new customers or clients.  With a million new Blog posts a day, it's harder than ever to get readership for a new one, but if you're original, entertaining and enjoyable, your early readers will share it with others and help you build an audience of future customers.

More Junk Sales Science in HBR Blog

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Apr 14, 2015 @ 15:04 PM

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What do donuts, chips, cake and ice cream have in common with some of the articles that are written and published about salespeople, sales selection and assessments? That's right, they are all junk and junk is bad for you to consume. Over the years, there has been no better source of junk science written about sales and salespeople than the reputable Harvard Business Review Blog. Recently, they put out another absurdly awful piece, this one written by sales consultant, Steve Martin. As most of these articles do, "What Separates the Strongest Salespeople from the Weakest" attempts to use personality and conditions to differentiate the two groups. This comes on the heels of another horrible article I called out in March 2015, which led to this amazing epic debate on the science of sales, sales assessments, and sales selection. This is why this latest HBR article is yet another example of junk science.The sample size of his research was 800 salespeople plus more than 1,000 interviews he has conducted. In this case, his research consists of a survey, and surveys are not a source of qualitative or quantitative data. As far as the interviews go, if each salesperson was asked identical questions, then they actually would be surveys, and if they were asked different questions, then it's not scientific! Compare his sample size to the nearly 1 million salespeople that we have assessed at Objective Management Group (OMG).

He said the information provides interesting insights.  Insights are opinions - a far cry from the conclusions that come from science.

He identified 6 differentiators:

Verbal Acuity - Martin said that top performers were more articulate and communicated their messages more effectively - 11th and 12th grade skills versus 8th and 9th grade skills. I agree that words are important, messaging is crucial, and presenting in a way that works for the prospect is critical. But it's not about scores in English composition. It's about being concise, simple, and targeted - things that can happen only when salespeople have good listening skills. We've all seen articulate salespeople fail, and we've all seen simple-minded salespeople succeed. 11th and 12th grade communication skills are not predictive and not what should be measured. We should be measuring listening and questioning skills. Top salespeople are great listeners and ask great questions. Those two capabilities cannot only be measured, but they are the causation for verbal acuity .

Achievement Oriented Personality - Martin said that 85% exhibited this personality, which included Goal Orientation, participation in high school sports, and being power users of CRM.  These behaviors are symptomatic, not sources of causation. We all know salespeople who bury themselves in technology, played sports and are goal-oriented, but who can't sell space heaters in Alaska.  At OMG, we measure Strong Desire for Sales Success, and Strong Commitment for sales success, along with Motivation for sales success.  This is not the catchall finding of Drive, but sales-specific measures which are responsible for the behaviors that Martin observed. In the end, for findings to be useful, we must be measuring the right things!

Situational Dominance - He talks of the salesperson who is relaxed and able to guide the conversation. Maybe. But you can't measure that. What you can measure, and what is proven to accomplish the same outcome as the customer taking the salesperson's advice, are Consultative Selling Skills. Martin said test scores for situational dominance were 20% higher for top-performing salespeople, but that's not a big difference. When we look at consultative selling skills, there is a huge delta between top and bottom performers. The general population has on average 21% of the attributes of a consultative seller. The top 26% of all salespeople have more than 56% of those attributes, while the bottom 74% have fewer than 12%!

Inward Pessimism - Martin said that 2/3 of the top performers had inward pessimism. We might be in alignment on this one. We call it healthy skepticism or not being too trusting - not accepting at face value that which a prospect says. According to OMG's statistics, 86% of all salespeople are too trusting, but only 56% of the top performers have the healthy skepticism. I agree that Inward Pessimism is measurable and found in top performers, but his number is not consistent with OMG's data.  Additionally, when this finding is combined with an individual that does not need to be liked, and who has over-the-top assertiveness, we have an individual who comes across as condescending and arrogant - not someone we would want selling for us!

Sales Management Impact - I'm sorry, but sales management impact is not a differentiator between top- and bottom-performing salespeople.  If it were, a sales manager would not have both top- and bottom-performing salespeople!   Sales managers can have a tremendous impact on sales performance overall, especially when they spend half of their time coaching, and when their coaching skills are top-notch, but in most cases, the top salespeople became top salespeople independent of the sales manager.

