Dave Kurlan

Recent Posts

The Simple Tool that Simplifies Account, Time and Territory Management

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 @ 08:01 AM

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Image Copyright 123RF

I've written a lot about scorecards in the past 12 months while Kurlan & Associates created scorecards for more than a dozen companies in December alone.  Companies that are using our scorecards are reporting significantly higher win rates, better use of resources, and much less time spent chasing deals and accounts that they simply can't win. Until now, I have talked only about sales process scorecards used to further qualify opportunities and predict the chances of winning the business.

There are additional uses for scorecards:
  • Marketing - to score a lead.
  • Recruiting - to score a candidate.
  • Account/Territory management - to score accounts so that you can objectively determine the accounts on which your salespeope and/or account managers should be spending most of their time.

In the table below, you can see a generic Kurlan scorecard for time/territory management as well as account management.  You can modify the weighting for the 9 criteria based on how important each one is to you and your business. Just make sure that the totals equal 100.  

account-territory-mgmt.jpgAfter you have prioritized each category and assigned points, score each account in the territory.  Salespeople and/or account managers should invest their time in direct proportion to the scores for each account.  You can hire an additional salesperson to work on the accounts that aren't as important, but still need to be touched on a regular basis in order for growth to occur while at the same time assuring retention.

What other criteria can you include in your account/territory management scorecard?

  • % of products or SKUs 
  • Years a customer
  • Loyalty
  • Referral source
  • Quality of the Relationship with the Account Manager
  • Distance to Travel
  • % of Their Total Business

Here are some of the other articles I've written on scorecardsas a part of the sales process.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, account management, time management, scorecard, territory management

7 More Tips on How I Sell More and Get More Done Part 3

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 09, 2017 @ 09:01 AM

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Image Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

Who knew that this would turn into a series?

Part 1 and Part 2 were very popular and centered around productivity and technology, but not selling competencies.  This post presents Part 3, which although having a different perspective on selling more and getting more done,  stays away from selling-specific competencies like the other two entries.

Focus - While most people are fairly distractable, I am not.  I don't flip to my email every time an email arrives.  I don't socialize in the office.  I don't answer calls if I am in the middle of something else and I am a slave to the clock.  If my calendar says I'm supposed to be working on something at a particular time, when that time arrives I am working on that project.  You simply cannot distract me.

Discipline - I believe that discipline can compensate for some of the gaps salespeople have with their selling strengths and skills.  They say that 50% of success is showing up. Discipline is the sales version of showing up.  It's doing what you don't feel like doing, saying what you don't feel like saying and asking what you don't feel like asking - always and without exception.

Energy - I know the times of day when I have the most energy and make sure that I schedule the most demanding work for my high energy times of day.  For me, that means nothing that requires a lot of attention, focus, emotion or energy in the middle of the afternoon.

Commitment - You can't be somewhat pregnant and you can't be somewhat committed.  Either you're all in or you're out.  Whatever it takes baby.

Selection - On the selling side of things, you must determine what kind of salesperson you want to be (and your sales manager might have something to say about this too). Option 1 - schedule calls/meetings with anyone who will talk with you and close what you can.  Option 2 - be selective about who you schedule calls/meetings with and close most of them.  Option 1 means working hard and option 2 means working smart.  Option 1 means your pipeline will always be full.  Option 2 means that your win rate will be high.  Option 1 means working hard but there won't be much pressure because you will always have closable opportunities.  Option 2 means working smart, but there will be tremendous pressure to close everything that is in your limited pipeline.

Pressure -  Speaking of pressure, you should know how effective you are at handling pressure and lots of it.  Ideally, you must be at your best under pressure but if you aren't, you must find a way to avoid putting yourself in pressure situations.  That means you must always be ahead of where you need to be.

Outlook - This is about your attitude and how you feel about yourself.  When your outlook is poor, it has a negative impact on bravery, tactics and work ethic. It can happen to anyone. For most salespeople, certain people, events or words can trigger a negative change in outlook that instantly shifts your focused, energized, committed and disciplined self to someone who suddenly isn't able to act that way. You must be able to identify those things or people that can trigger you.  What triggers you?  How can you prevent those triggers from occurring?  How can you prevent those triggers from affecting you?  At best, you are rarely triggered and recover quickly.  At worst, this can cause a daily interruption and consistently take you off of your game.  If there is one thing that you must absolutely learn to control, it is Outlook.  This 2-minute video clip from Game of Thrones is a great example of what happens when outlook goes south.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales disciplines, sales focus, sales targeting, commitment to sales success, energy, outlook

How Learning to Drive Can Help You Achieve Sales Mastery

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 09, 2017 @ 06:01 AM

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Image Copyright 123RF Stock Photo

I was on the phone with a client who spent some time telling me about how he follows the sales process, prepares the questions he wants to ask, makes sure he remembers to thoroughly qualify, prepares and plans his presentations and considers all of the possible objections he may encounter along the way.