Sales Organization Influence - Martin stated that 39% of top performers versus 23% of bottom performers were held accountable. That is not a very big difference. Of greater significance is that he said 60% of the top performers are not being held accountable, meaning that the top performers are likely to perform regardless of whether or not they are being held accountable. Being a top performer is not sales organization dependent!

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There are significant differences between top and bottom performers, but you won't find them in the HBR article or any others like them.  With nearly 1 million rows of data, across more than 200 industries with sales organizations of every size, shape and configuration, the differences reported by OMG between top and bottom sales performers can be seen in both a macro and micro view.  And our data does not come from surveys or interviews!

From a macro view, we can look at OMG's Sales Quotient. This score, between 0 and 173, weighs 4 findings that make up a salesperson's will to sell, the 5 most important Sales DNA findings, and the 6 most important Selling Competencies.  The elite 6% of sales performers have Sales Quotients of 140 and higher.  The next 20% have Sales Quotients above 129, and the remaining 74% typically underperform.

From a micro view, each finding (over 100) is sales-specific, and together, they are extremely predictive of sales success. Unlike personality and behavioral styles assessments where the names of the findings are modified to appear (marketing) as if they actually measure sales skills and behaviors, OMG actually does.

But don't take my word for this, experience it for yourself. A sales force evaluation provides you with answers to 26 difficult to answer questions about your business and the sales force that is your economic engine. OMG's award-winning sales candidate assessments will accurately identify only those salespeople who will succeed in the particular role you have identified for them.

It's important to differentiate between the best and the worst, but you need the right tools to help. Without those tools, you'll find yourself coming up with insignificant differentiators like those identified in the HBR article, or in the Epic Debate. Stay with science and you can't go wrong. Follow faulty conclusions and you'll have more hit or miss sales selection results with an emphasis on miss.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, harvard business review, hbr blog, sales selection, sales science, objective management group

Top 3 Keys to Convert Phone Calls to Meetings

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 06, 2015 @ 11:04 AM

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I had just finished speaking in Bozeman, Montana and was sitting in a delicious little breakfast cafe (think cowboy truck stop). That's when I was asked to explain how to maintain control of a cold call.  Well, the environment screamed rodeo, my inner voice yelled riding and taming a bull, but my voice of reason began talking about the concept of flow, patience, listening and staying in the moment.  

There are really only three primary things required to keep a call going long enough to get a disinterested prospect engaged:

  1. Road Signs. Where I live in Massachusetts, we call them rotaries, but in most places, they are called traffic circles or roundabouts.  The premise is that there is no such thing as a wrong turn in a traffic circle. The world is round, so instead of fighting to reverse direction, simply follow the path until you eventually return to the same traffic circle.  On a phone call, that means allowing the prospect to turn onto Put-Off Place, Disinterested Drive, Stall Street, or Hate it Highway. Instead of wrestling with them for control, just go with the flow and at some point you'll have a second chance to turn onto Success Street.  That is when you must use...
  2. If-Then Logic.  If you have ever written software code or even used formulas in Excel, then you have used if-then logic.  In sales, use if-then logic by writing out some formulas that you can use with confidence, whenever a prospect responds in a particular way.  For instance, if the first thing you hear is, "We're all set." you can respond with, "I expected you to say that...so I assume that [insert statement that assumes some version of perfection relative to what you sell]. If you are selling software, that might sound like, "So I assume that the latest efficiencies have allowed you to trim staff."  A series of if-then statements will work effectively if you have the proper...
  3. Tonality.  The most important thing on a call is to sound like someone who your prospect would choose to speak with.  When prospects try to get rid of salespeople on the phone, it's usually because they sound like salespeople, act like salespeople, and suck like most salespeople.  The calls don't sound like they will be much fun, prospects already know it will be a waste of time, and the salespeople are talking about themselves instead of their prospects.

When you utilize these three concepts to listen, stay in the moment, exercise patience, and succeed, your calls will improve.  Those are the three primary elements to getting a prospect's attention, keeping it, getting them engaged, and converting the call to a meeting.

Experts who sell marketing tools will tell you that cold calling is dead and to them, it is.  But they're wrong.  Even a follow-up call to a lead is a cold call.  Why?  If the person you are calling does not know you or expect your call, it's cold.  Today's leads - those where people must complete a form in order to get what they want - aren't any warmer than yesterday's leads.  They're only fresher.

The real problem is that fewer salespeople are making phone calls and when they do, they aren't reaching as many prospects as they used to.  It now takes 8-10 attempts to reach a prospect and 10-20 attempts to reach a CEO.  If that's not discouraging, then their awful calls will be.

It doesn't have to be this difficult.  Salespeople can be trained and coached to be effective at both cold calling and today's modified version of lead follow-up.  It's just that things have changed so much in the past 5 years that most approaches are outdated and ineffective.

If you or your salespeople need to build a bigger, better pipeline today, then the phone is the fastest, most effective way to achieve that.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, cold calling, scheduling sales appointments, building the sales pipeline

Can the Lack Commitment to Sales Success Finding be Wrong?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 01, 2015 @ 06:04 AM

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Have you ever witnessed salespeople who go part of the way, but not all the way to get the business?  They make the call, but don't convert the call?  They hold the first meeting, but walk away without traction?  They add a new opportunity to the pipeline, but don't move it forward?  They do all of the right things, but with the wrong people? They qualify an opportunity, but don't get any further?  They forecast an opportunity as closeable, but it doesn't close?  Those are all examples of salespeople with conditional commitment.  They do what it takes, but only when it's comfortable for them.

Last week, I received an email questioning the Commitment finding in Objective Management Group's (OMG) Sales Management evaluation.  The very same question could have applied equally to the Salesperson evaluation as well and it's certainly not the first time I have heard the question.

I republished the entire thread in sequence so that you could understand the question, the challenge and the response:

"Dave, I need your input on this one. You have shared with us that commitment is the most important finding in the OMG evaluation and I agree with you. However, I often wonder whether the way the evaluation measures a person’s commitment is accurate."
 Whenever someone says they agree and they follow that up with "but" or "however", it's code for not really agreeing.  Continuing, he said:
 
"I recently received the sales force evaluation results for a [we will call the company ABCD]. I was referred to ABCD by a woman named [we will call her Mary]. Mary is a Regional Sales Manager at ABCD and prior to joining them she worked with another client of mine. I had the chance to get to know Mary well. She is a go-getter – very ambitious, impatient and driven. The thing that caused her to seek my help was that she was frustrated by the fact that what she and her peers were doing to win business simply wasn’t working anymore and she believed that there had to be a better way. She works as hard as anyone I know and is always seeking ways to improve."
 
Her results came back with a low commitment score. I downloaded her transcript to see why she scored low on commitment.  It appeared as though her low commitment score stems from how she answered two questions:  The self-rating and the answer to question [##].
 
I have been told by you that her answer on question [##] is a cop-out answer and in many situations it is, but isn’t it possible that someone could provide this answer with a different mindset?
 
Mary is someone who has stuck her neck out with two companies to change the way they sell. Her actions speak louder than her answers to these two questions, and I have a hard time believing that she lacks commitment.
 
I am not attempting to challenge the science of the assessment, I am simply trying to make sure that this answer isn’t being misinterpreted. 
 
By the way, this sales organization has only been in existence for six months. According to the VP of Sales the sales team is not complacent. In his words, they are 'still trying to figure it out.'"
My response follows:
"Charles, my responses are random…
  • When you get to know someone really well, then you may become as blind to their INTERNAL workings as their employers.  Getting to know someone does not provide better insight as to whether or not a finding is accurate.
  • The commitment finding, time and again, has proven to be not only the most important finding, but also incredibly accurate.
  • 8 questions drive the finding on commitment and the self-rating plays no part at all, except as a comparison to how committed she believes she is.
  • Like most people, you may be confusing work ethic – something Mary would score quite high on – with commitment.
  • Mary was given 4 possible answers to question [##].  One of the options was, “Doing whatever it takes (ethically) to succeed” and she consciously chose not to select it.  I'm curious...why would you question the evaluation instead of Mary?  She’s the one who consciously chose a different answer...