That's all well and good - but it's too complicated.  It's much more like driving a car.  Let me explain:

When you learned to drive a car, you had to think about safety, where your two hands were to be placed on the wheel, where your feet can find the accelerator and break pedals, when to use your directionals, how to use the rear and side mirrors, when to turn use your high beams, the rules of the road, and if it was standard transmission, how and when to shift and use the clutch.  And that was before you actually drove anywhere!

Of course today, you don't give any of that a thought.  You didn't forget it. You learned it, internalized it, embraced it, and finally mastered it.  Mastery is the art of not having to think about what you are doing.  Most drivers can listen to the radio, carry on a conversation and navigate to their destination without giving a single thought as to how to drive the car.  Selling is the same.

At some point, salespeople are presented with the company's sales process, its stages, and the milestones of each stage.  If they are receiving effective sales training, they will also be trained on the methodology or conversation required to seamlessly move from milestone to milestone, along with the strategies and tactics to ask questions, build a case and get people to buy from them.   It's the same as when you learned how to drive and first sat in the driver's seat of your parents' car.  You were required to take professional driving lessons, drove your parents around in between lessons, and eventually (most of you) mastered driving a car.  Some people taking driving a bit further and go on to become professional drivers, including the best on the planet - NASCAR drivers.

Salespeople must go through the same process, including the professional instruction, practice and desire to be the best on the planet.  Most salespeople skip the parts in between learning (initial training) and mastery (effective selling) - internalizing and embracing - the two things that must occur prior to mastery.  The only way to get from learning to mastery is to practice!  Role play!  For more on role playing, see this article.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales mastery, sales effectiveness

10 [More] Tips to Help You Sell More and Get More Done Than Anyone Else Part 2

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jan 05, 2017 @ 06:01 AM

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To start the year off I posted My Top 10 Tips to Help you Sell More and Get More Done Than Anyone Else. I received so many thank you notes and emails expressing appreciation for that post that I decided to share 10 more tips for those who have the capacity to become even more efficient.

1.  Browser Bookmarks - I use the Chrome browser but I believe you can do this with IE and Safari as well.  There are approximately 300 websites that I visit. Some, like Membrain, Google Sheets, LinkedIn and online Banking are opened multiple times each day, while I might visit other sites once per quarter.  Most of the sites are applications and tools for the business but some, like restaurant menu pages, simply give me quick access to what I need.  I use a bookmarking system that saves me a tremendous amount of time.  I have 8 folders on the bookmark bar of the browser.  They include:

  1. Most Used
  2. Email/Access
  3. Business
  4. Health/Fitness
  5. T & E
  6. Web Tools
  7. Servers/Content
  8. Audio/Video/Presentation Tools

Each of those folders has shortcuts and/or additional folders that contain shortcuts to the pages I frequent.  For example, this screen shot shows my Most Used Folder where you can see 6 additional folders, with shortcuts.  Cash and Checking has 6 shortcuts, Blog has 9, OMG has 15, DKA has 19, Google has 5 and Wunderlist has 2.

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My homegrown bookmarking system saves me huge amounts of time. I know exactly where to click to get instant access to the pages.

2. LastPass - You can save even more time if you don't have to log in to the sites you visit!  LastPass, a Chrome Extension, not only saves the user names and passwords for all of your sites, but it will also log you in automatically!  Nothing to type, nothing to click!

3. Adobe Echo Sign - If you need to get contracts signed, there are a number of applications available for doing that and I have found advantages to doing just that.  First, people tend to quickly sign electronic documents while PDF's attached to emails must first be printed, reviewed, signed, scanned, and resent. Sometimes those get forwarded to legal departments where they get lost. The work involved in getting a PDF signed, compared to the relative simplicity of getting a document signed electronically, is profound.  If it's from Adobe, the email message is far less likely to be deleted than one from other online document signing applications and Adobe Sign reminds people to sign if they haven't gotten around to it so it's fast, easy and brainless.