Did you ever consider the possibility that in Mary's case she would rather be sales director, sales VP or even a salesperson, and not a regional sales manager?  There are so many reasons why someone could lack commitment, and in this case, commitment to sales management success.

My advice is for you to ask Mary - not me - what she believes could be contributing to this finding…

I also looked at her evaluation findings.  Mary's lack of strengths, skills and sales management capability proves that her commitment is lacking. That stands out more than your observation that her work ethic proves she has strong commitment.  If she was the most committed person ever, and had been for a significant period of time, and had applied the training and coaching that you provided, wouldn’t her evaluation be significantly better than it appears?  As I said, it’s not about work ethic, it’s about a willingness to do what it takes – in this case, change – and she hasn’t.

You should also check out the first 10 articles that appear on this Google Search for commitment in sales."

Charles responded to me said:

"Dave, I appreciate your taking the time to respond to my email. This is the kind of ammunition I need and your points are well taken. I hate to bite the hand that has fed me in this case and I need to formulate a plan to help Mary regain her commitment to do whatever it takes.  The entire sales organization has only been in existence for six months and nobody on the team is performing up to expectations. I would hate to tell them to give up on Mary at this point.  If you have any examples of what you have done with other sales managers or salespeople who originally lacked commitment, to turn them around and push outside their comfort zone, I would love to know what you did. Thanks."

My response:

"You’re welcome Charles.

First, make sure that Mary is in the right role – for her.  Then, as a next step, you can try to get her committed to change.  She may be feeling committed to the company but the commitment we measure is her commitment to achieve her personal goals.  Does she have them?  The findings said no.  Start there.  I hope that helps."

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If you didn't click the link to the other articles on commitment, do refer to them because they provide excellent perspectives and examples on this topic.

Lack of commitment is the one finding that gets the most push back - initially - because people react so emotionally to it.  "What do you mean I'm not committed to sales?"  "Of course Bill is committed to sales!"

Time tends to help sales leaders better understand the depth of this particular finding after they learn what to look for and listen to.  Then, as they listen to their salespeople in conversations and observe their actions and behaviors they are able to see it.  

Despite the occasional pushback, this finding remains one of the single most important findings we produce.  Why?  The commitment finding is extremely predictive of whether or not salespeople will change, grow, improve performance and reach their fullest potential.

Are all of your salespeople unconditionally committed to their sales success?

A sales force evaluation will uncover that and much, much more.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, complacency, OMG evaluation, commitment to sales success

30 Reasons Why 1 Million Sales Jobs Will be Obsolete

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 30, 2015 @ 06:03 AM

 

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Image Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

On March 8, this article on the Hubspot Sales Blog reported that one million B2B sales jobs will be lost.  Are you, or any of your salespeople at risk?  The article talked about four archetypes of salespeople and the two types at greatest risk.  While I agree that there won't be a place for order takers, and those who sell consultatively will always have work, I see the shakeup a bit differently.  Here's why.

If you're reading this article, it means that you are at least somewhat active on social media and could be less at risk than others.  For example, there are certain signs that people who meet some or all of the following 10 conditions might not have a place in the new sales order by 2020:

  1. You're my age or older (I'm 59).
  2. You don't have a LinkedIn profile.
  3. You have fewer than 500 connections on LinkedIn.
  4. You don't visit LinkedIn each day to see what's happening with your connections.
  5. You don't actively participate in LinkedIn groups where your customers are most likely to find you.
  6. You don't read articles and comment to improve your visibility.
  7. You don't have your picture on your LinkedIn profile.
  8. You haven't integrated the myriad of powerful and effective tools that make selling easier and makes you more efficient.
  9. You call yourself "old-school".
  10. Your only use of LinkedIn occurs when someone sends an invitation to join their network.

While LinkedIn does not replace prospecting, it helps people find you and when they do, they may be presold on you based on what they read about you and by you.  The opposite can happen too...  If you aren't taking advantage of this great platform, you have lost tremendous ground to your colleagues and competitors.