4. iMacros - If you need to do something online - and repeat it often - then iMacros, another Chrome extension, is your solution.  In my case, I regularly score certification tests taken by OMG Partners and their employees.  The scoring process involves navigating to Survey Monkey, logging in, going to the survey that holds the answers, browsing to the most recent submission, opening ToutApp, and loading the Certification email template.  IMacros automates all of those steps so that I only have to select Certification from the iMacros menu and the application does all of the clicking for me until both of those pages are displayed on my browser.

5. TextExpander - Are there words, phrases and sentences that you frequently type?  As I mentioned in part 1, I often type, "Would you mind using this link to my calendar to find and schedule a mutually convenient time for us to talk/meet?"  With TextExpander, I simply type ";cal" and the application types that question into the email for me!  Think about all of the typing you can save with this application!  Click the image below to watch this 10-second video demonstration.

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6. Reachable - Have you ever wasted time attempting to determine the best way to connect to someone on LinkedIn?  Like, who knows that person or who might know them the best?  Reachable leverages your social media connections and does that for you in seconds!

7. Cloud Servers - I don't save anything "on" my computer's hard drive anymore because I need to access my files from whatever device I am using - desktop, laptop, iPhone, iPad or somebody else's device.  Cloud servers allow you to do that - quickly and easily.  I use Dropbox because the Dropbox folder appears in the file menu of my computers where I am most likely to access those files and the files are synced between my computers.

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8. Toofr - Have you ever wasted time trying to find somebody's email address?  Toofr actually accomlishes that for you!

9. Jabra Pro - Do you receive as many calls on your cell phone as you do on your office phone but prefer to use a headset?  I use the Jabra Pro bluetooth headset which connects to your desk phone, cell phone and if you want, your computer so that you can talk to Siri or dictate a Google search - all via Bluetooth.  One headset - three sources.  It switches seamlessly between the 3 devices so that you can simply get stuff done!

10. Snagit - Do you ever need a picture, screen shot or a video of your screen?  Snagit does that with ease.  The video of me using TextExpander was created in seconds with Snagit

 I hope these additional 10 time-saving tips to help you sell more and get more done than anyone else were helpful.  If you have any tips that help you sell more, please add them to the comments.  Part 3 in the series has 7 more tips.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales effectiveness, sales productivity, sales efficiency

Top 10 Tips to Help You Sell More And Get More Done Than Anyone Else This Year Part 1

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jan 03, 2017 @ 09:01 AM

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We attended the organizational kick-off meeting for the team with whom our 14-year old son will be playing travel baseball this year.  The organization is run by former MLB pitcher Brian Rose and one of the memorable things he said at this meeting was, "There will always be someone working harder than you."  He said, "If you take a day off, someone else will be still be working" and, "If you want to be the best you have to work harder than everyone else."   Mark Cuban said, "Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it away from you."

I've always outworked everyone in my own companies so both of these quotes resonated with me. At the same time, hard work alone isn't enough.  You must also be smart and efficient about what you work hard on.  For the first article of 2017, I thought it would be helpful if I shared how I get more done than anyone else I know.

Like many CEO's of small companies, I wear many hats.  As the CEO of Kurlan & Associates & Associates, a global sales consulting firm, I run the business, produce revenue, handle accounting, meet with the leadership team, have some personal clients, conduct some of the training, and do some keynote speaking.  As the CEO of Objective Management Group (OMG), the leading provider of sales force evaluations and sales candidate assessments, I am the chief innovator for product development, select firms that will represent OMG outside of the Americas, coach OMG's partners, meet with my leadership team, and do some keynote speaking.  Running two companies isn't a 16-hour a day load, but 12-hour days are common.  So how do I get it all done?  Here are my top 10 keys to outworking everyone:

  1. Say no.  One of the important things I picked up from business guru and Gazelle's CEO, Verne Harnish, is that you must identify 3 things that you won't do anymore.  I carry that theme forward on a daily basis and as opportunities, events, projects and tasks are presented to me I say no to those things that don't support either the business goals, core offerings, or personal goals and values. 

  2. Calendar.  A functional calendar allows me to visually see my day, week and month.  I manage the calendar myself and don't let assistants anywhere near it.  Not only that, but entries are color-coded so that I can quickly and easily determine whether I am maintaining a balance between the two companies, between sales and delivery, and between work and family.  This is very important: I block out time, in advance, for getting work completed in between calls, appointments and meetings.  In addition to the color coding, my calendar is synced between my iPhone, iPad, Macbook Pro and iMac computers.  I use Google's Calendar syncing as the engine and on my mobile devices I have the Readdle app, and on my computers I use CalendarPro for Google.  

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  3. Automation.  I save time and aggravation by using an online scheduling tool.  Instead of going back and forth with someone to identify a time that we can meet or talk, I provide them with a link to my calendar.  I write in an email, "Would you mind using this link to my calendar to find and schedule a mutually convenient time for us to talk/meet?"  I embed a link to the scheduling tool which, in this case, is an app called ScheduleOnce.  You have no idea how easy this is, how much time it saves, and the thanks I get for making it so easy.

  4. Lists.  I believe that my mind is sharper than it's ever been.  Sharp doesn't necessarily mean that I can remember everything I need to do each day, week and month, and you can't arbitrarily decide which things to write down and which things to remember.  So I have a no exception policy where everything I need to do is committed to a list.  As with the calendar, I use a list that syncs between my computers and mobile devices and my choice is the Wunderlist app.  I use Wunderlist because it has folders, an unlimited number of lists that can be included in each folder, and each list accomodates a sub list, notes and attachments.   I also utilize the due date and reminder options and sort the items in my lists by due date. I would be lost without Wunderlist.  

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  5. Auto Responder.  I turn on my email's auto responder whenever I will be unable to respond to emails for 6 business hours or more.  I don't want to appear unresponsive and my message tells people who they can contact in my absence and when they can expect to hear back from me.  I don't have to apologize when I finally do respond and that saves unnecessary typing as well.

  6. Rituals. In order to be productive, I know that I must wake up at the same time each morning.  My default is 5:30 AM, which gives me an hour to respond to emails that came in overnight.  I usually have a number of emails from OMG's overseas partners, as well as CEO's who choose to work late rather than start early.  Most of my articles are written during this one-hour window in the morning as well.

  7. Anti-Meeting.  Most meetings are time wasters so I don't schedule many.  I have two 10-minute morning huddle calls, one for the leadership teams of each company, at 8:15 AM and 8:30 AM and most of what needs to be communicated in either direction is accomplished during that time.  I have a weekly product development meeting for OMG, a weekly sales/client projects meeting for Kurlan, and monthly and quarterly leadership meetings for OMG.  Less is more.

  8. Anti-Travel.  Some travel is unavoidable but most of what I do can be done by phone, video conference, file share, internet based collaboration and more.  Everyone is busy, travel wastes enormous amounts of time and money and it takes you away from family.  Travel is a last option, not a first option.

  9. Email.  To limit incoming email that requires responding, there are a few things that help a lot.  First, unsubscribe to everything that creates noise.  Spam is impossible to unsubscribe from but if that's the only stuff in your junk folders you can do a quick review and mass delete each day.  In order to do that, it's crucial that you first add senders that you want/need to hear from, but that might end up in your junk/spam folders, to your safe sender list.  With that accomplished, you should utilize the Rules function of your email to automatically move emails that you receive every day, like newsletters, to a newsletter or subscription folder.  I also have folders called "Waiting" and "Action."  When I am waiting for a response from someone, I blind copy myself and move it to the waiting folder, and when someone is waiting for me to do something that email gets moved to the action folder and added to a list.  I never save emails in my inbox.  Instead, there are folders for every client and partner, for marketing, accounting, tools, subscriptions, etc., and emails that need to be saved are moved to the appropriate folder.  Having thousands of emails in your inbox is not efficient!

  10. Family.  Nights and weekends are for family.  Family dinners and watching our son's baseball and basketball games are my number 1 evening priority - not work.  If I am behind, I may take an hour or two to catch up at night, but not until after we have spent quality time together at dinner.

I have 10 more tips on getting more done here.

Do you have any tips that contribute to getting more done than anyone else?  Add them to the comments below!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, time management, sales effectiveness, sales efficiency, working harder

5 Year-End Awards from Top Sales World

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 20, 2016 @ 08:12 AM

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I am always honored when my work is recognized and this year is no exception.  The judges at Top Sales Awards named Objective Management Group (OMG) the Top Sales Assessment Tool for 2016.  That marks the 6th consecutive year that OMG has won the Gold!  We believe that we have developed the best Sales Assessment tools in the world but it is gratifying when others validate that belief for us!   It's also nice to receive recognition for my personal content.  The judges awarded my Blog, Understanding the Sales Force, with a Bronze medal for Top Sales & Marketing Blog of 2016.  That marks the 6th consecutive year that my Blog has earned a medal.  In addition, this article won the Bronze for Top Sales & Marketing Blog Post.  Will Barron interviewed me earlier this year and that particular podcast won a Gold Medal for Top Sales & Marketing Podcast. Finally, a Webinar I did earlier in the year on How to Sell value won a Gold Medal for Top Sales & Marketing Webinar.  I would like to thank the judges and congratulate all of my colleagues in the sales training and consulting space who also won awards.  A very nice way to end 2016!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, top salespeople, Top Sales World, will barron