I mentioned tools in #8 above.  My favorites include Reachable.com, toofr.com, Shufflrr.com, Membrain.com, Wunderlist.com, ScheduleOnce.com, Postwire.com, Wistia.com, AdobeConnect.com, ToutApp.comConnectAndSell.com, and many more.  Why are tools important?  They help you personally target, market, identify, get introduced, and connect.  Then they help you track and manage your sales cycle with each opportunity as well as your pipeline.  The days of managing opportunities and sales cycles with notebooks, clunky CRM, spreadsheets and email are long gone.  You might just be starting to use clunky CRM, spreadsheets and email for this, but you're too late.  The cheese moved again!

Then there are some actual sales criteria.  if you aren't proactively making sure that you have the following 10 issues mastered, then you, selling, and the year 2020 may not be long for each other:

  1. You are following a time-tested, proven, milestone-centric, formal, customized, sales process.
  2. You are selling consultatively - all the time.
  3. You have finally stopped positioning a demo as a milestone predictive of revenue.
  4. You have finally stopped doing demos before an opportunity is completely qualified.
  5. You are always working to improve your listening and questioning skills.
  6. You are rejection-proof.
  7. You have unconditional commitment to sales success.
  8. You are disciplined, consistent and resilient.
  9. You seek effective and helpful coaching from your sales leader and/or outside experts.
  10. You have stopped being a source of product knowledge and pricing; and have become a valued resource.

Without a doubt, selling is more difficult than at any time in our history.  It is also more complex and requires a completely different skill set than it once did.  As an example, salespeople who just 10 years ago were doing just fine, are now struggling to make ends meet as they deal with the fact that they can no longer do the following 10 things and expect it to have a positive impact:

  1. Bring donuts and coffee.
  2. Be a product encyclopedia.
  3. Quote pricing.
  4. Explain features and benefits.
  5. Show up and expect to get quality time.
  6. Expect people to buy because of their relationship alone.
  7. Expect people to buy because of their pricing alone.
  8. Expect people to buy because of their quality or service alone.
  9. Differentiate by talking about how they are different.
  10. Waste the time of people who are important.

This warning is bigger than salespeople.  This is about sales organizations and companies and industries too.  Back in the 1990's, companies were working on Lean, ISO, Just in Time, Just Enough, upgrading their operations, and working on every phase of their business except sales.  I see similar things occurring today with upgrades to technology, capabilities and capacity, while salespeople are all but abandoned.  If you have a sales organization and you haven't had it evaluated, right-sized, right-roled, upgraded and improved in order for you to still be relevant in 2020, you are falling further behind each day.  This is all happening faster than most people think, so there is no time like the present.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales performance, social selling, salespeople, sales tools

Can the Worst Salespeople be Saved?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 @ 06:03 AM

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Copyright:  / 123RF Stock Photo

Recently, I was asked to explain what a company can do with the bottom 74% that I write about so frequently.  It's a great question...and I will share several examples...Depending on the size of your sales force, the relative effectiveness of your sales coaching, the degree to which you embrace sales best practices, and your track record at selecting and hiring only A players, your sales force might not have a top 6%, next 20% and bottom 74%.  Nope.  It could be better - or worse.  Your sales force might have salespeople that are all in the top 26% or all of your salespeople might belong to the bottom 74%.  What's interesting is how that plays out.

For example, let's look at a business where the sale is fairly easy, like providing snack food to convenience stores, where salespeople in the bottom 74% can get that job accomplished without a problem.  Take another business, where the salesperson must sell a 7-figure consulting deal, to the C-Suite, against formidable competition, with a sales cycle that could take 12 months or more, and a salesperson from the top 26% probably won't be good enough.  For this scenario, a person will need to come from the top 6%!

With that as a foundation, let's take a deeper look at the bottom 74%.  First, there are two things we need to acknowledge:

  1. You probably don't know if any of your salespeople are in the bottom 74% unless you have had your sales force evaluated by Objective Management Group (OMG).  The only accurate observation that you can make without our data is that they are either performing or not performing at your company.  You can guess that the performers are in the top 26% and the non-performers are in the bottom 74%, but both guesses might be very wrong.
  2. You absolutely need to know if your non-performers can be saved.

With that said, let's pretend that you do have some salespeople from the bottom 74% who aren't performing, and that isn't acceptable to you.

Focusing on the data representing the bottom 74% of the nearly 1 million salespeople that we evaluated and studied, it shows that 14% of this group should not be in sales at all.  30% of this group are not trainable, can't be saved and won't ever change - no matter what you do.  Take a look at this sample slide below, which has an analysis of one company's non-performing salespeople and you'll see that in this particular company, 70% of the underperforming salespeople can't be saved, while 1 (green check) and perhaps 2 others (yellow flags) are savable.

 savable

There is good news though.  Statistically, 56% of the bottom 74% can be saved under the following circumstances.  The company must have:

  • The luxury of time
  • Energy to spare
  • Desire to see these people succeed
  • Patience to wait for it
  • Effective sales coaching
  • Financial resources to wait for them to become productive and to pay for their training, coaching and development. 
Plan for it to take around 18-24 months of training and coaching to help these ineffective salespeople become productive.  In comparison, salespeople in the top 26% can improve on their existing skills and strong performance in as little as 4-8 months of the right training and coaching.


Sometimes, talking about the bottom 74% makes the state of sales seem a lot worse than it is.  If improved performance is one of the things that you need to achieve, it's entirely possible with salespeople in the bottom 74%.  You simply need the data to make a good decision.  Learn more about a sales force evaluation by clicking the image below.

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales under achievement, salespeople that don't sell,

Closing Sales, Process, Hauntings, Training & More

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 23, 2015 @ 06:03 AM

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Photo Credit: Psychic Library

Today I will explore the least-read articles I have ever written.  That's right.  The least read.  It's very fashionable - and a best practice - to continue promoting the most-read, most-liked, most-favorited, most-shared, most-tweeted and most-commented articles; but I don't think anyone has gathered up their worst work and said, "Look at this!"  It's actually not my worst writing.  It's all every bit as good, and in some cases, better than my best articles.  Sometimes crappy articles spread like wildfire and the good stuff comes out on a day when people aren't paying attention.  So here are the 10 best articles I ever wrote that hardly anyone noticed.

Closing Sales - The Fine Line Between Patience and Pressure  August 2007

The Impact of Sales Training  October 2006

Great Sales Opportunities That Don't Close March 2010

Salespeople - Can Their Work Ethic Be as Good as BB King's?  March 2007

How to be Memorable - Things to Do When You are Selling Yourself  August 2009

What Do Sales Managers Do with Their Time?  May 2007

My Sales Process, Strategies and Tactics in Your Voice  October 2010

But I'm a Sales Guy! The Story of Motivation and Compensation June 2007

Top 14 Requirements to Perform a Sales Force Makeover April 2009 

Hauntings and Salespeople  November 2006

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales training, sales motivation, Sales Tactics, Closing Sales, sales compensation, sales opportunities, bb king, how to be memorable, time management for sales managers, sales methodologies

How Music Can Definitely Help You Sell More

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 18, 2015 @ 06:03 AM

music-and-selling

Next week, I have a special treat for my readers.  I will post an article that features my least read articles of all time - sounds very exciting, doesn't it?  While I was looking for the least read articles, I consistently came across a whole bunch of my articles that were related to music.  I found enough to create another article series.  By the way, do you know about my article series?  If you scroll down the left-side panel of any article on my Blog, you'll come to a section where the heading is KURLAN ARTICLE SERIES.  You will find 21 series of articles and my personal favorite is the one where I Compare Salespeople to Children.  In the past 10 years, I have written 33 articles with a tie-in to kids and not surprisingly, they are almost always about my kid at various ages.  Anyway, I just realized that I already have a series on Music and Selling, but it's missing a few articles that should have been included there.  So check out that series, and then read these articles too:

When are Salespeople Too Old to Sell Effectively? 10 Conditions

Can the Beatles Help You Close Big Deals?