What CEO's and Sales Leaders Care About the Most - Are They Trends for 2017?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Dec 16, 2016 @ 05:12 AM

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Image Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

I reviewed the 88 articles I wrote in 2016 (nearly 1,600 articles on the Blog) and was surprised to discover what I wrote about the most.  It wasn't about sales force evaluations, sales candidate assessments or attacks on the Harvard Business Review.  It wasn't about sales recruiting and selection, sales pipeline or Baseline Selling.  It wasn't any of things I expected to write about most often.   Because my topics are driven by the conversations I have with clients and prospective clients, my articles are a reflection of what CEO's and Sales Leaders care about.  I really think you'll be surprised to find out what they cared most about this year.

I listed the top 5 topics sorted by how frequently I wrote about them.  Then I listed and linked to the 3 most read, most shared and most commented articles.  I listed the reader favorite and finally, my 4 favorite articles of 2016.  You'll notice that they are different from all of the articles that were most read, shared and commented.  Why 4?  Why not?  Here we go!

Topics

  • Sales Strategy/Tactics (20)
  • Sales Success (10)
  • Sales Process (6)
  • Sales Data (6)
  • Sales Management - Coaching and Accountability (6)

What were the most popular articles of 2016?  As I do each year in December, I'll break it down this way:

Most Read

Breaking News - More Salespeople Suck Than Ever Before

Must Read - This Email Proves How Poorly the Bottom 74% of Salespeople Perform

The 5 Questions That Get People to Buy So That You don't Have to Sell

 

Most Shared

Breaking News - More Salespeople Suck Than Ever Before

Tech Buyer Explains Why He Has No Use for Salespeople

Must Read - This Email Proves How Poorly the Bottom 74% of Salespeople Perform

 

Most Comments

Tech Buyer Explains Why He Has No Use for Salespeople

The Biggest Secret to My Sales Success

The Crucial Selling Skill Nobody Talks About

Reader Favorite

Breaking News - More Salespeople Suck Than Ever Before

My Favorites

Remembering the Most Powerful Lesson of My Sales Career

Most Salespeople are Wrong about the Concept of Being Willing to Walk

Why a Customized Sales Process is Like Buying Shoes

Why Uncovering Pain Doesn't Close the Sale with the CEO

Are these popular articles trends for 2017?  While they could be, they probably aren't.  Most of these articles are timeless. Thanks for being a loyal reader this year.  Have a great holiday and a Happy New Year and I'll be back with more new articles in 2017.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales excellence, ownership of sales growth, best sales articles, hot sales topics

Is Excuse Making Actually the Biggest Obstacle to Increasing Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Dec 14, 2016 @ 07:12 AM

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I've talked a lot about excuse making and the powerful difference between using your index finger, which points outward, versus your thumb, which points inward.  Today, Brandon Steiner wrote a great little article about taking responsibility.

This video provides another perspective on Excuse Making and how bad that is for sales organization.

 

 

The big thing with Excuse Making is that until the excuse making stops, nothing can change.  So if you want to see improvements in effectiveness, growth in revenue, and a jump in profit, salespeople must execute in a fundamentally different way.  When they rationalize about what happened, accepting that allows them to repeat the mistake.  When they take responsibility, you can ask what they could have done differently.  Excuse Making = Status Quo.  Responsibility = Change.

In the past two months I have been a guest on several shows and the interviews were all quite good!  You might be interested in catching:

  • The Smart Sales Pro Interview where I talked about Sales DNA
  • The Growth Institute Blog where I wrote about Why Sales Training Doesn't Work
  • Will Barron - The Salesman Red interviewed me about Why Salespeople Struggle
  • Rapid Learning Institute featured me as the sales selection and hiring expert in this Webinar on preventing hiring mistakes.
  • I wrote about the Benefits of Getting your Sales Process right on the Growth Institute Blog
  • Will Barron recently interviewed me on sales weaknesses and it was a really good interview. You can watch or listen to it here.
  • Lori Richardson recently interviewed me on similar topics too - another really good interview, that you can get here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales performance, Sales DNA, sales excellence, excuse making