Mastering Sales and Sales Management

The Impact of Coaching Salespeople and Sales Managers

Top 7 Reasons Why Ineffective Salespeople Get By

Trigger Events - The Anatomy of Sales Wisdom

Professional Sales and the All-Star Jazz Performance

Music is all around us and you can't escape from it if you wanted to.  But there's a lot you can learn from music, and music can definitely help you sell!  Music can set the mood, get you pumped, calm your nerves, or provide a great example.  Lyrics can make great positioning statements, be used to tell a story, or be used on slides.  Rhythms can help with pace and set a mood.  Music can be used to introduce you, a subject, or a point.  You can use music in the background of a presentation.

Mostly, you can use music to help your audience relate to you.  Everyone loves music and if you use a bit more music and a lot less of you talking, you can't help but be more successful!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales mastery, closing big deals, sales wisdom, the truth about old salespeople

How to Close a Sale using Proof of Concept

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 16, 2015 @ 06:03 AM

proof

Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

You feel very confident when you buy from a company that is the best in their industry and has achieved a long track record of success by consistently delivering great results. Your company could be one of those great companies, but it's more likely that yours is a company that must repeatedly prove itself. 

New salespeople have even greater challenges when they sell products and services that must be proven.  Do they have to prove that they're better, quicker, smarter, cooler or easier?  Do they have to prove that their ROI is better?  Do they have to prove a new technology or concept?  Do they have a powerful, consistent way to do that?

There's something even more powerful than the actual proof of concept and that is whether or not it is timed correctly.  Do new salespeople attempt to prove something before an opportunity has been thoroughly qualified?  Our statistics show that your proof of concept may not be at fault when a deal doesn't close.  Oh no.  It's more likely that your salespeople failed to thoroughly qualify the opportunity first; and as a result, a great deal of time, resources and energy were wasted on a prospect that couldn't or wouldn't buy even if the proof of concept was top notch.  Other times, salespeople forge ahead with the proof of concept without an up-front agreement that, if successful, the prospect will buy! 

Now stay with me on this...a quick example and then back to you...

Objective Management Group (OMG) is one of those companies too.  It doesn't seem to matter how many years we've been doing this (25), how much success we've had (tons), how many companies use us (10,000+), how many industries we help (all of them), how many awards we have won (#1 sales assessment for 4 consecutive years), how accurate and predictive it is (75% of the candidates we don't recommend who somehow get hired anyway fail within 6 months), how strong our predictive validity is (highest in the industry), or how strong our science is (more research behind this than Neil Rackham has done on salespeople).  Because we are a relatively small company, executives still want us to "Prove it!"  They say things like, "Well, it might work in medical devices, but that doesn't mean it will work for _____."  Or, "It might work for SaaS, but that doesn't mean a thing when it comes to _______.  Our business is different!"

Sometimes, we must prove it by assessing a company's top and bottom salespeople just to show how accurately we can differentiate between them.  It usually ends up looking something like the images below where you clealy can see the green representing specific findings that most of the top performers possess, versus a sea of red, showing that most of the bottom performers do not possess those same findings and scores:

proof-1

In the image above, this compay's top 3 salespeople had 81%, 94% and 81% of the specific findings we identified that differentiate their top salespeople from their bottoms.  Their bottoms had only 25%, 38% and 63% of those findings and/or scores.  Over and above our standard level of customization, we can identify a candidate that is a Perfect Fit for their company when the candidate meets or exceeds 81% on our Perfect Fit Index.

proof2

The second example is from a smaller company that had only 2 top performers and 4 bottom dwellers.  Their top reps had 92% and 75% of the specific findings and/or scores that differentiated them from their bottom dwelling colleauges, who had only 25%, 42%, 42% and 0.  While there is less data to work with at this company, we still managed to identify 12 findings and scores that clearly differentiated their tops from their bottoms as seen by looking at the all of the green on top and the sea of red on the bottom.

proof3

The last example represents 6 top performers that were all hired during the course of the previous year using our standard customization.  We used this analysis to further refine our findings and/or scores that would allow us to identify candidates that were a Perfect Fit for them.  While we found 16 scores/findings that their top performers shared, without comparing them to bottom performers we cannot be sure that these findings differentiate their top performers from bottom performers.

Most companies don't need this level of proof.  A sample, along with our reputation for accuracy, testimonials, and the sales-specific information that we provide are usually more than enough to convince them that we could only improve on their hit or miss (emphasis on miss) track record at sales recruiting and selection.

So how can you build and deliver proof of concept?  What are the various ways that you can proove to a prospect that what you do works as promised, works better than your competition, works equally well for less total cost of ownership, or returns greater value than the rest of the field?

Prospects like seeing validated data. Prospects love talking with customers who faced similar challenges, who are from the same industry or vertical, who are in the same size company, or who bought the same solution.  Will your proof of concept include a demo, trial, test, pilot, tour, samples, or something else?  The key is, what will convince the prospect you have today?  Many salespeople fail to ask what will work and assume that providing the same proof that they provide to everyone else will get the job done.  But that's like fitting a square peg into a round hole - it never works.  Ask, clarify, agree to a timeline, define success, and gain commitment to move forward upon completion of a successful proof of concept. 

Proof can be difficult.  When it comes to winning a deal using proof of concept, the key is to have proof that differentiates you from your competition, validates your claims and promises, and exceeds a prospect's skeptical expectations.

Would you like to give OMG's legendary Sales Candidate Assessment a test drive?

Sales Candidate Assessment Free Trial

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales assessments, objective management group, OMG Assessment, proof of concept, sales proposal, winning a sale

Beach Ball of Death Predicts Lack of Sales Growth

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 11, 2015 @ 06:03 AM

Every Mac owner knows about the dreaded beach ball of death.  For those who have never experienced the Mac equivalent of a computer crash, a beach ball that won't stop spinning appears on the screen and when it's more than a simple application crash, the death reference implies impending doom to the Mac itself.  This is what it looks like:

spinning-beach-ball

During the summer, beach balls can also be seen floating among fans in the center field bleachers at Fenway Park. This is especially true when the Red Sox are losing or playing a particularly boring game.  Death quickly comes to those beach balls when players, security guards or grounds crew stab the beach balls with a bullpen rake!

floating-beach-ball

And then there is the beach ball I want to share today - the sales beach ball of impending doom.  You might be wondering how there could even be a sales beach ball, never mind one that spells impending doom; but, there is.

Last week I saw it for the first time on a slide from a deck that Objective Management Group (OMG) prepares when we evaluate a sales force.  This particular slide answered the question, "Why Aren't We Generating More New Business?"

Here's the slide:

slide-new-business-w-beach-ball
Do you see the beach ball at the bottom in the center of the slide?  If it was all green, that would mean that the salespeople would be capable of finding new business and building a better pipeline.  But it is far from being all green.  There is a lot of red and coral, suggesting that there is an even bigger problem than anything that a change in behavior, strategy or tactics might solve.  Let's take a closer look at that beach ball and the legend that accompanies it:

slide-sales-beach-ball-of-doomThat big red area tells us that 33% of their salespeople are classified as People for the Ethical Treatment of Prospects (PETP).  Like their friends at PETA, who protect animals, the members of this group have a strain in their Sales DNA that prevents them from hunting prospects for new business.  In addition, the coral area tells us that 17% are fishermen.  They won't hunt either, but if a prospect bites, they'll reel in the opportunity.  The most a company could hope for is that the coral group of salespeople will follow up on leads.  The light green is represented by another 33% who will prospect if only a sales manager would hold them accountable.  But if you scroll up and look at the right-hand side of the slide, you'll see that sales management's ability to hold their salespeople accountable also falls into the red.  When all is said and done with this question about finding new business, only 17% of their salespeople will voluntarily go out on hunting expeditions. 

As presently constituted, their ability to find new business is extremely limited - a sales growth beach ball of impending doom.

This slide represented only one of more than two-dozen difficult business questions that we answer where we use science to explain why companies get the results they get, whether or not the sales force is capable of improving their results, and to what degree those results can be improved.  Are you interested in learning more about a sales force evaluation?

evals

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales growth, sales prospecting, objective management group, revenue growth, OMG Assessment

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

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