Holiday Sales Treat - A Mashup of Two Classic Songs

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Dec 06, 2016 @ 06:12 AM

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This past weekend I read that the lyrics to the popular Christmas song, "Baby it's Cold Outside" were rewritten to emphasize consent.  And the weekend before I saw the news that Brady Bunch Mom, Florence Henderson, had passed away.  That immediately caused the Brady Bunch theme song to come to mind but my brain tends to combine things. In 2005, when I combined sales and baseball,  it became Baseline Selling, which when I looked as I was writing this, was still ranked #9 in the sales category on Amazon.com.  So my brain went and combined the Brady Bunch Theme song with a lyric change and came up with this diddy on OMG.

If you're too young to know or forgot how the theme song sounds, refresh your memory here.  Then sing these lyrics to that old memory:

Here’s a story, of a normal sales force
That was struggling to grow business every day
All of them had weak performers 'cept their leader
And most had *NFA.

Here’s the story, of their top performer
Who had bigger, badder, better customers
All of them were sold by other sales reps
Before becoming hers…

The OMG Sales Force Evaluation
Showed the boss why sales were rarely getting closed
Most had Sales DNA below a sixty
And pipelines full of holes.

OMG made some really great suggestions
And they followed what we said they had to do
And the changes caused performance to get better
Sales went through the roof.

OMG helps your business make more money
With answers and some truly great insights
And our candidate assessments help recruiting
You'll get selection right.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales DNA, brady bunch, baby it's cold outside, need to be liked, dean martin

A Bit of Holiday Tradition to Spice up your Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 05, 2016 @ 06:12 AM

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What is your favorite part of the holiday season?  Do you have traditions that you follow every December?  For the past 15 years an important part of our holiday season is going to see the Boston Ballet perform the Nutcracker.  You wouldn't think that a show like the Nutcracker would correlate to selling, but it does.  As a matter of fact, if you read a little further, you'll see that the Nutcracker is very much like selling to a major account!

Buyers and sellers have their traditions too: habits, learned behaviors, and standardized questions and comments.  

If you have ever attended a performance of the Nutcracker or simply listened to some of the Suite during the holiday season, one of the selections you'll hear is the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy".  Perhaps you can't match the music to the title, but if you listen to the first 30 seconds of this version, you'll instantly recognize the melody.  Go ahead - give it a listen.

You've surely heard this before, even if it was only in a television commercial.  But can you identify the 4 musical instruments used at the beginning of the composition?

You heard the Glass Armonica, oboe, bassoon and flutes.  Were you able to identify those instruments as they were played?  Outside of the readers who are weekend musicians, the rest of you are probably unable to do that the first time.  It's OK, it's even difficult for musicians!

Similarly, salespeople find familiarity in the sounds (questions, comments and discussions) of their sales calls.  As much as you might not be able to identify the specific instruments creating those sounds in "Dance...", salespeople may not be able to identify the most important comments and questions and distinguish them from the noise on their sales calls.

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

There are three distinct lessons that can be taken from this scenario:

Lesson #1: (based on Objective Management Group's data) Out of every one hundred salespeople:

  • Seventy will return to the office to begin working on a proposal and tell their managers that the "large opportunity they are working on is very promising - all three prospects in the meeting were very interested";
  • Nineteen will leave the meeting, make two entries in their CRM application - "propose" and "follow-up" - and will likely do that at the appropriate time;
  • Eleven will remain in the meeting, ask more questions, and get additional clarification.

Lesson #2:

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

Lesson #3:

I enjoy listening to a song, symphony, or simple melody and try to figure out why the composer or arranger selected the particular instruments to play the particular parts of the selection.  Your salespeople should apply that wonder and analysis to their sales calls.  In a mid-market or large company, the prospect could be any one of the following musicians or roadies:

    • the composer (started the initiative), 
    • arranger (selected the vendors to talk with), 
    • director (charged with the initiative and conducting the process) or 
    • musician (following directions of the conductor)
    • chauffeur (can drive you directly to the person who cares enough and has the authority to make something happen).  

A salesperson's responsibility is to figure out who they're dealing with, the role they play, what influence they have, and how to get all of the various players aligned on the compelling reasons to buy your ideal solution.

Homework Assignment - Review Lesson #1 and answer the following two questions: 

Which of the three endings is your default?

Can you identify any of the additional questions that the eleven salespeople stay and ask?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, Nutcracker, major account sales

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About Dave

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

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